Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Lim on Cuomo’s “Historic” Governorship

The New York Times turned to Associate Professor of Government Elvin Lim for a story examining New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s frequent use of the term “historic” to describe legislation passed under his watch. From legalizing same-sex marriage in the state to establishing a loan program for energy-efficient home improvements, Cuomo’s administration has “made history” more than 80 times since taking office 16 months ago, judging by press releases issued by his office. “A rich person does not brag about it — only the nearly rich does,” says Lim, who is author of “The Anti-Intellectual Presidency,” a critique of presidential oratory.

Roth Reviews “The Patagonian Hare”

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth published a review of Claude Lanzmann’s new autobiography, “The Patagonian Hare: Memoir” in The Washington Post. He writes: “Successful memoirs usually require more than the usual amount of self-absorption, and sometimes an annoying, even comical dose of narcissism. ‘The Patagonian Hare‘ is full of Lanzmann’s cloying self-regard, but we accept it for the single reason that he created ‘Shoah,’ his 1985 documentary about the Nazi war against the Jews, one of the masterworks of cinema. A man who produces a great work of art that succeeds in deeply affecting our consciousness of the past and of the human condition deserves to be listened to. And so we listen to Lanzmann.”

Krishnan’s Dance Performance Praised in Canadian Media

Artist-in-Residence Hari Krishnan, pictured in back, performs "Fallen Rain."

Hari Krishnan, artist-in-residence in dance, received widespread media attention for his dance company’s performance season in Canada. Positive reviews and articles appeared in the Toronto StandardToronto.comXtra!To Live With CultureMooney on Theatreand Fab Magazine.

In other exciting news, Krishnan’s dance company, inDANCE, was invited to present “Quicksand” and a new solo (commissioned for Jacob’s Pillow) at the Canada Dance Festival, the country’s most prestigious contemporary dance festival, on June 11.

Stemler on Evaluating Teachers’ Performance

In an op-ed published in the Hartford Courant, Assistant Professor of Psychology Steve Stemler argues that student test scores are a poor basis for evaluating teachers. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed education reform package would tie decisions about teacher tenure and pay to teacher evaluations, which are partially based on student test scores under a new evaluation system.

Craighead on Slowing U.S. Economy

Assistant Professor of Economics Bill Craighead weighs in for McClatchy Newspapers on a new report showing U.S. economic growth slowed to a disappointing 2.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter of 2012. He points out that while consumer spending grew at a healthy 2.9 percent, despite relatively flat income growth, business investment remained weak.

“I think what it says is consumers are coming back a bit, but firms are still holding back. They don’t feel confident enough in the recovery to start adding to capacity” and expanding, he says. Consumers appear to be making up for cautious spending in recent years, more confident that the worst is over, he suggests in the article.

“Given corporate profits, you might have hoped for more investment growth,” Craighead says. The economy continues to “hit the snooze button. … It’s acceptable growth in the normal economy, but given how many people are unemployed it is disappointing.”

Book by Writer-in-Residence Reed Nominated for Shirley Jackson Award

Kit Reed

Resident Writer Kit Reed has been nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award. Her book, What Wolves Know, published in spring 2011 by PS Publishing, was nominated in the category of Single Author Collection.

What Wolves Know is a dystopian thriller; a collection of stories, including tales of mothers who are monstrous in their maternalness, families on the brink of implosion, and children mutated by parental pressure. The title story is about a boy raised by wolves who struggles to adapt to the modern world. Reed has published 22 novels and more than 100 short stories. More information about her work is available on her web site.

The Shirley Jackson Awards recognize outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror and the dark fantastic. The awards were established in honor of author Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), who wrote such classic novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as the famous short story, “The Lottery.”

The 2011 Shirley Jackson Awards will be presented on July 15 at Readercon 23, Conference on Imaginative Literature, in Burlington, Mass.

Class of 2016 Admits Experience Wesleyan at WesFest (Photos and Video below)

During WesFest, held April 12–14 on campus, Class of 2016 admits attend classes, meet with professors, talk with Wesleyan students, and participate in campus events.

Midday on Friday, April 13, Class of 2016 admitted students and their families spread out across a sunny Foss Hill at WesFest, enjoying a barbecue lunch buffet as upbeat music plays in the background. Some, having arrived only hours earlier, are still soaking in the sights and sounds of Wesleyan. Others already have a good feel for the school, having stayed overnight in the dorms with a student host, and sat in on a class or two.

Kai Leshne and his mother have come from San Francisco, Calif., drawn by the excellent academics, and strong soccer and music programs. Kai visited a Portuguese class earlier in the day, and is excited after discussing study abroad opportunities in Brazil with the professor.

“I really, really like it,” he says, summing up his impressions of the school thus far. “There’s just such a friendly atmosphere. Everyone’s really open and extroverted.”

Shravya Raju, visiting with her parents from San Jose, Calif., says she was attracted to Wesleyan because of its strong science program and small size. Compared with the large schools in the University of California system, she feels Wesleyan would give her greater opportunity to interact with professors and engage in hands-on work.

“It’s really pretty,” she says of the campus.

Two Professors Receive Prestigious Guggenheim Fellowships

Magda Teter

Magda Teter, Chair of Medieval Studies, Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, professor of history, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and Elizabeth Willis, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, professor of English, have been awarded 2012 fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

According to the Guggenheim Foundation, the prestigious academic honor is presented to scholars “who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.” This year, the 87th annual competition recognized 180 scholars, artists and scientists from across the U.S. and Canada. They were selected from a pool of almost 3,000 applicants, range in age from 27 to 84, and represent 62 disciplines and 74 different academic institutions. Through their fellowship projects, they will travel to all parts of the globe.

Teter also was recently awarded a Harry Frank Guggenheim fellowship. Both fellowships will allow her to take a full year sabbatical and support her travel and research expenses to the Vatican and Poland as she works on a new book, The Pope’s Dilemma: Blood Libel and the Boundaries of Papal Power.

The Pope’s Dilemma takes the familiar story of blood libel against Jews to tell a much broader story of religion and politics in Europe, demonstrating that the persistence of the ‘blood libel’ illuminates the reach, and also the limits, of papal authority in coping with local powers – a topic of significant interest even today, in light of the sex abuse scandals,” Teter says.

According to her biography on the Foundation web site, Teter specializes in early modern religious and cultural history, with an emphasis on Jewish-Christian relations in Eastern Europe, the politics of religion, and the transmission of culture among Jews and Christians across Europe in the early modern period. She is the author of Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland (Cambridge University Press, 2006), Sinners on Trial (Harvard University Press, 2011), and a co-editor of and contributor to Social and Cultural Boundaries in Pre-modern Poland (Littman, 2010). She has also published numerous articles in English, Polish and Hebrew. Teter serves on the editorial boards of Polin, the Sixteenth Century Journal, and the AJS Review, and is co-founder and editor of the Early Modern Workshop, an open source site with historical texts and videos of scholars discussing them.

Elizabeth Willis

Willis, who specializes in poetry, is the author of Address (Wesleyan University Press, 2011), which won the PEN New England Winship Award for Poetry. Her other books include Meteoric Flowers (Wesleyan University Press, 2006), Turneresque (Burning Deck, 2003), and The Human Abstract (Penguin, 1995), which won the National Poetry Series. Her biography on the Foundation web site notes: “Her most recent projects are investigative in spirit, shifting increasingly toward hybrid genres and explicitly questioning the boundaries of literary representation.” Willis has been awarded fellowships in poetry from the California Arts Council and the Howard Foundation. She has held residencies at Brown University, University of Denver, Naropa University, the MacDowell Colony, and the Centre International de Poésie, Marseille, and was a Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Mills College.

With her Guggenheim fellowship, Willis will travel to Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho, New York and California to conduct research for a new project. She explains, “I’ll be working on a new project that involves American religious, cultural and political history. It’s a book-length poem, not a history, but along the way it is thinking about theater, film and improvised family structures. I’m interested in what constitutes a sovereign body within America’s evolving concept of itself as a nation. And for me, poetry always brings up interesting questions about representation and voice.”

Willis adds, “I’m thrilled. The fellowship is a once-in-a-lifetime honor, and the timing couldn’t be better for me. The work I’m doing now involves a good deal of research and travel, so I’m immensely grateful that I’ll have the chance to focus on it more completely.”

5 Questions With . . . Sarah Croucher on Middletown’s Beman Triangle

Assistant professor Sarah Croucher is leading an archeological dig in the Beman Triangle, located between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave. Local resident Leverett Beman divided the land in 1847, and sold these plots off to other African-American families. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask 5 Questions of Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, assistant professor of archaeology, assistant professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. Croucher will lead an archaeological dig on the site of the Beman Triangle in Middletown on April 28-29. The public is welcome to attend. To view photos of the dig on April 14-15 click here

Q: Professor Croucher, what exactly is the Beman Triangle and what is its significance to the history of Middletown?

A: The Beman Triangle is the land between Vine Street, Cross Street, and Knowles Ave., where homes have existed since the early 19th century. Local historian Liz Warner has shown that something very important happened here in the mid- to late-19th century. Leverett Beman, son of the first Pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in Middletown, had the land divided into plots by a surveyor in 1847, and sold these plots off to other African-American families. This seems to be a deliberately planned community; a way that members of the AME Zion Church could become property owners (something that remains hard for many people today), and live as neighbors in a relatively prosperous community. The Beman Triangle is of national importance as very few African-Americans were able to go through a similar community-building process in the mid-nineteenth century, when they still lacked U.S. citizenship and slavery was still legal in many states. Although the houses might not look like much today, the site is an important testament to the lives of the nineteenth century Beman Triangle community.

Q:  What do we know already about the AME Zion Church community?

A: There has been some wonderful historical research done on the Beman Triangle community by local historians Liz Warner and Janice Cunningham, as well as Wesleyan alumnus Jesse Nasta as part of his thesis. This work has shown us how active the residents were politically, in ways that are traceable through historical documents.

28 Juniors Awarded Davenport Study Grants

The John E. Andrus Center for Public Affairs recently announced its 2012 Davenport Study Grant recipients. Twenty-eight juniors will receive funding to support research and scholarly projects in public affairs, beginning this summer. Grants typically range from $500 to $3,000.

The funds are made available to current sophomores and juniors thanks to a gift from the Surdna Foundation in honor of Frederick Morgan Davenport, Class of 1889, and Edith Jefferson Andrus Davenport, Class of 1897. Recipients are chosen based on “demonstrated intellectual and moral excellence and a concern for public affairs.” They must show promise for leadership in public service through their personal qualities and scholarly and vocational intentions.

This year’s recipients represent majors in the College of Social Studies, History, Sociology, Government, Latin American Studies, Science in Society, American Studies and Anthropology, Religion, Dance, French Studies and Neuroscience & Behavior.

The grant recipients and their project titles are:

Zain Alam ’13, Dreams and Disappointment: India’s Muslims, the Muhajir, and the Making of Pakistan

Dahlia Azran ’13, Memorials of the Holocaust: A Comparative Study of the planning process of Holocaust Memorials in the United States, Israel, Germany and China

Rev. Billy Warns of the Coming “Shop-Ocalypse” in April 23 Lecture

Anti-consumerism activist Reverend Billy stages revival-style “services” in public squares, theaters, art museums and parking lots, seeking to make people and institutions mindful of the consequences of their spending.

On Monday, April 23, Wesleyan will receive a visit from Reverend Billy (Bill Talen), the anti-consumerism activist and performance artist, who has tried to “exorcise” so many Starbucks cash registers, he’s been banned from the coffee shop chain. He will speak at 7 p.m. in Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.

Talen is best known as the subject of the 2007 documentary, What Would Jesus Buy?, produced by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlok and directed by Sundance Film Festival Award-winner Rob VanAlkemade.

In his performance art, Talen takes on the persona of an evangelical preacher to protest the excesses of corporate commercialism.  He and his choir, “The Church of Stop Shopping,” preach a broad message of economic justice, environmental advocacy, and anti-militarism. He stages revival-style “services” in public squares, theaters, art museums and parking lots, seeking to make people and institutions mindful of the consequences of their spending. Talen also implores audiences to confront abusive labor practices, exploitative resource extraction, the demise of small businesses and the ecological costs of excessive consumerism. He chants things like “change-aluia” and warns of the coming “shop-ocalypse” to try to get his audience to imagine a world free from consumerism.

“Products, logos, and labels have become our gods; the beings for which we will give up everything we have. Shopping malls are our temples and churches,” says Mary-Jane Rubenstein, associate professor of religion, describing Talen’s message. “In the style of a revivalist preacher, he calls his audiences to turn away from their self-destructive investment in false gods and turn back toward ‘reality,’ which is to say to make things rather than buy them; to support small businesses rather than transnational corporations; and to stop the endless, unconscious consumption that’s destroying the earth, our bodies, and our civil life together.”

Rubenstein is teaching Talen’s work in her Introduction to the Study of Religion course, as part of a unit on capitalism and some of its counter-movements as late-modern religious expressions.

The event is sponsored by the Baldwin University Lectures, the Center for the Arts, the Ethics and Society Project, the Office of Institutional Partnerships, the Religion Department, Sociology Department (Hoy Endowment) and Government Department.

Chin ’13 Attends Clinton Global Initiative, Seeks to Make Wesleyan Greener

Shamar Chin ’13

From March 30-April 1, Shamar Chin ’13 joined nearly 1,200 other students at a meeting in Washington, D.C. of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U).

According to the Clinton Global Initiative’s website, CGI U, launched by former President Bill Clinton in 2007, “challenges students and universities to tackle global problems with practical, innovative solutions.” CGI U hosts an annual meeting for students, national youth organizations and university officials to discuss solutions to pressing global issues.

Prior to attending the meeting, each student must develop and submit a Commitment to Action: a specific plan to address an important challenge on his or her campus or in the global community.

For her commitment, Chin is seeking to convert Wesleyan’s lawn mowers to produce fewer environmentally harmful emissions.

“At the meeting, I had the chance to network with many students from across the globe and learn about their commitments,” says Chin. “I had the opportunity to attend working sessions in my area of interest—environment and climate change—where we discussed the importance of campus sustainability and environmental entrepreneurship. The plenary sessions were inspiring and made me realize that failure comes with innovation, but we should embrace it rather than give up.”

Chin is majoring in Earth & Environmental Science and Environmental Studies. “I have always wanted to start a green initiative in my community,” she says. Over winter break this year, her thesis advisor, Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, associate professor of environmental studies, director of the Service Learning Center, urged her to apply to the Clinton Global Initiative.

O’Connell calls Chin a “self-starter.” She was impressed that Chin, after working with middle school girls at the Green Street Arts Center last summer, had taken the initiative to start her own environmental afterschool program for girls.

Chin is still gathering the necessary approvals for her CGI U commitment, which she has called “Go Green-Go Wes.” She aims to meet her goals before she graduates next spring.

“I firmly believe that global warming is linked to the emission of greenhouse gases, and this was the foundation for my Commitment to Action,” Chin explains. “Wesleyan University has signed the New England Governors/ Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan, which requires greenhouse gases associated with energy production to be reduced to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. I proposed raising funds to purchase two electric lawn tractors. However, Wesleyan does not own their own lawn equipment, so I have reworked my commitment to raise funds to purchase catalytic converters for our lawn tractors.”

“Participating in this program has been such a blessing and one of the best experiences of my life. I met incredible people, heard amazing ideas and I left feeling very inspired. I am positive that we as students can enact change,” Chin says. She encourages her fellow students to apply to the Clinton Global Initiative in the future.