Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Odede ’12: From an African Slum to a Wesleyan Graduate

Kennedy Odede '12 delivered the Senior Class Welcome during the 180th Commencement Ceremony on May 27. (Photo by Nick Lacy)

Kennedy Odede ’12 delivered the Senior Class Welcome during the 180th Commencement Ceremony May 27:

Today, I stand before you as the first person from Africa’s largest slum to graduate from an American university.
For most of my life, I never imagined that one day I would be standing here.
For me, Wesleyan is HOPE.

You, the class of 2012, and my time at Wesleyan have changed me forever.

I grew up in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, where more than a million people live in an area the size of Central Park—without sewage systems, roads, running water, or access to basic rights like health care and education.

I was the oldest of eight children in a family that could not afford food, much less school fees. In Kibera, I dreamed of many things: food to eat, clean water to drink, safety from the violence, and relief from oppression that surrounded me.

Today, I want to tell you three stories about hope.

Class of 1962 Celebrates 50th Reunion

Members of the Class of 1962 and guests celebrated their 50th Reunion during Reunion & Commencement Weekend May 24-27.

During the reunion, Hank Sprouse ’62 presented a cardinal carving to Wesleyan on behalf of his class. The carving will be permanently displayed in Daniel Family Commons. Sprouse and Bruce Corwin ’62 also led a discussion on “Reinventing Ourselves As We Move Along” followed by a class discussion. In addition, the Class of 1962 dedicated the Highwaymen Common Room, located in the Romance Languages and Literatures Department. Photos of the 50th Class Reunion are below:

West African Drummers, Dancers Perform on CFA Green

Wesleyan’s West African Drumming and Dance performers.

Wesleyan’s annual West African Drumming and Dance concert, which took place on the Center for the Arts Green, was recently featured by the Middletown Patch.

The article, published on May 15, notes: “The exhilarating performance featured the work of Ghanian choreographer Iddi Saaka, Wesleyan world dance artist-in-residence; and master drummer Abraham Adzenyah, whose energetic and spirited students gave a sampling of what they’ve learned in West African dance courses this semester, accompanied by guest artists and drummers. ”

Read the article and see the video of the performance here.

Smith Expert on 17th and 18th Century Literature

Courtney Weiss Smith, assistant professor of English, will teach an upper-level seminar on 18th Century poetry, and a class cross-listed with the Science in Society Program next year. She recently celebrated her first year teaching at Wesleyan. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Assistant Professor Courtney Weiss Smith is finishing up her first year in the English Department, where she shares with students her enthusiasm for 18th century English poetry, literature and culture.

A native of St. Louis, Mo., Smith earned a B.A. from the University of Dayton and received her M.A. and Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis. She originally intended to study the 19th Century novel in graduate school, but became increasingly drawn to earlier literature of the 17th and 18th Centuries. “I was curious where these 19th Century novels came from,” Smith remarks. “I became fascinated by the novelistic experiments of the 18th Century. Then I started thinking about what preceded and influenced these—the new kinds of scientific and economic prose, the strange, not-quite-novelistic fictional forms, the unexpected genres of poetry.”

Before coming to Wesleyan, Smith taught for one year in the English and Foundations of the Liberal Arts departments at Transylvania University, a small liberal arts school in Lexington, Ky.

She taught four courses in Wesleyan’s English department over the past year.

Lensing Co-Edits Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Journal

Book edited by Leo Lensing

Leo Lensing, chair and professor of German studies, professor of film studies, is the co-editor of the book, Träume. Das Traumtagebuch 1875-1931, published by Wallstein Verlag in 2012. Träume is the dream journal of Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931). Schnitzler is the author of La Ronde, Fräulein Else and other classics of early 20-century Austrian literature.

Prepared together with Peter Michael Braunwarth to celebrate Schnitzler’s 150th birthday, the revised and expanded version of the dream texts originally included in Schnitzler’s diaries can be read as an implicit challenge to Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. Schnitzler’s Träume (Dreams) is both an “unconscious” autobiography of its author, whom Freud called his doppelgänger, and a dark, surreal reflection of the era between the final phase of the Habsburg Empire and the rise of fascism in the 1920s. His dreams are peopled not only by his family and famous Viennese contemporaries, including Freud, Mahler, Klimt, Karl Kraus and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, but also by Goethe, Mozart, Wagner, Emperor Franz Joseph, Kaiser Wilhelm and even Marlene Dietrich.

Träume has elicited an unexpectedly wide and positive response in the Austrian and German media. An early review of the book in the Viennese music journal Der neue Merker marveled over the “profound richness” of the dream texts and praised commentary and afterword as a “compendium of knowledge” about Schnitzler’s world. ORF TV (Austrian National Television) presented a feature on the book in the evening news on May 6, and Austrian Public Radio included a review a month earlier in “Ex libris,” a weekly program discussing new books. Deutschlandfunk, Deutschland Radio and Westdeutscher Rundfunk, three of Germany’s most prominent public radio stations, broadcast extensive reviews; Deutschlandfunk also named Träume “Book of the Week” on May 15 (Schnitzler’s birthday).

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published a full-page excerpt from the book in its Sunday edition in February and followed up with a positive review and the designation as one of five “Books of the Week” on May 15. The reviewer for the prestigious Arts pages of the Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich) called Träume “the most fascinating new book of the season,” and Die Welt (Berlin) published a two-page spread that combined a review with lengthy excerpts. Austrian Public Radio has just named the book to its May “Bestenliste,” the 10 best books of the month. Sales have been brisk, and a second printing is due out in mid-June.

Sanislow, Bartolini ’11, Zoloth ’10 Published in Human Behavior Encyclopedia

Charles Sanislow, assistant professor of psychology; Ellen Bartolini ’11; and Emma Zoloth ’10 are the co-authors of an article on avoidant personality disorder, published in the Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, 2nd Edition by the Elsevier imprint Academic Press, pages 257-266, 2012.
According to an abstract of the article, “Avoidant personality disorder (APD) is characterized by severe and chronic social anxiety. Prospective studies demonstrate modest symptomatic stability and chronic functional impairment. Current diagnostic conceptualizations distinguish APD from other distress disorders, such as anxiety and depression, by a long-standing pattern of social avoidance accompanied by fears of criticism and low self-worth so pervasive that it defines who a person is. New proposals to refine the diagnosis include the addition of trait components focusing on negative emotionality, introversion, anhedonia, and compulsive risk aversion to better distinguish APD from other anxiety-related disorders. APD is a useful diagnostic construct that captures an entrenched manifestation of social anxiety driven by feelings of low self-worth and the expectation of rejection.”

 

Seniors, BA/MAs Present Thesis Research at NSM Poster Session

Seth Hafferkamp '12 presents his thesis titled, "Autoionization Lifetime Measurements of Na2 Rydberg States" at the "Celebration of Science Theses" April 19 in Exley Science Center. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Fifteen Wesleyan students presented posters on their research in the sciences and mathematics at the seventh annual “Celebration of Science Theses” event held April 19.

“You help keep our sciences here vibrant and alive,” Ishita Mukerji, dean of natural sciences and mathematics, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, tells the students gathered in the lobby of Exley Science Center as she congratulates them. Mukerji says she hopes that after pausing to celebrate their achievements, the students will continue to pursue research for many years to come.

The work presented by seniors and BA/MA students spans a wide range of disciplines.

Micah Wylde ’12 presents his research on “Safe Motion Planning for Autonomous Driving."

For his project, Micah Wylde ’12, a computer science major, developed algorithms for self-driving cars, like the cars reportedly being developed by Google. The algorithms translate high-level navigation goals (eg. Drive from home to the grocery store) into actual turns of the steering wheel. “I was working particularly on safety, which is a big deal when you have one-ton cars hurtling down the road,” he explains.

Wylde says self-driving cars are no longer the stuff of science fiction. “Everything has come together in the last five years—algorithms, sensing technology,” he says. “Now it’s just refining it.”

He adds, “In the next decade, there are going to be autonomous cars on the road—no question.”

Tom Oddo ’12, a Science in Society Program major, studied the work of D. D. Palmer, who founded chiropractics at the turn of the 20th century. Oddo plans to train to be a chiropractor after graduation, and sought to explain the stigma attached to the practice.

Anthropology Class Completes Service Learning Project in Brooklyn

Community members Guido and Tish Ciancotta of GREC (sitting), Laura Hofmann of OUTRAGE, Chris Henderson of St. Nicks Alliance, and Pat Dobosz of GEM, pose with ANTH 289 students and faculty Gillian Goslinga and Jill Sigman at the close of the community ritual.

The students in ANTH 289, “Ritual, Health, and Healing” stepped outside the Wesleyan campus this spring to participate in a service learning project in the North Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint.

According to Assistant Professor of Anthropology Gillian Goslinga—who co-taught the course with Artist-in-Residence Jill Sigman, a North Brooklyn-based performance artist—Greenpoint is a neighborhood facing multiple health, social and environmental challenges. The students in this Creative Campus anthropology course, which is cross-listed with Science in Society and Dance, had the opportunity to collaborate with a number of community organizations, each dedicated to addressing a different issue. This is the first time Goslinga and Sigman have taught the course, which covers topics such as shamanic ritual and traditional medicine, as well as community health and social and environmental justice, and tackles questions of the efficacy of ritual and the traditional ritual/modern medicine dichotomy. The course also has a weekly movement lab, led by Jill Sigman, where students use choreographed movements to explore course concepts.

The service learning project in Greenpoint grew out of Sigman’s artistic work. A multi-media artist and choreographer, Sigman had been commissioned to create the seventh hut in her “Hut Project” by the Arts@Renaissance unit of St. Nicks Alliance, a community organization that works on affordable housing issues in North Brooklyn. For her Hut Project, Sigman builds sculptures, dwellings and stages out of repurposed and found materials, which then become sites for performance and community discussions on the critical issues of garbage, environment and housing. Goslinga says, “The tie-in with the themes of the course was obvious.”

“One of my goals for the course had been to invite students to query default biomedical framings of health and healing, where individual biology tends to be over-privileged even in epidemiological studies, and to broaden thinking about causalities for suffering, extending these to social, historical and environmental traumas, where suffering can also be about loss and shock, forced displacement and discriminatory policy decisions, structural poverty and environmental degradation (often all are related),” she says. “In these contexts, community ritual can be a restorative response.”

Students Inducted into French Honor Society, Pi Delta Phi

This year, 11 seniors were inducted into the French National Honor Society, Pi Delta Phi, on April 18. The students were recognized for their outstanding scholarship in the French language and literature. Pictured, from left to right, are inductees Rachel Tretter, Carina Kaufman, Sarah La Rue, Emma Mohney, Kelvin Kofie, Rachel Silton, Meera Suresh, Hahn Le, Alexandra Kinney.

Catherine Poisson, associate professor of romance languages and literatures, led the initiation ceremony. The society seeks to increase Americans' knowledge and appreciation of the cultural contributions of French-speaking countries, and to stimulate and encourage French and francophone cultural activities.

Rachel Tretter , in the foreground, signs the Pi Delta Phi book, making her membership official, while Poisson watches on.

Carina Kaufman, Sarah La Rue, Emma Mohney recite a pledge in French. Members of the society pledge to continue to promote and celebrate the French language and the Francophone culture throughout their life.

In foreground, Alexandra Kinney, and behind, from left, Rachel Silton, Meera Suresh and Hahn Le recite the pledge. (Photos by Charlotte Christopher '12)

Roth Speaks at MCC’s Presidential Inauguration

Michael Roth

On April 21, Wesleyan President Michael Roth spoke at the inauguration of Anna M. Wasescha as Middlesex Community College’s sixth president. Roth joined Senator Richard Blumenthal, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew and many others to welcome the new president.

In his speech, Roth said: “Middlesex Community College and Wesleyan have common ground … literally. Last September members of our institutions stood together on Main Street Middletown to celebrate Moving Planet Day, and to join in the commitment to reduce fossil fuel use. Supporting that celebration was Wesleyan’s College of the Environment, which we have begun in the last few years. We have also made significant investments in energy efficiency and in a more sustainable approach to our dining services. So, I am especially pleased by the theme of this inauguration celebration, ‘Going Green.’ Institutions of higher learning should be setting an example regarding responsibility for the environment. And in this – as in a great many things – I’m happy to see that Wesleyan and Middlesex Community College are taking a common stand. President Wasescha, welcome to Central Connecticut, welcome to Middletown, welcome to common ground.”

Video of the inauguration can be seen here.