Lauren Rubenstein

Director of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Slotkin Theorizes on the Roots of U.S. Gun Culture

The Globe and Mail turned to eminent cultural historian Richard Slotkin, Richard S. Olin Professor of English and American Studies, emeritus, for a story examining the roots of violence in American culture. Citing Slotkin’s past writings, the article explains that common American folk tales about the country’s history depict “violence as essential to its manifest destiny, something that makes progress itself possible. This means the gun isn’t just a weapon, it’s a nation-building tool, like the railroad, the axe or the Pony Express. According to Slotkin, this is how that happens: ‘When history is translated into myth, the complexities of social and historical experiences are simplified and compressed into the action of representative individuals or ‘heroes.’'”

Grossman on Bank “Robo-Signing” Settlement

Professor of Economics Richard Grossman appeared on First Business News, a nationally syndicated television program, to discuss the impact of an $8.5 billion settlement announced between 10 banks and federal regulators over foreclosure abuses. The settlement resolves the banks’ “robo-signing” scandal, a hasty process by which banks approved foreclosures. Funds from the settlement will be distributed to borrowers who lost their homes, or are at risk of losing them.

“What we should hope for in terms of this settlement is that it makes banks and other lenders think twice before they relax their lending standards too much,” said Grossman.

Wesleyan Class Grants $10,000 to Local Non-profits

The Hartford Courant featured a new class, Money and Social Change, offered at Wesleyan in the fall semester. Students were asked to explore the question, “How is money used to change the world?” The class undertook a rigorous survey of 400 non-profit organizations in the greater Middletown area, and through a multi-round elimination process, eventually chose four receive $10,000 in available funds. Funding was provided to the class by the Learning by Giving Foundation, established in 2011 to promote the study of the nonprofit sector and philanthropy by undergraduate students.

A story about the course also ran in The Middletown Press.

 

Following Blind Ideology Off the Fiscal Cliff

In the wake of the last-minute “fiscal cliff” deal reached by Congress at the start of the year, Professor of Economics Richard Grossman examines in an op-ed in The Hartford Courant  how we got into this mess. Though reasonable people may disagree over what top marginal tax rate is ideal for the economy, he writes, the stubborn resistance of Congressional Republicans to any tax increases is the product of ideology, not reason. Looking back over history, the “abdication of sound economic reasoning in favor of ideology” has resulted in numerous policy mistakes with long-lasting economic impacts.

Rudensky Discusses Photographer Diane Arbus’ Work

Assistant Professor of Art Sasha Rudensky recently was a guest on WNPR’s “Faith Middletown Show,” where she discussed the work of the late photographer Diane Arbus. Though Arbus is remembered for choosing “freaks” as her subjects, Rudensky says of that term: “I certainly don’t think it does justice to the great variety of subjects that she was interested in. I think, more than anything, she was deeply interested in people, and they happen to be very different kinds of people… Undoubtedly, she was more focused on those people that were largely unseen in society. But at the same time, I think she was as interested in people that were very privileged.”

Listen to Rudensky (starting around minute 36) here.

Can Libor Be Fixed?

In an interview with Law360, Professor of Economics Richard Grossman discussed recent reforms suggested for the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) following a rigging scandal by banks. Grossman argued that the benchmark interest rate should be scrapped because “self-reported data is always susceptible to corruption, and as long as the market relies heavily on its own participants to set interest rates, it risks losing the confidence of lenders and borrowers.”

“This is what financial regulators are there to do — protect the integrity of the market,” he said. “This is a moment for them to be aggressive, and I worry they’re stopping short because to go further would be too hard.”

Read the full article here.

Guns and the American Psyche

Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English and American Studies, Emeritus, appeared on WNPR’s “The Colin McEnroe Show” to discuss the myth–and reality–of the centrality of guns in American culture over history. Listen here.

Hoggard’s Jazz Christmas Album Among Year’s Best

NPR recommends a new jazz Christmas album by vibraphonist and composer Jay Hoggard, adjunct professor of music. The reviewer writes that Hoggard, “…draws upon the Christian tradition in which he was raised — his father was a clergyman — for a universal message surrounding all the good things of the season. Joining Hoggard are fellow respected veterans James Weidman on organ and Bruce Cox on drums. That combination of instruments creates spaciousness on a program of traditional songs and original meditations.”

Adler ’11 Will Study British Print Culture in the U.K. as a Marshall Scholar

Zully Adler '11 was nominated for the Marshall Scholarship by Wesleyan’s International Scholarships Committee.

Zully Adler ’11 was nominated for the Marshall Scholarship by Wesleyan’s International Scholarships Committee.

History major Solomon “Zully” Adler ’11 has been named a Marshall Scholar for 2013-14, an honor that will allow him to study toward a graduate degree at a British university. He is Wesleyan’s eighth Marshall Scholar, and the first since 1996.

The Marshall Scholarship was founded in 1953 in honor of U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall to commemorate the humane ideals of the Marshall Plan (the American program to help European economies rebuild after the end of World War II). Each year, up to 40 intellectually distinguished young American scholars are selected to receive full financing of a graduate degree at a U.K. institution in any field of study. More information on the program is available here.

Adler was nominated for the Marshall Scholarship by Wesleyan’s International Scholarships Committee, and President Michael S. Roth signed a letter of institutional endorsement. Professor of Art David Schorr and Adler’s thesis advisor, Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history and science in society, wrote letters of recommendation for him.

Adler studied printmaking, typography and graphic design with Schorr as well as serving as his teaching apprentice. Schorr said, “Zully’s abilities as an artist and designer were commensurate with his intellectual gifts, and in fact, his ability to make his own complex ideas visual was his great gift. His work was challenging and always witty, and though not a studio major, he and his roommate had a two-person show in Usdan of their work in printmaking and typography.”

According to Tucker, the History Department awarded Adler the Dutcher Prize in recognition of his outstanding performance as a history major. Adler’s excellent honors thesis, “‘I Belong to Every Country’: John James Audubon and the Multivalence of National Identity,” received high honors in the History Department with a grade of A+, and has drawn attention from scholars of the history of science and art.

Adler says Tucker, who was a Marshall Scholar herself at the University of Cambridge in 1988, suggested he apply for the scholarship based on his interest in researching the United Kingdom. “I was fascinated by British print culture in the 19th century and its many transformations—from letterpress to engraving, to lithography, and finally the offset rotary press. I also had a particular affinity for the British Arts and Crafts Movement,” he says. “The Marshall was the perfect opportunity to explore these histories through interdisciplinary practice.”

Adler’s studies in the U.K. will begin in Fall 2013. The Marshall Scholarship is granted before applicants are officially accepted by the individual universities. Adler’s preference is to first earn a one-year Master of Studies in Art History and Visual Culture at Oxford University. There, he intends to write a short dissertation on William Morris, the Kelmscott Press, and the nexus of independent print and commercial reproduction in the late 19th century. In his second year, he hopes to study at the Glasgow School of Art and earn a Master of Research in Creative Practices. This program explores how academic research informs studio practice/creative production.

Zully Adler performs with Suweiai Bopu (Soviet Pop) in Beijing, China during his Watson Fellowship in January.

Zully Adler performs with Suweiai Bopu (Soviet Pop) in Beijing, China during his Watson Fellowship in January.

Ultimately, Adler says, these programs will prepare him to earn a Ph.D. in History. He plans to pursue an academic post that will allow him to study Modernism in Visual Culture and teach history in a hands-on manner. “If everything goes my way, I will be able to fold curatorial and editorial practice into my academic work,” he says.

Adler, who hails from Los Angles, Calif., applied for the Marshall Scholarship while traveling around the world through a year-long Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which ended in August. During this year, Adler researched independent and sustainability approaches to community art and music, and collaborated with DIY music labels (specifically, cassette-based labels) and musicians in nearly 40 cities across 15 countries. In each location, he lived with a local artist and worked with a local “collective,” who shared their space and equipment with him. (Read more about Adler’s Watson Fellowship in this Wesleyan Connection article.)

“My work included collaborating on new releases of local music, organizing collaborative concerts, and recording with various musicians. I took part in several panel discussions on new approaches to independent music,” Adler says.

Adler traces his academic pursuits back to his relationships with Wesleyan faculty. “I owe so much to my mentors and instructors, who prompted my fascination with Morris, my addiction to print, and my love of research,” he says. Specifically, “Professor Joseph Siry’s course of Modern European Architecture introduced me to the work at theory of William Morris, John Ruskin, and the whole British Arts and Crafts Movement. Professor David Schorr’s course on Typography was the foundation for my interest in the craft of print. He opened my eyes to the world of design; a visual code that permeates our everyday lives. My academic advisor, Professor Magda Teter, encouraged my study of books. Her courses on Jewish History and the History of the Book gave new life to old tomes. My thesis advisor, Jennifer Tucker, proved to me that Visual Culture is a worthy pursuit. She fostered my appetite for Victorian England and the 19th century in general. And working with Suzy Taraba in Wesleyan’s Special Collections proved how exciting and rewarding archival research can be. All I needed were some great people to help me out.”

#THISISWHY

Can Increased Class Time Close the Achievement Gap?

Assistant Professor of Sociology Daniel Long responded with skepticism to a new pilot program in Connecticut and four other states that will increase the amount of time children spend in school. In an op-ed in The Hartford Courant, Long writes that past experiments with increased learning time have shown mixed results and are an expensive, unproven way to improve student learning and narrow the achievement gap. At a time when Connecticut school districts face increasingly tight budgets, the state should focus on reform efforts backed by research.

Long also participated in a discussion on the impact of increased class time on learning outcomes on WNPR’s “Where We Live.”

Roth Discusses Wesleyan’s Foray into MOOCs

President Michael S. Roth was interviewed for an article in Inside Higher Ed on liberal arts schools entering the world of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. Wesleyan was the first liberal arts school to offer MOOCs, in a partnership with the company Coursera, and Roth says he hopes the experience will offer new insights on how people learn, allow professors to improve their courses on campus, and help spread the Wesleyan academic experience to a much wider audience around the world.

Kristof: A Gift to ‘Shining Hope’ Will Change Lives

In his New York Times column titled, “Gifts That Change Lives,” Nicholas Kristof invites readers to donate to Shining Hope for Communities this holiday season. The foundation, started by Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09, operates a girls’ school, clinic, water and sanitation program  and job training classes in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. Learn more at http://shininghopeforcommunities.org.