Lauren Rubenstein

Director of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

History Through the Eyes of Pete Seeger

The New Haven Register interviewed Rob Rosenthal, provost and vice president for academic affairs, John E. Andrus professor of sociology, about his book compiling folk singer Pete Seeger’s private letters, notes and writings. Rosenthal and his son Sam were granted access to Seeger’s barn, which contained a treasure trove of documents from the 93-year-old activist and singer’s life.

Barber Reviews “Triumphs of Experience”

A book review in The Wilson Quarterly by Charles Barber, visiting assistant professor of psychology, visiting writer to the College of Letters, was recently picked up on Andrew Sullivan’s “The Dish” blog. Barber reviewed the book Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study about a 70-year longitudinal study of 268 Harvard students.

Barber notes the study’s limitations–primarily, that its only subjects are white, privileged men–but writes that many of its findings are universal. “If they could be boiled down to a single revelation, it would be that the secret to a happy life is relationships, relationships, relationships. The best predictors of adult success and well-being are a childhood in which one feels accepted and nurtured; an empathetic coping style at ages 20 through 35; and warm adult relationships.”

 

 

 

Wesleyan U. Press Donates Book to 850 Connecticut Libraries

A book published by Wesleyan University Press, titled, Making Freedom: The Extraordinary Life of Venture Smith, will be distributed for free to about 850 municipal, middle school and high school libraries statewide. The books are being donated through the generosity of an anonymous donor.

The book is about the life of Venture Smith, “an African slave who bought his freedom and became a prominent farmer and trader in 18th century Connecticut,” according to The Day of New London, Conn., which wrote about an event in Hartford announcing the book’s distribution.

At the event, Suzanna Tamminen, director and editor-in-chief of Wesleyan University Press, was joined by Connecticut’s Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Congressmen Rosa DeLauro, Joe Courtney, Jim Himes and Elizabeth Esty, as well as NAACP President Scot Esdaile and descendants of Venture Smith and of his owners.

Kit Reed’s “The Story Until Now” Reviewed

Resident Writer Kit Reed’s new collection of stories, The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories is “an excellent compilation of Reed’s career, including works from each of the five decades in which she’s been published. The surprising thing about this fact is that, regardless of the period, none of these stories read as dated,” states a review in ForeWord Reviews. “Reed demonstrates her ability here to write fiction that reflects its time, whether it’s mainstream or not.”

Hindu Mystic: Detach from Family to Avoid Sadness

Professor of History William Pinch spoke to The New York Times for a story about Hindu holy men, called Sadhus, who spoke recently at a religious festival, Kumbh Mela, about the importance of detaching oneself from family. Pinch told the Times that Sadhus are part of religious orders that were once mercenary armies that terrified parts of northern India centuries ago.

“They are the ghosts of armies past,” Pinch said. “And they were often employed as assassins.”

These armies often stole or bought children to fill their ranks, Pinch said. And the rituals of joining the orders usually involved cutting all ties to family, he said.

Middletown Mayor Honors 3 Students for Service to the City

Meiyi Cheng '13 and Mayor Dan Drew.

Meiyi Cheng ’13 and Mayor Dan Drew.

On Feb. 27, City of Middletown Mayor Dan Drew issued a proclamation to thank three Wesleyan students for their service to the city assisting in sales agreement documentation and language translation between International Lubricant, Inc. and Chinese investors.

Mayor Drew declared Feb. 27, 2013 as “Yejing Gu (’14), Michael You Rong Leung (’15) and Meiyi Cheng (’13) Day.”

See this document for more information.

Lucy Orta on Art, Food, Water, Life

Sculptor Lucy Orta appeared on WNPR’s “Where We Live” to discuss a new exhibit of work by her and her husband opening at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts. The exhibit, called FOOD-WATER-LIFE, explores major concerns that define the 21st century, including biodiversity, environmental conditions and climate change.

The show runs through Sunday, March 3. Gallery hours are 12-5, Tuesday through Sunday.

Lim on Obama’s State of the Union

Writing on the OUPblog, Associate Professor of Government Elvin Lim gave a close read of President Obama’s State of the Union Address earlier this month. Lim writes that Obama “has already signaled unabashedly that he will make the tough decisions” on issues such as climate change, the minimum wage, immigration, and the sequester. But though “the televised address makes it look like the president is legislator-in-chief, he is anything but that. He can only execute the law; but to make the law he wants to execute, he needs Congress.”

Wesleyan Creating New College of Film and the Moving Image

Wesleyan President Michael Roth announced the new College of Film and the Moving Image during the Wesleyan Entertainment Reception at the Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, Calif. on Feb. 18. Pictured at the event, from left, are Rick Nicita '67; Michael Roth; Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies; Ava Fries, Chuck Fries P'85 and Mike Fries '85. Nicita has hosted the Wesleyan Entertainment Reception for 20 years.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth announced the new College of Film and the Moving Image during the Wesleyan Entertainment Reception at the Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, Calif. on Feb. 18. Pictured at the event, from left, are Rick Nicita ’67; Michael Roth; Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies; Ava Fries, Chuck Fries P’85 and Mike Fries ’85. Nicita has hosted the Wesleyan Entertainment Reception for 20 years.

Wesleyan has announced the establishment of a new College of Film and the Moving Image, which includes the Film Studies Department, the Center for Film Studies, the Cinema Archives and the Wesleyan Film Series.

“We’re excited to bring together all the great things we’ve been doing around film—the Film Studies major and minor, the Cinema Archives and the Wesleyan Film Series—under the umbrella of the College of Film and the Moving Image,” said President Michael Roth. “The film curriculum is already so very strong, anchored in liberal learning and connected with the making of new work for cinema, television, and the web. The college structure will enable us to marshal our resources more effectively and to shine a brighter light on the great work that’s been happening in film and related areas for some time.”

Roth announced the creation of the new college at an event for alumni and friends of the university in Los Angeles, Calif. on Feb. 18.

In 2012, the Center for Film Studies hosted 12,700 visitors—more than any other academic enterprise on campus. The center includes spaces such as the Rick Nicita Gallery, the Powell Family Cinema and the Goldsmith Family Cinema. The Wesleyan Cinema Archives is pictured at right.

Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image includes the Film Studies Department, the Center for Film Studies, the Cinema Archives and the Wesleyan Film Series.

The university already houses three other interdisciplinary colleges: College of Letters, College of the Environment and College of Social Studies. The film program has a long history of supporting interdisciplinary study, with seven other departments cross-listing their courses with film.

“Since its birth around the early 1970s, the Film Studies Department has been interdisciplinary,” said Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, founder and curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives. “We are delighted that the College of Film and Moving Image unites the Film Studies Department, the Cinema Archives, the Center for Film Studies, and the Wesleyan Film Series into a single entity. Thanks to President Michael Roth, the Educational Policy Committee, our dean and our provost for all the support that we were given.”

According to Scott Higgins, acting chair and associate professor of film studies, Wesleyan leads all other liberal arts colleges in the area of film studies, and compares well with major film schools, according to such rankings as The Hollywood Reporter’s. Yet, he said, “We are not only a film production program. We offer a true liberal arts approach to the study of the moving image. In the past half-decade, we’ve seen many other liberal arts colleges develop film programs, lots of them employing our model.”

Psychology Lab Studies How Cameras May Help Memory-Impaired People

Psychology majors Julian Zhong '13, Ashley Swan '13 and Tacie Moskowitz ’13 work with Professor of Psychology John Seamon in the Memory Lab at Wesleyan. The team is studying if a memory camera can help patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Psychology majors Julian Zhong ’13, Ashley Swan ’13 and Tacie Moskowitz ’13 work with Professor of Psychology John Seamon in the Memory Lab at Wesleyan. The team is studying if a memory camera can help patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

For people suffering in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, from head injuries or other conditions that impair memory, a special trip to the seashore or a visit with family may be just a blur by the end of the day. With assistance from a simple device known as a ViconRevue memory camera, Professor John Seamon and his students are studying whether it’s possible to help these patients remember more of their lives. While the studies are ongoing, early results are promising. They also suggest that our current understanding of how these patients’ brains are malfunctioning may be wrong, or perhaps too simplistic.

Seamon, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, is conducting research both in his Memory Lab at Wesleyan, and at the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center at the Institute of Living at Hartford Hospital. The memory camera device was invented by researchers at Microsoft about 10 years ago. A small and lightweight black camera, it is worn on a lanyard around the patient’s neck, and automatically takes a photograph every 30 seconds, or whenever it senses motion or a change in light. It is hoped that reviewing these snapshots of the day’s events later will help patients remember many details that would otherwise be out of reach.

According to Seamon, a handful of case studies have been published in the last five years about memory-impaired people wearing the special camera who are taken on an outing by their spouse or adult child. When the people later reviewed pictures of the day taken by the camera and reminisced about the events with their loved ones, they showed improved recollection of the outing, which remained for a period of months.

Kurtz Published in Scientific American Mind Magazine, Academic Journals

Matthew Kurtz

Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, has published an article in the March 2013 issue of Scientific American Mind magazine. Kurtz, who studies schizophrenia, writes about the less-well-known symptoms of the disease, which include cognitive and social deficits. These troubles make it difficult for people with schizophrenia to maintain meaningful relationships, hold jobs and live independently. Sadly, drugs used to treat the hallucinations and delusions in schizophrenia do nothing to improve patients’ quality of life in these other areas.

In the article, Kurtz describes some of the new psychological interventions shown to improve cognitive and social skills in people with schizophrenia. One such therapy, called cognitive remediation, uses computer software or paper-and-pencil exercises to improve patients’ ability to concentrate, remember, plan and solve problems. Other treatments, called social cognitive or “social skills” training programs, work to improve social skills by helping patients to decipher emotional cues and take another person’s perspective. Remarkably, these therapies appear to create visible changes in brain activity.

The full article can be viewed online (a fee applies for non-Wesleyan-network readers).

In addition, Kurtz, together with students in his lab, recently had two academic papers on schizophrenia published.

On Dec. 30, 2012, the paper, “Cognitive and social cognitive predictors of change in objective versus subjective quality-of-life in rehabilitation for schizophrenia,” was published in Psychiatry Research. Written by Kurtz, psychology major Melanie Bronfeld ’12, and Research Professor of Psychology Jennifer Rose, the paper explores the role of cognitive, social cognitive and symptom factors as predictors of response to psychosocial rehabilitation in schizophrenia. Somewhat different patterns of factors predicted change in objective indices of quality-of-life, (eg. work success, number of friends, etc.) and subjective quality-of-life indices (ie. personal satisfaction with these same life domains—vocational status and social life, etc.)  More specifically, social cognitive factors only played a role in predicting  improvements in objective quality-of-life while verbal memory predicted improvement in both domains.

Also, on Feb. 1, Kurtz, Rose and neuroscience and behavior major Rachel Olfson ’14 had a paper, Self-efficacy and functional status in schizophrenia: Relationship to insight, cognition and negative symptoms,” published in Schizophrenia Research. The authors studied the role of self-efficacy—defined as  one’s belief in his or her ability to accomplish a goal–in helping explain the relationship of cognition and negative symptoms to outcome in schizophrenia.  They found that self-efficacy only plays a role in outcome in patients with good illness insight. When illness insight is poor, self-efficacy has minimal value as a meaningful psychological construct explaining outcome in the disease.

Learn more about Kurtz’s research in this Wesleyan video.

 

Federal Research Chimps Savor Retirement

Following the announcement last month that the National Institutes of Health recommends the retirement of most of the federally supported research chimps to the federal sanctuary system, The Associated Press published a story describing life at the Chimp Haven sanctuary in Louisiana. Lori Gruen, professor of philosophy, professor of environmental studies, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, has spent time at the facility and describes the living spaces in the story.

“Those spaces are huge. They’re huge,” said Gruen, who specializes in animal ethics. Chimp Haven is “a pretty remarkable facility. I think it will be quite interesting and exciting to see it expand.”