Lauren Rubenstein

Director of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Basinger Reviews Biography of Actor Dana Andrews

The Wall Street Journal recently published a review by Jeanine Basinger, chair of film studies and Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, of, “Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews,” a new biography of the actor. Basinger considers why Andrews, who had a long career as a leading man in film, has been relegated to a “second tier” of actors, seldom listed among the legendary male stars of the studio system.

Wesleyan to Offer Free Online Courses through Coursera Partnership

Wesleyan is the first small liberal arts college focused on the undergraduate experience to partner with Coursera.

Wesleyan is the first small liberal arts college focused on the undergraduate experience to partner with Coursera.

Wesleyan announced on Sept. 19 a new partnership with Coursera, a company offering the public access to free online courses from top colleges and universities. Wesleyan was one of 17 new institutions to sign on this month, and is the very first liberal arts institution focused on the undergraduate experience to do so. Other partners among Coursera’s 33 participants include Stanford, Princeton and Brown; public research universities such as the University of Florida; and specialized schools such as Berklee College of Music.

Coursera was founded by two Stanford University professors seeking to expand educational opportunities through technology. Since its launch in January, Coursera has enrolled more than 1.3 million students, and now offers more than 200 MOOCs—or “massive open online courses”—some of which attract tens of thousands of students.

“As a school dedicated to teaching and scholarship, Wesleyan is pleased to be joining Coursera’s impressive initiative to provide intellectual challenge and reward to anyone with the desire to learn,” says President Michael S. Roth. “Liberal education cultivates freedom through lifelong learning, and American universities now have a great, unprecedented opportunity to promote freedom worldwide by sharing great teaching.”

Students move through Coursera classes at their own pace, watch videos of lectures by world-class professors, complete online interactive exercises and test understanding of concepts. Classes span the humanities, social sciences, math, science, medicine, business, music, computer science and more.

The recent announcement of Coursera’s expansion drew attention from many national news outlets, including The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In an interview with The Hartford Courant, Roth explained, “This is really about taking the education available to a few students at selective schools and making a version of it, not the same thing, but making a version of it available to millions.”

In a post on his blog, Roth elaborated on the thinking behind Wesleyan’s partnership with Coursera:

“The idea that Wesleyan will be offering free, massive online classes will strike some as paradoxical. We are a small university at which almost three quarters of the courses are taught in an interactive, seminar style. How is that related to online learning? In important respects the classes offered through Coursera are very different from the ones we teach here in Middletown. Our residential liberal arts education depends on the ongoing interaction of students with one another and with faculty. MOOCs encourage interaction of a different sort: through social media and chat rooms.

“Nonetheless, we want to understand better how students learn in these contexts, precisely because they are so different from our own. And we think it is simply a good thing to share versions of our classes with the wider world. The Wes educational experience does not scale up — but we can make available online adaptations of our classes so that those with a desire to learn have access to some of what we have to teach.”

Lisa Dierker, professor of psychology, will teach the online course, “Passion Driven Statistics.”

Alumni, parents and anyone else who wants a taste of the Wesleyan educational experience can visit to view current course offerings. Roth himself will offer a course, “The Modern and the Postmodern,” beginning Feb. 1, 2013. Other courses to be offered initially by Wesleyan professors include “Property and Liability: An Introduction to Law and Economics,” by Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, chair of economics; “Passion Driven Statistics,” by Lisa Dierker, professor of psychology; “The Ancient Greeks,” by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, the Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, professor of classical studies; “The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound and Color,” by Scott Higgins, associate professor of film studies; and “Social Psychology,” by Scott Plous, professor of psychology. The courses range from five to seven weeks in length.

After one day of posting, 10,000 individuals had signed up to take Wesleyan Coursera courses.

Whitford ’81 Speaks to Film Students, Alumni

Actor Bradley Whitford ’81 and Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and chair of film studies. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Actor Bradley Whitford ’81 and Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and chair of film studies. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Speaking in the Center for Film Studies on Sept. 24, actor Bradley Whitford ’81 shared wisdom on subjects ranging from show business to politics to dealing with the insecurity inherent in being an actor.

Whitford addressed an audience of film and theater majors, prospective majors and alumni. Best known for his role as Josh Lyman on The West Wing, Whitford was recently elected to Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees. He has also had starring roles in the shows Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The Good Guys. Recently, he co-starred in a film, “Cabin in the Woods,” written by Joss Whedon ’87.

In introducing Whitford, Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and chair of film studies, highlighted a few lesser-known facts about the actor: In 2007, he was honored by the Alliance for Justice for his political involvement. (Basinger pointed out this interest in the wider world outside the arts marks him as a typical Wesleyan product). He is the father of three children, a certified yoga teacher, and is deeply committed to his juicer.

“You’re at a really amazing place at an amazing time in your life, reaping the gifts of an amazing woman who has created something out of nothing that is renowned worldwide,” Whitford told the students, speaking of Basinger and Wesleyan’s film program. He pointed to the remarkable number of Wesleyan alumni who go on to careers in Hollywood, a crowd that is jokingly referred to as “the Wesleyan Mafia.”

Juhasz’s Study Ties Word Processing Speed to Sensory Experience

Assistant Professor Barbara Juhasz is interested in understanding how words produce a certain sensory experience when read.

Assistant Professor Barbara Juhasz is interested in understanding how words produce a certain sensory experience when read.


Read the following words in your head:




Though it may be happening on a subconscious level, all these words share an important feature: They all evoke a sensation or perceptual experience in the mind of the reader. Incense brings to mind a particular scent; lemon, a tart taste in the mouth; and kick activates a part of the brain responsible for motor behavior. Research suggests that these mental reactions occur very quickly—within fractions of a second—after reading a word.

In the Eye Movement and Reading Lab at Wesleyan, Barbara Juhasz, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, studies how readers recognize, understand and catalogue words in their mental dictionaries. Since 2006, when she first arrived at Wesleyan, Juhasz has been interested in understanding how words produce a certain sensory experience when read.

Wesleyan to Co-sponsor 4th Annual Middletown International Film Festival

“Common Ground 2012,” the 4th annual Middletown International Film Festival, kicks off Oct. 11 with a screening of  My Voice (Nha Fala), a 2002 film in Portuguese directed by Flora Gomes. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. at Wesleyan’s Film Studies Department.

Five more films from around the world will be aired as part of the festival. They are:

Thursday, Oct. 18 at Russell Library
Seraphine (French, 2008)
Directed by Martin Provost

Thursday, Oct. 25 at Russell Library
The Concert (Russian, 2009)
Directed by Radu Mihaileanu

Thursday, Nov. 1 at Wesleyan Film Studies
Poetry (Korean, 2010)
Directed by Chang-dong Lee

Thursday, Nov. 8 at Wesleyan Film Studies
Dancing Dreams (German, 2010)
Directed by Rainer Hoffman

Thursday, Nov. 15 at Russell Library
As It Is In Heaven (Swedish, 2004)
Directed by Kay Pollak

All screenings begin at 7 p.m., and are free and open to the public.

The festival is supported by a grant from the Middletown Commission on the Arts, as well as Friends of the Russell Library, gener8or communications/Moving Pictures, the Haddad Family, and many individuals. It is co-sponsored by Wesleyan, Middlesex Community College and Russell Library.

For more information, visit the Russell Library’s website.


Grabel Reports on State of Stem Cell Research

According to an article in The Hartford CourantLaura Grabel, Professor of Biology, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, spoke this week at an informational hearing of the Connecticut state legislature’s appropriations committee, held to discuss stem cell and genomics research in the state. Grabel reported that the state’s financial support of stem cell research has fostered a sense of collaboration among universities researchers. She also discussed her lab’s ongoing research into using stem cell therapies to treat epilepsy.

Rodriguez Mosquera Named Associate Editor of European Psychology Journal

Patricia Rodriguez-Mosquera

Patricia Rodriguez-Mosquera

Assistant Professor of Psychology Patricia Rodriguez Mosquera has become Associate Editor of The European Journal of Social Psychology. The journal is an international forum for original, high-quality, peer-reviewed research in all areas of social psychology. The international editorial team encourages submissions based on empirical, meta-analytical, and theoretical research. Topics covered include, among others, intergroup relations, social cognition, attitudes, social influence and persuasion, self and identity, verbal and nonverbal communication, language and thought, affect and emotion, embodied and situated cognition and individual differences of social-psychological relevance.

The European Journal of Social Psychology is sponsored by the European Association of Social Psychology. The Association contributes to the scientific communication among European and international social psychologists. For more information, visit this web site.

Jenkins’ Dante Project Featured in Harvard Magazine

Ron Jenkins, center, rehearses with former inmates Saundra Duncan and Lynda Gardner. (Photo by Steve Miller)

Ron Jenkins, center, rehearses with former inmates Saundra Duncan and Lynda Gardner. (Photo by Steve Miller)

The Magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education featured a story this month on Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins’ Dante Project, “a program he created that attempts to use theater as a catalyst for positive change in prisons throughout the world.”

According to the article, the program, which has been facilitated in places as far flung as Italy and Indonesia, encourages incarcerated men and women to “write about points of connection between their own life stories and the experiences of the characters” in classics like Dante’s Inferno. These writings are then used to create a script that is performed inside the prison. Wesleyan students also perform the scripts at other colleges and in the community, and engage in discussions about issues related to reforming the country’s criminal justice system.

Jenkins, his Wesleyan students, and three women who had been incarcerated, attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Alumni of Color conference in March to perform a mash-up of Dante’s Inferno and the prisoners’ life stories, called To See the Stars.

Naegele, Grabel Lauded for Stem Cell Research Contributions

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, and Laura Grabel, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, professor of biology, were recently honored in Hartford Magazine’s “Amazing Women” issue. Two of only 13 women selected this year for recognition, Naegele and Grabel were lauded for their contributions to the field of stem cell research.

The magazine’s profile of Naegele states: “The research conducted by Janice Naegele, who is professor of biology and neuroscience and behavior at Wesleyan University, is opening up new possibilities for treating epilepsy through stem cell therapy. Her work focuses on temporal lobe epilepsy, which often cannot be treated with anti-seizure medications.”

Grabel, the magazine notes, is a “leading stem cell researcher” who “has worked with embryonic stem cells for more than 20 years and has received grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Fund, among others. As an advocate for human stem cell research, she has appeared before a subcommittee of the Connecticut General Assembly and has co-edited a book on biological ethics.”

Grossman Chairs Session at Banking Conference in Munich

On Sept. 14 and 15, Professor of Economics Richard Grossman attended a conference in Munich jointly sponsored by the Bundesbank (the German central bank) and a Munich-based research institute called CESifo. Grossman chaired a session and acted as a discussant at the conference, whose focus was, “The Banking Sector and the State.” According to the conference website: “The current financial and sovereign debt crisis has shown once again that the banking sector and the state are intertwined in many ways: On the one hand, the state lends support to distressed banks and accepts risks from the private sector; in this way banks quite often fall under public ownership. On the other hand, banks are important lenders and thus an indirect source of funding for the state in that they hold large amounts of government bonds. The conference will analyse the resulting interactions, the risks and the potential impact on the stability of the financial system.”

More information on the conference is available here.

In addition, on Aug. 29, The Los Angeles Times published an op-ed by Grossman on the Republican Party platform’s call for a commission to study restoring the link between the dollar and gold. Grossman writes that as an academic, he’s all for scientific study—but actually re-establishing the gold standard would be disastrous.

Grossman explains, “History provides ample evidence that the gold standard is a bad idea. After World War I, the major industrialized nations established the gold standard, which is widely seen as having contributed to the spread and intensification of the Great Depression. The gold standard tied the hands of monetary policymakers, forcing them to maintain high interest rates in order to maintain the price of gold, thereby making a bad economic situation even worse.

Had we been on the gold standard when the subprime crisis broke, the Federal Reserve would have had to raise interest rates instead of lowering them. Given that our economy was — and still is — struggling despite historically low interest rates, higher interest rates would have been devastating.”

Rosenthal, Tatge Speakers on WNPR’s “Where We Live”

On Aug. 31, “Where We Live,” a program on WNPR public radio, featured two segments about music at Wesleyan.

Rob Rosenthal, provost, vice-president of academic affairs and the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, and his son Sam Rosenthal, a writer and musician in New York City, discussed a new collection of Pete Seeger’s personal writings that they co-edited. The book is Pete Seeger: In His Own Words (Paradigm Publishers).

They described the experience of combing through decades of Seeger’s writings in the folk singer’s Beacon, NY home while he hovered nearby. “He would drop in from time to time to see if we had dug up anything interesting, or to tell us a story,” Sam Rosenthal recalls.

“[Seeger] wanted a complete picture. We say in the book, he said to us at the beginning, ‘Don’t make me a saint, I’m not a saint,'” says Rob Rosenthal. He later adds that Seeger “had no problem with us using anything we wanted” to include in the book.

Later in the show, Pam Tatge, director of Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, discussed MiddletownRemix, a project that’s part of the yearlong exploration of Music & Public Life at Wesleyan. The project invites all members of the Wesleyan and Middletown communities to explore, share and remix the sounds of Middletown throughout the year. It uses location-based cell phone technology, a database, and a web application allowing individuals to record and store sounds and images of Middletown and position them in a digital map.

The result, Tatge says, will be “a tour of the acoustic identity of Middletown.”

“We want to break down the conventional barriers between audience and composer, and democratize what it means to make music… This way, we really try to elevate the artist and the composer in everyone,” she explains.

More information on MiddletownRemix is available here.

The interview with Rob and Sam Rosenthal can be heard here.
The interview with Pam Tatge is available here.

Rutland’s Op-Ed: Two Steps Backwards in the Caucasus

Peter Rutland, professor of government, Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of Russian and Eastern European studies, writes in a Sept. 10 op-ed published in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune about two recent symbolic events in the Caucasus region that threaten to ignite hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan.