Olivia Drake

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan’s intellectually dynamic faculty, students, alumni, staff, and parents frequently serve as expert sources for national media. Others are noted for recent achievements and accolades. A sampling of recent media hits is below:

Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters, authors a commentary titled “How to read your dog’s mind” in Salon. “For the early 20th-century biologist/ethologist Jacob von Uexküll, the fact that all animals (humans included) have the capacity to be affected by things in their particular environment or world and to respond to them, is evidence that they (like humans) are subjects of their worlds and not merely objects in them. In other words, they are not simply machines reacting to stimuli in the way that Descartes suggested in the 17th century.” (Sept. 4)

Dr. Scott Gottlieb ’94, Hon. ’21 is mentioned in The Washington Post for leading a Washington Post Live talk on Sept. 23. Gottlieb served as the 23rd FDA Commissioner from 2017-2019. In his new book, Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic, Gottlieb shares why the United States was so vulnerable against the coronavirus and how we can stop it from happening again. (Sept. 17)

In The Nation, Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, associate professor in the College of Social Studies, leads a conversation with Samuel Moyn about his new book Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War. “Humane warfare is a paradoxical idea with a long history. Essentially, the notion speaks of the attempt to make war less lethal and more ethical for the purpose of minimizing the suffering of soldiers and civilians, a concern that, by the 19th century, had grown on account of the carnage of industrialized and mechanized warfare,” he writes. (Sept. 16)

Theater major Willie Garson ’86, the actor best known for his role as Carrie Bradshaw’s best male friend, Stanford Blatch, in “Sex and the City,” has died at 57. He’s remembered in The New York Times.

Peter Rutland, Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, co-authored an op-ed in The Hartford Courant titled “As the years since 9/11 have passed, we have forgotten why the attacks took place.” To form a fuller picture of 9/11, Rutland writes, “students must understand at least something about the conditions in the Middle East prior to the attack—frustrated Arab expectations, and a long history of U.S. backing oppressive regimes in the region.” (Sept. 11)

Justin Lacob ’02 shares his memory of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on MSN.com. “I was in my senior year at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and was just about to get ready for class when my housemates burst into my room to tell me that a plane just hit the World Trade Center. As a New Yorker, it was surreal, a punch to the gut moment of heartbreak, grief, outrage, anxiety, and sheer terror. This was a moment before widespread cell phones, before social media, and with telephone networks down across the world, our inability to get in touch with each other provided a whole other level of fear. At that moment, in those hours, before we knew what happened, my friends and housemates and I just had each other.” (Sept. 10)

In American Towns, Kaneza Schaal ’06 is mentioned for “exorcis[ing] the ghost of King Leopold II through a mytho-biographical performance” during the Crossing the Line arts festival in New York City Nov. 4-6. Building off Mark Twain’s King Leopold’s Soliloquy published in 1905, a fictional monologue written after Twain’s visit to Congo Free State, and Patrice Lumumba’s 1960 independence speech in Congo, Schaal “considers the residue of colonialism in our everyday lives.” (Sept. 15)

Yahoo! Finance explores the net worth of Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15. “By far, Miranda’s largest paycheck has come from ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ As one of the original cast members, not to mention the writer, composer and lyricist for the show, Miranda earned $6.4 million annually while starring as Alexander Hamilton on Broadway.” (Sept. 14)

In an op-ed published in Portside, Julia Boland ’20 discusses gerrymandering which carves up communities based only on the partisan inclinations of each household. “The public has an important role to play in pushing back against the practice, but it’s important to understand that recognizing unfair maps means considering more than just the shapes of their districts,” she writes.  (Sept. 19)

Wesleyan University is mentioned in The Hartford Courant for being ranked No. 17 for Best National Liberal Arts College by U.S. News and World Report. Wesleyan also was cited for being No. 14 for Best Value Schools; No. 1 for Best Colleges for Veterans; No. 48 Best Undergraduate Teaching; and No. 122 Top Performers on Social Mobility. (Sept. 13)

Wesleyan’s Creative Writing Specialization offered on Coursera is featured in The Herald as one of the “10 Best Writing Help Online Resources Every Student Must Know.” “If you aim to polish your creative writing and want to apply your skills professionally, Coursera has gathered a series of free courses from Wesleyan University. It is aimed at beginners with no prior experience, takes about 6 months to complete, and offers subtitles in 10 languages for overseas learners.” (Sept. 15)

“Limited Miles, Unlimited Flavors” Theme of 2021 Eat Local Challenge

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Jessi Zenack ’25 and Maya Gray ’25 enjoy lunch on Huss Courtyard Sept. 21 during Wesleyan’s annual Eat Local Challenge. All food provided in the meal was harvested within 150 miles of campus.

Barbecue-smoked pork paninis, apple cider-brined turkey legs, clam fritters with fresh pickle aioli, and blue hubbard squash bisque were among the lunchtime tastings offered to Wesleyan students on Sept. 21.

As part of the 16th annual Eat Local Challenge themed “limited miles, unlimited flavors,” Wesleyan’s food service provider Bon Appétit staff was charged with crafting a meal from products and ingredients harvested within a 150-mile radius of the campus without sacrificing flavor. The meal included produce, meat, dessert, and drinks from local farmers and fishermen.

“Back home, I often shop very locally and care a lot about where my food comes from, which is why I am a gluten-free, dairy-free pescatarian,” said Maya Gray ’25 during the Eat Local Challenge. “The fact that this was truly a meal from scratch that also supported local farmers means a lot to me. This was such a wonderful treat to have, and I’m very grateful I got to try it! There is so much injustice in the farming industry, so it is important to always buy as locally as possible, especially for a University like Wes that holds real influence in Middletown.”

Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Students Continue to Wear Masks Indoors, Keep Wes Safe

As students settle into a fully-residential fall semester with more than 95 percent of the student body vaccinated for COVID-19, the University continues to mandate the wearing of masks inside all university buildings. Wearing masks outdoors is optional.

“Because of your hard work and diligence thus far, we have taken important steps towards creating a healthy campus environment,” said Wesleyan Medical Director Dr. Tom McLarney in a recent campus-wide health update. “We will continue to monitor our situation and adjust accordingly.”

View the latest updates and campus guidelines on Wesleyan’s Keep Wes Safe website.

Photos of student activities during the early fall semester are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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New, Ongoing Faculty are Experts on Japanese Pedagogy, Costume Design, Immersive Media

2021 faculty This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 43 new faculty to campus of which 24 are ongoing members of the campus community. Fourteen are tenure-track, eight are professors of the practice, two are adjunct, and 19 are visiting (read about the new visiting faculty in this story). In addition, two new members of the Wesleyan faculty are graduates of Wesleyan.

Wesleyan’s new teacher-scholars bring diverse skills, passions, and research interests to the university including Indian sectarian violence, costume design, animal behavior and neurophysiology, Japanese pedagogy, post-structural semiotics, structural inequalities in education, digital media analysis, and more.

Bios of the new, ongoing faculty are below: Bios of the new visiting faculty appear here.

George Bajalia, assistant professor of anthropology, holds a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His research is concerned with borderlands, primarily in the Western Mediterranean region. His dissertation, “Waiting at the Border: Language, Labor, and Infrastructure in the Strait of Gibraltar,” dwells on the political, social, and cultural forms that emerge during time spent waiting among cross-border workers and West and Central African immigrants living and working around the Moroccan-Spanish borderlands surrounding Tangier and Ceuta. Bajalia has held research and dissertation fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, Fulbright-IIE, and the American Institute for Maghrib Studies. He is the co-founder and co-director of the Youmein Festival, a 48-hour contemporary art and performance festival and residency in Tangier, Morocco, and has published in The Review of Middle East Studies, The Journal of North African Studies, MIGRANT Journal, as well as numerous southern Mediterranean arts publications. Throughout his work, he is interested in questions of temporality, circulation, and exchange, post-structural semiotics, regional formations, and the practices and politics of boundary-marking, belonging, and difference. His courses at Wesleyan will explore the relationships between anthropology, performance, and curation; migration and borderlands; endurance and the otherwise; and theories of cultural and social change.

Pedro Bermudez, assistant professor of the practice in video and audio production, is a filmmaker working at the intersection of cinema, theater, and immersive media. Bermudez will be teaching courses in video and audio production, designed for students with an interest in capturing live performances. His documentary and narrative work has explored the relational dynamics of colonization and its cultural effects. Bermudez has produced documentary work for Connecticut Public Television and has collaborated closely with arts and cultural institutions in the Hartford region; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and The Center for Leadership and Justice among them. His most recent work, a filmed production of “The Sound Inside,” was featured in The New York Times. He received his MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute, where he was the recipient of the Petrie Award for excellence. Bermudez is the owner of Revisionist, a production company based in Hartford, and has worked with a range of commercial clients including Nike and international non-profit BuildOn.

Carycruz Bueno, assistant professor of economics, is an applied microeconomist who studies the effects of education policy on educational inequality. Her research interests, which stem from her experience as a special education teacher, encompass topics such as virtual schools, school choice, teacher labor markets, and student non-cognitive skills. She has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the American Society of Hispanic Economists, and the National Economics Association. In 2021, Bueno was named an Emerging Education Policy Scholar by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Prior to joining Wesleyan University, she was a Postdoctoral Researcher at Brown University. Bueno has been featured in The Atlantic, NPR’s Planet Money, Bloomberg, and Politico Nightly.

Christopher Chenier, assistant professor of the practice in integrative sciences and IDEAS, joins the Wesleyan faculty as a PoP after six years on staff managing the Digital Design Studio and teaching courses in the art and IDEAS programs here at Wesleyan. Prior to this, Chenier completed graduate work at the Hagley Library in Wilmington Delaware, taught digital art and design courses at Bennington College, and worked in art and advertising production in New York. Chenier’s research is focused on the ways people make and think about images and objects. His recent projects have employed custom software to process and remix images and generate sculptural forms. These were then carved in stone with the help of industrial robots and traditional stone carving techniques.  Alongside his work in the studio, Chenier’s ongoing historical research is focused on material culture and the history of design, technology, and American enterprise.

Benjamin Elling, assistant professor of chemistry, specializes in synthesizing and characterizing new environmentally sustainable polymers. He completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University, received his PhD from Stanford University, and has most recently been a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University. He has made fundamental contributions to understanding and utilizing Ring Opening Metathesis Polymerizations (ROMP) for sequence-specific polymers. His research program at Wesleyan is multifaceted and is focused on the design and synthesis of new polymers that are both soluble in water and can be broken down under controlled conditions. He will also be developing new cross-links that can reformed to provide new classes of fully recyclable materials, and his group will be exploring novel approaches to using carbon dioxide as a source of carbon for polymer syntheses. Elling has previously received a variety of teaching awards and will be offering new interdisciplinary courses in polymer chemistry.

Maryam Gooyabadi, assistant professor of the practice in quantitative analysis, customizes, develops, and utilizes appropriate computational and mathematical methodologies to study social conventions (e.g., shared linguistic meaning, belief systems, norms, culture, or ideologies). Examples include agent-based dynamic and evolutionary models, Bayesian non-parametric clustering, along with other machine learning techniques (e.g., reinforcement learning). Social conventions such as shared beliefs or ideologies influence group attitudes and behavior. Understanding how ideologies form, evolve, and influence groups can provide powerful insights into how such beliefs could be shaped through targeted social interventions. This can be particularly useful in identifying how extremist beliefs form and spread, changing attitudes towards marginalized groups, and increasing between-group cooperation, to name a few. Whereas the study of ideology and beliefs gets artificially divided into topics and studied by various departments separately, each with different departmental aims (e.g., political science, religious studies, sociology), her research studies them holistically. Her research has employed methodologies and collaborated with researchers from computer science, philosophy of science, social sciences (e.g., anthropology, economics), and mathematics.

Miyuki Hatano-Cohen, assistant professor of the practice in East Asian studies, was born and raised in Fukushima, Japan. She has been teaching Japanese at Wesleyan for seven years and was promoted to an assistant professor of the practice this year.  Before coming to Wesleyan, she taught Japanese in the Boston, Mass. area for several years. She is particularly interested in Japanese pedagogy. She enjoys working with students and seeing them gradually being able to express their interests. In her spare time, she loves music and taking care of feral cats.

Rachel Heng, assistant professor of English, was born and raised in Singapore.  She  received her MFA in Fiction and Playwriting from the Michener Center for Writers, University of Texas, Austin, and her B.A. in Comparative Literature & Society from Columbia University. Heng is the author of the novels The Great Reclamation (forthcoming from Riverhead in 2022) and Suicide Club (Henry Holt, 2018), which has been translated into ten languages worldwide and won the Gladstone Library Writer-In-Residence Award. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review, and has been recognized by anthologies including Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions and Best New Singaporean Short Stories.  Rachel was recently longlisted for the 2021 Sunday Times Short Story Award, “the world’s richest and most prestigious prize for a single short story.” Her non-fiction has been listed among Best American Essays’ Notable Essays and published in Al Jazeera, Guernica, BOMB Magazine, The Rumpus and elsewhere. She has received grants and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Fine Arts Work Center and the National Arts Council of Singapore.

April Hickman, assistant professor of the practice in theater, is a costume designer, stylist, and costume illustrator originally from Denver. She received a MA in costume design at Yale School of Drama in May 2020. Hickman previously lived in Chicago and Washington D.C., where she worked as the resident costume design assistant at the Goodman Theatre and was a costume fellow turned costume design assistant at Arena Stage. She has assisted several prominent costume designers, including Emily Rebholz, Jess Goldstein, Ilona Somogyi, Paul Tazewell, and Catherine Zuber.  Her most recent design credit was at Williamstown Theatre Festival; she has several design projects in the work.  She was awarded the William R. Kenan Jr. Costume Design Fellowship at the Kennedy Center in 2014 and the Leo Lerman Fellowship in 2020. April received her BFA in costume design from The University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Anuja Jain, assistant professor of film studies, was previously an assistant professor of film and media studies at University of St. Andrews. She earned her BA, MA, and M.Phil from University of Delhi and her PhD in cinema studies from New York University. Her dissertation, “Suffering and Spectatorship: Sectarian Violence in Indian Documentary Film and Media,” explores the development and redefinition of documentary that took place around coverage of Indian sectarian violence of the last 30 years. She has also studied Indian popular cinema more broadly, editing and contributing to the dossier on “Poetics of Indian Cinema” which appeared in Screen. Jain specializes in the aesthetics and spectatorship in Indian film. She teaches courses on South Asian cinema, global cinema, and film history.

Roseann Liu, assistant professor of education studies, draws from critical race and abolitionist frameworks in her teaching and research on structural inequalities in education, including their effects on communities of color and the organizing strategies used to enact change. She writes about the pitfalls and possibilities of progressive pedagogy, multiracial coalitions, and liberal teleologies. These interests are informed by her experiences as a student and teacher in New York City public schools. Her research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the American Educational Research Association. Her scholarship has appeared in Radical History Review,  Anthropology & Education Quarterly, and Ethnography, among other journals. She engages broad audiences through producing short films and writing op-eds that have been featured in  Colorlines,  The Philadelphia Inquirer, and  Hechinger Report. Liu received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, earning a joint degree in education and anthropology.

Antonio Machado-Allison, University Professor of COE, holds a Licentiate degree in biology from the Central University of Venezuela and a PhD from George Washington University-Smithsonian Institution. He is professor emeritus at the Central University of Venezuela and is linked to the Institute of Zoology and Tropical Ecology and the Museum of Biology of the UCV. For his extensive and far-reaching scholarship and his service to scientific and humanitarian programs, Machado-Allison was elected to the Venezuelan Academy of Physics, Mathematics and Natural Sciences and the Latin American Academy of Sciences. He served as the president of the Foundation for the Development of Physics, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences (FUDECI), and was the director of the Research Institutes of the Central University Academic Vice-rectorate, Venezuela. Professor Machado-Allison studies the systematics, evolution, and ecology of fish. He is dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity in neotropical aquatic environments. He has published several books on the diversity of South American fishes, including Venomous and Poisonous Animals of Venezuela, Caribe Fishes of Venezuela, The Cichlids of Venezuela, Fishes of the Plains of Venezuela, Biodiversity of the Orinoco, and Bases for Conservation and Sustainable Development Vols. I and II, Principles of Evolution, and he is now editing a book on the fishes of the Caura River co-authored with Professor Barry Chernoff. Machado-Allison has published more than 40 book chapters and over 100 scientific papers in national and international journals. He has served on the editorial management boards of several national and international scientific journals. He has participated in numerous national commissions on wildlife, oceanology, fisheries, and aquaculture. He was a member of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONICIT) of Venezuela and is the coordinator of the Council of Scientific and Humanistic Development of the UCV. Internationally, he has been a Research Associate at the Field Museum of Chicago, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Institution. Professor Machado-Allison was a founding member of the AquaRAP Program.

Leo Mayo, adjunct associate professor of physical education, is Wesleyan’s new head cross country coach. Mayo was hired as the first-ever head coach of the American International College (AIC) men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams in August 2006 and has served in that role for 14 seasons. During his time at AIC, Mayo led the cross-country programs to four Northeast-10 (NE-10) Conference titles, two NE-10 indoor track and field championships, and two NE-10 outdoor track and field crowns. He also coached four national champions; one Division II Cross Country National Athlete of the Year; 10 NE-10 Cross Country Male Athletes of the Year; four NE-10 Cross Country Female Athletes of the Year; and a total of 120 Division II All-Americans. Additionally, Mayo has been named the NE-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year four times; the USTFCCCA East Region Cross Country Coach of the Year twice; the NE-10 Indoor Track Coach of the Year three times; the USTFCCCA East Region Indoor Coach of the Year three times; the NE-10 Outdoor Track Coach of the Year once; and the USTFCCCA East Region Outdoor Track Coach of the Year twice. Mayo was an excellent athlete as well and competed on the cross country and track and field teams at Central Connecticut State University from 1997 to 2002. He was a two-time Northeast Conference All-Conference Team selection and was named All-IC4A Country in 2001. Mayo received his BS in education at Central Connecticut State University in 2002 and a MA in education at AIC in 2011.

Chelsie McPhilimy, assistant professor of the practice in dance, is a lighting and media designer, crafting imaginative environments with vivid color and texture for the stage. She received her BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and MFA from the Ohio State University. McPhilimy’s work has been seen from Toronto to Abu Dhabi as she has been privileged to work with esteemed establishments such as NYUAD, New Victory Theater (NYC), Bates Dance Festival, Adirondack Theatre Festival, Flint Repertory Theatre, and the Santa Fe Opera. Her work on Rush (Paradise Factory, NYC) earned her a New York Innovative Theater Award nomination and her lighting design for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Flint Repertory earned a regional Wilde Award. Her primary research focus centers around collaboration with other artists to create important, relevant, and thought-provoking work that inspires and challenges today’s audiences. This year, she will be teaching a course in dance production as well as a lighting-based production laboratory for the department of theater.

Jennifer Mitchel, assistant professor of biology, obtained her PhD in biomedical engineering from Brown University after receiving her SB degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in mechanical engineering. In her graduate research, she used lithography techniques to examine nerve tissue growth. She went on to do post-doctoral research at Harvard University studying mechanisms of collective cell migration, with a focus on a process called the “unjamming transition” in which cells transition from a solid-like behavior to a fluid-like migratory regime. Mitchel has co-authored more than 20 research articles and reviews, and is a co-organizer of an online seminar series on cell migration that attracts 100-300 attendees each week. She will contribute to Wesleyan’s interdisciplinary teaching in biology including new courses with an emphasis on quantitative biology.

Jesse Nasta ’07, assistant professor of the practice in African American studies, recently completed a four-year term as a visiting assistant professor of African American studies. Nasta specializes in the African American community in 19th-century Middletown, and his book project is on the Beman family. Nasta not only studies local history but is in fact one of our preeminent connections to it. He is concurrently the excutive director of the Middlesex County Historical Society, while also serving as a committee member of the Connecticut Freedom Trail, the Middletown Middle Passage Port Marker Project, and the Connecticut River Museum’s Committee on Connecticut Slavery and Public Education. He has made several presentations on Middletown’s Black past, and has taught highly-praised courses on local history for the past four years.

Andrea Negrete, assistant professor of psychology, received a MA and PhD in community psychology from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. She received a BA in psychology and M.Ed in educational leadership from the University of Washington, Seattle. Negrete’s research examines the consequences of structural inequality and other contextual factors (e.g., immigration policy) on racial/ethnic identity and development among understudied populations, specifically Latinx and Black youth. She employs multiple methods, including longitudinal and interview studies. Negrete’s courses this year include a survey course on cultural psychology, qualitative research methods, and an advanced research seminar.

Kristin Oberiano, assistant professor of history, is a historian of United States empire in the Pacific. Oberiano’s research project, tentatively titled “Territorial Discontent: Chamorros, Filipinos, and the Making of the United States Empire on Guam,” examines the evolution of the political, social, and cultural relations between the Indigenous Chamorro people and Filipino migrants/immigrants under the United States military empire on Guam over the 20th century. The project engages in frameworks of race, settler colonialism, militarism, and migration within empire. Oberiano earned a PhD in history from Harvard University, and a BA in history and American studies from Occidental College. Her work has been supported by the Fulbright Program in the Philippines, the Harvard Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Harvard Center for American Political Studies, among others. At Wesleyan, she will teach courses in 20th century U.S. history, the history of U.S. in the World, U.S. imperialism, and Asian American and Pacific Islander history. In addition to her academic roles, Oberiano is the secretary of Guåhan Sustainable Culture 501(c)(3), a non-profit organization dedicated to food sovereignty in Guam. An islander living on the East Coast, she was born to and raised by Filipino immigrant families in Guam.

Pavel Oleinikov, assistant professor of the practice in quantitative analysis, holds a MA and a PhD in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He also holds a BS and MS in computer systems and networks from the Moscow Physical Engineering Institute. Prior to this appointment, he has been working as an associate director of the Quantitative Analysis Center since 2014. His work at Wesleyan focuses on quantification and analysis of digital media, texts, and imagery. His past employment at a Russian nuclear city serves as a motivation for his interests in remote sensing and history of the Cold War. His publications include co-authored papers on analysis of online political ads, use of remote sensing data to measure impact of natural disasters, and a paper documenting the history of German scientists in the Soviet atomic program after World War II.

Michael Perez, assistant professor of psychology, received an MA in psychology from the University of Texas, Arlington, and a PhD in social-personality psychology from Texas A&M University where he also received Graduate Certificates in Africana studies and applied statistics. His research program brings together critical race theory and cultural-psychological approaches to racism. It entails analysis of intergroup conflict related to racism, accounting for structural racial inequalities. Recent projects include multi-methodical studies of racial apologies and studies of protests and peace, specifically how racism influences perceptions of protest and peace. This year, Perez is teaching a survey course on cultural psychology, qualitative research methods, and a seminar on conflict resolution.

Hari Ramesh, assistant professor of government, earned his BA in political science and English at Williams College and his PhD in political science at Yale University. He is a political theorist with research interests in democratic theory, histories and theories of social oppression, the intersections of South Asian, Afro-modern, and American political thought, and the relationship between empirical social science and political theory. His book project, based on his dissertation research, draws insights from John Dewey, B.R. Ambedkar, and Brown v. Board of Education in order to offer an original account of the compatibility of coercive state action with a radical vision of democracy. Ramesh has published peer-reviewed articles in Modern Intellectual History and History of the Present as well as review essays in Boston Review and Dissent. Prior to arriving at Wesleyan, Ramesh was a College Fellow in Social Studies at Harvard University. In the 2021-22 academic year, he will be teaching introductory courses in political theory, a seminar on contemporary political theory, and a seminar exploring the conceptual and practical entanglements of caste in India and race in the United States.

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, assistant professor in the College of Social Studies, is a historian of modern political and intellectual thought with a specific focus on Europe and the world from the Cold War to the present. He primarily concentrates on such topics as liberalism, conservatism, populism, secularism, religion, and the Global Cold War. He runs a regular interview series at The Nation. He is the former managing editor of Modern Intellectual History and The Immanent Framer Steinmetz-Jenkins has been a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of History at Dartmouth College since January 2020. Prior to that, he was a lecturer at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University and a visiting assistant professor in the Religion Department at Yale. Steinmetz-Jenkins earned his PhD in history at Columbia University. He has an MA in history from Columbia University, an MA in liberal studies from Reed College, and a BA in history from Concordia University. Steinmetz-Jenkins is writing a book titled “Impossible Peace, Improbable War: Raymond Aron and World Order” to be published by Columbia University Press. His second book is under advanced contract with Yale University Press and is tentatively titled “Populism and the Rise and Fall of Global Secularism.” His public commentary has appeared in The Nation, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Times Literary Supplement, Dissent Magazine, Foreign Affairs and elsewhere. He has published articles in Modern Intellectual History, Journal of the History of Ideas, Global Intellectual History and elsewhere.

Tracy Heather Strain, associate professor of film studies, has been with Wesleyan since 2019 as professor of practice of film studies. Previously, she was professor of the practice in the College of the Arts, Media, and Design at Northeastern University. She is an award-winning director, producer, and writer committed to using film, video, and interactive technology to reveal the ways that race, ethnicity, gender, and classwork to shape lives. Her film about Lorraine Hansberry—Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart—earned the American Historical Association Film Award, the Peabody Award, and the NAACP Image Award. Strain co-founded with Wesleyan’s Randall MacLowry THE FILM POSSE, a production company that they relocated from Boston to Middletown. Strain earned her AB from Wellesley College and her Ed.M. from Harvard. She teaches courses in documentary studies and production, co-directs the Wesleyan Documentary Project, and is associate director of the College of Film and the Moving Image.

Jorge Vásquez, assistant professor of economics, holds a professional degree in industrial engineering and a MA in economics from the University of Chile and received a PhD in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before joining Wesleyan, Vásquez worked at the Bank of Canada as a senior economist, and later at Smith College as a visiting assistant professor. Vásquez is a microeconomist with research interests in behavioral economics and law and economics. His research has focused on the role of empathy and beliefs in understanding market phenomena, the effects of vigilance on crime rates, and the design of regulatory mechanisms to control market power. During this academic year, Vásquez will be teaching courses in microeconomics and behavioral economics.

Papers by Kuenzel, Vásquez Published in Economics Journals

David Kuenzel, associate professor of economics, is the co-author of a new paper published in the European Economic Review titled “Preferential Trade Agreements and MFN Tariffs: Global Evidence.” In the paper, Kuenzel and his co-author, Rishi Sharma from Colgate University, study theoretically and empirically the effects of countries’ import composition on multilateral liberalization using a global tariff database that covers the 2000–2011 period. Kuenzel and Sharma provide evidence that greater preferential trade agreement (PTA) import shares induce tariff cuts on non-member countries. The baseline estimates imply that a 10 percentage point increase in the share of imports from PTA partners lowers most-favored-nation (MFN) tariff rates by about 0.4 percentage points. This effect is driven by countries that negotiate deeper preferential trade deals as they are prone to lead to more inefficient trade diversion, which creates a stronger incentive to subsequently cut MFN tariffs.

Jorge Vásquez, assistant professor of economics, is the co-author of a new paper published in the November 2021 issue of the journal Games and Economic Behavior titled “Co-worker altruism and unemployment.” This theoretical paper, co-authored with Marek Weretka, demonstrates altruism among co-workers may generate downward wage rigidity that creates involuntary unemployment in economic downturns.

New Visiting Faculty Bring Vast Academic Interests from High Altitude Ecosystems to Pharmacoengineering

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Several new visiting faculty and scholars attended New Faculty Orientation in August. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Nineteen visiting faculty, including fellows, scholars, and postdoctoral researchers, join Wesleyan for the 2021-22 academic year. Their academic interests include high altitude ecosystems, Muslim political masculinities, Indigenous cultural studies, epidemiology and public health, 20th-century continental philosophy, pharmacoengineering, social media’s effects on adolescent development, and more.

Their bios are below:

Alisha Butler, Provost Equity Fellow in the College of Education Studies, is a mixed-methods researcher whose work draws on interdisciplinary perspectives to interrogate the overlapping ecologies of schools, neighborhoods, and cities that shape students’ and families’ experiences in schools. This work includes studies of school-family and school-community partnerships. Her dissertation leveraged qualitative methods to investigate gentrification’s effects on urban schools, focusing on how middle-class families in gentrifying communities select secondary schools for their children, how administrators and educators respond to changing school demographics, and how gentrification shapes the politics of family engagement. She earned her BA at Yale University and an MA in education policy from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she also will complete her PhD in education policy. Butler will join Wesleyan during the spring 2022 semester.

Alton Byers, Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment, is a mountain geographer, conservationist, and mountaineer specializing in applied research, high altitude ecosystems, climate change, glacier hazards, and integrated conservation and development programs. He received both his BA  and PHD from the University of Colorado, the latter focusing on landscape change, soil erosion, and vegetation dynamics in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Nepal. He joined The Mountain Institute (TMI) in 1990 as an environmental advisor, and over the next 25 years worked as co-manager of the Makalu-Barun National Park (Nepal Programs), founder and director of Andean Programs, director of Appalachian programs, and director of science and exploration. In 2015 he joined the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder as a senior research scientist and faculty, and currently works on a range of research, writing, and teaching projects in the Himalayas, Andes, Appalachian, and Rocky Mountains. His work has been recognized by the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal from the Nepali NGO Mountain Legacy; David Brower Award for Conservation from the American Alpine Club; Distinguished Career Award from Association of American Geographers, Mountain Specialty Group; Ecosystem Stewardship Award from The Nature Conservancy; and Honorary Lifetime Member of the Nepal Geographical Society. In 2016 he received a Fulbright Specialist award to teach mountain geography at Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and has twice been shortlisted for the Rolex Award for Enterprise. Byers is co-editor of Mountain Geography: Human and Physical Dimensions (University of California Press at Berkeley, 2013). His most recent book is titled Khumbu Since 1950, a unique collection of historic photographs of the Mount Everest region that he has replicated over the years. In April 2021 he was awarded the 2021-2022 Fulbright Nepal Research Award for continued work in alpine conservation and restoration work.

Students Network, Share Interests at Annual Involvement Fair

From Alpha Delta Phi Society to the WeSanskriti—a South Asian classical dancing group—Wesleyan’s 300-plus student groups offer opportunities for students with different backgrounds to meet peers with common interests.

As part of Wesleyan’s Week of Welcome (WesWOW), representatives from more than 100 student groups and clubs gathered on Andrus Field Sept. 10 for the Student Involvement Fair. Group members provided information, sign-up sheets, and various activities associated with their individual clubs.

Wesleyan has more than 300 student-run groups, focusing on activism, identity, sports, publications, performance and visual arts, community service, religious affiliations, cultural interests, and more. Among them are the Botany Club, Photography Club, Mexican Ballet Folklorico, EveryVoteCounts, WesClimb, Bell and Scroll Society, Jewish Voice for Peace, Powerlifting Club, Society of Physics Students, Student of Color Fashion Show Committee, Ujamaa Black Student Union, WesEMT, and more.

The 21st annual event is sponsored by the Wesleyan Student Assembly and the Office of Student Involvement.

“Joining a club or group is a wonderful way for students to meet like-minded students,” said Joanne Rafferty, director of student involvement and New Student Orientation. “It also can contribute to their entire Wesleyan co-curricular experience.”

Any group wanting to hold a meeting or event can book a space via WesNest.

Photos of the Student Involvement Fair are below: (Photos by Willow Saxon ’24)

WesleyanDoulaProjec

The Wesleyan Doula Project provides free and compassionate support for people in the position of terminating their pregnancies, working to combat the stigma around abortion and reproductive health and to ensure that each individual receives the care they deserve. The WDP strives to empower students to pursue reproductive health work and to strengthen connections between Wesleyan and the local community. Driven by the values of health equity and Reproductive Justice, the WDP is part of a national Full-Spectrum Doula Movement committed to making doula care accessible to all people and all pregnancy outcomes.

wes buds

WesBuds is a partnership between Wesleyan students and the students of Middlesex Transition Academy (MTA). MTA students, ages 18-21, may have intellectual or developmental disabilities and are looking to address their own individual transition needs after high school. In WesBuds, students make new friends, participate in fun events like soccer clinics, watching movies, dancing, and hanging out.

New International Students Hail from 64 Countries

international students

On Aug. 31, Wesleyan welcomed 112 new international students to campus. The largest groups come from China, India, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

ISO

Richard Bennet Morales ’24, pictured in front, center, is one of several international student orientation leaders who help new international students acclimate to campus life.

Richard Bennet Morales ’24 is what you’d call a “third culture kid.”

By definition, the term refers to a child who grows up in a culture different from the one in which his or her parents grew up. And Bennet Morales fits the description.

Born in Puerto Rico to Spanish and American parents, he moved to Paris at the age of 3, and to Barcelona 11 years later. After graduating from a French-speaking high school, he resided in Madrid, briefly, with his family.

And now, he’s among 392 international students studying at Wesleyan this fall.

“I was really interested in going to the U.S. since high school, especially looking for liberal arts schools due to the academic flexibility that it offers, as opposed to European universities that have more restrictive curriculums,” Bennet Morales said. “I toured several colleges around Boston, New York, and Washington D.C., and out of those I saw, Wesleyan was the one that felt most welcoming and sincere during the tours. I felt like Wesleyan could be one of my ‘homes.'”

Edvin Tran Hoac ’24 of Sweden began his Wesleyan journey remotely during the spring 2021 semester and is “super excited for classes to start,” he said. “I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to major in yet, but I’m really happy with my current schedule, which covers both my curiosity and academic interests.”

Before applying to Wes, Tran Hoac, who is a Davis International Scholar, was first impressed by the “lovely people” he met and the “beautiful campus” he encountered during a campus visit.

“I particularly liked that the university was known for being diverse and inclusive on top of being a top academic institution. These aspects, combined with the generous financial aid I was offered that made it economically feasible for me to attend, were the reasons I decided to come to Wesleyan,” he said.

Wesleyan in the News

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 participated in a Newsweek podcast debate titled “Is Higher Education Broken?” “I think the idea that only rich people should be able to experience the benefits of learning—whether that’s about math and science, or whether it’s about literature and philosophy—that’s a huge mistake. (Aug. 31)

President Roth also wrote a book review of Allan V. Horowitz’s A History of Psychiatry’s Bible for The Washington Post. “In this history … Horwitz emphasizes the social construction of scientific concepts. This account underscores the economic incentives in play as psychiatrists tried to reach consensus on how to describe specific disorders so that they could treat them—and be paid well to do so.” (Sept. 3)

In The Washington Post, Kyungmi Kim, a cognitive psychologist and assistant professor of psychology, explains why people tend to hold onto material possessions. “Mostly, when people think about the self, the self is residing within the physical boundary of our body,” she said. “However, we also have an ‘extended self’ which includes important people in our lives, plus certain objects that help us ‘define ourselves because they belong to our personal history.'” (Sept. 2)

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the much anticipated directorial debut tick, tick…BOOM! by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 is timed to detonate Nov. 10 as the Netflix film opens the 35th edition of AFI Fest at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre. Bradley Whitford ’81, Hon. 20, will play the role of Stephen Sondheim. The Emmy-winning actor tells The Hollywood Reporter that he found the obligation of playing a legend like Sondheim “scary” but he found a soft place to land on Miranda’s set. “We had the same wonderful, crazy acting teacher in college,” Whitford said of the late William “Bill” Francisco, professor of theater, emeritus. “Whitford says while there’s a relatively small percentage of the audience that has ever seen Sondheim, those who do know him love and adore him. ‘It’s scary to have that obligation but Lin was there to pull the blood out of me.'” (Sept. 9)

In Wicked Local, Jasmine Fridman ’25 shares her thoughts about working for the Mystic Mural project this summer. Fridman wants to major in environmental science as a result of working on the mural. “We learned a lot about the current effects of climate change on a global level, but also on a local level and on our home,” she said. “Not only did we paint nature, but we also took field trips to learn about the environment — it was very enriching.” (Sept. 2)

Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, was mentioned in The Conversation for writing an article about an eighth-century female Sufi saint, known popularly as Rabia al-Adawiyya. “[She] is said to have walked through her hometown of Basra, in modern-day Iraq, with a lit torch in one hand and a bucket of water in another. When asked why, she replied that she hoped to burn down heaven and douse hell’s fire so people would—without concern for reward or punishment—love God.” (Aug. 30)

In The Connecticut Patch, William Wasch, Sr., ’52, is remembered for his long career with Wesleyan. “In 1964, Bill returned to Wesleyan and began a long career with the university, initially running the annual fund and then becoming Director of Development and Alumni Relations in 1967. While at Wesleyan, he oversaw several large capital campaigns and successfully kept more traditional alumni connected to the university during the very difficult years of campus unrest in the late 60s and early 70s. He retired from Wesleyan in 1985.” (Sept. 1)

 

Performance Helps New Students Navigate Human Differences, Social Positionality

I, You, (We)s

Through a series of skits performed by new student orientation leaders, the Class of 2025 campus newcomers learned how they may experience power, privilege, and difference as they navigate different communities at Wesleyan.

Titled “I, You, (We)s,” the Sept. 2 performance, held during New Student Orientation, presented frequent challenges in community engagement and offered suggestions for engaging authentically, thoughtfully, and collaboratively.

“The goal of this program was to introduce new students to the topics and conversations that would be relevant during their time at Wesleyan,” explained Esme Maria Ng ’22, who co-wrote the scripts with fellow student playwright and “I, You, (We)s” actor Luna Dragon Mac-Williams ’22.

When writing skits for the program, Ng and MacWilliams based their pieces on their own individual strengths, interests, and stories.

“The biggest thing that came to mind is how my identity interacts with the mostly white, cishet, economically privileged environment around me,” Ng said. “Thus, my pieces were hoping to pose questions along the lines of ‘what is our responsibility to one another when we can’t understand one another?’ ‘How do we reconcile ourselves with the world around us, thinking especially about how/where our privilege places us in these spaces.'”

Ng and Mac-Williams worked on writing and editing the script for about a month this summer. Their revision process involved sharing the work with the actors and Wesleyan faculty and staff to ensure the script had a clear message and maintained historic and geographic accuracy.

Centering the principles of the Cardinal Community Commitment, the skits also addressed topics including racism, imposter syndrome, tokenization, navigating power dynamics, hierarchy, and Wesleyan-Middletown relationships.

The performance was directed by Marcella Trowbridge, artistic director of the local non-profit theater company ARTFARM. “I am delighted to be back at Wes as a guest artist working with students addressing current issues through theater,” Trowbridge said. “This is a new script and we hope it will become an annual part of New Student Orientation.”
The project was supported by a plethora of campus partners including the Center for the Arts, the Resource Center, the Sustainability Office, the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, the Theater Department, the Allbritton Center, Student Activities and Leadership Development, Fries Center for Global Studies, and the Office of International Student Affairs.

Additional photos of the “I, You, (We)s” rehearsal on Aug. 31 are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

I, You, (We)s
I, You, (We)sI, You, (We)s

I, You, (We)sI, You, (We)sI, You, (We)s

I, You, (We)s

Faculty, Staff Prepare for a New Semester at Wesleyan

After an unusual 18 months of hybrid teaching, working remotely, and navigating university life during a pandemic, Wesleyan’s faculty and staff are eager for some normalcy this fall. In this News @ Wesleyan piece, we speak to several employees about what they are most looking forward to during the fall 2021 semester.

Morgan Keller

Morgan Keller

Morgan Keller became director of international student affairs on Aug. 23 after stints at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California-Santa Cruz, and Clemson University. He learned of Wesleyan through his cousin, Adam Keller ’14, who spoke favorably of the university during his time here as a film major.

“This fall, I’m excited to meet the new and continuing international students and get a sense of the different ways we can holistically support them,” he said. “I’d like to create initiatives and co-curricular opportunities to increase our international students’ engagement with their U.S. American peers and enhance their sense of belonging in the campus community.”

As a New England newbie, Keller also is looking forward to experiencing the fall season in Connecticut and attending festivals and agricultural fairs with his wife and two daughters, ages 6 and 9.

Abderrahman AissaThis fall, Abderrahman Aissa, adjunct assistant professor in Arabic, is teaching Elementary Arabic, Intermediate Arabic, Advanced Arabic, and a new Fries Center for Global Studies course—Introduction to Tamazight: The Native Language of North Africa and Beyond. This course will introduce students to the language and culture of the Amazigh people, an ethnic group native to North Africa and West Africa. The Tamazight language has been a written language for almost 3,000 years.

“I can’t wait to be with my students in class and hopefully go back to a full normal teaching and learning environment,” he said. “I’m also looking forward to teaching Introduction to Tamazight for the first time ever, especially since this language is practically unheard of in U.S. colleges’ curricula.”

Emily Gorlewski

Emily Gorlewski

Alumni Share Experiences with Forklift Danceworks; Prepare for ‘WesWorks’

Rivera and Porquillo worked together, wiping down tables and vacuuming floors. They began with just introducing themselves

Last spring, Tamara Rivera ’21 job shadowed SMG employee Maria Porquillo, who has worked for more than two decades at Olin Library. Once a week, Rivera met Porquillo at the library to observe her movements and rhythms, and ultimately choreographed a piece for Porquillo to perform on stage. This fall, students will participate in a similar multidisciplinary dance project titled “WesWorks.”

This October, Wesleyan will present a multidisciplinary dance project titled “WesWorks” that transforms the ordinary, mundane, and skillful movements of facilities and custodial employees into a performance accompanied by live, original music and stories told in the workers’ voices.

Led by Allison Orr, the choreographer and artistic director of Forklift Danceworks, a distinguished fellow in the College of Environment, “WesWorks” will teach students techniques of community art practice through performance.

In these Q&As, we speak with Forklift Danceworks employees and Wesleyan alumnae Gretchen LaMotte ’18 (click to read), choreographer and programs manager and Penny Snyder ’16 (click to read), communications manager for Forklift.

Penny Snyder '16

Penny Snyder ’16

“There’s nothing in the world like going to a Forklift show. It feels almost utopian … It’s really an emotional experience to me because there is a throughline of trust that flows between the choreographers, the performers, and the audience,” Snyder said.

Read More:

Wesleyan Facilities, Custodial Staff Celebrated through Performance