Olivia Drake

Arkin ’82 Interviews Mastrogiovanni ’79 on “Creative Conversations” Series

arkin show

On Oct. 26, Matthew Arkin ’82 interviewed author Heidi Mastrogiovanni ’79 on his YouTube show “Creative Conversations.”

Mastrogiovanni is the author of the comedic novel Lala Pettibone’s Act Two (finalist for the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards) and the sequel, Lala Pettibone: Standing Room Only. The prequel in the trilogy, Lala Pettibone: Curtain Up, will be released next year.

As a graduate of Wesleyan, Mastrogiovanni chose to have all of the protagonists in her novels be alumni of her alma mater.

With James Napoli (The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm), Mastrogiovanni is co-host of the “Movies Not Movies” comedy podcast. A dedicated animal welfare advocate, Mastrogiovanni lives in Los Angeles, Calif., with her husband and their rescued senior dogs.

Wesleyan Hires 14 New Ongoing Faculty in 2020–21

Wesleyan welcomes 14 new ongoing faculty to campus this fall, including five professors of the practice. They include:

Charles Barber, associate professor of the practice in the College of Letters, is a nonfiction author who writes about mental health and criminal justice issues, for both popular and scholarly audiences. He has previously taught at Wesleyan for eight years as a visitor, primarily as Writer in Residence in the College of Letters, and also in the Psychology and English departments, and Allbritton Center. He has written three books: Songs from the Black Chair: A Memoir of Mental Interiors, Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation, and Citizen Outlaw: One Man’s Journey from Gang Leader to Peacekeeper. Barber has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, Salon, The Nation, and Scientific American MIND. Before becoming a full-time academic, he worked with homeless and incarcerated people for two decades, and conducted federally-funded studies on how to best engage such individuals into treatment and services. He also is a lecturer in psychiatry at Yale University.

Garry Bertholf is an assistant professor in the African American Studies

Garry Bertholf, assistant professor of African American studies is an expert on Africana literature and Black critical theory, and the intellectual and cultural history of the African diaspora.

Garry Bertholf, assistant professor of African American studies, holds a doctorate in Africana studies from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a master’s degree in jazz and popular music studies from the University of Pennsylvania. He is working on two book projects. The first, titled The Black Charismatic: Demagoguery and the Politics of Affect, examines the performance, practice, and rhetoric of demagoguery in post-Civil Rights Black political leadership, showing in what ways this form of what he calls “the Black charismatic” threatens to make illusory what should be a vibrant Black public sphere based on substance rather than affect. The second, Afro-Pessimism and Black Optimism in Africana Literature, theorizes a distinctively literary genealogy of that antinomy (Afro-pessimism/Black optimism) by exploring earlier Africana texts that potentially give a new shape to the debates that currently circulate around that antinomy. Bertholf has published articles in south: a scholarly journal, Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, and in the edited volume Reconstruction at 150: Reassessing the Revolutionary “New Birth of Freedom.”

Wesleyan Welcomes 17 Visiting Faculty

This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 17 visiting faculty members to campus. They are:

Chris Bell

Chris Bell, David Scott Williams Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology, is a human sciences-oriented psychologist working at the intersection of cultural, clinical, and critical psychology.

Christopher Bell, David Scott Williams Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology, received his BA in English literatures and cultures from Brown University and his MA and PhD in psychology from the University of West Georgia. His research explores the processes and outcomes of psychotherapy; his dissertation, Psychotherapeutic Subjectivities, examined the subjective experiences of individuals in psychotherapy, analyzing these experiences in terms of different psychotherapeutic techniques. He has published on projection and memories of projection as well as Lacanian psychoanalysis, and his projects advocate a contextual approach to psychotherapy research. This fall, Bell is teaching a first-year seminar on Psychoanalysis Then and Now, and Cultural Psychology.

Alessandra Buccella, visiting assistant professor of philosophy, received her PhD in philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. Her work focuses on the philosophy of mind and perception, at the intersection with psychology and cognitive science. She did her undergraduate studies in Milan, Italy, and has a Master’s degree in analytic philosophy from the University of Barcelona, Spain. Buccella’s broader philosophical interests encompass 20th-century phenomenology, philosophy of science, and feminist philosophy. Recently, she has been working on ways to combine philosophical theories of perception and objectivity with insights coming from the feminist tradition, in particular regarding the role of the body in shaping our experience of the world. This fall semester, she’s teaching Philosophy of Psychology and a first-year seminar titled Bodies and Experiences.

9 Postdoctoral Fellows Join Wesleyan in 2020-21

This fall, Wesleyan welcomes nine postdoctoral fellows to campus. They include:

Sierra Eisen, postdoctoral fellow in psychology, joins the Psychology Department for two years. She received her PhD from the Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where she was a researcher in the Early Development Lab. Eisen studies how children interact with and learn from different forms of media. Her research mainly focuses on how children think about and learn from touchscreen devices and educational apps. At Wesleyan, she will conduct collaborative research with students and faculty in the Cognitive Development Laboratories, directed by Anna Shusterman and Hilary Barth, as well as teaching a seminar course in her area of specialization.

Javier Fernández Galeano, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for the Humanities, is a historian of 20th-century Argentina and Spain. His research and teaching interests include gender and sexuality in Latin America and Iberia, queer history, diasporas and migrations, state violence, prison management, and global activist politics. His first book project traces the erotic lives and legal battles of Argentine and Spanish gender-nonconforming people. He shifts the focus to non-elite actors––rural populations, recruits and prisoners, fans of flamenco music, and defendants’ mothers––and to queer transnationalism in spirituality, folk music, fashion and performance, and visual and material culture. Galeano has a PhD in history from Brown University, where he graduated as a Mellon/ACLS fellow; a MA in historical studies from the New School for Social Research, where he was a Fulbright scholar; and two BAs in history and anthropology from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid. He has published in the Journal of the History of Sexuality, the Latin American Research Review, and Encrucijadas, among others.

Students Explore Japanese Politics through Movement

japanese politics class

Mary Alice Haddad, John E. Andrus Professor of Government (pictured at right, facing camera) taught her Japanese Politics class outdoors on Oct. 22 through a series of kinesthetic exercises. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

When the GOVT: 296 Japanese Politics class was learning about environmental policy, course instructor Professor Mary Alice Haddad brought her students out of the Hogwarts Classroom and to the Center for the Arts Green for their Oct. 22 class.

“Using our environment to learn the material was particularly appropriate,” said Haddad, John E. Andrus Professor of Government, chair and professor of East Asian studies.

With social distancing in mind, Haddad taught the lesson through kinesthetic learning—learning with your body. She learned about this technique from her experience with Wesleyan’s Creative Campus Initiative, which pairs performance artists with non-performance faculty for teaching collaborations.

“Kinesthetics is one of the most effective ways to learn, but it is often undervalued as a mode of instruction outside of the arts,” Haddad said. “Through collaborations with numerous dancers over the years is where I learned about how valuable these kinds of exercises can be to enhance the class dynamic and in facilitating student learning. They are also fun!”

In the first exercise, Haddad taught her students how to bow—a vital skill and an important aspect of cultural competency when living in, working in, or visiting Japan.

In the second exercise, Haddad asked the students to observe their environment, first with eyes open, and then closed. During reflection, the class remarked how they were much more aware of the sounds of the birds and the feel of the sun and breeze on their skin when observing with their eyes closed.

“While their eyes were open, they paid more attention to man-made things like buildings and cars and when they weren’t using their eyes, they were much more aware of their natural environment,” Haddad said. “I highlighted that one of the main reasons they take a class on Japanese politics, or any class about a different culture, is that it opens up a new perspective. Much like noticing the birds that were there all along when you close your eyes, studying Japanese politics makes you pay attention to different aspects of American politics—or the politics of wherever they come from—that were there all along but which you might not have been paying attention to before.”

During a “stop-drop-go” exercise, the students learned how amazingly perceptive people are by how quickly and accurately they can pick up on nonverbal subtle cues from one another and move together as a group. Through this process, the students feel in their body the psychological effects of the risks inherent in leadership; when they initiate a new movement, such as clapping, laying down, standing on one leg, or waving, they don’t know if anyone will follow.

“They quickly realize that in group settings it is frequently impossible to identify the leader, and it is often not the first mover who actually has the most power but rather the second and third mover who are the ones who turn a single person’s actions into the actions of the group,” Haddad said. “Although our exercise is quite innocuous, you quickly understand both how easy it is in group settings to be sucked into doing things you don’t really want to do as well as the subtle ways people can resist doing what everyone else is doing by modifying it or doing it in a slower or incomplete way.”

Haddad then broke the class into four groups and asked them to construct “movement phrases” based on their recent readings. Through this exercise, the students engaged with the topics emotionally rather than just intellectually and expressed all of that with their bodies. After performing their movement phrase, fellow classmates reflected on how they interpreted the movements.

For the final exercise, the class created their own version of a Shinto ritual in which individuals wrote prayers and tied them to a large oak tree, recognizing that the spirit of the tree is sacred. “Thus, for Japanese, and perhaps for us as well, our hopes and dreams are quite literally tied to the natural world. Our trees and plants should be revered,” Haddad said. “It would be good for all of us to take a moment, stand in awe, and bow in appreciation of what they do for us and how much our lives are connected to theirs.”

Photos of the Oct. 22 class are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

japanese politics class

japanese politics class

japanese politics class japanese politics class

japanese politics class

japanese politics class

japanese politics class

japanese politics classjapanese politics classjapanese politics class

Sumarsam, Gruen, Herbst Honored with Faculty Research Prizes

Three Wesleyan faculty were honored with the Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research in October. The third annual prize is similar to the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching, but is presented to members of the faculty who demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in their research, scholarship, and contributions to their field.

Each recipient received a plaque and citation as well as research funds for their award.

This year’s recipients include: Division I, Sumarsam, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music; Division II, Lori Gruen, William Griffin Professor of Philosophy; and Division III, Bill Herbst, John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy.

Philosophical Debate Serves as Living a Good Life Course’s Midterm

good life class

Students from the philosophy course Living a Good Life gathered in Memorial Chapel on Oct. 22 to participate in a three-part debate that served as their midterm.

Philosophers in the ancient world, in both the East and the West, typically viewed the practice of philosophy as an activity aimed at changing one’s orientation to the world and, thus, how one lives one’s life. Some of these thinkers developed views that still appear to have contemporary relevance, but many of them also held beliefs that we recognize today as not only outdated but also deeply misguided. Given these blind spots in their thinking, should ancient philosophy be “canceled”?

That was the question up for consideration in a midterm debate held on Oct. 22 as part of PHIL 210: Living a Good Life, co-taught by Steve Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of philosophy; Tushar Irani, associate professor of letters and philosophy; and Steven Horst, chair and professor of philosophy. The course is one of Wesleyan’s largest in-person courses taught this semester and was featured in an Oct. 19 The New York Times article titled “Ancient Philosophy, Meet Modern Pandemic.”

Gilmore Receives Bromery Award from the Geological Society of America

Marty Gilmore

Marty Gilmore

For her exemplary contributions to research in the geological sciences and for being an instrumental mentor to young people of color, Professor Marty Gilmore received the 2020 Randolph W. “Bill” and Cecile T. Bromery Award from the Geological Society of America.

Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and co-coordinator of Wesleyan’s Planetary Sciences program, was nominated for the award by Jim Head, the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences at Brown University.

“Few individuals have done more for expanding diversity in the geosciences than Dr. Gilmore,” Head said. She “leads the way in geosciences by example: passionate interest in fundamental and cutting-edge science, dedication to teaching and service to the profession and community, and tireless mentoring and personal advocacy for young scientists. She is a shining beacon of light for young minorities and women contemplating a career in the geosciences, illuminating a clear inspirational destination of success based on her research and service accomplishments.”

Gilmore is a fellow of the Geological Society of America, has served on dozens of NASA and National Academy of Sciences-NRC Committees, has mentored more than 20 master’s degree recipients, many of whom were people of color, has served as chair of the Wesleyan’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Venus Exploration Analysis Group, VEXAG, and has a publication record of fundamental research contributions in planetary geoscience, particularly on the geological evolution of the Earth, Venus, and Mars.

“Being elected a GSA Fellow a few years ago was one of my proudest moments, and I am so appreciative of the work that GSA has done to advance the profession and its initiatives to seriously address the constant problem of access to the field by women and people with brown skin,” Gilmore said. “There is certainly a long way to go and I hope that we are successful in our work to insist that the geosciences are an open and obvious field for everyone who wants to pursue it. To any students or younger people of color in the field, know that there is nothing in you that prevents you from being at the top of this field. Not just a member, not a cog, but a leader—the best.”

Gilmore will receive the award virtually during the GSA’s national meeting on Oct. 27.

Thomas Honored for Excellence in Foraminiferal Research

ellen thomas

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History, and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, is the recipient of the 2020 Joseph A. Cushman Award for Excellence in Foraminiferal Research.

At Wesleyan, Thomas investigates oceanic benthic foraminifera (eukaryotic unicellular organisms) as proxies for the impact of changes in environment and climate on living organisms on various time scales. This fall, she’s teaching the courses Research Frontiers in the Sciences and Mass Extinctions in the Oceans.

Brian Huber, president of the Cushman Foundation for Foraminiferal Research noted that the Cushman Foundation Board of Directors agreed that Thomas “richly deserve[s] being honored for [her] voluminous and highly impactful contributions to foraminiferal research and the broader disciplines of paleoceanography, paleoclimatology and environmental science. [Her] influence as a mentor and educator and [her] leadership and selfless public service contributions to the international research community are also considered outstanding.”

Thomas will receive the award during the Geological Society of American Meeting next fall in Montreal, Canada.

Rouse Leads Faculty Fall Luncheon Talk on Radical Naturalism

Joe Rouse, the Hedding Professor of Moral Science in the Philosophy Department and the Science in Society Program delivered a faculty fall luncheon talk Oct. 21 on "Radical Naturalism: A Philosophical Research Program."

Joe Rouse, the Hedding Professor of Moral Science, delivered a faculty fall luncheon talk Oct. 21 on “Radical Naturalism: A Philosophical Research Program.” Rouse has taught in Wesleyan’s Philosophy Department and Science in Society Program since 1981.

Rouse's primary research interests are in the philosophy of science, the history of 20th C. philosophy, and interdisciplinary science studies. Within these areas his primary foci include the philosophy of scientific practice; naturalism and anti-naturalism in 20th Century philosophy;

Rouse’s primary research interests are in the philosophy of science, the history of 20th-century philosophy, and interdisciplinary science studies. The sciences, Rouse explained, need no longer “defer to philosophy for their conceptual grounding. On the contrary, a broadly scientific conception of the world provides the horizons for contemporary philosophy,” he said.

In this talk, Rouse how he strives to situate scientific understanding in scientific practice.  "The experimental and observational systems and the practices and skills that the sciences develop are not just a means to scientific knowledge to which then stands on it own. They are integral to scientific understanding." 

In this talk, Rouse explained how he strives to situate scientific understanding in scientific practice. “The experimental and observational systems and the practices and skills that the sciences develop are not just a means to scientific knowledge that then stands on its own. They are integral to scientific understanding,” he said.

Prepare for the College Application Process Through Admission 101 Program for Families

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Next month, Wesleyan will host its annual Admission 101 for Wesleyan Families to help high school juniors and families prepare for the college application process.

This virtual event will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 21, and from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22.

Co-sponsored by the Office of Admission and Office of Advancement, this event offers information on interview techniques, discovering campus life through the experiences of Wesleyan students, and making the transition from high school to college.