Olivia Drake

Autry Discusses the Use of Skin-Bleaching Agents During Luncheon Talk for Staff

robyn autry

Robyn Autry, associate professor of sociology, spoke on “Bleach, and Other Performance Enhancing Drugs” as part of Wesleyan’s staff luncheon series Nov. 17.

While it’s considered acceptable, or even expected, for women to cover fine lines and wrinkles with makeup, creams, injectables, or undergo cosmetic procedures like facelifts as they age, the idea of altering skin tone—especially for Black and brown people who are the most likely to face colorism—is a newer, and oddly popular, skincare craze.

“For [some] Black people it’s not about whether our skin is dewy, glowing, or glassy, or whether we’re trying to conceal acne scars or minimize the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It’s about whether we’re trying to appear closer to white,” said Robyn Autry, associate professor of sociology.

Autry, a critical sociologist, is an expert on topics related to racial identity, Blackness, and memory studies. On Nov. 17, she delivered a talk titled “Bleach, and Other Performance Enhancing Drugs” as part of Wesleyan’s staff luncheon series.

The face-whitening trend is booming in America, especially among Black celebrities. Autry showed “before and after” images of professional baseball player Sammy Sosa; model Blac Chyna; and musical artists Beyonce, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj—all of whom have been accused of transforming their dark skin to light brown or even white. Their bright faces are frequently framed by silky blonde hair.

Sammy Sosa

Sammy Sosa, then and now.

Dominican Republic native Sammy Sosa, in particular, “has always stood out to me not for his athletic ability but for his open embrace of skin bleaching and other modifications to his hair texture and eye color,” Autry said. “A couple of years after he retired in 2009 some commented on his lighter complexion, but it would be several more years before he reappeared at the 10-year anniversary of his retirement looking undeniably bleached out. Sosa admitted to using bleaching creams; he used them every night to soften his skin, and they happened to also lighten it.”

Blac Chyna

Blac Chyna models for Whitenicious’ Diamond Illuminating and Lightening facial cream.

Similarly defiant, entertainer Blac Chyna received public slack after endorsing a new product line called Whitenicious in Nigeria.

“Many of her fans and other observers felt betrayed and insulted by the blatant disavowal of dark skin as a problem to be treated or corrected. Others saw it as a money grab noting that it’ll cost you $250 to get a 3.5-ounce jar of the signature lightening cream,” Autry said.

Sammy Sosa and Blac Chyna, along with a handful of other celebrities like rapper Azealia Banks who compared whitening her skin to wearing a weave, stand out “because they neither deny nor apologize for desiring lightened complexions. And Black people are not expected to admit to skin bleaching let alone desire it,” Autry said.

Blackness, Autry says, carries with it a demand for the truth, a claim to authenticity that is wrapped up in notions of being and looking natural. She wonders if a natural skin movement will follow in the footsteps of the recent natural hair movement. “Will I one day proudly declare ‘Oh, I wear my skin natural.’ What would that mean? No concealer? No more cat eyes?”

Several of Autry’s comments brought chuckles to the 50 staff members in attendance. And she also led a Q&A following the talk. Others continued to discuss the idea of skin-bleaching after the event.

“Professor Autry was engaging and funny, and it seemed clear that she was eager to share her insights. It was such a compelling new set of ideas and I left curious to know more,” said Anne Marcotty, senior designer in University Communications. “I was interested to learn that there is a social shame (judgment) associated with skin bleaching similar to steroid use in athletes, which suggests that there’s a belief that making one’s skin lighter is akin to cheating. It made me wonder about the nature of cultural meaning, and how deeply ingrained certain beliefs/prejudices are, for instance, the way white people getting a tan has changed meaning as labor and leisure practices have changed over time.”

Autry noted that America’s desire for liquid bleach skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Clorox ranked No. 1 in the 2020 Axios Harris Poll that ranks corporate reputations. Of course, the bleaching agents used to whiten skin are different from the ones used to whiten laundry and disinfect counters and floors. Whitening face creams contain hydroquinone—a topical skin-bleaching agent, which was banned from over-the-counter beauty products in the U.S. in 2020. Nevertheless, Vogue estimates that by 2027, the skin whitening industry is projected to be worth more than $27 billion dollars.

“What’s more important to me is that the word ‘bleach’ and ‘bleaching’ is used to talk about skin lightening,” Autry said. “Many people view bleach as the ‘gold standard’ for household cleaning of all sorts, and not just during pandemics. Bleach has corrosive properties and has also been linked to a number of health concerns from skin irritation to respiratory illness.”

Skin “bleachers,” then, are in a way “enhancing their performances by scrubbing themselves clean,” she said. “Or that’s the idea anyway.”

audience

Fifty staff members attended Autry’s talk.

Intercultural Learning, Study Abroad Celebrated during International Education Week

italian game night

Students participated in Italian Game Night during International Education Week activities. (Photo by Willow Saxon ’24)

Members of the campus community played Italian Tombola Bingo, ate Spanish Polvoróns, learned how to pronounce their names in Chinese, savored snacks from South Korea, danced to Afrobeats, and learned about study abroad opportunities all during Wesleyan’s annual International Education Week (IEW) celebration.

“International Education Week is a dedicated time for students, faculty, and staff to recognize the many ways in which we can engage meaningfully in intercultural learning and understanding at Wesleyan,” said Hannah Parten, assistant director, study abroad, for the Fries Center for Global Studies. “The 2021 event focused specifically on ways to emerge from the pandemic with a greater sense of interconnectedness, self-awareness, and empathy.”

IEW, held Nov. 13-19, was celebrated through a series of more than 20 globally-focused events. The PINOY Club—a group of Filipinos, Filipino-Americans, and Filipino-culture enthusiasts—offered a sampling of Filipino dishes; the African Student Association hosted an Afrobeats Dance Class showcasing fun and energetic moves from all over Africa; the Office of Study Abroad held an interactive session about the benefits of studying in another country; and the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship offered a virtual session on ways to take action on social and environmental issues through grassroots organizing, activism, fundraising, and more.

Participants also were treated to an Italian Game Night, Chinese Name Pronunciation Workshop, and a screening of the Greek box-office hit “A Touch of Spice” and the Indian Hindi-language comedy “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.”

International Education Week concluded with a Wes Stories— a multilingual event showcasing talented students on campus through songs, spoken stories, dances, speeches, and other creative performances, and an International Festival of Games, hosted by the Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs).

In addition to activities, IEW provided the Fries Center for Global Studies an opportunity to celebrate the return to study-abroad programs, which were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although some countries still have travel restrictions, 30 students are currently studying abroad this fall in countries such as Spain, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

According to Emily Gorlewski, director of study abroad, 152 students have already applied for spring semester study abroad programs.

“(After the pandemic), there was a lot of initial interest,” she said. “We normally have about 100 in the spring. However, there has been much more attention than usual.”

In a “normal” academic year, Wesleyan sends about 325 students abroad. Students travel to programs on six continents, in all different countries.

“Going abroad changes your perspective in so many different ways, and this is the only time in your life you will be able to participate in this kind of experience,” Gorlewski said. “There are lots of opportunities on campus to learn about the world and other cultures, but studying abroad is a unique opportunity.”

Study abroad also allows students to engage with and learn from the world and its cultures. “A meaningful cross-cultural experience sharpens our understanding of ourselves in relation to the world in which we live,” Parten added.

IEW is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education. It aims to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences. Wesleyan’s first organization of IEW was in 2017, one year after the Fries Center for Global Studies (FCGS) was formed.

“Every fall Wesleyan’s IEW committee convenes to discuss our goals for the year and remind ourselves of our ‘why,'” Parten said.

Photos of various 2021 International Education Week activities are below:

The Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) and International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) hosted an open house and meet and greet. 

The Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) and International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) hosted an open house and meet and greet.

The African Student Association and Fries Center for Global Studies hosted an Afrobeats Dance Class at the Malcolm X House. 

The African Student Association and Fries Center for Global Studies hosted an Afrobeats Dance Class at the Malcolm X House.

Several study abroad alumni led a discussion titled "From Ghana to Middletown: Maximizing Your Study Abroad Experience Overseas and Back Home." 

Four study abroad alumni led a discussion titled “From Ghana to Middletown: Maximizing Your Study Abroad Experience Overseas and Back Home.”

During an "Opportunities Abroad" discussion, Wesleyan faculty learned about opportunities for travel and work in countries around the world. The session, which included information on faculty exchanges and Fulbrights, was hosted by the Fries Center for Global Studies, Office of Career and Faculty Development, and Office of Corporate, Foundation, and Government Grants

During an “Opportunities Abroad” discussion, Wesleyan faculty learned about opportunities for travel and work in countries around the world. The session, which included information on faculty exchanges and Fulbrights, was hosted by the Fries Center for Global Studies, Office of Career and Faculty Development, and Office of Corporate, Foundation, and Government Grants.

Bite Off More than You Can Chew at the New “Wisdom Teeth” Exhibit

wisdom teeth

The campus community can sink their teeth into a new exhibit housed in the Science Library. Titled “Wisdom Teeth,” the 30-piece exhibit showcases a series of skulls and jaws, each highlighting the amazing dental morphology that has evolved in the vertebrate lineage. All displayed specimens are housed in Wesleyan’s George Brown Goode Biology Collections.

wisdom teeth

Most vertebrates, such as an iguana or pelican, have “homodont” dentition with identical tooth structures throughout their jaw. Mammals, however, have “heterodont,” or specialized teeth (for example incisors to seize prey and molars to grind food so it may be digested more easily). Examples of both dentitions are displayed in the exhibit.

odfish As you can see, the thin struts of bone that make up the Codfish skull are unfused which allow for greater cranial flexibility. This flexible skull allows the Cod to extend their jaws forward and rapidly snatch prey by protruding the pre-maxilla. In addition, like many other teleosts- or bony fish, Cods use suction feeding by rapidly expanding the space in their mouth to create a negative pressure which sucks prey items into their jaws.

The “Wisdom Teeth” exhibit also includes an online component featuring several photographs and additional information. The codfish, pictured here, has thin struts of bone that make up the animal’s skull and allow for greater cranial flexibility. This flexible skull allows codfish to extend their jaws forward and rapidly snatch prey by protruding the pre-maxilla. They also rapidly expand the space in their mouth to create a negative pressure that sucks prey items into their jaws.

American Beaver Like all rodents, beaver’s teeth continue to grow throughout their life to prevent too much wear from accumulating. Beaver incisors are particularly durable as they are covered in a thick layer of enamel, with an orange tint from the presence of iron compounds. This iron oxidizes over time leaving beavers with orange teeth. This all makes sense when you consider the incredibly tough material that beavers must chew through to construct their dams.

The American beaver has heterodont teeth that grow throughout its life. Beaver incisors are covered in a thick layer of enamel, with an orange tint from the presence of iron compounds, which makes them extremely durable.

wisdom teeth

The Javan rhino has 28 teeth (1 incisor, 3 premolars, and 3 molars in each half of the jaw). Less than 75 Javan rhinos exist today. They browse the tropical rainforest in Indonesia searching for vegetation.

bear

According to the exhibit, omnivores like this grizzly bear have more generalist teeth that can be used to process a wide variety of foods. The incisors at the front can be used to slice through an animal but are also commonly used to graze grass. The menacing canines can be used to rip apart flesh or takedown squirrels and other small animals, but are also used to rip into logs to find grubs and ants. The molars and premolars can be used to crunch bones or crack nuts.

wisdom teeth

“Wisdom Teeth” was created by Fletcher Levy ’23 last summer as part of his work with the College of the Environment. “I was very inspired by the raw beauty of the osteology collections here at Wesleyan,” he said. “While working on this collection, I was struck by the diversity and beauty within the shape of teeth.” The exhibit was developed with the assistance of Professor of Biology Ann Burke; Assistant Professor of Archaeology Katherine Brunson; Harold T. Stearns Emerita Professor of Integrative Sciences Ellen Thomas; Andy Tan ’21; Yu Kai Tan MA ’21; facility manager Joel LaBella; instrument maker specialist Bruce Strickland; Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian Andrew White; and Science Library assistant Linda Hurteau. (Photos by Olivia Drake, Andy Tan and Yu Kai Tan)

 

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:

Glenn Ligon ’82, Hon. ’12 is prominently featured in New York Times Magazine‘s 2021 “Greats” issue, which celebrates those who have helped make and change the culture. For over 30 years, Ligon has been making work that speaks to American history—ambiguous, open-ended, existentially observant. “Ligon’s art is often both an indictment and a kind of reframing of American history. He has worked across a wide range of media, in addition to writing the kind of criticism and curating the kinds of shows that revolutionize canons. He isn’t a painter of the human form, and yet bodies—desired, objectified, pathologized, policed, and pitied—are central to all of his work.” (Oct. 17)

In DanceTeacher, Hari Krishnan, chair and professor of dance, explains how the synthesis between technique and theory is something that drives Wesleyan’s Dance Department. “We’re not a conservatory,” he says in the story, where more of an emphasis might be placed on technique alone. “We’re interested in a bigger-picture discourse. How does your major affect a larger line of inquiry, especially with what’s going on in the world right now—disease, immigration, Black Lives Matter, BIPOC identity? I always say, ‘I’m not interested in how good or bad a dancer you are. It’s how engaged you are to the material.’” (Oct. 22)

In a Politico op-ed, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 discusses the controversy surrounding the founding of the University of Austin. “As a teacher, it’s a great joy to see a student’s prejudices dissolve through conversation, inquiry, and the study of powerful works, and it’s an even greater thrill when this happens to oneself while teaching!” (Nov. 13)

In The Conversation, Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, questions why medieval weapons laws—including a 1328 English statute prohibiting the public carry of edged weapons without royal permission— are at the center of dueling legal opinions in a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court—New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. “So how did a 1689 English Bill of Rights that never gave any absolute right to carry guns turn into a key justification for that very right in the U.S.?” she writes. “Essentially, they invented a tradition.” (Nov. 5)

The New Yorker interviews Lin Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ‘15 for making his directorial début, “Tick, Tick . . . Boom!,” which channels the bohemian life and spirit of the theater composer Jonathan Larson. “That’s part of what hit me so hard about it when I saw “Tick, Tick . . . Boom!” Off-Broadway: that [Larson] understood so much, and yet at a certain level you can’t let yourself understand. You don’t know the day you’re going to die. On a subcellular level, he understands there’s a clock ticking. I think we all have moments where we allow ourselves to hear that ticking and times when we can’t listen to it, in order to stay sane.”

Sonali Chakravarti, professor of government, shares an op-ed in The Guardian titled “No, Black jurors aren’t ‘biased’ when it comes to shootings of Black people.” Jury service, she writes, “cannot only be for the white, the lucky, and the obstinately stoic in the face of racial injustice. The jury seated in the trial over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery – a Black man who was shot and killed by three white men in Glynn County, Georgia – makes a mockery of the need for a randomly selected jury. Of the 12-person jury, 11 are white and just one is Black, in a county where more than 25% of the residents are Black.” (Nov. 11)

Former captain of the Wesleyan football team Quincy Chad ’06 is mentioned in 2 Paragraphs and Outsider after appearing in the S.W.A.T. episode “West Coast Offense.” Chad also “is known for his roles on Power (Zigg), Orange Is the New Black (Leon McDonald), Netflix’s The Get Down (Caesar Leader), FX’s Snowfall (Big Deon), and Tell Me a Story (Detective Grant), among others.” (Nov. 5)

The obituary of Richard Ohmann, a former associate provost at Wesleyan, is featured in The New York Times and The Boston Globe. “Unlike some activist academics at the time, Ohmann never drew a line between his activism and his teaching or scholarship. His book English in America: A Radical View of the Profession (1976) illuminated what he saw as the role of literary studies in perpetuating capitalist hierarchies: It both diverted attention and, by applying standards to writing and rhetoric, perpetuated class distinctions,” he wrote. (Nov. 3).

Tracey O’Shaughnessy MALS ’02, associate features editor and columnist for The Republican-American, has won two national awards for her feature writing from the Society for Features Journalism. O’Shaughnessy won first place in the General Column category for a portfolio of three columns. In their comments, judges cited O’Shaughnessy’s columns on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on society. (Nov. 2)

The Connecticut Post mentions that a new exhibit by Don Sexton ’63 titled “Places I Know” is open at the East 67th St Library in New York City until Dec. 18. In the show, Sexton shows scenes from around the world, people going about their lives, with their families, at play, on the streets. Sexton studied painting and drawing at Wesleyan and has been a professional painter for more than 30 years. (Oct. 30)

The Connecticut Post reports that Karen Xu ’22, a seasonal employee at Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown, painted a new tent outside the theater after the original tent was stolen last September. Xu received minimal instruction for the project. “The result is a colorful array of characters enjoying various forms of art. [The director] is very pleased with the outcome because it perfectly encapsulates what the place is all about.” (Oct. 28)

Khachig Tölölyan, professor emeritus of the College of Letters, discusses Vartan Matiossian’s The Politics of Naming the Armenian Genocide: Language, History and ‘Medz Yeghern, in The Armenian Weekly. The book, he says, “offers a matchless analysis of texts ranging from newspaper articles and books to 114 monuments and shows how diplomats seeking to evade the moral and legal consequences of fully acknowledging the genocide sought to use the Armenian term for shameful camouflage.” (Nov. 8)

Seth Redfield, professor of astronomy, is mentioned in Hamlet Hub for delivering a live-streamed discussion on Nov. 8 in connection with National STEM/STEAM Day. Housatonic Community College hosted STEAMFest 2021 with a theme of “Helping Everyone Reach For The Stars.” (Nov. 6)

Joseph Russo, visiting assistant professor of anthropology, is cited in The New York Post in an article about the Astroworld Festival Tragedy and conspiracy theories. (Nov. 9)

Yahoo! Life says to “forget the turkey— all the cool kids are celebrating Bugsgiving.” Wesleyan students will enjoy an insect-heavy holiday meal at a new event on campus: “Bugsgiving: A Celebration of Edible Insects,” occurring Nov. 20. The host, Wesleyan student Megan Levan ’22, is an entotarian. That means she doesn’t consume animal proteins—only insect protein. (Nov. 13)

Wesleyan’s new science center is featured in The Middletown Press. The science center will be made of stone and will use a quarter less energy than the current building. (Nov. 14)

A new collaboration between Wesleyan and Middletown Area Transit allows students to use their college ID cards to ride all local MAT and 9-Town Transit buses for free via the WesPass program, according to The Middletown Press. WesPass, a pilot program, “is designed to create an affordable and accessible platform for students to increase their use of local transit while reducing the university’s contribution to Connecticut state greenhouse gas emissions, recognizing that single-occupancy vehicles accounted for 38 percent of the state’s total emissions in 2017.” (Nov. 16)

Columbia Journalism Review mentions that the Collaborative on Media & Messaging for Health and Social Policy—a project that is affiliated with Wesleyan, the University of Minnesota, and Cornell University—has launched a new website. The collaborative is designed to help explore the question of how journalists can build healthy and equitable communities. (Nov. 9)

Sea Dwelling Teleosaur Restored and Displayed in Exley Science Center

exley exhibit

A restored Teleosaur cast was mounted in Exley Science Center this month after spending 63 years in storage. Plaster casts are not fakes, but accurate replicas of actual specimens that retain fine details of the original that are important for study and access, especially for fragile specimens, destroyed originals, or specimens in private collections. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

A 7-foot-long extinct marine crocodile has finally found a permanent home on Wesleyan’s campus—exactly 150 years after it arrived.

Known as a Teleosaur (Macrospondylus bollensis), the sea-dwelling lizard lived during the early Jurassic period, approximately 180 million years ago. A cast was gifted to Wesleyan in 1871 by chemist Orange Judd of the Wesleyan Class of 1847, and the namesake of the University’s Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences.

When the museum closed in 1957, more than 900 animal casts, including the Teleosaur, were moved into storage in random locations throughout campus.

teleosaur

Yu Kai Tan BA/MA ’21 and Andy Tan ’21 restored the Teleosaur’s cast using more realistic coloring.

Over sixty years later, the Teleosaur cast was discovered in a large packing case in the Exley Science Center penthouse.

“When we unpacked it, it was still in reasonable shape. There weren’t many cracks, but the paint on its surface was badly damaged and there were many white spots,” said Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Emerita Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History.

Thomas, along with Yu Kai Tan BA/MA ’21 and Andy Tan ’21, is spearheading efforts to restore and display the hundreds of artifacts placed in storage following the natural sciences museum’s closing. All restored casts become part of Wesleyan’s Joe Webb Peoples Museum.

The restored Teleosaur was originally exhibited alongside another 22-foot-long Teleosaur which—as seen in archival photos—was built into the wall of the museum.

“That large specimen was destroyed when the wall was blasted to pieces during renovations to the building but this one, thankfully, survived,” Yu Kai Tan said.

The team began working on it during the first phase of COVID-19 lockdowns in March 2020 and finished the restoration in May 2021 with the help of student curators, Cole Goco ’23 and Vivian Gu ’23. They used compressed air for the general dusting of the specimen and consolidated the cracks with archival resin. The missing paint flecks were filled in, then the entire specimen was retouched with colors that reflect the color of the original fossil.

“When these casts were custom-made for Wesleyan in 1871, they were rather simply painted with available paints at hand. Our restoration with modern reversible archival paints creates a better visual relief and more accurately reflects the original specimen from which the cast was made,” Tan said.

To top it off, they applied several coats of UV-resistant archival varnish to stabilize the paint surface and protect it from fading.

According to Henry Ward’s Catalogue of Casts of Fossils from 1866, the Teleosaur’s jaws were “armed with numerous long, slender, sharp-pointed, slightly curved teeth” and the hind limbs were “longer and stronger” than the forelimbs, “which indicated that the T. was a better swimmer” than the modern-day crocodile and likely “lived more habitually in the water and less seldom moved on drylands as its fossil remains have only been found in the sedimentary deposits from the seas.”

The Teleosaurus joins several other recently-restored creatures from the Joe Webb Peoples Museum and Collections including a single-tusked walrus skull, a restored taxidermied peacock, a Mosasaur marine lizard cast; an armadillo-like Glyptodon cast, and the “terrible beast” Deinotherium cast. The casts are used frequently for outreach and teaching.

Funding for the restoration projects is supported in part by Henry Monmouth Smith (1868-1950), a former Wesleyan chemistry professor well known for his book on Gaseous Exchange and Physiological Requirements for Level and Grade Walking, and Torchbearers of Chemistry. Smith left money to Wesleyan “to use and apply the income for the care, maintenance and increase of the collections in its Museum of Natural History.”

View additional photos of the restored Teleosaur below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

exley exhibit

The original fossil was discovered in Baden-Württemberg, Germany in 1828. The cast, which measures 7-feet 2-inches by 2-and-a-half-feet, originally cost $18. Today, it is still for sale at $1,450.

teleosaur

The Teleosaur cast is prominently displayed inside Exley Science Center. “Yu Kai and Andy aimed to restore it to the colors of the original,” Thomas explained. “The fossils are partially replaced by pyrite (‘fool’s gold, iron sulfide), hence the golden color.”

Wesleyan Community Honors Pandemic Loss through Movement, Dance

dance

On Nov. 5, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Joya Powell, in center, led a “collective mourning” at the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio to honor those who passed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day. Keep smiling through just like you always do ‘til the blue skies drive the dark clouds away.”

These lyrics, sung by Vera Lynn in the 1939 song “We’ll Meet Again,” are especially moving for Donna Brewer, director of employee benefits at Wesleyan. They’d be even more meaningful for her uncle Jim, an avid maple syrup maker and World War II vet, who died of COVID-19 in May 2020.

“Uncle Jim passed away early on in the pandemic and at that time, we weren’t able to have a service and I didn’t have an opportunity to grieve with others,” she said.

But a “collective mourning” on Nov. 5 offered Brewer a place to grieve in a communal environment.

Led by Joya Powell, visiting assistant professor of dance, the collective mourning welcomed anyone from the campus community to honor those who have passed during the pandemic through movement and improvisational dance. The event took place in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio; 17 students and staff gathered to move and mourn.

Alumni Discuss Black Entrepreneurship at 29th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium

dwight greene

Melinda Weekes-Laidlow ’89, Shawn Dove ’84, Oladoyin Oladapo ’14, Lucas Turner-Owens ’12, Kenny Green ’98, and Sadasia McCutchen ’17 were the panelists for the virtual 29th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium.

Like many alumni entrepreneurs, Kenny Green’s career launched from a “dorm room business” during his junior year at Wesleyan. Green ’98, an economics major, teamed up with his classmate Paul Freeman ’98 and started selling keychains with ‘Wesleyan’ stitched in black thread.

“[At the time] these big long keychains came in style—the dog tag keychain. So I said, ‘Hey, how can we put Wesleyan on this?'” Green asked.

Green, who is the founder of Green Passion Projects, an organization that consults with professional athletes and entrepreneurs to create effective business strategies, joined five other Wesleyan alumni panelists to lead the 29th Dwight L. Greene Symposium on Oct. 27. Moderated by Melinda Weekes-Laidlow ’89, the group discussed the topic of Black entrepreneurship and specific strategies these alumni leaders use to build entrepreneurial ventures and ecosystems. Green and Weekes-Laidlow were joined by Sadasia McCutchen ’17, Lucas Turner-Owens ’12, Shawn Dove ’84, and Oladoyin Oladapo ’14 for the virtual event.

“I think my entrepreneurial roots started right at Wesleyan,” said Green, who worked in public accounting after graduation. “I became a CPA .. but the calling to entrepreneurship came along.”

Since then, he’s worked with NBA star Charlie Ward on a community fundraiser; he’s consulted with Grammy-winning songwriter Steven Battey on a social impact music video featuring Snoop Dogg and partnered with the Jackie Robinson Park of Fame on a holiday party for underserved families. “I’m just happy with everything that I’m doing every single day,” Green said.

Fall Is In the Air …

The Wesleyan community is experiencing a rather warm start to fall, but a beautiful one nonetheless!

(Photos by Willow Saxon ’25 and Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

fallfall fall fall fall fall olin fall

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:

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 reviews Richard Rorty’s Pragmatism as Anti-Authoritarianism in The Los Angles Review of Books. “Rorty was at once an iconoclast and an adherent of progress — the odd radical who believed deeply in this country’s potential. His Pragmatism as AntiAuthoritarianism, a set of 10 lectures he delivered in Spain in 1996, has just been published. While many of the arguments are by now familiar, the verve with which they are made and their relevance to our current context make for a bracing read.” (Oct. 27)

According to the New York Times and The White House, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Jessica Rosenworcel ’93 as the Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission. Rosenworcel “is a leader in spectrum policy, developing new ways to support wireless services from Wi-Fi to video and the Internet of Things. She has fought to combat illegal robocalls and enhance consumer protections in our telecommunications policies.” (Oct. 26)

AARP announces that Alan Miller ’76 is a 2022 AARP Purpose Prize award recipient. The award celebrates people 50-plus who use their knowledge and life experience to solve challenging social problems. Miller was honored for his role leading the News Literacy Project, which teaches people of all ages and backgrounds know how to identify credible news and other information, empowering them to have an equal opportunity to participate in the civic life of their communities and the country. Miller received a $50,000 award for his organization. (Oct. 5)

On CNN, Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, shares an opinion piece titled “Now that guns can kill hundreds in minutes, Supreme Court should rethink the rights question.” “What is needed is a common vocabulary and a shared metric for quantifying the lethality of firearms in historical terms when approaching Second Amendment policy and doctrine,” she says. “Without it, the Supreme Court will not have a clear-eyed assessment of this upcoming case and the repercussions it will have on people’s lives.” (Oct. 20)

In The Connecticut Post, planetary geologist Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, is named among 17 people chosen for a Women of Innovation award, presented by the Connecticut Technology Council and Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology Oct. 14. Gilmore was noted for her research innovation and leadership. (Oct. 20)

In Finger Lakes Daily News, Joyce Jacobsen, Andrews Professor of Economics, Emerita, and President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, is cited for being the recipient of the 2021 Carolyn Shaw Bell Award. Named after the first chair of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, the Carolyn Shaw Bell Award is awarded to an individual who has “furthered the status of women in the economics profession through example, achievements, increasing our understanding of how women can advance in the economics profession or mentoring others. Jacobsen has excelled on all of these criteria.” (Oct. 25)

Eyewitness News 3 WFSB interviews Diana Martinez, assistant director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, Elam Grekin ’22 and Grey Simon ’24 as part of a “20 Towns in 20 Days” feature, which was spotlighting the City of Middletown. Martinez spoke about community service and Grekin and Simon spoke about their efforts with Long Lane Farm. (Oct. 25)

Wesleyan Trustee Emeritus David Jones ’70, MA ’83, Hon. ’81 is mentioned in Harlem World Magazine for being a New York Landmarks Conservancy honoree.” We inaugurated the Living Landmarks Celebration to recognize extraordinary New Yorkers who give back so much to the city we love,” said Peg Breen, President of The New York Landmarks Conservancy. Jones is president and chief executive officer of the Community Service Society of New York, a nonprofit organization that promotes economic advancement and full civic participation for low-income New Yorkers. (Oct. 20)

A book review by Marguerite Nguyen, associate professor of English, is published in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History. “In Eric Nguyen’s 2021 debut novel, Things We Lost to the Water, a bayou in New Orleans East acts as a record of the local Vietnamese refugee community. It holds the objects and organisms of everyday life, including soda cans, plastic bags, even a pet frog named Toto, and harbors the stress, despair, and desires of life in the city that the community shares only with this space. In this novel, the first published by a Vietnamese American from New Orleans, the bayou serves as an archive of one of the densest Vietnamese American communities in the country.” (Oct. 21)

In ASBMBTODAY, the member magazine of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Alyssa Cortes ’22 is mentioned for receiving the Marion B. Sewer Distinguished Scholarship for Undergraduates, which supports students who excel academically and are dedicated to enhancing diversity in science. “Cortes plans to attend medical school after graduating with a BA in molecular biology and biochemistry from Wesleyan University. Following residency, and possibly a fellowship, Cortes plans to work in a hospital setting. She also plans to take multiple trips throughout her training and career to underserved countries to share her medical knowledge in village clinics. She particularly wants to go to South America and Caribbean islands to connect to her Hispanic roots.” (Oct. 27)

In The Baltimore Sun, astronomy graduate student Katie Bennett shares why she’s running The New York Marathon to honor her late brother-in-law Dwane Osgood, who recently died of brain cancer. “For me, his death has taught me that nobody in this life is guaranteed any length of time, and I’ve really tried to live that every day.” Bennett also is raising funds for the National Brain Tumor Society as part of the run. (Oct. 21)

Mark Slobin, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, Emeritus, is cited in the Arizona Jewish Post where he discusses klezmer music. “Klezmer bands originally were made up of a violin or two, a flute, a hammered dulcimer, and a bass instrument, often a cello. The age of sound recording enabled a bolder sound, and clarinet, percussion, brass and other instrumentation were added.” (Oct. 20)

Wicked Local mentions that Kevin Brisco, Jr. ’13, is a Fine Arts Work Center 2021-2022 Visual Arts Fellow. Raised in Memphis, Tenn. his work “is concerned with issues of place and representation, more specifically how the two inform one another—the slippage between background and figure in painting, pop culture, and daily life; as well as the dubious nature of ‘home’ for African Americans living in the southern U.S. His work takes the form of painting, sculpture, and performance.” (Oct. 19)

According to The List, Peter Cambor ’01 got a career boost from his appearance as “Barry” in Grace and Frankie. He had a few roles on acclaimed TV shows such as Suits, NCIS: Los Angeles, and the original NCIS. Cambor explained that he believes acting requires two things: creativity and business know-how. As he put it, “Just like in any other business you have to know how to work on a team, how to work with other people, what’s realistic under great constraints and how you can find freedom within those constraints.” (Oct. 25)

In The Middletown Press, City of Middletown Acting Health Director Kevin Elak said the COVID-19 positivity rate is relatively low in the city because a lot of testing is done in Middletown, “between pharmacies and the new testing site at Cross Street (AME Zion Church), as well as Wesleyan University regularly testing its staff and students.” (Oct. 22)

Poulos Authors 3 New Environmental-Themed Papers

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Helen Poulos recently co-authored three new papers:

Wildfire and topography drive woody plant diversity in a Sky Island mountain range in the Southwest USA,” published in Ecology and Evolution on Oct. 5.

Choked out: Battling invasive giant cane along the Rio Grande/ Bravo Borderlands,” published in River Research and Applications on Sept. 20.

And “Mixed-severity wildfire as a driver of vegetation change in an Arizona Madrean Sky Island System, USA,” written alongside Michael Freiburger ’21 and published in Fire on Oct. 20.

Poulos’s research focuses on plant distribution patterns as a result of the influences of natural and anthropogenic disturbances on the levels of local, landscape, and regional. She also studies these patterns through plant ecophysiology, biogeochemistry, and community ecology.

Students Learn to Carve Pumpkins with Stone Tools (with Photos, Video)

pumpkin carving

Beth Cooper ’24 demonstrates the craft of flintknapping during a “Pumpkin Carving with Stone Tools” outreach program. The self-taught knapper developed an interest in the craft their senior year of high school to “try something new.” Cooper had already had dabbled in blacksmithing, metal casting, and woodworking. “While I enjoy doing all of those, they can be difficult skills to maintain without a workshop or money for supplies and tools, so I started teaching myself to knap. It’s cheaper and less seasonal than my other hobbies,” they said. Pictured, Cooper is using a “copper bopper” to knap a piece of Keokuk chert from a flintknapping supplier and quarry in Oklahoma.


An art form discovered more than a million years ago by hominids is being kept alive today by a Wesleyan sophomore.

Elizabeth “Beth” Cooper ’24, a modern-day “knapper,” uses moose antlers, cobble hammerstones, and homemade copper contraptions to shape and “chip” stone into tools. This technique was historically used to craft arrowheads, knives, blades, spears, gun flints, and more.

“I’ve always been interested in historical replicas and recreating ancient production techniques,” they said.

On Oct. 27, Cooper shared their handiwork and knowledge with fellow students during a practical—and traditionally seasonal—activity: pumpkin carving. Sponsored by the Archaeology Department and Archaeology & Anthropology Collections, Cooper and Archaeology Collections Manager Wendi Field Murray led the inaugural “Pumpkin Carving with Stone Tools” outreach program at the Hogwarts Tent. Participants not only carved a pumpkin using Cooper’s stone tools, they also learned about the history and function of different stone tools through time.

Jacobsen Honored for Furthering the Status of Women in Economics

Joyce Jacobsen

Joyce Jacobsen, Andrews Professor of Economics, Emerita, is the recipient of the 2021 Carolyn Shaw Bell Award presented by the American Economic Association.

For her efforts furthering the status of women in the economics profession through example, achievements, and mentoring, the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP) is honoring Joyce Jacobsen with the 2021 Carolyn Shaw Bell Award.

Jacobsen, who retired from Wesleyan in 2019, is the Andrews Professor of Economics, Emerita. She’s the current president—and the first woman to serve as president—of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

“When I think of Joyce’s presence and impact at Wesleyan, the words ‘energetic,’ ‘disciplined,’ ‘innovative,’ and ‘supportive’ come immediately to mind,” said Gil Skillman, professor and chair of economics. “She was astonishingly productive and effective here as a teacher, scholar, and colleague, and later, as an administrator. She also was consistently supportive of both colleagues and students, acting as an ombudsperson for students (especially female economics majors) and investing considerable time and effort in encouraging and assisting the research endeavors of colleagues.”

Jacobsen completed an A.B. degree in economics at Harvard University, an M.Sc. degree in economics at the London School of Economics, and a PhD in economics at Stanford University. She spent most of her career at Wesleyan, joining the faculty in 1993 after five years at Rhodes College.