Olivia Drake

Students Explore New Reality through Dance

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the third of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an in-person, online, or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center. Kolcio also is a core faculty member of the College of the Environment, Environmental Studies, and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Programs at Wesleyan. This fall, she’s teaching DANC 216: Contemporary Dance Technique: Dancing During Pandemic; DANC 435: Advanced Dance Practice A; and DANC 445: Advanced Dance Practice B.

pandemic

Katja Kolcio, pictured in the background in black clothing, teaches her Dancing During Pandemic class Sept. 4 near the Wesleyan softball field. Students keep a 12-foot distance between themselves. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

class

Twenty-five students are enrolled in the Dancing During Pandemic course.

In a standard Wesleyan dance technique course, students corral inside a studio setting and work to develop artistic virtuosity in a particular dance genre: ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, West African, South Indian, and Afro-Brazilian.

But when the pandemic and its effects fundamentally altered the way people interact, communicate, and engage with one another, Katia Kolcio, associate professor of dance, decided to design a course specifically focusing on bringing attention to the physical experience of our new reality. So she created the practice-based course DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic, open to all students.

“It’s common to feel too busy to dedicate attention to our physical sensations and experiences, or to the way in which new ideas or realities encountered in the world resonate within us,” Kolcio said. “So with this course, we examine, ‘How do we physically and socially navigate the new environment?’ We need to fully engage in our physical selves and awareness and bring greater attention to the ways humans utilize our physical and creative capacities.”

Wesleyan University Press Receives Grant from the Literary Arts Emergency Fund

On Sept. 16, the Literary Arts Emergency Fund awarded Wesleyan University Press with a $25,000 grant to help with its financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Literary Arts Emergency Fund is administered by the Academy of American Poets, the Community of Literary Magazine and Presses, and the National Book Foundation. Wesleyan is among 282 nonprofit literary arts organizations, magazines, and presses across the nation that are receiving part of the $3,530,000 million in emergency funding.

“We are delighted and grateful to receive this support from the Literary Arts Emergency Fund. So much in the world is difficult right now, and literature, books, and reading can help,” said Suzanna Tamminen ’90, director and editor-in-chief of Wesleyan University Press. “The act of reading is also a kind of active listening. We are given new perspectives, and we are drawn into a moment that connects us to the past and the future in transformative ways. Reading brings us into dialogue and into community, even when we are remote.”

Wesleyan University Press publishes books of poetry as well as scholarly books in dance, music, and literary studies. The Press has garnered national and international accolades for its work, including six Pulitzer Prizes, three National Book Awards, three Griffin Poetry Prizes, and an Anisfield-Wolf Award, among many others.

Face Coverings become a Form of Student Expression


Three weeks into the fall semester, Wesleyan students are adapting to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Face coverings or masks are required in all public spaces to help reduce the spread of the virus. Some students find the masks also can serve as a fashion accessory or statement piece. (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

campus during COVID-19

Classes Held in Socially-Distanced Indoor and Outdoor Classrooms

This fall, Wesleyan is holding in-person classes on campus in both indoor and outdoor classroom settings. More than 180 classrooms have been revised in order to achieve a minimum six-foot distance between occupants. Updated floor plans and maximum room capacity are clearly posted in each classroom.

Faculty and students are required to wear face coverings in classrooms at all times. In addition, break times have been expanded to 30 minutes or more to allow for custodians to disinfect all touchable surfaces in each classroom between classes.

(Photos by Olivia Drake)

outdoor classroom

Mary Alice Haddad, the John E. Andrus Professor of Government and chair of the College of East Asian Studies, teaches her GOVT 296: Japanese Politics course in the Hogwarts classroom, located between the Davison Health Center and the Davison Art Center. The outdoor classroom will safely accommodate up to 40 students.

Cooperation, Careful Planning Drive Successful Reactivation Efforts

covid testing

Following a mandatory two-week quarantine, students continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week on campus. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Following a carefully coordinated return to campus and an initial period of remote learning during Connecticut’s mandated two-week quarantine, just two students and three employees at Wesleyan have tested positive for COVID-19 to date this fall. The low positivity rate, well under 0.1% of the entire campus population and tracked regularly on Wesleyan’s COVID-19 dashboard, reflects the care and planning that have gone into preparing the campus for the fall semester, as well as commendable adherence to safety protocols by the Wesleyan campus community. More than 15,000 tests have already been conducted.

Students are required to wear masks in all public spaces.

Students and Wesleyan employees are required to wear masks in all public spaces.

“Our positivity rate on campus is lower than in Connecticut and we’re very pleased about that,” said Rick Culliton, associate vice president and dean of students, during a virtual All-Staff Convocation on Sept. 10. “We know that’s because of the hard work of our students, and of our testing to be able to isolate . . .  watching all of the students wear masks, having physical distance between each other, and adhering to what we’re asking them to do has really been a very positive thing to see.”

Mike Whaley, vice president for student affairs, noted in a Sept. 6 message that the community’s care and diligence in following quarantine and safety protocols helped the University maintain positivity rates “well below the levels predicted by modeling.” This allowed Wesleyan to move forward into its first week of in-person classes, which saw the University maintain its low case count throughout the week. Wesleyan was recently among schools highlighted for “seemingly crack(ing) the code” in effectively navigating an in-person opening.

Culliton and President Michael Roth ’78 cited Wesleyan’s Reactivating Campus plan as a crucial part of these efforts, specifically the Community Agreement, which suggests that all members of the Wesleyan community “must act in a manner that demonstrates respect and consideration for the health and safety of others and are prohibited from creating a health or safety hazard.” Students, faculty, and staff must undergo regular COVID-19 testing, adhere to social distancing standards, and wear face coverings in classrooms and outside private spaces. They must exercise precautionary sanitization practices including regular hand washing, limiting gatherings on campus to a maximum of 25 individuals, suspending University-sponsored travel, and not permitting campus visitors. In addition, all students were required to participate in a 14-day quarantine upon arriving on campus.

Peter Rutland on Teaching during the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the second of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an online or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Peter Rutland from the Government Department.

rutland

Peter Rutland, at left, teaches his course, Nationalism, online. In this class, his 19 students explore the role of nationalism in countries such as the U.S., France, India, China, and Japan, and nationalist conflicts in Northern Ireland, Quebec, Yugoslavia, the former U.S.S.R., and Rwanda. Rutland plans to keep a newly-structured “flipped” classroom model when he returns to in-person teaching.

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, is teaching GOVT 157: Democracy & Dictatorship and GOVT 278: Nationalism this fall. He’s holding both classes entirely online this semester.

“I had grown complacent over 30 years of teaching and the virus forced me to innovate,” Rutland said.

In a normal semester, Rutland would teach in a lecture/discussion format. “I don’t use PowerPoint. I ask questions and steer the discussion towards the points I want to make.” To teach online, Rutland ‘flipped’ the class, making PowerPoint presentations, and recorded his lectures in advance so that students can watch them before the class meeting.

“That frees up all the class time for discussion,” he said, which typically includes 20 minutes in break-out rooms during each 80-minute class.

He also uses a Moodle forum before each class so that students can post individual questions. “That helps me to structure the class discussion,” Rutland said. “I also pose anonymous questions in Moodle during the class, enabling me to instantly summarize the results.”

Rutland developed the new teaching techniques over the summer, when he taught a section of Democracy and Dictatorship to a group of 15 pre-frosh. He’s repeating the same class this semester.

“My experience was surprisingly positive. Overall, I would even say that the class went better than when I teach it in person,” he said. “When I did that in a live class, it involved handing out pieces of paper and then gathering them back up. Likewise, holding breakout rooms in a live class was very cumbersome and in some classrooms impossible.

“In sum, students have a lot more opportunities for feedback in online teaching. I feel I have a much better grasp on how they are understanding the material. So when I return to in-person teaching I will keep the flipped classroom model,” Rutland said.

Sept. 11 Memorial Garden Decorated with Flowers, Flags for 19th Commemoration of World Trade Center Attacks

On Sept. 11, members of the Wesleyan community remembered the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. In 2002, a September 11 Memorial Garden was planted in front of North College and honors those who “gathered at this place to console one another, to remember those lost, to share and learn, to pray for peace.” Wesleyan’s grounds crew annually decorates the garden with fresh flowers and flags during the annual commemoration. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

911 garden

911 garden

911 garden

OFCD Collects, Publishes Remote Teaching ‘Success Stories’

Several remote teaching and learning “success stories” are now published on the Office for Faculty Career Development’s (OFCD) Teaching Matters website.

“We hope the stories inspire others to make changes and make it clear to everyone that it was possible to make the transition well,” said Mary Alice Haddad, the John E. Andrus Professor of Government and director of the OFCD.

The stories are based on surveys administered by Academic Affairs last spring. Although there were many courses that went well in spring 2020, Haddad selected to present a diversity of courses drawn from different class sizes, pedagogy styles, synchronous/asynchronous teaching, and divisions.

Lindsay Dolan, assistant professor of government, taught a 12-student project-based seminar titled Experiments in International Development. During online learning, the class met synchronously (using Zoom) for half the class, and also in Zoom breakout groups, where students worked through puzzles and activities together.

Black Lives Matter Events Celebrate History, Navigate Race Conversations

On Sept. 4, Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD) hosted a four-part series of Black Lives Matter-themed workshops celebrating the contributions of the Black community at Wesleyan.

black lives matter

Alphina Kamara ’22 and Qura-Tul-Ain “Annie” Khan ’22 hosted the event’s opening remarks and provided an interactive history of racism at Wesleyan. Pictured, the students discuss the Fisk Hall Takeover, in which Black faculty, staff, and students took a stand against racism and occupied Fisk Hall on Feb. 21, 1969. Fisk Hall was one of the main academic buildings at the time.

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persude participants to take action. "While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views and having these conversations can help mitigate these views," Kamara said. 

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persuade participants to take action. “While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views, and having these conversations can help mitigate these views,” Kamara said.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan's first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, where approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan’s first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, when approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of Blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association (ASA) spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

BLM

“ASA is my home away from home,” said Alvin Kibaara ’22 of Kenya. “It provides a space for me to relate to people who come from the same continent that I do, and we find similarities, and it gives you confidence.”

Sydney Ochieng '22 of Kenya said, "Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn't know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I'm African."

Sydney Ochieng ’22 of Kenya said, “Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn’t know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I’m African.”

The third workshop, titled "Did My Professor Just Say That?" focused on navigating race among conversations with college professors.

The third workshop, titled “Did My Professor Just Say That?” focused on navigating race in conversations with college professors.

"All of us are born and raised and living in systemic racism," said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. "So nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember we all went through this too. You can talk to us."

“All [faculty] are born and raised and living in systemic racism,” said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. “I had to deal with micro-aggressions and people … so nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember, we all went through this too. You can talk to us.”

 "I see myself engaged in long game. You know, in a, in an Epic struggle for, for human freedom, there's many front lines of battle.
There's many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed
to overcome. So, you know, black folks, at least I'm speaking as a black person, we need to survive.

“I see myself engaged in a long game,” said Tony Hatch, associate professor of science in society. “In an epic struggle for human freedom, there are many front lines of battle. There are many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed 
to overcome. So, Black folks, at least I’m speaking as a Black person, we need to survive.”

ted shaw

Keynote speaker Professor Theodore Shaw ’76, the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill, was the fifth Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., for which he worked in various capacities over the span of 26 years.

shaw

“The essence of the Black Lives Matter movement: It’s extraordinary that the simple statement that Black lives matter should provoke the reactions that it does. You know, all lives matter, you know, blue lives matter.
 I don’t know that there was any doubt about those other lives mattering. But we can look at American history and look at Black and Brown lives
 and they haven’t mattered in the same way.
”

 

Faculty Share Insights on Teaching during a Pandemic

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the first of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an online or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Naho Maruta from the College of East Asian Studies; Alison O’Neil from the Chemistry Department; and Ron Jenkins from the Theater Department.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, is teaching her Intermediate Japanese I course online this semester.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, is teaching her Intermediate Japanese I course online this semester.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, chose to teach her fall 2020 classes entirely online because several students in her Japanese language classes are international students who were not able to make it back to campus this fall due to travel restrictions. Even her foreign language teaching assistant is working remotely from Japan.

“It’s important we’re live and synchronous because we have lots of conversation activities,” Maruta said. “Luckily, all students in my class are either in the Eastern Standard time zone or in Asia time zone, so having an 8:50 a.m. class works for both sides, even synchronously.”

During a regular semester, Maruta would create “language partners” by pairing students in upper-level Japanese courses with Wesleyan students from Japan, but with most native Japanese students off-campus, she began a new collaboration with Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.