Olivia Drake

Birney Studies Ancient Perfume “Knock-Offs” in Athens as New Directions Fellow

bottles

Greyware unguentaria (perfume bottles) were produced in Greece (pictured at left); however, Wesleyan’s Kate Birney excavated similar bottles in Ashkelon, Israel (pictured at right). By using the scientific process of ceramic petrography, Birney is revealing that the unguentaria from Israel are likely “knock-offs” of the Greek perfumes. “When we excavated these bottles at Ashkelon in Israel, their coloring and fine quality looked exactly like the ones known from Greece. We’d seen some crummy imitations before—basically thick-walled bottles painted grey and haphazardly striped, clearly echoing the Greek original but not going to fool anybody—but the assumption was that the nice, super-delicate ones must be imported from Greece,” Birney said. “That is not necessarily the case.” (Image at left: Unguentaria (P10734) from graves near the Agora. Image from the Athenian Agora Excavations Collection at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Image at right: courtesy of the Leon Levy Expedition.)

Kate Birney

Kate Birney

There was something about Kate Birney’s research that smelled a little off.

As far back as the 4th century B.C., Greece was a global leader in producing a plethora of posh perfumes sold in handcrafted ceramic bottles marked with three chalky-white stripes.

“Much like today, some of these ceramic perfume bottles were ‘branded‘—made in distinctive shapes, and painted or decorated in distinctive ways—probably to tell the consumer what scent they contained, or which perfume house/region they were imported from,” said Birney, associate professor of classical studies and chair of Wesleyan’s Archaeology Program.

So when similar bottles, or unguentaria, were excavated from the site of Ashkelon in southern Israel, scientists assumed the Hellenistic-period (4th–1st century B.C.) perfumes were imported via trade routes. Or were they?

Through a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship, Birney spent this past winter and early spring at the Wiener Lab of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, studying the ceramic petrography of bottles collected from Ashkelon. There, she worked with petrographic specialists and accessed the lab’s comparative collections.

4 Faculty Receive Honorary MA ad Eundem Gradum Degrees

ad Eundem Gradum2020

At left, Hilary Barth, Robert Conn, Sanford Shieh, and Nicole Stanton.

This month, four Wesleyan faculty received the honorary degree of Master of Arts ad eundem gradum.

This degree has been awarded by Wesleyan since 1894 to those members of the faculty who are not graduates of Wesleyan at the bachelor’s level and who have attained the rank of full professor. The award makes each full professor an alumnus/a of the University.

Recipients include Hilary Barth, professor of psychology; Robert Conn, professor of Spanish; Sanford Shieh, professor of philosophy, and Nicole Stanton, professor of dance.

Scholar-Athletes, Seniors Honored for 2019–20 Accomplishments

On May 21, the Wesleyan University Athletic Department hosted a virtual event to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of scholar-athletes. The ceremony combined the annual Scholar-Athlete Banquet with the end-of-the-year Senior Awards presentations.

Maynard awardIt was hosted by Director of Athletics Mike Whalen ’83 and featured remarks from President Michael Roth ’78. Several coaches presented individual awards to the student-athletes.

Hockey goalie Tim Sestak ’20 and women’s soccer defender Mackenzie Mitchell ’20 were the recipients of the Roger Maynard Memorial Awards, which are presented annually to the Wesleyan male and female scholar-athlete who best exemplifies the spirit, accomplishments, and humility of Roger Maynard ’37 (established by the family of Roger Maynard, a former Wesleyan trustee who lettered in cross-country and track.)

In addition to winning the prestigious Maynard Awards, Sestak and Mitchell were also chosen by the Department as the two scholar-athlete speakers, an annual tradition of the Scholar-Athlete Banquet.

Wesleyan Honors 8 Retiring Faculty

monogramEight Wesleyan faculty members are retiring at the end of the 2019–20 academic year. They include:

RICHARD ADELSTEIN
Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics (2010–2020)
Professor of Economics (1990–2020)
Associate Professor of Economics (1981–1990)
Assistant Professor of Economics (1976–1981)
Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics (1975–1976)

IRINA ALESHKOVSKY
Adjunct Professor of Russian Language & Literature (2003–2020)
Adjunct Associate Professor of Russian Language & Literature (1995–2003)
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Language & Literature (1992–1995)
Adjunct Lecturer of Russian Language and Literature (1987–1992)
Teaching Associate in Russian Language and Literature (1983–1987)

Students Honored with 2019–20 Prizes, Fellowships, Scholarships

monogramOn May 22, the Office of Student Affairs announced the names of students who received academic or leadership prizes, fellowships, and scholarships in 2019–20.

More than 300 students and recent alumni received one of the University’s 180 prizes. (View the list below or on the Student Affairs website.)

Scholarships, fellowships, and leadership prizes are granted to students and student organizations based on criteria established for each prize or award. Certain University prizes are administered by the Student Affairs/Deans’ Office, while others are administered by the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD).

Seniors Share Thesis Projects on Wesleyan Instagram

While the Wesleyan community can’t celebrate our seniors’ theses in person this year, several members of the Class of 2020 are sharing their accomplishments on Wesleyan’s Instagram (wesleyan_u).

Any senior who would like to see their thesis spotlighted can fill out this form.

Examples of recent posts are below. Click on the image to open the original post in Instagram. (Project curated by Eitana Friedman-Nathan ’20)

Eliza

Eliza McKenna ’20 (@elizarmckenna) // Woodstock, NY
Film Studies. “‘Brownie’ is a 16mm short film, based on my great grandfather, who was a tailor for the mob in Atlantic City back in the ’40’s, and it follows an awkward Jewish man as he tries to prove his love to the hairdresser next door. When faced with a sensitive mob secret about the murder of another gangster, he must choose between telling the truth or staying silent. I’m planing on submitting this project to film festivals in the future!”

Wei-Ling

Wei-Ling Carrigan ’20 (@weilingcarrigan) // Bordeaux, France. High Honors in Studio Art with a concentration in painting. “In ‘TAKING UP SPACE’ I want to bring a different perspective than is historically given to portraiture, by painting women from the standpoint of a woman, painting women who find authorship within the canvas, who invite the audience to stare at them while they stare back.”

Leo

Leo Merturi ’20 (@leomerturi) // Milford, Conn.
Honors in Music and winner of Gwen Livingston Pokora Prize. Leo describes his thesis, “COPVRIGHTS: An illegal expression of art protected by creative commons” as “an exploration of copyright law as it currently exists and is interpreted in the modern digital age of media and artistic creation. New technologies in audio production and consumption have spawned new approaches to policing creative content. Comparative analysis of digital sonic files, as exhibited by programs like Shazam and YouTube’s Content I.D., ensure that specific creative works in their recorded states are automatically protected on popular media platforms. But, what do these protections imply? Do recording protections introduce “ownership” of sound in physical space? Who can control certain recorded sounds, and why? What is the extent of this control and how does it impact the existences of both creators and consumers?”

Miri

Miriam Zenilman ’20 (@miriamzenilman) // Lawrence, NY
High Honors in the College of Letters. “The College of Letters has a foreign language and study abroad component, so I spent a semester in Jerusalem during my sophomore year, and that’s when I started to develop this idea for my thesis. I’m also pursuing the film studies minor and writing certificate, so completing this screenplay was really the culmination of a number of interests I’ve cultivated at Wesleyan, and through a number of grants from Wesleyan, I was able to spend last summer conducting extensive research in Israel to ensure the narrative’s authenticity. My favorite film genres have always been historical dramas, war films, and coming-of-age films, so I was excited to explore and combine these different genres in my first feature screenplay.”

sivan

Sivan Piatigorsky-Roth ’20 (@soilboyy) // Toronto, Canada
High Honors in English. “I wrote a graphic memoir that was part personal narrative/part history of Jewish self representation and gender representation in comics/part theory. It was a comic, so fully illustrated, and was divided into three sections corresponding to head/torso/limbs, each exploring different related themes in history and in my personal narrative.”

sophie

Sophie Dora Tulchin ’20 // Pleasantville, NY
High Honors in American Studies and recipient of the M.G. White Prize for the best thesis in American Studies.
“I wrote my thesis on trans plaintiffs’ use of the Americans with Disabilities Act in discrimination cases. The ADA actually contains an explicit exclusion related to trans identity, so I focused on the history of this exclusion and how some trans people have successfully evaded it. In short, I explored why some trans people feel their conditions should be understood as disabilities under the ADA, and then shared how this argument has been made in court. I am very grateful for the support of my girlfriend and dog!”

tara

Tara Mitra ’20 (@tara3031) // Bangalore
High Honors in Anthropology. “This thesis examines the ghosts of animal welfare work in India, with a focus on gujarat, to call for solidarity between minoritised groups across species. Through theorizing ghostly absences, I put human and nonhuman oppression in conversation with each other, revealing the biopolitical control of reproductive processes in humans, dogs, and bovines. I grapple with the implications of animal welfare work within a system that uses nonhuman animals as tools in order to oppress other minoritised communities. With attention to the problems of speciesism, nationalism, and reproduction, I explore the relationship between minoritisations that arise from the narrow category of human, implicitly normalized in India as upper-class Hindu, and male. Here, I tread the ambiguous space between binaries in order to affirm new ways of inclusively engaging with welfare work. I use poetry and art in my ethnography ‘(Re)Birthing Ghosts: An Ethnography Toward Solidarity’ to reimagine linearity in academia, allowing readers to internalize the contents through personalized journeys.”

Annie

Annie Ning ’20 (@anniening) // Suzhou, China. High Honors in Film Studies (Digital Film Production). “My thesis is a short film shot on digital. On a visit to her family in America, a grandmother is left to find companionship with a pet fish as she slowly comes to terms with losing her independence.”

Anthony Price thesis

Anthony Price ’20 (@anthonydprice) // Cleveland, Ohio
American Studies. Most Americans never have and will never learn the history of black representation during America’s Reconstruction. Drawing on archival research and analysis of congressional debates and bill introductions, Anthony’s thesis “The Forgotten Founders of America: Investigating Black Members of Congress During Reconstruction” shows how 16 black members of Congress ensured Americans could have a larger voice in their government.

Cantos

Chelsea Cantos ’20 (@chelseancantos) // Los Angeles, Calif.
High Honors in Philosophy and Distinction in History. “My thesis is about how the German phenomenological tradition can aid cognitive science’s quest to understand human consciousness. The thesis draws on Martin Heidegger’s understanding of what it is to be ontologically finite, explained in his book, Being and Time, to show how this essential condition of human being is coextensive with human mindedness, and argues for the necessity of ontology in fields that study the human mind. I also completed a capstone project in history titled ‘Ontological Death and World Collapse: Making Sense of the Interwar Period in Germany.'”

Young ’88 Addresses the Severity of the COVID-19 Crisis for Black Americans

Al YoungAlford “Al” Young Jr. ’88 is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Sociology and professor of Afroamerican and African studies at the University of Michigan. Young’s research focuses on low-income, urban-based African Americans, African American scholars and intellectuals, and the classroom-based experiences of higher-education faculty as they pertain to diversity and multiculturalism.

In this Q&A, Young addresses the severity of the COVID-19 crisis for black Americans, particularly in Michigan. Michigan is ranked fourth in the country for having the most coronavirus-related deaths (4,915+).

How has COVID-19 affected your research interests?

Alford “Al” Young Jr.: I have spent the better part of my career studying the plight of socioeconomically disadvantaged African American males who live in large or midsized cities. I am interested in their vision of how mobility unfolds in America, especially the extent to which that broader vision relates to their conceptions of personal possibilities for advancement. In doing this work I pay a lot of attention to how these men talk about perceived challenges, problems, and struggles concerning the effort to get ahead. They argue that some of these factors are created by others (racism, public fears of black men, etc.) and some were created by themselves (black-on-black violence, etc.).  The basic point of the research has been to assess how much whatever they imagine to be pathways forward are grounded in their broader understandings of pathways for Americans more generally. I seek to know whether they maintain distance or connection between how they think other Americans get ahead and how they think they might do so.

Students Pitch Social Benefit Business Ideas

Be Better

Blake Northrop ’22, won the Wesleyan COLLISION Spring 2020 pitch competition on May 5 with his venture, Be Better, a clothing brand focused on producing sustainable products.

A clothing brand that promotes education and discussion of mental health and wellness is the winner of the Wesleyan COLLISION Spring 2020 pitch competition sponsored by the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Created by Blake Northrop ’22, Be Better consists of the clothing brand itself—which highly values customer participation and artist collaboration—as well as an online community forum for followers and members to connect, discuss, and share their stories about mental health.

On May 5, Northrop and more than dozen other aspiring student entrepreneurs pitched their social benefit business ideas. Watch a recording of the Pitch Night online here.

Traveler’s Lab Creates Map of COVID-19 Cases in the NYC Commuting Region

COVID-19 map

Wesleyan’s Traveler’s Lab released a time-enabled regional map of COVID-19 cases in the tri-state area surrounding New York City.

In late March, as New York City’s coronavirus infection rate skyrocketed to five times higher than the rest of the country, members of Wesleyan’s Traveler’s Lab explored a movement-focused approach to the rapid spread of the disease.

Rather than focusing on political borders, lab members depicted major freeways, highways, and commuter rail lines out of New York City, and examined counties within a 2.5-hour drive from the City.

“While New York City may be the center, it is the travel region immediately surrounding the city that provides the true context of how COVID-19 has spread and is spreading to, and from, the City,” said Traveler’s Lab manager Jesse Torgerson, assistant professor of letters. “Informed by geographic and historical methods, this approach provides a truer context for human interactions.”

Rich Honored Posthumously with the 2020 Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Employee Prize

brooke rich

Bon Appétit cashier Brooke Rich, center, pictured here with her three children, is the posthumous recipient of Wesleyan’s 2020 Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Employee Prize. Rich died March 4.

Brooke Rich, a former employee of Wesleyan’s food service provider Bon Appétit Management Co., was honored posthumously with Wesleyan’s 2020 Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Employee Prize.

The award was created in 2009 in memory of Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ‘03, who pursued social justice while a student at Wesleyan. Morgenstern-Clarren’s activism included securing benefits for Wesleyan custodial staff, participating in the United Student and Labor Action Committee, and contributing his leadership to the campus chapter of Amnesty International.