Olivia Drake

Assistant Director of Residential Life Helps Students Find Comfortable Place to Live, Study, Socialize


 
Rich DeCapua, assistant director of Residential Life, lounges in the newly-remodeled Clark Hall.
 
Posted 03/31/05

Q: Were you hired in as assistant director of Residential Life in 2002?

A: I was originally an area coordinator for Clark Hall and Foss Hill, and I was then promoted to assistant director at the end of my first year. This is my third year at Wesleyan, and I’m enjoying every minute of it!

Q: What attracted you to Wesleyan?

A: Well, I was looking for a place where I knew I could be successful professionally, but would also be challenged. The nature of our student body and the quality of our student services staff has really made working here a wonderful experience. I especially liked the fact that the campus was starting to renovate existing residence halls and had plans for new ones. That is hard for anyone to not be a part of. Also, the issues that our campus faces collectively usually comprise subjects that would be taboo at other places. I feel here that students, staff, and faculty have the ability to really discuss valid issues on this campus in an honest and open way.

Q: How did you get into this type of work?

A: I graduated from Quinnipiac University with a B.A. in psychology and sociology and then received my master’s of education from Springfield College in student affairs administration. I’m currently working on my doctorate in educational leadership. The biggest reason why I became involved in Residential Life as a career was my experience as a resident advisor. In my early college days I was a communications major hoping to be on ESPN one day — I wanted to broadcast Red Sox games — but the whole world of student affairs lured me away. After I made my decision to change majors I never looked back.

Q: What factor can a living arrangement play in a student’s academic success?

A: Who students live with impacts everything. Where a student resides is the place where they get their sleep, where they probably study and create their social circles.

Q: How does Residential Life go about providing students with resources and direction needed to be academically successful at Wesleyan?

A: My office tries to make sure that when roommate problems occur that we are dealing with them quickly and effectively. We also have many resources for students such as their resident advisor, house manager or head resident; these are student peers employed by our office who are extensively trained to handle conflict resolution and roommate issues. Residential Life also has five Area Coordinators; professional staff who have advanced degrees in counseling or student services administration that supervise all the student staff in a particular area and will resolve all sorts of problems or issues in their area. My office knows that if a student resides in a good residential environment, we are creating a place where they can be academically successful.

Q: How do you determine their housing and roommates?

A: I meet with students on a fairly regular basis, usually relating to housing assignments or the room selection process. We house all first year students by the preferences they submit to our office in May via an on-line process. We give first-year students roommates based on similar housing preferences. All continuing students receive housing through the General Room Selection Process. This process is based on student seniority at Wesleyan through a ranking system, giving all seniors the first pick of housing, then juniors, etc. Students self-select their roommates.

Q: What are students’ housing options?

A: Oh that’s a big question. Undergraduate students can live in a variety of housing options including traditional style residence halls, program houses, apartments, or senior house. Their options range so that they can live by themselves or up to six people, so there are a lot of configurations students can put themselves in to get a good place to live. Graduate students really have two choices. They can live in either a group house — a one person single in a house with other grad students — or a family house, which is obviously for those grad students who have a partner or children or both.

Q: Please explain what Program Housing is.

A: Program Housing is tremendously important asset to Residential Life at Wesleyan. It consists of 25 houses on campus that all have different missions; these can be spiritual, religious, cultural, or academic. Each year my office sponsors a very competitive application process as part of general room selection to apply to these houses. There are almost 300 students who live in this programmatic housing option and its one of the things that makes Wesleyan so unique.

Q: What is the role of a resident advisor?

A: RAs are student staff members who have a wide variety of duties; some of these include being on duty, planning programs for their residents, and creating an overall positive community in their residential area.  But the most important role an RA plays is that they are a doorway to campus services for their residents. Many offices on campus whose main objective is to help students in some important way like Behavioral Heath, their class dean, or health education hear about students issues from the RA staff. They are the ones who really dissolve the line between students and administrators and are vital to continued success of the Residential Life program.

Q: Take me through a typical day here.

A: Everyday is truly something different and it’s always interesting. Even though the nature of my job includes a lot of computer work, students are always coming in asking questions about assignments or different housing options. Since we’re in the midst of room selection I’m meeting with many students daily.

Q: What are your personal hobbies or interests?

A: I am an avid runner and I’ve ran many races in the past couple of years. The highlight has been running the Boston Marathon in 2002. Also, being raised in Boston I am a sports nut and these past couple of years have been great. There’s nothing better than beating the Yankees!  My wife and I try to get to as many Sox and Patriots games as I can. She is a registered nurse at New Britain General Hospital. 

Q: Do you have any children?

A: We’re expecting our first child next month which is tremendously exciting.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Red & Black Cafe Donates 1% to Financial Aid


 
Posted 03/31/05

The next time you grab a bite to eat or enjoy a drink at the Red & Black Café, you’ll also be helping students in need at Wesleyan.

Ed Thorndike, Jr. ’89 and Karen Kaffen-Polascik, owners of Wes Wings and Red & Black Cafe, will donate 1 percent of their gross sales from Red & Black Cafe to support financial aid through the Wesleyan Annual Fund (WAF).

“This is something we’ve really been wanting to do,” says Thorndike. “I contacted University Relations and we were able to set it up and make it work. It’s really gratifying to know that this money will be going to help Wesleyan students in need.”

Their intention is to give semi-annually in May and January.

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

NASA Awards Wesleyan Astronomer Major Grant


 
Astronomy Professor William Herbst studies the star, KH 15D. Pictured are images of KH 15D out of eclipse (left) and in eclipse (right) as taken from Wesleyan’s observatory.
 
Posted 03/31/05
It’s 3 million years old and 2,400 light years away, but a distant star discovered by Wesleyan researchers has given insight into how our solar system may have formed. NASA wants to know more, and has given William Herbst almost a quarter of a million dollars to keep looking.
 
This month NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) awarded Wesleyan Professor of Astronomy William Herbst a $216,000 grant to continue his studies of the star, KH 15D, and other emerging stars and their possible link to the creation of our solar system.
 
The grant for Herbst’s proposal titled “Synoptic Studies of T Tauri Stars in Nearby Clusters and Associations” will span three years. It was approved by NASA’s Origins of Solar Systems Program and is one of only 39 proposals of the 94 submitted that received funding.
 
“NASA is particularly interested in this work because they want to find planets that may support life,” says Herbst, the Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, chair of the Astronomy Department and director of the Van Vleck Observatory. “As far as we know, life can only get started on a planet. Understanding how these types of planets form can help us pinpoint where they may exist and when the conditions for the creation of life first occur.”   Three years ago, Herbst reported how KH 15D, a star in the constellation Monoceros that he and graduate student Kristin Kearns discovered, and that physics Ph.D. candidate Catrina Hamilton further helped identify, seemed to displaying the early stages of planet formation. KH 15D was periodically going through “winking” eclipses, determined by Herbst to be he swirling waves of rock and dust clouds typical of early planet formation. The discovery sent excitement through the astronomical community. He continues to study KH 15D and other young stars looking for more clues.   “Wesleyan has been recognized as a world leader in monitoring these young stars,” Herbst says proudly. “And we are able to do many of our observations using our own observatory on campus.”   Herbst also notes that in the awarding of the grant, the officials at NASA went out of their way to applaud the way undergraduates have been involved in the studies. Specifically, the reports says Herbst “is to be commended for his extensive work in student training, where he has done a first rate job in engaging undergraduates in research and launching them along productive career paths.”
 
“Involving undergraduates in the research is not required for the grant. In fact it’s pretty atypical for this level of research,” Herbst says, then smiles. “But it is what we do here at Wesleyan. I was glad NASA made note of it. It’s a part of our program that we are very proud of.”

Related resource: Animation of KH 15D.

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Assistant Professor Receives NSF Grant


 
Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Manju Hingorani researches pathways that lead to carcinogenesis.
 
Posted 03/31/05

Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Manju Hingorani recently earned an award totaling more than $571,700 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research on pathways leading to carcinogenesis, including the development of colon, rectal, stomach, and ovarian cancers.

The five-year grant will specifically fund the research of Hingorani’s laboratory focuses on the workings of proteins responsible for DNA mismatch repair with the long-term goal of understanding how defects in repair are linked to many forms of cancers.

“I am tremendously grateful to the National Science Foundation for its strong commitment to basic science research and education, especially in this time of constrained budgets,” says Hingorani.

Hingorani earned the award thanks to the NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program. This program recognizes the critical roles faculty members play in integrating research and education, and in fostering the natural connections between the processes of learning and discovery.

To date, eight Wesleyan University faculty members have received this award including Hingorani, Assistant Professor of Astronomy Kathryn Johnston, Professor of Physics Reinhold Blumel and Associate Professors of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Scott Holmes and Michael McAlear.

Hingorani plans to use the funds to support graduate and undergraduate research projects in her laboratory, and to develop innovative courses on science writing and on science documentary filmmaking in collaboration with faculty from Wesleyan’s Department of Film Studies.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of media relations

Energy Specialist Always on Lookout for Ways to Cut Energy Usage


Phil Cotharin, temperature controls mechanic/energy management specialist, examines a variable frequency drive that controls the neighboring air handling unit in the Exley Science Center. The system significantly reduces energy waste.
Posted 03/31/05

Use less. Get more.

That’s how Phil Cotharin, temperature controls mechanic/energy management specialist, is helping Wesleyan save thousands a year by slashing energy usage. In an agreement finalized February 17, Connecticut Light & Power Company has agreed to pay Wesleyan a $27,450 incentive for keeping energy usage down.

“When Wesleyan uses less energy, CLPC can produce less energy, and it won’t have to build another power plant to service the community,” Cotharin says from his office, located in the basement of the Exley Science Center.

Cotharin started researching ways to lower energy cost last year by running an energy audit on the east side of Olin Memorial Library. The audit measured kilowatts used by a single air handling unit, which moves and conditions the air in the building.

“What I found is that the unit was running at 80 percent of its efficiency 24 hours a day,” Cotharin says. “So I figured, after midnight, why don’t we bring it down to 40 percent and have it running back at 80 percent at 7 in the morning.”

This formula conserves energy, but has little effect on the library’s temperature.

The simple idea has opened up many complex energy studies campus-wide. Cotharin is now devoting his career to finding ways to cut energy costs in all campus facilities.

“It is feasible to say that, in five years, Wesleyan could save half-a-million dollars a year if we apply this formula to all buildings,” Cotharin says. “It’s my goal and I don’t see why this is not obtainable.”

The numbers are already speaking for themselves. Cotharin discovered that the Exley Science Center will save $21,478 a year on its electric bill by running air units 1,584 fewer hours a year. Normally, the 13 air handling units would run 24 hours a day.

“Why should we run these things at a full work load when people aren’t inside, using the building,” Cotharin says. “Any piece of electrical equipment needs to be questioned. Do I need to leave that on or can I shut it off. It will all add up in the end.”

Cotharin encourages the installations of high-tech variable frequency drives (VFDs), which control air handling units by varying electric motor speed, significantly reducing energy waste. Most of Wesleyan’s building are equipped with pneumatic motor driven systems, set to operate at full speed, 24 hours a day. 

So far, Hall-Atwater, the Science Library, the Center for Fine Arts’ dance studios, Cinema Archives, Fisk Hall, the Center for Film Studies and the Freeman Athletic Center are heated and cooled with VDF systems.

Although these controls are pricey, they generate tangible benefits quickly. The Science Center’s units will pay for themselves in savings within the next three years.

“This one just celebrated its one month birthday,” Cotharin says, patting the side of a new unit in the basement of the science center. “This is state-of-the-art energy management.”

Cotharin and other employees of the Physical Plant can access climate control data of any building on campus 24 hours a day by computer. An energy-control program features schematics of every floor of every building, and can pin-point temperatures of any room at any time.

“Say I get a call from Hall-Atwater and they say room 140 is too hot, so I just look on here,” Cotharin says, clicking on a floor plan of Hall-Atwater. “I see that it is 76 degrees and the heating vent’s valve is closed, so I know there is a problem there. The data gathering information of this program is phenomenal. It’s just an invaluable piece of equipment.”

Cotharin and Gene Payne, heating and ventilation air conditioning utility mechanic, say all Wesleyan employees and students can do their part to conserve energy. By simply setting a building’s summer temperature at 76 degrees rather than 74 degrees on a 90-degree summer day, energy use is significantly reduced.

“You come here and work, but don’t tend to think about these things,” Payne says.

Cotharin and Payne are big supporters of the new Fauver Field Residence Complex, due to open in Fall 2005. Students currently housed in the approximately 140 wood-framed homes near campus are wasting the most energy.

“Most of these students are here to get an education and don’t think about things like conserving energy, and they won’t until they’re paying the bills out of their back pocket,” Payne says. “Wesleyan has such a diverse group of people from all different places and they’re not accustomed to New England climates, and they’ll turn their heat up to 76 or higher all winter. What a waste of energy.”

Cotharin says everyone on campus should be most aware of their energy usage during August and September when Wesleyan reaches its peak kilowatt demand. CLPC will issue a demand charge for this usage, in addition to a monthly service charge and kilowatt-per-hour energy charge.

“If we have a kilowatt demand level of 3.1 and we get a heat wave and everyone turns on their air conditioning and everything is sucking energy, our demand level might go up to 3.7 and we’ll get very high bills,” Cotharin says. “The whole target of my job is to keep us from going above that number and keeping Wesleyan’s total kilowatt usage down.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Ways to Save

Phil Cotharin, temperature controls mechanic/energy management specialist, advises Wesleyan students and employees to save energy where they can. Students and employees can contact Physical Plant at 685-3400 with any energy-saving suggestions, or to report any energy-wasting appliances (i.e. leaks or running toilets). “We’re not working or living in these places, so if we don’t know about it, we can’t fix it,” Cotharin says.

Here are some of Cotharin’s suggestions:

Employees 

Turn off lights when out of the office

Turn off computer monitors and shut down laptops

Use less hot water

Don’t use electric fans or space heaters

Shut coolers off during weekends and breaks

Set a reasonable work environment temperature

Dress warmer or cooler to rely less on heating and air conditioning

Turn fume hoods off in science center when not in use

Students

Turn of lights

Install energy efficient light bulbs

Use electrical timers that shut lights off automatically

Keep windows shut and locked during cold months

Install water-saving shower heads in homes

Report any dripping faucets or running toilets

Turn off refrigerators and coolers during breaks

Have housemates agree on reasonable temperature

 

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

TAPS: Tap virtuoso Dianne Walker teaches students how to tap dance during DanceMasters Weekend at Wesleyan March 5. DanceMasters Weekend allowed dance students to experience a wide range of contemporary dance techniques by taking classes with master teachers from premiere dance companies over an intensive two-day period. (Photo by Lex Leifheit)

 
SWING BACK: Robert Battle, artistic director of Battleworks Dance Company, teaches students in the Bessie Schonberg Studio on March 6. (Photo by John Elmore)
 
TUCK AND TWIST: Pascal Rioult, founding artistic director of the Pascal Rioult Dance Theatre, teachers a graduate student a dance maneuver during a class for master’s degree-seeking students. (Photo by Lex Leifheit)
 

Final Curtain Call: Scheibe Retires after Four-Decades at Wesleyan


Psychology Professor Karl Scheibe will retire from Wesleyan this spring after a 42-year career here.
 
Posted 03/15/05

Fresh out of the Ph.D. program at the University of California at Berkeley, 26-year-old Karl Scheibe accepted a faculty position at Wesleyan University. Apparently, he liked his first job.

“It sure lasted a while,” says Psychology Professor Scheibe, who has spent the more than four decades since teaching and doing research at Wesleyan. “I’ve considered going to other universities, but never did. And I’ve never regretted staying here.”

Scheibe, a social psychologist known for his classes emphasizing relationships between psychology and theater, will take his final bow when he retires after the spring semester.

Throughout his career, he’s taught 20 different psychology courses, some of which are self-invented. In 1980, he introduced an experimental course titled “The Dramaturgical Approach to Psychology,” which proved to be popular with both psychology and theater majors. The course explores the use of the language of theater in the illumination of psychological questions, exploring issues such as politics in theater, audience effects, role-playing as a teaching and therapeutic technique, the actor’s identity problems and general theory of the mask.

Today, the class is so well-known, Scheibe interviews students before allowing them to enroll in the size-restricted class.

“The class isn’t for everybody,” he explains. “This is for people who really want to get engaged and take charge. People who would rather sit through a lecture shouldn’t be here.”

Psychology major Elizabeth Thaler ’05, says discovering the intersection of drama and psychology is intuitive to many students. The class, she says, helps students experience a real-life illustration of everything the psychology department teaches.

 “The first day there was a buzz of mystery and excitement, because all anyone knew about the class was that it was intense, revealing, and huge amounts of fun,” Thaler says. “The fun is very important—we make ourselves pretty vulnerable and at times go into dark territory. The fun keeps us eager for more.”

Thaler says Scheibe puts class into the students’ hands, but stands by as a guide, providing agency and support.

“There is a feeling of trust in that classroom that I haven’t experienced anywhere else at Wesleyan, and the trust works both ways. He seems infinitely wise yet eager to learn from his students; we’re all in it together,” she says. “In the weekly journals we write him, I feel free to talk honestly about almost anything, from my personal life to my complaints about the class. I didn’t walk in feeling that way, it was the way Scheibe leads us that opened me up.”

Scheibe applied for a position at Wesleyan based on its “yeasty qualities,” he said.

“Wesleyan was a traditional New England small college, but it had this known quality of change  –  this avant garde – on-the-edge element that other colleges around here lacked,” he says.

A faculty position at Wesleyan also came with a daunting reputation. Scheibe said he and other junior faculty colleagues were bathing in tenure anxiety from the very beginning.

When he was hired in 1963, he was one of only six psychology professors in the department; now there are 14 on tenure and tenure track.

Wesleyan’s 11th president, Victor L. Butterfield, was in charge of the all-male university. Fraternities were quite conspicuous on campus, and Scheibe found himself in the curious position between teaching and being one of the boys.

“I was 26. I was listening to the same music as the students and sharing their culture. I even chaperoned frat parties, as back then, parties had to have chaperones,” he says, recollecting memories of his early days. “Wesleyan was a very different place then. But then, as now, it was an exciting place to be.”

Scheibe was promoted to associate professor in 1967, was awarded tenure in 1968, and was promoted to professor in 1973.

“Wesleyan was rich and resourceful and it was able to afford the best professors in the nation,” he says. “It was a superior institution, and it still is.”

Like most professors at the time, Schiebe came to Wesleyan with a broad array of abilities. Throughout the years, his research has focused not only on psychology’s association with theater, but also on theoretical issues of psychology of self and identity. His current research interests also include problems of substance abuse and other excessive appetites.

Julie Glickman ’04, events assistant for the Center for the Arts, took two of Scheibe’s classes. Scheibe was also her academic advisor while she was pursuing her degree in psychology.

 “Professor Scheibe is a kind and compassionate man,” she says. “He had the ability to captivate not only a small seminar of 20 students, but an entire auditorium with 350 students. He was an exceptional instructor and mentor.”

Psychology master’s student Justin Freiberg says Scheibe creates a structure in his class that makes the students feel safe enough to share openly, and to be spontaneous.

“He makes students take the initiative in figuring out what exactly they just learned,” Freiberg says. “You might think to yourself that what just happened was really a bunch of improv, and while this is true, it is in connecting the classes back to the readings and to past studies, be they in psychology or drama, that the real value lies.”

In addition to teaching courses at Wesleyan, Scheibe taught two-week graduate-level classes at an English-speaking DUXX Graduate School of Business Leadership in Monterrey, Mexico during the entire seven-year existence of the program. He also had two Fulbright appointments at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo, the first in 1972, the second in 1984. He taught these in Portuguese.

In Brazil, Scheibe wrote his first book, “Beliefs and Values.”  He’s also the author of “Mirrors, Masks, Lies and Secrets,” “Self Studies” and “The Drama of Everyday Life,” published in 2000 by Harvard University Press. The book describes human lives as dramas, that “we all live in boxes,” that are “little theaters wherein the play is earnest and the players all convinced of their grasp on reality.”

Upon retiring, Scheibe has plenty to keep him busy. Currently a part-time clinical psychologist, Scheibe will continue to practice at his business in Old Saybrook. He’ll focus the bulk of his time as the director of the new Wasch Center for Retired Faculty. This new center, slated to open on Lawn Avenue in fall 2005 creates a shared intellectual and social community where retired faculty members can continue their scholarly activities and participation in university life. Here, Scheibe hopes to complete another book, which is well underway.

“As a retired faculty member, I and others, need a place to go to think and write and read. And, when I am retired, they’re probably going to want to give my office to someone else and I will need a place to put all these books,” a smiling Scheibe says, peering up at hundreds of hard cover books, files and notebooks.

Ruth Striegel-Moore, professor of psychology and chair of the Psychology Department, says her colleague will be missed by other faculty members and students alike.

“Karl Scheibe has been a tremendous force in the psychology department,” she says. “In the past 40 years, he has taught a broad range of courses to thousands of Wesleyan students, including The Dramaturgical Approach to Psychology, which exemplifies Karl’s impressive breadth of scholarship and teaching. His students attest to his passion for teaching and his dedication to mentoring.”

Scheibe says he will miss teaching and that it never became mundane. The students, he says, keep class motivating.

“Every semester had fresh students and it’s like directing Hamlet all over again,” he says. “Every cast was unique.”

A comedy and theater performance, honoring retiring Psychology Professor Karl Scheibe, is scheduled at 9 p.m. April 22 in the Center for Fine Art Theater. “Out of My Head: Performing Minds” is a revue constructed and performed by four Wesleyan graduates—Catie Lazarus (’98), Wendy Spero (’99), Katie Buck (’99) and Adam Koppel (’02). All were students of the Psychology Department and all are actively involved in comedy and theater. Scheibe is retiring after 42 years of service on the Wesleyan faculty. Tickets cost $3-$4.
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

One Lecture after Another


Laurie Zolty, assistant to the coordinator of University Lectures, poses with lecture advertisements inside the Horgan House.
 
Posted 03/15/05

Q: When did you join the staff at Wesleyan and why?

A: I joined the staff in the fall of 2000 looking for a career change. A very good friend was on staff here and spoke so highly about working at Wesleyan. I was searching for almost a year, looking for a position where each day would be different – working a diverse schedule, meeting new people, taking on new tasks and challenges. This newly created position with University Lectures seemed like the perfect fit.

Q: What were you doing before you came to Wesleyan?

A: My last job wasn’t very exciting. I was the office manager for a local orthodontist. But the one before that was great. I handled all human resources, payroll and office management for The Tournament Players Club at River Highlands, which meant my employer was the PGA Tour. That was cool.

Q: How do you and Jean Shaw, the University Lectures coordinator, work together?

A: Jean Shaw and I have worked wonderfully well as a two-person team. We handle the logistics for a number of endowed lectures, from their inceptions to their completion. We also assist faculty when they are applying for and receiving funding from the Edward W. Snowdon Fund. These Snowdon supported lectures are more numerous and we do everything from advising to organizing the lecture events and setting up small dinners to working with the graphic designer on advertising and posters. We also assist or manage individual lecture budgets and attend the events we help sponsor.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: I’d say the diversity of skills used and the exposure and opportunity of working with and getting to know such a large number of faculty and staff.

Q: I understand working with lectures isn’t the only thing you do at Wesleyan.

A: The major part of my job is working with Lectures, but one-quarter of my time is connected with Reunion and Commencement. This part of my job is to coordinate and streamline the payment process for all R and C invoices and help to track all expenses. In addition, I have taken on assisting the Marshal of the Faculty for commencement. These come at the perfect time, when logistical work on lectures quiets down in the spring and early summer, so it rounds out my work schedule in a nice way.

Q: Do you attend lectures your department put on?

A: Yes, we attend every lecture, activity and performance, whether it be an endowed lecture, such as the Hugo L. Black or Raymond E. Baldwin events where we are totally involved, or be it a lecture, event or residency organized by an academic department, including all events funded through the Snowdon grant process.

Q: What would be an example?

A: A great example of this is the current series of 19 events spanning three semesters that the Center for Film Studies has organized in conjunction with different academic departments. We also work closely with faculty, like Anne Greene, to help support her major Writing Program lectures each year, the Annie Sonnenblick Lecture and the Joan Jakobson evening.

Q: What have been some of your favorite presenters or lectures?

A: It’s hard to say. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing people over the past four years. Our first Snowdon Fellow was Steven J. Gould who was remarkable. I actually had the chance to accompany him on a private tour of Dinosaur State Park in Rocky Hill. It was amazing. But I’d have to say my favorite lecture each year is the Sturm lecture. Kathryn Johnston, of the Astronomy Department, brings in terrific speakers and for me, the topics are fascinating as each lecture explores an area of astronomy that is far beyond our world but so relevant to our lives on earth.

Q: Who generally presents the lectures? Professors? Visitors? Are there certain topics they address?

A: The lectures that we support and are involved with are always given by visitors. They are often professors from other universities, but can be dignitaries, judges, authors, dancers, college presidents, movie directors, journalists or clergymen. For Snowdon funding, a faculty member writes a proposal with a specific speaker, or speakers, and topic in mind. Snowdon supported events are required to have participation from multiple departments, so the topics can range as wide as your imagination will take it.

Q: What would I find you doing on a weekend?

A: You can find me most Sunday mornings sitting in my three-season room with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. Over the past few years, my husband, Allen and I have been busy with a series of redecorating projects at home and this seems to be a never-ending process. One room triggers another. I enjoy the decorating process, searching for just the right fabric or accessory. My degree was in textiles and marketing so I love the hunt for a bargain and have a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

Q: That sounds like a fun, but inexhaustible project. Do you have other hobbies?

A: I like to cook and I sew and I used to play a bit of tennis. I really enjoy going to the movies and eating late dinners afterwards, so Allen and I will do one or both on most weekends. Our closest friends include people I grew up with and even though they live in New Jersey or New York, we often meet up for an afternoon or dinner. Every few months we try and get into New York. I just love the theater and the energy of the city.

Q: Where did you meet your husband? Do you have any kids, and if so, what do they do for a living?

A: I met Allen when we were both at UConn. We’ve been married for 32 years and have two sons. Allen has spent his career in labor and industrial relations with Pratt and Whitney, which afforded me the opportunity to stay at home with our kids while they were growing up. Stuart, our oldest, has been married for three years, works as a financial advisor and lives just outside the city. Our daughter-in-law, Meredith, is the general manager of the Jean Cocteau Repertory Company. Andrew, our younger son, lives and works in New York. He is an interactive Web designer, loves to travel and is focusing his time and energies promoting Seven Ender, a rock band that he fronts. 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan Breaks Record in United Way Campaign


 
 
Posted 03/15/05

Wesleyan University made a record-breaking contribution to this year’s Middlesex United Way annual community campaign.

Frank Kuan, director of community relations and volunteer community campaign chair, reported that Wesleyan raised $140,018 for the local United Way chapter, exceeding the campaign goal of $135,000. This is the most Wesleyan has ever raised for Middlesex United Way in the 60-plus years the university has been involved in the campaign.

Middlesex United Way supports critical human care services and county-wide projects that improve community conditions.

“This goes to show that Wesleyan employees care about the community that they work in, and many of us live in,” Kuan says. “Raising a record amount is a pretty amazing feat, and it’s a result of everyone’s diligence and effort.”

Wesleyan was among the top three contributors in the Middlesex United Way Campaign. Kevin Wilhelm, Middlesex United Way executive director said Wesleyan consistently ranks in the top 4 percent of all universities nationally with respect to average gift and percent. This year, Wesleyan represents 6.5 percent of Middlesex United Way’s total of $2,150,000. 

Although it was a successful year in terms of dollars raised, the level of participation dropped, a development that has Kuan concerned. Last year Wesleyan had 62 percent of its employees participate; this year that number fell to 59 percent.

”Every dollar really counts and it all adds up for what we want to do locally,” Kuan says.

Despite the drop, seven departments did have 100 percent participation: the Center for Humanities, Classical Studies; Dean of the College Office; Financial Aid; Philosophy; Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS) and the Registrar’s Office.

The Leadership Circle, comprising 44 individuals and six vendors who pledged at least $1,000 a year, accounted for $71,050.86 or 50.7 percent of the total amount raised.

John Biddiscombe, director of athletics, chair of the department of physical education, Middlesex United Way Executive Committee 2002-04, and past president of the Middlesex United Way Board of Directors said the United Way campaign has emerged over the past ten years to the point where the employee contributions ranks first in Middlesex County. 

“Wesleyan has always provided strong support for the United Way,” Biddiscombe says. “However, now, not only does Wesleyan provide volunteers, but we also provide significant dollars to local people in need.”

In Middlesex County, United Way provides ongoing funding for 35 programs and services including the Amazing Grace Food Pantry, Girl Scouts Connecticut Trail Council Inc., Boy Scouts Connecticut River Council, Inc., Literacy Volunteers of Greater Middletown, Middlesex Hospital Family Advocacy Program, Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater and YMCA of Northern Middlesex County.

In addition to United Way’s core services, the organization is creating three new initiatives:

  • A substance abuse prevention initiative aimed at area teens.  
  • A program designed to reduce and treat behavioral problems among children from birth to 5-years-old.
  • An affordable housing project, due to launch this spring, will build upon local grassroots housing efforts to increase the affordable housing stock.
  • In 2003, United Way touched 26,809 people, or 62 percent of Middletown’s population. Overall, it reached 53,750 people or 34 percent of all people in Middlesex County.

    Middlesex United Way recognized Wesleyan’s contributions with three awards at its recent annual meeting: a Silver Award for Participation, a Special Award for Excellence in Leadership Giving, and an Employee Honor Roll award for Five Consecutive Years of Campaign Growth.

    Joyce Jacobsen, professor of economics, and Mike Zebarth, director of PIMMS, will serve as co-chairs for the 2005-06 campaign. 

    For more information go to www.middlesexunitedway.org.

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Wang Joins Asian Languages and Literatures Department


     
    Lingzhen Wang, assistant professor of Asian languages and literatures stands outside Fisk Hall, where she teaches a class on 20th century Chinese literature and film.
     
    Posted 03/15/05

    Lingzhen Wang joined the Asian Languages and Literatures Department as an assistant professor of Asian languages and literatures in January 2005. She teaches China Modern: An Introduction to the Literature and Film of Twentieth Century China and Intermediate Chinese at Wesleyan.

    Wang completed her undergraduate work at Nanjing University and earned her Ph.D at Cornell University. Her master’s thesis is a comparative study of a well-known Chinese writer, Shen Congwen, and Thomas Hardy, and her dissertation is on modern Chinese women’s autobiographical writing.

    Wang’s main areas of interest are modern Chinese literature, gender studies, feminist and literary theories, and modern Japanese literature. She is currently researching Chinese female film directors.

    She was drawn to Wesleyan in part because of its top-notch faculty.

    “Wesleyan has some leading scholars and professors in Chinese Studies and Women Studies,” she says. “And the role of East Asian Studies is quite prominent at Wesleyan compared to many other places.”

    The Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies and proximity to her husband’s workplace were also big attractions.

    In September 2004, Wang’s book “Personal Matters: Women’s Autobiographical Practice in Twentieth-Century China” was published by Stanford University Press. She recently edited a translation anthology of a famous contemporary woman writer, Wang Anyi, titled “Years of Sadness,” which is pending publication. Wang is currently working on two essays, “Peeling Onion: Teaching China and Gender in the United States” and “The Ambivalence of Maternal Body and Voice in Contemporary Chinese Women’s Cinema.”

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Working to Minimize Brain Cell Damage in Stroke Victims


     
    Biology visiting assistant professor Stanley Lin researches ways to prevent brain cell death in stroke patients.
     
    Posted 03/15/05
    Q: Professor Lin, you’re among only a handful of scientists, nationwide, studying excitotoxic cell death. Please explain your research, and what this means for stroke victims.

    A: After a stroke, millions of brain cells can get over excited and the cells can die. This cell death is an ongoing process. This condition can be prevented if the neurological signaling pathways that that cause cell death are inhibited. If we use proteins that block excitotoxic pathways, we could prevent post-stroke death.

    Q: How do you describe an “excitoxin?”

    A: An excitoxin, is an excited poison. It is a normal neurotransmitter that damages neurons when released in large amounts. An excitoxin binds to certain nerve cell receptors, stimulates the cell, and either damages the cell or results in neuronal cell death. Excitatory amino acids, can produce lesions in the central nervous system and set off progressive diseases such as. It’s also a factor in nerve damage in patients who have epilepsy or asphyxiation.

    Q: In addition to strokes, what types of medical problems can arise from cell death?

    A: Excitotoxic cell death is thought to be a central and underlying cause of brain damage in a variety of neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s disease. An understanding of what causes cell death and lesions after strokes will lead to prevention of the paralyzing cell loss.

    Q: Where did you study this subject before coming to Wesleyan?

    A: I earned my bachelors and doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. Most recently I’ve collaborated with professors at Yale University on this subject. Prior to coming aboard at Wesleyan in 2002, I worked in both the oncology and neuroscience fields, studying serotonin-associated signaling pathways, cloning novel signaling molecules from the brain, and studying the mechanism by which salmonella can target tumors and slow tumor growth.

    Q: What are some of your recent publication topics?

    A: They cover a broad range of topics, including neuroscience, immunology, oncology, and microbiology. My most recent articles include “Oxidative damage and defective DNA repair is linked to apoptosis of migrating neurons and progenitors during cerebral cortex development in Ku70-deficient mice,” which will be published in “Cerebral Cortex,” and “Role of SptP in enhanced tumor necrosis factor-a secretion and ERK activation in murine macrophages by Salmonella typhimurium,” which appeared in “Cellular Microbiology.”

    Q: Do you collaborate with any of the other professors?

    A: I perform research with Janice Naegele who is an associate professor in biology and neuroscience and behavior. She investigates the role of DNA repair in neuroprotection. She’s more anatomical, and I’m more molecular, so our work complements each other’s. We, and student Jia Liu, study cell cultures and segments of rodent brain. Under a microscope, we study the activity of a specific molecule, technically called “striatal-enriched tyrosine phosphatase,” or STEP, a brain-specific molecule that turns off cell death pathways.  During nerve death, the STEP molecule gets degraded, and is no longer present to prevent cell death.

    Q: Please explain more about these STEP molecules.

    A: The STEP proteins, both normal and mutated, are fused to amino acids that allow the STEP proteins to enter cells, bind to enzymes in the cell death pathway, and block death-associated signaling. So far, we’ve shown that addition of certain STEP mutants, but not others, can block excitatory cell death. I plan to study the differences in action of the individual STEP mutants in order to identify the critical cellular reactions involved in cell death.

    Q: What classes do you teach here and what do you want students to get out of your classes?

    A: Last fall, I taught neuropharmacology and this spring, I’m teaching a molecular and cellular neurobiology laboratory course. I want students to get a fundamental understanding of how cells work in the brain, the anatomy of the brain, and hope they can visualize paths in the brain.

    Q: How do you study the brain?

    A: We study them directly. Along with graduate students Jia Liu and Mohit Neema, we bring out a mini ‘bologna slicer’ and will slice apart mice brains for students to study under the scope.

    Q: Do you enjoy research or teaching more?

    A: I’ve always done research, but I’m enjoying teaching, too. Research keeps me mentally active, whereas the students can really keep you on your toes. Those students who really get into neurology are the most rewarding to teach.

    Q: I understand working here has some sentimental value to you.

    A: Yes. My father, Po Chen Lin, earned his master’s degree in English literature from Wesleyan in 1948 under Professor Fred Millett.

    Q: What do you do after a long day in the lab?

    A: I studied violin at the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins, so I like to meet up with my trio. We call ourselves Youth ‘n’ Asia. We have performed at various local venues, including Connecticut Hospice and the Neighborhood Music School. I also enjoy reading and spending time with my daughters, Shau-Ru a recent graduate of Smith College, and Fu-Fu.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Officer Spends 23 Years Keeping Campus Safe


     
    Public Safety Senior Officer William Heckstall has worked for Wesleyan more than 20 years.
     
    Posted 03/15/05

    In his distinctive black, gray and red uniform, a shimmering silver badge and a belt equipped with a jingling set of keys and nightstick, Public Safety Senior Officer William Heckstall appears daunting from afar. But once eye-contact is made with this 6-foot-3, broad-shouldered officer, his sweet, signature smile overwhelms his face.

    “I like to greet everyone with a friendly smile, and let them know I’m a nice guy and can be trusted,” officer “Hex” says, modeling his beaming grin.

    For 23 years, Officer Heckstall has patrolled Wesleyan’s campus. Originally hired by Wesleyan as a guard, Heckstall was promoted to a senior officer in 1993. When he started, there were seven patrol people; the department now has 17 officers and three patrol people working day and night shifts.

    He spends his days with one mission in mind – to promote a safe environment for Wesleyan’s students, staff and faculty. When he’s not responding to reports, he is checking buildings on campus, doing parking enforcement and responding to calls for service such as medical escorts.

    “I’m always on the lookout for safety hazards,” he says. “This could be anything from blown-out light bulbs to cracks in the sidewalk.”

    While on duty, Heckstall takes turns with other officers, patrolling sections of campus by car. He routinely stops to talk walk-through the dorms and other buildings, looking for any hazards and making sure there are no broken locks.

    Near the end of his shift Heckstall reports back to his office at 208 High Street for his least-favorite part of the job – writing reports.

    “I much rather be out with public than in here, writing reports, but that’s a big part of the job, too,” he says.

    Heckstall, an avid weight-lifter and long-distance runner, looks forward to campus-patrol duty in April. In 1995, Public Safety initiated bike patrol, which commences after the snow melts and continues through late fall.

    Public Safety personnel on the bicycle are able to navigate through campus with greater ease than officers in patrol vehicles and faster than personnel on foot.

    “Many areas of the campus are only accessible by walkways or one-way roads,” Heckstall says. “The bike patrol ads a great dimension to our work. We can respond to an event in a matter of minutes, rather than having to get through traffic.”

    The bike patrol is just one way Public Safety strives to make Wesleyan a safer environment. Throughout Heckstall’s double-decade career, the department has set up emergency police/fire boxes and blue light phones, a campus shuttle service and an electronic card access system. Residence halls have been further secured with locking exterior doors. Public Safety also offers tips on its website regarding identity theft, bicycle security, jogging security, sexual assault awareness, and nuisance/harassing telephone calls.

    In addition, all first-year students receive a campus safety brochure.

    “Students can feel real safe here at Wesleyan,” Heckstall says. “Our office works very hard to keep the campus safe. Crime prevention is a partnership we share with our entire community and we need everyone’s help.”

    Maryann Wiggin, director of Public Safety says the officers can always rely on Officer Heckstall for special assignments.

    “William takes his responsibilities very seriously,” Wiggin says. “He has tremendous people skills, provides great customer service. He’s someone I depend on and it’s great to have him on the public safety staff.”

    When not in uniform, Heckstall said he can be found at the gym or spending time with his twins. His son, Elijah, attends Trinity College; his daughter, Ebony, goes to Syracuse University.

    He also likes to watch sports, especially basketball. The 1979 graduate of North Carolina’s Campbell University played Division 1 hoops.

    “I’ve played against some of the pros,” he says, grinning. “Sometimes, I think I should have stayed with it.”

    Being a dad of college-age kids helps him relate even better with Wesleyan’s student body.

     “I think I have a great rapport with the students,” he says. “If I can help one, two, 50 or 100 of the students out there, I feel that I have done my job.”

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor