Olivia Drake

Stamp of Approval: Assistant Post Office Manager Celebrates 40 Years


Assistant post office manager Jerry Winzer hand sorts mail inside Wesleyan Station.
 
Posted 02/23/05
After working 28 years at Middletown’s U.S. Postal Service, Gerard “Jerry” Winzer decided to it was time to retire. Winter, he learned, is not the ideal time to call it quits.

“November was a bad time to retire,” the 62-year-old says. “I wasn’t too crazy about just hanging around. I needed to keep busy.”

To beat the winter blues, Winzer took up a part-time position at Wesleyan Station delivering mail. Part-time evolved into full-time work, and, this year, the assistant post office manager will celebrate 12 years working at Wesleyan, and his 40th year in the postal services profession.

Winzer’s workday begins at 7 a.m. when he’s greeted by heaps of unsorted mail. A mail messenger picks up the parcels an hour later to deliver.

“By 8, I’ve already sorted a lot of mail,” he says noting the dozens of wood shelves he packs with envelopes, papers, publications and packages. “You can’t be a slacker in the post office.”

Lisa Davis, the post office’s manager deals with budgets, equipment and bill paying. That leaves Winzer to oversee 20 student workers, two full-time office clerks and two full-time mail messengers, who each cover a specified route twice a day. They make approximately 80 stops per route, delivering and collecting mail at more than 100 departments.

Every letter or publication that comes through Wesleyan Station is hand sorted. With no mail delivery on the weekends, the postal workers have to deal with twice as much mail on Mondays.

“You should see it in here on a Monday. It’s crazy,” he says.

Campus mail used to be sorted alphabetically, but Winzer has since developed his own sorting system. Now, mail is bundled up inside Wesleyan Station in order of the carriers’ routes.

“It runs in order,” he says, glancing over the mail shelves. “If the carrier is in North College, he’ll go to the cashier’s office, then to the top floor for payroll, the trustees, academic affairs, then to the dean’s office, and then he’ll go over to where you’re at, in South College, to communications, to the president’s office, public information, and administration. He just follows that route, so it’s a pretty good system. It’s easy to follow.”

In addition to mail sorting, rerouting letters, managing the staff and working the window, Winzer spends a portion of his day on a postage metering machine.

Winzer examines the machine’s counter. It reads “337,062.”

“Three-hundred-thirty-seven thousand,” he says. “That’s how much money Wesleyan has spent on mailing through this machine, since we’ve got this machine. And the machine is going on its third year,” he said, while metering two envelopes from the Psychology Department.

Before any letter goes through the metering machine, Winzer types in a department code, to assure proper billing. Each department has its own six-digit code, but Winzer rarely sneaks a peek. He usually types in the codes by memory.

“I know a lot of them. I guess they’re just in my subconscious,” he says.

His good memory also is put to the test when he meets customers at the transaction counter.

“Somebody will say their name, and I just know what box number they have, and they are just amazed,” Winzer says. “It just becomes a habit.”

The post office has moved to different locations throughout campus. First in the Downey House, and then Fisk Hall, Wesleyan Station now occupies space in the Davenport Campus Center, formerly the John Bell Scott building’s science laboratory.

With barely enough room to pass a mail cart through, Winzer is eagerly awaiting the much larger mailroom that will be housed in the Usdan University Center. Construction will begin early this year.

According to Alan Rubacha of Construction Services, a mail receiving, sorting, distributing and package handling area in the basement will occupy 1,230 square feet. Another 1,700 square feet of space will accommodate 3,000 post boxes, two transaction counters and additional mail sorting space.

The postal workers can use the space. In the 2002-03 academic year, Wesleyan Station received and sorted more than 3.5 million pieces of mail and packages. Winzer and his staff handle approximately 8,000 pieces of campus mail every week.

The current facility is about 1,000 square feet.

“I wish more people from the departments would come over here and see what we do,” Winzer says. “We do a lot.”

After Winzer leaves the office at 3:30 p.m., he returns to his home in Middletown. He spends his leisure time jogging or with his wife, Missy, and nine grandkids. He’s also the vice chairman of the Board of Education, and hosts two television shows on public access television titled “Today’s Issues” and “Spotlight on Education.”

But Winzer never minds coming back to work — well, all but one day of the year.

“Valentines Day. It’s by far the worst,” he says. “Worst than Christmas time. Grandmas and grandpas and everybody is sending tons of candy and flowers here. There’s those chocolate kisses all over the floor. There’s lots and lots of mail around then.”

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

New Residences Building Campus Community


The Fauver Field Residence Complex, due to open in September, will house up to 269 students.
 
Posted 02/23/05
This September, when Wesleyan begins its new academic year, students will move into a new living facility: The Fauver Field Residence Complex. The residences will mark a new step in Wesleyan’s recent history; specifically, the university will be able to accommodate close to 100 percent of its students in university-owned housing.
The Fauver Field Residence Complex consists of two buildings that together will house up to 269 students including 165 frosh, which will allow virtually all frosh to live in proximity on Foss Hill. Modern apartments in the complex will house 104 upperclass students and will permit the university to sell the out-of-date In-Town apartment complex.

 
The design and location of the facilities is the product of a year-long planning process by Wesleyan students, faculty and administration and are part of the university’s long range facilities master plan.   “We have been planning and looking forward to this for a while,” says Marcia Bromberg, Wesleyan’s vice president for Finance and Administration. “It provides the opportunity to strengthen the student community in our central campus while relieving the neighborhoods of the pressures associated with accommodating student housing.”
 
University administrators believe that this will improve student-community relations as well as create opportunities for more families in Middletown to rent or buy the homes that were formerly rented by Wesleyan students. The neighborhood close to the university has become very attractive for homeowners and the university has worked closely with area neighborhood associations to further this process.    
 
“We see the new plan as a great way to be a better neighbor and strengthen the community on several levels,” Bromberg says. “It really is a win-win for everybody.”

For more information, please go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/masterplan/fauver.html

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Diversity Seminar and Training Scheduled for Faculty and Staff


Posted 02/23/05

Are traditional teaching methods keeping pace with the increasingly diverse population of college students nationwide? Or worse are college faculty shying away from balanced teaching or research on race and ethnicity issues altogether because of the incendiary nature of the topics? 

These are just some of the issues that were discussed at a seminar titled “Effective Teaching in Racially Diverse Classrooms,” February 28 in the Admission Office’s McKelvey Room.

The presenter, Franklin A. Tuitt, Ph.D., has done many seminars on the subject of race in the college classroom, as well as extensive research in the subject. This includes a recent stint as a Cabot Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning where he conducted a study on student evaluations on courses taught by black and white faculty. While at Harvard, Tuitt has also developed instructional resources for teaching effectively in racially diverse college classrooms. He also worked as director of residential life and housing at Wesleyan from 1991 to 1994.

“This program was a wonderful and timely opportunity for faculty to discuss important and complicated issues,” says Judith Brown, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “All of us have a lot to learn about this subject from conversations with each other and with experts in the field.”

Tuitt’s presentation for Wesleyan faculty will focus on methods for addressing situations that can emerge in racially diverse classrooms, as well as discussing issues that arise when teaching race-related content. There will be opportunity for faculty in attendance to discuss strategies, techniques and case studies related to their own classroom experiences.

The presentation is the latest installment of the Race in the Classroom Series that is being offered this academic year by the Center for Faculty Career Development and the Office of Affirmative Action.  Other presentations have included: “Stereotype Threat,” presented by Geoffrey Cohen assistant professor of psychology from Yale University and “The History of Whiteness,” presented by Nell Irvin Painter, Edwards Professor of American History, Princeton University.

“The presentations have been well attended, although there is always room for more,” says Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, professor of classical studies, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, and director of the Center for Faculty Career Development. 

Wesleyan staff will also be attending mandatory specialized diversity training workshops in the coming weeks presented by representatives from the A World of Difference Institute. The training will be called “A Campus of Difference” and will focus on practical skills to challenge prejudice and discrimination and foster inter-group understanding.

By David Pesci, Director of Media Relations

New Book Features Photos, Recollections of Wesleyan


“Wesleyan University: In a New Light” is photographed by William Mercer, a 1964 alumnus. The book is for sale at Broad Street Books.
 
Posted 02/23/05
Wesleyan as it appears every day, Wesleyan as you remember it, and Wesleyan as you’ve never seen it before.

Those are the images and words that fill “Wesleyan University: In a New Light,” a new book produced by University Relations and the Office of Communications.

Rich with the colors, activities, and faces that populate the campus, the book features 150 high quality images taken during the 2003-2004 academic year by photographer William Mercer ’64. Mercer specializes in “on location photography” and images for specialty books. His images in this volume provide a fresh perspective to Wesleyan’s grand and familiar landmarks, as well as views on the smaller more intimate events that occur throughout the campus community during an academic year.
  President Douglas Bennet ’59 wrote the book’s introductory essay while Joseph F. Siry, professor of art, contributed a piece on Wesleyan’s distinctive architecture. Alumni, faculty from the present and past, and current students also provided short, insightful, personal impressions and recollections about the campus and its people.
David Low, ’76, associate director of publications, was the book’s editor; Anne Bergen, director of development communications and stewardship was the project manager; Suzy Taraba ’77, the university archivist and head of special collections at Olin Library, served as archival consultant.

Copies of “Wesleyan University: In a New Light,” are available for $39.95 through Broad Street Books at 860-685-7323 or at www.wes.bkstr.com. Faculty and staff receive a 10 percent discount; departments receive 20 percent off.

New Faculty, Renovated Classrooms, Scholarships, Financial Aid all Outcomes of $281M Wesleyan Campaign


Money from the Wesleyan Campaign helped to fund a variety of initiatives, including new facilities and refurbished facilities like this computer resource center in The Exley Science Center.
Posted 02/23/05

In October 2000, Board of Trustees Chairman Alan M. Dachs ’70 made a pledge to the Wesleyan community:

“I promise you that when you contribute to the Wesleyan Campaign, your gift will produce results and ensure Wesleyan’s legacy for the next generation and generations to come,” he said.

His promise is already being fulfilled.

Five years and $281 million dollars later, Wesleyan has renovated dozens of classrooms, added 20 new faculty positions across the curriculum, offered 140 additional scholarships and rejuvenated Clark Hall, Memorial Chapel and The Patricelli ’92 Theater and Ring Family Stage with the Zelnick Pavilion connecting the buildings. The Rosenbaum squash center with nine courts and the Andersen Fitness Center have also made a presence on campus.

These projects are all made possible through the Wesleyan Campaign, which capped its $250 million goal by $31 million on December 31, 2004.

“With the success of this campaign, we have learned that our alumni, parents and friends are incredibly generous and they know their gifts can help shape the university,” said Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for University Relations. “People had a wonderful time when they were students and that’s why they give. They want students to have the same opportunities that they had.”

The priorities of the Campaign came directly from the Strategy for Wesleyan and, of the funds raised, $47,160,000 went towards Endowment for Financial Aid; $48,700,000 to the Freeman Asian Scholars Program; $19,900,000 into the Fund for Excellence; $40,300,000 was directed toward Faculty and Academic Programs; $46,100,000 to support new facilities and the Campus Renewal Fund; $57,000,000 into the Wesleyan Annual Fund. An additional $21,800,000 pledged is currently undesignated.

Because of generous gifts to support financial aid, students are borrowing on average $8,000 less over their four years at Wesleyan.

“The students are the life blood of this institution, and lowering their post Wesleyan loans was one of our biggest priorities,” Wilson said. “The students are already seeing the effects of the campaign in their scholarship packages and through the physical environment.”

A record-setting 68 percent of alumni participated in the campaign, along with 3,472 parents, 219 corporations and foundations and more than half of the senior faculty.

This was Wesleyan’s second official campaign drive, built on the foundation of the Campaign for Liberal Learning, which raised $67 million by 1987. In 1995, a firm advised Wesleyan to set a $100 million goal for the Wesleyan Campaign. Wesleyan continued to set the bar higher. They decided to aim for a quarter of a billion dollars, a number that appealed to John Woodhouse ’53, chair of the Wesleyan Campaign.

“Some donors give $25 a year and 56 individuals or families made commitments of $1 million or more,” said Ann Goodwin, assistant vice president for university relations. “Each and every gift is incredibly important as Wesleyan continues to provide an excellent education for our students. We asked people to stretch for Wesleyan and they did!”

Although the campaign is over, University Relations is building on the momentum of the campaign to focus on the Wesleyan Annual Fund, further increasing the endowment for financial aid and emerging facility priorities, including support for the Usdan University Center and a new Life Sciences building.

The campaign has brought Wesleyan to a new level and it has given us the building blocks to maintain our level of excellence,” Wilson said. “But we can’t rest on our laurels. Excellence is dynamic. It doesn’t just stop.”

A “Thank You” in sound and photos from President Bennet on behalf of Wesleyan can be viewed at http://www.wesleyan.edu/campaign/thankyou/.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Campaign Contributions

$281 million was raised through the Wesleyan Campaign, which ended December 31, 2004. As a result, Wesleyan has been able to:

  • Hire 20 new faculty members, improving the student-faculty ratio from 1:11 to 9:1
  • Offer 140 new endowed and current scholarships to students
  • Secure the Freeman Asian Scholars Program, which enrolls 22 top-level Asian students in each class from 11 Pacific Rim countries
  • Create more than 40 multimedia classrooms
  • Build and open the Andersen Fitness Center and Rosenbaum Squash Court
  • Launch a new Center for Faculty Development
  • Design the Usdan University Center. Groundbreaking is planned for March
  • Establish six new professorships
  • Encourage more than 60 science students to participate in summer research each year
  • Convert a former Middletown school into the Green Streets Arts Center
  • Initiate new programs in areas such as environmental studies, genomics and bioinformatics, computational biology and bioethics
  • Develop a Center for Community Partnerships
  • Provide generous financial aid packages, reducing student borrowing by 25 percent
  • Create a visiting scholar-in-residence, an endowment for speakers in Jewish Studies and an endowment to benefit Jewish life activities
  • Build the Zelnick Pavilion and Center for Film Studies
  • Launch an endowment for the College of Social Sciences
  • Renovate the Center for the Americas, the Stewart M. Reid Admission Center, Clark Hall, Memorial Chapel, the Patricelli ’92 Theater and Ring Family Stage, Downey House
  • Career Resource Center Director Helps Students Find Meaningful Careers by Exploring Their Interests and Passions


     
    Mike Sciola, Career Resource Center director, helps Talya Marshall, ’07, find photography career opportunities.
     
    Posted 01/31/05

    Q: The Career Resource Center (CRC) aims to establish relationships with students and help them find jobs. If a student approaches you, how would you go about helping him or her?

    A: We take a three step approach: self assessment, career exploration, and job search.  Most people, and not just students, think the first step to finding a meaningful career is to write a resume and start sending it out to job sites on the Internet. The problem with this approach is that folks tend to go with the familiar. 

    For a lot of students, their knowledge of the world of work is fairly limited. Many have a short list of occupations of which they have a personal understanding, such as being a ­doctor, lawyer or teacher. In reality, taking the time to assess one’s interests and passions first, next exploring a wide-variety of options, and then crafting a targeted job search strategy yields a much more satisfying result.  We have a variety of career interest assessment tools, a very specialized collection of print and electronic resources covering a wide array of occupations, and an incredible network of alumni and parent volunteers available to share their knowledge and perspective.

    Q:  Where do the students end up going?

    A: That’s the beauty of a Wesleyan liberal arts education – it can take you anywhere in the world. Our students have been taught to think and to analyze. They have the tools to pull together disparate information into a new understanding of the world. These skills are highly valued by top companies and institutions. I believe a Wesleyan degree is more relevant at the beginning of the 21st century than ever before.

    We often get the question about where do Wesleyan graduates go after leaving Middletown. The Career Resource Center Web site has a breakdown of where our alumni work.  We analyzed the alumni database. With information on 12,252 alumni, the top five occupations are business (28 percent), education (20 percent), health professions (9 percent), law (8 percent), and entertainment (6 percent). 

    Q: What is your day like?

    A: As director of the career center, I have two distinct roles: managing the office and staff and, at the same time, maintain a significant counseling schedule. These are often competing needs.  I work with an incredible group of talented and dedicated professionals. To date this year, the CRC has had 3,688 counseling interactions with 1,188 individuals. We’ve already organized 69 programs and events, and have had more than 60 organizations participate in our recruiting programs. And February is traditionally our busiest month!  It is a lot to coordinate. I have to say, though – I’ve got the best job at Wesleyan. Every single day, I get to talk with smart, articulate, motivated young people about their plans for the future and about the world they are about to change for the better. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    Q: How long have you been at Wesleyan?

    A: I’ve been at Wesleyan for nine years. I had been the associate director of Career Services at Brown University prior to coming to Wesleyan. Before that, I worked at California State University, Fresno, the University of Rhode Island and the University of New Hampshire in a variety of student affairs positions ­ residential life, student life, and fraternity and sorority affairs. My bachelor’s degree is in gerontology and my master’s degree is in human development, counseling and family studies. I knew that I wanted to work with students, and that I wanted to use my counseling skills.

    Q:  Is your job rewarding? Do you keep in touch with the students after they leave?

    A: Incredibly rewarding. I’m so impressed with Wesleyan students and alumni. Now that I’ve been at Wesleyan for a significant time, I have the joy of reconnecting with former students at reunion or getting an e-mail message of the blue.  I was in New York recently and was stopped by a member of the Class of 2000. It was thrilling to hear that he was happy and enjoying life and doing amazing things.  I learn something new about the world everyday by talking with our students and alumni.

    Q: Do you have any interesting hobbies or tidbits that I should know about you outside of work?

    A: I’m a singer and have been a member of the Greater Middletown Chorale since coming to Wesleyan. We once got a call to sing with Kenny Rogers at the Oakdale Theater. This December, we were Governor Rell’s guests at the Governor’s Mansion in Hartford. Mostly, though, we sing the classical choral repertoire. I’m also on the board of Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown.

    Q: Do you live in Middletown?

    A: Yes, on Ridge Road, and our next door neighbors on three sides are Wesleyan faculty and staff. We call it ‘The Compound.’ Did you know that there used to be a horse-drawn trolley that started in the North End on Main Street, turned up Ridge Road off of South Main and came all the way up to Crystal Lake?  I would have loved to see that.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    History, East Asian Professor Explores Trauma Through Poetry


    Vera Schwarcz, professor of History and East Asian studies, collaborated with artist Chava Pressburger for the book, “In the Garden of Memory,” published by March Street Press. The publication features 18 poems with accompanying paper-art images.
     
    Posted 01/31/05

    How does memory speak?

    Not with words

    in this small country of silenced song. Winter

    is the native tongue

    of children without food.

    -words from Vera Schwarcz’s “In the Garden of Memory”

    When visiting Jerusalem in 1991, a striking oil painting caught Vera Schwarcz’s attention. The Romanian-born daughter of Holocaust survivors instantly felt a connection with the artwork titled “Memories.”

    “I was deeply moved by its abstract depiction of a shattered world,” Schwarcz said. “The painting evoked huge, shards of stone, a rubbled world held together by a fragile thread, lace and barbed wire that I envisioned as memory threads held onto by sheer will alone. In wake of total annihilation, that moved me as an act of spiritual courage.”

    Schwarcz, professor of History and East Asian studies at Wesleyan and published author and poet, later met the painting’s artist, Chava Pressburger. Pressburger, a native of a Jewish community in the Czech Republic, was imprisoned in Terezin in1943-44. Her younger brother was killed in Auschwitz in 1944.

    Although Schwarcz was born after the war, their similar backgrounds were the start of a friendship and professional collaboration. Six months ago, the duo released a book together titled “In the Garden of Memory,” published by March Street Press. The publication, which they consider “a conversation in paper, poetry and print,” features 18 poems by Schwarcz with accompanying paper-art images by Pressburger.

    Pressburger’s artwork is created from paper she produced herself from plants cultivated in her garden and near her home in Nagev, Israel.

    “As a Jew, as a China scholar, the past is not dead for me. It’s very alive, very important,” Schwarcz said. “I have been looking for ways to give it voice. Through this collaboration, we are putting into the world something that will seed reflection and pleasure. A garden is a bordered space for slow placed reflection. This is an invitation to come into the garden.”

    Before going to print, Schwarcz and Pressburger exhibited the artwork in Prague, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The display explored the themes of historical trauma in contemporary life.

    Schwarcz, like many children born in the generation following the war, was named after other children who had died in the war.

    “Our parents often did not tell us about the earlier kin. We thus grew up carrying the name, the destiny of precursors who remained a haunting, vague nameless presence,” she said. “Hence, perhaps my compulsion as a writer to name things, as a historian to document truth. If something can have a name and place in the heart, mind the page, it may be somehow be laid to rest.”

    “In the Garden of Memory” isn’t the first time she’s written about the holocaust. In her last book, “Bridge Across Broke Time,” she wove together her own family’s memoirs to with words of poets and historians to show how it is possible to maintain cultural identity in the face of the most disheartening events.

    “What was new in this project with Pressburger was poetry, an art form I have been exploring for two decades. Here finally was a way to write about something historical and personal–using the craft of poetry I had been polishing for a while,” she said.  

    After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in 1969, a master’s degree from Yale in 1971, and a Ph. D. from Stanford in 1977, she wrote over fifty articles on Chinese intellectual history and comparative memory studies. She’s also the author of five other books titled, “A Scoop of Light,” “Fresh Words for a Jaded World,” “Time for Telling Truth is Running Out: Conversations with Zhang Shenfu,” “The Chinese Enlightenment: The Legacy of the May Fourth Movement in Modern China,” and “Long Road Home: A China Journal.”

    Since the publication of “In the Garden,” several other artists – and photographers – have approached Schwarcz interested in similar collaborations.

    She’s interested, but she’s already made a commitment with a 19th century Manchu Prince named Yi Huan. Huan (1840-1891) wrote poems in Chinese responding to the burning of Beijing’s princely palaces by French and British armies in 1860.

    “I am adapting Yi Huan’s voice to the cadence of historical traumas in the 20th century, including the post September 11th scorched landscape that is our inheritance today,” said Schwarcz, who is fluent in Chinese, French, Hebrew, Romanian and Hungarian, and can read Japanese and German languages.

    To date, Schwarcz has already published about 25 of these renditions and envisions publishing a collection of 50 poems in the next two years called “Sea of Shards.”

    Recently, she’s working on a new book, “Truth in the Ruins of History: A Comparative Inquiry.” And her latest prose/academic book, “Singing Crane Garden; Art and Atrocity in One Corner of China,” was submitted to the University of Pennsylvania Press this month. It will be part of a series on the history of landscaped spaces.

     “I find myself wanting to write new books all the time,” she said. “In the Garden of Memory is available at Broad Street Books and http://www.marchstreetpress.com/.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    New Findings Center on Human Pheromones


    Robert Lane, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, co-authored a study that indicates scientists may have overestimated the use of the vomeronasal organ in pheromone perception by animals.
    Posted 01/31/05

    A new study co-authored by Robert Lane, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, suggests that human pheromone detection may occur right under our own noses – literally.

    In an article due out in the February issue of “Genome Research,” Lane provided new evidence that scientists may have overestimated the use of the vomeronasal organ, or VNO, in pheromone perception in animals. The VNO has been described as the predominant pheromone-detecting organ, based mostly on rodent studies that point to its role in evoking innate reproductive and social behaviors.

    Lane, along with Wesleyan graduate student Marijo Kambere and his colleagues from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, discovered that one of the main putative pheromone receptor families expressed inside the VNO has been decimated in domesticated dogs. This finding suggests that the VNO may play a diminished role in dogs and perhaps other non-rodent mammals. 

     “As keen as the dog sense of smell is and as elaborate a pheromonal system dogs seem to have, it could be that the main nose, not the VNO, underlies elaborate pheromonal communication in dogs,” Lane said.

    If this is true, then the observation that humans probably do not possess a functional VNO may not mean an inability to detect pheromones. “Our apparent lack of a functional VNO might not be a handicap if pheromone responses can be mediated by our main olfactory system,” Lane said.

     

    By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

    Students, Administration and Faculty Continue Dialogue


    Posted 01/31/05

    A forum on January 25 engaged more than 300 students, faculty and staff in a discussion of the administrative response to issues raised at a student-organized forum in December. The forum followed by a week the distribution of a report detailing student participation in University governance, itself a response to complaints from some students that they felt excluded from decisions that affect their lives on campus.

    At the forum, held in the Chapel, senior administrators were joined onstage by leaders of the faculty and the Wesleyan Student Assembly. Professor of Philosophy Brian Fay moderated the session, during which students raised questions or made comments based on the report.

    It appeared that most students had read the report, said Interim Dean of the College Peter Patton. “Some students expressed dissatisfaction about the status of specific issues they care about,” he said. “On the other hand, it seems  that most now realize that Wesleyan students do have significant opportunities to influence University decision-making.”

    The issues that received the most attention during the forum were student interest in having a multicultural dean, accommodations in housing for incoming students who identify as transgender, and the future of the student radio station, WESU 88.1FM. Later in the week, President Doug Bennet emailed students to describe steps the University is taking to follow up on these issues. He reiterated his intention to engage the leaders of the WSA and the faculty in a follow-up discussion of governance and communication issues treated in the report.

    Bennet informed students that he, Patton and Interim Director of Affirmative Action Michael Benn would meet with leaders of student of color groups to discuss the specific issues underlying students’ expressed desire for “safe spaces,” a dean of multicultural affairs, and diversity training for faculty.

    Bennet reminded students that Patton would continue to work with the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee (URLC) and the Student Life Committee to identify acceptable solutions for gender-neutral housing. While returning students may select their own roommates regardless of gender, Residential Life currently accommodates transgendered first-year students in making room assignments. In making first-year assignments, the University does not support roommate pairing of students of different biological sexes. First-year students requesting accommodation are assigned to a single room or to a double room with another student requesting accommodation. Last year, the language describing “gender-neutral housing” was not clear to many first-year students, and the URLC is working to clarify the description for 2005-2006.

    Communications Director Justin Harmon will continue to work with student leaders of WESU to help them develop plans that will enable the station to become financially viable and maintain its independence. Wesleyan has committed to hiring a full-time general manager who will help bring continuity to the station and build its fund-raising and operations.

    “These will not be the only opportunities available for continuing the dialogue, but I think they are a good start,” Bennet wrote. “I welcome other suggestions about how to advance these issues.”

    Students of Color Applications Up

    Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Nancy Hargrave Meislahn told those present at the January 25 forum that applications to Wesleyan have risen approximately 5 percent from last year and that applications from students of color have increased at even higher rates.

    As of January 21, Wesleyan had logged 6,848 applications, as compared with 6,509 on the same date the year before, Meislahn said. Applications from African-Americans had risen 18 percent, to 504 from 428; from Asian-Americans 13 percent, to 659 from 584; and from Latinos 7 percent, to 424 from 395. The number of applications from each of these groups represented at least an 8-year high for Wesleyan, Meislahn said. Final application numbers will be available later this month.

    Wesleyan has gone to extra lengths to recruit students of color, Meislahn said, since experiencing a dip in applications from African-American students. Admission Office staff held a community forum and a follow-up meeting with interested students early in the fall to solicit their advice and to engage them in helping to recruit students, Meislahn said. In addition, a letter from the dean of admission and the vice president of University Relations was sent to alumni of color seeking their help in identifying and recruiting talented prospective students.

    Meislahn invited everyone at the forum to be part of the solution. 

    “As the admission cycle moves forward there will be many opportunities for students and faculty to assist the admission office in reaching out to admitted students,” she said. “Phonathons and plans for hosting students in April are underway.”

    Anyone interested in being involved should contact the Admission Office, Meislahn said.

     

    Instructor Impressed with Intelligence, Humanity of Students and Colleagues at Wesleyan


     
    Carol Wright is a visiting instructor in the African American Studies Program.
     
    Posted 01/31/05

    Q: You started working at Wesleyan in 2003. What has impressed you most about the university?

    A:  I am impressed with the incredible depth, intelligence and humanity of many Wesleyan students and my colleagues in the African American Studies Program.

    Q: What does ‘visiting’ instructor refer to? Where are you visiting from and how did you end up at Wes?

    A: Visiting instructor refers to the fact that my position is non-tenure track and temporary. As a practical matter, I am visiting from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where I held a pre-doctoral fellowship for two years. During my final year at Bowdoin, I saw the Wesleyan job advertisement and jumped at the chance to apply.

    Q: Are students of all ethnic and backgrounds interested in a degree in African American studies? How would you describe it?

    A:  The African American Studies Program is strong. Many, many students of all different backgrounds are interested in an AFAM degree. The program is interdisciplinary in nature. Course discussions and debates include issues of economics, globalization, gender, class, politics, cultural and literary representations among other things. Students learn important content, but further, I think the program has a profound effect on the ways students think, how they understand and re-organize the experiences of their world.

    Q: What issues would you bring up in the classroom?

    A: Broadly, I teach courses specializing in African American education. This includes issues of social inequality, urban educational policy and the relationship between educational theory and practice. Most recently, I’ve taught a service-learning course that will place students in a local middle-school with a focus on the effects of the No Child Left Behind policy.

    Q: What do you hope students take away from your classes?

    A: I would like to think students leave my courses as better critical thinkers and writers while simultaneously understanding that African Americans have a complex educational past and sometimes a contradictory educational present.

    Q: Do you have a philosophy about teaching? How do you help students become critical thinkers in the classroom?

    A: I approach teaching as if I’m telling a story. Stories have a beginning, middle and end and you can’t just jump in at the middle, or only a few students will figure it out. By giving a full narrative, I try to capture as many students as I can. I also try, every semester, to show at least one film, have a guest speaker and let students give their own presentations. Many students request to to work on a thesis, or are interested in doing independent studies on these subjects.

    Q: Do you enjoy being in the classroom more so that researching?

    A: I love teaching. I enjoy engaging students, but I can find it to be a real challenge to teach and find time to spend on my own research. I’ve been collecting a lot of data about African American college students at small, liberal arts universities, that I have to go through. None from Wesleyan, though.

    Q: Where did you go to college and what are your majors?

    A: I went to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania where I majored in anthropology and sociology and French. Academically speaking, I am a huge supporter of small liberal arts colleges. Socially, well, that’s another story.

    Q: On campus, have you attended many student events, concerts or dances?

    A: Students have invited me to events, but I often have to decline due to scheduling conflicts. Last year I attended a creative student performance and I thought it was fabulous. It was great to see students in a less rigid, more creative/expressive milieu. I was reminded that students have many talents — I was also reminded of my lack of artistic talent — and express them in multiple ways.

    Q: You mentioned that you visit family in New York. Is that where you’re from?

    A: Both my parents are from the Caribbean, but I was born and raised in New York City. Other than New York, I have lived at least one year in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maine, Connecticut, Brussels, Belgium and Dijon, France.

    Q: What’s something humorous or unique that I should know about you?

    A: I once drove across the country in the middle of the summer in a bathing suit. It was about 100 degrees and my car did not have an air conditioner. Also, at one point I had a part-time job selling Lancome cosmetics.

    Q: Oh, so you’re a saleswoman too?

    A: I was pretty good; I won an award or two. Go figure!

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Women’s Studies Administrative Assistant Participates in Youth Mentoring Program and has Interest in Women’s Issues


    Noreen Baris, administrative assistant for the Women’s Studies Program, stands outside her office on High Street. Baris serves as a liaison between the program’s chair, faculty and students.
     
    Posted 01/31/05

    Q: When did you become the administrative assistant in the Women’s Studies Program? Were you working at Wesleyan before then? 

    A: Yes. I first came to Wesleyan in November 1986 and worked in the Romance Languages and Literatures Department until 1992. I’ve been at Women’s Studies since then.

    Q: How would you describe a typical day? Are you mostly working at your desk, talking on the phone or meeting with people?

    A: This position is rather diversified and I do all the above mentioned duties on a daily basis. I work closely with the chair of Women’s Studies and I serve as a liaison between the Women’s Studies chair and the faculty and majors.  I also coordinate the scheduling of  Women’s Studies meetings, luncheons and events, manage the budget, update the Web page, do other computer related duties and monitor Women’s Studies course offerings.

    Q: What do you like most about your job and working in the Women’s Studies program in particular?

    A: I have found the Women’s Studies faculty to be exceptional in many ways and I enjoy working with them. I also like the diversity of the position. In addition to my other duties, the Women’s Studies Program has two major events per year: The Women’s Studies Symposium in the fall semester, and the Diane Weiss Memorial ’80 Memorial Lecture during spring semester. I enjoy coordinating the many details required for both events.

    Q: Do you, yourself, have any interest in women’s issues?

    A: Yes, I am interested in women’s issues such as better medical research and health care of women, equal pay for men and women doing the same job, and better benefits for working mothers.

    Q: What do you do after work? Do you have any hobbies?

    A: My hobbies are knitting, quilting, and gardening, and I enjoy doing them in my spare time. I also enjoy and have been serving as a mentor for children for the past eight years. Originally I started mentoring teenage girls and being a “buddy” at the Cromwell Children’s Home.  I am now affiliated with The Children’s Center Youth Mentoring Partnership and have been mentoring the same young girl for the past four years, at least five hours per week. I’m very much involved with her life, her problems and her accomplishments.

    Q: Tell me about your family.  

    A: I have been married to my husband John for 35 years and we live in Durham.  I have two daughters, Laney, who is 30, and Carrie, who is 26. Laney is a veterinarian practicing in New Jersey and Carrie is a high school English teacher in California. I am very proud of them both.

    Q: I understand you have the summers off. Do you travel much?

    A: We have traveled extensively in the U.S. Up North, down South, out West. We’ve especially enjoyed Yosemite, Yellowstone and Zion national parks, and we’ve also gone to Hawaii. We’ve been to Canada — Montreal, Quebec and cities in-between — several times. Also traveled to Aruba and Europe. Last summer,  we traveled to Switzerland and Austria. We visited Italy, France and England in May 2002.

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Tsunami Hits too Close to Home


    Ganesan “Ravi” Ravishanker, director of Technology Support Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry, explains where his home countries were struck by the December 26 tsunami.

     
    Posted 01/31/05

    Millions of Americans watched as the Dec. 26 tsunami obliterated south Asia’s coastal belts. But for Ganesan “Ravi” Ravishanker, the event was far more personal.

    Ravishanker, director of Technology Support Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry, is a Sri Lanka native and attended college in southern India where the tidal waves battered both shorelines for a half-mile inland.

    “Those are both places where I have spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years and have vivid memories of,” Ravishanker said. “Most of my extended family members live in these two countries.”

    The tsunami, triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Indonesia, killed more than 170,000 people as it crashed the shores of 10 countries around the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka and Indonesia received the hardest hits.

    Ravishanker, who lost his parents as a young child, grew up with his aunt, uncle, sister and 11 cousins in the country’s capital, Colombo. Three of these cousins are raising families in Sri Lanka and the rest moved to southern India.

    “I was just getting back from vacation and I was still in a relaxing vacation mode, when they started flashing news about the tsunami damage on TV,” he said. “I immediately thought about my family. Many of them were living in area close to the coast.”

    Relatives in Tamil Nadu, India, immediately e-mailed Ravishanker in America and let him know they were OK. His relatives in Sri Lanka, however, were still unaccounted for. Although his relatives lived inland in Kandy, he feared they may be traveling on a train that was derailed by the tsunami.

    “All I could do is sit, watch and wait,” he said.

    Sri Lanka, a pear-shaped island four times larger than the state of Connecticut, is located 18 miles southeast of India. With no communications available to his homeland, he waited as the death toll climbed to 30,000. The missing count hovered at 5,600. More than 200,000 families were displaced by the earthquake-spawned waves.

     “The Sri Lanka that I remember, that I grew up in, was one of the most enjoyable places. It was surrounded by the ocean, there were beaches, a perfect climate and the people were very friendly. It was a great place,” he said. “It was like paradise.”

    Via Indian television channels, Ravishanker watched debris of fishermen’s wood shacks envelop the once pristine, palm-lined beaches. Disfigured bodies “in all forms and shapes” piled up near landmarks all recognizable to the Sri Lanka native.

     “It was heart-wrenching to watch,” he said. “I was thinking of my family, but also these poor children affected by this disaster. What’s so sad is that the first wave came in and pushed all these fish up on shore, and all the fishermen told their kids to come out and see and play with the fish. Little did they know that a bigger wave was coming to eat them all up.”

    On Dec. 30, Ravishanker finally heard from his Sri Lankan relatives. Everyone was alive. With his family all accounted for, Ravishanker immediately pursued ways to help the victims of the disaster.

    Rescue efforts are somewhat hampered by an ongoing civil war in the country between the Sinhalese and Tamil Tigers. Pockets of the northern and eastern areas are heavily mined. A physical presence of rescue workers in these areas carries a certain amount of danger.

    The Sri Lankan government has urged donor nations to donate $15.6 billion to rebuild tsunami-affected parts of the country, but Ravishanker was advised to hold off and carefully explore more long lasting avenues to help those affected. He’s considering funding an orphaned child’s education for life. His brother-in-law, Shankar, is working with these orphaned children directly back in Chennai, India.

    “I take great pride in my brother-in-law for doing this, and I think the outpouring of local support is a great thing to see. People are setting aside their religious differences and caste barriers are vanishing,” he said. “I can’t imagine people doing this 20 years ago. People are already setting up shops and makeshift schools. Recovery have been remarkable.”

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor