Olivia Drake

Haitian Band Performs, Teaches Dance and African Drumming Students

Haiti’s “Roots” band RAM came to campus for a one-day artists’ residency and led drumming and dance workshops for Wesleyan students. They met with students in two classes on Oct. 8.

The group, led by Richard Morse, has produced music for more than 25 years. They recently released their seventh album, August 1791.

In the morning, RAM led a dance workshop for two combined classes: Afro-Brazilian Dance taught by Joya Powell, visiting assistant professor of dance, and Contemporary Dance Technique II/III taught by Katja Kolcio, chair and associate professor of dance. And in the afternoon, they led a workshop for the West African Music and Culture class, taught by John Wesley Dankwa, assistant professor of music.

“My students were thrilled to be in the company of such talented artists. They thoroughly enjoyed the uplifting dance workshop experience facilitated by Isabelle Morse, and were blown away by the powerful live drummers and singers,” Powell said. “They were able to make significant connections to the movement nuances and dance steps found in folkloric Haitian dances and Afro-Brazilian dances.”

RAM led students in the traditional Afro-Haitian dance and rhythms, and spoke to students about how these art forms had their source in West Africa, were brought with enslaved Africans to Haiti, were part of the 1791 slave uprising, and have been passed on through the generations since Haiti won its freedom and abolished slavery in 1804.

Photos of the workshop with the West African Music and Culture class are below: (Photos by Nick Sng ’23)

RAM

Khamis Speaks on Labor Markets

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis

Melanie Khamis, associate professor of economics, recently presented two talks.

On Sept. 2, Khamis discussed “Migration and the Labor Market: New Evidence from Mexico” at the Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies at Yale University’s MacMillan Center.

On Sept. 20, she presented a paper titled “Personality, Gender, and the Labor Market” at the European Association of Labor Economists in Uppsala, Sweden. The paper addresses the topic of the effects of personality traits, both controlling for gender and interacting with gender, on labor market-related choices and outcomes.

Coauthors of the paper include Giovanni Hutchinson ’19 and Joyce Jacobsen, former Wesleyan provost and Andrews Professor of Economics.

8 Students Present Research at Northeast Astronomy Consortium

astronomy

Several Wesleyan students and faculty attended the 2019 KNAC Undergraduate Research Symposium at Vassar College.

Eight Wesleyan undergraduates presented results of their summer research to the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium sponsored by the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC) on Oct. 5.

This year’s symposium was held at Vassar College and attended by 125 astronomy students and faculty, primarily from the consortium colleges (Bryn Mawr, Colgate, Haverford, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Vassar, Wellesley, Wesleyan, and Williams).

Astronomy majors Mason Tea ’21 and Rachel Marino ’20 and sophomores Alex Henton ’22 and Ava Nederlander ’22 gave oral presentations of their projects conducted on campus this summer. In addition, astronomy majors Fallon Konow ’20, Hunter Vannier ’20, Gil Garcia ’20, and Terra Ganey ’21 gave poster presentations of their summer research. The presenters were joined by an equal number of first- and second-year students who went to hear the talks, participate in breakout sessions on various astronomical topics, and network with potential future colleagues.

Both Marino and Garcia are Wesleyan McNair Fellows.

KNAC was founded in 1990 to enhance research opportunities for astronomy students at smaller institutions in the northeast by sharing resources. Today it operates a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program funded by the National Science Foundation through a grant to Wesleyan.

View additional photos on this Astronomy Department’s Error Bar blog post.

Mason Tea presenting results on a gravitational lensing telescope.

Mason Tea ’21 presents his results on a gravitational lensing telescope.

Ava Nederlander presenting work on a brown dwarf in a debris disk.

Ava Nederlander ’22 presents her work on a brown dwarf in a debris disk.

Gil Garcia presented his work on black holes.

Gil Garcia ’20 presented his study on black holes.

Pie-Eating Contest, Benefit Bake Sale, Live Music at 2019 Pumpkin Fest

On Oct. 5, hundreds of Wesleyan and local community members celebrated the early fall season at the 16th annual Pumpkin Fest at Long Lane Farm.

Participants were treated to farm tours, crafts, a pie-eating contest, free veggie burgers and cider, prizes, and a baked goods sale benefiting New Horizons Domestic Violence Shelter. Lopii, Iris Olympia, Barry Chernoff, Emcee Elvee, Rebecca Roff, and Skye Hawthorne provided live music throughout the event.

Representatives from Wesleyan’s Office of Sustainability, WesDivest, Bread Salvage, Wesleyan Climate Action Group, the Wesleyan Resource Center, WildWes, Natural History Museum, Sunrise, Outing Club, Wesleyan Refugee Project, Uslac, Veg Out, Real Food Challenge, and the Wesleyan North End Action Team provided information booths at the festival.

The event was cosponsored by Long Lane Farm, the College of the Environment, the Green Fund, and Wesleyan Bon Appétit.

View photos of the event below and on this College of the Environment coexist blog post. (Photos below by Nick Sng ’23 and Simon Duan ’23)

pumpkin fest

3 Alumni Receive MacArthur “Genius” Awards 

MacArthursThree of the 26 “extraordinarily talented and creative individuals” to receive 2019 MacArthur Fellowships are Wesleyan alumni.

Mary Halvorson ’02, Saidiya Hartman ’84, Hon. ’19, and Cameron Rowland ’11 each received a $625,000, no-strings-attached award by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Recipients of a MacArthur Fellowship, commonly known as the “genius” grant, are selected based on “exceptional creativity,” “promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishments,” and “potential for the Fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work,” according to the foundation.

They join 17 other Wesleyan alumni and university affiliates named MacArthur Fellow recipients. (View all.)

Mary Halvorson '02

Mary Halvorson ’02

Mary Halvorson ’02 is a guitarist, ensemble leader, and composer who is pushing against established musical categories with a singular sound on her instrument and an aesthetic that evolves with each new album and configuration of bandmates. She melds her jazz roots with elements of experimental rock, folk, and other musical traditions, reflecting a wide range of stylistic influences.

Her additional albums as a solo performer or leader include Saturn Sings (2010), Bending Bridges (2012), Illusionary Sea (2014), and Meltframe (2015), and she has performed on numerous other recordings as a side musician or co-leader. Since 2018, Halvorson has served as an instructor at The New School’s College of Performing Arts. She has performed at such national and international venues and festivals as the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Newport Jazz Festival, the Berlin Jazz Festival, and the Village Vanguard, among many others.

Molecular Biophysics Program Hosts 20th Annual Retreat

MBB

Three Wesleyan faculty, one guest, and one alumnus delivered talks during the 20th Annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat on Sept. 26. The speakers included David Beveridge, Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, Emeritus; Lila Gierasch, Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry; Michael LeVine ’11 of D.E. Shaw Research; and Laverne Melón, assistant professor of biology.

On Sept. 26, the Molecular Biophysics Program hosted its 20th Annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Several Wesleyan faculty, students, and guests attended the all-day event, which included five talks, two poster sessions, and a reception.

Lila Gierasch, Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Chemistry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, delivered the keynote address, titled “Hsp70s: Allosteric Machines that Perform a Multitude of Cellular Functions.” Gierasch, a leader in the field of protein folding, is a newly elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. Her work focuses particularly on folding in the cell and understanding the action of folding helper proteins, known as chaperones. Her career-long contributions were recently recognized by the American Peptide Society with a lifetime achievement honor, the Merrifield Award. She is also a recipient of the American Chemical Society’s Ralph F. Hirschmann Award in Peptide Chemistry, an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is currently editor-in-chief of the premier biochemical publication, the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Sultan to Lead $2M Evolutionary-Developmental Biology Project

Sonia Sultan

In the Wesleyan Research Greenhouse, Professor of Biology Sonia Sultan studies how Polygonum plants develop and function differently in response to contrasting environmental conditions. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

With support from a $2 million John Templeton Foundation National Sciences grant, Professor of Biology Sonia Sultan will spearhead a multi-institution evolutionary biology research project over the next three years.

The project, titled “Agency in Living Systems: How Organisms Actively Generate Adaptation, Resilience and Innovation at Multiple Levels of Organization,” developed from Sultan’s research on how individual organisms respond to their environments. Sultan and her Wesleyan research group study this question through experiments with the common plant Polygonum.

Sultan's data on Polygonum plant have broader implications for understanding evolution.

Sultan’s data on Polygonum plant have broader implications for understanding evolution.

Sultan’s previous findings have shown that genetically identical Polygonum plants can develop very differently depending on their growth conditions, allowing adaptive adjustments by individual plants without any genetic change. Because these adjustments are made actively by plants, rather than pre-scripted by their DNA sequence, this insight poses challenges to prevailing conceptual models for development and evolutionary adaptation.

“Scientists are particularly keen to understand these types of induced changes because they may help populations to very rapidly adapt to novel environmental stresses caused by human activities,” Sultan said.

The Templeton Foundation grant supports a consortium to investigate more broadly this property of biological agency—the ways in which active, real-time responses by living organisms influence the organisms’ own features. Sultan and her international team of co-investigators will focus on the active response mechanisms produced by evolution that grant organisms a degree of agency in shaping their own development, behavior, and subsequent evolution.

“New findings over the past decade about gene expression, development, the nature of inheritance, and the basis of adaptation, have led developmental and evolutionary biologists to re-examine some fundamental and long-standing ideas,” Sultan said. “The concept of agency may provide a unifying framework at a time when many scientists are seeking to update and expand those ideas. This project gives us the opportunity to help move the field forward and hopefully contribute to a more nuanced understanding of organisms.”

President Roth Discusses New Book, Higher Education

On Sept. 26, the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore hosted a public discussion between Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 and Roxanne Coady, founder of RJ Julia Booksellers, on Roth’s new book and the crises facing higher education today.

Roth’s new book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses, was published Aug. 20 by Yale University Press. In the book, Roth takes a pragmatic and empathetic approach to the challenges facing higher education. He offers important historical, sociological, and economic context, as well as firsthand observations from his decades as a higher ed administrator, to debates over free speech, political correctness, safe spaces, affirmative action, and inclusion. As the book’s title suggests, he envisions a higher education space that is “safe enough” for students to openly explore new ideas and perspectives—even those that are unpopular or cause discomfort—and where no idea is protected from reasoned challenge.

Roth also is the author of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters (Yale University Press, 2014).

The discussion concluded with a Q&A, reception, and book signing. (Photos by Nick Sng ’23)

Roth booktalk

Bon Appétit Creates Meal Harvested from within 150-Miles of Campus

On Sept. 24, Wesleyan’s dining service Bon Appétit challenged itself by creating a meal using ingredients sourced within a 150-mile radius of campus.

The result was the 14th annual Eat Local Challenge.

This year’s menu included steamed lobster, mussels, corn, potatoes, haddock tacos with curtido slaw, clam fritters, wood-fired rotisserie chicken, smoked pork sandwiches, blueberry crisp, pork belly, turkey, cucumber and tomato salad, barbecue seitan, fresh greens, butternut squash stew, and fresh fruit.

Food was sourced from Horse Listener’s Orchard in Ashford, Conn.; Maine Sea Salt Company in Marshfield, Maine; Mi Terra Tortilla Company in Hadley, Mass.; Lakeside Farms in Hadley, Mass.; We Bake We Jam in Durham, Conn.; Baers Beans in South Hamilton, Mass.; Red’s Best from Boston; Dole and Bailey (fisheries) from Woburn, Mass.; Kenyon Grist Mill in Usquepaugh, R.I.; Szawlowski Farm in Hatfield, Mass.; Ekonk Hill Farm in Sterling, Conn.; Hops on the Hill in Glastonbury, Conn.; The Bridge in Middletown, Conn.; The Barn Next Door in Hadley, Mass; Lucki 7 Hog Farm in Rodman, N.Y.; Cato Corner Farm Colchester, Conn.; Ronnybrook Dairy Farm in Ancramdale, N.Y.; Lamothe’s Sugar House in Burlington, Conn.; Indoor Organic Farm in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and Avery’s Beverages in New Britain, Conn.

Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

eat local challenge

eat local challenge

Wesleyan Community Participates in Global Climate Strikes (with Photo Gallery)

climate justice

Students participated in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20.

On Sept. 20, members of the Wesleyan community—including students, faculty, staff, and Middletown community leaders—joined millions of young people around the world by participating in the Global Climate Strike. Taking place in more than 150 countries, the Global Climate Strike (held Sept. 20-27) amplifies a chorus of concern about the catastrophic dangers of climate change.

The on-campus strike included speeches by students, faculty, and a community member, and concluded with a march around campus. Boldly displaying handcrafted signs, students paraded around campus chanting, “No coal, no oil, keep the carbon in the soil,” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, fossil fuels have got to go.”

The strike concluded with a march around campus and candlelight vigil. The event kicked off a week’s worth of activities centered around the threat of climate change.

University Relations Debuts New Name, Moves Offices to Main Street with Financial Services

Office of Advancement

The Office of Advancement, formerly University Relations, has moved to 291 Main Street, allowing all staff members to work together in one location. The building also contains the Finance Office. Constructed in 1916, the building housed the Middletown post office until 1977 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was previously owned and used by Liberty Bank.

Wesleyan’s fundraising arm, the Office of University Relations, now has a new name—and a new home.

Effective Aug. 1, University Relations was renamed the Office of Advancement, which reflects the evolution of the team’s work as they refine their focus and prepare for the next campaign, and aligns with industry standards.

“Of course, the staff’s commitment to the Wesleyan community and to engaging alumni, parents, and students in the life of the University remains unchanged,” said Frantz Williams ’99, vice president for advancement. “We’re all excited for this new chapter!”

During the summer the advancement staff relocated to 291 Main Street, the former Middletown Post Office building. Bringing together advancement team members from four campus locations facilitates collaboration and provides an opportunity for increased synergy.

While the Advancement team occupies the first and second floor of the renovated office space, the majority of Wesleyan’s Finance Office tenants the third floor. Financial Services, including payroll, purchasing and procurement, auxiliary operations, accounts payable, financial planning, grants, and the purchasing card office are among the services that relocated to Main Street.

Special Collections and Archives Celebrates Constitution Day with Pop-Up Exhibit

In honor of Constitution Day, Special Collections and Archives hosted a pop-up exhibit inside the Davison Rare Book Room in Olin Library on Sept. 19.

The exhibit featured early versions of the US Constitution, Federalist papers, the Connecticut State Constitution, and original letters by Founding Fathers George Washington and Alexander Hamilton.

Photos of the exhibit are below: (Photos by Nick Sng ’23)

Constitution Day,

Constitution Day,