Olivia Drake

Sumarsam Participates in “Reflections from Quarantine” Conversation

Sumarsam

Sumarsam demonstrated how to use a Wayang Kulit puppet during his “Reflections from Quarantine” interview with the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale.

sumarsam song

Sumarsam concluded his reflection by singing the Indonesian songs “Guardian at Night” and “The Song of Disposal.”

Sumarsam, Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music at Wesleyan and a Fellow at Yale Institute of Sacred Music, is an expert on the history, theory, and practice of Indonesian music and theater, and a performer of Javanese gamelan and puppetry.

Sumarsam’s presentation was part of ISM’s “Reflections from Quarantine” series. He was interviewed live through the Zoom platform by ISM Fellows Program Director Eben Graves.

Sumarsam explained that his current research focuses on how “people—commoners—use performing art, and life of passage rituals for practicing their religion in their everyday lives.” From that angle, he looks at the early existence of performing arts during the period of Hinduized Java from the 9th to 15th centuries, and then proceeds to Islamized Java from around the 15th century onward.

In his reflection, Sumarsam explained the characters in a Wayang Kulit shadow puppet play: The demon is a sensual image of raw nature; the prince and princess are elements of traditional Java; gods and goddesses show a cosmological element of power; and clowns are used as a modern pragmatic element of survival. Sumarsam ended his interview with prayer incantation through song poetry.

Varekamp Plots Pandemic, Measures Growth Curves in US, Italy

varekamp map

In this linear graph, Professor Joop Varekamp shows logged plots of coronavirus time versus death data in Italy (green) and the United States (blue). The straight-line segments represent exponential growth, and the curved arrays occur after social distancing rules and lockdowns were imposed. Extrapolation of the straight line for the United States (deep blue line) would have reached 1 million casualties (black circle) around April 21 if the U.S. had not imposed social distancing rules, according to Varekamp.

Last March, Johan (Joop) C. Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, intended to teach an ore deposit and formation class in Italy; however, the COVID-19 pandemic caused him to stay near campus.

Nevertheless, Varekamp kept a keen watch on Italy. With a fascination with the pandemic’s wildfire spread, Varekamp began plotting coronavirus data from both the United States and Italy to see how their growth curves compared.

“Infectious diseases follow initially exponential growth patterns until measures are taken to limit transmission or a vaccine becomes available,” Varekamp said. “I wanted to know how disease propagation compares to population growth, which I teach in some detail in my classes.”

On May 7, Varekamp shared his ongoing Coronavirus Plot Maps with the campus community through Wesleyan’s Community Forum. His study features some of the differences in the progression of the disease in the two countries that may provide some insights “and possibly some dark thoughts about our future.”

Varekamp suggested that if social distancing rules are weakened too early, the disease will pick up where it left off at the exponential end. “This will all be repeated until about 60–70% of the population has been infected with the disease,” he said. “Only then the virus burns itself out, to some degree as a result of lack of non-immune individuals, and transmission rates will decrease to values below one.”

He also stated that if no social distancing had been ordered in the U.S. in late March, the U.S. would have stuck to its exponential growth pattern, and close to 1 million people would have died by the end of April.

If he’s able to safely fly internationally next year, Varekamp hopes to have another attempt at teaching the EU-coordinated ore deposit class at the University of Bologna.

“It is hard to see how all of this evolves,” he said.

Kuenzel’s Paper on WTO Tariff Commitments Published in European Economic Review

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel, assistant professor of economics, is the author of a paper titled “WTO Tariff Commitments and Temporary Protection: Complements or Substitutes?” The paper was published in the January issue of the European Economic Review.

In the paper, Kuenzel investigates the link between traditional tariff instruments and temporary protection measures (antidumping, safeguard, and countervailing duties). There is a long-held notion in the trade policy community that most-favored-nation (MFN) tariffs and temporary protection measures are substitutes. Despite this prediction, there is only mixed empirical evidence for a link between MFN tariff reductions and the usage pattern of antidumping, safeguard, and countervailing duties.

Theater Department Produces, Livestreams The Method Gun

method gun

The cast and crew of the Theater Department’s production of The Method Gun answered questions from the public following their livestreamed performance on May 2. Speaking (highlighted in yellow) is the show’s director Katie Pearl, assistant director of theater.

The shows must go on.

Rather than allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to force a final curtain call on theatrical productions, Wesleyan’s Theater Department pivoted to an online format. On May 1, and again on May 2, the department offered livestreamed performances of The Method Gun, featuring 10 student-actors.

A replay of the Saturday performance is available for viewing on The Method Gun @ Wes website.

After countless hours of line rehearsals, overcoming technical frustrations, and learning how to act and teach theater in a virtual world, show director and Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl breathed a sigh of relief during the Thursday night dress rehearsal.

“I almost can’t believe what we pulled off,” Pearl said. “It was super down-to-the-wire. We were cutting and rewriting scenes up until the last minute and wrestling with livestreaming software, but it all came together on Thursday. For the first time, it really worked. And all of us just wept afterwards. Because we’d made a thing. We’d transcended what felt like an impossible situation, and stayed committed to each other and the process to create something that really meant what we wanted it to mean.”

Portraiture Photography Class Shifts Focus During COVID-19 Pandemic

This spring, Graduate Liberal Studies student Kristen Cardona enrolled in her first-ever photography course, ARTS 613: Studies in Portraiture and Self-Portraiture. While learning how to better use a camera, she practiced taking images of herself, family, friends, and neighbors.

Heading into early March, the assignment was to photograph strangers.

And then the coronavirus pandemic struck the nation. All Wesleyan courses moved to an online format.

“This threw a huge curve ball! Obviously we couldn’t finish photographing strangers,” said Cardona, who is the program coordinator for continuing studies at Wesleyan. “People are scared. Simple requests to take a photo seem to be more pressure than many people are comfortable with during these trying times of quarantine. That shift was obvious during the semester.”

Consequentially, Cardona and many of her classmates shifted their efforts back to self-portraits. And in-person classes were rescheduled via Zoom on Wednesday evenings.

The course instructor, Marion Belanger, visiting assistant professor in liberal studies, encouraged the class to push their own boundaries and make pictures that reflected their own reality, including documenting life in quarantine.

“I told them to disregard the syllabus, and to just photograph their everyday,” Belanger said. “Documenting the everyday is also useful when photographers feel like they are in a creative limbo, or blocked in some way. I thought this could be a way to move through the fear and disruptions. How could something so dire and devasting be ignored?”

Belanger expected that each student would end the class with a cohesive body of photographs.

“Sometimes creativity thrives under restrictive requirements, and I am very impressed that each student has continued to push their photographic boundaries despite such confinement,” she said. “Some work is very much about the transition to the epidemic and I’ve seen themes of loneliness, fantasy, family portraits at home, portraits at a distance, and masked portraits.”

cardona 2

In Cardona’s self-portrait, “Unmasking Dismay,” left, the mask symbolizes “better days when masks were used for masquerade, simple playful disguises—and not for personal protection,” she says. Cardona surrounded herself with blue: “the blue room, the blue mask, my blue eyes, my blue feelings—me, enveloped in blue. [Being] dressed in black reflects how I feel isolated in quarantine. Yet there’s still an aspect of whimsy to my nature and a glimmer of hope. The sun coming through the window reminds me of hope; the cross behind my head, although blurred, reminds me of my wavering, yet ever-present faith. The wispiness of my hair reminds me that life can still be playful even during quarantine.”

Campus Community Captures Themselves Wearing COVID-19 Protective Masks

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that United States residents not only practice social distancing, but wear masks in public. In this piece, we highlight Wesleyan faculty, staff, students, and alumni donning their masks and explain a bit about them.

mask sillasen

Roseann Sillasen MALS ’07, associate director/project manager for Physical Plant-Facilities, wears a standard-issue surgical mask that was donated by families of Wesleyan students. The mask “has special meaning because it demonstrates caring and concern for our safety from around the world,” she said. Sillasen, who continues to work on campus, wears the mask daily in the office. “It not only protects me from others but also protects others from me. Although we practice social distancing, you do not realize how exposed you are unless you truly trace every contact every day,” she said. “This virus is insidious. It knows no boundaries.”

mask williams

Frantz Williams, Jr. ’99, vice president for advancement, wears a mask crafted by his wife, Anne Johnson ’01, from felt samples they had in their house. Johnson also made one for herself. “I wear this to the grocery and pet store when I need to get supplies,” Williams said.

Raynor’s Study on Fishery Economics Published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research

Raynor

Jennifer Raynor

Jennifer Raynor, assistant professor of economics, is the co-author of a study titled “Can native species compete with valuable exotics? Valuing ecological changes in the Lake Michigan recreational fishery,” published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research, 2020.

The Chinook salmon population in Lake Michigan is declining precipitously due to ecological changes, and the impact on recreational fishing value is unknown. In this study, Raynor estimates a conditional model to characterize how Wisconsin resident anglers react to changes in species-specific availability and catch rates.

“Using these results, we calculate the non-market value of access to the fishery that reflects current, historical, and potential future fishing conditions. We then predict whether native lake trout and walleye, which are more resilient to the changing conditions in the lake, can maintain the fishery’s value if non-native Chinook salmon collapses,” Raynor explained.

Results show that while large losses would occur absent other improvements, a portion of the fishery’s value could be maintained if substitute species, particularly walleye, improved in quality and were readily accessible.

This spring, Raynor is teaching ECON 210: Climate Change Economics and Policy and ECON 310: Environmental and Resource Economics.

Forney ’89 Creates Comical Handwashing Illustration

forney hand washing

Ellen Forney ’89 created “Hand-Washing Like A Pro!” in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

A comical handwashing illustration by author, artist, speaker, and mental wellness coach Ellen Forney ’89 appeared in the March 20 edition of The Washington Post and is used in the COVID Coach App, a mental health app from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

She’s also offering it as a free printable download from her website.

Forney says her how-to “Hand-Washing Like A Pro!” comic adheres to the the World Health Organization guidelines, but is “easier and funnier.”

“I got the idea for [the comic] after reading that people had trouble remembering the WHO-recommended method,” she said. “It’s useful because you can print it out and hang it by your sink, or give it to your grandmother or favorite restaurant to hang by their sink.”

Through six illustrations, she suggests how to rub palms like a snickering villain, rub the backs of hands like piggybacking spiders, rub palms like spiders kissing, rub backs of fingers with a kung fu grip, rub thumbs like you’re gripping a motorcycle throttle, and rub fingertips like you’re using a mortar and pestle.

In 2018, Forney curated an exhibition for the National Library of Medicine on “graphic medicine,” comics about health and healthcare.

She’s also is the author of the graphic memoir Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me, which is taught in Wesleyan’s Life Writing course by Charles Barber, associate professor of the practice in the College of Letters. She’s also spoken with his class twice, most recently during the Spring 2019 semester.

Students Discuss Wesleyan’s Sustainability Efforts during Earth Month

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, Wesleyan’s Sustainability Office led a virtual WesFest session to introduce Class of 2024 admitted students and their families to the office.

Several Eco Facilitators and Sustainability Interns from the Wesleyan Sustainability Office, and members of the Wesleyan Green Fund and other environmental sustainability groups on campus shared information on the sustainability scene at Wesleyan. There are currently a total of 16 Eco Facilitators, two Eco Facilitator coordinators, five compost interns, three sustainability coordinators and one Sustainable Middletown intern.

Sustainability Director Jen Kleindienst explained the office’s three main purposes: to reduce Wesleyan’s environmental footprint; to ensure students are exposed to information on sustainability and environmental justice in their courses; and to focus on the office’s intern program to build more of a culture of sustainability on campus.

“We’re trying to bring sustainability to more people [and] make it more accessible, . . . bring in intersectional issues as much as possible, and we’re always looking to evolve,” Kleindienst said. “We’re excited to have you here today to talk about what we do and get you excited about coming to Wesleyan!”

salma

During a virtual discussion on Wesleyan’s Sustainability Office, Eco Facilitator Salma Hassan ’22 shared her efforts on encouraging students to return their eco-to-go food containers; collaborating with the Wesleyan Resource Center on including intersectionality in environmentalism; and expanding the topic of environmental justice into more Wesleyan classes. Hassan, a psychology, French studies, and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies triple major, worked with fellow Eco Facilitator Chloe Johnson ’22 to start eco-to-go collection hours in first-year student residence complexes where students could drop off the containers on site rather than returning them to the dining halls. The effort worked, and Wesleyan’s Dining Services reported an uptick in the amount of containers returned.

Best of Wes: Alumni in Sports II

Several Wes alumni went on to pursue jobs in sports and athletics. While some became professional athletes on nationally-recognized teams, others delved into coaching, refereeing, sports reporting, and team management. In this “Best of Wes” article, read about Wes alumni who turned their love of the game into a lifelong passion and career. (Interested in other Wesleyan-themed lists? Check out our previous “Best of Wes” pieces, including Alumni in Sports I.)

Field Yates

Field Yates ’09

Field Yates ’09 is a National Football League (NFL) Insider for ESPN and co-host of ESPN Audio’s Fantasy Focus Football podcast. He joined ESPN in 2012 and is a regular contributor to NFL Live, SportsCenter, and Fantasy Football Now pregame show. Yates also co-hosts a pair of ESPN Radio shows, Operation Football and Football Friendzy. Prior to ESPN, Yates spent two seasons scouting and coaching with the Kansas City Chiefs and interned for four summers with the New England Patriots front office. At Wesleyan, Yates majored in psychology and played football and lacrosse. Read more about Yates in this recent Wesleyan University Magazine feature.

Ngodup ’20, Joshi ’20, Khun ’20 Inducted Into ASBMB Honor Society

For demonstrating exceptional achievement in academics, undergraduate research, and science outreach, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology inducted Tenzin Ngodup ’20, Meera Joshi ’20, and Charya Khun ’20 into the ASBMB Honor Society, ΧΩΛ.

ΧΩΛ recognizes exceptional undergraduate juniors and seniors pursuing degrees in the molecular life sciences at colleges or universities. To be eligible, undergraduate nominees must be members of an ASBMB student chapter, and maintain a minimum of a 3.4 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

Nominations may be submitted by either a faculty ASBMB member or by the student member.

Ngodup, Joshi, and Khun are among only 56 students from around the country who were inducted into the honor society in 2020. All three are members of the Mukerji Lab, which is managed by Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

The Mukerji Lab research uses spectroscopic tools to investigate challenging problems in biology by exploring the structure-function relationship of biomolecules.

Wesleyan Investment Group Takes 1st Place in Adirondack Cup

Adirondack Cup 2020

The Wesleyan Investment Group outperformed the Russel 2000 index with a portfolio return of 44% higher than their market benchmark. The team won The Adirondack Cup based on receiving the highest return on their initial investment.

The student-run Wesleyan Investment Group (WIG) is celebrating a first-place victory in a six-month-long collegiate investment contest that concluded April 9.

Despite the COVID-19 epidemic’s detrimental impact to the stock market, WIG managed to garner a 27.04% return in the 2019–20 Adirondack Cup, a stock-picking contest sponsored by the advisor to The Adirondack Small Cap Fund (ADKSX). Wesleyan competed against 22 other institutions in New England and New York.

Each student team managed a hypothetical $1 million portfolio consisting of five small cap equities. Team members studied the performance of more than 100 businesses and predicted which ones would perform the best between October 2019 and April 2020. To encourage a long-term focus, teams are only allowed to change their portfolio once during the competition.