Olivia Drake

Sight for Cinema: Assistant Professor of Film Studies Looks for Directors’ Visual Styles


Lisa Dombrowski, assistant professor of film studies, is a 1992 Wesleyan alumna, and is a specialist on film form, the American film industry and contemporary East Asian cinema.
 
Posted 02/01/06
Lisa Dombrowski rarely watches a movie just once.

Or twice. Or even 10 times. In fact, it often takes her more than 20 screenings to fully analyze a film.

“Each time I watch a film, I’m looking at it for different reasons,” explains the assistant professor of film studies. “I’ll watch it once to get the initial sense of the narrative, and the next time I’ll count how many shots are in it, and then I’ll focus on the use of the camera, for instance. Is the director using lots of close-ups, or is the camera far from the subject? Is the camera moving a lot? Essentially I’m looking for how the filmmakers’ choices influence our viewing experience.”

Dombrowski, a 1992 Wesleyan alumna, is a specialist on film form and analysis, authorship, the history of film style, the American film industry and contemporary East Asian cinema.

Dombrowski teaches Introduction to Film Analysis; The American Film Industry during the Studio Era; American Independent Filmmaking; and Contemporary East Asian Cinema. This spring, she’s teaching Melodrama and the Woman’s Picture and Contemporary International Art Cinema.

In her classes, she often replaces textbooks with films. Dombrowski accentuates the importance of visual style and has her students look for ways in which filmmakers employ narrative structure, composition and framing, editing, lighting, camera angles and movement, and sound to cue certain emotional and intellectual responses.

She cites as an example Steven Spielberg’s 1975 thriller “Jaws.” Viewers are introduced to the shark from his visual perspective in the water. What he sees as he swims, combined with the tension-packed musical score, give the audience clues that the shark is on a man hunt.

“We begin affiliating the famous ‘dun-da dun-da’ musical motif with the shark on the prowl for human flesh,” Dombrowski explains. “We actually see very little of the shark until late in the film, so when the shark finally emerges from the water, the shock value is very strong.”

Dombrowski, who also advises the student-run Wesleyan Film Series, says selecting films to show in her classes is a time-consuming and challenging aspect of her position. Only a fraction of all motion pictures are available from distributors, and 35mm film prints can cost more than $800 each to rent. She prefers to show films in the Center for Film Studies’ new state-of-the-art Goldsmith Family Cinema. That way, students can watch the film the way the director originally intended it to be seen: on the silver screen.

Janine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, curator of the Cinema Archives and chair of the Film Studies Department says Dombrowski was one of the most brilliant students she taught in the Wesleyan film major. Basinger encouraged her bright pupil to get a master’s and Ph.D so she could teach at the collegiate level.

“Lisa is a great addition to our department,” Basinger says. “She brings the ability to teach classes in new areas: the contemporary cinema, East Asian cinema, the history of the film industry, and the independent cinema. Her colleagueship is outstanding, and she’s reached out to the entire campus to help connect Film Studies to all four divisions. Her brains, her energy, her enthusiasm make her a real asset for Film Studies and for Wesleyan.”

In addition to teaching, Dombrowski is reviewing the production notebooks of director Elia Kazan, whose papers are held in the Wesleyan Cinema Archives. Kazan, who directed post-WWII films including “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and “On the Waterfront”, took meticulous notes concerning all aspects of his productions, from the acting to the cinematography. Dombrowski plans to edit a publication based on the filmmaker’s thorough journals.

In the past few years, Dombrowski has presented conference papers on the aesthetics of black and white widescreen pictures in the 1950s; the distribution strategies adopted by Miramax in the release of Hong Kong films in the United States; and comparative approaches to low-budget filmmaking. In March, she will present “Adrift in Time: Free-floating Camera Movement, Memory, and Loss,” at the Society for Cinema & Media Studies Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

Dombrowski didn’t always have a heart for Hollywood. A resident of Akron, Ohio during high school, she came to Wesleyan in 1988 to study English and history. During her first year, she took two film courses, which opened her eyes to a new way of watching film. She ended up majoring in American studies and film studies, graduating from Wesleyan in 1992.

“When I was younger, like anyone, I went to movies and looked for a good story line, solid acting and beautiful visuals, but I was never thinking about the choices that filmmakers made, and why I responded in a certain way,” she says. “When you watch film as an artistic creation, and see its historical and cultural context, it becomes a completely different experience.”

During a 16mm viewing of Samuel Fuller’s 1963 thriller “Shock Corridor” in Prof. Jeanine Basinger’s Film Noir class, Dombrowski found herself curled into her seat, stunned by the director/producer’s bold approach and shocking visual style. Fuller would later become the focus of her dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received her master’s of arts and Ph.D. in film.

Dombrowski has rewritten her dissertation into a soon-to-be-published book, “If You Die, I’ll Kill You: The Cinema of Samuel Fuller.” The book highlights Fuller’s career from the late 1940s through the 1980s, and examines his films from an aesthetic perspective.

Dombrowski has written or co-authored three recent grants, including a Wesleyan University Pedagogical Grant in 2003; an Edward W. Snowdon Fund Grant in 2004; and a Fund for Innovation Grant in 2005. She’s used these grants to develop a Contemporary International Art Cinema course, support an interdepartmental film and speaker series and support interdisciplinary courses, workshops, and speaker events on science and visualization.

She still tries to catch as many new flicks in the theater as possible. Her recent theater trips included viewings of “The New World,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “King Kong,” “Match Point” and “Pride & Prejudice.”

Her interest in international and independent films has also taken her to the South by Southwest Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, The Chicago Film Festival, and The New York Film Festival. She’s been a jury member for the Bethel Film Festival in Bethel, Conn. and Film Fest New Haven; and she’s served as curator of the Samuel Fuller Series at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cinematheque.

She’s studied thousands of films, averaging two a day. But to date, there’s still one film-related question she’ll always shrug her shoulders at.

“So, what’s your favorite movie?”

“I’ll never have an answer for that,” she says, smiling. “There are too many good movies out there, each with its own distinct style, to have only one favorite.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Fish May Help Unmask Muscle Diseases


Stephen Devoto, associate professor of biology, neuroscience and behavior, studies vertebrate developmental patterns in zebrafish.
Posted 02/01/06
A tiny fish popular with aquarium enthusiasts is poised to make a big splash in our understanding of muscle development. The results could have implications on the comprehension and perhaps treatment of muscular dystrophy, certain types of heart disease and other serious muscle-based ailments.

These findings by Stephen Devoto, associate professor of associate professor of biology, neuroscience and behavior were recently published in the paper titled “Generality of vertebrate developmental patterns: evidence for a dermomyotome in fish,” in the January issue of the scientific journal Evolution & Development.

Devoto’s research examined the musculature of the tiny zebrafish, an aquarium favorite indigenous to South Asian streams. What the researcher found was that although fish and human beings comprise widely different physical forms, their underlying muscular development is much more similar than scientists had previously believed.

“This research validates the idea that understanding fish development will tell us how human muscle stem cells develop at the very beginning stages,” says Devoto, who has been studying zebrafish at Wesleyan since 1992. “At their very basic level, we found developmental similarities between all vertebrates are much more striking than previously documented.”

In basic terms, Devoto’s work compared the cell layer that contributes to muscle formation in many different vertebrate species, including zebrafish, trout, skates and chickens, among others. He demonstrated that this cell layer in fish, know as the dermomyotome evolved prior to the last common ancestor of all vertebrates.

“It was one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments,” admits Devoto, who has always been fascinated by how cells talk to one another, how they are created and how they morph. “It was the kind of moment that is so rewarding for a scientist.”

But such moments are rare and often require tremendous amounts of work in and out of the lab. In Devoto’s case, the journey actually took him to Europe.

While on sabbatical at Kings College in London during 2004, Devoto engaged in many lengthy talks with Simon Hughes who was Devoto’s host. Hughes, who provided Devoto with laboratory access during his stay in London, is also a fellow co-author, about chicken and frog muscle development.

“Our conversations planted the initial seeds that maybe muscle in all vertebrates is formed the same way,” Devoto says.

Their ideas were solidified after Devoto reviewed a cross section of trout embryos with Walter Stoiber, another co-author, at the University of Salzburg in Austria.

“Surprisingly, these connections had not been demonstrated before,” Devoto says.

After returning to Wesleyan in the summer of 2004, he threw himself into researching the early muscle cell development in as many fish species as he could find.

Katherine Wolfe, an Olin Library assistant in the Interlibrary Loan Department, helped Devoto obtain copies of obscure hand-drawings and research from the 1800 and 1900s. Often he had to do his own translations of the German and French citations.

“I got so excited when I found out one of the journals was in I couldn’t wait to analyze it,” Devoto says. “It turned out that some nineteenth century scientists doing comparative embryology suspected these similarities, but they did not have the ability to provide conclusive evidence back then.

After analyzing their findings, Devoto and co-authors began writing the paper in the fall of 2004.

Devoto and his team continues their research with zebrafish. The tiny fish are a transparent species that is easy to study and breed. Currently, about 5,000 of the fish reside in his laboratory.

One of Devoto’s ongoing projects examines their skeletal muscle signaling protein, named Hedgehog. He and his colleagues learned that, when the protein is intentionally blocked in zebrafish, muscle development is disrupted. With his new work demonstrating close similarities between fish and humans in muscle development, Devoto believes that it is very likely that Hedgehog signaling is required for muscle development in humans. Anomalies in this signaling may underlie some muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy and certain types of heart disease.

Devoto and his undergraduate and graduate students are also trying to find out what happens next to the embryonic zebrafish muscle cells after they form.

“We’re now extending our thought process and asking ourselves where do the cells go from this point and what exactly does this mean?”

 
By Laura Perillo,  associate director of Media Relations

Wesleyan Professor Collaborates with other Universities on Stem Cell Research Initiative


Posted 02/01/06

Laura Grabel, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science and professor of biology, is working with Connecticut’s Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee on ways to save the state money on a research laboratory.

 

Grabel along with scientists from Yale University and the University of Connecticut, believe at least one core laboratory could be established in the state. The scientists told a panel overseeing Connecticut’s 10-year, $100 million stem cell research initiative that they are willing to collaborate and avoid repeating the same work and save money. They said they could share expensive equipment and conduct certain research with human embryonic cells that is not eligible for federal money and prohibited in facilities built using federal funds.
 

The Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee is in the beginning stages of determining how best to distribute the first chunk – $20 million – of the state’s $100 million investment. The committee hopes to award grants this summer, possibly as early as June 30.

Trustee Emeritus Richard Couper Dies


Posted 02/01/06
Richard W. “Dick” Couper died on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at a hospital in New Hartford, N.Y.

Couper served on the Wesleyan University Board of Trustees from 1972 through 1983 and was elected as a trustee emeritus following his retirement from the Board. He was one of the longest serving trustees of his alma mater, Hamilton College, where he was the sixth generation of his family to attend.

Couper served on the boards of more than 60 organizations throughout his life.

He was president emeritus of the New York Public Library, having served as president and chief executive officer from 1971 to 1981. Couper was also president emeritus of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

Couper is survived by his wife Patricia Pogue Couper, and three children, Frederick of West Hartford, Conn.; Thomas, of Los Angeles, Calif.; and Margaret Haskins, of Morrisville, Vt.; and four grandchildren.

Memorial gifts may be sent to the Trustees of Hamilton College, 198 College Hill Road, Clinton, NY 13323, or the President’s Office, The New York Public Library, 42nd and Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018.

A memorial minute will be presented in recognition of Couper’s service on behalf of Wesleyan at the February 2006 Board Meeting.

Photo courtesy of Hamilton College.

President Bennet Attends Summit on International Education


Posted 02/01/06
Editor’s Note: The following article is written by Douglas Bennet, president of Wesleyan University.

During the first week of January I represented Wesleyan at a two-day summit on international education hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. The summit brought together 120 college presidents to discuss concerns, opportunities, and initiatives related to study abroad for U.S. students and study in the U.S. for international students. Both President Bush and Mrs. Bush addressed the summit.

The summit gave me the chance to reflect on Wesleyan’s role in international education. I was reassured that we are doing well. Many of the initiatives proposed during the summit confirm that we are on track.

President Bush opened the summit by announcing a “national strategic language initiative”. Much of the media attention devoted to the summit focused on his call for $114-million to teach languages critical for national security to students from kindergarten through college. While the President’s comments focused on security issues, colleges engage in international education for reasons that go far beyond war and security.

Secretary of Education Spellings’ remarks broadened the goals of language study as a way to prepare students to engage in all facets of global business, economic, research, as well as security issues. She pointed out that only 44 percent of U.S. high school students study any foreign language while most European and Asian countries require that all their students take a second language.

Wesleyan has been very strong in language and studies of cultures for a long time. Most students arrive here with a substantial background in at least one foreign language and are likely to study a new language while they are here. While only 8 percent of college students nationally take any foreign language courses, 60 percent of Wesleyan students enroll in at least one foreign language class. We do not formally require language study, but some of our language faculty have found Wesleyan students more interested and motivated because they are choosing to study a language instead of filling a language requirement. In addition to European languages, Wesleyan students are very interested in Arabic, Chinese and Japanese. We will consider where there are ways to connect the Wesleyan curriculum that the President’s critical language initiative.

Slightly more than half of our students participate in study abroad programs compared with 2 percent of all U.S. college students. Of those, half participate in programs outside Western Europe – considerably more than at our peer institutions. Having spent several years working on economic development issues, both here and abroad, I am convinced that many aspects of globalization are most clearly understood in these emerging countries.

Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes raised the issue of how to make it easier for science students find research opportunities abroad. Our science faculty regularly travel and collaborate internationally in their research, but it’s more difficult for our science students to participate in a semester abroad without disrupting their research. We will follow up on initiatives raised at the summit and look for opportunities to expand study abroad options for science majors.

When the President and Secretary Rice each mentioned finding a balance between security considerations and attracting international students to study in the U.S. they received loud applause. I hope the summit helped calibrate this balance. We must compete successfully for international scholars and students if the United States is to offer an education with a meaningful global perspective. As the President and others recognized, many current world leaders were educated in the United States.

Wesleyan will continue to recruit international students and faculty. Currently, 6 percent of our student body comes from abroad. This figure includes 88 Freeman Asian Scholars from 11 Southeast Asian countries who are at Wesleyan for a full four years. All of these students bring an international perspective to the campus. The Freeman Asian Scholars program is without precedent elsewhere and a truly unique asset for Wesleyan.

There will always be more to do as we prepare our students for a global society and our current strategic plan, “Engaged with the World,” sets ambitious goals for us. Still, I returned from the summit knowing that Wesleyan’s engagement with international issues is robust and ongoing.

Events Educate About Diversity


Posted 02/01/06
As part of Wesleyan’s on-going efforts to provide staff education dedicated to diversity issues, the Office of Affirmative Action is sponsoring a workshop, “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Academic Workplace,” on Feb. 9.

The workshop will be offered twice: at 9:30 a.m. in the Russell House, and at 1:30 p.m. in Woodhead Lounge. Each session meets for two hours and 15 minutes.

“This workshop will provide frameworks for understanding sexual orientation and gender identity in a more integrated way and offer participants in-community perspectives on work-related issues,” explains Michael Benn, interim director of Affirmative Action.

The workshop will be conducted by Dorothea Brauer, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning & Ally Services, Diversity & Equity at the University of Vermont.

Topics of discussion will include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights, same-sex marriages versus civil unions, benefits and family configurations.

Participants will have opportunities to work with language and terminology and become more culturally competent and confident that their workplace conversations are respectful and inclusive.

Wesleyan’s revised and expanded policy on discrimination and harassment can be found online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/affirm/policy_harassment.html.

Space is limited to 30 participants per workshop. For more information or to register e-mail Janice Watson at jwatson@wesleyan.edu or call 860-685-2006.


Pedro Noguera Challenges Racial Inequality in Schools

The Office of Affirmative Action and The Center for Faculty Career Development sponsored a discussion titled “Challenging Racial Inequality in Our Schools” featuring Pedro Noguera on Feb. 1

Noguera, a professor specializing in urban sociology in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University, spoke on the ways schools are influenced by social and economic conditions in the urban environment.

Noguera has served as an advisor and engaged in collaborative research with several large urban school districts throughout the United States. He has also done research on issues related to education and economic and social development in the Caribbean, Latin America and several other countries throughout the world.

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

THE FINAL TOUCHES: The Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies new west wing addition will open at the end of January. Construction began in August 2005.

Construction crews work on the new seminar room, which overlooks the Freeman Center’s Japanese garden. The seminar room will be used for classes up to 25 students, East Asian Studies’ events, dinners, conferences and its Colloquium Series, Japanese Tea Ceremonies and tai chi classes.
Patrick Dowdey, curator of the Freeman Center, and Shirley Lawrence, program coordinator, take a closer look at the new seminar room. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)
Patrick Dowdey stands in the addition’s new entrance. The hall behind him features the curator’s office, an art storage room and a spacious examination room, which will be used for classes to examine art objects. The hallway connects the original Freeman Center with the new wing. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)

Perfect Web Sight: Web Manager Designs Wesleyan’s Online Communications with Consistent Message, Look, Feel


Jen Carlstrom, Web Manager in the Office of University Communications, helps departments learn to update their own Web site information.

 
Posted 01/17/06

Jen Carlstrom grew up sketching Disney cartoon characters, molding clay figurines and designing Christmas cards on her father’s computers. As she matured, so did Carlstrom’s love for art and technology, which has ultimately led to a career as Wesleyan’s Web manager.

“I’ve always loved drawing and using the computer to create arts projects,” she recalls. “Designing on the Web combines those two passions I’ve had since I was a child.”

Carlstrom, who came to the Office of University Communications in 2001, is celebrating her fifth year building and designing Web pages this year at Wesleyan. She came to the university with a bachelor’s of fine art in graphic design from the University of Connecticut and an extensive list of high profile clients, including Pfizer, Philip Morris, Allied Domecq and IBM. Her work included leading multimedia projects, designing Web sites, working on interface design and helping come up with companies’ visual identities.

As Wesleyan’s Web Manager, Carlstrom oversees communications through the Web by making sure Wesleyan’s pages have a consistent message, look and feel. She stresses branding, or the visual way Wesleyan is marketed to the public.

“We want to create a consistent, recognizable identity in all our Web communications,” Carlstrom says. “This includes our logo, colors, fonts and imagery. We also help to leverage technology to communicate to our audiences.”

Carlstrom says accomplishing this can, at times, be challenging. Departments, which Carlstrom refers to her as clients, want to have their own identity and a site that stands out from the others. Carlstrom tries to give departments this freedom but within the cohesiveness of the university’s standards and identity.

“When we get a client who wants green text on a blue background, we explain that we want to help market their department, but consistency with the other Wesleyan pages can be a good thing,” she says. “We hope to create all department Web sites with a cohesive and unified look and feel while keeping the department’s identity with certain features in our templates.”

Carlstrom points to the sites created for the English Department, http://www.wesleyan.edu/english/, and the Art and Art History Department, http://www.wesleyan.edu/art/, as recent examples. Carlstrom was able to work with the departments to retain their unique own look and feel and yet remain quickly identifiable as “Wesleyan” sites – a task that’s not as easy as it sounds or looks.

“Jen brought a real clarity to the process, and she did it with a lot of good humor and patience,” says Marlisa Simonson, associate director for employer relations at Wesleyan’s Community Resource Center (CRC). “She helped us figure out our needs and then worked with us throughout the process to make sure that we were thinking in terms of both design and functionality.”

Simonson said functionality was a key because CRC’s site http://www.wesleyan.edu/crc experiences heavy traffic.

“It was much more than just upgrading a look that met our needs and got it in line with university standards,” she says. “We really wanted to improve the way the site provided service. Jen was great in helping us reach all those goals.”

A big part of Carlstrom’s job continues to be working with clients to update their sites with the newly-created Wesleyan style and providing better Web-based services to their audiences.

“Jen has taken on a set of formidable challenges: to make Wesleyan’s Web site a vehicle for effective communication with all the University’s constituencies, to integrate our online and print collateral, and to develop new media as part of our portfolio,” says Justin Harmon, the director of communications. “Wesleyan has strong platforms and needs leadership to realize the potential of these media. I am grateful that we are led by a professional who so deeply understands both the available technologies and communication design.”

Carlstrom’s Web team includes Web designer Ryan Lee and senior designer Anne Marcotty. The staff frequently consults with Pat Leone, World Wide Web administrator for technical issues in Information Technology Services (ITS). During the last few years, Leone worked with Carlstrom to implement a template system that gives university pages a consistent look and feel, and enables offices and departments to maintain current content.

Along with creating Web pages, Carlstrom and her colleagues have created Wesleyan screen savers; the new virtual tour; e-mails using HTML, the software language used on the Internet’s World Wide Web; and multimedia products for University Relations using Macromedia Flash. Carlstrom also co-developed a DVD slideshow for the alumni donor reception and another DVD of the university’s master plan for prospective donors.

“We strive to better communicate our message using these technologies,” she says.

The entire process of building a department’s Web site takes roughly six weeks, depending on the client’s schedule. Carlstrom holds an initial meeting with the client and discusses ideas and educates the client on the best use of the Web for their purposes. The Web team then designs a site based on the client’s needs.

After a client approves the design, Carlstrom oversees the building of templates and training of the client on how to upload content onto their pages. These training sessions are usually about three hours long and provide clients with the know-how to manage their own sites.

Carlstrom also suggests clients new to Web design take additional software training in Adobe GoLive if they use a Mac, or Microsoft Office FrontPage if they are PC users.

Because she is doing this for the entire university, as well as the other projects mentioned, Carlstrom has to be a master of multi-tasking. In between playing watchdog to multiple Web projects, she spends her days “usually in a lot of meetings” with clients or her Web staff. She’s constantly communicating with the clients on the phone or through e-mail, in addition to working on her projects.

“We’re always here if the client has any questions,” she says.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Turf’s Up! New Synthetic Field to Open in Spring


Posted 01/17/06
Thanks to more than $920,000 in private donations, including one from a notable alumnus, Wesleyan will install a new synthetic turf field in hopes of having it ready for play this spring.

The field will be located on the grounds of the former Long Lane School and provide a competitive playing surface for Wesleyan’s varsity lacrosse and field hockey teams, as well as foul-weather practice space for other varsity sports including football and soccer. Baseball and softball teams will also use the field for pre-season practice in late February when Bacon Field House becomes overcrowded. The field will be available for selected club sports, intramural play, sport camps and some use by the local community, as well.

Wesleyan is installing the field in part to maintain a competitive edge with peer schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).

“The sport of field hockey in particular has adopted synthetic turf as the surface of choice,” says John Biddiscombe, Wesleyan’s director of athletics and chair of physical education. “The synthetic turf provides a faster, more exciting game for participants and spectators. High schools throughout the country are moving field hockey games and practices from grass to synthetic surfaces and soon high school players will come to Wesleyan with an expectation to play on the artificial surface.”

The same can be said for lacrosse.

More than 160 alumni and parents earmarked donations for the field, including one of Wesleyan’s more famous former lacrosse players, Bill Belichick, ’75. Belichick is coach of the New England Patriots and father of Amanda, ‘07, who is a varsity lacrosse player.

The field will be composed of Polytan Megagrass 2025. The project is scheduled for completion by April of this year. Wesleyan is hoping raise an additional $300,000 to outfit the field with lights, bleachers, a scoreboard, protective netting and other amenities.

Several alumni, parents and friends of the university have been actively involved in helping to raise the funding for the field, including Moira Byer P’06, David Campbell ’75, P’10, Michael and Marilyn Dee P’06, Mike McKenna ’73, Preston Smith ’64, P’06, Jim Walsh P’07 and Cole and Katherine Werble P’07.

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Ergonomics Target Workplace Strain, Pain


Steve Windsor, database administrator, suffers from repetitive strain injury and uses special ergonomic tools at work such as rubber-ball chair, a specially designed mouse, a headset and a touch-sensitive keyboard.
Posted 01/17/06
Working on a computer all day can become a real pain in the neck (and the back and forearms and hands). Fortunately, a new ergonomics Web site created by Information Technology Services has several suggestions to keep bodies in balance.

The site, http://www.wesleyan.edu/its/ergonomics/, offers advice on good working positions, stretches, workstation guidelines for health, an office ergonomics checklist and even the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s guidelines for proper video display viewing.

Ergonomics is the science that studies the relationship of humans to their working environment and seeks to improve working conditions and increase efficiency. Proper ergonomics can prevent repetitive strain injury, explains Steve Windsor, database administrator.

“Repetitive strain injuries are a subtle affliction which may develop undetected for months or years before it is noticed by the user,” Windsor says. “Correspondingly, it may take the same amount of time for the user to completely heal.”

Windsor knows about work-related physical stress first hand. Ten years ago, the then-corporate programmer noticed tightness in his neck and shoulders and pain in his arms and wrists. He tried to ignore the pain for several months, but by the time he saw a doctor and was prescribed physical therapy, it was too late. For six months, he was unable to type, and any forms of gripping – jars, door handles, steering wheel and even shaking hands – became too painful to bear. Windsor lost his job as a result.

In 1997, Windsor came to Wesleyan where “they were very receptive and supportive of my condition,” he explains. Windsor currently goes to physical therapy sessions in combination with anti-inflammatory drugs and nutritive supplements.

At work, he uses a rubber-ball chair to align his spine, a specially designed mouse, a headset that he can use to dictate text rather than type it, and a touch-sensitive keyboard that eliminates the need to push keys.

Several body-aligning illustrations are depicted on Wesleyan’s ergonomics Web site. The site suggests simple stretches, such as a head rotation, lateral neck stretch, finger flexor stretch, standing back bend and arm stretch.

Each stretch should be performed throughout the workday, explains Brandi Hood, senior project coordinator for Physical Plant and ergonomics expert. Hood makes formal assessment of Wesleyan employees’ workstations.

Windsor says when an employee is diagnosed with a repetitive strain injury a typical reaction is to throw ergonomic equipment at the problem. However, the employee’s posture and work habits are the most important issues to study for a correct diagnosis.

“All the ergonomic equipment in the world will not affect positive change unless the user addresses postural and working habits,” says Windsor.

When setting up a computer workstation, Hood suggests that employees should be aware of neutral body positioning. This is a comfortable working posture in which joins are naturally aligned. This reduced stress and strain on the muscles, tendons and skeletal system.

“Proper posture and limb alignment include making sure your feet are flat on the floor, your butt is all the way back in the chair, your back is in contact with the back of the chair, and your arms are relaxed close to your sides to reduce the severe angles between your shoulder and elbow and your elbow and wrists,” she says.

These postures are illustrated on the ergonomics site.

This year, Hood and Julia Hicks, associate director of Human Resources, are planning at least one ergonomics session for Wesleyan employees.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Hoop Hopes: Coach Celebrates 10th Year Leading Wesleyan’s Basketball Team


Wesleyan head men’s basketball coach Gerry McDowell, center, hangs out near the hoops with varsity players Eric Winters ’08, left, and Jim Shepherd ’07. McDowell has coached the team for 10 years.
 
Posted 01/17/06
Q: When did you become the head men’s basketball coach at Wesleyan, Gerry?

A: I began coaching here in 1996, so this my 10th year at Wesleyan.

Q: I understand you entered the season with a 113-103 record. Is it true you had a streak of seven consecutive winning seasons?

A: Yes, it is true. However, our performance in the next game and our growth as a team this season is all that really matters.

Q: Can you briefly sum up the season so far?

A: We are evolving into a very good defensive team. Our success will depend on maintaining a high level of defensive execution and improving our defensive rebounding. NESCAC is a very strong conference and every opponent will provide a big challenge as well as an excellent opportunity to make some noise in the conference.

Q: When does the NESCAC tournament begin?

A: This year the tournament begins on February 18 with the top eight teams competing on that day.

Q: Prior to Wesleyan, where did you coach?

A: I began my teaching and coaching career on Cape Cod at Barnstable High School. I coached at the freshman, junior varsity and varsity levels and learned how to teach the game. I gained experience at the college level at Colby College as an assistant coach to Dick Whitmore. His son, Richard Whitmore, is Wesleyan’s facilities manager in our Athletic Department.

Q: When did you decide to go into coaching?

A: My student-teaching experience while I was at Colby led me into a 12-year teaching stint at Barnstable High. I learned that I enjoyed the challenge of motivating young people in the classroom. Ultimately, my desire to motivate players who are passionate about basketball led to a move to the college level.

Q: What type of training methods do you use for your players?

A: The biggest adjustment a player has to make is adapting to the physical nature of college basketball. A commitment to a weight program is a must. In order to become an effective player he must be able to play through the physical contact that is part of the game.

Q: What are you looking for in a player when recruiting?

A: A student athlete must show that he has the ability to succeed academically. Wesleyan must be appealing to him for a lot more than simply basketball. After that, I am looking for mentally strong and physically tough players. They must be resilient in order to handle the challenges of a season. A player must demonstrate that he possesses and understanding of team play in order to be a candidate for Wesleyan basketball.

Q: When does practice begin and how do you prepare the athletes for games?

A: All winter sports teams begin practicing on November 1. We begin the season by working on conditioning, drilling the fundamentals of the game and implementing our offensive and defensive approach. Developing a familiarity of each opponent is vital and adjustments to our approach are introduced and drilled in the days leading up to each game.

Q: Who are your key players this year, and what are your general thoughts on the team overall?

A: This year’s captain is Jared Ashe ’07. He is an all-conference caliber guard who is extremely competitive player and a great leader.

Q: Do your student athletes participate in other sports?

A: There are six two-sport athletes on our team. Jared is an All-NESCAC performer on the soccer team. Blake Curry ’07, Mike Raymond ’08 and Steve Tolbert ’09 are members of the football team. Sam Grover ’08 competed in the triple jump at nationals last year as a freshman. Jon Sargent ’09 will pitch for the baseball team in the spring.

Q: What is the most rewarding factor about being a Cardinal coach?

A: The opportunity to represent Wesleyan University is rewarding and leading a group of athletes who take pride in Wesleyan is truly a unique experience.

Q: As an adjunct professor of physical education, what sports-related classes do you teach at Wesleyan?

A: Introductory and Beginning Tennis are my physical education assignments. It’s a lot of fun meeting and coaching students in a life-long activity like tennis.

Q: Tell me about the Cardinal Hoop Clinic.

A: The Cardinal Hoop Clinic is a basketball camp for boys and girls from age 8-15. Members of the men and women’s basketball team are vital to the success of the clinic. They serve as coaches and teach the fundamentals of the game, conduct drills and contests that reinforce the skills involved in basketball and serve as role models for the campers. This summer the Clinic will run from June 26-30. Anyone who is interested should call me at 860-685-2918.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Financial Planner Oversees $65M Budget for Academic Affairs


Janine Lockhart, financial planner and analyst in the Office of Academic Affairs, finds the best options for meeting the demands of Wesleyan’s five-year financial plans.
 
Posted 01/17/06
Q: Janine, so you’re the financial planner and analyst in the Office of Academic Affairs.

A: Yes, although I usually am introduced as the budget person since that’s a more familiar concept for most people.

Q: When did you come here?

A: I came to Wesleyan and this position in July 2004. Several others held the position before me, including Sun Chyung, with whom I work closely in her current capacity as the budget director for Wesleyan.

Q: Explain what your role is as a financial planner? What budgets do you monitor?

A: I oversee the annual operating budget for Academic Affairs, which amounts to $65 million and consists of funding for more than 50 departments and programs.

Q: What does the analyst part of your job consist of?

A: Although I don’t really think of them separately, as an analyst I look at the potential impact of various planning options, policy changes or funding changes, as well as monitor the outcome of the plans that are implemented.

Q: What are typical questions or problems people would come to you with?

A: I provide support for a variety of issues –everything from how to use various components of the financial/reporting systems to which account/object code should be used for a particular expenditure to finding funding for unanticipated needs.

Q: What are some of the big challenges in your job right now?

A: Right now, it’s the challenge of finding the best options for meeting the demands of Wesleyan’s five-year financial plans.

Q: Who are the key people you work with in Academic Affairs?

A: I work closely with everyone in Academic Affairs, as well as a number of people in Financial Affairs and Information Technology Services on a regular basis.

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

A: I’ve worked primarily in higher education and the arts, most recently as the budget officer at a medical school in Ohio.

Q: Where are you from?

A: I grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio, a small town where the Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia borders meet, which was once the pottery capital of the world. I lived throughout northeastern Ohio until I moved to Connecticut last year.

Q: Where did you attend college and what did you major in?

A: I have a bachelor’s degree in French horn performance from the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University in Ohio. I’ve also completed graduate coursework in arts administration.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

A: I love to read, go to the movies, and keep up with the crazy antics of my family. I’ve served as a volunteer for various arts organizations and feel fortunate to have played a very small role in helping out at Green Street Arts Center since coming to Wesleyan.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor