Olivia Drake

Economics Department, Latin American Studies Welcomes New Assistant Professor


Francisco Rodriguez, assistant professor of economics and Latin American Studies is still getting settled into his new office. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
 
Posted 10/01/05

Francisco Rodriguez has joined the Economics Department and Latin American Studies Department as an assistant professor.

He accepted the position because of the “intellectual freedom and environment of a liberal arts institution, as well as the high quality and openness of both the Economics and Latin American Studies departments,” he says.

Rodriguez’s research examines economic growth in developing countries and the interaction between inequality, distributive conflict and economic performance.

He’ll be teaching classes on international trade, economics of Latin America and economic and societal collapses.

Rodriguez received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas, Venezuela and his master’s in economics from Harvard University. He earned his Ph.D from Harvard with a thesis titled “Essays on the Political Economy of Redistribution and Growth.”

Rodriguez most recently completed a visiting fellowship at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Between 2000 and 2004, Rodriguez was the chief economist of the Venezuelan National Assembly. Before that, he had worked as an assistant professor in the Economics Department of the University of Maryland, College Park.

Rodriguez is the co-author of “The Political Economy of Investment in Human Capital,” which is forthcoming in the Economics of Governance and “Inequality, Redistribution and Rent-Seeking,” published in Economics and Politics, November 2004.

His wife, María Eugenia, is a Ph.D candidate in marketing at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has a step-daughter, Celeste, 12, and a Siamese cat named Shalimar.

Rodriguez’s interests include reading narrative literature. Among his favorite authors are Gunter Grass of Germany, Alejo Carpentier of Cuba, Alberto Fuguet of Chile and Gao Xingjian of China.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Director of Physical Plant Responsible for Building Trades, Utilities, Facilities, Grounds


Cliff Ashton, director of Physical Plant, oversees 75 full-time employees and 50 contract employees from the department’s new home on Long Lane.
 
Posted 10/01/05
Q: Cliff, when did you become the new director of Physical Plant and what do you think of it so far?

A: I came to Wesleyan in the middle of June 2005. The people here have been so nice and helpful getting me acclimated to the place. I look forward to a long career here.

Q: What are your responsibilities?

A: I’m responsible for overall operations and maintenance of the “physical plant” in other words most of the universities’ buildings including the central power plant but excluding rental properties, and the grounds and landscaping. We manage the contractors who mow the lawns in the warm weather and move the snow and spread the sand when it gets cold. Management of our utility consumption and related energy conservation initiatives are also within my scope of responsibility. To do this work, we have facility managers who monitor condition of our buildings, coordinate repair and improvement projects, and serve as our liaison with building users. We have a staff of skilled tradespersons and technicians who operate and monitor the various heating, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems and perform repairs as needed. Our operation is staffed 24×7 round the clock.

Q: How many people work in Physical Plant?

A: We have 75 full-time employees and 59 contract employees.

Q: What is the mission of Physical Plant?

A: We’re responsible for the construction, renovation, repair, maintenance and operation of all buildings and grounds. We have 370 buildings that need to be operated in a safe, environmental manner. These buildings are valuable assets so, just like your home, we try to keep them in as good a shape as possible in view of their age with the resources we have.”

Q: I imagine that can be pretty challenging.

A: The challenge is what attracted me to working here. Wesleyan has several old buildings and maintaining them can be difficult due to age, historic nature and associated restrictions, obsolete systems and availability of replacement parts.

Q: What do Wesleyan’s power bills look like?

A: Our gas, oil and electric budget is $5.6 million. Of that $2.8 million is spent on electricity alone, so conserving energy is one of our biggest priorities that we keep an eye on.

Q: If my office has a flickering fluorescent bulb, what do I do?

A: You would call our customer service office at 685-3400. We have two operators here from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. During off hours, calls are routed to the Power Plant. The operators fill out a work request and that goes into our computer system. The forepersons see the requests and assign a technician to fix the problem. We’ll get someone out there as soon as possible. If situation is not an emergency, it may take a few days to complete any repair.

Q: What are the most common reasons Wesleyan employees call Physical Plant?

A: It runs the gamut – hot, cold complaints in offices and conference rooms, plumbing repairs, lights out, broken windows, doors sticking, fire alarms. Keys are a big one. Keys break or get stuck in a lock or people lose them.

Q: Is one part of the year busier than another?

A: Right now when students and faculty return is one of the busiest. Reunion/commencement is another. Summer and break periods are very busy as those are our short windows of opportunity to get in to student residence areas to make repairs and do preventive maintenance. We are pretty busy throughout the year.

Q: What would happen if Physical Plant closed down for just one day?

A: Well, the power plant would be unattended and that would not be very safe. Repairs would not get done, an overflowing toilet would not get fixed very quickly, students who locked themselves out of their rooms would need to be let in by public safety each time.

Q: How does the new Physical Plant facility on Long Lane benefit your department?

A: Before we moved into the Cady School on Long Lane, Physical Plant was split into different locations on campus. The shop facilities were poor and not conducive to morale. By being consolidated under one roof, we can foster teamwork and employees have a sense of belonging. We can all think under one roof. The new shop facilities should help to improve our service delivery.

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

A: I was working at Middlesex Hospital as a director of engineering. I was managing projects, facilities, clinical engineers, the buildings, physical plant and grounds. Before that, I worked at Northeast Utilities for 18 year in various power plant facility engineering and management roles.

Q: What did you study in college?

A: I have a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s of business administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I’m also a registered professional engineer in the state of Connecticut.

Q: Do you consider yourself to be a handy-man?

A: Yes. I’m always fixing things around the house. My first house in New Britain was a three-family house and I worked on that quite a bit. Many years ago I worked in a machine shop.

Q: What are your hobbies or interests outside of work?

A: I enjoy sailing, snow and water skiing, and working on my model railroad. I‘ve been doing that project for about 15 years. My wife, Teri, and I have a 7-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son, and I’m busy coaching my daughter’s soccer team and my son’s basketball team.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Nobel Laureate Speaks to Classes, Leads Symposium


Posted 10/01/05
First-year chemistry students will have the opportunity to spend some time with a Nobel Laureate at Wesleyan.

Sir Harry Kroto, professor of chemistry at Florida State University, will lecture to chemistry classes at 9 a.m. Oct. 31 in room 84 of Hall-Atwater. Kroto shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996 for discovering C60, a new form of carbon.

In addition, Kroto will present a chemistry symposium titled “Architecture in Nanospace,” at 4 p.m. Oct. 31, also in HA 84, or Exley Science Center 150 if attendance requires it. This symposium will be open to the public.

Formerly a professor at the University of Sussex in Brighton, United Kingdom, Sir Harry has studied carbon chains in space, was a pioneer in the spectroscopic study of molecules with multiple bonds between carbon and phosphorus, and, in his Nobel Prize winning work, discovered and new form of elemental carbon.

“I never dreamed of winning the Nobel Prize,” Kroto wrote in his Nobel-related biography. “Indeed I was very happy with my scientific work prior to the discovery of C60 … and even if I did not do anything else as significant I would have felt quite successful as a scientist.”

Stewart Novick, professor of chemistry, invited Kroto to speak at Wesleyan. They first met at Wesleyan’s annual Leermakers Symposium in 1992. Novick and David Westmoreland, associate professor of chemistry, are combining their CHEM 143 and CHEM 141 classes on Oct. 31 so Kroto can lecture to both introductory chemistry classes at once.

Novick considers Kroto to be a world class researcher who is deeply committed to science education.

“It is characteristic of him that, in addition to the cutting-edge research lecture he is presenting in the afternoon, he will take time in the morning to present a more generally accessible talk to some of the newest members of the scientific community, the students in our introductory courses,” Novick says. “Harry is a spellbinding speaker and we are certain that everyone will enjoy his perspectives on one of the most important and astounding chemical discoveries of the last 50 years.”

Krotto shares the Nobel with Robert Curl Jr. and Richard Smalley, both of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The trio made their discovery during a period of eleven days in 1985. When fine-tuning their experiment, they produced clusters with 60 carbon atoms or C60. This symmetrical molecular structure resembled a geodetic dome designed by American architect R. Buckminster Fuller for the 1967 Montreal World Exhibition. Hence, the scholars named their structure ‘buckminsterfullerene’ or ‘fullerene’, for short.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Chances Are, the Future of History Comes from Wesleyan


Posted 10/01/05
The September, 2005 issue of Perspectives, the monthly publication of the American Historical Association, included a study of history Ph.D.s earned between 1989 and 2002 and showed that the leader in the field was in fact Wesleyan University – even though Wesleyan doesn’t have a Ph.D. program in history.

Though the results may sound incongruous at first, the data is actually quite solid. The study’s author, Robert Townsend, found that a higher percentage of Wesleyan students who earned bachelor’s degrees during the surveyed period went on to earn Ph.D.s in history than undergraduates from any other institution in the United States.

Townsend’s data showed that Wesleyan students earned 607 B.A.s in history from 1987-2002. This aggregate number ranked 13th overall nationwide. However, Wesleyan students went on to earn 100 history Ph.D.s from 1989 to 2002, giving the university a rate of 16 history Ph.D.s earned for every 100 history B.A.s earned within the survey period. This rate was the highest measured and tied Wesleyan with the University of Chicago for best overall ratio. The ratio also exceeded the ratios of all other liberal arts institutions in the country, as well as those of Yale, Harvard, Brown, U.C. Berkeley and Stanford.

It should be noted that though most history Ph.D.s are earned by people who received history B.A.s, this is not always the case, a point that, when considered within the context of the study, further highlights the quality of Wesleyan’s bachelor program in general.

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Information Commons Houses Reference, Technology Support for Students


Olin Library’s new Information Commons features a library reference desk, an Information Technology Services desk and a SARN information and referral desk.
Posted 10/01/05
A new information lab in Olin Memorial Library has merged three services into one.

Information Commons provides library reference, information technology and access to the Student Academic Resources Network (SARN). The facility is located in the Campbell Reference Center on the first floor of the library.

“Students are relying on the Internet more and more to get information, but there’s still a demand for the library’s material, reference services and workspace,” says Dale Lee, information service technician and coordinator of the Information Commons. “Our coordinated services, in-person and online, make it easy to find information.”

The Commons was created by the library staff and Information Technology Services to meet the intellectual needs of students and faculty in the 21st century.

The Commons features a library reference desk, an Information Technology Services desk and a SARN information and referral desk. Each desk is staffed by a trained specialist. While the first two desks provide services familiar to most library users, SARN combines a variety of on campus resources in one area. These include Class Deans, Writing Programs, Math Workshop, Career Resource Center, Language Resource Center, Life Sciences Mentored Study Groups, Dean’s Tutoring Program, Health Professions Partnership Initiative and Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

“We looked at different ways we can collaborate and cooperate, and now students can get reference or technological help all in one place,” Lee says.

Equipment in the Commons includes 18 multi-use computers including 15 personal computers and three Macintosh; four computers for research and Web access; and five stand-up computers for quick look-ups. Standard office programs are provided.

The computers are linked to three black and white printers, one color printer and one scanner. In addition, the space has improved wireless access. The working space arrangements were designed to facilitate group as well as individual work.

This area is only phase one of the Information Commons. Additional group study and instruction rooms will be constructed in the future and will include computer and multi-media equipment.

For more information or comments, e-mail infocommons@wesleyan.edu or contact Lee at dtlee@wesleyan.edu. Information Commons is online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/infocommons/.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Biophysics Retreat Focuses on Research, Information Exchange


At top, Mark Flory, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, lectures to a group during the Sixth Annual Biophysics Retreat for the Molecular Biophysics Program Sept. 15. At left, Maggie Chen, a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Chemistry explains her research titled “Site-Resolved Dynamics and Energetics of a Ribosomal RNA” during the Fall Retreat Poster Session, part of the biophysics program.

Posted 10/01/05
The Sixth Annual Biophysics Retreat was held at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown on Sept. 15.

Organized by David Beveridge, professor of chemistry, Manju Hingorami, assistant professor of molecular biology and Ishita Mikerji, associate professor of molecular biology, the event was supported by the Edward W. Snowdon lecture fund.

The retreat was designed to bring together students and faculty in the molecular biophysics and biological chemistry programs and provide them an opportunity to discuss their current research, explore new ideas and possible collaborative work. About 60 people attended this year’s retreat.

One of the featured speakers was Mark Flory, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

A newly-appointed member of the molecular biology and biochemistry department, Flory spoke about his research which included studying the process by which cancer cells are formed in yeast. By relying on mass spectrometry, an analytical technique used to identify complex compounds, to study yeast cells, Flory hopes that he can gain further insight into why such cells become abnormal during tumors and cancer.

“We are currently looking at the systems in yeast using genetics,” Flory says. “At some point, we can then make the jump and connection to human cells.”

Other presentations by Wesleyan faculty included “Time resolved fluorescence studies of U1A protein dynamics,” presented by Joseph Knee, professor of chemistry and “Controlling the effects of stereochemistry on biological activity” by Michael Calter, associate professor of chemistry.

In addition, Wesleyan post doctorate fellow Bethany L. Kormos presented “U1A-RNA Complex Formation: Insights from Molecular Dynamics Simulations.”

Brian T. Chait, the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Professor at The Rockefeller University, delivered the keynote address titled “Proteomic tools for dissecting cellular function.”

The event also featured posters by several Wesleyan students, including “Spectroscopic and Molecular Dynamics Evidence for a Sequential Mechanism for the DNA B-A Transition,” by sixth-year molecular biology and biochemistry Ph.D. candidate Kelly Knee. Knee’s research examines the transition of certain proteins on DNA, which may potentially help with drug design in the future.

Another highlight was a poster by Congju (Maggie) Chen, a sixth-year Chemistry Ph.D. candidate, which detailed her research about how a specific strand of RNA could be attacked and broken down by Ricin, a toxin that has been linked to terrorist attacks in the past.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Muslim Chaplain Left Engineering for Career in Life in Faith


Imam Mahan Mirza, University Muslim Chaplain leads Qur’an Study Circles, and Islam Hour and sermons with Wesleyan’s Muslim community.
 
Posted 10/01/05
Q: Mahan, when were you hired to be the new Muslim chaplain at Wesleyan?

A: I was officially hired as of August 29, 2005.

Q: Where did you grow up and when did you move to America?

A: I grew up as the son of a fighter pilot in the Pakistan Air Force. My parents came from India into Pakistan when the country was divided in 1947. My grandparents are from various different parts of India. My first spoken language was the Queen’s English, which I picked up as a kindergartner in 1977 in England. I remember watching Star Wars on the big screen there when it first came out.

Q: Where did you attend college and what are your degrees in?

A: My first year was spent at Valparaiso University in Indiana. I then transferred to the University of Texas at Austin from where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. After working for two years as a design and project engineer in building environmental control systems, I left my job and returned to Pakistan to study Arabic and the Koran. I then returned to Hartford and continued working part-time as an engineer while enrolled in a graduate program in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary. In 2001, I left my engineering career behind once and for all and joined a six-year full time Ph.D program in Islamic Studies at Yale University. I am currently in my fifth year there.

Q: When and why did you decide to pursue Islamic studies?

A: Anyone who looks around sees that the world has many problems. Through my college years, I wanted to devote my life to something more meaningful than designing and running machines. I wanted to know more than the machines themselves; I wanted to know their purpose. Why do we build them? How do we use them? Who are we? Who am I? Instinctively I turned to my religion for answers to these and related questions. Here I am.

Q: Do you have any idea how many Muslim chaplains there are in academia?

A: I have no idea, but there is at least one more than there were on August 28! We need many more, not just at universities and colleges, but also in hospitals, prisons, and the military.

Q: Approximately, how many students on campus are Muslim? What countries do they come from?

A: Most Muslim students on campus are American. The international Muslim students come from a variety of counties such as Turkey, Mauritius and Indonesia. I have not met all of the Muslim students yet, but the active community consists of about 15-20 people.

Q: How has your upbringing in Pakistan and past 13 years living in America has shaped your perspective on Islam in America?

A: This is a difficult question. My first name is Indian, middle name Arabic, and last name Persian. Although I was born and raised in Pakistan, America and its language and culture have never been truly foreign. I grew up watching American TV shows such as the A-Team, Knight Rider and Threes’ Company. I study Islam from a German Jesuit at a secular University. I am a child of post-modernity. In a matter of speaking, I consciously embraced Islam as a student in America. There is no denying that my background makes my perspective unique, but more than my upbringing, I would imagine it has been shaped more by my academic training than anything else.

Q: How often are you on campus, and when you are here, what are you doing?

A: I am at Wesleyan on Mondays, Fridays, every other Thursday, and some weekends. Being a part-time employee, I do my best to arrange my schedule around the activities and needs of the Muslim students on campus. Students visit during office hours and we often dine together around our activities and meetings. On Fridays, I deliver a sermon and lead the congregational prayers in the afternoon, and conduct a study circle focusing on the Koran in the evenings. In addition to these regular appearances, I come for ad hoc events in the evenings and on weekends.

Q: Where can we get more detail about these events and times?

A: We have a Web site, www.wesleyan.edu/chaplains/muslim.

Q: How do you personally celebrate Muslim culture?

A: By being Muslim, studying Islam, keeping in touch with the Muslim community, and talking about our faith and traditions with others.

Q: I understand you’re starting up a weekly Islam Hour on campus. Tell me more about this.

A: We meet Mondays from 7 to 8 p.m. at 171 Church Street. Here, I host an hour of open discussion on topics related to Islam and Muslims called “Islam 101: Religion & Tea.” This is a tradition that is carrying over from the previous chaplain who offered a lecture series titled “Islam 101.” I have modified this venue into more of a guided discussion rather than lecture format, in which students of all levels can join in and discuss contemporary American discourses on Islam. We also offer tea over the discussion, hence the modified title.

Q: What can you tell me about the Qur’an Study Circle?

A: We meet Fridays between 6 and 7 p.m. at 22 Lawn Avenue. Here we discuss topics related to the Qur’an such as its arrangement and structure, and reflect on the meaning of selected passages. Once again, the circle is not in lecture format, but rather encourages dialogue and reflection.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests?

A: When I was in high school, I used to play lots of cricket and golf. Sadly, I no longer have time for such things. I occasionally try and play squash in the gym if I get the chance. I also have three young sons who keep me busy when I am not studying or at Wesleyan. I am also interested in the world we live in, from the environment to poverty to war. Being religious does not mean being a recluse. On the contrary, spirituality to me is a direct engagement with the world and its affairs in order to make it a better place. This not only means being good to your neighbor down the street, but also to your neighbors across the ocean. But let me not get preachy here.

Q: Tell me about your family and what you enjoy doing together.

A: My wife, Stephanie, and I live with our three sons in New Haven. We’ve been married for 10 years. Steph is in the final semester of her undergraduate studies, which she pursues part-time at Southern Connecticut State University. We enjoy playing board games, reading to the kids, and outings to parks and museums. But I think what Steph and I really look forward to every day is sitting together with a midnight snack once the kids are off to bed!
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Director of Residential Life Interested in What Students Have to Say


Fran Koerting, director of Residential Life, enjoys working with students.
 
Posted 10/01/05
After working in a variety of roles in higher-education, Fran Koerting has found her niche.

“I love working directly with the students,” says Koerting, director of Residential Life. “I want to help make their Wesleyan experience a positive one.”

Koerting spent the past eight years working as the director of Residential Life at Fairfield University. She came to Wesleyan in July.

Koerting holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and biology from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University. The Long Island, New York native says she wanted to work at Wesleyan because of its “excellent reputation.”

“I love the caliber of students here,” she says. “Here, they are able to engage with the faculty and staff, and their input is valued.”

The Fauver Field residences and prototype homes on Fountain and Warren Streets are two examples of facilities designed with students’ input. Upcoming decisions that students will be involved in include furnishing the senior wood frame houses, additional laundry facilities and renovations to Foss Hill residences, to name a few.

Within her own department, Koerting actively seeks student input to better student life. In addition to Residential Life’s 99 student employees, she meets with individuals to address their concerns and find solutions. She serves on several committees with students, which discuss issues that affect students.

“There’s lots of living options for students here, and we try to make each one unique,” Koerting says. “And now that almost all students are living on campus, this can help them take advantage of all that’s offered in their community.”

Koerting says the residential requirement underscores Wesleyan’s emphasis on the development of students outside of as well as in the classroom. By living on campus, students learn to build community, respect others and be a responsible member.

Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, says in the short time that Koerting has been with Wesleyan, she has already made a strong impact in handling residential affairs.

“Wesleyan has a diverse housing stock which brings a variety of options to students,” Cruz-Saco says. “We are designing ways to further faculty-staff-student interactions and conversations in residential halls and Fran’s experience and leadership will be key. “

Koerting manages the department’s operating budget, meets with the Physical Plant staff, deans and department heads to discuss issues. She also deals with parents, who often call in with questions and concerns.

“Residential Life benefits from a collaborative relationship with other departments,” she says. “If someone has a concern that I cannot help them with, I’ll refer them to the person who can, or often we’ll work with that department, to get the student’s problem solved.”

Maureen Isleib, associate director of Residential Life, says Koerting’s personality and energy has given the department new direction and goals.

“Fran has worked in a number of different roles in student affairs and brings a fresh perspective to the office,” Isleib says. “She also has boundless energy and enthusiasm, and her commitment to student development is evident in her interactions with students.”

The biggest challenge in Residential Life is being prepared for the unexpected, Koerting explains. This can range from transition issues to crisis management – quite possibly dealing with the death of a student.

“We deal with the lives of 2,700 students, and you never know what is going to come up,” she says. “In Residential Life, you’re always having curveballs thrown at you, and that’s what makes it so interesting.”

On her days off, Koerting spends time with her husband, Walter, and children Katrina, 16, and Stephen, 14, and her Shepard-Black Labrador mix, Kukla at their home in Shelton, Conn. When she’s not busy attending her children’s soccer games and marching band performances, Koerting enjoys sewing, crafts, reading, and teaching Sunday school.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Assistant Director of Human Resources Screens Hundreds of Resumes to Find the Perfect Job Candidate


Persephone Hall, assistant director of Human Resources, posts job opportunities, searches through resumes and conducts interviews.
 
Posted 10/01/05
Q: What are some of your job duties as assistant Human Resources director?

A: The thing I love most about my position is the variety. In my first six months, my primary responsibilities have revolved around working with hiring managers to recruit for and fill their job openings. I am beginning to help managers and employees with employee relations issues and in the near future, I look forward to developing training classes for managers and employees here at Wesleyan.

Q: So, you’re fairly new here?

A: My first day at the university was March 21, 2005.

Q: When a department has an opening, how do you go about working with that department to get the position filled?

A: I may start on the phone with a department chair to discuss filling an opening. From there, we typically meet to begin developing the job description. I might spend some time afterward working with the chair to create a final product that we will post, first on the Wesleyan Web site. We may also post the position on other Web sites that are specific to the field.

Q: What happens when resumes pour in?

A: I read all of them. Our practice is to screen them to be sure the applicant meets our minimum qualifications. We also list “preferred qualifications” on our postings to further describe the ideal candidate. We have been very fortunate in many cases to see candidate pools where individuals have done the work or are doing the kind of work that we are looking for. Related experience is ideal. If not directly related experience, then similar experience is helpful. What makes reviewing resumes difficult is often the volume.

Q: On average, how many applicants apply for a single administrative job?

A: People have very openly said that they are eager to get a position at Wesleyan. On average, we may get 200 applicants for an administrative position.

Q: What is the interviewing process?

A: Our first step may be to have a telephone interview with those who meet both minimum and possibly some of our preferred qualifications. We may invite the candidates whose background and experience most closely meets our needs to campus for interviews. The candidate will meet with the hiring manager and maybe others from the department, as well as with Human Resources. We may schedule a second interview with the top candidates, if appropriate. Once a decision is made on who the manager would like to hire, we check the references for the candidate and make a job offer.

Q: How long does this process take?

A: It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Q: Do you enjoy interviewing prospective employees in person?

A: I really enjoy interviewing. Interviewing gives me an opportunity to sell Wesleyan as well as have a conversation with someone about their background. My role is to help them understand the realities of the position and the interviewee’s role is to help convince me that they have the skills to do the kind of work we are considering.

Q: What is the hardest part about you job?

A: Those “we selected someone else” calls can be difficult and we try to help candidates understand why someone else was selected. What makes that more difficult is when the candidate says, “but I can do the job.” As I said, we’ve been fortunate to see candidate pools with very qualified individuals.

Q: What are common reasons Wesleyan employees call or stop by Human Resources?

A: We often welcome individuals from all areas of the Wesleyan community so there is plenty of variety in the kinds of inquires we receive. Generally speaking, employees contact us for information on new job opportunities, benefits information and other work related questions.  Those how desire to work here will contact us regarding openings or the status of an application they have submitted. Otherwise, we entertain many different questions from many different people in a typical day.

Q: Who are the key people you work with in H.R.?

A: We are a small department so everyone has a key role. I most often work with our director Harriet Abrams as well as our associate director Julia Hicks on strategic projects. Vanessa Sabin and Janet Gyurits have been wonderful in helping me accomplish all the necessary tasks that come with the territory.

Q: What is your educational background and experience in the H.R. field?

A: I had a very rewarding college experience at the Ohio University in Athens, Ohio where I received a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in student personnel. Before coming to Wesleyan, I was a human resources specialist in the training department at the corporate headquarters of a retail company.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up in Canton, Ohio — the Pro Football Hall of Fame city — and moved to Connecticut after finishing graduate school.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: Me? Well, I love to sing. I’ve been singing — mostly Gospel music — since I was 12. I do most of my singing in my church. I hold a leadership role there so I’m involved in other activities there, also.

Q: Tell me about your family.

A: My husband’s name is Larry and he also works in higher education. He is the director of admission at Western Connecticut State University. He has recently turned me on to the game of golf so we try to play golf together as often as possible. We have three children, Tiffany, 17; Alaina, 14; and Isaac, 11.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Dean of the College Wants Students, Faculty to Bond Outside of Classroom


Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, is impressed by Wesleyan students’ involvement outside of the classroom.
 
Posted 10/01/05
It didn’t take long to settle in.

In just two months, Maria Cruz-Saco has begun spearheading residential life and student programming initiatives. She’s also creating a new position to oversee diversity and multicultural learning environments on campus and seeking ways to improve current student services.

As the new dean of the college, Cruz-Saco oversees the Class Deans, Student Academic Resources, Student Services and Campus Programs. The latter includes Residential Life, Student Activities and Leadership Development, International Student Services, the Office of Community Service and Volunteerism, university chaplains, the University Health Center, and the Office of Behavioral Health.

“I’m constantly concerned with the well being of the student population,” Cruz-Saco says.

Born in Peru, Cruz-Saco earned her bachelor’s of arts at the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Peru, in 1979 and her Ph.D. in economics at the University of Pittsburgh in 1983. She has authored three books, co-edited one, and contributed many articles and chapters to professional journals and books. She’s an expert in social protection and the reform of social security systems with a regional emphasis in Latin America and the Caribbean.

However, over the last few years her career has focused more on the administrative side of academics. Before coming to Wesleyan she served as interim dean at Connecticut College. Her other leadership positions there included chair of the economics department, chair of the Priorities, Planning and Budget Committee, member of the Grievances Committee, and member of the faculty steering committee of the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy. In addition, in 2002-03, she chaired the Presidential Commission on a Pluralistic Community charged with delineating Connecticut College’s vision for a multicultural experience and inclusive excellence.

“After learning about Wesleyan’s structure and core values, I got the sense that Wesleyan could be a good fit for me,” she says. “My own vision and values are very similar, and that is what attracted me.”

Cruz-Saco says she is most impressed by Wesleyan students’ involvement outside of the classroom. She notes the students’ interest in helping victims of Hurricane Katrina and their support and care given to accident victim Rachel Soriano ’06. Soriano was struck by a car on Church Street Sept. 10 and remains in critical but stable condition at Hartford Hospital.

“The students here are so committed to imprinting the world with a sense of social justice and a hope to make the world a better place for every body,” she says.

Cruz-Saco is also interested in direct input from students and staff on a regular basis. She holds office hours for students every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. She also meets with class deans and her direct reports once a week. She’s also a member of the university’s senior staff.

“We are thinking afresh about how we link students’ academic experiences with their lives in the community and about how we can take full advantage of the diversity of student experience as a resource for learning,” says Wesleyan President Douglas Bennet. “Wesleyan is also strengthening our residential life and student programming. Maria will provide strong leadership in all these areas.”

One way Cruz-Saco will be doing is this by developing a new position – a dean to oversee all cultural diversity initiatives and multicultural learning support services. The dean would partner with the Center for Faculty Development and Affirmative Action Office. The dean would ensure that faculty had the resources to teach multicultural classrooms.

“In our diverse community students have different learning styles and interests. The educational experience in- and out-of-the-classroom is enhanced by programs that support the teaching and learning in an environment that integrates in a seamlessly way academic and co-curricular activities,” Cruz-Saco says. “We support the educational enterprise through a number of student academic support services.”

She and her husband, Alejandro Melendez-Cooper, have three boys, Martin, 17; Claudio, 12; and Adrian, 9.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

“Hidden Gem” Opens Its Door


 

The staff at Wesleyan University Press will hold an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 11 at its new location, 215 Long Lane, across from the new Physical Plant. Pictured in back, left to right are Eric Levy ’97, acquisitions editor; Stephanie Elliott, publicity associate; and Leslie Starr, marketing manager. Pictured in front is Suzanna Tamminen ’90, MALS ’04, director and editor-in-chief.

Posted 10/01/05
It’s one of only 110 academic publishers in the nation, and has produced more than 1,000 books by authors around the world. But the Wesleyan University Press staff believes their publishing house remains a hidden gem.

Formerly housed on Mt. Vernon Street, Wes Press moved to its new location, 215 Long Lane, last year. To celebrate its move and introduce itself to the Wesleyan community, the staff at Wes Press will hold an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 11

“We’re something of a secret on campus,” says Leslie Starr, marketing manager for the 46-year-old press. “We’d love to have members of the campus community stop by and see what we’re all about. “

Starr works at the press with Suzanna Tamminen ’90, MALS ’94, director and editor-in-chief; Eric Levy ’97, acquisitions editor; and Stephanie Elliott, publicity associate. They collaborate with the Wesleyan University Press Editorial Board — made up of Wesleyan faculty members from various fields — to decide what manuscripts to publish.

In America, university presses publish, on average, 9,000 books a year. Each press publishes books in specific areas. Wesleyan University Press’s editorial program focuses on poetry, music, dance and performance, science fiction, film and television, and American studies. By next fall, Wes Press hopes to begin publishing books for the general reader on Connecticut’s cultural and natural history.

This fall/winter, the press is publishing books on creative writing, acoustic effects in music recording, disaster movies, Australia’s Aboriginal songs, and poetic meditations on exile. In November, the press will publish the first modern and corrected English translation of Jules Verne’s The Begum’s Millions.

Wes Press receives close to 750 poetry and book submissions a year; however, it accepts few of these. Most authors are sought out, making the acquisitions work quite active.

“It’s far more effective, and we get better projects, when we seek them out,” Tamminen says. “We are looking for books that make an important contribution to their field, in lucid prose, and which fit into our editorial program. In order to best serve the fields we publish in, we need to have enough books in the area to have a critical mass, where the books do a kind of intellectual work together.”

The press publishes 12 new books each publishing season – spring/summer and fall/winter.

There are currently 430 Wesleyan University Press books in print, four of which have earned Pulitzer Prizes and two of which received National Book Awards. Most recently, Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop, by Joseph G. Schloss, won the International Association for the Study of Popular Music’s 2005 Book Award.

“A lot of people don’t realize that you can’t just write a book, send it in to a publisher and get it published,” Starr says. “We’re very selective, and we need to be in order to maintain the mark of quality that Wesleyan has earned over the years.”

Book selection and marketing are done in-house while all copy editing, book design and printing are done externally. While books are being produced, the marketing staff is preparing the seasonal catalog, producing fliers and sending proofs to major publications.

“Getting a review published in publications such as Publisher’s Weekly or the New York Times is a very effective way to get the word out about a book,” Elliott says. “A lot of what we do involves cultivating relationships with reviewers.”

The small staff also hires about 10 Wesleyan students each year. The students gain hands-on experience writing press releases, sending out review copies, soliciting book endorsements, and doing other office work. In the last five years, nine of these students have gone on to work in publishing after graduating.

Wesleyan University Press is a member of the Association of American University Presses, the Association of American Publishers and the New England Booksellers Association.

Since many of the books published by Wes Press are on specialized scholarly topics, they often appeal to small audiences. And since the press operates as a business, making a profit can be the small publisher’s biggest challenge, Starr says. A book can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000 to produce.

The press is constantly seeking grants and donations to help defray costs while it meets the needs of the academic community, which is its primary mission.

“We hope people will come to the open house to browse our bookshelves and have some cider and a cookie,” Tamminen says.

Wesleyan University Press can be reached at 860-685-7711. It is online at www.wesleyan.edu/wespress. The press offers members of the Wesleyan community a 20 percent discount on Wes Press titles when they are ordered through the press. For more information e-mail lstarr@wesleyan.edu.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

United Way Campaign Begins Oct. 6


Posted 10/01/05

Wesleyan will again help build a stronger, healthier Middlesex County during the Middlesex United Way’s annual Community Campaign. The campaign kicked off Oct. 6 at the President’s House.

This year’s goal is $140,000, which is $5,000 more than last year’s goal.

For more than 60 years, the Wesleyan community has supported the local United Way. Its Core Services provides funding to 32 local programs and services offered by its 23 partner agencies. These include the American Red Cross, 2-1-1 Infoline; Middlesex Hospital Family, Advocacy Program; Middlesex Hospital Homecare; Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters; Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater; Salvation Army of Middletown, among others.

This year Middlesex United Way is supporting a new initiative called Community Impact, which is designed to target root causes of chronic community problems that are hurting families. Community Impact programs include housing, mental health and substance abuse programs.

“Just feeding a hungry family isn’t enough,” explains John Biddiscombe, adjunct professor of Physical Education, director of Athletics and chair of the Physical Education Department. “We want to address the reason why a family goes hungry in the first place.”

Biddiscombe served as president of the Middlesex United Way for two years, vice president for two years and on the organization’s executive committee for seven years.

Kevin Wilhelm, Middlesex United Way’s executive director, explained that local needs assessment results, input from residents, and calls to Connecticut’s 2-1-1 Infoline show that housing, mental health and substance abuse rank as top concerns of county residents.

“Middlesex United Way has traditionally served local residents by funding non-profit agencies that provide critical human care services,” says Wilhelm. “We are also being more proactive in our approach and funding community projects that reach more residents and address what they tell us is of top concern to them.”

The substance abuse initiative focuses on reducing and preventing substance abuse among sixth to 12th graders through Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth. In a recent survey of Connecticut ninth and 10th graders, 36 percent reported using marijuana, 28 percent reported binge drinking in the past month, and 24 percent reported being regular smokers. United Way focuses on school and home-based prevention programs for school-aged children and their families.

The improved mental health initiative focus on early identification and intervention of children birth to 5-years-old with social and emotional problems so that more children enter school ready to learn. About 24 percent of Connecticut high school students indicated on a recent survey that they have “seriously considered” suicide.

The housing initiative focus is on affordable housing along Connecticut’s shoreline, specifically to develop affordable housing units for working families currently living in motels. Forty percent of Middlesex County’s homeless are dependent children.

Last year, Wesleyan raised a record-breaking $140,018, 6.5 percent of Middlesex United Way’s total.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Time to Give

Wesleyan began its Middlesex United Way campaign Oct. 6. Office delegates passed out contribution forms to their respective areas. Employees can make contributions through payroll deduction.

Anyone who gives has a chance at winning one of three gift certificates raffled off during the campaign. Prizes include a $100 gift certificate at the Wesleyan Computer Store and Service Center; $100 gift certificate at Broad Street Books; and squash lessons at Freeman Athletic Center, valued at $120.

Last year 59 percent of Wesleyan employees made donations to the local chapter. Those that pledge more than $1,000 will become members of Wesleyan’s Leadership Circle.