Olivia Drake

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

Unprecedented Star Cluster Study May Offer View of Planet Formation and Our Solar System’s Own Early Beginnings

Posted 01/17/06
An unprecedented 14-year study by Wesleyan University researchers has revealed a phenomenon that may indicate the forming of new planets or perhaps even the existence of young planets orbiting young sun-like stars more than 1,600 light years away.

The observations were presented at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Washington, DC. on January 11 by William Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy and chair the astronomy department (pictured at right), Gabriel Roxby ‘06, a Wesleyan undergraduate involved in the study, and Eric Williams, the systems manager of the Van Vleck observatory.

The Wesleyan team analyzed 500 stars in the Orion Nebula Cluster (ONC) which is approximately 500 pc or 1600 light years from earth. The data from the stars were collected by faculty and graduate and undergraduate students during a continuous 14-year period. The observations gave the astronomers the unique opportunity to track the long-term behavior of these stars concurrently with their subtle changes over short timescales.

The findings presented at the AAS meeting detail the discovery of a large number of young T Tauri stars with intriguing patterns in brightness variation over both short and long timescales. One star discovered, Trapezium 093/JW#669, became of particular interest because it seemed to grow brighter then fainter in a remarkably steady pattern with a possible period of about 10 years. This is an extremely long cycle, given that it rotates every 1.18 days.

One theory suggests the presence of a disk of dust and rock orbiting the star. Such a circumstellar disk would have to contain a large clump, such as a planet or proto-planet, in order to obscure the light of the star at certain times and not others. Another possible explanation for the brightness fluctuations may be that the star is experiencing magnetic cycles akin to those seen in our Sun, where its magnetic field becomes stronger and weaker over time, causing the total area covered by sunspots to grow and shrink. Another theory is that the phenomenon is being caused by the presence of a young fully-formed gas-giant planet akin to Jupiter.

Whatever the cause, the observations by the Wesleyan researchers may offer significant insights into our own solar system’s origins. Trapezium 093/JW#669 bears a strong resemblance to a younger version of the Sun, and it may be undergoing processes similar to those in the Sun’s early history. Further investigation may reveal whether these or other explanations can account for this star’s long and regular period.

This active star-forming region is a promising area for observations because of its relative nearby distance and its large population of T Tauri stars, which are typically young (about 1 million years old).

The study also offers a new perspective on the changes that occur in T Tauri stars over many years. For the first time a large collection of long-term light curves for a vast sample of young variable stars has been gathered. The sample can be used to further analyze general trends among these stars, as well as locate other unique stars that may help to shed light on the genesis of our own Solar System.

The data were obtained using Wesleyan’s 0.6 meter (24 inch) Perkin telescope. Researchers used differential photometry to calculate stars’ alterations in brightness from night to night by comparing the variable stars to a few stars in each field known to have relatively unchanging brightness. They used these calculations to plot “light curves,” or diagrams of the change in brightness over time, for each star.

Wesleyan astronomers will continue their study of the star cluster and generate data for further analysis.

By Clara Moskowitz ’06 and David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Bible Studies, Buddhist Meditations, Mass and More During 10th Annual Spirituality Week

The Memorial Chapel will host several Spirituality Week events between Jan. 27 – Feb. 2.
Posted 01/17/06
The 10th annual Spirituality Week will take place Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 at various locations on campus.

Spiritually Week is coordinated by the University Chaplains each year to emphasize weekly religious and spiritual programs on campus and to sponsor and recognize special events.

“This is a good opportunity for people to understand the range of spiritually that happens on campus,” says Rev. Gary Comstock, protestant chaplain. “The students will return to campus fresh and open to new ideas. We want them to know that you don’t need to be Jewish to go to a Jewish service.”

The chaplains’ regular events, such as the Catholic Mass, the Protestant Worship, Muslim prayer and a Jewish Shabbat will be held during this period.

In addition, the chaplains have coordinated events with student-run organizations. Wesleyan Christian Fellowship is sponsoring an Athletes Fellowship to discuss the relationship between faith and life as a student-athlete. There will also be a discussion titled “Jesus, Revolution and the Pursuit of Justice” and two Bible studies. Wesleyan Dharma Study Group is sponsoring three Buddhist meditations.

Rev. Comstock will lead an activity with the Vespers for students of any or no religious affiliation and a luncheon requested by students titled, “Queerness & Spirituality.” He also is presenting a workshop on painted prayers titled “Rangoli: Sand Designs of India.”

This year’s Faculty Panel will speak on “Integrating Spirituality and Academics.” Comstock expects more than 50 students and faculty to attend the discussion that includes a period for questions, posed by the audience.

“Even I am surprised by how much is going on,” Comstock says. “Spirituality Week is a nice highlight of everything that happens here on a regular basis.”

The schedule of events, including the date, contact information and location, is as follows (to print this schedule click on the print button at the end of this page):

Friday, Jan. 27

  • Jumu’a Friday Prayers, with Imam Mahan Mirza, Muslim chaplain. 12:45-1:15 p.m., 169 High Street, Room 210. Congregational prayer service with sermon (mmirza@wesleyan.edu).
  • Shabbat, with Rabbi David Leipziger Teva, Jewish Chaplain. Services, 6 p.m.; Home-cooked Shabbat dinner, 7:30 p.m., Bayit, 157 Church Street (dleipziger@wesleyan.edu).
  • “Why Jesus?” 7:30 p.m., Woodhead Lounge. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Discussion on ‘What makes Jesus unique among religious teachers?’ (cchow@wesleyan.edu).
  • Sunday, Jan. 29

  • Middletown Friends Meeting, 10 a.m., Zelnick Pavilion (wholder@wesleyan.edu).
  • Gallery Talk with Israeli artist Hagit Mogan, 2 p.m., Zilkha Gallery. Part of “Women, Bodies, and Rituals” conference (http://mteter.web.wesleyan.edu/Molgan.htm).
  • “We Refuse to Be Enemies: Jews, Christians, and Muslims for Peace,” discussion with area scholars and activists who work together for peace. 3 to 6 p.m. Woodhead Lounge, dinner. Sponsored by Imam Mirza (mmirza@wesleyan.edu).
  • Buddhist Meditation, 3 p.m., Mediation Room, lower level, Chapel. Sponsored by Wesleyan Dharma Study Group (glesser@wesleyan.edu).
  • Catholic Mass, with Father Louis Manzo, Roman Catholic Chaplain. 9  p.m., Chapel. Meditate on Scripture and share the Eucharist; social/refreshments (lmanzo@wesleyan.edu).
  • Monday, Jan. 30

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, 4 p.m., Chapel. Sponsored by the Center for Community Partnerships (ccrimmins@wesleyan.edu).
  • Protestant Worship, with Rev. Gary Comstock, Protestant Chaplain. 5:30 p.m., Chapel. Communion, Bible reflection, contemplation, prayer, supper (gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • Athletes Fellowship, 7 p.m., 43 Lawn Avenue. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Pizza and talk with Leah Kelly, assistant softball coach, about relationship between faith and life as student-athlete (ereding@wesleyan.edu).
  • Tuesday, Jan. 31

  • Volunteer at Soup Kitchen, 8 a.m., St. Vincent de Paul, 617 Main Street. Sponsored by Office of Community Services & Volunteerism and Chaplain Comstock. Let us know if you’re coming and/or need a ride (ccrimmins@wesleyan.edu; gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • Queerness & Spirituality, noon, Chaplains’ Lounge, 169 High Street. Lunch and discussion led/co-sponsored by students and Chaplain Comstock (mmatthews@wesleyan/edu).
  • Faculty Panel, “Integrating Spirituality and Academics,” 4:15 p.m.,Meeting Rooms 1/2, Campus Center. Food at 4 p.m. Moderator: Kulsoom Hasan ‘07. Participants include Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college and visiting scholar in economics; Ravishanker, director of Information Technology Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry; Vera Schwarcz, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies and professor of history; Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of anthropology and African-American Studies; Greg Voth, assistant professor of physics.
  • Rangoli: Sand Designs of India, 5:30 p.m., Zelnick Pavilion. Learn about and participate in making what are called “painted prayers” in the Hindu tradition. Led by students and co-sponsored with Chaplain Comstock (mbery@wesleyan.edu).
  • Buddhist Meditation, 7:30 p.m., Buddhist House, 356 Washington Street. Sponsored by Wesleyan Dharma Study Group (glesser@wesleyan.edu).
  • Bible studies. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Freshman Bible Study, 8 p.m., Butterfield C Lounge (jychan@wesleyan.edu). Women’s Bible Study, 8  p.m., AAA House, 107 High Street (vlew@wesleyan.edu). Men’s Bible Study, 9:00 p.m., 14B Warren Street (csamsen@wesleyan.edu).
  • Wednesday, Feb. 1

  • Making a Day-by-Day Spiritual Guide, 4:15 p.m., Chaplains’ Lounge, 169 High Street. Learn about and get involved in this new project. Snacks. Sponsored by students and Chaplain Comstock (hjackson@wesleyan.edu; gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • Vespers, with Chaplain Comstock, 5:30 p.m., Chapel. A different ritual/activity each week for students of any or no religious affiliation. Vegetarian meal (gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • “Jesus, Revolution, and the Pursuit of Justice,” 7:30 p.m., Chapel. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Mako Nagasawa, speaker (lallison@wesleyan.edu).
  • Thursday, Feb. 2

  • Buddhist Meditation, 7:30 p.m., Buddhist House, 356 Washington Street. Sponsored by Wesleyan Dharma Study Group (glesser@wesleyan.edu).
  • Co-Ed Bible Study, 8 p.m., 43 Fountain Avenue. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship (gvoth@wesleyan.edu).
    By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

    Student, Alumnae Research Orphan Care In South Africa and Establish Aid Organization

    College of Social Studies majors Angela Larkan ’06 and Lindsey Reynolds ’04 raise funds and awareness for orphaned pre-schoolers in South Africa through their non-profit organization, Thembanathi. Larkan’s thesis at Wesleyan involved establishing a method of care for AIDS orphans using their school system. (Photos contributed by Maya Casagrande)

    Posted 01/17/06
    Angela Larkan ’06 was raised in an apartheid South African town knowing that she could have been born into a poor family just down the road. With an estimated one in three South African children expected to be orphans by the year 2010 due to the AIDS virus, Larkan always knew she wanted to make a difference in her native country.

    “When I look into the eyes of the orphans, they all seem to be telling me the same thing,” says Larkan, who has family roots in South Africa reaching back to the 1800s. “They show me that they matter as human beings; that they have energy, love and innocence to offer the world, and that they need someone to help them survive.”

    In 2003, Larkan took on the task of co-founding a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for children in South Africa. The organization, Thembanathi, means “hope with us” in Zulu. Social studies major Lindsay Reynolds ’04 has worked on and off in South Africa for the last three years on HIV prevention projects and co-directs Thembanathi with Larkan.

    According to the South African Department of Health, in 2004, South Africa had more HIV positive people than any other country in the world. In the province of KwaZulu-Natal, known as the “AIDS belt,” 40.7 percent of women attending antenatal clinics had HIV/AIDS. Mothers have a one in three chance of passing the deadly disease onto their children.

    Thembanathi partners with Holy Cross AIDS Hospice, a non-governmental organization which supports orphans of AIDS and other vulnerable children. Money raised by Thembanathi goes toward feeding programs, a summer camp, children’s educational fees, and transportation for children to and from the preschool, among other needs.

    Larkan’s interest in the orphaned children of AIDS was intensified during her sophomore year at Wesleyan. She applied for the Davenport Study Grant, normally awarded to juniors doing thesis research, to go to South Africa and conduct research on the AIDS orphan crisis, and determine a strategy to best handle the dramatic increase of orphans expected by 2010.

    “I wanted to work on something that was real and more relevant to today’s world,” she says.

    Larkan received the grant, and for six weeks, she traveled around the city of KwaZulu-Natal, interviewing key players in orphan care and the AIDS pandemic. There, she worked with Reynolds, who received a similar grant her junior year to study in South Africa. That opportunity crystallized Reynolds’ interest in AIDS on an international level and expanded her interest to working with children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.

    Together, the women witnessed dozens of pre-school-aged children left alone to fend for themselves in areas where hunger, disease, and poverty were already part of daily life. They communicate with the children through an acquired “toddler Zulu” and hire a translator when conducting research.

    “Our time there was fateful because we left with a desire, drive, and persistence to do more than just write about the AIDS situation,” Larkan explains. “We knew that we had to do something, no matter how small, to help the children that we had seen.”

    Larkan, who spearheads Thembanathi’s fundraising efforts, has coordinated benefit concerts, bake sales, candy-grams, refreshment sales at athletic games and jewelry sales to raise money for the organization. Beaded AIDS pins, handmade by Zulu women, are the program’s top seller. Thembanathi raised $14,000 in its first two years, and acquired a $33,000 grant from the Wellesley Rotarians and Rotary International to establish a water purification system at Holy Cross.

    Last summer, support from President Doug Bennet and the Christopher Brodigan Fund afforded the Thembanathi directors to return to South Africa for two months. While there, Larkan conducted some follow-up research on her thesis, which involved establishing a method of care for AIDS orphans using the school system. In addition, she developed a proposal that would link at-risk children in orphanages and schools with non-governmental agencies and social workers.

    Larkan and Reynolds are also building networks, and are trying to have their ideas discussed in academic public policy circles.

    Richard Elphick, professor of history, supervised Larkan’s thesis.

    “I certainly encourage my students to do projects in public service, but Angela is doing extraordinary things on a number of different fronts,” he says. “Rather than studying AIDS prevention, Angela is working on the other end – how to deal with victims, or the tsunami of orphans. She’s very intellectually acute and practical, and it’s wonderful that she’s out there raising money for her cause.

    A good part of running Thembanathi is administrative work, so Larkan and Reynolds can work using remote devices. Reynolds is living in Chad, Africa for 2 1/2 months doing more research as part of the completion of her Master’s in International Public Health from Johns Hopkins. Larkan, who finished her studies at Wesleyan in December, is living in Colorado.

    “Some people don’t understand why I want to spend four hours a day working on something that doesn’t pay me, but they haven’t met the children I worked with,” Larkan explains. “They haven’t interviewed officials who sadly, slowly, tell you how they country is being ruined. It is the experience on the ground that keeps me going. Children are innocent and don’t deserve to be the victims of a crisis this large before they have even learned to read.”

    Larkan and Reynolds hope to run Thembanathi full-time in the future and set up AIDS testing clinics and pediatric antiretrovirals for those AIDS orphans that are positive.

    Larkan credits her experience at Wesleyan with her present and future plans. She’s worked in the Office of Community Service where she ran a group called AIDS and Sexual Health Awareness, teaching HIV prevention in local high schools and raising awareness about local and global AIDS issues.

    Classes in government, economics, history and philosophy at Wesleyan provided Larkan with a broad range of pertinent information, allowing her to use to use these tools innovatively to build a model for orphan care. But it was Wesleyan’s students, she says, that inspired her to jump at the problem and try to change it.

    “Wesleyan’s atmosphere is inspiring and makes you want to be active in creating change,” she says. “Most importantly, it makes you realize that you can be a part of that change.”

    For more information on Themabanathi visit http://www.thembanathi.org/.

    By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

    The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

    AIDS AWARENESS: The Oasis Wellness Center of Middletown and the Green Streets Arts Center presented “Keeping the Promise: World’s Aids Day and Beyond” at Olin Library Dec. 1. The event included an art show, singing, speakers who are HIV positive and a vigil. Students and community volunteers handed out HIV/AIDS health information and red ribbons in commemorating Worlds Aids Day. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett)

    Work Still Exciting for Program Coordinator after 30 Years

    Shirley Lawrence, program coordinator for the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies, relaxes in the center’s Japanese-style tatami room.
    Posted 12/19/05

    Growing up in Massachusetts, Shirley Lawrence never gave much thought to customs in Asian countries. But during her 18 years as program coordinator for the East Asian Studies Program, Lawrence has acquired not only knowledge, but a deep appreciation for Asian art, music and culture.

    “Being here 18 years, I feel as though the program continually evolves,” Lawrence says. “I thoroughly enjoy it, and the environment is so stimulating. It’s never the same one year to the next, and I get so much out of the events that I’ve been a part of.”

    Over the years Lawrence has coordinated such events as tours of the Freeman Family Japanese Garden, lectures on U.S.-Japan security relations, presentations on America’s relations with Vietnam and the traditional drumming and dance of Korean p’ungmulnori by members of the Wesleyan Korean Drumming ensemble.

    In addition to handling logistical issues with the speakers and performers, Lawrence writes press releases, maintains the center’s mailing list, manages the program’s budget, arranges accommodations and oversees the center’s Outreach Program.

    The program provides hands-on cultural activities for school-aged children. The groups of 22 are bussed in, and have the option of learning Chinese or Japanese calligraphy, cooking Chinese, Japanese or Korean dishes, studying martial arts, playing traditional Japanese and Chinese instruments, reading folktales, making origami or participating in a Japanese tea ceremony. Younger children have the option of wearing vibrant Japanese kimonos during the presentations.

    “The Outreach Program is my favorite part about working here,” she says. “I love to see the children immersed in these unique, cultural activities. They won’t forget their experience here.”

    Lawrence has also attended numerous ethnic music programs and Chinese theater events, and has taken East Asian history and music courses.

    Lawrence began her Wesleyan career 30 years ago, in a part-time position the Mathematics Department where she remained until 1977. Lawrence moved to the Center of Humanities where she worked until 1985, and she worked in Alumni Programs until 1987 when the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies officially opened on Washington Terrace. The center’s new addition will open in January 2006 and host classes and events in a 100-seat lecture hall.

    “We don’t want people to think of the center as that place on the edge of campus. It is a perception we work hard to change,” Lawrence says. “We do our best to get the word out about our programs and events.”

    Vera Schwarcz, Mansfield Professor of East Asian Studies, Professor of History and former chair of the East Asian Studies program, has relied on Lawrence’s vision and support for many years. Schwarcz says several of the distinguished guests that she has brought to Wesleyan have commented on her efficiency, her thoughtful planning for every aspect of their visit.

    “Shirley has always been an enthusiastic partner in building East Asian Studies at Wesleyan, and in making the Freeman Center an utterly unique, gracious resource for students and visitors alike,” says Schwarcz, who was founding director.  “She’s always there with a smile and a suggestion about yet another way to make our mission more meaningful to the community at large. She’s a true jewel of commitment and service at Wesleyan.”

    Lawrence says technology has been the biggest change. In 1975, she used an electric typewriter with hand-held mathematical-symbol keys while working in the Math Department.

    “I was no mathematician, I was just a secretary and I could have created some amazing math formulas with those greater and less than symbols,” she says, smiling. “I didn’t always know what I was typing.”

    Lawrence says she’s also impressed with the number of construction projects popping up throughout the campus landscape.

    “The growth here on campus recently has been extraordinary,” she says, noting the new Center for Film Studies, the Susan Lemberg Usdan University Center, Freeman Athletic Center, Fauver Field Residences and the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies extension.

    Lawrence says she may retire in five years to devote more time to her two grandchildren, gardening, knitting, church projects and traveling – via motorcycle – with her husband, Ted. However, the thought of leaving Wesleyan is a difficult one for her right now.

    “I would really miss this,” she says, from her sunny, corner office. “This atmosphere is so invigorating, and the students bring so much enthusiasm here. I’d miss their high-energy. It rubs off on us all.”

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Professor Studies How Black, Immigrant Outcasts Become WWI Heroes, but still Return as Outcasts

    Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, professor of American Studies, studied the 369th Battalion’s and 77th Division’s roles in France for his latest book, “Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality.”

    Posted 12/19/05
    In 1918, the United States loaned its all-black 369th Infantry Regiment to fight under the French flag in World War I. These soldiers, rejected for combat duty by their own country because they were black, fought for 191 days, longer than any other American unit in the war. The ‘Harlem Hell Fighters,’ received an honorable award for bravery from the French. In their heroic attack on Sechault, of some 2,500 riflemen who began the battle only 700 survived unhurt.

    “They kept fighting until they couldn’t fight anymore,” Slotkin says. “Their efforts were extraordinary. Studies of combat psychology show that no person can handle more than 180 days in combat, and they fought for more than 190 days.”

    Twenty miles away, 700 New York immigrants forming a battalion of the United States’ 77th Division, or ‘Melting Pot Division’ crossed German lines and advanced into France’s Argonne Forest. This unit of Jewish, Italian and other eastern Europeans battled for six days with limited ammunition and supplies, food, water and shelter. They refused to surrender, although their unit was completely surrounded. Only 200 survived.

    Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, professor of American Studies, has spent the past four years extensively researching the 369th Battalion’s and 77th Division’s roles in France. His latest book, “Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality,” published in December 2005 by Henry Holt and Co., depicts American black and immigrant soldiers who were considered to be lesser citizens and racially inferior during and after the war.

    In 1917, one in three people living in America was from a foreign country or had a foreign-born parent. Although the U.S. government would have preferred to send only white, American-born citizens to combat, immigrants were promised equality in return for their loyal service in the war.

    “During World War I, we had to raise an army of 2 million men overnight, and we could not play this role without having minorities involved in the war,” Slotkin explains. “The government basically told these Blacks and immigrants that ‘if you go to war, we will accept you.’ The U.S. had to look at how all men are created equal in a way that never existed before.”

    “Some of these guys were from Germany or Austria and could have taken an exemption from being in the war, but they wanted to show their American patriotism,” Slotkin explains. “But when they came back to the U.S., they still got the shaft.” Congress identified them as “races” incapable of full Americanization, banned further immigration and signalled acceptance of ethnic discrimination.

    The U.S. also broke its promise to the Blacks.

    The Army gave the French a “Secret Information Concerning Black American Troops,” which demanded the adoption of strict racial separation. The document stated that it was essential that Frenchmen understand that to Americans, displays of interracial friendship were deeply offensive. It declared that friendships would encourage “intolerable pretensions to equality, which would pose a danger to America’s civil peace when the troops came home.”

    Slotkin studied World War I unit histories written in books and published on microfilm. He visited the National Archives to study World War I military books, and hired research assistants, one of which translated Yiddish newspaper clippings for the project.

    He focused his research on the lives of about two dozen characters, including the Lost Battalion’s captain Charles Whittlesey, who was named a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the highest award given by the U.S. Army following the war. Whittlesey is also the main character in the Arts and Entertainment movie titled “Lost Battalion” from 2001. Slotkin says the movie portrays an accurate depiction of the events that occurred between Oct. 2-8, 1918.

    The author says history buffs and scholars would be interested in his research, although the story is written in a way that can appeal to the general public. The History Book Club and Military Book Club have both accepted Slotkin’s book into their listings.

    A recent Publishers Weekly Starred Review states that Slotkin’s story “examines the relationship between war and citizenship in this trenchant, gracefully written military and social history. … Slotkin smoothly telescopes from the trenches to the political and social implications for decades to come in this insightful, valuable account.”

    “Stories like these haven’t been taught in schools because Americans don’t like to look at how hard it has been to become a multicultural nation,” Slotkin says.

    Slotkin is the author of seven other books including “Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln,” “Gunfighter Nation” and “Regeneration Through Violence.” He is a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the Albert J. Beveridge Prize.

    By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

    Keeping on His Toes: Dancer Performs Indian Dance at Music Academy

    Hari Krishman, dance artist in residence, presented a lecture demonstration on South Indian Court dance and the grandeur of the Tanjavur Quartet in India Dec. 31. (Photo by Cylla von Tiedmann)
    Posted 12/19/05
    Q: Hari, when did you come to Wesleyan as an artist in residence in dance?

    A: July 1, 2001. I teach courses on not only traditional Bharatanatyam dance technique but also lecture on the post colonial experience as well as on the global contemporary manifestations of the South Asian dance. Bharatanatyam is the classical dance from South India. Bharatanatyam historically evolved in the royal city of Tanjavur, South India in the nineteenth century. The grounded technique of Bharatanatyam dance or abstract dance is based on principles of symmetry, geometry and precision. The abhinaya or mime is based on a highly sophisticated integration of hand gestures, text, music and subtly of facial expression.

    Q: What are your thoughts on the Wesleyan students?

    A: I have, and continue to have, a truly enriching experience teaching this form at Wesleyan in both its classical and contemporary contexts. The students are extremely bright and hardworking. They are my source of inspiration. I always try to bring an exciting intellectual and artistic curiosity, exploration and adventure into my class.

    Q: You recently performed at The Music Academy, one of India’s premiere dance and music institutions Dec. 31. What did you do there?

    A: I performed and gave a lecture demonstration on South Indian Court dance and the grandeur of the Tanjavur Quartet, the 19th century codifiers of Bharatanatyam dance as we know it now.

    Q: Who do you study under?

    A: One of my teachers is Guru Gopalakrishnan Pillai. He comes form India’s most distinguished family of hereditary Bharatanatyam teachers. Gopalakrishnan received training the hereditary technique and repertoire of the Tanjavur Quartet. For many years, he taught music and dance in Bangalore. For a past several years, he has lived in Chennai, where he provides master-classes in Tanjavur Quartet repertoire at Tapasya Kala Sampradaya. After death of my primary teacher Kittapa Pillai in 1999, I continue to train under Gopalakrishnan Pillai. He is being given the prestigious TTK award and the Music Academy has given me the rare honor of dancing his family’s legacy.

    Q: What other awards have you received?

    A: I have been the recipient of several choreographic grants from various arts councils such as The Canada Council for the Arts, The Laidlaw Foundation, The MSR Arts Foundation, The Ontario Arts Council and The Toronto Arts Council. I was also nominated for the 2002 Bonnie Bird North American Choreography Award instituted by The Laban Centre in London. In 2001, I was invited by the University of Minnesota as the Sage Cowles Land Grant Chair to create a work on the dance department. I am also regularly invited to conduct master classes in technique, repertoire, history and theory at institutions and conservatories in various parts of North America and Asia.

    Q: Where else in the world have you performed, taught or choreographed?

    A: My earliest choreography was presented in Singapore in 1988. It continues to draw critical acclaim in Canada, the United States of America, India, Malaysia and Singapore. My choreography has been featured by dancers of Indian, Modern, Malay, Indonesian, Chinese and Ballet disciplines. In 1997, I was also the first Canadian dancer to have been commissioned to mount a piece on a dance company in India. My choreography has been featured in several festivals and venues including the Singapore International Festival of Arts, Danceworks Mainstage, The Can-Asian International Dance Festival, Kalanidhi Dance Festival in Toronto, Canada Dance Festival in Ottawa, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C., the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Quebec, the University of Minnesota, St. Mark’s Dance Space in New York, Rubin Museum of Art in New York and Tangente in Montreal.

    Q: Is Bharatanatyam a rare, specialized dance or is it recognized most places you travel and perform?

    A: Based on my experiences, Bharatanatyam, when properly taught or presented, has the unique ability to cut across cultural, social, religious and political barriers making it a truly universal dance. Its ability to be simultaneously classical and contemporary makes it apealing for a western student of dance to enter the form with ease and comfort. I always feel for any classical artform to be relevant, the student has to have an informed comprehension of the context of the form, its indigenous development as well as it global manifestation in both its source country as well as in the Diaspora. I feel fortunate to be in a unique place to be a practioner of both classical and experimental Bharatanatyam.

    Q: Do you enjoy dancing or teaching more?

    A: I equally enjoy performing, choreographing, teaching and researching. I try and bring a holistic approach to my art.

    Q: What do your dances represent?

    A: Over the past 10 years, I have been creating a unique dance language that expresses my unique Canadian/Indian/Singaporean identity. In South India, there are female courtesans known as devadasis, males from the royal house used to learn dance from the male dance masters called nattuvanars. My representations of devadasi repertoire are thus stylized abstractions that call attention to the language of desire, eroticism and love once spoken by devadasi women, and today silenced by their disappearance. I have studied the devadasi community for over a decade, and over the years have integrated their aesthetic sensibilities and abstraction of human feelings into my own performances. Adhering to this tradition, as a male dancer, I sometimes interpret female roles. The Bharatanatyam dancer today, irrespective of gender, fluidly interprets these universal feelings in an almost androgynous trans-gendered manner and has a responsibility to continue maintaining the dignity and integrity of this great tradition.

    Q: Where did you receive your degrees and in what?

    A: I hold a bachelor’s of arts degree in linguistics and Asian studies from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, a master’s degree in religion and philosophy from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg and finally a master’s of arts degree in dance from York University in Toronto. My modern dance training includes classes with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and the Singapore Ballet Academy.

    Q: What are some of your current projects?

    A: I am at present working with Canadian modern dance legend Margie Gillis who is creating a solo for me to be premiering in 2006-7. I am constantly working with internationally respected choreographers. My research areas include colonialism, post-colonialism and Indian dance, globalization and the arts of India, modernism in Bharatanatyam and the history of devadasi dance traditions in Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh, South India. I conduct ethnographic fieldwork on a regular basis in South India, with a particular focus on the Tanjavur, Cudappah, Madurai and Pudukottai districts in Tamil Nadu, and the Krishna, East Godavari and West Godavari districts in Andhra Pradesh. My research brings together several interpretive and theoretical approaches, as it integrates the disciplines of performance studies, anthropology, history and gender studies.

    Q: Tell me about the Toronto-based dance company inDANCE.

    A: inDANCE, http://www.indance.ca is my company. It is a South Asian dance company established in 1999 as a vehicle to encompass the entire range of my creative output: choreography, performance, touring and teaching. The primary mandate of inDANCE is to form creative partnerships with Canadian and international collaborators, including choreographers, dancers, musicians, designers, scholars and presenters. I am always commuting back and forth between Toronto and Middletown in addition to my international engagements.

    Q: Do you have a significant other and family?

    A: My partner and soul-mate Rex who is an interior and costume designer, continues to inspire and fuel all my creative and artistic endeavors. He is also my harshest and most constructive critic which makes me the luckiest dance artist in whole world! My two nephews Sanjay and Kirin are my pride and joy and I am extremely attached to them.

    Q: What other activities do you enjoy?

    A: I am a movie buff, watching a plethora of films, from art movies to commercial cinema. I loved the recent Harry Potter movie as well as the brilliant adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice.” I cannot wait for Peter Jackson’s “King Kong!” I am constantly drawn to contemporary pop culture, which I always bring to my art. I feel this makes my art relevant and accessible and for me that is extremely important. I never want my art to become a stagnant museum showpiece – that is dangerous for any artist.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor