Olivia Drake

Associate Dean of Admission Gives Human Touch to All Those Applications


Greg Pyke, senior dean of admission, stands outside the Office of Admission.
 
Posted 04/17/06
Every year, the Office of Admission begins with a prospective student pool of over 30,000 and mails information to another 88,000 based on PSAT and ACT scores and grades. Of these, about 7,000 apply, and after review, this number is whittled down to less than 2,000. Of this amount, ultimately, 720 of the applicants will become Wesleyan’s newest freshman class.

As a senior associate dean of admission, Greg Pyke reviews hundreds of these applications, and he meets almost as many potential applicants each year. He’s currently preparing to welcome the Class of 2010. But the process that got these students here is long and exacting.

Pyke and 10 other admissions personnel divvy up all the applications. Each one must be reviewed at least twice before acceptance or denial is granted.

This year, Pyke and Leah Kelley, assistant dean of admission, reviewed applicants from northern New England states, eastern Massachusetts, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Africa and Europe. Each application is scrutinized not only for test scores, grades and achievements, but also for traits that show the applicant would benefit from Wesleyan’s educational program and environment.

“We want our student body to have variety, so we’re looking for students who have a combination of talents, experience, unique backgrounds and opinions, and who have demonstrated social involvement,” Pyke explains.

Nancy Meislahn, dean of admission and financial aid, determines which students are accepted.

“Greg is the office data-base guru and numbers cruncher,” she says. “In that work, as well, he brings the sensitivity of the practitioner to every task and report.”

Pyke seems to have a new job for every season.

In the fall he travels to schools across the country and the world, meeting prospective students and parents. In winter, Pyke begins the process of going through “the stack” – the hundreds of applications – with special attention paid to those applying for early admission.

In spring, Pyke concentrates his efforts on convincing the accepted students to choose Wesleyan through WesFest and face-to-face conversations. By June, the incoming frosh class will be announced. In the summer, Pyke is busy meeting and speaking with campus visitors, compiling statistics on the incoming fall class, and planning his next year.

The process is cyclical year to year, with new changes and challenges implemented every season.

“Never knowing what is coming next and wondering what questions or concerns will arise the next year is one of the biggest reasons I enjoy working in the Admission Office,” says Pyke, who has been a member of the department since he started in at Wesleyan 1978.

And as for this years’ frosh, Pyke reports that the Class of 2009 comprised 6,879 applicants, of which 1,902, or 28 percent of those who applied, were admitted. Of the 1,902, 71 percent were ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class; 13 percent are the first generation in their family to go to college; 79 percent live outside of New England; 41 percent are students of color; 77 percent have taken biology, chemistry and physics before entering college; and 76 percent had studied a foreign language for at least four years.

Pyke’s responsibilities have grown over the past 28 years. He previously handled the transfer student admission process, and later the senior interviewer program. He’s currently the statistical information reporter. In this role, Pyke generates class profiles for the university, public media and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, designed to collect data from all primary providers of postsecondary education. He reports on the total number of students accepted, students of color, geographical information, average SAT and ACT stores, among several other factors.

In addition to reviewing college applications and collecting and reporting statistical information, Pyke collaborates with Joan Adams, assistant to the dean, on the High School Scholars Program. Through this program, local high school seniors have the opportunity to take classes at Wesleyan with no tuition charge. They attend classes with Wesleyan students, and are graded on the same scale as a college student would be. Of the 23 high school scholars who applied this past academic year: 15 were accepted into the program and enrolled in courses either in the fall of ‘05 or the spring of ‘06.

“When parents ask me, ‘What is an average class size,’ I try to understand what they are really asking. They don’t want me to say, 17.2 or some decimal number,” Pyke says. “What they really want to know is, if their child will be able to talk in class or will their child get to work with his professor one on one? The answer cannot be given in a simple number. There is never a short answer to a question or concern.”

Pyke knows some of the emotions parents go though during the college application process. He and his wife, Karen Bovard ’77, have gone through the procedure themselves with their two children Alan and Josh, who are both currently enrolled in college. Pyke also has an older daughter, Jenny, who was an interim class dean at Wesleyan and is currently in a similar, permanent position at Mt. Holyoke College.

“Greg is such a wonderful colleague: smart, funny and thoughtful,” Meislahn says. “He brings a great balance of Wesleyan history, as well as an educator’s and father’s sensibility to the process. No one knows his or her territory better. Greg helps us all understand the importance of access, context and opportunity for each applicant.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Art Director Has an Eye for Design


Steven Jacaruso, art director, designs the look and feel for Wesleyan magazine.
 
Posted 04/17/06
Q: When did you come to Wesleyan?

A: I was hired in July 1998 as the assistant art director. Later on I became the associate director, and then the art director in 2000 for the Office of University Communications.

Q: How did you become interested in graphic design?

A: When I was a kid, I was always into drawing and I was intrigued by logos and full-page movie ads in the New York Times. I’ve always had my eye on the visual aspect of things. Back then, graphic design wasn’t a common career, so after high school I went to business school, which led me to the University of New Haven where I studied graphic design.

Q: Do graphic designers have a distinct style, as would an oil painter or writer?

A: Some do, but I try hard not to have a style. I like to approach each project with an open mind because one style is not applicable to all problems.

Q: How has your job changed in your eight years here?

A: My first year here, I was doing a lot of budgetary work and handling the production aspect of things, as well as most of the design work. When I was promoted to an associate director, my responsibilities grew and when I became the art director, it became my sole responsibility to design the Wesleyan magazine, which was something I’ve never done before.

Q: I imagine that was a big challenge.

A: I was basically handed a magazine and it was a challenge to learn the process. I had to keep true to the Wesleyan message while implementing my own design elements. It is a constant evolution.

Q: When you say design elements, how do you use them to keep the magazine cohesive?

A: On a visual level Wesleyan magazine is all about great images – images that are a step above most alumni magazines. I use color and layout to enhance the visual appeal of the images. I do the same with typography. I like to experiment with type settings and headlines that will draw a reader into the story. I don’t like my design to overshadow the main purpose of the magazine, which is to report on successes of our alumni.

Q: You designed the Wesleyan logo, correct?

A: I refreshed the existing Wesleyan logo. It was time to move into a new direction with the logo. We wanted to move it into the new millennium without sacrificing its historical relevance. The shield is used sparingly as a nod to tradition. The new logo treatment has been very well received and works in many different mediums from campus signage to print publications.

Q: How long does it take to get the magazine designed and what goes on?

A: It’s about a three month process for each issue from beginning to end. After our initial meeting, I see what stories the writers will be working on and I begin creating the color pallet and templates for the issue and determining the amount of real estate dedicated to each section and feature. Stories that are longer, or the most significant, or have quality images, get more pages in the magazine. Then I meet with Bill Burkhart, the university photographer, and we discuss what images need to be taken. I lay out the magazine and we go through a month and a half of critiques. I take all comments, positive and negative, into consideration.

Q: What is your reaction when a magazine is finally finished and you get your first peek at the printed product?

A: Since we only publish four times a year, I am always happy to see it designed, trimmed to size and published. But being a perfectionist, I go through it page by page and notice little things that we could’ve done differently. I’m always striving for perfection in each issue.

Q: In addition to the magazine, what other publications do you design?

A: I oversee all creative for most of the publications. When a certain department needs to be folded into the Wesleyan brand, such as Wesleyan Annual Fund for Excellence, campaign and most recently the timeline exhibit that will be unveiled at Reunion and Commencement weekend, I usually take the lead. Sometimes I’ll start a design and set up the specs, and hand it off to Anne Marcotty, our senior designer, or Shelley Burchsted, our production manager, who will have our student interns work on projects.

Q: Where did you work before Wesleyan?

A: I started out working for my father’s computer business, then I worked at a t-shirt company, a newspaper, and then I got into the music industry. I designed CD covers for artists like Richard Elliot, Barbara Mandrell, Bon Jovi, the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and then art directed a small record label in New York City. The music industry isn’t real consistent and seemed really one-dimensional to me, so I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone and open my own business in Waterbury. I worked on a lot of civic-minded projects for the community with the local Chamber of Commerce. I had to do it all, from the budget to production to client relations to design. This enabled me to hone my business skills, which helped when I started at Wesleyan.

Q: Why did you want to work in academia?

A: Being in a university is a nice blend of my experiences and I can be creative but also business-minded. I get to do projects for alumni and external audiences, but also for students, which have a youthful element to them.

Q: How do you keep your design ideas fresh and creative?

A: I am submerged in the design world. I’m always reading design magazines, and when I read other publications, I’m always looking at how they are designed. I tend to surround myself with people who are very creative and through that I find inspiration. In college I was trained by a professor who learned design in Basel, Switzerland and Yale University. We never had computers so we designed everything in a very organic way. I learned a lot by that method. Computers are a tool. They do not make a good designer.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: Graphic design is my hobby and I have turned it into a career, but I also like working out, yard work, hanging out with friends and family, watching movies and listening to music. Music has been a big influence in my life. I always wanted to be the guy who advises the careers of music artists. Who knows, I still might do that one day.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Winter Athletes Honored at Reception


Above, Midge Bennet chats with men’s basketball coach Gerry McDowell during the Winter Athlete Reception April 13 in the Freeman Athletic Center.

At right, President Doug Bennet speaks to winter athletes during the reception.

Below, wrestling coach Drew Black, pictured on left, shakes hands with John Biddiscomb, director of Athletics.

Posted 04/17/06

President Doug Bennet, Midge Bennet and John Biddiscombe, director of Athletics and chair of Physical Education, honored winter athletes at a reception in the Freeman Athletic Center’s Bridge Lobby April 13.
 

“The positive spirit and enthusiasm of the teams seemed very strong this winter,” President Bennet said. “Midge and I have enjoyed coming to some of the games and sharing in the excitement.”
President Bennet acknowledged all winter teams including men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s indoor track, men’s and women’s squash, men’s and women’s swimming and diving and wrestling. The teams’ members and coaches attended the reception.
 
Bennet and Biddiscombe gave special recognition to stand-out student athletes.

Bennet acknowledged this year’s recipients of Wesleyan’s Roger Maynard Memorial Award, presented annually to the outstanding male and female scholar-athletes. The winners were Hannah Stubbs ’06 and Owen Kiely ’06.

Stubbs is captain of the women’s basketball team and has a 3.52 GPA. She will stay on at Wesleyan after graduation to get her masters. She is a three-time, first-team NESCAC basketball player. She is ranked number two on the all time scoring list. Last year, she was was an Academic All-American.

Kiely, a cross country, indoor and outdoor track team member, has a 3.57 GPA. He won the 2006 New England Division III Championship and finished 14th at the Division III NCAA Championship earning All American status.

The winter teams were lead by the women’s basketball team that had an 18-8 record and this team was among the top four teams in NESCAC and also participated in the NCAA tournament. The women’s basketball team was coached by Kate Mullen and assisted by Chris Lanser and Molly Dullea.

The men’s and women’s swim teams also distinguished themselves. Bennet honored the men’s team for it’s 12-4 record and for finishing fourth in the NESCAC Championship. The women’s team had 12 wins and six losses. The swim teams are coached by Mary Bolich and assisted by Molly Parrish and Jeff Miller.

Individual swimmers that qualified for the NCAA Championship were Ben Byers ’07 and Amanda Shapiro ’08. Shapiro earned All-American honors by finishing fifth in the 200-yard breast stroke and sixth in the 100-yard breast stroke.

Two other Wesleyan athletes also distinguished themselves by becoming NCAA All Americans in indoor track. Bennet honored Ellen Davis ’07, who qualified for the NCAA Division III Championships in the 5,000 meter, where she performed superbly in finishing fourth in the nation. Wes Fuhrman ’05 also represented Wesleyan at the national meet, competing in the 5,000-meter and placed seventh in his last race of his college career.

In addition, Ben Byers ’07 went to NCAAs for swimming and Dan de Lalla ’07 went to the NCAAs for wrestling but didn’t place.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor, and Brian Katten, director of Sports Information

“We Are Family” Theme of Alumni of Color Reunion


All alumni of color are invited to a reunion April 21-23 on campus. The reunion will coincide with WesFest so alumni have the opportunity to mingle with prospective students.
Posted 04/17/06
Wesleyan’s alumni of color will have the opportunity to reconnect with each other and meet the newest generation of students of color during a reunion on campus on April 21-23.

“We Are Family: Wesleyan through the Years” will allow fellow alumni of color to reminisce about five decades of Wesleyan’s distinctive history. It will also provide an insider’s glimpse of Wesleyan today and all of the renovations, enhancements and new improvements to student life on campus.

During the event, which coincides with WesFest, alumni will spend time with students and prospective students and receive updates on new strategic plan, “Engaged with the World.” There will also be presentations by distinguished alumni of color, a campus tour and other opportunities to socialize.

“The schedule includes something for everyone and we are delighted to welcome our alumni of color back to campus for an exciting opportunity to revisit with old friends and get a fresh perspective on the Wesleyan we love,” says Barbara Jan Wilson, vice president for University Relations.

“We Are Family” events kick off on April 21 with a reception at the Rocky Hill Marriott, dinner with trustees in honor of former Dean of the College Edgar Beckham ’58. The program will include a welcoming address by Board of Trustee Chairman Jim Dresser ’63 and a DJ Party with Smokey Fontaine ’93.

April 22 events include a breakfast and conversation with President Doug Bennet and Midge Bennet and a meeting with Sanford Livingston ’87, National Chair of the Black Alumni Council. The day also includes a presentation by Majora Carter ’88, a talk about the admissions process and a chat with current students about their Wesleyan and a career fair. April 23 includes a breakfast at the Rocky Hill Marriott and informal alumni gatherings throughout the day.

Members of the Alumni of Color Network also will have the chance to meet with their councils during the weekend. The network includes the Asian Pacific American Alumni Council, the Black Alumni Council and the Latino Alumni Council. Each council develops events and programs that reflect specific interests and experiences of alumni of color. The network promotes interests pertaining to communities of color and collaborates with university offices to assist and support on- and off-campus programs.

“This is a special opportunity to come back to campus in the spring, slow down, reconnect with old friends and make some new ones,” says “We Are Family” coordinator Faraneh Carnegie, who is assistant director of Regional Programs and Networks and staff liaison to the Alumni of Color Network.

“We Are Family: Wesleyan through the Years” is sponsored by the Black Alumni Council and the Alumni of Color Network. The cost to register is $50 for alumni and guests per person; $25 per person for Graduates of the Last Decade and their guests; and $10 for each child, ages 13-18. Childcare is available.

For more information or to register, contact Faraneh Carnegie at 860-685-4829, or by e-mail at fcarnegie@wesleyan.edu, or visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/alumni/aoc/weekend/

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Student-Athlete Breaks Team Record for Hits


Baseball player Jeff Maier ’06 has received national media attention this month for breaking Wesleyan’s career hits record.

Posted 04/17/06
Jeff Maier ’06 a government major and third baseman on the varsity baseball team set the all-time record for most hits in a career against Bates College on April 12. During the game he finished 2-for-3, doubling twice, to give him 170 career hits. Prior to the game he posted four of the Cardinals’ 13 hits during a double-header with Middlebury at home April 9 to tie Bill Robinson ’03 for the team lead in career hits with 168.

Maier’s achievement has been chronicled in more than 35 newspapers in the United States and Canada, including a front-page story in The New York Times. He has also been featured on local news and ESPN.

The New York interest is particularly acute since Maier gained a measure of fame there 10 years ago for catching a ball hit by Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees during the American League Championship game. The ball was headed for the glove of a Baltimore Orioles player but Maier’s reach-over catch made it a home run and the Yankees went on to win the American League Pennant and the World Series.

As of April 13, Maier ranks first on the squad with a .404 batting average. Wesleyan won the game, beating Bates 14-2. Baseball has been played at Wesleyan since 1865 when the university played its first game, which was against Yale University.

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations and Brian Katten, director of Sports Information

Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm Growing Up – and Out


Rachel Ostlund ‘08 sprinkles seedlings inside a shelter at Long Lane Farm. The farm is expanding this spring to a full acre. Pictured below are vegetables grown last year by the Long Lane Farming Club.

Posted 04/17/06
Although Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm Club uses organic methods to grow its produce, a little “Miracle Grow “ has been sprinkled on one aspect of their garden: its progress.

The Long Lane Farm Club was created in 2004 so students would have a place to come together and learn about food security issues. What began as a 50-foot plot of flowers and vegetables will be expanded into a full acre this spring. The expanded cultivation area will increase the club’s produce, which is shared by Wesleyan students and the local community.

Maddie Thomson ‘08 got involved in the farm last spring, favoring the idea of organic farming. When a person buys a tomato at the grocery store, chances are, it was not locally grown, she says.

“So much of our food is grown halfway across the world and shipped here using enormous amounts of fossil fuels,” Thomson says. “I think it’s really important to think about where our food comes from, and whether it’s produced sustainability. There is a growing movement to rethink the way we produce food, and at Long Lane we’re part of that movement, which is really exciting.”

The 50 members of the Long Lane Farming Club are thrilled to expand to a full acre. Knowing it will take extra helping hands, about 15 volunteers from the Wesleyan community have been recruited to help out with watering, weeding, pruning, mixing soil and other gardening duties. Almost all the work is done by hand.

In addition, the club’s Community Supported Agricultural Project will have 10 members this year. These members support the garden by paying a fee, and every week for 10 weeks, they receive a share of the produce. Each pays $350, of which $150 is a donation to make produce available to food-insecure people. Members also participate in the distribution process by manning the tables every week to help pass out food to the other members.

The club will have a farm stand in low-income areas of Middletown and can accept food stamps. Everything that doesn’t sell will go to soup kitchens.

The Long Lane Farm has more than 80 vegetables and herbs grown in the two-year-old organic garden. This includes tomatoes, broccoli, kale, carrots, lettuce, kohlrabi, beets, corn, beans, eggplants, zucchini, pumpkins, squash. New this year will be a garlic crop.

The Wesleyan students have already planted seedlings inside their student residences. Once it’s warm enough, they will replant the seedlings into the garden.

This summer the student farmers plan to hire four interns to work on the farm. Since the farm doubles as an educational tool for the community, the Long Lane Farm has partnered with Snow Elementary School in Middletown to get kids out in the farm to work, play, learn about farming and plants, and taste-test a few vegetables.

In 2004, Rachel Lindsay ’05 planted the first crops in a circular-shaped plot. Local residents rounded out the corners with garlic and potato gardens, among several flower beds. Lindsay, Rachel Ostlund ‘06 and other Wesleyan students later planted a tomato and broccoli garden, among rows of Swiss chard, pumpkins and squash.

“I just love that Long Lane Farm is a totally student-run farm, so that we get a chance to see and participate in all of the aspects of running it,” Thomson says.

The Long Lane Farm is funded by the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, the Rockfall Foundation and personal donations. It relies on donations to pay summer interns and make the garden possible.

For more information or to make a donation to the Long Lane Farm, e-mail longlanefarm@wesleyan.edu.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Lecture, Electronic Recycling, Food Politics Parts of Earth Week


Posted 04/17/06
The Wesleyan community will celebrate Earth Week April 16-April 22 with a series of activities, lectures and observations. Events include:
 
Lecture on “The Purpose of Nature”
Verlyn Klinkenborg, a writer and professor of literature and creative writing at Fordham University and Harvard University, will deliver the Earth Day address “The Purpose of Nature” at 8 p.m. April 20 in Memorial Chapel. A reception and book signing immediately follow in the Zelnick Pavilion.

Verlyn Klinkenborg is the author of Making Hay, The Last Fine Time, The Rural Life, and Timothy: Or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, and many magazine and newspaper articles. A modern Thoreau, his lyrical portrayals of rural living and nature captivate our imagination while delivering a critical message.  He is a member of the editorial board of The New York Times.
 
His visit is sponsored by the Robert Schumann Environmental Studies Program.
 
Recycle Computer Electronics
Information Technology Services and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety are teaming up to promote a clean and safe environment by hosting a recycle day. Anyone with old computer terminals, monitors, televisions, printers, keyboards, ink jet cartridges, or other computer parts can place them at a designated area on the Exley Science Center loading dock between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. April 17-21. For more information contact Bonnie Penders at 860-685-3096.

Food Politics Week
In addition to Earth Week, Wesleyan’s Earth House residents are organizing Food Politics Week, celebrated April 22-29 on campus. They will offer a soy workshop for making tofu and soymilk; a bread baking workshop; a “dumpster-diving” workshop; a farm workday; an edible plants walk with Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology; and a lecture on organic farming. Their observation will conclude with Veg Out on April 27, a home-cooked, primarily local, organic vegan meal open to the Wesleyan community. The cost is $4.

Brooke Duling ’08 says the group aims to raise awareness about the political implications people take simply by choosing to eat certain foods. They will highlight the consumption of local, organic, vegetarian/vegan food and open a dialogue about how to access these foods.

For additional information, visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/earthweek/ or contact Kathleen Norris, administrative assistant, Environmental Studies Certificate Program at 860-685-3733 or by e-mail at knorris@wesleyan.edu.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Fire Specialist Focuses on Safety, Preventive Measures, Education


Barb Spalding, associate director of Campus Fire Safety, teaches Annalisa Kelly ’08 how to use a fire extinguisher in a set-up drill. Spalding hopes to teach all students on campus how to use the devices.
 
Posted 04/01/06
Q: Barb, how did you work your way up to the associate director of Campus Fire Safety?

A: I started in November 2003, as a consultant, hired by Joyce Topshe, the assistant vice president of facilities to do a fire/life safety study of the undergraduate residences. In April 2004 I was hired as a fulltime employee as associate director, project manager in Construction Services. When Physical Plant reorganized in the summer of 2005, my title changed to associate director of Campus Fire Safety.

Q: This is a new position, correct?

A: It was the Physical Plant reorganization that prompted the new position. We all realized that there are significant fire and life safety issues at Wesleyan, especially in our housing, and there wasn’t a single point person or department to address all the issues.

Q: What is your goal as a campus fire safety specialist?

A: My goal is to educate as many people as possible in the things we can all do to make our environment as safe as possible. Have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at home. Practice what to do in the event of an emergency. Know as much as you can about the building systems or features that are intended to keep you safe. And pay attention wherever you are to your environment and ways for you and yours to be safe.

Q: What are you working on lately?

A: I started with a study in 2003, identifying projects that would increase the fire safety for students in undergrad housing. We got the Trustees approval last May for the Foss Hill fire sprinkler/fire alarm project as well as for a project to install fire sprinkler systems in all the wood frame and Program Housing with five beds or more. That is 46 wood frame houses and 11 program houses that didn’t have fire sprinkler systems and are in long-term locations. So I am managing those installations – this summer eight houses are getting new fire sprinkler systems as part of Major Maintenance projects, and seven others as part of the undergrad fire sprinkler project. The rest will be covered over the next three summers.

Q: What else have you worked on?

A: I managed a project to install carbon monoxide detectors in undergrad residences that use oil or gas fuel for heat. I wrote new specifications for installations of fire alarm and fire sprinkler systems on campus. I coordinated fire drills in student housing and for fire/life safety training for the Res Life staff. I have taken over the responsibility for I am working on a “Better Living” program for students in program houses and wood frames to introduce them to their house – here is the thermostat, here is the water shut-off for the toilet, here is a smoke detector, CO detector, sprinkler. I am also working on a Building Ambassador program for administrative and academic buildings to help occupants familiarize themselves with the fire/life safety issues in their workplaces. I also am updating a building database that includes all buildings on campus and has information about the type of fire alarm and fire sprinkler systems, as well as building square footage, date and type of construction, occupancy, etc. We hope to use this data, and an updated campus map with software to have an intelligent campus map for everyone to use.

Q: Where did you acquire your knowledge on fire safety?

A: After 10 years of contracting, I applied for a job as a construction project manager at Northern Arizona University, where I had completed several jobs as a subcontractor. One of my biggest projects was to develop an inspection, test and repair program for the two dozen or so fire sprinkler systems in the residential buildings on campus. That led to a study of the fire alarm systems. Since Northern Arizona was a state institution, they did not fall under the jurisdiction of the local fire authorities and had serious lapses in the inspection, testing and maintenance of their systems. I worked with the campus fire marshal, the state fire marshal, the local fire department and other professionals and contractors to repair, replace and bring up to code the fire life safety systems on campus. I also attended classes at Arizona and received my degree in business and construction management.

Q: What laws or guidelines in fire safety must Wesleyan abide by?

A: We have to meet all local, state and federal laws pertaining to new and existing buildings. The state just adopted a bunch of new codes, some of which pertain to new buildings and construction and some pertain to existing buildings and renovation and use. I actually really like to study codes but this revision is really a challenge just to figure out which code applies to our specific cases. Considering we have a higher percentage of 25-plus year old buildings than our peer institutions, we have done an excellent job of keeping the buildings safe for people to live and work in.

Q: Environmental Health & Safety is in the process of holding fire drills in all buildings on campus. What is the purpose of these drills?

A: This is the next step in my safe buildings campaign. It is one thing to make the building safe, but there is always the people variable. We will be doing fire drills in all admin and academic buildings on campus, because generally people do not know how to respond during a fire alarm evacuation. If they remember what they learned in kindergarten, they will leave the building when they hear the bells. But as adults, most people forget that that is actually the law, not just a good idea. We will also be doing fire extinguisher training for anyone interested.

Q: If there is a fire, can you explain how employees should evacuate a smoky building?

A: Stay calm. If there is an alarm activation and you are in a room with the door closed, feel the door or handle first to see if it is warm, before opening the door. If there is smoke in the corridor, stay low to the floor where there is more air and head directly to an exit. If there is too much smoke, close the door to the room that you are in, but a towel or something at the bottom of the door to seal it, call 911 or x3333 to let someone know where you are. Open a window and signal to someone outside also. The Fire Department is very close to campus and will be on scene within five minutes max.

Q: Who else works on fire safety issues or environmental health and safety issues?

A: I report to Joyce Topshe and go over everything with her. I share an office with Bill Nelligan, associate director of Environmental Health and Safety and Chris Cruz, safety specialist, and Ricky Howard, EH&S project manager. I also work very closely with Residential Life staff.

Q: What are the biggest challenges your job poses?

A: How to balance safety with practicality. It defeats the mission of creating a safe campus, if procedures that are put in place are too restrictive and cumbersome. Then people are not only not being safe, but usually doing something really stupid to avoid doing the right thing. My goal is to have effective rules.

Q: Can you give an example of this?

A: For instance, string lights or “Christmas lights” used to be on the prohibited items list, but everyone had them and trying to hide them caused more of a problem. They are now allowed as long as they are plugged directly into the wall, since extension cords are still prohibited. There are still students who don’t get it that candles and incense cause fires and that is why they are prohibited. And smoking really isn’t allowed in any university buildings.

Fore information on fire safety can be found at: http://www.wesleyan.edu/firesafety.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Associate Registrar Says Technology is always Changing in the Office


Beth Labriola, associate registrar, is responsible for daily office operations, the drop/add system, the grade entry system, transfer credit articulation and the diploma process.
 
Posted 04/01/06
After 14 years working in the Office of the Registrar and Office of Graduate Student Services, Beth Labriola says every day at Wesleyan is just as exciting.

“I’m constantly being challenged, and because of these challenges, I have really been able to grow,” she says from her office in North College. “There’s always something new going on here.”

Labriola, associate registrar, came to the university in 1992 as an administrative assistant in the Office of the Registrar. From there, she moved into the Office of Graduate Student Services and returned to the Registrar’s Office in 1998. She was promoted to associate registrar in 2004.

The Office of the Registrar oversees all student records in support of enrollment, course registration, academic history, and transcript maintenance, among other student and faculty data services.

As the associate registrar, Labriola is responsible for overseeing many of the daily operations in the office. Her staff of four handles classroom assignments, enrollment verification, the grading process, the Honors Program and transcript production. She frequently meets with the student deans to discuss student records or run reports for them, and she’s also available to talk to any students who pop in her office with questions.

“Beth is a wonderful registrar who possess the right personality for the job,” says Registrar Anna van der Burg, who has worked with Labriola for six years. “Her knowledge of the University is a real asset to our Office and she is great to work with.”

Labriola is constantly working with technologies to better the processes for students, faculty and the office. In 2004, she helped design and implement the electronic grade entry system. Through this method, faculty enter grades electronically through their faculty portfolios instead of submitting them on paper for data entry.

“The process has minimized data errors, speeding up the amount of time it takes to get grades into the system and displayed to students,” she says. “Faculty no longer have to trudge over to North College or Public Safety after hours to submit their grades, and they can enter grades anywhere that there is internet access,” she says.

Labriola works closely with van der Burg, and Heather Alderfer, assistant registrar. They are all currently are working with Information Technology Services to implement a new pre-registration system, scheduled to be in use in April. This system, which evolved from faculty and student input, will replace the online registration system that was in place for the past 10 years.

Labriola is learning the new system inside and out so she can write the system’s training manual. This user-friendly document will be available to all students and faculty, online to download as a PDF. Once this system is complete, Labriola will immediately begin her next project – developing a system so students and alumni can request their transcripts online. Students currently need to download a form and fax it to the office, or deliver it in person.

“It’s just amazing how technology has changed the way our office operates directly,” Labriola says. “When I started here, everything was on paper, and now students and faculty can do everything from scheduling classes to entering grades through their electronic portfolios. It’s a very exciting time for our office and for the university.”

The electronic method also decreases the chance of error in data recording.

Although much of the Registrar’s Office work is done online, there is still one task that will always be done face to face: diploma distribution. Labriola and her staff oversee the printing of the diplomas and hand them out during Reunion & Commencement Weekend.

“It is so much fun to hand out the diplomas to students that I’ve been in contact with over the past four years,” she says.

Labriola says her work study job in college led her to want to follow a career path that involved students and record keeping. While studying communication and theater arts at Western Connecticut State University, she worked at the university’s Continuing Education Office. She graduated in 1991, and went on to receive a master’s of art in liberal studies from Wesleyan in 2002.

She also empathasizes with the incoming international exchange students. As a child, Labriola spent three years living in Saudi Arabia and Thailand, and in high school, she lived with a family in Turkey as an exchange student.

“Many of the new international students are nervous when they get here, and I can really identify with them,” she says. “I love talking with them.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Track Coach Teaches Students about the Hurdles in Life


Walter Curry, head track and field coach, says he loves to make a difference in his student-athletes’ lives.
 
Posted 04/01/06
Q: When did you become the head men’s and women’s track coach?

A: I started coaching at Wesleyan in December of 2002.

Q: You are a U.S.A. Track and Field Level II certified coach in sprints, hurdles and jumps. At Wesleyan are these what you specialize in?

A: My first three seasons with the team I coached just the sprints, long, triple and high jumps. I was lucky enough to have a really good part-time hurdle coach and a very good part–time pole vault coach.

Q: Prior to Wesleyan, you worked for eight years as an assistant track and field coach at Boston College. There, you had success coaching three Division I All-Americans and numerous Big East all-conference and all-New England athletes. What led you to Wesleyan?

A: I landed at Wesleyan because I was given a chance to be a head coach and lead a track program. I learned a great many things about track; coaching; administration; people; and just life while I was at Boston College. I really loved it there and I had some wonderful experiences, but it was time for me to see if I could do things on my own.

Q: Where did you go to college and what did you major in? Were you a track star there?

A: I got my degree in journalism from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Go Cyclones! I worked in TV for five years before I got into coaching. And yes, I was a student-athlete on the track team at ISU. I was pretty good, not what you would call a ‘superstar’ but my name is still on the top 10 list in the hurdle events. And it’s been a while since I graduated.

Q: Why did you decide ultimately to become a track coach? Is your position rewarding?

A: It is what I think I was meant to do. What can you say about being able to do something you love with people who feel the same way you do, like the coaching staff and athletes, and get to mentor and share in the growing experience of all the student-athletes that come through your program? The best part is having these young people call me up or come and visit and tell me that something I told them or they learned from their relationship with me, and the rest of their teammates made a difference in their life. That makes me feel like what I do is very important.

Q: What classes do you teach, or have you taught, as an adjunct professor?

A: I teach Beginning Strength Training and Beginning Fitness. I enjoy helping students here on campus improve their health and fitness.

Q: When did you begin running and when did you realize you wanted to pursue racing? Were you ever a cross-country runner or are you more of a sprinter?

A: I started running track in the seventh grade and started hurdles in eighth grade. As for cross-country, no way. I will run no farther than the 800-meter!

Q: Who are your key student-athletes this season?

A: Distance runner Ellen Davis. Our best steeple chaser is Owen Kiely. The 400m runner would be Stephanie O’Brien. The triple jumper is Sam Grover. These are just some of the athletes who we depend on.

Q: What lessons do you stress to the students?

A: We ask all of our athletes to first, commit to our program; second, work hard; third, be accountable to the coaching staff and your teammates; fourth, manage their time well; and fifth, they need to have a love for track and field.

Q: I understand that you have produced an instruction video on hurdling?

A: My college track coach, Bill Bergan called me up and asked me if I could do him a favor. Coach Bergan was, and is still, a wonderful person and mentor. I jumped at the chance to help him out. His favor was to conduct a video clinic on the common errors and mistakes that happen when young track athletes are learning to hurdle. To make a long story short, everything turned out great and today I still have people tell me that they used my tape or have heard about it. Yes, I am in the video, but only as a coach.

Q: You have been a clinician for hurdle events at the Brown University Track and Field Camp, and you worked with the New England High School Track and Field Coaches Clinic. Why do you do this, and what do you hope participants get out of your teaching?

A: My answer is the same as before; the best part is having these young people call me up or come and visit and tell me that something I told them made a difference in their life. That makes me feel like what I do is very important and I was able to help them reach a personal goal.

Q: You have three children. Do you encourage them to get involved in athletics?

A: At this point in my life, my main interest is in my family. My kids are involved in lots of activities so my wife and I try to go and support their interest. My daughter is on her high school’s dance team. I coach my oldest son’s Pop Warner football team. My youngest child is a pretty good little soccer player. Plus there is baseball, dance class, summer camp, family trips, and other things. So all I do is try to be positive and help them find the joy in sports. I stress fun, hard work, commitment, sacrifice and pride.

Q: What is your coaching strategy for your own children?

A: I do have one rule for my kids when it comes to activities. If you start it, you finish it! No quitting in the middle of anything. If you really don’t like what you’re doing, once you are finished with it, you don’t have to do it again.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

No Break this Spring: Wesleyan Students Donate Time-Off to Help Others


At right, Jessica French Smith ’09, paints a mural with students from Nagarote, Nicaragua. She was one of more than 100 Wesleyan students who volunteered their spring break time to help others around the nation and world.

Posted 04/01/06
Jane Maxson ’06 spent her spring break on the gulf coast; however she wasn’t sporting a sun hat and flip-flops on the beach. Equipped with a hammer, nails and tool belt, Maxson spent her time-off school volunteering for hurricane relief efforts.

Maxon was one of over 100 Wesleyan students and faculty volunteering world-wide during break.

Helping the Hurricane Victims

Maxon and 50 other students, many of whom are Wesleyan Christian Fellowship members, teamed up with “Willing Hearts, Helping Hands,” a Christian ministry aiming to rebuild 200 houses in hurricane-affected areas. The students left March 11 and returned March 18. They aided victims on the Mississippi coast.

As part of their project, the Christian Fellowship members sought to explore the intersections of faith and service, specifically how faith motivates service.

“We spent the days doing relief work and the evenings discussing the Christian motivation for serving the poor, the idea of meeting needs in a holistic way and the specific cases and challenges associated with Hurricane Katrina,” explains Jane Maxson ’06. “I had a fantastic time, and I don’t think I could have had a more enjoyable time doing anything else.”

Another 50-plus students went directly to the hurricane’s path of wrath in New Orleans. They were housed in and around a Catholic school in the hardest-hit Upper Ninth Ward that had been converted into a base of operations for the organization they worked for, Common Ground Relief. Some students slept in classrooms, while others slept in tents outside.

Brian Thorpe ’07 spent nine days in the shattered city armed with crowbars, shovels,
and wheelbarrows, doing what he could to help clean-up and rebuild. He went there desensitized by the images on television. However, his perceptions changed when he came face-to-face with reality.

“Untold amounts of people in neighborhoods are still suffering from the effects of Katrina,” Thorpe says. “The raw truth is that seven months after the hurricane there is still precious little being done by the state, local, and especially federal government to rebuild the city and help the poorer citizens of the area to get back on their feet. Yet while I came back from New Orleans frustrated and disheartened, I still felt hopeful to see so many people my own age giving up their time and money to go down and help.”

Developing Wesleyan Partnership in Nicaragua

Jessica French Smith ’09, Kevin Young ’07, and Octavio Flores, adjunct associate professor of Romance Languages and Literatures went to Nagarote, Nicaragua as part of Wesleyan in Nicaragua (WIN) organization for 10 days. WIN is partnered with The Norwalk-Nagarote Sister City Project and together, the groups planned and to participated in community service activities which benefit the people of Nagarote.

The trio stayed for 10 days, living with local families, researching for future Wesleyan initiatives, meeting with teachers, members of the Ministry of Education and the Norwalk/Nagarote
Sister City Project Directiva. They worked with preschool students, delivered material aid to the classroom, and worked on creative projects with a group of at-risk high school age group in one of the poorest neighborhoods in town.

This was French Smith’s third time going to Nicaragua to do service work, and she’s already promised to return next year.

“Knowing that there are people all over the world living in horribly unjust conditions keeps me working hard to take advantage of the resources available to me and to use these resources to help others as much as possible,” she says. “Besides, it’s a much more satisfying alternative to Cancun. I don’t think anyone cries when they leave Cancun because they are going to miss their host family, or because they couldn’t stay longer and work harder.”

French Smith says there is a lot of potential for other Wesleyan students to work in help, even remotely. The group met with met with community leaders, teachers and members of the Board of Education and found that in the future there is a definite need for both didactic and consumable teaching materials. She hopes students can help with the development/fundraising for these materials.

French Smith says this was not a one-time kind of trip, but rather one designed toward building an ongoing relationship necessary to successful service work.

“I met so many incredible and loving people in Nicaragua and I learned a lot about myself and my personal philosophies concerning service-work,” French Smith says. “I definitely know that it is something all Wesleyan students should have to opportunity to get involved in, work for, and experience in the future and this is something I’m going to be working toward back on campus.”

Building Homes in South Carolina

A dozen students involved with Wesleyan Habitat for Humanity went to Georgetown, South Carolina to help build a Habitat House for nine days. Georgetown is a rural, poor area on the South Carolina coast with a large population of people living in substandard housing.

Mark Purser ’08 says the tip allowed several students who had never been to the South to experience its unique culture.

“The trip’s purpose was to give students an opportunity to spend their spring break participating in community service as well as learn about substandard housing and poverty in America,” he says.

The student worked on two Habitat houses, constructing and raising interior walls, sheeting the exterior walls and installing insulation.

Improving Children’s’ Lives in Mexico

In addition, nine students traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico over spring break to participate in a community service project. The helped build a structure that will house “Cala y Emes,” a group in Oaxaca whose mission is to help young people with special needs develop skills to enter the work force. This is a brand new organization that hopes to not only improve the lives of the kids they support, but also to educate/re-program the Oaxacan community about people with special needs.

The Wesleyan students helped clear donated land, poured the building’s foundation, and installed sinks, drainage and other necessities.

Cathy Crimmins Lechowicz, director of the Office of Community Service and Volunteerism at Wesleyan’s Center for Community Partnerships is impressed by the diverse range of projects dealing with economic development, hurricane relief, housing and long-term partnership building. She hopes to work with the students to share their experience for the entire Wesleyan community.

“I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the interest, motivation and dedication of the students organizing and going on the trips,” Crimmins Lechowicz says. “These immersion experiences can have a powerful impact on student’s perspective on issues.”

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Study Gives Teeth to Leaf Activity


Dana Royer, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, researched why pointy-leafed plants are more common in colder climates.

Posted 04/01/06
Smooth or pointy – is there a reason?

If that question refers to a leaf, a study by a Wesleyan researcher may have an answer that includes some cold facts about sap flow and the weather.

The study by Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Dana Royer and featured in a recent issue of the International Journal of Plant Sciences looks at the characteristics of plants with pointy leaves versus smooth-leafed plants and finds the difference is more than just cosmetic.

The pointy or “toothed” leaves contain high concentrations of xylem, a type of tissue that facilitates the transportation of the plant’s sap, which is rich with nutrients and water. The water then evaporates from the leaves causing the plants to draw up even more sap.

“The result is a greater rate of sap flow earlier in the spring,” says Royer. “The process apparently helps to jumpstart the plants’ photosynthetic season.”

This may explain why so many trees and other plants in colder climates have pointy leaves.

“The colder the climates generally have shorter growing seasons so the greater rate of sap flow is very beneficial to these plants,” says Royer. “The trade-off is that there is a higher rate of water loss among these plants. So there still needs to be sufficient rain during the growing season.”

Royer and co-author Peter Wilf from Pennsylvania State University performed the study by analyzing the moisture transpiration and photosynthesis activity of more than 60 woody species in two decidedly different regions: Pennsylvania and North Carolina. They found that photosynthesis and transpiration activity increased by as much as 45 percent among toothed-leafed plants during the first 30 days of the growing season. The analogous rates of smoothed-leafed plants in the same regions were significantly less.

The findings, while not definitive, certainly provide yet another example of nature’s ability to adapt to varying conditions. However, Royer adds that, in this case, there could be negative implications with climate change.

“It’s very speculative, but most of these toothed leaf trees are hardwoods that, along with their environmental benefits, also carry economic value,” Royer says. “It would not take a large rise in average temperatures during the growing season to put point-leaf plants at a competitive disadvantage.”

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations