Olivia Drake

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

Coach Keeps Wesleyan Runners on Track

John Crooke, adjunct professor of physical education, is Wesleyan’s cross country and distance track coach.
Posted 12/19/05

Q: How many years have you been the cross country coach and distance track coach at Wesleyan?

A: I just finished my 6th fall at Wesleyan.

Q: What have been the cross country teams’ key meets of the year?

A: The New England Regional meet was the major highlight for both men’s and women’s teams. The women placed 7th in the toughest region in the country and the men placed 2nd to qualify as a team to the National Championships. The men ended up placing 14th at nationals. The men placed four runners on the All New England regional team and Owen Kiely was the New England Champion. Owen Kiely and Ellen Davis both attained All-America status by virtue of their finish at the National Championships.

Q: It’s probably not an understatement to say most people don’t understand cross country. It’s not just going out and running, is it?

A: Cross country is a simple sport. The first person to the finish line wins. It’s not running, it is racing. There is a big difference. I am always telling my team that time doesn’t matter, place does. Cross country is a team sport. Most people think of it as an individual sport. A team is made up of seven runners. The first five runners score for the team. Each runner gets points based on his or her finish. If you place 5th, your team gets five points and if you place 27th, your team gets 27 points. You add up the points for your first five runners. The team with the lowest point total wins.

Q: When did you start running, and for what schools/teams?

A: I started running the summer before my freshman year in high school. I attended St. Anthony’s High School in Smithtown, Long Island. I then went onto run at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. I also ran competitively after college for about six years.

Q: What are your degrees in, and why did you decide to coach for a living?

A: I have a bachelor’s of science in management and a master’s of science in administration with a concentration in sport and athletic administration. I never really thought about coaching during or just after college. I was focused on my running and I thought I might open a running store after my competitive days were over. Then one day I saw an ad in a local paper for an assistant track coach. I thought it might be interesting so I gave the school a call. The athletic director ended up offering me the head coaching job. The rest they say is history. I realized very early on that coaching was what I wanted to do for the foreseeable future.

Q: Do you teach classes in addition to coaching?

A: Yes. I teach running for fitness in the fall and spring and I teach intro to strength training in the winter.

Q: What specific training methods do you use for your runners?

A: The training methods I use are an amalgamation of the training methods that my coaches used and what I found to work for me personally. All workouts are tailored to each athlete. We try to keep the athletes in small training groups.

Q: Is it easier to evaluate a prospect in cross country verses a prospect in a sport like ice hockey or baseball since it has the element of time for a distance which is a consistent measure?

A: I am not sure if it is easier or should I say more effective. I would like to see a prospect race if I had the time and resources. I have no time to watch athletes because I am in season all year. Cross country courses vary greatly so I really look at a prospect’s track times to get an idea of the talent level.

Q: Is it difficult being a three-season coach since you handle the distance runners in both indoor and outdoor track as well as cross country?

A: It is difficult because I am coaching both the men and the women all year. I do get emotionally tired by the end of the year. But I have been able to recharge the battery every summer.

Q: How many of your athletes run all three seasons?

A: Almost all of my athletes run all three seasons. The athletes need to train year round to be successful at the national level.

Q: What gives you the greatest satisfaction after a meet?

A: Running to our potential.

Q: How would you rate NESCAC cross country at the national level?

A: On the women’s side it is without question the toughest conference in the country. The national team champion and runner up have come from the NESCAC the past five seasons. This fall was the first time in six years that the national champion was not a NESCAC school. Last fall our women’s team placed 5th in the NESCAC, 5th in the New England region and 14th in the country. The men’s side is very strong too but it is not the strongest in the country. I would say it is in the top three or four of the toughest conferences in the country.

Q: How many miles do you personally run a week? Do you participate in any local races?

A: I run about 35 miles a week. I run with the team about three days a week. I don’t do any road racing. My competitive fire is quenched by my coaching.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests aside from running?

A: I have an old house that I am fixing up. I spend most of the summer working on it. When I am not coaching or working on the house I like to read and spend time with friends and family. I am also a pretty big Yankee fan.

Q: Does your family live around here?

A: I have three brothers and a sister. I have a brother and sister living in Connecticut. I get to see them more often than the rest of my family who live in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Q: Is it true you and George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, have a hot-line connection?

A: Yes it is true, but George never seems to listen to me. I guess that’s because he is a Williams guy.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Programs Provide Jobs, Friendships for Special-Needs Adults

From left to right, Cecil Apostol ’08, Kristina, Kimberly Greenberg , Bobby and Carolyn go over math problems at the Davenport Campus Center. Kristine, Bobby and Carolyn are students enrolled in the Middlesex Transition Academy, which meets at Wesleyan daily. Pictured below are Jesse, Jessica Markowitz ’08, Bobby and Lauren.
Posted 12/19/05
The pizza served at McConaughy Dining Hall is prepared by a new member of the Wesleyan community. As part of a cooperative educational program for individuals with special needs, 19-year-old Kristina is learning hands-on how to work in food services.

“I prep the dough, oil the pans, and flip it,” Kristina says. “I technically make the whole pizza. I haven’t thought a lot about it, but I might want to work in a restaurant or pizza place after this. I do like to work with people.”

Preparing Kristina and six other disabled adults aged 18-21 to function individually in the community is the goal of the Middlesex Transition Academy. Launched in March 2004, the academy helps disabled individuals who recently graduated from area high schools find employment. Wesleyan provides classroom space and job opportunities for the grant-funded program.

Under direction of a job coach, the academy members learn about their strengths and weaknesses, managing money and social skills. While on campus, they also attend functional academic classes in the Davenport Campus Center.

At Wesleyan, they are assigned various jobs at Davenport, Exley Science Center, McConaughy Dining Hall, Freeman Athletic Center and WesShop.

Frank Kuan, director of Community Relations for the Center for Community Partnerships, says having the academy students on campus offers an excellent opportunity for them to be connected with Wesleyan students. The university also benefits by having this diverse group as part of the Wesleyan community.

“It is gratifying to see the growth of these students during their time on campus,” Kuan says. “You can see them developing their life skills and independence. This community connection is truly a win-win for all of us.”

While Lauren, 18, sorts and folds mail at the science center, Bobby, 18, is busy washing dishes at McConaughy or stocking shelves at WesShop.

Both agree that working in a college environment is gratifying. Bobby enjoys the friends he’s made. Lauren favors the college atmosphere and is overwhelmed by “cute college boys.”

“The job is pretty easy, and I just love working for money,” says Bobby, who works five days a week. “I love money!”

Normally, when a student is 18 and graduates from high school, he or she goes on to college or employment. Christine Jakubiec, an academy teacher, says the academy provides opportunities to address individual transition goals in an age-appropriate, college environment for these disabled adults in the 18-21 year range. As her pupils get closer to the age of 21, they are weaned off a job coach and should be ready to find similar jobs in local businesses.

All seven students enrolled in the Middlesex Transition Academy also are part of Wesleyan’s student program called “Best Buddies.” Best Buddies matches Wesleyan students with adults from the Middlesex County area. Wesleyan’s Center for Community Partnerships began spearheading this collaboration last year. Best Buddies go bowling (pictured at left), star gazing and participate in other monthly activities.

Kimberly Greenberg ’07 says her buddy, Rick, brightens her moods. She can always find him making pizzas at McConaughy during the lunch hours.

In his second year with the organization, College Buddy Director Cecil Apostol ’08 has developed a meaningful relationship with his buddy Winston, 28. Apostol feels that society stigmatizes people like Winston.

“They have been neglected and marginalized as much as any other minority group,” Apostol says. “We expose them to a world that was denied to them for so long. Together, we both embrace the opportunity to participate in a long-lasting, meaningful friendship.”

Best Buddies is accepting associate members. For more information e-mail capostol@wesleyan.edu or kgreenberg@wesleyan.edu.

The Transition Academy meets at the Campus Center from 8 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

15 Students Inducted into National Honor Society


Posted 12/19/05
Wesleyan recently elected 15 seniors to the Gamma chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest national scholastic honor society.

Election to the society is based on fulfillment of eligibility requirements, including a grade point average of 90 or above and nomination by the student’s major department. Phi Beta Kappa is limited to 12 percent of the graduating class each year. The newly elected students are:

Claire Nilsen Blumenson, a government, psychology and sociology major from Cambridge, Mass., is interested in child advocacy as it relates to academic failure and juvenile delinquency. Blumenson completed a semester abroad in Brussels, Belgium, which included a full-time internship at the European Parliament working for the Maltese Labour Party.

Jennifer Mary Bunger is a biology major from Southington, Conn., whose interests include dancing, teaching, and working with children. A dancer in the group Power Groove, Bunger is also ballet and tap instructor and choreographer to children ages 3-12. She has been a teaching assistant in both science and math courses and tutors several hours a week. She plans on attending medical school and studying pediatrics.

Thapana Chairoj is a math-economics major from Bankok, Thailand, and a Freeman Scholar. His experience here has broadened his intellectual sphere and deepened his experience as an international student.

Avishek Chatterjee, a physics, math, and astronomy major from Calcutta, India, spent the past two summers conducting physics research on theoretical simulations of vortex dynamics in a film of superfluid helium. He is an honors candidate in math and physics and interested in philosophy, particularly in relation to the implications of scientific theories. He is applying to graduate school for theoretical physics.

Katherine Leigh D’Ambrosio, a double major in English and history from Atlanta, Georgia, is a member of the History Majors Committee and on the editorial boards of Historical Narratives, Wesleyan’s undergraduate literature journal. As a university scholar, D’Ambrosio has worked as a research assistant in the English and history departments and as a writing tutor and recently performed with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

Hoan Bui Dang is a math major and came to Wesleyan from Vietnam. He likes to challenge his mind with mathematical and logical thinking and wants to use this knowledge exploring physical nature. Dang is currently on the West Coast on a combined program.

Cassandra Dunkhase, a music major from Iowa City, Iowa, is a member of Wesleyan’s Chamber Music program and Cello Ensemble and has been principal cellist of the Wesleyan Symphony Orchestra for the past three years. Dunkhase was recently selected as the Senior Honoree in the 2005 Wesleyan Concerto Competition and will be performing a solo with the orchestra in May. She spent the fall of 2004 studying music at Royal Holloway University in London and is an experienced cello teacher.

Julia Fox, a double major in Spanish and psychology from West Hartford, Conn., spent a summer working with Miami ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) on a campaign that successfully raised the Florida minimum wage by $1. After a few years off, she plans on returning to school to further explore her interests and develop personal career goals that may include a combination of political campaign work, international travel and teaching.

Emily Jacobs-Palmer is a major in molecular biology and biochemistry from Greenfield, Mass. who has been researching a protein that corrects mistakes made in DNA during replication. After graduation, she plans to work for a year and then get her Ph.D. in a lab that applies the techniques of molecular biology to conservation problems.

Kimberly Anne Landry is a psychology major from Agawam, Mass, who studied abroad last spring in Canterbury, England. She loves astronomy and volunteers during the public observing night at the Van Vleck Observatory. Landry plans to go on to graduate school and will be applying to programs in Clinical Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy. Her career goal is to become a practicing psychologist or therapist.

Rachael Elizabeth Lax is a psychology major from West Newton, Mass. In the summer of 2004 she received the Dana Grant and was sponsored to work at a non-profit organization in Ecuador as a mentor to children living on the street of the inner city Quito. She is currently assisting in a research project at the Middletown Department of Children and Families and is treasurer of the Wesleyan chapter of Psi Chi, the National Psychology Honor Society.

Heung Ming Ngai is a math-economics major from Hong Kong. During his time at Wesleyan, he has been a co-chair of the Chinese Students Association and a resident advisor and chair of technology for ODE – the economics honor society. After graduation he plans to pursue a career in banking in Hong Kong.

Krista Eva Perks, a neuroscience and biology major from Phoenix, Md. worked over the summer at the Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole as part of the Hughes Summer Research Program. There, she studied the learning properties of the principle neurons of the cerebellar-like structure in the hindbrain of the “little skate.” Perks is a gymnastics coach in Middletown and was House Manager of Community Services House during her sophomore year.

Tal Gronau Rozen is a studio arts major from Amherst, Mass. In the fall of 2004, Rozen spent a semester studying High Renaissance and Baroque art history in Rome. In addition, he works as a layout editor for Fat Bottom Magazine, an experimental literary and arts student publication.

Liang Zhao is a double major in economics and math from China and a Freeman Scholar. He has worked for Information Technology Services (ITS), the math workshop, and has been a Chinese Economics Course Assistant. He has also been active in the Chinese Student Association. Zhao looks forward to returning to China and contributing to the future development of his home country.

By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Alumni Donate $500,000 to Wesleyan Museum

The new Wesleyan University Museum will provide a single secure, environmentally-controlled space to house valuable collections of art and materials. Pictured below is a cross section model of how the building will appear. The third-floor spaces will contain three gallery spaces and glass enclosed seating and study areas.
Posted 12/19/05
Rick Segal ’75 and Monica Mayer Segal ’78 have donated $500,000 toward the new Wesleyan University Museum, which will be built on College Row through an extensive remodeling of the historic former squash building.

The new museum building, now in its final planning stages, will make an important architectural impact in the center of the campus. Three exterior walls of the former squash court building will be retained insuring the integrity of College Row. However, the west facade of the building facing Andrus Field will gain a dynamic new architectural expression featuring glass and metal.

“Rick and I both feel that there needs to be a stronger visual arts presence on the Wesleyan campus, and that an attractive, inviting, well-placed, user-friendly museum would do wonders to inspire undergraduates to enjoy the arts during their college years, and hopefully into their adult years,” says Monica Mayer Segal, who, along with her husband Rick, is an avid art collector. “We all know that Wesleyan students are attracted to arts and culture, so it seems a straight shot that they would make great use of a first class museum.”

The museum, which will cost approximately $23 million to complete, will provide a single secure, environmentally-controlled space to house valuable collections of art and material culture currently dispersed throughout the campus. These collections include more than 18,000 European and American prints, 600 Japanese prints and over 6,000 photographs displayed or stored in the Davison Art Center, as well as some 30,000 archeological and ethnographic items now housed in Exley Science Center, a collection of musical instruments from throughout the world now in storage in the Music Building, and a variety of Asian objects currently in the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies.

The need for a new museum building was signaled by the Collections Committee Advisory Report in 1997. The report indicated that Wesleyan was beyond reasonable capacity for its collections and that conservation demanded stricter standards of climate and light controls.

“In addition to new, secure exhibition spaces and much-needed expanded storage the museum will provide new lab spaces and study areas where students can work closely with objects in our collections under the guidance of the faculty and the curatorial staff,” says John Paoletti, Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history and director of the new museum. “More of our collections will be able to be shown on a regular basis, highlighting what are now some of Wesleyan’s best kept secrets.”

The new facility will also permit Wesleyan to borrow works of art from other institutions and alumni and alumnae collectors, enhancing the university’s exhibition program and teaching capabilities. The space will also include a new auditorium and reception area on the museum’s main floor.

Paoletti has been on the Wesleyan faculty since 1972 and has seen the interest in the arts at Wesleyan and other institutions develop in extraordinary ways during that time. And yet, Wesleyan has been without an appropriate museum facility comparable to its peers. His enthusiasm for the museum is contagious, as the Segals soon discovered.

“We had been talking with the administration about this project for a few years, and it had gone through several permutations, but when John got involved it all coalesced for us,” says Rick Segal. “John’s vision for the physical component of the museum and his programmatic ideas are very exciting.”

Paoletti is most excited about the impact that the museum will have on Wesleyan’s educational programs.

“We’ve recently had sophomore and juniors who have had internships at The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Frick Collection in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Chicago Art Institute, just to name a few,” says Paoletti. “Many of our students have gone on to prestigious positions in the gallery and museum world and in academics. The new museum will improve our ability to provide more extensive teaching opportunities and give our educational programs a very public face to the world outside Wesleyan.”

Paoletti does not have an exact date for the museum’s completion, though the gutting of the old squash courts has already begun as part of the work being done for the Susan Lemberg Usdan University Center, which will be next door to the museum.

“The speed at which will be able to move this project along will be strongly linked to the support we receive from alumni and friends of the university who want to make it a reality,” says Paoletti. “Rick and Monica have helped us take a very big first step, and for that we are all very grateful. I am anxious to seize the momentum they have created to keep the museum project moving forward in a creative and expeditious manner.”

For more information about the Wesleyan University Museum please go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/masterplan/teaching.html. For illustrations of the Wesleyan University Museum please go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/masterplan/teaching_detail.html.

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Former Music Professor Dies

Posted 12/19/05
Professor Robert Brown, one of the founders of the Wesleyan World Music Program, died recently.


Brown was one of the first students to receive a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from University of California Los Angeles. He was appointed assistant professor in Wesleyan’s Music Department in 1961 and joined the tenured ranks of the faculty in 1966. 


Brown helped the department to grow rapidly to national and international prominence. He brought with him from UCLA a concept called “performance study group,” a musical pedagogy that emphasizes the importance of direct contact between students and master musicians from around the world. In this context, he brought to Wesleyan T. Balasaraswati (1918-1984), the most renowned classical South Indian dancer, and her brothers, a renowned flutist and drummer, T. Viswanathan (1927-2001) and T. Ranganathan (1924-1987), followed by master musicians from Africa, Indonesia and Japan.


Professor Brown had an important role in giving Wesleyan’s music program a distinctive character and legacy. After his departure from Wesleyan in 1971, Brown led a program at the American Society for Eastern Arts.


In 1973 he established the Center for World Music located in Berkeley, California. From 1979 until his retirement in 1992, he was a professor of music at San Diego State University (SDSU). Bob was known as a promoter of gamelan studies in the United States and beyond.


He is survived by a niece and three nephews, and many great nieces and nephews. The arrangements for the memorial service at SDSU are still pending.


Sales and Service, Technically Speaking

Monica Baik, technical sales specialist, taught herself the technical knowledge needed to research merchandise for the Computer Store & Service Center.
Posted 12/02/05
Q: How many years have you worked at Wesleyan as a technical sales specialist?

I’ve been with Wesleyan for five years, four of those as the technical sales specialist. Before that I worked for a year as an administrative assistant in Finance and Administration.

Q: What is the purpose of the Computer Store & Service Center and who does the store service?

A: The Computer Store & Service Center is here to provide technical products and services to the Wesleyan community. We offer computers and accessories for sale, as well as computer repair services. It’s actually a three-tier system. I research merchandise for the store and for the Wesleyan community; the students operate the store front; and the technicians repair the machines.

Q: Are you more at the sales-end of things, or are you interested in the hardware/software as well?

A: I’m on the purchasing end, which includes hardware, software and everything in between.

Q: How did you acquire your technical expertise?

A: My computer and software skills are self-taught. I bought my first computer in 1992 and just began poking around. The hardware technical skills are from having a natural curiosity about how things operate and listening to the service technicians.

Q: What is the hottest item for sale in the Computer Store?

A: The hottest item we sell, and the most popular, is the Apple iPod. Everybody wants one! We have the newest in stock now, which are the 30GB and 60GB video iPods.

Q: What are the most common questions people ask you?

A: On the research and purchasing end of things, people generally ask me about availability and price of an item they’re searching for. In the store, people generally ask the students about headphones and Microsoft Office.

Q: What is the best part about working in the Computer Store? Is your job challenging?

A: I enjoy being able to help people find what they’re searching for and at a price that is competitive with, or better than, area retailers. We serve such a diversified customer base that every day brings a different challenge.

Q: What are your job duties as a technical sales specialist?

A: My responsibilities include listening to members of the Wesleyan community to determine their needs, performing merchandise research, processing purchase orders, maintaining accounts payable, reconciling daily accounts and deposits, acting as vendor liaison and providing administrative support for the store manager.

Q: How do you spend most of your day?

A: The majority of my time is spent researching merchandise for the Wesleyan community. Faculty, staff and students e-mail or call me with requests for specific software or equipment. I use my vendor contacts and various Internet search engines to locate what they need. The next biggest part of my day is processing invoices and keeping the accounts payable up-to-date. I’m actually only behind the counter when the students aren’t available.

Q: What did you major in?

A: I received my bachelor’s of business administration from Tiffin University in 1998. I will receive my master’s of arts in liberal studies from Wesleyan in May 2006.

Q: Who are the key people that work in the store with you?

A: We currently have two students, Matt and Earle, working the store counter; one temp, Ginny, who answers the phone and files; three full-time computer technicians, Bob Elsinger, Glenn Carlson and Scott Michael who service the computers; and the store manager, Allen Alonzo.

Q: If a department hires a new employee, would someone there contact you to get a system set up for that new employee?

A: Yes, most of the computer sales for Wesleyan are through us. When a new hire is scheduled, the desktop support personnel for that department will order a computer from us. The technicians put the Wesleyan “capital” image on the computer, which consists of standard software used campus-wide.

Q: Do you personally use a Mac or PC? Are you a high-tech-junkie?

A: I used to have a Windows computer, but since working here, I’ve switched to a 20-inch iMac. I have a 60GB iPod, which holds my entire music collection, as well as audio books and photos. Since I’m anxiously waiting for a larger iPod, I guess you could say I’m a high-tech-junkie!

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I’m an avid reader and writer, always carrying a book or notebook wherever I go. I’m currently working on a book of short stories. I also enjoy crocheting baby afghans and bonnets for hospitals.

Q: Tell me about your family.

A: I’m married to Brian, a transportation planner for Bradley International Airport. I have two sons. Bryan, 20, is also a high-tech fan, who lives and works in Ohio. Matthew, 17, attends Middletown High School and volunteers in the animal lab here at Wesleyan. We’re all movie buffs and have a pretty extensive DVD collection.

Q: What would you say is the most unique thing about you?

A: I have a need to please! As the middle daughter of six children, I’ve always been the negotiator, advisor or mediator who smoothes ruffled feathers. People seem to recognize that I’ll listen and help when I can.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Budgetary Reliance on Endowment to be Reduced

Posted 12/02/05
Wesleyan will reduce its budgetary reliance on endowment over the next five years as part of a strategic effort to increase the size of the endowment. At the same time, it will spend more on fund-raising activities with the expectation of substantially increasing revenues, and it will invest a higher proportion of new gifts in the endowment.

According to “Engaged with the World,” the strategic plan adopted by the trustees last spring: “One of our highest priorities will be to support a growing proportion of essential and predictable costs (faculty salaries, financial aid) through the endowment. Over the long term, this will increase our budgetary flexibility and reduce our dependence on tuition. We must take every opportunity to increase the endowment through new gifts, careful stewardship, and successful investments.”

While trustee policy has allowed a 5.5 percent annual draw from the endowment to support the operating budget, two special, additional draws were instituted in the past few years. The first of these, a roughly 0.4 percent draw this year, has been used to build and sustain the Wesleyan’s fund-raising organization. The second, approximately 1.5 percent, represents gifts invested alongside the endowment through the so-called Campus Renewal Fund and drawn down each year to pay debt service on the bonds sold to build and renovate campus facilities. Together, these draws total 7.4 percent, a level that conflicts with Wesleyan’s goal to build the endowment and its plan to borrow in future years to finance additional facilities.

Accordingly, at their November meeting, the Board of Trustees reviewed scenarios for reducing the total draw to 5.5 percent and endorsed an administrative proposal to phase it down over five years to produce approximately $5.6 million in cumulative savings. This five-year plan is intended to allow for targeted reductions in the operating budget, as well as a restructuring of the Campus Renewal Fund to meet debt service obligations without a period of co-investment.

“While we will be faced with difficult decisions about the budget we are acting from a position of overall financial strength,” said President Doug Bennet. “We can be deliberate and strategic about our choices, thanks to the efforts of the volunteers and staff who have built our fund-raising, improved our investment performance, and identified operating efficiencies. I am confident that we have the financial discipline and the support to strengthen Wesleyan for the long term.”

Bennet and Interim Vice President for Finance John Meerts have met with faculty, staff and student groups to explain the change in financial practice. Meerts has invited members of the community who have suggestions concerning operating efficiencies to contact him. The Office of Finance and Administration will establish a Web site to solicit such suggestions and report on their implementation.

At the same meeting at which it was decided to reduce the University’s total endowment draw, the trustees also endorsed a plan to invest roughly $3 million in new resources in fund-raising activities. These funds, to be raised through donations, would augment fund-raising, alumni events, communications, and administrative support in order to accelerate the growth of Wesleyan’s annual gift revenues. Specific plans for this investment are being developed in consultation with the CORE Group, a firm that uses aggregate fund-raising data from more than 50 top private colleges and universities to provide normative recommendations on the allocation of resources to maximize the return on investment. According to CORE Group projections, Wesleyan’s anticipated investment could yield $26 million per year in additional gift resources in 10 years.

Wesleyan has set a goal of increasing the rate of its investment of gift revenues into the endowment. During the current fiscal year, the University will invest gifts equal to 1.5 percent of the total value of the endowment. That percentage will grow incrementally beginning in FY 2007/08, reaching 3 percent in FY 2013/14.

By Justin Harmon, director of University Communications

Peers Name Soccer Coach NESCAC Coach of the Year

Geoff Wheeler, men’s head soccer coach, led Wesleyan to its first New England Small College Athletic Conference Championship this fall.
Posted 12/02/05
Q: Just incase our audience hasn’t heard the big news, can you tell us why you and the men’s soccer team has been celebrating recently?


A: Wesleyan captured its first ever New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Championship in any sport when the men’s soccer team defeated Amherst and Williams in the same weekend. As the No. 7 seed in the tournament, we upset No. 2 Bowdoin in the first round before going on to defeat No. 1 Williams in the semi-finals and then No. 4 Amherst in the finals. The victory over Williams marked the first triumph over the Williams Ephs since 1992. With the championship came an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament, another first for the program. The men’s team defeated Muhlenberg in a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory before falling to No. 1 seed and defending national champs Messiah 2-1 in overtime in the second round. 


Q: Who were your key players?

A: Accompanying the success came some appropriate post-season honors, including NESCAC Rookie of the Year for Matt Nevin ’09, who finished the campaign with nine goals and five assists.  Earning 2nd Team All-NESCAC honors was Jared Ashe ’07, who made the move from forward to defender early in the year.


Q: I heard you were honored by your peers, as well


A: They named me the NESCAC Coach of the Year.  


Q: In 2004, Wesleyan qualified for its fifth consecutive NESCAC tournament, earning a top four spot and a home playoff game for the first time in the program’s history. At that point did you foresee the team making it so far this season?


A: Although we graduated a strong class of eight seniors from the 2005 team, this 2005 squad had all the talent to make the run we did. We certainly had questions at the beginning of the year but the players answered them all with undeniable commitment and certainty. Our co-captain seniors Noah Isaacs ‘06 and Kevin Lohela ‘06 did a fantastic job leading this young but talented group.


Q: When were you hired at Wesleyan as the head men’s soccer coach? How did you feel stepping into the shoes of long-time head coach Terry Jackson, who might accurately be regarded as a legend in the annals of Wesleyan soccer?


A: I was hired as the men’s coach in the spring of 1999. And what an honor to succeed Terry Jackson, not only a legend in Wesleyan soccer lore but also an icon in the soccer community at large. In fact, when I was a senior in high school, I visited Wesleyan and met with Coach Jackson. I remember how friendly and warm he was as we toured Wesleyan. Never did I think I would have the opportunity to return not as a student but as a coach. Just as Coach Jackson was so kind during my high school days, he has been equally supportive as I have attempted to carry on the strong Wesleyan soccer tradition he built. 


Q: At Dartmouth, you were a four-year letter-winner in soccer, helping the squad qualify for the NCAA tournament twice as well as capture two Ivy League titles. What skills and lessons do you bring from your own experience and stress to your team?


A: “It’s what we do. It’s the wee things.”  These quotes sum up the lessons I learned at Dartmouth and what I try to pass on to my players every day. When we play, we try to focus all our energy on our work rate, our attitude and our reaction to adversity. There’s not much we can do about the referee, the weather, the field or even the other team so we focus on what we can control. When we travel, we look sharp in coats and ties. We leave a clean locker room after a game, a clean bench.


Q: What did you major in at Dartmouth? What made you decide to become a coach?


A: I was a history major at Dartmouth with a concentration on 20th century American history. I decided to coach when I realized that I may be lucky enough to do it for a living. It’s hard to believe I get paid for what I do. I had so many good coaches growing up that when it came time to figure out a direction I wanted to take, I thought of those people who had influenced me most – my coaches. It was a natural progression from playing the game I love to also coaching it.


Q: After college, you played in Zimbabwe? What other teams did you play for before becoming a coach?


A: After college, I had a unique opportunity to play in Zimbabwe where my college coach had actually previously coached. For a year, I played for the Bulawayo Highlanders, a member of the SuperLeague in Zimbabwe. When I returned to the States, I had stints with several semi-pro teams, including the Cape Cod Crusaders of the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues (USISL), as well as the Connecticut Wolves and the Boston Bulldogs of the A-League. Now, I play for an over-30s team based in Westport and am constantly reminded it always looks pretty easy from the sideline!


Q: I understand you have played soccer professionally, even while you were coaching at Wesleyan. How would you describe that experience?


A:  When I first arrived at Wesleyan, I thought I could both play at a high level and coach at Wesleyan. I played in Boston for a short time after I arrived, making the commute up I-84 three to four times a week. When the Wesleyan season approached in August, I had to stop playing and commit myself to the team here. The next year I joined the local team, the Wolves. On both teams, I was exposed to different coaches and different styles, picking up bits and pieces that I could bring back to the Wesleyan squad. Ultimately, I needed to step away from my playing days to become a more effective coach but I certainly think my professional playing experience has helped develop my coaching abilities.


Q: You currently hold a United States Soccer Federation license and received an advanced national diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in 1998. Are these required to coach?


A:  Fortunately, you do not need a license to coach, but it does help when you are applying for jobs!  I currently have an ‘A’ license from the United States Soccer Federation and was recently awarded a Premier Diploma from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in January of 2005. 


Q: As a player at Dartmouth and an assistant coach at Stanford, you have always been around high-achieving college athletes. How do Wesleyan’s student-athletes compare with those you have seen at these other colleges?


A: Wesleyan student-athletes hold the same values I encountered at both Dartmouth and Stanford.  They are all highly-motivated individuals who excel on and off the field.


Q: Are you still the co-director of the East Coast Soccer Academy? How long have you be doing it?


A: Yes, I am still co-director. It was founded in the summer of 2001 when Brian Tompkins, the Yale Men’s Soccer Coach, and I decided we wanted to bring top student-athletes to our campuses and expose them to our schools as well as our coaching staffs. Both of us have benefited immensely from the camp and there are currently over 10 graduates of the East Cost Soccer Academy on the Wes team.


Q: How did you get into the sport? How old were you?


A: I first started playing when I was 5-years-old. I started playing with the Vista Vampires in Portland, Oregon and have played ever since.


Q: In addition to coaching, what physical education classes do you teach as an adjunct assistant professor of physical education? Do you enjoy working with students at all skill levels?


A: I currently teach squash and indoor technical climbing. It’s great to get to know another part of the Wesleyan student body through the PE classes. The rate of improvement is often great among the students who take the classes – it’s always enjoyable to teach a sport to someone who has never tried it, whether it’s soccer, squash or climbing.


Q: Rumor has it that you have become quite a squash player since arriving at Wesleyan while serving as the men’s assistant coach. Is squash now your number two sport behind soccer?


A: Squash is a great winter game. After years of chasing the ball around the court trying to keep up with the college kids, I have managed to learn a few things along the way. Former squash and tennis coach Don Long was a great teacher when I first started and now I enjoy competitive games with several other coaches as well as a few faculty members up campus. 


Q: Is it true you met your wife at Wesleyan? And I hear your son, Sam, is the darling of the athletic department.


A: Holly, who is the head coach of the women’s Lacrosse team, and I started working at Wesleyan at the same time, seven years ago! Unbelievable that is was that long ago now. Our boy Sam of 15 months is often seen raging up and down the hallways of the offices, eager to find new playmates. If you offer him some food, you will find an immediate friend.


Q: Tell me about your hobbies and interests outside of coaching and teaching.


A: Outside of coaching and teaching, I spend a lot of time with family. Holly’s folks live in Boston and mine are up in Maine so we love to go visit them. I have a sister who teaches at Suffield, just over 45 minutes away, and a twin brother in Philly who has three children. Home projects often take up a lot of time as well, including a new deck, a re-finished basement and the taking down of trees in the backyard. When Holly and I find the time, we enjoy taking our kayaks out for a paddle on the nearby lakes. But most of all, we love spending time with Sam!

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor and Brian Katten, director of sports information

Student Society Key Player for Wesleyan’s Excellence

Red & Black Society member Megan Lesko ’06 talks to alumni while raising funds for the Wesleyan Annual Fund for Excellence. Pictured below is Allie Joe, ’05 and Joshua Atwood ’08. Lesko and Joe are both student managers for the society.
Posted 12/02/05
Emily Frost ’06 knows it takes courage to call and speak with strangers. As a member of Wesleyan’s Red & Black Society, she is learning how to transform what could be an awkward conversation into a more meaningful exchange.

Frost is among 60 Red & Black Society members who call alumni and parents requesting gifts to Wesleyan through the Wesleyan Annual Fund for Excellence (WAFE), which defrays costs not covered by tuition and income from the university’s endowment. This year, students will help Wesleyan to meet critical goals of $12 million in current-use money. Along with student calling, personal solicitations by University Relations staff members, volunteer solicitations from phonathons, homes and offices and mailings round out Wesleyan’s fundraising efforts.

Students’ tuition and fees cover approximately 70 percent of the actual cost of educating each student. The Wesleyan Annual Fund for Excellence supports financial aid, faculty salaries, campus improvements, library resources, the arts, athletics and technology.

“Fundraising really improves one’s ability to communicate and relate to many different individuals,” Frost says. “The Red & Black Society provides an excellent opportunity for me to make connections with past Wesleyan students and learn from them.”

Regan Schubel ‘01, assistant director of the Annual Fund, says about 200 students apply and are trained to be Red & Black callers every year. Selected students undergo 10 hours of intensive training before making any calls to alumni or parents.

Most calls, Schubel says, average 10 minutes. First, students update alumni contact information, then spend a few minutes talking about campus, new buildings, projects and programs, and educating alumni about recent Wesleyan events. The callers answer alumni questions and often discuss issues related to life after Wesleyan, or Wesleyan memories. The student explains the benefits of giving and requests a gift or pledge at the end of the conversation.

The Red & Black callers work the entire fiscal year, from the start of fall semester until June 30. During the 2004-05 academic year, Red & Black callers raised $513,511 from 6,094 alumni and parent donors.

“Students are excited about communicating with alumni, and the alumni enjoy sharing their Wesleyan memories with the students,” Schubel says. “It’s a mutually beneficial situation.”

Mosah Fernandez-Goodman ’04, associate director of the Annual Fund, spent three years as a student caller before becoming the program’s manager after graduating. He recommends that students interested in sales, business or fundraising join the society.

“We use a real-world networking approach, and students gain valuable experience by working here,” Fernandez-Goodman says. “It’s a good job to have while they’re in college.”

Frost, who plans to pursue broadcast journalism after graduating, says the experience has taught her how to speak more eloquently in conversations. She also enjoys chatting with alumni, and learning about their career paths and other post-Wesleyan experiences.

“Alumni are friendly, have interesting personalities, and most share my love for Wesleyan,” Frost says. “I can always find a way to relate to alumni. I like speaking with recent alumni the best, because I seek their advice on the transition from Wesleyan.”

The students, who come from many states and several countries, work two to three evening sessions, Sunday through Thursday, each week. For their work, students earn an hourly wage and bonuses, along with pizza and snacks. Making a connection is the most difficult part about calling alumni and parents. Some nights, a student may dial 300 numbers without one answer. Other nights, they may reach 15 alumni or parents and receive gifts from each. The record number of gifts solicited by a single caller in one night is 30, and 125 in one night as a program, Fernandez-Goodman says.

“We want the alumni to know that the students will be calling and to please answer their phones,” Fernandez-Goodman says.

The Red & Black students make calls from the WAFE office on Mt. Vernon Street.

Any student interested in becoming a Red & Black Society member should contact Regan Schubel ‘01 at 860-685-2253 or e-mail rschubel@wesleyan.edu.

By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Groundbreaking Binge-Eating Study Undertaken by Psychology Professor

Ruth Striegel-Moore, professor and chair of psychology, is leading a binge-eating study.
Posted 12/02/05
The largest, most comprehensive binge-eating study ever undertaken has been initiated in Portland, Oregon, and the primary investigator is Ruth Striegel-Moore, professor and chair of psychology.

Striegel-Moore, an internationally-recognized expert on eating disorders, says the study will last four years and include male and female subjects between 18 and 50 years of age. People participating in the study who present with eating disorders will be offered treatment options. The study is being funded by National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease, and Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research of Portland, Oregon.

“Kaiser-Permanente’s involvement is the reason that the study will be conducted in Portland,” Striegel-Moore says. “That’s where they are headquartered and they will provide access to the study population and offer the clinical sites.”

Kaiser-Permanente’s inclusion is also part of the reason that this study will offer opportunities for ground-breaking inquiry. The HMO maintains an extensive database of all its members’ health care visits, conditions and treatments, as well as significant demographic information on each patient. It has extensive procedures in place that ensure patients’ information is protected and that individuals’ participation in the study is completely voluntarily. As a result, Striegel-Moore and her co-investigators will be able to look beyond the immediate data generally associated the eating disorder studies.

“For example, in these studies we usually know the subject’s age, sex and maybe a little bit more,” she says. “But this database will allow us to look at such things as health history, income level, education, past treatments sought and a wealth of other information that will allow us to get much more specific in our analysis. It’s a treasure trove of comprehensive data that is, quite frankly, a researcher’s dream.”

The study’s initial phase, a screening of nearly 7,000 men and women, is just finishing up. The screening phase targeted respondents randomly, rather than inviting participation only of individuals who self-identified as having a problem with their eating behavior. This component is unique and permits a more accurate estimate of the extent of binge eating in the community than when research relies on individuals to judge whether they have an eating problem. However, not everyone suffering from binge-eating is aware of the problem.

“Not seeking help can lead to needless suffering and create additional health problems that include obesity, heart conditions, infertility and hypertension,” Striegel-Moore says.
“However, effective treatments are available for binge-eating.”

She adds that, when studies selectively recruit individuals with eating problems and fail to actively recruit individuals who do not experience eating problems, the number of individuals who suffer from an eating disorder that are identified will be inflated.

Striegel-Moore says that this is the first major study to include male subjects and such a broad age range. As a result, the study will provide new data on how common binge- eating is in men and individuals who are beyond college-age.

“We know that men and people who are not in their teens and twenties suffer from binge eating too,” she says. “But for some reason they’ve been excluded from major studies.”

From the initial pool of respondents, 250 people will be identified for the second stage of the study and invited to participate in treatment. Each participant’s progress will be followed for a year. Researchers will analyze the effectiveness of the treatment options on several levels.

“One of the innovative components of this study is that we will examine in detail what treatments people receive as part of usual clinical care,” Striegel-Moore says. “Prior studies have investigated how successful an experimental treatment was. What is unknown is how eating disorders are being treated in clinical practices outside of clinical research studies. Our study will also examine the cost of our treatment compared to the cost of the typical treatment patients receive in the context of usual clinical care. This will help inform decisions about optimal use of scarce health care resources.”

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations