Randi Alexandra Plake

STEM Zone 42 Learning Hub Opens in Science Library

A new teaching and learning space can be found on campus: STEM Zone 42.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Zone 42, located in the Science Library, is a collaborative project by the Office of Equity and Inclusion, the WesMaSS program and Academic Affairs.

Operating as a pilot program this semester, STEM Zone 42 is a space where students currently taking introductory biology and chemistry courses can receive academic support. Students can get help from course teaching assistants, course instructors, peer mentors and fellow students.

“We are hoping to reduce barriers students experience in seeking academic help and create and foster a STEM community at Wesleyan, in which we work together towards academic success,” explained Teshia Levy-Grant, interim dean for equity and inclusion. “By providing this academic resource to all students, we aim to improve student performance and increase overall retention in the sciences and math.”

Levy-Grant and her team hope to see STEM Zone 42 become a central location for student services, and double as a place where they can work, study and learn together. “This will be more of a one-stop model,” said Levy-Grant. “We now have the Career Center doing drop in hours in the space where students can learn about opportunities for summer internships and programs, but also get help with their resumes.”

And where does the number 42 come from? Levy-Grant explained, “The reference to 42 is inspired by Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s the ‘Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything,’ calculated by a supercomputer, Deep Thought, over a period of 7.5 million years.”

STEM Zone 42 operates on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3-5 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 p.m., Saturdays at 3-5 p.m., and Sundays from 7-9 p.m.

Photos of STEM Zone’s opening are below:

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Weinstein ’17, Scruggs ’17 to Join Teach For America Following Graduation

Michael Weinstein ’17 will head to Milwaukee, Wis. to teach.

Michael Weinstein ’17 will head to Milwaukee, Wis. to teach.

Two members of the Class of 2017 and the Wesleyan athletic community have committed to join Teach For America after graduation: Michael Weinstein ’17 of Brookline, Mass. and Katie Scruggs ’17 of Vail, Colo. Teach For America recruits and develops a diverse corps of outstanding college graduates and professionals to make an initial two-year commitment to teach in high-need schools and become lifelong leaders in the effort to end educational inequity.

Weinstein, who is the captain for both the men’s rugby team and ski team, will teach middle school special education in Milwaukee, Wis. This will be his first experience living in the Midwest.

“I think Wesleyan, as opposed to any other liberal arts school, put me into contact with a lot of people who are really smart and conscientious,” Weinstein said, reflecting on how Wesleyan is preparing him for this experience. “They care about each other and about injustices in America. Any liberal arts school can provide a ‘well-rounded’ education, but Wesleyan students generally try to apply what they learn to real life issue. Hopefully I can do the same!”

teach-for-americaScruggs, who is a member of the women’s cross country team, will teach high school science in Boston.

According to Teach for America, more than 16 million children are growing up in poverty in the U.S. By eighth grade, they are nearly three years behind higher-income peers in reading and math and are 1/10th as likely to graduate from college as students from affluent communities.

Teach For America seeks to combat this problem by enlisting promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.

New Center for the Arts Exhibition Explores Duality

Multimedia artist Clarissa Tossin discusses her artwork at the IN STEREO event and artist walkthrough on February 7, 2017. Photo by Perceptions Photography.

Multimedia artist Clarissa Tossin discusses her artwork at the IN STEREO event and artist walkthrough on Feb. 7. (Photo by Perceptions Photography)

In the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery sits an old Volkswagen Brasília, surrounded by a sampling of artwork in all different mediums. This the Center for the Arts’ latest exhibition, Stereoscopic Vision, which fuses photography, sculpture, and video from different bodies of work by Brazilian-born artist, Clarissa Tossin. Stereoscopic Vision highlights the dualities between natural and manufactured; two and three-dimensions; co-dependent economies; intention and actuality; and the United States and Brazil.
tossinevent1  tossinevent2

For Tossin, who is based in Los Angeles, this is her first solo exhibition in the northeast. Tossin considers herself a multimedia artist. “I work with installation, video, photography and sculpture in an expansive way, which allows me to incorporate other mediums to the work and move freely among these disciplines” she explained. “I’m interested in looking at architecture, not only from its physical qualities, but the ways it signifies and is used.”

Besides this exhibition, Tossin is preparing to shoot a new film called Maya Blue, which will premiere in September at Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a Getty Foundation initiative that explores the connections between Los Angeles and Latin American art. “The film examines the influence of Mayan architecture on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, an important LA landmark,” she said. “The piece will document a performance responsive to the site, in which a woman engages with the house’s architectonic features with choreography drawn from ancient Mayan traditions.”The free

The free exhibition is on display through Sunday, March 5. The Zilkha Gallery is open Tuesdays through Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Additionally, Wesleyan artists in music, poetry, and dance are participating in IN STEREO, a series of pop-up performances that are related to or inspired by Tossin’s work. The Feb. 21 performance spotlights dancers and choreographers.

Wesleyan Athletics App Available for Download

wesleyanfrontrowWith spring sporting events right around the corner, now is the time to download Wesleyan Front Row, the Wesleyan Athletics new mobile app.

Launched in August and developed with PrestoSports, Wesleyan Front Row gives Cardinals fans the ability to enable notifications to access score updates, statistics, and game recaps. Fans can set sport preferences to see schedules, results, event recaps and photo galleries.

For some events, a live stream of the game is available through the app, giving unprecedented access to off-campus fans, including parents and alumni, who still want to cheer on their favorite athletes from afar.

“The mobile app allows fans, parents, alumni, prospective students and current students to get information about their favorite teams instantly,” said Mike O’Brien, director of athletic communication. “It’s an incredibly easy way to stay up-to-date on Wesleyan Athletics, and we are very excited to provide this accessibility to our fans.”

The mobile app is available for download for iPhone and Android.

Macomber ’96 Discusses Producing Comedy by Arteta ’89, White ’92

Bill Macomber '96

Bill Macomber ’96, contributed photo.

Beatriz at Dinner, a darkly comedic film directed by Miguel Arteta ’89, written by Mike White ’92, and co-produced by Bill Macomber ’96, world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22. The film premiered with positive reviews with magazines like Vanity Fair calling it “remarkable” with a “timely shiver to it.”

After acclaimed films such as Chuck & Buck (2000) and The Good Girl (2002), Arteta and White have reunited again for Beatriz, which starts Salma Hayek as a holistic therapist. She attends a wealthy client’s dinner party after her car breaks down and comes up against a real estate tycoon portrayed by John Lithgow.

“We are all very excited about this new film,” says Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies. “We hope to bring Miguel Arteta to Wesleyan this semester to show the film and we are all looking forward to it.”

Bill Macomber ’96, the primary post-producer of the film, said, “When I first read the script I loved it. Environmental issues are really close to my heart. The film is about many things, but it’s a proxy for what’s wrong with climate change deniers and big developers who don’t play by the rules.”

Macomber, whose first post-Wesleyan job was with Arteta after graduation on his first feature film, Star Maps, says, “Beatriz at Dinner is a reunion of sorts, although I was just a production assistant on Star Maps way back in the day.”

College connections are important, he notes, and not just when students are looking for their first job: “For me, the bond between Wesleyan graduates, especially Wesleyan filmmakers, is still as strong at age 43 when it was at age 23. People are as supportive of me now as they were then, and I try to be the same supportive person.”

When asked what advice Macomber has for graduates looking for their first big break, he reflected on advice that film industry veteran and Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger gave him. “Something Jeanine told me a long time ago is that you need to constantly reevaluate whether you enjoy what you’re doing in that moment,” he said. “After working in development, I noticed I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t productive. I switched to the more technical, collaborative work of post-production and my spirits and my careers lifted.”

How do you know if you’re doing what you should be doing? The answer is simple to Macomber: “Be aware if you’re enjoying what you’re doing and if you’re valued for doing that job. Opportunities come from hard work and doing a good job.”

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Watch the trailer for Beatriz at Dinner.

Tractenberg ’60 Heads New Nonprofit on Diversity and Equality in Education

Paul Tractenberg '60

Paul Tractenberg ’60.

After retiring from 46 years of teaching at Rutgers Law School, Paul Tractenberg ’60 has established a new nonprofit, the Center for Diversity and Equality in Education (CDEE), to continue pursuing major education reform projects.

Tractenberg, who studied history at Wesleyan and earned a JD from the University of Michigan, has devoted his professional life to improving the educational opportunities of low-income urban students and others with educational challenges.

The biggest reform project that CDEE is focusing on is the court-ordered integration effort of the Morris School District in New Jersey, which was the subject of a recent New York Times article, “As Other Districts Grapple With Segregation, This One Makes Integration Work,” outlining the success of the initiative.

Throughout his tenure at Rutgers and now as president of CDEE, Tractenberg has studied the major legal and policy issues involving public education, and has used the law to improve it. He is the author of numerous books, articles, and papers on education law and related subjects; a frequent lecturer; and consultant and adviser to many national, regional, and state organizations and agencies.

Best ’14 Returns to Campus for Soul and Jazz Performance

Jess Best '14

Jess Best ’14

Singer-songwriter Jess Best ’14 returns to campus on Jan. 29 to perform her original soul and jazz influences at the Russell House, the first performance of the spring Music at The Russell House series.

Best, who was a music major, says she is influenced by Erykah Badu, Joni Mitchell, and Esperanza Spalding, and believes her time at Wesleyan has prepared her for a career in music. She explained, “Although I still constantly feel like I need to work extremely hard to feel at all prepared for being a musician, I’m so grateful I took visual arts classes and writing classes, in addition to being a music major. It’s been so crucial to be able to draw upon those approaches amidst my songwriting practice.”

Since graduation, Best has stayed connected to the Wesleyan music scene. In the past, she gave a songwriting workshop at the Alpha Delta Phi Society and performed with her band at the Earth House. Best said, “I believe in the music community at Wesleyan so much and hope the current student body can foster something as special as what I experienced when I was there.”

Best, now based in Manhattan, will be releasing new music this summer. She released an EP, Kid Again, in 2016, and her debut album, Gone Baby, in 2014, which featured many Wesleyan students and alumni. Additionally, she has a residency in Brooklyn at 61 Local where she performs every Monday night.



Watch the music video for “Tried to Run” from the Kid Again EP.

Mayberry ’97 Works with Volcano Disaster Assistance Program

Gari Mayberry (Photo courtesy of usaid.gov)

Gari Mayberry ’97 (Photo courtesy of usaid.gov)

Gari Mayberry ’97 was featured in the January issue of EARTH Magazine for her work with the Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP).

In the article, “Life-saving Diplomacy: The Volcano Disaster Assistance Program at Thirty,” VDAP’s growth and evolution over 30 years are chronicled, highlighting the team’s past successes and goals for the future.

Mayberry, who studied geology at Wesleyan, is part of the world’s only volcano crisis response team, which is made up of what EARTH writer Bethany Augliere described as “a small group of U.S. volcanologists that works around the world to prevent eruptions from becoming disaster.” Since its inception, VDAP has responded to more than 30 major volcanic crises.

Mayberry discussed her time working at volcanic sites in places like Indonesia and Tanzania. “Volcanoes are not something that most people think about regularly. I want people to know that there is this team of people who are thinking about volcanoes regularly,” she says in the article.

EARTH Magazine is published by the American Geosciences Institute, a nonprofit federation of geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 250,000 geologists, geophysicists and other earth scientists.

Read the full article here.

Film By Kaplan ’10 to Premiere at Slamdance Festival

Henry Kaplan '10

Henry Kaplan ’10

We Together, a short film by Henry Kaplan ’10, has been accepted into the Slamdance Film Festival and will be playing in Park City, Utah, later this month. Slamdance Film Festival runs alongside Sundance Film Festival every year, and is self-described as “a showcase for raw and innovative filmmaking,” with a focus on new and emerging artists, filmmakers, and storytellers.

We Together is a seven-minute long story of a zombie who comes to remember the person who he used to be, before he was a zombie. “The film premiered online this fall and garnered a lot of buzz from the online film community, like Vimeo Staff Pick, Fangoria, Gizmodo, among others,” explained Kaplan. “After getting into Slamdance, we’ve taken the film offline and it will have a ‘re-premiere’ at the festival.”

Kaplan explained the inspiration behind the film. “I liked the idea of going deep into the mind of a zombie, particularly one who is undergoing a transformation of sorts,” said Kaplan. “The film deals with a zombie who, under some odd circumstances, comes to remember little slices of what his life was like as a human. I think it’s a pretty universal experience, actually, such as when you smell or hear something that immediately (almost viscerally) puts you back in a time and place. My idea was to take this sort of visceral experience and adapt it to a fun zombie genre story.”

Additionally, several Los Angeles-based Wesleyan alumni were involved in the film, including Ben Kuller ’11, producer; Elizabeth Litvitskiy ’15, co-producer; Caillin Puente ’15, first assistant director; Matthew Wauhkonen ’08, digital VFX artist; Peter Cramer ’14, grip; and Jeffrey Kasanoff ’15 and Dan Fuchs ’15 as production assistants.

Kaplan, who was a film studies major, resides in Los Angeles and works as a director for music videos, commercials and short films.

We Together (Teaser) from American Painkillers on Vimeo.

Sultan Discusses Evolutionary Biology at the Royal Society in London

Sonia Sultan at the Royal Society, by Tom Parker for Quanta Magazine.

Sonia Sultan at the Royal Society. (Photo by Tom Parker for Quanta Magazine)

Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of  environmental studies, was invited to speak at a major meeting of London’s Royal Society in November.

The theme of the meeting was “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology.” Sultan was joined by biologists, anthropologists, doctors, computer scientists and other visionaries to discuss the future of evolutionary biology.

Sultan discussed her research on the Polygonum plant, known by its common name “smartweed.” Her research shows that if genetically identical smartweed plants are raised under different conditions, the end result is plants that may look like they belong to different species.

Sultan is a plant evolutionary ecologist. She is a major contributor to the empirical and conceptual literatures on individual plasticity and its relation to ecological breadth and adaptive evolution. In 2015, she published many of these ideas in the book Organism and Environment: Ecological Development, Niche Construction and Adaptation (Oxford University Press).

In addition, Sultan is now affiliated with an international consortium of evolutionary biologists who are testing some of new ideas as part of a multi-million dollar grant project titled “The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis“, primarily funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

Aubry ’89 Pens Science Fiction Book for Young Adults

Edward Aubry '89 courtesy of Curiosity Quills Press.

Edward Aubry ’89.

Edward Aubry ’89 is the author of a new young adult science fiction book, Prelude to Mayhem, published by Curiosity Quills Press in November 2016.

Prelude to Mayhem is the first book out of five in the Mayhem Wave series. The next installment is slated for release in mid-2017, according to Lisa Gus, managing partner at Curiosity Quills Press.

In this apocalyptic novel, Harrison Cody’s world is in ruins. He follows a mysterious voice on the radio as he and his pixie sidekick travel on foot across a terrifyingly random landscape. They discover Dorothy O’Neill, who has had to survive among monsters when her greatest worry used to be how to navigate high school. Together they search for what remains of Chicago, and the hope that civilization can be rebuilt.

Aubry, who studied music composition at Wesleyan, is the author of the young adult books Unhappenings (2015), Caprice (2012), and Static Mayhem (2010). He lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters, where he has taught high school math for the past 12 years.

Thesis Research by Arulanantham MA ’15 to Appear in Astronomy Journal

Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy; Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology; Wilson Cauley, a post-doctoral fellow; and Nicole Arulanantham MA ’15 are the co-authors of a paper forthcoming in The Astrophysical Journal.

The paper is based on Arulanantham’s thesis research at Wesleyan. The paper also was featured in the December newsletter of the Gemini Observatory, an international observatory based in Hawaii and Chile.

“The subject of the paper, a star known as KH 15D, was recognized as an important and interesting object in the 1990s through observations made on the Wesleyan campus by undergraduate and graduate students,” Herbst explained.

Arulanantham earned a master’s degree in astronomy and is now a graduate student in the astronomy department at the University of Colorado Boulder.