Randi Plake

Randi Plake works for the Office of University Communications at Wesleyan University.

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.

Local Artist Paints Portrait of Master Drummer Adzenyah MA ’79

The artist Pierre Sylvain is joined by Chair of the Music Department, Director of the Electronic Music and Recording Studios, and Professor of Music Ronald Kuivila.

Music Department Chair Ronald Kuivila congratulates artist Pierre Sylvain on his painting of Abraham Adzenyah. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Hanging in the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall is a new portrait of Abraham Adzenyah MA ’79, master drummer and adjunct professor of music, emeritus, painted by local artist, Pierre Sylvain.

After 46 years of teaching at Wesleyan, Adzenyah was honored during a special retirement ceremony this past May. The ceremony included a building dedication of the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall, formerly Rehearsal Hall. Two farewell concerts followed, featuring 150 musicians in West African music and dance ensembles from across the Northeast, culminating in an all-night dance party.

Sylvain was contacted by Ronald Kuivila, chair of the Music Department, director of the electronic music and recording studios, and professor of music, to paint Adzenyah’s portrait, using acrylic paint.

Sylvain first met Adzenyah 20 years ago, and painting his portrait gave them a chance to reconnect.

Sylvain explained, “The painting was truly inspired by him and the generous person he is. I felt his spirit coming out of my brush strokes.”

 

 

 

 

Watch a series of videos from Adzenyah’s Retirement Celebration:

Sudanese-American Singer Elgadi ’04 Releases New Album

Sarah Mohamed Abunama Elgadi ’04, known by her stage name Alsarah, recently released a new album, Manara, with her band, Alsarah & the Nubatones. Manara, or The Lighthouse, is rooted in the style of Sudan and Nubia, and inspired by East-African music.

KCET.org says Manara “is more fluid and free-flowing than the band’s debut album, lifted by moaning trumpets and humming electronics, broken up by interludes of radio static and bits of the album’s penultimate track ‘Fulani.’”

Alsarah, who was a music major at Wesleyan, is a Sudanese-born singer, songwriter, and ethnomusicologist based in Brooklyn. She is a self-proclaimed practitioner of East-African retro-pop. She has toured both nationally and internationally, and has released one full-length album titled, Aljawal, and two full-length albums with her current band, Alsarah & the Nubatones.

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Watch the full-length music video of “Soukura” from Alsarah & the Nubatone’s sophomore album, Manara.

Lame ’04 Discusses Film Editing Manchester by the Sea

Film editor Jennifer Lame ’04 spoke to the Los Angeles Times on her experience working on Manchester by the Sea, by Oscar-nominated director and writer, Kenneth Lonergan. The drama, starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, is about a man who returns to his hometown to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies.

In the interview, Lame explained how one scene between the divorced main characters made her surprisingly emotional in the editing process. “I’ll never forget the day I got the Michelle and Casey scene,” said Lame. “Just watching raw dailies, I was crying. That’s never happened. That scene crushed me.”

Lame also reflected on her time at Wesleyan where she studied film. She said she fell in love with the editing process here, but struggled to find satisfying work until she landed a gig in 2007 as an apprentice editor on Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, directed by Sidney Lumet.

Wesleyan to Open Bookstore on Middletown’s Main Street

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A new university bookstore will open in late spring on Main Street in Middletown and will be operated by R.J. Julia Booksellers, the nationally known independent bookstore in Madison, Conn.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth speaks to a crowd at the new bookstore location on Nov. 30. (Photos by Laura Matesky) 

Wesleyan President Michael Roth speaks to a crowd inside the new bookstore location on Nov. 30.

The new bookstore will be located at 413 Main Street, near the intersection of Washington Street, and is expected to contribute significantly to Middletown’s thriving downtown. Popular restaurants, Kidcity Children’s Museum, and retail outlets are nearby.

The 12,000-square-foot space will be renovated with an open concourse design. Work will begin in December and the opening is planned for late spring of 2017.

“We’re committed to strengthening the ties between campus and Main Street,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “Relocating Wesleyan’s bookstore is a major step in the direction, and I am so delighted that R.J. Julia Booksellers, with their phenomenal reputation, will be our partner in this effort.”

During previous discussions about moving the bookstore, Wesleyan community members had advocated a Main Street location and urged that the university avoid using a national chain to run it. The new location responds to those concerns and will be a vibrant place for special events, as well as ongoing business. It will improve first impressions for prospective students and families. Also, the new location will create more connections between campus and Main Street by giving students, faculty, and staff reasons to go downtown to take advantage of a new cultural hub.

During textbook buying periods, Wesleyan will provide additional shuttle service to the new bookstore.

Opened 26 years ago as an independent bookstore, R.J. Julia hosts more than 300 events each year in Madison and has won several major awards. Among those are Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year, Lucile Pannell award for bookselling excellence, and Connecticut Magazine Best Bookstore.

Wesleyan Hosts 8th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of Connecticut

Professor Gilmore accepting the Joe Weber Award

Marty Gilmore accepts the Joe Webb Peoples Award at the 8th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of Connecticut.

On Nov. 18, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (E&ES) hosted the 8th Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of Connecticut (GSC). The event featured a student scholarship wine-tasting fundraiser and a public science lecture called “The Real Jurassic Park in the Connecticut Valley,” by paleontologist Robbert Baker.

During the meeting, Phillip Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, Martha “Marty” Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, were awarded the Joe Webb Peoples Award for their efforts in hosting the 2015 New England Intercollegiate Geologic Conference. The award recognizes those who have contributed to the understanding of the geology of Connecticut through scholarship, education and service.

Many other E&ES faculty were in attendance, including Dana Royer, Suzanne O’Connell, Johan Varekamp, Peter Patton and Timothy Ku. Additionally, several E&ES graduate students attended, including John Hossain, Melissa Luna, Shaun Mahmood, and alumni Bill Burton ’74, Nick McDonald MA ’75, and Peter LeTourneau MA ’85.