Randi Plake

Rudensky Finalist for Photography Award

© Sasha Rudensky, from Tinsel and Blue

© Sasha Rudensky, from Tinsel and Blue

Sasha Rudensky ’01, assistant professor of art, assistant professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, is a finalist for the New East Photo Prize. Her photos, Tinsel and Blue, explore the relationship between illusion and truth and the young people of the post-Soviet generation. Rudensky shot the photo series between 2009 and 2015 in Russia and Ukraine.

An alumna of Wesleyan, Rudensky graduated with a degree in studio arts. Rudensky, who was born in Russia and moved to the United States when she was 10, feels this competition keeps her in touch with her heritage. “I am happy to be included on a list of Eastern European artists in general because I strongly identify as one,” she said. “A majority of my artistic work has been done on the former Soviet Union and it continues to pull me back to my roots.”

The inaugural New East Photo Prize is sponsored by the Calvert 22 Foundation supported by The Calvert Journal. According to the Calvert 22 Foundation, “the Prize champions contemporary perspectives on the people and countries of the New East (Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia and Central Asia).” The initiative received a total of 1,030 entries form 25 countries.

Rudensky’s photo will be included in an exhibition at Calvert 22 Foundation in London from Nov. 4 to Dec. 18. The winner of the prize, which will be announced on Dec. 1, will have his or her work published as a photo book.

Barnwell ’89 Explores Voting, Millennial Women of Color in Upcoming Documentary

Michele Barnwell '89, courtesy of LinkedIn

Michele Barnwell ’89. (Photo by Marc Baptiste)

Michele Barnwell ’89 spent the summer filming a political documentary, Party Girls: Exploring Politics in America, a film that “follows a small group of millennial women of color who travel the country engaging in the politic process.” The documentary aims to air around Election Day 2016 as both an independent film and a six-part web series through PBS affiliate ITVS.

Barnwell, director and producer, traveled across the United States following six students as they prepare to vote for the first time this November. Barnwell’s aim is to make this a bi-partisan project and will feature “real conversations on immigration, mass incarceration, police brutality, equal pay, and education reform.”

“Women and women of color are absolutely key to the American electorate,” she said. “I’m doing Party Girls to amplify the voices of millennial women of color first-time voters. And I promise you, they have so much to say and it’s not always what you might think.”

Barnwell, who was an African American studies major at Wesleyan, continues, “Much of this experience was positioned to ask a question that I believed my Wesleyan experience had in fact answered for me personally. That is, can a diverse group of intelligent critical thinkers who are not all aligned politically still find common ground and even friendship?”

Barnwell is the principal executive of Reel Roost, Inc., a  transmedia production company specializing in story-driven-content creation and production. She has worked extensively as a television showrunner and executive producer. Her work as a producer in nonfiction television, short-form branded entertainment, web-based clips, music videos, pilots, specials, and full series has been delivered for: the CW, HBO, Fox, MTV, Lifetime, E!, BET, Centric, Oxygen, TLC, STYLE, Intel, and the UK’s Channel 4—where she sold and delivered a nonfiction television pilot.

Patey Featured in A Peace of My Mind, a New Collection of Stories

Laura Patey (photo courtesy of appmm.com)

Laura Patey (photo by John Noltner for “A Peace of My Mind: American Stories”)

Laura Patey, associate dean for student academic resources, was featured in the newest book of the series, A Peace of My Mind: American Stories, by award-winning photographer and author, John Noltner. In his book, Noltner drove 40,000 miles across the country to ask people the simple question, “What does peace mean to you?” This resulted in the stories of “58 people from diverse backgrounds, who share stories of hope, redemption, and forgiveness, paired with compelling color portraits.”

Patey’s personal story highlights the peace she has finally found with embracing her own identity, with a focus on her experience adopting her sons out of foster care and how her experience of not fitting in when she was younger made her into an advocate for the marginalized in society. She also spoke of her challenges of coming out and being accepted. In the end, she has found peace now that she realizes “it’s not about having people tolerate or accept you, it’s about embracing your identity.”

An excerpt of Dean Patey’s story, along with her full audio interview was published on the website for the Peace of My Mind Project. Moreover, her story was highlighted in one of Noltner’s blog posts as a tool he was able to use to connect with a young student who was having her own trouble and felt isolated dealing with the reality of her own similar family situation.

Bisikalo ’17 Completes Writing Internship in Prague at Media Organization

Anna Bisikalo ’17

Anna Bisikalo ’17

Davenport Study Grant recipient Anna Bisikalo ’17, a Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies major, recently completed a six-week internship at Transitions Online (TOL), a nonprofit media organization based in Prague, Czech Republic. During her internship, Bisikalo published a series of articles, including her most recent article, “Art and Politics Do Mix.”

Bisikalo’s internship was five days a week at the TOL office.

“The office was English-speaking, but I did use my Ukrainian and Russian language skills for the articles I wrote,” she explained. “I wrote daily articles about new stories from the region, often focusing on ones that are not well covered by mainstream English language media. I also wrote several articles on my own initiative, including one about Pussy Riot and their legacy and continued activism after being released from jail and a translation of a Russian article examining the uses of a Russian law on ‘hooliganism.’”

Barth’s Research Published on Child Cognitive Development in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review

Hilary Barth

Hilary Barth

Hilary Barth, associate professor of psychology, is a co-author of a paper titled, “How feedback improves children’s numerical estimation,” published in the August 2016 issue of the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review. Barth’s co-authors are former members of her Cognitive Development Lab, which include Shipra Kanjlia ’11 and Jennifer Garcia ’10, former lab managers Jessica Taggart and Elizabeth Chase, and former postdoctoral fellow Emily Slusser, PhD.

The paper explores one theory of children’s cognitive development that there are fundamental developmental changes in the ways children think about numbers. This theory says numbers are arranged on a different mental scale for younger children. Changes in children’s estimates following corrective feedback have been interpreted as support for that theory.

Barth’s team tested this study and wrote about the results. “This study with second-grade children shows that the changes observed in estimation following corrective feedback are more consistent with a different theory of children’s numerical development,” said Barth. “Instead of thinking of numbers in a fundamentally different way with development, children are probably changing by gaining knowledge of numerical ordering and magnitude, and gaining facility with measurement processes.”

Read the full abstract here.

Lewen’s (’86) Prison University Project Receives National Humanities Medal

JodyLewen_white house-2

Jody Lewen ’86 accepted the National Humanities Medal at the White House, along with former students, Pat Mims and David Cowan.

The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded the Prison University Project the National Humanities Medal for transforming the lives of incarcerated people through higher education. The Prison University Project is run by founder and executive director, Jody Lewen ’86.

Lewen accepted the medal at a ceremony Sept. 22 at the White House, along with former students, Pat Mims and David Cowan. The medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities and broadened our citizens’ engagement with history, literature, languages, philosophy and other humanities subjects.

At Wesleyan, Lewen earned a BA in history. She received an MA in philosophy and comparative literature from Freie Universität and a PhD in rhetoric from University of California – Berkeley. Lewen has published and presented extensively in the fields of psychoanalysis, literary theory and criminal justice. She was the 2006 recipient of the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award from UC Berkeley, and a recipient of the 2015 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award.

This month, Lewen will be a panelist at Wesleyan’s 15th Annual Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns. She will speak at the Oct. 15 session of “How College-in-Prison Makes for Better Universities and Better Communities.” The Shasha Seminar is an educational forum for Wesleyan alumni, parents, and friends that provides an opportunity to explore issues of global concern in a small seminar environment. This year, the focus will be on mass incarceration and the University’s role in this seemingly intractable problem. Click here to learn more.

Ekperigin ’05, Writer and Actress, to Perform Stand-Up on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Naomi Ekperigin

Naomi Ekperigin ’05 will make her first appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Sept. 29. (Photo by Ben Esner Photography)

Naomi Ekperigin ’05, a writer, comedian, and actress based in New York City, will make her first appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Sept. 29. Ekperigin, known for tackling race, politics, and religion in her routine, will perform her stand-up act ahead of her Comedy Central special, The Half Hour, which airs in October.

Ekperigin, who studied English and film studies, started performing when she arrived at Wesleyan.

“I always enjoyed acting and performing as a kid, but I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to do it. Once I got to Wesleyan, I did a lot of theater, which was my primary extracurricular,” she said.

She joined Gag Reflex, Wesleyan’s oldest comedy troupe. This was her first real experience performing comedy and was her first step towards becoming a stand-up.

Ekperigin believes one of the most pivotal moments in her life was attending and performing in the New Student Orientation activity, In the Company of Others, which featured upperclassmen sharing their stories. Ekperigin explained, “When I attended the show freshman year, I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Julius Onah ‘04 and distinctly remember thinking, ‘I like this place. I’m going to be okay here.’”

She went on to perform in the show during orientation for the rest of her years at Wesleyan. She loved working with the director, Karen Bovard ‘77, and sharing her experience with the Wesleyan community. “When I stood in Crowell Concert Hall, facing more than 500 students, and making them laugh, I felt a rush and a calmness I’d never felt before,” she said. “I knew performing in that way was what I was meant to do, and it is a huge part of how I got to where I am now.”

“Wesleyan was where I found my voice and lost the sense of fear of expressing myself,” she said. “By the time I graduated I had a pretty clear sense of who I was, and how I wanted to express myself.”

At Wesleyan, Ekperigin earned High Honors and the Akiva Goldsman Prize for Screenwriting for her film thesis, a feature-length screenplay. “These accomplishments were signs that I was headed in the right direction, and that I had an actual talent for writing, not just an interest,” she said. Her writing experience during college also set her up for a career as a television writer, most notably on the Comedy Central series Broad City, which stemmed from her experience as a stand-up comedian.

As for what’s next, Ekperigin is serving as a co-executive producer and writer on a pilot starring Jessica Williams from The Daily Show. She explained, “This half-hour comedy will look at issues around race, gender, and feminism through the eyes of a millennial who wants to ‘be the change’ but doesn’t quite know how to put that into practice now that she’s in the real world.”

Actor, Director Schaal ’06 Returns to Campus for Sold-Out Premiere of Go Forth

Kaneza Schaal ’06 (Photo by Randi Plake)

Kaneza Schaal ’06 spoke to Wesleyan theater majors Sept. 15. (Photo by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography)

Actor and director Kaneza Schaal ’06 returned to campus for her New England premiere of GO FORTH (2015), a series of vignettes with projection, sound, and dance inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The four performances took place over the past weekend to a sold-out audience.

At a special lunch surrounded by a group of theater majors, one being GO FORTH ensemble member Cheyanne Williams ’17, Schaal explained how the Book of the Dead inspired her production: “I was drawn to the Book of the Dead after experiencing the loss of my father. I went to Rwanda for the ceremony and experienced a ritualized grieving process that helped me process his death.”

Schaal credits her time studying theater and psychology for preparing her for a creative career. “What I gained at Wesleyan was the opportunity to learn many languages, psychology, and theater, which all came together to how I make my work.” Furthermore, she explained that it was the faculty and staff who really supported her to go out and make what interested her.

After Wesleyan, Schaal came up in the downtown experimental theater community, first working with The Wooster Group, then with companies and artists including Elevator Repair Service, Richard Maxwell/New York City Players, Claude Wampler, Jay Scheib, New York City Opera and National Public Radio. Schaal is an Arts-in-Education advocate and just returned from a new project with the International Children’s Book Library in Munich, Germany working with young Syrian and Eritrean refugees to address migration and storytelling.

Transportation Services’ New 14-Passenger Bus Moves Students More Efficiently

Wesleyan’s Transportation Department announces the addition of a new 14-passenger bus to the Wesleyan RIDE system fleet.

Wesleyan’s Transportation Department announces the addition of a new 14-passenger bus to the Wesleyan RIDE system fleet.

Wesleyan’s Transportation Services Department announces the addition of a new 14-passenger bus to the Wesleyan RIDE system fleet. The RIDE is a free shuttle service with 17 stops around campus. The department also provides a free off-campus grocery shuttle service to Price Chopper and Aldi on Sunday afternoons.

“Adding this bus to the RIDE program will allow us to move more people, more efficiently, and more comfortably,” said Joe Martocci, transportation services manager.

The RIDE shuttles are available seven nights a week, and Martocci says volume picks up on the weekends.

“We move over 500 students every weekend. The idea to add another vehicle was to make it more enjoyable for students to use the shuttles,” he explained. On the weekends, there are now three vehicles in rotation to meet the high demand of students who need a safe way to get around campus at night. All are equipped with GPS units so students can see their location from a mobile app.

Joe Martocci, transportation services manager, explains the features of the RIDE's new 14-passenger bus.

Joe Martocci, transportation services manager, explains the features of the new 14-passenger bus. (Photos by Randi Plake)

Martocci, who has worked at Wesleyan for 11 years, says the changes to the RIDE come from listening to the students and seeking advice from Public Safety Director Scott Rohde.

“We have changed some of the stops. Adding a larger vehicle and modifying the routes will be an experiment, but historically when students suggest ideas, we listen.”

Moreover, Martocci and his crew have added new shuttle stops signs around campus. The new signs are reflective and more identifiable for students on the RIDE.

Martocci notes that the bus provides comfort as well as safety features. Well-lighted on both the inside and outside, with rows of comfortable leather seats, it is also spacious, with enough room for students to enter and exit the bus quickly. Additionally, four video cameras provide an extra layer of security for all who are riding the bus.

To learn more about RIDE and the other services offered by the Transportation department, click here. Students can download the mobile app—Wes Shuttle (iTunes and Android)—and see where the shuttle is in real-time. Persons with disabilities can access special shuttle services by calling 860-982-8031 (day) or 860-685-3788 (evenings).

Lerer ’76 Interviewed By Slate Magazine on the Evolution of Children’s Literature

Seth Lerer ’76, literary critic and Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California at San Diego, spoke to Slate.com on the complex history of children’s literature.

“The earliest kids books…were largely designed to teach moral behavior,” he said. “They were about social decorum and a particular way of being a child, especially in relation to parents and teachers. Some children’s books—many of the early medieval romances, for instance—had an adventure quality to them, but always a moral and spiritual quality too.”

He also observed the increasing focus on young women in today’s literature. “When you look at the trajectory of modern books, Harriet the Spy, Judy Blume—books from the ’60s and ’70s—and then at Hermione in Harry Potter, who’s very much a modern YA heroine, and at The Hunger Games, you see children’s literature really moving toward an audience of younger women in particular, who face particular challenges and really develop their heroic lives.”

Lerer, the author of Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter, was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism in 2009 and the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in 2010.

Read the full interview here.

McGill ’16 Screens Short Film at Princeton Film Festival

Adam_McGill

Adam McGill ’16

Film studies major Adam McGill ’16 screened his short film Punked! at the Princeton Student Film Festival this summer. McGill’s comedy is about a punk rock singer and guitarist named Dale, whose allegiance to his music is challenged when a new romance enters his life.

McGill filmed the short in the fall of 2015 as a senior thesis project at Wesleyan. During his time at Wesleyan, McGill was taught by Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, who said, “I’m happy to see his work recognized outside the classroom. He joins a long line of Wesleyan film majors who have gone on to great things after they leave Wesleyan. It’s lots of fun to watch this happen.”

Since graduating in May, McGill worked on small sets in the New York City area and he’s currently interning at Sony Pictures Classics, a film distributor, working with their marketing team.

Punked! also will be playing later this September at the Golden Door International Film Festival in Jersey City, N.J. View his film online here.

Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76 to Co-Direct Smithsonian’s Video Game Pioneers Archive

ChristopherWeaverChris Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76, visiting professor in the College of Integrative Sciences at Wesleyan, was appointed co-director of the Video Game Pioneers Archive at the Smithsonian Institute’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. This one-of-a-kind initiative will record oral-history interviews with first-generation inventors of the video game industry, creating a multimedia archive that will preserve the evolution of the industry in the words of its founders. The archive will offer scholars and the public the opportunity to better understand the personalities, technologies, and social forces that have driven interactive media to become one of the largest entertainment businesses of all time.

The Lemelson Center became interested in the video game industry while working to acquire the basement laboratory of the late Ralph Baer, considered the father of the video game industry. The Baer family and the Smithsonian wanted to expand on the importance of video games in today’s society so they tapped Weaver, someone with his own remarkable career in the industry and a close friend of Baer, to take the helm as external director, working side-by-side with Arthur Daemmrich, director of the Lemelson Center. This partnership has resulted in the creation of the Video Game Pioneers Archive, a long-term, massive undertaking—and a first for the Smithsonian—made even more unique by the fact that, according to Weaver, “no other industry in the history of technology has ever created anything like this. This archive will be a comprehensive recording of the creation of an industry as told by its founders.”