Randi Alexandra Plake

Chemistry, Physics Students Attend Biomedical Research Conference

Contributed photo

From Nov. 9-12, two faculty members and five students from the physics and chemistry departments, attended the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in Tampa, Fla.

Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics, and Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, were joined by McNair Scholars Luz Mendez ’17, Tatianna Pryce ’17, Stacy Uchendu ’17 and Hanna Morales ’17; and Wesleyan Mathematics and Science (WesMaSS) Scholar Helen Karimi ’19.

Students observed other research being performed around the nation by students who are members of underrepresented groups in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In addition, the Wesleyan students presented their own research and Morales and Karimi were awarded Outstanding Poster Presentation Awards.

“Through the PIE Initiative, Wesleyan has a deliberate strategy to support underrepresented students and faculty in STEM fields by providing resources that increasing post-Wesleyan mentorship and exposure to research excellence, all of which were fulfilled through this conference,” said Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion/Title IX officer. “It cannot go without saying that without Professor Taylor’s and Professor Etson’s holistic mentorship approach, these type of opportunities for our young scholars would not be possible.”

Sumarsam Performs Shadow Puppet Play at Islamic Intersections Festival

Sumarsam, University Professor of Music

Sumarsam, University Professor of Music

On Nov. 9, Sumarsam, professor of music and puppeteer, performed his shadow-puppet play, Bima’s Quest for Enlightenment, at the Performing Indonesia: Islamic Intersections festival, presented by the Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art and George Washington University. This music, dance, and theater festival celebrates the many manifestations of Islamic culture in the island nation, which is home to more Muslims than any other country.

During the festival, Sumarsam performed a condensed version of an all-night wayang puppet play, featuring only the main episodes of the story. Wayang is the Javanese word for shadow, or bayang in standard Indonesian. More than 200 people attended.

Additionally, Sumarsam and his students led a panel discussion “Intercultural and Interreligious Encounters in Indonesian Performing Arts.”

On Dec 2., Sumarsam and the Wesleyan Gamelan Ensemble will present a Javanese wayang puppet play in the World Music Hall. The performance is free and open to the public.

Sumarsam’s research on history, theory, and performance practice of gamelan and wayang, and on Indonesia-Western encounter theme has resulted in the publication of numerous articles and two books. His recent research focuses have been on the intersections between religion and performing arts.

Graduate Student Khan Gives Sarangi Demonstration at UCLA

Suhail Yusuf Khan by Shiv Ahuja

Suhail Yusuf Khan (Photo by Shiv Ahuja)

Graduate student Suhail Yusuf Khan recently gave a lecture and demonstration at the Department of Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Khan’s lecture focused on the sarangi and its use in popular music contexts.

Khan was invited to UCLA to lecture to a global pop music class.

“The idea was to show students some of my experimental and pop music,” Khan said.

During his demonstration, Khan spoke about the the sarangi’s role in Hindustani music and the relationship to the voice. He also showed different playing techniques, and shared his own musical story, including the challenges he faces as a classically trained musician navigating the global popular music industry.

Khan, from New Delhi, India, is working towards his master’s degree in music. He also is a composer, singer and songwriter. After graduating from Wesleyan, he is considering applying to PhD programs in ethnomusicology or will continue to perform around the world.

Baltzell ’87 Named President-Elect of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology

Photo by Vernon Doucette

Amy Baltzell ’87 (Photo by Vernon Doucette)

Amy Baltzell ’87, of Boston, Mass., has been named President-Elect of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP), an international professional organization that promotes the field of sport and exercise psychology. She assumed the role at the 2016 annual conference in Phoenix, Ariz., where members from around the world convened to network and share the latest presentations and research in the field. Baltzell has been a member of the AASP for 12 years.

Baltzell is a clinical associate professor and director of Sport Psychology Specialization (of Counseling) at Boston University, with research focuses on mindfulness and compassion in sports. She also is the author of Living in the Sweet Spot: Preparing for Performance in Sport and Life and editor of Mindfulness and Performance with Cambridge University Press. Outside of academia, she is a former U.S. National and Olympic Rowing Team member, member of the All Women’s American Cup Sailing Team, and was head varsity lightweight rowing coach at Harvard University, where she taught the first course in sport psychology.

She earned her master’s and doctorate degree from Boston University.

Kottos Awarded Engineering Grant from the National Science Foundation

kottos2

Professor Tsampikos Kottos

Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics, professor of integrative sciences, professor of mathematics, was awarded a $400,000 Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) engineering grant from the National Science Foundation in October. This $2 million grant is equally split among a consortium of universities, including Stanford University, University of Minnesota, and University-Wisconsin-Madison, and will last for a period of four years.

The grant is associated with “New Light and Acoustic Wave Propagation: Breaking Reciprocity and Time-Reversal Symmetry” (NewLaw) and supports “engineering-led interdisciplinary research that challenges the notions of reciprocity, time-reversal symmetry and sensitivity to defects in wave propagation and field transport,” Kottos explained. 

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.”