Bill Holder

William Holder ¹75 is editor of Wesleyan magazine.

Birney Receives Mellon Fellowship to Pursue Role of Scents in Antiquity

Kate Birney

Kate Birney

The scent of ancient perfumes evaporated eons ago, but scientists are able to reconstruct their ingredients by analysis of the residues left on their containers. Up until now, however, such studies have largely been isolated in the scientific literature, disconnected from the textual and archaeological data that place these perfumes back into the hands of their ancient users.

Kate Birney, assistant professor of classical studies, archaeology, and art history, is hoping to change that as co-architect of the OpenARCHEM project, which seeks to assemble the largest set of organic residue samples ever collected from archaeological artifacts around the Mediterranean. Built in collaboration with archaeochemist Andrew Koh of Brandeis University, OpenARCHEM connects botanicals with the containers in which they traveled and the ancient texts that mention them, to reveal the many roles they played in Mediterranean cultures. To develop this project, Birney has received an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship.

The New Directions Fellowship will enable Birney to take advanced coursework at M.I.T. and to study with experts in mineral analysis and the ecology of the ancient Mediterranean, fields that are essential for understanding the cross-disciplinary nature of this work.

Vice President Barbara-Jan Wilson to Retire in December

Barbara-Jan Wilson (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Vice President Barbara-Jan Wilson will retire this year. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for University Relations, recently announced that she will retire in December, ending a Wesleyan career that began in 1982 and included leadership of two major capital campaigns.

Wilson assumed her present role in 1999, but she is also well known to generations of alumni through her prior leadership of Admission and before that, Career Resources – the position she took when she was hired by President Emeritus Colin G. Campbell Hon. ’89.

Her efforts as Wesleyan’s energetic and highly successful fundraiser spanned two presidents and four Board chairs. She worked with President Emeritus Douglas J. Bennet ’59, Hon ’94, P’87, ’94 on a campaign that raised $281 million and more recently with President Michael S. Roth ’78 on the $482 million THIS IS WHY campaign. In announcing Wilson’s plans to the campus community, Roth said her leadership had made an enduring contribution toward establishing a sustainable economic model for Wesleyan and has greatly strengthened Wesleyan’s endowment.

Love of Language Learning Lies behind Upcoming Symposium

Jessica Chen '20, who can speak Engligh, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Italian, is co-organizing a language symposium titled "The Power of Language" to be held April 6–7 at the Fries Center for Global Studies. At this two-day symposium, participants will discuss language and culture, language and identity, second-language acquisition, language and technology, and other topics. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Jessica Chen ’20 is co-organizing a language symposium titled “The Power of Language,” to be held April 6–7 at the Fries Center for Global Studies. At this two-day symposium, participants will discuss language and culture, language and identity, second-language acquisition, language and technology, and other topics. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Jessica Chen ’20 is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese, which is often spoken in her home city of Shenzhen, China. She started learning English before she entered Kindergarten.

She taught herself Korean in high school, speaks a local Chinese dialect common in her mother’s native area and is studying Italian at Wesleyan. She is not yet fluent in the latter, but hopes to be so before she graduates and possibly to pick up some other Romance languages as well.

Tuition, Residential Comprehensive Fees Increase by 4.1 Percent

During the 2017-18 academic year, 42 percent of students are receiving need-based scholarship awards.

At its meeting on March 3, the Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition and residential comprehensive fees by 4.1 percent for the 2018-19 year.

Tuition and fees for the 2018–19 year will be $54,614. The residential comprehensive fee for first-year and sophomore students will be $15,060, for juniors and seniors, $17,120. Wesleyan’s percentage increase in student charges aligns with its projected increase in total expenses.

Wesleyan meets the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted students and devotes almost $60 million of its operating budget to support of scholarships. In 2017-18, 42 percent of students are receiving need-based scholarship awards averaging nearly $46,400.

Recent initiatives have eliminated loans for our neediest students and lowered overall student debt to levels far below the national average. Wesleyan is phasing in additional changes to financial aid that will result in higher grants for most students, as well as changes to student contributions, loan policies and other provisions that will benefit students and their families.

Wesleyan’s THIS IS WHY fundraising campaign, which concluded in June 2016 with $482 million raised, saw the creation of 120 new endowed scholarships, and over $227 million in new endowment and annual funding to support financial aid.

Wesleyan continues to offer the three-year BA option, announced in 2012 with the potential to save students about 20 percent on tuition. Since then, Wesleyan has seen a significant increase in the number of students taking advantage of this program.

Taylor, Alumni, Students Co-Author 3 Journal Articles

Erika Taylor

Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, is the recent co-author of three articles. Two publications are related to disrupting the formation of Lipopolysaccharides (LPSs), a cell surface component that is important to Gram-Negative bacteria’s ability to form biofilms and become resistant to hydrophobic antibiotics. These papers describe inhibition of enzymes from E. coli, as well as enzymes from related pathogens including Vibrio cholerae (the bacteria that causes cholera), and Yersinia pestis (the bacteria that causes plague). Understanding how enzymes can be inhibited opens up possible new strategies for fighting diseases.

The third paper builds on her prior work investigating the ways in which sucralose (an artificial sweetener known primarily as Splenda) interacts with proteins, in comparison with its natural disaccharide counterpart, sucrose (common table sugar). She and her co-authors present data showing that sucralose interacts more strongly with hydrophobic patches on protein surfaces than does sucrose, which may be part of the way in which it causes destabilization of proteins.

These papers include alumni authors Noreen Nkosana B.A. ’11, MA ’13, Daniel Czyzyk PhD ’15, Zarek Siegel BA ’16 and current student authors Joy Cote Chemistry PhD ’18, Nimesh Shukla Physics PhD ’18, Cody Hecht ’18, in addition to Taylor’s longtime collaborator, Christina Othon, associate professor of physics at Ripon College.

Taylor also is associate professor of environmental studies and of integrative sciences.

The papers are:

Synthesis, kinetics and inhibition of Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I by monosaccharide analogues of LipidA,” published in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, 2018, in press.

The Glycosyltransferases of LPS Core: A Review of Four Heptosyltransferase Enzymes in Context,” published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2017, 18(11), 2256. This article belongs to the Special Issue Lipopolysaccharides.

Hydrophobic Interactions of Sucralose with Protein Structures,” published in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 2017, 639, pages 38-43.

Updated: Wesleyan’s 2018 Honorary Degree Recipients Announced

Wesleyan will present two honorary doctorates at the University’s 186th Commencement on May 27, 2018. Anita Hill, who for decades has fought against discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, will present the Commencement address, and Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09 founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals and chair emeritus of Wesleyan’s board of trustees, will also be honored.

Anita Hill

Anita Hill

Anita Hill

Anita Hill is University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Brandeis University and a faculty member of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis.

In 1991, her name became indelibly stamped on the national consciousness when she accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment while he was her supervisor. Her courage in speaking out and her dignity in the face of vituperative attacks remain inspirational, and over the years she has provided frequent commentary in the national media on gender and race issues. She recently was selected to head the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, intended to address sexual abuse and harassment in the media and entertainment industries. She also served as chair of the Human Rights Committee of the International Bar Association.

Hill is a scholar of contract jurisprudence, commercial law, and education policy. She is a prolific author, publishing numerous law review articles, essays, editorials, and books. Her most recent book, focused on housing and the 2008 foreclosure crisis, is Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home.

She previously co-edited Race, Gender, and Power in America: The Legacy of the Hill-Thomas Hearings with Emma Coleman Jordan. In 1997 she published her autobiography, Speaking Truth to Power, in which she discusses her role in the confirmation hearings.

Among her many honors, she received the UC Merced Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance in 2016 and the Ford Hall Forum First Amendment Award in 2008. Hill holds a BS degree from Oklahoma State University and a JD from Yale University.

 

Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09

Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09

Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09

Joshua Boger is an outstanding scientist whose vision transcends the lab. As the founder and former chief executive officer of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, he led the discovery and development of new pharmaceuticals for treating some of medicine’s most daunting challenges, including HIV, hepatitis C infection, and cystic fibrosis. At Wesleyan, where he served as chair of the board of trustees, he helped ensure the success of Wesleyan’s $482 million THIS IS WHY campaign and consistently urged the board to anticipate challenges years ahead. He continues to contribute his skills and wisdom to various scientific, cultural, educational, and political ventures.

Boger is the author of over 50 scientific publications, holds 32 U.S. patents in pharmaceutical discovery and development, and has delivered over 100 invited lectures—in the United States, in Europe, and in Asia—on various aspects of drug discovery and development. Prior to founding Vertex in 1989, he headed the departments of Biophysical Chemistry and Medicinal Chemistry of Immunology & Inflammation at Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories. He holds masters and doctoral degrees in chemistry from Harvard University.

Currently, he is chair of the campaign for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren, vice chair of Boston’s Museum of Science, chair of the board of the Celebrity Series (Boston’s premier performing arts presenter) and chair of the fundraising campaign for Harvard Medical School, where he is chair emeritus. Among many other present and former volunteer activities, he was the founding chair of the board of the nonprofit MassChallenge (the world’s largest start-up business incubator), and, while a member of the board of the ACLU of Massachusetts Foundation, co-founded their ongoing Technology for Liberty and Justice for All Projects.

A list of past honorary degree recipients and Commencement speakers is available here. Suggestions for future recipients of honorary degrees are welcome. Contact presoffice@wesleyan.edu.

Leverage Language Skills with Free Mango Platform

Care to brush up on your French? Learn Japanese? Or perhaps acquire a language that isn’t commonly taught at colleges, such as Danish?

Wesleyan is offering alumni and members of the on-campus community free access to the Mango Languages platform, says Antonio Gonzalez, professor of Spanish and director of the Fries Center for Global Studies. The platform provides high-quality online instruction in 72 languages, with an excellent blend of conversational language and cultural study. Gonzalez says that reception of Mango as a teaching and learning tool “has been very positive on campus” and that it is an attractive means for expanding the scope of Wesleyan’s language instruction.

“It’s crucial in any society for people to have intimate knowledge of different areas of the world, and not just in economically strong countries such as China,” he says. “An understanding of languages and cultures in Africa, Latin America and South Asia, for example, is essential in today’s interconnected world.”

Peters Discusses Highlights of Wesleyan’s Operating Budget

Nate Peters

Wesleyan’s operating budget in the last fiscal year included a total of $206 million in expenditures, with $210 million in revenue. Most of the university’s revenue (68 percent) comes from student charges, while the endowment, private gifts and government grants account for most of the rest. The operating budget lies behind everything Wesleyan does, and we’ve asked Nate Peters, vice president for finance and administration, to explain some of its highlights:

Q: What is Wesleyan’s projected total operating expenditure in the current fiscal year, and what has been our annual rate of increase? What are the primary drivers of that increase?

A: Total expenditures are projected at $214 million. Our cost trends are in the +4 percent range. Compensation (salaries and benefits) is the biggest driver – whether for existing faculty and staff or for new hires. Higher education is a labor-intensive enterprise. We are watching our medical benefits as they have dramatically trended upwards during the past several years. We are also making some investments in additional faculty, financial aid and major maintenance as outlined in Wesleyan’s strategic plan Beyond 2020.

Q: Are we more dependent upon tuition revenue than many of our peers? Why? What are the implications of this?

A: Yes, we are more dependent than many of our peers on student charges (tuition, room and board) revenue. Over two-thirds of Wesleyan’s revenue comes from this source. This is why enrollment is so important to our finances. Schools with larger endowments will rely less on student charges. For example, Williams relies on its endowment for about 50 percent of its revenue and only 35 percent on student charges.

Wesleyan Community Makes More than 3,300 Gifts on Giving Tuesday

In the past few years, alumni, parents, and others have rallied in support of Wesleyan’s participation in the national Giving Tuesday campaign, and they have unlocked millions of dollars for financial aid for Wesleyan students.

On this year’s Giving Tuesday, Nov. 28, members of the Wesleyan community showed an outpouring of support for financial aid yet again.

Trustee Marc Casper ‘90 thanked everyone who gave as part of the #GivingTuesday challenge and said he is committed to supporting financial aid at Wesleyan now more than ever.

“We received just over 3,300 gifts by the end of Giving Tuesday,” he said. “If you haven’t made a gift as of today, please do.”

“With you,” he added, “Wesleyan is possible. Your support is life changing: not just, for the students Wesleyan educates but for the lives they will impact and the future, they will shape.”

Go, Wes!

Roth Sees Growing Appreciation for Liberal Education in China

President Michael Roth recently returned from a trip to China and South Korea for a round of receptions, lectures, media interviews and visits with alumni. The trip provided an opportunity to both enhance Wesleyan’s visibility in these countries and to discuss the value of liberal learning, Wesleyan style.

In Shanghai, Roth met with business leaders to discuss liberal education’s role in preparing students for productive careers, and then spoke at a reception and book launch for the new Chinese edition of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. The reception was attended by more than 130 current parents, prospective students and press, and demand for the book outpaced supply.

Roth lectured at Shanghai International Studies University, an event attended by about 200 students, and at Peking University, where he also met with officials to discuss partnership activities such as faculty exchanges and summer student exchanges. He completed his stay in Beijing with a presidential reception, where he spoke to alumni, parents and prospective students about what students should get out of college.

“In China, I’ve found a deep and growing appreciation for liberal education,” Roth said. “Students posed many thoughtful questions that led to interesting exchanges. I’ve come away more convinced than ever that Wesleyan has much to offer Chinese students and that there are opportunities to develop some very beneficial partnerships.”

The trip concluded in Seoul with a reception and remarks, including the opportunity to meet with several South Korean alumni who have encouraged interest in Wesleyan among prospective students and college counselors.

Wesleyan Offers a Free Semester for Students from University of Puerto Rico

Responding to the ongoing tragedy in Puerto Rico, Wesleyan is offering a free semester of study in the spring of 2018 to students enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico. Students will be expected to pay tuition at their home institution, and Wesleyan will offer free housing and meals as needed. Many other institutions across the country are stepping up as well and the University of Puerto Rico has developed a standard framework for this project.

Students enrolled at other institutions in Puerto Rico may be eligible as well, and should contact Wesleyan at gueststudent@wesleyan.edu for more information.

“Opening our campus to students from Puerto Rico is a meaningful way we can provide assistance that will make a real difference in the lives of some students,” said President Michael Roth. “It’s so evident that the need for help is overwhelming, and I know our campus community will welcome students with open arms.”