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“You Just Have Read This…” 3 Books by Wesleyan Authors

In the fourth of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers this selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

cover of Kaplan's book shows a black and white photo of the composer, Irving Berlin

James Kaplan ’73: Irving Berlin: New York Genius (Jewish Lives Series) (Yale University Press, Nov. 5, 2019)

Venerated biographer James Kaplan first encountered the music of Irving Berlin in a New York record store in the ’70s. The tune: “Oh, How That German Could Love,” a song Berlin composed at 21 years old. Kaplan was entranced, playing on repeat the song that he writes “pierced the thick veil of time.” One could say Kaplan accomplishes the same feat, as Irving Berlin: New York Genius portrays the Jewish immigrant and incomparable composer with stunning depth, integrity, and intimacy. In his portrait of Berlin, Kaplan explores the musician’s highs and lows, from his astonishing versatility to his struggles with mental illness. Along with the portrait of the musician, Kaplan also captures the dynamic life of the city that made and was made by Berlin: New York City with its glittering, fast-paced energy. In the same manner that Berlin was able to create the essences of songs, Kaplan captures the essence of a life, guiding his readers effortlessly through the nuances of Berlin’s character. As a bright spotlight on the nine-decade career of a man who changed American music forever, Kaplan’s biography is an homage to extraordinary grit and talent that any music-lover—from ragtime to rock—will appreciate.

Bands, Soloists Perform at the 8th Annual MASH Festival

Inspired by Fête de la Musique (also known as Make Music Day), the eighth annual The MASH festival on Sept. 6 highlighted Wesleyan’s student music scene, with multiple stages on campus featuring everything from a cappella ensembles to student and faculty bands.

More than 15 musicians or groups performed, including gonzo, sweetburger, Jackie Weo, g.flores, Mattabesset String Collective, Quasimodal, audrey mills, the basukes, Rebecca Roff, la media chulla, Lopii, Baby Leelo, livia wood, Pablo lee-davis, iris olympia, Philippe bungabong, ian etc., and Lily Gitlitz.

Photos of The MASH are below: (Photos by Preksha Sreewastav ’21)

MASH

MASH

New IDEAS Lab Offers State-of-the-Art Digital Fabrication Tools

 Assistant Professor of the Practice Daniel MollerIDEAS clasroom

Daniel Moller, assistant professor of the practice in integrative sciences, is teaching Introduction to Design and Engineering inside the new IDEAS Lab this fall semester.

Equipped with 3-D printers, water-jet and laser cutters, computer-operated milling machines, and high-tech drills, saws, and workstations, Wesleyan’s new IDEAS Lab is on the “cutting edge” of digital fabrication.

Wesleyan’s new ProtoMAX water-jet cutter created this butterfly out of aluminum in 18 minutes.

This fall, the College of Integrative Sciences opened the adjoined classroom and makerspace in Room 40 of Exley Science Center. While it is currently used by students in the IDEAS (Integrated Design, Engineering & Applied Science) program, by spring 2020 the space should be open to the entire Wesleyan community.

“The space is the heart of our efforts to provide students with a facility to explore their ideas and create new projects,” said Francis Starr, IDEAS coordinator and professor of physics.

The IDEAS program prepares students to succeed at the intersection of design, the arts, and engineering. Students hone skills in identifying which scientific and engineering principles need to be understood to achieve design goals, and use computer-aided design (CAD) software and fabrication tools in the lab to create a solution for their design. Students also develop foundational knowledge in design and engineering by working in collaborative groups on project-based studies.

While much of the new lab equipment was purchased by the University, lighting solutions company OSRAM, based in Beverly, Mass., donated dozens of fabrication tools and parts to Wesleyan this summer. The lab’s professional-grade 3-D printer, computer numerical control router, and vortex dust collector were part of the donation, which collectively are valued at approximately $500,000.

“The donated items allow us to offer students access to a number of tools that they would otherwise not get a chance to experience,” said Professor of Physics Brian Stewart, who spearheaded the OSRAM donation. “We’re also moving closer to establishing an advanced lab in the Physics Department, so the donated vibration-free laser tables, hardware, and electronic equipment will serve as the nucleus of this exciting new departmental project.”

Learn more about IDEAS in this Wesleyan Magazine article. Follow the Wesleyan IDEAS Lab on Instagram.

Photos of the IDEAS Lab are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Lopez shows off a vacuum forming tool, which is used to form plastic around a mold and create a permanent object. At left is a 3-D printer.

Shawn Lopez, College of Integrative Sciences makerspace coordinator, displays an object created by the IDEAS Lab’s vacuum forming machine, pictured at right. The tool heats and forms plastic around a mold and creates a permanent object. At left is a 3-D printer that “prints” a three-dimensional object based on a computer design.

IDEAS

Francis Starr speaks to Brian Stewart about a large 3-D printer that was donated by OSRAM. This machine can print objects with exceptionally high resolution in a wide variety of materials.

Lopez demonstrates how a laser cuts an object out of wood.

Lopez demonstrates how a laser cuts an object out of wood.

The 75-watt engraver uses a CO2 laser, pulsing at 2,500 cycles per second, to cut into a sheet of wood.

The lab’s water-jet cutter slices through flat sheets of metal, tile, stone, and plastic using 30,000 psi of water and garnet abrasive material.

The IDEAS Lab milling machine uses various drill bits to cut and carve 3-D objects from solid materials such as metal, wood or plastic.

The multi-axis computer numerical control router, or milling machine, uses various drill bits, as well as a 4th axis lathe attachment, to cut and carve 3-D objects from solid materials such as metal, wood, or plastic. After programming the paths using appropriate software, the process is almost entirely automated. “Most of our CNC machines are really designed for cutting material in two dimensions,” Lopez said. “What if you want to actually carve a piece of metal in three different dimensions? This mill is the kind of device that can actually do that.”

OSRAM donated multiple laboratory oscilloscopes, which are used to display and analyze the waveform of electronic signals. Three have already been installed in the Exotic Wave Lab managed by Fred Ellis, professor of physics. “Numerous research groups have already benefited through the acquisition of individual pieces of equipment: oscilloscopes, digital delay generators, and other hardware have satisfied needs or increased capabilities in most of the department’s experimental laboratories,” Stewart said. “This is particularly welcome as our ability to accommodate additional undergraduate students into our research labs is often limited by the availability of equipment for new or exploratory projects.”

In addition to digital fabrication machinery, OSRAM donated thousands of pieces of optical equipment to Wesleyan.

The IDEAS Lab is located on the ground floor of Exley Science Center.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. The Washington Post: “How the NRA Highjacked History”

In this op-ed, Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker writes about the history of the legal debate over the Second Amendment, and explains how the court’s understanding of that history may shape the nation’s response to the current gun violence epidemic. Her op-ed was reported on in The Trace.

2. The Hill: “A Tragic Misperception About Climate Change”

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, Emeritus, is co-author of this op-ed that argues “The U.S. contributes to global warming not only through its own emissions of greenhouse gases but also by the effect of its behavior on the actions of other countries.” The U.S. must first “get its own house in order,” then take steps to encourage other countries to take similar action to reduce carbon emissions, he writes.

3. Process: a blog for American history: “The Politics of Statehood in Hawai’i and the Urgency of Non-Statist Decolonization”

In this essay, written on the 60th anniversary of the United States claiming the Hawaiian islands as the 50th state of the union, Professor of American Studies J. Kēhaulani Kauanui reflects on the dispute over Maunakea, a sacred mountain that is currently under threat by those who want to construct a major observatory at its summit. She writes that the dispute “can be seen as a microcosm of the history of Hawai‘i’s (U.S.) statehood and earlier American encroachment.”

4 Alumni Work to End Gun Violence Through Everytown

Rob Wilcox (Deputy Director of Policy and Strategy) Sam Levy (Counsel), John Feinblatt (President) and Nick Suplina (Managing Director of Law and Policy).

Four  Wesleyan alumni are helping drive policy and political efforts for the organization Everytown for Gun Safety. The alumni are, from left, Rob Wilcox ’01, deputy director of policy and strategy; Sam Levy ’04, counsel; John Feinblatt ’73, president; Nick Suplina ’00, managing director of law and policy.

Every day, 100 Americans are shot and killed and hundreds more are wounded as a result of gun violence. 

Through an organization called Everytown for Gun Safety, four Wesleyan alumni are working with lawmakers to pass common-sense laws and policies that build safer communities and save lives while still respecting the Second Amendment.

Everytown members research a range of vital issues surrounding gun violence and develop data-driven solutions. To date, Everytown has supported nearly six million mayors, mothers, police, teachers, survivors, gun owners, students, and everyday Americans to make their own communities safer.

Wesleyan Welcomes 48 New Faculty, Postdocs, Scholars

2019 faculty

New faculty gathered for a group photo during New Faculty Orientation on Aug. 26. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 48 new faculty to campus.

Of those, there are 16 tenure-track, 10 professors of the practice, one artist-in-residence, one adjunct, and 20 new visiting faculty members.

The new faculty bring a diverse skill set to campus. Among them are experts in international political economy; Indian cinema and film; environmental archaeology and ancient DNA; German poetry and aesthetic theory of the 18th century; music and expressive culture in Kazakhstan; politics in the African diaspora; Russian and Anglo-American literature; physiological and psychological effects of alcohol; and digital video production.

In addition, three are Wesleyan alumni.

Bios of the new ongoing faculty are below:

Joseph Ackley

Joseph Ackley

Joseph Ackley, assistant professor of art history, is a specialist in precious metalwork of the European Middle Ages, circa 800–1400. He received his BA from Dartmouth College (2003) and both his MA (2008) and his PhD (2014) from New York University’s Institute for Fine Art. His dissertation focused on portable, liturgical objects such as chalices, reliquaries, figural statuettes, and jewelry. He has investigated the symbolic associations of gold and gilding, the preferred media for these works, and has theorized “the radiant aesthetic” that underlies and informs them. His work not only expands the corpus of medieval art, but also deepens our understanding of the “multi-media glory” that would have characterized medieval architectural spaces, draped with silks and enlivened by processional objects.

Campus Groups Showcased at Student Activities Fair

Representatives from 100 student-run groups participated in the annual Student Groups Fair Sept. 6 on Andrus Field. The fair is sponsored by the Wesleyan Student Assembly.

Wesleyan has more than 300 student-run groups, focusing on activism, identity, sports, publications, performance and visual arts, community service, religious affiliations, cultural interests, and more. Among them are the Wesleyan Film Board, Wesleyan Bellydance, the Math Club, Women in Business, Fusion Dance Crew, Men’s Water Polo, TEDxWesleyan U, WesClimb, Wes Cheerleaders, Climate Action Group, Wesleyan Beekeepers, Interfaith Council, Middle School Tutoring Partnership, and the United Student Labor Action Coalition.

View all student groups online here. Photos of the 2019 Student Groups Fair are below: (Photos by Preksha Sreewastav ’21)

student groups fair

student groups fair

Grossman Discusses British Stock Market on Economics Blog

Grossman

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman, professor of economics, authored a blog post on the Vox CEPR website with Gareth Campbell and John Turner (Queen’s University Belfast) titled, “New monthly indices of the British stock market, 1829-1929.”

Although long-run stock market data are an important indicator, obtaining them is challenging. This column constructs new long-run broad-based indices of equities traded on British securities markets for the period 1829-1929 and combines them with a more recent index to examine the timing of British business cycles and compare returns on home and foreign UK investment. One finding is that the capital gains index of blue-chip companies appears to be a good bellwether of macroeconomic behavior.

The post is based on their CEPR and Wesleyan Economics Working Paper, “Before the cult of equity: New monthly indices of the British share market, 1829-1929.”

MacLowry ’86 Directs “The Feud” on PBS

Strain and MacLowry '86

Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry ’86 are new assistant professors of the practice in film studies and codirectors of the Wesleyan Documentary Project.

A film written, directed, and produced by Peabody Award winner Randall MacLowry ’86 tells the story about the most famous family conflict in American history—the Hatfield-McCoy feud.

The one-hour documentary titled “The Feud” premiered Sept. 10 on PBS and PBS.org as part of the station’s American Experience programming. Watch the film’s trailer online.

MacLowry also is a new assistant professor of the practice in film studies. He’s teaching the course Advanced Filmmaking this fall.

The clashes between the Hatfields and the McCoys evolved into a mythic American tale of jealousy, rage, and revenge—a story that helped create the negative “hillbilly” stereotype that has shaped attitudes towards Appalachia for more than a century. Much more than a tale of two warring families, “The Feud” is the story of a region and its people forced into sudden change by Eastern capitalists, who transformed Appalachia from an agrarian mountain community into a coal- and timber-producing workplace owned and run primarily by outside interests.

“The Hatfield-McCoy feud conjures up this exaggerated image of two families shooting at each other across a river for no good reason, but the story of the feud is really about the impact of capitalism and industrialization on rural America,” MacLowry said. “Mountain families lost their land and their livelihoods in the face of this enormous pressure and became the victims of media accounts that depicted them as violent, uncivilized, and standing in the way of progress. The Hatfield-McCoy feud is part of that story.”

“The Feud” is a project of The Film Posse, Inc., a production company cofounded by MacLowry and Peabody Award-winning director Tracy Heather Strain. Strain also is a new professor of the practice in film studies.

Together, MacLowry and Strain are codirectors of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, an initiative to teach, support, and produce nonfiction film and video.

During the upcoming academic year, MacLowry and Strain will be teaching courses in documentary creation and studies. Listen to a podcast featuring the filmmakers created by Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image.

3 Wesleyan Faculty Honored with Prizes for Excellence in Research

Wesleyan President Michael Roth, left, and Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Rob Rosenthal, right, congratulate the three recipients of the second annual Faculty Research Prize. They include Natasha Korda, professor of English; Joseph Rouse, the Hedding Professor of Moral Science; and Tsampikos Kottos, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78, left, and Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Rob Rosenthal, right, congratulate the three recipients of the second annual Faculty Research Prize: Natasha Korda, professor of English; Joseph Rouse, Hedding Professor of Moral Science; and Tsampikos Kottos, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society.

On Sept. 3, during the first faculty meeting of the fall semester, three Wesleyan professors were honored with the Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research.

The faculty-nominated prize is presented to members of the faculty who demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in their research, scholarship, and contributions to their field. Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for academic affairs Rob Rosenthal acknowledged the recipients during the faculty meeting. Each winner received a plaque and funding for his or her research.

This year’s recipients include:

Natasha Korda, professor of English, plays a highly visible role in keeping scholarship on Renaissance drama a thriving and intellectually dynamic field. Her work combines deep, interdisciplinary learning, wide-ranging archival research, and keen critical insight, illuminating the complex and profound relations among gender, theater history, and economic history. Her recent monograph and edited collection have brought attention to the many and varied forms of labor that enabled dramatic production in early modern England and that linked the stage to the international trade in goods and services of a developing capitalist economy. Korda is widely admired by her colleagues for her scrupulous, innovative, and dynamic scholarship, as well as for her willingness to contribute through work on multiple editorial boards and with the Shakespeare Association of America.

Poulos Studies Endangered Grass on Texas-Mexico Border

Pictured third from right, Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, gathers with the “Fescue Rescue” team at Maderas del Carmen Protected Area in Mexico. There, the scientists are studying Guadalupe fescue, an endangered grass species.

field sites in the Sierra del Carmens, Coahila Mexico

Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, works at a field site in the Sierra del Carmens, Coahuila Mexico. In September 2017, the U.S. government determined that Festuca ligulata needed protected species status and designated it a critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

The rare Guadalupe fescue once thrived in abundance atop mountains spanning the Texas-Mexico border, however, the desert-growing perennial grass is now so endangered, it only flourishes in two locations on Earth.

The rapid population decline is leaving scientists puzzled.

“Developing an effective recovery plan is essential for protecting Guadalupe fescue, however, the lack of basic information about this species’ ecology is a serious barrier to that goal,” explained Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies. “Urgent action is needed to stabilize the two extant populations.”

This summer, under Poulos’s leadership, Wesleyan received a National Park Service Grant to study Festuca ligulata through the Southwest Borderlands Resource Protection Program. She joined a bi-national team of scientists known as “Fescue Rescue” to research the two isolated fescue populations in Texas’s Big Bend National Park and the Maderas del Carmen Protected Area in Coahuila, Mexico.

Said Poulos, a plant ecologist who has worked at desert borderland sites for more than a decade, “The Guadalupe fescue has become so endangered that this has become a significant national and international conservation concern.”

Backed by the NPS grant, the Fescue Rescue team will conduct onsite visits from October to mid-November 2019 during Guadalupe fescue seed maturation. Seeds will be collected during this time and transported to labs at Sul Ross State University in Texas and Universidad Autónoma Antonio Narro in Mexico. At these locations, scientists will germinate the seeds and grow their own fescue refugial populations for multiple research purposes.

“Together, they’ll provide a springboard for future plant population genetics, enrichment planting, and adaptive management research on both sides of the border,” Poulos said. “Such information is vital for elaborating site-specific management plans for the species on both U.S. and Mexican soils.”

They’ll study environmental variables, inventory seed production, identify key factors that promote reproductive viability, and ultimately establish refugial populations on both sides of the border.

Although virtually nothing is known about the environmental influences on the growth and reproduction of Guadalupe fescue, Poulos believes the fescue’s population decline is a result of multiple factors.

“Environmental factors that have likely negatively influenced the fescue populations include a recent shift to a hotter and drier climate, the genetic and demographic consequences of small population sizes and isolation, trampling by humans and pack animals, trail runoff, competition from invasive species, and fungal infection of seeds,” she said.

In addition, naturally occurring wildfires, which play an important role in rejuvenating ecosystems, are rare due to livestock grazing in the early 1900s and subsequent direct fire suppression continuing to the present. The remaining plants in the two disjunct populations are likely highly inbred and lack genetic diversity. This can threaten the capacity of populations to resist pathogens and parasites, adapt to changing environmental conditions, and colonize new habitats.

Poulos hopes to deliver her final reports to the National Park Service by summer 2020.