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Students “Thank a Cardinal” for Wesleyan Fund Donations

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University Relations hosted Thank a Cardinal Day Nov. 24 in Usdan University Center. All students had an opportunity to write brief thank you notes to alumni, parents and friends who’ve donated through the Wesleyan Fund in 2014.

Tucker on Facial Recognition Technology

Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker writes in The Boston Globe about the FBI’s new Next Generation Identification System, a “billion-dollar project to replace the bureau’s old fingerprinting system with the world’s biggest biometric database….Perhaps most controversially, it will use state-of-the-art facial recognition technology, allowing the government to identify suspects across a gigantic database of images collected from mug shots, surveillance cameras, employment background checks, and digital devices seized with a search warrant. The technology itself is still evolving rapidly; for example, the National Institute of Justice is developing 3-D binoculars and cameras that allow facial recognition and capture in real time,” she writes.

While some find this development unsettling, Tucker reminds readers that it is “actually just the latest outgrowth of an art and science that has been under development for more than 150 years.” The development of techniques for recognizing human faces dates all the way back to the introduction of prison photography in England in 1852, Tucker writes, taking readers through a brief tour of technology updates since then. And while these developments often have been met with hesitation from a skeptical public, they have nevertheless forged ahead.

Tucker is also associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, associate professor in the environmental studies program, associate professor of science in society, and faculty fellow in the College of the Environment.

Students, Alumni Attend Neuroscience Meeting, Reunion Dinner

A Wesleyan group gathered for a neuroscience/biology reunion dinner Nov. 19 in Washington, D.C.

A Wesleyan group gathered for a neuroscience/biology reunion dinner Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C.

Eigteen Wesleyan students, research assistants, alumni and one professor attended the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting, held Nov. 15-19 in Washington D.C.

The student group included Wesleyan lab technicians/research assistants Felicia Harrsch and Adam Lombroso and biology graduate students Kemal Asik, Jyoti Gupta, Swechhya Shrestha, Chris Chen, Nickesha Anderson, Meghan van Zandt, Chelsea Lassiter, Samantha Maisel, Julian Gal and Chris Suriano.

The alumni group included XiaoTing Zheng ’14, Eniola Yeates ’10, Efrain Ribiero ’10, Michaela Tolman ’13 and lab tech/research assistant Katharine Henderson. Most of these alumni are enrolled in Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D neuroscience programs at other universities.

Jan Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, director of the Center for Faculty Career Development, organized a reunion dinner that included 14 students and alumni.

The Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting is the premier venue for neuroscientists to present emerging science, learn from experts, forge collaborations with peers, explore new tools and technologies and advance careers. More than 31,000 people attended the SfN meeting.

President Roth and Professor Weil Make Second Major Campaign Gift

President Michael S. Roth and Professor Kari Weil have made a new six-figure gift to Wesleyan in support of endowment for financial aid, including a provision that royalties from President Roth’s latest book, Beyond the University, go to financial aid.

In announcing the gift, Joshua Boger ’73, chair of Wesleyan’s board of trustees, said: “This is the second major gift that Michael and Kari have made to Wesleyan’s campaign, and I am so grateful for their leadership and generosity. Their support of financial aid is particularly welcome because it underscores the University’s commitment to increasing access – the highest priority of our campaign. THIS IS WHY.”

Wesleyan has raised $125 million for scholarship endowment. Overall, Wesleyan’s generous supporters have contributed $354 million toward the campaign’s $400 million goal.
Roth established a policy of eliminating loans in favor of outright grants for most students with a family income below $60,000. The policy has also reduced the amount of loans required in all final aid packages by about 35 percent. This effort and all of Wesleyan’s financial aid grants, including a special scholarship program for veterans, are supported by gifts from alumni, parents and friends.

“Wesleyan continues to attract students of extraordinary potential from diverse economic backgrounds, meeting their full financial need,” says Roth. “The University’s commitment to financial aid fosters a campus community based on equality and freedom, where differences in the classroom emerge not from privilege, but from talent and effort.”

Three Wesleyan Authors Have “Notable” Books

The Washington Post selected President Michael Roth’s book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, on its list of top 50 notable works of nonfiction this year. A brief summary of the review states:

The president of Wesleyan University describes two distinct traditions of a liberal education–one philosophical and “skeptical,” the other rhetorical and “reverential”–and argues that both are necessary for educating autonomous individuals who can also participate with others.

Beyond the University was originally reviewed in the Post on May 23 by Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. In that review, Nelson calls the book “a substantial and lively discussion” as well as “an economical and nearly jargon-free account of liberal education in America.”

Two other members of the Wesleyan community were honored in the Post’s “Top 50 Fiction Books for 2014.” The list included Lucky Us by Amy Bloom, distinguished university writer-in-residence and director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, and Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman ’86

Grossman Keynote Speaker at Chief Risk Officer Assembly

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman, professor of economics, delivered a keynote speech at the 10th Chief Risk Officer Assembly in Munich, Germany on Nov. 19. The speech was based on his book, WRONG: Nine Economic Policy Disasters and What We Can Learn from Them (Oxford University Press), and focused the consequences of government policy for economic risk.

The CRO Assembly is organized by Geneva Association, an insurance industry think-tank, and the CRO Forum, which is made up of chief risk officers from large (primarily European) multi-national insurance and re-insurance companies. The conference took place at the headquarters of Munich RE, one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies. The program seeks to understand the nature of emerging and key strategic risks, and to understand how and where they relate to insurance.

Read more about Grossman in these past News @ Wesleyan articles.

Teter’s Book Receives Honorable Mention for Jewish Studies Award

sinnersontrialA book by Magda Teter, the Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, received honorable mention for the 2014 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award. The Schnitzer Book Award was established in 2007 to recognize and promote outstanding scholarship in the field of Jewish Studies and to honor scholars whose work embodies the best in the field: innovative research, excellent writing and sophisticated methodology.

Teter’s book, Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation, published by Harvard University Press in 2011, was honored in the Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History category.

In recognizing her book, the Prize Committee wrote:

“In this beautifully written and richly documented work, Magda Teter traces and convincingly demonstrates the interdependence of economic, religious and political motives that animated Polish anti-Semitism in the early modern period. This book also identifies and elucidates significant factors in the history of their formations in East Central Europe, and in the history of the host-desecration charge in early modern Europe.”

Magda Teter

Magda Teter

In post-Reformation Poland—the largest state in Europe and home to the largest Jewish population in the world—the Catholic Church suffered profound anxiety about its power after the Protestant threat.

In the book, Teter reveals how criminal law became a key tool in the manipulation of the meaning of the sacred and in the effort to legitimize Church authority. The mishandling of sacred symbols was transformed from a sin that could be absolved into a crime that resulted in harsh sentences of mutilation, hanging, decapitation, and, principally, burning at the stake. Recounting dramatic stories of torture, trial, and punishment, this is the first book to consider the sacrilege accusations of the early modern period within the broader context of politics and common crime.

To celebrate the honorable mention, Teter is invited to attend the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award Reception Dec. 14 in Maryland.

Teter also is chair and professor of history, professor of medieval studies. She speaks more about the book and her research in this past News @ Wesleyan article.

Stemler Published in Journal of Study Abroad, Educational Psychology

Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, is the co-author of “Development and Validation of the Wesleyan Intercultural Competence Scale (WICS): A Tool for Measuring the Impact of Study Abroad Experiences,” published in Frontiers: the Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, XXIV, 25-47, 2014.

He’s also the co-author of “Testing the theory of successful intelligence through educational interventions in Grade 4 language arts, mathematics and science,” published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(3), 881-899, 2014.

Alumni Speak on Careers for the Common Good

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On Nov. 19, four Wesleyan alumni spoke to students about their post-Wesleyan journeys in a panel discussion on “Careers for the Common Good.” The event was moderated by Lily Herman ’16, pictured at left. Panelists included, from left, Gregg Croteau ’93, Christian Philemon ’97, Katie Nihill ’10 and Matt Lesser ’10.

4 Alumni Speak to Students about Careers in New Media Journalism

Four Wesleyan alumni spoke to Wesleyan students about "Finding a Career Path in New Media Journalism" Nov. 18 in Downey House. Panelists included, from left, Zach Schonfeld '13, Gianna Palmer '10, Eric Lach '08 and Jillian Weinberger '07. 

Four Wesleyan alumni spoke to Wesleyan students about “Finding a Career Path in New Media Journalism” Nov. 18 in Downey House. Panelists included, from left, Zach Schonfeld ’13, Gianna Palmer ’10, Eric Lach ’08 and Jillian Weinberger ’07.

BIology Students Learn about Summer Research Programs

On Nov. 17 and 19, Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology, spoke to sophomores and juniors about applying to summer research programs. During the two-session workshop, Johnson discussed ways to write successful applications for summer programs at U.S. research institutions.

On Nov. 17 and 19, Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology, spoke to sophomores and juniors about applying to summer research programs. During the two-session workshop, Johnson discussed ways to write successful applications for summer programs at U.S. research institutions.

Students were required to attend both sessions and complete a mock application. The workshop also provided guidance on locating appropriate summer research programs and requesting supporting letters of recommendation.

Students were required to attend both sessions and complete a mock application. The workshop also provided guidance on locating appropriate summer research programs and requesting supporting letters of recommendation. (Photos by Dat Vu ’15)

As University Protestant Chaplain, Mehr-Muska Mentors, Offers Confidential Support

As the university’s Protestant chaplain, Tracy Mehr-Muska wears many hats, including mentor, cheerleader, religious tutor, celebrant of sacraments, caregiver, counselor, listener, worship leader and event planner, among others.

As the university’s Protestant chaplain, Tracy Mehr-Muska wears many hats, including mentor, cheerleader, religious tutor, celebrant of sacraments, caregiver, counselor, listener, worship leader and event planner, among others. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this Q&A, meet Tracy Mehr-Muska, Wesleyan’s Protestant chaplain. 

Q: Rev. Mehr-Muska, how long have you been Wesleyan’s Protestant chaplain, and what did you do before this?

A: This is my third year as a university chaplain at Wesleyan. Like many, my professional journey was not a direct route. After graduating from the Coast Guard Academy, I served as a Deck Watch Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. My love of the sea and my degree in Marine/Environmental Science led me to subsequently work as a marine scientist, conducting oceanographic surveys and engineering subsea cable routes for a company that installed transoceanic fiberoptic telecommunications cable. although I loved my job, I felt most deeply fulfilled when attending church, visiting sick or homebound parishioners, or volunteering with the church’s youth. I then transitioned to Princeton Theological Seminary, and after graduating, became an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I served as a chaplain for a hospice program in Boston, where I ministered to people approaching death and to their families. Although I loved hospice chaplaincy, it has been thrilling and fun to now work with people at the other end of their lives—students newly emerging into adulthood who are working to discern their vocational identity and establish their priorities, distinctiveness and values.

Q: Coming from such a different background, what made you want to become a university chaplain?

A: My years at the Coast Guard Academy were immensely challenging personally, physically, and spiritually. The two caring and patient military chaplains who served as my chaplains were not only instrumental in my surviving, thriving, and graduating, but they were also influential in helping me find joy and deepen my faith.