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Patricelli Center to Host Social Impact Summit, Nov. 13-14

URAL15241_ShashaSummitPostcard_0811_smj-1On Nov. 13-14 Wesleyan will host the inaugural Social Impact Summit, a gathering of alumni and parents who are passionately working for social change on a local, national and global scale. The summit is underwritten by James Shasha ’50, P’82, and organized by the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, and the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations.

Many alumni joke about the “Wesleyan Film Mafia” but less well-known is the “Wesleyan Social Impact Mafia,” a large web of alumni engaged in social impact work.

Wesleyan’s Film Studies Assists Sanislow’s Lab in Mood Induction Studies

Charles Sanislow, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, published findings from his laboratory titled “Ratings for Emotion Film Clips,” in Behavior Research Methods (Volume 47, Issue 3, pages 773-787) in September 2015. Co-authors included former post doc Crystal Gabert-Quillen (now on the faculty at Middlesex Community College in New Jersey); Ellen Bartolini ’11 (currently a graduate student in clinical psychology at Widener University); and Benjamin Abravanel ’13 (currently a graduate student in the clinical science program at the University of California—Berkeley).

In mood induction studies Sanislow and his students were piloting in the lab, they noticed that film clips historically used to elicit moods in prior work were not eliciting the intended moods. For instance, a film clip from Bambi had historically been used to elicit sadness, but instead, elicited anger among Wesleyan students.

They turned to students the Wesleyan’s Film Studies Department to suggest film clips of emotional scenes, and then collected normative ratings from Wesleyan students over the course of several semesters.

“From our findings, it became clear that reactions to emotional material could vary in the context of history, culture and gender,” Sanislow said.

For instance, men reacted strongly to positive film clips, whereas women reacted more strongly to negatively film clips.

“We urge researchers to pay attention to potential systematic differences. Our work resulted in a useful set of film clips for others to study emotion,” Sanislow said. “We have already had a number of researchers interested in using the clips in their own research contact us.”

Thomas’s Microfossil, Climate Change Research Published in 2 Journals

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas, the University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, research professor of earth and environmental science, is the co-author of two recently published papers. They include:

Microfossil evidence for trophic changes during the Eocene–Oligocene transition in the South Atlantic (ODP Site 1263, Walvis Ridge),” published in Climate of the Past, Volume 11, pages 1249–1270 in September 2015 and “Changes in benthic ecosystems and ocean circulation in the Southeast Atlantic across Eocene Thermal Maximum 2,” published in the journal Paleoceanography, Volume 30, pages 1059-1077 in August 2015.

“Microfossil evidence” describes changes in organisms living in the oceans during a major change in the earth’s climate, a period of global cooling about 33.7 million years ago, when the Antarctic ice sheet first became established. The seven co-authors are all women, including former Wesleyan graduate student Raquel Fenero.

The researchers examined the biotic response of calcareous nannoplankton to environmental and climatic changes during the Eocene–Oligocene transition at Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) Site 1263 (Walvis Ridge, southeast Atlantic Ocean). During this time interval, global climate, which had been warm under high levels of atmospheric CO2 during the Eocene, transitioned into the cooler climate of the Oligocene.

In the Paleoceanography article, Thomas and her co-authors describe changes in benthic ecosystems in the oceans during a short period of global warming about 53.7 million years ago, and the effects of loss of oxygen and ocean acidification. The researchers include climate and geochemical modeling to indicate that changes in ocean circulation due to warming triggered more profound effects on living organisms at some depths than at other depths, and that the response of life forms to global warming (including feedback effects) thus may be complex. This article is the result of research done during Thomas’s stay as Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, where she co-supervised graduate student Suzy Jennions.

“Our combined ecological and modeling analysis illustrates the potential role of ocean circulation changes in amplifying local environmental changes and driving temporary, but drastic, loss of benthic biodiversity and abundance,” Thomas said.

Poets, Novelists, Kim-Frank Visiting Writer Speak at Russell House Fall Series

Gina Athena Ulysse

Gina Athena Ulysse

Writing at Wesleyan presents the Fall 2015 Russell House Series of Prose and Poetry. All events are free and open to the public.

M. NourbeSe Philip and Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse will speak at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 in Memorial Chapel.

NourbeSe Philip is a Toronto-based poet, essayist, novelist, and playwright. Her most recent poetry collections are She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks, which has been reissued by Wesleyan University Press, and Zong!, also published by Wesleyan. Her essay collections include A Genealogy of Resistance and Showing Grit.

Ulysse has performed her one-woman show “Because When God Is Too Busy: Haiti, Me and THE WORLD” and other works internationally. She is the author of Why Haiti Needs New Narratives and Downtown Ladies.

This event is co-sponsored by the English Department’s Concentration in Creative Writing and Wesleyan University Press.

Leslie Jamison will speak at 8 p.m. Oct. 28 in Russell House. Jamison’s collection of essays, The Empathy Exams, won the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

Psychology Class Learns about Memory, Brain at Wesleyan’s Archaeology Collection

Students in the Human Memory course compared and contrasted three skulls from disparate time points in human evolution.

Students in the Human Memory course compared and contrasted three skulls from disparate time points in human evolution. (Photo courtesy of Jessie Cohen)

On Sept. 16, students enrolled in the PSYC221 Human Memory course used the Wesleyan University Archaeology and Anthropology Collections for hands-on learning.

The class, taught by Erika Fulton, visiting professor of psychology, visited the collections to learn more about memory and the brain. Students compared and contrasted three skulls from disparate time points in human evolution and used their observations to make inferences about how different parts of the brain must have evolved.

“They had to think about the relationships among a changing environment, memory demands, and brain lobe development,” Fulton said. “I think it was a fun way for them to learn a little archaeology, anthropology and psychology, and a much more engaging way to learn brain lobes than through a lecture.”

Jessie Cohen, archaeological collections manager, encourages Wesleyan faculty to take advantage of what the WUAAC has to offer. The collection contains more than 30,000 archaeological and ethnographic objects from around the world available for hands-on teaching, she said.

Students Eat Local During Annual Food Challenge

On Sept. 29, Wesleyan hosted the annual Eat Local Challenge. This one-day only event challenged the Bon Appétit Management Company staff to create a midday meal entirely from products and ingredients harvested within a 150-mile radius of the campus. The meal included produce, meat, fish and other ingredients from local farmers, ranchers, food crafters and fishermen.

The lunch menu incorporated items such as corn on the cob from Horse Listener’s Orchard in Ashford, Conn. and clams and mussels provided by Ipswich Seafood in Ipswich, Mass. Kenian’s Grist Mill’s fried haddock from Yuscabog, R.I. and Szawlowski Farms’ potatoes from Hartfield, Mass. combined to give Wesleyan students a tasty fish and chips option in addition to the plethora of other choices such as clam chowder, beef burgers, crispy blue cornmeal cakes, apple cider marinated pork and tomato bisque.

About 20 farms, ranches and other companies werer represented throughout the lunch menu, and each product from the different companies added a new and unique flavor to the 2015 Eat Local Challenge.

Photos of the Eat Local Challenge are below: (Photos by Will Barr ’18. Story by Fred Willis ’19)


Eat Local Challenge, Sept. 29, 2015.

Eat Local Challenge, Sept. 29, 2015.

Eat Local Challenge, Sept. 29, 2015.

Eat Local Challenge, Sept. 29, 2015.

Eat Local Challenge, Sept. 29, 2015.

Eat Local Challenge, Sept. 29, 2015.



While Studying Abroad, Nash ’16 Works with Rare Turtles in Australia

Chloe Nash ‘16 studied the rare Flatback sea turtle while studying abroad in Australia. (Photo by Matt Curnock) 

During her spring semester abroad in Australia, Chloe Nash ‘16 studied the rare Flatback sea turtle. This fall, she’s co-teaching a student forum on marine biology. (Photo by Matt Curnock)


Chloe Nash ‘16, a double major in biology and environmental studies, contributed to groundbreaking research on the mysterious Flatback sea turtle — a species with only two photographs in the wild, both of the same individual turtle. While studying abroad in Australia last spring, Nash volunteered at James Cook University for a project that involved raising 30 flatbacks from hatchlings and attaching GPS devices to their shells.

The turtles were released in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and seven are being tracked by satellite. This research is the first time Flatbacks, only found in Australia, have been monitored underwater.

The turtles were released in the Great Barrier Reef once they were deemed strong enough to survive on their own.

The turtles were released in the Great Barrier Reef once they were deemed strong enough to survive on their own.

“I was with them everyday essentially for four months, so they became like my children,” Nash said.

Nash worked as a volunteer, feeding them and cleaning their tanks. Over time, she learned to give them medication and teach them how to dive, which involved luring the turtles down with a food-carrying stick. Once the turtles reached 300 grams, they were strong enough to hold the satellite tags. The research sought to learn more about the Flatbacks’ lives in between hatching and nesting adults— a blank space in the marine biology field.

“One of my favorites named Ali got ill, and we thought he was going to pass away,” Nash said. “But we persevered and he persevered and I ended up getting to release him, which was really great. It was really crazy, just watching him grow.”

Ron Jenkins Discusses Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins participated in a discussion on WNPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show about Dante Aligheri’s 14,000 line epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” of which “Dante’s Inferno” is the most famous section. This adventure story is based on Dante’s real life in 14th century Italy, where he was a city official, diplomatic negotiator, and a man who dared to cross the Pope. Jenkins has taught Dante at Wesleyan and in prison courses.

“I discovered that I could learn a lot about Dante by teaching it in prison. I brought my Wesleyan students and my Yale students into prison to work with him,” said Jenkins. “I discovered that a lot of stereotypes are shattered by going into a prison with a text like that because although the commonplace understanding of Dante is a writer who writes about hell and awful, horrible things, the men in prison immediately understood that this was a poem about hope. They immediately identified with Dante. One of the reasons they identified with Dante is he was not only in exile, but he was a convict. He was convicted of crimes, that’s why he was put in exile. As soon as men in prison hear that, they pay attention more closely. […] They identify with Dante’s journey through hell, through purgatory, to a better place, and they can connect to that. They latch onto the hope that’s in Dante’s poem. […] They want to think about where they can go when they leave prison, if they can leave prison, or where they can go spiritually even if they can never leave prison.”


IntraGreek Council to Host Fall Harvest Festival Oct. 10

Wesleyan’s IntraGreek Council (IGC), in partnership with the Division of Student Affairs and the Athletics Department, is inviting Middletown families to participate in the inaugural Wesleyan Fall Harvest Festival on Oct. 10.

Traditional carnival games with prizes, face painting, a crafts table and other fall activities will be offered for children 13 and younger. The ICG will collect canned food donations for the Office of Community Engagement’s Thanksgiving food drive. The festival will run simultaneously with the home football game against Colby College. During half-time, children who come in costume may walk across the field in a parade, and will have a chance to win one of several different prize packages in a costume contest.

“The Wesleyan Greek Community and the IGC are excited to sponsor this fantastic event, showcasing how we do Greek Life the ‘Wes Way’ by participating in community engagement in a fun and unique way,” said Jason Brandner, a senior in Alpha Epsilon Pi and the current IntraGreek Council president.

“Wesleyan students have a long history of involvement and volunteer work with Middletown community,” added Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley. “Our Greek organizations in particular have philanthropy as a significant part of their missions, and I’m thrilled to see the Greek community collaborating on this event for Middletown children.”

Students in the seven Greek Letter Organizations at Wesleyan strive to provide an open, inclusive environment that promotes scholarship, leadership, civic engagement, and personal development. Through their combined efforts, Greek students have raised thousands of dollars for local and national charities including Habitat for Humanity, Take Back the Night, Relay for Life, and more.

For more information about the festival, please contact:

Abby Reed ’16, community engagement chair for IGC, at;
Jason Brandner ’16, president of IGC, at; or
Zack Pfeifer, coordinator for Greek life, at or 860-685-2773

Wesleyan, Yale Reenact Historic Baseball Game on 150th Anniversary of Event

Wesleyan University and Yale University reenacted a historic baseball game at Yale on the 150th anniversary of the event. The two teams met on Sept. 30, 1865 to inaugurate intercollegiate competition at their respective landmark institutions. Wesleyan was founded in 1831 while Yale, the fourth oldest institution of higher learning in the nation, dates back to 1701. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Wesleyan reenacted a historic baseball game Sept. 26. Pictured is the 2015-16 squad at Yale University. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

Wesleyan, founded in 1831, and Yale University, founded in 1701, are both celebrating the 150th anniversary of baseball at their respective colleges this year as the two met on Sept. 30, 1865 to inaugurate intercollegiate competition. A lot has changed since then, on and off the diamond, but for one night, students and alumni celebrated the rich history of these two prestigious programs and the great game of baseball.

On Sept. 26, to commemorate that first contest, the two clubs squared-off wearing throwback uniforms in an exhibition game at Yale Field. The idea for the game was spawned more than five years ago when Wesleyan head coach Mark Woodworth ’94 and Yale head coach John Stuper talked about playing the game while together at a summer camp.

At left, Yale University head coach John Stupe and Wesleyan head coach Mark Woodworth welcomed Fay Vincent to the reenactment game. Vincent served as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1989 to 1992.

At left, Yale University head coach John Stupe and Wesleyan head coach Mark Woodworth ’94 welcomed Fay Vincent to the reenactment game. Vincent served as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball from 1989 to 1992.

“It seemed really important to me to celebrate the great traditions of both of these historic programs,” Woodworth said. “Both schools have been at the forefront of establishing college baseball and we are excited to recognize all the alums and all the players that have been a part of it.”

More than 50 Wesleyan baseball alumni attended the game at Yale.

The Cardinals hoped for a better outcome than the 39-13 final score of the original contest, concluded after just eight innings so Wesleyan could make it back home on the last train of the day. That game lasted 3:05. In the 150th anniversary contest, Wesleyan exacted its revenge with a 6-3, 10-inning victory.

Woodworth and Stuper both made opening comments in the ceremony,

Barth, Lesser ’15 Co-Author Paper on Spatial Estimation

Hilary Barth

Hilary Barth

Hilary Barth, associate professor of psychology, is the co-author of an article titled “Spatial Estimation: A Non-Bayesian Alternative,” published in Developmental Science, Volume 18, pages 853-862, in 2015. The paper is co-authored by Ellen Lesser ’15, as well as former Cognitive Development Labs coordinator Jessica Taggart and former postdoctoral fellow Emily Slusser.

A large collection of estimation phenomena (for example, biases arising when adults or children estimate remembered locations of objects in bounded spaces) are commonly explained in terms of complex Bayesian models. Bayesian refers to methods in probability and statistics, in particular methods related to statistical inference.

In this study, Barth and her co-authors provide evidence that some of these phenomena may be modeled instead by a simpler non-Bayesian alternative.

Undergraduates and 9- to 10-year-olds completed a speeded linear position estimation task. Bias in both groups’ estimates, they suggest, could be explained in terms of a simple psychophysical model of proportion estimation.

Robinson, Students, Alumna Author Article on ‘Wanting,’ ‘Liking’ in Addiction

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, is the author of an article published Sept. 27 in Current Topics in Behavioral NeuroscienceTitled, “Roles of ‘Wanting’ and ‘Liking’ in Motivating Behavior: Gambling, Food, and Drug Addictions,” the article is co-authored by Adam Fischer, previously Robinson’s lab manager, Aarit Ahuja ’16, Hannah Maniates ’16, and Ellen Lesser ’15.

In this paper, the authors argue that two separate but interconnected subcortical and unconscious processes direct motivation: “wanting” and “liking.” These two processes work together but can become disassociated, especially in cases of addiction. For example, in drug addiction, repeated consumption of drugs sensitizes the mesolimbic dopamine system–the primary component of the “wanting” system–resulting in excessive “wanting” for drugs and their cues. This long-lasting change occurs independently of the “liking” system, which typically remains unchanged or may develop a blunted pleasure response to the drug. This results in excessive drug-taking despite minimal pleasure and intense cue-triggered craving that may promote relapse long after detoxification.

The authors describe the roles of “wanting” and “liking” in general motivation and review recent evidence for a dissociation of “liking” and “wanting” in drug addiction, known as the incentive sensitization theory. They also make the case that sensitization of the “wanting” system and the resulting dissociation of “liking” and “wanting” occurs in both gambling disorder and food addiction.