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Wesleyan, Local Community Watch Historic Eclipse at Van Vleck Observatory

Vacek Miglus, lab technician for the Physics Department, watches the eclipse with a homemade viewing tool.

Vacek Miglus, lab technician for the Physics Department, watches the eclipse of the sun with a homemade viewing tool.

Wesleyan’s Department of Astronomy hosted a public eclipse viewing on Aug. 21, outside the Van Vleck Observatory. More than 200 Wesleyan and local community members attended this historic event. Although Middletown wasn’t in the narrow path of totality, viewers still were able to witness about 65 percent of the sun disappear.

In addition to telescopes and eclipse glasses for safely viewing the Sun, participants were encouraged to tour the Department of Astronomy’s historical exhibition and see images from the 1925 solar eclipse that passed directly over Wesleyan. A live streaming feed of the eclipse also was shown in a classroom.

Bloom ’75 and Sawhney Explore the Elm City’s Underbelly in New Haven Noir

New Haven Noir, edited by Amy BloomA star-studded cast of contributors curated by Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing Amy Bloom ’75 fill the pages of New Haven Noir, featuring original stories from Michael Cunningham, Stephen L. Carter, Roxana Robinson, Assistant Professor of English Hirsh Sawhney, and many others. The book is the latest addition to an award-winning series of original noir anthologies published by Akashic Books, founded by publisher and editor-in-chief Johnny Temple ’88.

“I’m a big fan of noir,” says Bloom, editor of the anthology, which has garnered praise from both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews. “When Johnny called me and said, I don’t know if you’re from New Haven, but I know you’re connected to New Haven and I’d love you to edit the anthology, I jumped at the opportunity,” she says.

In Emerging Economies, Siroya ’04 Gives Credit Where It’s Due

By Jim. H. Smith

Shivani Siroya ’04 (center), CEO and founder of Tala, has assembled other Wesleyan women on her team to change the financial lives of those in developing countries—including Lauren Pruneski ’04 (left), director of global communications and public relations, and Bonnie Oliva-Porter ’04 (right), director of global operations. Also at Tala, but not pictured, is Amy Barth Sommerlatt ’04, expansion strategist.

No one has ever questioned Jenipher’s work ethic. For decades, this 65-year-old Kenyan woman has operated a food stall in the central business district of downtown Nairobi. It has given her the wherewithal to support a family of three sons, and she has paid for the vocational school education of each. She is also the leader of a local group of responsible adults who support each other in their efforts to save money.

Yet despite those facts, Jenipher had no credit rating. Like some 2.5 billion people worldwide, she lacked a financial identity, the very thing that traditional banks evaluate when deciding whether to make loans to consumers. Her capacity to borrow money in order to grow her business and improve her life was virtually nonexistent.

She did have one thing going for her, though. Like more than a billion residents of the planet’s emerging markets, she owned a Smartphone that she regularly used for a wide range of activities, from business management to communications with local friends and associates as well as family in Uganda. Three years ago, one of her adult sons encouraged her to download the “app” of a Los Angeles-based company called Tala, and it changed her life.

Albertalli ’05 Prepares for Big Screen Release of Debut Novel

Becky Albertalli ’05

Becky Albertalli ’05

Clinical psychologist and YA novelist Becky Albertalli ’05 is the author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, an award winning coming-of-age story published by Harper Collins in 2015. It follows Simon Spier, a junior in high school struggling to come to terms with his sexual identity without coming out, before a leaked email threatens to compromise his secret and his comfort zone. This past October, Fox 2000 Pictures and Temple Hill Entertainment began developing a movie adaptation of the book. The major motion picture will feature a star-studded cast––including Nick Robinson, Katherine Langford and Jennifer Garner––and is set to be released in March 2018.

Directed by Greg Berlanti, the comedy-drama film of the same name as Albertalli’s debut novel is currently in post-production. Fans of the popular book and members of the cast, like Alexandra Shipp, Logan Miller and Josh Duhamel, are excited to see an underrepresented, LGBTQA-centered story told on the big screen.

Sawhney Authors E-Book on Race, Police Brutality

Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, is the author of a recent work of fiction titled The Diary of Rehan Malhotra, published as an e-book by Juggernaut Books (2017).

In this timely story, Rehan, the son of a Muslim mother and Hindu father, is a middle-aged high school teacher in New Haven, Conn., who struggles with his growing estrangement from his wife and the affluent, white community in which he lives. A charged encounter with a neighbor causes him to look back on his troubled teenage years, when he used and sold drugs, and when he forged a problematic friendship with a young black man named Ink. The Diary of Rehan Malhotra casts a spotlight on the invisible walls that divide city from suburb, which keep some people safe and others confined. It is a meditation on the possibilities and limitations of literature as a cure for social ills.

The story costs 10 rupees, or 15 cents, and is being published as a part of Juggernaut’s efforts to get inexpensive, quality literature to as diverse a readership as possible.

Sawhney is also the author of South Haven and the editor of Delhi Noir, a critically acclaimed anthology of original fiction. Hirsh has lived in Delhi, London and New York City.

Sung ’90 Reflects on Fighting Injustice in New Documentary

Jill Sung ’90, center, with her sister Vera and father, the founder of Abacus Federal Savings Bank, in a still from the new documentary by Steven James, which will air on PBS Frontline Sept. 12. The film chronicles the saga of the only U.S. bank indicted for mortgage fraud related to the 2008 financial crisis.

On Sept.12 (check local listings), Public Broadcasting Service’s Frontline will broadcast Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, a new documentary by Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) that tells the story of the only U.S. bank to be criminally charged in connection with the 2008 financial crisis. That bank is Abacus Federal Savings Bank, located in New York City’s Chinatown and founded in 1984 by Thomas Sung, an immigration lawyer and an immigrant himself, who saw the need for this within the insular community. Sung and his wife are the parents of four daughters—three lawyers and one medical doctor—including two affiliated with the bank: Jill Sung ’90, president and CEO of Abacus, and her elder sister Vera, who sits on the board.

The events that are chronicled were set in motion when the Sungs discovered that one of their loan officers was taking money from borrowers in order to create false loan documents. The Sungs immediately fired him, referred the matter to their regulator, and reported the incident to the police. Yet instead of prosecuting that individual, the district attorney’s office turned their scrutiny on the bank’s officers and employees. In an unprecedented turn of events, 18 Abacus employees were placed under arrest and the press was offered a shocking photo-op: 10 of these employees were “handcuffed to a chain and paraded down the hallway in the Criminal Court building in a staged perp-walk before the national news media like a herd of slaves being led to the auction block,” as Thomas Sung later described that event in his statement to the public after Abacus was found innocent of wrongdoing.

Before that day of vindication, however, the legal proceedings, machinations, and trial sprawled over five long, intense years. James was there to film key moments and conduct interviews, including one with New York City District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., who led the prosecution.

Sawhney’s Novel Named to South Asian Literature Prize Longlist

A novel written by Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, was named to the longlist for the 2017 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. The DSC Prize, which carries an award of $25,000, celebrates the rich and varied world of literature of the South Asian region.

In Sawhney’s South Haven (Akashic Books, 2016), grief, violence and history collide to offer a radical look at childhood and migration in suburban New England. South Haven is one of 13 books on the list. The shortlist will be announced on Sept. 27 in London.

The prize brings South Asian writing to a new global audience through a celebration of the achievements of South Asian writers, and aims to raise awareness of South Asian culture around the world.

Hirsh has lived in Delhi, India; London, U.K. and New York City. He currently lives in New Haven, Conn.

Yohe Writes about Trump, Climate Change

Gary Yohe

In the near future, the Trump Administration must decide whether to approve or reject a new scientific report on climate change. Writing in The Conversation, Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, asserts, “If the Trump administration chooses to reject the pending national Climate Science Special Report, it would be more damaging than pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Full stop.”

Yohe backs up this bold claim by explaining why this report is so important and describing a crucial difference between the report and the Paris Climate Agreement. Namely, “the Paris accord focuses on reducing emissions, while the Climate Science Special Report is designed to help the U.S. better adapt to the effects of climate change even as it underscores the importance of cutting emissions.”

First Indian Motorcycle Prototypes Built on Wesleyan’s Campus

Did you know that the birthplace of the Indian Motorcycle prototype is on Wesleyan’s property? In 1901, at the site of the former Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company, (now a grassy area abutting Wesleyan’s High Rise and Low Rise Apartments, and Traverse Square Apartments) journeyman Carl Oscar Hedstrom designed and built a prototype for a gas-engine-powered motorized bicycle that would be used to pace bicycle races.

In 1901, at the site of the former Worcester Cycle Manufacturing Company (a bicycle factory and now a grassy courtyard area abutting Wesleyan’s High Rise and Low Rise Apartments), journeyman Carl Oscar Hedström designed and built a gasoline engine powered motorized bicycle. This area would later be known as the historic birthplace of the Indian Motocycle (now Indian Motorcycle) prototype.

Pitts-Taylor Wins Merton Book Award for The Brain’s Body

Victoria Pitts-Taylor, left, was presented with the Merton Book Award by Mary Frank Fox of the Georgia Institute of Technology, a council member for the Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association.

Professor of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Victoria Pitts-Taylor, pictured at left, received the Robert K. Merton Award for her book, The Brain’s Body: Neuroscience and Corporeal Politics (Duke University Press, 2016). The award was presented at a meeting of the Science, Knowledge, and Technology Section of the American Sociological Association in Montreal, Canada on Aug. 14.

The Merton Award is given annually in recognition of an outstanding book on science, knowledge, and/or technology published during the preceding three years.

The Brain’s Body previously won the 2016 prize in Feminist Philosophy of Science given by the Women’s Caucus of the Philosophy of Science Association.

Pitts-Taylor also is professor of science in society, professor of sociology.

You’re Invited! View the Solar Eclipse at the Van Vleck Observatory, Aug. 21

Watch a partial eclipse of the Sun at Wesleyan’s Van Vleck Observatory on Aug. 21.

The campus and local community is invited to witness the partial eclipse of the Sun at Wesleyan’s Van Vleck Observatory on Aug. 21. While Middletown isn’t in the narrow path of totality, viewers should still be able to see about 65 percent of the Sun disappear. Telescopes for the family-friendly event will be set up at 1 p.m., and the eclipse will begin at approximately 1:20 p.m., with mid-eclipse falling at approximately 2:40 p.m. The event is hosted by Wesleyan’s Astronomy Department and is free of charge.

Wesleyan Students Capture “Vibrant Wesleyan Jewish Life” in Forward

Writing in the Forward, Matt Renetzky ’18 and Talia Kaplan ’18 share their experience with the “vibrant Wesleyan Jewish Life” scene.

“Perhaps the most unique thing about our community is just how student-run it is. Jewish life evolves from year-to-year based on the desires and needs of the current student body,” write Kaplan, who is affiliated with the Wesleyan Jewish Community, and Renetzky, who is affiliated with Chabad. “If you’re looking for pluralism in Jewish background and practice, Wesleyan is for you.”