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Starr, Mukerji Explore Ways to Better Engage Students, Faculty in the Sciences

Professors Francis Starr and Ishita Mukerji recently participated in the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education at Princeton University.

Professors Francis Starr and Ishita Mukerji recently participated in the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education at Princeton University.

For their efforts enhancing undergraduate science education and supporting teaching innovations, two Wesleyan faculty members were named National Academies Education Fellows in the Sciences for 2015-2016.

Francis Starr, professor of physics and director of the College of Integrative Sciences, and Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received the fellowships while participating in the 2015 National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education, held June 14-19 at Princeton University.

The Summer Institute, a five-day program of discussions, demonstrations and workshops, brought college and university faculty together to develop teaching skills. Co-sponsored by the National Academies and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Starr, Mukerji and 44 other participants were taught ways to transform the undergraduate classroom and engage students and fellow faculty in the sciences. Current research, active learning, assessment and diversity were woven into the program, creating a forum to share ideas and develop innovative instructional materials to be implemented at each participant’s home institution.

Pictured at far right, wearing a striped shirt, Francis Starr worked with more than 40 other faculty from around New England at the Summer Institute. 

Pictured at far right, wearing a striped shirt, Francis Starr worked with more than 40 other faculty from around New England at the Summer Institute. (Photo by Jill Feldman/Princeton University)

“Wesleyan’s commitment to teaching innovation puts us at the forefront of improving undergraduate education that is essential to prepare future scientists and scientifically literate citizens,” Starr said.

During the institute, Starr and Mukerji developed a “teachable tidbit” with four other institute participants. These tidbits can be implemented in a course during the academic year. In addition, Starr and Mukerji are planning to speak about their experiences to fellow faculty at an NSM luncheon. They’re also working on creating an Academic (Technology) Roundtable meeting with one of the co-directors of the institute.

“Francis and I were both interested in learning these new teaching methods and we’re excited to share them with others on campus,” Mukerji said.

Yohe Reappointed to NYC Climate Change Panel

Gary Yohe has been reappointed to the New York City Panel on Climate Change.

Gary Yohe has been reappointed to the New York City Panel on Climate Change.

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, was reappointed by Mayor Bill DeBlasio to the third New York City Panel on Climate Change on June 30.

Yohe and 18 other experts are tasked with ensuring that the best available climate science continues to inform the city’s resiliency planning. The panel will build on reports by previous panels, and will “look at climate risks through the lens of inequality at a neighborhood scale, as well as focus on ways to enhance coordination of mitigation and resiliency across the entire New York metropolitan region,” according to a press release from the Mayor’s Office.

The panel is an independent body that advises the city on climate risks and resiliency using the best available data. The panel’s report, to be released in 2016, will look at topics including regional climate projections focused on extreme events; community-based assessment of adaptation and equity; critical infrastructure systems, with a focus on interdependent transportation and energy systems in the greater New York City region; expanded climate resiliency indicators and monitoring system; and enhanced mapping protocols. The panel’s second report, released in Feb. 2015, can be read here.

Yohe also is professor of economics, professor of environmental studies.

O’Connell Edits Book that Focuses on Women in the Geosciences

womeningeosciencesSuzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the co-editor and co-author of the book, Women in the Geosciences: Practical, Positive Practices Toward Parity, published in May 2015 by Wiley and the American Geophysical Union.

The geoscience workforce has a lower proportion of women compared to the general population of the United States and compared to many other STEM fields. This volume explores issues pertaining to gender parity in the geosciences, and sheds light on some of the best practices that increase participation by women and promote parity.

Highlights include lessons from the National Science Foundation-ADVANCE; data on gender composition of faculty at top earth science institutions in the U.S.; implicit bias and gender as a social structure; strategies for institutional change; dual career couples; family friendly policies; the role of mentoring in career advancement for women; recruiting diverse faculty and models of institutional transformation.

O’Connell’s chapters are titled “Multiple and Sequential Mentoring: Building Your Nest”; “Learning to Develop a Writing Practice“; “Hiring a Diverse Faculty”; and “Lactation in the Academy: Accommodating Breastfeeding Scientists.”

O’Connell also is the faculty director of the McNair Program.

Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education Featured on ‘Where We Live’

WNPR’s “Where We Live” explored college prison programs, a dwindling resource that has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to prevent recidivism, in a conversation featuring Dara Young, program manager for Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education, and Michael McAlear, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, who teaches in the program.

Young was asked why teaching the liberal arts is effective in prison programs.

“The type of thinking that we hope to encourage through a liberal arts education is particularly important when we’re talking about people who are incarcerated,” said Young. “We regularly hear from our students that the experience of taking liberal arts classes is just transformative. When you expose people to new ideas, to new ways to thinking about the world, it helps them to understand how they got to where they got, and what the mistakes were that they made along the way that helped them to reach this point in their life. I think it also helps them understand what the opportunities are for them to change and to become different, so when they are released, […] they come out as better people than they were when they started.”

Shapiro Reads from Fables in a Modern Key

Norman Shapiro, professor of french.

Norman Shapiro

On June 28, Norman Shapiro, professor of French, provided light verse readings, including a passage from his recently translated Fables in a Modern Key, as part of the Find Your Park summer festival event series. The reading took place at Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters in Cambridge, Mass.

Shapiro is a member of the Academy of American Poets and an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française.

Fables was written by by Pierre Coran (whose real name is Eugene Delaisse), a poet and novelist of the Belgian French-language. One of Begium’s most renowned poets with some 45 poetry books published to date, he also is the author of 25 published novels, 24 books of fables, hundreds of comic book stories, and several albums which have been translated into more than a dozen languages. His children’s stories and fables are published around the world, but this the first selection of his fables to be translated into English in a full length book format.

Longfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site was home to 19th century poet and scholar Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his family from 1837–1950. The historic 1759 colonial mansion also was General George Washington’s first major headquarters during the American Revolution. The house and its collections were a gift to the nation from Longfellow’s descendants in 1972. Its extensive collections and grounds represent more than 250 years of America’s history and literature.

Shapiro’s book can be found here.

Res Life’s O’Neill Oversees 26 RAs, Creates Dynamic Women of Wesleyan Group

Krystal-Gayle O’Neill says she enjoys the way Wesleyan students challenge her "on every front as it keeps me on my toes."

Krystal-Gayle O’Neill says she enjoys the way Wesleyan students challenge her “on every front as it keeps me on my toes.”

In this issue of News @ Wesleyan, we speak with Krystal-Gayle O’Neill, an area coordinator in Residential Life. In addition to her role with Res Life, O’Neil leads Dynamic Women at Wesleyan, a group that was created as a way for women or persons who identify as women to come together, talk about various topics, and gather under a common purpose

Q: Krystal-Gayle, when did you join the staff at the Office of Residential Life and where were you working prior to Wesleyan?

A: I joined the Res Life staff in the Summer of 2011. Prior to Wes, I worked in Res Life at The Juilliard School in New York and in campus recreation at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Fla.

Q: As an area coordinator, what areas of student housing do you oversee? Also, where is your office?

A: I oversee the Foss 1-10 residence halls (West College, Nicolson, Hewitt and the program halls). My office is located on the garden level of the Hewitt Foss 8 residence hall.

Q: In what ways do you assist your student residents?

A: I oversee a student staff of 26 resident advisors, program hall managers, office assistants and a head resident. My primary responsibility is to supervise and support them to be advocates for their residents and to do events and programs that gear towards the out-of-the-classroom learning experience. I also serve as one of the campus’ judicial officers and coach students through judicial infractions through reflection and accountability.

High School Students are Upward Bound at Wesleyan

The Wesleyan Upward Bound Math-Science Program is in full swing here on the Wesleyan campus.  The year-round program, which serves low-income, first-generation and under-represented rising freshman through high school seniors, serves 90 to 100 students during the academic year and approximately 70 students during its six-week summer session.

The program’s director, Teshia Levy-Grant ’00 was a first-generation student at Wesleyan. “I recognize the need,” she said. “I know what it’s like to try to navigate the education system, and I want to help these students succeed.”

The grant-funded program relies on the support of volunteer tutors, many of whom are Wesleyan students. (Photos by Laurie Kenney)

Students participate in Wesleyan's 2015 Upward Bound Program.

During the summer, Wesleyan’s Upward Bound Math and Science program provides introductions to the math, science and English classes students will be taking in the next academic year, giving those students a solid foundation on which to build. Students also participate in team-building exercises outdoors.

Mathew ’18 Participates in Summer Session’s Biology Institute

Christine "Cj" Mathew '18 is taking two intensive science classes this summer that equate to an entire year's worth of credits.

Christine “Cj” Mathew ’18 is taking two intensive science classes this summer that equate to an entire year’s worth of credits. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Christine “Cj” Mathew from the Class of 2018.

Q: Cj, have you chosen a major?

A: I’m a prospective neuroscience and behavior major.

Mathew's second Summer Session class began June 29.

Mathew’s second Summer Session class, Principles of Biology II, began June 29.

Q: This summer, you are enrolled in the new Biology Institute, which is held as part of the Wesleyan Summer Session, and includes intensive Principles of Biology I and II Lecture and Lab. Why did you decide to participate in the institute?

A: For my major requirements and pre-med requirements, there are tons of science classes that I have to take, and I didn’t want to feel too overwhelmed by taking more than one science class in a year.

Q: How many students were in your Bio I class? Do you enjoy the more intimate learning atmosphere?

A: There were 11 people in the class, and I absolutely love having a small class. This class is pretty fast paced, so it’s really helpful to have more individual attention. We spend a lot of time together between class and labs; by the second week of class, it was like we’d all known each other for a long time!

Q: When are you in class? Also, have you done any interesting lab experiments?

A: We’re in class every day from 9-10:40 a.m. and the lab meets Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 1:30-4:20 p.m., but most of the labs don’t take that long so we’re let out earlier. In Bio I, we’ve done some pretty cool labs including genetic engineering, where we transformed bacteria. One of my personal favorites was when we looked at what proteins are found in milk and how much protein is found in milk. This one was particularly interesting because so many people are lactose intolerant because of these proteins.

Q: The Biology II course began June 29. How do you feel about jumping right into another class?

A: Luckily, there was a small, five-day break in between the two sessions. But, it’s not too bad. Since we’re only taking one class, not all of our time is consumed with class, so it’s manageable.

Q: After Bio II, do you have any summer plans?

A: Maybe a little traveling!

Q: Where are you from and why did you choose Wesleyan?

A: I’m from Long Island, N.Y. I chose Wesleyan because I knew I wanted a small school, and I loved the fact that Wesleyan has a lot of flexibility when it comes to choosing classes.

Q: Are you involved in any extracurricular activities on campus? What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I’m part of Women in Science and I enjoy playing tennis.

Mehr-Muska, Ottaviano ’17 Discuss Interfaith Relations at Wesleyan

University Protestant Chaplain Tracy Mehr-Muska and Lydia Ottaviano ’17 were interviewed on the WESU 88.1 FM show “Reasonably Catholic” about a new interfaith organization on campus that is working to build ties between the various faith traditions.

Ottaviano is a member of the new interfaith council, which planned the first Faith Shadowing Week this spring. During the week of April 19, students attended regularly scheduled meetings of various religious and spiritual groups other than their own, including several Christian fellowship group meetings and bible studies, Shabbat services, Buddhist Faith Fellowship, Wesleyan Mindfulness Group, Quaker Meeting, Catholic Mass, Muslim Jumma Prayers and Vespers. The week concluded with a campus-wide interfaith dinner that was attended by about 30 students

“It really came from a genuine interest on the part of the students,” said Mehr-Muska said of the interfaith council’s planning.

 

Ottaviano explained that while the council had originally intended to pair up students of different faith traditions, the high degree of interest in Faith Shadowing Week led them to change that plan. Instead, students in small groups attended events held by different faith traditions. This helped students learn about and get comfortable with the unfamiliar traditions.

“Those who were able to participate and attend events other than their own really found it enjoyable and enlightening, in that they were able to learn and appreciate a little more about their own traditions just by experiencing those of others faiths,” said Ottaviano. She also got some new ideas by observing meetings of other faith communities.

 

“I think that the sense of community is really what bubbled to the top” for students visiting other faith communities, said Mehr-Muska. She said the week allowed the students to identify and celebrate common ground.

Read more about the Faith Shadowing Week here.

 

Wesleyan Posse Veterans Attend Benefit for Wounded Ranger

Michael Smith ’18, Bryan Stascavage ’18 and Andrew Po ’18 attended a Veteran’s Gala, sponsored by Homes For Our Troops, for wounded veteran Sean Pesce. (Photo by Bryan Stascavage ’18)

Michael Smith ’18, Bryan Stascavage ’18 and Andrew Po ’18 attended a Veteran’s Gala, sponsored by Homes For Our Troops, for wounded veteran Sean Pesce.

Wesleyan sponsored three Posse Veteran scholars to attend the Veteran’s Gala for Specialist Sean Pesce, an Army Ranger who was shot 13 times and paralyzed from the waist down during a mission in Afghanistan in fall 2012. Michael Smith ’18, Andrew Po ’18, and Bryan Stascavage ’18 attended the June 19 benefit to show support for a fellow veteran, and to learn more about a smaller non-profit organization that is helping those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The charity that is helping Pesce, Homes For Our Troops, modifies or builds homes that allow wounded veterans to live independently.

The gala, organized by WPLR morning radio show hosts Chaz and AJ and sponsored by a number of local and national corporations, took place at the Fantasia Banquet facility in North Haven, Conn.

“We were amazed by how our radio station rallied around the mission of Homes For Our Troops,” said Chaz and AJ, in a preamble before showing a video about Pesce.

Brianne McNamara, community fundraiser coordinator for Homes For Our Troops, spoke with the Wesleyan Posse Veterans. (Photo by Bryan Stascavage ’18)

Brianne McNamara, community fundraiser coordinator for Homes For Our Troops, spoke with the Wesleyan Posse Veterans. (Photo by Bryan Stascavage ’18)

Brianne McNamara, a community fundraising coordinator for Homes For Our Troops, spoke with the Wesleyan Posse attendees about the organization.

“We don’t do any self-promotion or advertising,” she said. “This allows us to give 90 cents out of every dollar directly to helping veterans. Instead, we rely on word of mouth and events like this gala to spread word of our organization.”

The national average for refurbishing a home for a veteran costs more than $400,000, she noted, and Home For Our Troops has been able to help more than 180 wounded veterans. The organization also provides financial counseling services to ensure that the veteran will be able to maintain the house after renovations are complete.

The gala was particularly important to the Wesleyan Posse Veterans: Po and Pesce served in the same Ranger Company while deployed to Afghanistan. Although they hadn’t known each other well at the time, the two spent much time in conversation at the benefit. Afterwards, Po shared some notes about his conversation.

Sean Pesce (left) and Po talk during the gala. (Photo by Bryan Stascavage ’18)

Sean Pesce (left) and Po talk during the gala. (Photo by Bryan Stascavage ’18)

“Pesce still loves to golf, and is looking forward to attending the University of New Haven in the fall,” said Po, noting that Pesce is interested in earning a degree in business or political science. “He wants to open his own restaurant and perhaps run for public office one day.”

Despite his new home and college plans, the road ahead still has challenges for Pesce. “He still has a lot of medical appointments between now and when he starts college,” says Po. “He’ll also have building events at his new home over the summer—and while these events are exhausting for him, he knows it is for a great cause.”

Those in the Wesleyan community interested in volunteering with Homes For Our Troops can find more information here.

Additionally, details on Pesce’s story can be found here.

Danbury mayor Mark D. Boughton spoke at the event, offering support for veterans in Connecticut.

Danbury mayor Mark D. Boughton spoke at the event, offering support for veterans in Connecticut. (Photo by Bryan Stascavage ’18)

The cover band Rum Runners played for free at the benefit. (Photo by Bryan Stascavage ’18)

The cover band Rum Runners played for free at the benefit. (Photo by Bryan Stascavage ’18)

Students Gain Skills, Help Departments While Working on Campus this Summer

More than 185 Wesleyan students are employed in various campus departments over the summer. Of those, about 78 are work-study eligible. Students earn money that can be contributed to the cost of their education, while learning skills that will benefit them in the classroom and beyond. Employers benefit from students’ skills, insight and enthusiasm.

Andrea Vargas ’17 is spending her summer working as a student assistant for the Office of University Events and Scheduling. She also holds this job during the academic year. “I use a computer program to process information about campus events. We handle all the logistics for events, and right now I’m planning for faculty lectures that will be held next fall.”

Andrea Vargas ’17 is spending her summer working as a student assistant for the Office of University Events and Scheduling. She also holds this job during the academic year. “I use a computer program to process information about campus events. We handle all the logistics for events, and right now I’m planning for faculty lectures that will be held next fall.”

Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76 Discusses Ways Science, Entertainment, Education Overlap

On June 22, Christopher Weaver MALS'75 CAS '76 presented a seminar titled "Amplius Ludo: Beyond the Horizon" to interested students and faculty at Exley Science Center. Weaver is an author, software developer, scientist and educator. He is the founder and CEO of Bethesda Softworks, where he co-developed wildly popular games, including The Elder Scrolls role-playing series and John Madden Football for Electronic Arts.

On June 22, Christopher Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76 presented a seminar titled “Amplius Ludo: Beyond the Horizon” to interested students and faculty at Exley Science Center. Weaver is an author, software developer, scientist and educator. He is the founder and CEO of Bethesda Softworks, where he co-developed wildly popular games, including The Elder Scrolls role-playing series and John Madden Football for Electronic Arts. Success in these ventures has required Weaver to bring together elements of computer science, design, and storytelling. As a result, he is an expert in the special niche where science, entertainment, and education overlap.