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Mellon Mays Fellow Haymon ’16 is Double Majoring in German Studies, Theater

Miranda Haymon '16 will be directing her own adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five in the Center for the Arts Theater. (Photo by Laurie Kenney)

Next year, Miranda Haymon ’16 will be directing her own adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five in the Center for the Arts Theater. As a Mellon Mays Fellow, Haymon will explore how (or if) artistic works, movements and theories reflect artists’ political positions. “Through this project I hope to put myself in a better position to understand the definition of political theater in the context of post World War II Germany and beyond.” (Photo by Laurie Kenney)

In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Miranda Haymon from the Class of 2016.

Q: Miranda, what are you majoring in and why?

A: I am a German studies and theater double major but when I started at Wesleyan, I thought I was going to create my own linguistics major under the University Major option. I remember very clearly the Wesleyan Admissions Dean telling me I could take four languages for all four years if I wanted to — I was instantly sold. Instead of doing that, I ended up taking a few theater classes, a German language class and a First Year Seminar cross-listed in German Studies. I had recently begun German senior year in high school and always loved theater, so I thought this would be a good place to start for my first semester in college. I ended up becoming really close to my theater and German professors and discovering German theater was something I was interested in exploring further. The rest is history!

Q: What has your theater experience been like at Wesleyan?

A: One of my reasons for choosing Wesleyan was the theater scene. There is a great dynamic between extracurricular theater, Second Stage, and theater sponsored by the Theater Department. I loved that I could pursue theater inside and outside of the classroom, so my theater experience at Wesleyan has been a combination of the two. I served as a Second Stage staff member and Managing Liaison for my first two years and have focused on working more within the Theater Department for my last two years. I’ve stage managed a few Second Stage shows and this past fall, stage managed the Theater and Music Department’s production of In the Heights. I am a directing concentration, so have directed a scene from Romeo and Juliet as well as an adaptation of Kafka’s short story In the Penal Colony as part of my directing curriculum. Through Second Stage, I directed a experimental ensemble theater piece my sophomore fall. Stage managing and directing are my two focuses, but I’ve also dabbled in costume and props design, as well as fight choreography. For my honors thesis in theater and German studies, I will be directing my own adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five set to go up in the CFA Theater February 2016. I can’t wait!

Q: As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, you spent this summer developing a research topic “Show not Tell: The Role of Political Theater for a Post-Combat Audience.” How did you come up with this idea?

A: I saw a lot of theater when I was abroad in Berlin. I was completely struck by the fact that in Germany, the theater is a space for political discourse, whereas in America, the majority of theater is for entertainment. How has and how can the theater serve as a space for political discourse for an audience in the aftermath of war? In the case of my research, Germany after World War II? But how about America after the Iraq War or any other post-war country? Is political theater about politics anymore, or is it about something else?

Q: What will be your research process? Will you be traveling?

A: My research project is in two parts: the first being a senior essay engaging with theories of performance studies, affect, actor-audience relationship as well as semiotics. The second part of my project will be investigating these theories surrounding political theater with a practical approach involving directing Slaughterhouse-Five. I recently completed a six week research and writing intensive sponsored by Mellon Mays, so I have a prospectus and a nine month plan of action. At the moment, I am doing a lot of reading to further embed myself in the conversation about political theater. In the fall, I will be traveling to Special Collections and Manuscripts Division at Stanford University to check out a collection of theater programs from productions that occurred soon after the end of World War II.

Q: What do you hope to ultimately accomplish with your research?

A: I want to gain a better understanding of theater in a political context, that is, theater as a reflection or representation of the artist’s environment. I want to explore how (or if) artistic works, movements, and theories reflect these artists’ political positions. I hope that this research will better ground my knowledge of a time period I believe to be fundamental to theater history and theory. Through this project I hope to put myself in a better position to understand the definition of political theater in the context of post World War II Germany and beyond.

Q: You’re also a Senior Interviewer. How did you become involved and what do you like most about that role?

A: I was heavily involved with the Andover Admissions Office, so I knew I wanted the same for my college experience. I’ve been interested in the position of Senior Interviewer since my sophomore year when I became close friends with a former senior interviewer who was a theater major. I love being able to meet so many different students and share my own Wesleyan experience with the hope that they can understand what resources could be available to them if they are admitted.

Q: Are you involved in any extracurricular activities or clubs?

A: I recently became involved with Terpsichore, which is so much fun! Last semester I choreographed a Harry Potter dubstep dance with one of my best friends and also danced in another large group piece. I hadn’t choreographed or danced before this, so it was a scary but really fun experience. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Q: Where are you from and how did you hear about Wesleyan?

A: I was born and raised in Boston, but attended boarding school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. During the early stages in my college process, I made a list of all the things I loved about Andover and all the things I really disliked. Seemingly out of nowhere, Wesleyan rose to the top of my list. It was absolutely perfect: an interdisciplinary approach to education, spirited students that have close relationships with their professors and not to far from home! I hadn’t heard of Wesleyan beforehand, but I knew immediately it was the school for me.

Q: What are you post-Wesleyan plans?

A: I plan on taking some time off before applying to PhD programs in performance studies. During my time off, I’m hoping to travel, spend time with my family and gain more practical theater experience.

Wesleyan Green Team Brainstorms Sustainability Measures

Wesleyan's Green Team focuses on making Wesleyan more environmentally friendly. (Photo Laurie Kenney)

Wesleyan’s Green Team focuses on making Wesleyan more environmentally friendly. (Photos by Laurie Kenney)

On July 31, nine Green Team members and a liaison from the sustainability office met outside the Allbritton Center to discuss ideas for making Wesleyan more environmentally friendly.

Anita Deeg-Carlin, administrative assistant for the Physics Department, led the meeting, which focused on simple measures all Wesleyan departments could enact. The group also noted the importance of encouraging more “green” behaviors, and stated their intent to conduct reviews of their own offices to discover areas that might need improvement.

Jen Kleindienst, sustainability director and liaison to the Green Team, shared some research from the sustainability interns.

“We have to be aware of a product’s entire life cycle,” Kleindienst said. “For example, a ceramic cup has to be used about 50 times before it is considered more sustainable than using disposable cups.”

Ebenal ’18 Participates in Wireless Infrastructure Conference at White House

On July 15, Wesleyan Posse Scholar Royce Ebenal ’18 attended the White House Summit on Wireless Workforce Development, a conference that focused on the urgent need to train workers for careers in the wireless industry to ensure that the U.S. wireless network infrastructure capacity will be sufficient for the future.

More than 80 leaders from wireless companies, federal agencies and academic institutions attended the conference. Participants also recognized that this was an opportunity to hire and train underrepresented groups, including veterans, women and minorities, for well-paying technical jobs. Posse scholar Rob Mendez ’18, who is an intern at the National Science Foundation this summer, also attended the conference.

Ebenal is working as an intern at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) this summer. He’s been speaking with senior government officials, including the office of Second Lady Jill Biden, about the Posse Foundation in an effort to expand veterans’ access to elite colleges.

“While working at the White House has been truly humbling, I am motivated everyday to represent veterans, the Posse Foundation and Wes,” Ebenal said.

Ebenal co-authored an article on the White House Summit on Wireless Workforce Development. The story is online here.

Schwartz ’17 Founder of Wesleyan Radio Control/ Drone Club

David Schwartz '17, founder and president of the Wesleyan Radio Control/ Drone Club, flies a drone behind South College July 28. He's also on Wesleyan's ski team, rock climbing team and sailing team. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

David Schwartz ’17, founder and president of the Wesleyan Radio Control/ Drone Club, flies a drone behind South College July 28. He’s also on Wesleyan’s ski team, rock climbing team and sailing team. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with David Schwartz from the Class of 2017.

Q: David, where are you from and what is your major?

A: I grew up in Amherst, Mass. When I first came to Wesleyan, I walked around wearing my Amherst sweatshirt for awhile before realizing there was a bit of a rivalry. I’m an Economics and Government double major, with a minor in data analysis. I’m particularly interested in applying “big data” techniques to government policymaking.

David Schwartz operates the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ drone "that was very user-friendly and intuitive to learn," he said.

David Schwartz operates the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ drone “that was very user-friendly and intuitive to learn,” he said.

Q: You are founder and president of the Wesleyan Radio Control/ Drone Club. How did your interest in aerial photography begin?

A: I’ve always had a passion for flying, but unfortunately I get air-sick in small planes, so I’ve been able to apply my interest by being involved in the radio control community. Last summer, I spent my free time building an aerial photography quad copter and coding a basic auto-pilot system. For example, if the gyroscope was leaning left, the program would simply instruct the servos (motor) controlling the ailerons (parts on the wings that tilt the plane) to counter this movement until the plane was stable again. When I was able to stabilize the aircraft, I noticed that the camera on it was able to take some really clear photographs.

Q: Why did you decide to start the club? How many members do you have?

A: After telling my friends about my project building a drone last summer

Sumarsam, Students, Alumni Attend Traditional Music Conference in Kazakhstan

PhD candidate Ander Terwilliger, University Professor of Music Sumarsam and PhD candidate Christine Yong attended the International Council for Traditional Music conference in Astana, Kazakhstan.

PhD candidate Ander Terwilliger, University Professor of Music Sumarsam and PhD candidate Christine Yong attended the International Council for Traditional Music conference in Astana, Kazakhstan.

From July 14–23, two ethnomusicology PhD candidates — Christine Yong and Ander Terwilliger — along with five alumni —Tan Sooi Beng ’80, Donna Kwon ’95, Jonathan Kramer ’71, Sylvie Bruinders ’99, and Becky Miller ’94 — joined University Professor of Music Sumarsam at the 2015 conference of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) in Astana, Kazakhstan. Tan Sooi Beng was elected to the ICTO executive board.

The International Council for Traditional Music is a non-governmental organization in formal consultative relations with UNESCO. It aims to further the study, practice, documentation, preservation and dissemination of traditional music and dance of all countries.

At the conference, Sumarsam presented a talk titled “Expressing And Contesting Java-Islam Encounters In The Performing Arts;” and Kwon spoke on “Glimpses Beyond The Curtain: Making Sense Of North Korean Musical Performance in the Age of Social Media.” Kwon also was a recipient of this year’s prestigious American Council of Learned Societies grant.

 

11 Mellon Mays Fellows Present Research Topics

Lynn Ma ’16 presented “Solitude and the Political Life.”

Mellon Mays Fellow Lynn Ma ’16 spoke on “Solitude and the Political Life” during the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Summer 2015 Research Presentations July 23.

#THISISWHY

Eleven Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows delivered brief research proposal presentations July 23 in Fisk Hall. The fellows, six from Wesleyan and five from Queens College, City University of New York, spent the past two months developing their research projects with the assistance of their peers, Wesleyan faculty and Wesleyan librarians.

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program provides minority students and others with a demonstrated commitment to eradicating racial disparities, with support to pursue graduate degrees in the arts and sciences.

Research topics range from deconstructing African feminism to the role of political theater for a post-combat audience to trauma in Japan caused by the Atomic Bomb.

Ulysse Reflects on Sandra Bland’s Self-Possession, Neo-Black Codes of Conduct

Writing for Africa is a Country, Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse reflects on the story of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman who was arrested by a state trooper during a traffic stop in Waller County, Texas and was later found dead in her jail cell. Video footage from a dashboard camera found the trooper had threatened Bland with a Taser after she refused to put out her cigarette and the encounter escalated. Her death was found to be a suicide, though her family has doubts.

Ulysse writes that she identified with Bland, and responded strongly to images and videos of the young woman while she was alive.

There is a radiance that emanated from her, which came from a fierce black woman on a quest of self-discovery with all of its ups and downs, a black woman determined to be of significance in this unjust world, a black woman who, as her mother described was “an activist, sassy, smart, and she knew her rights.” She was using her knowledge and skills to creatively create her life. Sandra Bland was not uppity. That may have been a perception of her by a white officer of the law clearly insecure in his position of authority who had no idea who he is when faced with someone like her. Sandra Bland embodied a rare charismatic self-possession that disrupts social orders. […] This way of being in the world is one for which black women who do not submit continually pay a very high price. Within the social limits of white imagination, complexity is never ours, black women like Sandra Bland, black women like us, are be reducible to four, maybe five, stereotypes at the most.

Ulysse, too, has been pressured many times to “keep my mouth shut, stay in my place, not question my seniors, or watch my comportment too often by white men and women in power.” She writes, “Every time I consider Sandra’s reaction, I identify with it. Her response whatever else you may think of it, was an act of self-possession. Her constitutional rights were being violated and she simply would not stand for it.”

Ulysse concludes:

As black people, we live with the continuities of slavery and the Jim-Crow era when state sanctioned slave codes determined how we expressed fundamental parts of our “partial” personhood. We are being ruled by neo black codes of conduct enforced by social and legal machinery that demand we submit in the presence of white power or else become part of a landfill of hashtags. Sandra Bland refused because she knew her rights.

Conference Focuses on Teaching Finance at Liberal Arts Colleges

Wesleyan’s Department of Economics hosted a conference titled "Teaching Finance at Liberal Arts Colleges" July 21-23 on campus. The Association to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges (AALAC) provided Wesleyan with a grant to support the event. Faculty from Wesleyan, Bowdoin, Carleton, Denison, Drew, Grinnell, Lafayette, Macalester, Pomona, Smith, Swarthmore, Trinity, Wellesley and Williams attended.

Wesleyan’s Department of Economics hosted a conference titled “Teaching Finance at Liberal Arts Colleges” July 21-23 on campus. The Association to Advance Liberal Arts Colleges (AALAC) provided Wesleyan with a grant to support the event. Pictured, front row, from left: John Caskey, Swarthmore; Tom Bernardin, St. Olaf College; Matt Botsch, Bowdoin; Ben Keefer, Carleton; Liang Ding, Macalaster; Abigail Hornstein, Wesleyan; Michelle Zemel, Pomona; and Caleb Stroup, Davidson. Back row, from left: David Chapman, University of Virginia; Chris Hoag, Trinity; Xiao Jiang, Denison; Ted Burczak, Denison; Karl Boulware, Wesleyan; GianDomenico Sarolli, Drew; Michael Kelly, Lafayette; Martin Gosman, Wesleyan; Bill Gentry, Williams; and Greg Phelan, Williams.

Sheehan-Connor Authors Paper on Effect of Gas Tax on Vehicle Safety

Damien Sheehan-Connor

Damien Sheehan-Connor

Assistant Professor of Economics Damien Sheehan-Connor is the author of “Environmental Policy and Vehicle Safety: The Impact of Gasoline Taxes,” published in the July 2015 issue of Economic Inquiry.

In the paper, Sheehan-Connor considers the impact that policies to reduce carbon emissions by vehicles, such as fuel economy standards and gasoline taxes, have on vehicle weight and, consequently, on safety. The paper develops a model that separately identifies the impact of vehicle weight on mortality and selection effects that impact accident propensity. He found that the safety externalities associated with heavy vehicles are greater than the environmental ones; that under fuel economy standards, vehicle weights have recently decreased with little likely effect on accident deaths; and that similar environmental benefits could be combined with substantial reductions in deaths by implementing higher gasoline taxes.

Read the paper online here.

Loui’s Study of Chill-Inducing Music Featured in BBC

Psyche Loui is assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Psyche Loui is assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior.

When Psyche Loui first heard Rachmaninov’s Piano Concert No. 2 on the radio as a college student, she still remembers the chill that went down her spine, the fluttering in her stomach and the racing heart. Now an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience and behavior at Wesleyan, Loui studies this phenomenon–which she refers to as “frissons” or “skin orgasms”–in her lab. She recently co-authored a paper with Luke Harrison ’14 in Frontiers in Psychology reviewing the evidence and theories in this area, and spoke to the BBC about their findings.

Loui, also an accomplished pianist and violinist, points out that the sensations associated with music can be as varied as trembling, flushing and sweating, and sexual arousal. People can often pick out particular measures in a song that trigger such sensations, allowing researchers to pinpoint specific features that are most likely to trigger the sensations in listeners.

Sudden changes in harmony, dynamic leaps (from soft to loud), and melodic appoggiaturas (dissonant notes that clash with the main melody, like you’ll find in Adele’s Someone Like You) seem to be particularly powerful. “Musical frisson elicit a physiological change that’s locked to a particular point in the music,” says Loui.

Researchers have been able to use fMRI scans to map out the regions of the brain that respond to music, and chart the mechanisms that correspond to this phenomenon.

One major component seems to be the way the brain monitors our expectations, says Loui. From the moment we are born (and possibly before), we begin to learn certain rules that characterise the way songs are composed. If a song follows the conventions too closely, it is bland and fails to capture our attention; if it breaks the patterns too much, it sounds like noise. But when composers straddle the boundary between the familiar and unfamiliar, playing with your expectations using unpredictable flourishes (like appoggiaturas or sweeping harmonic changes), they hit a sweet spot that pleasantly teases the brain, and this may produce a frisson.

For instance, violated expectations seem to startle (albeit gently) the automatic nervous system, in its most primitive region, the brain stem – producing the racing heart, the breathlessness, the flush that can signal the onset of a frisson. What’s more, the anticipation, violation, and resolution of our expectations triggers the release of dopamine in two key regions – the caudate and the nucleus accumbens, shortly before and just after the frisson. You see a similar response when people take drugs or have sex, which may explain why we find shiver-inducing songs so addictive, says Loui.

O’Connell Named Society Fellow of the Geological Society of America

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

For her distinguished contributions to the geosciences, Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, recently became a Fellow of the Geological Society of America.

Society Fellowship is an honor bestowed on leading professional geoscientists. New fellows are nominated by existing GSA fellows in recognition of their contributions to the geosciences through such avenues as publications, applied research, teaching, administration of geological programs, contributing to the public awareness of geology, leadership of professional organizations, and taking on editorial, bibliographic and library responsibilities.

“Suzanne O’Connell is an accomplished geoscientist who highly honors the traditions of research and scholarship in the geosciences, but also pays great attention to the societal well-being of the community, reflected by her service in professional societies, her work in policy, and her persistent and caring attention to students,” said GSA fellow and nominator Marilyn Suiter, who earned her MA from Wesleyan in 1981.

At Wesleyan, O’Connell teaches courses in the geosciences

Wesleyan C-CERT Builds Mobile Medical Facility on Andrus Field

In the event of an emerging infectious disease outbreaks, other public health emergencies and acts of terrorism, a mobile hospital can provide an additional 100 beds.

In the event of an emerging infectious disease outbreaks, other public health emergencies and acts of terrorism, a mobile hospital can provide an additional 100 beds.

On Aug. 3, more than 20 Wesleyan employees will help erect a tent on Andrus Field that could be used as a medical facility in the event of an emergency situation.

The inflatable tent, which measures 60 by 30 feet, is 1/5 of the complete Ottilie W. Lundgren Memorial Field Hospital owned by the State of Connecticut. If all sections of the tent were assembled, it would contain a 125-bed unit, an operating room, ambulatory care and triage areas.