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Inaugural Hamilton Prize Winner Featured in Boston Globe

Audrey Pratt, winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. (Photo by Betsy Pratt).

Audrey Pratt, winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. (Photo by Betsy Pratt.)

The Boston Globe recently published a profile of Audrey Pratt, an incoming student in Wesleyan’s Class of 2021 and the winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. Pratt, a graduate of Needham (Mass.) High School, won a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan for her short fiction submission, “Thorns, Black and White.”

Pratt, who was accepted early decision to Wesleyan, told the Globe that when she applied for the prize, she “didn’t think in a million years I’d win,” but she was excited for the chance to have Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Thomas Kail ’99 read her work. Miranda, writer/creator and former star, and Kail, the director of Hamilton, are co-chairs of the alumni selection committee for the prize.

Wesleyan received more than 600 entries, including short stories, slam poetry, screenplays and songs.

Pratt described her entry as “a dark fantasy story, almost a modern Grimm fairy tale, about a forest, the coming of age process, girls with antlers and other monstrous versions of forest creatures.”

Pratt has written stories as long as she can remember. She was captain of her high school’s speech and debate team, a member of the all-female robotics team, and a member of the National Honor Society. At Wesleyan, she plans to study creative writing, neuroscience and behavior, and film.

“I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it,” she told the Globe. “It has given me a lot to live up [to], but I’m going to try my best and make everyone proud.”

Read more about Pratt and the Hamilton Prize here.

Rubenstein Discusses Theories of the Multiverse on Studio 360

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein was a guest on WNYC’s “Studio 360” recently, in a show titled, “The Theoretical Physicist Wore a Toga.” She addressed existential “what if” questions and the idea of multiple universes—an idea, she explains, which “is about 2,500 years old.”

“For the ancient Atomist philosophers [in Ancient Greece], the most desirable thing about what we’re now calling the multiverse was that it got rid of the need for a god. If it is the case that our world is the only world, then it’s very difficult to explain. How is everything so perfect? How is it that sunsets so beautiful?” she said. “What the Atomists believed was that religion and the belief in these kinds of benevolent gods actually caused people to behave terribly to one another, so they wanted to find a different explanation. So their explanation was that it’s not the case that some anthropomorphic god or gods made the universe so it was just perfect the way it is, but that actually that our world was just one of an infinite number of other worlds that looked totally different from our world, and that worlds were the product just of accident, of particles colliding with one another and randomly forming worlds.”

“It sounds a lot like modern physics,” she added.

What are the practical effects of such theories?

“Every major development in modern Western science since Copernicus has been advertised as this radical de-centering of our importance. […] As science progresses, we learn that we are less and less important than we thought we were. That’s one argument. But of course, it doesn’t seem to be the case that these purported decentralizations of the importance of the human have in any way contributed in any way to our feeling like we’re insignificant. We still tend to think that we run the planet.”

Rubenstein is also professor of science in society, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

GLS Professor Belanger P’02 Produces Photographic Study, ‘Rift/Fault’

Photographer and author Marion Belanger P’02 explores geologic boundaries in Rift/Fault.  (Photo by Ann Burke Daly.)

Marion Belanger P’02, a photography professor in the Graduate Liberal Studies program, is the author of Rift/Fault, a photographic study of the land-based edges of the North American Continental Plate. A Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002 supported a project in the Everglades, where Belanger turned her lens on both the landscape within the national park as well as the suburban development of the swamplands outside the protected area. Now, Rift/Fault continues her interest in natural land formations and boundaries—this one along the San Andreas Fault in California and the Mid-Atlantic Rift in Iceland—and the influence of human society on the earth

Published by Radius Books, and with an essay by art critic and activist Lucy R. Lippard, Rift/Fault is designed to be interactive: Open the cover and two collections of images face each other, each one bound at the top. The photographs labeled “Fault” are on the left; the right side holds “Rift,” with the reader turning each page upwards to view the image that follows. While Belanger paired the photographs on each side to be complementary, she encourages the readers to make their own pairings. The structure of the book conceptually mimics the ever-shifting tectonic plate edges, and “it gives the viewer some agency to figure out how they want to view the book and, by default, how they want to see the landscape. The work itself is a cultural study,” she says.

Dubler ’97 Awarded Carnegie to Research, Write on Prison Abolition

Joshua Dubler, ’97 assistant professor of religion at the University of Rochester, New York, is studying and writing about prison abolition with a Carnegie Fellowship. (University of Rochester photo by Brandon Vick.)

Joshua Dubler ’97, assistant professor of religion at the University of Rochester, is one of 33 national recipients of a 2016 Carnegie Award. With this fellowship, Dubler is studying prison abolition. His book manuscript, Break Every Yoke: Religion, Justice, and the End of Mass Incarceration, presents abolitionist logic to make the case. Co-authored with Vincent Lloyd, it explores the ways that religion has underwritten and sustained mass incarceration. Currently under peer review, it has an expected publication date of 2018.

While an advocate of both ending mass incarceration and offering educational programs for those imprisoned, Dubler is seeking something further than these revisions to our current system—a true revisiting of the concept of prison.

“Right now, our vision of bringing people to justice is to put them in cages,” he says “That’s a really impoverished notion of justice. It doesn’t serve the person who has been convicted of the crime, does very little for the person who is the victim of the crime, and it perpetuates the destruction of the community. Abolitionists are looking to reconceptualize how it is that we do justice.”

Wesleyan Presence Celebrates BRC Success at The Way Home Gala; Swanson ’77 Honored

Richard Swanson ’77, a board member of The Bowery Residents’ Committee, was honored at The Way Home Gala, amidst a turnout of Wesleyan alumni also affiliated with the New York organization (see more photos below)

On June 12, Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC), one of New York City’s largest providers of housing and services for homeless adults, honored longtime BRC board member Richard Swanson ’77 at the organization’s seventh annual gala. Swanson, a trustee of BRC, is managing director and the general counsel of York Capital Management, as well as a member of the firm’s executive, operating and valuation committees.

On the BRC website, Swanson explains his decision to join the board as his effort “to be able to give something back to the City of New York, which has treated me so well over my legal career.… We all have a responsibility to our fellow citizens who are less fortunate than ourselves.”

Kini ’13 and Edizel ’14 Direct Music Video about White Privilege

ParkSlope

from ‘Park Slope’

Multimedia artists Aditi Natasha Kini ’13 MALS ’16 and Hanna Edizel ’14 recently premiered the music video for “Park Slope,” a song from rapper, producer and 2010 Wesleyan alumnus OHYUNG. The co-directors were joined by cinematographer Neo Sora ’14 and actor Stephen Acerra ’12 in creating an absurdist accompaniment to OHYUNG’s record, which parodies Brooklyn gentrification and the “lifestyle” it sponsors for white gentrifiers.

Focusing on Park Slope, one of New York City’s most affluent neighborhoods, OHYUNG and his collaborators enter into a larger citywide and national dialogue about the ever-growing problem of gentrification. As Kini explains in an interview with Brokelyn, “Park Slope is a petri dish for everything bad that’s happening in New York.”

Hawley ’91 Debuts Documentary Film

Suki Hawley ’91 and RUMUR partners

Suki Hawley ’91 (center) with RUMUR partners.

Suki Hawley ’91, director and editor for the award-winning independent film studio RUMUR, is debuting the collaborative’s latest film in New York this week. The documentary, titled All the Rage, chronicles the work of renowned physician Dr. John Sarno and his radical methods for treating chronic pain. It will debut at Cinema Village in New York on Friday, June 23. A Q&A with directors and special guests will follow after every screening Friday (June 23), Saturday (June 24) and Sunday (June 25).

All the Rage comes at a critical time, when the epidemic of chronic pain is afflicting over 100 million Americans and millions more worldwide. Dr. Sarno, professor of rehabilitation medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and writer of four bestselling books on pain management, is considered a medical pioneer in the field for the connections he draws between his patients’ emotions and their pain. Despite backlash from the mainstream medical community, Sarno has spent 50 years developing his revolutionary treatment program. Some of his most notable patients include Larry David and Howard Stern, both of whom are featured in the film.

Biology Team Samples Drought-Tolerant Bacteria in Death Valley

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizospheres of a juniper tree at about 7,000 feet above sea level.

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizosphere of a juniper tree.

This spring, a research team from Wesleyan traveled to Death Valley National Park to explore the ways bacteria diversifies in extreme environments.

Death Valley, located about 130 miles west of Las Vegas, is a below-sea-level basin known for being the hottest place on earth and driest place in North America. The average rainfall is less than 2 inches, annually.

“National parks are ideal for research, in general, because the land is protected indefinitely from commercial development,” said team leader Fred Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. “Death Valley is a nice model system for exobiology because of its extreme habitat.”

Cohan, along with graduate student Jerry Lee, Bella Wiener ’19 and Nicole DelGaudio ’18, traveled to California May 29 through June 4. During this time, the researchers trekked through miles of parched — and often prickly — landscapes seeking to sample root soil, or rhizosphere, from various plant species, each over a wide range of elevations that differ notably in their temperatures.

Connecticut Walk Book, Published by Wesleyan U. Press, Blazes the Trail to Outdoor Fun

Just in time for summer, Wesleyan University Press has published the newest edition of the ultimate guide to Connecticut’s extensive public trails system, the Connecticut Walk Book: The Complete Guide to Connecticut’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail, by the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA), the primary not-for-profit organization that maintains these recreational trails in concert with partners, landowners, volunteers and countless supporters.

The comprehensive guide features detailed descriptions and easy-to-follow full-color maps for more than 60 trails (and many additional side trails and connectors) included in the over 825 miles of blue-blazed trails maintained by the CFPA statewide—from quick jaunts to long journeys, from hikes winding through state parks and forests to those meandering across private land.

“We hope folks will be inspired and become stewards of the great green places these trails intersect,” says Clare Cain, trails stewardship director at CFPA. “Whether a walker is looking for a loop hike, a family ramble, a summit destination or a beautiful waterfall, these trails offer access to the goodness of the great outdoors.”

“The blue trails are a special part of Connecticut and part of what makes Connecticut special. We are honored to be part of the new edition of this book,” said Suzanna Tamminen, director and editor-in-chief at Wesleyan University Press. “Now that the good weather is here, people are ready to get outside, and this book is a perfect way to start exploring the natural beauty right in our own backyards.”

The Connecticut Walk Book is available at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore (413 Main Street in Middletown), which offers a 10 percent discount on all books to Wesleyan faculty and staff (Wesleyan ID required). It is also available online.

5 Faculty Appointed to Endowed Professorships

In recognition of their career achievements, the following faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1:

Joe Knee, professor of chemistry and dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, is receiving the Beach Professorship of Chemistry, established in 1880.

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, is receiving the Alan M. Dachs Professorship of Science, established in 2011.

Stewart Novick, professor of chemistry, is receiving the Joshua Boger University Professorship of the Sciences and Mathematics, established in 2010.

Christopher Parslow, professor of classical studies, is receiving the Robert Rich Professorship of Latin, established in 1863.

Irina Russu, professor of chemistry, is receiving the E. B. Nye Professorship of Chemistry, established in 1908.

Brief biographies appear below:

Wesleyan Earns Silver Rating for 2016 Sustainability Performance

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (STARS) recently awarded Wesleyan with a Silver rating for its 2016 sustainability performance.

Wesleyan completed its first STARS report in 2013 and earned a Silver rating with a score of 53.06. Over the past three years, Wesleyan developed a Sustainability Action Plan to address many of the areas of improvement found in the 2013 report, and has increased its score to 58.11. Sixty-five points are needed to obtain the Gold rating, and 85 points are needed to obtain the Platinum rating.

Wesleyan’s commitment to sustainability began in the 1980s with the creation of a recycling program. This commitment expanded over the years, explained Sustainability Director Jen Kleindienst, to include addressing climate change, waste diversion, energy reduction, water conservation, integrating sustainability into the curriculum, promoting sustainability in co-curricular activities, and changing purchasing, building construction and grounds practices.

“Wesleyan began tracking its carbon footprint in 2007 and we’re continuously working to make significant progress toward a more sustainable future and meet our 2050 carbon neutrality target,” Kleindienst said.

Established, New Writers Attend 61st Annual Writers Conference

Journalist and author Lis Harris works one-on-one with a Wesleyan Writers Conference participant on June 15.

Journalist and author Lis Harris works one-on-one with a Wesleyan Writers Conference participant on June 15.

Writing at Wesleyan welcomed established writers, new writers and others interested in the writer’s craft to the 61st Annual Wesleyan Writers Conference, held June 14-17 on campus.

Dr. Joe Fins '82 spoke on "Writing about Science and Medicine."

Dr. Joe Fins ’82 spoke on “Writing about Science and Medicine.”

Participants had the opportunity to finish work in progress, start something new or be inspired by other writers’ work. The conference included seminars, lectures, readings, workshops, and manuscript consultations. Topics included novel, short story, poetry, nonfiction, young adult fiction, shaping narratives, literacy life in the digital age, writing about science and medicine, literary journalism and memoir, editing and translation and navigating publishing options.

Faculty included Amy Bloom ’75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing at Wesleyan, Joseph Fins ’82, Lis Harris, Salvatore Scibona, Sarah Moon, Honor Moore, Rivka Galchen, Kate Lee, Isaac Fitzgerald, Steve Almond, Nadxieli Nieto, Rob Spillman, Toni Robino, Elissa Schappell and Lisa Weinert. The annual event is coordinated by Director Anne Greene, the University Professor of English.

Photos of the conference are below: