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Wesleyan Refugee Project Aids Refugees from Around the World

Cole Phillips '16, center, and Sophie Zinser '16, right, volunteer every week at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven, helping refugees apply for housing and energy subsidy programs. Here, they are pictured with Ramez al-Darwish, a Syrian refugee from Homs.

Cole Phillips ’16, center, and Sophie Zinser ’16, right, volunteer every week at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven, helping refugees apply for housing and energy subsidy programs. Here, they are pictured with Ramez al-Darwish, a Syrian refugee from Homs.

The world is currently facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Concerned Wesleyan students are volunteering with community organizations, coordinating various speaker panels, fundraising for international NGOs and agencies, and engaging in advocacy efforts.

This fall, Casey Smith ’17 and Cole Phillips ’16 founded the Wesleyan Refugee Project (WRP). Smith, a College of Social Studies major who is pursuing certificates in Middle Eastern studies and international relations, has worked with refugees since high school, advocated for refugees’ rights in Washington, D.C., and volunteered for refugee resettlement organizations. She is currently studying abroad in Jordan, where she helps refugees access legal services with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) and teaches yoga at the Collateral Repair Project (CRP). Phillips is a government major pursuing certificates in Middle Eastern studies and international relations. While studying abroad in Jordan, he worked for CRP, an NGO that provides aid to Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Phillips then returned to Jordan in August via a Davenport grant to conduct research for his thesis, and grew close with a Syrian refugee with whom he worked as an interpreter. These experiences inspired Smith and Phillips to engage the Wesleyan community in refugee aid work.

“More broadly, we also wanted to start conversations and bring awareness about refugee issues to campus,” said Smith.

Currently, there are 34 Wesleyan students volunteering through WRP, and many more have expressed interest. Every week, student volunteers work with three different organizations: Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), helping refugees apply for housing and energy subsidy programs; the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), working on refugees’ resettlement applications; and Paper Airplanes, tutoring Syrian refugees in English.

Sophie Zinser ’16 joined early in the project as the volunteer coordinator for the IRIS group, but her role has expanded to co-coordinating the group’s efforts. A College of Letters and French studies major, Zinser has been studying Arabic since her sophomore year at Wesleyan. After interacting with refugees as a student studying abroad in Paris and as an Olin Fellow in Morocco, Sophie was inspired to engage further with refugees via volunteer efforts on campus.

“Working with IRIS has exposed my fellow students and I to just how much time and energy incoming refugees and their case workers spend dealing with endless paperwork and bureaucracy just to ensure their eligibility for basic things, such as subsidized housing or electricity,” she said. “Realizing this has made my fellow students and I more passionate about being the friendly faces that guide them through the processes, so that they can spend more time worrying about the million other concerns on their minds, such as learning English, assimilating into American culture, and being happy.”

Casey Smith '17 is currently studying abroad in Jordan, where she helps refugees access legal services and teaches yoga.

Casey Smith ’17 is currently studying abroad in Jordan, where she helps refugees access legal services and teaches yoga.

ITS, Library Offer Wesleyan Community Demonstrations, Lessons

Staff from Information Technology Services (ITS), Olin Library and the Science Library hosted a poster session and demonstration on Nov. 17 and Nov. 19.

ITS staff taught students, faculty and staff about EduRoam (accessing free wireless worldwide at participating institutions using a Wesleyan login); (online training for hundreds of software titles); WFS upgrade (Wesleyan Financial System); WesStation’s green ban on junk mail; cyber security and passwords; and the Master Calendar.

Library staff provided information on Browzine (a way to get alerts and scan through the latest issues of journals on a tablet or laptop using a Wesleyan login); “Not Just Text” (the wide variety of images, streaming videos, sound recordings, CDs, DVDs, maps and open access materials available at the library); customizing resources (class instruction, individual appointments and course-specific online guides or video demos; writing better papers; and ways to preserve the record of scholarly activity on a long-term basis.

Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Hannah Norman ’16)


Wesleyan Community Members Attend Conference for College and University Chaplaincy

On Nov. 17, several members of the Wesleyan community participated in the Conference for College and University Chaplaincy at Hartford Seminary. Protestant Chaplain Tracy Mehr-Muska, who is a doctor of ministry student at the seminary, worked with Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program Scott Thumma to organize the conference.

Other participants from Wesleyan included Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and Jewish Chaplain David Leipziger Teva, Therapist/Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator Alysha Warren, and a student. Teva participated in a workshop on mindfulness, while Warren and the student participated in a workshop about responding to sexual assault on college campuses. More than 80 chaplains from around the northeast participated in the conference.

See more information and photos from the conference here.

Student Artists, Bands Record Music at Red Feather Studios

Red Feather Studios head engineer Mikah Feldman-Stein '16 is one of the studio's founding members. 

Red Feather Studios head engineer Mikah Feldman-Stein ’16 is one of the studio’s founding members. Red Feather Studios has been responsible for the production of multiple EPs and dozens of songs.

The basement of the University Organizing Center at 190 High Street is now home to Red Feather Studios, Wesleyan’s first and only student-run recording studio.

Red Feather officially opened in spring 2015 after being a work in progress for a few years.

Oscar Parajon '16 at Red Feather Studios.

Oscar Parajon ’16 at Red Feather Studios.

“The music culture at Wesleyan is unlike any I’ve seen at other universities,” added Oscar Parajon ’16, a founding member and head studio manager at Red Feather, who is majoring in American Studies. “Before Red Feather Studios, what was happening was a plethora of ‘bedroom producers’ throughout campus that did not have a platform to make their art.”

According to Parajon, the studio’s name comes from the Wesleyan cardinal mascot, “and the idea that its red feathers have the potential to lift the cardinal to extraordinary heights.”

“I think the need for Red Feather stemmed from a discrepancy between Wesleyan students’ creative output and our collective access to creative resources on campus,” said Derrick Holman ’16, another founding member and head of external affairs. While other colleges and universities have student-run studios, Holman said that Red Feather is unique in being a completely student-run venture, with everything from the idea to the funding to the construction to the day-to-day operations under student control.

Derek Holman in the studio.

Derek Holman ’16 in the studio.

“In my personal experience, I have found that there is so much value in creative freedom and—unlike any other musical space on campus—Red Feather provides its leadership and users with the ability to experiment in an unconstrained manner, not only musically, but also with the process of developing and managing a creative space,” Holman, a sociology major, said.

In its first semester of operation, the studio was booked for upwards of 175 sessions, during which artists, bands and performers logged more than 500 hours of recording, production and musical output, according to Holman.

“So far the response has been amazing,” he added. “To date, we have been responsible for the production of multiple EPs and dozens of songs, and even have a member whose self-produced album is now available for purchase on iTunes that was completed almost entirely in our facilities.

Science in Society Major Lu ’17 Interested in Public Healthcare, Neurophysiology

Anna Lu ’17, who is majoring in the Science in Society Program, has a philosophy concentration with a focus on ethics and political philosophy. She's also minoring in East Asian studies. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Anna Lu ’17, who is majoring in the Science in Society Program, has a philosophy concentration with a focus on ethics and political philosophy. She’s also minoring in East Asian studies. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Q: Anna, where are you from and what attracted you to Wesleyan?

A: I am from Woodbridge, Conn. but born in New York. It’s actually a funny story because I didn’t actually seriously looking into Wesleyan until probably October of my senior year of high school! When I was looking for schools I tried to stick closer to home and, at the time, I was being recruited for swimming. I have been an athlete for my entire life and swimming had dominated my time during high school so I decided to pursue it further into the collegiate level; however, I was co-captains with an Olympic Trials qualifier and my little national qualifying events were nothing in comparison to coming in 21st in the nation in an event. On the bright side I’ve always known my education was what would bring me farthest in the long run. Of the schools I looked at, I had narrowed it down to a couple NESCAC schools. After getting to be on other college campuses and really be invested in their campus life, I thought Wesleyan was the best fit for me. Actually looking back on it, I was interviewed on a Wesleying page as an “incoming freshman!” I just feel so lucky to be here with all my peers, regardless of what goes on, everyone deserves to be happy and I believe Wesleyan is that safe space.

Q: What are you majoring in and why?

A: I came into Wesleyan thinking I would major in psychology but as time progressed, I fell in love with neuroscience and behavior. But then last May, I changed my major from neuroscience to the Science in Society Program. SISP allows me to reach outside of my comfort zones. Within SISP I am also a philosophy concentration with a focus on ethics and political philosophy, which allows me to really focus in on the current and even historical issues within our healthcare.

Angle’s Book Published in Chinese Translation

A book by Stephen Angle, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, was recently published in Chinese translation by Jiangxi People’s Press. Titled, “Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy: Toward Progressive Confucianism,” the book was originally published by Polity in 2013. The Chinese version includes a new preface.

According to the blurb for the English-language version:

Confucian political philosophy has recently emerged as a vibrant area of thought both in China and around the globe. This book provides an accessible introduction to the main perspectives and topics being debated today, and shows why Progressive Confucianism is a particularly promising approach. Students of political theory or contemporary politics will learn that far from being confined to a museum, contemporary Confucianism is both responding to current challenges and offering insights from which we can all learn.

The Progressive Confucianism defended here takes key ideas of the twentieth-century Confucian philosopher Mou Zongsan (1909-1995) as its point of departure for exploring issues like political authority and legitimacy, the rule of law, human rights, civility, and social justice. The result is anti-authoritarian without abandoning the ideas of virtue and harmony; it preserves the key values Confucians find in ritual and hierarchy without giving in to oppression or domination. A central goal of the book is to present Progressive Confucianism in such a way as to make its insights manifest to non-Confucians, be they philosophers or simply citizens interested in the potential contributions of Chinese thinking to our emerging, shared world.

Angle is also professor of philosophy, professor of East Asian Studies.

Roth Disputes Narrative of ‘Coddled’ College Students in Op-Ed

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

Writing in the The Washington PostPresident Michael Roth questions the predominant media narrative painting college students as “pampered with coddled minds.”

Roth argues that such denigration of young people by older generations is an age old tradition, dating back to the founding fathers shaking “their heads about dueling and drinking on campus.”

He writes:

When I look around my campus and visit others, I don’t find pampered students with coddled minds. I find math majors in the gym every day preparing for a soccer match or a swim meet. I find writers pulling all-nighters to finish a project working side by side with computer science students developing new software. There are more double majors than ever, and on every campus I visit there are impressive percentages of students doing volunteer work or creating organizations that will have a positive impact locally, even globally – be it making their campuses more sustainable or improving the education of girls in Africa. These hard-working, dedicated students fill the ranks of those now protesting for more equitable and inclusive educational institutions.

And just like older alumni, not all student activists see things the same way, Roth writes. “We are an educational institution: It is a good thing when we can articulate why and how we disagree.”

The image of students concerned only with the micro frustrations of everyday life as opposed to “real” issues bears no relation to the real students I encounter at colleges and universities. These students are well aware, for example, that climate change may significantly alter their lives, and that it will surely disrupt the lives of people around the world. They are learning about this accelerating catastrophe in STEM classes and political science seminars, and they are striving to find ways of mitigating its effects through sophisticated science and through policy analysis.

Our students are also well aware that they will graduate into an economy and society with greater inequalities and less social mobility than in any time since early industrialization. American college students recognize that powerful forces are dynamically increasing the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few.  They are studying how one can create robust economic growth without just reinforcing this inequitable trend, while grappling with a political arena ever more responsive to money. […]

Today, campuses are more diverse because some Americans fought for educational opportunities to be more equitably distributed. Thanks to their achievements, todays students have higher awareness and higher expectations, so we can expect continued tensions on our campuses. Racism and inequality are still powerful beyond the borders of the university, and campuses themselves are not immune.

These are not “minor” or “micro” issues, and our students know it. They are faced with a world beyond the university that is threatened ecologically, economically and culturally, and they are doing their best to prepare themselves for these challenges. They are studying physics and religion, design and economics, and sometimes they stand up and make themselves heard.  Sometimes they are filled with rage, sometimes with fear. They will make mistakes, but they don’t need columnists to tell them that the main problem isn’t Halloween. If only it were.


Basinger Interviewed in Ingrid Bergman Documentary

Jeanine Basinger

Jeanine Basinger

Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, appears in an interview about internationally renowned film actress Ingrid Bergman in the new documentary Ingrid Bergman—In Her Own Words, directed by Stig Bjorkman, which recounts the life of the cinema luminary through the subject’s home movies, photographs, diary entries and letters to family and friends.

The director had access to these materials from the Ingrid Bergman Collection at the Wesleyan Cinema Archives, making ample use of them in the film. The documentary also features interviews with Bergman’s daughter, actress and filmmaker Isabella Rossellini, as well as other relatives and actresses Liv Ullmann and Sigourney Weaver, who worked with Bergman.

In her New York Times review of the film, which recently opened theatrically in New York City, Manolha Dargis writes: “Bergman’s voluminous personal archives have been a valuable resource for assorted popular biographies and academic studies, enriching the historical record of her films, family and loves.”

Professor Basinger comments: “We are all very proud of this documentary that is showing both in theaters and on television. We’re very excited to see the Wesleyan campus and the cinema archives building suddenly appear on screen. I enjoyed doing the interview because Isabella Rossellini was there with me and because the film crew was so totally committed to making an accurate documentary on Bergman’s life.”

An interview with the director, which mentions the Ingrid Bergman Archives is in this article.


Composer Matthusen’s U.S. Premiere Performed Nov. 21 at Crowell

Paula Matthusen, assistant professor of music, delivered a speech titled “Sounds in Remembered Spaces.”

Paula Matthusen in Memorial Chapel.

(By Fred Wills ’19)

A composition by Assistant Professor of Music Paula Matthusen will debut in the U.S. on Nov. 21.

Her work, “on the attraction for felicitous amplitude,” will be performed by the string quartet, Brooklyn Rider, in Crowell Concert Hall. Join Matthusen for a pre-concert talk at starting at 7:15 p.m. In addition, on Dec. 3, violinist Todd Reynolds will perform a composition written by Matthusen at CFA Hall.

Matthusen returns to Wesleyan this fall after being named a 2014-2015 Rome Prize recipient. Through a fellowship awarded by The American Academy in Rome, she received the opportunity to expand upon her own professional and artistic pursuits.

An acclaimed composer who writes both electro-acoustic and acoustic music and realizes sound installations, Matthusen had the pleasure of composing for a variety of different ensembles, choreographers, music festivals, and theater companies around the world including Dither Electric Guitar Quartet, Mantra Percussion, the Estonian National Ballet, the Tanglewood Festival, the MusicNOW Series of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Ecstatic Music Festival, Other Minds, and the Aspen Music Festival to name a few—and now adds another to her ever growing list.

Matthusen’s awards include honors from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Fulbright Grant, two ASCAP Awards, the Elliott Carter Rome Prize and many others. She also has held residencies at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, STEIM, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts.

Matesan Writes About Strategic Response to ISIS Attacks on Paris

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

In an op-ed written for Inside Sources (and appearing in Las Vegas Sun and other newspapers), Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan questions whether the swift French military response to the recent ISIS attacks on Paris will be effective in preventing future attacks and improving security for civilians.

Matesan, who studies contentious politics and political violence in the Middle East, considers different opinions on ISIS’s strategic logic and what each would mean for the repercussions of a military response. She concludes that the most likely logic is one of provocation.

She writes:

[Provocation] is a strategy beloved by al-Qaida and many other extremist groups, who count on the emotional response of their opponents, and who know that the use of indiscriminate violence against them will turn them into martyrs and heroes, boosting their ranks and recruitment potential. And if this is the case, then the escalation in military strikes, the resurgent sectarian rhetoric and the bubbling xenophobia in the West in response to the attacks is precisely what ISIS was counting on, and hoping for.

That is not to say that the military strikes might not be effective in destroying the military capabilities or even much of the leadership of the Islamic State. The fact that the group has a very clear geographic concentration in Syria makes this quite possible. But would such a destruction of capabilities count as “success”?

Over the last decade the United States has recognized that destroying the military capabilities of a group does not equate to winning “the war on terror,” it does not necessarily undermine the sources of violent extremism, and it does not always make civilians at home or abroad any safer. Furthermore, if we’ve learned anything over the last decade of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, it’s that clandestine organizations learn and adapt, quite often much faster than military organizations and state governments.

Matesan writes that it’s critical to recognize that much of ISIS’s recruiting has been fueled by a refrain of social justice and opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

We would be remiss if we condemn the violence perpetrated by ISIS and remain silent about the unthinkable violence that Assad has inflicted on his country’s population over the past five years. Improving domestic security can work, but it can also become counterproductive if it results in profiling, and if it doesn’t prioritize human security.

Unlike what some governors in the United States might have us believe, showing hospitality toward Syrian refugees might in some ways be the best way to undermine radical groups, and to show that the United States is indeed committed to social justice and to the protection of human life.

This is particularly important because there is growing evidence that individuals who engage in terrorist groups can and do renounce violence and leave the organization if they become disillusioned with the group and with the cause. This is an incredibly important silver lining and opportunity that liberal democracies should be able to take advantage of, and which might hold more promise than a solely military approach, which we have seen fail time and again.

A student group also invited Matesan to discuss the recent attacks on Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and the Sinai and alternative policy responses at 4 p.m. Nov. 23 in PAC 002.

Jenkins Celebrates Indonesia’s Cultural, Linguistic Diversity in International Simulcast

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, will participate in an international simulcast on Nov. 27 to celebrate Balinese language and Indonesia’s cultural and linguistic diversity.

The simulcast will take place at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington where Jenkins will be helping to celebrate Saraswati Day by reading from his new book, Saraswati in Bali. Saraswati Day is the Balinese day set aside for honoring wisdom, knowledge and culture.

The celebration will be streamed simultaneously to Indonesian diplomatic missions in New York, Tokyo, Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Australia.

The program also will include live simulcasts of a reading of a Balinese poem; greetings from Indonesian Ambassadors to the participating countries; introductory remarks from Professor Gabriela Perez Baez, director of Recovering Voices, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; a presentation of new books in Balinese; and dance, music and singing performances.

Support Wesleyan Students on Giving Tuesday


On Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, the Wesleyan community will join together to support Wesleyan students. This will be Wesleyan’s third year participating in the global giving campaign, which encourages people to give back by supporting their favorite causes during the holiday season.

Last year Wesleyan doubled its initial goal of 1,000 donors, with more than 2,000 members of the Wesleyan community giving a total of more than $500,000 in support of students at Wesleyan. This year, Wesleyan’s goal is 3,000 gifts between Nov. 20 and the end of the day on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1.

“The Wesleyan community is known for its generosity in supporting students,” said Chuck Fedolfi, Wesleyan’s director of annual giving. “If we all join together, I have no doubt we’ll exceed our goal this year.”

Give Now to support Wesleyan students.