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Wesleyan Students Help Area Kids get a Kickstart on Kindergarten

Amy Breitfeller ’19 interacts with Mohammed, 2 1/2, and his sister, Dania, 1 1/2, during a playgroup July 31 at Russell Library. Breitfeller was using a sand mixture to help children improve their sensory and physical development.

This summer, three Wesleyan students are helping local children prepare for a successful transition into kindergarten.

Through the five-week Kindergarten Kickstart program, Cara Bendich ’19, Amy Breitfeller ’19, and Emma Distler ’19 are working with area youth at four locations to improve their school readiness skills through the research-based, high-impact, low-cost innovative and nurturing preschool program. Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman and three of her students first launched Kindergarten Kickstart in summer 2012.

For the summer 2018 session, students are hosting the Kickstart program at Middletown’s Bright and Early Children’s Learning Center, Town and Country Early Learning Center, and the Middlesex YMCA preschool. On Tuesdays, the students hold an additional playgroup at Russell Library for anyone in the community.

“Today we’re playing with moonsand, which is a mixture of flour, glitter, and baby oil,” Breitfeller said during a July 31 gathering at the library. “The children can feel and play with the sand, which promotes physical development and also aids in social skills with other children.”

Through a partnership between University-based research labs, Middletown Public Schools, and local community organizations, Kindergarten Kickstart aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap. The majority of the preschoolers will attend kindergarten this fall at Bielefield School, Farm Hill School, and Macdonough School in Middletown.

Mentor a New Student through the Connections Mentoring Program

Wesleyan faculty and staff volunteers are needed for the 2018–2019 Connections Mentoring Program.

This is an informal program that connects first-year students (Class of 2022) with Wesleyan staff and faculty to form casual networks of support. Although most mentors meet infrequently with their student mentees throughout the year, some mentoring pairs establish friendships and meet more frequently over coffee or lunch. Many mentors and students have characterized their experiences with the program as fun and inspirational.

In addition, anyone interested in mentoring students who are the first in their families to attend college can indicate that preference on the registration form. Thirty-five first-generation students have been selected for the First-Things-First Pre-Orientation Program and 35 potential mentors are needed who can commit to participating in a luncheon from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. on Aug. 28.

“After the start of classes, there will be many other students, who may or may not be first-generation college, who will request mentors for their first year,” said Renée Johnson Thornton, dean for the Class of 2022. “We will need a lot of mentors, so I look forward to hearing from you.”

If you would like to participate in the 2018–2019 Connections Mentoring Program, register by Friday, Aug. 16.

Ask Questions, Attend Workshops at ITS Expo, Sept. 21

On Sept. 21, Information Technology Services will present the 2018 ITS Expo outside Exley Science Center from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The event is open to all faculty, staff, and students.

Staff from ITS, the Fries Center for Global Studies, Olin and Science Library, Center for Pedagogical innovation, and the Center for Faculty Development will be leading workshops and poster presentations, as well as answering questions about the services that they offer.

“Want to learn something new about integrating media into your work? Attend a workshop covering a variety of topics? Do you have a quick question about media or technology? Come ask your question or make an appointment with our team to support your scholarship, service, or professional development,” said Bonnie Solivan, academic technologist for ITS. “Pick up some quick pointers, learn about student opportunities and enter a raffle. We look forward to seeing you there.”

Employees on the Move

The Office of Human Resources announces the following hires, transitions, and departures for May through July 2018:

HIRES

Nicole Potestivo, administrative assistant in Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies, on May 7
Lucas Fernandez, postdoctoral research associate in physics, on May 22
Alex Kavvos, postdoctoral research associate in mathematics, on May 29
Miya Tokumitsu, curator at Davison Art Center, on June 14
Lilibeth Soto, public safety dispatcher, on June 18
Edward Morehouse, postdoctoral research associate in mathematics, on July 1
Zeyad Abdulkareem, desktop support specialist in ITS User Services, on July 2
Andrew White, Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian, on July 2
Andrea Giuntoli, postdoctoral research associate in physics, on July 16
Fiona Coffey, associate director for programming and performing arts in Center for the Arts, on July 16
Jenna Waters, administrative assistant in physical education, on July 17
Janet Ortiz, assistant dean of admission, on July 23
Jane Ngoc Tran, assistant dean of admission, on July 23
Aidan Winn, assistant dean of admission, on July 23
Robyn Ewig, assistant director of financial aid, on July 23
Isabel Bartholomew, Center for Prison Education Fellow in the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, on July 23
Stephanie Lewis, area coordinator in Office of Residential Life, on July 30
Sarah Pietryka, assistant director of financial aid, on July 30
Monique Reichenstein, investment analyst in the Investments Office, on July 30
Matt Glasz, director for annual giving in University Relations, on August 1
Emily Voss, outreach and academic engagement librarian, on August 1

TRANSITIONS
Kindra Graham, public safety supervisor, on May 7
Jennifer Duncan, senior assistant director of financial aid/student employment coordinator in Office of Financial Aid, on July 1
Karri Van Blarcom, senior associate registrar, on July 1
Andrew Tanaka, senior vice president and chief administrative officer and treasurer, on July 1
Kristin McQueeney, administrative assistant in the Center for Pedagogical Innovations, on July 9
Scott Bushey, athletic operations and fitness coordinator, on August 1

DEPARTURES
Sami Aziz, University Muslim chaplain
Sarah Anne Benson, director of research and prospect management in University Relations
Steven Bertolino, academic technologist in ITS
Paula Blue, instructional technologist in ITS
Lauren Borghard, associate director of annual giving in University Relations
Kathleen Cataldi, access services coordinator in Olin Library
Wesley Close, assistant dean of admission
Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion
Kevin Flaherty, research associate in astronomy
Jacquelyn Fought, department assistant in the Gordon Career Center
Patrick Graham, public safety patrol person
Sandra Guze, education and program coordinator at Green Street Teaching and Learning Center
William Holder, director of University Communications
Leith Johnson, University archivist
Jim Kamm, desktop support specialist in ITS
Sona Kumar, research coordinator in psychology
Sara MacSorley, director of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center and Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science
Jill Moraski, assistant dean of admission
Krystal-Gayle O’Neill, area coordinator in Office of Residential Life
Nathan Peters, vice president for finance and administration
Brendan Plake, desktop support specialist in ITS
Maritza Quinones, after school supervisor at Green Street Teaching and Learning Center
Edgardo Quinones, technical and maintenance coordinator at Green Street Teaching and Learning Center
Kate Smith, associate director of fellowships, internships, and exchanges
Luigi Solla, associate dean of admission
Erin Strauts, associate director of institutional research
Sitar Terrass-Shah, Center for Prison Education Fellow

Staff Spotlight: Andrew White Takes on Library’s Top Job

Andrew White, pictured here in the Olin Library stacks, became Wesleyan’s new Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian on July 2. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

(By Christine Foster)

Imagine being chosen to oversee a vast treasure trove, including more than a million items ranging from art and music to government documents and—oh, yes, books. Such is the job set before Andrew White, who was chosen in April to be the University’s newest Caleb T. Winchester Librarian.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen wrote in a campus-wide email announcing White’s appointment that the search committee was drawn to his experience working collaboratively with different groups of people. The previous librarian, Dan Cherubin, died suddenly last September, after having made an outsized impact in just a year in the post.

White is being asked to be the cheerleader in chief for the library, but also to mind the budget, to consider how best to use the physical spaces, and to invite different constituencies in to effectively access the rich resources Wesleyan has amassed over the years. White took some time from his busy first few weeks to share his history and vision in a Q&A for the Connection.

Q: What attracted you to Wesleyan’s libraries? What makes us special?

A: Wesleyan is an amazing place and I immediately felt at home when I stepped onto campus and into Olin Library. Wesleyan is a significant name in American higher education and that significance is reflected in both the scope and breadth of the collections, not only in the libraries, but across campus. We are one of the largest libraries among national liberal arts colleges and I could not pass up the opportunity to help make our resources more visible and relevant.

Faculty Spotlight: Erika Franklin Fowler Uses Facebook Data to Analyze Role of Social Media in Elections

Erika Franklin Fowler is examining different sponsors of political advertising and the messaging strategy and targeting differences between Facebook and television. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this Q&A, we speak to Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government. Fowler is an expert in political communication, particularly local media and campaign advertising.

Q: With the midterm elections around the corner, what’s caught your interest this election cycle?

A: The Trump era has brought many challenges for political communication broadly and journalism specifically to the forefront of public attention, so there are too many things to discuss, but I’ll mention two in particular. First, the politicization of news media is problematic as it erodes common understanding among the public, which makes for very interesting conversations in my Media and Politics class, but is certainly concerning for democracy. Second, with respect to elections, I am very interested to see the strategic choices of how campaigns communicate on the big policy developments in health care and tax reform in particular.

Q: You were recently invited to serve on an independent research commission, Social Science One, which will use Facebook data to analyze the role of social media in elections and democracy. Why is this a unique opportunity?

A: Unlike the comprehensive data we have for television, data on Facebook advertising has not been previously available to outside researchers. Social Science One sets up a new model for industry partnership with academics to increase responsible data access and foster research on some of the most pressing questions regarding the effect of social media on democracy and elections.

3rd Annual Scientific Imaging Contest Winners Announced

A magnified image of a fruit fly’s eye took first place in the third annual Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest in August.

The Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest recognizes student-submitted images—from experiments or simulations done with a Wesleyan faculty member—that are scientifically intriguing, as well as aesthetically pleasing. This year, 21 images were submitted from eight departments.

The entries were judged based on the quality of the image and the explanation of the underlying science. The judges, a panel of four faculty members, were Brian Northrop, associate professor of chemistry; Ann Burke, professor of biology; Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy; and Renee Sher, assistant professor of physics.

The first-place winner received a $200 prize, the second-place winner received $100, and the two third-place winners received $50 each. Prizes were funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

The winning images are shown below, along with scientific descriptions written by the students.

Emily McGhie ’20 took first prize with an image that depicts a mispatterning phenotype in the Drosophila (fruit fly) pupal eye at 40 hours after pupariation. “Such a phenotype was produced in the eye tissue by utilizing an RNA interference transgene to reduce the expression of hth—a gene that encodes the transcription factor Homothorax. Interommatidial pigment cells are shown in yellow and purple, and primary cells are shown in green and blue. In one image, incorrectly patterned cells are compared to correctly patterned cells: the mispatterned cells are highlighted in yellow and green, while correctly patterned cells are highlighted in purple and blue,” she said.

Wesleyan’s Inaugural Ombuds Celebrates Her First Year

Israela Adah Brill-Cass

A trained mediator, communications studies professor, licensed lawyer, and workshop leader, Israela Adah Brill-Cass has more than 20 years of experience with negotiation and conflict resolution.

Right on the edge of campus, tucked away via a nondescript parking lot side entrance in the basement of Russell House, you’ll find the on-campus home of Israela Adah Brill-Cass, Wesleyan’s first ombudsperson.

Walking through the unmarked screen door can feel a bit unnerving, like trespassing unannounced or entering through a secret back entrance, but Brill-Cass soon welcomes you into the comfort of her office. It’s a small and simply decorated space with bright textile prints on the wall and soft music offsetting the quiet that comes with being the only inhabitant on the entire floor.

The remote location and private access are by design, to help ensure the promise of confidentiality that is a crucial component of Brill-Cass’s work. “Visitors” as Brill-Cass calls those who come to see her, schedule appointments ahead of time through her website (www.fixerrr.com) and are staggered so that there is less chance of others seeing who stops by.

As Wesleyan’s inaugural ombuds, Brill-Cass serves as an objective, independent resource for faculty and staff, providing a safe space where individuals can talk through any workplace issues they may be experiencing without automatically triggering an investigation or required next steps.

“It’s like triage. I’m the first step where people can say, ‘Am I really perceiving it this way? Or is this something I might be feeling because ____?’” Brill-Cass explains. “I talk to them about their options. ‘If you want to address it directly, here’s how you can proceed from here. If you don’t want to address it directly, here are ways that you can manage the issue.’ People can then use the information to decide whether or not they want to take the next step. It’s completely voluntary.”

Employees Mingle at 4th Annual Ice Cream Social

On June 8, the Office of Human Resources hosted the fourth annual Faculty and Staff Ice Cream Social. Attendees were treated to ice cream sundaes, soft pretzels, popcorn, and refreshments.

Activities included a tie-dye station, lawn games, board games, volleyball, and dancing.

Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Walking Paths Help Employees Avoid Sedentary Lifestyles at Work

A new Wesleyan University Fitness Trails map shows where employees can walk in a 1-, 3- or 5-mile loop.

A new Wesleyan University Fitness Trails map shows where employees can walk in a 1-, 3- or 5-mile loop.

(By Alessio Gallarotti ’15)

This summer, the Sustainability Office, in conjunction with Human Resources, is encouraging Wesleyan employees to get out and walk.

In 2016, with the approval of President Roth and his cabinet, as well as with strong grassroots support, the Sustainability Office began implementation of a five-year sustainability action plan (SAP), which included approximately 160 initiatives to promote holistic sustainability on campus. The term “sustainability,” while typically used to refer to topics like recycling, resource efficiency, and emissions, is a much broader concept, including social and economic components. Promoting walking promotes well-being and appreciation for place, both of which have the potential to increase holistic sustainability.

One of the many initiative objectives of the Sustainability Action Plan is to promote exercise and outdoor access, which the Sustainability Office hopes will increase the use of walking paths around campus and physical fitness.

Helping to promote this more active lifestyle is a newly launched Wesleyan University Fitness Trails map showing 1-, 3-, and 5-mile walking loops beginning at Wyllys Avenue near Usdan and Boger Hall. In addition, individuals looking for alternate options can follow the cross-country teams’ courses published on the University Athletics website.

Getting employees exercising regularly is an important part of promoting social sustainability at the University. By providing routes to follow, it makes it easier for people to be active, drive less, exercise more, and connect with the world around them.

“It is a cultural change. Many employees live somewhere else and don’t really know Middletown very well, especially on foot,” says Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst. “They drive to work, park their car, walk to their office, work all day, walk back to their car, and drive home. Getting out of the office for walking meetings and lunchtime strolls has the potential to make the workday more pleasurable and promote health.”

Along with the new walking map, the Sustainability Office will work with Human Resources to develop more communication and tools to help people become more sustainable in their personal lives and get in touch with their natural surroundings.

5 Employees Honored with Cardinal Achievement Awards

The following employees received Cardinal Achievement Awards during the past few months for demonstrating extraordinary initiative in performing a specific task associated with their work at Wesleyan University. This special honor comes with a $250 award and reflects the university’s gratitude for their extra efforts.

The awardees include:

Benjamin Michael, WESU general manager, WESU Radio

Geralyn Russo, administrative assistant IV, University Relations

Kathleen Logsdon, library assistant V/binding supervisor, Olin Library

Kate Lynch, assistant director, the Wesleyan Fund, University Relations

Miroslaw Koziol, senior electronics technician, Scientific Support Services

View all Cardinal Achievement Award winners here.

Physical Plant Begins Tackling 120 Maintenance, Renovation Projects on Campus

On July 9, crews installed new 8-foot-wide asphalt sidewalks on College Row.

On May 29, Wesleyan’s Physical Plant–Facilities personnel began their 2019 fiscal year major maintenance and capital projects. The University is investing in projects at 120 locations on campus, which are described in this interactive map.

“Each year the work is prioritized, then scheduled to minimize the impact on the academic calendar,” said Joyce Topshe, associate vice president for facilities. “Consequently, much of the work is done during the summer. Projects include modernizing our infrastructure, energy conservation, structural repairs, replacing roofs and windows, and renovating dozens of buildings.”

Projects this summer include:

  • Demolition and renovation of the second-floor bathroom at 146 Cross Street.
  • Replace flooring, acoustic ceilings, and lighting in basement corridor at 200 Church Street.
  • Install new flooring in 44 rooms in Foss Hill Unit 8.
  • Laminate existing walls with gypsum wallboard, install new flooring, and paint the fourth floor of Judd Hall.
  • Replace floors in clinical exam rooms in the Davison Health Center.
  • Begin window restoration and interior perimeter window finishes at Olin Library.
  • Replace both passenger elevator controls and interior finishes in Exley Science Center.
  • Replace roof on Butterfield A.