Wesleyan’s spring semester resumed March 23. Temperatures plummeted below 32 degrees, and the campus was lightly layered in snow. (Photos by Olivia Drake)
by Olivia Drake •
As recipients of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, two Wesleyan seniors will explore their academic aspirations internationally through a yearlong personal project.
Inayah Bashir ’20 and Luka Lezhanskyy ’20 are among 47 Watson Fellows selected from 153 finalists. This year’s class comes from 20 states and eight countries, and exhibits a broad range of academic specialties, socio-economic backgrounds, and project diversity.
Bashir, a College of Social Studies major with a Writing Certificate, plans to explore the histories, stories, and teachings of African spirituality through her project titled “African Spirituality: Obscured Foundations of the Diaspora.”
“In a world dominated by Abrahamic religions, African spirituality has been stigmatized by tropes of demonic practice, witchcraft, and black magic. Yet African spirituality has always served as a form of healing, protection, and resistance across the African diaspora,” Bashir explained in her project proposal. “Ultimately, I hope to understand the spiritualities that served as the foundation of my ancestors’ cultures and traditions.”
Bashir hopes to travel to South Africa, Ghana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago; however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, travel may be restricted.
Lezhanskyy, an English major, hopes to spend his Watson year studying how NGOs and communities combat child trafficking in hot spots around the world through his project “The Global Campaign Against Child Trafficking.”
“An estimated 5.5 million children are trafficked worldwide. I will collaborate with NGOs engaged in anti-trafficking work in nations with a high prevalence of child trafficking,” Lezhanskyy explained in his project proposal. “In so doing I hope to understand the causes of this pernicious business, and the solutions devised to counter it.”
Lezhanskyy had planned to travel to Nepal, Romania, Senegal, and Brazil for his study, but also due to the coronavirus pandemic his travel may be restricted.
Through one-of-a-kind programs and over 100 global partnerships, the Watson Fellowship provides students with personal, professional, and cultural opportunities that expand their vision, test and develop their potential, and build their confidence and perspective to be more humane and effective leaders on a global scale.
Watson Fellows are selected from 40 private colleges and university partners across the United States. They receive $36,000 for 12 months of travel and college loan assistance as needed. Afterwards, they’ll join a community of peers who provide a lifetime of support and inspiration. Nearly 3,000 Watson Fellows have been named since the inaugural class in 1969.
Watson Fellows have gone on to become leaders in their fields, including CEOs of major corporations, college presidents, Emmy, Grammy and Oscar Award winners, Pulitzer Prize awardees, artists, diplomats, doctors, entrepreneurs, faculty, journalists, lawyers, politicians, researchers, and inspiring influencers around the world.
In 1961, the Watson Foundation was created as a charitable trust in the name of Thomas J. Watson Sr., best known for building IBM.
by Olivia Drake •
The Wesleyan Resource Center is collecting food and other items to support low-income and food-insecure students who continue to reside on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The center will be open seven days a week. Items can be dropped off or picked up between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Suggested donations include:
- Pasta kits (microwaveable mac and cheese, rice meals, ramen, etc.)
- Canned food with pull tabs (vegetables, beans, pasta, etc.)
- Food in sealed individual serving cups (applesauce, vegetables, fruits)
- Toiletries (shampoo, body wash, soap, mouthwash, tissues)
- Cleaning supplies (disinfecting products, paper towels, dish soap, sponges)
- Candy, chips, snacks
- Kitchenware (pots and pans, cookware, cooking utensils, cups)
For those who would like to donate and are sheltering in place or residing off campus, products can be purchased online and delivered to the Resource Center at 167 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.
For more information, contact Demetrius Colvin, director of the Resource Center.
by Editorial Staff •
Wesleyan’s winter athletic teams put a total of 80 student-athletes on the 2019–20 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Winter All-Academic Team, while eight earned a spot on the 2019–20 NESCAC All-Sportsmanship Team.
In order to earn a spot on the All-Academic Team, a student-athlete must have reached sophomore academic standing and be a varsity letter winner with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.50 or equivalent on a 4.0 scale. Transfer students are eligible as long as they have completed at least one year of study at the institution.
Wesleyan ranked seventh out of 11 schools with its 80 honorees.
by Olivia Drake •
Sixteen earth and environmental science majors from the Class of 2020 recently conducted field research in Hawaii as part of their Senior Field Research course.
The class, E&ES 498, is taught by Tim Ku, chair and associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences. The course is open to students who completed E&ES 497: Senior Seminar, and focuses on improving scientific research skills.
Past classes have conducted research in Death Valley, Calif., the main island of Puerto Rico, the Connecticut River Valley, and the Big Island of Hawaii. The field research took place on the Big Island of Hawaii on Jan. 5-12 and the course concluded with student group presentations on March 3 and 5 and written reports.
The trip was funded by the Lawrence H. Davis ’76 Fund.
The students and their project titles are below:
by Olivia Drake •
Beginning May 4, 2020, Roger Mathew Grant will succeed Nicole Stanton as Dean of the Arts and Humanities division, and beginning July 1, 2020, Janice Naegele will succeed Joe Knee as Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division.
The announcement was made by Rob Rosenthal, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
Roger Mathew Grant, associate professor of music, received his undergraduate degree from Ithaca College and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. In his recent book, Peculiar Attunements: How Affect Theory Turned Musical (Fordham University Press, 2020), he considers contemporary affect theory in relation to European music theory of the 18th century. He is also the author of Beating Time & Measuring Music in the Early Modern Era (Oxford University Press, 2014), which combines music theory, music analysis, and philosophy to trace the history of meter from the 16th century to the 19th century, and for which he received the Emerging Scholar Award from the Society for Music Theory.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology and co-coordinator of education studies, studies learning and conceptual development in children. In this Q&A, we asked her for advice for families on transitioning children to distance learning during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Q: How should parents talk to kids about what’s happening in the world and why their daily lives look so different?
A: Full disclosure: I am not a clinician. However, as a parent and a research psychologist, I think it’s important for parents to validate their children’s emotions rather than dismissing them or telling them they are being silly. It’s also important that we’re not running around in a state of panic, as this can be too unsettling for kids. Children feel our stress and they need real social connection, so some time should be made for sitting together, talking, and reading books, when parents put their phones away, too. NPR’s Life Kit has good advice on talking to kids about scary current events.
No matter what else is happening, young children need human connection—board games, talking, working together on a project, cooking, anything together, the more child-led the better. Here’s a good commonsense report on the topic.
Q: What is your advice for parents on helping kids transition to distance learning?
A: Try to set up a gentle routine that involves getting up, getting dressed, chores, exercise, creativity, academics, regular meals, and sleep. By age 5 or 6, children can be a part of the conversation to create this schedule.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Richard Grossman, professor and chair of economics, is an expert in economic history as well as current policy issues in macroeconomics, banking, and finance. In this Q&A, we asked him about the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and how the government is responding in efforts to mitigate the damage.
Q: We’ve all seen the headlines about a coronavirus-induced recession. What is the current state of the economy, and what do you predict we’ll see over the coming months?
A: Prior to the virus outbreak, the American economy was doing well by conventional standards. The unemployment rate was 3.5% in March, down from a peak of 10% around a decade ago. According to the government’s most recent estimate (released on Feb. 27), real gross domestic product grew by 2.3% in 2019. Not stellar, but high relative to other developed economies. It is going to get substantially worse quite soon.
by Christian Camerota •
The central consideration for Wesleyan’s faculty and administration during the transition to a distance-learning model as a result of the threat of COVID-19 has been how best to support students (particularly those who are high-need or have extenuating personal circumstances) and ensure the continuity of their Wesleyan experience.
“We say we’re a caring community,” President Michael Roth ’78 noted in an all-staff call on Tuesday, March 17. “Now is the time to prove that. We are practiced at pulling together, usually on joyous occasions. But right now, we have to prioritize flexibility for our students, faculty, and staff so that they stay as healthy as possible…and I’m very grateful to them for figuring out how to retool classes and deliver a rewarding Wesleyan experience remotely.”
The hallmark of a Wesleyan education has long been the rich personal interactions between faculty and students. Recreating that in the online space has posed an interesting challenge for faculty, but it has come as no surprise to Rob Rosenthal, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, to see them rise to it.
“It’s so impressive the way faculty have just jumped into this,” Rosenthal said. “Together, we are figuring out ways to deliver a Wesleyan education that we had never envisioned three weeks ago. It’s inspiring to me.”
by Lauren Rubenstein •
William Johnston, the John E. Andrus Professor of History, is a historian who studies disease and medicine, with expertise in epidemics of infectious diseases. In this Q&A, Johnston discusses the novel coronavirus outbreak and what can be learned from the past.
Q: How and when did you start studying the history of disease and medicine?
A: About 30 years ago, I wrote my dissertation on the subject, which became my first book, The Modern Epidemic: A History of Tuberculosis in Japan. Around that time, people were starting to consider epidemics of infectious diseases a thing of the past that were no longer of concern to us, but then HIV took off. I’ve continued to study and teach on the history of disease and pandemics ever since.
Q: Please tell us about the course you teach.
A: It’s called Critical Approaches to the History of Disease and Epidemics. Ironically, almost every year I’ve taught it, the world has seen another major epidemic. I’m offering it again this semester, and our first day of class was January 23, just as the novel coronavirus was emerging as a serious threat in China. Seeing that this was coming down the pike, I adjusted the direction of the course to incorporate a combination of historical readings and articles from contemporary medical journals. For example, I gave students one reading on the plague and how it went pandemic in the Middle Ages—what it took for that to happen.
by Olivia Drake •
If a spacecraft were to quickly travel outside the solar system—potentially en route to a nearby exoplanetary system—it would need to pass through an atmosphere unfamiliar to scientists on Earth.
As a recipient of a $415,000 grant from NASA, Seth Redfield, chair and associate professor of astronomy, hopes to learn more about the mysterious makeup of this “outer space.”
“There are several very early designs for an interstellar probe, but first, we need to understand the properties of the space in between the stars if you are traveling through it, especially at high speed,” Redfield said. “Given the vastness of space, even in our nearest cosmic neighborhood of the closest stars, very high speeds are needed. The designs for an interstellar probe involve speeds that range from 11,000 miles per hour to 6 million miles per hour! These require the biggest rockets that NASA has ever built and new propulsion ideas that are still in very early design phases.”
Wesleyan in the News
Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language Ashraf Rushdy is interviewed on the topic of legislation that would make lynching a federal crime. In the interview he called lynching “the original hate crime.” “Lynching is a blot on the history of America,” he said. “But it’s never too late to do the right thing.”
2. The New York Times: “Starbucks Baristas Accuse Service Company of Abuse and Pay Gaps”
Associate Professor of Sociology Jonathan Cutler is interviewed about transgender issues in labor organizations as immigrant, transgender, and black baristas face discrimination at airport Starbucks. “Organized labor often lives or dies by its ability to tap into broader social movements,” he said. “In this case, you’re seeing the most public effort to organize around transgender issues.”