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Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. The Hill: “Analysis: 2020 Digital Spending Vastly Outpaces TV Ads”

The Hill reports on a new analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project, which finds that 2020 presidential hopefuls have spent nearly six times more money on Facebook and Google advertising than on TV ads. President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee lead the way in digital advertising, having spent nearly $16 million so far. All told, Facebook and Google have raked in over $60 million on online ads this cycle to date. “At this stage in the campaign, candidate spending is driven by supporter list-building and investing heavily to secure enough donors to qualify for the Democratic debates,” explained Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

2. Religion News Service: “Sixty Years Later, Only Frank Lloyd Wright Synagogue Continues as ‘Work of Art'”

Joe Siry, Kenan Professor of the Humanities and professor of art history, speaks about Beth Sholom Synagogue, the only synagogue designed by the distinguished architect Frank Lloyd Wright, on the 60th anniversary of its opening. Siry is an expert on Wright’s work, and the author of Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture (The University of Chicago Press, 2011). Read an interview with Siry about the book.

3. KERA “Think”: “Do Colleges Really Need Safe Spaces?”

President Michael Roth joins host Kris Boyd for a wide-ranging conversation in connection with his book Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. They discuss Roth’s ideas of how to balance students’ needs to feel safe and included on college campuses while keeping them open to exploring new ideas, as well as common misunderstandings about the concept of “safe spaces,” and the effects of the backlash against political correctness. Roth also recently spoke about his book on Tablet Magazine’s “Unorthodox” podcast. (Roth comes in around 49 minutes).

4. WTIC “Todd Feinberg”: “Richard Grossman”

Richard Grossman, professor and chair of economics, is interviewed about what’s going on with the US economy, why he’s not too worried about prolonged low interest rates, concerns over a recession, and what can be done to fix income inequality.

5. Exhale Lifestyle: “Award-Winning Boston Filmmaker Sparks Conversations About Change”

This profile describes how Tracy Heather Strain, professor of the practice in film studies and co-director of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, became a filmmaker specifically because she wanted to make a film about her longtime idol, Lorraine Hansberry. Like Hansberry, the author of the monumental play A Raisin in the Sun, about black families living under racial segregation in Chicago, Strain is “concerned with contemporary society’s obvious injustices.” Strain earned a Peabody Award for her 2017 documentary about Hansberry, Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.

Alumni in the News

1. Chicago Sun-Times: “The Music of Alsarah & The Nubatones Transcends Borders, Cultures”

Mary Houlihan profiles Sarah Elgadi ’04, noting, “From a young age, Alsarah, who fronts the Brooklyn group Alsarah & the Nubatones, found refuge in music.” Elgadi was 12 when her family arrived in United States. “Now, years later, the 37-year-old singer, songwriter, bandleader and ethnomusicologist (she has a degree from Wesleyan University) has forged a career with ties to her background, bringing a fresh sound to world music.”

2. Eureka Alert: ”Study: Adults’ Actions, Successes, Failures, and Words Affect Young Children’s Persistence”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science reports on the study led by Julia A. Leonard ’11, MindCore postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, who observes: “Our work shows that young children pay attention to the successes and failures of the adults around them and, reasonably, don’t persist long at tasks that adults themselves fail to achieve.”

3. Boston.gov: “Dr. Taylor Cain [’11] Appointed to Lead Boston’s Housing Innovation Lab”

In the release announcing her appointment, Cain said: “As the new director, I cannot wait to grow the threads of this work. I am looking forward to partnering with the many communities that care deeply about housing in Boston and exploring projects that grapple with the connections between housing, transportation, employment, and other important dimensions of urban life.”

4. NPR.org: “How UAW’s Strike Against GM May Affect Ford and Fiat-Chrysler”

In this interview with New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse ’73, P’08, author of Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present and Future of American Labor, NPR host David Greene asks about the strike that the United Automobile Workers union launched earlier this month in more than 30 factories after failing to reach a deal with GM.

5. Core77: ”frog’s Francois Nguyen [’94] is Actively Helping Shape What the Future Looks Like

Writer Alexandra Alexa notes in this interview—which is part of a series on the presenters in this year’s Core77 Conference, exploring the future of the design industry—that Nguyen was one of the lead designers of the original “Beats Studio” headphones by Dr. Dre. She writes: “Even when he’s not working, Francois Nguyen never really stops envisioning what the world might look like. More than a decade into his industrial design career, Nguyen knows a thing or two about staying resilient and nimble as the discipline changes.”

6. International Examiner: “‘Carrie Yamaoka [’79]: recto/verso’ is Not So Much About What You See as How it Happens

Susan Kunimatsu writes about the artist’s retrospective, currently at University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery through Nov. 3: “Yamaoka is fascinated with transformations, like the moment when exposed photo paper hits the developing chemical and an image starts to appear. Many of her artworks are about capturing that moment.”

Blaine ’92 Brings One-Woman Show and Brain Surgery/Art Tour to Campus

On Sept. 25, Jennifer Blaine ’92 performed The Vicissitudes of Travel in Usdan 108.

Hosted by the neuroscience and pre-med students of the MINDS Foundation and the Basal Gang, The Vicissitudes bridges the gap between medical science, mental health, and performance art.

In the solo show performed by Blaine and co-written with Karen Getz, Blaine’s portrayals of each member of a family comes to life against the sparse set that invites the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps. Terrified by the idea of losing her brother, “Sister” goes on a journey through her brother’s brain surgery that blends visual art, memory, and tangled neurons in an attempt to connect with “Brother” before it’s too late.

During the post-performance discussion, Blaine and the students in the audience delved into the healing journey, the creative process, and the role of art in medicine.

“Every time I perform The Vicissitudes I am amazed at what it evokes for people. People enjoy a character, find themselves laughing one moment and the next are moved by a poignant revelation,” Blaine said. “As the creator and performer it’s both terrifying and exhilarating to perform the piece for new audiences since even I don’t know what will happen. We begin the journey as strangers, but by the end of the piece we have such a deeply bonded experience that segues into meaningful dialogue and sharing that’s unique to each particular group.”

At the Wesleyan performance, Blaine was particularly struck by the insightful line of questioning and sharing.

“Students’ questions about the text unearthed things I had never even thought about,” Blaine said. “One of the missions of the performance is to connect the invisible community affected by brain issues and create a way that we can be present, listen to one another, and have more compassion. I believe we achieved that. I hope this performance can be the beginning of a dialogue with the Wesleyan community about these issues.”

The event was coordinated by Kush Patel ’20 of Wesleyan MINDS, graduate student Helen Karimi from The Basal Gang, and Meg Zocco, director of parent development.

After performing at Wesleyan, Blaine will bring The Vicissitudes to Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, where she will also hold workshops for medical students.

Photos of the performance are below. (Photos by Tom Dzimian)

Jennifer Blane

Buchanan ’92 and Gordon ’89 Talk Effective Philanthropy at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

On Sept. 24, Phil Buchanan '92 and Elysa Gordon '89 discussed Buchanan's new book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count at Wesleyan's RJ Julia Bookstore.

On Sept. 24, Elysa Gordon ’89, left, and Phil Buchanan ’92, right, discussed Buchanan’s new book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count, at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

Buchanan '92 is the president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), a leading provider of data on philanthropic effectiveness. He is a co-author of many CEP research reports, a columnist for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and a frequent blogger for the CEP Blog.

Buchanan ’92 is the president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), a leading provider of data on philanthropic effectiveness. He is a co-author of many CEP research reports, a columnist for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and a frequent blogger for the CEP Blog. In 2016, Buchanan was named the NonProfit Times‘s “influencer of the year.”

Bon Appétit Creates Meal Harvested from within 150-Miles of Campus

On Sept. 24, Wesleyan’s dining service Bon Appétit challenged itself by creating a meal using ingredients sourced within a 150-mile radius of campus.

The result was the 14th annual Eat Local Challenge.

This year’s menu included steamed lobster, mussels, corn, potatoes, haddock tacos with curtido slaw, clam fritters, wood-fired rotisserie chicken, smoked pork sandwiches, blueberry crisp, pork belly, turkey, cucumber and tomato salad, barbecue seitan, fresh greens, butternut squash stew, and fresh fruit.

Food was sourced from Horse Listener’s Orchard in Ashford, Conn.; Maine Sea Salt Company in Marshfield, Maine; Mi Terra Tortilla Company in Hadley, Mass.; Lakeside Farms in Hadley, Mass.; We Bake We Jam in Durham, Conn.; Baers Beans in South Hamilton, Mass.; Red’s Best from Boston; Dole and Bailey (fisheries) from Woburn, Mass.; Kenyon Grist Mill in Usquepaugh, R.I.; Szawlowski Farm in Hatfield, Mass.; Ekonk Hill Farm in Sterling, Conn.; Hops on the Hill in Glastonbury, Conn.; The Bridge in Middletown, Conn.; The Barn Next Door in Hadley, Mass; Lucki 7 Hog Farm in Rodman, N.Y.; Cato Corner Farm Colchester, Conn.; Ronnybrook Dairy Farm in Ancramdale, N.Y.; Lamothe’s Sugar House in Burlington, Conn.; Indoor Organic Farm in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and Avery’s Beverages in New Britain, Conn.

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

eat local challenge

eat local challenge

Wesleyan Community Participates in Global Climate Strikes (with Photo Gallery)

climate justice

Students participated in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20.

On Sept. 20, members of the Wesleyan community—including students, faculty, staff, and Middletown community leaders—joined millions of young people around the world by participating in the Global Climate Strike. Taking place in more than 150 countries, the Global Climate Strike (held Sept. 20-27) amplifies a chorus of concern about the catastrophic dangers of climate change.

The on-campus strike included speeches by students, faculty, and a community member, and concluded with a march around campus. Boldly displaying handcrafted signs, students paraded around campus chanting, “No coal, no oil, keep the carbon in the soil,” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, fossil fuels have got to go.”

The strike concluded with a march around campus and candlelight vigil. The event kicked off a week’s worth of activities centered around the threat of climate change.

O’Connell Works with International Scientists to Collect Sediment Cores from Scotia Sea

JOIDES

The JOIDES Resolution at the pier in Punta Arenas, Chile. (Credit: Thomas Ronge & IODP)

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

As campus was winding down for spring break last semester, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell was packing her bags for a two-month expedition in the Scotia Sea, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula, to drill for marine sediment miles below the ocean waves.

On her ninth expedition since 1980, O’Connell was one of 30 international scientists working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, navigating “Iceberg Alley” aboard the JOIDES Resolution research vessel. It is the only ship in the world with coring tools powerful enough to extract both soft sediment and hard rock from the ocean floor.

At five carefully selected sites the ship stopped, and—provided the vicinity was iceberg-free—scientists lowered coring equipment through an opening in the floor of the ship to drill 0.5 to 2.5 miles down through the water and into the ocean sediment. After two hours, the equipment (which uses an action similar to that of coring an apple), would bring back the 31-foot-long core. Back on board, the cores were cut into 1.5-meter segments and then split lengthwise to reveal a layer cake of preserved mineral and organic sediment, each layer representing a snapshot of the ocean floor from a moment in geologic history.

University Relations Debuts New Name, Moves Offices to Main Street with Financial Services

Office of Advancement

The Office of Advancement, formerly University Relations, has moved to 291 Main Street, allowing all staff members to work together in one location. The building also contains the Finance Office. Constructed in 1916, the building housed the Middletown post office until 1977 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was previously owned and used by Liberty Bank.

Wesleyan’s fundraising arm, the Office of University Relations, now has a new name—and a new home.

Effective Aug. 1, University Relations was renamed the Office of Advancement, which reflects the evolution of the team’s work as they refine their focus and prepare for the next campaign, and aligns with industry standards.

“Of course, the staff’s commitment to the Wesleyan community and to engaging alumni, parents, and students in the life of the University remains unchanged,” said Frantz Williams ’99, vice president for advancement. “We’re all excited for this new chapter!”

During the summer the advancement staff relocated to 291 Main Street, the former Middletown Post Office building. Bringing together advancement team members from four campus locations facilitates collaboration and provides an opportunity for increased synergy.

While the Advancement team occupies the first and second floor of the renovated office space, the majority of Wesleyan’s Finance Office tenants the third floor. Financial Services, including payroll, purchasing and procurement, auxiliary operations, accounts payable, financial planning, grants, and the purchasing card office are among the services that relocated to Main Street.

Special Collections and Archives Celebrates Constitution Day with Pop-Up Exhibit

In honor of Constitution Day, Special Collections and Archives hosted a pop-up exhibit inside the Davison Rare Book Room in Olin Library on Sept. 19.

The exhibit featured early versions of the US Constitution, Federalist papers, the Connecticut State Constitution, and original letters by Founding Fathers George Washington and Alexander Hamilton.

Photos of the exhibit are below: (Photos by Nick Sng ’23)

Constitution Day,

Constitution Day,

Mehr-Muska Speaks on New Book during Local Authors Program

On. Sept. 16, University Chaplain Tracy Mehr-Muska spoke about her new book, Weathering the Storm, during a Local Author Program on Mind, Body, Spirit at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

On. Sept. 16, University Chaplain Tracy Mehr-Muska spoke about her new book, Weathering the Storm (Wipf and Stock, 2019), during a Local Author Program on Mind, Body, Spirit at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

Mehr-Muska is an ordained Presbyterian pastor, board-certified interfaith chaplain, Coast Guard veteran, wife, and mother. Her passion for learning about and teaching resilience has been inspired by the strong and spirited people she has served and worked alongside while in the military and while ministering in a trauma hospital, prison, psychiatric hospital, university, and hospice.

Mehr-Muska is an ordained Presbyterian pastor, board-certified interfaith chaplain, Coast Guard veteran, wife, and mother. Her passion for learning about and teaching resilience has been inspired by the strong and spirited people she has served and worked alongside while in the military and while ministering in a trauma hospital, prison, psychiatric hospital, university, and hospice.

Wesleyan String Ensemble Performs Eclectic Mix

The Mattabesset String Collective, a five-piece Wesleyan-affiliated acoustic ensemble, performed at a venue in Higganum, Conn., on July 29. The group plays an eclectic mix of bluegrass, blues, folk, mountain, country, and rock, all in a string band style. (Photos by Olivia Drake and Bill Burkhart)

Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies and director of the College of the Environment, plays guitar, harmonica, and writes his own songs.

Gil Skillman, professor of economics, plays the banjo, cuatro and dobro.

Gil Skillman, professor of economics, plays a dobro—an acoustic guitar with a metal resonator that serves as an amplifier. Skillman also plays the banjo and cuatro, a Latin-American string instrument.

“You Just Have Read This…” 3 Books by Wesleyan Authors

In the fourth of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers this selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

cover of Kaplan's book shows a black and white photo of the composer, Irving Berlin

James Kaplan ’73: Irving Berlin: New York Genius (Jewish Lives Series) (Yale University Press, Nov. 5, 2019)

Venerated biographer James Kaplan first encountered the music of Irving Berlin in a New York record store in the ’70s. The tune: “Oh, How That German Could Love,” a song Berlin composed at 21 years old. Kaplan was entranced, playing on repeat the song that he writes “pierced the thick veil of time.” One could say Kaplan accomplishes the same feat, as Irving Berlin: New York Genius portrays the Jewish immigrant and incomparable composer with stunning depth, integrity, and intimacy. In his portrait of Berlin, Kaplan explores the musician’s highs and lows, from his astonishing versatility to his struggles with mental illness. Along with the portrait of the musician, Kaplan also captures the dynamic life of the city that made and was made by Berlin: New York City with its glittering, fast-paced energy. In the same manner that Berlin was able to create the essences of songs, Kaplan captures the essence of a life, guiding his readers effortlessly through the nuances of Berlin’s character. As a bright spotlight on the nine-decade career of a man who changed American music forever, Kaplan’s biography is an homage to extraordinary grit and talent that any music-lover—from ragtime to rock—will appreciate.

Bands, Soloists Perform at the 8th Annual MASH Festival

Inspired by Fête de la Musique (also known as Make Music Day), the eighth annual The MASH festival on Sept. 6 highlighted Wesleyan’s student music scene, with multiple stages on campus featuring everything from a cappella ensembles to student and faculty bands.

More than 15 musicians or groups performed, including gonzo, sweetburger, Jackie Weo, g.flores, Mattabesset String Collective, Quasimodal, audrey mills, the basukes, Rebecca Roff, la media chulla, Lopii, Baby Leelo, livia wood, Pablo lee-davis, iris olympia, Philippe bungabong, ian etc., and Lily Gitlitz.

Photos of The MASH are below: (Photos by Preksha Sreewastav ’21)

MASH

MASH