All News

Blackness, Race, Sexuality, Power Explored During AFAM’s 50th Anniversary

Center for African American Studies.

The Center for African American Studies is celebrating its 50th anniversary during the 2018–19 academic year.

On Feb. 21, 1969, a group of brave students chained the doors shut to their Fisk Hall classroom and demanded that Wesleyan offer more support to its black community. As a result of this peaceful protest, Wesleyan established the Center for African American Studies, the Malcolm X House dormitory, and the black student union, Ujamaa. The black students who graduated that spring became known as the Vanguard Class of 1969.

During the 2018–19 academic year, African American Studies is commemorating its 50th anniversary with a plethora of events surrounding the topic of “Blackness, Race, Sexuality, and Power.” In addition, the Vanguard Class will be honored at their 50th reunion, along with other students of that era, for their groundbreaking efforts. Their courage helped spur Wesleyan’s now cutting-edge scholarship and teaching in black history, literature, and the arts, along with race theory and critical approaches in anthropology, religion, science, and beyond.

The fall events include:

“Solidarity, Intersectionality & Resisting Oppression”
Feminist philosopher Carol Hay
Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m.
Russell House
Sponsored by Philosophy Department

Boukman Eksperyans & Paul Beaubrun – Haitian Music
Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.
Downey Lounge
Sponsored by African American Studies and Music

Brunet Honored by Economic History Association

Gillian Brunet

Gillian Brunet, assistant professor of economics, was awarded the Allan Nevins Prize in American Economic History by the Economic History Association Sept. 8 in Montreal, Canada.

The prize is awarded annually on behalf of Columbia University Press for the best dissertation in U.S. or Canadian economic history completed during the previous year.

Brunet, who joined the faculty at Wesleyan this fall, completed her dissertation at the University of California at Berkeley. Her dissertation focused on the state-level effects of World War II spending in the United States.

Titled, Understanding the Effects of Fiscal Policy: Measurement, Mechanisms, and Lessons from History, Brunet explored the government’s ability to stimulate economic activity through expansionary fiscal policy by asking “How much economic activity results when the government increases spending by one dollar, and how does the economic and institutional context affect the answer to that question?”

Brunet’s dissertation uses a variety of empirical techniques to explore aspects of this question using historical data on U.S. military spending. Chapter one uses state-level variation in war production spending to measure the fiscal multiplier during World War II, and examine how features of the wartime economy influenced the size of the fiscal multiplier. In chapter two, Brunet focuses on how the measurement of government spending influences the estimated size of the multiplier and she introduces a new time series measure of aggregate defense spending. In chapter three, she returns to World War II, but this time examines the effects of wartime military spending on the postwar economy, establishing causal evidence for its role in driving the immediate postwar boom.

This fall, Brunet is teaching Economics of Alexander Hamilton’s America and Macroeconomic Analysis.

Cross Country’s Mitchell ’19 Takes 1st Place at Little 3 Championship

Student-athlete Julia Mitchell ’19 took a first-place finish during the Little Three Championship at Amherst. (Photo by Geoff Bolte)

Julia Mitchell ’19 paced the women’s cross country team with a first-place finish at the Little Three Championship on Sept. 8 in Amherst, Mass. Although Williams College ultimately won the Little Three title, the Cardinals had four runners place in the top 10 as they finished in second place, ahead of Amherst College.

Little Three Championships are declared when a varsity team from Wesleyan, Williams, and Amherst defeats the other two rivals. The fierce competition among the schools dates back to at least 1910. In 2017-18, women’s crew, volleyball, men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse won Little Three titles.

Mitchell, of Bellevue, Wash., completed the 4k course with a time of 15:33.9, which was three seconds ahead of second-place finisher Emma Herrmann of Williams.

For her efforts, NESCAC named Mitchell the Performer of the Week on Sept. 10.

Mitchell capped off last season with an impressive ninth-place finish at the 2017 NCAA Division III New England Regional Championship meet. During head coach John Crooke’s 19-year career at Wesleyan, the women’s team has qualified for the NCAA Division III Championship three times and has placed in the top 10 for the past two seasons at the New England Regionals.

Mitchell is one of eight runners to return to the women’s cross country team this year. On Sept. 29, the team will head to Lehigh University for the 45th Paul Short Run, one of the largest cross country meets in the nation. Last year, Mitchell tallied a seventh-place nod, completing the 6k course with a time of 22:35.

Read more in the Wesleyan Athletics press release.

Lukens Remembered for Cofounding the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Lewis “Lew” N. Lukens

Lew Lukens

Lewis “Lew” Lukens, professor emeritus of molecular biology and biochemistry, passed away on Sept. 8 at the age of 91.

Lukens received his BA from Harvard University and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He came to Wesleyan in 1966, first in the Biology Department and then as one of the founding members of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, where he remained until his retirement in 1999.

Lukens’ research involved the regulation of gene expression by eukaryotic cells, specifically the genes for Type I and Type II collagen. He received many research grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the United States Department of Agriculture. During his years at Wesleyan, Lew served as chair of the Biology Department, on the Committee on Graduate Instruction, and as program director of the Biomedical Research Support Grant. In his retirement, he served on the advisory board of the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty.

Yohe, Siry, Sultan Awarded Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research

At left, Wesleyan President Michael Roth '78 congratulates the recipients, Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies; Joseph Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities; and Sonia Sultan, professor of biology.

At left, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 and the recipients of the inaugural Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research: Gary Yohe, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies; Joseph Siry, Kenan Professor of the Humanities; and Sonia Sultan, Professor of Biology.

Three Wesleyan faculty were honored with the Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research on Sept. 4. The inaugural prize, presented by Joyce Jacobsen, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, is similar to the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching, but is presented to members of the faculty who demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in their research, scholarship, and contributions to their field.

Each recipient received a plaque and citation as well as research funds for their award. Nominations by faculty colleagues for this new prize will be accepted through the end of April each spring, and the prize will be awarded at the first faculty meeting the following fall.

The 2018 award recipients include Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies; Joseph Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities; and Sonia Sultan, professor of biology. Their award citations are below:

Eck ’19 Helping City of Middletown Earn Sustainability Certification

Ingrid Eck ’19, pictured here in the West College Courtyard on Sept. 12, is working to certify the City of Middletown by Sustainable CT. Sustainable CT recognizes thriving and resilient Connecticut municipalities. An independently funded, grassroots, municipal effort, Sustainable CT provides a wide-ranging menu of best practices. Municipalities choose Sustainable CT actions, implement them, and earn points toward certification. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Since arriving on campus freshman year, Ingrid Eck ’19 has fully immersed herself in all Wesleyan has to offer: working on the Wesleyan Green Fund; founding Veg Out, a student group dedicated to food justice; and joining—and currently serving as president of—Wesleyan’s only sorority, Rho Epsilon Pi. She is also working toward not one, but three majors: government, environmental studies, and French studies. More recently, she’s felt a desire to get involved in the broader Middletown community and “truly get to know the city in which I have been living.”

This summer, Eck had a unique opportunity to become intimately familiar with the City of Middletown as she prepared and submitted the city’s application to Sustainable CT for certification.

According to Jen Kleindienst, Wesleyan’s sustainability director (for whom Eck interns), the Sustainable CT certification is similar to the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) sustainability rating for colleges and universities. Wesleyan received a silver rating by STARS, a program of The Association of the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, in 2013, and was re-certified in 2016. Like STARS, Sustainable CT encourages municipalities to become more sustainable in many different realms—such as environmental, social, and economic.

New Assistant Professor May ’05 Researches Suicide Risk and Prevention

Assistant Professor of Psychology Alexis May

Alexis May ’05

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Assistant Professor of Psychology Alexis May ’05, who joined the Department of Psychology this fall. May will be among the speakers at the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns on Sept. 14–15.

Q: Welcome (back) to Wesleyan, Professor May! You earned your BA from Wesleyan in psychology and neuroscience and behavior in 2005. Please tell us about your journey since then.

A: After gaining substantial clinical research experience in the psychology department as a project coordinator for [Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, Emerita] Ruth Striegel Weismann, I was sure of my passion for clinical science but wasn’t sure how I wanted to pursue that professionally. I took the opportunity presented by this uncertainty to move cross-country to Santa Cruz, Calif., and work some “random” jobs. I landed in a position coordinating a suicide prevention crisis line. I loved the work but was frustrated by how little empirical knowledge there was about suicide prevention. This prompted my decision to return to school to pursue a degree in clinical psychology with a focus on suicide research. I completed my PhD in clinical psychology at the University of British Columbia, my clinical internship at Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and my postdoctoral fellowship at the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah. Throughout my positions I’ve maintained my focus on understanding the phenomena of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in the service of improving prevention and intervention efforts. Suicide is a devastating, complex, and unsolved problem. I feel very fortunate I get to spend my time working towards better solutions.

Q: How is it being back as a faculty member? Has Wesleyan changed much since your time as a student?

A: I was excited to see how much the psychology department has grown and diversified. I was also thrilled to learn about the addition of the Quantitative Analysis Center—it is a huge resource to both students and faculty. Overall, the students seem as skilled, passionate, and creative as ever!

More than 20 Bands, Musicians Perform during The MASH

Inspired by Fête de la Musique (also known as Make Music Day or World Music Day), the seventh annual The MASH festival on Sept. 8 highlighted Wesleyan’s student music scene, with multiple stages on campus featuring everything from a cappella ensembles and soloists to student and faculty bands. The name “MASH” is derived from the idea of a mash-up, since the festival features a mixture of different styles, genres, and musical expressions.

Stages were set up near Foss Hill, Olin Library, and North College. Performers included Baby Jeremy, Beach Juice, Rebecca Roff, Slavei, FieldFare, Jack Canavan-Gosselin, Myles Johnson, Quasimodal, Philippe Bungabong, Lila Lifton, Elias Normal, Cypher, BLOOMSBURY, Iris Sackman, SOUP, Basukes, Mattabesset String Collective, Timmy Turnhim, DJ Shaga, Pinroll, and Powered By 2 DJs. Other musicians performed during open mic opportunities.

The MASH is co-sponsored by the Center for the Arts and the Office of Student Affairs. Photos of The MASH are below: (Photos by Claudia Ferrara ’21)

Jack Canavan Gosselin (Olin)

Jack Canavan-Gosselin ’22 performed solo on the Olin Library stage. He sings and plays the piano and trombone.

Ponsavady’s New Book Examines the Development of French Transportation Systems

Stéphanie Ponsavady, assistant professor of French, is the author of a new book titled Cultural and Literary Representations of the Automobile in French Indochina: A Colonial Roadshow, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018.

In the book, Ponsavady aims to answer the question: How are the pleasures and thrills of the automobile linked to France’s history of conquest, colonialism, and exploitation in Southeast Asia?

Ponsavady addresses the contradictions of the “progress” of French colonialism and their consequences through the lens of the automobile. She examines the development of transportation systems in French Indochina at the turn of the 20th century, analyzing archival material and French and Vietnamese literature to critically assess French colonialism.

Ospina’s Fiction Nominated for Prestigious Spanish American Short Story Award

A book written by María Ospina, assistant professor of Spanish and assistant professor, Latin American studies, was recently nominated for the Gabriel García Márquez Spanish American Short Story Award.

The prize is awarded annually by the National Library of Colombia and the Colombian Ministry of Culture to a short story collection in Spanish that has been published the year before by authors from the Spanish-speaking world (Spain and Latin America). This year, the jury selected 14 titles from 127 submissions.

This award is considered the most important prize in the short story genre in the world of Hispanic letters and honors the life and work of Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez. The prize, which will be delivered in Bogota at the beginning of November, is endowed with $100,000 for the winner and $2,000 for each of the four finalists.

Ospina’s book, Azares del Cuerpo (Fates of the Body), was published by Laguna Libros in 2017. Like migratory animals, the female protagonists in this collection of short stories are travelers in search of new homes, hosts, and bonds of friendship and intimacy. Through the interrelated stories of women of diverse ages and origins who migrate to and from Bogotá, Ospina investigates the relationship between desire and the corporeality of the female body, and examines a multiplicity of modes of care and kinship outside of the bonds of family and heterosexual love. These stories about the limits of hospitality and the longing to cure one’s wounds by attempting to save other people also investigate the subtle ways in which broader histories of violence and migration shape people’s lives psychically and materially.

 

Tucker, Middlebrook ’20 Study the History of U.K. Alkali Workers

Mariel Middlebrook ’20 hunts for articles on the alkali industry at the British Library. As a recipient of a Student-Faculty Research Internship, Middlebrook assisted Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker this summer and searched for material in the Widnes Daily News from the 1850s.

This summer, Mariel Middlebrook ’20 gathered archival material on 19th-century alkali workers in London through a Wesleyan Student-Faculty Research Internship.

The Student-Faculty Internship program provides students with paid opportunities to work on research projects in collaboration with Wesleyan faculty.

As a recipient of the internship award, Middlebrook was able to work alongside Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker, who is collecting information on Widnes, an industrial town in Halton, Cheshire, Northwest England, that is known for being the birthplace of Britain’s chemical industry in the late 1840s. (Tucker’s article, “It’s No Downton Abbey, but It’s Just as Much a Part of English History” was published by the History News Network in June and highlights her current study on Widnes.)

“We examined local newspapers from the region to find out more about the lives of alkali workers. Newspapers from the late 19th century are a rich source of information about work-related injuries and deaths, the changing market for chemical products, and attempts by chemical workers to improve labor conditions,” Tucker said.

Middlebrook, an anthropology and Spanish literature double major, took Tucker’s Photography and the Law class during the spring 2018 semester and previously assisted with Tucker’s research on the relationship between guns and photography in the 1860s.