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Class Dean Guides Students to Make Good Decisions

Lisa Gates, dean of the class of 2007, holds a photograph of her class inside her office in North College. Gates monitors the academic performance of 760 students.
 
Posted 11/02/05
Steering students toward success is Lisa Gates’ top priority. As dean of the class of 2007, she’s constantly helping students meet or exceed their academic goals on the way to graduation.

Gates meets with many of her 760 students during the academic year. As a class dean, she is responsible for monitoring the academic performance of her class and ensuring students are making appropriate progress toward earning their degrees. But she also helps students resolve academic or personal problems, including working with faculty and staff in many other departments to assist students.

“Sometimes they just need my signature for a form,” she says. “But sometimes they’re having difficulty in a particular class or there’s an urgent personal situation and a midterm looming the next day. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Gates says that one of the principal challenges in being a dean is helping students learn to make good decisions and take responsibility for their actions.

“We expect students to be capable, reasonably organized, and responsible,” she says. “But we forget that these are adult abilities have to be learned and developed with time and experience. It’s my job to both support them through a difficult situation but also push them to take something constructive away from the experience. You can be an extremely bright person, but if you aren’t getting to class and managing your time effectively for whatever reason, you’re going to run into trouble.”

She also serves as a general resource for students, discussing different academic directions, internships, leaves of absence and study abroad opportunities. For many students, making a connection to a particular faculty member or a specific program on campus can shape their undergraduate experience in a fundamental way, Gates says.

“That’s one of the most satisfying aspects of this position, when a student comes to me with a vague interest and I can give a few names of people that they might want to talk with,” she says. “It’s nice to have a role in that process.”

In 2004, the Dean of the College Office’s model for class management was revised. Deans who normally worked with just one class now follow the same group of students throughout their academic career.

“What’s good about this new model is that, students can easily remember who their dean is, and they can get to know us better,” Gates says. “By working with a student multiple years, we’ll be able to support them better.”

Gates usually splits her time between meeting with students and following up with student issues. Nishita Roy ’07, met with Dean Gates this semester to discuss a pressing problem.

“My first impression of Dean Gates was that she is extremely personable, but also very serious about her work,” Roy says. “She listened attentively to my problem and took notes when I was talking, which proved that she was intent on ensuring that she had all of the facts straight. I felt extremely comfortable talking with Dean Gates and confident in her desire to assist me to the best of her abilities.”

Roy says her interaction with Dean Gates reaffirms her opinion that the class deans are generally a valuable resource for students.

“They’re committed to improving students’ lives at Wesleyan,” she says.

Gates usually splits her time between meeting with students and following up with student issues. She holds daily open-office hours. Gates also serves on the International Student Coordinating Committee, coordinates the Beinecke Scholarship Committee and the Janina Montero prize, and participates in various other committees and Dean of the College Office initiatives.

Gates moved to Connecticut in 1996 with her husband, Michael Roy, director of academic computing in Information Technology Services. In 2001, she joined the Dean of the College Office as an associate dean and director of New Student Programs. In this position, she worked on redesigning the orientation program for new students and other student programs to help students transition into the university. In 2004, she became a class dean.

Gates holds a bachelor’s degree in German language and women studies from Dartmouth College and a Ph.D in Germanic languages and literatures from Harvard University. She studied abroad in Berlin, Germany and received a Fulbright scholarship to study at the University of Hamburg. Her dissertation focused on the representation of blackness in late-19th and 20th-century German culture, looking specifically at the way in which “racial otherness” served as a vehicle for exploring how Germans understood their own cultural identity.

“I’ve always been interested in the German culture. It is rich with literary history, and this was an interesting way of connecting my professional experiences on issues of race in American culture with my graduate work in German,” Gates says.

Prior to Wesleyan, she worked at Duke University as a project manager for the Black Periodical Literature Project, a collection of fiction, literary materials and poems produced by the African-American press between 1827 and 1940. She also taught German language and literature courses at Harvard and the University of Connecticut.

“Teaching is something I’d like to do again,” she says. “I would enjoy interacting with students in another setting. It’s a part of my former life that I miss.”

Gates and Roy live in Higganum with their three children, Ethan, 12; Anna, 9, and Julian, 3. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening herbs and flowers, cooking and writing. Her work is often published in Preview Connecticut’s art section.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Government Department Welcomes New Assistant Professor

Posted 11/02/05
Kelly Greenhill joined the Government Department as an assistant professor in July.

Greenhill’s current research focuses on non-traditional coercion, counterinsurgency operations and barriers to conflict resolution. Such research has appeared in a variety of books and journals, including Security Studies, International Migration, and Polity.

This semester, Greenhill is teaching a course on civil wars and international conflict management and another on geography and international conflict. In the spring, she will teach an introductory international relations course, as well as another that offers a more in-depth exploration of international relations theory.

“I was attracted to Wesleyan for myriad reasons, but was especially drawn by the high caliber of the student body and by the university’s clear commitment to cultivating amongst its faculty both strong teachers and scholars,” she says. “I very much look forward to becoming an integrated and engaged member of the Wesleyan community.”

Greenhill holds a bachelor’s of arts degree (double major) in political economy and Scandinavian studies from the University of California at Berkeley; a certificate of special studies in international management from Harvard University; and a master’s of science and doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In addition to her appointment at Wesleyan, Greenhill is a research fellow in the International Security and Intrastate Conflict Programs at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Her studies have been supported in part by the Social Science Research Council, the MacArthur Foundation, the Mellon Foundation and the Eisenhower Foundation.

Before coming to BCSIA, Greenhill held pre-doctoral fellowships at Harvard’s Olin Institute for Strategic Studies and Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation. She served as a consultant to the Ford Foundation and to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as a defense program analyst for the U.S. Department of Defense, and as an economic policy intern in the Office of Senator John F. Kerry.

Greenhill’s other interests include rock climbing, hiking, skiing and kayaking. She also enjoys cooking, watching films and “reading practically anything I can get my hands on.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

The Puck Stops Here

Donna Wright, women’s ice hockey head coach, learned to play hockey on a pond.
 
Posted 11/02/05
Q: How many years have you been the women’s ice hockey head coach?

A: I began my coaching career at Wesleyan in September 1995. I was hired as the head women’s hockey coach and assistant lacrosse coach. Because the position was not an adjunct faculty position at that time, I also took a part-time position in the Physical Plant as a network desktop support person. It enabled me to be at Wesleyan full-time.

Q: When does the season begin and end?

A: Our season officially begins each year on November 1. Our regular season games end in late February and then the playoff season begins. The New England Small College Athletic Conference playoffs are usually the last weekend of February and the National Collegiate Athletic Association Championships are the third weekend of March. The goal is to play into March!

Q: How difficult is it to find talented women’s ice hockey players among all the secondary schools?

A: Recruiting is a challenging task. Women’s ice hockey is a very regional sport with the majority of players coming from New England and Minnesota. More and more opportunities have been created in other Midwest states like Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as New York, New Jersey and Maryland. There are very few public high school varsity teams. Most of these are in Minnesota, Massachusetts and Connecticut, so many of the players still come from youth hockey programs and New England prep schools.

Q: How early are some of your players getting into their sport? Were they involved in other sports prior to hockey?

A: Many of my student-athletes currently play or have played other sports. Three of my current athletes are varsity field hockey players, one is a varsity soccer player and one is a rower. On average, the current student-athletes have been playing hockey more than 10 years.

Q: What are some of the skills and lessons that you stress year after year?

A: We will win as a team and lose as a team. I stress fundamentals, discipline and support. We will always work to continue to develop our individual skills, have the discipline to play as a team and always support each other on and off the ice.

Q: At what age did you take up the sport and why? What were some of the challenges of picking up what is thought of as a male-dominated sport?

A: I began hockey later than most of my players. I started when I was 14 years old. It began as an obsession on the pond with my male friends. Those were the days of playing on the pond from early morning until dark on Saturdays. I quickly developed a passion for the game and begged my parents to let me play. I grew up in Danbury, Conn. and the closest girls program was in West Haven, Conn. My parents were wonderfully supportive and not only allowed me to play but drove me several days a week to West Haven for practices and games. In the 80’s, there were limited opportunities for women to play in their own league. I always attended summer camps mainly for boys and played pickup games with boys. The biggest challenge was to get the boys to treat you as they treated the other boys.

Q: There’s a perception that it takes a certain emotional edge to play ice hockey. Is the perception true?

A: Hockey is a fast paced game that is best played with decisive players. The best players play with passion and determination. Sometimes relentless determination can decide a game or season. The Wesleyan 1997-98 team was such a team. With only 12 players that season, they ended their season by playing for the ECAC Alliance title against Middlebury. They finished with the best record in Wesleyan Women’s Hockey history of 17-8-1.

Q: Could you tell me a bit about your new assistant coach?

A: We are happy to have Heather Hoffay join our program. Heather has a lot of NESCAC playing and coaching experience. She is a 2003 Hamilton College graduate and spent the last two seasons assisting in the Trinity College women’s hockey program. She is passionate about the game and about coaching. She is a great addition!

Q: Briefly, where have you played and coached?

A: I was fortunate to play at Providence College. I learned a lot about the game during my time there. Soon after graduation, I began coaching youth hockey in South Windsor, Conn. It was an outlet for me to cultivate my love of hockey while working full-time at Pratt and Whitney as a systems analyst. Before long, I realized that coaching was my real passion and aggressively began coaching with the goal of coaching full time some day. Before coming to Wesleyan, I was an assistant for Manchester, Conn. boys’ varsity hockey, Brown University’s women’s hockey and Yale University’s women’s hockey.

Q: How would you compare the nature of women’s ice hockey at Wesleyan with your experience as a player at Providence and a coach in the Ivy League?

A: Women’s collegiate hockey has growth exponentially since my playing days and my Ivy coaching days. Since that time, Division III opportunities have been officially sanctioned and more than 50 collegiate teams, both Div I and Div III, have emerged. I find the student athletes here at Wesleyan are as committed and work just as hard as the Div I student athletes. We have a slightly shorter official season playing in the NESCAC conference, but these athletes train year round.

Q: How difficult is it to compete in the NESCAC with such national powers as Middlebury and Bowdoin to contend with every year?

A: It is a challenge to play in the NESCAC, but it is also great hockey! Our athletes are competitive and want to challenge themselves and the play best that Division III can offer. For most women, collegiate hockey is the most competitive hockey they will play in their careers.

Q: Do you root for any National Hockey League teams?

A: Coaching is not a career but a lifestyle. I watch a lot of hockey on all levels. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time to catch NHL games with my responsibilities here and raising a family. However, I am still a die-hard Ranger fan!

Q: Do you use tapes as a tool for the women?

A: We tape all home games and have tapes of all NESCAC away games. We do use the footage as a teaching tool for both players and coaches.

Q: I’ve heard rumors your husband, Bill, attends a lot of games with your boys, Nicholas and Kyle. Does he enjoy the sport as much as you, and what about the boys?

A: I am blessed with a great husband! Bill and the boys do come to all home games and some on the road. They are our biggest fans. Bill was not a hockey aficionado before we dated but has come to love the sport. He doesn’t even mind getting up at 5:30 a.m. to get Nicholas to the rink for practice on Saturday mornings. As for Nicholas and Kyle, they love coming to Wesleyan. They enjoy watching the team play as well as get on the ice themselves. Game day is just part of the Wright family life.

Q: When you’re not in the rink, what are you doing? What are your hobbies?

A: Bill and I spend a lot of time working on our home in Colchester. It is our hobby I guess. We have done everything from remodeling to landscaping. Besides that, we love to be outdoors as a family. As the boys are getting older, it is fun to ride bikes and play lots of sports.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Economics Professor Concerned with the Climate

Posted 11/02/05
Gary Yohe, the John E. Andrus Professor of Economics, wasn’t surprised to learn that Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma were churning in the Gulf of Mexico. But along with scientists across the globe, the economist was surprised by how quickly the storms intensified into catastrophic proportions.

The unpredictability of what these storms and global warming’s possible effect on their intensity and increased frequency is what Yohe, a climate change economist, has been studying along with scientists for nearly 25 years.

Climatologists, biologists, and climate modelers often collaborate with Yohe as they contemplate what could happen in certain scenarios.

“They take what economists like me give them and they produce climate scenarios and impact trajectories,” says Yohe. “Economists then take their products as ‘inputs’ for vulnerability assessments.”

Last fall, Yohe co-authored a paper in the journal Science outlining a possible deterrent to global warming. The paper suggested attaching a tax on the carbon content (which generates the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide) in fossil fuels of $10 per ton (or about 5 cents per gallon of gasoline) and gradually increasing it each year.

Yohe compares this possible tax increase to buying insurance against global warming. In economic terms it’s known as “hedging” – doing something that reduces the likelihood of an unpleasant outcome.

He says that hedging global warming is like diversifying governments’ policy portfolios just like individuals diversify their financial portfolios.

“In no case is buying insurance like paying premiums into a pot from which you collect payment to cover a climate induced loss,” he says. “Instead, investments in hedging strategies are designed to reduce the anticipated cost of climate impacts. We need to accept that the climate is changing, perhaps increasing the intensity of hurricanes, for example, and make complementary investments in our capacity to adapt.”

Yohe will be sharing his research on how scientists may adapt to the ever-changing climate when he presents his findings in January to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) – the international gathering of natural and social scientists who routinely assess climate change. He and his fellow study authors hope to ultimately provide environmental policy-makers some insight into how they may intelligently voice their concerns about climate change.

Yohe also hopes that his upcoming journal article in Climatic Change will help magnify the importance of integrating climate into development plans. He is currently collecting contributions from scientists who participated in the Aspen Global Change Institute workshop of Abrupt Climate Change last summer for the article.

However, Yohe admits that it could be a while until we see any real action by policy-makers regarding global warming as the United States has withdrawn from discussions under the Kyoto Protocol. (An international agreement between more than 150 countries to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are suspected to be the cause of global warming). Still, Northeastern states have been joined by California and some Canadian provinces in an effort to reduce emissions in spite of Washington’s reluctance to proceed.

“Citizens of these states can work to support and to expand these efforts to manage climate risks in anticipation that, over the coming years, the threat of climate impacts, particularly abrupt impact of the sort observed in the Arctic over the past few years, becomes so clear that the federal government will follow their lead,” explains Yohe.

 
By  Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Retired Faculty Center Opens

The Susan B. and William K. Wasch Center for Retired Faculty opened Nov. 5 during an Open House.
Posted 11/02/05. Updated 11.06.05
The Susan B. and William K. Wasch Center for Retired Faculty at 51 Lawn Avenue held its Open House Nov. 5 during Homecoming/Family Weekend.

The Center is named for Susie and Bill Wasch ’52, P’84, who contributed their vision and support for the project.

This new center creates a shared intellectual and social community where retired faculty members can continue their scholarly activities and participation in university life.

Trustee Emeritus Bob McKelvey ’59 believes the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty will provide invaluable connections between different generations of Wesleyan faculty. In supporting this project, he honored former “first lady” Katharina “Kay” Butterfield with the naming of the “Butterfield Room”.

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

A NEW OCTAVE: Bruce Harkness of the Verdin Bell Co. prepares to install a new bell into the South College belfry Oct. 3. Eight new bronze bells were hoisted to the top by a crane, adding a full octave to the instrument.

Harkness and Bill Burkhart, university photographer, discuss cable rack hardware for the new bells. Metal “tracker squares” connect the bells in the tower via the cable to the clavier — or keyboard — on a floor beneath the belfry.
Bell installer Don Swem performs the balancing act inside and outside the belfry dome.
Wesleyan Connection editor Olivia Bartlett and Lisa Dudley ’08 received a bellfry tour by the Verdin Bell Co. staff. To get into the cramped bell tower, they climbed scaffolding-steps, two ladders, crossed a wood plank and “limboed” under the bells’ frame.
Verdin Bell Co. installer Tina Harkness uses a ladder to climb through four tiers of bells. The original bells hang from the lower two levels, and the new bells hang from the top two levels.
Tina Harkness, Peter Frenzel professor emeritus of German Studies and Wesleyan chimemaster, Swem and Bruce Harkness gather around the clavier after installing the cables that lead to the bells above Oct. 10. Frenzel was the first to test-out the new bells. (Photos by Bill Burkhart, Olivia Bartlett and Don Swem)

Long Lane Farming Club Hosts Pumpkin Fest

Long Lane Farming Club member Rachel Ostlund ’08 will welcome the community to the club’s annual Pumpkin Fest Oct. 29. At left, a flower garden still blooms at the farm, located south of Physical Plant and Wesleyan University Press.
Posted 10/18/05
Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farming Club will hold its second annual Pumpkin Fest from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday Oct. 29 and people from the campus and the local community are welcome to attend. But while the freshly-grown pumpkins available the fest will be locally-grown, they won’t be a product of the students’ land.

“We had some problems this year with our primitive watering system and squash beetles,” says Long Lane Farm Club member Rachel Ostlund ’08, an earth and environmental sciences major. “Sometimes you have a good crop, sometimes not. It is all part of learning how to farm.”

These problems left the student-farmers with less than two dozen pumpkins. But the fest had to go on, so the students carved-out a deal with a local orchard, which will deliver 300 pumpkins for the festival.

The Middletown community is welcome to attend the fest. Attendees can participate in pumpkin carving, face painting, a Halloween costume contest, bobbing for apples, as well as learn about agriculture. The farm is located on the corner of Long Lane and Wadsworth Street, south of Physical Plant and Wesleyan University Press.

Student and faculty bands will provide entertainment.

Pumpkins are among 80 varieties of vegetables and herbs grown in the two-year-old organic garden. In 2004, Rachel Lindsay ’05 planted the first crops in a circular-shaped 50-ft-wide plot. Local residents rounded out the corners with garlic and potato gardens, among several flower beds. A few flower species are still blooming this month in the farm yard.

Lindsay, Ostlund and other Wesleyan students later planted a tomato and broccoli garden, among rows of Swiss chard, pumpkins and squash. Much of the one-acre plot of old farmland was hand-tilled by the students.

Long Lane Farm, Ostlund explains, was created so students would have a place to come together and learn about food security issues. It’s used as an educational tool and will be adapted to meet the requests of the community.

This summer, the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, the Rockfall Foundation and area shareholders paid for Lindsay and Ostlund to work full-time at the farm. Students from local high schools helped out four days a week and dozens of community members volunteered. The projects they undertook included the installation of an underground woodchuck fence and an above ground deer and critter fence.

The garden flourished, producing more vegetables than the student workers and the garden’s shareholders could consume. They sold some produce to local restaurants and grocers, and donated other crops to a local soup kitchen. Any left-overs are tossed into the farm’s chicken coop.

“Those chickens will eat just about anything,” Ostlund says, peering into student-maintained coop that houses a dozen hens. “Nothing goes to waste.”

Ostlund, of Ithaca, N.Y., says she’s never tended a garden before, but grew a green thumb after working in an organic farm with AmeriCorps. She also seeks advice from local residents who volunteer at the farm. The garden’s guests have donated compost, manure, mulch and two greenhouses, which will be useful this winter. For the last two years, the students started plants in their dorm rooms and planted the seedlings into the garden when the weather conditions allowed.

Several Wesleyan staff and faculty also work at the farm. Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology, got involved in the Long Lane Farm as a way to help sustain the environment and human health.

“The students are cultivating not only the land, but a deep relationship with nature,” Singer says. “In addition, building and running the farm requires that the students work cooperatively, understand the details of food production, and make difficult and consequential decisions. In essence, it is a chance for these students to test and live up to their ideals, a tremendously valuable experience.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

World Ecosystems, Energy Policy Discussed at Symposium

Professor Dianna Wall of Colorado State University speaks with Lori Gruen, associate professor of philosophy and co-chair and associate professor of feminism, gender and sexuality studies during the 2005 Robert Schumann Environmental Studies Symposium held Oct. 8.

Below, Professor Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate program speaks with the symposium’s attendees. Chernoff organized the day-long symposium.

Posted 10/18/05
“Where on Earth are We Going? II” was the topic of the 2005 Robert Schumann Environmental Studies Symposium held Oct. 8. in Exley Science Center. More than 100 people from across the country attended the event.

The discussion explored issues on global warming and climate change; world ecosystems in peril; energy policy; regional initiatives; ethics, environmental issues and the poor; and earth charter principles.

Panelists included Lori Gruen, associate professor of philosophy and co-chair and associate professor of feminism, gender and sexuality studies; Gary Yohe, the John E. Andrus Professor of Economics; James Hansen of NASA; Richard Morgenstern of Resources for the Future; Roger Smith ’01, coordinator of the Connecticut Climate Coalition; Diana Wall of Colorado State University; and Timothy Weiskel of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. William Blakemore of ABC News was symposium’s moderator.

The event was organized by Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate program.

Gruen, one of the featured presenters, spoke on “Ethical Issues: Environmental Justice and the Poor.” In her presentation, Gruen explained that the poor are disproportionately burdened by environmental problems such as extreme climate events, exposure to toxics in our environments and the wider context of global warming. She used Hurricane Katrina as an example.

“Aiding those who are exposed to toxics or those who suffered worse from the recent hurricanes along the Gulf Coast is a matter of justice, not charity, given the systemic structure of racism and injustice in the U.S.,” she said. “Ignoring the unequal position that individuals and/or communities and/or nations are situated in will hinder cooperative environmental protection efforts.”

“Where on Earth are We Going?” was held Sept. 11, 2004. Highlights of that event included identifying the ‘smoking gun’ of global warming in Artic climate changes, exploration of options for environmentally benign sources of energy, and human values, attitudes and behavior that influence the future of humanity.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Psychology Department Welcomes New Assistant Professor

Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology, studies cognitive development.
 
Posted 10/18/05
Hilary Barth has joined the Psychology Department as an assistant professor.

Barth received her bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College in psychology, concentrating in neural and behavioral sciences in 1996. She received her Ph.D from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in cognitive neuroscience in 2002. Her research involved behavioral and brain imaging studies of numerical cognition – the study of how humans think about numbers and quantities.

She currently studies cognitive development, specifically the development of number and quantity understanding.

“Even before they receive formal math training in school, young children have some impressive quantitative abilities,” Barth explains. “In fact, even babies and nonhuman animals have a rough sort of quantitative understanding. For example, they both can discriminate between two sets of objects based on number.”

Barth examines adults’ and children’s performance in lab-based experiments to investigate what humans can do with these basic abilities, how they develop throughout life, and how they may serve as building blocks to more sophisticated math learning.

Barth teaches Sensation and Perception this fall and will teach developmental psychology and a seminar in cognitive neuroscience in spring. In the future, she would like to teach a specialized cognitive development seminar.

Barth is the lead author on two publications this year. They are “Abstract number and arithmetic in preschool children,” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2005 and “Non-symbolic arithmetic in adults and young children,” which is in press in Cognition.

Before coming to Wesleyan, Barth worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Lab for Developmental Studies at Harvard University since graduating from MIT. She also taught as a visiting professor at Wellesley College.

Coming to Wesleyan was a perfect fit for her interests, she says.

“I wanted to work at a school that combined the best of both worlds of a small college and larger university, and I think Wesleyan is one of the few places that can honestly say it does have a liberal arts atmosphere and a serious research emphasis.”

Barth lives in Middletown with her husband. She enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, skiing and cooking.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Professor has Historical Interest in Flu Epidemics

Bill Johnston, professor of East Asian Studies, professor of history, professor of science in society and tutor of the College of Social Studies, studies the avian flu.
 
Posted 10/18/05
Q: Bill, your areas of study include the history of disease. What do you think about the speculation about avian influenza – or bird flu – that’s making recent headlines?

A: I find it fascinating that people are sitting up and taking a hard look at the flu again. Maybe it is because recent natural disasters have brought people’s attention in that direction. On the other hand, it is hardly something new. Epidemiologists have been saying for years that another pandemic is possible, just as the hydrologists and meteorologists were saying for years that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen.

Q: Should Americans be wary of the virus spreading to the U.S.?

A: People tend to get very nervous quickly, sometimes too quickly. We do need to watch it, as we watched SARS very closely. But I wouldn’t hit the panic button just yet.

Q: The World Health Organization has reported that more than 65 people have died in Asia from the bird flu.

A: Influenza viruses that infect birds, which are called “avian influenza viruses,” come in several varieties. The H5N1 strand of the influenza virus appeared in migratory birds in Vietnam and south China, and spread to domestic birds. It exists primarily in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia but has been spreading through migratory fowl. I think that the first human cases were seen in Hong Kong eight years ago. Humans catch the disease from infected birds, through aerial transmission or indirect contact.

Q: What would happen if the virus could be spread from human to human? Could it become a global outbreak?

A: It could become a pandemic, and potentially become very deadly. Look at the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. During this pandemic, known as the “Spanish flu,” the disease spread across the world, killing more than 25 million people over six months. But these days, people are exposed much more frequently to various influenza viruses, which means that we have some immunity to a potential pandemic. So it is quite possible that a future pandemic could be much less dangerous.

Q: What are other notable pandemics of the past century?

A: They seem to be on a 30-year cycle. There was the Asian Flu pandemic in 1957 that started in China and spread to the United States. It caused about 1 million deaths. A flu vaccine was developed to stop the outbreak. The 1968 pandemic wasn’t as deadly. It started in Hong Kong and spread to America, killing about 750,000 people worldwide.

In 1976, an Army recruit caught the swine flu, and the government thought this could be a big outbreak. President Ford thought it might be a revival of the 1918 influenza, and wanted to immunize all 220 million Americans at the cost of $135 million. The flu never came, and hundreds of Americans who were inoculated filed suits against the government in cases where side effects of the vaccine proved fatal.

Q: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the absence of any vaccination or drugs, it has been estimated that in the United States a “medium–level” pandemic could cause 89,000 to 207,000 deaths, and another 20 to 47 million people to be sick. How should we go about containing diseases?

A: Controlling a disease like this is not a sexy thing. When disease control works, we see nothing, there is nothing to show other than the absence of disease, and that is hard to point to. On the other hand, when it fails, all hell breaks lose. That is a tension in public health. Do we mandate vaccinations and put the common good of all above individual rights? This tension is perennial in American society and will never be resolved.

Practically speaking, I would especially recommend that anybody whose immune system is in any compromised, such as in the case of older people, persons with HIV, and those prone to infection should definitely get a vaccine. It is also a good idea for people who come into contact with lots of individuals from disparate locations—which is to say most students and teachers.

Q: What is your personal interest in the history of disease?

A: I did my dissertation on the history of tuberculosis, and teach courses called Disease and Epidemics in a Historical Perspective and Introduction to the History of Disease and Medicine. I’m also the author of a book called “The Modern Epidemic: A History of Tuberculosis in Japan.”

Q: Is the history of disease somewhat esoteric?

A: It sounds esoteric. People leave that topic in the corner until they start getting sick. It’s a real common attitude to have about the history of disease.

Q: Students in what majors are attracted to this class?

A: I get a lot of history and pre-med majors. But there are other students in art and theater who magically seem to come out of the woodwork. They’re realizing all of a sudden that diseases play a huge role and they want to understand them better.

Q: Where are your degrees from?

A: My bachelor’s of art is from Elmira College, my master’s and Ph.D are from Harvard University.

Q: In addition to the history of disease, what are your other research interests and areas of expertise?

A: I’m interested in the history of syphilis in early modern Japan, warfare and state formation in 16th century Japan, the historiography of Amino Yoshihiko, an important historian of medieval Japan, the history of medicine in Japan and the history of sexuality in modern Japan. I’m also interested in photography in history, women’s issues and cultural change.

Q: What are some classes that you commonly teach?

A: Japanese History, History of War, Society and State, Issues in Contemporary Historiography. I’m starting a seminar on the history of the atomic bomb and its use on Japan.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Administrative Assistant Keeps Things Running Smoothly in South College

Janice Watson, administrative assistant in the President’s Office, enjoys meeting and greeting alumni and other visitors who have questions about the university.
 
Posted 10/18/05
Q: Janice, when were you hired as the administrative assistant in the President’s Office?

A: I came to Wesleyan in May 2001.

Q: What were you doing before you came to Wesleyan?

A: I was a Medicare Durable Medical Equipment Regional Carrier (DMERC) fraud investigator.

Q: What are some of your job duties as administrative assistant?

A: I handle and direct telephone calls, greet visitors, type correspondences, order office supplies, maintain office equipment, schedule meetings and handle meeting logistics.

Q: Who do you report to?

A: Jane McKernan, special assistant to the president and Michael Benn, who is interim director of Affirmative Action and director of Legal Projects.

Q: What is your work load typically like?

A: My day to day work load varies. Sometimes I’m typing the majority of the day, but on other days, I’m mostly on the phone, and on others I’m scheduling meeting and training sessions. I like my schedule, because it doesn’t allow for my job to become monotonous.

Q: Do you answer general questions about the university?

A: Yes, I get inquires for outside visitors as well as people within the Wesleyan community. Questions range from building information, such as history and physical locations, to various events that are being held on campus, to parental concerns.

Q: What is your favorite part about working in the President’s Office?

A: I enjoy meeting and greeting all the alumni, especially the older members during Reunion & Commencement and other Wesleyan community celebrations. I enjoy being able to assist them in finding areas of the campus. Many of them remember this place as being different and share some of their fondest memories with me.

Q: Tell me about your hobbies and interests outside of work.

A: I enjoy cooking, especially desserts. I also like to take long walks. And music and singing. I, as well as most of my immediate family, are members of Cross Street AME Zion Church where we are active members of the choirs and many other ministries with in the church.

Q: What would you say it the most unique thing about you?

A: I’m not sure if this is unique or not, but I try to always be cheerful and always to help everyone that is in need regardless of what it is they may need help doing. I think we are here on earth to be interdependent not independent.

Q: Tell me about your family.

A: I am married to Robin Watson Sr. I have three children. My daughter Leta is 20-years-old and is a third-year student at Southern Connecticut State University in Hamden. I have two sons, Robin Jr., who is 18 and a first-year student at Springfield College in Springfield, Mass. and Jordan, who is 15, and a sophomore at Middletown High School.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

War-Time Human Right Abuses Topic of Powerful Zilkha Exhibit

Nina Felshin, curator of exhibitions and adjunct lecturer in art history, is curator of The Disasters of War: From Goya to Golub, which is on view now in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.

From left to right, Melanie Baker’s charcoal and pastel drawing, Writing a Memo (in Blood); Francisco de Goya’s etching from The Disasters of War (Los Desastres de la Guerra) and Leon Golub’s acrylic on canvas, Interrogation III, on loan from The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica.

 
Posted 10/18/05
War, torture and inhumane behavior in the international arena are themes of an exhibit in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.

The Disasters of War: From Goya to Golub features the work of 19 artists that explores human rights abuses in wartime. The exhibition spans five centuries and includes paintings, drawings, videotapes, audio effects, photographs and installations.

Nina Felshin, Zilkha’s curator of exhibitions and adjunct lecturer in art history, is the exhibit’s curator. More than 600 people have already viewed the show.

“Unlike most news images and the dryer forms of communication, aesthetic mediums tend to make the subject matter more accessible through the use of metaphor and by putting a human face or body on it,” Felshin explains.

The exhibit’s images include depictions of the dead and injured — some brutally so. Such works as Jacques Callot and Francisco Goya’s historical prints are juxtaposed with contemporary images, video testimonies, portraits of powerful individuals and numerous other related subjects.

“I’m not convinced that art, on its own, can lead to social or political change but I am certain it can encourage viewers to ask questions that challenge their long held beliefs,” Felshin says, viewing artist Melanie Baker’s Writing a Memo (in Blood). “Art can be very seductive and draw people in. It can be very powerful.”

The idea for this exhibition grew out of a project that Felshin worked on in 2002, titled From Goya to Golub, a slide projection for an anti-war concert in Los Angeles, named after Leon Golub and Francisco de Goya. Golub, an American artist who died in 2004, is known for his expressionist paintings of brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners of war.

Golub’s mural-sized acrylics, Interrogation I, and Interrogation III, which are prominently featured in the exhibition, depict the brutal actions of Central American dictatorships in the early 1980s. In III, a nude, handcuffed woman sits open-legged with two clothed men physically harassing her.

Five iconic images from Goya’s etching series, The Disasters of War, are also in the Zilkha exhibition. They are on loan from the Davison Art Center.

John Paoletti, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities and professor of art history admires the brilliant use of the gallery, especially in the way that the Golub paintings fill up the space and loom so threateningly overhead.

“Having a wide range of historical responses to war, including the Goya Disasters of War, sets an especially chilling tone to the exhibition, suggesting that as often as the atrocities depicted have occurred, we somehow fail to find ways of working together that would eliminate such horrific actions,” he says.

In the Sept. 25 New York Times, writer Benjamin Genocchio called the Wesleyan exhibition “probably the most compelling exhibition in the state today.”

“I do shows like this because I believe that art has the power to raise one’s consciousness about important social and political issues,” Felshin says. “My aim is to put ideas out there in a way that encourages people to question their assumptions and form their own conclusions.”

Three deeply affecting video works accompany the artwork. Canadian artist Jayce Salloum is represented by a looped DVD projection, untitled part I: everything and nothing, an intimate dialogue with a young woman — an ex-Lebanese National resistance fighter who was detained for ten years, six of them in isolation, in the notorious El-Khiam torture and interrogation center in South Lebanon.

Felshin says that although anti-war exhibitions are not uncommon at this moment in time, few touch on the torture of human beings and its political significance.

“There have been lots of anti-war shows out there in the past few years, but this one is about how war affects the human body, and that is what sets it apart from the others,” she says. “It addresses torture both explicitly and implicitly.”

One of the inspirations for this exhibition, comments Felshin, is the exhibition that accompanies it in Zilkha’s South Gallery titled Inconvenient Evidence: Iraqi Prison Photographs from Abu Ghraib. Curated by Brian Wallis and co-organized by the International Center of Photography in New York and The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, this exhibition includes photographs from Abu Ghraib. Included are photos of recent newsmaker Pfc. Lynndie England posing and smiling with abused detainees.

Felshin, who held a gallery reception Sept. 9, wants this powerful exhibition to elicit reactions.

“I still get goose bumps when I come in here,” she says.

The Disasters of War: From Goya to Golub is open noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery and runs until Dec. 11. Admission is free. For more information call 860-685-3355.
 

By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor