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Director of Academic Computing Services and Digital Projects Partners with Faculty to Implement Technology in Teaching

Michael Roy, director of Academic Computing Services and Digital Projects, works on a project inside the Science Tower Lab.
Posted 06/15/05

Q: Mike, you’re director of Academic Computing Services and director of Digital Projects. What is your personal interest with technology?

A: My personal interest in technology comes from being curious about how technology can solve problems, about how it can improve our ability to understand the world, and how it can allow us to communicate that understanding in new and effective ways.

Q: When did you come to Wesleyan?

A: I came here in 1996 as the Humanities Computing Coordinator. A year later, I became Director of Academic Computing Services for Information Technology Services.  Last year, I added to my ITS job responsibilities in the Library as director of digital library projects.

Q: Where are your degrees from and in what?

A: I have a B.A. in philosophy from Dartmouth College and a M.A. from Duke in English.

Q: How did this lead you into working in information technology?

A:  After graduate school, I started working at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research on a large-scale publishing project, creating microfiche edition of literary materials from African-American periodicals from the late 19th and early 20th century. In order to manage this process, I had to learn a wide range of technologies that we were using to make the project more efficient. The Institute became increasingly interested in how emerging technologies – at the time, CD-ROMs and primitive multimedia programs – might serve as a platform for documenting and making available African American resources, and so allowed me to learn these new technologies as a form of research for the Institute. I had learned some computer programming in high school, and so this was an excellent chance to return to an area of interest that I had ignored during my college and graduate education.

Q: In Academic Computing Services, you provide Wesleyan faculty with resources to help them incorporate technology into their teaching and research. How would you describe what you do?

A: Academic Computing Services consists of three major groups: The first group is the Academic Computing Managers, who work directly with faculty and at times with students to use technology resources for in their teaching and research. The second group is Instructional Media Services, which focuses on classroom technology, the public computer labs, support for special events, and most recently, the WebTech program. The third group is the Learning Object Development Group, which is a grant-funded initiative that provides professional design and programming resources for faculty projects. My work mainly focuses on trying to make sure that these three groups work well together, have the resources that they need, and receive the support they need from the rest of ITS.  I also spend a fair amount of time working on collaborative projects with the Faculty Career Development Center with Andy Szegedy-Maszak on the Academic (Technology) Roundtable and our Teaching Matters booklet.

Q: What is your role as director of Digital Projects?

A: The work I do in the library on digital projects focuses on identifying ways that ITS resources can be brought to bear on library initiatives, and in identifying opportunities where ITS and the Library can work together on projects that will improve the campus computing and information environment. Examples include work on a new facility that will open in the fall in Olin library, work on Information Literacy, which is one of Wesleyan’s new key capabilities, and work on building a catalog of departmental resources — books, videos, etc. — that can be viewed via the library Web site.

Q: What are a couple examples of ways faculty members are using these services?

A: More and more faculty are using technology in some aspect of their teaching and research. Part of that is because of our investment in putting technology into the classroom. Part of that is because of changes in the way that academics do their work that are happening on a national scale. Most faculty are very pragmatic about how they incorporate technology. They rightfully don’t want to invest too much time in learning something new if they can’t see an obvious benefit to that new thing. That said, there are many examples of Wesleyan faculty who are doing new things in their classrooms and in their research:

  • In the Economics Department, Tanya Rosenblat and Alberto Isgut have developed a very interesting game called the Ricardian Explorer that they use to teach their students about comparative advantage and international trade.
  • David Schorr in the Art Department teaches typography and design in our interactive computer classrooms.
  • Pete Pringle in chemistry uses Web-based multiple choice questions to help his students review the material he has presented in class.
  • Barry Chernoff in the Earth & Environmental Sciences Department uses nearly every gizmo in SC150 to enliven his large lecture classes with the use of rich media that he draws upon from a wide range of sources and in a wide range of formats.
  • Madgalena Teter is developing a rich resource for a working group that she is part of that is studying early modern Jewish history, using the Web to provide access to primary source materials, translations and commentary on those resources, and video of discussions.
  • Cecilia Miller is creating with Alan Nathanson a rich set of annotated links to materials for her students in her Intellectual History courses to use.

One of the most interesting things about all of this is that the way we have set up our environment here. There are no doubt dozens and dozens examples of effective and innovative uses of technology that we don’t know about because of the fact that we provide technology that faculty can use without needing to necessarily ask for help.

Q: In some respect, are you teaching faculty?

A: I don’t think of our work as teaching faculty, but rather as a partnership where we work together to think about how various technologies might be put to appropriate use, and as importantly, which technologies should we not be pursuing. I don’t spend as much time as I would like working directly with the faculty, but do spend a fair amount of time in conversation about projects and initiatives.

Q: Are you a member of the Academic Technology Advisory Committee? What topics would be addressed at meetings?

A: I am a member of ATAC. We meet two or three times per semester. ATAC serves as a sounding board for us, providing us an opportunity to have conversations with faculty and other key constituents about our planning, and to evaluate our existing services. We spend time talking about our course management system called Blackboard, the classrooms and labs, software licensing and our wireless strategy.

Q: Are you a member of other professional organizations?

A: I participate in meetings of Nercomp, Educause, New Media Consortium, and MANE IT Network.  A group of us are also just about to launch a new project called Academic Commons, which will serve as a place for faculty, librarians, technologists, and other academic professionals to discuss the role of technology in liberal education.

Q: I understand you were an English instructor at Duke and a writer for the Dictionary of Global Culture in the early 90s. Are you still a writer?

A: Yes. Last fall I published a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled “The Open-Source Bazaar Makes Scholarship Available.” For the Academic Commons project, I am serving as the interviews editor, and so will be spending time interviewing people about their views on technology and liberal arts education. 

Q: You’re obviously very well-rounded. Why is this important to you and are you glad to be working at a liberal-arts college?

A: I like working at a liberal-arts college because it allows me to spend time working on a wide-range of topics, and to spend time with people who think hard about interesting things. I also believe that this kind of education is important, and so like to be able to play a small role in the way liberal arts education is transforming itself in the face of the challenges that this forms of education faces, from technology, but also from myriad other forces.

Q: What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of work?

A: I like to go running with my new puppy, play guitar not very well, and I coach soccer.

Q: Do you have family or pets?

A: My wife Lisa and I have three kids, Ethan, 12, Anna, 9 and Julian, 3. We have two cats, a puppy and a lizard.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Anthropology Professor’s Exhibit on Display in International Museum

This photograph of a West Bengal wedding altar by Ákos Östör, professor of anthropology and film studies, and Lina Fruzzetti of Brown University, is on display in The Museum of Cultures in Helsinki, Finland. It is part of an exhibit titled “Divine Gifts: Marriage and ritual in rural West Bengal.”
Posted 06/15/05

In India, marriage carries great social and cultural meanings. It ensures the continuity of the male line and it is vital to the maintenance of caste status.

Ákos Östör, professor of anthropology and professor of film studies, has spent the past three years traveling to Bishnupur, West Bengal researching marriage rituals. His results – documented with photographs and objects – is currently featured in The Museum of Cultures in Helsinki, Finland.

It’s titled “Divine Gifts: Marriage and Ritual in Rural West Bengal.”

“Divine Gifts” is funded by a three-year grant from the Finnish Academy of Social Sciences and is supported by the University of Helsinki.

“I first went to Bishnupur in 1967, and I wanted to go back to see the changes that took place over this 40-year period,” Östör says. “I’m interested in how the festivals, temples and rituals are changing, and the bazaar’s economic system.”

Östör was part of a three-member research team. His wife, Lina Fruzzetti, professor of anthropology at Brown University and Sirpa Tenhunen, research fellow of social and cultural anthropology at University of Helsinki, also contributed to the show.

The exhibition features several pieces from Östör and Fruzzetti’s personal collections of more than 40 years. It includes a crown of the bridegroom, a conch-shell ritual trumpet, a golden cotton shawl used by the priest in weddings, a wedding ceremony bell, pitcher and oil lamp and a kerosene lantern manufactured from recycled materials.

These are all common parts of a Bengali marriage, known as a biye. The biye also consists of two major elements: the payment of the dowry and the gift of a virgin.

“The gift of a virgin is a ritual of sacred connotation, when the father gives his daughter to another kin group as a divine gift,” Östör says.

In addition, the exhibition represents kitchen and household utensils relating to women’s every-day life; home altars, deities and ritual objects used in daily worship; and Bankura terracotta horses and elephants given as votive gifts to the snake goddess Manasha.

On Sundays, four documentary films by Fruzzetti and Östör are open as part of the showing. Each film reveals the everyday life in rural West Bengal and of devotion to the goddess Manasha and the gods Krishna and Shiva.

Östör has also put his research into two books, each published by DC Publishers in 2004. He’s the author of “Calcutta Conversations” and “The Play of the Gods: Locality, Ideology, Structure, and Time in the Festivals of a Bengali Town,” an expanded edition of his older work.

“Divine Gifts” will close in October.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

South College Renovation, Bell Addition Begins in July

In July, South College will receive eight new bells. Scaffolding will surround parts of the building, as crews install the bells and remodel the belfry. Sections of the white panels will be removed, however the copper-top will stay in tact. 
Posted 06/15/05

The South College belfry will receive eight new bells and a facelift during the next several months.

This renovation will add eight new bells to the current 16-bell array. This will upgrade the status of the Wesleyan bells from a chime (10-22 bells) to that of a carillon (23 or more).

“Now we’ll have more notes, so we can play more songs, and more complicated songs,” said six-year chimemaster Peter Frenzel, professor emeritus of German studies. “We’re moving out of the minor league of bell playing and into the major league.”

Staff from Physical Plant will replace the roof within the bell tower prior to the bell addition. Staff will paint and restore the exterior railings, louvers and wood portions of the tower. Painting of the interior stairwell will also occur.

Construction will begin in mid-July and conclude in September. The bell’s keyboard has already been temporarily dismantled.

The actual work to the bells is expected to take six weeks. The new bells will be cast by Petit & Fritsen, the Royal Dutch Bell Foundry in The Netherlands, and then shipped to Cincinnati via New Orleans and the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. They’ll later be completed and fine-tuned and installed by the Verdin Bell Company of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Peter Staye, associate director of Physical Plant’s Academic and Administrative is coordinating the exterior renovation. The new bells, he says, will be hoisted up by crane and installed through back panels in the belfry.

The copper-top dome of South College will not be removed or altered.

Eagle Rivet Roofing Services of West Hartford will erect all scaffolding around all four sides of the bell tower. The scaffolding will remain in place until the carillon is complete.

Acquiring a carillon for the university has been in the planning stages since 1999. The new bells, which will greatly expand the music being played, were all donated by Wesleyan friends, alumni and parents.

During construction, all entrances, exits and stairways in South College will be open.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Hughes Fellows Test-Drive the Life of a Research Scientist

Summer Hughes Fellows Maiko Kondo ’07 (top) and Brandon Stein ’07 (left) work on their research projects in Wesleyan labs. Hughes Fellows have 10 weeks to finish a research project of their choice. Faculty members provide guidance and instruction.
Posted 06/15/05

In Wesleyan’s Mukerji Lab, Maiko Kondo ’07 studies peptides modeled after those found in Alzheimer’s plaques. Nearby in the Flory Lab, Brandon Stein ’07 examines nuclear functions of telomere-associated proteins.

As Wesleyan University Summer Hughes Fellows, Kondo and Stein have 10 weeks to complete their research, work one-on-one with a faculty advisor and participate in a variety of Hughes activities. They’re among 49 students who received grants from the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences, funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Michael Weir, professor of biology and chair of the Biology Department is the director of the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences. Laurel Appel, visiting associate professor of biology and senior research associate is the program coordinator.

Weir says the Hughes Fellows can test-drive being a research scientist in one of the Wesleyan research groups. This experience, however, comes with the successes and disappointments of exploring a new field of science.

“When you come in to the lab in the morning, you don’t really know what you are going to find out by the end of the day or week — that’s the excitement, and sometimes frustration, of doing full-time research,” Weir says.

The annual summer program is in its 17th year at Wesleyan and immerses undergraduates in a research topic that fascinates them without the time constraints and workload inherent to a full load of classes normally taken during the academic semesters.

Thirty-three faculty members are on hand to help guide the students’ research. This year, students are studying topics as diverse as “Serotonin and its Effect on Dentate Gyrus Neurogenesis,” “Patterns in hiring practices for tenure-track positions in the geosciences,” and “Investigating the Beginnings of Chimpanzee Research in the United States,” among several others.

“Research training during the Hughes Summer Program allows undergraduates a valuable opportunity to make serious strides of progress on a project, to have a positive experience doing full-time research, and to possibly solidify a desire to pursue a career in the experimental sciences,” says Stein’s summer advisor and Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Mark Flory.

Kondo decided to pursue a degree in molecular biology and biochemistry after suffering from allergies her entire life. Ultimately, she wants to know why this is, and how people can be cured.

“As I studied further in this field, I started to hope that I would be able to conduct research, exploring the relations between allergy and the immune system in my future,” she says. “The summer research program gives me a good opportunity to learn about research techniques, which are needed to approach my goal.”

In addition to research, the Hughes Summer Program includes a special day-long workshop for all interested students, faculty, and staff on an emerging topic in the Life Sciences. This year, the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange presents, “Breaking Boundaries: Scientists and Dancers, Investigations and Choreograph.”

The summer program also includes a seminar series given by outside speakers who design their talks for the undergraduate audience of varying scientific backgrounds and fields. This year’s speakers include Margaret Livingstone of Harvard Medical School; Anna Martini of Amherst College; Mikhail Levin of the University of Connecticut Health Center; Katrina Catron of Boehringer-Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals; Remus Th. Dame of Vrije Universiteit; and Monica Carson of the University of California.

Although the research is intense, the program allows ample socialization time. Two picnics, a student-run movie series, softball league, field trips, access to the Freeman Athletic Center and drop-in lunches are offered for participants.

Students applying for the 2006 Hughes Program must do so by March 3, 2006. The grant budget allows for 18 stipends, but with generous contributions from participating departments and faculty, as well as Financial Aid funds, the program can accept between 40 and 50 students each year. Students are responsible for their own housing.

The program concludes August 5 with a poster session.

For more information contact Maureen Snow, administrative assistant for the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences, at

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Multicultural Upbringing Helps Director of Graduate Student Services Connect with Students

Marina Melendez, ’83, MALS ’88, is the director of Graduate Student Services and the program’s biggest advocate.
Posted 06/15/05

Marina Melendez ‘83 was raised by a German-speaking mother and Spanish-speaking father in Five Towns, Long Island, N.Y. She didn’t speak a word of English until the age of 7.

“After my first day of school, my mother said I came home and refused to speak any more German,” she says. “And from that day on, English would be the language in our home.”

Melendez, however, never let go of her German and Puerto Rican roots. During her undergraduate years at Wesleyan, she majored in Spanish and minored in German. And to this day, the director of Graduate Student Services (GSS) uses her multicultural background and language skills to aid current Wesleyan graduate students.

“The graduate students can feel comfortable with me, especially the international students, because I can relate to what they’re going through,” she says.

Only 15 graduate students received their undergraduate degree from Wesleyan. About half of Wesleyan 200 graduate students come from nations other than The United States.

Melendez became the director of GSS. Prior to that, she worked as a director of a job training program for welfare clients in New Britain, taught Spanish and history in Madison, Conn., and worked as a coordinator for the Community Action of Greater Middletown. During her college years at Wesleyan, Melendez supervised tutors and worked at the Adult Learning Center.

Social work also is a vital part of Melendez’s job here at Wesleyan. But her foremost role is serving as the primary advocate for graduate students, most of whom are pursuing master’s and Ph.D degrees in the sciences or music.

“So much of my work is to bring the Graduate Studies Program to the front of people’s minds,” she says. “They’re not a large group, but they’re here, and my job is to remind the Wesleyan community of their presence, and to improve the life and services for the students.”

Melendez works with other offices on campus makes sure the students have comfortable housing, are offered transportation if necessary, register for classes correctly and feel safe.

Latorya Hicks, a graduate student studying chemistry, says Melendez eased her transition from Lane College in Jackson, Tenn. to Wesleyan. At first, Hicks went to the director for questions pertaining to the bureaucracy of graduate school. This relationship has since flourished into a friendship.

 “Marina has truly been a great asset and was there to lend a listening ear when ever I needed to talk about the many trials of graduate school,” Hicks says. “I am eternally grateful to have met someone so dedicated, genuine, and concerned when it comes to the well-being of her graduate students.”

Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, Melendez has devoted more of her time towards immigration procedures. She insures that students arrive with all their necessary documents and visas.

“We have to keep their transition as smooth as possible so they can come here, settle in, and then focus on their career here,” she says. “These are students who want to be here. They are mature and are very appreciative about the education they are about to receive.”

Melendez says students are attracted to Wesleyan’s graduate program for its one-on-one access to faculty, small departments and nationally-recognized research facilities.

“If you want to get master’s or Ph.D in something general, there are several larger universities they can go to. But if you want to do specific research, this is where you want to be,” she says.

Melendez networks with Wesleyan’s staff and faculty to improve student services. She’s served on the Honor Code Task Force, Student Life Committee, Student of Color Perspectives and Action Committee (SOCPAC), the Executive Committee for the Administrators and Faculty of Color (AFCA) and Graduate Housing Committee. 

Dianna Dozier, associate director of Affirmative Action co-chaired AFCA with Melendez for several years.

“Marina is so wonderful to work with,” Dozier says. “ She is smart, funny, and cares so much about all students at Wesleyan, not just the grad students or students of color. The grad students are indeed lucky to have her looking out for them. Her efforts on behalf of all students are tireless.”

Although the individual departments oversee applications and admit the graduate students, Melendez and her assistant, Barbara Schukoske act as the registrar for these students. They also update student portfolios, make sure grades are posted, answer any questions students might have, either through e-mail, phone or in-person, and monitor a graduate student e-mail list serve and assist them through commencement procedures.

In addition, Melendez started and annually spearheads a graduate student orientation day in fall “to get all practical matters out of the way,” she says. “We want to acclimate students as quickly as possible.”

Michael Whaley, dean of Student Services, says he often collaborates with Melendez to better understand the needs and issues of students of color, and improve the campus community for all students. They discuss graduate and undergraduate issues alike.

“I appreciate her collaborative spirit and respect the passion and dedication she brings to working with the graduate student population,” Whaley says. “Her love for Wesleyan and commitment to making this a better community for the students extend beyond her own specific duties and responsibilities. I value her opinions.”

Melendez monitors the success of her department by the number of inquiring students.

“In the fall, students are still confused and they come in with all sorts of questions and problems,” she says. “By spring, we don’t see them too much, and that tells us that we’ve done a good job. That means they’ve adjusted.”

Melendez has continued her own education as well. She earned a MALS degree from Wesleyan in 1988, and is currently pursuing her Ph.D in educational studies at the University of Connecticut 

Melendez met her partner, Joseph Virgadula ‘80 at Wesleyan. The couple has two boys, Louis, 15, and Tomas, 13, and live in Middlefield. When she’s not attending their baseball, soccer and Lacrosse games, mother Marina is busy cooking or gardening.

This busy lifestyle has taught Melendez a life-lesson that she would like to pass on.

“If I ever do end up teaching, it will have to be a class on time management. I’ve gotten very good at it,” she says, smiling.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Construction Begins on University Center; Parking, Walkways Altered

A new, 18-foot-wide, gravel access road will run along the Usdan University Center construction zone. An 8-foot chain fence will go up this week. A new gravel access road will be put in for foot traffic, handicap, emergency, service and construction vehicles only.
Posted 06/07/05

It’s hammer time.

Starting this month, construction for the new Suzanne Lemberg Usdan University Center begins.

Alan Rubacha, project manager, is setting up an 8-foot chain-link fence that will surround the old Alumni Athletic Building and Fayerweather Gymnasium. The driveway and cement walkway that currently provide access from Wyllys Avenue to the lot behind South and North College will be closed to vehicles and pedestrians as of Monday, June 13. The lot itself will be closed except for handicap access and service. Parking has been reassigned to the lot adjacent to the Office of Admission and to the lot behind the Center for Film Studies.

Foot traffic will be diverted around the “L” shaped construction site. The pathway along College Row, between Wyllys Avenue and Judd Hall will not be affected.

Foot traffic west of Fayerweather will be diverted onto a temporary gravel access road. The road, 18-feet wide, will cut from Wyllys Avenue across Andrus Field behind Fayerweather and end in the lot behind South and North College. This access road will be for foot traffic, handicap, emergency, service and construction vehicles only.

A portion of Fayerweather, the old Alumni Athletic Building and power plant will be demolished to make room for the Usdan University Center.

Between four and six construction trailers will be set up behind South College. Rubacha will mark this area with white stripes. He warns that, for employees of the Office of Admission, North and South College, the site will be “noisy and dusty.”

“It will be loud, there’s no question about it,” he says.

The Usdan University Center will consolidate dining facilities for students and faculty, and will provide seminar and meeting spaces. It will house the Wesleyan Student Assembly, the post office, and retail space. Facilities for formal and informal gatherings and events will complement those available in the Memorial Chapel and ’92 Theater. A south-facing plaza and second story terrace will overlook Andrus Field and will provide an outdoor venue.

David Hall, manager of Grounds and Special Events, says the construction zone will not affect athletic games or bleacher set-ups. 

The building is expected to be completed in August 2007.

For more information on plans for the University Center, visit

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Cook Speaks at Meditations Show

CLEAR THINKING: Artist and teacher Brett Cook spoke to a group of more than 70 people during his opening reception for “Meditations” in the Zilkha Gallery April 20. Cook’s artwork will be on display through May 22.
Spectators view Cook’s “Documentation of Blackness,” on display in the gallery. The artists combines his life experiences, including his biracial upbringings and recent engagement with Buddhism, to comment on his social and cultural realities.
Cook encourages gallery-goers to color a collaborative piece. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)

Behind the Scenes: Reunion & Commencement Weekend Result of All Departments

At top, hired students worked stuffed 3,000 packets and created nametags in preparation for Reunion & Commencement Weekend at University Relations.

At left, Gemma Ebstein, director of Alumni and Parent Relations and Deana Hutson, director of Events, look over Reunion & Commencement Weekend schedules prior to the four-day event.

Posted 05/23/05

It all starts the day after.

Deana Hutson, director of Events, began planning for the 2005 Reunion & Commencement Weekend the day after the 2004 Commencement Weekend ended. On the agenda: Hire 150 student workers. Print 20,000 brochures. Rent 10,000 chairs. Block 900 local hotel rooms. Contact 50 vendors. Plan events for 9,000 guests.

“There is so much going on behind the scenes of Reunion & Commencement Weekend,” says Hutson, who has been critical to the success of six R&Cs so far. “It starts with a small team of staff meeting and program planning and culminates with a team of 1,000 making it happen. We want alumni, parents and seniors to walk away with wonderful memories of the weekend.”

On May 16, just three days before the big weekend, Hutson and Gemma Ebstein, director of Alumni and Parent Relations, spend their day going through a pen-scribbled list and an 80-page flow document. The document details who is in charge of each event, the time of the event and a description.

The duo coordinates more than 150 individual events including picnics, dinners, parties, academic department tours, senior projects, campus walking tours, 36 WESeminars, 15 class reunions, a parade, an annual meeting and assembly, a grandparents gathering, a children’s day camp, class photos and of course, the 173rd commencement ceremony.

“We just go with the flow,” says Ebstein, who has co-coordinated 14 reunions and six reunion and commencement events. “These lists may look crazy, but it explains everything we need to do to run the weekend.”

Ebstein says virtually all the university’s departments contribute to the weekend in one way or another. Physical Plant staff spends Saturday night setting up chairs for commencement. Campus Dining prepares more than 90 percent of all meals. The Office of University Communications writes, photographs and edits the brochures and award citations. The Wesleyan grounds crew grooms the campus lawns and flower beds. And all academic departments plan open houses for the weekend.

Even students get involved. More than 500 students apply for R&C Weekend employment, but only 150 are hired. They often cover odd-hour shifts, some beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 2 a.m. the next morning.

“Students want to be here working for commencement,” Hutson says. “They enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun. And we want them here. They’re representing Wesleyan, and they’re proud of their school. Alumni love talking to the students, and for the students, meeting Wesleyan alumni on this weekend puts it all into perspective for them.”

When planning more than 150 events throughout the weekend challenges are sure to arise. The staff, however, is accustomed to expect the unexpected.

About 670 alumni registered for 2005 reunion, however, an additional 350 can show up depending on the weather. The coordinators keep their eye on the numbers, which can affect last-minute food orders, rental orders, tables and table cloths, napkins, tables, chairs, silverware, plates, glasses and even the number of flower and balloon arrangements.

And in recent years, challenges have run the gamut:

Brochures and nametags were delivered incorrectly printed. the University Relations staff stayed up throughout the night to get them finished days before the event. 

  • A picnic ran low on turkey sandwiches forcing, students, staff and campus dining crew to scramble to locate lunchmeat and make sandwiches during the picnic.
  • When rain poured for seven days before commencement, the Wesleyan grounds crew laid a makeshift mulch road so vendors could get onto the flooded field.
  • A water main broke one year forcing the coordinators to reroute shuttles through campus at the busiest time of the weekend.
  • A tent fell over just before an all-campus picnic.
  • When the 2000 fireworks show went off with a bang, it left a blanket of soot on the commencement chairs and stage overnight. Physical Plant staff had to hand-wipe all 10,000 chairs clean before morning.
  • “We’re constantly problem solving,” Ebstein says. “Even with the best laid plans, things go awry. The key is to stay calm, be pleasant, assess options and take action.  We strive to do everything possible to make this weekend a positive experience for alumni and parents. Some alumni may not return to campus for another five years, so this experience really matters.”

    Members of University Relations and Physical Plant are assigned different tasks, but among the most important are to be the eyes and ears of the university. All problems and questions are communicated through cell phones and radios. Seventy-two of them to be exact.

    Crunch time for University Relations begins in March when brochures are mailed off, a Web site is developed and registration begins. In May, the staff begins working longer hours and weekends. During the R&C weekend, some of them sleep an average of two hours a night. The staff includes Makaela Steinberg, associate director of Alumni Relations; Linda Kavan, associate director of Events, Suzanne Kampen, administrative assistant with Alumni and Parent Relations; Gail Briggs, associate director of Alumni Education, Meg Zocco, director of Parent Programs and Camille Dolansky, assistant director of Parent Programs. Jean Shaw, now coordinator of University Lectures, was the overall coordinator from 2000-2003, helping to combine the once separate reunion and commencement celebrations into one event.

    The hectic schedule affects their personal life, and Hutson and Ebstein say it takes an understanding family to get through it.

    “My husband knows I’ll be coming home late every night, and my sons know I can’t make it to their basketball and soccer games this time of year,” Ebstein says. “But when they come and see what the weekend is all about, then they get it.”

    Hutson compares planning for R&C Weekend like a running up a hill.

    “It can be agonizing trying to get up and over that hill, but once you’re on top you’re so proud of what you’ve accomplished, you forget how hard it was to get there.”

    After R&C Weekend, the University Relations staff sends evaluation assessments to alumni. Feedback lets Wesleyan know they’re efforts pay off in the end.

    “Although we offer many ways for alumni to stay connected, reunion weekend is one of the more traditional programs and has a unique appeal, ”Ebstein says. “Sometimes alumni won’t have much contact with Wesleyan for many years, then return for reunion and gradually become re-engaged. There’s really something special about the reunion experience; it has a lasting impact.”

    And then on Monday, the planning starts for 2006.

    By the Numbers:

    The number of steps in parade route

    The average hour of sleep per night by events staff

    The hours to clean and prep dorm rooms

    The number of student workers

    The number of chairs used/rented

    The number of hours to plan, cook and set up post-commencement reception

    The number of hours student staff works during the weekend

    The number of brochures printed

    The number of two-way radios used]]>

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Wesleyan’s 173rd Commencement Features Inspiring Speakers, 718 New Graduates

    More than 700 students graduated from Wesleyan May 22.
    Posted 05/23/05
    During the last four years, Wesleyan University students have generated responses to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq, the genocidal crisis in Darfur, the Tsunami of 2004 and several other events. In his commencement address on Wesleyan’s campus on Sunday, May 22, Wesleyan President Douglas J. Bennet `59 urged the 718 undergraduates from the Class of 2005 to continue their good work.

    “My commencement wish for each of you is that you never lose your instinct for challenging the society around you,” Bennet said.

    Bennet exhorted the students to take special interest in those around them who struggle economically

    “In our parents’ time, we had a patchwork of social legislation, tax policy, public programs, including some foreign aid, to provide help and hope so that families could move up,” Bennet said. “There does not seem to be a consensus in the public today about what we can or should do for the have-nots…I am counting on you, everyone here, not to ignore this issue. There is a moral imperative to address it so that the outcomes are not decided by default.”

    The commencement speaker, Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, echoed Bennet’s remarks but also asked students to adapt an attitude of mutual respect.

    “Mutual respect is not about walking on eggshells,” Gutmann said. “It is not about playing down differences. Rather, it is about giving serious consideration to our differences and disagreements and working through them. It is about pursuing common goals in a constructive spirit of engagement, even when many differences remain.”

    Gutmann added that mutual respect is “the life blood of democracy” and yet has become more scarce in a society that seems increasingly polarized and partisan.

    “Without mutual respect, democracy is dead, and so are your prospects for living in a just and peaceful world,” she said.

    Students also heard from New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick `75, P `07, who received an honorary doctorate from the university during the ceremony. Belichick urged the graduates to give heed to their passions rather than taking the easy way out.

    “Follow your dreams,” he said. “Resist the opportunity to take the job that might pay a little more in the short term but offer nothing in the long term. Pursue the thing you really love. Do that, and the rest will come.”

    Along with Belichick and Gutmann, Pulitzer prize winning author Edward P. Jones and William Barber, the Andrews Professor of Economics Emeritus at Wesleyan also received honorary degrees.

    Wesleyan bestowed the Baldwin Medal, the highest alumni honor presented by the University, to John F. Woodhouse, `53, P `79, a Wesleyan alumnus, former president and CEO of Sysco Corporation, and trustee emeritus, chairman and leader of the first-ever Wesleyan Capital Campaign that raised $287 million.

    The Baldwin Medal pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin of Wesleyan’s Class of 1916. Baldwin was the only man to have held the offices of Connecticut governor, U.S. senator, and chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

    Along with the 718 bachelor of arts degrees, Wesleyan also awarded 14 Ph.D. degrees, 40 master of arts degrees in individual fields, 65 master of arts in liberal studies degrees and two advanced certifications. Wesleyan also honored and recognized its alumni from the World War II era during the ceremony.

    For the full text of the speeches visit:

    Full text of Amy Gutmann’s speech

    Full text of Doug Bennet’s speech

    Belichick receives honorary degree at Wesleyan

    To see photos of the weekend visit:

    By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

    Students Discover Hunger Problem in Middletown Children

    Amelia Long ’06, Tiffany Lo ’05, Beth Coddington ’05 and Maria Nankova ’05, students in the Community Research Seminar, completed a study titled “Hungry Children in Middletown.”
    Posted 05/23/05
    Four Wesleyan students have discovered that one out of five local children lives in a household that suffers from food insecurity.

    Beth Coddington ’05, Tiffany Lo ’05, Amelia Long ’06 and Maria Nankova ’05 presented results of their study, “Hungry Children in Middletown” on May 12. The students were enrolled in the Community Research Seminar taught by Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology.

    The Middlesex Coalition for Children commissioned the survey. The project’s purpose was to assess the rate of food insecurity among Middletown households with children under 18.

    The USDA defines food insecurity as: “a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire these foods in socially acceptable ways.”

    The students found that 20.1 percent of Middletown children (1,883 children) were living in food-insecure households during the past 12 months. Of those children, 15.5 percent (1,452 children) experienced food insecurity in their household but were shielded from actual hunger. However, the other 4.6 percent (431 children) experienced food insecurity with hunger within the past year. The rest of Middletown’s children, an estimated 79.9 percent (7,481 children) lived in houses that were food secure.

    “We tapped into a fantastic team of young researchers,” says Betsy Morgan, director of the Middlesex Coalition for Children. “Thanks to our research team, we know there is a serious problem.”

    They also found food insecurity is about as prevalent in Middletown as it is in the U.S. as a whole – nationally with 16.7 percent of households with children were food insecure — but food security with hunger among Middletown households with children exceeds the national average of 3.8 percent.

    The results are based on 329 telephone and paper surveys, administered by the students and local organizations. The survey was designed by the USDA and is currently used by the federal government to measure food insecurity at the state and national level. The students made calls between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. Sunday.

    Lo, an earth and environmental science major, chose to take part in the research project to integrate herself in the Middletown community.

    “The results were rather surprising as I didn’t expect to see so much hunger going on in Middletown,” she says. “But finding this out was definitely the first step towards ending hunger here.”

    The students also asked people about their coping strategies for when they were running low on food or money to buy food. The students found a trend of higher usage of food pantries than food stamps among Middletown’s more food-insecure and lower income households, something that differs from the national tendency.

    Long, a government major, said the food-secure families surveyed were surprised to hear so many households in their own community were having trouble affording food.

    “Also, a lot of people seem to think that individual factors like laziness and poor spending habits are the biggest factors contributing to hunger in families as opposed to bigger structural issues like outdated income qualifications for food stamps,” Long says.

    The research project grew out of the past year’s work by the Middletown Childhood Hunger Task Force. The Task Force was prompted by the discovery that some Middletown families with pre-schoolers didn’t have enough food. Composed of local anti-hunger agencies, the Task Force is co-sponsored by the the Middlesex Coalition for Children and Middletown Mayor Domenique Thornton, who attended the student’s presentation.

    Now that the students have documented their findings, they are working on ways other Wesleyan students can further help the reduce or eliminate problem in the future.

    “We’re going to need everybody in Middletown to help these children,” Morgan says. “It’s going to be a long-term project to build up and strengthen our charitable food programs. We’ve got out work cut out for us.”

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Director of Major Gifts Leads Regional Campaigns

    Andy McGadney, director of Major Gifts, travels nation-wide to recruit gifts in the form of cash, stock, planned gifts, property or rare collections.
    Posted 05/23/05
    Q: When did you come to Wesleyan and were you hired in as director of Major Gifts?

    A: I started at Wesleyan on August 4, 1994 as an assistant director within the Wesleyan Annual Fund.

    Q: What is your background that led you to this job?

    A: Mostly sales. I was working for Otis Elevator Company as an account representative for service sales out of the Stamford office. I interned with Otis during my last three years as a student at Wesleyan University. I graduated from Wesleyan in 1992 with a double major in sociology and African American Studies. I am currently beginning my third semester at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in pursuit of an executive MPA.

    Q: Please define what a ‘gift’ is in university terms.

    A: A gift to the university could consist of any type of monetary contribution or object that could be sold for cash. For example cash, stock, planned gift like a charitable remainder trust, bequest, unitrust, or property, art, rare books or rare collections. On occasion, Wesleyan will accept an item that may be beneficial to our own collections.

    Q: What is a ‘major gift?’

    A: Gifts of $50,000 in value and greater are considered major gifts.

    Q: What are your responsibilities as director of Major Gifts?

    A: During the campaign, which ended on January 13, 2005, my major responsibility was to lead the various regional campaigns across the country. I went to Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland. Outside of the campaign, I am responsible for raising major gifts from our major gift prospect pool of approximately 2,500 prospects. I articulate solicitation strategies, talking points and travel agendas for the chairman of the board, the president and the vice president of University Relations, Barbara-Jan Wilson, my fearless leader. I lead and manage the Major Gifts team, which consists of major gift officers, researchers, a development writer and administrative assistants.

    Q: Where do fund raised through Major Gifts go?

    A: Our team plays a large role in securing the $31 million dollar annual goal needed to meet our institutional goals. Funds raised by our team goes towards the Annual Fund, various campus approved projects like the College of Social Studies, Turf field, Science Center, financial aid and facilities to name a few.

    Q: Do you travel much for work?

    A: I visit with 75 prospects annually, down from a high of 100 visits. I spend two to three weeks on the West Coast and the rest of the travel is done with one to three day trips to various locations such as New York, Boston, Philly, D.C, and Florida. The other members of the team each have visit goals of 100-125 visits per year and they have specific areas of coverage. I try to visit each major city area every year.

    Q: Who generally donates major gifts? Do they always have a Wesleyan tie?

    A: Most of our major donors are alumni and that is the group I focus on, although we receive gifts from corporations, foundations and friends, current and past parents. Most gifts have a tie but not all.

    Q: Is finding major gifts a collaborative effort?

    A: Major gifts are a complete collaborative effort. Gifts raised today may be because of solid work from previous fundraisers, administrators or faculty. A prospect, for the most part, just does not wake up one morning and say I want to give a million bucks. A tremendous amount of planning and work goes into a successful solicitation. Our alumni programs and events staff, the Career Resource Center & annual fund staff, reunion programming and many other departments play a major role. I have had the pleasure of working closely with Barbara-Jan Wilson, Midge and Doug Bennet, other members of senior staff, and several volunteers across the country – Mary McWilliams ’71, Bob Coleman ’68, Susan Sutherland ’82, Sanford Livingston ’87, Bruce Corwin ’62, Peter Hicks ’72, Kofi Appenteng ’80, Alan Dachs ’70, Renny Smith ’78 and John Nelson ’53 to name a few.

    Q: What are the hours like?

    A: When I am in the office I work a fairly normal day, although I tend to be a night owl. So, it is not uncommon to find me in front of computer at home in the early am or the late evening. When I am on the road, my day starts at 5:30 a.m. and if I have a dinner engagement it is not unlikely to return to the hotel until well after 10 p.m.

    Q: What is your involvement with the Administrators and Faculty of Color Alliance?

    A: I am currently the co-chair of this group with Lucy Diaz. This is a rewarding experience to serve this group. We are currently in the middle of a strategic planning session that I look forward to sharing with the greater Wesleyan community once it is completed.

    Q: Are you involved in any other Wesleyan or community groups?

    A: I am the vice president of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Hartford Alumni Chapter, a former board member and keeper of records for this organization. My relationship with Kappa began at Wesleyan in 1989 and I have continued to play a leadership role with this organization since the late 80s.

    Q: What are your interests outside of work?

    A: Golf! I love the game, but I need a tremendous amount of work to improve. I joined a golf league last year that plays weekly at Keeney Golf course in Hartford. The organizer is a good friend and mentor, Evans Jacobs, class of 1973 from Wesleyan.

    Q: Do you have a family?

    A: My number one priority is my beautiful and loving family. They are Camille, my bride and sweetheart, also a Wesleyan alumnus class of 1993, and my two boys Kyle, 5, and Maxwell, 3.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Health Center Directors Bring High-Quality Care to Student Patients

    Dr. Davis Smith, medical director of the Davison Health Center, and Joyce Walter, director of the Health Services Department, are always looking for ways to improve the university’s health care.
    Posted 05/23/05
    Dr. Davis Smith wants the Davison Health Center to be students’ first point of contact for their medical needs. Joyce Walter wants to constantly improve the services at the center. Together, the medical director and director of the Health Services Department’s Davison Health Center are dedicated to maintaining the highest quality of service for their patients in a confidential, convenient and caring professional setting.

    “We both have really high standards,” Smith says. “We try to keep track of how we’re doing and how it compares to other college health centers. If we ever feel like we’re not ahead of the curve, we’ll respond to it. We are deeply committed to satisfying our student customers.”

    At the Davison Health Center, Smith and Walter oversee a staff of 15, including physicians, a physician assistant, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, a medical assistant, a health educator and office and support staff. The health center provides primary care, sexual and reproductive health services, nutritional counseling, health education, laboratory testing, immunizations, an allergy immunotherapy clinic and a travel clinic for students going abroad. The Health Services Department also includes the Office of Behavioral Health for Students and WesWELL, the Office of Health Education.

    Although Smith and Walter share the same goals, their daily routines differ.

    Smith devotes most of his week to clinical hours and working directly with patients, whereas Walter is often out of the office. She meets regularly with staff from the Dean of the College and Student Services, and members of the Student Health Advisory Committee. She assists Davis with the center’s Quality Improvement Committee.

    “I listen to students concerns and bring that back to the office where Davis and I can work out ways to implement these suggestions into the department,” Walter says. “It’s helpful to have outside input to meet the needs of student care.”

    The clinic averages about 9,000 patient visits every academic year. About one-third of those are considered “well-visits,” for students who may need prescriptions, physical exams, immunizations or other non-injury or sick related care. Although the clinic is intended for undergraduate and graduate students, the clinic also provides work-related acute accident and injury care for faculty and staff.

    After a visit, students have the opportunity to fill out a feedback form, or drop comments into a suggestion box. Constructive criticisms are never viewed as a negative.

    “We never look at criticism that way,” Walter says. “We look at it as an opportunity to improve.”

    As a result of students’ concerns, two health-related initiatives have been put into practice in the past two years.

    The first is a four-part series on making healthy food choices called “Feed Your Brain.” The “Feed Your Brain” series includes educational lectures and 30-minute meals cooked during the classes. Staffs from Health Services, WesWELL, Aramark and Athletics collaborate on the effort.

    Based on ideas from the Queer Task Force, Smith and Walter developed a Transgender Health Clinic, later named the Wellness and Sexual Health Clinic. A wellness inventory offers a section titled “Gender Identity History” and states “If you feel it would contribute to the quality of care we provide, please describe your gender identity history.”

    In addition to addressing student concerns, the directors are eyeing public health trends. Smith issues public health advisories via e-mail to warn the campus community of any wide-spreading epidemics. He’s posted advisories for SARS, gastroenteritis and most recently, meningitis.

    “We’re working with a fixed group of people, and we do feel a sense of responsibility for that group,” Smith says.

    He also watches for the onslaught of flu season. Once a few patients trickle in with symptoms, the doctor assumes more are on the way. National surveillance systems such as that administered by the Center for Disease Control are also tracked.

    “The students we see are very representative of the whole campus,” he says.

    Students most commonly come to the health center for upper respiratory tract infections and other illnesses or injuries. Others come for preventative care, such as gynecological exams or contraceptives or immunizations.

    Walter and Smith are members of the American College Health Association, and favor working with college students. Walter came to Wesleyan in 2002 and has a 20-year career in college health.

    “Working with 20-year-olds is my niche,” Walter says. “Students at that age are willing to make changes, and I like to be part of assisting them in skills development. Even if they are smokers, they may be willing to give it up. But after they turn 25, they’re most likely set in their ways.”

    Dr. Smith came to Wesleyan to work full-time in 2001 after working part-time during his chief residency in the University of Connecticut Primary Care Internal Medicine residency. He says adolescent medicine provides an optimal combination of intellectual stimulation and life flexibility.

    “You’re working with people who are at a phase in their life that determines how they live their lives forever,” he says. “They might apply things I taught them for the next 40, 60 years. They’re so full of energy and life. I love to be a part of that.”

    Dr. Davis Smith earned a bachelor’s of art from Brown University in an independent concentration titled “Plants and the Culture of Healing” in 1990. His thesis was on Tibetan medicine. Smith later graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1997 and completed an internal medicine residency at the University of Connecticut. He was Board Certified in Internal Medicine in 2000.

    Joyce Walter earned a bachelor’s of science in health and physical education from Lock Haven State College in 1980. She earned her master’s of science degree in health education from Penn State University in 1980, and has been certified as a Health Education Specialist since 1989.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor