All News

Wesleyan Professor Collaborates with other Universities on Stem Cell Research Initiative


Posted 02/01/06

Laura Grabel, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science and professor of biology, is working with Connecticut’s Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee on ways to save the state money on a research laboratory.

 

Grabel along with scientists from Yale University and the University of Connecticut, believe at least one core laboratory could be established in the state. The scientists told a panel overseeing Connecticut’s 10-year, $100 million stem cell research initiative that they are willing to collaborate and avoid repeating the same work and save money. They said they could share expensive equipment and conduct certain research with human embryonic cells that is not eligible for federal money and prohibited in facilities built using federal funds.
 

The Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee is in the beginning stages of determining how best to distribute the first chunk – $20 million – of the state’s $100 million investment. The committee hopes to award grants this summer, possibly as early as June 30.

Fish May Help Unmask Muscle Diseases


Stephen Devoto, associate professor of biology, neuroscience and behavior, studies vertebrate developmental patterns in zebrafish.
Posted 02/01/06
A tiny fish popular with aquarium enthusiasts is poised to make a big splash in our understanding of muscle development. The results could have implications on the comprehension and perhaps treatment of muscular dystrophy, certain types of heart disease and other serious muscle-based ailments.

These findings by Stephen Devoto, associate professor of associate professor of biology, neuroscience and behavior were recently published in the paper titled “Generality of vertebrate developmental patterns: evidence for a dermomyotome in fish,” in the January issue of the scientific journal Evolution & Development.

Devoto’s research examined the musculature of the tiny zebrafish, an aquarium favorite indigenous to South Asian streams. What the researcher found was that although fish and human beings comprise widely different physical forms, their underlying muscular development is much more similar than scientists had previously believed.

“This research validates the idea that understanding fish development will tell us how human muscle stem cells develop at the very beginning stages,” says Devoto, who has been studying zebrafish at Wesleyan since 1992. “At their very basic level, we found developmental similarities between all vertebrates are much more striking than previously documented.”

In basic terms, Devoto’s work compared the cell layer that contributes to muscle formation in many different vertebrate species, including zebrafish, trout, skates and chickens, among others. He demonstrated that this cell layer in fish, know as the dermomyotome evolved prior to the last common ancestor of all vertebrates.

“It was one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments,” admits Devoto, who has always been fascinated by how cells talk to one another, how they are created and how they morph. “It was the kind of moment that is so rewarding for a scientist.”

But such moments are rare and often require tremendous amounts of work in and out of the lab. In Devoto’s case, the journey actually took him to Europe.

While on sabbatical at Kings College in London during 2004, Devoto engaged in many lengthy talks with Simon Hughes who was Devoto’s host. Hughes, who provided Devoto with laboratory access during his stay in London, is also a fellow co-author, about chicken and frog muscle development.

“Our conversations planted the initial seeds that maybe muscle in all vertebrates is formed the same way,” Devoto says.

Their ideas were solidified after Devoto reviewed a cross section of trout embryos with Walter Stoiber, another co-author, at the University of Salzburg in Austria.

“Surprisingly, these connections had not been demonstrated before,” Devoto says.

After returning to Wesleyan in the summer of 2004, he threw himself into researching the early muscle cell development in as many fish species as he could find.

Katherine Wolfe, an Olin Library assistant in the Interlibrary Loan Department, helped Devoto obtain copies of obscure hand-drawings and research from the 1800 and 1900s. Often he had to do his own translations of the German and French citations.

“I got so excited when I found out one of the journals was in I couldn’t wait to analyze it,” Devoto says. “It turned out that some nineteenth century scientists doing comparative embryology suspected these similarities, but they did not have the ability to provide conclusive evidence back then.

After analyzing their findings, Devoto and co-authors began writing the paper in the fall of 2004.

Devoto and his team continues their research with zebrafish. The tiny fish are a transparent species that is easy to study and breed. Currently, about 5,000 of the fish reside in his laboratory.

One of Devoto’s ongoing projects examines their skeletal muscle signaling protein, named Hedgehog. He and his colleagues learned that, when the protein is intentionally blocked in zebrafish, muscle development is disrupted. With his new work demonstrating close similarities between fish and humans in muscle development, Devoto believes that it is very likely that Hedgehog signaling is required for muscle development in humans. Anomalies in this signaling may underlie some muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy and certain types of heart disease.

Devoto and his undergraduate and graduate students are also trying to find out what happens next to the embryonic zebrafish muscle cells after they form.

“We’re now extending our thought process and asking ourselves where do the cells go from this point and what exactly does this mean?”

 
By Laura Perillo,  associate director of Media Relations

Sight for Cinema: Assistant Professor of Film Studies Looks for Directors’ Visual Styles


Lisa Dombrowski, assistant professor of film studies, is a 1992 Wesleyan alumna, and is a specialist on film form, the American film industry and contemporary East Asian cinema.
 
Posted 02/01/06
Lisa Dombrowski rarely watches a movie just once.

Or twice. Or even 10 times. In fact, it often takes her more than 20 screenings to fully analyze a film.

“Each time I watch a film, I’m looking at it for different reasons,” explains the assistant professor of film studies. “I’ll watch it once to get the initial sense of the narrative, and the next time I’ll count how many shots are in it, and then I’ll focus on the use of the camera, for instance. Is the director using lots of close-ups, or is the camera far from the subject? Is the camera moving a lot? Essentially I’m looking for how the filmmakers’ choices influence our viewing experience.”

Dombrowski, a 1992 Wesleyan alumna, is a specialist on film form and analysis, authorship, the history of film style, the American film industry and contemporary East Asian cinema.

Dombrowski teaches Introduction to Film Analysis; The American Film Industry during the Studio Era; American Independent Filmmaking; and Contemporary East Asian Cinema. This spring, she’s teaching Melodrama and the Woman’s Picture and Contemporary International Art Cinema.

In her classes, she often replaces textbooks with films. Dombrowski accentuates the importance of visual style and has her students look for ways in which filmmakers employ narrative structure, composition and framing, editing, lighting, camera angles and movement, and sound to cue certain emotional and intellectual responses.

She cites as an example Steven Spielberg’s 1975 thriller “Jaws.” Viewers are introduced to the shark from his visual perspective in the water. What he sees as he swims, combined with the tension-packed musical score, give the audience clues that the shark is on a man hunt.

“We begin affiliating the famous ‘dun-da dun-da’ musical motif with the shark on the prowl for human flesh,” Dombrowski explains. “We actually see very little of the shark until late in the film, so when the shark finally emerges from the water, the shock value is very strong.”

Dombrowski, who also advises the student-run Wesleyan Film Series, says selecting films to show in her classes is a time-consuming and challenging aspect of her position. Only a fraction of all motion pictures are available from distributors, and 35mm film prints can cost more than $800 each to rent. She prefers to show films in the Center for Film Studies’ new state-of-the-art Goldsmith Family Cinema. That way, students can watch the film the way the director originally intended it to be seen: on the silver screen.

Janine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, curator of the Cinema Archives and chair of the Film Studies Department says Dombrowski was one of the most brilliant students she taught in the Wesleyan film major. Basinger encouraged her bright pupil to get a master’s and Ph.D so she could teach at the collegiate level.

“Lisa is a great addition to our department,” Basinger says. “She brings the ability to teach classes in new areas: the contemporary cinema, East Asian cinema, the history of the film industry, and the independent cinema. Her colleagueship is outstanding, and she’s reached out to the entire campus to help connect Film Studies to all four divisions. Her brains, her energy, her enthusiasm make her a real asset for Film Studies and for Wesleyan.”

In addition to teaching, Dombrowski is reviewing the production notebooks of director Elia Kazan, whose papers are held in the Wesleyan Cinema Archives. Kazan, who directed post-WWII films including “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and “On the Waterfront”, took meticulous notes concerning all aspects of his productions, from the acting to the cinematography. Dombrowski plans to edit a publication based on the filmmaker’s thorough journals.

In the past few years, Dombrowski has presented conference papers on the aesthetics of black and white widescreen pictures in the 1950s; the distribution strategies adopted by Miramax in the release of Hong Kong films in the United States; and comparative approaches to low-budget filmmaking. In March, she will present “Adrift in Time: Free-floating Camera Movement, Memory, and Loss,” at the Society for Cinema & Media Studies Conference in Vancouver, Canada.

Dombrowski didn’t always have a heart for Hollywood. A resident of Akron, Ohio during high school, she came to Wesleyan in 1988 to study English and history. During her first year, she took two film courses, which opened her eyes to a new way of watching film. She ended up majoring in American studies and film studies, graduating from Wesleyan in 1992.

“When I was younger, like anyone, I went to movies and looked for a good story line, solid acting and beautiful visuals, but I was never thinking about the choices that filmmakers made, and why I responded in a certain way,” she says. “When you watch film as an artistic creation, and see its historical and cultural context, it becomes a completely different experience.”

During a 16mm viewing of Samuel Fuller’s 1963 thriller “Shock Corridor” in Prof. Jeanine Basinger’s Film Noir class, Dombrowski found herself curled into her seat, stunned by the director/producer’s bold approach and shocking visual style. Fuller would later become the focus of her dissertation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received her master’s of arts and Ph.D. in film.

Dombrowski has rewritten her dissertation into a soon-to-be-published book, “If You Die, I’ll Kill You: The Cinema of Samuel Fuller.” The book highlights Fuller’s career from the late 1940s through the 1980s, and examines his films from an aesthetic perspective.

Dombrowski has written or co-authored three recent grants, including a Wesleyan University Pedagogical Grant in 2003; an Edward W. Snowdon Fund Grant in 2004; and a Fund for Innovation Grant in 2005. She’s used these grants to develop a Contemporary International Art Cinema course, support an interdepartmental film and speaker series and support interdisciplinary courses, workshops, and speaker events on science and visualization.

She still tries to catch as many new flicks in the theater as possible. Her recent theater trips included viewings of “The New World,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “King Kong,” “Match Point” and “Pride & Prejudice.”

Her interest in international and independent films has also taken her to the South by Southwest Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, The Chicago Film Festival, and The New York Film Festival. She’s been a jury member for the Bethel Film Festival in Bethel, Conn. and Film Fest New Haven; and she’s served as curator of the Samuel Fuller Series at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cinematheque.

She’s studied thousands of films, averaging two a day. But to date, there’s still one film-related question she’ll always shrug her shoulders at.

“So, what’s your favorite movie?”

“I’ll never have an answer for that,” she says, smiling. “There are too many good movies out there, each with its own distinct style, to have only one favorite.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Head of Operations is Head of Several Servers, Accounts


James Taft, manager of systems and operations for Information Technology Services, helps keeps Wesleyan’s accounts and servers running smoothly.
 
Posted 02/01/06
Q: When did you come to Wesleyan?

A: I started at Wesleyan in September 2003 as the manager of systems and operations.

Q: Briefly summarize Wesleyan’s systems and operations. Are you, in a sense, the data center for the university?

A: The systems and operations group maintains our user account directories and the technological infrastructure located inside our Data Center. Almost all of the central servers for the university, including Web servers, e-mail servers, database servers, file servers, application servers and backup systems, are located in the Data Center and are under our care. When you check your e-mail, visit the Wesleyan Web site, or log into Dragon, Condor or Woodstock, you are connecting to a machine in the Data Center.

Q: Being under the Technology Support Services umbrella, what accounts and servers do you support and oversee?

A: We maintain the accounts that members of the Wesleyan community use to log into their workstations, e-mail, e-Portfolio, and the many other electronic services provided by Wesleyan. We work very closely with the other members of Technology Support Services, especially Dave Warner and Ken Taillon who maintain the network infrastructure.

Q: How do you control the door locks on campus?

A: We don’t directly control the locks on doors, but the server that runs the key card access system is located in the Data Center and is under our care. The folks in the WesCard office connect to this server remotely to program the locks on campus and can make any changes or additions to access levels from their offices.

Q: As a manager, who are the key members of your staff?

A: Jen Platt and Jerry Maguda are our operations specialists. Doug Baker is our Windows administrator, and Hong Zhu and Matt Elson are our UNIX administrators.

Q: Is your work more behind-the-scenes or do you interact with users often?

A: The operations side of our group, which consists of Jerry Maguda and Jen Platt, frequently interact with users to answer questions about accounts, accessing central services, and using our Print Operations services. The folks on the systems side, including Doug Baker, Hong Zhu and Matt Elson, have less direct contact with users, though we do interact with departments that have servers hosted in the data center, as well as professors needing academic UNIX support. For the most part, though, our direct clients are the other wings of ITS: User Services, Academic Computing Services and Administrative Systems.

Q: What are typical concerns people would contact you for?

A: The systems group’s main task is to keep Wesleyan’s technological infrastructure running smoothly.

On the operations side, we create user accounts for our various services and respond to users when they need help with these accounts. Our print operations service tends to the printing needs of the university, including the phone directory and the Board of Trustees booklets. If people are interested in how Printing Operations can help them, we ask them to call us or e-mail us at printing@wesleyan.edu.

Q: Who sees the results of your work?

A: Much of our work is invisible to our users. We spend a lot of time making our systems more robust so that problems do not affect end users. We are constantly improving the speed and capacity of our infrastructure so that it can keep up with the rapid growth of technology usage on campus. In instances where there are service outages, such as system-wide e-mail problems, we are typically the group that responds.

Q: Where did you go to college and what did you major in? How did you get into a high-tech field?

A: I graduated from Haverford College with a degree in English. I have always had an inclination towards technology, but did not have formal training before joining a tiny IT department at Deutsch Advertising in New York City. I was fortunate to work at Deutsch during a time of exponential growth for the agency and their technological enterprise.

Q: What is your relationship with John Driscoll, alumni director and his wife, Gina Driscoll, associate director of stewardship?

A: I am married to John and Gina’s daughter, Laura, and we have a 13-month-old girl, Clara. John and Gina’s primary responsibility is teaching Clara the Wesleyan fight song, but I understand they do other work for University Relations as well.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests?

A: My main hobbies are skiing, photography, running and tennis.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

“Ferocious Beauty: Genome”  Premiers at Wesleyan


“Ferocious Beauty: Genome” premiered Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 in the Center for the Arts Theater.

Posted 02/01/06

How we heal, age, procreate and eat may soon change because of genetic research happening right now. The world premiere of renowned choreographer Liz Lerman’s “Ferocious Beauty: Genome” explores this moment of revelation and questioning in an arresting theatrical work that combines movement, music, text and film.

 

The world premier of “Ferocious Beauty: Genome” took place Feb. 3 and Feb. 4, in the Center for the Arts Theater.

 

The piece is the result of an unprecedented partnership with scientists and ethicists to confront the promise and threat of a new biological age.

 

For the past three years, the CFA and Wesleyan faculty have partnered with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, led by Liz Lerman, to explore the ethical and social repercussions of genetic research. The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange is a professional company of dance artists that creates, performs, teaches, and engages people in making art.

 

Through relationships with Wesleyan’s science faculty and students, Wesleyan served as a “laboratory” for Lerman’s development of the piece. This collaboration reflects both the Dance Exchange’s and Wesleyan’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, as the project has initiated an unprecedented dialogue between scientists and artists. The outcome will be represented through a plurality of viewpoints, mirroring a dialogue among multiple voices—artistic, scientific and scholarly—in their varied perspectives.

 

Wesleyan provided extensive information, assistance and feedback in helping Lerman to create the piece.

 

“The piece took a conceptual turn several times because of the contributions from the scientists at Wesleyan,” Lerman says. “And, the fact that one of the scientists is a dancer made the leap between the two disciplines easier.”

 

The partnership with Wesleyan has also resulted in the most comprehensive residency ever undertaken by a dance company at Wesleyan. Lerman joined Wesleyan’s dance faculty as a visiting assistant professor for fall 2005. Students in her class had the opportunity to explore scientific, ethical and social issues related to genetic research.

 

Liz Lerman, who received a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellowship in 2002 for her visionary work, exposed Wesleyan students and faculty to the Dance Exchange’s methods and interdisciplinary approach. The ultimate goal was to refine ways to teach science to non-scientists and to gain knowledge through embodied movement.

 

Wesleyan and the Flint Cultural Center in Flint, Mich. are the lead commissioners of “Ferocious Beauty: Genome.”

 

The show will soon tour major performing arts centers including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Krannert Center for Performing Arts at the University of Illinois.

 

For more information on the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange visit http://www.danceexchange.org/.

Swim Coach Makes a Splash with Division III Athletes


Mary Bolich, head of men’s and women’s swimming, wants her swimmers to be mentally strong in the pool and in the classroom.
 
Posted 02/01/06
Q: Mary, where did you grow up and when did you develop an interest in swimming?

A: I grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, a town just outside of Philadelphia. The neighborhood I grew up in had a summer club pool just down the street from my home. My siblings and I lived at the pool each summer. I would say this is where my early interest in swimming started.

Q: Where did you attend college and what did you major in? What events did you swim in college?

A: I attended Temple University for both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Much to the dismay of my distance swimmers I was a sprinter in college. My events were sprint fly, back and freestyle.

Q: Why did you decide to become a swimming coach?

A: I started coaching in college with summer league programs to make some extra money, and really enjoyed it. When I graduated undergrad my college coach asked if I would be interested in being his assistant coach and offered me a graduate assistant position. I earned my master’s and continued to enjoy the experience, so I accepted an assistant coaching position at the University of Pittsburgh.

Q: What year did you come to Wesleyan to coach, and what are the teams’ records?

A: I came to Wesleyan in July of 2000. The men’s team record this year is 12 –4, and the women’s team record is 12 – 6.

Q: Prior to Wesleyan, where did you coach?

A:, I spent four years at the University of Iowa as the head coach of the women’s program. Before Iowa I was at Penn State for seven years as the women’s assistant coach, and also taught in the Exercise Science program. I also coached at the University of California Berkeley and the University of Pittsburgh.

Q: Why did you leave a Division I school to come to Wesleyan, a Division III?

A: I had a strong interest in living on the east coast. I also was curious about Division III athletics. When the Wesleyan position opened I saw it as a great opportunity at a school that offered outstanding academics with an excellent swimming facility. A great combination for success.

Q: In 2005, the College Swimming Coaches Association of America reported that the Wesleyan team members had an impressive 3.27GPA in the Academic All-American Standings Division III. How important is it to you that your student-athletes are physically, as well as mentally strong?

A: Academics are the number one priority for the Wesleyan swimmers and divers. We discuss the importance of time management, and our individual and team goals to achieve excellence in the classroom, as well as the pool. As a program, we are very proud of the recognition both teams and several individuals have received as a result of their success in the classroom. The men’s and women’s team have received national honors each of the last 10 semesters for their team GPAs. Many of the semesters the teams were ranked academically at the top of the NESCAC Conference and top 10 in the country for their overall team GPAs. We have had many individuals recognized with conference honors, and several individuals have earned Academic All American accolades during the last five years.

Q: Who are the team’s key athletes this season? What team or individual records been broken?

A: I would say our seniors play a key role in their leadership and guidance for both teams. Rob Mitchell, Dan Devine and Stephanie Lasby as captains, and Josh Tanz, Will McCue and Alec Zebrowski also add to the positive direction for our large underclassmen group. During my six seasons at Wesleyan the men’s team has set 12 new team records, and the women’s team has also set 12 new team records.

Q:: Who else do you collaborate coaching with?

A: The other members of the swimming and diving coaching staff are Mollie Parrish and Jeff Miller. Mollie is in her fourth year as the assistant coach for the men’s and women’s swimming teams. She came from Denison University where she majored in biology, and had a highly successful collegiate swimming career. She earned 20 All-America honors, won seven national titles and set three NCAA Division III records and was a member of the 2001 NCAA Championship Title team. Jeff was a national level diver at the University of Pittsburgh, and coached at University of West Virginia and the University of Maryland. Jeff also serves as the associate director of facility management for the university’s physical plant.

Q: The annual New England Small College Athletic Conference begins this month. How are you helping the teams prepare?

A: The Women’s NESCAC Championships are Feb. 17 – 19 at Bowdoin, and the Men’s NESCAC Championships are Feb. 24 –26 at Williams. The teams are preparing to swim their fastest performances of the season at these meets, as well as at the NCAA Championships in March. Our training focus at this point is speed, recovery and attention to race detail.

Q: Why did the Swimming and Diving Team go to Puerto Rico this year?

A: The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams traveled to San Juan for our winter training trip in early January. This is the time in our season where we train at a very high level. We are swimming double workouts plus dry land training that consumes a good part of our day during this training phase. Being able to do this intense training in a warm and pleasant environment enhances the experience for the athletes.

Q:I understand you have coached athletes at the Olympic trials in 1992, 1996, and 2000. What is it like for you to work with the worlds top athletes?

A: It is fun and exciting being a part of training and competing at the national and international level. It is a great opportunity to meet many people and travel to places I may have never gone to with out this experience.

Q: What physical education classes do you teach as an adjunct professor of physical education?

A: I teach Beginning Swimming, which is my favorite, and Advanced Beginning Swimming and Swimming for Fitness.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I like to run, and also enjoy spending time with family and friends.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

THE FINAL TOUCHES: The Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies new west wing addition will open at the end of January. Construction began in August 2005.

Construction crews work on the new seminar room, which overlooks the Freeman Center’s Japanese garden. The seminar room will be used for classes up to 25 students, East Asian Studies’ events, dinners, conferences and its Colloquium Series, Japanese Tea Ceremonies and tai chi classes.
Patrick Dowdey, curator of the Freeman Center, and Shirley Lawrence, program coordinator, take a closer look at the new seminar room. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)
Patrick Dowdey stands in the addition’s new entrance. The hall behind him features the curator’s office, an art storage room and a spacious examination room, which will be used for classes to examine art objects. The hallway connects the original Freeman Center with the new wing. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)

Perfect Web Sight: Web Manager Designs Wesleyan’s Online Communications with Consistent Message, Look, Feel


Jen Carlstrom, Web Manager in the Office of University Communications, helps departments learn to update their own Web site information.

 
Posted 01/17/06

Jen Carlstrom grew up sketching Disney cartoon characters, molding clay figurines and designing Christmas cards on her father’s computers. As she matured, so did Carlstrom’s love for art and technology, which has ultimately led to a career as Wesleyan’s Web manager.

“I’ve always loved drawing and using the computer to create arts projects,” she recalls. “Designing on the Web combines those two passions I’ve had since I was a child.”

Carlstrom, who came to the Office of University Communications in 2001, is celebrating her fifth year building and designing Web pages this year at Wesleyan. She came to the university with a bachelor’s of fine art in graphic design from the University of Connecticut and an extensive list of high profile clients, including Pfizer, Philip Morris, Allied Domecq and IBM. Her work included leading multimedia projects, designing Web sites, working on interface design and helping come up with companies’ visual identities.

As Wesleyan’s Web Manager, Carlstrom oversees communications through the Web by making sure Wesleyan’s pages have a consistent message, look and feel. She stresses branding, or the visual way Wesleyan is marketed to the public.

“We want to create a consistent, recognizable identity in all our Web communications,” Carlstrom says. “This includes our logo, colors, fonts and imagery. We also help to leverage technology to communicate to our audiences.”

Carlstrom says accomplishing this can, at times, be challenging. Departments, which Carlstrom refers to her as clients, want to have their own identity and a site that stands out from the others. Carlstrom tries to give departments this freedom but within the cohesiveness of the university’s standards and identity.

“When we get a client who wants green text on a blue background, we explain that we want to help market their department, but consistency with the other Wesleyan pages can be a good thing,” she says. “We hope to create all department Web sites with a cohesive and unified look and feel while keeping the department’s identity with certain features in our templates.”

Carlstrom points to the sites created for the English Department, http://www.wesleyan.edu/english/, and the Art and Art History Department, http://www.wesleyan.edu/art/, as recent examples. Carlstrom was able to work with the departments to retain their unique own look and feel and yet remain quickly identifiable as “Wesleyan” sites – a task that’s not as easy as it sounds or looks.

“Jen brought a real clarity to the process, and she did it with a lot of good humor and patience,” says Marlisa Simonson, associate director for employer relations at Wesleyan’s Community Resource Center (CRC). “She helped us figure out our needs and then worked with us throughout the process to make sure that we were thinking in terms of both design and functionality.”

Simonson said functionality was a key because CRC’s site http://www.wesleyan.edu/crc experiences heavy traffic.

“It was much more than just upgrading a look that met our needs and got it in line with university standards,” she says. “We really wanted to improve the way the site provided service. Jen was great in helping us reach all those goals.”

A big part of Carlstrom’s job continues to be working with clients to update their sites with the newly-created Wesleyan style and providing better Web-based services to their audiences.

“Jen has taken on a set of formidable challenges: to make Wesleyan’s Web site a vehicle for effective communication with all the University’s constituencies, to integrate our online and print collateral, and to develop new media as part of our portfolio,” says Justin Harmon, the director of communications. “Wesleyan has strong platforms and needs leadership to realize the potential of these media. I am grateful that we are led by a professional who so deeply understands both the available technologies and communication design.”

Carlstrom’s Web team includes Web designer Ryan Lee and senior designer Anne Marcotty. The staff frequently consults with Pat Leone, World Wide Web administrator for technical issues in Information Technology Services (ITS). During the last few years, Leone worked with Carlstrom to implement a template system that gives university pages a consistent look and feel, and enables offices and departments to maintain current content.

Along with creating Web pages, Carlstrom and her colleagues have created Wesleyan screen savers; the new virtual tour; e-mails using HTML, the software language used on the Internet’s World Wide Web; and multimedia products for University Relations using Macromedia Flash. Carlstrom also co-developed a DVD slideshow for the alumni donor reception and another DVD of the university’s master plan for prospective donors.

“We strive to better communicate our message using these technologies,” she says.

The entire process of building a department’s Web site takes roughly six weeks, depending on the client’s schedule. Carlstrom holds an initial meeting with the client and discusses ideas and educates the client on the best use of the Web for their purposes. The Web team then designs a site based on the client’s needs.

After a client approves the design, Carlstrom oversees the building of templates and training of the client on how to upload content onto their pages. These training sessions are usually about three hours long and provide clients with the know-how to manage their own sites.

Carlstrom also suggests clients new to Web design take additional software training in Adobe GoLive if they use a Mac, or Microsoft Office FrontPage if they are PC users.

Because she is doing this for the entire university, as well as the other projects mentioned, Carlstrom has to be a master of multi-tasking. In between playing watchdog to multiple Web projects, she spends her days “usually in a lot of meetings” with clients or her Web staff. She’s constantly communicating with the clients on the phone or through e-mail, in addition to working on her projects.

“We’re always here if the client has any questions,” she says.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Student, Alumnae Research Orphan Care In South Africa and Establish Aid Organization


College of Social Studies majors Angela Larkan ’06 and Lindsey Reynolds ’04 raise funds and awareness for orphaned pre-schoolers in South Africa through their non-profit organization, Thembanathi. Larkan’s thesis at Wesleyan involved establishing a method of care for AIDS orphans using their school system. (Photos contributed by Maya Casagrande)

Posted 01/17/06
Angela Larkan ’06 was raised in an apartheid South African town knowing that she could have been born into a poor family just down the road. With an estimated one in three South African children expected to be orphans by the year 2010 due to the AIDS virus, Larkan always knew she wanted to make a difference in her native country.

“When I look into the eyes of the orphans, they all seem to be telling me the same thing,” says Larkan, who has family roots in South Africa reaching back to the 1800s. “They show me that they matter as human beings; that they have energy, love and innocence to offer the world, and that they need someone to help them survive.”

In 2003, Larkan took on the task of co-founding a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for children in South Africa. The organization, Thembanathi, means “hope with us” in Zulu. Social studies major Lindsay Reynolds ’04 has worked on and off in South Africa for the last three years on HIV prevention projects and co-directs Thembanathi with Larkan.

According to the South African Department of Health, in 2004, South Africa had more HIV positive people than any other country in the world. In the province of KwaZulu-Natal, known as the “AIDS belt,” 40.7 percent of women attending antenatal clinics had HIV/AIDS. Mothers have a one in three chance of passing the deadly disease onto their children.

Thembanathi partners with Holy Cross AIDS Hospice, a non-governmental organization which supports orphans of AIDS and other vulnerable children. Money raised by Thembanathi goes toward feeding programs, a summer camp, children’s educational fees, and transportation for children to and from the preschool, among other needs.

Larkan’s interest in the orphaned children of AIDS was intensified during her sophomore year at Wesleyan. She applied for the Davenport Study Grant, normally awarded to juniors doing thesis research, to go to South Africa and conduct research on the AIDS orphan crisis, and determine a strategy to best handle the dramatic increase of orphans expected by 2010.

“I wanted to work on something that was real and more relevant to today’s world,” she says.

Larkan received the grant, and for six weeks, she traveled around the city of KwaZulu-Natal, interviewing key players in orphan care and the AIDS pandemic. There, she worked with Reynolds, who received a similar grant her junior year to study in South Africa. That opportunity crystallized Reynolds’ interest in AIDS on an international level and expanded her interest to working with children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.

Together, the women witnessed dozens of pre-school-aged children left alone to fend for themselves in areas where hunger, disease, and poverty were already part of daily life. They communicate with the children through an acquired “toddler Zulu” and hire a translator when conducting research.

“Our time there was fateful because we left with a desire, drive, and persistence to do more than just write about the AIDS situation,” Larkan explains. “We knew that we had to do something, no matter how small, to help the children that we had seen.”

Larkan, who spearheads Thembanathi’s fundraising efforts, has coordinated benefit concerts, bake sales, candy-grams, refreshment sales at athletic games and jewelry sales to raise money for the organization. Beaded AIDS pins, handmade by Zulu women, are the program’s top seller. Thembanathi raised $14,000 in its first two years, and acquired a $33,000 grant from the Wellesley Rotarians and Rotary International to establish a water purification system at Holy Cross.

Last summer, support from President Doug Bennet and the Christopher Brodigan Fund afforded the Thembanathi directors to return to South Africa for two months. While there, Larkan conducted some follow-up research on her thesis, which involved establishing a method of care for AIDS orphans using the school system. In addition, she developed a proposal that would link at-risk children in orphanages and schools with non-governmental agencies and social workers.

Larkan and Reynolds are also building networks, and are trying to have their ideas discussed in academic public policy circles.

Richard Elphick, professor of history, supervised Larkan’s thesis.

“I certainly encourage my students to do projects in public service, but Angela is doing extraordinary things on a number of different fronts,” he says. “Rather than studying AIDS prevention, Angela is working on the other end – how to deal with victims, or the tsunami of orphans. She’s very intellectually acute and practical, and it’s wonderful that she’s out there raising money for her cause.

A good part of running Thembanathi is administrative work, so Larkan and Reynolds can work using remote devices. Reynolds is living in Chad, Africa for 2 1/2 months doing more research as part of the completion of her Master’s in International Public Health from Johns Hopkins. Larkan, who finished her studies at Wesleyan in December, is living in Colorado.

“Some people don’t understand why I want to spend four hours a day working on something that doesn’t pay me, but they haven’t met the children I worked with,” Larkan explains. “They haven’t interviewed officials who sadly, slowly, tell you how they country is being ruined. It is the experience on the ground that keeps me going. Children are innocent and don’t deserve to be the victims of a crisis this large before they have even learned to read.”

Larkan and Reynolds hope to run Thembanathi full-time in the future and set up AIDS testing clinics and pediatric antiretrovirals for those AIDS orphans that are positive.

Larkan credits her experience at Wesleyan with her present and future plans. She’s worked in the Office of Community Service where she ran a group called AIDS and Sexual Health Awareness, teaching HIV prevention in local high schools and raising awareness about local and global AIDS issues.

Classes in government, economics, history and philosophy at Wesleyan provided Larkan with a broad range of pertinent information, allowing her to use to use these tools innovatively to build a model for orphan care. But it was Wesleyan’s students, she says, that inspired her to jump at the problem and try to change it.

“Wesleyan’s atmosphere is inspiring and makes you want to be active in creating change,” she says. “Most importantly, it makes you realize that you can be a part of that change.”

For more information on Themabanathi visit http://www.thembanathi.org/.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Bible Studies, Buddhist Meditations, Mass and More During 10th Annual Spirituality Week


The Memorial Chapel will host several Spirituality Week events between Jan. 27 – Feb. 2.
Posted 01/17/06
The 10th annual Spirituality Week will take place Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 at various locations on campus.

Spiritually Week is coordinated by the University Chaplains each year to emphasize weekly religious and spiritual programs on campus and to sponsor and recognize special events.

“This is a good opportunity for people to understand the range of spiritually that happens on campus,” says Rev. Gary Comstock, protestant chaplain. “The students will return to campus fresh and open to new ideas. We want them to know that you don’t need to be Jewish to go to a Jewish service.”

The chaplains’ regular events, such as the Catholic Mass, the Protestant Worship, Muslim prayer and a Jewish Shabbat will be held during this period.

In addition, the chaplains have coordinated events with student-run organizations. Wesleyan Christian Fellowship is sponsoring an Athletes Fellowship to discuss the relationship between faith and life as a student-athlete. There will also be a discussion titled “Jesus, Revolution and the Pursuit of Justice” and two Bible studies. Wesleyan Dharma Study Group is sponsoring three Buddhist meditations.

Rev. Comstock will lead an activity with the Vespers for students of any or no religious affiliation and a luncheon requested by students titled, “Queerness & Spirituality.” He also is presenting a workshop on painted prayers titled “Rangoli: Sand Designs of India.”

This year’s Faculty Panel will speak on “Integrating Spirituality and Academics.” Comstock expects more than 50 students and faculty to attend the discussion that includes a period for questions, posed by the audience.

“Even I am surprised by how much is going on,” Comstock says. “Spirituality Week is a nice highlight of everything that happens here on a regular basis.”

The schedule of events, including the date, contact information and location, is as follows (to print this schedule click on the print button at the end of this page):

Friday, Jan. 27

  • Jumu’a Friday Prayers, with Imam Mahan Mirza, Muslim chaplain. 12:45-1:15 p.m., 169 High Street, Room 210. Congregational prayer service with sermon (mmirza@wesleyan.edu).
  • Shabbat, with Rabbi David Leipziger Teva, Jewish Chaplain. Services, 6 p.m.; Home-cooked Shabbat dinner, 7:30 p.m., Bayit, 157 Church Street (dleipziger@wesleyan.edu).
  • “Why Jesus?” 7:30 p.m., Woodhead Lounge. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Discussion on ‘What makes Jesus unique among religious teachers?’ (cchow@wesleyan.edu).
  • Sunday, Jan. 29

  • Middletown Friends Meeting, 10 a.m., Zelnick Pavilion (wholder@wesleyan.edu).
  • Gallery Talk with Israeli artist Hagit Mogan, 2 p.m., Zilkha Gallery. Part of “Women, Bodies, and Rituals” conference (http://mteter.web.wesleyan.edu/Molgan.htm).
  • “We Refuse to Be Enemies: Jews, Christians, and Muslims for Peace,” discussion with area scholars and activists who work together for peace. 3 to 6 p.m. Woodhead Lounge, dinner. Sponsored by Imam Mirza (mmirza@wesleyan.edu).
  • Buddhist Meditation, 3 p.m., Mediation Room, lower level, Chapel. Sponsored by Wesleyan Dharma Study Group (glesser@wesleyan.edu).
  • Catholic Mass, with Father Louis Manzo, Roman Catholic Chaplain. 9  p.m., Chapel. Meditate on Scripture and share the Eucharist; social/refreshments (lmanzo@wesleyan.edu).
  • Monday, Jan. 30

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, 4 p.m., Chapel. Sponsored by the Center for Community Partnerships (ccrimmins@wesleyan.edu).
  • Protestant Worship, with Rev. Gary Comstock, Protestant Chaplain. 5:30 p.m., Chapel. Communion, Bible reflection, contemplation, prayer, supper (gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • Athletes Fellowship, 7 p.m., 43 Lawn Avenue. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Pizza and talk with Leah Kelly, assistant softball coach, about relationship between faith and life as student-athlete (ereding@wesleyan.edu).
  • Tuesday, Jan. 31

  • Volunteer at Soup Kitchen, 8 a.m., St. Vincent de Paul, 617 Main Street. Sponsored by Office of Community Services & Volunteerism and Chaplain Comstock. Let us know if you’re coming and/or need a ride (ccrimmins@wesleyan.edu; gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • Queerness & Spirituality, noon, Chaplains’ Lounge, 169 High Street. Lunch and discussion led/co-sponsored by students and Chaplain Comstock (mmatthews@wesleyan/edu).
  • Faculty Panel, “Integrating Spirituality and Academics,” 4:15 p.m.,Meeting Rooms 1/2, Campus Center. Food at 4 p.m. Moderator: Kulsoom Hasan ‘07. Participants include Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college and visiting scholar in economics; Ravishanker, director of Information Technology Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry; Vera Schwarcz, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies and professor of history; Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of anthropology and African-American Studies; Greg Voth, assistant professor of physics.
  • Rangoli: Sand Designs of India, 5:30 p.m., Zelnick Pavilion. Learn about and participate in making what are called “painted prayers” in the Hindu tradition. Led by students and co-sponsored with Chaplain Comstock (mbery@wesleyan.edu).
  • Buddhist Meditation, 7:30 p.m., Buddhist House, 356 Washington Street. Sponsored by Wesleyan Dharma Study Group (glesser@wesleyan.edu).
  • Bible studies. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Freshman Bible Study, 8 p.m., Butterfield C Lounge (jychan@wesleyan.edu). Women’s Bible Study, 8  p.m., AAA House, 107 High Street (vlew@wesleyan.edu). Men’s Bible Study, 9:00 p.m., 14B Warren Street (csamsen@wesleyan.edu).
  • Wednesday, Feb. 1

  • Making a Day-by-Day Spiritual Guide, 4:15 p.m., Chaplains’ Lounge, 169 High Street. Learn about and get involved in this new project. Snacks. Sponsored by students and Chaplain Comstock (hjackson@wesleyan.edu; gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • Vespers, with Chaplain Comstock, 5:30 p.m., Chapel. A different ritual/activity each week for students of any or no religious affiliation. Vegetarian meal (gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • “Jesus, Revolution, and the Pursuit of Justice,” 7:30 p.m., Chapel. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Mako Nagasawa, speaker (lallison@wesleyan.edu).
  • Thursday, Feb. 2

  • Buddhist Meditation, 7:30 p.m., Buddhist House, 356 Washington Street. Sponsored by Wesleyan Dharma Study Group (glesser@wesleyan.edu).
  • Co-Ed Bible Study, 8 p.m., 43 Fountain Avenue. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship (gvoth@wesleyan.edu).
  •  
    By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

    Unprecedented Star Cluster Study May Offer View of Planet Formation and Our Solar System’s Own Early Beginnings


    Posted 01/17/06
    An unprecedented 14-year study by Wesleyan University researchers has revealed a phenomenon that may indicate the forming of new planets or perhaps even the existence of young planets orbiting young sun-like stars more than 1,600 light years away.

    The observations were presented at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Washington, DC. on January 11 by William Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy and chair the astronomy department (pictured at right), Gabriel Roxby ‘06, a Wesleyan undergraduate involved in the study, and Eric Williams, the systems manager of the Van Vleck observatory.

    The Wesleyan team analyzed 500 stars in the Orion Nebula Cluster (ONC) which is approximately 500 pc or 1600 light years from earth. The data from the stars were collected by faculty and graduate and undergraduate students during a continuous 14-year period. The observations gave the astronomers the unique opportunity to track the long-term behavior of these stars concurrently with their subtle changes over short timescales.

    The findings presented at the AAS meeting detail the discovery of a large number of young T Tauri stars with intriguing patterns in brightness variation over both short and long timescales. One star discovered, Trapezium 093/JW#669, became of particular interest because it seemed to grow brighter then fainter in a remarkably steady pattern with a possible period of about 10 years. This is an extremely long cycle, given that it rotates every 1.18 days.

    One theory suggests the presence of a disk of dust and rock orbiting the star. Such a circumstellar disk would have to contain a large clump, such as a planet or proto-planet, in order to obscure the light of the star at certain times and not others. Another possible explanation for the brightness fluctuations may be that the star is experiencing magnetic cycles akin to those seen in our Sun, where its magnetic field becomes stronger and weaker over time, causing the total area covered by sunspots to grow and shrink. Another theory is that the phenomenon is being caused by the presence of a young fully-formed gas-giant planet akin to Jupiter.

    Whatever the cause, the observations by the Wesleyan researchers may offer significant insights into our own solar system’s origins. Trapezium 093/JW#669 bears a strong resemblance to a younger version of the Sun, and it may be undergoing processes similar to those in the Sun’s early history. Further investigation may reveal whether these or other explanations can account for this star’s long and regular period.

    This active star-forming region is a promising area for observations because of its relative nearby distance and its large population of T Tauri stars, which are typically young (about 1 million years old).

    The study also offers a new perspective on the changes that occur in T Tauri stars over many years. For the first time a large collection of long-term light curves for a vast sample of young variable stars has been gathered. The sample can be used to further analyze general trends among these stars, as well as locate other unique stars that may help to shed light on the genesis of our own Solar System.

    The data were obtained using Wesleyan’s 0.6 meter (24 inch) Perkin telescope. Researchers used differential photometry to calculate stars’ alterations in brightness from night to night by comparing the variable stars to a few stars in each field known to have relatively unchanging brightness. They used these calculations to plot “light curves,” or diagrams of the change in brightness over time, for each star.

    Wesleyan astronomers will continue their study of the star cluster and generate data for further analysis.

     
    By Clara Moskowitz ’06 and David Pesci, director of Media Relations

    Financial Planner Oversees $65M Budget for Academic Affairs


    Janine Lockhart, financial planner and analyst in the Office of Academic Affairs, finds the best options for meeting the demands of Wesleyan’s five-year financial plans.
     
    Posted 01/17/06
    Q: Janine, so you’re the financial planner and analyst in the Office of Academic Affairs.

    A: Yes, although I usually am introduced as the budget person since that’s a more familiar concept for most people.

    Q: When did you come here?

    A: I came to Wesleyan and this position in July 2004. Several others held the position before me, including Sun Chyung, with whom I work closely in her current capacity as the budget director for Wesleyan.

    Q: Explain what your role is as a financial planner? What budgets do you monitor?

    A: I oversee the annual operating budget for Academic Affairs, which amounts to $65 million and consists of funding for more than 50 departments and programs.

    Q: What does the analyst part of your job consist of?

    A: Although I don’t really think of them separately, as an analyst I look at the potential impact of various planning options, policy changes or funding changes, as well as monitor the outcome of the plans that are implemented.

    Q: What are typical questions or problems people would come to you with?

    A: I provide support for a variety of issues –everything from how to use various components of the financial/reporting systems to which account/object code should be used for a particular expenditure to finding funding for unanticipated needs.

    Q: What are some of the big challenges in your job right now?

    A: Right now, it’s the challenge of finding the best options for meeting the demands of Wesleyan’s five-year financial plans.

    Q: Who are the key people you work with in Academic Affairs?

    A: I work closely with everyone in Academic Affairs, as well as a number of people in Financial Affairs and Information Technology Services on a regular basis.

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

    A: I’ve worked primarily in higher education and the arts, most recently as the budget officer at a medical school in Ohio.

    Q: Where are you from?

    A: I grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio, a small town where the Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia borders meet, which was once the pottery capital of the world. I lived throughout northeastern Ohio until I moved to Connecticut last year.

    Q: Where did you attend college and what did you major in?

    A: I have a bachelor’s degree in French horn performance from the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University in Ohio. I’ve also completed graduate coursework in arts administration.

    Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

    A: I love to read, go to the movies, and keep up with the crazy antics of my family. I’ve served as a volunteer for various arts organizations and feel fortunate to have played a very small role in helping out at Green Street Arts Center since coming to Wesleyan.
     

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor