|Jessica Pfund, ’05 and Phillip Resor, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, observe one of Middletown’s few remaining agricultural sites.|
It started out with little more than an idea, some old aerial photos and a handmade map. Several months and a lot of hard work by three dedicated people later the result may provide a whole new way to evaluate and influence the look and growth of towns in Middlesex County for years to come.
Not bad considering it all started out as a question from an inquisitive undergraduate.
The undergraduate, earth and environmental sciences major Jessica T. Pfund `05, was a student Earth and Environmental Science 322: Introduction to GIS (Geographical Information Systems), in the spring of 2004. The classs instructor, Phillip Resor, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, had brought in a guest speaker, Sandy Prisloe, a geospatial extension specialist from the University of Connecticuts Center for Land-use Education and Research (CLEAR).
Prisloes presentation included a discussion of how satellite data were being used to quantitatively measure changes in Connecticuts landscape and to infer the impacts of these changes on the quality of life and the environment.
Sandy mentioned that he had a map from the 1970s that showed the areas that were farmland at that time, says Resor. He also mentioned that, if someone was motivated to use data that was recently created by a the group at the University of Connecticut showing the land cover in 2002 and compare what was found to the data from 1970, it would be interesting to see how things had changed.
Pfund was intrigued, and she was looking for a possible research project.
Many of my classmates were doing studies that were more theoretical and scientific, she says. This seemed to have scientific and social implications for the local area that could have a relatively immediate impact.
After discussing the idea further with Resor, Pfund decided: this would be her project.
Aided by a $2,500 grant from the Middlesex County Community Foundation and additional support from the Mellon Foundation and The University of Connecticut, Jessica, who was responsible for the bulk of the data collection, got to work.
I dont think when I started I had an idea of exactly what I was getting into, Pfund says, now almost a year into the project. Its been very interesting and exciting, but its also been a lot of work.
Much of this was linked to the differences in how the information being examined was generated. The images from the 1970 study were based on a hand-made mylar map that was in turn based on aerial photographs of the county. The information this would be contracted with was generated by images derived from satellite images of the same area in 2002.
The images and data didnt match up, says Resor. The satellite images are way precisely located, but cant image anything smaller than 30 meters. By contrast, the 1970s map was generated by aerial photographs and on the ground surveys that could capture small details, but werent necessarily as well located. So we had to find ways to account for the differences.
There were some other challenges too. For instance, the old maps identified the land as: active agricultural, inactive agricultural or nonagricultural. GIS images provided more than a dozen different characterizations, including assessments of soil viability for agricultural use and disposition of wetlands.
Translating the GIS data also had some interpretive challenges that were produced because of how things have been done in the state over the years.
Because of the way small plots of land are often used in Connecticut, what LandSat (the satellite) may identify as a large lawn area may actually be an active or inactive cultivated field, Pfund says. This meant we had to visit some locations in person to verify exactly what the use was.
Currently there is still a substantial amount of data to crunch and quantify, but Resor and Pfund anticipate having the study done sometime in the spring. They will publish a report with Prisloe detailing their findings. There will be public presentations and discussions of the data at town meetings in Middlesex County. The towns can then use the data to better plan new housing and business construction.
A lot of towns in Middlesex County are proud of their rural atmosphere, Resor says. This information can help them maintain that atmosphere as they move forward with new developments.
However, the study has already generated a result that will be producing more benefits for the county. Resor received a service-learning grant from Wesleyan to expand his efforts in these types of studies. This spring, his students are working on similar projects for The Nature Conservancy, The Connecticut River Costal Conservation Commission, The Middlesex Land Trust and the Town of Portland.
Its been pretty interesting to do a scientific study that actually has social implications and affects local issues, says Pfund. People dont often think of scientists working that way. Its been a very rewarding project.
by Olivia Drake •
|“Wesleyan University: In a New Light” is photographed by William Mercer, a 1964 alumnus. The book is for sale at Broad Street Books.|
| Wesleyan as it appears every day, Wesleyan as you remember it, and Wesleyan as you’ve never seen it before.
Those are the images and words that fill “Wesleyan University: In a New Light,” a new book produced by University Relations and the Office of Communications.
Rich with the colors, activities, and faces that populate the campus, the book features 150 high quality images taken during the 2003-2004 academic year by photographer William Mercer ’64. Mercer specializes in “on location photography” and images for specialty books. His images in this volume provide a fresh perspective to Wesleyan’s grand and familiar landmarks, as well as views on the smaller more intimate events that occur throughout the campus community during an academic year.
President Douglas Bennet ’59 wrote the book’s introductory essay while Joseph F. Siry, professor of art, contributed a piece on Wesleyan’s distinctive architecture. Alumni, faculty from the present and past, and current students also provided short, insightful, personal impressions and recollections about the campus and its people.
David Low, ’76, associate director of publications, was the book’s editor; Anne Bergen, director of development communications and stewardship was the project manager; Suzy Taraba ’77, the university archivist and head of special collections at Olin Library, served as archival consultant.
Copies of “Wesleyan University: In a New Light,” are available for $39.95 through Broad Street Books at 860-685-7323 or at www.wes.bkstr.com. Faculty and staff receive a 10 percent discount; departments receive 20 percent off.
by Olivia Drake •
|Frank Kuan, director of community relations, stands outside the Center for Community Partnerships.|
|Q: Community Relations collaborates initiatives between the university and the greater Middletown community. How does this benefit Wesleyan and the community?A: I would echo President Bennets sentiment: what is good for Middletown is good for Wesleyan, and vice versa. Wesleyan is a key employer and economic generator in Middletown. Under President Bennets leadership, Wesleyan has taken a proactive approach to town-gown relations of course, the leadership of the City of Middletown has also reciprocated on this positive connection. One of our most recent efforts has been the establishment of the Center for Community Partnerships. The Center is comprised of the Service-Learning Center with Professor Rob Rosenthal, the Office of Community Service and Volunteerism with Cathy Crimmins Lechowicz, our administrative assistant is Migdalia Pinkney and the Office of Community Relations. Our goal is to look for opportunities that further collaborative relationships between Wesleyan and greater Middletown.
Another key contribution of Wesleyan to the community is in the form of employee contribution to the Middlesex United Way annual community campaign. This past year, I have the pleasure of serving as chair. Because of everyones diligence and effort, we raised a record amount of $140,018.18. This money stays in the local community to help with critical needs. Wesleyan University is one of the top three contributors in the County to the Middlesex United Way Community Campaign.
Q: What are some of your personal goals to strengthen partnerships with the city?
A: One of my goals is to be visible in the community and to actively participate in local events. Building partnerships between the city and Wesleyan University requires strong collaboration. I try to foster relationships with a diverse constituency. Working with my colleagues in the Center for Community Partnerships will also be a goal. Theres a great deal of synergy in this operation, and it will have a positive impact on strengthening town-gown partnerships. I work for Peter Patton, vice president and secretary of the university, and I look to support the work of his office as well in any way I can.
Q: How would you describe Wesleyan’s image in the city of Middletown?
A: I would say that our current relationship and image are generally positive. Folks in town are aware of the myriad of work with which Wesleyan is involved. Main Street Middletown, Inc., The Inn at Middletown, the Green Street Arts Center, Community and University Service for Education, and our work with Macdonough School are just a few of the many community collaborations of Wesleyan. The volunteer involvement of our students and faculty, staff and administration is also significant and appreciated by the local community. Not to say that everything is perfect; town-gown relations are not static. There are always issues to work on, and improvements could always be made. It takes all of us to work together to maintain communication and connection.
Q: How does Wesleyan help the local economy?
A: Because of Wesleyan, Middletown receives PILOT funding (Payment in Lieu of Taxes); in 2001, this was $3.6 million. The indirect economic impact of Wesleyan is estimated at $107.3 million this past year. The Center for the Arts brings world-class artists to Middletown, and this certainly enriches the cultural landscape locally. The CFA has increased its community audience by 60 percent over the past four years. Through the Admission Office, we have 15,000 visitors a year to Middletown, and this certainly adds to the vitality of Middletown.
Q: When did you come to come to Wesleyan, and were you hired in as director of community relations?
A: I began my work at Wesleyan as the director of community services in June 1998 and worked in this position until June 2002. On a temporary basis, I worked with the Green Street Arts Center. In November 2002, I was appointed to be the director of community relations.
Q: What is your education background, or what led you to this position?
A: I have an undergraduate degree in biology with minors in Asian-American Studies and chemistry from California State University, Fresno. I also earned a masters degree from CSUF in counseling, with an emphasis in career counseling. I would say that having the scientific education helps me to be more analytical with my work. I feel that the counseling background has been helpful in my previous work in community service and now in community relations.
Q: Are you involved in any community service, personally?
A: I do my share of volunteering and am involved with a few boards locally Girl Scouts Connecticut Trails Council, Inc., Northern Middlesex YMCA, North End Action Team, Main Street Middletown, and Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce Central Business Bureau Executive Board. Over the years I have been active with the Chambers Holiday on Main Street and Annual Business After-work Auction. For the past few years, I have also worked with the Friends of Long Hill Estate on a dinner/dance gala to fundraise for the annual summer concert series at Wadsworth Mansion, which is free to the public.
Q: Why do you feel as though you should volunteer in the Middletown community?
A: Middletown has been a great place for me over the past twelve years. Being able to give back a little through my volunteer work is one way I can contribute to making Middletown a better community in which to live, work and play.
Q: On a personal note, lets be Frank. You sound very busy. Do you have any free time?
A: My life is fairly ordinary, actually. During our free time, my partner, Mike Sciola, and I enjoy going to the movies Mike would say that this is one of two foundations of our relationship the other being dining out. Our taste runs the gamut independent films, blockbusters, B-movies, and horror flicks. Were not too discriminatory but just enjoy movies in general. Its a great escape. I also enjoy shopping Mike would say that I am a clothes-horse. I do have a fun tie and watch collection.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
Are traditional teaching methods keeping pace with the increasingly diverse population of college students nationwide? Or worse are college faculty shying away from balanced teaching or research on race and ethnicity issues altogether because of the incendiary nature of the topics?
These are just some of the issues that were discussed at a seminar titled Effective Teaching in Racially Diverse Classrooms, February 28 in the Admission Offices McKelvey Room.
The presenter, Franklin A. Tuitt, Ph.D., has done many seminars on the subject of race in the college classroom, as well as extensive research in the subject. This includes a recent stint as a Cabot Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Universitys Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning where he conducted a study on student evaluations on courses taught by black and white faculty. While at Harvard, Tuitt has also developed instructional resources for teaching effectively in racially diverse college classrooms. He also worked as director of residential life and housing at Wesleyan from 1991 to 1994.
“This program was a wonderful and timely opportunity for faculty to discuss important and complicated issues, says Judith Brown, Vice President for Academic Affairs. All of us have a lot to learn about this subject from conversations with each other and with experts in the field.
Tuitts presentation for Wesleyan faculty will focus on methods for addressing situations that can emerge in racially diverse classrooms, as well as discussing issues that arise when teaching race-related content. There will be opportunity for faculty in attendance to discuss strategies, techniques and case studies related to their own classroom experiences.
The presentation is the latest installment of the Race in the Classroom Series that is being offered this academic year by the Center for Faculty Career Development and the Office of Affirmative Action. Other presentations have included: Stereotype Threat, presented by Geoffrey Cohen assistant professor of psychology from Yale University and The History of Whiteness, presented by Nell Irvin Painter, Edwards Professor of American History, Princeton University.
The presentations have been well attended, although there is always room for more, says Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, professor of classical studies, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, and director of the Center for Faculty Career Development.
Wesleyan staff will also be attending mandatory specialized diversity training workshops in the coming weeks presented by representatives from the A World of Difference Institute. The training will be called A Campus of Difference and will focus on practical skills to challenge prejudice and discrimination and foster inter-group understanding.
|By David Pesci, Director of Media Relations|
by Olivia Drake •
|The Fauver Field Residence Complex, due to open in September, will house up to 269 students.|
| This September, when Wesleyan begins its new academic year, students will move into a new living facility: The Fauver Field Residence Complex. The residences will mark a new step in Wesleyan’s recent history; specifically, the university will be able to accommodate close to 100 percent of its students in university-owned housing.
The Fauver Field Residence Complex consists of two buildings that together will house up to 269 students including 165 frosh, which will allow virtually all frosh to live in proximity on Foss Hill. Modern apartments in the complex will house 104 upperclass students and will permit the university to sell the out-of-date In-Town apartment complex.
The design and location of the facilities is the product of a year-long planning process by Wesleyan students, faculty and administration and are part of the university’s long range facilities master plan. “We have been planning and looking forward to this for a while,” says Marcia Bromberg, Wesleyan’s vice president for Finance and Administration. “It provides the opportunity to strengthen the student community in our central campus while relieving the neighborhoods of the pressures associated with accommodating student housing.”
University administrators believe that this will improve student-community relations as well as create opportunities for more families in Middletown to rent or buy the homes that were formerly rented by Wesleyan students. The neighborhood close to the university has become very attractive for homeowners and the university has worked closely with area neighborhood associations to further this process.
“We see the new plan as a great way to be a better neighbor and strengthen the community on several levels,” Bromberg says. “It really is a win-win for everybody.”
For more information, please go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/masterplan/fauver.html
by Olivia Drake •
Ganesan Ravi Ravishanker, director of Technology Support Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry, explains where his home countries were struck by the December 26 tsunami.
Millions of Americans watched as the Dec. 26 tsunami obliterated south Asia’s coastal belts. But for Ganesan “Ravi” Ravishanker, the event was far more personal.
Ravishanker, director of Technology Support Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry, is a Sri Lanka native and attended college in southern India where the tidal waves battered both shorelines for a half-mile inland.
Those are both places where I have spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years and have vivid memories of, Ravishanker said. Most of my extended family members live in these two countries.
The tsunami, triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Indonesia, killed more than 170,000 people as it crashed the shores of 10 countries around the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka and Indonesia received the hardest hits.
Ravishanker, who lost his parents as a young child, grew up with his aunt, uncle, sister and 11 cousins in the countrys capital, Colombo. Three of these cousins are raising families in Sri Lanka and the rest moved to southern India.
I was just getting back from vacation and I was still in a relaxing vacation mode, when they started flashing news about the tsunami damage on TV, he said. I immediately thought about my family. Many of them were living in area close to the coast.
Relatives in Tamil Nadu, India, immediately e-mailed Ravishanker in America and let him know they were OK. His relatives in Sri Lanka, however, were still unaccounted for. Although his relatives lived inland in Kandy, he feared they may be traveling on a train that was derailed by the tsunami.
All I could do is sit, watch and wait, he said.
Sri Lanka, a pear-shaped island four times larger than the state of Connecticut, is located 18 miles southeast of India. With no communications available to his homeland, he waited as the death toll climbed to 30,000. The missing count hovered at 5,600. More than 200,000 families were displaced by the earthquake-spawned waves.
The Sri Lanka that I remember, that I grew up in, was one of the most enjoyable places. It was surrounded by the ocean, there were beaches, a perfect climate and the people were very friendly. It was a great place, he said. It was like paradise.
Via Indian television channels, Ravishanker watched debris of fishermens wood shacks envelop the once pristine, palm-lined beaches. Disfigured bodies in all forms and shapes piled up near landmarks all recognizable to the Sri Lanka native.
It was heart-wrenching to watch, he said. I was thinking of my family, but also these poor children affected by this disaster. Whats so sad is that the first wave came in and pushed all these fish up on shore, and all the fishermen told their kids to come out and see and play with the fish. Little did they know that a bigger wave was coming to eat them all up.
On Dec. 30, Ravishanker finally heard from his Sri Lankan relatives. Everyone was alive. With his family all accounted for, Ravishanker immediately pursued ways to help the victims of the disaster.
Rescue efforts are somewhat hampered by an ongoing civil war in the country between the Sinhalese and Tamil Tigers. Pockets of the northern and eastern areas are heavily mined. A physical presence of rescue workers in these areas carries a certain amount of danger.
The Sri Lankan government has urged donor nations to donate $15.6 billion to rebuild tsunami-affected parts of the country, but Ravishanker was advised to hold off and carefully explore more long lasting avenues to help those affected. Hes considering funding an orphaned childs education for life. His brother-in-law, Shankar, is working with these orphaned children directly back in Chennai, India.
I take great pride in my brother-in-law for doing this, and I think the outpouring of local support is a great thing to see. People are setting aside their religious differences and caste barriers are vanishing, he said. I cant imagine people doing this 20 years ago. People are already setting up shops and makeshift schools. Recovery have been remarkable.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
Women’s Studies Administrative Assistant Participates in Youth Mentoring Program and has Interest in Women’s Issues
by Olivia Drake •
|Noreen Baris, administrative assistant for the Womens Studies Program, stands outside her office on High Street. Baris serves as a liaison between the programs chair, faculty and students.|
Q: When did you become the administrative assistant in the Women’s Studies Program? Were you working at Wesleyan before then?
A: Yes. I first came to Wesleyan in November 1986 and worked in the Romance Languages and Literatures Department until 1992. I’ve been at Women’s Studies since then.
Q: How would you describe a typical day? Are you mostly working at your desk, talking on the phone or meeting with people?
A: This position is rather diversified and I do all the above mentioned duties on a daily basis. I work closely with the chair of Womens Studies and I serve as a liaison between the Womens Studies chair and the faculty and majors. I also coordinate the scheduling of Womens Studies meetings, luncheons and events, manage the budget, update the Web page, do other computer related duties and monitor Womens Studies course offerings.
Q: What do you like most about your job and working in the Women’s Studies program in particular?
A: I have found the Womens Studies faculty to be exceptional in many ways and I enjoy working with them. I also like the diversity of the position. In addition to my other duties, the Women’s Studies Program has two major events per year: The Womens Studies Symposium in the fall semester, and the Diane Weiss Memorial ’80 Memorial Lecture during spring semester. I enjoy coordinating the many details required for both events.
Q: Do you, yourself, have any interest in women’s issues?
A: Yes, I am interested in women’s issues such as better medical research and health care of women, equal pay for men and women doing the same job, and better benefits for working mothers.
Q: What do you do after work? Do you have any hobbies?
A: My hobbies are knitting, quilting, and gardening, and I enjoy doing them in my spare time. I also enjoy and have been serving as a mentor for children for the past eight years. Originally I started mentoring teenage girls and being a buddy at the Cromwell Children’s Home. I am now affiliated with The Children’s Center Youth Mentoring Partnership and have been mentoring the same young girl for the past four years, at least five hours per week. I’m very much involved with her life, her problems and her accomplishments.
Q: Tell me about your family.
A: I have been married to my husband John for 35 years and we live in Durham. I have two daughters, Laney, who is 30, and Carrie, who is 26. Laney is a veterinarian practicing in New Jersey and Carrie is a high school English teacher in California. I am very proud of them both.
Q: I understand you have the summers off. Do you travel much?
A: We have traveled extensively in the U.S. Up North, down South, out West. Weve especially enjoyed Yosemite, Yellowstone and Zion national parks, and weve also gone to Hawaii. We’ve been to Canada — Montreal, Quebec and cities in-between — several times. Also traveled to Aruba and Europe. Last summer, we traveled to Switzerland and Austria. We visited Italy, France and England in May 2002.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
|Carol Wright is a visiting instructor in the African American Studies Program.|
Q: You started working at Wesleyan in 2003. What has impressed you most about the university?
A: I am impressed with the incredible depth, intelligence and humanity of many Wesleyan students and my colleagues in the African American Studies Program.
Q: What does ‘visiting’ instructor refer to? Where are you visiting from and how did you end up at Wes?
A: Visiting instructor refers to the fact that my position is non-tenure track and temporary. As a practical matter, I am visiting from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where I held a pre-doctoral fellowship for two years. During my final year at Bowdoin, I saw the Wesleyan job advertisement and jumped at the chance to apply.
Q: Are students of all ethnic and backgrounds interested in a degree in African American studies? How would you describe it?
A: The African American Studies Program is strong. Many, many students of all different backgrounds are interested in an AFAM degree. The program is interdisciplinary in nature. Course discussions and debates include issues of economics, globalization, gender, class, politics, cultural and literary representations among other things. Students learn important content, but further, I think the program has a profound effect on the ways students think, how they understand and re-organize the experiences of their world.
Q: What issues would you bring up in the classroom?
A: Broadly, I teach courses specializing in African American education. This includes issues of social inequality, urban educational policy and the relationship between educational theory and practice. Most recently, Ive taught a service-learning course that will place students in a local middle-school with a focus on the effects of the No Child Left Behind policy.
Q: What do you hope students take away from your classes?
A: I would like to think students leave my courses as better critical thinkers and writers while simultaneously understanding that African Americans have a complex educational past and sometimes a contradictory educational present.
Q: Do you have a philosophy about teaching? How do you help students become critical thinkers in the classroom?
A: I approach teaching as if I’m telling a story. Stories have a beginning, middle and end and you can’t just jump in at the middle, or only a few students will figure it out. By giving a full narrative, I try to capture as many students as I can. I also try, every semester, to show at least one film, have a guest speaker and let students give their own presentations. Many students request to to work on a thesis, or are interested in doing independent studies on these subjects.
Q: Do you enjoy being in the classroom more so that researching?
A: I love teaching. I enjoy engaging students, but I can find it to be a real challenge to teach and find time to spend on my own research. I’ve been collecting a lot of data about African American college students at small, liberal arts universities, that I have to go through. None from Wesleyan, though.
Q: Where did you go to college and what are your majors?
A: I went to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania where I majored in anthropology and sociology and French. Academically speaking, I am a huge supporter of small liberal arts colleges. Socially, well, thats another story.
Q: On campus, have you attended many student events, concerts or dances?
A: Students have invited me to events, but I often have to decline due to scheduling conflicts. Last year I attended a creative student performance and I thought it was fabulous. It was great to see students in a less rigid, more creative/expressive milieu. I was reminded that students have many talents — I was also reminded of my lack of artistic talent — and express them in multiple ways.
Q: You mentioned that you visit family in New York. Is that where you’re from?
A: Both my parents are from the Caribbean, but I was born and raised in New York City. Other than New York, I have lived at least one year in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maine, Connecticut, Brussels, Belgium and Dijon, France.
Q: Whats something humorous or unique that I should know about you?
A: I once drove across the country in the middle of the summer in a bathing suit. It was about 100 degrees and my car did not have an air conditioner. Also, at one point I had a part-time job selling Lancome cosmetics.
Q: Oh, so youre a saleswoman too?
A: I was pretty good; I won an award or two. Go figure!
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
by Olivia Drake •
|Robert Lane, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, co-authored a study that indicates scientists may have overestimated the use of the vomeronasal organ in pheromone perception by animals.|
A new study co-authored by Robert Lane, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, suggests that human pheromone detection may occur right under our own noses – literally.
In an article due out in the February issue of “Genome Research,” Lane provided new evidence that scientists may have overestimated the use of the vomeronasal organ, or VNO, in pheromone perception in animals. The VNO has been described as the predominant pheromone-detecting organ, based mostly on rodent studies that point to its role in evoking innate reproductive and social behaviors.
Lane, along with Wesleyan graduate student Marijo Kambere and his colleagues from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, discovered that one of the main putative pheromone receptor families expressed inside the VNO has been decimated in domesticated dogs. This finding suggests that the VNO may play a diminished role in dogs and perhaps other non-rodent mammals.
“As keen as the dog sense of smell is and as elaborate a pheromonal system dogs seem to have, it could be that the main nose, not the VNO, underlies elaborate pheromonal communication in dogs,” Lane said.
If this is true, then the observation that humans probably do not possess a functional VNO may not mean an inability to detect pheromones. “Our apparent lack of a functional VNO might not be a handicap if pheromone responses can be mediated by our main olfactory system,” Lane said.
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations
by Olivia Drake •
|Vera Schwarcz, professor of History and East Asian studies, collaborated with artist Chava Pressburger for the book, “In the Garden of Memory,” published by March Street Press. The publication features 18 poems with accompanying paper-art images.|
When visiting Jerusalem in 1991, a striking oil painting caught Vera Schwarczs attention. The Romanian-born daughter of Holocaust survivors instantly felt a connection with the artwork titled Memories.
I was deeply moved by its abstract depiction of a shattered world, Schwarcz said. The painting evoked huge, shards of stone, a rubbled world held together by a fragile thread, lace and barbed wire that I envisioned as memory threads held onto by sheer will alone. In wake of total annihilation, that moved me as an act of spiritual courage.
Schwarcz, professor of History and East Asian studies at Wesleyan and published author and poet, later met the paintings artist, Chava Pressburger. Pressburger, a native of a Jewish community in the Czech Republic, was imprisoned in Terezin in1943-44. Her younger brother was killed in Auschwitz in 1944.
Although Schwarcz was born after the war, their similar backgrounds were the start of a friendship and professional collaboration. Six months ago, the duo released a book together titled In the Garden of Memory, published by March Street Press. The publication, which they consider a conversation in paper, poetry and print, features 18 poems by Schwarcz with accompanying paper-art images by Pressburger.
Pressburger’s artwork is created from paper she produced herself from plants cultivated in her garden and near her home in Nagev, Israel.
As a Jew, as a China scholar, the past is not dead for me. Its very alive, very important, Schwarcz said. I have been looking for ways to give it voice. Through this collaboration, we are putting into the world something that will seed reflection and pleasure. A garden is a bordered space for slow placed reflection. This is an invitation to come into the garden.
Before going to print, Schwarcz and Pressburger exhibited the artwork in Prague, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The display explored the themes of historical trauma in contemporary life.
Schwarcz, like many children born in the generation following the war, was named after other children who had died in the war.
Our parents often did not tell us about the earlier kin. We thus grew up carrying the name, the destiny of precursors who remained a haunting, vague nameless presence, she said. Hence, perhaps my compulsion as a writer to name things, as a historian to document truth. If something can have a name and place in the heart, mind the page, it may be somehow be laid to rest.
In the Garden of Memory isnt the first time shes written about the holocaust. In her last book, Bridge Across Broke Time, she wove together her own family’s memoirs to with words of poets and historians to show how it is possible to maintain cultural identity in the face of the most disheartening events.
What was new in this project with Pressburger was poetry, an art form I have been exploring for two decades. Here finally was a way to write about something historical and personal–using the craft of poetry I had been polishing for a while, she said.
After receiving a bachelors degree from Vassar College in 1969, a masters degree from Yale in 1971, and a Ph. D. from Stanford in 1977, she wrote over fifty articles on Chinese intellectual history and comparative memory studies. Shes also the author of five other books titled, A Scoop of Light, Fresh Words for a Jaded World, Time for Telling Truth is Running Out: Conversations with Zhang Shenfu, The Chinese Enlightenment: The Legacy of the May Fourth Movement in Modern China, and Long Road Home: A China Journal.
Since the publication of In the Garden, several other artists and photographers have approached Schwarcz interested in similar collaborations.
Shes interested, but shes already made a commitment with a 19th century Manchu Prince named Yi Huan. Huan (1840-1891) wrote poems in Chinese responding to the burning of Beijing’s princely palaces by French and British armies in 1860.
I am adapting Yi Huan’s voice to the cadence of historical traumas in the 20th century, including the post September 11th scorched landscape that is our inheritance today, said Schwarcz, who is fluent in Chinese, French, Hebrew, Romanian and Hungarian, and can read Japanese and German languages.
To date, Schwarcz has already published about 25 of these renditions and envisions publishing a collection of 50 poems in the next two years called Sea of Shards.
Recently, shes working on a new book, Truth in the Ruins of History: A Comparative Inquiry. And her latest prose/academic book, Singing Crane Garden; Art and Atrocity in One Corner of China, was submitted to the University of Pennsylvania Press this month. It will be part of a series on the history of landscaped spaces.
I find myself wanting to write new books all the time, she said. “In the Garden of Memory is available at Broad Street Books and http://www.marchstreetpress.com/.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|
Career Resource Center Director Helps Students Find Meaningful Careers by Exploring Their Interests and Passions
by Olivia Drake •
|Mike Sciola, Career Resource Center director, helps Talya Marshall, ’07, find photography career opportunities.|
Q: The Career Resource Center (CRC) aims to establish relationships with students and help them find jobs. If a student approaches you, how would you go about helping him or her?
A: We take a three step approach: self assessment, career exploration, and job search. Most people, and not just students, think the first step to finding a meaningful career is to write a resume and start sending it out to job sites on the Internet. The problem with this approach is that folks tend to go with the familiar.
For a lot of students, their knowledge of the world of work is fairly limited. Many have a short list of occupations of which they have a personal understanding, such as being a doctor, lawyer or teacher. In reality, taking the time to assess one’s interests and passions first, next exploring a wide-variety of options, and then crafting a targeted job search strategy yields a much more satisfying result. We have a variety of career interest assessment tools, a very specialized collection of print and electronic resources covering a wide array of occupations, and an incredible network of alumni and parent volunteers available to share their knowledge and perspective.
Q: Where do the students end up going?
A: That’s the beauty of a Wesleyan liberal arts education – it can take you anywhere in the world. Our students have been taught to think and to analyze. They have the tools to pull together disparate information into a new understanding of the world. These skills are highly valued by top companies and institutions. I believe a Wesleyan degree is more relevant at the beginning of the 21st century than ever before.
We often get the question about where do Wesleyan graduates go after leaving Middletown. The Career Resource Center Web site has a breakdown of where our alumni work. We analyzed the alumni database. With information on 12,252 alumni, the top five occupations are business (28 percent), education (20 percent), health professions (9 percent), law (8 percent), and entertainment (6 percent).
Q: What is your day like?
A: As director of the career center, I have two distinct roles: managing the office and staff and, at the same time, maintain a significant counseling schedule. These are often competing needs. I work with an incredible group of talented and dedicated professionals. To date this year, the CRC has had 3,688 counseling interactions with 1,188 individuals. Weve already organized 69 programs and events, and have had more than 60 organizations participate in our recruiting programs. And February is traditionally our busiest month! It is a lot to coordinate. I have to say, though – Ive got the best job at Wesleyan. Every single day, I get to talk with smart, articulate, motivated young people about their plans for the future and about the world they are about to change for the better. I wouldnt trade it for anything.
Q: How long have you been at Wesleyan?
A: Ive been at Wesleyan for nine years. I had been the associate director of Career Services at Brown University prior to coming to Wesleyan. Before that, I worked at California State University, Fresno, the University of Rhode Island and the University of New Hampshire in a variety of student affairs positions residential life, student life, and fraternity and sorority affairs. My bachelors degree is in gerontology and my masters degree is in human development, counseling and family studies. I knew that I wanted to work with students, and that I wanted to use my counseling skills.
Q: Is your job rewarding? Do you keep in touch with the students after they leave?
A: Incredibly rewarding. Im so impressed with Wesleyan students and alumni. Now that Ive been at Wesleyan for a significant time, I have the joy of reconnecting with former students at reunion or getting an e-mail message of the blue. I was in New York recently and was stopped by a member of the Class of 2000. It was thrilling to hear that he was happy and enjoying life and doing amazing things. I learn something new about the world everyday by talking with our students and alumni.
Q: Do you have any interesting hobbies or tidbits that I should know about you outside of work?
A: Im a singer and have been a member of the Greater Middletown Chorale since coming to Wesleyan. We once got a call to sing with Kenny Rogers at the Oakdale Theater. This December, we were Governor Rells guests at the Governors Mansion in Hartford. Mostly, though, we sing the classical choral repertoire. Im also on the board of Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown.
Q: Do you live in Middletown?
A: Yes, on Ridge Road, and our next door neighbors on three sides are Wesleyan faculty and staff. We call it The Compound. Did you know that there used to be a horse-drawn trolley that started in the North End on Main Street, turned up Ridge Road off of South Main and came all the way up to Crystal Lake? I would have loved to see that.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|