All News

Students, Administration and Faculty Continue Dialogue


Posted 01/31/05

A forum on January 25 engaged more than 300 students, faculty and staff in a discussion of the administrative response to issues raised at a student-organized forum in December. The forum followed by a week the distribution of a report detailing student participation in University governance, itself a response to complaints from some students that they felt excluded from decisions that affect their lives on campus.

At the forum, held in the Chapel, senior administrators were joined onstage by leaders of the faculty and the Wesleyan Student Assembly. Professor of Philosophy Brian Fay moderated the session, during which students raised questions or made comments based on the report.

It appeared that most students had read the report, said Interim Dean of the College Peter Patton. “Some students expressed dissatisfaction about the status of specific issues they care about,” he said. “On the other hand, it seems  that most now realize that Wesleyan students do have significant opportunities to influence University decision-making.”

The issues that received the most attention during the forum were student interest in having a multicultural dean, accommodations in housing for incoming students who identify as transgender, and the future of the student radio station, WESU 88.1FM. Later in the week, President Doug Bennet emailed students to describe steps the University is taking to follow up on these issues. He reiterated his intention to engage the leaders of the WSA and the faculty in a follow-up discussion of governance and communication issues treated in the report.

Bennet informed students that he, Patton and Interim Director of Affirmative Action Michael Benn would meet with leaders of student of color groups to discuss the specific issues underlying students’ expressed desire for “safe spaces,” a dean of multicultural affairs, and diversity training for faculty.

Bennet reminded students that Patton would continue to work with the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee (URLC) and the Student Life Committee to identify acceptable solutions for gender-neutral housing. While returning students may select their own roommates regardless of gender, Residential Life currently accommodates transgendered first-year students in making room assignments. In making first-year assignments, the University does not support roommate pairing of students of different biological sexes. First-year students requesting accommodation are assigned to a single room or to a double room with another student requesting accommodation. Last year, the language describing “gender-neutral housing” was not clear to many first-year students, and the URLC is working to clarify the description for 2005-2006.

Communications Director Justin Harmon will continue to work with student leaders of WESU to help them develop plans that will enable the station to become financially viable and maintain its independence. Wesleyan has committed to hiring a full-time general manager who will help bring continuity to the station and build its fund-raising and operations.

“These will not be the only opportunities available for continuing the dialogue, but I think they are a good start,” Bennet wrote. “I welcome other suggestions about how to advance these issues.”

Students of Color Applications Up

Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Nancy Hargrave Meislahn told those present at the January 25 forum that applications to Wesleyan have risen approximately 5 percent from last year and that applications from students of color have increased at even higher rates.

As of January 21, Wesleyan had logged 6,848 applications, as compared with 6,509 on the same date the year before, Meislahn said. Applications from African-Americans had risen 18 percent, to 504 from 428; from Asian-Americans 13 percent, to 659 from 584; and from Latinos 7 percent, to 424 from 395. The number of applications from each of these groups represented at least an 8-year high for Wesleyan, Meislahn said. Final application numbers will be available later this month.

Wesleyan has gone to extra lengths to recruit students of color, Meislahn said, since experiencing a dip in applications from African-American students. Admission Office staff held a community forum and a follow-up meeting with interested students early in the fall to solicit their advice and to engage them in helping to recruit students, Meislahn said. In addition, a letter from the dean of admission and the vice president of University Relations was sent to alumni of color seeking their help in identifying and recruiting talented prospective students.

Meislahn invited everyone at the forum to be part of the solution. 

“As the admission cycle moves forward there will be many opportunities for students and faculty to assist the admission office in reaching out to admitted students,” she said. “Phonathons and plans for hosting students in April are underway.”

Anyone interested in being involved should contact the Admission Office, Meislahn said.

 

New Findings Center on Human Pheromones


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.
Posted 01/31/05

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

History, East Asian Professor Explores Trauma Through Poetry


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.
 
Posted 01/31/05

How does memory speak?

Not with words

in this small country of silenced song. Winter

is the native tongue

of children without food.

-words from Vera Schwarcz’s “In the Garden of Memory”

When visiting Jerusalem in 1991, a striking oil painting caught Vera Schwarcz’s 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 painting’s 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. It’s 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” isn’t the first time she’s 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 bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in 1969, a master’s 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. She’s 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.

She’s interested, but she’s 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, she’s 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


 
Mike Sciola, Career Resource Center director, helps Talya Marshall, ’07, find photography career opportunities.
 
Posted 01/31/05

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. We’ve 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 – I’ve 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 wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Q: How long have you been at Wesleyan?

A: I’ve 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 bachelor’s degree is in gerontology and my master’s 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. I’m so impressed with Wesleyan students and alumni. Now that I’ve 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: I’m 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 Rell’s guests at the Governor’s Mansion in Hartford. Mostly, though, we sing the classical choral repertoire. I’m 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

Wesleyan to Acquire 8 New Bells for South College


Chimemaster Peter Frenzel, professor emeritus of German studies, plays the keys of the bells, located at the top of South College. In August, the university will acquire eight additional bells. The new bells, Frenzel said, will enable him to play more complicated songs. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
Posted 01/31/05

Wesleyan has signed a contract with the Verdin Bell Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, for the casting and installation in the South College belfry of eight additional bells. This new addition will upgrade the Wesleyan bells from the status of a chime (10-22 bells) to that of a carillon (23 or more). Acquiring a carillon for the university has been in the planning stages since 1999.

The installation will take place in August 2005 with a dedication during homecoming/family weekend.

The new bells will provide the Wesleyan bell players with two full octaves and one additional note. 

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

 The new configuration will enable them to play songs such as Wesleyan’s Alma Mater, “Come Raise the Song,” written in 1894.

The bells are played in a way similar to a piano, except the chimemasters push wood handles. Some notes, such as a low C, can reverberate for 45 seconds and be heard for more than a mile away.

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

Wesleyan’s first set of 11 bells was shipped across the north Atlantic from England, while dodging German U-Boats in 1918 during World War I. They were first played on campus on George Washington’s birthday in 1919 and donated by the seven surviving members of the Wesleyan class of 1863.

An additional five bells were donated to Wesleyan in 1966 anonymously. The donor was later revealed as Victor L. Butterfield, who was the outgoing president of Wesleyan at the time.

The new bells were all donated by Wesleyan friends, alumni and parents.

Each bell in South College has an inscription of a donor or a set of donors to Wesleyan University.

The bells are played nearly every weekday by dedicated members of the Wesleyan bell guild, Bell & Scroll. The chimemasters this semester have been Esther Cheung, ’06; Kathleen Day, ’07; Joel Ting, ’06; and Allison Torpey, ’07. They will be joined next semester by Jack Hagihara, ’05, and Meredith Steinberg, ’06.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

More Than 250 People Attend Green Street Arts Center’s Grand Opening


Posted 01/31/05
A ribbon cutting on Jan. 5 marked the formal opening of the Green Street Arts Center (GSAC) L. to R. are: Middletown Mayor Domenique Thornton, GSAC Director Ricardo Morris, North End Action Team President Peggy Busari, GSAC Assistant Director Manny Rivera, Wesleyan University President Doug Bennet. The center is housed at the former St. Sebastian School at 51 Green Street in Middletown’s North End. More than 250 people attended the grand opening. (Photo by Lex Leifheit)
 
Children draw in one of the two visual art centers at GSAS. The facility also has a dance studio and a performance studio with 100 seat capacity. Pre-opening pilot classes have already drawn 3,000 participants. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
President Bennet speaks with guests as Ricardo Morris looks on. Funds for the school’s renovation were raised through a partnership involving Wesleyan, along with grants from the city, state and national level. Wesleyan also partnered with The North End Action Team, the  Macdonough School, Church of the Holy Trinity, Community Health Center and other organizations.  (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
The Kamau Trio performs urban jazz at the opening. Pictured left to right are George Blackman, Jr., saxophone; Lance “Kamau” James, djembe; and Kalim Zarif, keyboard. All three teach music classes at GSAC. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
 
Teens dance inside the GSAC dance studio after the grand opening ceremony. More than 50 students have already enrolled in the GSAC after-school programs. Wesleyan students also volunteer as academic tutors for the children. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
 
Mayor Thornton and Jennifer Aniskovich, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Arts, Tourism, Culture, History and Film, greet guests during the grand opening. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
 
For more information or to receive a spring catalog call 860-685-7871 or visit http://www.greenstreetartscenter.org/.

Managing the Cosmos: Astronomy Department’s Systems and Facilities Manager Helps Students Observe and Research the Night Sky

Eric Williams, systems and facilities manager of the Astronomy Department and Van Vleck Observatory, stands outside the observatory’s 24-inch Perkin research reflector, where he often hosts weekly open houses and star gazings.
“What’s beautiful about astronomy is that there are always unanswered questions, and when you answer one, that will open up five more questions,” said Eric Williams, the systems and facility manager for the Astronomy Department and Van Vleck Observatory. “I’m always curious.”

An interest in astronomy, physics and computers led Williams to Wesleyan in 1996. “I’ve always wanted a job like this,” Williams said, “I get to experiment with all kinds of things.”

Before coming to Wesleyan, Williams spent five years hunting for planets outside our solar system as a sky observer with the planet research team at San Francisco State University. The team has contributed to the discovery of more than 100 extrasolar planets.

Williams says he isn’t a telescope equipment expert but he can answer just about any questions regarding how the Wesleyan scopes operate. However, most his time is currently devoted to, as he refers to it, “babysitting computers.”

At Wesleyan, Williams, spends about a quarter of his time on research and leading weekly star gazings for the public and an amateur astronomy group. He uses the observatory’s 24-inch Perkin research reflector, the 20-inch Alvan Clark great refractor and the 16-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector, all housed in their own domes on campus.

Formerly a sky observer for the SFSU planet search team, Williams says he isn’t a telescope equipment expert, but he can answer just about any questions regarding how the Wesleyan scopes operate.

As the systems manager, Williams oversees the department’s server – appropriately named ‘Astro,’ – as well as an array of 10 printers and 40 computers with MacIntosh and UNIX workstations. He assists students with software questions and checks for security alerts daily.

“I’m a troubleshooter and an anticipator,” he said. “If a problem comes up, I’ll find a solution. I don’t want people to get behind because of computer problems.”

Williams works from his basement office, which also functions as a storeroom. There, heaps of books, papers, computer monitors, keyboards, network cards and tangled wires dwell in any available space, including the floor.

Williams, who has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physics from San Francisco State University, acquired most of his programming knowledge on the job. He self-taught himself programming languages Java, Perl and PHP, and research software including Interactive Data Language, or IDL.

Nevertheless, Williams knew he’d never master the programming languages without further education. “I had an intellectual curiosity. I wanted to fill in the gaps in my knowledge,” Williams said.

Three years ago, he visited the math department and enrolled in a master’s degree program for computer science. He graduated in spring 2004 and learned what it takes to be a student at Wesleyan. “The kids here at Wesleyan are very smart. I had to keep up with undergrads in some of my classes,” said the 40-year-old.

Results from his master’s thesis, titled “Directional versus Omnidirectional Antennas for Energy Consumption and k-connectivity of Sensor Networks,” was recently accepted for publication.

At Wesleyan, Williams supports all research by William Herbst, professor of astronomy, who gained renown recognition for his discovery of KH15D, a far-off, winking star which appears to be displaying behavior thought to create our own solar system.

“Eric is highly respected and valued by all the staff and students of the Astronomy Department,” Herbst said. “He helps us with all sorts of computer problems, manages the complex astronomy computer network, runs our public outreach programs, and participates in some research programs and in the intellectual life of the department.”

He also volunteers his time and skills to community projects such as Project ASTRO, which uses an activities-based approach to excite third through 12th grade students about astronomy and help them learn the process of science.

Most recently, Williams joined a team working with Earth & Environmental Sciences Assistant Professor Martha Gilmore on developing a Planetary Science Group for the campus and local community.

Although he’s been doing research for the last few years in computer science, Williams is looking forward to the slight change of topic.

“I am excited to return to doing some of my own astronomy research now,” he said.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON’T: Fred Ellis, professor of physics, pours liquid nitrogen onto a stool during a lab demonstration January 13 in the Physics Department. About 90 students visiting from the Thomas Edison Middle School in Meriden attended six demonstrations, led by Wesleyan physics faculty and graduate students. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett)
 
LASER LIGHT: Graduate student Paula Matei teaches seventh grade students from Thomas Edison Middle School about lasers inside the Physics Department’s Molecular Collision Laboratory. Matei works under the supervision of Associate Professor of Physics Brian Stewart and studies the different kinds of few-body dynamics that can occur in the context of atom-molecule collisions. (Photo by Olivia Bartlett)