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Students Receive Funding for Projects for Peace

At right, Jessica French Smith ’’09, paints a mural with students from Nagarote, Nicaragua. French Smith received a Projects for Peace grant, which will allow her and fellow Wesleyan students to return to the city this summer to build a community center.
Posted 04/17/07
After exams finish up, Kudakwashe Ngogodo ’’08 hopes to provide safe drinking water in a rural community in Zimbabwe. Jessica French Smith ‘’09 wants to spend her summer building a community center for the troubled youth of Nagarote, Nicaragua.With support from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace Program, Smith, Ngogodo and other students from 65 colleges and universities will receive funding to undertake their proposed projects. Philanthropist Kathryn Wasserman Davis, on the occasion of her 100th birthday in February, established the new program with a donation of one million dollars so that each of the projects will receive $10,000.

The objective of the program is to encourage and support motivated youth to create and implement their ideas for building peace throughout the world in the 21st century.

“The 100 projects of peace present to me an opportunity of a lifetime,” explains Ngogodo, who grew up between two Zimbabwe provinces, traditionally divided by ethnic groups. “The region has been marred by great conflicts, all in the in the interest of controlling the scarce resourced needed for survival, chief amongst them drinking water.”

Economics and math major Ngogodo, pictured at left, hopes to engage the community in a peace-building project titled “Hope – Water Project.” The project will entail sinking at least two boreholes, which will serve the community with clean and safe water. He hopes that creating this clean-water resource will mean people in the community will no longer die from ingesting parasites and bacteria that exist in dirty water.

“This will ensure dialogue and cooperation, and for the first time in my life, I will see a community divided for so long come together for common good,” he says. “I want the boreholes to stand 10 years form now as a symbol of change, peace and cooperation.”

French Smith, who is coordinating the project “Nagarote-Wesleyan Partnership,” will use the fellowship to travel to Nagarote, Nicaragua with fellow group members Sean Corlett ’07, Lorena Estrella ’10 and Nelson Norsworthy ’10. This small community faces many hurdles to combat poverty including inadequate access to health care, low literacy and graduation rates, high crime rates, high drug usage and low wages in sweatshop-like environments.

The Wesleyan students have already partnered with youth and community members to begin the project in June. Funds have already been raised to purchase land and a building; however the facility requires major renovations to function as an adequate classroom and gathering space.

“We firmly believe that this community center will help promote peace in the region by giving youngsters constructive activities as an alternative to drugs and violence,” French Smith says. “We can promote our education-based mission much more effectively and efficiently in this new space and it will provide youth from all over the city the opportunity to keep occupied and engaged, thus reducing crime, drug use and gangs.”

The projects were judged and accepted by the Davis United World Scholars Program office. Applications included a written statement of the project including expected outcomes, prospects for future impact, and a budget proposal.

The “Hope – Water Project” and “Nagarote-Wesleyan Partnership” will be completed this summer.

“There is a future to consider not only for ourselves, but also for those who come after us,” Ngogodo says.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Soda Machine Betrothal or False Memory?


John Seamon, professor and chair of the Psychology Department, led a study titled the study, “Do you remember proposing marriage to the Pepsi Machine? False recollections from a campus walk,” which appeared in a recent issue of Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
Posted 04/17/07
Did you propose marriage to a Pepsi machine two weeks ago, or did you just imagine it?

That’s one of the questions John Seamon, professor and chair of the Psychology Department, asked participants in a study designed to determine if memories, and, in particular, bizarre false memories, could be implanted.

“We were interested in seeing if merely imagining different events could, over time, lead people to sometimes mistake imagination for recollection,” says Seamon, who worked with co-authors Morgan Philbin and Liza Harrison, both undergraduates at Wesleyan when the study was initiated.

“Given that all of us sometimes mix up the source of our memories, we wondered whether people would misremember bizarre actions as well as familiar actions,” Seamon says. “We thought the best way to do this was to do a study that had participants engage in actions or imagine actions that were either familiar or intentionally unusual.”

The study, aptly titled, “Do you remember proposing marriage to the Pepsi Machine? False recollections from a campus walk,” appeared in a recent issue of Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

Which brings us to people on bended knee asking for lifetime commitments from Pepsi machines – or not, but imagining it – depending on instructions.

Those instructions came during a series of walks around the Wesleyan campus. During the walks, 40 participants were asked to stop at a total of 48 separate locations. At each location the experimenter read an action statement; participants were asked to perform the action, watch the experimenter perform it, vividly imagine themselves performing it for 10 seconds or spend 10 seconds vividly imagining the experimenter performing it.

Of the 48 action statements involved, 24 involved familiar activities such as, “Check the Pepsi machine for change” or “Wave from the top of those steps.” But the other 24 covered more bizarre actions, including “Recite the balcony scene lines from Romeo and Juliet,” “Pat this dictionary and ask it how it’s doing,” as well as “Get down on one knee and propose marriage to that Pepsi machine.”

One day later, the same participants went to 36 locations along the previous route. This included 24 locations from the first session, including 12 locations where actions were previously performed, 12 locations where actions where previously imagined, along with 12 new locations which featured actions that were not used before. This time around, the participants only imagined each action, and they rated their images for vividness.

At no time during either walking session was any mention made of a memory test made.

Two weeks later, participants were gathered and asked questions about the 72 action statements from the two campus walks. Roughly 12 percent of the merely imagined actions were “remembered” as performed. The results may surprise some, but not Seamon.

“This is consistent with similar studies that have been done in the laboratory. We moved it into the real world,” Seamon says. “Even when presented with bizarre actions such as the proposal to a soda machine, after a couple weeks, some participants had false memories inspired by their imaginations.”

Seamon adds that these studies point to the danger of using techniques such as guided imagery in the course of psychotherapy to recover lost memories. People can be confident about their recollections and accurate, and they can be confident and wrong.

“Without some corroboration, we just can’t tell the difference,” Seamon says. “Clearly, when accuracy is critical, we should always seek some verifiable evidence that supports our recollections. Our memories are usually, but not always, a pretty faithful guide to our past. Otherwise, we’d be in real trouble as a species.”
 

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Library Cataloguer Named a Top Librarian Support Person in Connecticut


Shari Swanson ’79, library assistant and cataloger, started working at Olin Library in 1981. She plans to retire this summer.
 
Posted 04/17/07
Shari Swanson may be considered a bit “bibliophilic.”

During the day, Swanson works as Olin Library’s assistant and cataloger, sorting an array of reading material. And during the evening, she may retire to her personal library – stocked with more than 5,000 volumes.

“I am a bibliophile of the first order,” Swanson says. “I love to read, admire and collect books, old and new. A s a matter of fact, with me, it’s even close to an addiction. I do love to read. I read voraciously. I like the feel of books, books lining the walls of my rooms. Books comfort me; they make me happy; they fascinate me.”

Swanson’s lifelong love for books is just one reason she was recently named the Library Support Staff Member of the Year by the Connecticut Library Association. She will be honored at the annual Connecticut Library Association Conference April 17 in Hartford.

According to Ramona Harten, chair of the awards committee, nominations for the Support Staff Member of the Year award were open to all of the approximately 1,000 Connecticut Library Association members statewide. Swanson was nominated for the award by Barbara Jones, the Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian, and other Olin Library staff members.

The Support Staff of the Year Award promotes the role and image of library assistants and support staff in the library and information science fields. It recognizes the importance of support staff and their image in the library profession. Nominees must be currently working in the library profession in Connecticut in a support staff position.

“Shari has set an example for what university librarians like me look for in a staff member,” Jones explains. “First and foremost, she is curious about the world in general, and she reads and reads and reads, which means she is the ideal cataloger. She knows a lot about a lot of things, and what she doesn’t know, she’ll find out. Finally, Shari is compassionate and thoughtful about those around her. She will send me these thoughtful e-mails when she senses that a co-worker’s contributions are being overlooked, so that I can take notice and give recognition where it is due.”

Sally Grucan, cataloging librarian and Swanson’s supervisor, considers Swanson to be “probably the most productive cataloger that has ever existed” at Wesleyan.

“Shari understands the library and university big picture and, having a strong academic bent, is attuned to the needs of faculty in particular,” Grucan says. “She is the embodiment of a library support staff member who has materially contributed to the advancement of librarianship and library staff in her library. We have been extremely fortunate that she chose to stay at Wesleyan all these years.”

That’s 30 years to be exact.

Her ties with Wesleyan date back to 1977 when Swanson received an Etherington scholarship after receiving an associate’s degree from Manchester Community College. In 1979, she graduated from Wesleyan with a degree in history and has taken several graduate courses since from the Classical Studies and Medieval Studies programs. And in 1981, she began working for Olin Memorial Library on the Library of Congress classification range which included Russian works in Cyrillic language.

Rather than let the language become a barrier, she studied and became proficient in Russian transliteration in order to provide quality cataloging for the new acquisitions. Nowadays, she is able to transliterate Japanese and Chinese characters, and has knowledge in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Latin, Greek languages, and even Hebrew, Yiddish and Old Gothic script.

“I’m not always able to ‘read’ these texts, but I am able to transliterate them in order to search them, and catalog them,” Swanson says. “In my case, this is like a puzzle, or more closely, cryptography. It is coming at language from the back end, learning to identify ideographs and the ‘sound’ they make. My approach may not be the ideal, but it seems to work rather well.”

As a cataloger, Swanson makes sure each book acquired by the library is recorded correctly into the online catalog. She tweaks each book record accordingly, making sure the search points – such as authors and subjects – match the book so that when someone searches the catalog, he or she can easily find it with a general or keyword search.

In addition to the day-to-day new acquisitions, Swanson has cataloged Wesleyan’s Schomberg Collection of Negro Literature and History, large gift collections from the estates of Paul Horgan and Henry and Claire Erhmann, and rare text and artists books for the Special Collections and Archives Department. She’s also catalogued maps, audio/visual materials and serials, and is starting to catalogue a new “hidden collection” of works about King Arthur.

Swanson plans to retire from Wesleyan in June, however, will return in fall for a special, grant-funded project: the Nathan Comfort Starr Arthurian collection.

“This is a collection I have been drooling over and wanting to get my hands on for years,” she says. “I am very excited about this, and if grants can be gotten or other funds found, I hope that there are other projects that I can return to complete.”

Swanson’s knowledge and background made her an ideal recipient for the Support Staff Member of the award, Harten says, however Swanson was surprised by the decoration.

“I am humbled by this award because is initiated by my colleagues, my peers. They know me and nominated me anyway. Truly miraculous,” Swanson says smiling. “And that the selection committee then saw fit to honor me with this award takes my breath away. There are numbers of other staff here at Wesleyan who deserve this award. They increase exponentially when you consider the whole state. Therefore, I feel that I represent them all, and that I am the one to receive this award is a very lucky coincidence.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

27 Student-Athletes Named All-Academics


Jeremy Stuart ’08, top, is one of 27 winter athletes named an all-academic by the New England Small Athletic Conference.  (Photos by Brian Katten)
Posted 04/17/07
The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) announced its 2006-07 Winter All-Academic selections. Twenty-seven Wesleyan student-athletes received the honor.

To be honored, a student-athlete must have reached junior academic standing and be a varsity letter-winner with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.35. A transfer student must have completed one year of study at the institution.

“At Wesleyan, athletics is to be an integral part of the overall educational enterprise,” says Wesleyan Director of Athletics John Biddiscombe. “The All Academic NESCAC scholar-athletes are an outstanding example of how well athletics integrates with the academic program.”

Ellen Davis ’07 was named a “notable member” of the Winter All-Academic team. Davis, a member of the Cardinal Indoor Track and Field Team, won the individual title in the 5,000-meter event at the 2007 NCAA National Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 10 in Terre Haute, Ind. Davis, who is majoring in women’s studies, was named to the Winter All-Academic Team last year and has also earned All-Academic recognition in the fall of 2006 for Cross Country and spring of 2006 for Outdoor Track and Field.

Other Wesleyan athletes and their sports include: Alex Battaglino ’07, indoor track and field; Lila Bolke ‘07, women’s ice hockey; J.Z. Golden ’08, men’s squash (pictured at right); Nicole Gray ’08, women’s squash; Ryan Hendrickson ’07, men’s ice hockey; Jessica Houghton ’08, swimming and diving; Caroline Janin ’08, women’s squash; Eliza Jones ’07, swimming and diving; Owen Kiely GRAD, indoor track and field; Megan Kretz ’07, indoor track and field; and Anwell Lanfranco ’08, indoor track and field.

Also Chris Lau ’07, indoor track and field; Nikki Maletta ’08 women’s basketball; Andrew Marvin-Smith ’08, wrestling; Sarah Milburn ’07, women’s basketball; Susie Morrison ’07, swimming and diving (pictured at left); Stephanie O’Brien ’08, indoor track and field; Dave Scardella ’07, men’s ice hockey; Kara Schnoes ’07, indoor track and field; Jimmy Shepherd ’07, men’s basketball; Alex Shklyarevsky ’08, men’s ice hockey; Jeff Stein ’08, swimming and diving; Jeremy Stuart ’08, wrestling; Seline Tirtajana ’08, women’s squash; Sean Watson ’08, indoor track and field; and Jaime Wendel ’07, women’s ice hockey.

Senior Named Carnegie Junior Fellow


Gregory Dubinsky ’07 will work with experts in Washington DC after graduation. He was named a Carnegie Junior Fellow, the first Wesleyan has had since 1991.
Posted 04/17/07
Gregory Dubinsky ’07 will have the opportunity to work with two Russian scholars as a newly-accepted Junior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think-tank based in Washington, DC that focuses on promoting cooperation between nations.

Dubinsky, a government and intellectual history double major, is one of only seven students in the country to receive this honor. Each year the Carnegie Endowment offers the one-year fellowships to seniors and individuals who have graduated during the past academic year.

The senior applied for the program to learn more about U.S. foreign policy issues, particularly as they apply to countries and cultures where there has historically been a gap in mutual understanding. He remembers reading Samuel Huntington’s controversial article “The Clash of Civilizations” and wondering how countries’ own self-perception affect their interactions with other nations

“Russia was always fascinating to me in this regard because of how profoundly important and troubled its historical struggle to define itself in relation to Western civilization has been,” he explains.

The Carnegie applications are judged on the quality of the written essay, related academic study and/or work experience, grades, recommendations and personal interviews. Dubinsky submitted an essay on the importance of oil and gas to Russian foreign policy and its implications for Russia’s relationship with the West.

This essay parallels his senior thesis, which is focused on exploring the connection between identity and foreign policy in Russian political and intellectual history in the nineteenth century and since 1991. In this study, Dubinsky wanted to find out how Russians’ sense of themselves has affected their country’s relationship to the United States and Europe, particularly as cooperation with Russia has become increasingly important to tackling the major global security issues of the day.

“I hope to continue in that vein at the Carnegie Endowment by trying to understand contemporary Russian politics in a deeper and more revealing historical context,” he says. “The atmosphere of intellectual inquiry at Wesleyan has prepared me well to ask critical questions about how cultures understand themselves and others.”

As a Junior Fellow, Dubinsky will provide research assistance to associates working on the Carnegie Endowment’s Russian/Eurasian projects. In the past, Junior Fellows have had the opportunity to conduct research for books, co-author journal articles and policy papers, participate in meetings with high-level officials, contribute to congressional testimony and organize briefings attended by scholars, activists, journalists and government officials.

He’s been paired with Mark Medish, vice president for Studies on Russia, China and Eurasia and special assistant to the president during the Clinton Administration, and Jim Collins, former U.S. ambassador to Russia, senior associate and director of the Russian and Eurasian Program, and diplomat in residence.

Wesleyan has not had a Junior Carnegie Fellow since 1991.

Peter Rutland, chair of the College of Social Studies and professor of government, nominated Dubinsky for the Junior Fellowship and encouraged him to apply. Dubinsky is grateful to Rutland for his support and guidance.

Dubinsky will begin his fellowship Aug. 1 and work full-time at the Carnegie Endowment, based in Washington DC, for one year. He will receive $2,750 per month and full benefits.

After graduation, Dubinsky plans on taking a trip to the Northwest to unwind, and he hopes to start learning Mandarin this summer in New York. Meanwhile, he’s excited about moving to Washington.

“I’m looking forward to meeting interesting people and learning more about how things get done in the capital,” he says. “Living in Washington should be a lot of fun and I’m very thankful for this opportunity.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Postal Clerk Expert on Haitian Music, Celebration


Holly Nicolas, postal clerk at Wesleyan Station, helps two students send their mail. He was recently featured on Afropop Worldwide Radio.
 
Posted 04/02/07
It’s 20 minutes after noon and postal clerk Holly Nicolas heads to the Wesleyan Station window. Students begin trickling into a line. Some want to send letters, others wait to pick up packages.

“When the students get out of class, we really get hit,” Nicolas says in his Creole-accented English.

Holly, pronounced “O-Lee,” is a Haitian native who moved to the United States in 1993. His days begin with sorting incoming mail for the university’s faculty, staff and students. At 10 a.m., Wesleyan Station opens and Nicolas, fellow postal clerk Illana Konerding and student workers service the window until it closes at 3 p.m.

“It’s fun to interact with the university’s faculty, staff and students every day, and I like when I can put a face with a name,” Nicolas says. “Working here, you see people’s names over and over and it’s good to know who they are. The students are surprised when I can know their mailbox number off the top of my head, but when you look at them every day; it stays in your head.”

If a mail carrier is out, Nicolas often volunteers to deliver the campus-wide mail. He’ll also work on mail forwarding and sorting mail throughout the day.

The heaviest mail season occurs during the first few weeks of the academic year. During this time, “tons and tons” of packages arrive to Wesleyan Station containing students’ clothing and school supplies, Nicolas says. The mail traffic slows, but picks up again around Feb. 14.

“Valentine’s Day is so busy,” Nicolas says, smiling. “There are lots and lots of flowers to deliver.”

In addition to his mail duties, Nicolas has one other job requirement – playing the role of deejay for Wesleyan Station. The lifelong music lover is an expert on Haitian beats, from traditional kompa dance music to band a pied, which is played with brass horns and drums.

“Holly is a very important person here,” explains Konerding. “He is great with the customers, fixes anything that breaks around here, and most importantly, he is in charge of all of our music.”

In February, Nicolas was featured on Afropop Worldwide Radio. The interview of Nicolas was conducted by Sean Barlow ’79, president of World Music Productions/Afropop Worldwide Radio in Brooklyn, and freelance guitarist and Afropop Worldwide host Banning Eyre ’80. The recording is online here.

Nicholas talked about his memories of Haitian Carnival. The carnival season begins Jan. 6 on Three Kings Day and runs until Fat Tuesday. During the last three days of this period, some Haitians dress in colorful costumes and dance, sing, dance and celebrate their culture.

The celebration was a tradition for Nicolas, who grew up in Ouanaminthe, a small town that borders the Dominican Republic on the northeast of Haiti. During one carnival, he recalls, local musicians sang about a woman who stole a chicken.

“That was funny to me, because I knew that woman. She lived next to me,” he says.

This is Nicolas’ eighth year working at Wesleyan. In the early 1990s, he met Wesleyan’s Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor religion, African American Studies and American Studies. McAlister was in Haiti, studying Haitian traditions and Voodoo. The couple married and spent three years trying to get Nicolas’ daughter, Lovely, to America. She is now 20 and a sophomore at Hampshire College.

Nicolas and McAlister live in Middletown with their children, Sacha, 13, and Julien, 8. He enjoys cooking Haitian food for his family and playing intramural soccer.

He returns to his native country once a year but never regrets moving to the U.S.

“Moving to American was a good move for me, but it was especially a good move for my daughter, who now lives in a safer environment with better educational opportunities,” he says. “We are both very fortunate.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan’s Douglas Cannon to Return after 10 Years?


Members of the class of 1918, the last class to hold a “Cannon Scrap” on campus, serenade the Douglas Cannon at their 55th reunion in 1973. Rumors have it that the cannon may return this year during Reunion & Commencement Weekend. Below, the cannon makes an appearance in Paris, France in the mid 1980s.
Posted 04/02/07
There are no promises, but rumors have been heard that the 139-year-old Douglas Cannon – a revered Wesleyan artifact – may make an appearance during the 175th Commencement this May.

John Driscoll, director of alumni relations, says he’s heard vague rumblings that the cannon might be leaving a current sanctuary and be heading towards Connecticut.

“I know I looked carefully throughout Southeast Asia and it wasn’t there,” Driscoll says. “But I daresay there is more than just rumor floating in the air. I would be exceedingly presumptuous to predict with confidence, but I hear there are noises, promising ripples not heard for too long. Like the promise of spring, they instill hope.”

The Douglas Cannon, a 140-pound, 29-inch long, brass artillery instrument, has been a celebrated saga on campus since the 1860s. A yearly contest, the “Cannon Scrap,” developed between the freshmen, whose mission it was to fire the cannon on Feb. 22, and the sophomores, who were charged with foiling the effort. The game ended in 1916 and in 1931, the cannon was filled with 100 pounds of lead and mounted to a block of brownstone between Memorial Chapel and South College. The cannon remained there for 26 years, only to be stolen by students in 1957, returned, then stolen again in 1959.

The cannon has traveled widely since that time: it has been hidden in dormitories, presented to the Russian Mission at the United Nations as a “symbol of peace, brotherhood, and friendship,” appeared unexpectedly in the offices of the managing editor of Life magazine, presented to President Richard M. Nixon as a protest against the war in Vietnam, and baked into Wesleyan’s sesquicentennial birthday cake in 1981.

In 1982, the gun went missing once more. Using bolt cutters, wire cutters, pliers, vice grips, a crow bar, sheet metal hammer and a hook and wood saw, cannon-nappers broke into the Office of Public Safety, where the cannon was residing. They left $5 to pay for their damages.

The thieves known as “Doug Addicts” took the cannon on a world tour, making stops in London and Paris, as revealed in photographs. A postcard from “Doug” arrived in the president’s office from Venezuela in 1989. Customs stamps on the cannon’s wooden crate, noticed at a later appearance, confirmed that it left the country.

It’s been 10 years since the cannon appeared on campus. In 1997, the cannon was “gifted” in a large plaster package with a red ribbon near the Davenport Campus Center. The plaster was broken apart with hammers and chisels and the wooden crate inside containing the cannon was swiftly carried off by a group of students.

Bill Burkhart, university photographer, has witnessed the cannon’s disappearing acts for 17 years.

“The Douglas Cannon tradition is becoming a non-tradition, since five classes have graduated, clueless to the cannon’s significance,” Burkhart says. “Come home Doug, come home. Soon.”

Driscoll says he and Suzy Taraba, university archivist, received photos showing the cannon “well cared for by scantily clad revelers” during Homecoming/Family Weekend three years ago. Two years ago, a cannon appeared at halftime during the homecoming football game, however, it was suspected of being a fraud.

“So, I think it is fair to say, subject to counter claims and evidence, that there has not been a full-blown appearance of the Cannon since 1997,” Driscoll says.

Driscoll says the 175th commencement would be a good time for the cannon to make an appearance.

“It certainly would be a good time, what with length of absence and too many Wesleyan folks knowing too little about this fun-filled tradition, and it being our 175th year, and, finally, it being the end of the Bennets’ good tenure –the name ‘Douglas’ should mean something — but it is too early to tell,” he says.

For more on the history of the Douglas Cannon, go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/libr/schome/cannon/cannon.htm.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Post Doc Awarded Gilder Lehrman Fellowship


Posted 04/02/07
Jacob Dorman, the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, has been awarded a research fellowship by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Dorman will conduct research at the Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library. His project title is “Everyday Life and the Harlem Renaissance.”

Dorman received a bachelor’s of art from Stanford University and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles in African American history. At Wesleyan, he teaches Black Urban Religious History.

He will use his Gilder Lehrman Fellowship to research the social history of black life during the Harlem Renaissance.

To support outstanding scholarship, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History awards short-term fellowships in several categories: Research Fellowships for post-doctoral scholars at every faculty rank, Dissertation Fellowships for doctoral candidates who have completed exams and begun dissertation reading and writing, and Research Fellowships for journalists and independent scholars. The Gilder Lehrman Fellowships support work in one of five archives in New York City.

Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History promotes the study and love of American history. Increasingly national and international in scope, the Institute targets audiences ranging from students to scholars to the general public. It helps to create history-centered schools and academic research centers, organizes seminars and enrichment programs for educators, partners with school districts to implement Teaching American History grants, produces print and electronic publications and traveling exhibitions, and sponsors lectures by eminent historians. Since 1994, it has funded a total of 415 fellowships.

For more information on the Gilder Lehrman Fellowship go to http://www.gilderlehrman.org.

Student Presents Stem Cell Research at International Symposium


Jenna Gopilan ’07 researches neural stem cells in mice brains, and presented her research at a recent StemCONN conference.
Posted 04/02/07
Jenna Gopilan ’07 familiarized herself with the scientific research environment during her freshman year as a work study student. As a sophomore, she shadowed graduate students to learn their techniques. Now, as a senior, the neuroscience and behavior major had the opportunity to present her own research project to the Media and Legislative Briefing at the State Capitol in Hartford.

The briefing took place during Connecticut’s Stem Cell Research International Symposium, also known as StemCONN 07, March 27-28. Gopilan’s research, presented on a poster, was titled “Defects in the Neural Stem Cell Niche in Adult Mice Deficient for DNA Double-Strand Break Repair.” Political leaders, scientists, academics and the general public attended the symposium. Gopilian was the only undergraduate chosen from 10 other students to present for this session.

“It was a little intimidating to present my research to scientists from around the world and our state’s legislators, but it was an educational experience,” Gopilan says. “Listening to legislators’ inspiring speeches, I learned that scientists should take a more active role in their community.”

Launched in the wake of Connecticut’s historic decision to support human stem cell research, StemCONN attracted stem cell researchers from around the world. The program included events touching all aspects of stem cell research, including scientific, commercial, political and ethical dimensions. Connecticut’s Governor Jodi Rell opened the proceedings.

Gopilan received funding for her project from Connecticut United for Research Excellence (CURE) and Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA). The grant funds her studies of endogenous neural stem cells in the hippocampus of adult mice and the neurogenic response of the brain to seizures.

Last summer, Gopilan conducted research at the University of California, San Francisco. There, she learned how to harvest neural stem cells from the central nervous system of adult mice. She was able to use the technique back at Wesleyan in the lab supervised by Janice Naegele, professor of biology and chair of the Biology Department.

“Although these are early days in her research project, Jenna already has some interesting data that she had the opportunity to present in the Capital and at StemCONN,” Naegele says. “Not only is this a very nice recognition of her interesting project, it is also an opportunity to present her ideas at an international conference where she was able to receive feedback from experts in the stem cell field.”

Prior to her junior year, Gopilan was accepted to be a Hughes Fellow, spending the entire summer working on a single research project “The Effects of Serotonin on Adult Neurogenesis in the Dentate Gyrus of DNA-PKcs Mice”. Gopilan will graduate this May, but will continue her research as a fifth-year master’s student at Wesleyan.

After Gopilan offered her presentation side-by-side with scientists who have received major grants from the state, Dr. Gerald Fishbone and Dr. Jerry Yang, members of the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee, lauded her work and offered advice for the young scientist.

“Their input allowed me to reevaluate my research and think of new and innovative experiments to answer questions I have for my research,” Gopilan says. “I would to like continue working with adult neural stem cells in the future. There are still many things left to understand and decipher.”

The long-term goal of her work is to repair brain damage in disorders such as epilepsy.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

NSF Grant to Support Women’s Advancement in the Geosciences


In center, Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, teaches visiting 5th grade students about rocks. O’Connell was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to support building a community of women geoscience leaders.
Posted 04/02/07
A three-year, $488,367 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Mary Anne Holmes, research associate professor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, will help women from all academic levels take part in a community that stresses professional development in the geosciences.

The project, titled, “Building a Community of Women Geoscience Leaders” is funded by the NSF’s ADVANCE Partnerships for Adaptation, Implementation and Dissemination Award. Wesleyan’s portion of the grant is$259,593.

“We want to overcome isolation, a known factor in the non-retention of women scientists, teach women skills to help them succeed in academia, and develop strategies with female and male department chairs to develop an environment that is more supportive of women,” O’Connell says.

The grant will fund a program designed to increase the retention of women in geoscience programs. The program, called GANE, or Geoscience Academics in New England, will target colleges and universities located in the northeast region of the country.

O’Connell and Holmes hope to implement professional development workshops and writing retreats to provide women necessary skills to reach their full potential as academic and scientific leaders. Geoscience department chairs will be offered special workshops, as well, with an emphasis on increasing gender balance. These workshops will address strategies to increase department diversity, while providing a productive environment for all faculty.

A database of academic geoscientists will be created to measure progress. Results may be shared with other regions across the country.

O’Connell and Holmes are both members of the Association for Women Geoscientists, an international organization devoted to enhancing the quality and level of participation of women in the geosciences. It also aims to introduce girls and young women to geoscience careers. In 2000, O’Connell was given the association’s Outstanding Educator Award.

O’Connell says it was a physician who inspired her to become a professional woman. When O’Connell was 10, she fell off a fence and was taken to the hospital. Lying for hours in a large green room, she saw many incredible sights, but what amazed her most at the time was that the person who treated her was a woman.

“A woman doctor! That was a revelation,” O’Connell recalls. “At that time, I was planning to be a nun, but now it occurred to me that maybe I could be a doctor. That woman, just by her presence, started me thinking. Like that physician, we are all role models. Who knows what ideas we can implant in young heads.”

O’Connell didn’t grow up to be a physician or nun, but she did receive a Ph.D studying marine sediments, focusing on how large quantities of land sediment get transported to the deep sea by turbidity currents. She teaches Wesleyan students about sedimentology, marine geology, climate change and oceanography, and researches past climate change by studying sediment cores from the ocean.

“I don’t think we can always know how we are influencing others,” O’Connell says. “But I do think that we, as women geoscientists, help every young girl to know that she has wider career options. It’s often not easy, but it is exciting.”

O’Connell was featured in the March 2007 issue of Nature, Volume 446 Number 7133, in an article titled, “Leaks in the pipeline: Why do women remain curiously absent from the ranks of academia?” The article is online at http://www.nature.com/naturejobs/2007/070315/full/nj7133-346a.html.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Watson Fellowship Allows Seniors to Study Abroad


 
At left, Marlon Bishop ’07 and Leigh Senderowicz ‘07 received Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowships, which facilitate independent projects abroad.
Posted 04/02/07
Two Wesleyan students will have the opportunity to travel abroad and conduct independent studies as Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellows.

Marlon Bishop ’07 and Leigh Senderowicz ‘07 each received the $25,000 award. The Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship provides graduating college seniors with a one year fellowship to explore an independent project outside of the United States, to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community.

Approximately 195 students were nominated to be Watson Fellows; of these, only 50 were accepted. They come from 24 states and seven foreign countries.

Louise Brown, associate dean of the college and campus liaison, nominated Bishop and Senderowicz.

“We are delighted that Marlon and Leigh will have this unequaled opportunity to experience learning on a global scale, “Brown says. “They will not only engage in a project about which they are passionate, but also experience the personal and intellectual stretch from undertaking an independent project in countries outside the United States. Being awarded seven fellowships over the past five years is a wonderful recognition of the intellect, creativity and character of Wesleyan students.

Bishop will travel to the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Uruguay, Ecuador and Brazil for his study “From Punta to Palos: Exploring the Hidden Afro-Latino Musics.” Senderowicz will travel to Peru, Senegal, South Africa, Turkey for a study titled “Taboo and Tolerance: Reproductive Health in Cultural Context.”

Bishop’s psroject comes from a personal musical connection to the African-derived musical styles of the United States, a great interest in Latin America and its cultural milieu, and a musicological education at Wesleyan. The Queens, N.Y. native started playing piano when he was 10, and started performing musical jams at the age of 14. He’s explored rock, American blues, soul, funk, jazz, classical and Afro-Cuban music, and at the age of 16, developed a fascination for Latin American culture and music during a visit to Peru.

Bishop recalls playing his charango, a small Andean string instrument, and a group of teenagers with guitars and flutes came by, curious to see what a “fair-haired gringo” was doing with a local instrument. Though he only knew a handful of chords, it was enough to play along and he and the Peruvians spent the rest of the day playing.

“Though I spoke little Spanish at the time, I was able to communicate meaningfully with people who lived a world apart through music,” Bishop says. “The Watson year will take my personal, musical, and academic development to the next level, synthesizing the knowledge I have achieved into a single vision of the cultural processes that make music what it is.”

Senderowicz will look at how women’s health is affected by the laws of a nation, the dictates of culture, the directives of religion, the politics of international development organizations, and the values of the women themselves. Specifically, she will examine reproductive health choices by looking at the situation at each rung of the ladder as aid money travels from international organizations down to women seeking health care.

She intends to talk with administrators, doctors, nurses, traditional health care practitioners, and most importantly, women seeking reproductive health care at non-governmental organizations and local health clinics.

“The biggest thing I hope to accomplish is gaining a sense of what my role in a broader global context should be,” Senderowicz says. “I’m going to use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a chance to re-engage and try to figure out where I can make positive interventions.”

The foundation selects its fellows by identifying individuals who demonstrate leadership, resourcefulness, imagination or vision, independence, integrity, responsibility and emotional maturity and courage. A candidate’s academic record, while not of primary importance, is also considered, together with those extracurricular activities that reflect both initiative and dedication.

Watson Fellows must create, execute, and evaluate their own projects. Fellows set their agenda and decide how questions can be answered, when it is time to move on, if a project must be adjusted in any way. All fellows are required to maintain contact with the foundation during their year abroad, and submit a final evaluation.

“I’m very lucky not to have to jump into the grind of a career, and want to make the most possible out of this year,” Bishop says. “A year of travel, adventure, new sights and sounds, education, the joy of exploration of a little-studied subject. It all sounds like a great experience.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Secretary Assists Coaches, Administrators, Student with Athletic, Physical Education Needs


Nancy Chesbro, secretary for the Department of Physical Education and Athletics, attends several Wesleyan athletic events. She’s worked in the department for 26 years.
 
Posted 04/02/07
Q: Nancy, you’ve been a secretary in the Department of Physical Education and Athletics for 26 years. What led you here in the first place?

A: I had worked in the Physical Education Department at the University of Connecticut, so when I decided to look for a job in Middletown, Wesleyan was the logical place to start. When I was offered a position in Physical Education it was a perfect match for me. I started with a part-time position, which was helpful since I had children in elementary school and I was able to be home when they were. The job worked itself into a full-time position.

Q: When you started, where was your office located?

A: The Athletic office was located on Wyllys Avenue, in a place which is now a parking lot. The department moved as a whole from Wyllys to the Freeman Athletic Center in June of 1990.

Q: What are your primary job responsibilities? What goes on during the day?

A: My main responsibilities are to assist the coaches and administrators in any way they need help. Recruiting goes on all year and much time is spent doing mailings. I am also responsible for the team rosters which appear on the athletic Web pages, officials for all games, facility user memberships, faculty and staff lockers, coordinating our banquets and gate receipts at all home football games. I am also the administrative support person for the Adult Fitness Program.

Q: How often do you interact with Wesleyan coaches and Wesleyan athletes?

A: I interact with all coaches on a daily basis. I get to know students that come by the office frequently.

Q: What goes on during a day at the office?

A: Each day is different. You have to be able to work with interruptions and be ready to change your focus in a minute. Many prospective students and parents stop by the office daily and you always have to be ready to speak with them and get them to the coach they are seeking. I could be anywhere in this building and be working.

Q: Do you attend any of the athletic events at Wesleyan?

A: My husband and I attend many of the athletic events. We traveled to Florida over spring break the past few years with the women’s lacrosse team and have had a great time with the coaches and athletes. We also travel to some of the away events with Bowdoin being the longest trip.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: I like it here, the atmosphere is friendly and we have a great group of coaches and staff. I enjoy the changes that take place every season, which makes the job new and exciting, and rarely boring.

Q: What is your favorite sport?

A: My husband and I are golfers so we like to spend vacations playing golf. We have spent many vacations playing in North and South Carolina and Florida. I think the most famous courses we have played are Pinehurst and The Legends in North Carolina and Yale, TPC at River Highlands and Lake of Isles in Connecticut.

Q: Tell me about your family.

A: I have two children, and three grandchildren. My son and son-in-law are both golf course superintendents at private courses and my daughter is a physical education teacher in the Middletown school system. My grandsons are 4, 3 and 6 months. The 3-year-old already has a pretty mean golf swing. He asks to go to the course.

Q: Red Sox or Yankees?

A: Go Yankees!
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor