All News

Men’s Ice Hockey Takes Europe by Storm


At top, The men’s ice hockey team played the HC Valvenosta in Laces, Italy over Christmas break while touring Europe and playing several games. At right, members of the team take in the sights in Innsbruck, Austria.

Below, Wesleyan plays the Caldaro Under-26 squad in Caldaro, Italy. (Photos contributed by Chris Potter)

Posted 01/22/07
During the winter holiday break, the men’s ice hockey team toured Germany, Austria and Italy, competing against four local club teams, and winning all the games while beating opponents by a combined score of 30-1.

“I’m afraid the competition there wasn’t quite up to level we expected,” said fourth-year head coach Chris Potter. “But it still gave us a chance to skate, practice a few new things and improve our game overall.”

The planning for the trip began almost two years ago. Wesleyan teams are permitted foreign travel once every four years. Following the 2004-05 season, Coach Potter and his upperclassmen began discussing options. “We talked about the Czech Republic and Scandinavia, but in the end this trip won out,” Coach Potter explained.

Using numerous fund-raising techniques to help cover the $1,900 cost per individual, the team accumulated enough money to bring a contingent of 36 people, including all 32 players, the three coaches and the head athletic trainer. They were joined by 30 family members, bringing the total for the trip to 66.

The three-country trip began in began in Munich, Germany, a city that left an impression on at least one player.

“I thought our three days in Munich were the best,” said forward J.J. Evans ’09. “It seemed so European and I thought the bratwurst was spectacular. Even though I got a kiss from an Italian girl on New Year’s Eve when we were in Bolzano, I’m still going with Munich.”

For team captain Will Bennett ’07 Innsbruck, Austria was a favorite. He also said the location of the team’s final contest against the Caldaro (Italy) Under-26 squad, an 8-0 Wesleyan win, was amazing.

“This rink was dropped right into the countryside,” Bennett said. “It made you wonder how they managed to build it where they did.”

Soon after returning, the Cardinals managed to get their skates back on for their regular-scheduled home games on January 5 and 6. Wesleyan won both to extend its current unbeaten streak to five games and hold a 5-3-2 overall record. It is the first time the team has held a winning record after 10 games since 1988-89.

“I’m seeing the team starting to gel,” said Coach Potter. “I think the trip was valuable and I made some interesting rooming assignments to help the players get more comfortable with each other. I’m hoping the whole thing will pay off as the season progresses.”
 

By Brian Katten, sports information director

Associate Professor Judges Biomedical Conference for Minorities


Ishita Mukerji, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, uses a UV resonance Raman spectrometer in her research at Wesleyan. Mukerji recently attended a conference in California, judging presentations on biomedical sciences.
Posted 01/22/07
Encouraging underrepresented minority students to pursue advanced training in the biomedical and behavioral sciences was the purpose of a recent conference in Anaheim, Calif. And the chair of Wesleyan’s Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department was there to help guide these students down that path.

Ishita Mukerji, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, was among 220 scientists around the country who attended the 2006 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), held Nov. 8-11.

The scientists volunteered their time and energy in judging the 1,048 poster presentations and 72 oral presentations.

“The number of minority students in biomedical research is very small,” Mukerji explains. “I and my colleagues are committed to improving diversity in the sciences and this is a great opportunity to meet and interact with minority students. We would like to have more under-represented students at all levels in the sciences at Wesleyan and this is one way to interact with minority students and potentially recruit them to come to Wesleyan University.”

Now in its seventh year, ABRCMS is the largest professional conference for biomedical and behavioral students. Over 2,500 people attended the 2006 conference including 1,633 students, 421 faculty and program directors and 418 exhibitors. ABRCMS is supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and managed by the American Society for Microbiology.

By volunteering as a judge, Mukerji served in one of the most important roles at the conference, explains Ronica Rodela, spokesperson for the ABRCMS.

“The judge’s role in providing constructive feedback to student presenters positively enhances the professional development and advancement of students in their scientific research,” Rodela says.

These presentations were given by undergraduate, graduate, post-baccalaureate students as well as postdoctoral scientists in nine sub-disciplines in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. The top 120 undergraduates received monetary awards of $250 for their outstanding research.

Mukerji says some of the research she judged was comparable to the research being done by Wesleyan undergraduates. On the other hand, there is a wide range of science presented at the conference, and some of the students are coming from two-year institutions that don’t have a lot of resources for doing science.

“The judging process is an interactive one in which I usually talk to the students about their research project, their scientific interests and what their future plans are,” Mukerji explains. “Many of them are very enthusiastic about their projects and that makes the judging a lot of fun. On the whole I find it to be a very rewarding experience.”

Mukerji is currently the chairperson of the Minority Affairs Committee for the Biophysical Society. For their annual meeting in March, she has arranged a panel discussion on “Recruitment, Retention and Mentoring of Under-represented Students.” Featured panelists will be representatives from MentorNet and Venture Scholars. Both of these organizations are committed to increasing diversity at all levels in the sciences.

For more information on the conference, visit www.abrcms.org. The 2007 ABRCMS is scheduled for Nov. 7-10 in Austin, Texas.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

New Dean of Sciences has Full Slate


David Bodznick, the new dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, researches neuron signals in skate brains when he’s not busy with administrative duties.
Posted 01/22/07
When David Bodznick took on the role as dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics in July 2006, he became, in essence, a part-time mediator. In his new position, the professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, works as the liaison between the Wesleyan’s science and mathematics faculty and the administration.

“For example, I have the chance to present the needs and aspirations of the Division III faculty to the rest of the administration,” Bodznick explains from his office in Shanklin, “and the responsibility of presenting the wider perspective and long range planning goals of the Administration back to the faculty.”

Bodznick was nominated to the four-year position by former Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dean Joseph Bruno, who is the current vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, and professor of chemistry. Bruno’s nomination came after hearing input from colleagues. They cited Bodznick’s expertise and experience working as the director of Graduate Studies and chairing the Biology Department.

The position encompasses the departments of Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Physics and Psychology, and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program.

“What really attracted me to the dean position was that it involves a lot of problem solving,” he says. “I enjoy trying to find the best solution that works most effectively toward the goal that needs to be met.”

Bodznick has already set short and long term goals for himself.

For one, he wants to continue where Bruno left off, raising awareness and the visibility of the sciences at Wesleyan to the larger Wesleyan community and to the outside world. He looks for ways to support the continued successes of the science and math faculty in both teaching and research, and he encourages them to share their research with their students and the media.

He mentions the outstanding research on stem-cells and neuron replacement that are part of the recent Connecticut Stem Cell Initiative as a great example of the important work going on throughout the sciences at Wesleyan.

Bodznick’s own research is on neuron signaling in the brains of vertebrates including marine fishes. In fact, every summer, Bodznick and his students move their lab equipment to the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. There, the group is among 300 neurobiologists from all over the world working on research.

As dean, Bodznick will also work with the Science Advisory Council, which comprises several Wesleyan alumni and Board of Trustee members, to find ways to increase outside funding for undergraduate and graduate science programs. He hopes to increase the applicant pool for science majors and offer additional courses for non-science majors.

“Too many Wesleyan students graduate without taking science courses, despite the fact that now, more than ever before, science literacy is a critical part of a liberal arts education,” Bodznick says. “We need to continue offering a large number of attractive, palatable classes for non-science majors so they’ll want to include science courses in their curriculum.”

The dean’s heaviest workload falls on the new science center’s planning. This facility will house three departments and will likely replace Hall-Atwater, which has exceeded its useful lifespan. Bodznick, Wesleyan’s own facilities experts and a building committee of faculty, students and trustees, are meeting with architects. They are discussing the new building’s feasibility options from the size and location to program planning, and a renovation of Shanklin. Groundbreaking is expected by the end of 2009.

The at-home handyman says the new science center is one project he’s very excited about.

“To work on this from the beginning to end and see the ground breaking will be a major accomplishment,” he says. “There’s a lot to be decided and a lot of problem solving to do.”

With his plate full of administrative duties, Bodznick has to devote less time to teaching, however it hasn’t affected his research or interaction with Wesleyan students. He offers to present lectures in other classes, attends biology and neuroscience graduate student meetings and meets regularly with his four lab students. Next year, he expects new undergraduates to join his research group, and he looks forward to teaching them the methods of the lab.

“Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the best thing about working at Wesleyan is the students,” Bodznick says. “I’d never want to lose contact with the students, so I do what I can to interact with them, even when I’m not teaching as much.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Web Site Teaches Haitian Celebration Through Text, Sound, Video


A new learning objects tool, designed by Associate Professor Elizabeth McAlister, features multimedia tools to help teach the story of Rara.
Posted 01/17/07
In Haiti, the people celebrate their African ancestry and religion with a Rara festival, a culturally rich musical and dance event.

Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor of Religion and chair of the Religion Department, associate professor of African American studies, and associate professor of American studies, has studied this tradition for 15 years. Through a newly-created teaching tool, she hopes people can gain new insights on the Rara festival.

Designed by Wesleyan’s Learning Objects Studio staff, the Web site, http://rara.wesleyan.edu/ is available for academic and public use. The site is already being used at classes at New York University and Swarthmore.

“My hope is that people interested in Rara, students, musicians, artists, travelers and other researchers, will be able to use this Web site as an interactive study guide,” McAlister says.

McAlister’s interest in Rara dates back to 1991 when she began researching Haiti’s vibrant culture, often celebrated through Rara. In 2002, she published a book titled, “Rara! Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora.” The Web site serves as a companion piece to her book on Rara.

“After my book on Rara came out, internet technology made it possible to display the photographs and videotape that I made in Haiti, together with my friends and collaborators,” she explains.

Through the online tool, McAlister posted a 15-minute film about Rara, music and dance clips. She included images, video and audio clips of Rara as a carnival; Rara as a religious obligation in Vodou; Rara and the Christians and Jews; Rara gender and sexuality; Rara and politics; and Rara in New York City.

In each section, McAlister includes media, notes from the field, and an analysis, often adapted from her book.

When explaining Rara as a form of carnival, McAlister explains, in the analysis, that “the ‘tone,’ or ‘ambiance,’ of Rara parading is loud and carnivalesque … As in Carnival, Rara is about moving through the streets, and about men establishing masculine reputation through public performance. Rara bands stop to perform for noteworthy people, to collect money. In return, the kings and queens dance and sing, and the baton majors juggle batons-and even machetes!”

The site includes clips on several Rara bands including La Belle Fraicheur de l’Anglade in Fermathe, Mande Gran Moun in Darbonne, Rara La Fleur Ginen in Bel Air, Rara Inorab Kapab in Cite Soleil and Rara Ya Seizi.

Donning traditional Rara costumes, which are known for their delicate sequin work and vivacious colors, dancers are shown in action, in low or high bandwidth videos of dances and music. In one clip, a queen and two kings dance the “mazoun.” Traditional instruments such as bamboo and the paper-fabricated konet are shown in several accompanying images like the one at right.

The music featured on the Web site was produced by Holly Nicolas, postal clerk, and mixed and mastered by Peter Hadley, conductor of Wes Winds.

McAlister, who lived in Haiti to study Rara, says she walked with the bands, took them seriously and listened to what they had to say.

“My book, and now this Web site, tell that story,” she says.

For more information on the Learning Objects Studio go to: http://learningobjects.wesleyan.edu.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Press and Marking Coordinator Fills the Seats at CFA Performances


Adam Kubota, press and marketing coordinator for the Center for the Arts helps more than 275 shows a year get publicity at Wesleyan and with the local media.
 
Posted 01/17/07
Q: When did you first come to Wesleyan, and when were you officially full-time for the Center for the Arts?

A: I started as interim CFA press and marketing coordinator at Wesleyan in November of 2005, filling in for Lex Leifheit while she was the interim assistant director of the Green Street Arts Center. Lex finished her assignment in February, leaving me to look for a new job. Fortunately for both of us, she was hired as the permanent assistant director of Green Street in September of 2006 and I was able to apply for her previous position.

Q: Explain your role as the press and marketing coordinator for the CFA.

A: At its most basic, my job is to fill the seats for the events that we put on. It’s mostly about raising awareness and engaging people through a variety of methods by pitching stories to the press, increasing distribution of our brochure and email newsletter. As for promotion, we try to reach people from all over Connecticut and the region, members of the Middletown community including Wesleyan faculty and staff, but most importantly, Wesleyan students.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?

A: The biggest challenge is staying organized. The CFA has a hand in producing over 275 events a year. It is my job to see that they are all, in some way, brought to the attention of the public. Thankfully, I get a lot of support from my co-workers in making sure it all happens smoothly.

Q: How did you familiarize yourself with the job?

A: Lex has been and continues to be a great resource to me in my job—she definitely helped to show me the ropes. Since I am also responsible for publicizing Green Street events, we are constantly in contact. And obviously, my experience as interim marketing coordinator in 2005 has helped me in being the permanent marketing coordinator.

Q: Who are the key people you interact with on a daily basis?

A: CFA Director Pam Tatge; Art Director John Elmore; Associate Director for Programming and Events Barbara Ally; Events Coordinator Jeff Chen; Box Office Manager Kristen Olson; Financial Analyst/Gallery Coordinator Camille Parente; the Green Street Arts Center staff and the CFA student workers.

Q: What activities consume most of your time while in the office?

A: I spend a significant amount of time writing press releases, e-mails and listings on the computer, as well as attending meetings. Truthfully, I wish that I could get out more often and interact with the Wesleyan Community—it’s something to shoot for as I settle into my job and streamline things a bit more.

Q: What are your own interests in the arts and do you attend any CFA-sponsored events?

A: As a bassist who performs in a variety of styles including, jazz, classical and contemporary music, I am always performing or going to concerts. Considering this fact, working at the CFA is a dream job. I try to go to our events as much possible. It’s really gratifying to see the fruits of our labor in a well-attended performance.

Q: Are there any exciting, worth-mentioning events coming up in the next couple months we should be aware of?

A: Yes, the Joe Goode Performance group is coming Feb. 2-3. Like me, they are from the San Francisco area and their company of virtuosic dancers tackles such issues as gay marriage and the AIDS crisis.

Singer-songwriter Paul Brady, who has penned hit songs for the likes of Bonnie Raitt and Joe Cocker, is appearing for the Crowell Concert Series Feb. 16.

My pick-of-the-semester is jazz pianist Cedar Walton on April 27. Cedar is a real living legend—his resume reads like the history of jazz!

Q: Where are you from initially and how did you end up in the area?

A: I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, in a small town on the Peninsula called Belmont. I moved to Connecticut about four years ago to study with double bassist Robert Black, who is known for his work with the Bang On a Can All-Stars, and do graduate work at the Hartt School of Performing Arts.

Q: Where were you working before Wesleyan?

A: My first job in arts marketing was at Real Art Ways, a great alternative art space in Hartford. Over last summer, I worked for the International Festival of Arts & Ideas in New Haven.

Q: Where are your degrees from and what were your majors?

A: I have a bachelor’s of arts in music from the University of California, Santa Cruz, where our mascot is the Banana Slug! I also received my master’s of music in double bass performance from the Hartt School at the University of Hartford.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Most nights and weekends, I am busy performing music. I do a lot of gigs with my band in addition to working as freelancer. I play bass—both the upright and the electric. As I mentioned before, I perform in many styles but I am most at home with improvised music like jazz and contemporary music.

As for hobbies, I like fishing, Frisbee golf, running, playing basketball and seeing exhibitions of contemporary art. I am excited to say that I am taking a vacation to Peru in March—the plan is to hike from Cuzco to see the ruins of Macchu Picchu.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: At this point, I’ve been on the job for just a few months and I’d really like to meet more people who work on campus. It helps me a great deal to know what other people’s roles on campus are. So, if you are interested in any of the things that I do, please send me a quick e-mail.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Associate Director of Athletics Makes Time for All Sports


Richard Whitmore, associate director of Athletics, oversees the scheduling of all 15 Wesleyan athletic facilities, including the Wesleyan Natatorium.
 
Posted 01/17/07
On any given day, there are 29 athletic teams, 10 intramural sports, several sport-related clubs or Wesleyan employees all vying for a rink, court, pool or field to use for practice or play.

It is the job of Richard Whitmore, associate director of Athletics, to schedule Wesleyan’s athletic facilities with those who need them. And when occupied, he insures the venue is safe, secure and teams are equipped properly.

“Half of my job is working with people to schedule the facilities, but I also spend a lot of time coordinating the games and making sure everyone has everything they need prior to their game, meet or match,” Whitmore says. “There’s always something new happening, and that makes working in this field very exciting.”

Whitmore meets with at least a dozen Wesleyan coaches every day, and interacts with numerous students who drop by, e-mail or call in facility requests. He attends most home-games, of every sport, to make sure the athletes have everything they require for the event. Preparing the fields with proper markings, fencing and seating also is completed under his supervision.

“Being able to watch a little bit of every home game is a great benefit to this position,” Whitmore says.

Whitmore came to Wesleyan in 1999 as the athletic facility manager. He later took on the role of managing the 1,500-seat Spurrier-Snyder Rink, which is occupied 18 hours a day between October and March. Nowadays, he oversees all 15 facilities, including the Macomber Boathouse, Rosenbaum Squash Center, the John Wood Memorial Tennis Courts, Bacon Field House and the new Smith Field for field hockey, soccer and lacrosse.

“Wesleyan is extremely fortunate to have Richard as a member of the Department of Physical Education administrative staff,” says John Biddiscombe, director of Athletics and chair of the Physical Education Department. “He has an outstanding background as a Ivy League student athlete, a successful college head coach and athletic administrator. Also, his user friendly management style is appreciated by the students, faculty and staff and the smooth operation of the athletic facilities is a direct result of his efforts.”

Whitmore also helped with the planning of the Freeman Athletic Center addition. Prior to its opening in January 2005, he’d have to manage the athletic affairs in the old Fayerweather Gymnasium and the former Alumni Athletic Building.

“It’s so great to have everything under one roof now,” Whitmore explains. “It not only makes managing these facilities much easier, but it’s good for our student athletes and spectators alike. Now we can have a hockey game, an indoor track meet and swim meet all going on at the same time, in the same building, and this gives visitors a real sense of what our athletic program is all about.”

In addition, Whitmore says the new athletic center offers facilities equivalent or better than other liberal arts colleges in the area.

It’s not only Wesleyan coaches and athletes who seek space in the Freeman Athletic Center. University Relations has requested rooms during graduation. Middlesex Youth Hockey has its base of operations out of the Spurrier-Snyder Rink, and area high schools use the Andersen Track for their competitions.

Whitmore, along with Kate Mullen, head coach of women’s basketball, and Kirsten Carlson, administrative assistant, use the campus-wide program Scheduler-Plus to keep track of spaces being used at certain times.

“It can be challenging to stay on top of things, but somehow we manage to do so,” Whitmore says.

Whitmore, a native of Waterville, Maine, is a former basketball, baseball and football player himself. His father, Dick Whitmore, has coached Colby College’s men’s basketball team for 38 years, and served as athletic director from 1986-2003.

Richard Whitmore attended Brown University, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Arts in American civilization in 1990. During his junior year, he tore a ligament in his knee during the basketball season, ending his career. Nevertheless, a teammate wrote the NBA, requesting that Whitmore be considered as a candidate for the draft under the provisions of the Hardship Rule.

“No one else from an Ivy League school had made it into the NBA draft as a Hardship candidate before,” Whitmore says, smiling. “I sure got a lot of local press from that one.”

Like his father, he decided to take a coaching career path starting at Daniel Webster College as a basketball and baseball coach. He also worked as a sports information director. In 1996, he moved to Kenyon College in Ohio, also to coach basketball and baseball.

“Coaching was a fun part of my life, and I enjoyed working with the students one-on-one, but I also enjoy the administrative side of sports,” Whitmore says. “I am glad to be doing what I do now.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

THE PRESIDENT’S VOICE: Hunter King ’08 uses an audio-recording device to record the voice of President Doug Bennet Dec. 13. King will use Bennet’s voice clips during his surf-music radio program, Storm Surge Of Reverb, which airs from midnight to 1 a.m. Friday mornings on WESU 88.1 FM. King invited Bennet to record after hearing him speak at the High Rise residences. “I noticed that he was speaking in a very cool, very low voice,” King says. “I thought it would be fun if I could have him record a few voice breaks for my show.” (Photo by Olivia Bartlett)
Below are two audio-video clips of the recording:

  

Professor, Student Study Children’s Ability to Count


In back, Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology, works with her student, Ariel Ballinger ’07, on data resulting from a study on children’s counting ability.
Posted 12/20/06
“So many people have had one of those moments, when a check comes after dinner and they’re having a problem adding it up, and they stop and say, ‘I’m just not any good at math!” says Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology. “But they are. We all are. We’re born with it.”

This isn’t just an opinion from an overly-optimistic academic. Barth is one of a growing number of researchers studying intuitive understanding of numbers. So far, they’ve established that human beings and even many other species are born with impressive mathematical abilities.

“Studies have shown that animals who have no language can think about quantities approximately – for example, rats can be trained to press a key about 40 times. And babies, who haven’t learned a language yet, can tell that adding 5 toys and 5 more toys gives you about 10 toys,” Barth says. “But animals and babies can’t count. Counting takes language.”

And counting isn’t as simple as you might think. Preschool children quickly learn to count to 10, but it takes them a while to figure out the purpose of counting.

“If I asked a child who has recently learned to count to 10 to go to the toy box and get four dinosaurs, the child will probably just give me a handful,” Barth says.

Most children learn the concept of “one” soon after learning to count. Typically, about six months after that, they comprehend the idea of “two” and about six months later they understand “three.”

“Studies have established that once children understand the concept of three it usually clicks for all the other numbers,” Barth says.

So, counting may be tougher than parents realize. But arithmetic, on the other hand, may be easier than you think! Barth confirmed this with a study published in 2005 based on work completed at Harvard University.

The study, titled “Abstract number and arithmetic in preschool children,” published in an issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that preschoolers can add big sets approximately long before they learn how to add big numbers exactly in school.

In the study, Barth showed pre-school children graphics with blue colored dots, covered them for a few moments, then showed them an array of a similar number of red dots. Then Barth asked the children which set – blue or red – had more dots. She also showed them two successive arrays of dots and asked them if the aggregate number was larger or smaller than a third array of dots. In another permutation, the dots were replaced by sounds, to make sure children weren’t just using visual imagery to solve the problem.

“The children were consistently able to recognize the differences between the dot sets, even in the tasks that included adding the dots,” Barth says. “The sets were too big for these kids to count, yet they had no problems recognizing which sets, when combined, would be larger than the third set. And we didn’t find any differences in gender: girls were just as adept at this as boys.”

One of Barth’s students, Ariel Ballinger ’07, designed a separate study based on Barth’s work thanks to a Fellowship from the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences. The fellowship provides a stipend so students can undertake full-time research during the summer.

“There’s no way I could’ve done a study like this without help from the Hughes Program,” Ballinger says.

Her study, titled “Counting, Estimation and Approximate Nonverbal Addition in Young Children,” is a new examination of number approximation in children who’ve reached different levels of verbal counting ability.

“Some previous studies done by Jennifer Lipton and Elizabeth Spelke at Harvard showed that a child’s ability to estimate numbers is related to verbal counting range,” Ballinger says. “Children were shown pictures containing different numbers of dots and asked to quickly guess how many there were, without counting. These studies showed that kids who could count to 100 guessed pretty well. But kids who could only count to 30, for example, could only guess well for sets of up to 30 dots. For bigger sets, they had no idea – they didn’t even give bigger estimates for 100 dots than for 40 dots.”

“But these studies often averaged the performance of large groups of children with very different levels of counting skill. I wanted to test this relationship by looking at more specific groups.”

Ballinger divided her children into three groups based on counting ability. She found that although counting ability was related to the accuracy of the guesses, even children who could only count to 30 guessed bigger numbers for bigger sets of dots.

“This went against the previous findings,” Barth says. “Children do seem to understand the rough meanings of big number words like 80 or 90 even before they can count that high.”

Ballinger’s study has been accepted for a presentation at a professional meeting. She will present her research at the annual meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, held in Boston in March. Barth will present another research project completed with Ballinger and AnjaLi Carrasco ‘07, Rachel Jacobson ‘08, and Jessica Tsai ‘07.

“It’s great to be at a place like Wesleyan where undergrads can get involved with ongoing faculty research,” Ballinger says.

Ballinger will continue to work with Barth in the next semester gathering more data for her thesis.

Barth has been working with local children – who are rewarded with stickers and prizes for participating, and their parents are compensated for travel expenses – and has recently entered into an arrangement with some local schools.

“We assure parents that we aren’t ‘testing’ the children to see how good they are at math, but rather, finding out how kids in general think about numbers,” Barth says. “There are educational implications as well. “Understanding these abilities better will help us figure out the most effective ways to teach kids.”

Barth’s Cognitive Development Lab is always looking for new participants. Interested people may visit the lab Web site at www.wesleyan.edu/cdl, call 860-685-3588, or email cdl@wesleyan.edu.
 

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations. Photo by Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Student-Created Online Magazine Pushes Readers to Take Actions


Rebecca Littman ’08, Thomas Coen ’07, Stacie Szmonko ’07 and Aaron Sussman ’07 are the editors of Incite Magazine, which aims to bridge political commentary with the activist community.
Posted 12/20/06
The power of insight, the power to incite. That’s the motto of a new magazine created by Wesleyan students that links progressive political commentary with action.

Incite Magazine founded by Thomas Coen ‘07, Aaron Sussman ‘07 and Rebecca Littman ‘08, features articles that call for a compassionate and honest world while providing readers with the tools and resources to help fight for it. The magazine is updated online as new content is edited at http://www.incitemagazine.org/ and augmented by a periodically-published print edition.

Launched Nov. 20, Incite was founded by with a grant from Campus Progress, a project of the Center for American Progress. The Wesleyan Student Assembly also supports the not-for-profit publication.

According to the magazine’s mission statement,“ Incite Magazine is a collaboration among students at Wesleyan who believe that progressive ends must be realized through free exchanges of ideas, opinions, and critiques that are then applied to action.” The editors not only aim to offer incisive, well-researched commentary and bold, responsible reporting, but to provide a network for writers and activists who share progressive principles and to conclude each article with information on how to become active and involved.

“We started Incite Magazine because we saw a gap between the political commentary community and the activist community,” Coen says.  “We wanted to bridge that divide –so that people don’t just analyze what the problems are, but also connect that to what people can do about those problems, how they can work to make the world a better place.”

Connecting the article with action is what sets Incite apart from other online magazines, Sussman explains. At the end of every article is a “What You Can Do About It” segment.

“I will often read an article in the progressive press that exposes the truth and evokes anger. But the next step is asking, ‘what can I do about this?’” Sussman says. “Every article in Incite, provides ways for readers to get involved in social action, whether that is writing to Congress, contacting local media or joining a demonstration.”

The editors also encourage readers to submit their own views.

Incite has eight sections including Iraq, The Constitution, The Media, Domestic Politics, Foreign Policy, Labor and Economics, Science and Technology and Activism. Under each of these headings, readers will find articles on that topic. For example, under the Science & Technology heading, Leah Katz writes about “Arming Women in the Battle Against HIV/AIDS: The Case for Microbicides,” and under the Foreign Policy heading, Coen writes about “A Life-Long Supply of Genocide” and “Bush’s Democracy Doctrine.”

Sussman’s article “They Hate Our Freedom: The Truth About the Military Commissions Act,” under The Constitution section, was picked up by at least six other publications and was an official source on Google News.

On the magazine’s online version, readers can listen to several interviews conducted by members of the Incite staff. Coen and Ben Levinger have posted their interviews of Ned Lamont, Connecticut’s former democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate and Emily Biuso, internship director for The Nation, and others. Sussman has posted many interviews, including with Cindy Sheehan, an anti-war peace activist and Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU.

In addition, the Web site offers an overabundance of useful links to sites on Iraq, law and human rights, media resources, media activists, government watchdogs, think tanks and other online magazines. It also features an action calendar, which includes upcoming events that involve political activism, advocacy or expression.

“Incite wants to be a resource for several activist groups, and be used as a tool to connect them to the Wesleyan, Middletown, and broader community,” Littman says.

The editors each have extensive experience with activism and journalism, ranging form working as a page in the U.S. Senate to interning with the ACLU and People for the American Way to studying political policy in Uganda and Cameroon. Additionally, Sussman has had articles  published in several publications including alternet.org, the Atlantic Free Press,  mediachannel.org, Eat the State! and In Motion Magazine.

Since three of the four editors will be graduating this spring, they are seeking writers, editorial staff, activists, photographers, designers and technology and Web specialists. The editors hope younger members of the Wesleyan community will take over the reigns in future years.

Stacie Szmonko ’07 is the publication’s editor-in-chief. She hopes the experience with Incite will lead her to a career with a political magazine after college. Meanwhile, it’s an ideal way to gain experience and voice her opinions.

“I’ve always had a deep interest in progressive politics, critiquing the mainstream media and writing argumentative articles,” she says. “We hope new writers will join our discussion and help us create a magazine and community that can positively influence the way we see the world and our own potential to change it – something that can Incite true progress.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan University Press Receives NEA Grant for Poetry


Posted 12/20/06
Wesleyan University Press will be the recipient of a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant was awarded “for the publication, promotion and distribution of new collections of poetry.”

The press requested support for the publication and promotion of 12 poetry books that will be published in the Wesleyan Poetry Series in 2007 and 2008. Forthcoming titles to be covered by the grant include New and Collected Poems by Barbara Guest, a new edition of Victor Segalen’s modernist classic Stèles, and Zong by Marlene NourbeSe Philip.

“We are delighted that the NEA is recognizing the importance of Wesleyan’s program, explains Suzanne Tamminen, director of Wesleyan University Press. “Their support will not only help us cover publishing costs; it will aid in our marketing efforts,”

Leslie Starr, assistant director and marketing manager, says a portion of the NEA funds will go towards the press’s Web site development. The press hopes to reach a larger student audience, and to increase the course adoption of its poetry books by utilizing the Web.

To this end, new Web pages will be designed for a select group of Wesleyan poetry books, specifically to enhance their usefulness in the classroom setting.

“These pages will provide context for the books, links to author interviews, reviews, and audio clips, as well as essay topics and suggested further reading,” Tamminen says.

The Press’s staff consists of Tamminen, Starr, Stephanie Elliott, publicist; and Eric Levy, senior editor. Their office is located at 215 Long Lane in Middletown, across from the Physical Plant building.

Wesleyan University Press is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2007. The press is best known for its poetry series, which has included such notable poets as James Dickey, James Wright, Robert Bly, Marge Piercy, Ellen Bryant Voigt and Yusef Komunyakaa, among others.

The press has continued the tradition of publishing top-notch poetry, having won the 2004 National Book Award for poetry, for Jean Valentine’s Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965–2003, and the 2006 International Griffin Poetry Prize, for Kamau Brathwaite’s Born to Slow Horses.

For more information visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/wespress/.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

9 Students Compete in National Math Competition


At left, Daniel Greengard ’08, Albert Hill ’07 and David Pollack, assistant professor of mathematics, work through problems, which were part of the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition held Dec. 2.

Posted 12/20/06
During a recent mathematics test, which spanned six hours, Daniel Greengard ’08 believes he only got one question completely correct out of 12.

But getting only one question correct puts him in the top half of all test-takers, explains David Pollack, assistant professor of mathematics and faculty-advisor for the 67th Annual William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition held Dec. 2.

The Putnam exam tests originality and technical competence, and contestants are expected to be familiar with formal theories embodied in undergraduate mathematics. All the necessary work to justify an answer and all the necessary steps of a proof must be shown clearly to obtain full credit.

Greengard was one of nine Wesleyan students who competed in the national competition. The annual contest began in 1938 and is designed to stimulate a healthy rivalry in mathematical studies in the colleges and universities of the United States and Canada.

“Since the Putman problems come from many different areas of mathematics, occasionally we see a problem that somehow relates to a course that one of us is taking, but rarely do theorems from the course help,” says Greengard, a mathematics major who has competed three times. “Only basic knowledge of math is needed to solve most of the problems. For solving the Putnam problems, creativity and cleverness are much more helpful than knowledge of math.”

Although practicing for the test is not necessary, Pollack ran Putnam practice sessions every Friday afternoon.

“The practice sessions allow the students to work through similar problems together and share ideas with one another,” Pollack says.

But during the test, they compete as individuals, which involves taking two, three-hour examinations under the supervision of a mathematics faculty member. Since the test grading is extensive, results won’t be posted until April 2007.

Prizes are awarded to the institutions with the five winning teams. The top three teams receive cash prizes of $15,000 to 25,000. The five highest ranking individuals are designated Putnam Fellows by the Mathematical Association of America.

Putnam exam-taker Albert Hill ’07, who is double majoring in mathematics and music, says most of the problems can be solved without using anything above linear algebra and multi-variable calculus. He recommends anyone who enjoys thinking creatively about intricate math problems would enjoy taking the exam.

“These aren’t problems you find on homework,” Hill says. “These require multi-level, multi-step thinking and are much more interesting.”

The competition is open only to regularly enrolled undergraduates, in colleges and universities of the United States and Canada, who have not yet received a college degree. No individual may participate in the competition more than four times.

The other students who competed this year include Jacob Goldin ’07, Daniel Hore ’07, Surendra Kunwar ’10, Jamie Macia ’07, Isaac Levy ’09, Yudhishthir Kandel ’09 and Nathan Fieldsteel ’10.

The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition is administered by The Mathematical Association of America.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Director of Administrative Systems Pushes Technology in ITS, University Projects


Steve Machuga, director of administrative systems for Information Technology Services, helps lead projects for Student Services, University Relations and Financial Systems and HR/Payroll.
 
Posted 12/20/06
Q: You have the ultimate responsibility for the success of ITS administrative systems projects. Please explain what “administrative systems” are.

A: Administrative systems are used by the administrative offices of the University and their student, faculty and staff customers. The administrative systems cover the business side of the university. I’d divide them into three major categories: Student Services, University Relations and Financial Systems combined with Human Resources/Payroll. They include student services offices such as Student Accounts, Financial Aid, Registrar’s Office, Admission, WesCard Office, the Graduate Services Office and GLSP.

Q: Who works on these operations?

Daune’ Oliveira, PeopleSoft product manager in Finance and Administration; Dan Koepf, Rich Langer and Tom DiMauro, analyst programmers in ITS have a lot to do with these. Dan’s 25-plus years of experience are one of the keys to our success. Deb Treister, director of University Relations Operations and analyst programmers Jane Jylkka, Sharon Cwirka and Doug Baker all feel a real responsibility to help UR meet their fundraising goals. Working with University Communications, we are continually improving our e-mail communications, WesNet (the Alumni Portfolio) and basic outlook and research.

We have worked with Financial Services, Financial Planning and HR/Payroll to put more and more self-services in the Portfolio. Ed Below, director of Administrative Applications for Finance and Administration; and analyst programmers Annette Howard, Barbara Spadaccini and Darrell Lawrence work on these systems. We get additional support across all applications from Pat Leone, world wide web administrator, Mary Glynn, application technology specialist and Steve Windsor, database administrator as well as the network, server specialists that work with James Taft, assistant director of technology support services. I know that I’ve given an awful lot of names, but everyone is important to getting stuff done.

Q: Why do you promote the appreciation and utilization of technology throughout campus?

A: At a very basic level, technology is simply a tool. I think of tools as incredibly humanizing – because they leverage human talent. A university is in the business of leveraging and growing human talent – technology in its way can help tremendously.

Q: What projects are you most proud of?

A: I’m proud of a much of what we have done, but I’ll just give you one example. The Pre-Registration System that the Registrar’s Office developed with ITS help is just a great example. It helps create the advisable moment – where a faculty adviser and student can review academic history, student goals, and course availability to make informed decisions about course selection. Anna van der Burg, university registrar, has gotten faculty feedback on the system and we will be incorporating that in the future.

Q: How else have you applied technology throughout campus?

A: In general, I’m proud of the availability of secure student and employee self-service applications on the Web. In the past, data that could help in decision making was trapped in the institutional databases – maybe you would get to see it in monthly reports. Now the Web has really allows us to share this data on a real-time basis. The Portfolio System has been key to this sharing. Mike Roy, director of Academic Computing Services and director of digital projects; Dan Schnaidt, academic computing manager for Arts and Humanities; Jolee West, academic computing manager for NSM; and Manolis Kaparakis, academic computing manager for the social sciences have been instrumental is conveying faculty needs regarding data access. These are not earth-shattering innovations but they are things that our university constituents have a right to expect

On a less philosophical note, the university has made a strategic and financial investment in information technology. I know that Ravi [Ganesan Ravishanker, associate vice president for Information Technology Services] has a strong belief in returning that commitment – in the form of customer-service and innovation.

Q: Do you strive to build a strong working relationship with all administrative offices?

A: My job is to be helpful, solve problems and have a good time doing it.

Q: You’re also the lead coordinator of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act at Wesleyan, which requires institutions to protect the privacy of their customers, including customers’ nonpublic, personal information. What does this entail?

A: Gramm-Leach-Bliley is a congressional act that is meant to help protect individual’s private data. In the papers, you read every other week about an institution or company having its computer system compromised – the most recent one being the 800,000 individuals records at UCLA. Think of its this way: the institution’s computer system is comprised, however, the real potential for damage is the compromising of our students, alum, faculty and staff data. We have a responsibility to protect it. There’s more on that at http://www.wesleyan.edu/its/glb/.

Q: What is your background with computers? What are your degrees in?

A: I have a bachelor’s of arts in English from Fairfield University and a master’s of science in computer science from Rensselaer at Hartford. My final paper was: “A C++ Information Abstraction System.” I have not written any C++ in a very long time.

Q: I’ve seen you mountain biking at Wadsworth Falls State Park. Is this a big hobby of yours?

A: Mountain biking is a lot of fun. It’s a little scary and mostly healthy. Shawn Hill, a desktop support specialist, and I ride at 6:30 a.m. before work at Wadsworth. It’s a good loop: up and down hills, over a few logs, through a stream and home – with a herd of deer thrown in every now and then. Occasionally, we’ll ride pass Susanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, out there playing her bagpipes behind the Wadsworth mansion. It’s a glorious morning when we hear the bagpipes.

Q: You’re also a GLSP student.

A: Yes. I just finished my final paper for Rob Rosenthal’s “Music in Social Movements” course. It was interesting course. It was pretty cool that I had seen two of the musicians we studied: Holly Near and Thomas Mapfumo at the Center for the Arts.

Q: Tell me about your family and pets.

A: My wife is Sari Rosenblatt. She is a genuine, good person. I have two daughters Nora, 17, and Anne, 14. They are not particularly interested in hanging out with dear old Dad. I have to watch “Gilmore Girls” just to have something in common with them. Our dog, Courtney, is a gift from God. Sari says the best thing about Courtney is that she doesn’t talk. She is a sweet, old mongrel who crosses her paws, very-lady-like, in whatever patch of sunlight she can find. I’ve convinced that she is waiting for one of us to deliver a spot of tea.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor