All News

Dean of Campus Programs, University Center Director Creates Co-Curricular Programs for Students


Rick Culliton, dean of Campus Programs, and the director of the University Center Director, watches the Suzanne Lemberg Usdan University Center’s progress from his office in North College. Once the facility is complete in 2007, Culliton will move into the University Center to oversee students’ co-curricular activity.
 
Posted 10/18/05
From the view of his North College office, Rick Culliton, Dean of Campus Programs, can watch the Suzanne Lemberg Usdan University Center emerge from a hole in the ground to the centerpiece of campus life. Culliton’s interest is more than just a situation of his location. He’s also the center’s director.

For the past few years, students, faculty and staff have been involved with the design of the center. For the next two years, Culliton will work with these constituents to bring the building to life.

“The Usdan University center will provide Wesleyan with a space that we’ve never had before,” he says, glancing over schematics of the center’s new ballroom and dining areas. “We want the University Center to be more than bricks and mortar, we want it to be a place that is alive with activity and programs involving students, staff and faculty.”

Culliton says his dual roles as dean and center director go hand-in-hand. He works with several offices to create intentional co-curricular programs and leadership development opportunities. The Usdan University Center will be the ‘hub’ where many of these programs and activities take place.

As Dean of Campus Programs, Culliton regularly meets with students who have questions or problems with some aspect of their life on campus. He works with students who are initiating student-led programs and events. He also meets with Wesleyan Student Assembly leaders to discuss student issues and concerns.

Culliton addresses students’ concerns with Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, and Michael Whaley, dean of Student Services. He oversees Student Activities and Leadership Development, the Campus Center, Community Service and Volunteerism, International Student Services and the university chaplains, and meets with the directors of these offices.

“Rick Culliton will lead this year important conversations on the programmatic vision of the Usdan University Center that will shape up the vision for this extraordinary resource,” Cruz Saco says. “Rick is also planning new student leadership training opportunities including programs that enhance development of essential capabilities such as effective citizenship through community service.”

Culliton holds a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy from Boston College and a master’s and a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Vermont. He was the assistant to the vice president for student affairs at Vermont before coming to Wesleyan in 2001.

“I was attracted to Wesleyan because it was a smaller institution with a strong sense of community and a greater sense of purpose than many colleges,” he says. “The students here are more engaged in programs on campus which makes my job more interesting.”

His interest in campus life stems from his own experience as a student leader. As an undergrad at Boston College, Culliton was president of the student government. This experience, he says, helps him relate to students at Wesleyan. He encourages students to participate in similar co-curricular activities, so students can leave Wesleyan with more skills than those developed in the classroom alone.

“My hope is that students learn from their leadership experiences here,” he says. “It’s so important that they gain hands on experience facilitating groups, setting agendas and meeting goals-all skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.”

Culliton lives in Glastonbury with his wife, Katie, and three daughters, Emily, 8, Annie, 7, and Claire, 3. He tries to find time to play squash at Freeman Athletic Center and spends most of his free time with his family, going to his daughters’ soccer games and taking weekend trips.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Sports Information Director Promotes Student Athletes


Brian Katten, sports information director, is responsible for photographing Wesleyan athletic teams, maintaining the athletic Web site, preparing game programs, writing press releases and promoting student athletes.
 
Posted 10/18/05
Q: When were you hired at Wesleyan, and what was your job title then?

A: I started as the first, and fortunately to date, only full-time sports information director at Wesleyan in July, 1982. I had been an intern in that position for the 1979-80 year. I also served as intramural sports director from 1982-2002 but turned that title over to Mark Woodworth in 2002-03.

Q: When did you graduate from Wesleyan, and what was your major? Do you have degrees from anywhere else?

A: I received my B.A. in economics from Wes in 1979 — and it’s amazing how many of my former professors are still around — and went on to get an M.S. in sport management from UMass in Amherst in 1982.

Q: Did you play sports here at Wes?

A: I was the only member of the frosh soccer team in 1975 to sit the bench the entire year. I still went out for the varsity as a soph, but Terry Jackson knew better than to keep me on the squad. I ran the lines for soccer games instead. I also cheated and played one JV tennis match for Wes during my intern year because they needed a player. And I played one match in New Haven for the faculty squash team. I lost both the tennis and squash match, by the way.

Q: What led you into working in sports information?

A: Working in sports info was my first job right out of college. I thought I was going to be a sales rep for Proctor & Gamble but that fell through. Then I ran into the person working as Wesleyan’s sports information director intern (John Herzfeld ’78) and he told me about the position. He knew I was into sports and suggested I apply for the internship. Jack McCain, then assistant director of public information, hired me. I truly didn’t think I wanted to do sports info for a living and that’s why I went off to grad school the next year, but a year working at Yale in athletic administration in 1981-82 made me look back to Wesleyan for permanent employment.

Q: How has Athletics changed over the years?

A: Athletics at Wesleyan has taken off since 1990 when the Freeman Athletic Center was built. Now with the latest addition, we are first-rate in every way. Basically it just makes playing sports at Wesleyan more worthwhile and less of a hardship. In terms of disseminating sports information, when I started we were using typewriters, mimeographs and stencils, and our copiers made about 10 a minute. Then we got a Xerox 860 word processor, then our first Mac Classics and fax machines. Now we have the Web. What’s next? Who knows? But sports info has grown in leaps and bounds with technology.

Q: What are your thoughts on the student athletes?

A: The student-athletes here are amazing. I marvel at what it takes for them to be a talented athlete and still maintain their studies. I think varsity athletes should receive university credit for being on a team.

Q: What are some of your job duties as sports information director?

A: I am responsible for maintaining the athletic Web site; taking action and still photos and coordinating other photo needs; preparing game programs, recruiting guides and alumni newsletters; getting results to the media; sending out releases to papers throughout the country to promote our athletes; reporting to the NESCAC and NCAA offices; nominating players for regional and national honors; maintaining statistics at various events and coordinating stats when I can’t be at an event; and occasionally singing the National Anthem. I’m sure there are a few things I’ve forgotten but you did say “some.”

Q: How often are you interacting with the coaches and teams?

A: All the time. It used to be more difficult the first eight years when I was physically located in South College. But I moved into Freeman when it was built and I much prefer being in with the coaches and athletes. It makes the job substantially easier.

Q: What is your work schedule like?

A: No sports information director works a nine-to-five. The schedule varies from day-to-day depending upon the athletic schedule. Saturday is usually a 12-16 hour day and then another three to six hours on Sunday depending on the schedule. It’s not unusual to go several months — like from Labor Day to Thanksgiving — without a complete day off. I do have some flexibility midweek and can get out in the middle of the day to help my kids, run an errand or officiate a soccer or basketball game at a nearby private school. And the summer is very calm.

Q: What are some of the biggest stories you’ve had to manage?

A: The most attention Wesleyan gets from an athletic standpoint seems to come from the NFL, mostly Bill Belichick ’75, head coach of the New England Patriots. Hunting down info about his playing experience, photos and such has been something everyone from the New York Times, to Sports Illustrated, to ESPN has asked me to do for years. But as long as we have Dick Miller in the economics department, who was Bill’s faculty advisor, we’re covered. Eric Mangini ’94, who is the defensive coordinator for the Patriots, has been getting more press lately, too. When Jeff Wilner ’94 made the Green Bay Packers as a tight end, it was huge. And we have other illustrious alums like marathoner Bill Rodgers ’71 who got us a lot of national attention, but I didn’t start writing about him until 1979. For the most part, our stories are small market.

Q: How challenging is your position?

A: Extremely. It can be very pressure-packed, especially when 12 teams are in action on a single day. And success, while infinitely preferable to failure, can be very taxing. The better we do, the more people I need to tell. I think I have pretty good people skills and a decent instinct for the job, so that helps keep things under control.

Q
: Are there any former students, now alums, who played on the teams in the past who you’ve kept track of over the years? What are they doing now?

A: I know our all-time leading scorer in men’s soccer, Amos Magee ’93, is playing professionally in the A-League with the Minnesota Thunder. We have a lot of success stories. Jed Hoyer (baseball) ’96 is an assistant general manager for the Red Sox. Jenna Flateman ’04, (national champion in track) is on the national-under 23 women’s rugby team. Seb Junger ’84 (track and cross country) is a nationally recognized author. Dennis Robinson ’79 (football), who was my roommate up at UMass, is a vice-president with the NBA. Frank Hauser ’79 (football and wrestling) is our 14-year veteran head football coach and Mark Woodworth ’94 (baseball) is going into his fifth season in charge of the baseball team. Like me, it’s great to stay home.

Q: What sports do you watch or enjoy now?

A: I grew up just outside of Philadelphia and my grandfather had connections with most of the major sports teams so I got to see a lot of games. As a youngster, I ate that up. I still root for all the Philly teams. My favorite sport to watch is football but I find many sports very interesting. My favorite to play is tennis, but I also like golf, ping-pong, bowling and well, almost anything.

Q: Do you have interests outside of sports?

A: I am a consummate grocery shopper. I have turned what most people regard as drudgery into a fine art. Let me tell you how to use a coupon some day.

Q: Tell me about your kids.

A: I have a son, Ross, who is almost 18, and a daughter, Anna, 16, from my first marriage and I love being around them especially when they are involved in an activity. Anna has made high honors every quarter at Middletown High and has experience in volleyball, indoor track, crew and golf. She also is quite a horsewoman. She is drama club publicity chair and just started a knitting club. She has won regional and school awards in Spanish, science, writing and Vo-Ag. Ross has been a top golfer at MHS for two seasons, competed in indoor track, played baseball and made numerous all-star teams in his youth, managed the cross country team and went to Nashville as a state runner-up in the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) competition. He has had his picture in the Middletown Press five times already.

Q: Do I hear wedding bells in the air?

A: I am living with my fiancée, Cheryl, in Cromwell. We met through Yahoo Personals on May 7, 2003 and fell for each other right away. We plan to get married on Block Island, where she has family, this coming May.

Q: And do you really sing the National Anthem at sporting events?

A: Yes, I just did it at our last football game and have done many venues here at Wesleyan. I also have done it at NCAA national tournament games in men’s lacrosse, football and women’s basketball at other colleges. It’s fun!
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Building Houses and Dreams: Wesleyan Participates in Habitat for Humanity


Habitat for Humanity recipient Titeana McNeil, 11, plays with a caulk gun while Habitat volunteers Ted Paquette and Manny Cunard, site supervisor and director of Auxiliary Operations and Campus Services work on the family’s new kitchen. Below, mother Jennifer McNeil and her children, Jamarea, 3; Tyquan, 14; Titeana, 11; and Taquana, 15 stop by their future home to check the progress on Oct. 13. (Photos by Olivia Drake)
Posted 10/18/05

Jennifer McNeil had no idea that watching television would one day help her own a home. But, thanks to that and a partnership between Wesleyan University and Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity, Inc. (NMHFH) – a local affiliate for Habitat for Humanity International – McNeil, a single mother of five, is a first time homeowner.

In McNeil’s mind, home ownership had always seemed like a dream. But then, one night last summer, she was watching TV when she saw a commercial for Habitat for Humanity. It got McNeil thinking, and soon after she contacted the local Habitat office. She learned how she could apply to become a homeowner. She filled out an application and in October was notified she and her family homeowners of a home on 34 Fairfield Avenue  – a home that had been donated by Wesleyan to Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity.

“I read the first sentence of the letter and started jumping up and down and running around with my kids!” shouts McNeil.

The four bedroom, light grey colonial, located along the edge of Wesleyan’s campus had been refurbished by Habit for Humanity volunteers.

McNeil admits she is pleased that their new home is near Wesleyan.

“There is always something going on,” she says. “After school programs, events, and there are very friendly people here.”

It turns out many of them are pretty good with construction tools, too.

Many of the volunteers who worked on the house were Wesleyan faculty, staff and student volunteers from Wesleyan’s Habitat for Humanity student chapter, WesShelter.

“During the past year, over 250 students, faculty and staff have given of their time and energy along with a countless number of community volunteers,” says Manny Cunard, director of auxiliary operations and campus services and site supervisor for the Wesleyan-Habitat for Humanity partnership “We have created connections with the Middletown community that will serve to enhance the important relationship between Middletown and Wesleyan.”

McNeil and her children also helped work on their house-to-be every Saturday morning. Currently, the house is receiving its finishing touches and the family is set to move in before Thanksgiving.

“I’m having a lot of my family here for Thanksgiving,” says McNeil. “I want to cook five turkeys in my new kitchen! I never thought anything like this could happen to me in a million years.”

McNeil, a department manager at Wal-Mart in Wallingford who grew up in the Long River Village Projects in Middletown, is looking forward to improving her family life by owning her own home. She and her children, ages 18, 15, 14, 11 and 3 have been living at her sister’s Middletown home for the past two years.

“This is definitely going to bring my kids and I closer, just knowing that we now own a home.

On Sunday, Nov. 13 Wesleyan University and NMHFH will host a welcoming and celebratory event for the McNeil family at 34 Fairview Avenue in Middletown.

Recently, Wesleyan donated a second house at 15 Hubert Street to Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity. A groundbreaking is set for Hubert Street later this fall and applications to select a family are currently under review.

In June, 2006, Wesleyan expects to participate in a national Habitat “blitz-build,” in which an entire house is erected and made livable in seven days. This house will be one of 1,000 built simultaneously around the country.

By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Long Lane Farming Club Hosts Pumpkin Fest


Long Lane Farming Club member Rachel Ostlund ’08 will welcome the community to the club’s annual Pumpkin Fest Oct. 29. At left, a flower garden still blooms at the farm, located south of Physical Plant and Wesleyan University Press.
Posted 10/18/05
Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farming Club will hold its second annual Pumpkin Fest from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday Oct. 29 and people from the campus and the local community are welcome to attend. But while the freshly-grown pumpkins available the fest will be locally-grown, they won’t be a product of the students’ land.

“We had some problems this year with our primitive watering system and squash beetles,” says Long Lane Farm Club member Rachel Ostlund ’08, an earth and environmental sciences major. “Sometimes you have a good crop, sometimes not. It is all part of learning how to farm.”

These problems left the student-farmers with less than two dozen pumpkins. But the fest had to go on, so the students carved-out a deal with a local orchard, which will deliver 300 pumpkins for the festival.

The Middletown community is welcome to attend the fest. Attendees can participate in pumpkin carving, face painting, a Halloween costume contest, bobbing for apples, as well as learn about agriculture. The farm is located on the corner of Long Lane and Wadsworth Street, south of Physical Plant and Wesleyan University Press.

Student and faculty bands will provide entertainment.

Pumpkins are among 80 varieties of vegetables and herbs grown in the two-year-old organic garden. In 2004, Rachel Lindsay ’05 planted the first crops in a circular-shaped 50-ft-wide plot. Local residents rounded out the corners with garlic and potato gardens, among several flower beds. A few flower species are still blooming this month in the farm yard.

Lindsay, Ostlund and other Wesleyan students later planted a tomato and broccoli garden, among rows of Swiss chard, pumpkins and squash. Much of the one-acre plot of old farmland was hand-tilled by the students.

Long Lane Farm, Ostlund explains, was created so students would have a place to come together and learn about food security issues. It’s used as an educational tool and will be adapted to meet the requests of the community.

This summer, the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, the Rockfall Foundation and area shareholders paid for Lindsay and Ostlund to work full-time at the farm. Students from local high schools helped out four days a week and dozens of community members volunteered. The projects they undertook included the installation of an underground woodchuck fence and an above ground deer and critter fence.

The garden flourished, producing more vegetables than the student workers and the garden’s shareholders could consume. They sold some produce to local restaurants and grocers, and donated other crops to a local soup kitchen. Any left-overs are tossed into the farm’s chicken coop.

“Those chickens will eat just about anything,” Ostlund says, peering into student-maintained coop that houses a dozen hens. “Nothing goes to waste.”

Ostlund, of Ithaca, N.Y., says she’s never tended a garden before, but grew a green thumb after working in an organic farm with AmeriCorps. She also seeks advice from local residents who volunteer at the farm. The garden’s guests have donated compost, manure, mulch and two greenhouses, which will be useful this winter. For the last two years, the students started plants in their dorm rooms and planted the seedlings into the garden when the weather conditions allowed.

Several Wesleyan staff and faculty also work at the farm. Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology, got involved in the Long Lane Farm as a way to help sustain the environment and human health.

“The students are cultivating not only the land, but a deep relationship with nature,” Singer says. “In addition, building and running the farm requires that the students work cooperatively, understand the details of food production, and make difficult and consequential decisions. In essence, it is a chance for these students to test and live up to their ideals, a tremendously valuable experience.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

World Ecosystems, Energy Policy Discussed at Symposium


Professor Dianna Wall of Colorado State University speaks with Lori Gruen, associate professor of philosophy and co-chair and associate professor of feminism, gender and sexuality studies during the 2005 Robert Schumann Environmental Studies Symposium held Oct. 8.

Below, Professor Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate program speaks with the symposium’s attendees. Chernoff organized the day-long symposium.

Posted 10/18/05
“Where on Earth are We Going? II” was the topic of the 2005 Robert Schumann Environmental Studies Symposium held Oct. 8. in Exley Science Center. More than 100 people from across the country attended the event.

The discussion explored issues on global warming and climate change; world ecosystems in peril; energy policy; regional initiatives; ethics, environmental issues and the poor; and earth charter principles.

Panelists included Lori Gruen, associate professor of philosophy and co-chair and associate professor of feminism, gender and sexuality studies; Gary Yohe, the John E. Andrus Professor of Economics; James Hansen of NASA; Richard Morgenstern of Resources for the Future; Roger Smith ’01, coordinator of the Connecticut Climate Coalition; Diana Wall of Colorado State University; and Timothy Weiskel of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. William Blakemore of ABC News was symposium’s moderator.

The event was organized by Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate program.

Gruen, one of the featured presenters, spoke on “Ethical Issues: Environmental Justice and the Poor.” In her presentation, Gruen explained that the poor are disproportionately burdened by environmental problems such as extreme climate events, exposure to toxics in our environments and the wider context of global warming. She used Hurricane Katrina as an example.

“Aiding those who are exposed to toxics or those who suffered worse from the recent hurricanes along the Gulf Coast is a matter of justice, not charity, given the systemic structure of racism and injustice in the U.S.,” she said. “Ignoring the unequal position that individuals and/or communities and/or nations are situated in will hinder cooperative environmental protection efforts.”

“Where on Earth are We Going?” was held Sept. 11, 2004. Highlights of that event included identifying the ‘smoking gun’ of global warming in Artic climate changes, exploration of options for environmentally benign sources of energy, and human values, attitudes and behavior that influence the future of humanity.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Psychology Department Welcomes New Assistant Professor


Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology, studies cognitive development.
 
Posted 10/18/05
Hilary Barth has joined the Psychology Department as an assistant professor.

Barth received her bachelor’s degree from Bryn Mawr College in psychology, concentrating in neural and behavioral sciences in 1996. She received her Ph.D from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in cognitive neuroscience in 2002. Her research involved behavioral and brain imaging studies of numerical cognition – the study of how humans think about numbers and quantities.

She currently studies cognitive development, specifically the development of number and quantity understanding.

“Even before they receive formal math training in school, young children have some impressive quantitative abilities,” Barth explains. “In fact, even babies and nonhuman animals have a rough sort of quantitative understanding. For example, they both can discriminate between two sets of objects based on number.”

Barth examines adults’ and children’s performance in lab-based experiments to investigate what humans can do with these basic abilities, how they develop throughout life, and how they may serve as building blocks to more sophisticated math learning.

Barth teaches Sensation and Perception this fall and will teach developmental psychology and a seminar in cognitive neuroscience in spring. In the future, she would like to teach a specialized cognitive development seminar.

Barth is the lead author on two publications this year. They are “Abstract number and arithmetic in preschool children,” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2005 and “Non-symbolic arithmetic in adults and young children,” which is in press in Cognition.

Before coming to Wesleyan, Barth worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Lab for Developmental Studies at Harvard University since graduating from MIT. She also taught as a visiting professor at Wellesley College.

Coming to Wesleyan was a perfect fit for her interests, she says.

“I wanted to work at a school that combined the best of both worlds of a small college and larger university, and I think Wesleyan is one of the few places that can honestly say it does have a liberal arts atmosphere and a serious research emphasis.”

Barth lives in Middletown with her husband. She enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, skiing and cooking.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Professor has Historical Interest in Flu Epidemics


Bill Johnston, professor of East Asian Studies, professor of history, professor of science in society and tutor of the College of Social Studies, studies the avian flu.
 
Posted 10/18/05
Q: Bill, your areas of study include the history of disease. What do you think about the speculation about avian influenza – or bird flu – that’s making recent headlines?

A: I find it fascinating that people are sitting up and taking a hard look at the flu again. Maybe it is because recent natural disasters have brought people’s attention in that direction. On the other hand, it is hardly something new. Epidemiologists have been saying for years that another pandemic is possible, just as the hydrologists and meteorologists were saying for years that New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen.

Q: Should Americans be wary of the virus spreading to the U.S.?

A: People tend to get very nervous quickly, sometimes too quickly. We do need to watch it, as we watched SARS very closely. But I wouldn’t hit the panic button just yet.

Q: The World Health Organization has reported that more than 65 people have died in Asia from the bird flu.

A: Influenza viruses that infect birds, which are called “avian influenza viruses,” come in several varieties. The H5N1 strand of the influenza virus appeared in migratory birds in Vietnam and south China, and spread to domestic birds. It exists primarily in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia but has been spreading through migratory fowl. I think that the first human cases were seen in Hong Kong eight years ago. Humans catch the disease from infected birds, through aerial transmission or indirect contact.

Q: What would happen if the virus could be spread from human to human? Could it become a global outbreak?

A: It could become a pandemic, and potentially become very deadly. Look at the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. During this pandemic, known as the “Spanish flu,” the disease spread across the world, killing more than 25 million people over six months. But these days, people are exposed much more frequently to various influenza viruses, which means that we have some immunity to a potential pandemic. So it is quite possible that a future pandemic could be much less dangerous.

Q: What are other notable pandemics of the past century?

A: They seem to be on a 30-year cycle. There was the Asian Flu pandemic in 1957 that started in China and spread to the United States. It caused about 1 million deaths. A flu vaccine was developed to stop the outbreak. The 1968 pandemic wasn’t as deadly. It started in Hong Kong and spread to America, killing about 750,000 people worldwide.

In 1976, an Army recruit caught the swine flu, and the government thought this could be a big outbreak. President Ford thought it might be a revival of the 1918 influenza, and wanted to immunize all 220 million Americans at the cost of $135 million. The flu never came, and hundreds of Americans who were inoculated filed suits against the government in cases where side effects of the vaccine proved fatal.

Q: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the absence of any vaccination or drugs, it has been estimated that in the United States a “medium–level” pandemic could cause 89,000 to 207,000 deaths, and another 20 to 47 million people to be sick. How should we go about containing diseases?

A: Controlling a disease like this is not a sexy thing. When disease control works, we see nothing, there is nothing to show other than the absence of disease, and that is hard to point to. On the other hand, when it fails, all hell breaks lose. That is a tension in public health. Do we mandate vaccinations and put the common good of all above individual rights? This tension is perennial in American society and will never be resolved.

Practically speaking, I would especially recommend that anybody whose immune system is in any compromised, such as in the case of older people, persons with HIV, and those prone to infection should definitely get a vaccine. It is also a good idea for people who come into contact with lots of individuals from disparate locations—which is to say most students and teachers.

Q: What is your personal interest in the history of disease?

A: I did my dissertation on the history of tuberculosis, and teach courses called Disease and Epidemics in a Historical Perspective and Introduction to the History of Disease and Medicine. I’m also the author of a book called “The Modern Epidemic: A History of Tuberculosis in Japan.”

Q: Is the history of disease somewhat esoteric?

A: It sounds esoteric. People leave that topic in the corner until they start getting sick. It’s a real common attitude to have about the history of disease.

Q: Students in what majors are attracted to this class?

A: I get a lot of history and pre-med majors. But there are other students in art and theater who magically seem to come out of the woodwork. They’re realizing all of a sudden that diseases play a huge role and they want to understand them better.

Q: Where are your degrees from?

A: My bachelor’s of art is from Elmira College, my master’s and Ph.D are from Harvard University.

Q: In addition to the history of disease, what are your other research interests and areas of expertise?

A: I’m interested in the history of syphilis in early modern Japan, warfare and state formation in 16th century Japan, the historiography of Amino Yoshihiko, an important historian of medieval Japan, the history of medicine in Japan and the history of sexuality in modern Japan. I’m also interested in photography in history, women’s issues and cultural change.

Q: What are some classes that you commonly teach?

A: Japanese History, History of War, Society and State, Issues in Contemporary Historiography. I’m starting a seminar on the history of the atomic bomb and its use on Japan.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Administrative Assistant Keeps Things Running Smoothly in South College


Janice Watson, administrative assistant in the President’s Office, enjoys meeting and greeting alumni and other visitors who have questions about the university.
 
Posted 10/18/05
Q: Janice, when were you hired as the administrative assistant in the President’s Office?

A: I came to Wesleyan in May 2001.

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

A: I was a Medicare Durable Medical Equipment Regional Carrier (DMERC) fraud investigator.

Q: What are some of your job duties as administrative assistant?

A: I handle and direct telephone calls, greet visitors, type correspondences, order office supplies, maintain office equipment, schedule meetings and handle meeting logistics.

Q: Who do you report to?

A: Jane McKernan, special assistant to the president and Michael Benn, who is interim director of Affirmative Action and director of Legal Projects.

Q: What is your work load typically like?

A: My day to day work load varies. Sometimes I’m typing the majority of the day, but on other days, I’m mostly on the phone, and on others I’m scheduling meeting and training sessions. I like my schedule, because it doesn’t allow for my job to become monotonous.

Q: Do you answer general questions about the university?

A: Yes, I get inquires for outside visitors as well as people within the Wesleyan community. Questions range from building information, such as history and physical locations, to various events that are being held on campus, to parental concerns.

Q: What is your favorite part about working in the President’s Office?

A: I enjoy meeting and greeting all the alumni, especially the older members during Reunion & Commencement and other Wesleyan community celebrations. I enjoy being able to assist them in finding areas of the campus. Many of them remember this place as being different and share some of their fondest memories with me.

Q: Tell me about your hobbies and interests outside of work.

A: I enjoy cooking, especially desserts. I also like to take long walks. And music and singing. I, as well as most of my immediate family, are members of Cross Street AME Zion Church where we are active members of the choirs and many other ministries with in the church.

Q: What would you say it the most unique thing about you?

A: I’m not sure if this is unique or not, but I try to always be cheerful and always to help everyone that is in need regardless of what it is they may need help doing. I think we are here on earth to be interdependent not independent.

Q: Tell me about your family.

A: I am married to Robin Watson Sr. I have three children. My daughter Leta is 20-years-old and is a third-year student at Southern Connecticut State University in Hamden. I have two sons, Robin Jr., who is 18 and a first-year student at Springfield College in Springfield, Mass. and Jordan, who is 15, and a sophomore at Middletown High School.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

War-Time Human Right Abuses Topic of Powerful Zilkha Exhibit


Nina Felshin, curator of exhibitions and adjunct lecturer in art history, is curator of The Disasters of War: From Goya to Golub, which is on view now in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.

From left to right, Melanie Baker’s charcoal and pastel drawing, Writing a Memo (in Blood); Francisco de Goya’s etching from The Disasters of War (Los Desastres de la Guerra) and Leon Golub’s acrylic on canvas, Interrogation III, on loan from The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica.

 
Posted 10/18/05
War, torture and inhumane behavior in the international arena are themes of an exhibit in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.

The Disasters of War: From Goya to Golub features the work of 19 artists that explores human rights abuses in wartime. The exhibition spans five centuries and includes paintings, drawings, videotapes, audio effects, photographs and installations.

Nina Felshin, Zilkha’s curator of exhibitions and adjunct lecturer in art history, is the exhibit’s curator. More than 600 people have already viewed the show.

“Unlike most news images and the dryer forms of communication, aesthetic mediums tend to make the subject matter more accessible through the use of metaphor and by putting a human face or body on it,” Felshin explains.

The exhibit’s images include depictions of the dead and injured — some brutally so. Such works as Jacques Callot and Francisco Goya’s historical prints are juxtaposed with contemporary images, video testimonies, portraits of powerful individuals and numerous other related subjects.

“I’m not convinced that art, on its own, can lead to social or political change but I am certain it can encourage viewers to ask questions that challenge their long held beliefs,” Felshin says, viewing artist Melanie Baker’s Writing a Memo (in Blood). “Art can be very seductive and draw people in. It can be very powerful.”

The idea for this exhibition grew out of a project that Felshin worked on in 2002, titled From Goya to Golub, a slide projection for an anti-war concert in Los Angeles, named after Leon Golub and Francisco de Goya. Golub, an American artist who died in 2004, is known for his expressionist paintings of brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners of war.

Golub’s mural-sized acrylics, Interrogation I, and Interrogation III, which are prominently featured in the exhibition, depict the brutal actions of Central American dictatorships in the early 1980s. In III, a nude, handcuffed woman sits open-legged with two clothed men physically harassing her.

Five iconic images from Goya’s etching series, The Disasters of War, are also in the Zilkha exhibition. They are on loan from the Davison Art Center.

John Paoletti, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities and professor of art history admires the brilliant use of the gallery, especially in the way that the Golub paintings fill up the space and loom so threateningly overhead.

“Having a wide range of historical responses to war, including the Goya Disasters of War, sets an especially chilling tone to the exhibition, suggesting that as often as the atrocities depicted have occurred, we somehow fail to find ways of working together that would eliminate such horrific actions,” he says.

In the Sept. 25 New York Times, writer Benjamin Genocchio called the Wesleyan exhibition “probably the most compelling exhibition in the state today.”

“I do shows like this because I believe that art has the power to raise one’s consciousness about important social and political issues,” Felshin says. “My aim is to put ideas out there in a way that encourages people to question their assumptions and form their own conclusions.”

Three deeply affecting video works accompany the artwork. Canadian artist Jayce Salloum is represented by a looped DVD projection, untitled part I: everything and nothing, an intimate dialogue with a young woman — an ex-Lebanese National resistance fighter who was detained for ten years, six of them in isolation, in the notorious El-Khiam torture and interrogation center in South Lebanon.

Felshin says that although anti-war exhibitions are not uncommon at this moment in time, few touch on the torture of human beings and its political significance.

“There have been lots of anti-war shows out there in the past few years, but this one is about how war affects the human body, and that is what sets it apart from the others,” she says. “It addresses torture both explicitly and implicitly.”

One of the inspirations for this exhibition, comments Felshin, is the exhibition that accompanies it in Zilkha’s South Gallery titled Inconvenient Evidence: Iraqi Prison Photographs from Abu Ghraib. Curated by Brian Wallis and co-organized by the International Center of Photography in New York and The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, this exhibition includes photographs from Abu Ghraib. Included are photos of recent newsmaker Pfc. Lynndie England posing and smiling with abused detainees.

Felshin, who held a gallery reception Sept. 9, wants this powerful exhibition to elicit reactions.

“I still get goose bumps when I come in here,” she says.

The Disasters of War: From Goya to Golub is open noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery and runs until Dec. 11. Admission is free. For more information call 860-685-3355.
 

By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Gruen Researches Empathy, Ethics and Chimpanzees, Philosophically


At top, Lori Gruen, associate professor of philosophy, explains “The Chimp Project” from her office in Russell House. She and  Hughes Fellow Shayla Silver-Balbus ’06 (pictured at left) studied chimpanzees in Ohio this summer.
Posted 10/01/05
Lori Gruen spent this past summer with curious students of an unsuspecting kind – chimpanzees named Emma and Harper. Gruen, an associate professor of philosophy and co-chair of the Wesleyan Feminism, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department, formally known as the Women’s Studies Department, studied the chimpanzees at the Ohio State University Chimpanzee Center where she continues to gather information for an upcoming book on empathy.

“By exploring our attitudes and relationships with chimpanzees we can enhance our capacity to empathize with different others and get a glimpse at how empathy might have evolved,” says Gruen.

Gruen’s book will focus on, among others topics, chimpanzee history, sign language skills, comparative cognition and emotional and ethical intelligence. Gruen plans to continue working on the new book during her upcoming spring sabbatical.

“This is an opportunity for me to move away from practicing pure philosophy,” she says. “This is a feature of being engaged in the world.”

Whether in the field with chimpanzees or in the classroom with students, Gruen’s academic work always involves ethics. In her classes, one of which includes the popular “Reproduction in the 21st Century,” she asks that her students challenge their life choices.

Co-taught with Laura Grabel, professor of biology and Fisk Professor of Natural Sciences, “Reproduction in the 21st Century,” focuses on such hot button issues as the ethics of cloning, stem cell research, infertility, contraception and abortion. Offered for the first time last year, the class is again at it 65 student capacity. Gruen says an additional 130 students were on the waiting list. Grabel says that a previous incarnation of the class was taught without a real ethics component and that Gruen’s insights have brought a whole perspective to the scientific information that’s presented.

“Lori has brought that missing piece to the course, Grabel says. “She can teach the rich intellectual history of the philosophical field of ethics and teach students how to apply these concepts to crafting strong ethical arguments relevant to reproductive issues ranging from cloning to abortion.”

Much like in “Reproduction in the 21st Century,” whose subject matter often attracts the local and national media, Gruen longed to weave ethics into other classes across campus. This past summer she helped launch Wesleyan’s Ethics in Society Project, a similar program to the one she launched at Stanford University before coming to Wesleyan in 2000. The project awards Ethical Reasoning Capability Summer Development Grants to six Wesleyan professors who are responsible for incorporating ethics into their undergraduate curriculums.

The grant recipients for this year include: Christina Crosby, English for a course “Questions of Embodiment”; Norman Danner, Computer Science for “Cryptography”; Indira Karamcheti, English for “Postcolonial Literature”; Elizabeth McAlister, Religion for “Christianity and Globalization”; Sheila Mullen, Less Commonly Taught Languages for “American Sign Language and Current Issues” and Suzanne O’Connell, Earth &Environmental Science for “Introduction to Environmental Science”.

The Ethics in Society Project grants will be available to Wesleyan faculty again at the beginning of spring semester as well. For more information, visit www.wesleyan.edu/ethics.

“Wesleyan’s commitment to interdisciplinary work is great for students and myself as a scholar,” says Gruen. “It’s important to be able to think deeply and broadly about challenging issues. My students always want to learn how to respond to the world around them, all while keeping ethics in mind.”

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Nobel Laureate Speaks to Classes, Leads Symposium


Posted 10/01/05
First-year chemistry students will have the opportunity to spend some time with a Nobel Laureate at Wesleyan.

Sir Harry Kroto, professor of chemistry at Florida State University, will lecture to chemistry classes at 9 a.m. Oct. 31 in room 84 of Hall-Atwater. Kroto shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996 for discovering C60, a new form of carbon.

In addition, Kroto will present a chemistry symposium titled “Architecture in Nanospace,” at 4 p.m. Oct. 31, also in HA 84, or Exley Science Center 150 if attendance requires it. This symposium will be open to the public.

Formerly a professor at the University of Sussex in Brighton, United Kingdom, Sir Harry has studied carbon chains in space, was a pioneer in the spectroscopic study of molecules with multiple bonds between carbon and phosphorus, and, in his Nobel Prize winning work, discovered and new form of elemental carbon.

“I never dreamed of winning the Nobel Prize,” Kroto wrote in his Nobel-related biography. “Indeed I was very happy with my scientific work prior to the discovery of C60 … and even if I did not do anything else as significant I would have felt quite successful as a scientist.”

Stewart Novick, professor of chemistry, invited Kroto to speak at Wesleyan. They first met at Wesleyan’s annual Leermakers Symposium in 1992. Novick and David Westmoreland, associate professor of chemistry, are combining their CHEM 143 and CHEM 141 classes on Oct. 31 so Kroto can lecture to both introductory chemistry classes at once.

Novick considers Kroto to be a world class researcher who is deeply committed to science education.

“It is characteristic of him that, in addition to the cutting-edge research lecture he is presenting in the afternoon, he will take time in the morning to present a more generally accessible talk to some of the newest members of the scientific community, the students in our introductory courses,” Novick says. “Harry is a spellbinding speaker and we are certain that everyone will enjoy his perspectives on one of the most important and astounding chemical discoveries of the last 50 years.”

Krotto shares the Nobel with Robert Curl Jr. and Richard Smalley, both of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The trio made their discovery during a period of eleven days in 1985. When fine-tuning their experiment, they produced clusters with 60 carbon atoms or C60. This symmetrical molecular structure resembled a geodetic dome designed by American architect R. Buckminster Fuller for the 1967 Montreal World Exhibition. Hence, the scholars named their structure ‘buckminsterfullerene’ or ‘fullerene’, for short.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

“The Making of Ferocious Beauty: Genome” Kicks off Dance Residency at the CFA


Liz Lerman of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, discusses “The Making of Ferocious Beauty: Genome,” the first in a series of lectures addressing the implications of genetic research. (Photo by Lex Leifheit)
Posted 10/01/05
The year 2003 marked a major milestone in human genomics: the completion of the sequencing of the human genome. With that milestone came a seemingly endless number of possibilities, and the challenge of understanding their consequences.

“Where do we as individuals and where do we as a society draw the line, and who should do the line drawing?” asked Kathy Hudson, director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at the Johns Hopkins University, addressing an audience of 120 students, Wesleyan faculty and greater Middletown community members in the CFA Cinema on Sept. 20.

Hudson, joined by Founding Artistic Director Liz Lerman of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and Associate Professor of Philosophy Lori Gruen, launched a discussion titled “The Making of Ferocious Beauty: Genome,” the first in a series of lectures addressing the implications of genetic research as part of the Dance Exchange’s year-long residency at Wesleyan. For the past three years, the Center for the Arts and Wesleyan Faculty have partnered with Lerman to plan the most comprehensive residency ever undertaken by a dance company at Wesleyan. This partnership has resulted in Wesleyan serving as lead commissioner of Genome, which will premiere at the CFA on Feb. 3, 2006.

“There’s a long list of partners to thank,” CFA Director Pamela Tatge commented as she individually acknowledged the people and organizations who have supported the Genome residency.

Hudson also acknowledged a vast number of people, those who contributed to the gene sequencing project as it ramped up in the late 90s, describing the genome itself as “three billion chemical letters.”

Working off a display of images ranging from a fertilized egg being “sampled,” to a comic strip, Hudson raised questions about the implications for medicine (illnesses detected early, prescriptions based on genetic makeup), equality (out of three billion, only three million chemical letters differ from person to person), justice (corporations blaming “bad genes” for afflictions such as carpal tunnel syndrome) and reproduction.

Liz Lerman opened her part of the dialogue by stating the advantage of artists in exploring the nature of scientific advances.

“We get to expand the nature of what might be real or not real, true or not true,” Lerman said.

She added that working on Ferocious Beauty: Genome has been a process of building trust with scientists, learning from them and finding ways in which they can exchange ideas.
One scientist who contributed to Genome is Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology Laurel Appel. Lerman shared an anecdote where she and one of the dancers, dressed as “father of genetics” Gregor Mendel, visited Appel’s laboratory. Appel, recognizing the character Mendel, began to update him on the advances of science since his heyday in the mid-1800s.

Audience questions focused mainly on aspects of genetic research they would like to see explored through dance. Lerman did not go into great detail about the premiere, reminding them that the show is still in development, but described her vision of the structure in two parts. Act one will depict ways to understand the science. Act two will explore topics such as identity and ancestry, aging and death, and the quest for genetic “perfection” as it relates to research funding and profit motives.

The premiere of Ferocious Beauty: Genome will be on Feb. 3 and 4, 2006. Tickets are available now by calling the University Box Office at 860-685-3355. Free Genome-related events include “Challenging Nature: Biotechnology in a Spiritual World,” a lecture by Lee M. Silver, professor of Molecular Biology and Public Affairs at Princeton University at 8 p.m. Oct. 11 in the CFA Cinema, and “The Double Helix: Law and Science Co-constructing Race,” a talk by Pilar Ossorio, assistant professor of Law and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin at 8 p.m. Nov. 10 in the CFA Cinema.

 
By Lex Leifheit, press and marketing coordinator for the Center for the Arts