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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

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

United Way Campaign Begins Oct. 6


Posted 10/01/05

Wesleyan will again help build a stronger, healthier Middlesex County during the Middlesex United Way’s annual Community Campaign. The campaign kicked off Oct. 6 at the President’s House.

This year’s goal is $140,000, which is $5,000 more than last year’s goal.

For more than 60 years, the Wesleyan community has supported the local United Way. Its Core Services provides funding to 32 local programs and services offered by its 23 partner agencies. These include the American Red Cross, 2-1-1 Infoline; Middlesex Hospital Family, Advocacy Program; Middlesex Hospital Homecare; Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters; Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater; Salvation Army of Middletown, among others.

This year Middlesex United Way is supporting a new initiative called Community Impact, which is designed to target root causes of chronic community problems that are hurting families. Community Impact programs include housing, mental health and substance abuse programs.

“Just feeding a hungry family isn’t enough,” explains John Biddiscombe, adjunct professor of Physical Education, director of Athletics and chair of the Physical Education Department. “We want to address the reason why a family goes hungry in the first place.”

Biddiscombe served as president of the Middlesex United Way for two years, vice president for two years and on the organization’s executive committee for seven years.

Kevin Wilhelm, Middlesex United Way’s executive director, explained that local needs assessment results, input from residents, and calls to Connecticut’s 2-1-1 Infoline show that housing, mental health and substance abuse rank as top concerns of county residents.

“Middlesex United Way has traditionally served local residents by funding non-profit agencies that provide critical human care services,” says Wilhelm. “We are also being more proactive in our approach and funding community projects that reach more residents and address what they tell us is of top concern to them.”

The substance abuse initiative focuses on reducing and preventing substance abuse among sixth to 12th graders through Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth. In a recent survey of Connecticut ninth and 10th graders, 36 percent reported using marijuana, 28 percent reported binge drinking in the past month, and 24 percent reported being regular smokers. United Way focuses on school and home-based prevention programs for school-aged children and their families.

The improved mental health initiative focus on early identification and intervention of children birth to 5-years-old with social and emotional problems so that more children enter school ready to learn. About 24 percent of Connecticut high school students indicated on a recent survey that they have “seriously considered” suicide.

The housing initiative focus is on affordable housing along Connecticut’s shoreline, specifically to develop affordable housing units for working families currently living in motels. Forty percent of Middlesex County’s homeless are dependent children.

Last year, Wesleyan raised a record-breaking $140,018, 6.5 percent of Middlesex United Way’s total.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Time to Give

Wesleyan began its Middlesex United Way campaign Oct. 6. Office delegates passed out contribution forms to their respective areas. Employees can make contributions through payroll deduction.

Anyone who gives has a chance at winning one of three gift certificates raffled off during the campaign. Prizes include a $100 gift certificate at the Wesleyan Computer Store and Service Center; $100 gift certificate at Broad Street Books; and squash lessons at Freeman Athletic Center, valued at $120.

Last year 59 percent of Wesleyan employees made donations to the local chapter. Those that pledge more than $1,000 will become members of Wesleyan’s Leadership Circle.

Economics Department, Latin American Studies Welcomes New Assistant Professor


Francisco Rodriguez, assistant professor of economics and Latin American Studies is still getting settled into his new office. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
 
Posted 10/01/05

Francisco Rodriguez has joined the Economics Department and Latin American Studies Department as an assistant professor.

He accepted the position because of the “intellectual freedom and environment of a liberal arts institution, as well as the high quality and openness of both the Economics and Latin American Studies departments,” he says.

Rodriguez’s research examines economic growth in developing countries and the interaction between inequality, distributive conflict and economic performance.

He’ll be teaching classes on international trade, economics of Latin America and economic and societal collapses.

Rodriguez received his bachelor’s degree in economics from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello in Caracas, Venezuela and his master’s in economics from Harvard University. He earned his Ph.D from Harvard with a thesis titled “Essays on the Political Economy of Redistribution and Growth.”

Rodriguez most recently completed a visiting fellowship at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Between 2000 and 2004, Rodriguez was the chief economist of the Venezuelan National Assembly. Before that, he had worked as an assistant professor in the Economics Department of the University of Maryland, College Park.

Rodriguez is the co-author of “The Political Economy of Investment in Human Capital,” which is forthcoming in the Economics of Governance and “Inequality, Redistribution and Rent-Seeking,” published in Economics and Politics, November 2004.

His wife, María Eugenia, is a Ph.D candidate in marketing at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has a step-daughter, Celeste, 12, and a Siamese cat named Shalimar.

Rodriguez’s interests include reading narrative literature. Among his favorite authors are Gunter Grass of Germany, Alejo Carpentier of Cuba, Alberto Fuguet of Chile and Gao Xingjian of China.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

“Hidden Gem” Opens Its Door


 

The staff at Wesleyan University Press will hold an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 11 at its new location, 215 Long Lane, across from the new Physical Plant. Pictured in back, left to right are Eric Levy ’97, acquisitions editor; Stephanie Elliott, publicity associate; and Leslie Starr, marketing manager. Pictured in front is Suzanna Tamminen ’90, MALS ’04, director and editor-in-chief.

Posted 10/01/05
It’s one of only 110 academic publishers in the nation, and has produced more than 1,000 books by authors around the world. But the Wesleyan University Press staff believes their publishing house remains a hidden gem.

Formerly housed on Mt. Vernon Street, Wes Press moved to its new location, 215 Long Lane, last year. To celebrate its move and introduce itself to the Wesleyan community, the staff at Wes Press will hold an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Nov. 11

“We’re something of a secret on campus,” says Leslie Starr, marketing manager for the 46-year-old press. “We’d love to have members of the campus community stop by and see what we’re all about. “

Starr works at the press with Suzanna Tamminen ’90, MALS ’94, director and editor-in-chief; Eric Levy ’97, acquisitions editor; and Stephanie Elliott, publicity associate. They collaborate with the Wesleyan University Press Editorial Board — made up of Wesleyan faculty members from various fields — to decide what manuscripts to publish.

In America, university presses publish, on average, 9,000 books a year. Each press publishes books in specific areas. Wesleyan University Press’s editorial program focuses on poetry, music, dance and performance, science fiction, film and television, and American studies. By next fall, Wes Press hopes to begin publishing books for the general reader on Connecticut’s cultural and natural history.

This fall/winter, the press is publishing books on creative writing, acoustic effects in music recording, disaster movies, Australia’s Aboriginal songs, and poetic meditations on exile. In November, the press will publish the first modern and corrected English translation of Jules Verne’s The Begum’s Millions.

Wes Press receives close to 750 poetry and book submissions a year; however, it accepts few of these. Most authors are sought out, making the acquisitions work quite active.

“It’s far more effective, and we get better projects, when we seek them out,” Tamminen says. “We are looking for books that make an important contribution to their field, in lucid prose, and which fit into our editorial program. In order to best serve the fields we publish in, we need to have enough books in the area to have a critical mass, where the books do a kind of intellectual work together.”

The press publishes 12 new books each publishing season – spring/summer and fall/winter.

There are currently 430 Wesleyan University Press books in print, four of which have earned Pulitzer Prizes and two of which received National Book Awards. Most recently, Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop, by Joseph G. Schloss, won the International Association for the Study of Popular Music’s 2005 Book Award.

“A lot of people don’t realize that you can’t just write a book, send it in to a publisher and get it published,” Starr says. “We’re very selective, and we need to be in order to maintain the mark of quality that Wesleyan has earned over the years.”

Book selection and marketing are done in-house while all copy editing, book design and printing are done externally. While books are being produced, the marketing staff is preparing the seasonal catalog, producing fliers and sending proofs to major publications.

“Getting a review published in publications such as Publisher’s Weekly or the New York Times is a very effective way to get the word out about a book,” Elliott says. “A lot of what we do involves cultivating relationships with reviewers.”

The small staff also hires about 10 Wesleyan students each year. The students gain hands-on experience writing press releases, sending out review copies, soliciting book endorsements, and doing other office work. In the last five years, nine of these students have gone on to work in publishing after graduating.

Wesleyan University Press is a member of the Association of American University Presses, the Association of American Publishers and the New England Booksellers Association.

Since many of the books published by Wes Press are on specialized scholarly topics, they often appeal to small audiences. And since the press operates as a business, making a profit can be the small publisher’s biggest challenge, Starr says. A book can cost anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000 to produce.

The press is constantly seeking grants and donations to help defray costs while it meets the needs of the academic community, which is its primary mission.

“We hope people will come to the open house to browse our bookshelves and have some cider and a cookie,” Tamminen says.

Wesleyan University Press can be reached at 860-685-7711. It is online at www.wesleyan.edu/wespress. The press offers members of the Wesleyan community a 20 percent discount on Wes Press titles when they are ordered through the press. For more information e-mail lstarr@wesleyan.edu.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Dean of the College Wants Students, Faculty to Bond Outside of Classroom


Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, is impressed by Wesleyan students’ involvement outside of the classroom.
 
Posted 10/01/05
It didn’t take long to settle in.

In just two months, Maria Cruz-Saco has begun spearheading residential life and student programming initiatives. She’s also creating a new position to oversee diversity and multicultural learning environments on campus and seeking ways to improve current student services.

As the new dean of the college, Cruz-Saco oversees the Class Deans, Student Academic Resources, Student Services and Campus Programs. The latter includes Residential Life, Student Activities and Leadership Development, International Student Services, the Office of Community Service and Volunteerism, university chaplains, the University Health Center, and the Office of Behavioral Health.

“I’m constantly concerned with the well being of the student population,” Cruz-Saco says.

Born in Peru, Cruz-Saco earned her bachelor’s of arts at the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Peru, in 1979 and her Ph.D. in economics at the University of Pittsburgh in 1983. She has authored three books, co-edited one, and contributed many articles and chapters to professional journals and books. She’s an expert in social protection and the reform of social security systems with a regional emphasis in Latin America and the Caribbean.

However, over the last few years her career has focused more on the administrative side of academics. Before coming to Wesleyan she served as interim dean at Connecticut College. Her other leadership positions there included chair of the economics department, chair of the Priorities, Planning and Budget Committee, member of the Grievances Committee, and member of the faculty steering committee of the Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy. In addition, in 2002-03, she chaired the Presidential Commission on a Pluralistic Community charged with delineating Connecticut College’s vision for a multicultural experience and inclusive excellence.

“After learning about Wesleyan’s structure and core values, I got the sense that Wesleyan could be a good fit for me,” she says. “My own vision and values are very similar, and that is what attracted me.”

Cruz-Saco says she is most impressed by Wesleyan students’ involvement outside of the classroom. She notes the students’ interest in helping victims of Hurricane Katrina and their support and care given to accident victim Rachel Soriano ’06. Soriano was struck by a car on Church Street Sept. 10 and remains in critical but stable condition at Hartford Hospital.

“The students here are so committed to imprinting the world with a sense of social justice and a hope to make the world a better place for every body,” she says.

Cruz-Saco is also interested in direct input from students and staff on a regular basis. She holds office hours for students every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. She also meets with class deans and her direct reports once a week. She’s also a member of the university’s senior staff.

“We are thinking afresh about how we link students’ academic experiences with their lives in the community and about how we can take full advantage of the diversity of student experience as a resource for learning,” says Wesleyan President Douglas Bennet. “Wesleyan is also strengthening our residential life and student programming. Maria will provide strong leadership in all these areas.”

One way Cruz-Saco will be doing is this by developing a new position – a dean to oversee all cultural diversity initiatives and multicultural learning support services. The dean would partner with the Center for Faculty Development and Affirmative Action Office. The dean would ensure that faculty had the resources to teach multicultural classrooms.

“In our diverse community students have different learning styles and interests. The educational experience in- and out-of-the-classroom is enhanced by programs that support the teaching and learning in an environment that integrates in a seamlessly way academic and co-curricular activities,” Cruz-Saco says. “We support the educational enterprise through a number of student academic support services.”

She and her husband, Alejandro Melendez-Cooper, have three boys, Martin, 17; Claudio, 12; and Adrian, 9.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Assistant Director of Human Resources Screens Hundreds of Resumes to Find the Perfect Job Candidate


Persephone Hall, assistant director of Human Resources, posts job opportunities, searches through resumes and conducts interviews.
 
Posted 10/01/05
Q: What are some of your job duties as assistant Human Resources director?

A: The thing I love most about my position is the variety. In my first six months, my primary responsibilities have revolved around working with hiring managers to recruit for and fill their job openings. I am beginning to help managers and employees with employee relations issues and in the near future, I look forward to developing training classes for managers and employees here at Wesleyan.

Q: So, you’re fairly new here?

A: My first day at the university was March 21, 2005.

Q: When a department has an opening, how do you go about working with that department to get the position filled?

A: I may start on the phone with a department chair to discuss filling an opening. From there, we typically meet to begin developing the job description. I might spend some time afterward working with the chair to create a final product that we will post, first on the Wesleyan Web site. We may also post the position on other Web sites that are specific to the field.

Q: What happens when resumes pour in?

A: I read all of them. Our practice is to screen them to be sure the applicant meets our minimum qualifications. We also list “preferred qualifications” on our postings to further describe the ideal candidate. We have been very fortunate in many cases to see candidate pools where individuals have done the work or are doing the kind of work that we are looking for. Related experience is ideal. If not directly related experience, then similar experience is helpful. What makes reviewing resumes difficult is often the volume.

Q: On average, how many applicants apply for a single administrative job?

A: People have very openly said that they are eager to get a position at Wesleyan. On average, we may get 200 applicants for an administrative position.

Q: What is the interviewing process?

A: Our first step may be to have a telephone interview with those who meet both minimum and possibly some of our preferred qualifications. We may invite the candidates whose background and experience most closely meets our needs to campus for interviews. The candidate will meet with the hiring manager and maybe others from the department, as well as with Human Resources. We may schedule a second interview with the top candidates, if appropriate. Once a decision is made on who the manager would like to hire, we check the references for the candidate and make a job offer.

Q: How long does this process take?

A: It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Q: Do you enjoy interviewing prospective employees in person?

A: I really enjoy interviewing. Interviewing gives me an opportunity to sell Wesleyan as well as have a conversation with someone about their background. My role is to help them understand the realities of the position and the interviewee’s role is to help convince me that they have the skills to do the kind of work we are considering.

Q: What is the hardest part about you job?

A: Those “we selected someone else” calls can be difficult and we try to help candidates understand why someone else was selected. What makes that more difficult is when the candidate says, “but I can do the job.” As I said, we’ve been fortunate to see candidate pools with very qualified individuals.

Q: What are common reasons Wesleyan employees call or stop by Human Resources?

A: We often welcome individuals from all areas of the Wesleyan community so there is plenty of variety in the kinds of inquires we receive. Generally speaking, employees contact us for information on new job opportunities, benefits information and other work related questions.  Those how desire to work here will contact us regarding openings or the status of an application they have submitted. Otherwise, we entertain many different questions from many different people in a typical day.

Q: Who are the key people you work with in H.R.?

A: We are a small department so everyone has a key role. I most often work with our director Harriet Abrams as well as our associate director Julia Hicks on strategic projects. Vanessa Sabin and Janet Gyurits have been wonderful in helping me accomplish all the necessary tasks that come with the territory.

Q: What is your educational background and experience in the H.R. field?

A: I had a very rewarding college experience at the Ohio University in Athens, Ohio where I received a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in student personnel. Before coming to Wesleyan, I was a human resources specialist in the training department at the corporate headquarters of a retail company.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up in Canton, Ohio — the Pro Football Hall of Fame city — and moved to Connecticut after finishing graduate school.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: Me? Well, I love to sing. I’ve been singing — mostly Gospel music — since I was 12. I do most of my singing in my church. I hold a leadership role there so I’m involved in other activities there, also.

Q: Tell me about your family.

A: My husband’s name is Larry and he also works in higher education. He is the director of admission at Western Connecticut State University. He has recently turned me on to the game of golf so we try to play golf together as often as possible. We have three children, Tiffany, 17; Alaina, 14; and Isaac, 11.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Director of Residential Life Interested in What Students Have to Say


Fran Koerting, director of Residential Life, enjoys working with students.
 
Posted 10/01/05
After working in a variety of roles in higher-education, Fran Koerting has found her niche.

“I love working directly with the students,” says Koerting, director of Residential Life. “I want to help make their Wesleyan experience a positive one.”

Koerting spent the past eight years working as the director of Residential Life at Fairfield University. She came to Wesleyan in July.

Koerting holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and biology from the University of Rhode Island and a master’s in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University. The Long Island, New York native says she wanted to work at Wesleyan because of its “excellent reputation.”

“I love the caliber of students here,” she says. “Here, they are able to engage with the faculty and staff, and their input is valued.”

The Fauver Field residences and prototype homes on Fountain and Warren Streets are two examples of facilities designed with students’ input. Upcoming decisions that students will be involved in include furnishing the senior wood frame houses, additional laundry facilities and renovations to Foss Hill residences, to name a few.

Within her own department, Koerting actively seeks student input to better student life. In addition to Residential Life’s 99 student employees, she meets with individuals to address their concerns and find solutions. She serves on several committees with students, which discuss issues that affect students.

“There’s lots of living options for students here, and we try to make each one unique,” Koerting says. “And now that almost all students are living on campus, this can help them take advantage of all that’s offered in their community.”

Koerting says the residential requirement underscores Wesleyan’s emphasis on the development of students outside of as well as in the classroom. By living on campus, students learn to build community, respect others and be a responsible member.

Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, says in the short time that Koerting has been with Wesleyan, she has already made a strong impact in handling residential affairs.

“Wesleyan has a diverse housing stock which brings a variety of options to students,” Cruz-Saco says. “We are designing ways to further faculty-staff-student interactions and conversations in residential halls and Fran’s experience and leadership will be key. “

Koerting manages the department’s operating budget, meets with the Physical Plant staff, deans and department heads to discuss issues. She also deals with parents, who often call in with questions and concerns.

“Residential Life benefits from a collaborative relationship with other departments,” she says. “If someone has a concern that I cannot help them with, I’ll refer them to the person who can, or often we’ll work with that department, to get the student’s problem solved.”

Maureen Isleib, associate director of Residential Life, says Koerting’s personality and energy has given the department new direction and goals.

“Fran has worked in a number of different roles in student affairs and brings a fresh perspective to the office,” Isleib says. “She also has boundless energy and enthusiasm, and her commitment to student development is evident in her interactions with students.”

The biggest challenge in Residential Life is being prepared for the unexpected, Koerting explains. This can range from transition issues to crisis management – quite possibly dealing with the death of a student.

“We deal with the lives of 2,700 students, and you never know what is going to come up,” she says. “In Residential Life, you’re always having curveballs thrown at you, and that’s what makes it so interesting.”

On her days off, Koerting spends time with her husband, Walter, and children Katrina, 16, and Stephen, 14, and her Shepard-Black Labrador mix, Kukla at their home in Shelton, Conn. When she’s not busy attending her children’s soccer games and marching band performances, Koerting enjoys sewing, crafts, reading, and teaching Sunday school.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Muslim Chaplain Left Engineering for Career in Life in Faith


Imam Mahan Mirza, University Muslim Chaplain leads Qur’an Study Circles, and Islam Hour and sermons with Wesleyan’s Muslim community.
 
Posted 10/01/05
Q: Mahan, when were you hired to be the new Muslim chaplain at Wesleyan?

A: I was officially hired as of August 29, 2005.

Q: Where did you grow up and when did you move to America?

A: I grew up as the son of a fighter pilot in the Pakistan Air Force. My parents came from India into Pakistan when the country was divided in 1947. My grandparents are from various different parts of India. My first spoken language was the Queen’s English, which I picked up as a kindergartner in 1977 in England. I remember watching Star Wars on the big screen there when it first came out.

Q: Where did you attend college and what are your degrees in?

A: My first year was spent at Valparaiso University in Indiana. I then transferred to the University of Texas at Austin from where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. After working for two years as a design and project engineer in building environmental control systems, I left my job and returned to Pakistan to study Arabic and the Koran. I then returned to Hartford and continued working part-time as an engineer while enrolled in a graduate program in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary. In 2001, I left my engineering career behind once and for all and joined a six-year full time Ph.D program in Islamic Studies at Yale University. I am currently in my fifth year there.

Q: When and why did you decide to pursue Islamic studies?

A: Anyone who looks around sees that the world has many problems. Through my college years, I wanted to devote my life to something more meaningful than designing and running machines. I wanted to know more than the machines themselves; I wanted to know their purpose. Why do we build them? How do we use them? Who are we? Who am I? Instinctively I turned to my religion for answers to these and related questions. Here I am.

Q: Do you have any idea how many Muslim chaplains there are in academia?

A: I have no idea, but there is at least one more than there were on August 28! We need many more, not just at universities and colleges, but also in hospitals, prisons, and the military.

Q: Approximately, how many students on campus are Muslim? What countries do they come from?

A: Most Muslim students on campus are American. The international Muslim students come from a variety of counties such as Turkey, Mauritius and Indonesia. I have not met all of the Muslim students yet, but the active community consists of about 15-20 people.

Q: How has your upbringing in Pakistan and past 13 years living in America has shaped your perspective on Islam in America?

A: This is a difficult question. My first name is Indian, middle name Arabic, and last name Persian. Although I was born and raised in Pakistan, America and its language and culture have never been truly foreign. I grew up watching American TV shows such as the A-Team, Knight Rider and Threes’ Company. I study Islam from a German Jesuit at a secular University. I am a child of post-modernity. In a matter of speaking, I consciously embraced Islam as a student in America. There is no denying that my background makes my perspective unique, but more than my upbringing, I would imagine it has been shaped more by my academic training than anything else.

Q: How often are you on campus, and when you are here, what are you doing?

A: I am at Wesleyan on Mondays, Fridays, every other Thursday, and some weekends. Being a part-time employee, I do my best to arrange my schedule around the activities and needs of the Muslim students on campus. Students visit during office hours and we often dine together around our activities and meetings. On Fridays, I deliver a sermon and lead the congregational prayers in the afternoon, and conduct a study circle focusing on the Koran in the evenings. In addition to these regular appearances, I come for ad hoc events in the evenings and on weekends.

Q: Where can we get more detail about these events and times?

A: We have a Web site, www.wesleyan.edu/chaplains/muslim.

Q: How do you personally celebrate Muslim culture?

A: By being Muslim, studying Islam, keeping in touch with the Muslim community, and talking about our faith and traditions with others.

Q: I understand you’re starting up a weekly Islam Hour on campus. Tell me more about this.

A: We meet Mondays from 7 to 8 p.m. at 171 Church Street. Here, I host an hour of open discussion on topics related to Islam and Muslims called “Islam 101: Religion & Tea.” This is a tradition that is carrying over from the previous chaplain who offered a lecture series titled “Islam 101.” I have modified this venue into more of a guided discussion rather than lecture format, in which students of all levels can join in and discuss contemporary American discourses on Islam. We also offer tea over the discussion, hence the modified title.

Q: What can you tell me about the Qur’an Study Circle?

A: We meet Fridays between 6 and 7 p.m. at 22 Lawn Avenue. Here we discuss topics related to the Qur’an such as its arrangement and structure, and reflect on the meaning of selected passages. Once again, the circle is not in lecture format, but rather encourages dialogue and reflection.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests?

A: When I was in high school, I used to play lots of cricket and golf. Sadly, I no longer have time for such things. I occasionally try and play squash in the gym if I get the chance. I also have three young sons who keep me busy when I am not studying or at Wesleyan. I am also interested in the world we live in, from the environment to poverty to war. Being religious does not mean being a recluse. On the contrary, spirituality to me is a direct engagement with the world and its affairs in order to make it a better place. This not only means being good to your neighbor down the street, but also to your neighbors across the ocean. But let me not get preachy here.

Q: Tell me about your family and what you enjoy doing together.

A: My wife, Stephanie, and I live with our three sons in New Haven. We’ve been married for 10 years. Steph is in the final semester of her undergraduate studies, which she pursues part-time at Southern Connecticut State University. We enjoy playing board games, reading to the kids, and outings to parks and museums. But I think what Steph and I really look forward to every day is sitting together with a midnight snack once the kids are off to bed!
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor