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The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

OVER WINTER BREAK: Area children sled down Foss Hill after a gentle snow Jan. 14.

Frosty trees near Exley Science Center.
Ice-topping on the South College belfry.
A winter walk near the front steps Olin Library and West College.
A glistening-morning scene near Hall-Atwater and Shanklin laboratories. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)

Institute to Teach Foreign Language in 4 Weeks

Posted 01/15/08
Parlez-vous français? By attending the Wesleyan Summer Language Institute, students will learn to speak, write and comprehend basic French in only four weeks.

The new Summer Language Institute, developed by the Division of Continuing Studies, will offer programs in Arabic, Russian and Spanish as well as French. Participants will be grouped together by language, and will live, study, eat and mingle together constantly in the target language.

“In four weeks of immersion, students will gain the equivalent of a full year of language study at Wesleyan,” says Jennifer Curran, assistant director for admissions and outreach. “This is a great way to participate in a vibrant learning atmosphere and learn a language quickly.”

The intensive immersion session is held June 2-27 on campus. Students will live in Clark Hall dormitory and dine together at tables set up for their target language at the Usdan University Center. Wesleyan faculty and visiting faculty will teach all sessions.

Weekdays will be filled with classes, conversation sessions, co-curricular activities and guided study sessions. Weekends will feature activities emphasizing the target language and its cultural contexts such as cooking classes, dance lessons, singing, movie and discussion nights, short video productions, crafts, sports and field trips.

Most activities will relate directly to the culture of the target language. For instance, students enrolled in the Russian Institute will learn to make borscht and pel’meni, dance ‘kazachok’ and sing ‘Katiusha.’ And students in the Arabic Institute will travel to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue, the heart of New York’s Arab-American community.

The institute offers programs in the four languages at a variety of levels. Elementary courses will help students develop the basic skills of language: listening, speaking, reading and writing in their chosen language. Coursework is organized to maximize rapid proficiency with effective retention. Intermediate courses refine and strengthen skills. Cultural education is an integral part of all the courses at the Institute.

The Summer Language Institute is open to Wesleyan undergraduates and graduate students, students from other institutions and professionals in international fields, government employees, non-profit organizations, medical workers and others.

The Institute has rolling admission and has started accepting applications. Applicants are expected to have completed at least one year of college and provide two academic recommendations. Admission is competitive and based on a person’s application.

“We’re looking for students who demonstrate success in previous language study, in a challenging program of college courses, or whose academic or professional work demonstrates the motivation and aptitude to thrive under the rigors of this hyper-intensive form of study,” Curran explains.

Upon completion, undergraduates will receive two Wesleyan language credits, or eight credit hours, toward their degree. Tuition is $4,600 and housing and dining is $1372. Student loans may be available.

For more information on the Summer Language Institute, or to apply, go to:

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Dierker Awarded $1M from National Institutes of Health


Posted 01/15/08
Lisa Dierker, associate professor of psychology, has received a $1 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop a new statistical method that will move past standard approaches to provide more sensitive ways to evaluate both the etiology and clinical course of mental and physical health outcomes.

Numerous statistical methods used in longitudinal health research help make sense of mountains of complex data and aid researchers in uncovering important associations that can inform health care.

Dierker, pictured at right, and Runze Li, associate professor of statistics at Pennsylvania State University, are principal investigators on the grant, which is a NIH Roadmap initiative aimed at stimulating interdisciplinary research teams, and reshaping clinical research to accelerate medical discovery and improve people’s health. Dierker and Li are proposing a new class of statistical models that, unlike those traditionally used in health research, will allow for analysis of intensive longitudinal data.

These new models possess many valuable features which make them the most appropriate for addressing critical questions regarding the development of disease and disability as well as factors that influence their clinical course. Specifically, the proposed new models will better allow researchers to understand complex effects that vary over time and change across individual subjects.

“We will propose estimation procedures for the new models, and develop software to implement them. Initially, we plan to apply the proposed procedures to extant data focused on 1) the etiology of drug use and 2) the clinical course of asthma,” Dierker says.

Out of the $1 million grant funds, $240,000 will be going directly to Wesleyan for the four-year interdisciplinary project.

By Corrie Kerr, associate director of Media Relations

Kresge Foundation Challenge Grant Supports New Science Equipment

Lauren Nichols, a BA/MA biology student, demonstrates how the new LICOR Li-6400  measures the rate of carbon fixation via photosynthesis in living plants.
Posted 01/15/08
A challenge grant from The Kresge Foundation is supporting much-needed equipment for the sciences at Wesleyan.

With a challenge grant from The Kresge Foundation, Wesleyan has already acquired a photosynthesis system, microplate reader, spectrometers and a dye laser. With $500,000 raised from donors, the foundation provided a grant of $250,000 for a total of $750,000 used towards the equipment purchase. And this month, Wesleyan will receive an additional $250,000 from the foundation to support future equipment purchases and equipment repair.  Wesleyan raised $1 million over the past 18 months to support this endowment.

“This equipment provides opportunities for our faculty and students to do research at the highest levels,” explains David Bodznick, dean of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, professor of biology and neuroscience and behavior. “It expands our capabilities and allows our scientific inquiry to keep pace with the intellectual capacity of our researchers.”

Several departments received equipment. Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, uses a new photosynthesis system; Philip Bolton, professor of chemistry and chair of the Chemistry Department, is using a microplate reader; Rex Pratt, the Beach Professor of Chemistry, is using a LC-Mass Spectrometer; and the Chemistry Department is using a Gel Permeation Chromatograph.

Tim Ku, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, is using his department’s new  ICP-Mass Spectrometer; Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck professor of Astronomy and chair of the Astronomy Department, is using a new CCD camera; and Brian Stewart, associate professor of physics, is using the Physics Department’s new YAG/dye laser.

Herbst’s graduate student Jenny Konon says the department’s new camera makes astronomical observing more efficient. The camera enables users to take photographs of faint, distant objects with super-short exposures.

“With a special light filter, it even lets us take stunning photos of objects as bright as the moon   (see image at left),” Konon says.

Sultan’s plant evolutionary ecology lab frequently uses the new LICOR Li-6400 photosynthesis system, which is a state-of-the-art gas analyzer that measures physiological rates on the leaves of living plants under controlled amounts of light from a built-in light source. These measurements provide key insights into how efficiently plants function in specific environmental conditions.

Her students have used the system to study an introduced species called Polygonum cespitosum that has become invasive in New England. Their LICOR data showed that study populations of this species are evolving very rapidly to photosynthesize at higher rates in sunny habitats, where the species has begun to spread.

Sultan presented the findings at a joint U.S.-Japan workshop on plant response to global environmental change in October 2007.

“It’s great that students in my lab have the chance to study plant function using the LICOR system, considered the best available instrument for photosynthesis work,” Sultan says.

Pratt says the department’s new electrospray mass spectrometer is an important addition to the instrumentation available to Wesleyan chemists and biochemists.

“With this instrument, we are now able to obtain the mass spectra and molecular weights of many polar and ionic molecules,” Pratt says. “Since most biomolecules are of this type, the instrument is essential to modern biological chemistry.”

Bolton’s new microplate reader has become equally essential for research projects involving the interactions of DNA molecules with proteins and in projects aimed at finding drug-like molecules that bind to specific sites in the genome.

Before acquiring the plate reader, Bolton and his students had to prepare large samples and measure each one separately, which is both time consuming and uses lots of material. With the plate reader, the lab can prepare as many as 256 very small samples on a microplate and the reader can determine the fluorescence of all of the samples in the same, or less time than measuring one large sample by the previous method.

“This allows us to carry out much more extensive measurements,” Bolton explains. “In addition, many plates can be prepared at the same time. Since the students can now acquire much larger data sets they can also use more sophisticated statistical methods to analyze their data.”

The Kresge Foundation of Troy, Mich. is one of the foremost supporters of independent higher education and nonprofit organizations. The foundation works to address society’s pressing issues in six fields of interest including health, the environment, arts and culture, education, human services and community development.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

2nd Generation Student-Athlete Greg Hurd ’10 Favors Wesleyan for Academics, Wrestling Program

Posted 01/15/08
Q: With your father and uncle both outstanding former Wesleyan wrestlers, was it a foregone conclusion that you’d become a wrestler? A: It’s hard to say, I had known growing up that my father and three out of my four uncles had wrestled; however, I never felt at one time that I was being pressured to follow suit. We joke in my family that my father always gets his way without ever saying anything. I vaguely remember him urging me to look into it, but I know the decision to start wrestling was ultimately mine. In terms of wrestling for Wesleyan, I hadn’t thought about wrestling in college or attending Wesleyan really at all until the spring of my junior year in high school. My parents never said anything about the idea that I was “following in my fathers footsteps.” It was mostly an interesting situation that dawned on me after I had already started the process myself.

Q: How did Wesleyan get onto your list of possible colleges?

A: Before applying to college my father and I spent my spring break of my junior year visiting a bunch of different schools on the east coast. My dad never pushed for Wesleyan, he was always very objective in discussing other schools and other choices I could make in terms of where I was applying and how I was planning to go about it. Of course, he was sure to remind me that Wesleyan was one of the few schools that could offer me the opportunity to wrestle at the Division III level and still offer me a great education.

Q: How instrumental was Head Wrestling Coach Drew Black in making your choice to attend Wesleyan? How would you describe him as a coach?

A: Coach Black played a very significant role in my decision to apply to Wesleyan. His enthusiasm for his team and the entire recruiting process made me feel very excited about the possibility of wrestling at Wesleyan. I had also heard a great deal of positive feedback about Coach Black from former coaches of mine who knew him. I really admire Coach Black for the enthusiasm he brings to the room everyday. Each practice is well organized, very diverse, and very focused. To design a practice plan in such a systematic way is a testament to how hard he works for the program. Seeing that hard work coming from his end makes me want to work harder for him.

Q: When did you first take to the mats for any kind of wrestling activity? What about it appealed to you?

A: I wrestled my first official match in seventh grade. I had wrestled a little bit in elementary school, but none of that was really substantial. I felt wrestling really catered to my sense of pride and determination. I love when something challenges me, and I love when I am pushed to perform better than my competition. I feel that at all times when I’m wrestling.

Q: What other sports captured your fancy as you were growing up?

A: I started playing lacrosse during summer camps when I was 10-years-old.
When I entered Junior High, I was primarily interested in playing lacrosse and looked to wrestling as a way of staying in shape during the winter. After wrestling practice, I would often go home and drill my lacrosse skills on a wall in my basement. In the process, wrestling became my passion and lacrosse fell by the wayside.

Q: To this point in your career, what would you say is the high point from a wrestling standpoint?

A: Winning the Roger Williams Tournament this year. After not finishing last year, I wanted to make a big statement coming into the season this year. I beat two nationally ranked wrestlers that day, including one that had beaten me three times last year.

Q: Do you have your sites set on any specific goals in wrestling before you graduate?

A: My individual goals include becoming a New England Champion and ultimately becoming an All American. I also would like to lead the Wesleyan Wrestling team to a top 3 finish at the New England Championships. I’ve found that I succeed when my teammates are succeeding as well.

Q: Might we see more Hurds coming to Wesleyan?

A: I have one sister, Allison, who is currently enrolled in Wesleyan as well.
I don’t think she has wrestling on her mind, but she is an exceptional dancer. She impresses me every single time I watch her perform.

Q: What do you plan to major in at Wesleyan and if you had to project where you might be five years from now, what would you say?

A: I plan on declaring an earth and environmental science major. It’s hard to say where I see myself in five years. I feel very passionate about many things, so it’s hard to say that I can envision one clear career path ahead of me.

Q: Give us a small bit of your philosophy on life.

I’ve never been afraid to challenge myself. I’ve always sought out experiences that could potentially improve me as a person. I truly value the people in my life and the opportunities I have been given. That said, my family has always supported me and guided me in pursuing my passions. I have come to realize however, that my ambitions are only one aspect of my personality. I try to stay as vigilant as possible about keeping everything in perspective. The relationships I have formed with my friends and family are just as important to me as the activities I participate in.

Q: What other hobbies or activities keep you busy?

A: I love to sing and play music. I can play the piano, guitar, bass and cello. I still play the guitar often, but I don’t have much time to practice the others while I’m at school. Having a creative outlet is very important to me. It helps me to relax and distance myself from the everyday grind. Music also brings me a lot of joy because it can be shared with others. My mother pushed me to pursue music just as intently as any other hobby, I suppose she foresaw how important it would be in the future.

By Brian Katten, sports information director

Facility, Events Manager Frank Marsilli Adapts to Changes in New Usdan University Center

Q: Frank, you came to Wesleyan in 1996 as a campus center coordinator. What did this position entail?

A: Oh my, how time flies when you are working with and being challenged by Wesleyan students! I was hired for one year as the interim coordinator of the former Davenport Campus Center. Then I was appointed full time coordinator the following year. I was a one person office, responsible for the facility and its operations. Basically, I was charged with keeping the building safe, clean, and hopefully attractive as a gathering place for students. For the last five years, I also was the supervisor for the Campus Center Activities Board. This was a group of four students who created, promoted, planned, and then managed a variety of late night programs and events to draw students into the Campus Center.

Q: How did the transition go from the Davenport Campus Center to the new Suzanne Lemberg Usdan University Center? How has your job changed?

A: The transition from Davenport to Usdan is still very much a work in progress. I am no longer “a one man band”; but part of a symphony of 10 great professionals who strive to make Usdan run smoothly. It has been a wonderful and welcome change to work so closely with these other professionals who share the goal of achieving the maximum potential for the new buildings. We also manage the remodeled Fayerweather facility. Besides being part of our 10 person “U-Team,” the scope of my facilities and operations responsibilities has grown exponentially. We have gone from three spaces available for reservation in Davenport, to 13 in Usdan/Fayerweather. This drastic change in the scale of my responsibilities, and in the sheer growth of usable square footage, meant the creation of new student staffing patterns, policies, processes and procedures. Even after one semester, we are still tweaking many of these areas as we change and grow with the new buildings.

Q: What are a few examples of activities you help coordinate in the campus center?

A: I coordinate the Usdan Center’s Student Information Center Desk staff. If you did not know already, those are the folks who answer the phone when the Wesleyan voice recognition system falters. These students do a great job handling some difficult calls. I also work closely with the Student Managers and Student Set Up Crew to ensure that all meetings and functions run smoothly in both buildings. I also coordinate the information tables, banners, flyers, lost and found, outside vendor program, student payroll and the discount Broadway ticket program in Usdan.

Q: How does students’ input influence university center activities?

A: All of the professionals on the “U-team” value the input of our student staff that has already made important contributions to many aspects of our policies and procedures. I am also working with students who request tables or banner space in Usdan, or any student who has a meeting or program in the buildings when I am working. So my student contact is limitless, and one of the main reasons why I have been here for so long. Wesleyan students are amazing individuals with whom to work.

Q: What is your relationship with the vendors that sell their wares outside the university center? What does Wesleyan charge for them to set-up, and how is money raised from them spent?

A: Some of the vendors have been visiting campus for over 20 years. They are charged a flat fee of $50 per day. This revenue is deposited into a Usdan account that is used to help defray the staffing and operational costs of the buildings.

Q: When is the university center open?

A: Our normal business hours during classes are 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Q: Where did you attend college and what did you major in?

A: I graduated from Holy Cross College with a double major in French and psychology. I earned a Connecticut Teacher Certification and a Masters in Higher Education Administration from the University of Connecticut. Somewhere in between all that bookwork, I received my J.D. Cum Laude from Western New England College School of Law. I practiced for a year and a half. That was enough for me. Then I returned full circle to my first passion, education.

Q: Prior to Wesleyan, what were you doing, and what led you to Wesleyan?

A: “I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a poet, a pirate, a pawn, and a king.” My apologies to Mr. Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life,” but I have traveled down a few different paths with my own. My first position was as a high school French and English teacher, and I also coached varsity tennis. I was a copywriter for an ad agency for a short time, managed a video store, coordinated cultural exchange programs for Connecticut high school students and practiced law. When I finally realized that I always loved being a student and the learning environment, I returned to where I first began my professional odyssey: education. Except now at Wesleyan, I am not lecturing behind a desk, but teaching every moment I can as I interact with the Usdan student staff and the Wesleyan students whom I meet and assist daily.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests?

A: I have had a true passion for long distance running since my first year in high school. I only run three times a week now, and certainly not as long as I did back then. I tell everyone that I do not play golf, golf plays me. Next spring will mark the 10th start of the golf season for which I have emphatically declared each time: “This will be my break through year.” I am a fanatic, well beyond just “fan,” of the Green Bay Packers who are having a dream season, and my office at Usdan 126A is proof of that. I also enjoy reading and the cinema. I am a mediocre cook, but do love to eat. I am just beginning to appreciate the world of red wines, of course solely for the health benefits!

Q: Where do you live and do you have family?

A: I live just over the Arrigoni Bridge in the sleepy little hamlet of Portland. I have been sharing life with my spousal equivalent/partner Jean for 17 years. We have a wonderful 6.5 pound Yorkshire terrier named Abbey. She is 12 years old, spoiled rotten and she owns us.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan to Create Athletics Hall of Fame

Brian Katten ’79, sports information director, stands in the Warren Street Lobby, home to Wesleyan’s future Athletics Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame will honor top athletes, coaches, trainers, teams and athletic contributors throughout Wesleyan’s 144-year athletic history.
Posted 01/15/08
In 1864, Wesleyan began its rich history participating in intercollegiate sports.

Wesleyan scholar-athletes have won Olympic medals, NCAA championships, regional titles and participated on teams that won New England titles. And many Wesleyan coaches and alumni have been major contributors on professional teams, in athletic associations, in promoting a sport, or as innovators in the evolution of a sport.

To celebrate and honor Wesleyan’s 144-year athletic history, the Department of Athletics is establishing an Athletics Hall of Fame to recognize members of the Wesleyan community for outstanding achievement as an athlete, coach or for service to sports.

“It is important for a university with Wesleyan’s stature to celebrate its past,” explains John Biddiscombe, director of athletics and chair of the Physical Education Department. “The athletic hall of fame will provide a link for our current students, faculty and staff to Wesleyan’s rich athletic history. By knowing our past we better understand the foundations that were laid to support today’s programs.”

The Wesleyan Athletics Hall of Fame will recognize members of the Wesleyan community for outstanding achievement as an athlete, coach, or for service to sports. Members of the Wesleyan community include, but are not limited to, alumni, coaches, and trainers.

Approximately four individuals will be inducted annually. However, in the first two years this number will be doubled. The recipients will receive a commemorative plaque and their names will also be displayed prominently in the Freeman Athletic Center Warren Street Lobby.

The inaugural Hall of Fame class will be inducted during Reunion & Commencement Weekend 2008.

“What Wesleyan is undertaking is relatively unprecedented among our NESCAC peers,” says sports information director Brian Katten ’79. “Only two of the 11 NESCAC members currently sponsor a Hall of Fame. As someone who has witnessed a lot of Wesleyan sports history as a student, alumnus and veteran sports information director, I appreciate what our athletes, coaches and teams have accomplished. A Hall of Fame is one more way of providing a permanent place for these outstanding achievements to be highlighted.”

The Department of Athletics and Office of Alumni and Parent Relations are seeking nominations for the Hall of Fame. At this time we are not accepting self-nominations or nominations for club sports.

A qualified candidate must be a degree holder from Wesleyan University or a member of the Wesleyan community. Candidates must be at least 10 years post-graduation or, in the cases of non-Wesleyan bachelor degree holders, candidates must have been a member of the Wesleyan community for at least five years. Teams with major accomplishment will also be selected annually.

Nomination categories include: Athlete – candidates nominated in this category must have displayed extraordinary ability while participating in athletics; Coach – candidates nominated in this category must have made outstanding contributions to the field of athletics through coaching and/or with professional coaching organizations; Contributor – outstanding contributor to athletics/sport through clinics, writing, organizations, support of Wesleyan athletics, as an administrator, volunteer work, professional athletics or international sport organizations; and Team – outstanding record or accomplishments such as NCAA championship or finalist, ECAC champion, or undefeated season.

A nominee stays active for five years. If not inducted after the five years, candidates must wait three years before being nominated again. Individuals in any category may be deceased. However, if an individual becomes deceased at least two years must elapse before that individual may be considered.

The Athletics Hall of Fame Selection Committee will only accept nominations submitted using the official nomination form. Additional statements of support received via phone, letter, email or in person cannot be considered. The form is available online here.

Completed forms can be e-mailed to, or mailed to Kelly Roos, associate director of alumni and parent relations, at 330 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459. Nominations received after Feb.1, 2008 will not be considered for the first class, but will be considered for future classes for up to five years.

For assistance in gathering information on a nominee, contact Brian Katten at or 860-685-2887.

“It is our hope that by recognizing the accomplishments of Wesleyan athletes through an athletic hall of fame, we will help relight the love that athletic alumni have for the university,” Biddiscombe says.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor and Brian Katten, sports information director

Professor Emeritus Norman Rudich Dies at 85

Posted 01/15/08
Norman Rudich, professor of letters and of romance languages and literatures emeritus, died Dec. 20, 2007 at home in New York City. He was 85 years old.

Professor Rudich joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1952 and served with distinction until his retirement in 1991. He earned his Ph.D. in French from Princeton University and did graduate work at the Sorbonne. Rudich was an accomplished scholar who edited two notable books, Premiers Oeuvres (with J. Varloot) and Weapons of Criticism, and published numerous articles, essays and reviews.

Rudich was one of the founding members of Wesleyan’s College of Letters. His former colleague Paul Schwaber notes that “Norman was a master teacher, a brilliant dialectician, a committed Marxist, and an engaging and stimulating colleague.”

He is survived by his son Steven Rudich, his daughter Suzy Rudich, and four grandchildren. Memorial plans are pending. Donations in Professor Rudich’s memory may be made to The Lighthouse International.

Associate Dean Helps Students Succeed Through Wesleyan’s Multiple Academic Resources

Sarah Lazare, associate dean of Student Academic Resources, coordinates Wesleyan’s  Disabilities Services, the Student Academic Resource Network (SARN) and SARN Peer Advisors and the First Year Matters Program.
Posted 01/15/08
When a student encounters academic woes at Wesleyan, Sarah Lazare will find a pathway that may lead the student to success.

“There are so many academic resources available to our students,” says Lazare, associate dean of Student Academic Resources. “When students find themselves stumbling, all they have to do is ask. We will help them find a solution.”

Dean Lazare works with students from all areas of campus and all class years. She administers Disabilities Services, oversees the Student Academic Resource Network (SARN) and SARN Peer Advisors, and coordinates the First Year Matters Program.

As part of the Office for Diversity and Academic Achievement, Lazare oversees reasonable accommodations for almost 200 undergraduates with a diagnosed disability. “Disability” could mean something as simple as a problem sleeping, social anxiety or trouble with visually processing information, to chronic illnesses and diseases. What makes it a disability is if it substantially limits or impairs a major life activity.

“Sometimes I get to be a creative problem solver,” says Lazare. “Whether it is a student who has a reading disorder, or a student with arthritis or even a chronic illness that prevents a student from getting to class on a regular basis, I try to work with the student, professors, or residential life to come up with a reasonable accommodation.”

Lazare helps some students with reading disabilities gain access to their course readings through the use of Kurzweil 3000, a screen reading software that converts images to text and then speaks material to them. This allows students who have processing and executive function disorders or other visual reading disorders to hear the text while reading it.

She also educates students and their professors on how a disability might substantially limit a student’s learning. It is the responsibility of everyone involved to obtain the most appropriate access to education for a student, she explains.

“The students I work with, regardless of learning disabilities, are some of the most brilliant students on this campus,” she says.

She encourages anyone who has questions about disabilities or what a “reasonable accommodation” means, to ask.

In addition to helping students with disabilities, Lazare oversees the development of the Student Academic Resource Network (SARN), and trains 14 juniors and seniors to be SARN peer advisors. These advisors meet with first year or transfer students to offer advice on curricula, course registration and strategies on ways of studying and managing time. They also provide referrals related to academic support services. Some of these services include writing and math workshops, life sciences study groups, services for non-native speakers, the Quantitative Analysis Center for teaching and research needs, the Office of International Studies, the Career Resource Center, the Health Professionals Partnership Initiative, the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program and one-on-one tutoring.

Lazare also coordinates the First Year Matters program, which provides information and events on academic and community life at Wesleyan. The program introduces first-year students to a campus where community members interact daily with the complexities and responsibilities of living in an inclusive and multicultural world. It entails meetings, guest speakers, exhibitions, discussions and a frequent e-newsletter.

Lazare started working at Wesleyan in December 2006. She holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Smith College; a master’s degree in higher education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; and a law degree from CUNY School of Law.

At Smith College, Lazare served as the coordinator of Tutorial Services, interim coordinator of Disability Services, assistant director of the Peer Mentoring Program for Underrepresented Students in the Sciences and resident director of the Community Colleges Connections Summer Program. At CUNY School of Law, she served as the coordinator of Student Activities and Events.

As for practicing law, Lazare says “the best part of it” was the research and advising.

“I didn’t like courtroom trial work and I missed working with students,” she says. “I really love the opportunities my job here at Wesleyan provides. I love helping students attain their dreams.”

Lazare, a resident of Middletown, spends her free time with her two border collie mixes, Cole and Dudley Roy Gates Lazare. She also enjoys playing pool and singing.

“If you see me on campus with my dogs, please come and introduce yourself. We’d love to meet you,” she says.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Hindu Awareness Community “Athma” Teaches Spiritual Principles

Posted 01/15/08
For the past three years, College of Social Studies and French double major Anand Venkatachalam ’08 has studied South Asian culture, history, language and the Hindu religion. What was lacking, however, was the opportunity to practice Hinduism on campus.

“I found it very odd that a campus so greatly endowed with an interest in Asian art forms did not have even a student group that provided a community for Hindus on campus,” says Venkatachalam, a native of Chennai, India. “College is a time of ethic formation, and questioning norms and values. Hindu students, or students who were raised by practicing Hindu parents, go through this period of soul-searching.”

Venkatachalam, pictured at right, and his Hindu peers used to meet twice a month to pray, consolidate their thoughts and partake in Hindu rituals at the Connecticut Valley Hindu Temple Society in Middletown. But now, the Hindu students, and those curious to know more about the religious tradition, can partake in regular meetings through the newly-formed Hindu awareness community, Athma.

Athma means “soul or spirit,” and appeals to Hindu spiritual principles.

“Since Hinduism advocates for the realization of the Self through meditation, good works and service to others, the betterment of the spirit (Athma) becomes the main objective,” Venkatachalam explains. “The spirit also transcends caste, creed, religion, race, gender, and sexuality, which is analogous to our mission to provide a gathering for those interested in Hindu philosophy regardless of their background.”

Venkatachalam co-founded the organization with Kumar Sarkar ’09 and Meera Dave ’08, backed by support from the Chaplain’s Office, administration and faculty.

Already, Athma has 40 members, which includes students who identified themselves as Hindus, and students from other religious and ethnic backgrounds who are interested in Hinduism. Venkatachalam estimates that five or six self-identified Hindus join the undergraduate class every year at Wesleyan.

“Our society serves as catalyst amongst the Hindu community to rethink the value of our cultural practices and evaluate our values knowing what it means to be a Hindu in depth,” says Sarkar. “We will work with religious groups on campus to promote spirituality beyond the lines of religion and faith, to realize the ‘athma’ of all beings.”

Athma’s mission as a spiritual community is to recognize the common existence, diversity and plurality of Hinduism in its various rituals, practices, and forms of worship; acknowledge the unique nature of all religions in their pursuit towards truth and spiritual consciousness; identify the universal truth, called “Para Bramhan” and spiritual consciousness; and gain awareness of the historical, intellectual and spiritual heritage that has grown from the tenets of “Sanatana Dharma,” or a spiritual path or philosophy.

Athma is open to anyone from any religious background. During the meeting, or satsang, the students recite slokas, or prayerful verses, participate in Om chanting, and have monthly guest speakers and festivals. The discussions are aimed at understanding and realizing the universal love and devotion that underlies Hinduism and its culture in a less academic environment.

Venkatachalam says Wesleyan is more open to religious and spiritual communities than others he has encountered, although he still gets his fair share of questions.

“Western society looks for concrete answers to questions such as ‘why do you have so many gods?’ and ‘why do you deify cows and animals?’ The answers to which stem from multiple mythologies, traditions and practices. So no one answer is the same, but no one answer is completely wrong either,” he explains.

Discussion and debate topics include the study of the history of Hinduism and its evolution, the life and message of various Gurus, understanding the Hindu Pantheon, homosexuality and Hinduism, misconception of Hindu practices and religious institutions and Hindu spirituality.

The group already has support from the Chaplain’s Office and some faculty, however it is seeking additional sponsorship and donations from the Wesleyan community. Funds will be used for Athma events, speakers, campus-wide festivals, presentations and services to reeducate members and teach others.

Athma meetings, or satsang, are held from 5 to 7 p.m. every Friday in the Chaplain’s Lounge. For more information e-mail Anand Venkatachalam at

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

FROZEN IN TIME: A wintry mix created an icy glaze over Wesleyan’s campus Dec. 3 following the first winter storm of the season. Freezing rain slowed commuters and resulted in power outages throughout much of Connecticut.

A fall-bearing fruit glistens with Hall-Atwater Laboratory in the background.
Ice-covered, heavy branches hang low on College Row. Pictured in back is the Center for American Studies. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)

Former Graduate Student Led Study That Uncovers Eating Disorders in Young Men

Posted 12/07/07
Eating disorders are most often identified with young, white females, but a new study provides data showing that males and other ethnicities are not immune to developing eating disorders.

After examining ten years of data, a group of Wesleyan researchers led by a recent graduate student has found that male adolescents are at increased risk of developing eating disorder symptoms. The researchers also found that black female adolescents are the least likely to practice weight control behaviors.

The new study was published in the December 2007 issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders, the official journal of the Academy of Eating Disorders. Freeman Scholar and psychology graduate student Y. May Chao ’06, MA ’07, a native of Taiwan, led the study and conducted the research while she was a student at Wesleyan.

“Often eating disorder studies do not include males,” Chao says. “Close to no [eating disorder] studies include ethnic minority males. Adolescence is the age of onset for eating disorders. Other research has found that treatment during adolescence is more effective than treatment during adulthood.”

The study used data gathered from more than 60,000 subjects between 1995 and 2005.

The study’s other researchers included Ruth Striegel-Moore, professor and chair of psychology; Lisa Dierker, associate professor of psychology; Faith-Anne Dohm, associate professor of psychology and special education at Fairfield University; Francine Rosselli, former psychology visiting scholar at Wesleyan; Emily M. Pisetsky ’07; and Alexis May ’05. The study is unique and an important accomplishment in the field of eating disorder research because of the large sample size and inclusion of males and ethnic minorities.

The data for the study came from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) survey, which has been conducted every two years since 1991 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the prevalence of health-risk behaviors among teens. The YRBSS data came from nationally representative samples of high school students from 1995 to 2005.

Chao got the idea to use the YRBSS for her master’s thesis while she was in Dierker’s Applied Quantitative Methods in Survey Research class. Out of the existing data sets available to examine in that class, Chao chose to use the YRBSS. Then, Striegel-Moore encouraged her to do trend analysis on the data and consider ethnic differences.

The study pulled data from the YRBSS that was administered in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003 and 2005. During each one of these time points, more than 10,000 students were surveyed.

“The large sample size is nice. You can find specifically significant results,” Chao says.

The researchers found that, among males, white adolescents are the least likely to practice weight control and Hispanic adolescents are the most likely. These results were very interesting to the researchers. According to the study, the authors state “the higher prevalence of overweight among Hispanic male adolescents” may be the reason for the increase in weight control behaviors among that population.

“Previous literature has indicated that people who are more overweight will practice more weight control behaviors, especially the unhealthy weight control behaviors such purging, fasting or using diet products,” Chao says.

Not only are adolescents at risk for eating disorders, the disorders themselves can have serious health effects—leading to death in some sufferers. The National Eating Disorders Association website notes that researcher Patrick Sullivan examined data which indicates that “anorexia nervosa has the highest premature fatality rate of any mental illness.”

For the YRBSS, weight control behaviors included dieting done to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight; or eating less food, fewer calories, or foods low in fat to lose weight or to keep from gaining weight. Behaviors also included using diet products such as pills, engaging in purging behavior, exercising or engaging in vigorous exercise.

The prevalence of dieting and diet product use among all female adolescents increased in the years studied. In addition, the mean Body Mass Index (BMI) among female adolescents has also been increasing. Among female adolescents, black females are the least likely and white females are the most likely to practice weight control.

“This result is consistent with findings that black females have flexible concepts of beauty and emphasize making what you’ve got work for you and thus are more satisfied and comfortable with their bodies,” the study noted.

Overall, Chao says that although other literature on the subject has suggested that there are no ethnic differences in weight control behavior, it was surprising that, in her research, the ethnic differences were consistent over the 10 years studied.

By Corrina Balash Kerr, associate director of Media Relations