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Students Help Humanity with Open Source Software

Posted 09/04/08
When a 7.9-magnitude earthquake shook China in May, more than 10,000 people died, and thousands remained trapped under rubble and debris. On the other side of the world, Wesleyan computer science students helped write the software used to coordinate volunteers for relief efforts.

The software is part of Sahana, an open-source information technology system that was built to aid in the recovery effort following the 2004 Asian tsunami. The students contributed as part of the Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software (HFOSS) project, a joint venture between the computer science departments of Wesleyan, Trinity College and Connecticut College, which aims to bring open source software that benefits humanity into the computer science curriculum.

“Open source software is just one example where we team up to create something for everyone,” says HFOSS team member Eli Fox-Epstein ’11 (pictured at right). “It’s a very creative, democratic process where everyone contributes what they can.”

The HFOSS venture teaches undergraduates that designing and building software is an exciting, creative and socially-beneficial activity, explains HFOSS steering committee member Danny Krizanc, professor of computer science.

“Most of the computer programs that students write while in college are just exercises that have been solved many times before by many people. These are necessary for training the mind but I think students get a real satisfaction out of working on something that potentially will have thousands of users that they will never meet,” Krizanc says. “One could achieve this goal by having students get involved in the Free and Open Source movement in general but it is our hope that some students will be attracted by the humanitarian aspect of the project.”

This summer, Fox-Epstein worked on the Credentialing Module for Sahana during the HFOSS Summer Institute, a 10-week internship program.

“A credentialing module is a way for disaster management officials to ensure that people are who they claim to be,” Fox-Epstein explains. “For example, if I show up at a disaster scene and claim to be a doctor, I could be a very valuable asset to the recovery effort. But I might be lying about being a doctor. So, before handing me the keys to the medicine cabinet and access to the morphine supply, I need to be credentialed. This is a process that involves giving evidence in the form of documents. This module takes care of that.”

Meanwhile, Juan Mendoza ’10 (pictured at left) and Qianqian Lin ’11 (pictured below), worked on an project called InSTEDD, helping to develop artificial intelligence algorithms for identifying disease outbreaks by processing news reports from around the world. Other interns developed software for Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford; created a touch screen tool kit for OpenMRS, an electronic medical record system for developing countries; and designed a scheduling system for the Darien, Conn. Emergency Medical Services volunteer supervisors.

Next fall, Norman Danner, assistant professor of computer science, will be teaching an open source-based course called Programming Methods (COMP 342). Students will not only learn the fundamental principles of software design, but discover ways computer scientists can contribute to their community. The course always is centered on developing a working software application that satisfies a real client’s needs; this fall all students in COMP 342 will make significant contributions to OpenMRS.

“We’re trying to destroy the ‘computer science is just programming’ myth by bringing in not only real-world problems, but real-world organizations who are trying to solve those problems,” Danner says. “Given how community-minded many of our students are, open-source solutions, which themselves are inherently community-based, are a terrific way to bring this into the curriculum. We want students to think of computer science as a field in which they can apply problem-solving skills to help make the world better, not just one in which they can get a job.”

The HFOSS project is funded by the Directorate for Computing & Information Science & Engineering of The National Science Foundation under its Pathways to Revitalized Undergraduate Computing Education program (CPATH). The focus of CPATH is to help revitalize interest in computing education.

“Through HFOSS, I’ve learned that computer science does not need to be separated from the basic human needs, since a good piece of free software can help save lives and resources,” Mendoza says.

The project was featured recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Psychology Faculty, Student Study Emerging Sign Language in Nicaragua

Anna Shusterman, left, and Lisa Drennan ’09 speak to a Deaf man by using Nicaraguan Sign Language. The language is only 30 years old.
Posted 09/04/08
In the United States, Deaf people have had the ability to communicate by using sign language since the early 1800s. But in Central America’s largest nation of Nicaragua, the Deaf community had no formalized language until 30 years ago.

This emerging language, known as Nicaraguan Sign Language, is the topic of a recent study by Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology, and psychology major Lisa Drennan ’09. The language was first created by local children to communicate with their friends and family and is rapidly changing.

“Nicaraguan Sign Language is certainly not a hodge-podge of different sign languages – it has its own structure, its own grammar, its own phonology, and its own words,” Shusterman says. “So it’s of great interest to researchers who are interested in the birth and evolution of language.”

Shusterman, whose broader research focuses on the development of language and thought, works with the Deaf community in Managua, Nicaragua to understand which cognitive capacities are spared despite limitations in language, and which cognitive capacities suffer when language is impaired. She invited Drennan to accompany her on a 10-day research trip in June.

The evolution of Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL or Idioma de Señas de Nicaragua) originated in the late 1970s when a government push in special education initiatives led to new educational centers that included Deaf children. Teachers instructed their pupils with simple finger spellings, but the children invented their own gestures to communicate to each other. This provides strong evidence that language acquisition is a “naturally emerging mental process,” Shusterman explains. With this natural ability, each new generation of children joins and contributes to the increasing complexity of the language.

“An interesting side effect of the rapid evolution of this language is that the younger users of NSL have more sophisticated language than the older people,” Shusterman says.

In Managua, Shusterman and Drennan studied the sign language differences between three age groups of Deaf people who attended, or are currently attending the schools for special education. Previous researchers had discovered an “inverted linguistic community,” where the older NSL signers use a less complex form of the language, while the younger people use the form with the most recent changes and adaptations. For this reason, Shusterman and Drennan focused on the significant language differences between people in their 20s and those in their 30s.

“The desire for humans to communicate with one another was so apparent, and especially with Deaf people, there really tends to be a great desire to communicate with as many people as possible, and in any way possible,” Drennan observed.

Shusterman and Drennan studied visual perspective-taking skills in young and older Deaf participants. Visual perspective taking is an important cognitive skill that is essential for signing. The study revealed that younger signers had a far better ability to visually imagine what something looks like from another viewpoint.

They also tested cognitive function by asking the signers to control, plan, and direct their thoughts—a collection of skills known as “executive function.” They asked their participants to play a simple game in which they have to say “day” if they see a picture of a moon and “night” if they see a sun, a task which requires them to suppress the automatic response of saying “day” for sun.

“This ability might be related, for example, to suppressing your own perspective in order to think about or talk about somebody else’s perspective,” Shusterman explains. Her broader goal is to sort out how these cognitive abilities relate to each other and to language.

Prior to the trip, Drennan already took three semesters of Spanish, four semesters of American Sign Language, and one semester of Shusterman’s advanced research in developmental psychology. But learning Nicaraguan sign language was a skill acquired on the job.

“Just by being immersed in Nicaraguan sign language, I was able to pick up a lot of important words that made it possible for me to have small conversations with Nicaraguan signers,” Drennan explains. “I am specifically fascinated with Nicaraguan Sign Language because it’s such a young language with an unusual community. And as a psychology major, I really enjoy studying how the uniqueness of the language affects certain aspects of the Nicaraguan signers’ development.”

The study was funded by a Mellon Career Development Grant and Wesleyan research funds. Shusterman, who conducted past studies in 2005 and 2007, plans to continue the research in upcoming years here at Wesleyan.

Shusterman is collaborating with Jennie Pyers, assistant professor of psychology at Wellesley College, and Ann Senghas, associate professor of psychology, at Barnard College.

She and Drennan are in the process of analyzing their data, and they plan to write a paper on their findings. Shusterman has already presented results of past studies at conferences.

“The language is still changing and there are still so many questions to answer, and I always have more questions I want to investigate, especially in the critical transition between the 30- and the 20-year-olds,” Shusterman says. “I also feel a responsibility and a connection to the community there. These are people whom I remember and who remember me from one visit to the next, and it is a uniquely wonderful community in which to study the scholarly questions that interest me.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photo contributed.

Scientists, Students Get to the Core of Block Island

Conor Veeneman ’09 and Joel LaBella, facilities manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, prepare to take a core sample of Block Island’s Great Salt Pond. Sediment samples may reveal that Block Island was not formed by the conjunction of two smaller islands more than 6,000 years ago, which is the current belief.
Posted 08/06/08
More than 2,500 years ago, Native Americans settled on an area of land located about 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. They named the area “little island” or “little god place.” Much later, in 1614, it was charted by Dutch navigator Adrian Block and became known by colonists as the name it retains today: Block Island.

Now a popular tourist destination, the island is full of geological mysteries. But a group of Wesleyan-affiliated researchers have spent the summer studying the geologic and environmental history of the island. They are particularly interested in the environmental impact of humans, tracing a time line from the early Native Americans inhabitants to colonial settlers to present day.

“Our long term goal is to investigate the history of the island back to the time of the last ice age – approximately 20,000 years ago – when the glaciers retreated from the island,” explains Johan Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science (pictured in orange at left). “When did large lakes form there? Which drained and when did the sea inundated the former land with the modern island as its remnant? What associated changes in land use – cutting of forest, beginning of agriculture, first with corn and cattle – led to extensive deforestation? There are many questions to be answered.”

The island research team includes Varekamp; his wife Ellen Thomas, who is a research professor of earth and environmental science at Wesleyan and a senior research scientist at the Center for the Study of Global Change at Yale University, as well as students from Wesleyan, Macalester College, Bryn Mawr College, Smith College, and The State University of New York at New Paltz. The study and student participation was made possible by a grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation

A majority of their fieldwork was conducted in various water basins on the island, most prominently the massive Great Salt Pond. In July, the group used 40-foot-long aluminum pipes to core – or extract – layers of sediment from three locations.

Nowadays, the Great Salt Pond is true to its name. It’s currently salty water, a close concoction of regular seawater. But during human’s colonization of the island, the pond went through bouts of being a fresh water basin.

“The initial core records suggest that most of the time the Great Salt Pond was indeed salty, so with this study, we hope to reconstruct these periods of fresh or brackish water versus the open periods with salt water,” Varekamp says. “The pond was totally closed off from the sea for some time; the story is that the Native Americans opened a connection with the sea, but that rapidly filled-in with sand. Once the colonials arrived around 1661, they opened it up again. If the spot is not dredged regularly, it will fill in with sand.”

The core samples also reveal eutrophication – or increase in chemical nutrients – in the pond’s ecosystem. By examining the sediment, Varekamp notices significant color changes to the marine soils. Sediments dating to early in the last century are gray to olive-gray, which shows a natural process in the pond. The sediment at top of the core samples, which are from more recent times, are solid black – indicating a dramatic, human-influenced change to the pond’s ecosystem during the last 100 years or so.

The three Wesleyan students, Sarah Gillig ‘09, Conor Veeneman ‘09 and Emma Kravet ’09, assisted with multiple aspects of the study such as collecting foraminifera data (saline versus fresh waters, enclosed basin versus open marine bay), mercury analyses, and selecting shells for radiocarbon dating. Gillig, a Hughes Fellow, analyzed foraminifera in attempts to examine the popular idea that Block Island was formed by the conjunction of two smaller islands more than 6,000 years ago.

“We have not found any evidence for that in our cores yet, but it will be another two months before we have our radiocarbon dates back from the lab with ages,” Varekamp says. “The problem is, our cores may not go back 6,000 years!”

The group received help from local residents, including Walter Filkins III ’70, who allowed the team to use his boat.

“Our research team was fun and motivated, but thanks to the locals, our time on the island was efficient, successful, and relatively painless,” says earth and environmental sciences major Veeneman. “The consistent and overwhelming support of the local islanders lending boats and supplies, providing helpful insight of the island culture and history was indispensable to our sample collection and overall research progress.”

Varekamp, who specializes in mercury studies, also cored the island’s water basins for any signs of pollution. Because Block Island is a remote environment, any mercury found on the island is deposited from the air and originated elsewhere. In a previous study, he found that there was about fifty percent less mercury pollution on the island than found in central and eastern Connecticut.

The researchers are currently finishing basic sample processing at Wesleyan. In late August, they will send their “samples of interest” to external labs to determine mercury levels, carbon/nitrogen ratios, radiocarbon dates and foraminifera species concentrations.

They will present their data and an island evolution model during the North Eastern Estuarine Research Society on Block Island in October.

Their research was featured in the Block Island Times July 14.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photos contributed by Joop Varekamp.

PIMMS Takes Teachers Back to School

Creating educational science projects, such as building a wood windmill (top) and using mirrors to teach math (right) were part of the Summer Energy Education Workshops, sponsored by Wesleyan’s Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science program. Connecticut teachers learned hands-on activities to use in their own classrooms.
Posted 08/06/08
At 8:30 a.m., Rusty Gray wrapped an ice cube in thermal insulated foam, packaging together peanuts, bubble wrap, newspaper and aluminum foil, and placed the ice in a cooler.

Six and a half hours later, Gray removed the insulating layers and learned her method was not an adequate way to prevent ice from thawing.

Gray, a fourth grade teacher at Mitchell Elementary School in Woodbury, Conn. was one of 130 elementary school teachers from around Connecticut participating in Summer Energy Education Workshops through Wesleyan’s Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science program (PIMMS). The “ice challenge” was just one science-and-energy-related experiment taught at the workshop.

“Our ice melted the third least amount, so we did ok, but the group that packaged their ice in sawdust did the best,” Gray explained. “And it makes sense that sawdust would work. Remember that before refrigeration was invented, ice was packed in an ice house with sawdust as an insulator.”

The workshops, which began July 18, are backed by eeSmarts, an energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy learning initiative. Supported by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and administered by the United Illuminating and Connecticut Light and Power companies, the vision of eeSmarts is to facilitate students’ understanding of the science, math and technology related to clean, renewable energy and electricity in order to create an energy-efficient ethic among all school-age students in Connecticut.

The sessions were taught by Bob Borello, associate director of science for PIMMS (pictured at left); Karen Calechman, eeSmarts program coordinator for PIMMS; and Barbara Austin, consultant and presenter for PIMMS. Mike Zebarth is director of PIMMS.

“Energy efficiency is high on everyone’s priority list,” Zebarth said. “These workshops are meant to be interactive, cross-disciplined and activity-based lessons that teachers can use to teach children about energy and conservation. EeSmarts gives PIMMS an opportunity to strengthen science education while helping the environment.”

Donna Liebman, a library media specialist at the Hooker Elementary School in Hartford (pictured below, right), enjoyed crafting a three-sided kaleidoscope and working with various mirror experiments during the advanced summer institute workshop July 16.

“I love PIMMS because they always offer such fun, educationally enriching topics correlated to standards useful for today’s educator,” Liebman said. “Here, we’re learning theories of science through a hands-on curriculum. We’re learning how relevant topics can be taught in a fun way so students can understand how to utilize concepts every day.”

During the two-day-long workshop, Liebman and her peers also experimented with shadows and sundials, calculating rock sizes, building a motor, building a windmill, a recycling challenge among other projects.

Harvey Pond, a fourth-grade teacher at Orchard Hills Elementary School in Milford, Conn. has 37 years of teaching experience; however, dozens of the experiments taught at the workshop were new to him.

“I teach energy and electronics, and I’ve always done the normal experiments like switches and light bulbs, but here I’ve gotten so many more ideas that will really excite the kids,” Pond said. “I’m planning on using all of them because they are all fun experiments, and they all make you think and question what it is you’re doing.”

Funding for the eeSmarts program is derived from the monthly “Combined Public Benefits Charge” on consumers’ electric bills.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan Rideboard Links Campus Commuters

Posted 08/06/08
Every day, Linda Hurteau commutes 100 miles to and from Wesleyan, where she works an assistant in Olin Library. With skyrocketing gas prices and the need for oil changes every five weeks, the Mystic, Conn. resident knew she needed to find a transportation alternative.

“With gas costing about $4.30 a gallon, it costs me roughly $260 a month or $3,100 a year to drive to work,” Hurteau says. “$3,100 could get me a week relaxing in the Caribbean each year instead of dodging bad drivers, accidents, and rocks along (Interstate) 95. I’ve already had to replace all four tires on my 2005 vehicle and I’ve gotten at least five cracks in my windshield in three years.”

Hurteau sought the new Wesleyan Rideboard, a website devoted to offering carpooling and public transportation suggestions for the Wesleyan community. Users can post rides offered or needed to or from Wesleyan.

The website has specific links to Connecticut, Maryland and the Washington DC area, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and a link to “other destinations” for those needing or offering rides outside of the Northeast. In addition, Wesleyan Rideboard features a link to local transportation options such as Middletown Transit, the Wesleyan New Haven Shuttle; Connecticut Transit U-Line and Chinatown busses; Amtrak, Metro-North, Shore Line East railroads; and taxi and limo information.

Hurteau posted an ad, and nearby Waterford, Conn. resident Karen Murphy, analyst programmer, replied. The Wesleyan colleagues are planning to begin a commuting partnership in fall.

“Bottom line is we all have choices and I’d rather drive two hours a day to live on the shore in Southeastern Connecticut,” Hurteau says. “I am fortunate to be able to afford the commute, but if I can share the cost and save some carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere I will.”

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, also is seeking a commuting partner on the Rideboard website. She drives to Wesleyan from Fairfield, Conn. – a 45-mile one-way campus commute.

“I signed up to carpool since I feel that any opportunity to use less fuel should be utilized and obviously carpooling helps accomplish that goal for people that can’t or don’t live in Middletown,” Taylor explains. “No one yet has taken me up on the offer, but I have talked to a few people about possible future arrangements.”

The idea for a Wesleyan Rideboard was initiated by the Student Activities and Leadership Development committee, now under the director, Timothy Shiner. Site developers included Nate Kaufman ‘08, Izaak Orlansky ‘08, Miranda Sinnott-Armstrong ‘11, Loic Thommeret ‘10, and David Markowitz ’11; Pat Leone, web administrator; Matt Elson, Unix system administrator; and Andrew Warner ‘08, junior programmer. Rideboard was launched March 1.

Wesleyan’s Sustainability Committee and the Office of Human Resources have since embraced Rideboard and are beginning a van-pooling cooperative with Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Easy Street van line. Easy Street travels to various cities in the state. Wesleyan employees had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Connecticut’s DOT Commuter Services July 16 to learn about commuting options. Human Resources plans on inviting the Easy Street back to campus in the fall – look for the announcement in the Wesleyan calendar.

In addition, you can learn more about it by visiting or contacting:
Kris Tower at the Rideshare Company at 800-972-3279 x 218 or

Wesleyan’s Rideboard only is accessible to Wesleyan employees and students via the Electronic Portfolio under “Tools & Links.”

“Having it in the portfolio gives you a chance to know a bit about the person you will be riding with and that’s a good thing,” says Steve Machuga, director of administrative systems.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

First Lady of Wesleyan Dies at 101

Posted 08/06/08
Katharina “Kay” Butterfield, wife of Wesleyan’s 11th President Victor Butterfield, died July 7 in Maine. She was 101 years old.

Victor and Kay Butterfield worked at Wesleyan from 1943 to 1967. Kay’s passing reminds the Wesleyan community of the profound and lasting contributions that her family has made to the university.

“I’ve often heard how students and alumni would burst into song when they encountered Mrs. Butterfield, a woman whose devotion to and affection for Wesleyan continues to inspire,” says Wesleyan President Michael Roth.

In 1982, Kay received the Baldwin Medal, the highest award of Wesleyan’s Alumni Association. In 1997, Wesleyan awarded her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano declared July 27 Kay Butterfield Day in the City of Middletown.

The following biographical notes were published in the Commencement program that year:
“A graduate of Cornell University, where she was women’s editor of the Cornell Daily Sun, she taught at the Deerfield Public School and the Riverdale Country Day School and was secretary to President Henry M. Wriston ’11 at Lawrence College. When Victor Butterfield came to Wesleyan as director of admissions in the fall of 1935, Mrs. Butterfield adopted the city as well as the campus. She was, within a year, president of the Middletown League of Women Voters—and remained an officer and member of the state and local League for more than 60 years. She was a member of the Middletown Board of Education for 13 years, and on the board of the YMCA for 25 years; in 1957, she was named “Woman of the Year” by the local chapter of B’nai B’rith, and she received the 1968 United Way Community Service Award. She was a founder and officer of the Connecticut Citizens for the Public Schools and a volunteer teacher of English as a Second Language.”

She volunteered for decades at the Wesleyan Blood Drive and more recently, Kay served as honorary chair of Wesleyan’s 175th Anniversary Committee.

The Butterfield family will hold a service for Kay in Middletown in the fall. Condolences may be sent to her children Daniel Butterfield and Margot Siekman in care of:

Ms. Margot Siekman
538 Bear Pond Road
Buckfield, ME 04220

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the Class of 1954 Butterfield Scholarship at Wesleyan. Donations may be made payable to Wesleyan University and sent in care of:

University Relations
Wesleyan University
318 High Street
Middletown, CT 06459

More information on Kay Butterfield’s life is online in a previous Wesleyan Connection article at

Students Learn about Financial Issues at Workshop

Wesleyan’s McNair, Hughes, Mellon Mays and graduate students attended an informational financial management workshop July 22. 
Posted 08/06/08
Twenty-two students had the opportunity to learn about the do’s and don’ts of personal finance during a financial management workshop July 22.

The Financial Management for College and Graduate Students Program, sponsored by Wesleyan’s Ronald E. McNair Program, featured guests from the Connecticut-based American Eagle Federal Credit Union. The credit union employees delivered presentations on budgeting, savings, auto financing, credit cards, banking practices and credit history.

“The workshop gave students an opportunity to better understand how to mange their personal finances as well as gain insight into how to correct some of the negative things that may be on their credit report,” explains Santos Cayetano, associate director of the McNair Program. “It also gave them knowledge on how to avoid negative credit and the proper usage of credit cards.”

The event was attended by students enrolled in Wesleyan’s McNair, Hughes, Mellon Mays, and Graduate Studies programs. Following the session, several students requested an in-depth session on credit cards and debt.

The McNair program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, serves students who are first generation college students from low-income families, or African-American, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, or Native American. The program assists students from these under-represented groups in preparing for, entering, and progressing successfully through post-graduate education.

“This was a successful event that brought together several summer programs to take advantage of resources and knowledge that benefits all,” Caytano says. “The students appeared to have gained a better understanding of managing their finances and the impact of negative credit.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photos by Richard Marinelli.

Green Street Art Center’s Associate Director Oversees Fundraising Campaign

Jessica Carso, associate director and director of development for the Green Street Arts Center, says funds raised each year provide programming and scholarships for the center’s students.
Posted 08/06/08
Q: Jessica, when did you begin your career at the Green Street Arts Center?

A: I have been at Green Street for two years. I started in August of 2006 as the first director of development and marketing for the center.

Q: You were recently promoted to the associate director and director of development. Please explain how your job has changed.

A: As director of development and marketing, I acted as the primary fundraiser for the organization. I also worked on Green Street’s marketing campaign and day to day marketing tasks. In my new role, I remain the primary fundraiser for Green Street. As associate director, I oversee the marketing department, as well as the front operations. I serve as supervisor for our administrative assistant, Rachel Roccoberton; our three fabulous front desk receptionists, Cookie Quinones, Rose Foundation and Sylvia Riveria; and our incredible technical coordinator and security guard Eggie Quinones. The role of associate director allows me to work more closely on strategic planning and organizational management for Green Street as well.

Q: Do you have any personal goals for your new role?

A: One of my most personal goals is to do what I can to ensure that any child or young adult who wants to participate in our programs can do so. I was lucky enough to grow up in a middle class family and my parents got me involved in whatever activities I was interested in. But, I never had an outlet like Green Street, a place to create, explore, learn and feel safe. Growing up, I found solace in the arts and I know how they can change a life and open up the world to someone who might otherwise feel lost. In my small way, as a fundraiser, I am driven by my own experiences in the arts to raise the money Green Street needs to be able to provide those kinds of experiences for children today.

Q: Who benefits from the programs?

A: Green Street’s evening and weekend program offerings are an incredible resource for adults, children and families. People can come to Green Street to take a salsa or sound recording class, they can enjoy a jazz or theatrical performance during our Limelight Series or engage in thoughtful discussion with Wesleyan faculty during a Sunday Salon Series event. It’s all right here. It still amazes me how much Green Street has to offer. I’m hoping to give salsa a try myself this fall.

Q: Why is fundraising so crucial for Green Street? How is the center primarily supported?

A: Like all non-profits, Green Street relies on the funds raised each year in order to keep running, to provide programming for our students and scholarship support for our neediest students. The contributions we receive from individuals, foundations, corporations, the city and state, and from our benefit events directly impacts our students. Much of the money raised goes directly to support the children in our After School Program. Ninety-Seven percent of the students who attend Green Street require financial support in order to participate in the program. Additional funds raised also allows Green Street to develop and grow the programming offered to the students in the After School Program. Green Street students are able to explore such classes as digital photography, sound recording, movement, break dancing, hip-hop, salsa and many, many more because generous donors help to make our programming possible.

Q: Are there any new programs this summer at GSAC that the public should be aware of?

A: Our summer season has come to a close, but we’re gearing up for our fall programming and its looks to be one of the most exciting to date. Green Street’s fall programming will be online ( by August 1. We hope that members of the Wesleyan community will join us for our new monthly photography meet-up, Flash Forward, and an open mic designed for prose works-in-progress, Writers Out Loud.

Q: Will the Salon Series continue?

A: Yes. Several faculty members have generously volunteered their time for our monthly Salon Series, hosted by David Beveridge, the University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, professor of chemistry. At 2 p.m. Sept. 14, the Salon’s topic will be “Election 2008: Race, Gender, Age and Media.” The discussion will include Melanye Price, assistant professor of government; Martha Gilmore, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences; and Ed Moran, associate professor of astronomy.

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

A: In college I wanted to study theater and started by going to the University of Connecticut. After a year, I wanted to get more involved in directing. And I desperately wanted to move to New York City. I transferred to Marymount Manhattan College and graduated with a bachelors of arts in theater with a concentration in directing. MMC was the best choice for me, it offered the liberal arts education I was looking for, but also allowed me to focus on my interests in theatre. While I was at MMC, they began offering arts administration courses, which I became involved in. I liked the classes I took and realized arts administration would be a way for me to work in the arts, knowing that my directing career probably wouldn’t pay the bills. My time at MMC laid the groundwork for most of my work now—from fundraising, non-profit management to leadership development.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say about your role at the GSAC?

A: I encourage everyone to come down to Green Street to check it out. There really is something for everyone. And I could use a salsa partner for the fall.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photo by Adam Kubota.