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The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

GRAND GRADUATION: Wesleyan University’s 176th Commencement ceremony on May 25 awarded 737 undergraduates bachelor’s degrees, 29 master of arts degrees in individual fields, 64 master of arts in liberal studies degrees and 12 Ph.Ds.

Commencement speaker U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) spoke spoke about challenges graduating students faced from the daily “busyness” of their own lives to the needs for clean renewable power, more teachers for disadvantaged children, to rebuilding New Orleans. To Senator Obama’s left is James van B. Dresser ’63, chair of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees; to the Senator Obama’s right is Michael Roth ’78, president of Wesleyan.
More than 15,000 guests attended the ceremonies to observe the ceremony.
President Roth congratulates Siying Chen for receiving a doctor of philosophy degree for molecular biology and biochemistry.
During his remarks, President Roth advised the new graduates to shape the culture in the future, so that it will not be shaped by forces of oppression and violence.
Members of the Class of 2008 applaud Senator Obama during his speech. (Photos by Bill Burkhart, Nicky Lacy, Ryan Lee and Steve Stemler).

Additional photos of the 2008 commencement are online at:

Three Faculty Awarded Tenure

Posted 06/25/08
The Wesleyan University Board of Trustees affirmed the promotion with tenure, effective July 1, 2008, of the following members of the faculty:

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, was appointed as an assistant professor of dance at Wesleyan in 2001. Prior, she was a visiting assistant professor and interim chair at Antioch College, an adjunct assistant professor at Hunter College and a graduate teaching fellow at Ohio State University. Kolcio was awarded a University Fellowship and was honored for Top Graduate Research in the Fine Arts at Ohio State University and has been the recipient of numerous grants including an artist-in-residence grant from the Kobzarska Sich Ukranian Bandura Music Summer Program. A presenter of many invited lectures, panels and performances, she has also conducted choreographic research at Wesleyan, the Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors La Casita Festival, Wittenberg College, and Duke University, in addition to other venues.

Kolcio’s scholarship is focused on social somatic theory, the role of somatic creative experience in practices of knowledge production, namely pedagogy, research methodology and technology.

Having earned certificates in both Ukrainian Studies and Ukrainian Dance, Kolcio then received an M.A. in political science at the University of Georgia, an M.A. in dance and a Ph.D. in cultural studies/somatics at the Ohio State University.

Edward Moran, associate professor of astronomy, joined the Wesleyan faculty in 2002 as an assistant professor of astronomy. Previously, he served as a Distinguished Visitor at the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, a Chandra Fellow in the Department of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, an IGPP Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and as an engineer in the Space Science Division of the Perkin-Elmer Corporation. Moran has received many Telescope Time Awards including 12 orbits (19 hours) on the Hubble Space Telescope, two nights on the Kitt Peak 4m telescope, and 29 nights on the MDM 1.3m telescope. A member of the American Astronomical Society, the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the AAS, and of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Moran has presented research talks at a number of institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia and Harvard Universities, the University of California (Berkeley and Santa Cruz), the University of Maryland and California Institute of Technology.

His area of specialization includes cosmic x-ray background radiation, obscured active galactic nuclei, black holes in the nuclei of dwarf galaxies, and the nature of power source in LINER galaxies.

Moran earned a B.S. in astronomy/physics at the Pennsylvania State University, an M.A. in astronomy and a Ph.D. in astronomy at Columbia University.

Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, associate professor of theater, has been an assistant professor of theater at Wesleyan since 2001 and affiliated with Wesleyan’s Latin American Studies Program since 2002. Among her most recent awards, Nascimento received a Consulate General of Brazil in New York Arts Grant for her professional staging of Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues’ short stories in that city. She is a recipient of research fellowships from Wesleyan University’s Center for the Humanities and Freie Universität Berlin, and a member of the American Society for Theater Research, the International Federation for Theater Research, the Latin American Studies Association, and the Brazilian Studies Association.

Her teaching, directing and scholarly research interests lie in intercultural and avant-garde performance, the intersection of ritual and performance, and in Brazilian theater.

Nascimento earned an Acting Conservatory Degree at Casa das Artes de Laranjeiras, a B.A. in acting at Universidade do Rio de Janeiro, an M.A. in theater arts from the University of Akron and a Ph.D. in theater and drama from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For information on all faculty who were awarded tenure this semester, go to:

Postal Clerk Helps Patrons Find Best Way to Mail Packages

Ilana Konerding, postal clerk, is retiring from Wesleyan after 28 years.
Posted 06/25/08
Q: Ilana, you’re retiring from Wesleyan June 30. How many years does your Wesleyan career span?

A: I started at Wesleyan in September 1984. I was an administrative assistant in the Psychology Department part-time for two years, and then I was an admin in the Dance Department part-time for 14 years. I came to Wesleyan Station eight years ago as a full-time postal clerk.

Q: Do you remember what stamps cost then?

A: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe 33 or 34 cents.

Q: What have been the biggest changes at Wes Station in the past eight years?

A: Things have become a lot more automated. We can assign all packages computer IDs now. Computers have speeded up several processes around here.

Q: What goes on during your day?

A: When I get in, I make sure there’s money in the cash register. I get the post meter machine and computers running. During the school year, the window opens at 9, and I work at the window until lunch time. The other postal clerk, Holly Nicolas, works at the window when I am at lunch and on breaks. We service the university community and public for mailing things out. When we don’t have customers, we sort mail and supervise any student workers. The window closes at 4:30.

A: What is the busiest time of the day?

Q: We get the most customers right around the lunch break. We don’t get too many in the morning.

Q: What will you miss the most about Wes Station?

A: I will miss working with Holly and the students who were always thankful when I was able to find them a cheaper or faster way to send something. I will miss my regular customers. I will miss meeting people. Everyone comes here. Even Michael Roth has come here a couple of times to buy stamps.

Q: What won’t you miss?

A: I won’t miss the students who come rushing up to the window five minutes before we close on Friday with a resume that needs to be mailed to Hong Kong and they don’t have enough money and the line is too long at the ATM.

Q: What are your thoughts on the new Wesleyan Station inside the Usdan Center?

A: I have really enjoyed working in the new space this year, not just because it is new, but I can look out and see daylight and people. When Wes Station was located in the basement of the old Davenport Campus Center, I felt like I was working in this little tiny cubicle behind a cage. It was extremely cold and uncomfortable there. Here, at Usdan, it is completely different. We’re also on two floors here, so there is a lot more space.

Q: Where did you go to college and when?

A: I went to Queens College in the 60s. That was during the anti-Vietnam era, you know. I wore a lot of hippie clothes and listened to that type of music and I protested against the war. I majored in sociology.

Q: What did you do before Wesleyan?

A: From 1972 to 1984, I was able to stay at home and raise my kids. But that’s the way it was back then. Most mothers did stay at home with their kids. You don’t see that too much nowadays. Now there’s even that nice preschool right here on campus. We sure didn’t have options like that back then.

Q: Your husband work here too?

A: Erhard Konerding is my husband. He is a documents librarian in Olin Library. He started at Wesleyan in 1972.

Q: Will he be retiring too?

A: No, he wants to work at least a few more years. His mother worked until she was 82. I tell him he can’t stop working earlier than his mother did.

Q: What are you looking forward to doing during your retirement?

A: I’m excited that I will be able to spend more time with my family. I have a son and granddaughter in California, and a daughter and granddaughter here in Connecticut. I hope when the grandchildren turn 5 or 6, I will be able to take them camping. I also love to garden, and I have lots of work I’d like to get done on my flower beds. It seems every day that was a beautiful day for gardening, I had to go into work. I’m also looking forward to spending more time at the Freeman Athletic Center in the pool doing water aerobics. Later on, I’d like to start volunteering at a humane society once a week. Erhard and I have a 14-year-old dog, and we don’t want to get another dog, so at least if I work at a humane society I can keep in contact with dogs. I’m not a cat person.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Physics Student Honored for Original Research

Gim Seng Ng ’08 was recently published in two internationally-recognized physics journals.
Posted 06/25/08
For his research efforts in mesoscopic physics, Gim Seng Ng ’08 was awarded the 2008 Vanderbilt Prize for Undergraduate Research in Physics and Astronomy.

Vanderbilt University, located in Nashville, Tenn., offers the annual prize to any undergraduate student in the U.S. doing original research in physics or astronomy.

Ng is part of Wesleyan’s Complex Quantum Dynamics and Mesoscopic Phenomena Group, led by Tsampikos Kottos, assistant professor of physics. The group’s objective is to develop models and theories to understand the interplay between quantum mechanics, interactions, and disorder which dictate the dynamics on the mesoscopic – or between microscopic and macroscopic – scale.

“There is an excitement right now in my group for Gim’s achievement, as it reflects and singles out on a national level the high level of education, and undergraduate research that we are conducting here at the Physics Department at Wesleyan,” Kottos says. “We are all very proud of Gim.”

Ng completed his honor thesis, “Signatures of Phase Transition in Wave Dynamics of Complex Systems” under the guidance of Kottos. His paper was already published in two internationally recognized journals, Physical Review Letters and Physical Review B, a journal devoted to condensed matter and materials physics.

Ng, a native of Penang, Malaysia, majored in physics and mathematics. At Wesleyan, he received the Freeman Asian Scholarship, the Bertman Prize, which is awarded to a physics senior who displays a creative approach to research; and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

As the prize recipient, Ng will receive a $1,000 cash award.

More information on Complex Quantum Dynamics and Mesoscopic Phenomena Group is online at

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photo by Bob Handelman Photography.

Bergman, Hollywood Classics Coming in July

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman star in Notorious. The film will be shown free on July 9 as part of the second annual Wesleyan Summer Film Series.
Posted 06/25/08
Ingrid Bergman and four legendary leading men are coming to campus thanks to the Center for Film Studies and the City of Middletown.

“Ingrid Bergman and her Hollywood Leading Men” is the title of the second annual Wesleyan Summer Film Series. The free event will be held at Center for Film Studies’ Goldsmith Family Cinema and feature four films starring Bergman that will be screened on successive Wednesday nights in July at 8 p.m. Each film will include an introduction and question and answer session by a faculty and guest presenter.

The series begins on Wednesday, July 9, with the Alfred Hitchcock classic Notorious, co-starring Cary Grant. Casablanca, which features Bergman with Humphrey Bogart, screens on July 16. On July 23, Charles Boyer shares the screen with Bergman in Gaslight. The series concludes with Bing Crosby co-starring in The Bells of Saint Mary’s.

A gala reception is planned at the end of the film on July 9, and a basic reception will be offered for the other programs.

The film series is in part sponsored by a special initiative grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. As part of this project, Wesleyan is partnering with the City of Middletown, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business District to present the CineFare Middletown program. The idea is to encourage film-goers to visit local Middletown restaurants prior to the films. Restaurants participating will have CineFare posters in their windows. The Middletown Transit Authority (MTA) has also been contracted to provide shuttle services from the downtown area to Wesleyan on the evenings of the film series.

By David Pesci, director of media relations

Help Desk Manager Supports Student, Faculty, Staff Computing Needs

John Hammond, Help Desk manager in Information Technology Services, says techniques for solving computing issues are always changing with advances in technology.
Posted 06/04/08
Q: John, what is the ITS Help Desk and whom does it support?

A: The Helpdesk has two groups, the Student Helpdesk and the Administrative Helpdesk. Together we support all Wesleyan students and administrative staff.

Q: Who staffs the desk, and when is it open?

A: The Student Helpdesk is staffed by student Helpdesk consultants who are available Monday-Thursday 10 a.m to 10 p.m; Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. We can be contacted by e-mail at, or by phone at 860-685-4000.

The Administrative Helpdesk is staffed by Benjiman Jackson and Harriett Epstein who are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. We can be contacted by e-mail,, or by phone at 860-685-4777.

Both groups are located in the Exley Science Center. Just follow the hallway to the right of the elevators and look for the signs.

Q: How many students work at the Student Help Desk? Are they predominately computer science majors?

A: There are approximately 20 students working for Helpdesk, from many different majors. Since it is the beginning of the new school year we are now accepting applications from students interested in joining the Helpdesk so I encourage anyone and everyone to apply. Just a download the application from our website at Once new students have been hired, training is provided from both student managers and ITS staff.

Q: What is the role of a department’s Desktop Support Specialist?

A: The Helpdesk encourages faculty to contact us if they have a computing issue and we will always do our best to resolve it. However, the Academic Desktop Support Specialists are specially trained to support the specialized software and hardware that faculty utilize. As a result, it is often necessary to refer the faculty to their DSS for support. Desktop Support Specialists therefore do no report to me, but to Karen Warren, director of user and technical services.

Q: What are typical account-related problems students and staff have, and how does the help desk go about resolving those problems?

A: The great thing about working for Helpdesk is that there is no such thing as a typical problem. You may think that all we do is run virus and spyware scans and reset passwords all day, but it is much more involved than that. Technology is constantly changing and our techniques for sol

Professor Develops Ecology-Based Classification System for Microbes

Fred Cohan, professor of biology, searches for microbe samples in Death Valley, Calif.
Posted 06/03/08
While exploring Death Valley’s parched landscape, Professor of Biology Fred Cohan collected samples of compacted clay from the dry grounds. He sought a bacterium that is closely related to the microbe Bacillus subtilis, previously isolated from neighboring, gravel-based terrains.

B. subtilis has similar genes and DNA as the bacteria Cohan discovered living in the clay soils, but Cohan argues that the clay-thriving microbe represents an ecologically-distinct “ecotype” of bacteria that has adapted to the low-nutrient habitat.

“We have identified and confirmed that Bacillus living in the clay soils is ecologically distinct from the bacteria living in the gravel soils,” Cohan explains. “Vegetation does not grow on the clay, so this makes us question how this newly discovered Bacillus has the ability to live with fewer food resources. Alternatively, this clay ecotype may have special adaptations for living in the unique chemical and physical conditions of the clay.”

Cohan, who has researched evolutionary genetics and biogeography of bacteria at Wesleyan for 22 years, will soon propose to scientifically classify the clay-thriving microbe as Bacillus subtilis, with an attached ecospecies name – borrowing a Native American word for “badlands.”

Cohan also discovered that bacteria living in hotter, south-facing desert slopes are ecologically distinct from the closely related bacteria living in cooler, north-facing slopes, although the soil is similar.

“We found that Bacillus ecotypes living on the south-facing slopes have greater growth rates at stressful high temperatures, and they produce greater amounts of particular kinds of fatty acids that are beneficial for heat tolerance in their cell membranes.” Cohan says. “These north- and south-facing populations are so closely related that they would likely escape the attention of bacterial systematists, yet we have shown that they are significantly different members of this bacterial community.”

He bases microbe classifications on similarity in lifestyle and habitat, whereas the scientific classifications norm is based on gene and metabolic similarities, without direct regard for ecology.

“Current methods in bacterial systematics fail to divide the bacterial domain into meaningful units of ecology and evolution,” Cohan says. “We are looking beyond the species and identifying groups of bacteria within a species by their ecotypes to understand what ecologically distinguishes the closest of relatives.”

In attempt to categorize other microbes by ecotypes, Cohan co-developed a software package called “ecotype simulation,” with aid from colleagues and students in the Department of Biology and Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. The program, which is accessible online for public use, models the evolutionary dynamics of bacteria and identifies ecotypes within a natural community.

Cohan and fellow researchers already used the computing method to identify 30 distinct Bacillus ecotypes in Israel desert-scapes. They presented their findings, and noted the ecotype simulation method in a paper titled “Identifying the fundamental units of bacterial diversity: A paradigm shift to incorporate ecology into bacterial systematics,” which was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Feb. 12. Cohan’s views on identifying bacterial ecotypes were featured in the May 23 issue of Science Magazine and the June 2008 issue of Scientific American.

Other Wesleyan faculty and students who contributed to the research and Ecotype Simulation software are Danny Krizanc, professor of computer science; undergraduates Andrew Burger ’09, Scott Cole ‘09, Andrew Warner ’08, and Jane Wiedenbeck ’10; biology masters students Nora Connor BA ‘07 and Elizabeth Perry BA ’06 MA ’07; Ph.D candidate Alex Koeppel; and Regensburg University exchange student Konstanze Schiessl.

“We introduced a sequence-based approach, which has already identified multiple ecotypes within traditional species,” says Krizanc says. “Ecotype simulation provides a long-needed natural foundation for microbial ecology and systematics.”

Classifying bacteria at the level of ecotypes will bring important advantages to all kinds of microbiologists, Cohan explains. An ecotype-based classification will allow microbiologists to work more efficiently by focusing on strains most likely to differ in physiology and genome content by choosing organisms from different ecotypes.

In preparation for future epidemics, epidemiologists could identify all of the long-standing ecotype diversity within each named pathogenic species; they could then anticipate and prepare for future epidemics by characterizing the disease-causing properties of each ecotype.

Biotechnologists may also take advantage of an ecotype-based systematics.”

“After discovering a strain with a valuable enzyme, biotechnologists could discover similar enzymes with somewhat different properties by searching for the same enzyme in closely related ecotypes,” Cohan says. “An ecotype-based systematics will allow microbial ecologists to quantify the ecological diversity within a community.”

Finally, a classification of ecotypes will allow scientists to identify and characterize the ecologically-unique populations of bacteria, a critical step forward in understanding the ecological interactions within natural microbial communities.

Now that Cohan has proposed a systematic way for identifying ecotypes, he recommends that all ecotypes be recognized and classified with a scientific name.

“We believe that the fullness of ecological diversity within the bacterial world will be taken most seriously when each ecotype is given its own name,” he says.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photo by Willie Cohan.

Kauanui Co-Founds Native American, Indigenous Studies Scholarly Organization

Posted 06/03/08
A Wesleyan faculty member with Hawaiian ancestry is a founding member of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA).

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of American studies, is one of six scholars to co-create the professional organization for faculty and researchers who work in American Indian, Native American, First Nations, and Aboriginal or Indigenous studies. The association was officially launched on April 11.

“It is clear that scholars in these linked fields are at critical mass, and that the intellectual work has matured in a way that makes the importance of our multi-faceted epistemological interventions undeniable,” Kauanui says. “It’s about time.”

According to the organization’s constitution, NAISA’s purpose is to “promote Native American and Indigenous studies through the encouragement of academic freedom, research, teaching, publication, the strengthening of relations among persons and institutions devoted to such studies, and the broadening of knowledge among the general public about Native American and Indigenous studies in all its diversity and complexity.”

The group was formed at an event titled “Native American and Indigenous Studies: Who Are We? Where Are We Going?” held April 10-12 at the University of Georgia. This event, which Kauanui co-organized, drew an audience of more than 450 scholars and graduate students from more than 165 institutions from 18 countries.

The first NAISA meeting is set for May 21-23, 2009 at the University of Minnesota. The new nominating committee will put together a ballot for the first official election for the NAISA council. Until then, the acting council –formerly the steering committee — will continue its work and leadership.

“Our goal is to gather a critical mass of scholars to help shape the new association and mold its agenda within the framework of a set of principles to guide its work,” Kauanui says. “As a result, our association will develop into one that is scholarly, interdisciplinary, is governed by individual members and is open to anyone who does work in Native American and Indigenous Studies.”

In addition, the association will hold annual meetings that rotate among institutional hosts or other locations.

Other founding members, which make up the organization’s acting council, are: Inés Hernández-Ávila (Nimipu), professor of Native American studies at the University of California at Davis; K. Tsianina Lomawaima (Creek), professor of American Indian studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson; Jace Weaver (Cherokee), director of the Institute for Native American Studies, professor of religion at the University of Georgia; Robert Warrior (Osage), professor of English at the University of Oklahoma; Jean O’Brien (White Earth Ojibwe), associate professor of history and chair of the Department of American Indian Studies.

More information about the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) and the 2009 meeting is online at

An article on NAISA was published May 9 in Indian Country Today, online at

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Award Sends Graduate Student to Japan for Lamprey Study

At right, Ann Campbell Burke, associate professor of biology, and biology graduate student Frank Tulenko, look over Tulenko’s research poster explaining how lamprey embryos develop. Tulenko is continuing this research at the RIKEN Institute in Kobe, Japan this summer.
Posted 06/03/08
In the past 350 million years of vertebrate evolution, the musculoskeletal system has morphed significantly across taxonomic groups. The first vertebrates, had no jaws or paired fins, and are represented today by the eel-like aquatic the lamprey that continues to thrive with its archaic cartilage jowls.

As a recipient of an East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes for U.S. Graduate Students (EAPSI) award, biology graduate student Frank Tulenko is spending his summer studying how these primitive vertebrates develop. His study began June 1 at the RIKEN Institute’s Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan.

“Frank’s research will give us better insight into how a vertebrate’s body is formed,” explains Tulenko’s advisor, Ann Campbell Burke, associate professor of biology. “By studying this basal vertebrate, we can enrich our understanding of mesodermal patterning in our ancestors.”

At the RIKEN Center, Tulenko is conducting research with Shigeru Kuratani, director of the Laboratory for Evolutionary Morphology. Kuratani, a colleague of Burke, is an expert on jawless fishes known as agnathostomes.

In collaboration with members of the Kuratani lab in Kobe, Tulenko will be part of research team tracking how cells move and develop in the lamprey’s early stages of life. The team will do this by injecting the embryos’ cells with vital dye. As the embryos develop into larvae, the researchers observe where certain cells move within the fish’s skeletal muscles. Tulenko will be focusing specifically on the lateral plate mesoderm – a cell population within the embryo that forms the skeleton, muscles, heart, spleen and other internal organs.

“Knowledge of the developmental morphologies of lampreys is critical to understanding how the vertebrate body plan has changed throughout time,” Tulenko says. “Since lamprey lack jaws and paired fins, the evolutionary position of lamprey makes it a key model system for gaining insight into the primitive characteristics of vertebrates.”

Burke says lamprey embryo research could ultimately contribute to human embryo studies.

“By studying the lamprey, we are learning how simple systems develop, and this could lead to understanding more about how birth defects occur in humans,” Burke says.

The East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes provide U.S. graduate students in science and engineering a first-hand research experience, an introduction to the science and science policy infrastructure of the respective location; and orientation to the society, culture and language. The primary goals of EAPSI are to introduce students to East Asia and Pacific science and engineering in the context of a research setting, and to help students initiate scientific relationships that will better enable future collaboration with foreign counterparts.

Tulenko applied for EAPSI in December 2007, and was notified of the award in February 2008.

“I was really excited to learn I was chosen, and have the opportunity to be immersed in non-western perspectives on science,” Tulenko says.

The institutes last approximately eight weeks from late June to August.

Tulenko departed three weeks early to arrive in time for the lamprey spawning season.

“Although the research and experiments happen in a laboratory environment, it’s important to be there when they are spawning so we can collect the embryos fresh from the lampreys,” Tulenko explains.

At the end of his program, Tulenko hopes to write about his findings and submit them to an anatomy- or evolution-based science journal for publishing. Burke says his data could potentially lead to grant funding for additional lamprey development research.
Tulenko, who holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biology from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, applied to Wesleyan in 2005 with an interest in Burke’s research on turtle development and the evolution of the vertebrate body plan.

Burke believes Tulenko may be the first Wesleyan student to receive the (EAPSI) award, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“This really is an honor for Frank to get this award,” Burke says. “It’s good for Frank, it’s good for Wesleyan and I hope this becomes the beginning of a long student-exchange and collaboration process between Wesleyan and the Kobe Institute.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Associate Dean, Instructor Helps International Students Adapt to Academic Culture

Alice Hadler is Wesleyan’s associate dean for International Student Affairs, adjunct instructor in English and coordinator of the Writing Program Language Services for Non-Native Speakers.
Posted 06/03/08
Q: Alice, you’re associate dean for International Student Affairs, adjunct instructor in English and the coordinator of the Writing Program Language Services for Non-Native Speakers. How do you manage these three roles?

A: There’s a huge amount of overlap among the three roles. The most time-absorbing and perhaps primary one is the teaching position. Teaching writing is very labor-intensive, but also extremely rewarding. Developing new writing courses is also great fun but a lot of work. Teaching writing, you get a unique insight into your students’ lives and the workings of their minds. I teach many international students, and the relationships we form in the classroom make a great basis for the kinds of advising required in my capacity as associate dean for international student affairs. Services for non-native speakers means both teaching courses and tutorials designed to include attention to their needs, and consulting with individual non-native speakers, the class deans, faculty, Behavioral Health, as needed, on questions involving language and cultural adjustments.

Q: When did you come to Wesleyan and what were you initially hired as?

A: I came to Wesleyan in 1995, with the first class of Freeman Asian Scholars. I was hired to teach writing with an eye to the needs of international students, which I took to mean a cross-cultural focus, and to look after the academic adjustment of international students. I’m now part of President Roth’s internationalization working group, and part of our charge has been to look into the feasibility of doubling the number of internationals again. This is an exciting prospect. It’s an expression of the kind of progressive attitude that first attracted me to Wesleyan. I have been passionate about international educational exchange and interchange, and languages/literatures/cultures, since I was 16 and an exchange student in Japan.

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

A: I grew up in Washington D.C., was an undergraduate at Mt. Holyoke, where I majored in German, and went to graduate school in linguistics at Columbia in New York City. I’ve lived and worked/studied in many places, including Japan, Switzerland, the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, the Samoan Islands, Hunan province in south central China and Beijing in the north, and traveled in many others.

Q: What is your role the Office of International Student Affairs (OISA)?

A: I’m an office of one, which is a little bit of a handful – but well supported by Dean Danny Teraguchi, administrative assistant Janice Watson, and coordinator of international student data Sandy Niemczyk. My main role in the office is to try to anticipate and then meet the needs of international students, taken collectively and individually. So this can mean many things – ranging from running International Student Orientation and organizing seminars on issues of interest, to taking a sick student to the doctor or visiting them in the hospital, to teaching individual tutorials in writing, to consulting with faculty on their concerns about individual students, to being available to students in my office or by email or phone to answer questions or provide a shoulder to cry on when things get overwhelming, to writing letters of recommendation for everything from summer internships to study abroad to medical school, to attending students’ performances, presentations, concerts. I’m always cognizant of the fact that our international students are making huge adjustments all the time, and their parents/families are very far away. I also work closely with Admissions on international student matters, including interviewing finalists for the Freeman Scholarship in Asia each spring.

Q: What are the Writing Program Language Services for Non-Native Speakers?

A: Besides my courses, that are not limited to non-native speakers but that attract many, and individual tutorials in writing, I work closely with Director of Writing Programs Anne Greene and the Ford Fellows in the Writing Workshop, who coordinate the writing mentors program. Many international students, including but not only non-native speakers, use the services of the workshop tutors, and have mentors, who are individually-assigned writing tutors. We do a workshop early in the year particularly for students who attended International Student Orientation, on expectations for academic honesty in the US and particularly at Wesleyan. The concept of plagiarism is quite culturally bound, and standards and practices for source citation are quite different from place to place. Students know that they can bring their questions to me, and I can sometimes advocate on their behalf with professors, if, for example, they can’t work as fast in English as their classmates in order to demonstrate what they know on, say, a biology exam. I work on a regular basis with international students doing the CSS program, especially during the extremely writing-intensive sophomore year.

Q: What are the toughest challenges non-native speakers have at Wesleyan and how do you help them overcome these challenges?

A: All international students, and especially those for whom English is their second (or third, or fourth!) language, are making huge adjustments – most of the time their English is so relatively good that we underestimate the magnitude of the challenges. I speak several languages more and less fluently but still can hardly imagine the way this bends the mind.

Reading tends to take a lot longer, and writing is more painstaking and time-consuming. Speaking up in class, as is expected in most Wesleyan classes, is often difficult – partly because by the time you’ve constructed what you want to say, the discussion has moved on. And in most of the world’s academic cultures, classes are strictly lecture, you’re not expected to challenge your professor’s ideas as we expect here, and you write to show what you know, more than how critically and originally you can think – this last can be a challenge for all international students, even those who have gone to school in English for years. Language may also be a social handicap – so that students may be shy with their hallmates and hesitant to join in, especially early in the first year when friendships are being forged. We hope to work with Res Life to facilitate openness to these differences on both sides, and awareness on the part of both international and American students.

Q: What is the Wesleyan World Wednesdays?

A: With the Office of International Studies, we started a series this year of presentations/discussions/screenings called Wesleyan World Wednesdays, with the express aim of bringing various groups of students and other campus entities together on topics of mutual interest, highlighting Wesleyan’s wonderfully extensive connections with the world.

Q: What do you like best about working at Wesleyan?

A: I like the fact that it’s never the same two days in a row – whether in the classroom or in the office. I love coming up with new ideas for courses, and just wish I had more time to read.

Q: What are your hobbies, interests, family, pets, plans for summer?

A: I have three grown “biological” children (the youngest just graduated from Mt. Holyoke) and many “adopted” ones – exchange students and Wes alums and you name it, who pass through our house all the time, sometimes to stay for a few days or a few months. My husband is about to retire after 24 years as the chief epidemiologist for Connecticut, to consult with the New York City Health Department and free himself up for more international work. I like to read, camp, hike, travel and ride my bicycle. This summer the whole family is going to the wedding of a family friend who happens to be a Wes alum, in a small Austrian village – and then biking the 340 kilometers along the Danube from Vienna to Budapest.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Memorable, Inspiring Speeches and 737 New Graduates at 2008 Commencement

Senator Barack Obama delivered the 176th commencement speech May 25.
Posted 06/03/08
When a pinch hitter comes into a game, it’s usually a crucial moment — hope balanced against uncertainty. At Wesleyan’s 176th Commencement May 25, the hope shone through, and by all accounts, the pinch hitter sent a grand slam far over the fences.

“I have the distinct honor today of pinch-hitting for one of my personal heroes and a hero to this country, Senator Edward Kennedy,” said U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.). “He called me up a few days ago and I said that I’d be happy to be his stand-in, even if there was no way that I could fill his shoes.”

Senator Obama then went on to give a speech talking about service inspiration that drew on his own experiences as well as the examples of Senator Kennedy and his brother, the late President John F. Kennedy.

As an estimated crowd of nearly 20,000 people listened, Senator Obama spoke about challenges graduating students faced from the daily “busyness” of their own lives to the needs for clean renewable power, more teachers for disadvantaged children, to rebuilding New Orleans.

“We need you,” Senator Obama said.

“At a time of war, we need you to work for peace. At a time of inequality, we need you to work for opportunity. At a time of so much cynicism and so much doubt, we need you to make us believe again. That’s your task, class of 2008.”

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth seemed to presage Senator Obama’s sentiments with his own remarks made moments before.

“Being in the company of students as gifted and energetic as Wesleyan’s class of 2008, gives me faith that we may well be able to reject the status quo, to build a politics and a culture of hope and community rather than of fear and divisiveness,” Roth said to the gathered graduates, who included 737 undergraduates awarded bachelor’s degrees, 29 students receiving master of arts degrees in individual fields, 64 master of arts in liberal studies degrees and 12 Ph.D. recipients.

Wesleyan also presented an Honorary Doctor of Laws to Senator Obama, an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to author Jamaica Kincaid, an Honorary Doctor of Laws to Morton Owen Schapiro, Williams College president, and an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts to photographer Philip Trager ’56.

Rashida Richardson, senior class president and student speaker, acknowledged the accomplishments that she and her peers made during their time at Wesleyan.

“Some [classmates] participated in the World Universities Debating Championship in Bangkok. Two were recipients of the Projects for Peace award, which are going to help build a bio-gas digester in Kenya. The student-run Long Lane farm was awarded Connecticut’s Higher Education Community Service Award. Two students have received prestigious Watson fellowships.”

Richardson also mentioned students who took trips to Mexico and Peru with Wesleyan Without Borders, and championed the student-run endowment initiative.

Senator Obama stayed through the entire ceremony, sitting by the stairs that the students ascended to receive their degrees, and shaking the hands of each recipient.

Senator Obama also left the crowd with a message from Senator Kennedy:

“To all those praying for my return to good health, I offer my heartfelt thanks. And to any who’d rather have a different result, I say, don’t get your hopes up just yet!” Click here to see video of Senator Obama’s complete speech.

Click here to see video of President Michael Roth’s complete speech.

Click here for additional Commencement materials.

By Media Relations staff. Photo by Nick Lacy.

13 Students, Alumni to Receive Scholarships Under Fulbright Program


Ian Renner ’08 will observe, assist and run theater activities for child laborers in Egypt as a 2008-09 Fulbright scholar.
Posted 06/03/08
In Egypt, about 300,000 children spend their days laboring six days a week to help support their families and shoulder significant responsibilities at home.

As a recent Fulbright scholar, Ian Renner ’08 will spend the 2008-09 academic year helping some of these children regain their childhood through theater. He is one of 13 Wesleyan students and recent graduates to receive scholarships under the auspices of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Administered by the Institute for International Education, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards full research grants to graduating seniors and young alumni after an extensive application process. Recipients receive a stipend to cover travel, housing and living expenses.

“The children I’ll be working with are denied an opportunity to attend school or socialize with other children, and this impairs their ability to develop into competent adults and further perpetuates poverty,” Renner says. “Childhood is a time during which children develop self-esteem, a voice, and a sense of a community that many will keep for the rest of their lives. Supporting children is supporting a society’s future.”

Renner accepted an internship with the Cairo, Egypt-based Townshouse Gallery, working with Mahmoud El Lozy, associate professor of drama at the American University in Cairo. Renner will observe, assist and run theater activities for area children, and study the performance work being done with child laborers at the Townhouse. Eventually, Renner hopes to become involved in leading theater activities with the working children.

“Since working children are often isolated, theater is a space where bonding and self-organization occurs through group work, leading to a sense of collective ownership over creative potential,” Renner explains. “Creating character in drama can potentially help children understand themselves better and visualize changing their position in society. And at a minimum, theater can provide a small but real window of time for laboring children to experience a childhood that they are otherwise denied.”

Renner has already worked with low-income children at Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown. He hopes the Oddfellows experience, along with his Fulbright, will help guide his future professional development. Renner foresees working for an organization that addresses the concerns of at-risk children on a global level.

Cedric Bien ’08 also received a Fulbright grant to study and research in China, but declined his Fulbright in favor of a Watson fellowship. Ameera Hamid ’08 was made a Fulbright alternate for study and research in Bangladesh, and may yet receive a grant.

Four students received French Government Teaching Assistantships, under the auspices of Fulbright. Emily Hauck ’08, Kai Johnson ’08, Emma Rosenberg ’08, and Sara Rowe ’08 will teach English in high schools in France during the 2008-09 academic year. The program is funded by the French government.

“Our students will be working with a master teacher and will represent American culture, leading conversation and activities with the French students,” says Wesleyan Fulbright organizer Krishna Winston. “They will help the French students realize that English is a spoken language, not just words in a textbook.”

Three other students were awarded, or selected as alternates, for English-teaching opportunities in foreign countries. Maya Bery ’08, will teach in Taiwan; Emily Malkin ’08 is an alternate to teach in Malaysia; and Hyun Hannah Nam ’08 is an alternate to teach in South Korea.

“My main goal is to begin learning Chinese, but on a more personal level, I hope to learn and grow from the challenges of moving to a country I’ve never visited before, where I don’t speak the language, and to hopefully learn to be an effective teacher as well,” Bery says. She has been assigned to an elementary and middle school in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Three alumnae also received Fulbrights. Marion Holaday ‘06 will study the rights of immigrants in South Africa; Rachel Lindsay ‘05 will study sustainable agriculture in Nicaragua, and Laura LeCorgne MA ’05 will complete a photographic-ethnographic study of musicians and musical- instrument makers in Egypt.

This year Winston worked with 27 students applying for Fulbrights and related grants, and of those 15 were recommended for grants. Only two of the 15 were rejected outright.

“This year, we had an extraordinary yield,” Winston says. “It’s the best year we’ve ever had.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor