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University Relations Web Administrator Creates Sites that Clearly Communicate


Adrian Cooke, Web administrator for University Relations, is working on content for WesNet, the alumni Electronic Portfolio.
 
Posted 02/16/07
The first time Adrian Cooke built a Web site, he used it to share photographs with his family.

As University Relation’s new Web administrator, Cooke now builds Web sites used by thousands of Wesleyan alumni. He oversees all nodes under http://www.wesleyan.edu/alumni/, pages for the Wesleyan Fund, and works with other departments such as ITS and the Office of Public Affairs’ New Media Services on special event pages for Reunion & Commencement and Homecoming/Family Weekend. WesNet, a site designed to facilitate communication among alumni, is also monitored by Cooke.

Cooke’s on-going goal is to improve these online services from a user’s perspective. To help him with that endeavor, University Relations’ Career Resource Center recently conducted a study to see how alumni are using the Web at Wesleyan.

“Right now we are standing back and saying, ‘how could we make this better for our constituency?” Cooke says. “Where are we getting it right and where do we need to stop and listen?’ We know that we have our work cut out for us but we are running with the ball and we’re determined to get it right. From a project planning point of view, Wesleyan is swift and nimble. It is a great place to make things happen.”

Cooke, a native of Brisbane, Australia, came to the United States in 2002 to pursue an interest in sociology. Three years later, he graduated with a master’s degree from Yale University, where he researched indigenous Australian and Native American politics and cultural issues. During and after obtaining his degree, he worked for the Yale Sociology Department, designing the department’s homepage, http://www.yale.edu/sociology; the Center for Cultural Sociology’s site, http://research.yale.edu/ccs; the Sociology Graduate Student site, http://www.yale.edu/sgs, and co-designed a symposium page, http://www.yale.edu/iiss.

Cooke found ways to tie his interests in sociology and Web technologies together. He learned methods to present online content more clearly and systematically, and how to make sites more appealing to different kinds of visitors.

“It turned out that a background in social sciences was helpful in thinking about the way a user interacts with a Web site because as a student I was exposed to a lot of critical thinking about how to present information,” he says. “The social possibilities of the Web always grabbed my attention.”

He brought these interests to Wesleyan in September 2006, where he worked as an assistant for Allynn Wilkinson in Digitization Services. In November and December 2006, he also stood in as a desktop software trainer for Information Technology Services. Just two months ago, he transferred into U.R., reporting to Mark Bailey, director of Development Communications.

“Adrian brings new energy to University Relations,” Bailey says. “His generosity, skills, judgment, and irrepressible good humor are making a real difference in the pace and quality of our Web work. His influence is already manifest in a variety of ideas for alumni content on WesNet, the alumni Electronic Portfolio.”

Cooke says the biggest challenge of his job thus far is learning Wesleyan’s in-house systems. Although he’s very familiar with coding sites, Wesleyan has engineered ways to allow users with little or no knowledge of programming to build Web sites.

“Wesleyan has built a lot of its technology services from the ground up and they are amazingly flexible,” he says. “But although you might know how to build a Web page you can’t just waltz in here and start fiddling with code. Here we have a community of technologists and designers who have evolved their services over many years, adapting to the needs of departments. And that’s doing your job: making it easy for other people to do theirs.”

As the entire Alumni Web Portfolio is being reexamined, Cooke and his colleagues will include new Web tools in these alumni sites. For example, they may implement Webcasts of campus and club events to boost social networking among alumni. In conjunction with ITS they’re also reappraising WesNet’s user interface and evaluating the alumni e-mail service.

Cooke encourages alumni and the wider Wesleyan community to offer their input on alumni Web resources.

“The hardest thing in this job is knowing if you’re accurately responding to people’s needs, or if you’re hitting the mark,” Cooke says. “We are looking at everything with a magnifying glass, and we’ll be selecting features that really improve our offerings to alumni. We want people to say either, ‘Yes, that’s what we’ve been asking for,’ or ‘Wow, I never knew I needed that!’”

Cooke lives in New Haven with his wife, Elena, and a “cranky” ginger tabby named Harvey. He and Elena have worked on several Web sites together, including her personal portfolio site, http://www.convealer.com. Together, they are planning to create a portfolio community site for visual artists.

In addition to the Web, Cooke enjoys writing, photography and movies.

“I’m trying to find out who the Big Lebowski fans are around campus. I’ve discovered two so far,” he says, smiling.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Roundtable Meetings Promote Conversation, Sharing of Resources


Mike Sciola, standing, director of Wesleyan’s Career Resource Center, speaks during an Academic (Technology) Roundtable meeting Feb. 8.
Posted 02/16/07
Intellectual property issues, using visual images in the classroom and rock and roll memories are all upcoming topics for the Academic (Technology) Roundtable.

The weekly roundtable meetings aim to promote conversation, cooperation, and the sharing of information and resources among Wesleyan’s faculty and staff.

“This is an informal way for faculty, librarians and staff members to get together and talk about technologies, academic issues and student life,” explains Andy Szegedy-Maszak, director of the Center for Faculty Career Development, the Jane A. Seney professor of Greek and chair of the Classical Studies Department and roundtable moderator.

During the Feb. 8 meeting, some 40 guests came to hear a talk by Mike Sciola, director of Wesleyan’s Career Resource Center. After a presentation on learning styles of “The Millennials,” or the students born after 1988, more than a dozen participants chimed in with questions or stories pertaining to the topic of the day.

Like “The Millennials,” not all topics are entirely technology-focused. The Academic (Technology) Roundtable, which is abbreviated as A(T)R shifted gears about four years ago when Szegedy-Maszak and Michael Roy, director of Academic Computing Services and Digital Projects, took charge of coordinating the meetings.

Rather than discussing technology only, they began welcoming a wide variety of other subjects such as university services, grading practices, publishing in academic journals, and students’ mental health. Most presentations are by Wesleyan staff or faculty members, along with some outside speakers.

“That’s why we put the ‘T’ in parentheses now,” Szegedy-Maszak says. “Although we still include technological topics, our subjects are broader to appeal to faculty and staff with different interests.”

Future A(T)R topics vary. On Feb. 22, Don Moon, dean of the Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs and the John E. Andrus Professor of Government, will lead a discussion on public speaking, which has been identified by Wesleyan faculty as one of the academic “essential capabilities.” On March 1, James Neal, vice president for Information Services at Columbia University, will speak on intellectual property issues within higher education; March 5, David Green will speak on a National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education report on visual images in the classroom. Other upcoming topics and presenters can be found at: http://www.wesleyan.edu/atr.

Roy and Szegedy-Maszak encourage the Wesleyan community to suggest a topic of interest, nominate a presenter or volunteer to make a presentation via its Web site at http://www.wesleyan.edu/atr/suggestions.html.

“A(T)R is really the best-kept secret on campus,” says Barbara Jones, the Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian and regular meeting-attendee. “It’s a wonderful resource for our library staff, and it’s a great place to meet new colleagues.”

Sponsors of A(T)R include The Center for Faculty Career Development, Olin Library and Information Technology Services. Meetings take place at noon most Mondays and Thursdays in Olin Library’s Develin Room. Buffet lunch is served and any member of Wesleyan’s faculty and staff is welcome to attend.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Committee Lists Impacts of New Computer Cluster


Posted 02/16/07
Members of the Wesleyan Cluster Computing Committee have listed the impacts on research from the newly-installed computer cluster.

The Cluster Computing Committee members are Eric Aaron, assistant professor of computer science; David Beveridge, the University Professor of the Science and Mathematics; Tsampikos Kottos, assistant professor pf physics; George Petersson, professor of chemistry; and Francis Starr, assistant professor of physics.

The committee is supported by the Information Technology Services staff, who made commitments of space, personnel resources, and developed an upgrade program so that the facility does not become rapidly obsolete.

ITS staff involved include Henk Meij, applications technology specialist; Jolee West, academic computing manager; James Taft, assistant director of technology support services and Ganesan Ravishanker, associate vice president for Information Technology Services.

Among other abilities, the cluster will enable the following:

1. Faculty can produce new science in diverse research projects, including the structure and formation of galaxies, molecular dynamics of proteins, elucidating activity patterns in cortical circuits, DNAs and protein DNA recognition, methods developments and applications in molecular quantum mechanics, complex quantum dynamics and mesoscopic transport phenomena, computer simulations of the clustering of nanoparticles and studies of the assembly and properties of soft materials.

2. Distributed resources currently are maintained by individual faculty who aim to have enough computing resources to meet their peak needs. As a result, computational resources sit idle during non-peak usage periods. A shared facility would allow users to take advantage of computing time that would otherwise go wasted, meaning that the total aggregate computing resources needed not be as large as if they are distributed.

3. A central computing facility and internal computing workshops would provide an environment to bring together researchers from different areas of the sciences and foster collaborative activities. The current distributed model does not encourage collaboration.

4. A centralized cluster facilitates the present computational research and lowers the barrier to initiate new computational projects, permitting faculty and students quicker involvement with projects and the ability to more-easily explore new approaches to their research.

5. Removing the burden of maintaining computational facilities from faculty members will free them to focus on the effective use of resources to strengthen research and educational activities. Moreover, access to such facilities is vital to maintain the competitiveness with larger universities.

6. The cluster serves as a learning tool to develop student scientific computing proficiency both through existing courses and though assisting faculty with research. Such training is invaluable to prepare students for the expanding field of information technology.

7. Computational facilities quickly become obsolete with the furious pace of technological development. Often, individual faculty are not able to keep up with the pace of innovation lacking either the time needed to stay informed about the latest innovations or funds necessary to buy them (or both). Wesleyan’s ITS is committed to the maintenance and regular upgrading of facilities once they are in place. This is a truly major matching commitment and provides a longevity, continuity and stability to research computing that is currently missing in the current model of distributed resources.

8. Six faculty research groups involving postdoctoral research associates, graduate students and undergraduate students pursuing honors thesis research comprise the primary cadre of users of the cluster. Nine additional groups are expected to be involved in significant but smaller scale computer-related research initiatives, as well as a number of inter-group collaborations and projects. In total, there will be roughly 50 regular users of this facility. A centralized cluster computer introduces a new era to the quality and inclusiveness of computationally intensive research at Wesleyan, affecting both faculty programs and the undergraduate and graduate students involve in those programs. Overall, this revision in Wesleyan’s institutional strategy towards information technology fits naturally within the university’s mission of achieving excellence in undergraduate education via the effective integration of teaching and scholarship.

Biophysics Journal Club Encourages Active Learning, Student Teaching


Andrew Moreno, a graduate student in chemistry, teaches a lesson on probability to his peers during a Molecular Biophysics Journal Club class Feb. 7.
Posted 02/16/07
Alicia Every, a graduate student in chemistry, went to class last week not only to learn, but to teach.

She and the other 20 students taking the course, Molecular Biophysics Journal Club II, are expected to prepare a lesson on relevant course material and present a micro-lecture to their peers.

For 20 minutes she spoke, jotting equations on the chalkboard while explaining that heat is in random motion. She drew a gas molecule inside a box, and talked about its behavior at the molecular level, relating it to macroscopic systems such as in proteins and nucleic acids.

“What makes Journal Club different from a typical lecture is that we have some degree of freedom in our discussions,” Every says. “This allows us to not only focus on one particular topic, but to digress to other related topics that the class might feel necessary to cover in more detail. In a way, this allows the students to have control over the lecture.”

The Biophysics Journal Club is open to graduate and undergraduate students, and may be taken repetitively. Enrollment is unlimited, although it’s geared most closely for majors from chemistry and molecular biology and biochemistry. The program will soon include a bioinformatics track in conjunction with the Center for Integrative Genomics and the Biology Department, and students from any Natural Sciences and Mathematics department are welcome.

Faculty participants in the Molecular Biophysics Program attend the class meetings and offer input when necessary; at least one faculty member is always present to lead the class.

“The idea of Journal Club is for students to learn about the cutting edge of science in this area outside of their own research project. This also provides students experience with discussion of diverse subject in the area, and to get some teaching experience by preparing short lectures and giving them to each other and the faculty,” explains one of the class instructor David Beveridge, the University Professor of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and co-coordinator with Ishiuta Mukerji of the program. “Club is not quite the right word but is the local parlance for this kind of thing – a skull session, workshop, brainstorming session. Faculty serve as a resource and offer appropriate feedback. We are aware that various degrees of experience and language capabilities are in the mix so we expect to keep the class atmosphere friendly and constructive for students.”

Molecular Biophysics Journal Club II is a non-exclusive companion to Molecular Biophysics Journal Club I, which is held Fall Semester 2006. Biophysics Journal Club I is not a precursor to Journal Club II; each course has a different focus. In Journal Club I students lead active discussions of a series of current research articles in the field of molecular biophysics and biophysical chemistry. They read articles from the Biophysical Journal, Biopolymers, Current Opinion in Structural Biology, Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics and the Annual Review of Molecular Biophysics and Biomolecular Structure.

Journal Club II focuses its attention on only one book. This semester it’s Biological Physics by Philip Nelson. This book, Beveridge explains, is highly regarded in the field and emphasizes understanding the principles and applications of biological molecules as molecular machines. Each student prepares their presentation based on one chapter, or part of a chapter, from the Nelson text.

“It will possibly take us two semesters to get through the whole book,” he says. “Students will find that preparing lectures is far more time consuming than they expected.”

The Journal Club is part of Wesleyan’s Biophysics Training Program, which is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, an arm of the National Institute of Health (NIH). As part of this grant, the NIH requires that participating students receive ethical and quantitative training on the nature of their interdisciplinary area.

During the class, Andrew Moreno, a graduate student in chemistry, provided a lesson on probability, to relate the distribution of molecules in their physical states to the likelihood of a molecule being in a specific state.

He took Journal Club I last semester to discuss current research that is outside his field of interest. In addition, he hopes improve his teaching ability.

“It is difficult to get in front of your peers and teach, but at the same time, it’s rewarding because they can give you insight on what was good about your lecture and what was bad,” he says.

While some of the students are less comfortable speaking in front of their classmates, it now comes naturally to Every, who has taken the Journal Club for 10 semesters, her entire graduate career.

“It is not difficult as long as you have some idea of your peers’ background knowledge,” she says. “I prefer Journal Club over a standard lecture course because it forces you to be an active learner. We usually spend 15-20 minutes in lecture and the rest is spent discussing or analyzing the topic. This requires you to learn the information as well as analyze and apply it to different systems.”

After graduating with a Ph.D., Every hopes to continue research in biophysics. She is considering a post-doctoral position. Moreno also plans to continue doing research and eventually wants to teach.

“I have not yet decided if I would like to be a professor, but either way, I think it is important that I have some experience teaching because it has trained me to clearly understand different topics as well as be able to put into words what I have learned,” Every says.

The Molecular Biophysics Journal Club is open to the campus community. Meetings are held 1:10 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays in the NSM Conference Room. For more information e-mail David Beveridge, Ishita Mukerji or Manju Hingorani.

Laure Dykas, a Ph.D candidate in chemistry said student guest lectures Andrew and Alicia did “an excellent job” teaching.

“I hope I can do as well,” Dykas says, smiling. “I give my presentation next week!”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Student’s Photography Accepted into Juried Show


This image by Ben Rowland ’08 will be on display at the Brooklyn Artists Gym Gallery.
Posted 02/16/07
During winter break, Ben Rowland ’08 traveled to Istanbul for a vacation with his cousins. A hobbyist photographer, he took several photographs. One of these has found a place in a New York gallery.

That image, titled, “The Man and the Mosque,” is now part of a group gallery show called: “Look See: Photographs on Reflection” at the Brooklyn Artists Gym (B.A.G) Gallery in Brooklyn. The opening is from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 24.

In “Man and the Mosque” Rowland captured a scene during a late-afternoon prayer time in the mosque. He wasn’t allowed to take photographs, but Rowland decided to capture the moment anyway.

“I put the camera on the floor and shot secretly,” he explains. “I took the shot on very long exposure – 20 seconds I think, and as a result, the lights inside appear as stars, and everything is in focus because of the enormous depth of field. Also because of the long exposure, the viewer can see through the subject, except for at his knees and feet, which were still as he prayed.”

This is Rowland’s first time exhibiting his work in a major art gallery or in a juried show. Applicants were allowed to submit up to three images; however the B.A.G. jurors were extremely selective.

Once in the show, photographers have the option of putting a price tag on their work. Rowland, pictured at right, has already sold prints to parents of Wesleyan students privately, and is hoping to push more sales form his newly-created Web site.

Rowland, who is pursuing a degree from the College of Social Studies, is the photography editor this semester for the Wesleyan Argus. He attends performing art, sports and general campus events, watching them all behind a lens. Several of his Wesleyan photos are posted on his Web site at http://www.benrowlandphotography.com.

He’s also photographed several bands and concerts, scenes from his travels in Istanbul, America, England, France and The Netherlands, and has done artistic portraits.
Incredibly, Rowland has only been a photographer for six months. He learned camera basics through months of constant practice and trial and error in Brooklyn where he lived over the summer.

The artistic ability to see interesting subjects behind the camera, however, comes natural for Rowland. He continues to experiment with different subjects.

“In the past few months I’ve been shooting, I’ve gone through many stages and I’ve watched and analyzed my progression,” he says. “I used to shoot only objects or things, and yet now I’ve moved almost exclusively to using photography as an anthropological tool. I love studying people in their environments.”

Rowland is still exploring what options to take after college, but he already has a few ideas in mind.

“I would enjoying doing work for The New York Times, while still pursuing personal artistic endeavors,” he says. “I would love to photograph a rock band or a war.”

The exhibit “Look See: Photographs on Reflection” will run from February 24 through March 4. BAG Gallery is located on the third floor of 168 7th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
For more information on the gallery visit www.brooklynartistsgym.com.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Swimmer is Two-Time All-American in 1650-yard Freestyle


Ben Byers ’07 wants to defend his title in the 1000 freestyle at NESCACs and also win the
1650.
Posted 02/01/07
Q: How did a young man from Seattle, Wash. become interested in attending Wesleyan University?

A: Both my parents grew up in New York, my dad in White Plains, my mom in
Brooklyn, so when I decided I wanted to come to the East Coast for college they suggested, among others, Wesleyan. Once I’d begun the application process I started talking to the swimming coach Mary Bolich and realized the program was a good fit for me.

Q: What did you think of the Wesleyan Natatorium the first time you saw it?

A: The pool is fantastic, I grew up swimming at the University of Washington pool, which is the home to a top 25 program nationally, and the Wesleyan Natatorium blows it away. It really is an amazing facility, and was a big part of why Wesleyan was one of my top choices.

Q: You accomplished something very few Wesleyan athletes have ever done – you set a team record in the 1000-yard freestyle during your very first event as a freshman. Were you surprised by that?

A: I was very surprised. What a lot of people don’t know is that I really wasn’t very good before I came to college. That swim was actually a best time for me by 15 seconds, which is a big drop under any circumstances, let alone in the first meet of the season.

Q: You have since set and broken numerous team records in distance freestyle races. You are a two-time All-American in the 1650-yard freestyle and a two-event NESCAC champion. To this point, what would you say was the highlight of your swimming career?

A: There are two moments in my career that really jump at out me when I think back. Both happened my sophomore year. The first was our tri-meet against Bowdoin and Colby. We were swimming at Bowdoin, and we were not doing very well. We were losing to Colby, a team we should have been beating, by a large margin with four individual events and one relay left to swim. Essentially the only way for us to win was to win every event left. We huddled up and tried to get everyone as fired up as possible. Jeff Stein won the 200-yard breaststroke, I won the 500 freestyle and Rob Mitchell finished 2nd, then Josh Tanz won the 100 butterfly. The final individual event was the 200 IM (individual medley), and Jeff Stein and I stepped up against one of Colby’s best swimmers. With the entire team behind our lanes screaming their lungs out we gave it our all. Going into the final 50 –the freestyle leg of the individual medley– I was a body length behind the Colby swimmer, but managed to make up the space and touch him out, and ended up going a best time, which to this day is still my fastest 200IM. Finally, our 200 Freestyle relay team won, giving us a win over Colby by 10 points, a slim margin in a dual meet. This was really special for me because it was a huge team effort, which is often something that is missing in swimming, which tends to be an individualistic sport.

Q: What is the other?

A: The other memory is the1000 freestyle at NESCAC championships later that same year, which were hosted at the Wesleyan Natatorium. Steve Spinelli of Williams and I swam pretty much dead even the entire time, but over the last 50 yards I managed to build a lead and win the race. This was my first NESCAC championships win, and to do it at Wesleyan in front of my friends and family was an amazing feeling.

Q: With the 2007 NESCAC Championships right around the corner and most likely a fourth trip to Nationals after that, what have you set your sights on?

A: I’d like to defend my title in the 1000-yard freestyle at NESCACs and also win the
1650-yard. Also, I’ve never really had a good meet at nationals, so this is my last chance to swim up to my potential. My goal is to be top three in the country in the mile, and make it back to the top 16 in the 500 and 200 free events at nationals.

Q: During your Wesleyan swimming career, the team took training trips to
San Diego and Puerto Rico. How would you describe those experiences?

A: These trips are really the widest range of pain and pleasure. Hanging out with the team in the sun is amazing, and brings us closer together than any other type of event could, but the training is intense and painful. On some days we’ll go 16,000 meters in the pool, over 10 miles of swimming, in four hours, along with a variety of dry land activities. Looking back I’m always glad I went, but while I’m there I can’t wait for it to be over.

Q: How would you characterize your head coach, Mary Bolich?

A: Mary is dedicated. She cares deeply about the team, both in and out of the pool. She has done a great job since she came to Wesleyan of drawing the potential out of swimmers, such as Josh Tanz ’06 or Mike Pepi ’08. I think it’s hard to try to compete with teams on a national level that can start training in September, and hard to recruit in a conference as deep as the NESCAC, but she has done a good job in building this team up to a level where it can be competitive. It will be interesting to see how the team is next year, since some unfortunate incidents have left us with some large holes, but the class that is coming in next year should do a really good job plugging those gaps and improving the team as a whole.

Q: What activities other than setting records and winning titles in the pool have kept you busy here at Wesleyan?

A: I’m a double major in economics and sociology, and I’m also trying to get the Certificate of International Relations. I play water polo in the fall for our several time Division III national champion club team, and I spend my spring recovering from swim season.

Q: You will be donning cap and gown this May. What plans do you have for the future?

A: I’m really not sure what I’m going to be doing immediately after college. Eventually I plan to return to school to get a joint JD/MBA degree, but as for what I’ll be doing for the next few years, I am open to suggestions.

Q: What else is there about Ben Byers we should know?

A: Along the same lines as my last answer, I need a job! If you know of anything, ideally with a large paycheck and minimal responsibilities I would love to hear from you.
 

By Brian Katten, sports information director. Photos by Katten and Mollie Parrish.

Daniel Stern Dies at Age of 79


Posted 02/01/07
Daniel Stern, former fellow in the Wesleyan Center for the Humanities, the Boynton Visiting Professor in Creative Writing in the College of Letters and a visiting professor in Letters and English, died on Jan. 24 at the age of 79. He was living in Houston, Texas.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Stern had taught in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, where he was a Cullen Distinguished Professor of English since 1992.

Wesleyan Professor of Letters Paul Schwaber has shared the following tribute to Professor Stern, which he wrote in 1991 when Stern was given the Cullen Professorship at the University of Houston:

“You already know of his extraordinary literary talent and productivity, that he broods on the moral catastrophes of the century and how they have been and may be rendered in art. He is a novelist, essayist, and dramatist of consistent and genuine accomplishment, and his commitment to the art and hard work of writing is inspirational. He is also a wonderful teacher–for he brings to bear in especially vital ways his loyalty to craft, his insider’s view of the literary world, his fascination with persons, his love of music, and his broad, lively experience in business. He talks easily with student and evokes from them a pitch of pleasure in words and a moral seriousness they may not have sensed in themselves. Very successful with lecture courses, seminars, and writing workshops, Dan is witty, kind, full of information, a superb anecdotalist, a splendid responsible, warm, and delightful colleague. He is also a fine listener. As you may imagine, I wish I could offer him a job here. Your students will be lucky indeed to be taught by him, to be inspired and encouraged by his presence.”

Stern grew up on New York City’s Lower East Side and began playing cello as a child. At 17 he skipped his high school graduation to go on the road behind jazzman Charlie Parker. He spent a year playing with the Indianapolis Symphony, during which time he began writing stories. Although he studied at various institutions, including Columbia University and the Juilliard School, he never earned a college degree.

In 1953 he published The Girl With the Glass Heart, the first of his nine novels. His most important novels include Who Shall Live, Who Shall Die? (1963), an early contribution to literature of the Holocaust, and After the War (1965), which focuses on postwar experimentation by young people trying to make up for lost time.

Stern held high-profile day jobs to support his writing habit. In 1963, he married Gloria Branfman and went to work in advertising, eventually becoming senior vice president of the McCann-Erickson agency. In 1969 he joined Warner Bros. as the studio’s vice president for advertising and publicity worldwide.

When Stern taught at Wesleyan he inaugurated the annual Philip Hallie lecture at the College of Letters. He worked at CBS before joining the University of Houston, where he succeeded Donald Barthelme in the prestigious Cullen professorship.

The late 1980s marked a watershed in Stern’s writing. He published Twice Told Tales, stories organized in a fresh, imaginative way. Stern took famous works like Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener or Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and wove their themes into a new context. A second volume of twice-told tales, Twice Upon a Time, came out in 1992.

Stern numbered among his friends literary heavyweights such as Elie Wiesel, Joseph Heller, Frank Kermode, and Bernard Malamud. In a 2006 festschrift devoted to Stern and his work, Wiesel wrote, “To spend an evening with him without laughing is quite simply impossible.”

Stern is survived by his wife, Gloria Stern; son and daughter-in-law Eric and Beverly Branfman; and grandchildren Melissa and Joshua Branfman.

Burial was in Sag Harbor, N.Y.
 

Obit information adapted from the Houston Chronicle.

Music Director’s Ensemble Provides Updated Music for Classic Documentaries


Angel Gil-Ordóñez, Wesleyan orchestra music director, directed Virgil Thomson’s original soundtracks that accompany a newly-released version of The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River.
 
Posted 02/01/07
Wesleyan Orchestra Music Director Angel Gil-Ordóñez addresses the impact of humanity on the environment and chronicles the settlement of the Great Plains through music on a newly-released DVD.

His Washington D.C.-based orchestra, Post-Classical Ensemble, provides the soundtrack for director Pare Lorentz’s landmark New Deal-Era Classics documentaries The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936) and The River (1938).

The dual-film DVD, released Jan. 30 by classical music label Naxos, features the first modern recordings of Virgil Thomson’s original scores, performed by Gil-Ordóñez ‘s ensemble. Due to a small budget, the original soundtrack was recorded in one session with the poor sound-quality of the 1930s.

“What our effort demonstrates is that the music of Virgil Thomson is extraordinary,” Gil-Ordóñez says. “The documentaries can not be fully appreciated unless the music has the quality that it deserves. We re-recorded soundtrack recuperating parts of the score that were neglected in the original film, whose soundtrack besides was in very bad shape.”

The new restored soundtrack is already nationally-acclaimed.

“The Post-Classical Ensemble’s new recording of Virgil Thomson’s soundtrack and the fascinating supplementary materials all enhance the historic value of this wonderful DVD,” writes Paul Boyer, editor-in chief of the Oxford Companion to United States History.

Both The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River are artful evocations Midwestern America in the 1930s that address the impact of humanity on its environment and the use of the media to communicate political messages.

Between 1933-1937, the U.S. Government, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, enacted the New Deal programs with a hope to help the American public recover from the Great Depression. Under the direction of the Resettlement Administration, the government sponsored several public relations campaigns involving photography, radio and film. The Resettlement Administration paid Lorentz to film both The River and The Plow That Broke the Plains, and Virgil Thomson’s accompanying soundtracks rank among the composer’s greatest work. They set the trend in the 1930s and 1940s for a new style of film music.

The River, which was filmed in 14 states, tells the story of the Tennessee Valley Authority and building dams on the Mississippi River and its tributaries. It was named to the National Film Registry in 1990 and won best documentary at the 1938 Venice Film Festival.

The Plow That Broke the Plains retraced the history of the Great Plains and the abuse of the land that led to the creation of the Dust Bowl. The film, described by historian Neil Lerner as “the most widely publicized attempt by the federal government to communicate to its entire citizenry through a motion picture,” received denunciations as New Deal propaganda and was shunned by the commercial distribution movie system. Despite this impediment, the documentary reached people in over 3,000 theaters nationwide.

In The Plow that Broke the Plains, Thomson augmented the orchestra with saxophones, guitar, banjo, and harmonium, and used cowboy songs to depict the Midwest. Gil-Ordóñez mimicked this style.

Gil-Ordóñez first conducted the Post-Classical Ensemble in a live performance accompanying these two landmark documentaries at the American Film Institute’s “Silverdocs,” an annual documentary film festival in June 2005. With support from the Center for the Arts, Gil-Ordóñez again directed the soundtracks with Wesleyan University Orchestra as a benefit for Katrina’s victims in November 2005.

“We spent almost one month in the studio to add the narration and the sound effects, and look for a perfect balance because I never like my own recordings,” he says, smiling.

Gil-Ordóñez, a native of Spain, says the DVD’s release could not be more timely.

“The documentaries show a part of the history of this country essential to understand the present times,” he explains. “The River is Katrina 80 years ago. Who would have told us that Katrina would happen two months after we recorded the music.”

The DVD, produced with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Film Institute, is distributed in the United States by Naxos of America and can be purchased online at www.post-classicalensemble.org.

“I wish every young American might be exposed to these documentaries, and that some politicians might learn that with imagination and art is how you really make a difference in a society,” he says.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan, Community Prepares for Week of Play a Day


Nikhil Melnechuk ’07 and Jessica Posner ’09 are co-producing a week-long theater event based on Suzan-Lori Parks’ “365 Days/365 Plays.” The plays will be shown throughout campus and the Middletown community this month.
Posted 02/01/07
In November 2002, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks committed to writing a play a day for 365 days. Since November 2006, this year of new plays has been debuting across the country as “365 Days/365 Plays.”

Wesleyan is among 52 universities and more than 700 venues taking part in this project, and will perform eight of Parks’ plays Feb. 5-11.

“Wesleyan is making history,” explains co-producer Jessica Posner ’09. “This festival is the largest theater collaboration in U.S. history, and Wesleyan gets to be part of that. It is very exiting.”

According to Posner and co-producer Nikhil Melnechuk ‘07, Wesleyan’s take on 365 Days/365 Plays will use Parks’ plays as a centerpiece for a week-long festival that “attempts to re-contextualize every interaction as theater.”

Wesleyan students will act in the plays, changing roles each time the play is re-performed. Each one of Parks’ plays runs about 10 minutes long, and will be performed seven times a day at seven different venues.

“These plays are about finding connections – either with each other or within yourself,” says Melnechuk 07. “They manage social critique without being didactic because of their absurd humor and circumstances.”

Melnechuk and Posner have devoted more than 40 hours a week for four months preparing for the event. They are encouraging their actors to exercise their creativity so no play is performed the same way twice. The plays do not have sets; actors will rely on costumes and props to help tell the story.

Plays will take place all over the campus, such as in Pi Café, Davenport Campus Center and the Science Library. Olin Library will host and interactive piece titled “365 Tasks.”

The Opening Ceremony, scheduled at 8 p.m., Feb. 5, in the Center for the Arts Theater, will feature a talk by Metzgar and Rugg, and a performance by Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of anthropology and African American Studies. During the week of performances, prominent speakers will be brought to campus including the 365 National Festival producers Bonnie Metzgar and Rebecca Rugg. Lectures, performances and workshops will be offered by distinguished artists such as Joseph Roach, professor of theater and English at Yale University; Christine Mok, a Ph.D candidate at Yale’s School of Drama, and artist-in-residence poet/activist Amiri Baraka, who perform with his septet Blue Ark Feb. 9.

Wesleyan will also present a large scale, town-wide festival that showcases Wesleyan and Middletown life and culture. It will include workshops, performances, lectures, demonstrations and discussions—all free and open to the public. This festival includes “The Write-On Marathon” where Wesleyan students and members of the Middletown community can try their hand at Parks’ project by writing a play a day. Five winning entries will be performed on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Cinema. Submissions will be accepted throughout the week (for more information on how to participate, visit www.wesleyan365.com/write.html).

“We want people to see theater as an essential component of everyday life, using the plays by Suzan-Lori Parks as the point of departure,” Posner says.

A gala performance of all the plays will take place at 8 p.m. Feb. 10 in the Patricelli ’92 Theatre with a reception to follow. The plays will be performed by actors Michael Chandler ’08, Jennifer Celestin ‘07, Maya Kazan ‘09, Garrett Larribas ‘07, Jermaine Lewis ‘09 and Carter Smith ‘09. Steven Sapp, founding member of New York City’s acclaimed poetry/theater ensemble UNIVERSES, will be conducting an open theater workshop from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 10 and will open the performances at 6 and 8 p.m. with a solo piece.

Festival coordinators raised over $6,000 to put on the week-long event. Sponsors include the Center for African American Studies, Center for the Arts, Theatre Department, Second Stage, Wesleyan Student Assembly, Adelphic Education Fund, Community Development Fund, Feminist Gender and Sexuality Studies, Ethics in Society Program, Office of Affirmative Action, and the fund for Diversity and Academic Advancement.
 
For reservations of information, go to www.wesleyan365.com, e-mail: info@wesleyan365.com or call Jessica Posner at 303-919-5994 or Nikhil Melnechuk 413-230-0740.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Howard Bernstein Dies at 63


Posted 02/01/07
Howard Bernstein, a long-time visiting professor at Wesleyan, died Jan. 15, 2007 at the age of 63.

Bernstein was a member of the Wesleyan faculty from 1979 to 2001, during which time he taught in the College of Letters, the History Department, the programs in Educational Studies and Science in Society, and in Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program. Bernstein also was a major contributor to the Masters of Arts in Teaching Program. In addition, he supervised a large number of senior honors theses.

Bernstein earned a bachelor’s of arts from the City College of the City University of New York and a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. Before coming to Wesleyan he taught at Brooklyn College, City College, York University and Yale University. For the past five years, Bernstein was a mentor and educator at Suffield Academy in Suffield, Connecticut.

Bernstein was a world-renowned expert on the work of the German scholar G. W. Leibniz and was a major contributor to a series of international conferences on Liebniz held in Germany in the early 1980s. He also published a number of works on Diderot, Einstein, and on Marxist philosophy. He was passionate about music, particularly classical choral music, and was an avid athlete.

A memorial service is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 6 at St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University, in Manhattan.

In lieu of flowers, Bernstein’s daughter Christina has asked that those wishing to remember him consider a contribution to one of the many organizations Howard supported. These include The Center for Constitutional Rights, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Innocence Project, Equal Justice Works, Lambda Legal, and Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Dean of the College to Leave Wesleyan, Become Fulbright Scholar in Peru


Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, will leave Wesleyan to conduct a study at the Universidad del Pacifico’s Research Center in Peru.
Posted 02/01/07
Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, will leave Wesleyan at the end of her contract in June 2007.

At the invitation of a United Nations office and Universidad del Pacifico, Lima, Peru, Cruz-Saco will lead a study on aging, equity and income security in Peru. While leading this study in 2007-08, she will be a Fulbright Scholar at Universidad del Pacifico’s Research Center. In 2008-09, Cruz-Saco will resume teaching as professor of economics at Connecticut College.

“My response when I heard the news was that as a former economic development person, I could only celebrate Maria’s mission,” says President Doug Bennet. “I want to thank Maria for her extraordinary leadership as Wesleyan’s dean.”

Under Cruz-Saco’s leadership, Wesleyan created the Office for Diversity and Academic Advancement, enhanced First Year Matters through collaborations with the Center for the Arts and the Office of Academic Affairs, introduced a new peer advising program, integrated orientation for new and international students and created opportunities for rich educational experiences outside the classroom. Wesleyan has established a task force that is articulating a vision for religious and spiritual life on campus, preparing the opening of the Usdan University Center, and better aligning student affairs with our educational mission. The dean’s office has grown in strength and has the capacity to handle a leadership transition.

“Wesleyan is an exceptional place, students are bright and creative, the educational opportunities are rich, and I have been honored to serve as dean of the college and work with a splendid group of professionals,” Cruz-Saco says. “I know that I will miss being part of this community. But, I will come visit since I will be down the road when I get back from Peru!”

Bennet intends appoint an acting dean for a year, allowing time for his successor to develop a sense of what the dean’s office requires and to organize a search for a permanent replacement.

“I believe the acting dean should be a current faculty member or staff person who is familiar with the institution and able to provide leadership for a strong, ongoing enterprise,” Bennet says.

Bennet welcomes nominations and volunteers, and will consult broadly with faculty, students, and staff as I review faculty and staff lists for candidates.

Wesleyan to Begin New Dining Contract


Bon Appétit Management Company will provide the meals for the new university center.
Posted 02/01/07
Wesleyan is finalizing an agreement with a new dining services provider, Bon Appétit Management Company, to begin a new dining contract as of July 1, 2007.

The new company will provide campus dining in the new Suzanne Lemberg Usdan University Center, Summerfields, Pi Café, WEShop and campus catering.

“This was a difficult decision to make but also an exciting one,” says John Meerts, vice president for Finance and Administration, and member of Wesleyan’s Dining Review Committee.

Bon Appétit says it cooks food from scratch with seasonal ingredients. The company aims to serve a wide variety of menu items at each meal, offering authentic and nutritious foods, even for vegetarian, vegan, kosher and international diners.

In addition, the new dining plan provides flexibility, including longer service hours and variety in meal plan options; and promotes sustainability and making socially responsible purchasing decisions in regards to produce, meat, seafood, eggs, coffee and disposable plates and service wear.

Bon Appétit’s proposal for the new campus dining program will maintain the current level of represented dining staff.

“Much of the success Bon Appétit can anticipate at Wesleyan will depend upon the many staff members who have been a part of campus dining for years,” Meerts says.

As the semester progresses, the Dining Review Committee will work with Bon Appétit to provide more detailed information about the future of campus dining.

Bon Appétit has agreed to have longer hours of operation to meet the varied schedules of students, faculty and staff. Summerfields will be open for lunch and dinner. Pi Café and WEShop will continue to operate hours similar to their current schedules.

While WesWings, Red and Black Café, Chic Chaque and Star and Crescent operate independently from the campus dining program, they will continue to offer alternative options in the upcoming year.

According to Rick Culliton, dean of Campus Programs and director of the university center, the second floor of the Usdan Center, known as The Marketplace, will offer All-You-Care-to-Eat meals seven nights a week, plus brunch on Sunday. During breakfast and lunch for the rest of the week, the Usdan marketplace will be open for retail dining. The café on the first floor of the Usdan Center will be open from 8 a.m. through late night seven days a week.

In addition, the Daniel Family Common, located on the third floor of Usdan, will serve as a faculty/staff dining room and be available for special events when not in use for residential dining.

“We are very excited that the Usdan Center and our campus dining program will bring together the Wesleyan community in so many new ways,” Culliton says. “The convergence of these significant changes will transform campus life for all of us.”

The Dining Review Committee met for six months with student focus groups. They relied on Wesleyan Student Assembly’s Concept for dining narrative, which helped frame their efforts. The review committee included Meerts; Culliton; Annie Fox ’07; Chris Goy ’09; Deana Hutson, director of events for University Relations; Estrella Lopez ’07; Peter Patton, vice president and secretary of the university; Nate Peters, associate vice president for Finance; Joyce Topshe, associate vice president for facilities; and Michael Whaley, dean of Student Services.

Aramark Campus Services will continue to serve the Wesleyan community throughout the spring semester. The campus community is grateful to the Aramark management team for all they have contributed to the campus over the years.

“We are excited about the challenges that lie ahead and look forward to working together to make Wesleyan’s dining program the very best it can be,” Meerts says. “Our goal is to be recognized by the campus community and by peer institutions as having a premier dining program.”

For more information on Bon Appétit, go to: www.bamco.com