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Now That’s Using Your Head: Student, Professor Collaborate on Brain Activity Study


Rebecca Gordon ’06 and her thesis advisor, John Seamon, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, pose with brain scans used in a recent study.

Posted 04/17/06
For psychology major Rebecca Gordon’ 06, developing a research project idea was practically a no-brainer. Well, except for the fact that she had to study brains.

By examining functional magnetic resonance images, known as fMRIs, Rebecca Gordon ’06 was able to see how the brain reacted on a cognitive and emotional level with healthy subjects and subjects diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Her study “The Mere Exposure Effect and Schizophrenia: An fMRI Study” was completed April 11 after nine months of research. The “mere exposure effect” is a psychological way of saying people express likeness for things merely because they are familiar with them.

“There have been no published fMRI studies of the mere exposure effect so I wanted to do a study that would contribute something new and important to several fields of psychology,” says Gordon, who will graduate this year with a dual degree in psychology and music.

Gordon, whose father is a clinical psychologist, coordinated her own research projects throughout high school including working with Parkinson Disease patients at a lab in New York. During her first year at Wesleyan, Gordon excelled in Psychology 101, taught by John Seamon, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Knowing that his student already had research experience, Seamon suggested that she follow up on procedures he and other students conducted in the 1980s and 1990s on explicit and implicit memory. Explicit memory is a form of memory that involves conscious retrieval of past events; implicit memory is a nonconscious retrieval of past events.

“I encourage students who do well in my classes to get involved in research, either in my own lab or with others in psychology, and Rebecca was one of those special students,” says Seamon, who became Gordon’s thesis advisor on the study.

Gordon, who was working at the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center at the Institute of Living in Hartford last summer, had access to fMRI technology. Seamon suggested that she look for brain differences in explicit and implicit memory by measuring blood flow changes using the fMRI scanner.

Since July 2005, Gordon has spent her summer, winter and spring breaks immersed in conducting research, as well two to three days a week during the school year. She continually sought research advice from Seamon and technical advice from Godfrey Pearlson, director of the Neuropsychiatry Research Center and professor of psychiatry at Yale University.

By studying patients at the center in Hartford, she was able to perform two tests on 10 healthy control subjects and 10 schizophrenia patients. The subjects were placed inside the fMRI scanner during the study so she could monitor their brain activity.

Using an assessment method called the recognition memory test to measure explicit memory, Gordon projected a series of novel objects, each for a few seconds. Subjects were then asked to answer the question: “Is this a possible or impossible object?” After viewing these novel objects several times and recording the decisions, Gordon collected her results. She then resented pairs of objects, one old and one new, and asked the subjects to select the object in each pair that they previously viewed. When she analyzed the neurological activity during this explicit recognition test, she found memory accuracy was correlated with activation of the hippocampus, the part of the brain used for new learning.

In another test, called the affective preference test, Gordon measured implicit memory by asking the subjects which shape they preferred without asking them which one they remembered. During this test she found that there was still hippocampus activity along with a strong response from the amygdala, the almond-shaped neural structure in the brain that processes emotion.

Gordon and Seamon were thrilled with the new discovery.

“This is a remarkable achievement for an undergraduate to go from a discussion with her advisor, take an idea and turn it into a tangible experiment that she then performed over a period of months, learn about this state of the art technology, collect and analyze data with technical help from the staff at the Institute of Living and produce new and interesting findings,” Seamon says.

Gordon’s report was submitted for partial fulfillment of the requirements for the bachelor’s of arts degree with departmental honors in psychology. She hopes to get her study published in a professional psychology journal.

In addition, she will present her study during the Psychology Department Poster Session April 18.

“I can’t believe that even as I got to the very end of my project, I never got tired of it. I was always excited about the idea of finding something completely new,” she says, holding two gray brain scans, speckled with colors. The colors illustrate where in the brain activity was happening during the subjects’ tasks.

Gordon will return to the Institute of Living this summer for continued research, this time focusing on autistic children and people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Next fall, she will begin graduate school at Yeshiva University in New York where she plans to continue her studies in psychology.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Breaking Down the Barriers: Trip to Middle East Provides Examples of Peaceful Co-Existence


Pictured at top, Wesleyan students and staff  walk down a street in Istanbul on their way to the mosque during a trip to Turkey and Israel March 12-23.

Pictured at right, the group takes a break in the Teldan Nature Preserve in Golan Heights, Israel with their tour guide. The Wesleyan students are Ben Sachs-Hamilton, Avi Smith, Phil Zegelbone, Jamal Ahmed, Mike Figura,  Kulsoom Hasan, Maggie Mitchell, Tussy Alam, Rachel Berkowitz, Aaron Tabek, Jessica Eber and Joel Bhuiyan. Wesleyan Rabbi David Leipziger Teva and Abdullah Antepli, pictured in center in purple and black shirts, coordinated the overseas trip.

Posted 04/17/06
Wesleyan Jewish Chaplain Rabbi David Leipziger Teva, wanted to prove to his students that Jews and Muslims can peacefully coexist with one another.

But Leipziger Teva, who also goes by Rabbi David,
admits that for students to understand this complex co-existence, they must couple classroom knowledge with real life, personal experiences.

So Leipziger Teva and former Wesl
eyan Muslim Chaplain Abdullah Antepli chose five Wesleyan Muslim students and six Jewish students, out of 23 who applied, and set out for an 11-day spring break excursion of Istanbul, Turkey and Jerusalem, Israel.

“The trip was very intense,” admits Leipziger Teva, who says he was most moved after seeing Palestinian and Israeli Christian, Muslim and Jewish children learning together in one classroom at the K-6 Hand-in-Hand School in Jerusalem.

The group also visited Kibbutz Metzer, an Israeli socialist commune, where member Dov Avital shared his story about living peacefully, just yards away, from a Palestinian-Arab village.

In November of 2002, suicide bomber from a radical Palestinian terrorist group broke into this Israeli Kibbutz and killed five people. Leipziger Teva says that despite the terrorist attack the two communities remain committed to dialogue and friendship.

“Dov told the story with tears in his eyes and we were all moved by it,” says Leipziger Teva. “This is just one hopeful example, despite the violence of how Jews and Muslims are trying to co-exist with each other in peace and we wanted the students to see this.”

Jamal Ahmed, a Pakistani freshman from New York City, was also moved by Avital’s story.

“On the trip, we learned that there was a sense of hope, a hope for peace,” says Ahmed.
“Despite terrible hardships, there are still great strives towards peace and beautiful co-existence. I learned more about the Jewish culture, religion, and Israeli society than I thought possible in such a short time.”

The group also met with journalists, lobbyists, human rights activists and political leaders, including Vatican Representative of Istanbul, George Marovitch and Chief Rabbinate and Rabbi of Turkey Isaac Halevo. They also visited popular landmarks including the Temple Mount, the Western Wall as well as other mosques, synagogues and visited with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and families.

Rabbi David says that during their trip, he witnessed a progressive transformation among the students.

“I saw a deepening of their individual religious spiritual identities,” he says. “They were all challenged and I was constantly motivated by the dialogue that was happening.”

Rachel Berkowitz a freshman from Trumansburg, NY, says the trip helped her gain a strong desire to learn more about Islam, Judaism, interfaith dialogue and about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I think the difference I have made has been internal, rather than external,” says Berkowitz. “I have learned and changed so much. I feel I now have a broader perspective.”

Leipziger Teva hopes that one day this Spring break trip will spark these students into making strides towards peace in the Middle East.

“Someone from this trip might one day become a senator, a Fulbright Scholar, or eventually may help draft future peace plans for Israel,” says Leipziger Teva, who feels that both the Israeli and Palestinian sides need to demonstrate compromise before real peace is established.

Next month Leipziger Teva, who is hoping to raise more funds in order to repeat the trip next year, will start showcasing a DVD documentary of the trip to mosques, churches, synagogues, and to high schools. He also plans on introducing the documentary at the Muslim Student Association Annual Conference and Hillel, the conference of Jewish College Communities later this year.

“No other school has ever taken Jews and Muslims together in one group to the Middle East,” says Leipziger Teva. “Wesleyan is unique and we hope we can help jumpstart dialogue and peace among all the children of Abraham – Jews, Muslims and Christians.”

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Economics Professor Testifies Before U.S. Senate


Gary Yohe, the John E. Andrus Professor of Economics, suggests that the government place a growing tax on the cost of carbon during a hearing March 30 in Washington D.C.

Posted 04/17/06
When Gary Yohe, the John E. Andrus Professor of Economics, received a call from Senator Joseph R. Biden’s office to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C., he didn’t hesitate. In fact, he hurried.

Yohe, who was the sole expert, recommended by both the Environmental Defense Fund and Pew Center on Global Climate Change to Senator Biden’s office, had only a few days in which to prepare his brief testimony on “The Hidden (Climate Change) Costs of Oil.”

In a five-minute prepared opening statement, Yohe called attention to the sources of economic cost attributed to climate change and suggested that government respond by placing a permanent and growing tax on the cost of carbon. The point of such a tax (or any policy that would add the climate cost of carbon to the price of oil) is to hedge against, or reduce the likelihood, of the extreme consequences of global warming.

“We don’t have to go overboard,” Yohe explained, but “adopting a risk-management (hedging) approach to minimize the cost of future policy adjustments would be appropriate and economical over the long run.”

Yohe says he believes Senators Biden and Richard G. Lugar seemed to agree with his testimony.

“We were there for almost two-and-one-half hours and the two senior members of the Foreign Relations Committee were fully engaged and almost thinking out loud with us,” says Yohe. “The staffers were incredulous that they spent so much time with us.”

According to Yohe, Senator Biden said that people might get used to paying a persistent tax on petroleum.  Biden was particularly interested, though, in how such a charge might be factored into the investment decisions of American businesses as they frame the energy infrastructure for the next half-century.

Senator Lugar, on the other hand, was specifically interested on how best to implement an
effective climate insurance policy.

“I had a short amount of time to get in front of two people who essentially could take my research and make a difference,” says Yohe. “After generating pages of points that I wanted to raised, I picked out what I thought was the most important information and tried to tell a
simple, but interesting story.”

To read the full transcript of Yohe’s testimony, please refer to the following link:
http://foreign.senate.gov/hearings/2006/hrg060330a.html.
 

By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Lecture, Electronic Recycling, Food Politics Parts of Earth Week


Posted 04/17/06
The Wesleyan community will celebrate Earth Week April 16-April 22 with a series of activities, lectures and observations. Events include:
 
Lecture on “The Purpose of Nature”
Verlyn Klinkenborg, a writer and professor of literature and creative writing at Fordham University and Harvard University, will deliver the Earth Day address “The Purpose of Nature” at 8 p.m. April 20 in Memorial Chapel. A reception and book signing immediately follow in the Zelnick Pavilion.

Verlyn Klinkenborg is the author of Making Hay, The Last Fine Time, The Rural Life, and Timothy: Or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, and many magazine and newspaper articles. A modern Thoreau, his lyrical portrayals of rural living and nature captivate our imagination while delivering a critical message.  He is a member of the editorial board of The New York Times.
 
His visit is sponsored by the Robert Schumann Environmental Studies Program.
 
Recycle Computer Electronics
Information Technology Services and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety are teaming up to promote a clean and safe environment by hosting a recycle day. Anyone with old computer terminals, monitors, televisions, printers, keyboards, ink jet cartridges, or other computer parts can place them at a designated area on the Exley Science Center loading dock between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. April 17-21. For more information contact Bonnie Penders at 860-685-3096.

Food Politics Week
In addition to Earth Week, Wesleyan’s Earth House residents are organizing Food Politics Week, celebrated April 22-29 on campus. They will offer a soy workshop for making tofu and soymilk; a bread baking workshop; a “dumpster-diving” workshop; a farm workday; an edible plants walk with Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology; and a lecture on organic farming. Their observation will conclude with Veg Out on April 27, a home-cooked, primarily local, organic vegan meal open to the Wesleyan community. The cost is $4.

Brooke Duling ’08 says the group aims to raise awareness about the political implications people take simply by choosing to eat certain foods. They will highlight the consumption of local, organic, vegetarian/vegan food and open a dialogue about how to access these foods.

For additional information, visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/earthweek/ or contact Kathleen Norris, administrative assistant, Environmental Studies Certificate Program at 860-685-3733 or by e-mail at knorris@wesleyan.edu.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm Growing Up – and Out


Rachel Ostlund ‘08 sprinkles seedlings inside a shelter at Long Lane Farm. The farm is expanding this spring to a full acre. Pictured below are vegetables grown last year by the Long Lane Farming Club.

Posted 04/17/06
Although Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm Club uses organic methods to grow its produce, a little “Miracle Grow “ has been sprinkled on one aspect of their garden: its progress.

The Long Lane Farm Club was created in 2004 so students would have a place to come together and learn about food security issues. What began as a 50-foot plot of flowers and vegetables will be expanded into a full acre this spring. The expanded cultivation area will increase the club’s produce, which is shared by Wesleyan students and the local community.

Maddie Thomson ‘08 got involved in the farm last spring, favoring the idea of organic farming. When a person buys a tomato at the grocery store, chances are, it was not locally grown, she says.

“So much of our food is grown halfway across the world and shipped here using enormous amounts of fossil fuels,” Thomson says. “I think it’s really important to think about where our food comes from, and whether it’s produced sustainability. There is a growing movement to rethink the way we produce food, and at Long Lane we’re part of that movement, which is really exciting.”

The 50 members of the Long Lane Farming Club are thrilled to expand to a full acre. Knowing it will take extra helping hands, about 15 volunteers from the Wesleyan community have been recruited to help out with watering, weeding, pruning, mixing soil and other gardening duties. Almost all the work is done by hand.

In addition, the club’s Community Supported Agricultural Project will have 10 members this year. These members support the garden by paying a fee, and every week for 10 weeks, they receive a share of the produce. Each pays $350, of which $150 is a donation to make produce available to food-insecure people. Members also participate in the distribution process by manning the tables every week to help pass out food to the other members.

The club will have a farm stand in low-income areas of Middletown and can accept food stamps. Everything that doesn’t sell will go to soup kitchens.

The Long Lane Farm has more than 80 vegetables and herbs grown in the two-year-old organic garden. This includes tomatoes, broccoli, kale, carrots, lettuce, kohlrabi, beets, corn, beans, eggplants, zucchini, pumpkins, squash. New this year will be a garlic crop.

The Wesleyan students have already planted seedlings inside their student residences. Once it’s warm enough, they will replant the seedlings into the garden.

This summer the student farmers plan to hire four interns to work on the farm. Since the farm doubles as an educational tool for the community, the Long Lane Farm has partnered with Snow Elementary School in Middletown to get kids out in the farm to work, play, learn about farming and plants, and taste-test a few vegetables.

In 2004, Rachel Lindsay ’05 planted the first crops in a circular-shaped plot. Local residents rounded out the corners with garlic and potato gardens, among several flower beds. Lindsay, Rachel Ostlund ‘06 and other Wesleyan students later planted a tomato and broccoli garden, among rows of Swiss chard, pumpkins and squash.

“I just love that Long Lane Farm is a totally student-run farm, so that we get a chance to see and participate in all of the aspects of running it,” Thomson says.

The Long Lane Farm is funded by the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, the Rockfall Foundation and personal donations. It relies on donations to pay summer interns and make the garden possible.

For more information or to make a donation to the Long Lane Farm, e-mail longlanefarm@wesleyan.edu.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Student-Athlete Breaks Team Record for Hits


Baseball player Jeff Maier ’06 has received national media attention this month for breaking Wesleyan’s career hits record.

Posted 04/17/06
Jeff Maier ’06 a government major and third baseman on the varsity baseball team set the all-time record for most hits in a career against Bates College on April 12. During the game he finished 2-for-3, doubling twice, to give him 170 career hits. Prior to the game he posted four of the Cardinals’ 13 hits during a double-header with Middlebury at home April 9 to tie Bill Robinson ’03 for the team lead in career hits with 168.

Maier’s achievement has been chronicled in more than 35 newspapers in the United States and Canada, including a front-page story in The New York Times. He has also been featured on local news and ESPN.

The New York interest is particularly acute since Maier gained a measure of fame there 10 years ago for catching a ball hit by Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees during the American League Championship game. The ball was headed for the glove of a Baltimore Orioles player but Maier’s reach-over catch made it a home run and the Yankees went on to win the American League Pennant and the World Series.

As of April 13, Maier ranks first on the squad with a .404 batting average. Wesleyan won the game, beating Bates 14-2. Baseball has been played at Wesleyan since 1865 when the university played its first game, which was against Yale University.

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations and Brian Katten, director of Sports Information

“We Are Family” Theme of Alumni of Color Reunion


All alumni of color are invited to a reunion April 21-23 on campus. The reunion will coincide with WesFest so alumni have the opportunity to mingle with prospective students.
Posted 04/17/06
Wesleyan’s alumni of color will have the opportunity to reconnect with each other and meet the newest generation of students of color during a reunion on campus on April 21-23.

“We Are Family: Wesleyan through the Years” will allow fellow alumni of color to reminisce about five decades of Wesleyan’s distinctive history. It will also provide an insider’s glimpse of Wesleyan today and all of the renovations, enhancements and new improvements to student life on campus.

During the event, which coincides with WesFest, alumni will spend time with students and prospective students and receive updates on new strategic plan, “Engaged with the World.” There will also be presentations by distinguished alumni of color, a campus tour and other opportunities to socialize.

“The schedule includes something for everyone and we are delighted to welcome our alumni of color back to campus for an exciting opportunity to revisit with old friends and get a fresh perspective on the Wesleyan we love,” says Barbara Jan Wilson, vice president for University Relations.

“We Are Family” events kick off on April 21 with a reception at the Rocky Hill Marriott, dinner with trustees in honor of former Dean of the College Edgar Beckham ’58. The program will include a welcoming address by Board of Trustee Chairman Jim Dresser ’63 and a DJ Party with Smokey Fontaine ’93.

April 22 events include a breakfast and conversation with President Doug Bennet and Midge Bennet and a meeting with Sanford Livingston ’87, National Chair of the Black Alumni Council. The day also includes a presentation by Majora Carter ’88, a talk about the admissions process and a chat with current students about their Wesleyan and a career fair. April 23 includes a breakfast at the Rocky Hill Marriott and informal alumni gatherings throughout the day.

Members of the Alumni of Color Network also will have the chance to meet with their councils during the weekend. The network includes the Asian Pacific American Alumni Council, the Black Alumni Council and the Latino Alumni Council. Each council develops events and programs that reflect specific interests and experiences of alumni of color. The network promotes interests pertaining to communities of color and collaborates with university offices to assist and support on- and off-campus programs.

“This is a special opportunity to come back to campus in the spring, slow down, reconnect with old friends and make some new ones,” says “We Are Family” coordinator Faraneh Carnegie, who is assistant director of Regional Programs and Networks and staff liaison to the Alumni of Color Network.

“We Are Family: Wesleyan through the Years” is sponsored by the Black Alumni Council and the Alumni of Color Network. The cost to register is $50 for alumni and guests per person; $25 per person for Graduates of the Last Decade and their guests; and $10 for each child, ages 13-18. Childcare is available.

For more information or to register, contact Faraneh Carnegie at 860-685-4829, or by e-mail at fcarnegie@wesleyan.edu, or visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/alumni/aoc/weekend/

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Winter Athletes Honored at Reception


Above, Midge Bennet chats with men’s basketball coach Gerry McDowell during the Winter Athlete Reception April 13 in the Freeman Athletic Center.

At right, President Doug Bennet speaks to winter athletes during the reception.

Below, wrestling coach Drew Black, pictured on left, shakes hands with John Biddiscomb, director of Athletics.

Posted 04/17/06

President Doug Bennet, Midge Bennet and John Biddiscombe, director of Athletics and chair of Physical Education, honored winter athletes at a reception in the Freeman Athletic Center’s Bridge Lobby April 13.
 

“The positive spirit and enthusiasm of the teams seemed very strong this winter,” President Bennet said. “Midge and I have enjoyed coming to some of the games and sharing in the excitement.”
President Bennet acknowledged all winter teams including men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s indoor track, men’s and women’s squash, men’s and women’s swimming and diving and wrestling. The teams’ members and coaches attended the reception.
 
Bennet and Biddiscombe gave special recognition to stand-out student athletes.

Bennet acknowledged this year’s recipients of Wesleyan’s Roger Maynard Memorial Award, presented annually to the outstanding male and female scholar-athletes. The winners were Hannah Stubbs ’06 and Owen Kiely ’06.

Stubbs is captain of the women’s basketball team and has a 3.52 GPA. She will stay on at Wesleyan after graduation to get her masters. She is a three-time, first-team NESCAC basketball player. She is ranked number two on the all time scoring list. Last year, she was was an Academic All-American.

Kiely, a cross country, indoor and outdoor track team member, has a 3.57 GPA. He won the 2006 New England Division III Championship and finished 14th at the Division III NCAA Championship earning All American status.

The winter teams were lead by the women’s basketball team that had an 18-8 record and this team was among the top four teams in NESCAC and also participated in the NCAA tournament. The women’s basketball team was coached by Kate Mullen and assisted by Chris Lanser and Molly Dullea.

The men’s and women’s swim teams also distinguished themselves. Bennet honored the men’s team for it’s 12-4 record and for finishing fourth in the NESCAC Championship. The women’s team had 12 wins and six losses. The swim teams are coached by Mary Bolich and assisted by Molly Parrish and Jeff Miller.

Individual swimmers that qualified for the NCAA Championship were Ben Byers ’07 and Amanda Shapiro ’08. Shapiro earned All-American honors by finishing fifth in the 200-yard breast stroke and sixth in the 100-yard breast stroke.

Two other Wesleyan athletes also distinguished themselves by becoming NCAA All Americans in indoor track. Bennet honored Ellen Davis ’07, who qualified for the NCAA Division III Championships in the 5,000 meter, where she performed superbly in finishing fourth in the nation. Wes Fuhrman ’05 also represented Wesleyan at the national meet, competing in the 5,000-meter and placed seventh in his last race of his college career.

In addition, Ben Byers ’07 went to NCAAs for swimming and Dan de Lalla ’07 went to the NCAAs for wrestling but didn’t place.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor, and Brian Katten, director of Sports Information

Art Director Has an Eye for Design


Steven Jacaruso, art director, designs the look and feel for Wesleyan magazine.
 
Posted 04/17/06
Q: When did you come to Wesleyan?

A: I was hired in July 1998 as the assistant art director. Later on I became the associate director, and then the art director in 2000 for the Office of University Communications.

Q: How did you become interested in graphic design?

A: When I was a kid, I was always into drawing and I was intrigued by logos and full-page movie ads in the New York Times. I’ve always had my eye on the visual aspect of things. Back then, graphic design wasn’t a common career, so after high school I went to business school, which led me to the University of New Haven where I studied graphic design.

Q: Do graphic designers have a distinct style, as would an oil painter or writer?

A: Some do, but I try hard not to have a style. I like to approach each project with an open mind because one style is not applicable to all problems.

Q: How has your job changed in your eight years here?

A: My first year here, I was doing a lot of budgetary work and handling the production aspect of things, as well as most of the design work. When I was promoted to an associate director, my responsibilities grew and when I became the art director, it became my sole responsibility to design the Wesleyan magazine, which was something I’ve never done before.

Q: I imagine that was a big challenge.

A: I was basically handed a magazine and it was a challenge to learn the process. I had to keep true to the Wesleyan message while implementing my own design elements. It is a constant evolution.

Q: When you say design elements, how do you use them to keep the magazine cohesive?

A: On a visual level Wesleyan magazine is all about great images – images that are a step above most alumni magazines. I use color and layout to enhance the visual appeal of the images. I do the same with typography. I like to experiment with type settings and headlines that will draw a reader into the story. I don’t like my design to overshadow the main purpose of the magazine, which is to report on successes of our alumni.

Q: You designed the Wesleyan logo, correct?

A: I refreshed the existing Wesleyan logo. It was time to move into a new direction with the logo. We wanted to move it into the new millennium without sacrificing its historical relevance. The shield is used sparingly as a nod to tradition. The new logo treatment has been very well received and works in many different mediums from campus signage to print publications.

Q: How long does it take to get the magazine designed and what goes on?

A: It’s about a three month process for each issue from beginning to end. After our initial meeting, I see what stories the writers will be working on and I begin creating the color pallet and templates for the issue and determining the amount of real estate dedicated to each section and feature. Stories that are longer, or the most significant, or have quality images, get more pages in the magazine. Then I meet with Bill Burkhart, the university photographer, and we discuss what images need to be taken. I lay out the magazine and we go through a month and a half of critiques. I take all comments, positive and negative, into consideration.

Q: What is your reaction when a magazine is finally finished and you get your first peek at the printed product?

A: Since we only publish four times a year, I am always happy to see it designed, trimmed to size and published. But being a perfectionist, I go through it page by page and notice little things that we could’ve done differently. I’m always striving for perfection in each issue.

Q: In addition to the magazine, what other publications do you design?

A: I oversee all creative for most of the publications. When a certain department needs to be folded into the Wesleyan brand, such as Wesleyan Annual Fund for Excellence, campaign and most recently the timeline exhibit that will be unveiled at Reunion and Commencement weekend, I usually take the lead. Sometimes I’ll start a design and set up the specs, and hand it off to Anne Marcotty, our senior designer, or Shelley Burchsted, our production manager, who will have our student interns work on projects.

Q: Where did you work before Wesleyan?

A: I started out working for my father’s computer business, then I worked at a t-shirt company, a newspaper, and then I got into the music industry. I designed CD covers for artists like Richard Elliot, Barbara Mandrell, Bon Jovi, the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and then art directed a small record label in New York City. The music industry isn’t real consistent and seemed really one-dimensional to me, so I wanted to push myself outside of my comfort zone and open my own business in Waterbury. I worked on a lot of civic-minded projects for the community with the local Chamber of Commerce. I had to do it all, from the budget to production to client relations to design. This enabled me to hone my business skills, which helped when I started at Wesleyan.

Q: Why did you want to work in academia?

A: Being in a university is a nice blend of my experiences and I can be creative but also business-minded. I get to do projects for alumni and external audiences, but also for students, which have a youthful element to them.

Q: How do you keep your design ideas fresh and creative?

A: I am submerged in the design world. I’m always reading design magazines, and when I read other publications, I’m always looking at how they are designed. I tend to surround myself with people who are very creative and through that I find inspiration. In college I was trained by a professor who learned design in Basel, Switzerland and Yale University. We never had computers so we designed everything in a very organic way. I learned a lot by that method. Computers are a tool. They do not make a good designer.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: Graphic design is my hobby and I have turned it into a career, but I also like working out, yard work, hanging out with friends and family, watching movies and listening to music. Music has been a big influence in my life. I always wanted to be the guy who advises the careers of music artists. Who knows, I still might do that one day.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Associate Dean of Admission Gives Human Touch to All Those Applications


Greg Pyke, senior dean of admission, stands outside the Office of Admission.
 
Posted 04/17/06
Every year, the Office of Admission begins with a prospective student pool of over 30,000 and mails information to another 88,000 based on PSAT and ACT scores and grades. Of these, about 7,000 apply, and after review, this number is whittled down to less than 2,000. Of this amount, ultimately, 720 of the applicants will become Wesleyan’s newest freshman class.

As a senior associate dean of admission, Greg Pyke reviews hundreds of these applications, and he meets almost as many potential applicants each year. He’s currently preparing to welcome the Class of 2010. But the process that got these students here is long and exacting.

Pyke and 10 other admissions personnel divvy up all the applications. Each one must be reviewed at least twice before acceptance or denial is granted.

This year, Pyke and Leah Kelley, assistant dean of admission, reviewed applicants from northern New England states, eastern Massachusetts, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, Africa and Europe. Each application is scrutinized not only for test scores, grades and achievements, but also for traits that show the applicant would benefit from Wesleyan’s educational program and environment.

“We want our student body to have variety, so we’re looking for students who have a combination of talents, experience, unique backgrounds and opinions, and who have demonstrated social involvement,” Pyke explains.

Nancy Meislahn, dean of admission and financial aid, determines which students are accepted.

“Greg is the office data-base guru and numbers cruncher,” she says. “In that work, as well, he brings the sensitivity of the practitioner to every task and report.”

Pyke seems to have a new job for every season.

In the fall he travels to schools across the country and the world, meeting prospective students and parents. In winter, Pyke begins the process of going through “the stack” – the hundreds of applications – with special attention paid to those applying for early admission.

In spring, Pyke concentrates his efforts on convincing the accepted students to choose Wesleyan through WesFest and face-to-face conversations. By June, the incoming frosh class will be announced. In the summer, Pyke is busy meeting and speaking with campus visitors, compiling statistics on the incoming fall class, and planning his next year.

The process is cyclical year to year, with new changes and challenges implemented every season.

“Never knowing what is coming next and wondering what questions or concerns will arise the next year is one of the biggest reasons I enjoy working in the Admission Office,” says Pyke, who has been a member of the department since he started in at Wesleyan 1978.

And as for this years’ frosh, Pyke reports that the Class of 2009 comprised 6,879 applicants, of which 1,902, or 28 percent of those who applied, were admitted. Of the 1,902, 71 percent were ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school class; 13 percent are the first generation in their family to go to college; 79 percent live outside of New England; 41 percent are students of color; 77 percent have taken biology, chemistry and physics before entering college; and 76 percent had studied a foreign language for at least four years.

Pyke’s responsibilities have grown over the past 28 years. He previously handled the transfer student admission process, and later the senior interviewer program. He’s currently the statistical information reporter. In this role, Pyke generates class profiles for the university, public media and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, designed to collect data from all primary providers of postsecondary education. He reports on the total number of students accepted, students of color, geographical information, average SAT and ACT stores, among several other factors.

In addition to reviewing college applications and collecting and reporting statistical information, Pyke collaborates with Joan Adams, assistant to the dean, on the High School Scholars Program. Through this program, local high school seniors have the opportunity to take classes at Wesleyan with no tuition charge. They attend classes with Wesleyan students, and are graded on the same scale as a college student would be. Of the 23 high school scholars who applied this past academic year: 15 were accepted into the program and enrolled in courses either in the fall of ‘05 or the spring of ‘06.

“When parents ask me, ‘What is an average class size,’ I try to understand what they are really asking. They don’t want me to say, 17.2 or some decimal number,” Pyke says. “What they really want to know is, if their child will be able to talk in class or will their child get to work with his professor one on one? The answer cannot be given in a simple number. There is never a short answer to a question or concern.”

Pyke knows some of the emotions parents go though during the college application process. He and his wife, Karen Bovard ’77, have gone through the procedure themselves with their two children Alan and Josh, who are both currently enrolled in college. Pyke also has an older daughter, Jenny, who was an interim class dean at Wesleyan and is currently in a similar, permanent position at Mt. Holyoke College.

“Greg is such a wonderful colleague: smart, funny and thoughtful,” Meislahn says. “He brings a great balance of Wesleyan history, as well as an educator’s and father’s sensibility to the process. No one knows his or her territory better. Greg helps us all understand the importance of access, context and opportunity for each applicant.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Softball Coach Takes a Swing at Three Sports


Jen Shea, head softball coach, assistant field hockey coach, teaches swimming as an adjunct professor of athletics.
 
Posted 04/17/06
Q: At what age did you first pick up a bat and ball, and where was this?

A: I grew up in Hatfield, Massachusetts. Hatfield is a small town of 3,500 people with a strong athletic tradition. When I was in elementary school, the high school’s varsity softball team won back-to-back state titles and that is when I really became interested in the sport. I started off playing T-ball when I was in first grade and then graduated to slow-pitch softball when I was in fourth grade. I started playing fast-pitch when I was in seventh grade.

Q: Did you always excel in softball or other sports? What positions did you play?

A: I was a three-sport athlete in high school: field hockey, basketball and softball. I was always a pitcher in softball, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I really started to be successful. During my senior year of high school, I threw four consecutive no-hitters. Also during my senior year, our field hockey team went undefeated and won the Division I state title. Team accomplishments have always been more important to me than individual ones.

Q: Are softball and field hockey similar in any way?

A: Softball and field hockey really aren’t similar at all. I started playing them both when I was younger because they were the only sports offered in my school during their respective seasons. I really enjoy field hockey, but softball has always been my first passion.

Q: During your undergraduate years at Amherst, I understand you were the team captain of both the softball and field hockey teams. What were your biggest accomplishments?

A: My biggest accomplishment in softball was definitely winning the Little Three title my senior year. We had never beaten Williams in softball and then we swept them in a doubleheader the last weekend of the regular season to not only win the Little Three title, but also to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament. We went into NCAAs as the No. 5 seed in the New England Region and made it all the way to the finals. Being named to the New England Region All-Tournament Team was definitely an honor. In field hockey, I was selected to play in the Division III North-South All-Star game in 1997, but being the No. 1 team in New England my junior year and being selected for the NCAA Division III tournament was a bigger thrill.

Q: What did you receive your degrees in and when did you decide that coaching is what you wanted to do for a living?

A: I have a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Amherst and a master’s degree in exercise and sports studies from Smith College. I went to college planning on majoring in math or computer science, but realized during my sophomore year that sports meant more to mean than just another extra-curricular activity. I had an internship in the sports department of a local newspaper during the summer of 1997 because I thought I wanted to go into sports journalism. It was during that time that I realized I wanted to be on the field teaching and coaching, not just covering games from the sidelines.

Q: How old is your softball glove, and how many have you gone through in your softball career?

A: My current glove is only about a year old. The previous one I had was from when I was in college and it finally became time to retire it last year. This is probably my fifth glove since I started playing.

Q: What months does the softball season span? Field hockey? When do the women begin training?

A: Softball practice begins on Feb. 15 each year and the season goes through the end of April. Field hockey practice begins during the end of August and the season ends at the end of October. Training for both sports really occurs year-round these days as the athletes need to stay in shape and on top of their game mentally and physically.

Q: You’re midway through the current softball season. How is the team looking?

A: Each year since I’ve been here the team has gotten better and I feel the same is true this year. There’s a mix of eight returners and nine new players, so there has definitely been learning and growing processes involved. The women on the team are supportive of one another and work hard everyday in practice. I don’t think our record is a true indicator of the potential that the team has and we have a lot left to show in the next two weeks.

Q: Who are you leading hitters and fielders?

A: Molly Gaebe ’07 is our leading hitter and also a top pitcher along with Karla Hargrave ’08 and Dayna Yorks ’07. Marcia Whitehead ’08 is a rock defensively at third base and Becca Feiden ’08 patrols center field. They are also two of our top hitters as well. Tri-captains Beth Bernstein ’06, Sarah Gillooly ’06 and Lynn Leber ’06 have all done an excellent job in leading this young team.

Q: Tell me about your spring break.

A: We went to California for spring break and played 14 games while we were out there. The trip was highlighted by the team’s first win over NESCAC rival Tufts in 11 years.

Q: What do you look for in student-athletes?

A: I want student-athletes who are going to work hard, want to be coached, and are going to make the team a priority. I think academics and athletics go hand-in-hand and I look for student-athletes who want to succeed in both arenas.

Q: Do you currently play on any teams or are you strictly focusing on coaching?

A: I started playing club field hockey this past fall after a hiatus of several years. I also played a little slow-pitch softball last summer and am planning on continuing to play this summer.

Q: What class do you teach as an adjunct assistant professor?

A: I teach Swimming for Fitness. I enjoy teaching physical education classes at Wesleyan because it gives me a chance to meet more of the student body than just my players. Swimming is a life-long sport so I feel I’m helping the students learn something that they can use after they leave Wesleyan.

Q: During the summers of 1999 and 2000, you were the head coach of the West scholastic division softball squad in the Bay State Games in Massachusetts. Where else did you coach before coming to Wesleyan in 2001?

A: After graduating from Amherst, I was selected as the college’s Hitchock Fellow in Physical Education. My responsibilities included being an assistant coach in three sports – field hockey, basketball, and softball – as well as teaching physical education classes. During that year I decided that coaching was the career I definitely wanted to embark upon. While I was in graduate school at Smith College, I continued to coach at Amherst as the assistant field hockey coach in 1999 and co-head softball coach in 2000 and 2001. I also was a sub-varsity field hockey coach at Williston-Northampton School in the fall of 2000 and the middle school girls’ basketball coach at my alma mater, Smith Academy, in the winter of 2000-2001.

Q: Who are your assistant coaches in softball?

A: My assistants this year are E.J. Heng and Leah Kelley. Both were stand-out players at the Division I level. E.J. is from California and played college ball at U.C.-Santa Barbara, while Leah is from Western Massachusetts. She played softball at Yale and is now an assistant dean of admission at Wesleyan. They are great assistants who have added a great deal of insight and have helped make me a better coach.

Q: Do you ever just go out and throw a ball for fun?

A: Sure! Just yesterday after practice, Leah and I jumped in the batting cage to take some swings. And often while the team is warming up at the beginning of practice, my assistants and I will warm-up our arms, too. It keeps us young!

Q: How influential was your family in your sports career?

A: I am very close with my family and my parents have been very supportive of me and my teams. They often travel down to Middletown from Massachusetts to watch us play. I really appreciate all the advice and encouragement they have given me over the years. If it weren’t for them, I would have never gotten involved in sports in the first place.

Q: Do you have any plans for the summer?

A: My summer project, besides recruiting for softball, is going to be renovating a house that I’m in the process of buying. It’s a little daunting, but I’m excited to get started and finally have a place to call my own. I’m also a huge Red Sox fan and I try to go to some games every summer and was even lucky enough to see a play-off game at Fenway in 2004 when the Sox were on their way to winning the World Series. There’s nothing like baseball in the summer!
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Track Coach Teaches Students about the Hurdles in Life


Walter Curry, head track and field coach, says he loves to make a difference in his student-athletes’ lives.
 
Posted 04/01/06
Q: When did you become the head men’s and women’s track coach?

A: I started coaching at Wesleyan in December of 2002.

Q: You are a U.S.A. Track and Field Level II certified coach in sprints, hurdles and jumps. At Wesleyan are these what you specialize in?

A: My first three seasons with the team I coached just the sprints, long, triple and high jumps. I was lucky enough to have a really good part-time hurdle coach and a very good part–time pole vault coach.

Q: Prior to Wesleyan, you worked for eight years as an assistant track and field coach at Boston College. There, you had success coaching three Division I All-Americans and numerous Big East all-conference and all-New England athletes. What led you to Wesleyan?

A: I landed at Wesleyan because I was given a chance to be a head coach and lead a track program. I learned a great many things about track; coaching; administration; people; and just life while I was at Boston College. I really loved it there and I had some wonderful experiences, but it was time for me to see if I could do things on my own.

Q: Where did you go to college and what did you major in? Were you a track star there?

A: I got my degree in journalism from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. Go Cyclones! I worked in TV for five years before I got into coaching. And yes, I was a student-athlete on the track team at ISU. I was pretty good, not what you would call a ‘superstar’ but my name is still on the top 10 list in the hurdle events. And it’s been a while since I graduated.

Q: Why did you decide ultimately to become a track coach? Is your position rewarding?

A: It is what I think I was meant to do. What can you say about being able to do something you love with people who feel the same way you do, like the coaching staff and athletes, and get to mentor and share in the growing experience of all the student-athletes that come through your program? The best part is having these young people call me up or come and visit and tell me that something I told them or they learned from their relationship with me, and the rest of their teammates made a difference in their life. That makes me feel like what I do is very important.

Q: What classes do you teach, or have you taught, as an adjunct professor?

A: I teach Beginning Strength Training and Beginning Fitness. I enjoy helping students here on campus improve their health and fitness.

Q: When did you begin running and when did you realize you wanted to pursue racing? Were you ever a cross-country runner or are you more of a sprinter?

A: I started running track in the seventh grade and started hurdles in eighth grade. As for cross-country, no way. I will run no farther than the 800-meter!

Q: Who are your key student-athletes this season?

A: Distance runner Ellen Davis. Our best steeple chaser is Owen Kiely. The 400m runner would be Stephanie O’Brien. The triple jumper is Sam Grover. These are just some of the athletes who we depend on.

Q: What lessons do you stress to the students?

A: We ask all of our athletes to first, commit to our program; second, work hard; third, be accountable to the coaching staff and your teammates; fourth, manage their time well; and fifth, they need to have a love for track and field.

Q: I understand that you have produced an instruction video on hurdling?

A: My college track coach, Bill Bergan called me up and asked me if I could do him a favor. Coach Bergan was, and is still, a wonderful person and mentor. I jumped at the chance to help him out. His favor was to conduct a video clinic on the common errors and mistakes that happen when young track athletes are learning to hurdle. To make a long story short, everything turned out great and today I still have people tell me that they used my tape or have heard about it. Yes, I am in the video, but only as a coach.

Q: You have been a clinician for hurdle events at the Brown University Track and Field Camp, and you worked with the New England High School Track and Field Coaches Clinic. Why do you do this, and what do you hope participants get out of your teaching?

A: My answer is the same as before; the best part is having these young people call me up or come and visit and tell me that something I told them made a difference in their life. That makes me feel like what I do is very important and I was able to help them reach a personal goal.

Q: You have three children. Do you encourage them to get involved in athletics?

A: At this point in my life, my main interest is in my family. My kids are involved in lots of activities so my wife and I try to go and support their interest. My daughter is on her high school’s dance team. I coach my oldest son’s Pop Warner football team. My youngest child is a pretty good little soccer player. Plus there is baseball, dance class, summer camp, family trips, and other things. So all I do is try to be positive and help them find the joy in sports. I stress fun, hard work, commitment, sacrifice and pride.

Q: What is your coaching strategy for your own children?

A: I do have one rule for my kids when it comes to activities. If you start it, you finish it! No quitting in the middle of anything. If you really don’t like what you’re doing, once you are finished with it, you don’t have to do it again.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor