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Archivist to Survey Islamic Manuscripts in Nigeria

Michaelle Biddle, head of Preservation Services at Olin Library, will conduct a survey of Islamic materials during a five-week sabbatical in Africa.
Posted 02/27/08
Michaelle Biddle, head of Preservation Services at Olin Library, was invited by the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria to travel to the country in March to conduct a survey of Islamic manuscripts and related materials. Wesleyan has granted her a five-week sabbatical so she can travel to locations such as Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto and Maiduguri to assess materials and help with preservation efforts.

The work of Biddle and more than 20 other archivists and librarians will assist the Arewa House in Kaduna. The Arewa House has been awarded a State Department Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation grant to conduct the survey and develop a strategy for the preservation and eventual digitization of particularly endangered items. The Arewa House has been working closely with the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy, Abuja, to seek ways to preserve and digitize Nigeria’s rich Islamic manuscript heritage that is in danger of being lost due to the lack of conservation efforts, according to Henry Mendelsohn, Information Resources Officer at the Embassy.

Biddle was invited to become involved in the project due to her extensive training and experience in working with manuscripts. She has previously worked as an Islamic Art bibliographer, with Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. (Antiquarian Oriental and African Booksellers), and has worked in the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, England. She has studied manuscript binding, preservation techniques, and is presently a M.A. student in Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester (U.K.)

“I will be engaged in prioritizing preservation needs using specific criteria: impact, feasibility and urgency; weighing appropriate collections-related factors: use, storage, condition and value; then will be making informed value judgments before reaching a decision on actions that might be taken,” Biddle says.

Biddle says she will bring back photos to Wesleyan to showcase her work and plans to publish articles about her experience.

By Corrina Balash Kerr, associate director of media relations. Photo by Olivia Drake.

Whaley Becomes VP for Student Affairs

Posted 02/27/08
Michael Whaley, formerly the interim dean of the college, was promoted to vice president for student affairs on Feb. 21.

In addition to supervising a large and complex office, he has worked imaginatively with the vice president for academic affairs to develop programs that connect faculty and students outside the classroom in a variety of co-curricular activities. The change of title to vice president for student affairs reflects the duties of the position as it has evolved at Wesleyan, and positions the office as an integral part of the educational enterprise.

“Mike has a true gift for hearing students, for understanding their issues, and for working with them to enhance the meaningfulness of their time at Wesleyan,” says Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “That’s part of the reason why the Wesleyan Student Assembly so strongly expressed support for this appointment. The importance of his efforts cannot be overstated; the academic success of our students and the impressions of Wesleyan they take to heart depend heavily upon what happens outside the classroom. Mike believes we can do much more to infuse co-curricular activities with intellectual excitement, and I share his enthusiasm.”

Whaley holds a bachelor of science in microbiology from Cornell, and masters degrees in counseling and higher education from Central Connecticut State University. Since 1997, he has served with distinction as dean of student services, becoming interim dean of the college in 2007.

He has worked with students and faculty in numerous capacities, including the development of a strategic facilities plan, improvement of relations with city residents, enhancement of services for students with disabilities, oversight of the student judicial system, and improvements to orientation activities. Throughout his tenure he has been a strong advocate for effective student governance as well as active student participation in institutional decision making.

“Mike is well known on campus and admired for his sensitivity and his thoughtfulness, his leadership and his ability to engage diverse aspects of the student body in building a joyful community of learning,” Roth concludes.

Student Dancer Promotes, Writes for New Urban Dance Magazine


Dance major Brittany Delany ’09 , far left, writes for Hot Stepz Magazine, based near Boston. She also helps advertise magazine-sponsored dance events.
Posted 02/27/08
Brittany Delany ’09 grew up improvising pop and hip hop movements in her family room. Now she’s danced her way into Hot Stepz Magazine as a writer and publication promoter.

Delany, a choreography/performance dance major and French studies major, voluntarily works for the urban dance publication, subtitled “the soul of dance.” The magazine focuses on modern-day dance styles such as Krump, Caribbean, dance hall, stepping, hip-hop and B Boy B Girl while emphasizing the historical culture of dance movements.

“I am very committed to the heart of this magazine,” Delany says. “Hot Stepz is for people of all ages and cultural backgrounds who have an interest in all kinds of dance. It provides a platform to support those in the performance arts and it explores dance histories.”

The magazine debuted in January and featured an interview with Shane Sparks, choreographer for the MTV Music Awards and for the hit show So You Think You Can Dance. Other articles included a biographical account of Katherine Dunham, a history of Flamenco dancing; and a fashion spread and interview with Francesca Harper, who plays on Broadway in “The Color Purple” musical. The magazine’s primary consumers are men and women of all ethnic backgrounds between ages 16 and 40.

Hot Stepz Magazine was visualized by 13-year-old Neeca Wilder and her mother, publisher J. Lynda Blake, in Dorchester, Mass. last year. Their goal was to create a publication that would help to give deserving dance pioneers and aspiring artists national exposure by capturing their talents in each issue. Delany befriended the mother-daughter duo and instantly offered to help promote the magazine and its dance-culture events.

In June 2007, Delany helped organize the Hot Stepz Freestyle Dance Party and freestyle dance competition in Boston, and the Hot Stepz-sponsored “Liquid Steel” dance audition in Cambridge, Mass. in July. The events welcomed all styles of dance from ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop to Caribbean, krump and B Boy. More recently, the Hot Stepz-sponsored dance crew ‘Status Quo’ has been successfully competing for the top spot in MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew.

In addition to working on the promotional aspect of the magazine, Delany also writes for the publication. She’s written about the 2008 Leap Year Dance Marathon, hosted by Rozann Kraus of the Dance Complex in Cambridge. And she’s interviewed Janille Hill, the leader of the step team ‘A Chosen Few’ to write about stepping.

“It was very interesting to learn that stepping originates from slavery, when slaves would use percussive foot stomping and hand clapping as a way to communicate. African American fraternities and sororities developed and popularized this form,” Delany explains. “We have a great step group here too—WEStep.”

Delany’s interest in dance began at a young age, where she’d dance to popular songs, and dabble with moves to Caribbean and African beats. In seventh grade, at the Milton Academy near Boston, she became a member of their Dance Ensemble.

“One of my favorite performances was during my second year. We performed a dance that was daring and experimental and just fun,” Delany says, who is pictured at left. “It was all about being funky. We made our costumes out of bubble wrap and duct tape.”

In high school, the budding performer collaborated with students and began working with her teacher, Kelli Edwards. She experimented with modern, jazz, dancehall, tango, improvisation and hip-hop styles. Naturally, when applying for colleges, Delany sought an institution with a solid, world-renowned dance program and student dance groups. Wesleyan’s dance major, featuring technique courses in modern dance, ballet, jazz, Javanese, Bharata Natyam, West African dance, among others, was strongly appealing.

She also enjoys the major’s courses on dance composition and production, theory, dance history and improvisational “site-specific” dance, where a dancer approaches a space not reserved for dance.

“A few of us did (site-specific dance) right here in Usdan,” Delany explains. “We took off our boots, took note of available spaces, climbed on chairs, clumped ourselves into nooks and the window frames … then we’d take an object like this chair, turn it on its side, explore it and extrapolate a movement from it. I really love negotiating a situation in a short moment.”

Delany, who has a growing interest in the history of dance and writing, says she’s not sure what she’ll do after Wesleyan.

“Whatever I end up doing has to be creative,” she says. “Creativity is my passion.”

For more information on Hot Stepz Magazine, go to

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Online Biographic Site of Wriston ’11 Debuts

Wesleyan’s Academic Media Studio created the website,, in honor of Wesleyan alumnus Henry Merritt Wriston, B.A. ’11, M.A. ’12.
Posted 02/27/08
This month Wesleyan’s Academic Media Studio premiered, a biographical portrait of distinguished professor, college president, and foreign policy expert Henry Merritt Wriston, ‘11.

Created though support by the Wriston family, the non-profit educational site was designed to provide textual, visual and audile information about the life and work of Henry Merritt Wriston and serve as a research portal for scholars investigating liberal education, college administration, internationalism, domestic and foreign policy and more.

The website presents a complete biography as well as an interactive timeline exhibiting nearly 200 original archival photographs organized according to five eras of Wriston’s life. It features links to additional resources and a library of more than 100 of Wriston’s speeches, articles, books, and letters spanning over six decades of his distinguished career. The information is organized by type, by topic, and by decade for user-friendly browsing, and the text has been made completely searchable using a custom Google search. In addition, the media section features five hours of audio clips of sample speeches of this dynamic speaker, as well as accounts of his life by his daughter Barbara, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and others.

Henry Merritt Wriston (1889-1978) advanced the ideals of liberal education and internationalism throughout his distinguished life as a dynamic speaker, prolific author, professor, college president, and foreign policy expert. A graduate of Wesleyan University (B.A. 1911, M.A. 1912), Wriston returned to his alma mater to serve as a professor of history (1914-1925). His doctoral dissertation, “Executive Agents in American Foreign Relations” (Harvard University, 1922) became a standard text in the U.S. Department of State.

Wriston served as president of Lawrence College in Appleton, Wisconsin (1925-1937) and Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island (1937-1955), where his tenure had powerful transforming effects. At both schools he reorganized the curriculum to emphasize his commitment to liberal education, an ideal he first experienced at Wesleyan and later articulated in his best-known work, The Nature of A Liberal Arts College (1937). He has been called “the greatest president Brown ever had.”

Wriston also maintained active roles in numerous educational organizations, including the first president of the Association of American Universities (1948-1950).

In Washington D.C., Wriston served as chairman of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Commission on National Goals (1960), chairman of the Secretary of State’s Committee on Personnel (1954), and member of the U.S. Department of State’s Advisory Committee on Foreign Service (1956-1958), earning a reputation as the architect of the reorganization of the Foreign Service of the State Department. He was involved with many organizations dedicated to foreign policy and served as president of The American Assembly (1957-1963) and president of the Council on Foreign Relations (1951-1964).

Wriston served as a trustee of many boards and was received numerous honors and 30 honorary degrees during his lifetime.  His legacy includes his many writings and speeches, as well as The Wriston Fellowship at Brown, the Wriston Art Center at Lawrence, and the Henry Merritt Wriston Chair in Public Policy at Wesleyan.

By Mariah Klaneski BA ’04 MA ’07 and David Pesci, director of media relations

Music Department to Host Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology

Posted 02/27/08
Being home to one of the oldest ethnomusicology programs in the country, it was only fitting that Wesleyan host the 53rd annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), Oct. 25-28.

All activities will take place on the Wesleyan campus, primarily in the Center for the Arts, Usdan University Center and Memorial Chapel. The meeting will take place during fall break to accommodate the more than 850 academics, students, professional musicians, and public sector administrators expected to attend.

Events during the three day meeting will include conference-style panels, performance workshops, and concerts. A one-day pre-conference on Oct. 24 titled “Toward a 21st Century Ethnomusicology,” will include visiting scholars from China, Indonesia and Africa. The meeting will also include webcasting and videoconferencing with students and colleagues in their home countries for a global discussion.

Known throughout its history for curricular innovation, Wesleyan boasts undergraduate and MA theses on South Indian, Native American, Irish, Jewish, Indonesian, Japanese, African, and experimental music, blues, and jazz written in the 1960s. The first Wesleyan ethnomusicology Ph.D was granted in 1971. The late Wesleyan Professor David McAllester was a co-founder of SEM in the 1950s, and in the 1960s he co-founded Wesleyan’s World Music Program, which has supplied two presidents to SEM, MacAllester and Mark Slobin, chair and professor of music.  Wesleyan University Press published the journal Ethnomusicology from its inception until 1971. SEM met at Wesleyan in 1975.
The current Music Department faculty, which has trained scores of ethnomusicologists, dates from the 1960s up to the present and includes Abraham Adzenyah, adjunct professor of music; Slobin; Sumarsam adjunct professor of music; I. Harjito, artist in residence, music; Su Zheng, associate professor of music, associate professor, East Asian Studies; Eric Charry, associate professor of music; David Nelson, artist in residence; B. Balasubrahmaniyan, adjunct instructor in music

Other longterm areas of specialization include experimental music, composition, creative music, and jazz and feature Alvin Lucier, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music; Anthony Braxton, professor of music; Neely Bruce, professor of music; Ron Kuivila, adjunct professor of music, director of the electronic music and recording studios; and Jay Hoggard, adjunct associate professor of music

The department’s 16-member fulltime faculty is rounded out by experts in conducting, Angel Gil-Ordóñez, associate professor of music; and musicology/theory Jane Alden, assistant professor of music, assistant professor of medieval studies; and Yonatan Malin, assistant professor of music.  Wesleyan has long stressed the integration of performance and scholarship and has an unusually large number of ensembles (called performance study groups) directed by full and part-time faculty, and occasionally by graduate students, that span the globe, including West Africa, South India, Indonesia, Eastern and Western Europe, China, Japan, Korea, the Caribbean, and North America.

Wesleyan alumni with Ph.Ds in ethnomusicology currently hold teaching positions at Yale, Brown, Duke, Tufts, Hampshire, Trinity, Wesleyan, New England Conservatory, Rensselaer Polytechnic, Kenyon, Lewis and Clark, Florida State, San Francisco State, and Central Conservatory (Beijing), among many others.

For further information, contact Music Department Associate Professor Eric Charry, who is chair of the SEM 2008 Local Arrangements Committee, at or 860-685-2579.

Student-Produced Radio Program Highlights Wesleyan Faculty

From left, Noah Hutton ’09 and Jeremy Finch ’09 are co-producers of the new WESU 88.1 FM show, “The Faculty Lounge.”
Posted 02/27/08
Over radio waves, Neely Bruce chatted about his recent musical compositions; Peter Mark expressed his opinions on the recent crisis in Kenya; and Patrick Dowdey spoke on his passions as a museum curator.

Bruce, professor of music; Mark, professor of art history and professor and director of African American studies; and Dowdey, curator of the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies and adjunct assistant professor of East Asian studies and anthopology, had the opportunity to speak on their scholarly work during a student-engineered radio program, “The Faculty Lounge.” The show, which launched Feb. 1, airs from 1 to 2 p.m. every Friday on WESU 88.1 FM. It is also broadcast through a live audio stream at

“Too often we get honed in on a particular department or focus at the university and lose track of what is going on in the rest of the school,” says the show’s creator, Noah Hutton ’09. “The Faculty Lounge provides a space for questioning and hopefully understanding the incredibly diverse work of the Wesleyan faculty.”

Hutton developed the idea for “The Faculty Lounge,” as a way for WESU to engage with and understand the vast array of scholarly work presented by Wesleyan professors. He and Jeremy Finch ’09 are co-producers of the show.

Every week, the show hosts interview a different Wesleyan faculty member and offer glimpses into their scholarly work to listeners in the campus community and beyond. The show ranges from the formal to the informal, and the guests are asked to provide their own music for the show’s scheduled breaks.

“Faculty members at Wesleyan are always doing really great things out of the classroom that people may not even know about,” Finch says. “I’m always curious about how they ended up at Wesleyan and what type of research interests they have outside of teaching.”

The Feb. 15 show featured an interview with Jorge Arevalo Mateus, an ethnomusicology Ph.D candidate who recently won a Grammy for his role as a producer of “The Live Wire,” a rare recording of a live Woody Guthrie performance. The Feb. 22 show featured John Paoletti, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history, for a discussion on his recent curated exhibition with Wesleyan students at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Conn.

Upcoming episodes of “The Faculty Lounge” will include interviews with Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, chair of the Film Studies Department and curator of Cinema Archives; and Mary-Jane Rubenstein, assistant professor of religion, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Hutton and Finch interview the professors; however they encourage their peers to provide faculty suggestions for the show. The interviews are conducted prior to airing, but Hutton and Finch hope to incorporate live interviews in future shows. This would enable listeners to call in and ask live questions to the faculty interviewee.

Hutton and Finch don’t claim to be experts in any of the topics addressed on the show, however they do conduct some background research before going into an interview. They aim for all interviews to be not only educational, but engaging and entertaining.

“Someone like James Lipton from ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ probably has a staff of five people doing research before each interview session. We don’t have a research staff like that, so it makes things a bit trickier when you just try to wing it,” Finch says. “When interviewing faculty, it’s a different dynamic because you are not in a classroom, there’s not a grade, and you introduce them with their first names.”

Finch grew up listening to Terri Gross on National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” and learned from her approach.

“I loved the way she could ask such a complicated, leading question in such a benign, concise way,” Finch says.

The producers encourage listeners beyond the Wesleyan community to tune in and learn about cutting-edge scholarly work being conducted by local professors. Hutton says the show appeals to a diverse audience, including NPR fans.

“There is a growing trend among universities of publishing taped lectures and other class materials on the internet for the general public. I think this program taps into that trend while still offering an entertaining, made-for-radio show,” Hutton says.

The show is broadcast immediately after “Democracy Now,” so the producers hope “open-minded folks” will keep the radio on afterwards and get a taste for the interesting research going on at Wesleyan.

“’The Faculty Lounge’ is an excellent example of how WESU functions as a service to thousands of listeners throughout central Connecticut and Wesleyan University. At the same time programs like this empower students by providing a venue for them to hone valuable broadcast communication skills,” says Ben Michael, WESU general manager.

Both Hutton and Finch have more than two years experience working with the campus radio station.

Hutton, an art history major, trained to be a DJ during his freshman year, and hosted a weekly jazz show before creating The Faculty Lounge. He also is the station’s vice president.

Finch, an East Asian studies major, spent the past two years hosting a folk and rock show called “Passenger Side” but has put that aside for “The Faculty Lounge”. He plans to host a music show next summer.

“I’m confident about the future of radio and excited about the different possibilities that it provides to connect with people,” Finch says. “The Faculty Lounge is just one way we can make connections.”

Past shows are recorded and posted online at

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Nobel Prize Winner Speaker at First Year Matters Program

Posted 02/27/08
Nobel Prize winner and University of Massachusetts Medical School professor Craig C. Mello, Ph.D, pictured at left, will be presenting a lecture as part of Wesleyan’s First Year Matters program. The talk, titled “Return to the RNAi World: Rethinking Gene Expression, Evolution and Medicine,” will begin at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 28, in Shanklin 107.

The event is free and open to the public.

Mello and his colleague Andrew Fire, Ph.D, of Stanford University, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2006 for their discoveries related to RNA interference (RNAi).

“We are excited and honored that Dr. Mello has accepted an invitation to speak with our community about the discovery of RNAi, and its impact on the study of disease, medicine and society,” says Sarah Lazare, associate dean of Student Academic Resources and director of First Year Matters.

“Dr. Mello and his work fit perfectly into First Year Matters’ theme: Legacy and Impact. By providing students with the opportunity to speak directly with a Nobel Laureate it reminds them that their own engagement in academic endeavors has the potential to impact and change the world,” Lazare says.

Mello is the Blais University Chair in Molecular Medicine at the medical school. He was also designated an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) in 2000. HHMI is a $13 billion medical research organization that employs more than 350 eminent researchers at 72 medical schools, universities and research institutes worldwide.

There will be a reception following Mello’s presentation. The event is sponsored by the Office of the Dean of the College, Academic Affairs, Departments of Biology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and the Career Resource Center.

By Corrie Balash Kerr, associate director of media relations

Associate Director of Regional Programs and Networks Coordinates Programming for Alumni Clubs

Faraneh Carnegie ’05, associate director of regional programs and networks, staffs external events, meets with current and potential volunteers and is the staff liaison to the Alumni of Color Network.
Posted 02/27/08
Q: Faraneh, you are a recent Wesleyan alumna and now associate director of regional programs and networks in the Office of University Relations. Did you ever imagine you’d end up working at your alma mater?

A: I wanted to stay at Wesleyan after graduation. I applied for the position in University Relations on the recommendation of my colleague Frantz Williams ’99, associate director of parent development. I was intrigued by the opportunity to travel and meet with Wesleyan alumni and parents around the country, and I was interested in seeing Wesleyan’s operations from a different vantage point.

Q: At Wesleyan, what did you major in and what activities/groups were you involved in as a student?

A: I majored in French studies and history. I was a Senior Interviewer for the Office of Admission and an Editor for Historical Narratives, an undergraduate journal produced by student in the History Department. I was also a writing tutor and Red and Black caller.

Q: How did your degree, or experiences at Wesleyan, help prepare you for working in University Relations?

A: While at Wesleyan I learned the importance of flexibility and innovation, which are invaluable assets when dealing with alumni volunteers. Wesleyan alumni and parents are quite passionate and vocal and have no reservations about expressing themselves. As an alumna myself, and having had such a great experience at Wesleyan, I feel well-placed to advocate for Wesleyan’s needs to alumni and parents.

Q: Please explain what Regional Programs and Networks are.

A: Regional Programs and Networks is a subsection of the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations. We coordinate the programming for alumni and parent clubs in all of the regions in the U.S. where we have a concentrated group of alumni. I work specifically with the Alumni of Color Network.

Q: What is your role with the Alumni of Color Network?

A: I serve as staff liaison to the Alumni of Color Network. I work closely with student groups and the Office of Diversity and Academic Advancement to engage alumni of color and facilitate meaningful interaction between alumni and students of color.

Q: How many members are in the network and what are your objectives?

A: The Alumni of Color Network includes all Alumni of Color, alumni who self-identify as Black, Latino, and/or Asian Pacific American. The Alumni of Color Network includes the Asian Pacific American Alumni Council (APAAC), the Black Alumni Council (BAC), and Wesleyan Latino Alumni Network (WesLAN) Each Council develops events and programs that reflect specific interests and experiences of alumni of color. The Councils work to establish ties between alumni, students, parents of students of color and the University. The Network also promotes interests pertaining to communities of color and collaborates with University offices to assist and support on- and off-campus programs.

Q: And what is your role with the Alumni of Color newsletter?

A: I am the editor of the Alumni of Color Newsletter. All alumni of color receive the newsletter via email. The Newsletter typically includes a feature story on an alumnus/a, campus happenings pertinent to alumni of color and articles on issues of diversity. Alumni are also encouraged to share their updates with each other in the “Here’s What We’re Doing section of the newsletter.

Q: Who are the key people you work with?

A: I work closely with Sandy Tello ’06, assistant director of regional programs and networks, and Christine Colfer, administrative assistant. Jen Jurgen, senior associate director of regional programs and networks, supervises our team.

Q: How do you spend the bulk of your day?

A: I spend much of my time working closely with our alumni volunteers, on the phone, via email and occasionally in person to plan and pull together events in their regions and to update them on what’s happening at the university. I also spend a lot of time creating invitations, print and for web, updating our regional club pages and drafting briefing materials and remarks for our events.

Q: Do you have to travel for your job?

A: Yes I do. I’m on the road a couple times a month staffing events and meeting with current and potential volunteers.

Q: As a staff member in University Relations, are you involved with Homecoming/Family Weekend or Reunion and Commencement Weekend events?

A: We’re all very involved in staffing events during Homecoming/Family Weekend and Reunion and Commencement Weekend. It’s a great opportunity for us to meet alumni and parents and showcase the University. I am specifically responsible for coordinating the Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium during Homecoming/Family Weekend.

Q: What do you like best about working in UR?

A: It’s a wonderful working environment! I really enjoy working with my colleagues; specifically my immediate team, and I really enjoy the work I do. It’s really invigorating to spend time meeting and working such a dynamic group of alumni and parents. The Wesleyan community is really unique.

Q: Where are you from?

A: I grew up in Maine and Jamaica. My parents still live in Maine.

Q: What are your hobbies and interests?

A: I really like to read and I’ve recently gotten really into running. My goal is to complete a half-marathon at the end of the summer. I also love fashion and fancy myself as Stacey London from What Not To Wear.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Psychology Class Creates Book Drive to Benefit Local Elementary School

Posted 02/27/08
Along with returning to campus with suntans (or sunburns), new spring duds and a backpack full of work to complete by the end of March, Barbara Juhasz, assistant professor of psychology, would like students to bring back one more thing from break: a book for Middletown gradeschoolers.

The “Bring Back a Book” Book Drive is the brainchild of students in Juhasz’s Psychology of Reading Class. The drive will be going on throughout the week of March 24.

The idea is for Wesleyan students come back from break with new or lightly used books that are appropriate for first to fifth grade students and place them in collection boxes around campus. The books collected will be given to students at Middletown’s Commodore Macdonough Elementary School to build up classroom libraries.

“Research suggests that children become more skilled at reading when they have access to rich libraries containing many books that interest them,” Juhasz says. “Yet urban schools, such as Macdonough, often do not have enough resources to build rich classroom libraries.”

Juhasz said that collection boxes will be placed at Usdan, Judd Hall, the Center for Community Partnerships, the Freeman Athletic Center, some student residences and other locations to be determined. Faculty and staff are welcome to donate books as well.

Students in Juhasz’s class have been working to help teach kids to read throughout the semester. The students, such as Abby Sedney ’10, noticed that most classrooms in Macdonough “had very small libraries or no libraries at all,” Sedney says.

Students initially thought about adding to the classroom libraries by donating service-learning funds to buy books. However, the idea of a book drive was floated and the students liked it, thinking it may garner more books for the school.

“We’re hoping this book drive can help the kids at Macdonough become more interested in reading,” Sedney says. “By collecting from so many people, we’re hoping to give each student an opportunity to read books that interest them, not just books that follow the lesson plans. We figured spring break would be a great time to hold the drive because we are well aware of how hard it is for students to buy or find elementary level books while on campus. We’re hoping students can look through old books at home, or have an opportunity to go to a book store and pick out a book or two.”

“I think that the book drive will be a nice way for Wesleyan students to gain awareness about educational issues in the Middletown community that the typical Wesleyan student may not think about on a daily basis,” Emily Rosen-King ’08 says. “This will be a positive gesture showing that we care about the well-being of MacDonough Elementary school, which is just a five-minute walk from campus.”

For more information and to inquire about donating a book, email Juhasz at or call her at 860-685-4978.

By Corrie Balash Kerr, associate director of media relations

Films, Guest Speakers Bring Israeli Culture to Wesleyan

Dalit Katz, adjunct assistant professor of religion, meets with Avi Nesher, director of the Israeli film, The Secrets. Nesher’s film is part of the ongoing Ring Family Wesleyan Israel Film Festival, coordinated by Katz.
Posted 02/27/08
Last June, Dalit Katz fell in love with two contemporary Israeli films shown at international film festivals. 
“I saw these movies and I told myself, ‘I am going to bring these films to Wesleyan,” says Katz, adjunct assistant professor of religion.
Katz stayed true to her word.
The films, titled Jellyfish (2006) and The Secrets (2007) are both part of the 2008 Ring Family Wesleyan Israel Film Festival ongoing through April 29. The festival, sponsored by the Jewish and Israel Studies Program, Film Studies Department and Religion Department, features evening film screenings and discussions with movie directors and film critics.
Katz created the Israel Film Festival in 2006 to promote Israeli culture on campus.
“Israeli films are unlike any Hollywood movie,” Katz explains. “They are very innovative, unique and unexpected. Some are about daily life in Israel and others are wonderful stories. Audiences are moved by these films.”
After every film, a guest speaker shares his or her viewpoint on the film, offers an academic reading or a critical commentary, and participates in a question and answer session with attendees in the audience. Past speakers have included Miri Talmon-Bohm, visiting assistant professor of religion; Laura Blum, film critic; and Avi Nesher, director of The Secrets and recipient of Jerusalem International Festival Achievement Award 2006.
“We have internationally well-known directors and film critics here on campus, and this is an incredible opportunity for our students to ask questions and hold discussions with these wonderful speakers,” Katz says. “It was amazing to see the sparks between the audience and Avi Nesher, when he spoke. Having these speakers creates a rich, holistic experience for our students.”
Upcoming films and guest speakers include:
March 3. Someone to Run With, a story about a boy who tries to track down, through the streets of Jerusalem, the owner of a lost Labrador and to piece together the incredible story behind the owner’s disappearance. The film is based on acclaimed Isreali writer David Grossman’s best selling novel. A presentation and discussion will be led by musician Christopher Bowen, who composed the music to the film Jellyfish.
“Someone to Run With is a real must-see movie with beautiful scenes from Jerusalem,” Katz says.
March 24. Live and Become, a story of a Christian boy from Sudan whose mother forced him to assume a Jewish identity of another boy who died in order to send him to Israel and save him from hunger and death in his own country. A discussion will be led by Laura Blum, film critic.
April 29. Jellyfish, a story of three women whose intersecting stories weave an unlikely portrait of modern Israeli life. A discussion will be led by the film’s director and internationally acclaimed writer Etgar Keret, who will talk about this film and read some of his short stories.
Films are shown at 7:30 p.m. in the Goldsmith Family Cinema, located at 301 Washington Terrace inside the Center for Film Studies.
Katz incorporates the films into all three of her Hebrew-based courses. Students enrolled in her HEBR102, HEBR202 and HEBR412-Advanced Tutorial, are assigned 250-500 word writing responses – in Hebrew – after each film as part of the curriculum.
“I ask my students to write their opinions of the movie, analyze a character, give me feedback about what they thought of the movie, or offer a general reaction,” Katz says. “It’s always interesting to see how they relate to the film or a particular character.”
Wesleyan students also take advantage of the festival’s guest speakers, posing an array of questions for the Israeli film experts. The speakers talk in English after the film, but also attend Katz’s Hebrew courses to converse solely in Hebrew. This exposure to native speakers makes the courses an excellent linguistic and cultural opportunity, Katz explains.
“Our guests have commented on how prepared our students are,” Katz says. “Our students are genuinely so interested in the speakers, they come up with several questions to ask them, and they really show enthusiasm about learning about Israeli culture and the language. It’s our amazing students that set Wesleyan apart from other universities.”
She encourages her students to bring their friends and families to the films and guarantees the general audience will find the Israeli films appealing. All films have English subtitles.
Katz, a hobbiest movie-goer, says she developed an interest in Israeli films years ago, and “buys them and watches them” often.
“But my real hobby is making the advertisement posters visible and promoting the film festival here at Wesleyan,” Katz says. “I know once someone sees one film, they will become interested and want to see more.”
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Psychology Department Showcases New Laboratories

Barbara Juhasz, at right, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience and behavior, explains eye-tracking data to guests during a roving lab event Jan. 23.
Posted 02/01/08
Three new psychology labs in Judd Hall allow faculty and students to study readers’ habits, to reveal insights into children’s’ minds and to help improve existing treatments for schizophrenia.The Department of Psychology hosted a roving lab event Jan. 23 to introduce the labs and showcase the extensive renovations that were completed to create customized multi-purpose facilities.

The renovations include Barbara Juhasz’s eye tracking lab on the fifth floor, Anna Shusterman’s child development lab on the fourth, and Matthew Kurtz’s cognitive testing and treatment lab for people with schizophrenia on the third floor.

Ruth Striegel-Moore, professor and chair of psychology, expressed her excitement about the spaces and her gratitude to Joe Bruno, vice president for academic affairs and provost, and David Bodznick, dean of natural sciences and mathematics, for their support.

“Joe supported what I consider a radical transformation of our space,” Striegel-Moore says. “The space is an exact execution of the design needs of the faculty.”

Striegel-Moore said that each of the renovations were a “wonderful example of what can be achieved when people work together for a common goal.”

“Wesleyan is committed to hiring outstanding faculty members with ambitious research agendas and a strong commitment to undergraduate education in the classroom and in the research laboratory,” Bruno says. “We are pleased to have hired several outstanding new faculty members in the department of psychology recently, and look forward to their contributions to the Wesleyan community.”

The fifth floor space was previously a holding area for animals involved in research and has largely been unused for years. Today, the floor that Striegel-Moore said used to be a “dingy dark space with a 1930s-feel” is now brightly lit and professional looking. The floor contains Juhasz’s office, three testing areas, a lounge, temporary faculty offices and the office of the department’s budget and grants coordinator.

Juhasz said she was especially happy to get the Eye Link 1000 eye-tracking machine installed (pictured at left). According to Juhasz, eye tracking used to be a technique that only a few people could do because the old, large machines used to be so expensive. With the new machine, researchers can record a reader’s eye movements every millisecond and learn more about sentence comprehension, compound word recognition and the overall process of reading.

“Having newly renovated labs to move into and generous funding to purchase equipment gives new faculty the opportunity to hit the ground running with their research and to involve undergraduates and graduate students in that research without significant delays,” Bodznick says.

The renovation led by Alan Rubacha, consultant in the construction services department, began in the spring of 2006 and was completed just before the fall semester began in 2006.

Brandi Hood, senior project coordinator in the construction services department, was responsible for the work on the fourth and third floors. Planning for the lower floors began in May 2007 and the renovations were completed by August 2007.

Hood said that her design challenge was to meet university standards while matching the rooms to her clients’ functional needs and stylistic requests. For example, although Hood doesn’t normally design children’s labs, Shusterman says she is pleased that the lab looks exactly as she intended it to look.

“The real challenge in a project of this nature is to quickly determine the faculty’s needs, formulate the design and execute the construction project within the time and space allocated,” Hood says.

The fourth floor looks very different from the animal facility it once was. One can’t help but notice the inviting, kid-friendly light blue walls. The new lab has a computer room for undergraduates, Shusterman’s office, a common area and two observation laboratories dedicated to child development experiments.

One particular challenge for Hood and Shusterman was creating the navigation room—a largely neutral 12-foot-by-12-foot room with a stimulus-free environment where children’s spatial reasoning abilities are tested. Not only did she need a room that could fit a customized off-white movable curtain, she needed everything in the room to be as symmetrical as possible so that kids could not use anything in the environment around them to assist them during the experiments. In fact, Shusterman requested that two vents be placed in the ceiling to match the vents already in existence.

“The room had to look the same no matter what area you’re looking at,” Hood says.

The third floor, which used to hold a sleep lab, now houses Kurtz’s office and two rooms outfitted with computers and used for research involving people with schizophrenia. The lab will be devoted to the cognitive and social-cognitive training of people with schizophrenia. Kurtz conducts assessments of patients associated with the Institute of Living in Hartford and plans to bring individuals with schizophrenia to his lab so they can participate in in-depth training programs to help improve any deficits they may have with attention, memory, problem solving and other cognitive and psychosocial functions.

Striegel-Moore said the design challenge for Kurtz’s space was to create “a warm, calm lab, nothing very institutional.”

“It’s an incredible space,” Kurtz says.

Bruno agrees.

“Our investment in facilities and equipment ensures that these colleagues will have the support they need for their research and teaching,” Bruno says. “It also provides for the best use of Judd Hall, an important part of Wesleyan’s brownstone row.”

By Corrina Balash Kerr, associate director of media relations. Photos by Olivia Drake.

Resource Specialist Manages Files, Information on All Faculty Members

Eloise Glick, faculty resource specialist, helps process teaching evaluations at the end of each semester in the Office of Academic Affairs.
Posted 02/01/08
Q: Eloise, as a faculty resource specialist in the Office of Academic Affairs, what resources do you manage for the faculty?

A: I coordinate all the paper and processes — except for benefits — associated with a faculty member’s career from the letter of offer until retirement. There is a reason the main decorative feature of my office is filing cabinets!

Q: When a new faculty member is hired, what is the process of getting him or her into the faculty database and university system?

A: Each faculty member provides the required personal information that is entered into the PeopleSoft Human Resources database so that the WES ID can be generated. All the electronic accounts that faculty members need to do their jobs are created through an automated process after the information is entered. Some of the information is then made public through the directory listing and the departmental web pages. Except for the name and job title, each individual controls the information that is made available for viewing in the university directory.

Q: Do you meet or speak with faculty often or is your job somewhat behind the scenes?

A: Most of my communication with faculty is through e-mail and the telephone. My most frequent contacts are with faculty members of the Advisory Committee and department chairs. If I am doing my job well, I shouldn’t hear from many faculty members.

Q: What generally occurs throughout your day?

A: Each day is different, although many of the tasks associated with the job are cyclical. The process for approving sabbatical and leaves for 08-09 has been completed. Now I am involved in tasks associated with hiring new faculty for the 08-09 academic year, and before long there will be retirement and commencement activities. At the end of each semester all the teaching evaluations are forwarded to Academic Affairs and I help coordinate that process and provide data to faculty on their evaluations.

Q: What are the Support Advisory Committee and Review and Appeals Board, and what is your involvement with them?

A: The Advisory Committee and the Review and Appeals Board are the faculty groups responsible for advising the president regarding appointments, reappointments and promotions in the faculty. I provide staff support to make sure these two groups have the materials they need for reviewing the appointments and assist in any way that I can to make the process run smoothly.

Q: Who are the key people you work with in Academic Affairs?

A: Part of the appeal of this job is that Academic Affairs works so collaboratively. I work most closely with the Paula Lawson, associate provost, but interact frequently with Joe Bruno, vice president for academic affairs and provost; Tom Morgan, academic secretary; Janine Lockhart, financial planner and analyst; the academic deans and the Academic Affairs support staff. It really is a team effort.

Q: When did you come to Wesleyan and attracted you to the university?

A: I began in February 2003. I was working in New Haven at the time and was looking for an interesting position in higher education when I saw an ad in the Hartford Courant for the position as an assistant to the vice president for the Office of Academic Affairs. I knew a couple of faculty members and they spoke highly the school so I decided to apply for the job. In addition, my husband and I have enjoyed the cultural activities that a liberal arts university provides. We’ve attended a number of Center for the Arts concerts and campus-wide lectures.

Q: What is your educational background? What were you doing prior to Wesleyan?

A: I have a degree in education. I have worked in education from the pre-school level through professional schools, both as a teacher and in administrative roles. Just prior to coming to Wesleyan I was the Dean’s Office coordinator at Yale University School of Medicine.

Q: Do you have a family?

A: My husband and I have been married for almost 38 years and have two grown children: a son living in Georgia and a daughter living in Colorado. They have chosen great locations for us to visit.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I really enjoy participating in choral music groups and have sung with several choirs over the years. I also enjoy the culinary arts and have been known to use North College third floor folks as the guinea pigs for cake or cookie recipes.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor