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Michael Calter Joins Chemistry Department as Associate Professor


 
Michael Calter teaches organic chemistry and researches synthetic organic chemistry, which deals with making complex, useful organic molecules from simple starting materials.
 
Posted 02/23/05
Michael Calter joined the Chemistry Department as an associate professor of chemistry in June 2004. Calter completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Vermont and earned his Ph.D at Harvard University in the chemistry department. His dissertation was titled “First Total Synthesis of the Macrolide Antibiotic, Bafilomycin A1.”
At Wesleyan, Calter teaches organic chemistry and researches synthetic organic chemistry, which deals with making complex, useful organic molecules from simple starting materials.

 
“I’m interested in using the new molecules that my group synthesizes to study biological systems,” Calter said.   Calter chose Wesleyan based on the institutional commitment to education.
 
“The high faculty to student ratios, the involvement of most undergraduates in cutting edge research, and the rigorous course work required of the graduate students were just some of the manifestations of this commitment that were obvious even during the interviewing process,” he said. “There is also a real feeling of community among the faculty that is lacking at larger institutions.”   Calter recently co-authored a paper titled “Catalytic, asymmetric synthesis and diastereoselective aldol reactions of dipropionate equivalents,” published in the “Journal of Organic Chemistry” in 2004. He is currently organizing a symposium for the Chemistry Department that will bring together presentations by representatives from academia and industry. The symposium will be held on May 5. 

Calter lives in Middletown with is wife, Kimberley and children, Rachel, 12 and Christopher, 9. He has an amateur interest in the history of science, particularly where it intersects with the development of geometry, and the visual arts.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Adjunct Professor of Music Helps Students Create Music Here and Online


 
Ronald Kuivila, ’77, adjunct professor of music, smiles from the Grand Teton in Wyoming.
 
Posted 02/23/05

Q: When did you join the Music Department at Wesleyan?

A: I joined the department as an artist in residence in the early 80s and converted to adjunct associate professor in the early 90s. As an artist in residence, I was expected to teach three courses a year and maintain an active professional profile as an artist and composer. As an adjunct professor, I am expected to teach four courses a year, participate in committee work, and maintain an active professional profile. Most of the adjunct faculty in the Music Department began as artists in residence.

Q:  What do you consider yourself, musically, to be an expert on?

A: Live electronics, computer music systems, sound installation and American experimental music. I am also a mediocre pianist.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about your educational background and what led you into teaching music?

A: I was a Wesleyan undergraduate and I came to Wesleyan with an interest in experimental music. In fact, it was a video tape of Nam June Paik’s that featured Alvin Lucier that led me to apply to Wesleyan in the first place. After Wesleyan, I studied at Mills College, worked as a recorded engineer and was an artist in residence at Media Study/Buffalo and a creative associate at Center for the Creative and Performing Arts at SUNY Buffalo.

Q: You came to Wesleyan with an interest in experimental music, and now you’re also director of the electronic music and recording studios. Tell me about the studio, and what you can produce here.

A: There are two studios, a recording booth connected to two large recording studios that double as classrooms and rehearsal spaces and an electronic music studio. The studios are used for recording and producing student and faculty work. Much of the work we do in the electronic music studio takes the form of interactive systems and live electronics using various kinds of software and hardware.

Q: Can you give me a project example?

A: A particular focus is SuperCollider, a programming environment for computer music that is now distributed as free software. SuperCollider is being developed by a number of programmers located throughout the world through SourceForge, the largest open source software development site in the world.  My own work with SuperCollider has been primarily focused on my own work and making tools that enable students to be able to develop pieces quickly.  However, I recently provided a nerdier contribution by optimizing SuperCollider’s primary score library.

Q: In addition to your work on SuperCollider, I understand that you’re an active composer and scholar?

A:  This last year I have been doing more work as a scholar and curator. The most recent number of Leonardo Music Journal has an article of mine on the work of the composer and pianist David Tudor together with a CD of his work that I edited. Last spring I curated a group exhibition of sound works at the gallery Art in General in Tribeca. Most recently, a piece I made in collaboration with Ed Tomney was presented in New York City and a piece made while I was a composer in residence at the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College was presented in Oakland, California.

Q: Do you give presentations on your work and music?

A: As anyone who knows me will verify, I like to talk. Over the last year, I have given talks and participated in panels at the Getty Research Institute, the art department at Stanford University, the music department at Harvard, the great hall at Cooper Union in New York City and at Columbia University.

Q: How would you describe the musically-inclined students at Wesleyan. Where do these students end up working if they stick with a music degree?

A: Music students at Wesleyan are an extremely varied group. The only attributes they all seem to share are keen interest and intelligence. Students of mine have gone to graduate programs at RPI, the Art Institute of Chicago, Cal Arts, Mills College, SUNY Stony Brook, the Baden-Wurttemburg exchange program. Some are teaching, some are in the media industry, some are in the music software industry, some are pursuing careers in Europe and the U.S.

Q: What’s a typical day like for you here in the Music Department?

A: Normally, I teach two classes, run a group tutorial and individual thesis tutorials with undergraduate and graduate students. I also organize an annual festival of new and experimental music. One project in last year’s festival involved replacing the light classical muzak that emanates from the parking garage near Main Street with projects developed by students in my class.

Q: Outside of work, what do you like to do? Does it involve music?

A: Along with music, I love cooking. Many composers are also good cooks! I also enjoy sports such as skiing, hiking, swimming and squash.  I am a particularly bad squash player. I do some mountain climbing. Two years ago I climbed the Grand Teton with a friend and a guide.

Q: Is your family into music, too?

A: Actually, this is my most important project. During Valentine’s Day 2003, my wife, Bobbi, and I returned from China with our newly adopted daughter, Cai. Cai is definitely musically oriented. In the grocery store, she managed to get a crowd staring up at the speaker in the ceiling by pointing at it and saying, ‘music.’

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Plass Joins German Studies Department as Assistant Professor


 
Ulrich Plass studies German literature and continental philosophy with an emphasis on aesthetics.
 
Posted 02/23/05
Ulrich Plass joined the faculty in the German Studies Department as an assistant professor in 2004. He teaches language courses as well as classes on a range of other topics that fall under the interdisciplinary rubric “German Studies.”   Plass completed his bachelor’s degree from the University of Hamburg in Germany, received a master’s degree from the University of Michigan and completed his Ph.D at New York University with a thesis on the essay form in Theodor Adorno’s “Notes to Literature.”
  Plass is currently revising his dissertation for publication. It focuses on philosophical interpretations of literature within the social and cultural context of post-war Western Germany. Plass’s academic work encompasses German literature from Goethe to the present, as well as continental philosophy with an emphasis on aesthetics.   He is currently collaborating with friends on developing a conference about the intersections of popular culture and intellectualism in the works of the writer Rainald Goetz. In the next few years, he plans to work on 19th century poetry.   Prior to coming to Wesleyan, Plass met people who spoke highly about the university.
  “And it just so happened that I felt very comfortable and welcome here from the time I first visited,” Plass says. “I appreciate that Wesleyan’s size is very manageable, especially coming from Hamburg, Michigan, and New York, all places that can be nightmarishly confusing, if not hostile. I also really like the students, and I have been blessed with wonderful colleagues.”
 
Plass lives close to campus with his significant other.
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations Helps Raise more than $30M for Wesleyan Campaign


 
Carol Scully, director of Foundation and Corporate Relations seeks grants for the university from local and national foundations, corporations and private agencies.
 
Posted 02/23/05

When University Relations decided to spearhead a comprehensive campaign drive seven years ago, they needed someone to work with corporations, foundations and private funding agencies.

Carol Scully was their leading lady.

As director of Foundation and Corporate Relations, Scully helped Wesleyan raise more than $30 million from 219 funding sources for the recently completed Wesleyan Campaign. Most of these donations range between $10,000 and $3 million.

“We’ve been quite successful,” she says, modestly. “But it was a team effort.”

Scully has mastered a process to find grants. She begins by researching prospective sources – foundations, corporations and other public and private funding agencies – analyzing their support interests and how much they could give or have given in the past. She’ll send them a letter of inquiry, write up a grant proposal and invite them to tour Wesleyan. Each tour is catered to the program officers, and usually includes a meeting with President Doug Bennet.

“We love to have them visit, so we can show off Wesleyan, and show they’ll be making a good investment when they give to Wesleyan,” she says. “It’s usually easy to sell Wesleyan. Funders are attracted to an organization that knows where it is going.”

In addition to the Wesleyan Campaign, Scully’s office helped raise more than $1 million –  or 50 percent of the total dollars – to start-up and fund the Green Street Arts Center. The funds were contributed by corporations, foundations, and federal, state and local government agencies.

Many foundation grants during the campaign helped establish new academic initiatives. For example, grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have funded the Center for Faculty Development, a post-doctoral program at the Center for the Americas, and the environmental studies program. The Freeman Foundation gave Wesleyan $1.9 million that created the Asian Asian/American Initiative.  In 2000, the W. M. Keck Foundation awarded Wesleyan $500,000 to jump start its genomics program, and the Surdna Foundation gave three $75,000 grants in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to support the Service Learning Center, part of the Center for Community Partnerships.

“The key factor is to maintain good relationships with our donors,” she says. “When awarded a grant, we make sure we do what we said we would do and show results. Funders like to know their money has made a difference.”

Though Scully works for University Relations, she’s more than willing to help anyone, campus wide, with grant-writing procedures. She encourages faculty members to stop by with drafts of grant proposals used to fund their research or special projects.

“We’re sort of grant central here,” she says. “We edit, tutor and do whatever we can to be helpful. Sometimes people need help every step of the way, while others just need a signature.”

Scully’s office has collaborated with Academic Affairs and Financial Services to create a grant Web site, http://www.wesleyan.edu/grants. The site provides databases for corporate, foundation and government-affiliated funding sources and highlights the grant-writing process. The three offices work closely together to support the Wesleyan community in their search for external funding –  from the initial search for sources, to development of the proposal, to the administration of the award.

Scully, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Fairfield University and a master’s degree in communications from Syracuse University, said she acquired most of her grant-writing skills on the job. She worked in Wesleyan’s development office doing corporate and foundation giving between 1983 and 1987. She tutored English at Manchester Community College and wrote grant proposals for the Science Center of Connecticut and Saint Joseph College in West Hartford. And in 1997, she returned to Wesleyan as the director of foundation and corporate relations, building the new department from scratch. She oversees Betsy McCormick, associate director and Christina West-Webster, administrative assistant.

“She is an extremely effective Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations because she is very skilled, has extremely high standards, respects and works well with many different constituencies, and is thoughtful and proactive,” says Ann Goodwin, assistant vice president for University Relations. “She is also a delightful colleague and a consummate team player who is always looking out for what is best for Wesleyan. We are very lucky to have her.”

Scully is also co-chair of the Resource & Development Committee for the Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics (PIMMS) Advisory Council.

“Working at Wesleyan is very rewarding,” she says. “I get to work with many different people from many different areas. It can be very interesting.”

Scully lives in Hebron, Conn. with her husband, Jack and children Dan, 15, and Maura, 18. Most of her free time is spent at high school athletic events or in her garden. But before spring hits, she’s going to take up a new sport herself – squash.

“The new squash facilities here at Wesleyan are quite appealing,” she says.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Career Resource Center Director Helps Students Find Meaningful Careers by Exploring Their Interests and Passions


 
Mike Sciola, Career Resource Center director, helps Talya Marshall, ’07, find photography career opportunities.
 
Posted 01/31/05

Q: The Career Resource Center (CRC) aims to establish relationships with students and help them find jobs. If a student approaches you, how would you go about helping him or her?

A: We take a three step approach: self assessment, career exploration, and job search.  Most people, and not just students, think the first step to finding a meaningful career is to write a resume and start sending it out to job sites on the Internet. The problem with this approach is that folks tend to go with the familiar. 

For a lot of students, their knowledge of the world of work is fairly limited. Many have a short list of occupations of which they have a personal understanding, such as being a ­doctor, lawyer or teacher. In reality, taking the time to assess one’s interests and passions first, next exploring a wide-variety of options, and then crafting a targeted job search strategy yields a much more satisfying result.  We have a variety of career interest assessment tools, a very specialized collection of print and electronic resources covering a wide array of occupations, and an incredible network of alumni and parent volunteers available to share their knowledge and perspective.

Q:  Where do the students end up going?

A: That’s the beauty of a Wesleyan liberal arts education – it can take you anywhere in the world. Our students have been taught to think and to analyze. They have the tools to pull together disparate information into a new understanding of the world. These skills are highly valued by top companies and institutions. I believe a Wesleyan degree is more relevant at the beginning of the 21st century than ever before.

We often get the question about where do Wesleyan graduates go after leaving Middletown. The Career Resource Center Web site has a breakdown of where our alumni work.  We analyzed the alumni database. With information on 12,252 alumni, the top five occupations are business (28 percent), education (20 percent), health professions (9 percent), law (8 percent), and entertainment (6 percent). 

Q: What is your day like?

A: As director of the career center, I have two distinct roles: managing the office and staff and, at the same time, maintain a significant counseling schedule. These are often competing needs.  I work with an incredible group of talented and dedicated professionals. To date this year, the CRC has had 3,688 counseling interactions with 1,188 individuals. We’ve already organized 69 programs and events, and have had more than 60 organizations participate in our recruiting programs. And February is traditionally our busiest month!  It is a lot to coordinate. I have to say, though – I’ve got the best job at Wesleyan. Every single day, I get to talk with smart, articulate, motivated young people about their plans for the future and about the world they are about to change for the better. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Q: How long have you been at Wesleyan?

A: I’ve been at Wesleyan for nine years. I had been the associate director of Career Services at Brown University prior to coming to Wesleyan. Before that, I worked at California State University, Fresno, the University of Rhode Island and the University of New Hampshire in a variety of student affairs positions ­ residential life, student life, and fraternity and sorority affairs. My bachelor’s degree is in gerontology and my master’s degree is in human development, counseling and family studies. I knew that I wanted to work with students, and that I wanted to use my counseling skills.

Q:  Is your job rewarding? Do you keep in touch with the students after they leave?

A: Incredibly rewarding. I’m so impressed with Wesleyan students and alumni. Now that I’ve been at Wesleyan for a significant time, I have the joy of reconnecting with former students at reunion or getting an e-mail message of the blue.  I was in New York recently and was stopped by a member of the Class of 2000. It was thrilling to hear that he was happy and enjoying life and doing amazing things.  I learn something new about the world everyday by talking with our students and alumni.

Q: Do you have any interesting hobbies or tidbits that I should know about you outside of work?

A: I’m a singer and have been a member of the Greater Middletown Chorale since coming to Wesleyan. We once got a call to sing with Kenny Rogers at the Oakdale Theater. This December, we were Governor Rell’s guests at the Governor’s Mansion in Hartford. Mostly, though, we sing the classical choral repertoire. I’m also on the board of Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown.

Q: Do you live in Middletown?

A: Yes, on Ridge Road, and our next door neighbors on three sides are Wesleyan faculty and staff. We call it ‘The Compound.’ Did you know that there used to be a horse-drawn trolley that started in the North End on Main Street, turned up Ridge Road off of South Main and came all the way up to Crystal Lake?  I would have loved to see that.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan to Acquire 8 New Bells for South College


Chimemaster Peter Frenzel, professor emeritus of German studies, plays the keys of the bells, located at the top of South College. In August, the university will acquire eight additional bells. The new bells, Frenzel said, will enable him to play more complicated songs. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
Posted 01/31/05

Wesleyan has signed a contract with the Verdin Bell Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, for the casting and installation in the South College belfry of eight additional bells. This new addition will upgrade the Wesleyan bells from the status of a chime (10-22 bells) to that of a carillon (23 or more). Acquiring a carillon for the university has been in the planning stages since 1999.

The installation will take place in August 2005 with a dedication during homecoming/family weekend.

The new bells will provide the Wesleyan bell players with two full octaves and one additional note. 

”Now I’ll have more notes, so I can play more songs, and more complicated songs,” said six-year chimemaster Peter Frenzel, professor emeritus of German studies. “We’re moving out of the minor league of bell playing and into the major league.”

 The new configuration will enable them to play songs such as Wesleyan’s Alma Mater, “Come Raise the Song,” written in 1894.

The bells are played in a way similar to a piano, except the chimemasters push wood handles. Some notes, such as a low C, can reverberate for 45 seconds and be heard for more than a mile away.

The new bells will be cast by Petit & Fritsen, the Royal Dutch Bell Foundry in The Netherlands, and then shipped to Cincinnati via New Orleans and the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. They’ll later be completed and fine-tuned by the Verdin Bell Company.   

Wesleyan’s first set of 11 bells was shipped across the north Atlantic from England, while dodging German U-Boats in 1918 during World War I. They were first played on campus on George Washington’s birthday in 1919 and donated by the seven surviving members of the Wesleyan class of 1863.

An additional five bells were donated to Wesleyan in 1966 anonymously. The donor was later revealed as Victor L. Butterfield, who was the outgoing president of Wesleyan at the time.

The new bells were all donated by Wesleyan friends, alumni and parents.

Each bell in South College has an inscription of a donor or a set of donors to Wesleyan University.

The bells are played nearly every weekday by dedicated members of the Wesleyan bell guild, Bell & Scroll. The chimemasters this semester have been Esther Cheung, ’06; Kathleen Day, ’07; Joel Ting, ’06; and Allison Torpey, ’07. They will be joined next semester by Jack Hagihara, ’05, and Meredith Steinberg, ’06.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

More Than 250 People Attend Green Street Arts Center’s Grand Opening


Posted 01/31/05
A ribbon cutting on Jan. 5 marked the formal opening of the Green Street Arts Center (GSAC) L. to R. are: Middletown Mayor Domenique Thornton, GSAC Director Ricardo Morris, North End Action Team President Peggy Busari, GSAC Assistant Director Manny Rivera, Wesleyan University President Doug Bennet. The center is housed at the former St. Sebastian School at 51 Green Street in Middletown’s North End. More than 250 people attended the grand opening. (Photo by Lex Leifheit)
 
Children draw in one of the two visual art centers at GSAS. The facility also has a dance studio and a performance studio with 100 seat capacity. Pre-opening pilot classes have already drawn 3,000 participants. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
President Bennet speaks with guests as Ricardo Morris looks on. Funds for the school’s renovation were raised through a partnership involving Wesleyan, along with grants from the city, state and national level. Wesleyan also partnered with The North End Action Team, the  Macdonough School, Church of the Holy Trinity, Community Health Center and other organizations.  (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
The Kamau Trio performs urban jazz at the opening. Pictured left to right are George Blackman, Jr., saxophone; Lance “Kamau” James, djembe; and Kalim Zarif, keyboard. All three teach music classes at GSAC. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
 
Teens dance inside the GSAC dance studio after the grand opening ceremony. More than 50 students have already enrolled in the GSAC after-school programs. Wesleyan students also volunteer as academic tutors for the children. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
 
Mayor Thornton and Jennifer Aniskovich, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Arts, Tourism, Culture, History and Film, greet guests during the grand opening. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
 
For more information or to receive a spring catalog call 860-685-7871 or visit http://www.greenstreetartscenter.org/.

Olin Memorial Library Earns “Building of the Year” Award


Erhard Konerding, documents librarian, works inside the Olin Memorial Library, which was built in 1928.
 
Posted 01/31/05

When Wesleyan’s Olin Memorial Library opened in 1928, the classically symmetrical structure fronted with six marble columns stood out as a bold yet elegant structure. Nearly 80 years later, the building is still turning heads.

On January 13, The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Greater Hartford awarded the library with The Office Building of the Year (TOBY) award in the historic building category. The TOBY award recognizes excellence in building management, operational efficiency, tenant retention, emergency planning and community impact. The Olin Library won in the “proper maintenance of the historical building,” category.

“It was built in 1928 and still has that old world charm,” said Pete Caniano, chairman of the TOBY award committee. “I could find myself getting lost in a great book in Olin all the time.”

Caniano, district manager for American Building Maintenance Janitorial Services of Danbury, Conn., provides janitorial services to Wesleyan and nominated the library for the award.

“I nominated Olin because I felt it had great architectural character and it has gone through some excellent architectural renovations throughout its history that add to its appeal,” he said. “Olin library is a wonderful landmark on campus.”

Caniano and members of the judging panel inspected the facility, grading it on physical attractiveness, cleanliness, mechanical functionality, aesthetics and standard building operation equipment and procedures. Each category had to receive a passing grade for the building to be considered for the award. Caniano said Wesleyan’s Physical Plant had a lot to do with the outcome of the judges’ findings.

“If the building had been simply attractive and architecturally marvelous but not maintained well and had antiquated maintenance systems, it would not have won,” he said.

Caniano noted many positive points while touring the library. The stacks, he said, are well organized; the building is kept in pristine condition; and the ambiance of the reading room “is exceptional.” He also favored the private alcoves used for student research and described the library’s staff as “very helpful.”

“The building is kept in pristine condition and is very practical for student use,” he said.

Olin Memorial Library was first opened as a memorial to Stephen Olin, Wesleyan’s president from 1842 to 1851, and his son Stephen Henry Olin, class of 1866, a Wesleyan trustee for 45 years and the university’s acting president in 1922 and 1923.

The original plans for the building were begun by Henry Bacon, who designed the Lincoln Memorial, and after his death were completed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. It currently provides Wesleyan’s 2,730 students and 1,060 staff and faculty members with 1.5 million publications and a variety of electronic and archival services.

A major renovation and expansion of the building, completed in 1986, was designed by Perry, Dean, Rogers & Partners. It nearly doubled the space available in Olin for study areas and collections.

The 163-foot wide façade surmounted by a pediment and capped by a balustrade. Marble, exterior and interior, amounted for 20 percent of the final construction cost of $727,000.

Now that the library has won at a local level, it has an opportunity to advance to the regional level in each of the eight North American regions of BOMA International. Regional winners advance to the international level.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Tsunami Hits too Close to Home


Ganesan “Ravi” Ravishanker, director of Technology Support Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry, explains where his home countries were struck by the December 26 tsunami.

 
Posted 01/31/05

Millions of Americans watched as the Dec. 26 tsunami obliterated south Asia’s coastal belts. But for Ganesan “Ravi” Ravishanker, the event was far more personal.

Ravishanker, director of Technology Support Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry, is a Sri Lanka native and attended college in southern India where the tidal waves battered both shorelines for a half-mile inland.

“Those are both places where I have spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years and have vivid memories of,” Ravishanker said. “Most of my extended family members live in these two countries.”

The tsunami, triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Indonesia, killed more than 170,000 people as it crashed the shores of 10 countries around the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka and Indonesia received the hardest hits.

Ravishanker, who lost his parents as a young child, grew up with his aunt, uncle, sister and 11 cousins in the country’s capital, Colombo. Three of these cousins are raising families in Sri Lanka and the rest moved to southern India.

“I was just getting back from vacation and I was still in a relaxing vacation mode, when they started flashing news about the tsunami damage on TV,” he said. “I immediately thought about my family. Many of them were living in area close to the coast.”

Relatives in Tamil Nadu, India, immediately e-mailed Ravishanker in America and let him know they were OK. His relatives in Sri Lanka, however, were still unaccounted for. Although his relatives lived inland in Kandy, he feared they may be traveling on a train that was derailed by the tsunami.

“All I could do is sit, watch and wait,” he said.

Sri Lanka, a pear-shaped island four times larger than the state of Connecticut, is located 18 miles southeast of India. With no communications available to his homeland, he waited as the death toll climbed to 30,000. The missing count hovered at 5,600. More than 200,000 families were displaced by the earthquake-spawned waves.

 “The Sri Lanka that I remember, that I grew up in, was one of the most enjoyable places. It was surrounded by the ocean, there were beaches, a perfect climate and the people were very friendly. It was a great place,” he said. “It was like paradise.”

Via Indian television channels, Ravishanker watched debris of fishermen’s wood shacks envelop the once pristine, palm-lined beaches. Disfigured bodies “in all forms and shapes” piled up near landmarks all recognizable to the Sri Lanka native.

 “It was heart-wrenching to watch,” he said. “I was thinking of my family, but also these poor children affected by this disaster. What’s so sad is that the first wave came in and pushed all these fish up on shore, and all the fishermen told their kids to come out and see and play with the fish. Little did they know that a bigger wave was coming to eat them all up.”

On Dec. 30, Ravishanker finally heard from his Sri Lankan relatives. Everyone was alive. With his family all accounted for, Ravishanker immediately pursued ways to help the victims of the disaster.

Rescue efforts are somewhat hampered by an ongoing civil war in the country between the Sinhalese and Tamil Tigers. Pockets of the northern and eastern areas are heavily mined. A physical presence of rescue workers in these areas carries a certain amount of danger.

The Sri Lankan government has urged donor nations to donate $15.6 billion to rebuild tsunami-affected parts of the country, but Ravishanker was advised to hold off and carefully explore more long lasting avenues to help those affected. He’s considering funding an orphaned child’s education for life. His brother-in-law, Shankar, is working with these orphaned children directly back in Chennai, India.

“I take great pride in my brother-in-law for doing this, and I think the outpouring of local support is a great thing to see. People are setting aside their religious differences and caste barriers are vanishing,” he said. “I can’t imagine people doing this 20 years ago. People are already setting up shops and makeshift schools. Recovery have been remarkable.”

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Women’s Studies Administrative Assistant Participates in Youth Mentoring Program and has Interest in Women’s Issues


Noreen Baris, administrative assistant for the Women’s Studies Program, stands outside her office on High Street. Baris serves as a liaison between the program’s chair, faculty and students.
 
Posted 01/31/05

Q: When did you become the administrative assistant in the Women’s Studies Program? Were you working at Wesleyan before then? 

A: Yes. I first came to Wesleyan in November 1986 and worked in the Romance Languages and Literatures Department until 1992. I’ve been at Women’s Studies since then.

Q: How would you describe a typical day? Are you mostly working at your desk, talking on the phone or meeting with people?

A: This position is rather diversified and I do all the above mentioned duties on a daily basis. I work closely with the chair of Women’s Studies and I serve as a liaison between the Women’s Studies chair and the faculty and majors.  I also coordinate the scheduling of  Women’s Studies meetings, luncheons and events, manage the budget, update the Web page, do other computer related duties and monitor Women’s Studies course offerings.

Q: What do you like most about your job and working in the Women’s Studies program in particular?

A: I have found the Women’s Studies faculty to be exceptional in many ways and I enjoy working with them. I also like the diversity of the position. In addition to my other duties, the Women’s Studies Program has two major events per year: The Women’s Studies Symposium in the fall semester, and the Diane Weiss Memorial ’80 Memorial Lecture during spring semester. I enjoy coordinating the many details required for both events.

Q: Do you, yourself, have any interest in women’s issues?

A: Yes, I am interested in women’s issues such as better medical research and health care of women, equal pay for men and women doing the same job, and better benefits for working mothers.

Q: What do you do after work? Do you have any hobbies?

A: My hobbies are knitting, quilting, and gardening, and I enjoy doing them in my spare time. I also enjoy and have been serving as a mentor for children for the past eight years. Originally I started mentoring teenage girls and being a “buddy” at the Cromwell Children’s Home.  I am now affiliated with The Children’s Center Youth Mentoring Partnership and have been mentoring the same young girl for the past four years, at least five hours per week. I’m very much involved with her life, her problems and her accomplishments.

Q: Tell me about your family.  

A: I have been married to my husband John for 35 years and we live in Durham.  I have two daughters, Laney, who is 30, and Carrie, who is 26. Laney is a veterinarian practicing in New Jersey and Carrie is a high school English teacher in California. I am very proud of them both.

Q: I understand you have the summers off. Do you travel much?

A: We have traveled extensively in the U.S. Up North, down South, out West. We’ve especially enjoyed Yosemite, Yellowstone and Zion national parks, and we’ve also gone to Hawaii. We’ve been to Canada — Montreal, Quebec and cities in-between — several times. Also traveled to Aruba and Europe. Last summer,  we traveled to Switzerland and Austria. We visited Italy, France and England in May 2002.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Instructor Impressed with Intelligence, Humanity of Students and Colleagues at Wesleyan


 
Carol Wright is a visiting instructor in the African American Studies Program.
 
Posted 01/31/05

Q: You started working at Wesleyan in 2003. What has impressed you most about the university?

A:  I am impressed with the incredible depth, intelligence and humanity of many Wesleyan students and my colleagues in the African American Studies Program.

Q: What does ‘visiting’ instructor refer to? Where are you visiting from and how did you end up at Wes?

A: Visiting instructor refers to the fact that my position is non-tenure track and temporary. As a practical matter, I am visiting from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where I held a pre-doctoral fellowship for two years. During my final year at Bowdoin, I saw the Wesleyan job advertisement and jumped at the chance to apply.

Q: Are students of all ethnic and backgrounds interested in a degree in African American studies? How would you describe it?

A:  The African American Studies Program is strong. Many, many students of all different backgrounds are interested in an AFAM degree. The program is interdisciplinary in nature. Course discussions and debates include issues of economics, globalization, gender, class, politics, cultural and literary representations among other things. Students learn important content, but further, I think the program has a profound effect on the ways students think, how they understand and re-organize the experiences of their world.

Q: What issues would you bring up in the classroom?

A: Broadly, I teach courses specializing in African American education. This includes issues of social inequality, urban educational policy and the relationship between educational theory and practice. Most recently, I’ve taught a service-learning course that will place students in a local middle-school with a focus on the effects of the No Child Left Behind policy.

Q: What do you hope students take away from your classes?

A: I would like to think students leave my courses as better critical thinkers and writers while simultaneously understanding that African Americans have a complex educational past and sometimes a contradictory educational present.

Q: Do you have a philosophy about teaching? How do you help students become critical thinkers in the classroom?

A: I approach teaching as if I’m telling a story. Stories have a beginning, middle and end and you can’t just jump in at the middle, or only a few students will figure it out. By giving a full narrative, I try to capture as many students as I can. I also try, every semester, to show at least one film, have a guest speaker and let students give their own presentations. Many students request to to work on a thesis, or are interested in doing independent studies on these subjects.

Q: Do you enjoy being in the classroom more so that researching?

A: I love teaching. I enjoy engaging students, but I can find it to be a real challenge to teach and find time to spend on my own research. I’ve been collecting a lot of data about African American college students at small, liberal arts universities, that I have to go through. None from Wesleyan, though.

Q: Where did you go to college and what are your majors?

A: I went to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania where I majored in anthropology and sociology and French. Academically speaking, I am a huge supporter of small liberal arts colleges. Socially, well, that’s another story.

Q: On campus, have you attended many student events, concerts or dances?

A: Students have invited me to events, but I often have to decline due to scheduling conflicts. Last year I attended a creative student performance and I thought it was fabulous. It was great to see students in a less rigid, more creative/expressive milieu. I was reminded that students have many talents — I was also reminded of my lack of artistic talent — and express them in multiple ways.

Q: You mentioned that you visit family in New York. Is that where you’re from?

A: Both my parents are from the Caribbean, but I was born and raised in New York City. Other than New York, I have lived at least one year in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maine, Connecticut, Brussels, Belgium and Dijon, France.

Q: What’s something humorous or unique that I should know about you?

A: I once drove across the country in the middle of the summer in a bathing suit. It was about 100 degrees and my car did not have an air conditioner. Also, at one point I had a part-time job selling Lancome cosmetics.

Q: Oh, so you’re a saleswoman too?

A: I was pretty good; I won an award or two. Go figure!

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Students, Administration and Faculty Continue Dialogue


Posted 01/31/05

A forum on January 25 engaged more than 300 students, faculty and staff in a discussion of the administrative response to issues raised at a student-organized forum in December. The forum followed by a week the distribution of a report detailing student participation in University governance, itself a response to complaints from some students that they felt excluded from decisions that affect their lives on campus.

At the forum, held in the Chapel, senior administrators were joined onstage by leaders of the faculty and the Wesleyan Student Assembly. Professor of Philosophy Brian Fay moderated the session, during which students raised questions or made comments based on the report.

It appeared that most students had read the report, said Interim Dean of the College Peter Patton. “Some students expressed dissatisfaction about the status of specific issues they care about,” he said. “On the other hand, it seems  that most now realize that Wesleyan students do have significant opportunities to influence University decision-making.”

The issues that received the most attention during the forum were student interest in having a multicultural dean, accommodations in housing for incoming students who identify as transgender, and the future of the student radio station, WESU 88.1FM. Later in the week, President Doug Bennet emailed students to describe steps the University is taking to follow up on these issues. He reiterated his intention to engage the leaders of the WSA and the faculty in a follow-up discussion of governance and communication issues treated in the report.

Bennet informed students that he, Patton and Interim Director of Affirmative Action Michael Benn would meet with leaders of student of color groups to discuss the specific issues underlying students’ expressed desire for “safe spaces,” a dean of multicultural affairs, and diversity training for faculty.

Bennet reminded students that Patton would continue to work with the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee (URLC) and the Student Life Committee to identify acceptable solutions for gender-neutral housing. While returning students may select their own roommates regardless of gender, Residential Life currently accommodates transgendered first-year students in making room assignments. In making first-year assignments, the University does not support roommate pairing of students of different biological sexes. First-year students requesting accommodation are assigned to a single room or to a double room with another student requesting accommodation. Last year, the language describing “gender-neutral housing” was not clear to many first-year students, and the URLC is working to clarify the description for 2005-2006.

Communications Director Justin Harmon will continue to work with student leaders of WESU to help them develop plans that will enable the station to become financially viable and maintain its independence. Wesleyan has committed to hiring a full-time general manager who will help bring continuity to the station and build its fund-raising and operations.

“These will not be the only opportunities available for continuing the dialogue, but I think they are a good start,” Bennet wrote. “I welcome other suggestions about how to advance these issues.”

Students of Color Applications Up

Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Nancy Hargrave Meislahn told those present at the January 25 forum that applications to Wesleyan have risen approximately 5 percent from last year and that applications from students of color have increased at even higher rates.

As of January 21, Wesleyan had logged 6,848 applications, as compared with 6,509 on the same date the year before, Meislahn said. Applications from African-Americans had risen 18 percent, to 504 from 428; from Asian-Americans 13 percent, to 659 from 584; and from Latinos 7 percent, to 424 from 395. The number of applications from each of these groups represented at least an 8-year high for Wesleyan, Meislahn said. Final application numbers will be available later this month.

Wesleyan has gone to extra lengths to recruit students of color, Meislahn said, since experiencing a dip in applications from African-American students. Admission Office staff held a community forum and a follow-up meeting with interested students early in the fall to solicit their advice and to engage them in helping to recruit students, Meislahn said. In addition, a letter from the dean of admission and the vice president of University Relations was sent to alumni of color seeking their help in identifying and recruiting talented prospective students.

Meislahn invited everyone at the forum to be part of the solution. 

“As the admission cycle moves forward there will be many opportunities for students and faculty to assist the admission office in reaching out to admitted students,” she said. “Phonathons and plans for hosting students in April are underway.”

Anyone interested in being involved should contact the Admission Office, Meislahn said.