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Development Officer Helps Donors Secure Gifts that Support Wesleyan’s Endowment

Mark Davis ’96, development officer for Planned Giving, oversees donor accounts that require a degree of financial or legal planning, such as gift annuities, charitable unitrusts, real estate, insurance policies and bequests.
Posted 11/20/07
Q: Mark, when did you graduate from Wesleyan and when did you begin working for University Relations?

A: I graduated in 1996, and returned to Wesleyan in the fall of 2005 – just in time for my 10th reunion!

Q: What did you major in, and what led you towards working in Planned Giving?

A: I was a history major, and went on to spend seven years at an investment management firm in Boston before returning to Wesleyan. My wife is a Middletown native (we met in Boston), so we were both happy to return to the area. I enjoy working in planned giving because the job allows me to work closely with a particularly devoted group of donors, people who have taken the time and effort to include Wesleyan in their financial or estate plans.

Q: What is “Planned Giving” and how does this branch differ from Major Gifts and the Annual Fund?

A: The term “planned giving” encompasses all gifts that require a degree of financial or legal planning, such as gift annuities, charitable unitrusts, real estate, insurance policies, and bequests. It also covers gifts-in-kind, such as artwork, books, athletic or science equipment, and so on. The Director of Planned Giving, Christina Posniak, and I both started at Wesleyan as major gift officers, and we both retain responsibility for a good number of these relationships. In order to best spread awareness of planned opportunities throughout the fundraising staff, the Planned Giving team is fully integrated with our colleagues in the Wesleyan Fund and Major Gifts. A planned gift typically comes as the result of a long period of cultivation by a variety of Wesleyan staff and volunteers – it is invariably a team effort.

Q: The Planned Giving Web site,, says “You can make a gift that costs you nothing during your lifetime.” Can you elaborate on this?

A: It sounds like a great deal, and it is! The most common form of planned gift is a bequest, through which donors leave a portion of their estate to help ensure Wesleyan’s future. Also, with the proliferation of defined contribution retirement plans, it has become increasingly common for donors to designate Wesleyan as the beneficiary of a percentage of their IRA or other qualified retirement accounts. Additionally, Wesleyan offers attractive gift annuity and charitable unitrust options, which allow donors to make a gift to Wesleyan while guaranteeing them a lifetime income stream and an immediate tax benefit. All of these gifts are similar in that they allow people with a wide range of financial resources to have a meaningful role in sustaining Wesleyan and its ability to welcome deserving students regardless of their ability to pay for tuition.

Q: Do you have an annual fund-raising goal in Planned Giving? And once money is raised, how is it applied to the university?

A: Planned Giving operates within Wesleyan’s broader annual fundraising goals: in a typical meeting with a donor, it is not uncommon for us to discuss three forms of support: annual fund, endowment and planned gifts. By its nature planned giving has an especially important role in securing gifts that support the growth of Wesleyan’s endowment. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the job is working with donors to determine how Wesleyan will put their gifts to work. The process of finding where Wesleyan’s most pressing needs intersect with our donors’ areas of interest is educational for all concerned – we learn more about the donors, and the donors learn more about Wesleyan and about what their own priorities are.

Q: Who are the members of the Planned Giving team at Wesleyan?

A: Our Planned Giving team is led by Christina Posniak, who has been at Wesleyan for almost 10 years. Christina and I are delighted that Camille Dolansky will be joining us as Planned Giving Coordinator, bringing seven years of experience from Parent Programs.

Q: What are the Olin Associates and how does this society relate to Planned Giving?

A: Membership in the Olin Associates recognizes donors who have made provisions for Wesleyan in their estate or financial plans. The society takes its name from former Trustee Stephen Olin and his wife Emeline, who established one of Wesleyan’s first major planned gifts, an annuity, which provided the funding for Olin Library. Olin Associates are awarded a pin featuring Wesleyan’s scallop shell insignia, which was on the coat of arms of John Wesley. This symbol has been used in heraldry to signify journeys to distant countries, and is thus a link to Wesleyan’s tradition of social service and global engagement.

Q: What do you like best about working at your alma mater?

A: I enjoy having the opportunity to work with a dynamic group of colleagues and donors, all of whom share a bond with Wesleyan and the progressive ideals it stands for. I appreciated my experience as an undergraduate, but only by working here as a staff member have I gained a full understanding of the hard work and generosity that goes into making a Wesleyan education possible. I benefited from financial aid, but what few people realize is that even students who pay the full price of tuition receive a substantial subsidy from Wesleyan’s endowment. That is why giving back to Wesleyan is so important.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: For someone like me, who is still a history major at heart, it’s great to live in a place like Middletown, which dates back to 1650. Megan and I love exploring this area, and I typically carry a camera around with me. Also, one of the benefits of escaping Boston is that I am able to root more openly for my New York Yankees, although it does seem that in the University Relations Office, citizens of Red Sox Nation have the upper hand. And sadly, they have bragging rights again this year.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about your role in the Office of Planned Giving?

A: Yes, I’d like to say that we are a particularly friendly group, so anyone interested in learning more about Planned Giving at Wesleyan should not hesitate to give us a call!

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Scholarships Created for Students who are Military Veterans

Posted 11/20/07
Two Wesleyan alumni each have made substantial gifts to create need-based scholarships for former servicemen and women for four years of full-time baccalaureate study. These new gifts will fund as many as 10 scholarships at any given time.

One of the donors, Frank Sica ’73, hopes he can enable young men and women who have performed a service for the U.S. to attend a premier liberal arts university.

“The government-provided college aid and pay scales for enlisted personnel are such that, unless these people received substantial aid, they could not pay the expenses associated with attending a place such as Wesleyan,” Sica says. “Secondly, the armed forces consist of people from diverse social and ethnic backgrounds who have been working and training together for the duration of their service. My hope is that Wesleyan, because of its diversity, will enable them to be more comfortable than at other small liberal arts institutions.”

The second donor, Jonathan Soros ’92, says he wants to help reduce disconnect between policymakers and the military.

“For many at a liberal arts college, interacting with the men and women of the military is not part of their experience,” he says. “I see a real educational opportunity in which veterans benefit from a liberal arts education, and the community benefits by learning from people of different backgrounds and confronting realities they wouldn’t otherwise directly encounter. Servicemen and women demonstrate an admirable call to duty, and I think they can inspire all of us to public service.”

Wesleyan admits students without regard to their financial circumstances and then provides a financial aid package that meets each student’s full demonstrated need. Forty percent of its 2,900 students currently receive grant aid. The average grant is $27,151. Wesleyan currently budgets $35.4 million of its own resources annually for grant aid for undergraduates. Federal and state sources contribute an additional $2.7 million.

Wesleyan announced on Nov. 1 that it will eliminate loans for its neediest undergraduates and replace them with additional grants, beginning with first-year students in fall 2008. The policy is part of a new initiative to reduce overall student indebtedness by 35 percent in order to make Wesleyan even more accessible to students regardless of their financial capacity.

“At Wesleyan, we help exceptionally smart, imaginative students find their capacities for leadership in the world beyond the campus,” says President Michael Roth. “We are particularly grateful to Frank Sica and Jonathan Soros for hearing the potential resonance of this educational ideal for students who have experienced military service and for understanding how such students can help strengthen campus discourse. We are proud to be taking this initiative to support those who have served our country at the same time we are taking strides to make Wesleyan more affordable for students from all backgrounds.”

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Associate Professor Uses Dance as Textbook

Nicole Stanton, associate professor of dance, taught dance for 10 years at the Ohio State University before coming to Wesleyan this fall.
Posted 11/20/07
Nicole Stanton has joined the Department of Dance this fall as an associate professor.

Stanton brings professional training in modern dance techniques, African techniques, improvisation, choreography, somatics, history and theory of dance to Wesleyan.

She studied contemporary dance at the Center for New Dance Development in Arnhem, Holland; African dance and drum at the Leopold Sedor Senghor Cultural Center in Dakar, Senegal; and received two bachelor of arts in dance and foreign civilizations and languages at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio; and earned a master of fine arts in dance from Ohio State University.

Prior to joining the faculty in the Department of Dance, Stanton spent 10 years as a faculty member at the Ohio State University. There, she served as chair of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Dance; chair of the Dance Education Committee; chair of the Technique Area Committee; and member of the College of the Arts and Sciences Honors Committee; and the University Undergraduate Faculty Admissions Committee.

“While I truly loved the work I did there, Wesleyan offered such a unique and innovative environment that I felt compelled to join this community,” she says. “I was drawn to this program in part for the strength of its faculty. They are at once creative, socially conscious, politically active and intellectually demanding. I believe that I can grow with, and contribute to the work this Dance Department does.”

Stanton has choreographed performances for herself and others. In May, her work was performed by 25 Ohio State students at the Capitol Theater in Columbus, and in 2006, she presented her own work “Torch” at the Martin Luther King Arts Complex in Columbus. She also worked as a professional dancer at several companies including the Bebe Miller Company’s Columbus Working Group; the Thiarra Sylla’s Afro-Cuban Dance Group; the Idrissa Dance Retrospective West African Inspired Dance Company; and the Thoissane West African Dance Company.

Off the dance floor, Stanton has presented “An investigation of the teaching/learning of contemporary dance technique” for the Society of Dance History Scholars/Congress on Research in Dance 2007 Conference in Paris, France and “Utilizing New technologies for Documenting African Dance Forms” for the 2007 Visualizing African Conference in Athens, Ohio. She was also the director of the African American Essential Book Project for the Jefferson Center for Leadership and Governance in Columbus in 2006.

This semester, Stanton is teaching Dance Composition and Modern Dance III. So far, she’s enjoying working with the young Wesleyan dancers.

“The students’ intelligence, thoughtfulness and creative energy are very inspiring, but moreover, I value the depth of engagement one can have with students in a smaller, liberal arts environment,” she says.

Stanton says she admires how dance crosses several curriculums on campus.

“I am excited by the ways in which the arts infuse the whole curriculum—people at Wesleyan dance,” she says. “I can think of no other institution that frequently utilizes dance as a common text for its students.”

Stanton resides in Middletown and enjoys gardening and spending time with her four dogs.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Emotions Stirred at Multi-Disciplinary Investigation of Human Relations to Chimpanzees

Lori Gruen displays her collection of primate portraits at the Who’s Looking exhibit inside Zilkha Gallery. This month, Who’s Looking will provide the Wesleyan community with opportunities to explore human’s complex relations to chimps through photographs, film, theater and words.
Posted 11/20/07
One cannot help but be stirred with emotions upon viewing Who’s Looking?

Who’s Looking? A collaborative, multi-disciplinary investigation of human relations to chimpanzees,” an exhibit at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery that runs until Dec. 2, explores what chimpanzees see when they look at humans and what humans see when they look at chimpanzees.

The exhibit, directed by Lori Gruen, chair and associate professor of the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program, associate professor of philosophy, includes a photo installation by Gruen, a collection of primate portraits by Connecticut artist Frank Noelker and a film screening by award-winning filmmaker Allison Argo. Live theater events from the student-organized Guerrilla Chimpanzee Theater Company are also scheduled during the month.

Gruen has been interested in chimpanzees and our relationships with them for years. She was doing research for her upcoming book and her website which focuses on the first 100 captive chimpanzees in America,, when she had a Eureka moment.

During her research, Gruen befriended a 27-year-old chimpanzee named Darrell and his constructed family of chimps at the Ohio State University Chimpanzee Center.  She recently discovered that Darrell’s mother was a chimpanzee named Mary whose lineage can be traced back to Pan and Dwina, two chimpanzees born in the 1920s who were among the first four chimps studied in captivity in the U.S. Along with describing Darrell’s families, both actual and constructed, in her book, Gruen wanted to create a visual representation of her discovery for a larger audience.

Nina Felshin, curator of exhibitions for the Center for the Arts, is excited to bring Gruen’s and Noekler’s work to the Zilkha because the content of the shows she curates often “deal with issues outside of the art world.” Felshin says the exhibit encourages people think about ethical issues involving chimpanzees “in a way that an ethics journal or a philosophy journal might not.”

Through the exhibition, the participants’ work is available to a large audience.

The format of the exhibition also makes it accessible. The gallery provides a small, intimate setting for the photographs.

Frank Noelker’s Chimp Portraits 2002-2006, pictured at left, is comprised of large, respectful photos where each chimpanzee seems to look directly into the viewer’s eye. Descriptions next of each of the photographs give the pictures context that both removes and shocks the viewer. For example, only by reading the accompanying description is it revealed that a solemn-looking retired research chimpanzee named Pepper would “still rather starve herself than face an unpleasant situation.”

Gruen’s piece titled A Family Portrait 1920-2007 shows photos arranged in a format that allows viewers to relate to the display. She’s displayed Darrell’s family members in framed photos of varying sizes, above a constructed fireplace mantel.

“Engaging with these remarkable creatures has really opened up new ways of thinking and seeing for me,” Gruen says. “I think about the meaning of family and of relationships and our obligations in different ways. My hope is that the installation will allow others to see differently as well.”

Gruen worked with Connecticut artist Will McCarthy to design and construct the mantelpiece and find appropriate frames.

“Even though the exhibit was going into a modern structure we didn’t want to make it look modern, we wanted to make it look more like something you might find in a home,” McCarthy says. “If you went into someone’s house or room, this is what you might see in their house or over their mantle. We wanted to keep it warm and friendly and family-oriented.”

Felshin says the arrangement of the chimp family portrait photos in a spontaneous fashion makes viewing the work a more aesthetic, poetic experience than looking at a traditional family tree layout.

“For me, when there’s a poetic element, it also allows the viewer to bring their own experience to it,” Felshin says.

Members of the Wesleyan community are invited to explore the exhibit and the accompanying events throughout the month in order to make their own impressions and take a moment to ponder who truly is looking at whom.

The closing reception for the exhibit with talks by Lori Gruen and Frank Noekler will be from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29. That same evening, Allison Argo’s film titled Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History will be shown at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Cinema followed by a Q & A session.

A panel discussion called Re/Presenting Primates will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  Nov. 30 in the Usdan University Center, Room 108. Lori Gruen will moderate the discussion, which will explore issues such as the ethics and politics of representation; what does looking at animals tell us about ourselves; how can art change attitudes about animals; and what does it mean to see and represent chimpanzees as individuals. The scheduled panel discussion participants are Kari Weil, critical theorist and Wesleyan College of Letters professor; Cynthia Freeland, author of the upcoming book Portraits: A Philosophical Inquiry; Frank Noelker and Allison Argo.

For more information on the exhibit go to

By Corrina Balash Kerr, associate director of Media Relations. Photos by Olivia Drake.

Adaptation Series Films Highlight Literary Works to Film Translations

Posted 11/20/07
A new series of films will shine a spotlight on how literary works are translated onto screen.

The newly-created Adaptation Series, sponsored by the Center for Film Studies and Olin Library, will begin Nov. 29 with a talk by screenwriter and alumnus Stephen Schiff. Schiff will speak about his screen adaptation of Nabokov’s Lolita, filmed in 1997 by director Adrian Lyne. The talk will be preceded by a screening of the film, starring Jeremy Irons, Melanie Griffith and Dominique Swain.

This is the inaugural event of the Adaptation Series, which has been designed by Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and Barbara Jones, University Librarian.

“The purpose of this series is to bring screenwriters to campus to discuss the difficulties in adapting literary works to the screen, laying out the differences between novels and screenplays, problems of censorship, budget, casting and condensing larger works into a shorter running time,” Basinger explains. “The series is sure to be thought-provoking, entertaining and educational simultaneously.”

The Film Studies Department has collaborated with the Olin Library staff in the past, putting together screenings that address issues of importance and are interesting to the general campus, community and Friends of the Library. The two departments decided to continue their collaborative efforts with the Adaptation Series.

“The idea of looking at famous and/or successful books that had been turned into movies seemed appropriate for both film and the library, and of great general interest,” Basinger says. “Furthermore, people often don’t understand the difficulties of screen adaptation, and we have alumni, such as Stephen Schiff, who are very articulate screenwriters on the subject.”

Schiff, a former staff writer for the New Yorker and Vanity Fair, also is known for his work as the Film Critic of National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” and as a correspondent on CBS-TV’s prime-time newsmagazine West 57th. His more recent screen adaptations include “Leatherheads” (a ’30s-style romantic comedy for George Clooney currently being edited for release in April, 2008), “The Deep End of the Ocean”, “True Crime,” Don DeLillo’s “White Noise,” “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” Patricia Cornwell’s thriller “Cruel and Unusual,” Nelson DeMille’s “The Charm School,” and an upcoming Keanu Reeves romantic thriller for Warner Bros.

“I am thrilled with the selection of Lolita as our first ‘adaptation’ because I am fascinated by the censorship issues surrounding both the publication of the book and the production of the film,” Jones says.

New York Times writer Janet Maslin praised “the imaginative fidelity” of Schiff’s screenplay for “Lolita” and NYT writer Caryn James wrote, “[Lyne’s] direction and Stephen Schiff’s discerning, faithful screenplay, are sensitive to Nabokov’s wit as well as his lyricism.”

“Steve is extremely witty and a great speaker. Hearing him discuss screenwriting in any form is always both fun and enlightening,” Basinger says. “He’s not only a Nabokov expert, he’s the perfect person to discuss all the various problems he had in adapting Lolita to the modern screen, one of which was, of course, censorship.”

The screening will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Goldsmith Family Cinema, Center for Film Studies.

The Friends of the Wesleyan Library and the Center for Film Studies are co-sponsoring the event. Upcoming Adaptation Series films will be announced at a later date.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Faculty, Alumnus Discuss Concept of “Islamophobia” in Co-Authored Book

Posted 11/20/07
Peter Gottschalk, associate professor of religion, and Gabriel Greenberg ’04 have written a new book Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy, published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

In the 1990s, Gottschalk heard a lecture as a graduate student at the University of Chicago by Professor John Woods about negative images of Muslims and Islam in political cartoons. He used some cartoons when he first began to teach. Following the 9/11 tragedies, Gottschalk started following certain cartoonists daily because of his concern regarding the rising anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment in the country.

Greenberg, a student in one of Gottschalk’s classes, got the idea of writing an honors thesis on the topic, investigating the history of cartoon portrayals over the past half-century. He was also motivated by the negative stereotypes he perceived of Muslims and Islam. At the successful completion of the thesis, Greenberg accepted Gottschalk’s proposal to co-author a book together.

Greenberg brought his training in history and use of primary texts while Gottschalk brought his background in Islamic and cultural studies. The following Q&A with Gottschalk and Greenberg explains how the book was created:

Q: What is your definition of “Islamophobia”?

A: Islamophobia is the social anxiety toward Islam and Muslim cultures that is largely unexamined by, yet deeply ingrained in, Americans.

Q: Why did you choose the title: Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy?

A: The original title of the book was Islamophobia: Muslims and Islam in American Cartoons. The publisher didn’t find this terribly engaging. During coffee and conversation with Vijay Pinch, professor of history, and Phil Wagoner, chair and professor, art history; professor, archaeology program, the subtitle came up and was perfect for what we were saying.

Q: What was the most satisfying part about writing the book?

A: The most satisfying part of writing the book is the feeling that we have something new to say as this important national discussion unfolds, and bringing the cartoon aspect to the table feels like a fresh approach.

Q: Does it concern you that a certain group of people or a certain industry (i.e. the news media, Hollywood) is ignorant about Muslims and stereotype them?

A: The problem with stereotyping of Muslims and propounding misinformation about Islam in the media is twofold. First, it misleads Americans who don’t have more contact with Muslims and little understanding of Islam. Second, to many Muslims domestically and abroad it proves the allegations they’ve heard that Americans are anti-Muslim and antagonistic to Islam.

Q: What can people in a position of power do to steer others away from Islamophobia?

A: The key to addressing Islamophobia is to recognize that it is as absurd to make universal claims about 1.2 billion Muslims as it has been to stereotype African-Americans, Jews, or women. Most Americans have developed a sensitivity to unfair portrayals of these groups and some might recognize that the stereotyping of all Muslims isn’t much different.

Q: I know there are many examples from your book, but can you highlight some of the ways in which Muslims are stereotyped in today’s culture?

A: Some of the stereotypes which come up again and again include that of the ever-present connection between Muslim women and oppression/repression; Muslim men with an irrational violence; the notion that jihad is the foremost tenet in the average Muslim’s life. So, for example, Muslim women wearing any kind of head covering is often taken as a sign of their oppression despite the fact that many voluntarily wear them, sometimes over the protests of men in their families. In another example, if Muslim men were as violent as the stereotype suggests, or jihad has pervasive an idea, then there would be an inestimatably greater amount of violence in the world in general and in the US, home to about 6 million Muslims.

Another pervasive trend is the conflation of Muslim with Arab, despite the fact that ethnic Arabs make up a minority of the world’s Muslims and that Arabs aren’t universally Muslim.

Q: Does your book speak at all about how religion interacts with politics?

A: The book’s first chapter gives a broad historical outline of the origins of Islam and the interactions of Westerners with Muslims. In that chapter we explain how Islam originated in a context in which politics was addressed directly. The last chapter, in which we demonstrate the portrayal of Islam and Muslims at specific moments of conflict with the U.S., points out how those depictions, at times, have served American political interests.

Q: Peter, do you discuss the ideas expressed in your book in any Wesleyan course you teach?

A: Yes, I include material from the book in a lecture I give in a few courses including Islam and Muslim Cultures, Religion and Film, and Constructing Hinduism and Islam. In each instance I use the lecture in an attempt to prompt students to recognize some of their preconceptions in regard to Islam and Muslims.

Q: What has been the early response to your book?

A: We have been very pleased with the list of scholars who have already endorsed the volume. Each is an outstanding specialist whose work we admire. Although all their comments are salutary, the two blurbs that made the greatest impression on us were those of Yvonne Haddad of Georgetown University and Jane Smith of Hartford Theological Seminary. These two scholars have authored many important works on Islam in America and so their endorsement means a great deal.

But really, we’re honored by all the endorsements. We’re also pleased by the immediate response from some radio stations that have demonstrated interest in discussing the issues we’ve raised.

Q: With all of the Islam-focused books that have come out since Sept. 11, 2001, do you think non-Muslims have learned anything about the religion and its adherents?

A: It was very encouraging after the 9/11 attacks that demand for information on Islam was so great, many Islamic organizations ran out of copies of their material on the topic. There is a greater interest in learning about Islam and a higher level of awareness. However, the demand has also led to a cottage industry of scholars and sudden specialists writing about Islam with a particular focus on violence. Even the most balanced approach, if primarily concerned with the relation of Islam to violence, only reinforces the impression that conflict is one of the prominent features of Islam. So, yes, a longer and deeper understanding of the history of the myriad Muslim cultures helps offset this approach.

Q: Does it surprise you that people are still misinformed about Islam with close to 6 million Muslims living in the U.S. and a total of 1.2 billion Muslims living around the globe?

A: It is amazing in a way. But when you realize that public school systems tend to avoid teaching about religion for fear of running into legal issues and add to that the enduring hostile stereotypes of Muslims and Islam that have pervaded America since before the Revolution, it’s less surprising.

A book release party and book signing for Islamophobia: Making Muslims the Enemy will be held at Broad Street Books on at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 6.

By Corrina Balash Kerr, associate director of Media Relations

McNair Grant Will Provide Support for Students Seeking Ph.Ds

Posted 11/20/07
The university has been awarded a TRIO Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The McNair program will provide financial support, mentoring, research opportunities, and academic guidance to eligible students who want pursue Ph.D. study.

Laurel F. Appel, visiting associate professor of biology, is the McNair program’s director. She’s excited that Wesleyan is part of the federal program. It is presently the only Connecticut institution that is part of the program.

“This program fits in with the goals of Wesleyan by broadening access to research to all students,” Appel says. “The focus of our program is on Science and Math, but students interested in any field of graduate study are encouraged to apply.”

According to co-grant writer Donna Thompson, director of the university’s Upward Bound program, the grant application process was “very competitive.”

“Wesleyan is uniquely suited to host a McNair project because of its interest, commitment to and success rate with underrepresented students. The program is ideally suited to assist and equip low income, first generation students with the tools that they will need to be successful in an environment and culture where they will be a minority,” Thompson says.

The Department of Education Web site states that the goal of the program “is to increase the attainment of Ph.D. degrees by students from underrepresented segments of society.” At Wesleyan, McNair program funds totaling $880,000 will go towards helping first generation college students from low-income families and students who are African-American, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander or Native American prepare for successful graduate careers, excluding M.D. and J.D. studies. Full details of eligibility can be found here.

The program can serve up to 25 students each year for the next four years. Junior and senior McNair Fellows will actively participate in research with Wesleyan science and math faculty mentors, who will also help prepare the students to apply to graduate school.

Eligible frosh and sophomores can enroll in the McNair Scholars program, where they will attend workshops and receive mentoring from McNair staff in topics such as developing an academic plan, getting the most out of introductory courses, preparing for research, the ins and outs of the Ph.D., and career choices based on different degrees—all with the goal of helping them become McNair Fellows.

Camaraderie is one of the advantages to being in the McNair program. Participants go through the program with the same group of students, have a shared study space and present works-in-progress to each other. The students have access to career counseling and guidance from McNair staff as well as their research mentors about furthering their academic career. McNair fellows will attend professional conferences to present their research and to learn to network, Appel says.

“We are very pleased to have the support of the McNair program, which gives us another excellent opportunity to facilitate the academic work of Wesleyan students,” says Joe Bruno, vice president for academic affairs and provost. “The formulation of our program and the preparation of the grant proposal were the work of a dedicated group, and these colleagues worked together beautifully to ensure success in a competitive field. We look forward to the implementation of a robust effort at Wesleyan.”

Students who are curious about the program can attend one of the upcoming McNair Research Talks. The talks will introduce the program and “provide a venue for faculty to talk to students about their own research,” Appel says. These talks are open to all, and aimed at the interested, non-expert, student.

The next talk will be held at noon, Nov. 27 in Exley Science Center Room 121. Bill Herbst, the Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy and chair, will speak on “Making Planets from Thin Air … Really Thin Air!” Herbst’s subject matter is fitting because the program is named after Ronald E. McNair, an astronaut who died in the Challenger space shuttle accident in 1986. McNair, an African-American from South Carolina, was an accomplished expert in laser physics.

Applications will be reviewed starting Dec. 3, 2007. For more information contact Laurel Appel at 860-685-3258; or visit

By Corrina Balash Kerr, associate director of Media Relations

Roth Signs President Climate Commitment

President Michael Roth, center, signed a document Nov. 16 stating that he and Wesleyan will support measures to fight global climate change. Pictured left to right are Bill Nelligan, director of Environmental Health, Safety and Sustainability; Jacob Mirsky ’08, representative of EON; Roth; Jim Dresser, chair of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees; Matthew Ball ’08, member of the Wesleyan Student Assembly.
Posted 11/20/07
President Michael Roth signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment before an applauding crowd of several dozen Wesleyan students, staff, faculty and trustees on Nov. 16.

The commitment can be seen in full text here. It has been signed by 434 other college and university presidents to date.

The impetus to sign the agreement was in part a result of efforts by the Wesleyan environmentalist organization known as EON (Environmental Organizers Group). Wesleyan’s student assembly also passed a measure in support of Roth signing the document.

“We hoped that president Roth would listen to our plea,” said Jacob Mirsky ’08, an EON member who spoke at the signing. “By signing the commitment, President Roth is ensuring Wesleyan’s institutional dedication to fight global climate change.”

EON and others on campus raised awareness about the commitment in September. After discussing the initiative with members of his administration, Roth decided to add his signature, and Wesleyan’s commitment, to the pledge.

“I think it’s really important to make an institutional commitment to improve our behavior as we deal with this crisis of climate change,” Roth said. “We can’t cure the ills of the world, but we can take steps to do what we can to make the world a better place.”

Roth pointed out that Wesleyan’s commitment to “green” initiatives has been longstanding and expansive. A few of these measures include:

— Between 2002 and 2006, Wesleyan reduced electrical power consumption, which constitutes the greatest annual variable cost incurred by the university, from 4.5 megawatts to 3.5 megawatts. This was done through conservation measures, load shedding and power plant management, and achieved while new buildings were being opened for use. Conservation efforts alone produced a 4.5 percent electrical consumption reduction between 2005 and 2006.

— The recent 270 bed Fauver Residence was designed and built to be one of the most energy-efficient facilities of its kind. In 2005, the residence was awarded with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Certification (LEED). LEED is an independently developed standard for environmentally-friendly design and construction.

— The university has completed 29 energy management projects in the last three years that have an average return on investment of 1.8 years and have produced annual energy savings of more than $275,000.

— The university plans to install a cogeneration system, also known as CoGen. CoGen is the use of a single fuel source to simultaneously generate both electricity and heat. The CoGen system would be integrated with Wesleyan’s existing facilities. It will cost approximately $1.7 million after a $1.3 million rebate from the Connecticut Department of Public Utility. The facility will save about $500,000 a year in energy costs.

In addition, Wesleyan has undertaken dozens of smaller scale measures to improve environmental efficiency and expand green practices, all of which cumulatively are producing visible results. In addition, the university has undertaken extensive recycling efforts.

“To continue to do these things this will not be easy,” Roth said. “It will cost us some money and we will have to rethink some plans. But it is a commitment we all feel strongly about. We are creating momentum for change.”

Summaries of Wesleyan’s sustainability initiatives can be found online at:

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

New Assistant Professor of Chemistry Teaches at Interface with Biology

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, is interested in finding antibiotics for the disease cholerae.
Posted 11/05/07
Erika Taylor has joined the Department of Chemistry as an assistant professor of chemistry.

Taylor’s research interests include the exploration of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) biosynthesis and discovering new antibiotics for gram negative bacteria.

“My passion is exploring new ways of fighting diseases, with everything from drug development to education,” she says. “My research at Wesleyan will focus on the development of new antibiotics, especially for pharmaceutically undervalued diseases like cholerae, which infects 3 to 5 million people each year with a 5 percent mortality rate.”

Taylor comes to Wesleyan from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University, where she was a post-doctorial research associate for the past three years. There, Taylor studied nucleotide metabolism in the context of drug development for malaria. She also worked as a graduate research assistant at the University of Illinois, and studied the evolutionary relationship of enzymes in the enolase superfamily.

Taylor has a Ph. D. in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her thesis was titled “Characterization of ortho-succinylbenzoate synthase: A study of mechanism, proficiency and evolutionary diversity.” She received her bachelor of science in chemistry from the University of Michigan. Her honor’s thesis was titled “Synthesis towards analog molecules of motuporin for determination of a structure-function relationship with protein phosphatase I.”

This fall, she is advising two undergraduates on their research toward characterization of V. cholerae glycosyl transferases. Her lab investigates the contribution to virulence of the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in Vibrio cholerae. She hopes to characterize the composition and structure of all regions of LPS from species in the genus. The lab will identify and mechanically explore LPS biosynthetic enzymes, including those involved in sugar precursor anabolism and the glycosyl transferase enzymes. Finally, the Taylor group will investigate environmentally induced alterations of LPS structure, the LPS biosynthetic gene and protein expression profiles, and the LPS metabolite profiles.

She also is teaching CHEM321, a self-designed course that focuses on drug design, mode of action, and other health topics like diet and vitamins.

Taylor said she was attracted to Wesleyan for its excellent research facilities, and she enjoys working in a liberal arts environment, which has a Ph.D.-granting program.

“I also thought the people in the Chemistry Department were really welcoming and good-natured. They asked great questions of me on my interview, and at the same time, seemed like people I would enjoy working with,” she says.

Taylor has always enjoyed teaching and mentoring equally to research. She mentored students at the University of Michigan as an undergraduate. As a graduate student and a post-doc, her faculty mentors always assigned undergraduates to work with her because they could see Taylor’s interest and enthusiasm in spreading an appreciation of science.

“An interesting thing that often happened was that undergraduates that worked with other lab mentors would often come to me to ask for help with their research dilemmas, further reinforcing my belief that I should continue into academia,” Taylor says.

At Wesleyan, she has already worked with the campus group Americans for Informed Democracy on their Malaria Awareness Week initiative. This educational and fundraising effort led to the purchase of bednets to be donated to communities in need.

Taylor is a member of the American Society for Microbiology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Chemical Society.

She is the co-author of several papers including: “Anopheles gambiae Purine Nucleoside Phosphorylase: Catalysis, Structure and Inhibition,” in press in Biochemistry; “Transition State Structures of Human, Bovine and Plasmodium falciparum Adenosine Deaminases,” published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society; and “Neighboring Group Participation in the Transition State of Human Purine Nucleoside Phosphorylase,” published in Biochemistry, all in 2007.

Taylor enjoys yoga, ceramics, animals, eating sushi and exploring new places. She also aims to help demystify science, therefore turning it from a subject that is feared to something that is appreciated.

“Almost all aspects of our life involve doing things that are science related or are impossible without current scientific innovations, “ she says. “Like cooking, doing dishes, taking medicines, watching CSI, doing ceramics, sitting on a jury, thinking about energy and climate.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Wesleyan Men’s Crew Working on Masterpiece

Wesleyan’s men’s crew team took second place at the annual Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, Mass.
Posted 11/05/07
The sport of rowing requires strength, endurance and technique. The pattern of striking the water with a perpendicular blade, pulling through a stroke, raising the blade while feathering for the next stroke, and contacting the water again is rhythmic. Perfecting this action, especially in an eight-person boat, is an art.

If that is the case, then Wesleyan men’s crew is right up there with Van Gogh.

This year, despite having three rowers and the coxswain graduate, Wesleyan opened the season by taking first place among 14 crews in the collegiate eight race at the Head of the Housatonic in Shelton, Conn. Two weeks later, the Cardinals came up with their best-ever effort at the Head of the Charles, capturing second of 42 entries, losing to Trinity College in the three-mile event by 3 seconds. In the team’s third and final fall action, the Head of the Fish Regatta in Saratoga, N.Y., Wesleyan again grabbed second, this time a mere 0.15 seconds behind Colgate.

This success is just the latest addition to a much bigger picture that has been growing during the last several years. This includes:

  • A New England title in 2004 capping a 7-3 dual-race season.
  • A 9-3 dual-race mark in spring, 2006, and fourth-place finish in New England.
  • Fifth of 58 crews in the collegiate eight race at the Head of the Charles Regatta in 2006.
  • Second place in New England in Spring 2007 with an 11-1 record.

    Since the second and third varsity eights joined the first varsity as New England silver medalists in spring, 2007, Head Coach Phil Carney had a lot of talent to choose from in filling his empty seats. Unlike most team sports, moving talent up brings in individuals of equal experience to those who departed. Crews usually have three or more boats in action during any given dual event, giving upwards of 30-40 athletes an equal opportunity to exhibit their ability.

    Determining the members of each boat falls upon the coaching staff. Carney, a 1985 Trinity graduate and former crew co-captain there, is in his 21st year with the Cardinals.

    “You can’t make just anyone a competitive rower,” he explained. “Physical attributes are a major plus but the key ingredients are dedication and hard work. We can teach technique and some master it better than others.”

    As far as what makes a group of eight rowers and a coxswain a cohesive unit, “It’s an intangible,” Coach Carney stated. “Fortunately our squad really has it. I see us a little ahead of last year.”

    With a variation in size from a max of 6-5, 210 to a minimum of 6-0, 165, this fall’s varsity eight had Doug Cody ’09, Parker Cook ’10, Gael Hagan ’09, Norman Azoulay ’08, Tom Volgenau or Adam Nikolich ’09, Ross Heinemann ’09, Matt McLarney ’08 and Jeremy Brown ’08 as its rowers while George Bennum ’09 in the coxswain.

    Coach Carney feels he might have five boats racing this spring with 48 men currently on his roster. He attributes an increase in high school rowing, especially among public schools, for the improved talent pool.

    “We have 30 guys on the squad this year who rowed in high school. That’s outstanding.”

    Wesleyan’s first spring rowing will take place in Deland, Fla. where the team travels during spring break for training. After that, the team will have five straight Saturday’s of dual-race rowing leading into the New Englands and ECAC Collegiate Championships in May.

  • By Brian Katten, Sports Information Director. Photo by Steve Cook P’10.

    Inauguration Events Key Part of Homecoming/ Family Weekend

    Janice Astor del Valle, left, director of the Green Street Arts Center, listens to Sonia BasSheva Manjon, director of the Center for Art and Public Life at the California College of the Arts in Oakland, speak on “Building Bridges between University and Community” during a Inauguration  Event Nov. 2 in Memorial Chapel. Manjon and del Valle each spoke on how their arts center has helped their local communities.
    Posted 11/05/07
    One of Michael Roth’s predominant themes during his inauguration, as well as his professional life, has been “Liberal Education and Public Life.” This theme was reflected in several special Inaugural Evenst during Homecoming/Family Weekend.

    The presentations began before the inauguration ceremony itself with a WESeminar titled “Building Bridges Between University and Community” which was held on Friday morning. The presentation brought together Sonia BasSheva Manjon, executive director of the Center for Art and Public Life at Roth’s former institution, the California College for the Arts, in Oakland and San Francisco, Calif., and Janis Astor del Valle, director of the Green Street Arts Center in Middletown.

    The presentation detailed how both organizations provide a unique mix of art and arts programming for the community and a high level of public service, which has been quite successful in both cases. More of a challenge has been teaching students, faculty and others about the value and need of art in society, and how to combine these needs with arts and service education. Both presenters were frank in their comments, indicating that this is not an easy task at any level.

    An inauguration-linked benefit reception and dinner was also held for the Green Street Arts Center (GSAC) Nov. 3 featuring cabaret signer Andrea Marcovicci. A veteran of the Broadway stage, Marcovicci continues to tour her numerous, critically-acclaimed cabaret shows, including “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Love Songs of WWWII,” and “Marcovicci sings Rodgers and Hart.” The event raised more than $43,000 for GSAC scholarships.

    Also Nov. 3, a WESeminar titled “Thoughts on the History of Lesbian/Gay/Queer Activism at Wesleyan University” was presented by Henry Ablelove, Wilbur Fisk Osbourne Professor of English Literature. Ablelove was a mentor of Roth’s during and after his Wesleyan undergraduate years, spoke of lesbian/gay/queer activism on Wesleyan’s campus from the 80s until today, discussing benefits, consequences and unintended outcomes.

    On Nov. 4, the final inauguration event, “Stories and Lessons from the Climate Wars, and featured Gary Yohe, Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics. Yohe is also a senior member and lead author of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which was a co-recipient if the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Yohe spoke about his experiences on the committee, some of the battles they fight with each other, and the newsmedia, over the veracity of certain climate change data, papers and scientific reports. He also detailed some of the difficulties inherent in a committee that comprises almost 2,000 scientists and represents more than 130 national governments.

    By David Pesci, director of Media Relations. Photo by Olivia Drake.

    Students Promote Campus-Wide Religious Pluralism

    Nadeem Modan ‘10 and Adina Teibloom ‘10 attended interactive workshops, panel conversations with leading think tanks and foundations at the Interfaith Youth Conference Oct. 28-30 in Chicago, Ill. They are sharing what they have learned with their Wesleyan peers.
    Posted 11/05/07
    Two Wesleyan sophomores met with renowned religious scholars, interfaith activists and peers from around the world recently to promote peaceful relations between different religious groups.

    Nadeem Modan ‘10, who is Muslim, and Adina Teibloom ‘10, who is Jewish, attended interactive workshops, panel conversations with leading think tanks and foundations, and an interfaith concert at the Interfaith Youth Conference Oct. 28-30 in Chicago, Ill. This year’s conference was titled “Crossing the Faith Line.”

    Modan, an active member of Wesleyan’s Interfaith Justice League and the Advisory Committee for Spiritual and Religious Life, attended the conference to discover methods to encourage further religious pluralism at Wesleyan. He’s also striving to develop a Middle Eastern Studies Program at Wesleyan, where is planning to major in pre-med and religion.

    “Many of us grapple with the same problems: How do we create a safe space in which people feel comfortable enough to share their beliefs? How do we guide a discussion in which authenticity is not lost while trying to maintain community? And how do we deal with the elephant in the corner that is the Middle East?,” Modan says. “By attending this conference, I was able to get answers to these questions, all of which will help in working towards religious pluralism on campus and beyond.”

    Modan says Wesleyan, which prides itself on its diverse student body, often excludes religion as a form of diversity.

    “’Unless you’re like me, unless you believe this, unless you don’t believe that, you are wrong.’ This attitude is still very prevalent at Wesleyan, and it is espoused not only by those who identify as religious, but arguably even more so by those who don’t,” Modan says.

    At the conference, Modan and Teibloom had the opportunity to participate in dozens of workshops, led by spiritual leaders from around the country. Topics included Youth as Leaders in the Interfaith Movement; the Relevance of Religion in 21st Century Curriculum; Faith, Democracy, Jazz: The Applications of Universal Language Skills; Baha’i Faith; Enhancing U.S. – Muslim Relations on Campus; Evangelical Christianity; Creating Interfaith Dialogue on College Campuses; Deepening Interfaith Service Learning Through the Arts; Addressing the Arab-Israeli Conflict in Interfaith Dialogue; Fostering Mentoring Communities Through Interfaith Service Learning; among many other topics.

    This was Teibloom’s second year attending the interfaith conference. She has worked with the organization for five years, and was invited to facilitating a brainstorming session about how to be an effective interfaith leader on campus. She also wrote a pamphlet about the Days of Interfaith Youth Service, which was widely distributed.

    Teibloom, who is planning to major in religion, hopes to begin a summer program for students in high school and college to experience religious diversity and work together toward common action. She wants to pilot the program at Wesleyan.

    “Our campus lends itself to interfaith work because it is an accepting environment to begin with,” Teibloom says. “I hope that an interfaith culture can be started on this campus and become a tradition that will continue even after I have graduated. If we can come to understand each other across difference perhaps we can begin to consider ending these conflicts with fair, peaceful solutions.”

    Modan and Teibloom attended several talks by featured speakers such as Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core; Umar Faruq Abd-Allah, chair and scholar-in-residence at the Nawawi Foundation; Sally Mahe, director of Organizational Development for the United Religions Initiative; Ji Hyang Sunim, Buddhist advisor at Wellesley College; Eliyahu McLean, director of Jerusalem Peacemakers; Sally Quinn, editor of the Washington Post; among others.

    Participants also attended a networking dinner, interfaith concert, a screening of “Encounter Point,” featuring a Q&A with director Ronit Avni of Just Vision; and the 2007 Days of Interfaith Youth Service Awards Banquet.

    “I see religious pluralism as a way of life,” Teibloom says. “It’s a place where everyone is constantly striving to understand and empathize with people of all different moral and religious traditions. For me, pluralism is more than the existence of diversity but the dedication to encounter it with openness and acceptance at every moment.”

    By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor