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18th-Century Man: Assistant Professor of History Researches a Revolutionary Tale


Kirk Davis Swinehart, assistant professor of history, specializes in early American history. (Photo by James Ward Swinehart, Jr.)
 
Posted 05/02/05

Kirk Davis Swinehart, assistant professor of history, has been spending most of his time in the 18th century with an Irish knight and a Mohawk woman.

Swinehart’s research and teaching focus on events from the period just before and leading up to the American Revolution. He has also done extensive research on the New World soldier-adventurer Sir William Johnson (1715–74) and his families, Irish and Mohawk, both of which fought for Britain during the American Revolution. Funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Faculty Career Enhancement Grant, Swinehart will spend next year finishing his book on Johnson and his Mohawk common-law wife Molly Brant.

“Sir William’s story is easily one of the eighteenth century’s most seductive—a story of setting out and making good, a story reenacted for centuries throughout the British Empire,” Swinehart says. “Monarchical, rich, and sexually corrupt in the eyes of a fledgling nation, this unlikely couple represented all that America struggled to define itself against after winning independence from Britain.”

Swinehart’s book, tentatively titled “Molly’s War,” is a narrative that recounts an intimate history of the Crown’s uneasy military alliance with the Mohawk Indians of central New York. The story chronicles Sir William Johnson’s 20-year relationship and domestic life with Brant (1736–96), a powerful Mohawk woman who struggled to maintain the Mohawks’ allegiance to George III after Johnson’s death.

The book is under contract with Houghton Mifflin in North America and Hodder Headline in the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth. 

Swinehart’s “Molly’s War” derives its narrative verve from the events and places that shaped Brant and Johnson’s lives: their childhoods in the New and Old Worlds; the circumstances of their meeting and subsequent two decades together; the building of the estate they shared uneasily with their eight children and with Johnson’s three white children; and the two decades Brant spent without Johnson, waging war and living as a single mother confronted with heartbreaking blows.

Many have written about Johnson since his death in 1774 but too often he has been depicted as a caricature of the British colonial official. Swinehart says his research, conducted in British and American archives–including the British Library, the Public Records Office in London, and in Sir William’s own published papers–suggests a more complicated portrait than the ones offered by previous biographers and scholars. Swinehart says Johnson was a devoted father, a great lover of fun, and a man of tremendous intelligence and empathetic powers.

To complement his research, Swinehart spends time in physical locations where Johnson and Brant lived. He has spent extensive time at the house they shared, Johnson Hall, which still stands, 45 miles northwest of Albany. This summer, he’ll be in London, searching for the family’s banking records, and in Dublin, visiting Johnson’s childhood house.

Swinehart’s interest in Johnson and Brant dates back six years. After earning a master’s degree from the University of Delaware, where he studied American decorative arts, he pursued a Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale University. While at Yale he studied with prize-winning colonial historian John Demos, who changed forever how Swinehart writes history. That is when he began his doctoral dissertation on Johnson.

“Writing narrative history is for me a way of enriching our sense of the eighteenth century,” Swinehart says. “So, too, is reconciling the history of early America with the history of the British Empire.”

Swinehart says he hopes to spend his life doing work that combines scholarly rigor and accessibility in equal measure, inside the classroom and on the page. Students, he finds, learn best about early American history when people and life stories are placed front and center: when enormous social and economic changes can be discerned in the life of a James Boswell or a Benjamin Franklin or a Molly Brant.

At Wesleyan, Swinehart has taught all self-designed courses. These include the survey of early American history, narrative nonfiction and historical biography and the British Empire, a seminar on the Puritans, and another on early American furniture and art.

“I believe in reaching intelligent, curious people, in opening up worlds to people who may never become scholars but who — if you can persuade them of a book’s capacity to transport and transform — may become discerning adult readers of serious literary nonfiction,” Swinehart says. “It’s always a marvel to watch young readers connect for the first time with people who lived over 200 years ago.”

In addition to the Mellon Foundation Career Enrichment grant, Swinehart is the recipient of a Yale College Teaching Prize and of fellowships from the University of Pennsylvania’s McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, the Huntington Library in Los Angeles, and the New York Public Library. Prior to coming to Wesleyan in 2002, he was the Mellon Research Fellow in American History at the University of Cambridge.

“That’s my vocation,” he says. “To reach those who will never become professional historians, teach them that reading books is a lifelong pleasure — and the cheapest vacation they’ll ever take.”

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Director of Administrative Applications Makes Systems More Efficient for Users


Ed Below, director of Administrative Applications helped develop systems on the electronic portfolio.
 
Posted 05/02/05

Q: When did you come to Wesleyan?

A: I came to Wesleyan in 1987 as the director of Financial Aid. In 1998, I became the project manager for the PeopleSoft Student Administration System, and later the director of administrative applications. It was a new position.

Q: What does it mean to be “director of administrative applications?”

A: I have overall responsibility for how the Student Administration System (SFIS) and the Human Resources Management System (HRMS) are used by the functional offices around campus. My job is to develop better and more efficient ways to use systems in office operations.

Q: What is your interaction or overlap with Information Technology Services and Human Resources, or other departments of note?

A: ITS has responsibility for all the technical aspects of the systems, but I work with offices to make this technology more efficient. We work closely with ITS to help us implement the system improvements for the offices that use the PeopleSoft systems. In addition to my work with various student services office, I also work with with Human Resources, the Financial Planning Office, Payroll, Academic Affairs and other offices that use the HRMS side of the system. All of our projects are done cooperatively with ITS and the user office that will use the enhancement.

Q: What are some examples of projects that have extended the efficiency of these systems?

A: One is the InfiNet Web payment system for the Students Accounts Office, GLSP and University Relations. A new online-registration system for GLSP went live last week, and we have also developed a new Budget Management and Planning System that allows senior staff areas to see and enter more detailed information about their budgets. An application that will be live this week is a new on-line compensation system where managers can make their recommendations for the July 1 increases for their staff.

Q: How did you get into this type of work?

A: I have a master’s in higher education administration, and I spent 25 years working in financial aid offices at three other institutions. Working in financial aid has given me a good perspective on how other departments operate, so I learned what was needed in administrative systems. I may not know the payroll process or how Human Resources does their budgeting, but I am able to sit down with experts and figure out how to implement a useful system that can make things easier for them.

Q: What is your involvement with the electronic portfolio, and how often should people log into the system and why?

A: People should log in every day. From this portfolio, you can see your time off or vacation time, change your address, elect health and life insurance, establish retirement funds and see if there are any campus-wide alerts such as snow parking bans. We established this system for faculty and staff in 2003 to save paper and a lot of hassle. No more filling out papers and physically brining them to an office, and no more calling around to change your mailing address. People can submit all this information now on the Web. Also, since you have to sign into your portfolio, we know it is the right person getting into the system.

Q: Any upcoming projects?

A: We’re currently working on making a better system for all hourly employees who have to report time. The one now works, but we can make it better by extending capabilities for online time recording. We’re also designing a recruiting module for new employees, so they can submit their applications and resumes online. On the student side, we’re looking at re-writing the student online registration system. That’s our big project for next year.

Q: How do you spend most of your day?

A: I’m usually going to quite a few meetings or working on plans here at my desk. I’m on the phone sometimes, but mostly I work through e-mail communication.

Q: What have you liked best about working at Wesleyan?

A: I like the variety of people I come in contact with. I’ve met many students and staff and faculty and it interests me to see the variety of things people do. I also like the athletic facility and the cultural resources here at Wesleyan. It’s a really good atmosphere.

Q: What about your job?

A: I like that I’m always working on something different and that can be very challenging. And it’s nice to see how something I made improves the way someone else works.

Q: Do you have family?

A: I am single, but I have two grown children. Molly is a grad student at the University of South Florida in clinical psychology and Kate is a paramedic in Hartford. She’s engaged to be married next summer.

Q: What do you do after work?

A: I am a singer. I’ve been singing about 10 years, three of which have been with the Hartford Chorale. We put on about three to four concerts a year and sing with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. I also like to see opera in New York City. I play bridge every week and I like to just putter around my house doing small projects.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Human Resources Launches Virtual Orientation Web Site


The Human Resources department’s new Virtual Orientation Web site provides vital information for new employees.
 
Posted 05/02/05

Prospective employees can learn all about Wesleyan before they even set foot on campus — just by going online.

The Human Resources department has launched a Virtual Orientation Web site this month for new employees. The site can be viewed at:

http://www.wesleyan.edu/hr/newemployee

The site features a list of important resources, interesting facts and valuable information that employees will need before they arrive and during their first month at Wesleyan.

“We wanted to create a place for new employees to learn as much as possible about Wesleyan before they arrived” says Julia Hicks, associate Human Resources director.  “We also wanted to provide a place where existing employees can also view useful human resources information.”

The Virtual Orientation web site contains similar material given to new employees on their first day but includes additional features such as an information on campus dining, the computer store and child care resources, the adverse weather policy, and even Wesleyan trivia. A new employee checklist explains where to pick up a Motor Vehicle Registration Form, Wesleyan Identification Card and how to get signed up for Wesleyan benefits.

The site also offers resources to employees who are not familiar with the Middletown area. An extensive list of places to eat and things see and do in Middlesex County is available on the site, as is a map of Middletown.

“Even employees who have been here for years will find a great deal of useful information on this site,” Hicks says.

The site was developed by Vanessa Sabin, Human Resources administrative coordinator; Pat Leone, World Wide Web administrator, Jennifer Carlstrom, Web manager and Sasha Foppiano, formerly a web designer for the Office of University Communications. Sabin and Dan Pflederer, Human Resources functional specialist, coordinated focus groups to gather input and feedback regarding the site.

The development team explored numerous university orientation Web pages and came up with our unique look and feel.

“We picked a design that we felt would be the best fit for Wesleyan,” Hicks says.

Harriet Abrams, director of Human Resources, encourages Wesleyan employees to offer feedback on the site and included a suggestion box link on the site for this purpose.

“We consider this a work in progress and we’ll be continually updating and enhancing it,” Abrams says. “The site is primarily focused on new hires but since it’s accessible to anyone visiting Wesleyan’s site, it’s also a terrific marketing tool to encourage others to apply.”

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

International Students Share Wesleyan Memories at Senior Reception


From left to right, Ambika Ahuja ’05 of Thailand, Zaheed Essack ’05 of South Africa, Phudorji Sherpa ’05 of Nepal, and Lianne Morris-Smith ’05 of Jamaica converse at the International Student Senior Reception.
 
Posted 05/02/05

The Office of International Student Services held an International Student Senior Reception at the Russell House April 27.

More than 25 international students and exchange students attended. Some gave brief remarks about their experiences at Wesleyan while others mentioned ways they plan to stay connected with Wesleyan after graduating.

“Whether they stay in this country or travel back to their home country, these students can maintain a relationship with Wesleyan,” says Theresa Cann, coordinator of International Student Services.

Wesleyan staff, administrators, and faculty attended, including the Senior Class Dean, Louise Brown.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

CLASS ON THE GREEN: Students make good use of the spring weather on April 5 by holding class outside on the College Row lawn.

A Wesleyan student leads a group of prospective students and their parents on a campus tour on April 12. Here, they are passing by the Center for Fine Arts.
On April 6, Foss Hill and Andrus Field became the hot spots for warm-weather activities. Temps exceeded 60 degrees. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)

Wesleyan University Announces 173rd Commencement Honorary Degree Recipients


Posted 04/19/05
Wesleyan University recently announced that it will confer four honorary degrees during its 173rd commencement exercises on Sunday, May 22 to the following recipients:

  • Amy Gutmann (Doctor of Letters) – Amy Gutmann, Wesleyan’s commencement speaker, became president of the University of Pennsylvania this year. Formerly, she was provost and Laurence S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. She was the founding director of the Princeton University Center for Human Values, a multi-disciplinary center that supports teaching, scholarship and public discussion of ethics and human values.
  • Bill Belichick (Doctor of Humane Letters) – Bill Belichick earned his bachelor’s degree in economics at Wesleyan in 1975. Also a Wesleyan parent, Belichick and his wife, Debby, have been long-time advocates of and contributors to Wesleyan and community charities. In 2002 Coach Belichick guided the underdog New England Patriots to their first world championship, against tremendous odds. He has since repeated that feat twice, most recently this year at Super Bowl XXXIX. Belichick has earned a reputation for being one of football’s elite game strategists whose defensive game plans have consistently been credited for defusing some of the NFL’s most potent offenses.
  • Edward P. Jones (Doctor of Humane Letters) – Edward P. Jones was educated at Holy Cross College and the University of Virginia. His first book, Lost in the City, was originally published by William Morrow in 1992 and short-listed for the National Book Award. A collection of fourteen short stories, Lost in the City deals with African American working class and underclass experiences in mid-20th century, inner-city Washington, D.C. Jones was named a National Book Award finalist for a second time with the publication of his debut novel, “The Known World,” which subsequently won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
  • William Barber (Doctor of Letters) – William Barber is the Andrews Professor of Economics Emeritus at Wesleyan. Barber joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1957 after receiving his doctor in philosophy degree from Oxford University. He is recognized as an expert on the history of economic thought, on economists as policy advisers, and on development economics. His next book, Volume 4 of “Perspectives on Applied Topics and Forward Trajectories,” is expected to be published in 2005.

Wesleyan will also bestow the Baldwin Medal, the highest alumni honor presented by the University, to John F. Woodhouse, ’53, P’79, former president and CEO of Sysco Corporation, named trustee emeritus following 15 years on Wesleyan’s Board, and most recently, chairman and leader of the successful $287M Wesleyan Capital Campaign. David B. Jenkins, ’53, P’83, former CEO and president of Shaws Supermarkets, named trustee emeritus following 12 years on Wesleyan’s Board, chair of the Campaign for Liberal Learning and National Leadership Gifts Chair for the Wesleyan Capital Campaign, will receive the Baldwin Medal at Homecoming/Family Weekend this fall.

The Baldwin Medal pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin of Wesleyan’s Class of 1916. Baldwin was the only man to have held the offices of Connecticut governor, U.S. senator, and chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Professor Will Miss Teaching French Language, Literature


Joyce O. Lowrie, professor of romance languages and literatures, is retiring this semester after 39 years.
 
Posted 04/15/05

It’s been a “bon voyage” for Madame Joyce O. Lowrie.

After a 39-year career at Wesleyan, the professor of romance languages and literatures has announced her retirement at the end of this semester. But she’s not saying “au revoir” just yet.

“You could say my retirement is more of an ‘a bientôt  ‘ I’ll be seeing you soon,’” she says from her third floor office on High Street, a room that once housed President Doug Bennet in the converted all-male fraternity house Alpha Chi Rho. “I’ll be taking trips to Paris, but I still plan to be around.”

Professor Lowrie, who came to Wesleyan in 1966 as an assistant professor, says she will continue her research on French literature after her retirement. She’ll also finish the book she has been writing, which is already 300 pages long.

“I have spent my life doing research and I hope not to have to stop, at least for a while yet,” she says. “This is my passion.”

Lowrie taught courses both at Wesleyan and in Paris, including a senior seminar, “Introduction to French Literature, Middle Ages to the 18th-century,” “Narrative Strategies in 19th-20th-century French Literature,” “A Question of Time,” and her signature class, “The Mirror in the Text,” which featured sections from her forthcoming book, “Sightings:  Mirrors in Texts — Texts in Mirrors.” The book emphasizes her research, which is on the function, significance and meaning of chiastic and interlocking structures in French prose fiction. 

“I’ve always loved teaching courses that cover literature from many centuries,” she says. “I could do that in these classes. I simply love helping students learn how to appreciate such beautiful and challenging usages of the French language, and to understand the ideas they portray.”

Deirdre Stiles ’87 of Sussex, England took senior seminar with Lowrie and the two have been e-mail correspondents ever since. Stiles still remembers Lowrie engaging her in class discussions.

“She treated us as colleagues,” Stiles says. “She listened and was truly interested in what each of us had to say about what we had read. She had a wonderful sense of humor which enlivened the dialogue. And she was fully engaged in what she taught – she loved it and it showed.”

Although her courses were taught in French, Lowrie says the classes touched a broad spectrum of students in different majors. 

Ari Zito, ’05, who will double major in the College of Letters and French Studies, took two classes with Madame Lowrie during his Wesleyan career.

“I know that in the future, when I think back to my academic experience at Wesleyan, I will recall sitting in the seminar room in 300 High Street, drinking tea with a dozen other students, and listening to Madame Lowrie talk about Proust,” Zito says. “I know that I am only one of many people who will miss her very much.

Born in Brazil, Lowrie was raised bilingual in Portuguese and English as a child, but learned Latin and French in school, “with a strong Brazilian accent.”  Her accent was corrected when she attended college at Baylor University in Texas, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1957. That same year, she received a Fulbright scholarship to study French literature at the University of Bordeaux. 

“That experience changed my life,” she says. “Although I was interested in many other subjects, it was French language and literature that I loved most. I also fell in love with the country, its culture, its mores, its cuisine, its people.”

Lowrie returned to the United States in 1958 to earn her Ph.D. in French at Yale University. There she met her husband-to-be, Ernest. They have one daughter, Michèle, who now teaches classics at New York University. 

Lowrie was the first woman professor “to rise through the ranks” and obtain tenure at Wesleyan. In 1972, Lowrie became associate professor, and in 1977 she became a full professor.

She taught French in smoke-filled classrooms at the then all-male university. Even President Colin Campbell’s office had “snazzy” ceramic ashtrays, she recalls. 

“It was quite a different institution then,” she says.

While much has changed, Lowrie’s vibrant and witty personality has remained the same.

“Joyce is an irreverent, fun-loving bon vivant, an Epicurean with a taste and talent for making superb food and scandalous jokes,” says colleague Andrew Curran, associate professor of romance languages and literatures.

Ellen Nerenberg, associate professor of romance languages and literatures and associate professor of women’s studies, considers Lowrie’s sense of humor sly and puckish.

“You could even call it wicked,” Nerenberg says. “Yet despite this, or perhaps because of it, Joyce has a keen sense of decorum. She balances deliciously between the two poles.”

Lowrie is the author of 19 articles, five translations, 12 reviews and one book under her own name, “The Violent Mystique” published by Droz Press, Geneva. She has contributed substantive chapters to three books and her book in progress. She earned a fellowship to work on her present book at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, in 1995.

Lowrie has sat on more than 20 university committees.  She also served as a freshman, sophomore, and a French major advisor. She was a liaison with Foreign Language Teaching Assistants, chair of her own department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and she served as the Resident as well as campus director of the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris.

“Many of my students decided to spend some time in France through this program,” she says. “There is nothing like a year abroad to help students to learn to speak colloquial French, and to understand French literature and culture. “

Lowrie has obtained many academic honors over the years. She was awarded an University Fellowship at Yale University between 1959-1962; a Wesleyan fellowship at the Center for the Humanities in 1973; she received a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant in 1989-90. She has been a member of several professional organizations including the American Association of Teachers of French, the Modern Language Association, and the Northeast Modern Language Association of America. She has presented papers in all of these venues.

After retiring, Lowrie is planning on “doing exactly what I most love doing, and that is reading, doing research, writing, and traveling to France,” she says.  She will continue to reside in the Middletown area. She doesn’t want to wander far from her colleagues, friends and Wesleyan students.

“Wesleyan students: I love them! That says it all,” she says. “They are so bright and so full of ideas. They are the reason I have wanted to stay at Wesleyan all of these years. Being around students keeps one young.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Computer Operations Specialist Learned Skills on IBM Mainframe


Jerry Maguda, computer operations specialist, helps Wesleyan employees and students solve their computer problems.
 
Posted 04/15/05

Q: When did you come to Wesleyan, and were you always a computer operations specialist?

A: I started July 7, 1977 or 7/7/77. A lucky number? I was hired as a computer operator, and in time my title changed to production manager for administrative systems. I left Wesleyan in 1982, because at that point in my career I felt I needed more exposure to ever changing technology. From 1982 to1985 I worked 2nd and 3rd shift jobs for different employers ranging from a computer operator to a plastics mold injection operator. During that same time I worked as a daytime temporary employee for Wesleyan for what was then known as the Computing Center processing and printing materials at the peak times during the academic and fiscal calendars. When a permanent job became available in 1985, I was hired permanently. I had just two requests, that the salary was at least the same and it was first shift only. The administration agreed, so I came back as a permanent employee in the role of computer operator.

Q: What does your job title, computer operations specialist, mean exactly?

A: During the years the responsibilities have changed, but basically I respond to and resolve requests in the request tracking system operations@wesleyan. I also support ITS’ desktop support, help desk and technical staff by adding and removing computer accounts, processing printing requests, restoring files, solving access issues and creating and adjusting e-mail lists.

Q: What’s a typical day like?

A: Most of my time is spent on my computer. I communicate mostly via e-mail and phone. The only direct contact I have on a regular basis is with ITS staff.  On any given day I could spend a lot of time on unanticipated issues, as well as routine technical maintenance. 

Q: What are typical problems you help people solve?

A: People contact me with a variety of problems. It can be anything from “my e-mail isn’t working” to “the Internet is down,” or “Saturn is down.”  “PeopleSoft gives me a blank screen,” “I am getting denied access to these files,” or  “I have lost a couple of files, can you restore them from last Tuesday?” They’ll also say that MeetingMaker is suddenly asking them for a password, and that it hasn’t done that in two years, and they want to know what their password is, or “I am a new faculty calling from California, are my computer accounts setup yet? How do I access them from here?”

Q: What has been one of your most memorable problems?

A: One of my most unique calls was from someone saying, “I keep getting denied dial-in access so I went out and bought a new phone, can you help me?”

Q: What lead you into computer-type work?

A: After high school in 1974 I worked at Fafnir Bearing in New Britain and my coworkers, who had been in factory work for many years, all told me that I should get out of factory work.  I have since realized this was very good advice. I checked out the Computer Processing Institute, CPI, in East Hartford. It no longer exists, but I went there in 1976, and earned a diploma in operations. At that time I trained on IBM mainframes 360/370.

Q: What are typical programs or programming languages you use at work?

A: Visual BASIC is still being used in the programming area somewhat, but now it’s mostly    C++, SQR, Procedural Language/SQL, Java and COBOL. These are mostly for business applications. There are different languages for math and statistical and web applications.

Q: Do you prefer PCs or Macs?  

A: I prefer PCs. My first computer was a Mac, which I liked, but Macs are mostly used to start your computer exposure in grade schools or high school, or if you work in publications or art. 

Q: Do people ever use their keyboard trays for coffee mug holders and end up with disasters?  

A: Of course, haven’t you? I can get an entire lunch just by turning my keyboard over and shaking. Desktop support specialists deal with this all the time.

Q: At home, are you on a computer much or do you try to stay away?

A: I do have a computer, a PC. This is where I do personal stuff like emailing friends and relatives, banking, buying stuff and research. I’m not much of a computer game player, and don’t spend much time ‘surfing.’ There are times when I do work-related projects from home, but not often. It’s funny how different your mindset is when you’re on your computer at work versus home.  

Q: What are some of your hobbies?

A: My hobbies seem to center around physical activities. I like to play squash here at Wesleyan, and have met many people in other departments who also play that otherwise I would not have met. I feel fortunate to work for an employer that provides opportunity and encourages exercise at lunch time. Also, I have played racquetball for years at the YMCA in New Britain. I like to rollerblade, play tennis and lift weights. 

Q: Where did you grow up and where are you living now?

A: I was born in Kensington but I have lived in Southington for about 12 years now. I have four sisters and a brother. Three sisters and their families are local. One sister and her family lives in Massachusetts. My brother lives in Cape Coral, Florida.

Q: What do you like best about working at Wesleyan? 

A: To choose something I like best is difficult because I like so much of what I do.  But mostly I enjoy working with a diverse and interesting population. In a given hour I can speak with students, faculty, alumni, parents, staff or vendors. I like that each phone call and each e-mail request exposes me to a different challenge in my work day. I never know what is in store for me. That’s the beauty!

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Hostess says University Club is Ideal Place to Build Community or Relax


 
Debbie Mathre, hostess of Wesleyan’s University Club, serves a tray of treats inside the eatery on 164 Mt. Vernon Street.
 
Posted 04/15/05

Q: When did you start at Wesleyan?

A: About eight years ago. I had been laid off from an office-job and was looking for work and there was an opening at the campus center. Cooking was always a hobby of mine, so I applied, and got a job behind the line.

Q: And when did you start working for the University Club?

A: The University Club has been in existence for many, many years, but I moved over there about four years ago. Then, the University Club was inside the Downey House. It was a place for faculty and staff to eat, and at one point it was for students, too.

Q: And what brought it here, to the Mt. Vernon Street location?

A: When they started remodeling the Downey House into classrooms, we were relocated here. This house was owned by Wesleyan and Henry Abelove, professor of English and American Studies, lived here. He had moved out, so they moved the University Club in here.

Q: How would you describe the dining atmosphere of the University Club?

A: The University Club has always been a nice place to meet, or just get away from the office and have a nice meal. Faculty and staff can network here, and build community.

Q: What would you tell people that haven’t seen the new University Club?

A: If you ever want to take a stroll around campus, and pass by, by all means, come by and take a look. There’s plenty of parking here, but it’s also a nice walk. I’m happy to show people around.

Q: How is business?

A: Business could be better, and I blame that on our move. Many faculty and staff think that after we left the Downey House we didn’t exist anymore, but we’re still here. It is farther off campus, and we’re in a residential neighborhood, but we are so close to the Center for Film Studies and fine arts, and I’m surprised we’re not at least getting those crowds.

Q: What are the advantages of being here?

A: When we were in the Downey House, it was very dark. Dark paneling and tiles. Here, we have redecorated and it has a cozy, homey feel to it. And there’s lots of light.

Q: What kinds of meals are served here?

A: People have the option of getting soup and salad, a sandwich or wrap, buffet, dessert and beverages, or combinations of those items. They can dine in or grab and go.

Q: How do people know what is being served every day?

A: We have a menu line at x3090, option 5. Or they can call me directly at x6300.

Q: How do employees pay?

A: They can pay by cash or check, but they can also charge it to their ID cards for payroll deduction.

Q: What is a typical day like for you here?

A: I come in at around 9:30 a.m. and unload the dishwasher, make sure the tables are set, take care of any special needs or prepare for groups that have reserved a table, I set up the whole buffet, and then assist the student workers with dishes and clearing tables. During lunch, I greet people at the door, run the cash register and take telephone reservations.

Q: Can faculty and staff can display their artwork here?

A: Yes. We will display artwork, books, crafts, pottery or other forms of art free of charge. They can display it for show, or they can try to sell it here.

Q: So it’s just you and the students who run this place?

A: Yes. Six students and myself. We keep it nice and small.

Q: Do you get to do much cooking at home?

A: No, not so much anymore. I work another part-time job in a library, and I spend a lot of time knitting, gardening and training my Airedale, so there’s not much time left to cook.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Former Swedish Soccer Star Gets Kick Out of Coaching


 
Eva Bergsten-Meredith, adjunct assistant professor of physical education, is the women soccer team’s head coach and lacrosse team’s assistant coach.
 
Posted 04/15/05

Q: When did you join the Physical Education Department as an adjunct assistant professor and what are your responsibilities?

A: I came here in July 2004. I’m head coach of the women’s soccer team, assistant coach of the Lacrosse team and I teach physical education classes.

Q: What is your educational background?

A: I have a bachelor’s degree in graphic communications from Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire, and I’m currently taking classes through Wesleyan’s GLSP program in social sciences.

Q: Why did you make the switch from graphic design to athletics?

A: I worked as a graphic designer but realized that sitting behind a desk, in front of a computer 10 hours a day under constant time pressure and stress was not for me. My college coach had moved from New Hampshire to Hartford and asked me to work for him at the University of Hartford. I jumped at the offer and decided to trade the money for a much healthier work environment. That’s how I ended up coaching and teaching phys ed instead.

Q: And what did you end up doing at the University of Hartford?

A: I was the assistant soccer coach for three years and the head coach for three.

Q: You’re a former member of the Swedish National Soccer Team. Tell me more about that experience.

A: I played most of my career in Sweden with a couple of years on the Swedish National team and six years in the Swedish Premier League, which is the highest women’s league. I moved to the U.S. in 1992 and started college at the age of 24, more for the overall experience than the education at first. I ended my soccer career with my four years at Franklin Pierce where I was named the 1992 National Player of the year and was a three time All-American and two-time Academic All-American.

Q: What attracted you to Wesleyan?

A: I liked its diverse student population, academic reputation and athletic facilities. It makes my job of bringing in talented student-athletes much easier when you have brand new state-of-the-art facilities to show them. The new Freeman Gym is very impressive.

Q: When you’re not working, do you continue to watch the sport?

A: I like to watch games live, or on television. But when there’s not a game on, I enjoy reading books and working around my house. I live in Meriden with my husband, Rudy.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Registrar Makes Enrollment Process Easier for Students, Faculty


 
Registrar Anna van der Burg stands outside the registrar’s windows in North College where she helps students answer questions about class enrollment.
 
Posted 04/15/05

Not long ago, all Wesleyan students returning to campus each semester had to participate in Enrollment Day. This meant hours of waiting in lengthy lines snaking through the lobby of the Exley Science Center. If they wanted to drop or add a class, students would have to chase down professors and their advisor to sign the drop/add slip. Students would carry this slip over to the registrar’s office, again waiting in long lines for a staff member to type the course selections into the computer system.

That’s how it was five years ago.

Now students can enroll in the university and drop or add classes via the Internet, 24 hours a day thanks in part to Anna van der Burg and the Office of the Registrar.

“By automating these processes, we are saving the students, staff and faculty time and money, and since it’s all done on computers, we might be saving some trees too,” Registrar van der Burg says. “What used to be done on paper and in person, and had the chance for errors, can now be done quickly and accurately and any time of the day.”

van der Burg, who came to Wesleyan in 2000, has facilitated meetings with her staff, academic deans, class deans, the staff in Information Technology Services and other members of the Wesleyan community to implement these changes. In some cases she’s held open forums to come up with final solutions for projects.

Students favor the online technologies in lieu of standing in long lines.

“We’re moving into an age where students expect to do things online,” van der Burg says. “They’ve been dealing with technology practically since their infancy.”

The drop/add system allow students and faculty to view class enrollments online in real-time. That way, students who want to add a class can see if a particular class is still open. Meanwhile, faculty can see how their classes are filling up.

“Students and faculty operate at different times of the day, so this system is convenient to them both,” she says. “This saves students a lot of time and running around tracking down their professors for signatures.”

So far, the new system has been “incredibly successful,” says Karen Anderson, assistant dean of the Graduate Liberal Studies Program.

“Anna has been very instrumental in developing and streamlining these new systems, and the new technologies are very effective,” Anderson says. “She has a vision, and she is always working toward the next innovation.

Technology changes are only one aspect of van der Burg’s job. The Office of the Registrar is also the official recording agency for the University and therefore is the keeper of historical information such as class lists, transcripts, other student and enrollment data. In addition, the Honors Program is coordinated by the office, located on the first floor of North College.

With her staff of 10, van der Burg also oversees the publication of the annual University Course Catalog and the administrative applications in the student and faculty portfolios. The catalog includes academic regulations, degree requirements, academic standing, general regulations and advanced degrees in addition to major requirements and course offerings and descriptions.

Dealing with legal issues, such as keeping students record confidential, are also on her slate. Anderson says she’ll call van der Burg with any questions relating to student records or policies.

“When we ever have a question about any issues regarding student records, we just ask Anna, and she can rattle off the answer immediately,” she says. “She is very attentive to university policies. She knows them like the back of her hand.”

Much of her day is spent answering questions via e-mail, phone or in person.  She also meets with class deans on a weekly basis.

“Sometimes I have to interact with some very upset students,” she says. “Some of them don’t understand that I don’t have the power to put someone in a class, but by the time they leave my office, usually I have helped them to understand this and I direct them to their class dean or advisor who can help work out an alternative.”

Oh, and she also doesn’t have the power to alter transcripts.

“I have been asked that before,” she says, smiling.

van der Burg, a native of Oostvoorne, The Netherlands, first came to America at the age of 6 weeks old. Her father took up a job with Uniroyal in Patterson, N.J. and later Detroit, Mich. When Anna was 10, the family moved back to Europe and Anna attended schools in Germany and Luxemburg before graduating high school back in her native country. She returned to the America for college, earning her bachelor’s of art in art history from the College of Wooster in Ohio. There, she met her husband-to-be, Andrew Saslow, and moved to Connecticut where his family lived.

“And I’ve been here ever since,” she says.

van der Burg started at Yale University in the library system. That got her working on computers, and later she started programming. This skill led her onwards into the Registrar’s Office, in total she spent 22 years at Yale. Then in 2000, she got a call from her friend, Steve Machuga, director of administrative systems in Information Technology Services. 

“He told me Wesleyan had a registrar’s position open, but I was already very happy doing what I was doing at Yale,” van der Burg says.  “Then I got this call from the associate provost, Billy Weitzer, and, well, by the time of interview, I was already convinced that Wesleyan would be a good move, and it sure has been.”

van der Burg lives in Cheshire with her husband and boys Nate, 17, and Jake, 15. The boys are members of the Cheshire Football team so the family spends ample time at games.  In her spare time, she enjoys working out at the Freeman Athletic Center, reading, listening to “all kinds” of music, gardening, playing with her cat and dog, and rooting for the New York Giants. And bashfully, van der Burg admits that she’s a “huge fan” of pop-TV show “American Idol.”

“I think it’s going to be Bo, the rocker, who wins this season,” she predicts.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

$800,000 Grant to Benefit Computer Sciences


A new grant will expand emphasis on computer science instruction and resources.
 
Posted 04/15/05

An $800,000 Mellon Foundation grant will allow the Mathematics and Computer Sciences departments at Wesleyan University, Connecticut College and Trinity College to collaborate on a new cost and resource sharing arrangement, expand the departments’ curricula and provide incentives for more computer science faculty to work in a liberal arts setting.

The grant will fund the hiring of four post-doctoral fellows in computer science who will develop new courses, seminars and workshops. While each fellow will be employed by a “home” institution, all four will provide instruction and collaborate with colleagues at the three participating academic institutions. This will include on-site instruction and the simultaneous teaching of courses at the institutions through video conferencing.

The grant also focuses on providing resources for the recruitment, mentoring and training of women and underrepresented students in computer sciences. Methods will include faculty and peer mentoring, workshops and programs on career and research opportunities, and the creation and distribution of materials aimed at interesting nontraditional students to enroll in introductory computer science courses.

Wesleyan University, Connecticut College and Trinity College have enjoyed a long tradition of academic collaboration known as the CTW Consortium, which includes sharing instructional technology and library service resources. In recent years, the Mellon Foundation has also awarded grants to the CTW Consortium to sponsor a computer sciences joint colloquium and to build on existing shared resources to improve the curricula of all three member institutions.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is a private foundation that makes grants on a selective basis to institutions in higher education, museums, and art conservation, performing arts, population, conservation and the environment and public affairs.

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations with Eric Cárdenas, Connecticut College