Campus News & Events

Wesleyan Hires 8 New Tenure-Track Faculty

On Feb. 2, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen announced that Wesleyan has hired eight new tenure-track faculty in fields including African American studies, sociology and physics, among others. Wesleyan also made a senior hire, which will be announced later this semester after a successful tenure review, Jacobsen said. Nine other faculty searches are ongoing and will hopefully be completed this spring.

“With 18 searches going on, we will likely have a larger than usual group of new faculty coming to campus next fall,” said Jacobsen. “We’re excited to welcome this accomplished and diverse group of scholar-teachers.”

Brief bios of the eight new tenure-track faculty follow:

Abigail Boggs, assistant professor of sociology, is a Wesleyan alumna whose PhD thesis from University of California – Davis is titled “Prospective Students, Potential Threats: The Figure of the International Student in U.S. Higher Education.” Her work crosses the boundaries of feminist studies, popular culture, queer studies, and transnational studies. Her first book manuscript, “American Futures: International Studies and the Global U.S. University” is currently under review.

Wesleyan Receives Record Number of Applications for Class of 2020

The Office of Admission received more than 12,000 applications for the Class of 2020. 

The Office of Admission received more than 12,000 applications for the Class of 2020.

At a time when many are decrying the demise of liberal arts colleges, Wesleyan has received its largest application pool ever for the Class of 2020. As of Feb. 1, 12,026 students had applied, marking a 22 percent increase over the previous year and a 10 percent increase over the previous all-time high three years ago for the Class of 2017.

“We’re very pleased by not only the sheer number of students who can see themselves at Wesleyan—amongst the highest of any liberal arts college—but also by the highly talented and diverse nature of the applicant pool,” said President Michael Roth. “I’d like to believe this is evidence that we’re about to see a resurgence of pragmatic liberal arts education in this country.”

Men’s Basketball Davis ’16 Reaches 1,000-Point Milestone

B.J. Davis '16

B.J. Davis ’16

B.J. Davis ’16, a guard on the men’s basketball team, scored his 1,000th career point as the 25th-ranked Wesleyan Cardinals used a second half rally to defeat the Connecticut College Camels in NESCAC play Jan. 30, 87-79.

Wesleyan trailed the entire first half but outscored the Camels, 53-37 in the final 20 minutes of regulation to earn its fourth-consecutive win.

With 13 points, four fouls and just :43 remaining on the clock, Davis went to the foul line. He missed his first shot but hit the second to etch his name in the Wesleyan record books as he finished with 14 points on the day.

More Cardinal Athletics news can be found on this website.

(Information provided by Mike O’Brien, sports information director)

Herman Receives Dropkin Postdoctoral Fellowship to Study Evolution of Plant-Pathogen Interactions

Jacob Herman

Jacob Herman

PhD candidate in biology Jacob Herman received a V. Dropkin Postdoctoral Fellowship to research the epigenetics of plant response to pathogen infection at the University of Chicago’s Department of Ecology and Evolution.

The V. Dropkin fellowship funds a postdoctoral researcher for up to four years to study the ecology and evolution of plant-pathogen interactions.

Herman will begin the post-doctoral position after completing his dissertation defense this April. His advisor at Wesleyan is Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies.

Northrop Featured in Synform‘s Young Career Focus

Brian Northrup

Brian Northrop

Synform, a journal of chemistry, recently featured an interview with Associate Professor of Chemistry Brian Northrop through its Young Career Focus series. Within it, Northrop briefly discusses his research and his most important scientific achievements.

“Currently, I think the greatest impact of my group’s research is more a matter of approach than a specific result. By this I mean that we approach research projects working across each of the ‘three M’s’ of chemistry: making, modeling and measuring. This complementary blend of synthesis, analysis, and theory provides my group with a deep, fundamental understanding of the chemical reactions and processes we are interested in…

“It is my hope that our approach to research and our initial published work have laid a solid foundation for a variety of more important scientific achievements in the future,” he said.

Read the full interview here.

Pollack, Chan Attend Number Theory Conference in Germany

David Pollack, associate professor of mathematics, and Wai Kiu “Billy” Chan, chair and professor mathematics and computer science, recently attended a conference titled “Lattices and Applications in Number Theory” in Germany.

Pollack and Chan traveled to the Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut Oberwolfach (MFO), the first research institution established in Germany after World War II, to take part in a weeklong workshop held Jan. 17-23. Dedicated to providing an institute for international cooperative research, the MFO brings together leading experts from all over the world in order to pursue their research activities, discuss recent developments in their field, and generate new ideas. Pollack and Chan were both invited guests.

The workshop focused on the interaction of lattices with number theory, looking specifically at the application of modular forms, finite group theory, algebraic number theory, and the application of tools from linear and semi-definite optimization; applications of lattice theoretic methods to the investigation of algebraic structures; Arakelov geometry; and algebraic modular forms and Hecke operators, especially for orthogonal groups where lattice theoretic concepts play a major role.

(Article by Fred Wills ’19)

Allbritton Center to Host Series of Panels on the Refugee Crisis



The Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life will host a series of three panels in February and March on the refugee crisis. All events will take place in PAC 001.

The first panel, The Development of the Crisis and the Response in Europe, will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 3. Moderated by Professor of Economics Richard Grossman, the panel is comprised of Bruce Masters, the John E. Andrus Professor of History; Robert Ford, former U.S. ambassador to Syria; and Marcie Patton, professor of politics at Fairfield University.

The second panel, The Refugee Experience, will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 17. Moderated by Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, it will feature discussion between Steve Poellot, legal director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP); Mohammed Kadalah, of the University of Connecticut Department of Literature, Cultures and Languages, who was recently granted asylum after fleeing Syria in 2011; and Baselieus Zeno, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and a Syrian refugee.

The final panel, The U.S. Response, Locally and Nationally, will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 31. Moderated by Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan, the panel will include Christina Pope of Welcoming America; Chris George, director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services; and Jen Smyers, director of policy and advocacy at Church World Service. It will also feature a video message from U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

For more information, contact Rob Rosenthal, director of the Allbritton Center, at

Wesleyan Recognizes Boger Family’s $20M Gift with Naming of Boger Hall


Next May, the building located at 41 Wyllys Avenue will be named Boger Hall in honor of the Boger family’s $20 million gift to Wesleyan.


Wesleyan University President Michael Roth ’78 has announced a $20 million gift from outgoing Board of Trustees Chair Dr. Joshua ’73, P’06, P’09 and Dr. Amy Boger P’06, P’09 to the university’s THIS IS WHY fundraising campaign. In recognition of the Boger family’s generosity and leadership, the building located at 41 Wyllys Avenue on the university’s College Row will be named Boger Hall.

The Bogers are the largest donors to the campaign. Their gifts include $11 million to establish the Joshua ’73 and Amy Boger Endowed Wesleyan Scholarship Program, which has already benefited more than a dozen Wesleyan students and will provide access to Wesleyan to many more in the coming years; $3 million to endow the Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, currently held by Professor of Chemistry David L. Beveridge; and $2 million for the Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, P’09 Endowed Fund for Student Research, which provided lead funding for 50 faculty-mentored student research fellowships in 2015.

“It is truly gratifying to honor a family that exemplifies Wesleyan’s ideal of passionate, generous, forward-thinking individuals who believe in the importance of a pragmatic liberal arts education,” Roth said. “The Boger family’s commitment to Wesleyan will provide students now and in the future with an opportunity to face 21st century challenges head-on to make positive and profound changes in the world.”

Davison Art Center Awarded 2 Photos by Iranian Artist Neshat

Shirin Neshat's "Ghada" and "Sayed," from the Our House Is on Fire series, 2013. Images courtesy of Gladstone Gallery.

Shirin Neshat’s “Ghada” and “Sayed,” from the Our House Is on Fire series, 2013. Images courtesy of Gladstone Gallery.

The Davison Art Center has been awarded two photographs by the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, as part of a gift from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation to 33 leading colleges and universities around the world. The prints, titled “Ghada” and “Sayed,” are part of Neshat’s Our House is on Fire series, an exploration of Egypt after the Arab Spring, which was supported by the Foundation.

“Shirin Neshat is one of the most important photographers of our time, and these deeply moving portraits evoke our common humanity. Looking closely at the photographs, you can see a veil of calligraphy—the text in Persian for the poem A Cry, by Persian poet Mehdi Akhaven Sales,” said Clare Rogan, curator of the Davison Art Center. “These fascinating images prompt us to consider humility, complexity, and the interlocking role of the arts, letters, contemporary life, and politics—all topics perfect for teaching here at Wesleyan.”

In Our House Is on Fire, Neshat investigates the universal experiences of pain and mourning on both national and personal levels. Traveling to Egypt, the artist invited various people to sit before her camera and to share their stories of loss, culminating in her new portrait series. Photographing her subjects up-close and with notable directness, Neshat creates a poignant connection between subject and viewer. She then overlays the images with a nearly indecipherable veil of text, inscribing calligraphy across the folds of each face, thereby mirroring the way in which a national calamity has become embedded in the personal history of each individual.

Stanley Fish to Deliver Hugo Black Lecture Feb. 18

Stanley Fish (Photo by Jay Rosenblatt)

Stanley Fish (Photo by Jay Rosenblatt)

On Feb. 18, Stanley Fish will deliver the 25th annual Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression. The title of his talk is, “Micro-aggressions, Trigger Warnings, Cultural ‘Appropriations’ and History: What’s Happening on Campus?” The talk begins at 8 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.

Fish is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and professor of law at Florida International University; Floersheimer Professor of Law at Cardozo Law School; Emeritus Professor of English and Law at Duke University; and Dean Emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Distinguished Professor of English, Criminal Justice and Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He earned a BA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1959, and a MA and PhD from Yale University in 1960 and 1962. He has previously taught at the University of California at Berkeley (1962-74); Johns Hopkins University (1974-85), where he was the Kenan Professor of English and Humanities; and Duke University, where he was Arts and Sciences Professor of English and Professor of Law (1985-1998). From 1993 through 1998 he served as Executive Director of the Duke University Press.

Fish writes regularly on The Huffington Post.

The lecture, named in honor of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, is offered annually and endowed by Leonard S. Halpert ’44. The series is designed to bring to the Wesleyan campus distinguished public figures and scholars with experience and expertise in matters related to the First Amendment and freedom of expression.

Roth’s Beyond the University Wins AAC&U’s Ness Book Award

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

At its annual meeting on Jan. 21, the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) presented President Michael Roth with the Frederic W. Ness Book Award for his book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matterspublished in 2014 by Yale University Press. The Ness Award is given annually to a book that best illuminates the goals and practices of a contemporary liberal education.

In Beyond the University, Michael S. Roth recounts the historic debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education. In this provocative contribution to the disputes, Roth focuses on important moments and seminal thinkers in America’s long-running argument over vocational vs. liberal education.

“As I argue in the book, a liberal education is more important than ever,” said Michael S. Roth, author of Beyond the University. “In 2016, we can work toward the wider recognition that liberal learning in the American tradition isn’t only training; it’s an invitation to think for oneself—and to act in concert with others to face serious challenges and create far-reaching opportunities. I’m honored to have the book recognized by AAC&U.”

Beyond the University was selected for the award by a committee of higher education leaders including Johnnella Butler (chair), professor of comparative women’s studies at Spelman College; Sandy Ungar, distinguished scholar in residence at Georgetown University; Elaine Maimon, president of Governors State University; and Reza Fakhari, associate provost for academic affairs at City University of New York Kingsborough Community College.

“Michael Roth provides the historical and contemporary rationale for the pragmatic, aspirational, and innovative liberal education needed for the ongoing transformations we need to meet the changing twenty-first-century realities both within and beyond the university,” said Butler.

The Ness Book Award was established by AAC&U in 1979 to honor AAC&U’s president emeritus, Frederic W. Ness. Recent award winners include Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning by José Antonio Bowen; Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession by Anne Colby, Thomas Ehrlich, William Sullivan, and Jonathan R. Dolle; Why Choose the Liberal Arts? by Mark W. Roche; Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education by Peter Sacks; Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More by Derek Bok; Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money by James Engell and Anthony Dangerfield; Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi; Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past by Sam Wineburg; and Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education by Martha Nussbaum.

Read press coverage of Beyond the University here.

Air Force Supports Licata’s Software Verification Project

Dan Licata

Dan Licata

Dan Licata, assistant professor of computer science, is one of 56 scientists in the country to receive a grant from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) through its Young Investigator Research Program. The AFOSR is awarding approximately $20.6 million in grants.

The Young Investigator Research Program is open to scientists and engineers at research institutions across the United States who received PhD or equivalent degrees in the last five years and who show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research. Licata, who received a PhD in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University in 2011, will use his grant to study “Software Verification with Directed Type Theory.”

Licata’s proposed work will investigate the foundations of proof assistants, tools that programmers and mathematicians can use to help with their work.

“By using a proof assistant, a programmer can rigorously prove that a program will have good behavior every time it is run, finding errors before the program is deployed and run by the user,” Licata explained. “These tools have been used to verify many large programs and programming language implementations, and in the process many behavioral, efficiency, and security problems have been solved.”

The same tools, he said, also can be used by a mathematician to develop mathematics interactively with the computer, and to formally check that mathematical arguments are correct. This increases confidence in mathematical results and in some cases makes proofs easier to develop.

Licata’s will receive $360,000 over three years. The grant will allow him to hire a postdoc to collaborate on the project. For more information on the Young Investigator Research Program and to view other award recipients see this website.