Campus News & Events

Ostrow-D’Haeseleer Remembered for Teaching French at Wesleyan for 29 Years

Catherine Rachel Ostrow-D’Haeseleer, adjunct instructor of French, died on Saturday, Nov. 23, at the age of 65.

Ostrow-D’Haeseleer was born in Kananga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In the fall of 1983, she was asked to take over a French course for a professor who had to take an unexpected leave. With only a high school education, she immediately demonstrated the professionalism, commitment, and excellence as a teacher that characterized her entire career. After stints as both a part-time and full-time visiting faculty member, Ostrow-D’Haeseleer was hired as an adjunct lecturer in 1991 and taught at Wesleyan for the next 29 years.

Ostrow-D’Haeseleer served multiple years as head of the French section and was the face of the French program for most students. She co-authored Prête-moi ta plume: A Student’s Guide to Writing French Papers and served as an advisor and contributor to the third edition of French in Action.

“Catherine was an extraordinary teacher,” said her colleague Stéphanie Ponsavady, associate professor of French. “It was always a pleasure and a reward to inherit the students she had taught. Catherine was a dedicated colleague and a generous mentor to the junior faculty. She held herself, her students, and us to the highest standards of integrity academically and personally.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley, who worked with Ostrow-D’Haeseleer on the Student Judicial Board, wrote that he “will miss her love for our students, her steadfast dedication to them and to Wes, her joy in teaching, and her wonderful, wry humor.”

Andy Curran, professor of French and chair of Romance Languages and Literatures, remembered Catherine as “a superb and dedicated teacher; but she was also an incredibly generous spirit who gave of herself in a variety of situations, whether it was helping out a sick colleague or volunteering her time with local refugee families.”

A memorial event will be held on campus later in the year. Donations in her memory can be made to a GoFundMe campaign that has been established to foster the creative work of an artist/asylee from the DRC, which became dear to Ostrow-D’Haeseleer over the last years of her life.

Ostrow-D’Haeseleer is survived by her husband Kirk Bartholomew; her close friend and former husband Daniel Ostrow; her cousin Michel De Waha and his daughter Aurélie; her godchildren Gaeton Lillon and Mary Rider; and a large circle of loyal and caring friends.

grown Ends Operations in Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

growngrown, the café inside the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore at 413 Main Street in Middletown, has announced that it will end its operations in that space.

The Middletown location was the only Connecticut outpost of the USDA-certified organic fast-food chain. grown has operated inside the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore since the bookstore opened in May 2017. The franchise is owned by Shannon Allen, a Middletown native.

At Wesleyan, as at all of its locations, grown prides itself on catering to all diets and food sensitivities, and on serving inclusive, wholesome options for everyone. Its menu includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with fresh-pressed juices, smoothies, and espresso drinks. At the Wesleyan location, students were able to use their dining points to make purchases.

“While we will no longer be operating grown at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, bringing grown ‘home’ to Middletown has been a proud moment during our journey to reinvent fast food,” the franchise said in a statement. “We have thoroughly enjoyed our time serving students, faculty, and staff, working alongside the Wesleyan University and bookstore teams, and have loved being a part of the bridge between Wesleyan and the entire Middlesex County community. Thank you for continuing to support our mission to bring delicious, nutrient-dense meals made with 100% USDA-certified organic ingredients to busy people everywhere.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. CNN: “What the ‘Woke Student’ and the ‘Welfare Queen’ Have in Common”

“Every age seems to need a bogeyman, some negative image against which good people measure themselves,” writes President Michael Roth ’78 in this op-ed. Roth compares today’s bogeyman, the “woke” college student, with those of past eras—the “welfare queen” and “dirty hippie”—and seeks to build understanding and dispel negative misperceptions of activist college students. “The images of the welfare queen and of the woke student are convenient because they provide excuses to not engage with difference, placing certain types of people beyond the pale,” he writes. “These scapegoats are meant to inspire solidarity in a group by providing an object for its hostility (or derision), and educators and civic leaders should not play along.”

2. Los Angeles Times: “Opinion: Our Food Is Tainted with E. Coli, Yet the FDA Is Rolling Back Safety Rules”

As yet another food-borne E. coli outbreak sickens Americans, Fred Cohan, the Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment and professor of biology, and Isaac Klimasmith ’20, argue in this op-ed that more can and should be done to prevent dangerous contaminations of our food supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rolled back rules that “would have required monitoring and treating irrigation water for E. coli,” a major cause of these outbreaks. “We should not be surprised that a regulation-averse administration would disregard the science of food safety, but it is concerning that consumers have become complacent about yearly outbreaks of E. coli contamination and largely silent about the rollback of food safety regulations,” they write.

3. The Washington Post: “What Happens When College Students Discuss Lab Work in Spanish, Philosophy in Chinese or Opera in Italian?”

Stephen Angle, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, professor of philosophy, and the Mansfield Professor of East Asian Studies, is interviewed about Wesleyan’s efforts to promote language study, including the new Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) initiative, through which students can study a range of disciplines in other languages. For example, Angle teaches a Mandarin-language section of Classical Chinese Philosophy, a course historically taught in English. Read more about CLAC and Wesleyan’s language instruction here.

McNair Fellows Present Research at Diversity in STEM Conference

SACNAS

Elizaveta “Liz” Atalig ’21 and Ekram Towsif ’21 won 2019 SACNAS conference presentation awards for their respective fields of research.

Two Wesleyan McNair Fellows recently participated in the largest multidisciplinary and multicultural STEM diversity event in the country.

From Oct. 31–Nov. 2, Elizaveta “Liz” Atalig ’21 and Ekram Towsif ’21 joined more than 4,000 peers at the 2019 SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) conference in Hawaii. For more than 45 years, SACNAS has served as an inclusive organization dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanics & Native Americans, from college students to professionals, in attaining advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership within STEM.

Attendees of the three-day conference are immersed in cutting-edge scientific research and professional development sessions, motivational keynote speakers, a career expo, multicultural celebrations, and an inclusive and welcoming community of peers, mentors, and role models.

In addition, both Atalig and Towsif received Outstanding Research Presentation awards in their respective disciplines.

“This is the first time McNair fully funded Fellows to participate in the SACNAS conference, so we’re very proud of Ekram and Liz for maximizing their conference experience and conducting their award-winning poster presentations,” said Ronnie Hendrix, associate director of the Wesleyan McNair Program.

Glick Wins Book Prize from National Women’s Studies Association

Megan Glick

Megan Glick

Megan Glick, associate professor of American studies, is the recipient of the Alison Piepmeier Book Prize for her book, Infrahumanisms: Science, Culture, and the Making of Modern Non/personhood (Duke University Press, 2018).

Awarded by the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), the Piepmeier Book Prize honors the author of a groundbreaking monograph in women, gender, and sexuality studies that makes significant contributions to feminist disability studies scholarship.

The award comes with a $1,000 prize and honors Alison Piepmeier, an active member and leader of NWSA whose scholarship examined the intersection of feminist and disability studies, with a particular emphasis on reproductive decisions and disabilities and parenting and disabilities.

At Wesleyan, Glick’s research and teaching focus on representations of difference along lines of race, gender, disability, and speciation, from both cultural and scientific perspectives. This fall, she is teaching Introduction to American Studies and a Junior Colloquium.

Wesleyan Places 1st in National Cybersecurity Competition

CSAW

Cher Qin ’21, Shuyuan Hung ’21, John Jiang ’21, and Kevin Koech ’21 took first place in a recent cybersecurity policy competition.

A team from Wesleyan took first place in the 2019 CSAW Policy Competition, the most comprehensive security competition in the world.

Hosted by the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and NYU School of Law Center for Cybersecurity on Nov. 6–8, the U.S.-Canada policy competition challenged contestants to think about the big picture of cybersecurity policy, economics, law, and governance. The purpose of the competition is to encourage students who are interested in the nexus of policy and emerging technology issues to think critically about major policy issues affecting society and to impact the cyber industry by presenting their ideas to leaders within the field.

Wesleyan’s team included College of Social Studies (CSS) and quantitative analysis center (QAC) major Cher Qin ’21; CSS and economics major Shuyuan Hung ’21; CSS and physics major John Jiang ’21; and computer science and economics major Kevin Koech ’21.

The team took home a $1,000 prize for the first-place win. Teams from the United States Naval Academy took the second and third prizes.

“We did not expect that [we], coming out of a liberal arts university, would win, but having diverse backgrounds helped,” Hung said.

Read more about the competition in this QAC student blog.

Professor Kirn Remembered for Neurobiology Research, Gentle Demeanor

John Robert Kirn, professor of biology, died on Nov. 10 at the age of 67.

John Kirn

John Kirn

Kirn was born in Columbus, Ohio, and received his BA from the University of Denver, his MA from Bucknell University, and his PhD from Cornell University. Arriving at Wesleyan in 1994, he went on to teach courses on animal behavior, hormonal systems, and the neurobiology of learning and memory for the next 25 years. Kirn was a vital member of the biology department and a pillar of the neuroscience and behavior program (NS&B). He served as the director of graduate studies from 2005–2010, as the chair of the biology department from 2015–2017, and as the chair of the NS&B program for 12 consecutive years from 2001–2013, during a period of tremendous growth in the NS&B major.

Kirn’s research on song learning and song maintenance in birds explored questions of neuronal replacement and the ways the brain acquires and stores information. This is a critical area of neuroscience research, with important clinical applications that help us understand the potentially parallel processes that occur in humans during recovery from brain injury. John’s work was widely respected for opening new neurobiological paradigms and was often published in the most authoritative journals in the field, including The Journal of Neuroscience. He received numerous grants supporting his research from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, as well as a recent three-year grant from the Whitehall Foundation.

“John was an unusual combination: a highly accomplished scientist and lab head, and an exceptionally kind and gentle person,” said colleague Sonia Sultan, professor of biology.

Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, described John as having “a very gentle demeanor” and as “a kind and caring colleague and mentor.”

Ann Burke, chair and professor of biology, said Kirn was respected for his intellect and loved for his generous personality and wry sense of humor. “He trained over 17 graduate students in his lab, and influenced hundreds of undergraduates in his classes,” Burke said. “His colleagues and students are deeply saddened by his loss.”

Kirn is survived by his two children, Jake and Ella, and their mother Cynthia Seiwert.

A memorial event will be held on campus later this year. Read Kirn’s full obituary online here.

 

Wesleyan Earns Gold Seal for Student Voting Rates

At the 2019 ALL IN Challenge Awards Ceremony held to recognize colleges and universities committed to increasing college student voting rates, Wesleyan received a gold seal for achieving a student rate between 40% and 49%. A full list of seal awardees can be viewed here.

“Wesleyan University is proud to receive this national recognition for our efforts,” said Rob Rosenthal, interim provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs. “It is a core part of our educational mission to develop bold and rigorous practical idealists, thoughtful and brave participants in the public sphere. Our faculty, staff, administrators, and students are committed to working together to reduce apathy, increase engagement, and graduate students prepared to engage in civic participation throughout their lives.”

Student participation in elections has increased from the 2014 midterm election to the recent 2018 midterm election. According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, an initiative of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, voter turnout at the more than 1,000 institutions participating in the study increased by 21 points, from 19% to 40%. Wesleyan’s data showed an increase by 30 points, from 17% to 47%.

“We are excited to honor Wesleyan University with an ALL IN Challenge gold seal in recognition of their intentional efforts to increase democratic engagement and full voter participation,” said Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. “More institutions like Wesleyan University are changing culture on campus by institutionalizing nonpartisan democratic engagement efforts that are resulting in the incredible student voter turnout rates that we’ve seen across the country.”

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a nonpartisan, national initiative recognizing and supporting campuses as they work to increase nonpartisan democratic engagement and full student voter participation. The Challenge encourages higher education institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship, and make democratic participation a core value on their campus.

More than 560 campuses, enrolling more than 6.2 million students, have joined the Challenge since its launch in summer 2016.

In 2018, the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships was charged with voter registration and engagement. To prepare for the midterm elections, we launched a number of new initiatives to support student political engagement. We launched the Political Engagement Fund, and awarded 30 stipends for students to do campaign or political advocacy work locally or in their home states. We hosted Engage Today: Bridging the Ballot and the Block, a half-day conference highlighting local leaders activating voters on the ground, as well as students engaged in political activism on campus and beyond. And we continued to support student-led voter registration initiatives—including the WSA’s Storm the Dorms event. We are proud of the work put in by politically active students as they continue to make Wesleyan an Engaged University.

Tucker Authors 2 Chapters, Writes Paper

Photo of Jennifer Tucker

Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker is the author of recently published work in a journal and in edited volumes. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, is the author of two chapters in recently published texts. Additionally, a paper she wrote on early responses to chemical pollution was published in the journal International Labor and Working-Class History. With academic affiliations in feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, environmental studies, and Science in Society, Tucker’s work highlights her wide-ranging scholarly interests. She is also the co-editor of A Right to Bear Arms?: The Contested Role of History in Contemporary Debates on the Second Amendment published by the Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.

Tucker’s chapter, “James Forbes (1749–1819): A View of the Ocean, Between the Tropics (1765–1800),” appears in Britain in the World: Highlights from the Yale Center for British Art (Yale University Press, 2019). In this chapter, Tucker explores not only the qualities of Forbes’s watercolor (which appeared in volume nine of his 13-folio set), but also the appeal that the ocean’s inhabitants had for the British in the late-18th century. Noting that Britain was a naval power, Tucker reminds her readers that drawing would have been a way that passengers could while away their time aboard a ship. It was also an opportunity to categorize the variety of animals living in the ocean, and Tucker points out that Forbes’s work explores the ecological aspects of the interactions between species. “Although not a trained natural­ist, Forbes’s artworks express the wider fascination of the time in both the sheer abundance of oceanic life and the specificity of individual physical descriptions and nomenclature,” she writes.

In another book, Anton Pannekoek (1873–1960): Ways of Viewing Science and Society (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019), Tucker’s chapter, “Popularizing the Cosmos: Pedagogies of Science and Society in Anton Pannekoek’s Life and Work,” explores Pannekoek’s efforts to encourage both public and political engagement with astronomy, presenting it as a field that offered opportunities to visualize grand-scale societal progress. “Anton Pannekoek straddled both science and social criticism,” wrote Tucker. “[A]s a scientist, he was concerned with how we can learn about galaxies beyond our capacity to observe; as a socialist, he wondered how we can imagine and bring into being a better future society.”

In Tucker’s paper, “Dangerous Exposures: Work and Waste in the Victorian Chemical Trade,” published in the spring issue of International Labor and Working-Class History (95), she examines the towns in Britain where the first chemical factories were located in the 1800s in light of the early responses to pollution and its effect on society. Using archival sources, Tucker explores the use of visual imagery in making the connection between workers in the industry, waste disposal, and community health concerns. She writes: “[A]s the figure of the alkali worker entered public discourses in the mid-1890s in the writings and images of middle class reformers, it was waste—material, as well as human—that caught the eyes of reformers by the 1890s. As imagined in powerful words and images, the chemical worker’s body was transformed into an appendage of the industrial apparatus whereby their mental and physical health ‘wasted away’ with the chemical residue.”

Language Study at Wesleyan Holds Strong, Bucking Trend of National Declines

Bologna study abroad class

Students use and develop their Italian language skills through Wesleyan’s study abroad program in Bologna, Italy, designed to complement the rigorous language curriculum offered on campus.

Foreign language enrollments at colleges and universities across the country have sharply declined in recent years, according to the Modern Language Association, yet language study at Wesleyan is holding quite strong.

Despite the fact that Wesleyan, unlike the vast majority of our peers, has no language requirement, 60 to 70% of Wes students choose to study a language other than English. The average student takes around three semesters of language classes, while approximately 30% go on to study at advanced levels and 13% study more than one language.

Wesleyan has stepped up to meet students’ interest in language study. With the addition of courses in Hindi-Urdu in Fall 2019, Wesleyan now offers full classroom instruction in 15 different languages—the most of any liberal arts college in the country, tied only with Wellesley College.

Students, Faculty, Community Observe Rare Complete Transit of Mercury

Visitors use telescopes outside observatory

Individuals gathered outside Van Vleck Observatory to view the transit of Mercury on Nov. 11.

For only the seventh time since Wesleyan’s founding, the planet Mercury passed directly in front of the sun, from the perspective of Earth—and Wesleyan served as a gathering place from which to learn about and observe the event. Faculty and students from Wesleyan’s astronomy department, as well as others from the University and the greater Middletown community, gathered outside the Van Vleck Observatory on Nov. 11 to witness the transit through three telescopes.

The mild weather and partly cloudy conditions—particularly at the beginning and end of the transit (which lasted from 7:35 a.m. to 1:04 p.m.)—made for good viewings through the University’s general-purpose 8-inch telescope, as well as its hydrogen alpha solar telescope, which allows users to observe solar prominences. A second solar telescope, owned by John Sillasen, MALS’07, a local amateur astronomer and member of the Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford, was also available to use as part of the event.

Gilberto Garcia ’20, an astronomy and physics major, was assisting with one of the solar telescopes. “Just seeing Mercury in general is a pretty rare occurrence, so I was pretty excited about it,” Garcia said. Viewed from a telescope, Mercury appeared as a small dot on the sun’s surface.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. Marketplace Tech: “Twitter Bans Political Ads, But Is That All Good?”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, is interviewed about Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s announcement that the platform would no longer run political ads. Fowler says implementing this ban is likely to be more complicated than it sounds, and she is skeptical that it will help to reduce the impact of disinformation and improve political discourse. Fowler was also interviewed on Marketplace Morning Report and quoted in Quartz on the ban.

2. NPR’s Throughline: “Zombies”

On Halloween, NPR’s Throughline podcast interviewed Professor of Religion Elizabeth McAlister as part of a deep dive into the history of zombies. Now a global phenomenon in pop culture, the idea of zombies originated in Haiti, back when it was a French colony called Saint-Domingue and many enslaved Africans were worked to death on plantations. The Haitian people ultimately rose up in revolution and defeated their colonizers. But after the revolution, many Haitians were forced back onto plantations when the French demanded reparations in exchange for recognizing their independence. “I think that the figure of the zombie is a reminder that slavery happened to people, that they freed themselves from it, that it still happens in a kind of an afterlife, and it echoes in social practices,” said McAlister. An abbreviated version of the story also aired on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

3. Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live: “Acknowledging Middletown’s Ties to Slavery”