Campus News & Events

Cardinals Celebrate 2020 Homecoming and Family Weekend Virtually

Wesleyan parents, alumni, faculty, staff, and students gathered together virtually Oct. 16–17 to celebrate Wesleyan’s 2020 Homecoming and Family Weekend.

Participants were treated to popular WESeminars, live campus tours, a Parents’ Assembly, two symposiums, and more, all from the comfort of their own homes. (Videos of the events will be posted soon. Please check back.)

Screenshots of the various events are below.

Several Wesleyan alumni participated in the virtual Alumni Volunteer Summit on Oct. 17. Guest speakers Board Chair John Frank ’78, P’12, Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Treasurer Andy Tanaka ’00, and Vice President for Advancement Frantz Williams ’99, will provide an in-depth look at Wesleyan’s response to the COVID crisis and plans for Wesleyan’s future beyond COVID. We will also be joined by several students currently living on campus, who will share their experiences from this semester. Small discussion groups will follow.

More than 70 Wesleyan alumni participated in the virtual Alumni Volunteer Summit on Oct. 17. Guest speakers included Board Chair John Frank ’78, P’12; Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Treasurer Andy Tanaka ’00; and Vice President for Advancement Frantz Williams ’99. The gathering provided an in-depth look at Wesleyan’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and plans for Wesleyan’s future. Students who are living on campus also joined the conversation to share their experiences from this semester.

"What ties us together is our experiences and how we loved being at the university, and our alumni connection," said alumni volunteer Suzanne Appel '02. "Wesleyan is a really bright spot during these dark times. As I've been hearing news of campus, it fills me with a lot of hope and pride that Wesleyan, my alma mater, decided to try and wasn't just going to accept that classes would be only online. There's some great press in the world right now, and so much good news coming out of Wesleyan. We need to make sure other alumni know about this and hear from us, their peers, about what is going on at Wesleyan."

“What ties us together is our experiences and how we loved being at the University, and our alumni connection,” said Suzanne Appel ’02 during the Alumni Volunteer Summit. “Wesleyan is a really bright spot during these dark times. As I’ve been hearing news of campus, it fills me with a lot of hope and pride that Wesleyan, my alma mater, decided to try and wasn’t just going to accept that classes would be only online. There’s some great press in the world right now, and so much good news coming out of Wesleyan. We need to make sure other alumni know about this and hear from us, their peers, about what is going on at Wesleyan.”

Kolcio Receives Grant from the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme

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Katja Kolcio, associate professor dance, leads a somatic methods workshop in Lviv, Ukraine, in June 2015.

Katja Kolcio, director of the Allbritton Center, associate professor of dance, received a $64,745 grant from the United Nations Recovery and Peacebuilding Programme (UN RPP) this month to evaluate the impact of somatic methods on psycho-social wellness in the context of the armed conflict in Donbas, Ukraine.

“Somatic methods, which are the basis of this project, are movement-based methods that hone body-mind connection in the interest of promoting self-awareness and wellness,” Kolcio explained.

The Vitality Donobas Project is a collaboration between Kolcio and the Development Foundation (DF), an NGO dedicated to psycho-social relief, formed in Ukraine during the Maidan Revolution. In the course of six months, this project will directly engage over 1,500 participants in Donbas through a combination of virtual online and safe in-person programming.

Baerman, Wesleyan Community Pay Tribute to Randall ’12 with New Album, Love Right

Love Right

A new album created by pianist and composer Noah Baerman, director of the Wesleyan University Jazz Ensemble, features more than 80 minutes of performances honoring his friend and former student, vocalist Claire Randall ’12, who was murdered in December 2016.

Love Right, produced by Resonant Motion, Inc. (RMI) Records, showcases songs written by Baerman alongside more than 40 Wesleyan-affiliated instrumentalists and singers who navigate a broad multitude of musical styles. It was released on Oct. 9 and is Baerman’s 11th album.

Love Right is by far the most stylistically eclectic thing I’ve ever done,” Baerman said. “I’ve incorporated different styles before, but there are songs here that are so radically different in genre that they wouldn’t normally appear on the same album.”

The album’s diverse musical repertoire is the result of having different ensembles of singers and musicians on every track. In fact, 100 performers contributed to the album in the styles of jazz, blues, samba, a cappella, folk, gospel, Afropop, and soul.

Zimmeck Spearheads Launch of Important Online Privacy Tool

Sebastian Zimmeck,

Sebastian Zimmeck

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sebastian Zimmeck is leading a major initiative to help consumers gain greater control of their personal data online.

On Oct. 7, Zimmeck and his collaborator, Ashkan Soltani of Georgetown Law, as well as a group of partner organizations that includes The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mozilla, and the parent company behind WordPress.com and Tumblr, among others, announced the beta launch of the Global Privacy Control (GPC), a new effort to standardize consumer privacy online.

As Zimmeck explains it, privacy regulations introduced in recent years such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have given consumers more rights to limit the sale and sharing of their personal data than ever before. The CCPA regulations give California residents a legal right to opt out of the sale of their data, and requires businesses to respect their preferences through a signal from their web browser. Zimmeck applauds this progress, but says it “doesn’t amount to much if it is hard for people to take advantage of their new rights.” That’s because there had been little progress on developing standards that allow users to signal through their web browser that they wish to opt out of having their data sold or shared. An early standardization attempt, Do Not Track (DNT), suffered from a low rate of adoption due to its lack of enforceability. In practice, this means users generally need to manually opt out of each site or app they want to stop tracking their data—something most users don’t go through the trouble to do.

According to a WIRED article on the beta launch, “the CCPA includes a mechanism for solving the one-by-one problem. The regulations interpreting the law specify that businesses must respect a ‘global privacy control’ sent by a browser or device. The idea is that instead of having to change privacy settings every time you visit a new site or use a new app, you could set your preference once, on your phone or in a browser extension, and be done with it.”

The idea for the new global opt-out started with Zimmeck, who last spring began building an extension for the Chrome web browser with his students called OptMeowt. Initially, Zimmeck worked with Wesleyan computer science students Kuba Alicki ’22, David Baraka ‘21, and Rafael Goldstein ’21. As the effort gained momentum, Daniel Knopf ’22 and Abdallah Salia ’22 joined as well.

“My students are doing an excellent job,” Zimmeck says. “I am mostly taking on the role as an engineering manager and the students are really the ones implementing the various technologies. I think it is also nice that the students are exposed to how things are done in industry, and that they can acquire real-world software engineering skills.”

“As of today, users will be able to set a global browser opt-out in browsers including Mozilla, Brave, and DuckDuckGo, as well as the DuckDuckGo privacy extensions for Chrome,” the WIRED article further explains. “The code necessary for businesses to respond to the privacy control is publicly available. Publishers who have signed on, most notably The New York Times and The Washington Post, have agreed to honor the signal.”

“For California residents, the global privacy control, if enforced by the attorney general, would have a very different effect than existing privacy controls such as third-party cookie blockers. Those settings have no power over what a website or app does with the data it collects directly from you. The global control, by contrast, would issue a legally binding order that, if violated, would be punishable by major fines.”

Indeed, briefly after its release, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted that “[t]his proposed standard is a first step towards a meaningful global privacy control that will make it simple and easy for consumers to exercise their privacy rights online. #DataPrivacy is the future, and I am heartened to see a wave of innovation in this space.” As Zimmeck told WIRED, “The time is right to do this,” adding that the American public cares much more about privacy than during the earlier DNT effort, and now there is finally law on their side. “I think it’s really important to not just theoretically talk about how this could work,” he said, “but also to actually do it.”

Additional coverage of the beta launch can be read on TechCrunch.com, Neowin.net, and Decipher.

 

Adherence to Safety Protocols Results in Safe and Successful Fall Semester

campusWesleyan’s careful planning, creative problem-solving, and exemplary adherence to safety protocols have resulted in the campus community staying together this semester. For the third week in a row, Wesleyan has 0 reported cases of COVID-19.

“This is a proud and happy moment for us all,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 in a recent Public Health Update. “At the same time, it is a precarious moment. We understand that the pandemic is still with us and that the public health context can change at any time.”

With these considerations in mind, Wesleyan will hold Thanksgiving Recess from Wednesday, Nov. 25 through Monday, Nov. 30. Classes resume remotely on Tuesday, Dec. 1, with all classes and exams conducted online for the remainder of the semester. Students may return to campus for the spring semester beginning Friday, Feb. 5, and classes will begin online on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

“These are challenging times, but I am heartened by the many ways that you have risen to these challenges,” Roth said. “Thank you for all you are doing to care for yourselves and one another.”

Pictured below, while practicing social distancing and mask-wearing, students enjoyed a sunny afternoon on campus Oct. 8. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Kabacoff: Teaching Quantitative Analysis during the Pandemic

Robert Kabacoff,

Robert Kabacoff

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the fourth of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an in-person, online, or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Robert Kabacoff, professor of the practice in the Quantitative Analysis Center. This fall, he’s teaching QAC 201: Applied Data Analysis; QAC 356: Advanced R: Building Open-Source Tools for Data Analysis; and QAC 385: Applications of Machine Learning in Data Analysis.

In the past, all of Kabacoff’s classes were taught in-person, but he’s currently teaching all three virtually.

“It’s a new experience,” he said. “The biggest challenge is keeping students engaged so they don’t feel like they are watching television or a YouTube video.”

To prevent Zoom fatigue, Kabakoff takes the following steps:

  1. He encourages all students to keep their video on to have a “classroom” feel.
  2. He sets up a forum at the beginning of the course where students share a bit about themselves, including their year, major, goals in the course, and at least one fun fact about themselves.
  3. He regularly checks in with them via Zoom chat, asking them to share a word or two about how they are doing.
  4. He uses polls to check their learning.
  5. He regularly groups students into breakout rooms to discuss and work on problems. Each group selects a representative to share their findings when they come back into the main room.
  6. They use Google’s Jamboard (whiteboard) during discussions, so that each student can add their thoughts in real time.
  7. Students read articles and watch videos via Perusall, a software tool that encourages them to comment on what they are reading or viewing. Students share thoughts and ask questions that other students try to answer. “The goal is to make a community learning environment,” Kabakoff said.

Although these approaches are working well, remote teaching has its downsides. Since he’s not meeting the students in person, Kabakoff tries diligently not to let students “fall through the cracks” and to keep them actively engaged in their own learning. He also helps students in different time zones feel connected and assists those who have poor internet service.

Kabakoff’s QAC 356 and QAC 385 classes have semester-long group projects. “Students work together via Zoom and use other team-building tools to complete the assignments together. At the end of the semester, they present their results to the class virtually,” he said.

But for his QAC 201 course, the class is a flipped classroom; students watch videos, complete readings, and take short quizzes on the material before class. In class, they work on a semester-long original research project. They do this by working at permanent virtual tables with five other students and a peer mentor (a student who has taken the course before and excelled on their own project).

“My role in this course is to provide very short lectures and act as a resource for each ‘table’ as they work on their projects,” Kabakoff said. “The course was designed by two Wesleyan psychology faculty and funded by an NSF grant. It has always been a flipped classroom, but has only now been offered virtually at Wesleyan.”

Working at Wes during a Pandemic: Hurteau Helps Science Library Adapt to New Social Distancing Guidelines

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected the way faculty teach, students learn, and staff work to help the University. In this article, we spotlight Linda Hurteau, Science Library assistant, who has helped make the library a safe environment for patrons and staff alike.

The once busy and bustling Science Library, which stays open until 2 a.m. to accommodate those who study late into the night, is open for service this fall semester. However, the pandemic has drastically changed the way students interact with and use the library. And no one knows this better than Science Library Assistant Linda Hurteau, a 16-year veteran of Wesleyan Libraries.

“Most people are aware that Sci Li has always been the ‘noisy library’ because, from the basement to the second floor, the building is basically designed for students to be more social and group-study-friendly,” Hurteau said. “Without the ability to study in groups during this semester, we have less student traffic, and it feels very different and much quieter.”

Prior to the pandemic, Hurteau would come to campus prepared for a busy day of dealing with the remnants of the day before: searching for requested books, fixing jammed printers, maintaining copiers, working with fines and fees, putting furniture back where it belongs, and dealing with various building issues.

“I’d deal with so many students every day, and as any student who used the Science Library knows, we are a science library and supply store in one. We had always had available for any student pencils, pens, markers, staplers, scissors, folders, envelopes, and just about any other office supply they needed for their classwork. Obviously, lots of unseen projects are always happening, with library materials coming in and out and back on the shelf.”

But nowadays, Hurteau has altered her daily routine to emphasize keeping her library community safe.

Although students continue to frequent Sci Li to use public computers and printers, or to study or relax, the facility’s capacity may not exceed 50 percent. All library-goers and library staff wear masks at all times and practice social distancing.

Like students who first arrived on campus, the books also go through a quarantine period (of four days) before being recirculated. “We have the book stacks closed or off-limits at this time, and I think many students actually prefer it this way,” Hurteau said. “They request their books online, and we have them ready for students to grab and go in the lobby.”

The circulation desk is now lined with a clear, plexiglass wall to provide the staff and student workers with separation from the public. And the library’s lobby was reconfigured, by Hurteau, to allow for a safe and redirected traffic flow. You simply follow the oversized arrows.

“I have designed and constructed many parade floats on land and water for various holidays or other reasons. Anybody who works with large-scale temporary mediums knows we use lots of duct tape, cardboard, and zip ties,” she said. “I must have 50 different colors of duct tape. Using a couple carpet runners and those under-your-desk-chair carpet protectors, and making bright neon arrows out of duct tape on them, gets attention. It works very well for us.”

Hurteau credits the operating successes of the Science Library and Olin Library during the pandemic to early planning. Library staff began COVID-19 discussions as early as February and developed hypothetical scenarios and talked out various solutions to potential problems.

“Despite what some people may think, library people are very adaptable,” Hurteau said. “We knew we needed to successfully finish the semester.”

Hurteau recalls discussing how faculty could have all their course content available online; how the libraries could accommodate students’ needs in their pursuit to finish the academic year and earn their degree; how to deal with late books and waiving fines; how the campus community would retrieve their library materials; and who would and could work remotely.

“It was very obvious from the start that most of the circulation and reserve staff would still need to come to campus and work in the buildings. Once everything settled down from the spring 2020 semester, the digital requests for fall 2020 started coming in. Tons of scanning is still being done to upload for faculty course requests and reserves.”

Hurteau worked from home full-time for only two weeks and continued to manage 40 student workers through emails and Zoom meetings. “Once it was decided that the Science Library could offer many of the services we previously had through contactless means, it was (almost) business as usual,” she said.

In addition to working at the Science Library, Hurteau volunteers as a team captain for Wesleyan’s Campus Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT).

“CERT members and Physical Plant staff have been . . . unsung heroes to many during this time,” she said. “Since the beginning of the pandemic and up until two days ago, it was mostly CERT members who would deliver breakfast, lunch, and dinner to students in quarantine on- and off-campus and be responsible for all the PPE kits on campus, from ordering and filling the bags, to distributing them to students, staff, and faculty. CERT members also would be the people on campus at 6 a.m., setting up the COVID testing tent, and in the evenings they would be the ones to pack it up for the day.”

Lock Shop’s Sean Higgins Remembered for Helping Keep Wes Safe

Sean Higgins

Sean Higgins worked at Wesleyan for 16 years.

Sean Higgins, Wesleyan’s Lock Shop foreman, passed away suddenly on Sept. 25. He was 60 years old.

Higgins worked for Wesleyan’s Physical Plant for 16 years maintaining the physical security of the campus where he insured the safety of students, faculty, and staff.

According to his obituary in The Middletown Press, Higgins “showed his love in the form of full-body hugs, homemade pasta sauce, big family breakfasts, and a shared Guinness, no matter the time of day. He loved to hate the New York Giants, indulged in bad action films, and never turned down helping someone in need. His quick wit and humor never failed to spark a giggle or a smile; his mischievous nature kept everyone on their toes, waiting for the next surprise. Sean’s protective demeanor, endless patience, and unquestioning support will leave a gaping hole in the lives of those who loved him most.”

Higgins found solace on the golf course and was very involved in the Wesleyan Open Golf Association, which annually raised funds for charity.

Friends may call at The Ahern Funeral Home, 111 Main St., Rt. 4, Unionville, Conn. on Wednesday, Sept. 30 from 4 to 8 p.m. Funeral procession from The Ahern Funeral Home will be Thursday, Oct. 1 at 9:45 a.m. followed by the Funeral Liturgy in the Church of St. Dominic, 1050 Flanders Road, Southington, at 10:30. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Southington Bread for Life, PO Box 925, Southington, CT 06489.To send online condolences to the family, visit www.ahernfuneralhome.com

Discovery by Chernoff and Students Challenges a Tenet of Evolutionary Biology

Barry Chernoff and students in University of Michigan lab

Barry Chernoff and students in his Tropical Ecology course conducted research at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, where they discovered two new species of fish that challenged an expectation from evolutionary theory.

As organisms evolve over time, changes in size—both miniaturization and gigantism—are a major theme. In fish, which are the specialty of Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, Professor of Biology and of Earth & Environmental Sciences, miniaturization happens in many lineages, though it’s not very common. Evolutionary biology has long held that this miniaturization is often accompanied by developmental simplification or paedomorphisis (becoming sexually mature while appearing juvenile-like).

chernoffLast March, just before the pandemic began, Chernoff and students in his Tropical Ecology course (ENVS/Bio/E&ES 306) took a trip to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., which is home to one of the largest scientific collections of natural history objects, or specimens, and allows visitors to work with their collections. There, they discovered two new species of fish from the tropics—one from Honduras and one from Colombia. In these new species, the data demonstrated the opposite of expectations from evolutionary theory: that miniaturization occurred with developmental acceleration. That is, the miniatures achieve adult morphology in a shorter period of time by accelerating the transformation from juvenile morphologies to adult morphologies.

Students Explore New Reality through Dance

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the third of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an in-person, online, or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center. Kolcio also is a core faculty member of the College of the Environment, Environmental Studies, and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Programs at Wesleyan. This fall, she’s teaching DANC 216: Contemporary Dance Technique: Dancing During Pandemic; DANC 435: Advanced Dance Practice A; and DANC 445: Advanced Dance Practice B.

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Katja Kolcio, pictured in the background in black clothing, teaches her Dancing During Pandemic class Sept. 4 near the Wesleyan softball field. Students keep a 12-foot distance between themselves. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

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Twenty-five students are enrolled in the Dancing During Pandemic course.

In a standard Wesleyan dance technique course, students corral inside a studio setting and work to develop artistic virtuosity in a particular dance genre: ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, West African, South Indian, and Afro-Brazilian.

But when the pandemic and its effects fundamentally altered the way people interact, communicate, and engage with one another, Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, decided to design a course specifically focusing on bringing attention to the physical experience of our new reality. So she created the practice-based course DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic, open to all students.

“It’s common to feel too busy to dedicate attention to our physical sensations and experiences, or to the way in which new ideas or realities encountered in the world resonate within us,” Kolcio said. “So with this course, we examine, ‘How do we physically and socially navigate the new environment?’ We need to fully engage in our physical selves and awareness and bring greater attention to the ways humans utilize our physical and creative capacities.”

Docter-Loeb ’22 Serves as Panelist on D.C. Statehood, Racial Justice Discussion

Hannah Docter-Loeb ’22, a features editor at The Wesleyan Argus, participated in a public discussion about the intersection of D.C. statehood and racial justice Sept. 18.

The “Panel on D.C. Statehood and Racial Justice” was hosted by Georgetown Students for D.C. Statehood and featured Docter-Loeb; Anthony Cook, professor of law at Georgetown University; Jamil Scott, assistant professor of government at Georgetown University; and Cosby Hunt, adjunct professor at the University of the District of Columbia and senior manager of social studies education at the Center for Inspired Learning.

Docter-Loeb, a D.C. native, was invited to be a panelist after writing an article for Study Breaks on the same topic. She believes one reason D.C. statehood is meeting resistance is that the area is rooted in white supremacy and racism.

“D.C. residents have advocated for D.C. statehood since the 1980s, with no luck,” she wrote. “However, on June 26, the House approved the Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51). This bill, if approved by the Senate and the president, would establish D.C. as a state and provide us with adequate representation in proportion to the city’s size, as well as other features that accompany statehood. . . . [Representatives’] comments reflect the racist belief that Black people are unfit to govern or play a role in our democracy by voting. These beliefs are still apparent in the current debate for D.C. statehood.”

Wesleyan University Press Receives Grant from the Literary Arts Emergency Fund

On Sept. 16, the Literary Arts Emergency Fund awarded Wesleyan University Press with a $25,000 grant to help with its financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Literary Arts Emergency Fund is administered by the Academy of American Poets, the Community of Literary Magazine and Presses, and the National Book Foundation. Wesleyan is among 282 nonprofit literary arts organizations, magazines, and presses across the nation that are receiving part of the $3,530,000 million in emergency funding.

“We are delighted and grateful to receive this support from the Literary Arts Emergency Fund. So much in the world is difficult right now, and literature, books, and reading can help,” said Suzanna Tamminen ’90, director and editor-in-chief of Wesleyan University Press. “The act of reading is also a kind of active listening. We are given new perspectives, and we are drawn into a moment that connects us to the past and the future in transformative ways. Reading brings us into dialogue and into community, even when we are remote.”

Wesleyan University Press publishes books of poetry as well as scholarly books in dance, music, and literary studies. The Press has garnered national and international accolades for its work, including six Pulitzer Prizes, three National Book Awards, three Griffin Poetry Prizes, and an Anisfield-Wolf Award, among many others.