Campus News & Events

Biology Team Samples Drought-Tolerant Bacteria in Death Valley

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizospheres of a juniper tree at about 7,000 feet above sea level.

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizosphere of a juniper tree.

This spring, a research team from Wesleyan traveled to Death Valley National Park to explore the ways bacteria diversifies in extreme environments.

Death Valley, located about 130 miles west of Las Vegas, is a below-sea-level basin known for being the hottest place on earth and driest place in North America. The average rainfall is less than 2 inches, annually.

“National parks are ideal for research, in general, because the land is protected indefinitely from commercial development,” said team leader Fred Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. “Death Valley is a nice model system for exobiology because of its extreme habitat.”

Cohan, along with graduate student Jerry Lee, Bella Wiener ’19 and Nicole DelGaudio ’18, traveled to California May 29 through June 4. During this time, the researchers trekked through miles of parched — and often prickly — landscapes seeking to sample root soil, or rhizosphere, from various plant species, each over a wide range of elevations that differ notably in their temperatures.

Connecticut Walk Book, Published by Wesleyan U. Press, Blazes the Trail to Outdoor Fun

Just in time for summer, Wesleyan University Press has published the newest edition of the ultimate guide to Connecticut’s extensive public trails system, the Connecticut Walk Book: The Complete Guide to Connecticut’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail, by the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA), the primary not-for-profit organization that maintains these recreational trails in concert with partners, landowners, volunteers and countless supporters.

The comprehensive guide features detailed descriptions and easy-to-follow full-color maps for more than 60 trails (and many additional side trails and connectors) included in the over 825 miles of blue-blazed trails maintained by the CFPA statewide—from quick jaunts to long journeys, from hikes winding through state parks and forests to those meandering across private land.

“We hope folks will be inspired and become stewards of the great green places these trails intersect,” says Clare Cain, trails stewardship director at CFPA. “Whether a walker is looking for a loop hike, a family ramble, a summit destination or a beautiful waterfall, these trails offer access to the goodness of the great outdoors.”

“The blue trails are a special part of Connecticut and part of what makes Connecticut special. We are honored to be part of the new edition of this book,” said Suzanna Tamminen, director and editor-in-chief at Wesleyan University Press. “Now that the good weather is here, people are ready to get outside, and this book is a perfect way to start exploring the natural beauty right in our own backyards.”

The Connecticut Walk Book is available at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore (413 Main Street in Middletown), which offers a 10 percent discount on all books to Wesleyan faculty and staff (Wesleyan ID required). It is also available online.

5 Faculty Appointed to Endowed Professorships

In recognition of their career achievements, the following faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1:

Joe Knee, professor of chemistry and dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, is receiving the Beach Professorship of Chemistry, established in 1880.

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, is receiving the Alan M. Dachs Professorship of Science, established in 2011.

Stewart Novick, professor of chemistry, is receiving the Joshua Boger University Professorship of the Sciences and Mathematics, established in 2010.

Christopher Parslow, professor of classical studies, is receiving the Robert Rich Professorship of Latin, established in 1863.

Irina Russu, professor of chemistry, is receiving the E. B. Nye Professorship of Chemistry, established in 1908.

Brief biographies appear below:

Wesleyan Earns Silver Rating for 2016 Sustainability Performance

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (STARS) recently awarded Wesleyan with a Silver rating for its 2016 sustainability performance.

Wesleyan completed its first STARS report in 2013 and earned a Silver rating with a score of 53.06. Over the past three years, Wesleyan developed a Sustainability Action Plan to address many of the areas of improvement found in the 2013 report, and has increased its score to 58.11. Sixty-five points are needed to obtain the Gold rating, and 85 points are needed to obtain the Platinum rating.

Wesleyan’s commitment to sustainability began in the 1980s with the creation of a recycling program. This commitment expanded over the years, explained Sustainability Director Jen Kleindienst, to include addressing climate change, waste diversion, energy reduction, water conservation, integrating sustainability into the curriculum, promoting sustainability in co-curricular activities, and changing purchasing, building construction and grounds practices.

“Wesleyan began tracking its carbon footprint in 2007 and we’re continuously working to make significant progress toward a more sustainable future and meet our 2050 carbon neutrality target,” Kleindienst said.

Fries Center for Global Studies Dedicated

Provost Joyce Jacobsen, Michael Fries '85, Wesleyan President Michael Roth '78 and Professor Antonio Gonzalez participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony May 25 at the Fries Center for Global Studies. 

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen, Board of Trustees member Michael Fries ’85, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78, and Antonio Gonzalez, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies and professor of Spanish studies, participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony May 25 at the Fries Center for Global Studies.

Faculty, staff, students and alumni recently gathered for the dedication of the Fries Center for Global Studies.

The center, housed in Fisk Hall, includes the Office of Study Abroad; Fellowships, Internships and Exchanges; Language Resources and Technology; and Language and Intercultural Learning. The center was dedicated in recognition of the generosity of Board of Trustees member Michael Fries ’85, vice chairman and CEO of Liberty Global, and is committed to helping all members of the Wesleyan community achieve the knowledge, language skills, and sensitivity to exercise effective and responsible citizenship in an increasingly inter-dependent world.

“Our emphasis on intercultural communication, experience and knowledge reflects the value Wesleyan places on adaptability, compassion and cultural self-awareness with respect to the world beyond our borders,” said Antonio Gonzalez, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, professor of Spanish studies. “These qualities and practices put Wesleyan’s liberal arts program at the forefront of global education and are the hallmark of responsible global citizenship.”

The center includes a large commons area, which can be used as a venue for special events. The area offers large displays for presentations or watching international events. Ample space is provided for students to study and convene in the commons area and in the Language Resources and Technology (LRT) area, which is located across the hall. The LRT area is a multipurpose space that provides flexible seating and is equipped with desktop computers and laptops to accommodate the needs of an entire class. The LRT space is staffed with student attendants and can be used as for teaching, testing, to conduct workshops and as a study space. The center also includes a multimedia classroom with telepresence equipment, which allows for easy collaboration with other schools in the U.S. and abroad. The center’s audio visual workroom enhances the center’s production capabilities with a recording studio, a digital editing workstation and a video production studio.

Photos of the dedication ceremony and the Fries Center for Global Studies are below. (Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19 and Olivia Drake.)

Chong ’18 Repeats as DIII Honda Athlete of the Year Nominee for Tennis

Eudice Chong '18

Eudice Chong ’18. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)

For the third consecutive year, Eudice Chong ’18 of the women’s tennis team was named the Division III Honda Athlete of the Year nominee for tennis, as announced by Executive Director Chris Voelz of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) presented by Honda.

“This past season has been a crazy ride, with our team trying to make small steps each day to improve our chances of coming up on top every match,” said Chong, the three-time NCAA Individual Singles Champion as well as the 2017 Individual Doubles Champion. “The camaraderie we have in our team is what keeps our team focused on reaching a common goal, and the support I get from them is phenomenal.”

Chong is the first player in NCAA Division III Women’s Individual Tournament history to win three-consecutive singles titles. She also captured her first DIII NCAA Double’s Championship to become the first player since 2004 to win both NCAA titles in the same year.

“It is nice to be playing at the Individual NCAA Championships knowing that my teammates will be cheering me on, but hopefully next year, we will be able to make the Elite 8 and compete as a team at the tournament venue as well,” she said. “It is such an honor to be nominated for such a prestigious award, showing that hard work really does pay off!”

3 Faculty Awarded Tenure; 7 Promoted

From left, Anthony Ryan Hatch, Basak Kus and Courtney Weiss Smith.

From left, Anthony Ryan Hatch, Basak Kus and Courtney Weiss Smith.

In its most recent meeting, the Board of Trustees conferred tenure to Anthony Ryan Hatch, associate professor of science in society; Basak Kus, associate professor of sociology; and Courtney Weiss Smith, associate professor of English. Their appointments begin on July 1.

Hatch, Kus and Weiss Smith join faculty Courtney Fullilove, Tushar Irani, Tiphanie Yanique, Jay Hoggard, Ron Kuivila and Sumarsam in the 2017 tenured cohort.

In addition, seven faculty members are being promoted: Abderrahman Aissa, adjunct assistant professor of Arabic; Balraj Balasubrahmaniyan, adjunct associate professor of music; Daniel DiCenzo, adjunct professor of physical education; Michael Fried, adjunct professor of physical education; Ruth Nisse, professor of English; Ulrich Plass, professor of German studies; and Kim Williams, adjunct associate professor of physical education.

Brief descriptions of their research and teaching appear below.

Abderrahman Aissa teaches elementary, intermediate and advanced Arabic. He is the editor of, and a chief contributor to, the bilingual Arabic-English cultural and political magazine, Zarah.

Wesleyan Takes Action on Climate Change

Wesleyan University’s solar panels produce enough energy to power 164 houses.

In recent weeks, Wesleyan has been taking a public stand to fight climate change. President Michael Roth was one of more than 80 university presidents who, together with mayors, governors and business leaders, are preparing to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets outlined in the Paris climate accord, according to The New York Times. This came after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the international agreement.

Roth told The Chronicle of Higher Education: “I think it’s quite extraordinary that supporting a basic commitment to lessen a source of pollution in the world is seen as a particularly strong civic or political act. At a time when the White House is promoting an anti-scientific assault on public policy and research, it’s really important for universities and especially university leadership to defend the values that are necessary for us to be institutions of learning.”

Roth also said that Wesleyan had already divested from coal and made efforts to make its campus more energy-efficient. In May, Wesleyan drafted a building-sustainability policy that establishes how the campus will choose building materials and use energy and water in ways that reduce its carbon footprint.

The Hartford Courant also covered Wesleyan’s efforts. “I think it’s incumbent upon states and businesses and universities and other organizations to do whatever we can to pollute less [and] develop more sustainable economic models for the future of the planet,” Roth said.

Roth also recently joined 29 other college and university presidents in endorsing carbon pricing as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, according to The Middletown Press. These presidents, who form the Higher Education Carbon Pricing Endorsement Initiative, signed a letter calling on state and federal lawmakers to enact a carbon price at the state and federal levels.

Jen Kleindienst, director of Wesleyan’s Office of Sustainability, told the Press, “It stems from inaction during the current (presidential) administration, but even during the previous administration. A lot of sustainability professionals are concerned that we, as a country and as a community, are not moving quickly enough and that could mean really dire consequences for the planet.”


Shapiro’s Poetry Translation to Accompany Guggenheim Exhibit

Norman Shapiro, professor of french.

Norman Shapiro

Professor Norman Shapiro’s translation of the poem “Clair de lune (Moonlight),” will appear in the audio guide to accompany the Guggenheim Museum’s exhibition Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris, 1892–1897, opening June 30.

“Clair de lune,” appears in Shapiro’s One Hundred and One Poems by Paul Verlaine (University of Chicago Press, 1999). Shapiro, professor of French studies and the distinguished Professor of Literary Translation and Poet-in-Residence at Wesleyan, received the Modern Language Association’s Scaglione Prize for translating Verlaine’s poetry collection.

Tavernier Studies Effects of Technology Use, In-Person Interactions on Sleep

Royette Tavernier

Royette Tavernier

Assistant Professor of Psychology Royette Tavernier has published a new paper examining the effects of technology use and face-to-face interactions with friends and family on adolescents’ sleep. Tavernier is the lead author on “Adolescents’ technology and face-to-face time use predict objective sleep outcomes,” now in press in Sleep Health, the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation.

About 70 racially diverse high school students (11 – 18 years old) were recruited from three different high schools in a large city in the Midwest to participate in the study. Their sleep-wake habits were recorded for three consecutive nights using sleep monitoring devices.

Using brief daily surveys, students reported the amount of time they spent engaged in eight different technology-based activities—texting, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, talking on the phone, TV, working on the computer and video games—as well as time spent engaged in face-to-face interactions with family and friends.

5 Alumni, 2 Students Accept Fulbrights

fulbright240Seven Wesleyans are finalists in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program this year. The Fulbright Student Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The program operates in 160 countries worldwide.

In total, 38 former and current Wesleyan students applied, and 12 were semi-finalists. Of those, two were selected as alternates, and eight were finalists. Seven of them accepted Fulbrights.

The program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs.

Patricelli Center Named ‘Murphy’s Innovator of the Month’

The 2016/2017 Patricelli Center Fellows.

The 2016/2017 Patricelli Center Fellows.

Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship was honored in May as U.S. Senator Chris Murphy’s “Innovator of the Month.” It is the first educational institution to receive this recognition.
Founded in May 2011, the PCSE provides workshops, training, mentoring, and networking opportunities to Wesleyan students and alumni who are tackling social problems using entrepreneurial solutions. PCSE also hosts a year-long fellowship course for undergraduates and an annual $5,000 seed grant competition. With support from foundations and individual donors, PCSE is now an endowed program and a permanent part of Wesleyan University.

“Wesleyan’s PCSE is a one-of-a-kind program,” Murphy said. “PCSE is making it possible for students and aspiring entrepreneurs to work on the issues they care about. Their efforts are helping to create a more just community, and I’m proud they call Connecticut home.”