Campus News & Events

Rothschild ’20 Youngest Woman to Complete American Ninja Warrior Course

Casey Rothschild ’20, pictured here on the “Philadelphia Qualifiers” episode of American Ninja Warrior, completed the obstacle course in 4:57. (Photo by Bill McCay/NBC)

Casey Rothschild

Casey Rothschild

On June 25, American studies major Casey Rothschild ’20 became the youngest woman, and only the third woman this season, to complete the course on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior.

The 20-year-old, who hails from Holliston, Mass., is a former member of Wesleyan’s women’s track and field team, where she holds the triple jump record. She trains three times a week at Real Life Ninja Academy in Windsor, Conn., and New Era Ninjas in Hamden, Conn. For the summer, she is working as a gymnastics and circus aerial arts coach at a camp in Massachusetts.

After tackling six obstacles, including foam steps, spinning bow ties, a broken bridge, wingnuts, lightning bolts, and a 14.5-foot tall wall, she hit the final buzzer in under five minutes.

Read more in this Hartford Courant article.

Watch the episode below:

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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.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. NBC’s American Ninja Warrior: Youngest Woman to Hit Buzzer: Casey Rothschild

Rothschild ’20 competed in the NBC television show’s Philadelphia qualifiers, becoming the youngest woman to ever finish a course when she hit the buzzer at 4:57. Rothschild has been training for years and uses the moniker Circus Ninja because of her background in circus arts. Read Rothschild’s interview with The Hartford Courant.

2. The Washington Post: This Is What It Feels Like to Be Separated at the Border

Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history, associate professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies, shares her own heartbreaking experience of being separated from family at the border as she left the U.S.S.R. as a child refugee in 1988.

Tucker Speaks at Arsenals of History Symposium

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

On May 21, Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, spoke at the Arsenals of History Symposium held at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Cody Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyo., May 21–23. The theme of the second annual symposium was “Ethics of Firearms in Museums.”

The symposium brought together authorities in the field to discuss practical guidelines for museums with firearms. Other presenters came from the Autry Museum of the American West, the Art Institute of Chicago, Colonial Williamsburg, Dutch National Military Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NRA Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, U.S. Marshals Museum, Springfield Armory National Historic Site, and the Royal Armouries Museum. Representatives discussed teaching firearms in universities, reconversion and restoration of flintlocks, how a museum gets a gun, and collecting objects with dubious pasts.

Tucker spoke specifically about the role of public collections in the gun debate and her new research that looks at the historical coevolution of cameras and firearm technology.

“We know that people talk about shooting pictures and shooting guns, and we know the language is similar, but one of the things that I am interested in is how the technology for cameras and guns evolved together,” she said.

The conference garnered much media attention. In the May 28 issue of the Billings Gazette, Tucker discussed how the interest in firearms is the “charisma” of guns, whether it’s addressed in museum displays or not.

“Museum collections of firearms can engage with contentious issues,” said Tucker, who is serving on the first Board of Directors of the Association of Firearms History and Museums.

On June 20, The Firearms Blog, which covered the workshop for the museum, featured Tucker and other curators speaking about their presentations.

Tucker is the author of “Display of Arms: A round-table discussion about the public exhibition of firearms and their history,” forthcoming in the July 2018 issue of Technology and Culture, Volume 59, Number 3.

The Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press also has accepted Tucker’s book manuscript on “Firearms and the Common Law” for publication next year.

Tucker also will be speaking on “The Role of Gun Collections in Museums in Today’s Debate over Firearms,” Sept. 29 at a conference on Guns and Museums: A Workshop for Museum Educators, to be held at Fairfield University. The event is open to the public and registration is online.

Robinson Lab Awarded Grant from National Institute on Drug Abuse

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, neuroscience and behavior, and integrative sciences, is the recipient of a $100,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The grant will be awarded over two years, starting on July 1, and will support a study titled “Dissecting Cortical Contributions to Risky Decision-Making.”

Robinson and his research students will use optogenetics in rats to inhibit parts of the brain’s prefrontal cortex during the decision-making process.

“The aim would be to see how we make decisions when faced with risk,” Robinson explained. “Are certain areas of the prefrontal cortex involved in tracking the outcomes of previous choices in order to influence future decisions? Or, do they simply promote more or less risky behavior when a choice presents itself?”

The Robinson Lab focuses on the brain mechanisms underlying motivation and reward and how they come together to produce desire and risky decision-making. These findings would be relevant to various forms of addiction such as drug abuse and gambling disorders.

Students Receive Research Awards from NASA

Three undergraduates and one graduate student received NASA Connecticut Space Grant Awards from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC). The CTSGC is a federally mandated grant, internship, and scholarship program that aims to inspire the pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Astronomy and math major Nicole Zalewski ’20 received a $5,000 undergraduate research fellowship to pursue her study on “Measurement of the Radar Properties of the Oldest Rocks on Venus to Constrain Mineralogy.” Her advisor is Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, co-coordinator of planetary science, and director of graduate studies.

Professor Schorr Remembered for Creating Art That Addressed Comedy, Tragic Loss, Nostalgia

David Schorr at his Flying Carpets exhibit at Zilkha Gallery in 2016. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

David Schorr, professor of art, died on June 16 at the age of 71.

Schorr was born and raised in Chicago. He received his BA from Brown University and his BFA and MFA from Yale University. He arrived at Wesleyan in 1971, and for the past 47 years he taught a wide range of courses including printmaking, drawing, typography, book design, graphic design, and calligraphy. He received the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2015.

Schorr’s career as an artist and designer was as broad ranging as his teaching. He designed many posters and books, provided illustrations for numerous books (including Parallel Lives by Phyllis Rose and Norman Shapiro’s translations of La Fontaine’s fables), provided hundreds of literary portraits for the New Republic (some of which currently hang in the Shapiro Writing Center and in the president’s office), and had an active practice as a painter and printmaker, exhibiting regularly with the Mary Ryan Gallery in New York City for over 30 years. Schorr’s work addressed themes ranging from the human comedy (Commedia dell’Arte) and tragic loss (the AIDS crisis) to nostalgia.

Hatch in The Conversation: Digital Mental Health Drug Raises Troubling Questions

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer).

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Associate Professor of Sociology Anthony Hatch writes about troubling ethical questions raised by the emergence of a new type of digital drug, which contains a sensor that communicates back information about the patient to doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Hatch is also associate professor of science in society, associate professor of African American studies.

Digital mental health drug raises troubling questions

Moments after Neo eats the red pill in “The Matrix,” he touches a liquefied mirror that takes over his skin, penetrating the innards of his body with computer code. When I first learned about the controversial new digital drug Abilify MyCite, I thought of this famous scene and wondered what kinds of people were being remade through this new biotechnology.

Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and Proteus Digital Health won Food and Drug Administration approval to sell Abilify MyCite in late 2017. This drug contains a digital sensor embedded within the powerful antipsychotic drug Abilify, the brand name for aripiprazole, which is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. The goal of the digital sensor is for doctors to monitor their patients’ intake of Abilify MyCite remotely and ensure that the patient is adhering to the correct drug dose and timing.

Pills with embedded sensors mark a new era in digital health and, I believe, herald the arrival of a new kind of digital cyborg identity, which sociologist Deborah Lupton defines as “the body that is enhanced, augmented or in other ways configured by its use of digital media technologies.” Drugs are cybernetic technologies in that we absorb pharmaceuticals through metabolic processes that biochemically recode our brains and bodies.

The figure of the cyborg helps us recognize the potential of digital health technologies for enhancing human health, while at the same time critique how the practices of digital health can work to coerce, marginalize or transform individual people and entire social groups. In my view, having pills that connect us to our doctor and pharmaceutical companies via an app is dehumanizing and reduces patients’ psychic lives to a digital readout.

Bennet ’59, P’87, ’94, Hon. ’94 Remembered for Accomplishments as Wesleyan’s President

President Emeritus Douglas J. Bennet ’59, P’87, ’94, Hon.’94 passed away on June 10 at the age of 79.

“He believed that Wesleyan gave him so much, and he gave back unstintingly with deep affection,” wrote Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 in a campus email.

Bennet served 12 years as president, retiring in 2007. He oversaw the rejuvenation of the heart of the campus—from Memorial Chapel to Usdan University Center and Fayerweather—as well as the addition of the Freeman Athletic Center and the Film Studies Center.

Bennet set an ambitious strategic direction for Wesleyan with two planning initiatives, the first of which became the basis for the $281 million Wesleyan Campaign—at that time the most successful campaign by far in the University’s history. Under his leadership, Wesleyan saw a 25 percent growth in applications for admission, a doubling of the endowment, and an invigorated relationship with Middletown.

Bennet’s presidency was the culmination of a distinguished career that included service as assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs under President Clinton, chief executive officer and president of National Public Radio, and head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

When Bennet announced his intention to retire as president, he spoke about the “Bennet family love affair with Wesleyan since 1929,” the year that his father enrolled as a first-year student.

“Doug never stopped showing his love for Wesleyan, and he, in turn, was a beloved member of the Wesleyan community. He will live on in our cherished memories and in Wesleyan history,” Roth wrote. “Please join me in expressing our sympathy to (his wife) Midge, (children) Michael ’87, Holly ’94, James, and the entire Bennet family.”

Read more on NPR, in the Hartford Courant, Politico, and The Denver Post.

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.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The Washington Post: “Our Graduates Should Answer Cynicism and Insults with Inquiry and Reflection”

In this op-ed, President Michael S. Roth ’78 expresses his hope that this year’s graduates will feel empowered, and their capacity for inquiry, compromise, and reflection will be enhanced by their college educations.

2. The New York Times: “Eleanor Roosevelt’s Love Life, as Fodder for Fiction”

“[Amy] Bloom’s [’75] lyrical novel, laced with her characteristic wit and wisdom, celebrates love in its fiery and also embered phases,” according to this positive review of Bloom’s newest book, White Houses. Bloom is the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing at Wesleyan.

3. Be the Change Venture: “Makaela Trains Leaders to Change the World. This is How.”

Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, is interviewed about her career path, her goals for the future, and lessons she’s learned along the way.

4. Yahoo! News: “Generation Z Opens Up about the Refugee Crisis”

Ahmed Badr ’20 is interviewed about his experience as a young refugee from Iraq living in the United States. Badr has traveled the world telling his story and runs a project promoting youth storytelling as a means of self-empowerment.

5. American Museum of Natural History Podcast: “Visualizing Planets with Radio Telescopes with Meredith Hughes”

Meredith Hughes talks about how we understand planet formation, and how the relatively new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is “revolutionizing our view” of planet formation.

6. The New York Times: “Do You Know What Lightning Really Looks Like?”

Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker discusses the history of artists and scientists “pitting their fields against one another,” dating back to the emergence of meteorology as a scientific discipline in the 19th century. Tucker is also chair and associate professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies; associate professor of science in society; and associate professor of environmental studies.

Recent Alumni News

  1. The Wrap: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s [’02] ‘In The Heights’ Set for Summer 2020 Release

    “Warner Bros. announced on Thursday that it will release the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical “In The Heights” on June 26, 2020.” This is the musical Miranda began writing as a Wesleyan undergrad.

2. Berkeley Lab: Steve Kevan [’76] Named Next Director of Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source

“After an international search, Stephen D. ‘Steve’ Kevan has been named the new director of the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). The ALS produces extremely bright X-ray, infrared, and extreme ultraviolet light for more than 2,000 visiting scientists each year.”

3. Boston GlobeBoston Will Be the Hub of the Biotech Universe Starting Monday; quotes Amy Schulman ’82, P’11 and mentions Agios (David Schenkein ’79, P’08 is CEO)

The article, anticipating the annual early June Biotechnology Innovation Organization convention in Boston, included a quote from Amy Schulman, a partner in the venture capital firm Polaris Partners and CEO of the Watertown-based start-up Lyndra Inc. She spoke to the need for greater diversity in the biotech industry: “Study after study shows that when you have diverse people—people with different perspectives, styles, genders, ethnicities, and orientations—then you have better conversations that translate into better outcomes,” she said. “It’s really important.”

4. NPR’s Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!: “Not My Job: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper [’74, MA ’80, Hon. ’10] Gets Quizzed on 2020”

In this NPR show, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is asked introductory questions (“So we researched this—you are the first brewer to be elected to office, elected to be governor, since Sam Adams. You know that?”) that also flirt with his potential interest in running for president in the 2020 election. He is then invited to play a three-question quiz to win a prize for a listener.

5. AdLibbing: Badass Working Moms to Inspire You This Mother’s Day; includes Bozoma Saint John ’99

Profiled as one of “five mothers who are changing the world,” Bozoma Saint John was noted for “her illustrious career, in addition to raising her now 8-year-old daughter, Lael.”

 

 

Eudice Chong ’18, Coach Mike Fried: A Scholar-Athlete Program for Champions

Eudice Chong ’18 Coach Mike Fried, and Victoria Yu ’19 relax after a match last October at the Division I Fall Nationals. “Eudice and Vicky had just beaten the top team from the University of Kentucky (the defending champions) to advance to the doubles quarterfinals,” says Fried. “The photo was taken by Dr. Tim Russell, CEO of the ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association), who later told me that it was his most popular tweet ever.”

On May 26 Eudice Chong ’18, a member of the Wesleyan tennis team, did something that no other collegiate tennis player—in any division—had done before: She won her fourth consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Association Singles Championship. And to add a twist to that already thrilling game, Chong, ranked number one on Wesleyan’s team, played the final match against her teammate, doubles partner, and friend, Victoria Yu ’19, ranked second on the team.

Back on campus following the victory, Coach Mike Fried reflected on the program and the experience. As an undergrad at Brown he had played on their tennis team and then enjoyed a stint as a professional player. Most recently, Fried had spent 10-plus years as a stock trader and asset manager in New York City before signing on as head tennis coach of Wesleyan’s men’s and women’s program in 2013 (“Wall Street allowed me to figure out how I wanted to be spending my time”). 

At Wesleyan, he was determined to create a team that drew on his experience at Brown—and built beyond it: “Most important was to create an environment that would allow us to be among the best teams in the country—and to do that in a way that was never at the expense of academics.”

And what was that environment? “Commitment; unwavering support for each other; and camaraderie, friendship.”

Fried recalls that, when recruiting for the team he imagined, Chong was “an incredibly good tennis player—but I’d be lying if I said I saw the full depth of her character or how invaluable a leader she’d be—let alone that she’d win four NCAA singles titles! We were lucky enough to convince her to join the program that we were creating, that Wesleyan was where she wanted to spend her college years—both for academics and tennis. We got very lucky.”

After Commencement, Chong, who majored in psychology with a minor in the College of East Asian Studies, headed home to China. There, she’ll play tennis at the professional level. The Wesleyan Connection caught up with her for a Q&A in New York City, where she was spending a few days before her flight.

Q: Will you talk about the experience of winning that fourth NCAA singles championship? What was it like to compete against your teammate, friend, and doubles partner Victoria Yu?

Q&A with Lacrosse Coach John Raba: What Makes a Winning Team

The 2018 Wesleyan lacrosse team won the Division III championship 8–6 over Salisbury University, a powerhouse that had been in the finals 18 times before. Taylor Ghesquiere ’18, who co-captained the team along with Jake Cresta ’18, Eric Meyreles ’18, and Harry Stanton ’18, said: “This championship wasn’t just for us or our class, it was for everyone. It was a culmination of the body of work that has been put in by every class for the past 22 years Coach Raba has been at the helm of the program. I think that was so evident in the alumni support we had all season and especially on Sunday at Gillette.”

On May 27, 2018, Wesleyan lacrosse won its first National College Athletic Association Championship, defeating Salisbury University, 8–6 at Gillette Stadium for the Division III title. 

When Lacrosse Head Coach John Raba, a graduate of the University of New Haven, began at Wesleyan in 1997, he was 25 and an assistant coach with the football team. Lacrosse—now his sole focus as head coach—was something additional that first year.

“If someone had told me back then that Wesleyan would win a national championship, I would’ve said, ‘Oh, great. What sport?’ Twenty-one years later, here we are. Congratulations, team!”

In a Q&A, Raba describes the growth of Wesleyan lacrosse—and what was special about the 2018 team.

Q: What words describe the Wesleyan lacrosse program?

A: Wesleyan lacrosse is an extremely disciplined team, focused on progressing each and every day. If we are disciplined and focused on getting better each and every day we feel we can compete with anyone in the country.

Q: And how have you built this team in the years since you started?

Grant Supports 240 Hours of Folk Song Digitization for the World Music Archives

For 30 years, musicians such as Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Alice Gerrard, Tom Paley, and Hedy West performed at a small café in upstate New York. The business’s owner, Phil Ciganer, recorded the multiple musical acts on reel-to-reel tape and cassettes, and in 2004, he donated thousands of hours of material to Wesleyan’s World Music Archives in hopes of the University making them available for education and research.

For more than a decade, WMA was able to release small segments of the collection, but now, thanks to a $48,573 grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), more than 240 hours of these recordings will be digitized and available for in-house listening at the World Music Archives.

The targeted content contains 123 audio cassettes and 47 tape reels, recorded by Ciganer during the Great Hudson River Revival Festival and the Bear Mountain Festival of World Music and Dance between 1978 and 1982.