Campus News & Events

“The Language in Common” on Exhibit in Zilkha Gallery

Unspun wool. Silver-spray painted stones. A worn leather suit. Sketches from an iPad. A video of children studying.

Each object offers its own narrative. Set again the viewers’ assumptions and impressions, a whole new set of meanings are created.

A new art exhibition titled “The Language in Common,” curated by Benjamin Chaffee, associate director of visual arts, attempts to offer more questions than answers.

The exhibition, featuring installation, sculpture, video, sound, drawing, poetry and performance, brings together five international and intergenerational artists, including Cecilia Vicuña, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Julien Creuzet, Jasper Marsalis, and Alice Notley. It opened to the public Sept. 14 and will be on display through Dec. 12.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan’s intellectually dynamic faculty, students, alumni, staff, and parents frequently serve as expert sources for national media. Others are noted for recent achievements and accolades. A sampling of recent media hits is below:

Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters, authors a commentary titled “How to read your dog’s mind” in Salon. “For the early 20th-century biologist/ethologist Jacob von Uexküll, the fact that all animals (humans included) have the capacity to be affected by things in their particular environment or world and to respond to them, is evidence that they (like humans) are subjects of their worlds and not merely objects in them. In other words, they are not simply machines reacting to stimuli in the way that Descartes suggested in the 17th century.” (Sept. 4)

Dr. Scott Gottlieb ’94, Hon. ’21 is mentioned in The Washington Post for leading a Washington Post Live talk on Sept. 23. Gottleib served as the 23rd FDA Commissioner from 2017-2019. In his new book, Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic, Gottlieb shares why the United States was so vulnerable against the coronavirus and how we can stop it from happening again. (Sept. 17)

In The Nation, Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, associate professor in the College of Social Studies, leads a conversation with Samuel Moyn about his new book Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War. “Humane warfare is a paradoxical idea with a long history. Essentially, the notion speaks of the attempt to make war less lethal and more ethical for the purpose of minimizing the suffering of soldiers and civilians, a concern that, by the 19th century, had grown on account of the carnage of industrialized and mechanized warfare,” he writes. (Sept. 16)

Theater major Willie Garson ’86, the actor best known for his role as Carrie Bradshaw’s best male friend, Stanford Blatch, in “Sex and the City,” has died at 57. He’s remembered in The New York Times.

Peter Rutland, Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, co-authored an op-ed in The Hartford Courant titled “As the years since 9/11 have passed, we have forgotten why the attacks took place.” To form a fuller picture of 9/11, Rutland writes, “students must understand at least something about the conditions in the Middle East prior to the attack—frustrated Arab expectations, and a long history of U.S. backing oppressive regimes in the region.” (Sept. 11)

Justin Lacob ’02 shares his memory of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on MSN.com. “I was in my senior year at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and was just about to get ready for class when my housemates burst into my room to tell me that a plane just hit the World Trade Center. As a New Yorker, it was surreal, a punch to the gut moment of heartbreak, grief, outrage, anxiety, and sheer terror. This was a moment before widespread cell phones, before social media, and with telephone networks down across the world, our inability to get in touch with each other provided a whole other level of fear. At that moment, in those hours, before we knew what happened, my friends and housemates and I just had each other.” (Sept. 10)

In American Towns, Kaneza Schaal ’06 is mentioned for “exorcis[ing] the ghost of King Leopold II through a mytho-biographical performance” during the Crossing the Line arts festival in New York City Nov. 4-6. Building off Mark Twain’s King Leopold’s Soliloquy published in 1905, a fictional monologue written after Twain’s visit to Congo Free State, and Patrice Lumumba’s 1960 independence speech in Congo, Schaal “considers the residue of colonialism in our everyday lives.” (Sept. 15)

Yahoo! Finance explores the net worth of Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15. “By far, Miranda’s largest paycheck has come from ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ As one of the original cast members, not to mention the writer, composer and lyricist for the show, Miranda earned $6.4 million annually while starring as Alexander Hamilton on Broadway.” (Sept. 14)

In an op-ed published in Portside, Julia Boland ’20 discusses gerrymandering which carves up communities based only on the partisan inclinations of each household. “The public has an important role to play in pushing back against the practice, but it’s important to understand that recognizing unfair maps means considering more than just the shapes of their districts,” she writes.  (Sept. 19)

Wesleyan University is mentioned in The Hartford Courant for being ranked No. 17 for Best National Liberal Arts College by U.S. News and World Report. Wesleyan also was cited for being No. 14 for Best Value Schools; No. 1 for Best Colleges for Veterans; No. 48 Best Undergraduate Teaching; and No. 122 Top Performers on Social Mobility. (Sept. 13)

Wesleyan’s Creative Writing Specialization offered on Coursera is featured in The Herald as one of the “10 Best Writing Help Online Resources Every Student Must Know.” “If you aim to polish your creative writing and want to apply your skills professionally, Coursera has gathered a series of free courses from Wesleyan University. It is aimed at beginners with no prior experience, takes about 6 months to complete, and offers subtitles in 10 languages for overseas learners.” (Sept. 15)

Students Continue to Wear Masks Indoors, Keep Wes Safe

As students settle into a fully-residential fall semester with more than 95 percent of the student body vaccinated for COVID-19, the University continues to mandate the wearing of masks inside all university buildings. Wearing masks outdoors is optional.

“Because of your hard work and diligence thus far, we have taken important steps towards creating a healthy campus environment,” said Wesleyan Medical Director Dr. Tom McLarney in a recent campus-wide health update. “We will continue to monitor our situation and adjust accordingly.”

View the latest updates and campus guidelines on Wesleyan’s Keep Wes Safe website.

Photos of student activities during the early fall semester are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

students

New, Ongoing Faculty are Experts on Japanese Pedagogy, Costume Design, Immersive Media

2021 faculty This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 43 new faculty to campus of which 24 are ongoing members of the campus community. Fourteen are tenure-track, eight are professors of the practice, two are adjunct, and 19 are visiting (read about the new visiting faculty in this story). In addition, two new members of the Wesleyan faculty are graduates of Wesleyan.

Wesleyan’s new teacher-scholars bring diverse skills, passions, and research interests to the university including Indian sectarian violence, costume design, animal behavior and neurophysiology, Japanese pedagogy, post-structural semiotics, structural inequalities in education, digital media analysis, and more.

Bios of the new, ongoing faculty are below: Bios of the new visiting faculty appear here.

George Bajalia, assistant professor of anthropology, holds a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His research is concerned with borderlands, primarily in the Western Mediterranean region. His dissertation, “Waiting at the Border: Language, Labor, and Infrastructure in the Strait of Gibraltar,” dwells on the political, social, and cultural forms that emerge during time spent waiting among cross-border workers and West and Central African immigrants living and working around the Moroccan-Spanish borderlands surrounding Tangier and Ceuta. Bajalia has held research and dissertation fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, Fulbright-IIE, and the American Institute for Maghrib Studies. He is the co-founder and co-director of the Youmein Festival, a 48-hour contemporary art and performance festival and residency in Tangier, Morocco, and has published in The Review of Middle East Studies, The Journal of North African Studies, MIGRANT Journal, as well as numerous southern Mediterranean arts publications. Throughout his work, he is interested in questions of temporality, circulation, and exchange, post-structural semiotics, regional formations, and the practices and politics of boundary-marking, belonging, and difference. His courses at Wesleyan will explore the relationships between anthropology, performance, and curation; migration and borderlands; endurance and the otherwise; and theories of cultural and social change.

Pedro Bermudez, assistant professor of the practice in video and audio production, is a filmmaker working at the intersection of cinema, theater, and immersive media. Bermudez will be teaching courses in video and audio production, designed for students with an interest in capturing live performances. His documentary and narrative work has explored the relational dynamics of colonization and its cultural effects. Bermudez has produced documentary work for Connecticut Public Television and has collaborated closely with arts and cultural institutions in the Hartford region; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and The Center for Leadership and Justice among them. His most recent work, a filmed production of “The Sound Inside,” was featured in The New York Times. He received his MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute, where he was the recipient of the Petrie Award for excellence. Bermudez is the owner of Revisionist, a production company based in Hartford, and has worked with a range of commercial clients including Nike and international non-profit BuildOn.

Carycruz Bueno, assistant professor of economics, is an applied microeconomist who studies the effects of education policy on educational inequality. Her research interests, which stem from her experience as a special education teacher, encompass topics such as virtual schools, school choice, teacher labor markets, and student non-cognitive skills. She has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the American Society of Hispanic Economists, and the National Economics Association. In 2021, Bueno was named an Emerging Education Policy Scholar by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Prior to joining Wesleyan University, she was a Postdoctoral Researcher at Brown University. Bueno has been featured in The Atlantic, NPR’s Planet Money, Bloomberg, and Politico Nightly.

Christopher Chenier, assistant professor of the practice in integrative sciences and IDEAS, joins the Wesleyan faculty as a PoP after six years on staff managing the Digital Design Studio and teaching courses in the art and IDEAS programs here at Wesleyan. Prior to this, Chenier completed graduate work at the Hagley Library in Wilmington Delaware, taught digital art and design courses at Bennington College, and worked in art and advertising production in New York. Chenier’s research is focused on the ways people make and think about images and objects. His recent projects have employed custom software to process and remix images and generate sculptural forms. These were then carved in stone with the help of industrial robots and traditional stone carving techniques.  Alongside his work in the studio, Chenier’s ongoing historical research is focused on material culture and the history of design, technology, and American enterprise.

Benjamin Elling, assistant professor of chemistry, specializes in synthesizing and characterizing new environmentally sustainable polymers. He completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University, received his PhD from Stanford University, and has most recently been a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University. He has made fundamental contributions to understanding and utilizing Ring Opening Metathesis Polymerizations (ROMP) for sequence-specific polymers. His research program at Wesleyan is multifaceted and is focused on the design and synthesis of new polymers that are both soluble in water and can be broken down under controlled conditions. He will also be developing new cross-links that can reformed to provide new classes of fully recyclable materials, and his group will be exploring novel approaches to using carbon dioxide as a source of carbon for polymer syntheses. Elling has previously received a variety of teaching awards and will be offering new interdisciplinary courses in polymer chemistry.

Maryam Gooyabadi, assistant professor of the practice in quantitative analysis, customizes, develops, and utilizes appropriate computational and mathematical methodologies to study social conventions (e.g., shared linguistic meaning, belief systems, norms, culture, or ideologies). Examples include agent-based dynamic and evolutionary models, Bayesian non-parametric clustering, along with other machine learning techniques (e.g., reinforcement learning). Social conventions such as shared beliefs or ideologies influence group attitudes and behavior. Understanding how ideologies form, evolve, and influence groups can provide powerful insights into how such beliefs could be shaped through targeted social interventions. This can be particularly useful in identifying how extremist beliefs form and spread, changing attitudes towards marginalized groups, and increasing between-group cooperation, to name a few. Whereas the study of ideology and beliefs gets artificially divided into topics and studied by various departments separately, each with different departmental aims (e.g., political science, religious studies, sociology), her research studies them holistically. Her research has employed methodologies and collaborated with researchers from computer science, philosophy of science, social sciences (e.g., anthropology, economics), and mathematics.

Miyuki Hatano-Cohen, assistant professor of the practice in East Asian studies, was born and raised in Fukushima, Japan. She has been teaching Japanese at Wesleyan for seven years and was promoted to an assistant professor of the practice this year.  Before coming to Wesleyan, she taught Japanese in the Boston, Mass. area for several years. She is particularly interested in Japanese pedagogy. She enjoys working with students and seeing them gradually being able to express their interests. In her spare time, she loves music and taking care of feral cats.

Rachel Heng, assistant professor of English, was born and raised in Singapore.  She  received her MFA in Fiction and Playwriting from the Michener Center for Writers, University of Texas, Austin, and her B.A. in Comparative Literature & Society from Columbia University. Heng is the author of the novels The Great Reclamation (forthcoming from Riverhead in 2022) and Suicide Club (Henry Holt, 2018), which has been translated into ten languages worldwide and won the Gladstone Library Writer-In-Residence Award. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review, and has been recognized by anthologies including Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions and Best New Singaporean Short Stories.  Rachel was recently longlisted for the 2021 Sunday Times Short Story Award, “the world’s richest and most prestigious prize for a single short story.” Her non-fiction has been listed among Best American Essays’ Notable Essays and published in Al Jazeera, Guernica, BOMB Magazine, The Rumpus and elsewhere. She has received grants and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Fine Arts Work Center and the National Arts Council of Singapore.

April Hickman, assistant professor of the practice in theater, is a costume designer, stylist, and costume illustrator originally from Denver. She received a MA in costume design at Yale School of Drama in May 2020. Hickman previously lived in Chicago and Washington D.C., where she worked as the resident costume design assistant at the Goodman Theatre and was a costume fellow turned costume design assistant at Arena Stage. She has assisted several prominent costume designers, including Emily Rebholz, Jess Goldstein, Ilona Somogyi, Paul Tazewell, and Catherine Zuber.  Her most recent design credit was at Williamstown Theatre Festival; she has several design projects in the work.  She was awarded the William R. Kenan Jr. Costume Design Fellowship at the Kennedy Center in 2014 and the Leo Lerman Fellowship in 2020. April received her BFA in costume design from The University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Anuja Jain, assistant professor of film studies, was previously an assistant professor of film and media studies at University of St. Andrews. She earned her BA, MA, and M.Phil from University of Delhi and her PhD in cinema studies from New York University. Her dissertation, “Suffering and Spectatorship: Sectarian Violence in Indian Documentary Film and Media,” explores the development and redefinition of documentary that took place around coverage of Indian sectarian violence of the last 30 years. She has also studied Indian popular cinema more broadly, editing and contributing to the dossier on “Poetics of Indian Cinema” which appeared in Screen. Jain specializes in the aesthetics and spectatorship in Indian film. She teaches courses on South Asian cinema, global cinema, and film history.

Roseann Liu, assistant professor of education studies, draws from critical race and abolitionist frameworks in her teaching and research on structural inequalities in education, including their effects on communities of color and the organizing strategies used to enact change. She writes about the pitfalls and possibilities of progressive pedagogy, multiracial coalitions, and liberal teleologies. These interests are informed by her experiences as a student and teacher in New York City public schools. Her research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the American Educational Research Association. Her scholarship has appeared in Radical History Review,  Anthropology & Education Quarterly, and Ethnography, among other journals. She engages broad audiences through producing short films and writing op-eds that have been featured in  Colorlines,  The Philadelphia Inquirer, and  Hechinger Report. Liu received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, earning a joint degree in education and anthropology.

Antonio Machado-Allison, University Professor of COE, holds a Licentiate degree in biology from the Central University of Venezuela and a PhD from George Washington University-Smithsonian Institution. He is professor emeritus at the Central University of Venezuela and is linked to the Institute of Zoology and Tropical Ecology and the Museum of Biology of the UCV. For his extensive and far-reaching scholarship and his service to scientific and humanitarian programs, Machado-Allison was elected to the Venezuelan Academy of Physics, Mathematics and Natural Sciences and the Latin American Academy of Sciences. He served as the president of the Foundation for the Development of Physics, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences (FUDECI), and was the director of the Research Institutes of the Central University Academic Vice-rectorate, Venezuela. Professor Machado-Allison studies the systematics, evolution, and ecology of fish. He is dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity in neotropical aquatic environments. He has published several books on the diversity of South American fishes, including Venomous and Poisonous Animals of Venezuela, Caribe Fishes of Venezuela, The Cichlids of Venezuela, Fishes of the Plains of Venezuela, Biodiversity of the Orinoco, and Bases for Conservation and Sustainable Development Vols. I and II, Principles of Evolution, and he is now editing a book on the fishes of the Caura River co-authored with Professor Barry Chernoff. Machado-Allison has published more than 40 book chapters and over 100 scientific papers in national and international journals. He has served on the editorial management boards of several national and international scientific journals. He has participated in numerous national commissions on wildlife, oceanology, fisheries, and aquaculture. He was a member of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONICIT) of Venezuela and is the coordinator of the Council of Scientific and Humanistic Development of the UCV. Internationally, he has been a Research Associate at the Field Museum of Chicago, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Institution. Professor Machado-Allison was a founding member of the AquaRAP Program.

Leo Mayo, adjunct associate professor of physical education, is Wesleyan’s new head cross country coach. Mayo was hired as the first-ever head coach of the American International College (AIC) men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams in August 2006 and has served in that role for 14 seasons. During his time at AIC, Mayo led the cross-country programs to four Northeast-10 (NE-10) Conference titles, two NE-10 indoor track and field championships, and two NE-10 outdoor track and field crowns. He also coached four national champions; one Division II Cross Country National Athlete of the Year; 10 NE-10 Cross Country Male Athletes of the Year; four NE-10 Cross Country Female Athletes of the Year; and a total of 120 Division II All-Americans. Additionally, Mayo has been named the NE-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year four times; the USTFCCCA East Region Cross Country Coach of the Year twice; the NE-10 Indoor Track Coach of the Year three times; the USTFCCCA East Region Indoor Coach of the Year three times; the NE-10 Outdoor Track Coach of the Year once; and the USTFCCCA East Region Outdoor Track Coach of the Year twice. Mayo was an excellent athlete as well and competed on the cross country and track and field teams at Central Connecticut State University from 1997 to 2002. He was a two-time Northeast Conference All-Conference Team selection and was named All-IC4A Country in 2001. Mayo received his BS in education at Central Connecticut State University in 2002 and a MA in education at AIC in 2011.

Chelsie McPhilimy, assistant professor of the practice in dance, is a lighting and media designer, crafting imaginative environments with vivid color and texture for the stage. She received her BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and MFA from the Ohio State University. McPhilimy’s work has been seen from Toronto to Abu Dhabi as she has been privileged to work with esteemed establishments such as NYUAD, New Victory Theater (NYC), Bates Dance Festival, Adirondack Theatre Festival, Flint Repertory Theatre, and the Santa Fe Opera. Her work on Rush (Paradise Factory, NYC) earned her a New York Innovative Theater Award nomination and her lighting design for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Flint Repertory earned a regional Wilde Award. Her primary research focus centers around collaboration with other artists to create important, relevant, and thought-provoking work that inspires and challenges today’s audiences. This year, she will be teaching a course in dance production as well as a lighting-based production laboratory for the department of theater.

Jennifer Mitchel, assistant professor of biology, obtained her PhD in biomedical engineering from Brown University after receiving her SB degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in mechanical engineering. In her graduate research, she used lithography techniques to examine nerve tissue growth. She went on to do post-doctoral research at Harvard University studying mechanisms of collective cell migration, with a focus on a process called the “unjamming transition” in which cells transition from a solid-like behavior to a fluid-like migratory regime. Mitchel has co-authored more than 20 research articles and reviews, and is a co-organizer of an online seminar series on cell migration that attracts 100-300 attendees each week. She will contribute to Wesleyan’s interdisciplinary teaching in biology including new courses with an emphasis on quantitative biology.

Jesse Nasta ’07, assistant professor of the practice in African American studies, recently completed a four-year term as a visiting assistant professor of African American studies. Nasta specializes in the African American community in 19th-century Middletown, and his book project is on the Beman family. Nasta not only studies local history but is in fact one of our preeminent connections to it. He is concurrently the excutive director of the Middlesex County Historical Society, while also serving as a committee member of the Connecticut Freedom Trail, the Middletown Middle Passage Port Marker Project, and the Connecticut River Museum’s Committee on Connecticut Slavery and Public Education. He has made several presentations on Middletown’s Black past, and has taught highly-praised courses on local history for the past four years.

Andrea Negrete, assistant professor of psychology, received a MA and PhD in community psychology from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. She received a BA in psychology and M.Ed in educational leadership from the University of Washington, Seattle. Negrete’s research examines the consequences of structural inequality and other contextual factors (e.g., immigration policy) on racial/ethnic identity and development among understudied populations, specifically Latinx and Black youth. She employs multiple methods, including longitudinal and interview studies. Negrete’s courses this year include a survey course on cultural psychology, qualitative research methods, and an advanced research seminar.

Kristin Oberiano, assistant professor of history, is a historian of United States empire in the Pacific. Oberiano’s research project, tentatively titled “Territorial Discontent: Chamorros, Filipinos, and the Making of the United States Empire on Guam,” examines the evolution of the political, social, and cultural relations between the Indigenous Chamorro people and Filipino migrants/immigrants under the United States military empire on Guam over the 20th century. The project engages in frameworks of race, settler colonialism, militarism, and migration within empire. Oberiano earned a PhD in history from Harvard University, and a BA in history and American studies from Occidental College. Her work has been supported by the Fulbright Program in the Philippines, the Harvard Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Harvard Center for American Political Studies, among others. At Wesleyan, she will teach courses in 20th century U.S. history, the history of U.S. in the World, U.S. imperialism, and Asian American and Pacific Islander history. In addition to her academic roles, Oberiano is the secretary of Guåhan Sustainable Culture 501(c)(3), a non-profit organization dedicated to food sovereignty in Guam. An islander living on the East Coast, she was born to and raised by Filipino immigrant families in Guam.

Pavel Oleinikov, assistant professor of the practice in quantitative analysis, holds a MA and a PhD in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He also holds a BS and MS in computer systems and networks from the Moscow Physical Engineering Institute. Prior to this appointment, he has been working as an associate director of the Quantitative Analysis Center since 2014. His work at Wesleyan focuses on quantification and analysis of digital media, texts, and imagery. His past employment at a Russian nuclear city serves as a motivation for his interests in remote sensing and history of the Cold War. His publications include co-authored papers on analysis of online political ads, use of remote sensing data to measure impact of natural disasters, and a paper documenting the history of German scientists in the Soviet atomic program after World War II.

Michael Perez, assistant professor of psychology, received an MA in psychology from the University of Texas, Arlington, and a PhD in social-personality psychology from Texas A&M University where he also received Graduate Certificates in Africana studies and applied statistics. His research program brings together critical race theory and cultural-psychological approaches to racism. It entails analysis of intergroup conflict related to racism, accounting for structural racial inequalities. Recent projects include multi-methodical studies of racial apologies and studies of protests and peace, specifically how racism influences perceptions of protest and peace. This year, Perez is teaching a survey course on cultural psychology, qualitative research methods, and a seminar on conflict resolution.

Hari Ramesh, assistant professor of government, earned his BA in political science and English at Williams College and his PhD in political science at Yale University. He is a political theorist with research interests in democratic theory, histories and theories of social oppression, the intersections of South Asian, Afro-modern, and American political thought, and the relationship between empirical social science and political theory. His book project, based on his dissertation research, draws insights from John Dewey, B.R. Ambedkar, and Brown v. Board of Education in order to offer an original account of the compatibility of coercive state action with a radical vision of democracy. Ramesh has published peer-reviewed articles in Modern Intellectual History and History of the Present as well as review essays in Boston Review and Dissent. Prior to arriving at Wesleyan, Ramesh was a College Fellow in Social Studies at Harvard University. In the 2021-22 academic year, he will be teaching introductory courses in political theory, a seminar on contemporary political theory, and a seminar exploring the conceptual and practical entanglements of caste in India and race in the United States.

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, assistant professor in the College of Social Studies, is a historian of modern political and intellectual thought with a specific focus on Europe and the world from the Cold War to the present. He primarily concentrates on such topics as liberalism, conservatism, populism, secularism, religion, and the Global Cold War. He runs a regular interview series at The Nation. He is the former managing editor of Modern Intellectual History and The Immanent Framer Steinmetz-Jenkins has been a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of History at Dartmouth College since January 2020. Prior to that, he was a lecturer at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University and a visiting assistant professor in the Religion Department at Yale. Steinmetz-Jenkins earned his PhD in history at Columbia University. He has an MA in history from Columbia University, an MA in liberal studies from Reed College, and a BA in history from Concordia University. Steinmetz-Jenkins is writing a book titled “Impossible Peace, Improbable War: Raymond Aron and World Order” to be published by Columbia University Press. His second book is under advanced contract with Yale University Press and is tentatively titled “Populism and the Rise and Fall of Global Secularism.” His public commentary has appeared in The Nation, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Times Literary Supplement, Dissent Magazine, Foreign Affairs and elsewhere. He has published articles in Modern Intellectual History, Journal of the History of Ideas, Global Intellectual History and elsewhere.

Tracy Heather Strain, associate professor of film studies, has been with Wesleyan since 2019 as professor of practice of film studies. Previously, she was professor of the practice in the College of the Arts, Media, and Design at Northeastern University. She is an award-winning director, producer, and writer committed to using film, video, and interactive technology to reveal the ways that race, ethnicity, gender, and classwork to shape lives. Her film about Lorraine Hansberry—Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart—earned the American Historical Association Film Award, the Peabody Award, and the NAACP Image Award. Strain co-founded with Wesleyan’s Randall MacLowry THE FILM POSSE, a production company that they relocated from Boston to Middletown. Strain earned her AB from Wellesley College and her Ed.M. from Harvard. She teaches courses in documentary studies and production, co-directs the Wesleyan Documentary Project, and is associate director of the College of Film and the Moving Image.

Jorge Vásquez, assistant professor of economics, holds a professional degree in industrial engineering and a MA in economics from the University of Chile and received a PhD in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before joining Wesleyan, Vásquez worked at the Bank of Canada as a senior economist, and later at Smith College as a visiting assistant professor. Vásquez is a microeconomist with research interests in behavioral economics and law and economics. His research has focused on the role of empathy and beliefs in understanding market phenomena, the effects of vigilance on crime rates, and the design of regulatory mechanisms to control market power. During this academic year, Vásquez will be teaching courses in microeconomics and behavioral economics.

Kleinberg Authors New Book on Levinas’ Cultural Legacy

The first time Ethan Kleinberg, the Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor of History and Letters, immersed himself in the world of the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas 20 years ago, he wrote a book.

“It was written as a traditional intellectual history and I found that what that I had done was to completely deactivate the aspects of Levinas’ thought where he believes that there are ethical guidelines that come to us from outside our own history, these transcendent ethical guidelines puncture any historical or contextual moment,” Kleinberg said.

He didn’t like what he’d written, so he took an unprecedented step—he tore it up and started over again over a decade later.

Kleinberg’s new take on Levinas’ cultural legacy, Emmanuel Levinas’s Talmudic Turn: Philosophy and Jewish Thought will be published this October in the Cultural Memory in the Present Series from Stanford University Press. Using a series of Levinas’ lectures on the Torah and the Talmud as the touchpoints, Kleinberg has crafted an exploration of his thinking that encompasses aspects of Western philosophy, French Enlightenment universalism, and the Lithuanian Talmudic tradition.

Levinas, a man of strong convictions and a sense of humor, was born in 1906 in present-day Lithuania. Levinas was the among the first to bring philosopher Martin Heidegger’s work to France, and later wrestled with the German’s turn toward Nazism.

Levinas became a French citizen in 1930 and served in the French military during World War II. He was captured in 1940 and spend the remainder of the war in a German prison camp. He was insulated from the Holocaust because of his status as a prisoner of war. Levinas held a relatively protected position despite his religion. His family in Lithuania did not, and were murdered by the Nazis.

Ethan Kleinberg

Ethan Kleinberg

While a prisoner, Levinas turned to sacred Jewish texts, which prompted an evolution in his thinking. Initially, a philosopher associated with the existentialists, his experience during the war led him to focus on what he called “being-Jewish.” He chronicled his thoughts in a series of notebooks, which were recently published.

New Visiting Faculty Bring Vast Academic Interests from High Altitude Ecosystems to Pharmacoengineering

visiting faculty 2021

Several new visiting faculty and scholars attended New Faculty Orientation in August. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Nineteen visiting faculty, including fellows, scholars, and postdoctoral researchers, join Wesleyan for the 2021-22 academic year. Their academic interests include high altitude ecosystems, Muslim political masculinities, Indigenous cultural studies, epidemiology and public health, 20th-century continental philosophy, pharmacoengineering, social media’s effects on adolescent development, and more.

Their bios are below:

Alisha Butler, Provost Equity Fellow in the College of Education Studies, is a mixed-methods researcher whose work draws on interdisciplinary perspectives to interrogate the overlapping ecologies of schools, neighborhoods, and cities that shape students’ and families’ experiences in schools. This work includes studies of school-family and school-community partnerships. Her dissertation leveraged qualitative methods to investigate gentrification’s effects on urban schools, focusing on how middle-class families in gentrifying communities select secondary schools for their children, how administrators and educators respond to changing school demographics, and how gentrification shapes the politics of family engagement. She earned her BA at Yale University and an MA in education policy from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she also will complete her PhD in education policy. Butler will join Wesleyan during the spring 2022 semester.

Alton Byers, Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment, is a mountain geographer, conservationist, and mountaineer specializing in applied research, high altitude ecosystems, climate change, glacier hazards, and integrated conservation and development programs. He received both his BA  and PHD from the University of Colorado, the latter focusing on landscape change, soil erosion, and vegetation dynamics in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Nepal. He joined The Mountain Institute (TMI) in 1990 as an environmental advisor, and over the next 25 years worked as co-manager of the Makalu-Barun National Park (Nepal Programs), founder and director of Andean Programs, director of Appalachian programs, and director of science and exploration. In 2015 he joined the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder as a senior research scientist and faculty, and currently works on a range of research, writing, and teaching projects in the Himalayas, Andes, Appalachian, and Rocky Mountains. His work has been recognized by the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal from the Nepali NGO Mountain Legacy; David Brower Award for Conservation from the American Alpine Club; Distinguished Career Award from Association of American Geographers, Mountain Specialty Group; Ecosystem Stewardship Award from The Nature Conservancy; and Honorary Lifetime Member of the Nepal Geographical Society. In 2016 he received a Fulbright Specialist award to teach mountain geography at Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and has twice been shortlisted for the Rolex Award for Enterprise. Byers is co-editor of Mountain Geography: Human and Physical Dimensions (University of California Press at Berkeley, 2013). His most recent book is titled Khumbu Since 1950, a unique collection of historic photographs of the Mount Everest region that he has replicated over the years. In April 2021 he was awarded the 2021-2022 Fulbright Nepal Research Award for continued work in alpine conservation and restoration work.

Student-Athletes Return to Regular Play Following 2-Year Hiatus

Three hundred spectators watched Wesleyan beat Emerson in men’s soccer 2-0 on Sept. 7, the first game in the fall sports season.

The men’s soccer team celebrated a winning 2-0 victory over Emerson College on Sept. 7. This was the first game in the fall sports season. (Photo by Steve McLaughlin)

Rob Borman, Wesleyan’s grounds manager, watched as Wesleyan and Emerson’s soccer teams went through warmups on a beautiful late summer day.

It was warm and the sun shined as the players went through passing drills and stretched on the perfect turf. Emerson’s players shouted through their drills. Wesleyan’s goalies bounded from side to side as they practiced knocking away shots on goal.

Borman, though, wasn’t looking at the players. He was checking out his brand-new field, installed in May. “That is 100 percent Kentucky bluegrass,” he said. “The ball should roll awesome.”

For the first time in two years, Jackson Field was alive.

Three hundred spectators watched Wesleyan beat Emerson in men’s soccer 2-0 on Sept. 7, the first game in the fall sports season. In a full sports week, Wesleyan’s women’s soccer team defeated Keene State 7-0 and the women’s field hockey squad downed Western New England 6-1.

Ethan Barrett ’24

Ethan Barrett ’24

You would never know that the Cardinals had almost two full years off because of the global pandemic.

“It felt great. It was about 600 days since the last time we played, so sophomores and first years were extremely excited to get out there,” said Ethan Barrett ’24, a member of the men’s soccer team. “This is the thing we were talking about. This is the thing we were dreaming about, to get on this field.”

New International Students Hail from 64 Countries

international students

On Aug. 31, Wesleyan welcomed 112 new international students to campus. The largest groups come from China, India, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

ISO

Richard Bennet Morales ’24, pictured in front, center, is one of several international student orientation leaders who help new international students acclimate to campus life.

Richard Bennet Morales ’24 is what you’d call a “third culture kid.”

By definition, the term refers to a child who grows up in a culture different from the one in which his or her parents grew up. And Bennet Morales fits the description.

Born in Puerto Rico to Spanish and American parents, he moved to Paris at the age of 3, and to Barcelona 11 years later. After graduating from a French-speaking high school, he resided in Madrid, briefly, with his family.

And now, he’s among 392 international students studying at Wesleyan this fall.

“I was really interested in going to the U.S. since high school, especially looking for liberal arts schools due to the academic flexibility that it offers, as opposed to European universities that have more restrictive curriculums,” Bennet Morales said. “I toured several colleges around Boston, New York, and Washington D.C., and out of those I saw, Wesleyan was the one that felt most welcoming and sincere during the tours. I felt like Wesleyan could be one of my ‘homes.'”

Edvin Tran Hoac ’24 of Sweden began his Wesleyan journey remotely during the spring 2021 semester and is “super excited for classes to start,” he said. “I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to major in yet, but I’m really happy with my current schedule, which covers both my curiosity and academic interests.”

Before applying to Wes, Tran Hoac, who is a Davis International Scholar, was first impressed by the “lovely people” he met and the “beautiful campus” he encountered during a campus visit.

“I particularly liked that the university was known for being diverse and inclusive on top of being a top academic institution. These aspects, combined with the generous financial aid I was offered that made it economically feasible for me to attend, were the reasons I decided to come to Wesleyan,” he said.

Wesleyan in the News

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 participated in a Newsweek podcast debate titled “Is Higher Education Broken?” “I think the idea that only rich people should be able to experience the benefits of learning—whether that’s about math and science, or whether it’s about literature and philosophy—that’s a huge mistake. (Aug. 31)

President Roth also wrote a book review of Allan V. Horowitz’s A History of Psychiatry’s Bible for The Washington Post. “In this history … Horwitz emphasizes the social construction of scientific concepts. This account underscores the economic incentives in play as psychiatrists tried to reach consensus on how to describe specific disorders so that they could treat them—and be paid well to do so.” (Sept. 3)

In The Washington Post, Kyungmi Kim, a cognitive psychologist and assistant professor of psychology, explains why people tend to hold onto material possessions. “Mostly, when people think about the self, the self is residing within the physical boundary of our body,” she said. “However, we also have an ‘extended self’ which includes important people in our lives, plus certain objects that help us ‘define ourselves because they belong to our personal history.'” (Sept. 2)

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the much anticipated directorial debut tick, tick…BOOM! by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 is timed to detonate Nov. 10 as the Netflix film opens the 35th edition of AFI Fest at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre. Bradley Whitford ’81, Hon. 20, will play the role of Stephen Sondheim. The Emmy-winning actor tells The Hollywood Reporter that he found the obligation of playing a legend like Sondheim “scary” but he found a soft place to land on Miranda’s set. “We had the same wonderful, crazy acting teacher in college,” Whitford said of the late William “Bill” Francisco, professor of theater, emeritus. “Whitford says while there’s a relatively small percentage of the audience that has ever seen Sondheim, those who do know him love and adore him. ‘It’s scary to have that obligation but Lin was there to pull the blood out of me.'” (Sept. 9)

In Wicked Local, Jasmine Fridman ’25 shares her thoughts about working for the Mystic Mural project this summer. Fridman wants to major in environmental science as a result of working on the mural. “We learned a lot about the current effects of climate change on a global level, but also on a local level and on our home,” she said. “Not only did we paint nature, but we also took field trips to learn about the environment — it was very enriching.” (Sept. 2)

Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, was mentioned in The Conversation for writing an article about an eighth-century female Sufi saint, known popularly as Rabia al-Adawiyya. “[She] is said to have walked through her hometown of Basra, in modern-day Iraq, with a lit torch in one hand and a bucket of water in another. When asked why, she replied that she hoped to burn down heaven and douse hell’s fire so people would—without concern for reward or punishment—love God.” (Aug. 30)

In The Connecticut Patch, William Wasch, Sr., ’52, is remembered for his long career with Wesleyan. “In 1964, Bill returned to Wesleyan and began a long career with the university, initially running the annual fund and then becoming Director of Development and Alumni Relations in 1967. While at Wesleyan, he oversaw several large capital campaigns and successfully kept more traditional alumni connected to the university during the very difficult years of campus unrest in the late 60s and early 70s. He retired from Wesleyan in 1985.” (Sept. 1)

 

New Students Arrive at Wesleyan Full of Hope (with Video, Photos)


Wet weather couldn’t dampen the feelings of excitement, anticipation and, above all, hope that abounded on Wesleyan University’s new student Arrival Day.

Over 900 students in the Class of 2025 – the second largest in Wesleyan’s history – as well as transfer students and students who deferred admission, moved in Wednesday morning. Many of this diverse group of young people from across the country and the globe navigated their entire application process through the complications of a global pandemic, demonstrating resilience in addition to intellectual and social acumen.

On this rainy morning, harnessing and shaping all of that nascent energy is a task for the future. As they moved into their dorms and said goodbye to their parents, the students’ minds were on new beginnings and, perhaps above all else, finding lasting friendships.

As she directed students to Clark Hall Wednesday morning, Anna Nguyen ’22 remembered her own Arrival Day three years ago.

Nguyen, an international student, had come to campus a few days before everyone else. “I remembered that I was alone, arriving at 8 p.m. But everyone was welcoming right away,” said Nguyen, who is now the Wesleyan Student Assembly president and works for the Office of Residential Life.

She called out to students walking toward their new home. “Welcome to Wesleyan,” she said. “Now I get to be that person,” Nguyen said.

Cars started pulling onto Andrus Field early in the morning. By 8:45 a.m. parents and students started the process of unloading. Current students helped parents wheel bins of necessities into the students’ dorm rooms—one mom had a plastic container of homemade cookies carefully perched on her kid’s boxes. The first rainy Arrival Day in over a decade was filled with anxious energy.

Pennsylvania resident Xzavier Pacheco ’25 felt good on his first day — he wasn’t nervous, at least not that he would say. He was excited to explore the freedom being at school offers and hoped that majoring in archaeology would feed his love of travel and history. “I just thought Wesleyan would be a good fit for me,” he said.

Faculty, Staff Prepare for a New Semester at Wesleyan

After an unusual 18 months of hybrid teaching, working remotely, and navigating university life during a pandemic, Wesleyan’s faculty and staff are eager for some normalcy this fall. In this News @ Wesleyan piece, we speak to several employees about what they are most looking forward to during the fall 2021 semester.

Morgan Keller

Morgan Keller

Morgan Keller became director of international student affairs on Aug. 23 after stints at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California-Santa Cruz, and Clemson University. He learned of Wesleyan through his cousin, Adam Keller ’14, who spoke favorably of the university during his time here as a film major.

“This fall, I’m excited to meet the new and continuing international students and get a sense of the different ways we can holistically support them,” he said. “I’d like to create initiatives and co-curricular opportunities to increase our international students’ engagement with their U.S. American peers and enhance their sense of belonging in the campus community.”

As a New England newbie, Keller also is looking forward to experiencing the fall season in Connecticut and attending festivals and agricultural fairs with his wife and two daughters, ages 6 and 9.

Abderrahman AissaThis fall, Abderrahman Aissa, adjunct assistant professor in Arabic, is teaching Elementary Arabic, Intermediate Arabic, Advanced Arabic, and a new Fries Center for Global Studies course—Introduction to Tamazight: The Native Language of North Africa and Beyond. This course will introduce students to the language and culture of the Amazigh people, an ethnic group native to North Africa and West Africa. The Tamazight language has been a written language for almost 3,000 years.

“I can’t wait to be with my students in class and hopefully go back to a full normal teaching and learning environment,” he said. “I’m also looking forward to teaching Introduction to Tamazight for the first time ever, especially since this language is practically unheard of in U.S. colleges’ curricula.”

Emily Gorlewski

Emily Gorlewski

New Play Revisits 1971 Attica Prison Riot

incarcerated stories

Artwork by Ojore Lutalo, which is inspired by the Attica Prison Riot of 1971, will be on exhibition later this month in Zilkha Gallery as part of “Remembering Attica: Legacy of a Prison Revolt,” a series of events commemorating Attica’s 50th anniversary.

Edward Torres, an assistant professor of the practice in theater, can’t help but be moved when he performs the words of L.D. Barkley, a prisoner who played an important role during the 1971 Attica Prison riot, raising morale for incarcerated men protesting their mistreatment. 

“We are men! We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such,” Barkley said in 1971 shortly before he was killed by police. 

For Torres, the most devastating part of performing the new play Echoes of Attica is to know that every word is real.

“This is a piece of history I am reliving,” Torres said. “It comes alive on the page because of that. It’s very powerful. The emotion is all there in the words, so you don’t have to overdo it.” 

The play, written and directed by Professor of Theater Ronald Jenkins, will be performed at 3 p.m., Sunday, September 12 in the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts. Admission is free for Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff. 

Rap poet and activist BL Shirelle will be performing new music she wrote for the play “Echoes of Attica.”

Rap poet and activist BL Shirelle will be performing new music she wrote for the play “Echoes of Attica.”

The cast features the formerly incarcerated actors and musicians Darío Peña, BL Shirelle, Naomi Wilson, and Crystal Walker, who all take on multiple roles in the play. 

This event is part of “Remembering Attica: Legacy of a Prison Revolt,” a series of events commemorating the Attica anniversary, including lectures, films, and “Behind Enemy Lines: The Prison Art of Ojore Lutalo,” an exhibition of prison protest art by Ojore Lutalo, in the South Gallery of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. The exhibition will be on display on campus from Tuesday, September 21 through Sunday, October 17. Lutalo will give an artist talk at the opening of the exhibition at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, September 21.

In September 1971, 2,200 prisoners took over the state prison at Attica, New York, demanding better living conditions and political rights, holding 42 staff members hostage. Negotiations with prison officials broke down and the state police took back the prison by force. Forty-three people were killed in the riot, the vast majority by the police. 

Jenkins, who has facilitated theater workshops in Italy, Indonesia, and the United States for over a decade, saw the potential in the story after listening to Attica survivors speak about their experiences. Working with the cast and hearing their personal stories of police abuse, medical mistreatment, and general degradation at the hands of authorities, offering an added dimension to the script.

Peña spoke of being thrown down the stairs and having his ribs broken. Shirelle talked about being beaten. Wilson never thought she’d survive prison and rewrote her obituary fifteen times. There is nothing theoretical in their rehearsal conversations. 

Jenkins believes that the heart of the play rests with the music. Gospel songs performed by Wilson and rap music written by Shirelle provide an important piece of the story’s emotional journey. “The songs come from a place of sincerity,” Shirelle told a preview performance audience. “They are real. I spent ten years in prison and when I wrote the song about medical mistreatment in prison, it was easy because I had seen it all so many times.” 

In addition to the emotional truths unearthed by the actors, there are the literal truths found in the script. Jenkins crafted the play using thousands of pages of reports, FBI files, and interviewing survivors of the prison. The records are poignant, disturbing and, in some instances, just absurd. (Jenkins points to a conversation where President Richard Nixon congratulated New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller for his good work on handling the riot despite the deaths of innocent people.)

While the play might explore the past, the ills of the present are never far away.

“It’s important to remember that Attica is not just about the past. Attica is about the present, the things that are happening right now, things that are being done every day in the criminal justice system,” Jenkins said. “It helps us understand the origins of the violence that the state commits against communities of color.”

The play will be published in Spring 2022 by MIT Press in Performing Arts Journal. 

The performance is supported at Wesleyan by the African American Studies Program, the Film Studies Department, the Theater Department, the Art Studio Program of the Art and Art History Department, the Music Department, the Center for the Arts, the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the History Department, the Science in Society Program, the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, the Provost’s Committee on Equity and Diversity, and the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.