Campus News & Events

Wesleyan Professors Lecture to Local High School Students


 
Above, Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology and director of the Service-Learning Center, draws a troubadour to illustrate how the message of music is perceived differently during a lecture to high school students.

At right, high school students listen to Rosenthal’s lecture during the High School Humanities Program.

Posted 05/23/05

This semester, local high school students read “The Odyssey,” and watched “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” but it wasn’t with their high school English teachers.

As part of the High School Humanities Program, more than 80 high school students had the opportunity to participate in six discussions at Wesleyan. Wesleyan faculty members facilitate the lectures. Students were bussed in from Vinal Technical High School and Middletown, Killingworth, Mercy and Xavier high schools.

Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology and director of the Service-Learning Center, lectured about social music and culture on May 6. He played music samples for the students including songs by Woody Guthrie and Aretha Franklin.

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T. What kind of respect is Aretha asking for here,” Rosenthal asks the students. “If you study this stuff, you can’t simply listen to the lyrics. Think about the style, the voice, the year it came out.”

Rosenthal sketched a troubadour and other people on the chalkboard to illustrate how the music, or the message, is interpreted differently. One person may really favor the lyrics, another may like the beat and rhythm, and still another may not really be paying any attention, he explained.

“It’s difficult to pin-point the real connection between music and social movement, he says. “Individuals take this in and react, as well as reflect, differently,”

Other viewings this year included “Glory,” “Monsoon Wedding,” “Slam,” “The Godfather: Part II,” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

The High School Humanities Program is supported by Community and University Services for Education, most commonly known as CAUSE.  Established in 1967 by Marjorie Daltry Rosenbaum, CAUSE facilitates the implementation of cooperative programs and projects between Wesleyan, the Middletown community and the public and private schools in the Middletown area.

In addition to the High School Humanities Program, CAUSE also supports the following:

  • The Art Show, a unique exhibition of more than 1,200 artworks of Middletown students in grades K-12 at Wesleyan’s Zilkha Gallery. This annual event in April showcases the art curriculum in Middletown public schools and attracts hundreds of students and their families to the Wesleyan campus each spring.

  • Silent Sounds, a collection of selected literary works submitted by students in Middletown Public Schools grades 6-12. Categories include poetry, short stories, literary analyses and personal essays.

  • Mini-grants to local Middletown teachers to develop innovative and creative short-term projects to engage their students in learning.

    Rosenthal is one of six professors involved with the High School Humanities Program. Other lecturers this semester have included Andy Szegedy-Maszak, the Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, professor of classical studies, and the director of the Center for Faculty Career Development; Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of English and professor of American Studies; Indira Karamcheti, associate professor of English, associate professor of American studies and associate professor of women’s studies; Kate Rushin, adjunct assistant professor and visiting writer of African American studies; and Sean McCann, associate professor of English, associate professor of American studies and chair of the American Studies Program. Peter Frenzel, professor of German Studies Emeritus, served as faculty director of the program and Frank Kuan, director of Community Relations, offered administrative support for the program.

  • For more information, call 860-685-2245 or 860-638-1401.

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Students Receive Awards, Prizes, Scholarships


    Pictured in center, Migdalia Pinkney, administrative assistant for the Center for Community Partnerships and Lisa Currie, director of Health Education, congratulate Gabrielle Tynes-Labonte ’06 (left) and Vladrose Petit-Frere ’05 during the Academic Awards, Prizes and Scholarships program May 3. The students both received the Mosaic Award, given to four students who have brought about cultural awareness and education on race, ethnicity, culture or sexual orientation.

     
    Posted 05/23/05
    More than 240 Wesleyan students received accolades and formal recognition during the 2005 Academic Awards, Prizes and Scholarships program May 3 in the Russell House.

    “These are honor students who represent the highest ideals of Wesleyan University: intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, creative expression, leadership and service,” says Peter Patton, interim dean of the college, vice president and secretary of the university and professor of earth and environmental sciences.

    Students were honored for excellence in astronomy, music composition, biology, chemistry,  earth and environmental sciences, mathematics, history, film, women studies and computer science, among other subjects. Others earned awards for demonstrating outstanding leadership, special aptitude in the history or art, debating and public-spirited citizenship.

    While celebrating these recipients of awards, prizes and scholarships, Patton also honored and thanked alumni and friends for their generous contributions and gifts. Several awards are the result of legacies of alumni, administrators, faculty and friends whose lives and work are honored through endowed gifts.

    For the complete list of students and their awards go to:

    http://www.wesleyan.edu/deans/awards2005.html.

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Behind the Scenes: Reunion & Commencement Weekend Result of All Departments


    ]]>
    At top, hired students worked stuffed 3,000 packets and created nametags in preparation for Reunion & Commencement Weekend at University Relations.

    At left, Gemma Ebstein, director of Alumni and Parent Relations and Deana Hutson, director of Events, look over Reunion & Commencement Weekend schedules prior to the four-day event.

    Posted 05/23/05

    It all starts the day after.

    Deana Hutson, director of Events, began planning for the 2005 Reunion & Commencement Weekend the day after the 2004 Commencement Weekend ended. On the agenda: Hire 150 student workers. Print 20,000 brochures. Rent 10,000 chairs. Block 900 local hotel rooms. Contact 50 vendors. Plan events for 9,000 guests.

    “There is so much going on behind the scenes of Reunion & Commencement Weekend,” says Hutson, who has been critical to the success of six R&Cs so far. “It starts with a small team of staff meeting and program planning and culminates with a team of 1,000 making it happen. We want alumni, parents and seniors to walk away with wonderful memories of the weekend.”

    On May 16, just three days before the big weekend, Hutson and Gemma Ebstein, director of Alumni and Parent Relations, spend their day going through a pen-scribbled list and an 80-page flow document. The document details who is in charge of each event, the time of the event and a description.

    The duo coordinates more than 150 individual events including picnics, dinners, parties, academic department tours, senior projects, campus walking tours, 36 WESeminars, 15 class reunions, a parade, an annual meeting and assembly, a grandparents gathering, a children’s day camp, class photos and of course, the 173rd commencement ceremony.

    “We just go with the flow,” says Ebstein, who has co-coordinated 14 reunions and six reunion and commencement events. “These lists may look crazy, but it explains everything we need to do to run the weekend.”

    Ebstein says virtually all the university’s departments contribute to the weekend in one way or another. Physical Plant staff spends Saturday night setting up chairs for commencement. Campus Dining prepares more than 90 percent of all meals. The Office of University Communications writes, photographs and edits the brochures and award citations. The Wesleyan grounds crew grooms the campus lawns and flower beds. And all academic departments plan open houses for the weekend.

    Even students get involved. More than 500 students apply for R&C Weekend employment, but only 150 are hired. They often cover odd-hour shifts, some beginning at 6 a.m. and ending at 2 a.m. the next morning.

    “Students want to be here working for commencement,” Hutson says. “They enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun. And we want them here. They’re representing Wesleyan, and they’re proud of their school. Alumni love talking to the students, and for the students, meeting Wesleyan alumni on this weekend puts it all into perspective for them.”

    When planning more than 150 events throughout the weekend challenges are sure to arise. The staff, however, is accustomed to expect the unexpected.

    About 670 alumni registered for 2005 reunion, however, an additional 350 can show up depending on the weather. The coordinators keep their eye on the numbers, which can affect last-minute food orders, rental orders, tables and table cloths, napkins, tables, chairs, silverware, plates, glasses and even the number of flower and balloon arrangements.

    And in recent years, challenges have run the gamut:

    Brochures and nametags were delivered incorrectly printed. the University Relations staff stayed up throughout the night to get them finished days before the event. 

  • A picnic ran low on turkey sandwiches forcing, students, staff and campus dining crew to scramble to locate lunchmeat and make sandwiches during the picnic.
  • When rain poured for seven days before commencement, the Wesleyan grounds crew laid a makeshift mulch road so vendors could get onto the flooded field.
  • A water main broke one year forcing the coordinators to reroute shuttles through campus at the busiest time of the weekend.
  • A tent fell over just before an all-campus picnic.
  • When the 2000 fireworks show went off with a bang, it left a blanket of soot on the commencement chairs and stage overnight. Physical Plant staff had to hand-wipe all 10,000 chairs clean before morning.
  • “We’re constantly problem solving,” Ebstein says. “Even with the best laid plans, things go awry. The key is to stay calm, be pleasant, assess options and take action.  We strive to do everything possible to make this weekend a positive experience for alumni and parents. Some alumni may not return to campus for another five years, so this experience really matters.”

    Members of University Relations and Physical Plant are assigned different tasks, but among the most important are to be the eyes and ears of the university. All problems and questions are communicated through cell phones and radios. Seventy-two of them to be exact.

    Crunch time for University Relations begins in March when brochures are mailed off, a Web site is developed and registration begins. In May, the staff begins working longer hours and weekends. During the R&C weekend, some of them sleep an average of two hours a night. The staff includes Makaela Steinberg, associate director of Alumni Relations; Linda Kavan, associate director of Events, Suzanne Kampen, administrative assistant with Alumni and Parent Relations; Gail Briggs, associate director of Alumni Education, Meg Zocco, director of Parent Programs and Camille Dolansky, assistant director of Parent Programs. Jean Shaw, now coordinator of University Lectures, was the overall coordinator from 2000-2003, helping to combine the once separate reunion and commencement celebrations into one event.

    The hectic schedule affects their personal life, and Hutson and Ebstein say it takes an understanding family to get through it.

    “My husband knows I’ll be coming home late every night, and my sons know I can’t make it to their basketball and soccer games this time of year,” Ebstein says. “But when they come and see what the weekend is all about, then they get it.”

    Hutson compares planning for R&C Weekend like a running up a hill.

    “It can be agonizing trying to get up and over that hill, but once you’re on top you’re so proud of what you’ve accomplished, you forget how hard it was to get there.”

    After R&C Weekend, the University Relations staff sends evaluation assessments to alumni. Feedback lets Wesleyan know they’re efforts pay off in the end.

    “Although we offer many ways for alumni to stay connected, reunion weekend is one of the more traditional programs and has a unique appeal, ”Ebstein says. “Sometimes alumni won’t have much contact with Wesleyan for many years, then return for reunion and gradually become re-engaged. There’s really something special about the reunion experience; it has a lasting impact.”

    And then on Monday, the planning starts for 2006.

    By the Numbers:

    562
    The number of steps in parade route

    2
    The average hour of sleep per night by events staff

    48
    The hours to clean and prep dorm rooms

    300
    The number of student workers

    10,000
    The number of chairs used/rented

    300
    The number of hours to plan, cook and set up post-commencement reception

    3,000
    The number of hours student staff works during the weekend

    20,000
    The number of brochures printed

    72
    The number of two-way radios used]]>

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Wesleyan’s 173rd Commencement Features Inspiring Speakers, 718 New Graduates


    More than 700 students graduated from Wesleyan May 22.
     
    Posted 05/23/05
    During the last four years, Wesleyan University students have generated responses to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq, the genocidal crisis in Darfur, the Tsunami of 2004 and several other events. In his commencement address on Wesleyan’s campus on Sunday, May 22, Wesleyan President Douglas J. Bennet `59 urged the 718 undergraduates from the Class of 2005 to continue their good work.

    “My commencement wish for each of you is that you never lose your instinct for challenging the society around you,” Bennet said.

    Bennet exhorted the students to take special interest in those around them who struggle economically

    “In our parents’ time, we had a patchwork of social legislation, tax policy, public programs, including some foreign aid, to provide help and hope so that families could move up,” Bennet said. “There does not seem to be a consensus in the public today about what we can or should do for the have-nots…I am counting on you, everyone here, not to ignore this issue. There is a moral imperative to address it so that the outcomes are not decided by default.”

    The commencement speaker, Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, echoed Bennet’s remarks but also asked students to adapt an attitude of mutual respect.

    “Mutual respect is not about walking on eggshells,” Gutmann said. “It is not about playing down differences. Rather, it is about giving serious consideration to our differences and disagreements and working through them. It is about pursuing common goals in a constructive spirit of engagement, even when many differences remain.”

    Gutmann added that mutual respect is “the life blood of democracy” and yet has become more scarce in a society that seems increasingly polarized and partisan.

    “Without mutual respect, democracy is dead, and so are your prospects for living in a just and peaceful world,” she said.

    Students also heard from New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick `75, P `07, who received an honorary doctorate from the university during the ceremony. Belichick urged the graduates to give heed to their passions rather than taking the easy way out.

    “Follow your dreams,” he said. “Resist the opportunity to take the job that might pay a little more in the short term but offer nothing in the long term. Pursue the thing you really love. Do that, and the rest will come.”

    Along with Belichick and Gutmann, Pulitzer prize winning author Edward P. Jones and William Barber, the Andrews Professor of Economics Emeritus at Wesleyan also received honorary degrees.

    Wesleyan bestowed the Baldwin Medal, the highest alumni honor presented by the University, to John F. Woodhouse, `53, P `79, a Wesleyan alumnus, former president and CEO of Sysco Corporation, and trustee emeritus, chairman and leader of the first-ever Wesleyan Capital Campaign that raised $287 million.

    The Baldwin Medal pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin of Wesleyan’s Class of 1916. Baldwin was the only man to have held the offices of Connecticut governor, U.S. senator, and chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

    Along with the 718 bachelor of arts degrees, Wesleyan also awarded 14 Ph.D. degrees, 40 master of arts degrees in individual fields, 65 master of arts in liberal studies degrees and two advanced certifications. Wesleyan also honored and recognized its alumni from the World War II era during the ceremony.

    For the full text of the speeches visit:

    Full text of Amy Gutmann’s speech

    Full text of Doug Bennet’s speech

    Belichick receives honorary degree at Wesleyan

    To see photos of the weekend visit:

    http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsletter/snapshot/0505randc2005.html

     
    By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

    Students Discover Hunger Problem in Middletown Children


    Amelia Long ’06, Tiffany Lo ’05, Beth Coddington ’05 and Maria Nankova ’05, students in the Community Research Seminar, completed a study titled “Hungry Children in Middletown.”
     
    Posted 05/23/05
    Four Wesleyan students have discovered that one out of five local children lives in a household that suffers from food insecurity.

    Beth Coddington ’05, Tiffany Lo ’05, Amelia Long ’06 and Maria Nankova ’05 presented results of their study, “Hungry Children in Middletown” on May 12. The students were enrolled in the Community Research Seminar taught by Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology.

    The Middlesex Coalition for Children commissioned the survey. The project’s purpose was to assess the rate of food insecurity among Middletown households with children under 18.

    The USDA defines food insecurity as: “a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods, or limited or uncertain ability to acquire these foods in socially acceptable ways.”

    The students found that 20.1 percent of Middletown children (1,883 children) were living in food-insecure households during the past 12 months. Of those children, 15.5 percent (1,452 children) experienced food insecurity in their household but were shielded from actual hunger. However, the other 4.6 percent (431 children) experienced food insecurity with hunger within the past year. The rest of Middletown’s children, an estimated 79.9 percent (7,481 children) lived in houses that were food secure.

    “We tapped into a fantastic team of young researchers,” says Betsy Morgan, director of the Middlesex Coalition for Children. “Thanks to our research team, we know there is a serious problem.”

    They also found food insecurity is about as prevalent in Middletown as it is in the U.S. as a whole – nationally with 16.7 percent of households with children were food insecure — but food security with hunger among Middletown households with children exceeds the national average of 3.8 percent.

    The results are based on 329 telephone and paper surveys, administered by the students and local organizations. The survey was designed by the USDA and is currently used by the federal government to measure food insecurity at the state and national level. The students made calls between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. through 4 p.m. Sunday.

    Lo, an earth and environmental science major, chose to take part in the research project to integrate herself in the Middletown community.

    “The results were rather surprising as I didn’t expect to see so much hunger going on in Middletown,” she says. “But finding this out was definitely the first step towards ending hunger here.”

    The students also asked people about their coping strategies for when they were running low on food or money to buy food. The students found a trend of higher usage of food pantries than food stamps among Middletown’s more food-insecure and lower income households, something that differs from the national tendency.

    Long, a government major, said the food-secure families surveyed were surprised to hear so many households in their own community were having trouble affording food.

    “Also, a lot of people seem to think that individual factors like laziness and poor spending habits are the biggest factors contributing to hunger in families as opposed to bigger structural issues like outdated income qualifications for food stamps,” Long says.

    The research project grew out of the past year’s work by the Middletown Childhood Hunger Task Force. The Task Force was prompted by the discovery that some Middletown families with pre-schoolers didn’t have enough food. Composed of local anti-hunger agencies, the Task Force is co-sponsored by the the Middlesex Coalition for Children and Middletown Mayor Domenique Thornton, who attended the student’s presentation.

    Now that the students have documented their findings, they are working on ways other Wesleyan students can further help the reduce or eliminate problem in the future.

    “We’re going to need everybody in Middletown to help these children,” Morgan says. “It’s going to be a long-term project to build up and strengthen our charitable food programs. We’ve got out work cut out for us.”

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    18th-Century Man: Assistant Professor of History Researches a Revolutionary Tale


    Kirk Davis Swinehart, assistant professor of history, specializes in early American history. (Photo by James Ward Swinehart, Jr.)
     
    Posted 05/02/05

    Kirk Davis Swinehart, assistant professor of history, has been spending most of his time in the 18th century with an Irish knight and a Mohawk woman.

    Swinehart’s research and teaching focus on events from the period just before and leading up to the American Revolution. He has also done extensive research on the New World soldier-adventurer Sir William Johnson (1715–74) and his families, Irish and Mohawk, both of which fought for Britain during the American Revolution. Funded by an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Faculty Career Enhancement Grant, Swinehart will spend next year finishing his book on Johnson and his Mohawk common-law wife Molly Brant.

    “Sir William’s story is easily one of the eighteenth century’s most seductive—a story of setting out and making good, a story reenacted for centuries throughout the British Empire,” Swinehart says. “Monarchical, rich, and sexually corrupt in the eyes of a fledgling nation, this unlikely couple represented all that America struggled to define itself against after winning independence from Britain.”

    Swinehart’s book, tentatively titled “Molly’s War,” is a narrative that recounts an intimate history of the Crown’s uneasy military alliance with the Mohawk Indians of central New York. The story chronicles Sir William Johnson’s 20-year relationship and domestic life with Brant (1736–96), a powerful Mohawk woman who struggled to maintain the Mohawks’ allegiance to George III after Johnson’s death.

    The book is under contract with Houghton Mifflin in North America and Hodder Headline in the United Kingdom and British Commonwealth. 

    Swinehart’s “Molly’s War” derives its narrative verve from the events and places that shaped Brant and Johnson’s lives: their childhoods in the New and Old Worlds; the circumstances of their meeting and subsequent two decades together; the building of the estate they shared uneasily with their eight children and with Johnson’s three white children; and the two decades Brant spent without Johnson, waging war and living as a single mother confronted with heartbreaking blows.

    Many have written about Johnson since his death in 1774 but too often he has been depicted as a caricature of the British colonial official. Swinehart says his research, conducted in British and American archives–including the British Library, the Public Records Office in London, and in Sir William’s own published papers–suggests a more complicated portrait than the ones offered by previous biographers and scholars. Swinehart says Johnson was a devoted father, a great lover of fun, and a man of tremendous intelligence and empathetic powers.

    To complement his research, Swinehart spends time in physical locations where Johnson and Brant lived. He has spent extensive time at the house they shared, Johnson Hall, which still stands, 45 miles northwest of Albany. This summer, he’ll be in London, searching for the family’s banking records, and in Dublin, visiting Johnson’s childhood house.

    Swinehart’s interest in Johnson and Brant dates back six years. After earning a master’s degree from the University of Delaware, where he studied American decorative arts, he pursued a Ph.D. in American Studies at Yale University. While at Yale he studied with prize-winning colonial historian John Demos, who changed forever how Swinehart writes history. That is when he began his doctoral dissertation on Johnson.

    “Writing narrative history is for me a way of enriching our sense of the eighteenth century,” Swinehart says. “So, too, is reconciling the history of early America with the history of the British Empire.”

    Swinehart says he hopes to spend his life doing work that combines scholarly rigor and accessibility in equal measure, inside the classroom and on the page. Students, he finds, learn best about early American history when people and life stories are placed front and center: when enormous social and economic changes can be discerned in the life of a James Boswell or a Benjamin Franklin or a Molly Brant.

    At Wesleyan, Swinehart has taught all self-designed courses. These include the survey of early American history, narrative nonfiction and historical biography and the British Empire, a seminar on the Puritans, and another on early American furniture and art.

    “I believe in reaching intelligent, curious people, in opening up worlds to people who may never become scholars but who — if you can persuade them of a book’s capacity to transport and transform — may become discerning adult readers of serious literary nonfiction,” Swinehart says. “It’s always a marvel to watch young readers connect for the first time with people who lived over 200 years ago.”

    In addition to the Mellon Foundation Career Enrichment grant, Swinehart is the recipient of a Yale College Teaching Prize and of fellowships from the University of Pennsylvania’s McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, the Huntington Library in Los Angeles, and the New York Public Library. Prior to coming to Wesleyan in 2002, he was the Mellon Research Fellow in American History at the University of Cambridge.

    “That’s my vocation,” he says. “To reach those who will never become professional historians, teach them that reading books is a lifelong pleasure — and the cheapest vacation they’ll ever take.”

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Human Resources Launches Virtual Orientation Web Site


    The Human Resources department’s new Virtual Orientation Web site provides vital information for new employees.
     
    Posted 05/02/05

    Prospective employees can learn all about Wesleyan before they even set foot on campus — just by going online.

    The Human Resources department has launched a Virtual Orientation Web site this month for new employees. The site can be viewed at:

    http://www.wesleyan.edu/hr/newemployee

    The site features a list of important resources, interesting facts and valuable information that employees will need before they arrive and during their first month at Wesleyan.

    “We wanted to create a place for new employees to learn as much as possible about Wesleyan before they arrived” says Julia Hicks, associate Human Resources director.  “We also wanted to provide a place where existing employees can also view useful human resources information.”

    The Virtual Orientation web site contains similar material given to new employees on their first day but includes additional features such as an information on campus dining, the computer store and child care resources, the adverse weather policy, and even Wesleyan trivia. A new employee checklist explains where to pick up a Motor Vehicle Registration Form, Wesleyan Identification Card and how to get signed up for Wesleyan benefits.

    The site also offers resources to employees who are not familiar with the Middletown area. An extensive list of places to eat and things see and do in Middlesex County is available on the site, as is a map of Middletown.

    “Even employees who have been here for years will find a great deal of useful information on this site,” Hicks says.

    The site was developed by Vanessa Sabin, Human Resources administrative coordinator; Pat Leone, World Wide Web administrator, Jennifer Carlstrom, Web manager and Sasha Foppiano, formerly a web designer for the Office of University Communications. Sabin and Dan Pflederer, Human Resources functional specialist, coordinated focus groups to gather input and feedback regarding the site.

    The development team explored numerous university orientation Web pages and came up with our unique look and feel.

    “We picked a design that we felt would be the best fit for Wesleyan,” Hicks says.

    Harriet Abrams, director of Human Resources, encourages Wesleyan employees to offer feedback on the site and included a suggestion box link on the site for this purpose.

    “We consider this a work in progress and we’ll be continually updating and enhancing it,” Abrams says. “The site is primarily focused on new hires but since it’s accessible to anyone visiting Wesleyan’s site, it’s also a terrific marketing tool to encourage others to apply.”

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    International Students Share Wesleyan Memories at Senior Reception


    From left to right, Ambika Ahuja ’05 of Thailand, Zaheed Essack ’05 of South Africa, Phudorji Sherpa ’05 of Nepal, and Lianne Morris-Smith ’05 of Jamaica converse at the International Student Senior Reception.
     
    Posted 05/02/05

    The Office of International Student Services held an International Student Senior Reception at the Russell House April 27.

    More than 25 international students and exchange students attended. Some gave brief remarks about their experiences at Wesleyan while others mentioned ways they plan to stay connected with Wesleyan after graduating.

    “Whether they stay in this country or travel back to their home country, these students can maintain a relationship with Wesleyan,” says Theresa Cann, coordinator of International Student Services.

    Wesleyan staff, administrators, and faculty attended, including the Senior Class Dean, Louise Brown.

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Stereochemistry Topic of 33rd Leermakers Symposium


    Posted 05/02/05

    More than 150 guests, many from academia and the pharmaceutical industry, attended the 33rd Peter A. Leermakers Symposium May 5 at the Exley Science Center.

    The annual, one day meeting brings together internationally recognized chemists for a day of intensive examination of a particular subject in chemistry.

    This year’s symposium, titled “Chirality,” united scientists working in the general area of stereochemistry. The speakers have played a fundamental role in the control and understanding of stereochemistry.

    Stereochemistry is a property that certain molecules have that can make two molecules behave completely differently as drugs, even though the structures of the two molecules look very similar. Stereochemistry depends on the symmetry of a molecule and is very difficult to control when one is synthesizing the molecule.

    Speakers of the day-long event included Judith Brown, vice president for Academic Affairs and provost; Michael Frisch, visiting scholar in chemistry; Professor Kendall Houk from the University of California, Los Angeles; Professor David Evans from Harvard University; Edward Grabowski from Merck Research Laboratories; Professor Eric Jacobsen from Harvard University; and Professor Geoffrey Coates from Cornell University.

    The speakers presented results related to asymmetric catalysis, the synthesis of stereoregular polymers, the computer modeling of stereoselective reactions and the use of spectroscopy.

    “These scientists are all at the very top of their fields and have been recognized by numerous awards,” says Michael Calter, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the Leermakers Symposium.

    The first symposium was held in 1972 on the chemistry of vitamin B12 and featured the late Robert B. Woodward, who reported on the just-completed total synthesis of this complex molecule. Since then topics have included natural biology, theoretical chemistry, extraterrestrial chemistry and chemical reaction dynamics.

    The symposium was funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pharmaceutical Research Institute, Merck Research Labs and Pfizer Global Research Division.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    The Speakers Judith Brown, vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, Wesleyan University

    Professor Geoffrey Coates, Cornell University spoke on “New Catalysts for Constructing Small Molecules and Polymers of Defined Stereochemistry.”

    Professor Eric Jacobsen of Harvard University spoke on “Seeking General Asymmetric Catalysts.”

    Michael Frisch, Visiting Scholar in Chemistry spoke on “Spectroscopy of Chiral Molecules.”

    Professor Edward Grabowski of Merck Research Laboratories spoke on “Novel, Asymmetric Hydrogenations.”

    Professor Kendall Houk, University of California, Los Angeles spoke on the “Theory and Modeling of Stereoselectivity”

    Professor David Evans spoke on “From Crystal Structures to Chiral Catalysts.”

    Wesleyan Jewish and Muslim Students Explore Faith, Society in Turkey


    At left, Wesleyan Jewish Chaplain Rabbi David Leipziger and Muslim Chaplain Imam Abdulla Antepli try on traditional Turkmenistan hats in an Egyptian Bazaar. At right, Jessica Strom ’07, Alana Miller ’08 and Jeremy Gillick ’07 observe the only mosque in Ankara, Turkey.
     
    Posted 05/02/05

    What is life like in a secular Muslim nation, especially for Jews?

    This was the question that motivated 17 Wesleyan students – 12 Jewish, 5 Muslim – to go to Istanbul, Turkey, in March during spring break to see for themselves.

    The eight-day trip, which was envisioned and created by Wesleyan’s Muslim Chaplain Imam Abdullah Antepli and Wesleyan’s Jewish Chaplain Rabbi David Leipziger, was discussed at a presentation on April 19 in Judd Hall.

    Leipziger says the objectives of the inter-religious trip were to study successful Jewish-Muslim coexistence in Istanbul, to interact and build bridges with the Jewish and Muslim communities and to visit major religious and historical sites.

    “Most importantly, we wanted to them to learn about each others’ backgrounds in order to build strong and vibrant inter-religious programming at Wesleyan,” he says.

    During the discussion, nine of the students took turns discussing their views on the country’s politics, government, social interactions, impressions of the country and interactions between the Wesleyan students. Dan Janvey ’06 of New York, N.Y., presented a short documentary on the trip, which included clips of a mosque, prayer, music, and personally delivering a Wesleyan T-shirt to a chief rabbi.

    Students went on guided tours through Istanbul. Destinations included old Istanbul, a Jewish museum, the Turkish parliament, and a historical home in the Galata area. The students also went to an Egyptian Bazaar, mosques, Faith University, a Turkish music concert, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, a sufi dance performance, and a Muslim prayer service.

    The students influential religious and secular leaders in the city, including Chief Rabbi Ishak Halevo and local Jewish leaders, Turkish journalist Ekrem Dumanli local Christian leaders, as well as Vatican representative George Marovitch, and Turkish peace activists and interfaith workers. They also met with U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman in the U.S. Embassy.

    But it was during dinners that the students received the most personal interaction with the Turkish people. Every night they’d share a meal at a local resident’s home, one night with a Muslim family, the next with Jewish hosts.

    Yaneez Nojib, ’08, of Saint-Pierre, Mauritius, said for a few of the Muslim families, this was their first time hosting Jews in their homes. They also allowed the Jews to pray in their living rooms during Sabbath.

    “One night, we ate at this man’s home,” Nojib says. “He was dressed like he was from the O.C. so we thought he was a businessman, but when we sat down for dinner, he didn’t have servants to bring us our food. He personally came and brought us out food, and that just shows what wonderful, hospitable, welcoming people they are. If there’s one thing I learned, it is that I need to find myself a Turkish wife.”

    The country of Turkey has welcomed Jews, expelled from Spain, and Muslims since 1492. Because Turkey is a secular state and forbids census-takers to include questions of religious affiliations, the exact number of the Jewish population is unknown. By 1477, Jewish households in Istanbul numbered 1,647 or 11 percent of the total, and the present estimation is around 26,000, with the majority living in Istanbul.

    Although Judiasm has a small presence in Turkey, among nearly 70 million Muslims, Andrew Inchiosa ’07 of Woodcliff, N.J. says the Jewish community is evolving with the Turkish culture. During a Shabbat service, one practice seemed especially anomalous to the group. 

    “At the mosques, they’d hold out their hands in prayer, but we also observed that at the synagogue,” Inchiosa says. “It involved a partial, one-handed waving motion. We met an American student studying in Istanbul after the service, and he explained that this was a distinctly Turkish tradition.”

    Inchiosa says there were also few religious divisions from a culinary standpoint.

    The students were served Turkish tea at many different religious functions, and experienced a version of Turkish delight, featuring milk chocolate, at the home of the ambassador to the Vatican.

    Other students who went on the trip were Alana Miller ‘08, Jeremy Gillick ‘07, Jessica Strom ’07, Leora Abelson ‘07, Saad Mustafa Handoo ‘06, Marie Brophy ‘08, Lillian Siegel ‘08, Nitzan Ziv ’07, Jacob Goldin ’07, Ben Smyser ‘08, David Abravanel ‘08, Emiria Wijayanti ‘07, Joel Bhuiyan ‘06 and Nabil Ansari ’06.

    Handoo, of Clarksville, Md., says the students want to reach out to area newspapers, deliver presentations in their hometowns, write articles for Turkish newsletters, hold discussions and conferences about their trip, and reach out to Wesleyan alumni regarding their interfaith experience.

    “Now that we have this knowledge, we want to share it with a broader base and other religious circles,” he says. “What we have been through has been a transforming experience.

    Another trip is being planned for March 2006.

    Anyone interested in ordering a DVD of the students’ documentary, or having the Wesleyan students make a presentation at individual synagogues, mosques, schools or other venues, contact Rabbi Leipziger at 860-685-2278 or dleipziger@wesleyan.edu.

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Wesleyan University Announces 173rd Commencement Honorary Degree Recipients


    Posted 04/19/05
    Wesleyan University recently announced that it will confer four honorary degrees during its 173rd commencement exercises on Sunday, May 22 to the following recipients:

    • Amy Gutmann (Doctor of Letters) – Amy Gutmann, Wesleyan’s commencement speaker, became president of the University of Pennsylvania this year. Formerly, she was provost and Laurence S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and the University Center for Human Values at Princeton University. She was the founding director of the Princeton University Center for Human Values, a multi-disciplinary center that supports teaching, scholarship and public discussion of ethics and human values.
    • Bill Belichick (Doctor of Humane Letters) – Bill Belichick earned his bachelor’s degree in economics at Wesleyan in 1975. Also a Wesleyan parent, Belichick and his wife, Debby, have been long-time advocates of and contributors to Wesleyan and community charities. In 2002 Coach Belichick guided the underdog New England Patriots to their first world championship, against tremendous odds. He has since repeated that feat twice, most recently this year at Super Bowl XXXIX. Belichick has earned a reputation for being one of football’s elite game strategists whose defensive game plans have consistently been credited for defusing some of the NFL’s most potent offenses.
    • Edward P. Jones (Doctor of Humane Letters) – Edward P. Jones was educated at Holy Cross College and the University of Virginia. His first book, Lost in the City, was originally published by William Morrow in 1992 and short-listed for the National Book Award. A collection of fourteen short stories, Lost in the City deals with African American working class and underclass experiences in mid-20th century, inner-city Washington, D.C. Jones was named a National Book Award finalist for a second time with the publication of his debut novel, “The Known World,” which subsequently won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
    • William Barber (Doctor of Letters) – William Barber is the Andrews Professor of Economics Emeritus at Wesleyan. Barber joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1957 after receiving his doctor in philosophy degree from Oxford University. He is recognized as an expert on the history of economic thought, on economists as policy advisers, and on development economics. His next book, Volume 4 of “Perspectives on Applied Topics and Forward Trajectories,” is expected to be published in 2005.

    Wesleyan will also bestow the Baldwin Medal, the highest alumni honor presented by the University, to John F. Woodhouse, ’53, P’79, former president and CEO of Sysco Corporation, named trustee emeritus following 15 years on Wesleyan’s Board, and most recently, chairman and leader of the successful $287M Wesleyan Capital Campaign. David B. Jenkins, ’53, P’83, former CEO and president of Shaws Supermarkets, named trustee emeritus following 12 years on Wesleyan’s Board, chair of the Campaign for Liberal Learning and National Leadership Gifts Chair for the Wesleyan Capital Campaign, will receive the Baldwin Medal at Homecoming/Family Weekend this fall.

    The Baldwin Medal pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin of Wesleyan’s Class of 1916. Baldwin was the only man to have held the offices of Connecticut governor, U.S. senator, and chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.

     
    By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

    Saturday Program is All About The Kids


    P

    Pictured above, Lydia Bell ’07 (center) and area children watch the Footnotes Dance Theater perform during the Saturday for Kids Program’s “Buddy Day.” Bell is a substitute teacher at Saturday for Kids, a recreation/respite program for children with disabilities.

    At right, Saturday for Kids Program Director and Wesleyan administrative assistant Debbie Sierpinski helps a child with a craft project. Sierpinski is recruiting volunteers and performers for the program.

    Posted 04/15/05

    Twice a month, Lydia Bell ’07 gets to mingle with an aspiring rock star.

    “He really loves to get everyone singing ‘Yankee Doodle,’ or doing the moves for the ‘YMCA,’” Bell says about her 10-year-old friend, David*.

    Bell and David meet during The Saturday for Kids program, a recreation/respite program for children with disabilities. Several Wesleyan students, staff and faculty are donating a few hours a month to socially interact with the youngsters, and they’re always looking for more Wesleyan volunteers to work with children ages 6-12.

    Saturday for Kids program Director Debbie Sierpinski, administrative assistant for the Classical Studies Department, Medieval Studies Program, and the Archaeology Program, says this is an ideal opportunity to give back to the community, while meeting other Wesleyan student and employees who they normally wouldn’t meet on campus.

    “Since Wesleyan has really pushed for community services to be an important aspect of the Wesleyan community, I feel that the Saturday for Kids program is a vital avenue for Wesleyan students, faculty and staff to accomplish this,” she says.

    Saturday for Kids is part of the Middlesex Association for Retarded Citizens: Community Resources, Ltd., most commonly known as MARC. The private, non-profit organization provides services to adults and children with cognitive disabilities and their families.

    The Saturday for Kids Program is held two to three Saturday mornings a month. Structured activities, crafts, toys and free time for play offer valuable social interaction for the children.

    Bell started volunteering in 2004 and was hired as a sub this year. She says the most rewarding part of working with the program is having the luxury of working one-on-one with a child. 

    “With time and patience I have found rewarding connections through games and lots of smiling and laughing,” Bell says. “Working with special needs children is a great way to prepare for a teaching career or to be active in the greater Middletown area. I would recommend it to other students as a great way to get off campus and get involved with the community around us.”

    Sierpinski has already written several recommendations for students who are applying for fellowships in this field or who are looking for summer employment working with children. 

    Wesleyan’s Community Relations co-sponsors the program to enable some meetings to be held at Wesleyan. When the organization holds its Community Service Fair in September, Frank Kuan, director of Community Relations, recruits Wesleyan students and staff to man the information booth.

    “Debbie and her student volunteers have been the heart and soul of the Saturday for Kids program,” Kuan says. “It’s a very worthwhile, service-orientated cause.”

    Some Wesleyan employees have got involved in the Saturday for Kids Program through their talents. Helen Mensah, an artist in residence in dance, played African drums for the children. Juliana Shortell, collections manager of the Archaeology Program and member of the Footnotes Dance Theater performed a dance for the kids. Kids on the Block, a volunteer group associated with Oddfellows Playhouse and Wesleyan students, put on a play with puppets that have disabilities. 

    Shortell says Footnotes has performed at schools and libraries around the state, but the Saturday for Kids Program is her favorite group to work with.

     “Usually there is a fair bit of snickering and shyness,” she says. “Not so with these kids.  They welcome us and jump right in, and because everyone cannot necessarily move or communicate in the same way, we all learn about different ways to relate to words, music, and movement. In the end, there is very little ‘performing’ going on, as we are all just playing together. And that is the way we like it!”

    These special performances take place once a month during “Buddy Day.” During this event, the children can invite friends and siblings and anyone from the community to join in on the fun.

    “It is a way to educate the community about what special needs means and makes the program more inclusive,” Sierpinski says.

    Sierpinski is hoping more students and faculty from the theater, music and other departments donate their skills to entertain the children.

     “We have found that the common link with all of these children, no manner what level of functioning they are at or what kind of cognitive and physical disabilities they have, is music and dance,” she says. “Some of our non-verbal children give us a huge smile and we know that we have touched their soul.”

    Sierpinski says the Classical Studies Department supports her working for the program. For a while, she was storing toys in the Classical Studies’ library. 

    “One day, one of the visiting faculty members was riding one of the kids adult trikes down the hall,” she says. “I thought I was seeing things. He said the tires were flat, he had inflated them and was checking out the bike. I am very lucky to work at Wesleyan, a place very committed to community service.” 

    The Saturday for Kids Program meets from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Woodhead Lounge, Mercy High School or at the MARC administration building, 421 Main Street in Cromwell.

    “These are a fabulous group of kids,” Shortell says, “and you will always get back as much, if not more, than what you put in.”

    For more information or to become a volunteer or performer, email Debbie Sierpinski at dsierpinski@wesleyan.edu or call Lou Alperowitz at 860-635-5151 extension 305.

    (* last name withheld by request.)

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor