Campus News & Events

New Faculty, Renovated Classrooms, Scholarships, Financial Aid all Outcomes of $281M Wesleyan Campaign


Money from the Wesleyan Campaign helped to fund a variety of initiatives, including new facilities and refurbished facilities like this computer resource center in The Exley Science Center.
Posted 02/23/05

In October 2000, Board of Trustees Chairman Alan M. Dachs ’70 made a pledge to the Wesleyan community:

“I promise you that when you contribute to the Wesleyan Campaign, your gift will produce results and ensure Wesleyan’s legacy for the next generation and generations to come,” he said.

His promise is already being fulfilled.

Five years and $281 million dollars later, Wesleyan has renovated dozens of classrooms, added 20 new faculty positions across the curriculum, offered 140 additional scholarships and rejuvenated Clark Hall, Memorial Chapel and The Patricelli ’92 Theater and Ring Family Stage with the Zelnick Pavilion connecting the buildings. The Rosenbaum squash center with nine courts and the Andersen Fitness Center have also made a presence on campus.

These projects are all made possible through the Wesleyan Campaign, which capped its $250 million goal by $31 million on December 31, 2004.

“With the success of this campaign, we have learned that our alumni, parents and friends are incredibly generous and they know their gifts can help shape the university,” said Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president for University Relations. “People had a wonderful time when they were students and that’s why they give. They want students to have the same opportunities that they had.”

The priorities of the Campaign came directly from the Strategy for Wesleyan and, of the funds raised, $47,160,000 went towards Endowment for Financial Aid; $48,700,000 to the Freeman Asian Scholars Program; $19,900,000 into the Fund for Excellence; $40,300,000 was directed toward Faculty and Academic Programs; $46,100,000 to support new facilities and the Campus Renewal Fund; $57,000,000 into the Wesleyan Annual Fund. An additional $21,800,000 pledged is currently undesignated.

Because of generous gifts to support financial aid, students are borrowing on average $8,000 less over their four years at Wesleyan.

“The students are the life blood of this institution, and lowering their post Wesleyan loans was one of our biggest priorities,” Wilson said. “The students are already seeing the effects of the campaign in their scholarship packages and through the physical environment.”

A record-setting 68 percent of alumni participated in the campaign, along with 3,472 parents, 219 corporations and foundations and more than half of the senior faculty.

This was Wesleyan’s second official campaign drive, built on the foundation of the Campaign for Liberal Learning, which raised $67 million by 1987. In 1995, a firm advised Wesleyan to set a $100 million goal for the Wesleyan Campaign. Wesleyan continued to set the bar higher. They decided to aim for a quarter of a billion dollars, a number that appealed to John Woodhouse ’53, chair of the Wesleyan Campaign.

“Some donors give $25 a year and 56 individuals or families made commitments of $1 million or more,” said Ann Goodwin, assistant vice president for university relations. “Each and every gift is incredibly important as Wesleyan continues to provide an excellent education for our students. We asked people to stretch for Wesleyan and they did!”

Although the campaign is over, University Relations is building on the momentum of the campaign to focus on the Wesleyan Annual Fund, further increasing the endowment for financial aid and emerging facility priorities, including support for the Usdan University Center and a new Life Sciences building.

The campaign has brought Wesleyan to a new level and it has given us the building blocks to maintain our level of excellence,” Wilson said. “But we can’t rest on our laurels. Excellence is dynamic. It doesn’t just stop.”

A “Thank You” in sound and photos from President Bennet on behalf of Wesleyan can be viewed at http://www.wesleyan.edu/campaign/thankyou/.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Campaign Contributions

$281 million was raised through the Wesleyan Campaign, which ended December 31, 2004. As a result, Wesleyan has been able to:

  • Hire 20 new faculty members, improving the student-faculty ratio from 1:11 to 9:1
  • Offer 140 new endowed and current scholarships to students
  • Secure the Freeman Asian Scholars Program, which enrolls 22 top-level Asian students in each class from 11 Pacific Rim countries
  • Create more than 40 multimedia classrooms
  • Build and open the Andersen Fitness Center and Rosenbaum Squash Court
  • Launch a new Center for Faculty Development
  • Design the Usdan University Center. Groundbreaking is planned for March
  • Establish six new professorships
  • Encourage more than 60 science students to participate in summer research each year
  • Convert a former Middletown school into the Green Streets Arts Center
  • Initiate new programs in areas such as environmental studies, genomics and bioinformatics, computational biology and bioethics
  • Develop a Center for Community Partnerships
  • Provide generous financial aid packages, reducing student borrowing by 25 percent
  • Create a visiting scholar-in-residence, an endowment for speakers in Jewish Studies and an endowment to benefit Jewish life activities
  • Build the Zelnick Pavilion and Center for Film Studies
  • Launch an endowment for the College of Social Sciences
  • Renovate the Center for the Americas, the Stewart M. Reid Admission Center, Clark Hall, Memorial Chapel, the Patricelli ’92 Theater and Ring Family Stage, Downey House
  • New Book Features Photos, Recollections of Wesleyan


    “Wesleyan University: In a New Light” is photographed by William Mercer, a 1964 alumnus. The book is for sale at Broad Street Books.
     
    Posted 02/23/05
    Wesleyan as it appears every day, Wesleyan as you remember it, and Wesleyan as you’ve never seen it before.

    Those are the images and words that fill “Wesleyan University: In a New Light,” a new book produced by University Relations and the Office of Communications.

    Rich with the colors, activities, and faces that populate the campus, the book features 150 high quality images taken during the 2003-2004 academic year by photographer William Mercer ’64. Mercer specializes in “on location photography” and images for specialty books. His images in this volume provide a fresh perspective to Wesleyan’s grand and familiar landmarks, as well as views on the smaller more intimate events that occur throughout the campus community during an academic year.
      President Douglas Bennet ’59 wrote the book’s introductory essay while Joseph F. Siry, professor of art, contributed a piece on Wesleyan’s distinctive architecture. Alumni, faculty from the present and past, and current students also provided short, insightful, personal impressions and recollections about the campus and its people.
    David Low, ’76, associate director of publications, was the book’s editor; Anne Bergen, director of development communications and stewardship was the project manager; Suzy Taraba ’77, the university archivist and head of special collections at Olin Library, served as archival consultant.

    Copies of “Wesleyan University: In a New Light,” are available for $39.95 through Broad Street Books at 860-685-7323 or at www.wes.bkstr.com. Faculty and staff receive a 10 percent discount; departments receive 20 percent off.

    Diversity Seminar and Training Scheduled for Faculty and Staff


    Posted 02/23/05

    Are traditional teaching methods keeping pace with the increasingly diverse population of college students nationwide? Or worse are college faculty shying away from balanced teaching or research on race and ethnicity issues altogether because of the incendiary nature of the topics? 

    These are just some of the issues that were discussed at a seminar titled “Effective Teaching in Racially Diverse Classrooms,” February 28 in the Admission Office’s McKelvey Room.

    The presenter, Franklin A. Tuitt, Ph.D., has done many seminars on the subject of race in the college classroom, as well as extensive research in the subject. This includes a recent stint as a Cabot Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning where he conducted a study on student evaluations on courses taught by black and white faculty. While at Harvard, Tuitt has also developed instructional resources for teaching effectively in racially diverse college classrooms. He also worked as director of residential life and housing at Wesleyan from 1991 to 1994.

    “This program was a wonderful and timely opportunity for faculty to discuss important and complicated issues,” says Judith Brown, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “All of us have a lot to learn about this subject from conversations with each other and with experts in the field.”

    Tuitt’s presentation for Wesleyan faculty will focus on methods for addressing situations that can emerge in racially diverse classrooms, as well as discussing issues that arise when teaching race-related content. There will be opportunity for faculty in attendance to discuss strategies, techniques and case studies related to their own classroom experiences.

    The presentation is the latest installment of the Race in the Classroom Series that is being offered this academic year by the Center for Faculty Career Development and the Office of Affirmative Action.  Other presentations have included: “Stereotype Threat,” presented by Geoffrey Cohen assistant professor of psychology from Yale University and “The History of Whiteness,” presented by Nell Irvin Painter, Edwards Professor of American History, Princeton University.

    “The presentations have been well attended, although there is always room for more,” says Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, professor of classical studies, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, and director of the Center for Faculty Career Development. 

    Wesleyan staff will also be attending mandatory specialized diversity training workshops in the coming weeks presented by representatives from the A World of Difference Institute. The training will be called “A Campus of Difference” and will focus on practical skills to challenge prejudice and discrimination and foster inter-group understanding.

    By David Pesci, Director of Media Relations

    New Residences Building Campus Community


    The Fauver Field Residence Complex, due to open in September, will house up to 269 students.
     
    Posted 02/23/05
    This September, when Wesleyan begins its new academic year, students will move into a new living facility: The Fauver Field Residence Complex. The residences will mark a new step in Wesleyan’s recent history; specifically, the university will be able to accommodate close to 100 percent of its students in university-owned housing.
    The Fauver Field Residence Complex consists of two buildings that together will house up to 269 students including 165 frosh, which will allow virtually all frosh to live in proximity on Foss Hill. Modern apartments in the complex will house 104 upperclass students and will permit the university to sell the out-of-date In-Town apartment complex.

     
    The design and location of the facilities is the product of a year-long planning process by Wesleyan students, faculty and administration and are part of the university’s long range facilities master plan.   “We have been planning and looking forward to this for a while,” says Marcia Bromberg, Wesleyan’s vice president for Finance and Administration. “It provides the opportunity to strengthen the student community in our central campus while relieving the neighborhoods of the pressures associated with accommodating student housing.”
     
    University administrators believe that this will improve student-community relations as well as create opportunities for more families in Middletown to rent or buy the homes that were formerly rented by Wesleyan students. The neighborhood close to the university has become very attractive for homeowners and the university has worked closely with area neighborhood associations to further this process.    
     
    “We see the new plan as a great way to be a better neighbor and strengthen the community on several levels,” Bromberg says. “It really is a win-win for everybody.”

    For more information, please go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/masterplan/fauver.html

     
    By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

    Study May Affect Future Land Use in Middlesex County


    Jessica Pfund, ’05 and Phillip Resor, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, observe one of Middletown’s few remaining agricultural sites.
     
    Posted 02/23/05

    It started out with little more than an idea, some old aerial photos and a handmade map. Several months and a lot of hard work by three dedicated people later the result may provide a whole new way to evaluate and influence the look and growth of towns in Middlesex County for years to come.

    Not bad considering it all started out as a question from an inquisitive undergraduate.

    The undergraduate, earth and environmental sciences major Jessica T. Pfund `05, was a student Earth and Environmental Science 322: “Introduction to GIS (Geographical Information Systems),” in the spring of 2004. The class’s instructor, Phillip Resor, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, had brought in a guest speaker, Sandy Prisloe, a geospatial extension specialist from the University of Connecticut’s Center for Land-use Education and Research (CLEAR).

    Prisloe’s presentation included a discussion of how satellite data were being used to quantitatively measure changes in Connecticut’s landscape and to infer the impacts of these changes on the quality of life and the environment.

    “Sandy mentioned that he had a map from the 1970s that showed the areas that were farmland at that time,” says Resor. “He also mentioned that, if someone was motivated to use data that was recently created by a the group at the University of Connecticut showing the land cover in 2002 and compare what was found to the data from 1970, it would be interesting to see how things had changed.”

    Pfund was intrigued, and she was looking for a possible research project.

    “Many of my classmates were doing studies that were more theoretical and scientific,” she says. “This seemed to have scientific and social implications for the local area that could have a relatively immediate impact.”

    After discussing the idea further with Resor, Pfund decided: this would be her project. 

    Aided by a $2,500 grant from the Middlesex County Community Foundation and additional support from the Mellon Foundation and The University of Connecticut, Jessica, who was responsible for the bulk of the data collection, got to work.

    “I don’t think when I started I had an idea of exactly what I was getting into,” Pfund says, now almost a year into the project. “It’s been very interesting and exciting, but it’s also been a lot of work.”

    Much of this was linked to the differences in how the information being examined was generated. The images from the 1970 study were based on a hand-made mylar map that was in turn based on aerial photographs of the county. The information this would be contracted with was generated by images derived from satellite images of the same area in 2002.

    “The images and data didn’t match up,” says Resor. “The satellite images are way precisely located, but can’t image anything smaller than 30 meters. By contrast, the 1970s map was generated by aerial photographs and on the ground surveys that could capture small details, but weren’t necessarily as well located. So we had to find ways to account for the differences.”

    There were some other challenges too. For instance, the old maps identified the land as: “active agricultural,” “inactive agricultural” or “nonagricultural.” GIS images provided more than a dozen different characterizations, including assessments of soil viability for agricultural use and disposition of wetlands.

    Translating the GIS data also had some interpretive challenges that were produced because of how things have been done in the state over the years.

    “Because of the way small plots of land are often used in Connecticut, what LandSat (the satellite) may identify as a large lawn area may actually be an active or inactive cultivated field,” Pfund says. “This meant we had to visit some locations in person to verify exactly what the use was.”

    Currently there is still a substantial amount of data to crunch and quantify, but Resor and Pfund anticipate having the study done sometime in the spring. They will publish a report with Prisloe detailing their findings. There will be public presentations and discussions of the data at town meetings in Middlesex County. The towns can then use the data to better plan new housing and business construction.

    “A lot of towns in Middlesex County are proud of their rural atmosphere,” Resor says. “This information can help them maintain that atmosphere as they move forward with new developments.”

    However, the study has already generated a result that will be producing more benefits for the county. Resor received a service-learning grant from Wesleyan to expand his efforts in these types of studies. This spring, his students are working on similar projects for The Nature Conservancy, The Connecticut River Costal Conservation Commission, The Middlesex Land Trust and the Town of Portland.

    “It’s been pretty interesting to do a scientific study that actually has social implications and affects local issues,” says Pfund. “People don’t often think of scientists working that way.  It’s been a very rewarding project.”

     
    By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

    Wesleyan to Acquire 8 New Bells for South College


    Chimemaster Peter Frenzel, professor emeritus of German studies, plays the keys of the bells, located at the top of South College. In August, the university will acquire eight additional bells. The new bells, Frenzel said, will enable him to play more complicated songs. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
    Posted 01/31/05

    Wesleyan has signed a contract with the Verdin Bell Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, for the casting and installation in the South College belfry of eight additional bells. This new addition will upgrade the Wesleyan bells from the status of a chime (10-22 bells) to that of a carillon (23 or more). Acquiring a carillon for the university has been in the planning stages since 1999.

    The installation will take place in August 2005 with a dedication during homecoming/family weekend.

    The new bells will provide the Wesleyan bell players with two full octaves and one additional note. 

    ”Now I’ll have more notes, so I can play more songs, and more complicated songs,” said six-year chimemaster Peter Frenzel, professor emeritus of German studies. “We’re moving out of the minor league of bell playing and into the major league.”

     The new configuration will enable them to play songs such as Wesleyan’s Alma Mater, “Come Raise the Song,” written in 1894.

    The bells are played in a way similar to a piano, except the chimemasters push wood handles. Some notes, such as a low C, can reverberate for 45 seconds and be heard for more than a mile away.

    The new bells will be cast by Petit & Fritsen, the Royal Dutch Bell Foundry in The Netherlands, and then shipped to Cincinnati via New Orleans and the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. They’ll later be completed and fine-tuned by the Verdin Bell Company.   

    Wesleyan’s first set of 11 bells was shipped across the north Atlantic from England, while dodging German U-Boats in 1918 during World War I. They were first played on campus on George Washington’s birthday in 1919 and donated by the seven surviving members of the Wesleyan class of 1863.

    An additional five bells were donated to Wesleyan in 1966 anonymously. The donor was later revealed as Victor L. Butterfield, who was the outgoing president of Wesleyan at the time.

    The new bells were all donated by Wesleyan friends, alumni and parents.

    Each bell in South College has an inscription of a donor or a set of donors to Wesleyan University.

    The bells are played nearly every weekday by dedicated members of the Wesleyan bell guild, Bell & Scroll. The chimemasters this semester have been Esther Cheung, ’06; Kathleen Day, ’07; Joel Ting, ’06; and Allison Torpey, ’07. They will be joined next semester by Jack Hagihara, ’05, and Meredith Steinberg, ’06.

     
    By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

    More Than 250 People Attend Green Street Arts Center’s Grand Opening


    Posted 01/31/05
    A ribbon cutting on Jan. 5 marked the formal opening of the Green Street Arts Center (GSAC) L. to R. are: Middletown Mayor Domenique Thornton, GSAC Director Ricardo Morris, North End Action Team President Peggy Busari, GSAC Assistant Director Manny Rivera, Wesleyan University President Doug Bennet. The center is housed at the former St. Sebastian School at 51 Green Street in Middletown’s North End. More than 250 people attended the grand opening. (Photo by Lex Leifheit)
     
    Children draw in one of the two visual art centers at GSAS. The facility also has a dance studio and a performance studio with 100 seat capacity. Pre-opening pilot classes have already drawn 3,000 participants. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
    President Bennet speaks with guests as Ricardo Morris looks on. Funds for the school’s renovation were raised through a partnership involving Wesleyan, along with grants from the city, state and national level. Wesleyan also partnered with The North End Action Team, the  Macdonough School, Church of the Holy Trinity, Community Health Center and other organizations.  (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
    The Kamau Trio performs urban jazz at the opening. Pictured left to right are George Blackman, Jr., saxophone; Lance “Kamau” James, djembe; and Kalim Zarif, keyboard. All three teach music classes at GSAC. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
     
    Teens dance inside the GSAC dance studio after the grand opening ceremony. More than 50 students have already enrolled in the GSAC after-school programs. Wesleyan students also volunteer as academic tutors for the children. (Photo by Olivia Drake)
     
    Mayor Thornton and Jennifer Aniskovich, executive director of the Connecticut Commission on Arts, Tourism, Culture, History and Film, greet guests during the grand opening. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)
     
    For more information or to receive a spring catalog call 860-685-7871 or visit http://www.greenstreetartscenter.org/.

    Olin Memorial Library Earns “Building of the Year” Award


    Erhard Konerding, documents librarian, works inside the Olin Memorial Library, which was built in 1928.
     
    Posted 01/31/05

    When Wesleyan’s Olin Memorial Library opened in 1928, the classically symmetrical structure fronted with six marble columns stood out as a bold yet elegant structure. Nearly 80 years later, the building is still turning heads.

    On January 13, The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Greater Hartford awarded the library with The Office Building of the Year (TOBY) award in the historic building category. The TOBY award recognizes excellence in building management, operational efficiency, tenant retention, emergency planning and community impact. The Olin Library won in the “proper maintenance of the historical building,” category.

    “It was built in 1928 and still has that old world charm,” said Pete Caniano, chairman of the TOBY award committee. “I could find myself getting lost in a great book in Olin all the time.”

    Caniano, district manager for American Building Maintenance Janitorial Services of Danbury, Conn., provides janitorial services to Wesleyan and nominated the library for the award.

    “I nominated Olin because I felt it had great architectural character and it has gone through some excellent architectural renovations throughout its history that add to its appeal,” he said. “Olin library is a wonderful landmark on campus.”

    Caniano and members of the judging panel inspected the facility, grading it on physical attractiveness, cleanliness, mechanical functionality, aesthetics and standard building operation equipment and procedures. Each category had to receive a passing grade for the building to be considered for the award. Caniano said Wesleyan’s Physical Plant had a lot to do with the outcome of the judges’ findings.

    “If the building had been simply attractive and architecturally marvelous but not maintained well and had antiquated maintenance systems, it would not have won,” he said.

    Caniano noted many positive points while touring the library. The stacks, he said, are well organized; the building is kept in pristine condition; and the ambiance of the reading room “is exceptional.” He also favored the private alcoves used for student research and described the library’s staff as “very helpful.”

    “The building is kept in pristine condition and is very practical for student use,” he said.

    Olin Memorial Library was first opened as a memorial to Stephen Olin, Wesleyan’s president from 1842 to 1851, and his son Stephen Henry Olin, class of 1866, a Wesleyan trustee for 45 years and the university’s acting president in 1922 and 1923.

    The original plans for the building were begun by Henry Bacon, who designed the Lincoln Memorial, and after his death were completed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. It currently provides Wesleyan’s 2,730 students and 1,060 staff and faculty members with 1.5 million publications and a variety of electronic and archival services.

    A major renovation and expansion of the building, completed in 1986, was designed by Perry, Dean, Rogers & Partners. It nearly doubled the space available in Olin for study areas and collections.

    The 163-foot wide façade surmounted by a pediment and capped by a balustrade. Marble, exterior and interior, amounted for 20 percent of the final construction cost of $727,000.

    Now that the library has won at a local level, it has an opportunity to advance to the regional level in each of the eight North American regions of BOMA International. Regional winners advance to the international level.

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Tsunami Hits too Close to Home


    Ganesan “Ravi” Ravishanker, director of Technology Support Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry, explains where his home countries were struck by the December 26 tsunami.

     
    Posted 01/31/05

    Millions of Americans watched as the Dec. 26 tsunami obliterated south Asia’s coastal belts. But for Ganesan “Ravi” Ravishanker, the event was far more personal.

    Ravishanker, director of Technology Support Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry, is a Sri Lanka native and attended college in southern India where the tidal waves battered both shorelines for a half-mile inland.

    “Those are both places where I have spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years and have vivid memories of,” Ravishanker said. “Most of my extended family members live in these two countries.”

    The tsunami, triggered by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Indonesia, killed more than 170,000 people as it crashed the shores of 10 countries around the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka and Indonesia received the hardest hits.

    Ravishanker, who lost his parents as a young child, grew up with his aunt, uncle, sister and 11 cousins in the country’s capital, Colombo. Three of these cousins are raising families in Sri Lanka and the rest moved to southern India.

    “I was just getting back from vacation and I was still in a relaxing vacation mode, when they started flashing news about the tsunami damage on TV,” he said. “I immediately thought about my family. Many of them were living in area close to the coast.”

    Relatives in Tamil Nadu, India, immediately e-mailed Ravishanker in America and let him know they were OK. His relatives in Sri Lanka, however, were still unaccounted for. Although his relatives lived inland in Kandy, he feared they may be traveling on a train that was derailed by the tsunami.

    “All I could do is sit, watch and wait,” he said.

    Sri Lanka, a pear-shaped island four times larger than the state of Connecticut, is located 18 miles southeast of India. With no communications available to his homeland, he waited as the death toll climbed to 30,000. The missing count hovered at 5,600. More than 200,000 families were displaced by the earthquake-spawned waves.

     “The Sri Lanka that I remember, that I grew up in, was one of the most enjoyable places. It was surrounded by the ocean, there were beaches, a perfect climate and the people were very friendly. It was a great place,” he said. “It was like paradise.”

    Via Indian television channels, Ravishanker watched debris of fishermen’s wood shacks envelop the once pristine, palm-lined beaches. Disfigured bodies “in all forms and shapes” piled up near landmarks all recognizable to the Sri Lanka native.

     “It was heart-wrenching to watch,” he said. “I was thinking of my family, but also these poor children affected by this disaster. What’s so sad is that the first wave came in and pushed all these fish up on shore, and all the fishermen told their kids to come out and see and play with the fish. Little did they know that a bigger wave was coming to eat them all up.”

    On Dec. 30, Ravishanker finally heard from his Sri Lankan relatives. Everyone was alive. With his family all accounted for, Ravishanker immediately pursued ways to help the victims of the disaster.

    Rescue efforts are somewhat hampered by an ongoing civil war in the country between the Sinhalese and Tamil Tigers. Pockets of the northern and eastern areas are heavily mined. A physical presence of rescue workers in these areas carries a certain amount of danger.

    The Sri Lankan government has urged donor nations to donate $15.6 billion to rebuild tsunami-affected parts of the country, but Ravishanker was advised to hold off and carefully explore more long lasting avenues to help those affected. He’s considering funding an orphaned child’s education for life. His brother-in-law, Shankar, is working with these orphaned children directly back in Chennai, India.

    “I take great pride in my brother-in-law for doing this, and I think the outpouring of local support is a great thing to see. People are setting aside their religious differences and caste barriers are vanishing,” he said. “I can’t imagine people doing this 20 years ago. People are already setting up shops and makeshift schools. Recovery have been remarkable.”

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    Students, Administration and Faculty Continue Dialogue


    Posted 01/31/05

    A forum on January 25 engaged more than 300 students, faculty and staff in a discussion of the administrative response to issues raised at a student-organized forum in December. The forum followed by a week the distribution of a report detailing student participation in University governance, itself a response to complaints from some students that they felt excluded from decisions that affect their lives on campus.

    At the forum, held in the Chapel, senior administrators were joined onstage by leaders of the faculty and the Wesleyan Student Assembly. Professor of Philosophy Brian Fay moderated the session, during which students raised questions or made comments based on the report.

    It appeared that most students had read the report, said Interim Dean of the College Peter Patton. “Some students expressed dissatisfaction about the status of specific issues they care about,” he said. “On the other hand, it seems  that most now realize that Wesleyan students do have significant opportunities to influence University decision-making.”

    The issues that received the most attention during the forum were student interest in having a multicultural dean, accommodations in housing for incoming students who identify as transgender, and the future of the student radio station, WESU 88.1FM. Later in the week, President Doug Bennet emailed students to describe steps the University is taking to follow up on these issues. He reiterated his intention to engage the leaders of the WSA and the faculty in a follow-up discussion of governance and communication issues treated in the report.

    Bennet informed students that he, Patton and Interim Director of Affirmative Action Michael Benn would meet with leaders of student of color groups to discuss the specific issues underlying students’ expressed desire for “safe spaces,” a dean of multicultural affairs, and diversity training for faculty.

    Bennet reminded students that Patton would continue to work with the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee (URLC) and the Student Life Committee to identify acceptable solutions for gender-neutral housing. While returning students may select their own roommates regardless of gender, Residential Life currently accommodates transgendered first-year students in making room assignments. In making first-year assignments, the University does not support roommate pairing of students of different biological sexes. First-year students requesting accommodation are assigned to a single room or to a double room with another student requesting accommodation. Last year, the language describing “gender-neutral housing” was not clear to many first-year students, and the URLC is working to clarify the description for 2005-2006.

    Communications Director Justin Harmon will continue to work with student leaders of WESU to help them develop plans that will enable the station to become financially viable and maintain its independence. Wesleyan has committed to hiring a full-time general manager who will help bring continuity to the station and build its fund-raising and operations.

    “These will not be the only opportunities available for continuing the dialogue, but I think they are a good start,” Bennet wrote. “I welcome other suggestions about how to advance these issues.”

    Students of Color Applications Up

    Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Nancy Hargrave Meislahn told those present at the January 25 forum that applications to Wesleyan have risen approximately 5 percent from last year and that applications from students of color have increased at even higher rates.

    As of January 21, Wesleyan had logged 6,848 applications, as compared with 6,509 on the same date the year before, Meislahn said. Applications from African-Americans had risen 18 percent, to 504 from 428; from Asian-Americans 13 percent, to 659 from 584; and from Latinos 7 percent, to 424 from 395. The number of applications from each of these groups represented at least an 8-year high for Wesleyan, Meislahn said. Final application numbers will be available later this month.

    Wesleyan has gone to extra lengths to recruit students of color, Meislahn said, since experiencing a dip in applications from African-American students. Admission Office staff held a community forum and a follow-up meeting with interested students early in the fall to solicit their advice and to engage them in helping to recruit students, Meislahn said. In addition, a letter from the dean of admission and the vice president of University Relations was sent to alumni of color seeking their help in identifying and recruiting talented prospective students.

    Meislahn invited everyone at the forum to be part of the solution. 

    “As the admission cycle moves forward there will be many opportunities for students and faculty to assist the admission office in reaching out to admitted students,” she said. “Phonathons and plans for hosting students in April are underway.”

    Anyone interested in being involved should contact the Admission Office, Meislahn said.

     

    New Findings Center on Human Pheromones


    Robert Lane, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, co-authored a study that indicates scientists may have overestimated the use of the vomeronasal organ in pheromone perception by animals.
    Posted 01/31/05

    A new study co-authored by Robert Lane, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, suggests that human pheromone detection may occur right under our own noses – literally.

    In an article due out in the February issue of “Genome Research,” Lane provided new evidence that scientists may have overestimated the use of the vomeronasal organ, or VNO, in pheromone perception in animals. The VNO has been described as the predominant pheromone-detecting organ, based mostly on rodent studies that point to its role in evoking innate reproductive and social behaviors.

    Lane, along with Wesleyan graduate student Marijo Kambere and his colleagues from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, discovered that one of the main putative pheromone receptor families expressed inside the VNO has been decimated in domesticated dogs. This finding suggests that the VNO may play a diminished role in dogs and perhaps other non-rodent mammals. 

     “As keen as the dog sense of smell is and as elaborate a pheromonal system dogs seem to have, it could be that the main nose, not the VNO, underlies elaborate pheromonal communication in dogs,” Lane said.

    If this is true, then the observation that humans probably do not possess a functional VNO may not mean an inability to detect pheromones. “Our apparent lack of a functional VNO might not be a handicap if pheromone responses can be mediated by our main olfactory system,” Lane said.

     

    By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

    Managing the Cosmos: Astronomy Department’s Systems and Facilities Manager Helps Students Observe and Research the Night Sky

    Eric Williams, systems and facilities manager of the Astronomy Department and Van Vleck Observatory, stands outside the observatory’s 24-inch Perkin research reflector, where he often hosts weekly open houses and star gazings.
    “What’s beautiful about astronomy is that there are always unanswered questions, and when you answer one, that will open up five more questions,” said Eric Williams, the systems and facility manager for the Astronomy Department and Van Vleck Observatory. “I’m always curious.”

    An interest in astronomy, physics and computers led Williams to Wesleyan in 1996. “I’ve always wanted a job like this,” Williams said, “I get to experiment with all kinds of things.”

    Before coming to Wesleyan, Williams spent five years hunting for planets outside our solar system as a sky observer with the planet research team at San Francisco State University. The team has contributed to the discovery of more than 100 extrasolar planets.

    Williams says he isn’t a telescope equipment expert but he can answer just about any questions regarding how the Wesleyan scopes operate. However, most his time is currently devoted to, as he refers to it, “babysitting computers.”

    At Wesleyan, Williams, spends about a quarter of his time on research and leading weekly star gazings for the public and an amateur astronomy group. He uses the observatory’s 24-inch Perkin research reflector, the 20-inch Alvan Clark great refractor and the 16-inch Meade Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector, all housed in their own domes on campus.

    Formerly a sky observer for the SFSU planet search team, Williams says he isn’t a telescope equipment expert, but he can answer just about any questions regarding how the Wesleyan scopes operate.

    As the systems manager, Williams oversees the department’s server – appropriately named ‘Astro,’ – as well as an array of 10 printers and 40 computers with MacIntosh and UNIX workstations. He assists students with software questions and checks for security alerts daily.

    “I’m a troubleshooter and an anticipator,” he said. “If a problem comes up, I’ll find a solution. I don’t want people to get behind because of computer problems.”

    Williams works from his basement office, which also functions as a storeroom. There, heaps of books, papers, computer monitors, keyboards, network cards and tangled wires dwell in any available space, including the floor.

    Williams, who has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physics from San Francisco State University, acquired most of his programming knowledge on the job. He self-taught himself programming languages Java, Perl and PHP, and research software including Interactive Data Language, or IDL.

    Nevertheless, Williams knew he’d never master the programming languages without further education. “I had an intellectual curiosity. I wanted to fill in the gaps in my knowledge,” Williams said.

    Three years ago, he visited the math department and enrolled in a master’s degree program for computer science. He graduated in spring 2004 and learned what it takes to be a student at Wesleyan. “The kids here at Wesleyan are very smart. I had to keep up with undergrads in some of my classes,” said the 40-year-old.

    Results from his master’s thesis, titled “Directional versus Omnidirectional Antennas for Energy Consumption and k-connectivity of Sensor Networks,” was recently accepted for publication.

    At Wesleyan, Williams supports all research by William Herbst, professor of astronomy, who gained renown recognition for his discovery of KH15D, a far-off, winking star which appears to be displaying behavior thought to create our own solar system.

    “Eric is highly respected and valued by all the staff and students of the Astronomy Department,” Herbst said. “He helps us with all sorts of computer problems, manages the complex astronomy computer network, runs our public outreach programs, and participates in some research programs and in the intellectual life of the department.”

    He also volunteers his time and skills to community projects such as Project ASTRO, which uses an activities-based approach to excite third through 12th grade students about astronomy and help them learn the process of science.

    Most recently, Williams joined a team working with Earth & Environmental Sciences Assistant Professor Martha Gilmore on developing a Planetary Science Group for the campus and local community.

    Although he’s been doing research for the last few years in computer science, Williams is looking forward to the slight change of topic.

    “I am excited to return to doing some of my own astronomy research now,” he said.

    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor