Campus News & Events

Daniel Stern Dies at Age of 79


Posted 02/01/07
Daniel Stern, former fellow in the Wesleyan Center for the Humanities, the Boynton Visiting Professor in Creative Writing in the College of Letters and a visiting professor in Letters and English, died on Jan. 24 at the age of 79. He was living in Houston, Texas.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Stern had taught in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, where he was a Cullen Distinguished Professor of English since 1992.

Wesleyan Professor of Letters Paul Schwaber has shared the following tribute to Professor Stern, which he wrote in 1991 when Stern was given the Cullen Professorship at the University of Houston:

“You already know of his extraordinary literary talent and productivity, that he broods on the moral catastrophes of the century and how they have been and may be rendered in art. He is a novelist, essayist, and dramatist of consistent and genuine accomplishment, and his commitment to the art and hard work of writing is inspirational. He is also a wonderful teacher–for he brings to bear in especially vital ways his loyalty to craft, his insider’s view of the literary world, his fascination with persons, his love of music, and his broad, lively experience in business. He talks easily with student and evokes from them a pitch of pleasure in words and a moral seriousness they may not have sensed in themselves. Very successful with lecture courses, seminars, and writing workshops, Dan is witty, kind, full of information, a superb anecdotalist, a splendid responsible, warm, and delightful colleague. He is also a fine listener. As you may imagine, I wish I could offer him a job here. Your students will be lucky indeed to be taught by him, to be inspired and encouraged by his presence.”

Stern grew up on New York City’s Lower East Side and began playing cello as a child. At 17 he skipped his high school graduation to go on the road behind jazzman Charlie Parker. He spent a year playing with the Indianapolis Symphony, during which time he began writing stories. Although he studied at various institutions, including Columbia University and the Juilliard School, he never earned a college degree.

In 1953 he published The Girl With the Glass Heart, the first of his nine novels. His most important novels include Who Shall Live, Who Shall Die? (1963), an early contribution to literature of the Holocaust, and After the War (1965), which focuses on postwar experimentation by young people trying to make up for lost time.

Stern held high-profile day jobs to support his writing habit. In 1963, he married Gloria Branfman and went to work in advertising, eventually becoming senior vice president of the McCann-Erickson agency. In 1969 he joined Warner Bros. as the studio’s vice president for advertising and publicity worldwide.

When Stern taught at Wesleyan he inaugurated the annual Philip Hallie lecture at the College of Letters. He worked at CBS before joining the University of Houston, where he succeeded Donald Barthelme in the prestigious Cullen professorship.

The late 1980s marked a watershed in Stern’s writing. He published Twice Told Tales, stories organized in a fresh, imaginative way. Stern took famous works like Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener or Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and wove their themes into a new context. A second volume of twice-told tales, Twice Upon a Time, came out in 1992.

Stern numbered among his friends literary heavyweights such as Elie Wiesel, Joseph Heller, Frank Kermode, and Bernard Malamud. In a 2006 festschrift devoted to Stern and his work, Wiesel wrote, “To spend an evening with him without laughing is quite simply impossible.”

Stern is survived by his wife, Gloria Stern; son and daughter-in-law Eric and Beverly Branfman; and grandchildren Melissa and Joshua Branfman.

Burial was in Sag Harbor, N.Y.
 

Obit information adapted from the Houston Chronicle.

PBS Broadcaster to be Commencement Speaker


Posted 02/01/07
Jim Lehrer P’85, anchor of Public Broadcasting Service’s “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer,” will be the featured speaker at Wesleyan’s 175th Commencement ceremony, which will be held on May 27, 2007.

Lehrer began his career at PBS in 1972 and partnered with Robert MacNeil in 1973 to cover the Watergate hearings. In 1975, the two men began anchoring “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” In 1983 the show became the nations first 60-minute television evening news program and was re-titled “The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour.”

Lehrer has been honored with numerous journalism awards, including a Presidential National Humanities medal in 1999. During the last five presidential elections, he moderated 10 of the nationally-televised candidate debates.

An accomplished writer, Lehrer has written 15 novels; his latest, The Franklin Affair, was published in 2005 by Random House. He has also written two memoirs and three plays. His daughter Lucy Lehrer is a member of Wesleyan’s Class of 1985.

This year’s Reunion-Commencement Weekend, which will run from May 24-27, will also mark the finale of Wesleyan’s 175th Anniversary Celebration. Wesleyan’s charter was granted on May 26, 1831.
 

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations. Photo courtesy of The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

Poet Delivers Keynote Address at Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

 

Civil rights activist Sonia Sanchez speaks during Wesleyan’s Celebration of the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. event Jan. 30 in Memorial Chapel.
Posted 02/01/07
Poet, author and civil rights activist Sonia Sanchez delivered the keynote address during Wesleyan’s Celebration of the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. event Jan. 30. She met King in 1957 and shared excerpts of King’s speeches with an over-flowing audience in Memorial Chapel.

Often in poetic rhythm, Sanchez spoke about her own life and the troubles she and her family faced as being poor, black Americans. She emphasized her years in New York City, and explained her struggle for identity. She talked about her involvement in the Civil Rights movement. She shared her opinions on war and offered advice to the students.

“My brothers, my sisters. This is your century. Demand that this world moves forward in peace,” she said. “This is your country. This is your time. … Learn what it means to walk upright as a human being in the 21st century. What does it mean to be human? You got to ask yourself that question.”

In addition to Sanchez’s talk, Ruby-Beth Buitekant ’09 and Melanye Price, assistant professor of government, offered a reflection; The Roadside Girls (pictured at right) and Ebony Singers provided song, and Kevin Butler, associate dean of Student Services, welcomed the audience.

Following an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Wesleyan Baccalaureate Address June 7, 1964, President Doug Bennet delivered remarks on King Jr.’s history with Wesleyan.

To chronicle King’s visits, Bennet and staff consulted with several people who were part of the King era at Wesleyan and wanted to share their memories. Bennet thanked John Maguire, formerly a professor of religion at Wesleyan and president emeritus of the Claremont Graduate Schools; Willard McRae, an administrator at Middlesex Memorial Hospital, frequent adviser, and guide to Wesleyan students volunteering in Middletown; and Rick Tuttle, ‘62 who was a civil rights volunteer in Mississippi and Georgia in the summer of 1963.

The Wesleyan connection with King began when John Maguire joined the Religion Department at Wesleyan in 1960. As an 18-year-old student in Virginia, Maguire had by chance met and become a close friend of the then-21-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. who was studying at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. During the late 1950’s, King had begun coming to New England to speak and raise money for the civil rights movement. When he arrived at Bradley airport, Maguire, who was by then studying at Yale, would pick him up and drive him to his speaking engagements.

These weren’t King’s first visits to Connecticut. When he was 16, after his first year at Morehouse College, he spent a summer working in the tobacco fields near Hartford. He came north for the good pay and the chance to observe race relations in New England. King later reflected that he was elated to find that he could sit anywhere in a restaurant and order food.

In May, 1961, Maguire and his department chair, David Swift, joined the Freedom Riders. They were jailed briefly in Montgomery, and later met with King. Maguire invited King to preach at Wesleyan, and arranged it so that King’s first visit to campus. On Jan. 14, 1962, King preached to an overflowing chapel. He stayed overnight at the university guesthouse on High Street in order to be available most of the next day to the College of Social Studies students and faculty.

In February of 1963, King preached at Yale’s Battell Chapel in the morning, got a ride from Maguire to his house at 44 Home Avenue, took a brief a nap, then preached again that evening in the Wesleyan chapel.

Early in 1964 President Victor Butterfield asked Professor Maguire to see if King would be willing to be Wesleyan’s end-of-school Baccalaureate preacher and to receive the university’s honorary doctorate degree. King agreed, but said that he had to make it tentative since he was not always sure of his schedule.

Then, on the Monday before he was to arrive for the weekend ceremonies, King went to jail challenging segregation in St. Augustine, Fla. Maguire and King’s chief aide, Andrew Young persuaded King to post bail on Saturday afternoon and fly to Bradley, arriving early Sunday morning.

Following his baccalaureate address, Maguire presented King with his degree and they stood while the crowd gave King a long, standing ovation. As they made their way from the platform back to North College, there was continuous applause. On Monday, King flew back to St. Augustine and reentered jail for another few days.

In 1966, King paid his last visit to Wesleyan, again to preach at McConaughy Hall. The audience overflowed.

The Wesleyan Board of Trustees was meeting on the weekend following King’s death in 1968. President Ted Etherington asked the meeting to adjourn early the morning after the assassination and move to the Chapel where he asked John Maguire to provide an informal eulogy for King.

“The Wesleyan community has continued its commitment to civil rights and justice,” Bennet said. “Poet Sonia Sanchez keynote embodies that tradition.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration received funding from the Office of the Dean of the College, the President’s Office, and the Office of Affirmative Action, with planning and support from a committee of staff, students and faculty.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor and Elan Barnehama, university writer

Civil Rights Activist to Speak on Martin Luther King, Jr.


Posted 01/22/07
Wesleyan will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a keynote by the poet, author and civil rights activist Sonia Sanchez, pictured at left, from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 30 in the Memorial Chapel.

Professor Sanchez’s works are often passionate poems or works of prose that touch on social issues of modern and past times. Many of her poems are blunt, passionate and painfully truthful. She addresses the history of African-Americans from slave times to modern oppression. From Malcolm X she also learned how to present her poetry and always sustain the attention of the audience.

Sanchez refers to the influence of Martin Luther King, Jr. She met King in 1957 during a stop on his book tour. In an interview with a Seattle newspaper, Sanchez reflected on Dr. King’s work and recalled her reaction to his death. A more in-depth biography can be found at: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/276.

“We are excited to have such a prominent poet and civil rights activist at Wesleyan for this important celebration,” says Rick Culliton, dean of Campus Programs and member of the MLK Jr. Celebration Planning Committee. “Professor Sanchez’s poetry speaks to the legacy of Dr. King in so many ways and we are honored to welcome her to campus to help us remember Dr. King and his many accomplishments.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration received funding from the Office of the Dean of the College, the President’s Office, and the Office of Affirmative Action, with planning and support from a committee of staff, students and faculty.

The MLK Jr. Celebration Planning Committee consists of Ruby-Beth Buitekant ’09; Kevin Butler, dean of Student Services; Rick Culliton, dean of Campus Programs; Nicole Chabot, Student Activities program coordinator; Diana Dozier, associate director of Affirmative Action; Persephone Hall, assistant director of Human Resources; Julius Hampton, ’09; Frank Kuan, director of Community Relations; Cathy Crimmins-Lechowicz, director of Community Service and Volunteerism; Tim Shiner, director of Student Activities and Leadership Development; Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of African American studies and anthropology.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Men’s Ice Hockey Takes Europe by Storm


At top, The men’s ice hockey team played the HC Valvenosta in Laces, Italy over Christmas break while touring Europe and playing several games. At right, members of the team take in the sights in Innsbruck, Austria.

Below, Wesleyan plays the Caldaro Under-26 squad in Caldaro, Italy. (Photos contributed by Chris Potter)

Posted 01/22/07
During the winter holiday break, the men’s ice hockey team toured Germany, Austria and Italy, competing against four local club teams, and winning all the games while beating opponents by a combined score of 30-1.

“I’m afraid the competition there wasn’t quite up to level we expected,” said fourth-year head coach Chris Potter. “But it still gave us a chance to skate, practice a few new things and improve our game overall.”

The planning for the trip began almost two years ago. Wesleyan teams are permitted foreign travel once every four years. Following the 2004-05 season, Coach Potter and his upperclassmen began discussing options. “We talked about the Czech Republic and Scandinavia, but in the end this trip won out,” Coach Potter explained.

Using numerous fund-raising techniques to help cover the $1,900 cost per individual, the team accumulated enough money to bring a contingent of 36 people, including all 32 players, the three coaches and the head athletic trainer. They were joined by 30 family members, bringing the total for the trip to 66.

The three-country trip began in began in Munich, Germany, a city that left an impression on at least one player.

“I thought our three days in Munich were the best,” said forward J.J. Evans ’09. “It seemed so European and I thought the bratwurst was spectacular. Even though I got a kiss from an Italian girl on New Year’s Eve when we were in Bolzano, I’m still going with Munich.”

For team captain Will Bennett ’07 Innsbruck, Austria was a favorite. He also said the location of the team’s final contest against the Caldaro (Italy) Under-26 squad, an 8-0 Wesleyan win, was amazing.

“This rink was dropped right into the countryside,” Bennett said. “It made you wonder how they managed to build it where they did.”

Soon after returning, the Cardinals managed to get their skates back on for their regular-scheduled home games on January 5 and 6. Wesleyan won both to extend its current unbeaten streak to five games and hold a 5-3-2 overall record. It is the first time the team has held a winning record after 10 games since 1988-89.

“I’m seeing the team starting to gel,” said Coach Potter. “I think the trip was valuable and I made some interesting rooming assignments to help the players get more comfortable with each other. I’m hoping the whole thing will pay off as the season progresses.”
 

By Brian Katten, sports information director

Associate Professor Judges Biomedical Conference for Minorities


Ishita Mukerji, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, uses a UV resonance Raman spectrometer in her research at Wesleyan. Mukerji recently attended a conference in California, judging presentations on biomedical sciences.
Posted 01/22/07
Encouraging underrepresented minority students to pursue advanced training in the biomedical and behavioral sciences was the purpose of a recent conference in Anaheim, Calif. And the chair of Wesleyan’s Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department was there to help guide these students down that path.

Ishita Mukerji, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, was among 220 scientists around the country who attended the 2006 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), held Nov. 8-11.

The scientists volunteered their time and energy in judging the 1,048 poster presentations and 72 oral presentations.

“The number of minority students in biomedical research is very small,” Mukerji explains. “I and my colleagues are committed to improving diversity in the sciences and this is a great opportunity to meet and interact with minority students. We would like to have more under-represented students at all levels in the sciences at Wesleyan and this is one way to interact with minority students and potentially recruit them to come to Wesleyan University.”

Now in its seventh year, ABRCMS is the largest professional conference for biomedical and behavioral students. Over 2,500 people attended the 2006 conference including 1,633 students, 421 faculty and program directors and 418 exhibitors. ABRCMS is supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and managed by the American Society for Microbiology.

By volunteering as a judge, Mukerji served in one of the most important roles at the conference, explains Ronica Rodela, spokesperson for the ABRCMS.

“The judge’s role in providing constructive feedback to student presenters positively enhances the professional development and advancement of students in their scientific research,” Rodela says.

These presentations were given by undergraduate, graduate, post-baccalaureate students as well as postdoctoral scientists in nine sub-disciplines in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. The top 120 undergraduates received monetary awards of $250 for their outstanding research.

Mukerji says some of the research she judged was comparable to the research being done by Wesleyan undergraduates. On the other hand, there is a wide range of science presented at the conference, and some of the students are coming from two-year institutions that don’t have a lot of resources for doing science.

“The judging process is an interactive one in which I usually talk to the students about their research project, their scientific interests and what their future plans are,” Mukerji explains. “Many of them are very enthusiastic about their projects and that makes the judging a lot of fun. On the whole I find it to be a very rewarding experience.”

Mukerji is currently the chairperson of the Minority Affairs Committee for the Biophysical Society. For their annual meeting in March, she has arranged a panel discussion on “Recruitment, Retention and Mentoring of Under-represented Students.” Featured panelists will be representatives from MentorNet and Venture Scholars. Both of these organizations are committed to increasing diversity at all levels in the sciences.

For more information on the conference, visit www.abrcms.org. The 2007 ABRCMS is scheduled for Nov. 7-10 in Austin, Texas.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

New Dean of Sciences has Full Slate


David Bodznick, the new dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, researches neuron signals in skate brains when he’s not busy with administrative duties.
Posted 01/22/07
When David Bodznick took on the role as dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics in July 2006, he became, in essence, a part-time mediator. In his new position, the professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, works as the liaison between the Wesleyan’s science and mathematics faculty and the administration.

“For example, I have the chance to present the needs and aspirations of the Division III faculty to the rest of the administration,” Bodznick explains from his office in Shanklin, “and the responsibility of presenting the wider perspective and long range planning goals of the Administration back to the faculty.”

Bodznick was nominated to the four-year position by former Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dean Joseph Bruno, who is the current vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, and professor of chemistry. Bruno’s nomination came after hearing input from colleagues. They cited Bodznick’s expertise and experience working as the director of Graduate Studies and chairing the Biology Department.

The position encompasses the departments of Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Physics and Psychology, and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program.

“What really attracted me to the dean position was that it involves a lot of problem solving,” he says. “I enjoy trying to find the best solution that works most effectively toward the goal that needs to be met.”

Bodznick has already set short and long term goals for himself.

For one, he wants to continue where Bruno left off, raising awareness and the visibility of the sciences at Wesleyan to the larger Wesleyan community and to the outside world. He looks for ways to support the continued successes of the science and math faculty in both teaching and research, and he encourages them to share their research with their students and the media.

He mentions the outstanding research on stem-cells and neuron replacement that are part of the recent Connecticut Stem Cell Initiative as a great example of the important work going on throughout the sciences at Wesleyan.

Bodznick’s own research is on neuron signaling in the brains of vertebrates including marine fishes. In fact, every summer, Bodznick and his students move their lab equipment to the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. There, the group is among 300 neurobiologists from all over the world working on research.

As dean, Bodznick will also work with the Science Advisory Council, which comprises several Wesleyan alumni and Board of Trustee members, to find ways to increase outside funding for undergraduate and graduate science programs. He hopes to increase the applicant pool for science majors and offer additional courses for non-science majors.

“Too many Wesleyan students graduate without taking science courses, despite the fact that now, more than ever before, science literacy is a critical part of a liberal arts education,” Bodznick says. “We need to continue offering a large number of attractive, palatable classes for non-science majors so they’ll want to include science courses in their curriculum.”

The dean’s heaviest workload falls on the new science center’s planning. This facility will house three departments and will likely replace Hall-Atwater, which has exceeded its useful lifespan. Bodznick, Wesleyan’s own facilities experts and a building committee of faculty, students and trustees, are meeting with architects. They are discussing the new building’s feasibility options from the size and location to program planning, and a renovation of Shanklin. Groundbreaking is expected by the end of 2009.

The at-home handyman says the new science center is one project he’s very excited about.

“To work on this from the beginning to end and see the ground breaking will be a major accomplishment,” he says. “There’s a lot to be decided and a lot of problem solving to do.”

With his plate full of administrative duties, Bodznick has to devote less time to teaching, however it hasn’t affected his research or interaction with Wesleyan students. He offers to present lectures in other classes, attends biology and neuroscience graduate student meetings and meets regularly with his four lab students. Next year, he expects new undergraduates to join his research group, and he looks forward to teaching them the methods of the lab.

“Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the best thing about working at Wesleyan is the students,” Bodznick says. “I’d never want to lose contact with the students, so I do what I can to interact with them, even when I’m not teaching as much.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Family Health Fair Set for Employees, Families


The Anderson Fitness Center will be open for tours during the 2007 Family Health Fair Feb. 3.
Posted 01/22/07
Yoga, skin analysis, blood pressure screenings and massages are all part of the 2007 Family Health Fair for Wesleyan’s faculty, staff and their families.

The free event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 3 in the Freeman Athletic Center. It is sponsored by the Employee Benefits Office.

“All of us could use a little inspiration now and then when it comes to staying healthy and fit,” explains Pat Melley, director of Employee Benefits. “The Wesleyan Health Fair provides the opportunity for all of us to start or continue building healthy lives. It will be fun and informative for people of all ages to learn about fitness and well-being.”

Events of note include balance and rowing demonstrations; glucose, body-mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings; a “How to Get Reliable Medical Information on the Web” presentation; and information on children’s health, skin analysis, nutrition, fire safety and more.

In addition, the Anderson Fitness Center will be open and tours will be offered. Demonstrations will be presented on how to use the athletic facility’s equipment. Attendees may go to open swimming, ice skating or squash.

The first 100 employees will receive a free T-shirt. Participants can also enter their name in a raffle. Prizes include a $60 gift certificate at Yoga at Middletown; bike helmets and tune ups from Pedal Power; a $40 gift certificate for Broad Street Books; a $25 gift certificate for It’s Only Natural Market; a golf basket from The Hartford Insurance Company; and a $50 cash certificate from WesCard.

Lisa Currie, director of the Health Education Program, says the health fair will highlight the various ways that the university and community organizations can support employees in being healthier individuals and families. This ultimately contributes to a healthier university, she says.

“There is great truth in the old adage, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’” Currie says. “Research has shown that employees who participate in prevention-oriented wellness programs in the workplace are more productive and enjoy their jobs more. Given how much of our lives we spend at work, it makes sense to make the most of it, especially given the great facilities and programs Wesleyan offers. “

Face painting will be offered for children. Parking is available in Q Lot behind the Freeman Athletic Center. Participants are encouraged to enter through the back lobby.

Some sessions will have limited space and will be filled on a first-come, first served basis. Some vendors will have items for sale.

For more information, e-mail benefits@wesleyan.edu or call 860-685-4889.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

New Directors Head Human Resources Department


Pat Melley, left, and Julia Hicks have been promoted to directors of Human Resources.
Posted 01/22/07
Julia Hicks and Pat Melley have been appointed to the position of director of human resources for Wesleyan University.

A national search for the head of Wesleyan’s Human Resources organization has been underway for the past few months, during which Hicks and Melley came forward to propose their partnership to lead the human resources department.

“I believe each has the credentials and leadership qualities we need and that together they have the experience to advance all aspects of our service to the campus community,” says John Meerts, vice president for Finance and Administration.

Hicks joined Wesleyan in May 2004 as associate director of human resources and was promoted to senior associate director in 2006. She has over 25 years experience in all areas of human resources and has held progressively responsible human resources positions with major organizations in Connecticut and New York. Hicks will be responsible for compensation, performance management, employee and labor relations, recruitment and staffing.

Melley was hired as director of employee benefits in July 2006. She will continue to be responsible for all employee benefits and now will oversee the payroll department. Melley has over 20 years of experience in employee benefits, payroll and human resources. In addition to a background in brokerage and reinsurance, she has been responsible for designing, implementing and leading the human resources departments of two companies.

Both Hicks and Melley have the skills and qualifications required to successfully lead human resources as we move forward with new initiatives, Meerts says. Although each will have specific points of focus as outlined above, employees may feel free to contact either of them for assistance. Ultimately, both are responsible for the performance of the Human Resources Department.

“Please join me in congratulating both Pat and Julia on their new appointments and wishing them continued success,” Meerts says. “I also want to thank the search committee for their hard work and Dan Michaud for having lead the Human Resources Department while the search was underway.”
 

By Justin Harmon, director of Public Affairs. Photo by Olivia Drake.

An Evening With Bill Cosby Raises $2.5M for Scholarships


Bill Cosby mingles with Midge and Doug Bennet during a gala benefit in New York Jan. 17.(Photo by Bill Burkhart)
Posted 01/22/07
Bill Cosby donated his talents to a gala benefit performance at the Pierre Hotel in New York City Jan. 17, raising $2.5 million for Wesleyan scholarships from the more than 400 individuals in attendance. Cosby, father of Erica ’87, is widely known for his personal commitment to education and his generous support of educational causes.

Cosby spoke warmly of the efforts by Wesleyan alumni to support financial aid and said, “Mrs. Cosby and I believe that the price of education in the United States of America shouldn’t be unattainable.”

He delivered a comedic monologue that had the value of education as a central theme. Following the performance, Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson announced that a four-year Wesleyan scholarship had been named in Cosby’s honor.

Cosby received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wesleyan in 1987.

Web Site Teaches Haitian Celebration Through Text, Sound, Video


A new learning objects tool, designed by Associate Professor Elizabeth McAlister, features multimedia tools to help teach the story of Rara.
Posted 01/17/07
In Haiti, the people celebrate their African ancestry and religion with a Rara festival, a culturally rich musical and dance event.

Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor of Religion and chair of the Religion Department, associate professor of African American studies, and associate professor of American studies, has studied this tradition for 15 years. Through a newly-created teaching tool, she hopes people can gain new insights on the Rara festival.

Designed by Wesleyan’s Learning Objects Studio staff, the Web site, http://rara.wesleyan.edu/ is available for academic and public use. The site is already being used at classes at New York University and Swarthmore.

“My hope is that people interested in Rara, students, musicians, artists, travelers and other researchers, will be able to use this Web site as an interactive study guide,” McAlister says.

McAlister’s interest in Rara dates back to 1991 when she began researching Haiti’s vibrant culture, often celebrated through Rara. In 2002, she published a book titled, “Rara! Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora.” The Web site serves as a companion piece to her book on Rara.

“After my book on Rara came out, internet technology made it possible to display the photographs and videotape that I made in Haiti, together with my friends and collaborators,” she explains.

Through the online tool, McAlister posted a 15-minute film about Rara, music and dance clips. She included images, video and audio clips of Rara as a carnival; Rara as a religious obligation in Vodou; Rara and the Christians and Jews; Rara gender and sexuality; Rara and politics; and Rara in New York City.

In each section, McAlister includes media, notes from the field, and an analysis, often adapted from her book.

When explaining Rara as a form of carnival, McAlister explains, in the analysis, that “the ‘tone,’ or ‘ambiance,’ of Rara parading is loud and carnivalesque … As in Carnival, Rara is about moving through the streets, and about men establishing masculine reputation through public performance. Rara bands stop to perform for noteworthy people, to collect money. In return, the kings and queens dance and sing, and the baton majors juggle batons-and even machetes!”

The site includes clips on several Rara bands including La Belle Fraicheur de l’Anglade in Fermathe, Mande Gran Moun in Darbonne, Rara La Fleur Ginen in Bel Air, Rara Inorab Kapab in Cite Soleil and Rara Ya Seizi.

Donning traditional Rara costumes, which are known for their delicate sequin work and vivacious colors, dancers are shown in action, in low or high bandwidth videos of dances and music. In one clip, a queen and two kings dance the “mazoun.” Traditional instruments such as bamboo and the paper-fabricated konet are shown in several accompanying images like the one at right.

The music featured on the Web site was produced by Holly Nicolas, postal clerk, and mixed and mastered by Peter Hadley, conductor of Wes Winds.

McAlister, who lived in Haiti to study Rara, says she walked with the bands, took them seriously and listened to what they had to say.

“My book, and now this Web site, tell that story,” she says.

For more information on the Learning Objects Studio go to: http://learningobjects.wesleyan.edu.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Graduate Students, Alumni, Faculty Present Papers at Ethnomusicology Conference


At left, ethnomusicology students Marzanna Poplawska, Nick Hockin, Amy Ingram and Hae Joo Kim gather during the Society for Ethnomusicology’s 51st Annual Conference Nov. 16-19 in Honolulu.

Posted 12/20/06
Nine Wesleyan graduate students studying ethnomusicology ended a recent conference on a high note.

Each student presented papers at The Society for Ethnomusicology’s 51st Annual Conference Nov. 16-19 in Honolulu. This year’s topic was “Decolonizing Ethnomusicology.”

“The annual convention is the focal point of the year; these meetings offer a great chance to network with fellow grad students, eminent senior scholars, and former alums,” says Mark Slobin, professor of music. “In addition, this is a record-breaking number of graduate students that presented.”

Thembela Vokwana presented “Can We Sing Together? Performing Nationhood through Choral Festivals in South Africa.” Andrew Dewar presented “Sonic Explorations: On the Analysis of Intercultural Experimentalism;” Marzanna Poplawska presented “Diaspora or not yet–Indonesian Christians in the USA;” and Junko Oba presented “280,000 Invisible Men: Music, Identity, and the Story of Nikkei/Zainchi Brazilian Community in Japan, Summer 2005.”

Hae Joo Kim presented “Riding the Wave of Nostalgia and Melodrama through Dae Jang Geum;” Po-wei Weng presented “The Survival of Oral Tradition in a Modernizing Genre: ‘Oral Notation’ in Taiwan’s Peking Opera Percussion Music;” Ian Eagleson presented “Rural Popular Music and Ethnic Identity: Benga Dance Bands of the Luo Community in Western Kenya;” Chris Miller presented “Indonessian Musik Kontemporer and the Issue of ‘Western Influence;’” Vincenzo Cambria presented “Decolonizing the Archive: Documentation and the Production of Knowledge in a Participatory Ethnomusicological Research in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.” Amy Ingram presented “Parang: Finding a Place for Spanish Creole Identity in the Trinidadian National Calendar; and Nicholas Hockin presented “Drums, Headscarves, and Mothers’ Dances at Weddings in Bamako, Mali: Local Change on the Margins of Globalization;”

This was Hockin’s second time presenting a paper at the SEM conference. This year, the Ph.D. candidate in ethnomusicology, presented segments of his dissertation, which is scheduled to be completed next year.

“Presenting our ideas in paper sessions allows us a chance to get vital feedback from our peers, not to mention developing public speaking skills. Networking is an integral aspect of the conference, enabling members to share personal and professional insightsthat broaden our understanding of the field and of each other,” Hockin says. “And we develop a sense of what the latest trends are by checking out presentations, reading paper topic titles and abstracts, and by browsing and/or buying books.

In addition to the students, Slobin and Su Zheng, associate professor of music and East Asian studies, chaired panels at the conference. Eric Charry, associate professor of music and Rob Lancefield, manager of Museum Information Services and registrar of collections at Davison Art Center presented papers. Sumarsam, chair of the Music Department and adjunct professor of music, attended the conference, along with several students and recent alumni.

The nine graduate students are among 22 current students studying music. They are an unusually varied group, Slobin explains, including students from Brazil, China, South Africa, Ghana, Mexico, Taiwan and Canada. They are part of the 46-year old program’s interest in drawing the widest spectrum of students from among the substantial pool of applicants; selectivity runs at about 20 percent.

The Music Department faculty wants their students to be well rehearsed, so prior to the conference, they drill the students in the skills of preparing a paper abstract, developing a quality 20-mimute presentation, and delivering it in a lively and well-organized way.

“Usually our students’ papers stand out for the attentive response they draw from listeners, as opposed to the many droning, rapid-fire, or inaudible papers we sit through at the dozens of panels,” explains Slobin, pictured at left, center.

Wesleyan ethnomusicology Ph.D candidate Amy Ingram has attended a few SEM conferences in the past, but this was her first time presenting at the conference, and her first time presenting her dissertational material to her peers.

“I think that the conference is certainly a necessary rite of passage for all grad students,” Ingram explains. “It helps us all to gain the perspective of how our learning experience at Wesleyan compares to other graduate programs. Receiving feedback from peers and committee members certainly reinvigorated my motivation to keep writing, and meeting others during the social moments between panels was really beneficial.”

Following the conference, the Wesleyan affiliates held a party to draw the past and present students together.

In 2008, the SEM convention will be held at Wesleyan in the new Susan Lemberg Usdan University Center.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photos  contributed.