Campus News & Events

Assistant Professor Receives NSF Grant


 
Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Manju Hingorani researches pathways that lead to carcinogenesis.
 
Posted 03/31/05

Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Manju Hingorani recently earned an award totaling more than $571,700 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research on pathways leading to carcinogenesis, including the development of colon, rectal, stomach, and ovarian cancers.

The five-year grant will specifically fund the research of Hingorani’s laboratory focuses on the workings of proteins responsible for DNA mismatch repair with the long-term goal of understanding how defects in repair are linked to many forms of cancers.

“I am tremendously grateful to the National Science Foundation for its strong commitment to basic science research and education, especially in this time of constrained budgets,” says Hingorani.

Hingorani earned the award thanks to the NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program. This program recognizes the critical roles faculty members play in integrating research and education, and in fostering the natural connections between the processes of learning and discovery.

To date, eight Wesleyan University faculty members have received this award including Hingorani, Assistant Professor of Astronomy Kathryn Johnston, Professor of Physics Reinhold Blumel and Associate Professors of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Scott Holmes and Michael McAlear.

Hingorani plans to use the funds to support graduate and undergraduate research projects in her laboratory, and to develop innovative courses on science writing and on science documentary filmmaking in collaboration with faculty from Wesleyan’s Department of Film Studies.

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of media relations

Banking on Emerging Financial Institutions


Economics Professor John Bonin is the editor of “Journal of Comparative Economics.”
 
Posted 03/15/05
As John Bonin recalls a recent overseas trip, one scene in particular stands out.

“The tree-lined streets with boutiques sprinkled among retail giants like the Gap could have easily been in a European city,” says Bonin, the Chester D. Hubbard Professor of Economics and Social Science and editor of theJournal of Comparative Economics.”

Perhaps the most remarkable part of this recollection is that the streets he describes weren’t in Europe or even the west. They were in Shanghai, China. The image is important because it illustrates how quickly China is growing economically.

And yet, when Bonin traveled to the nearby city of Wuxi, he encountered another image along the way that impressed him just as much.

“There were huts sitting in mud with peasants attempting to eke out an existence from farming or fishing in small ponds,” he says. “It was as if these people were from another time entirely.”

Much like the two extremes of China, Bonin studies extremes within the world of banking. His research focuses on financial sector reform and bank privatization  — the successful transition of financial institutions away from the controlling hands of the government towards private control.

His travels and research have landed him in many far away countries, including China, Hungary, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Poland and Russia.  Bonin’s love for far away countries developed during grade school after he wrote a paper about China’s Yangtze River. Ever since, it’s been this country that has captured Bonin’s attention the most. 

“I’ve always had this romantic notion of China,” he says. “I guess you could say I came full circle.”

Bonin’s most recent visit to Shanghai last May stemmed from an invitation to speak at a conference on the governance reform of state-owned enterprises in China.

“When I lectured at Peking University in Beijing in 2001 to a room full of about 50 Chinese students, it was incredibly rewarding,” he says. “They were the most inquisitive, captivated audience I’ve ever had.”

Bonin is also asked several times a year to travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with World Bank leaders who are eager to collaborate with economists and research groups. Some of his research has even been circulated as policy briefs in Washington for government officials and members of Congress.

In addition, he compiled a case study of a privatized Polish bank for a U.S. Treasury Department funded project about banking in Central Europe and Russia.

It can take years for emerging-market countries to develop efficient financial institutions, he explains.”My job is to supply them with background information based on the experiences of other countries,” he says.  

For example, while in Beijing, Bonin met with an official from the banking supervision department of the People’s Bank of China. This person eventually became very interested in Hungary’s experiences with bank privatization.  

One of Bonin’s newest project includes collaboration with assistant professor of economics Masami Imai. They are researching how stock prices of companies in Korea, including Daewoo and Hyundai, are affected by news of changes in their main bank’s ownership.

The study will shed light on the impact that foreign owners of domestic banks have on domestic lending, especially lending to long-standing large corporate clients.

Bonin enjoys the research, but enjoys his work with students even more. He recalls one former student, David Lipton, ’75 who went on to become the Undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury Department in the 1990’s.

“I was sitting across from Lipton one night over dinner and he looked at me and said ‘You’re the reason I’m an economist,'” Bonin says. “To hear that was one of the most rewarding experiences of my teaching career.”

Bonin will also travel to Paris in April to teach a master’s class on financial economics in transition countries at the Sorbonne.  

“First hand experience compliments standard research sources,” Bonin says. “Experiencing other places and cultures allows me to bring the real world into the classroom and enliven the learning process.”

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations

Student Recovering from Illness


Posted 03/15/05
On March 4, Tom Cornish ’05 was transported to a local hospital with symptoms consistent with meningitis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Tom was infected with strain B of Neisseria meningitidis, a strain not protected against by any existing vaccine, though one is in development.

Based on this information, Tom had meningococcal meningitis, which is a type of bacterial meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis. Tom’s condition has improved significantly since being admitted to the hospital and he is making steady progress toward recovery.

Wesleyan’s Office of Health Education has compiled a page with information about this disease:

www.wesleyan.edu/weswell/atoz_topics/atoz_meningitis.html.

There are different strains of Neisseria meningitidis. Tom was infected with a strain not protected against by the vaccine mandated for Wesleyan undergraduates. The bacteria can be spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (such as through coughing or kissing). Fortunately, these bacteria are not as contagious as agents that cause the common cold or the flu, and they are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been. A vaccine for strain B Neisseria meningitidis is in development.

Persons in the same household or who have had direct contact with a patient’s oral secretions would be considered at increased risk of acquiring the infection. Even though the risk of getting meningococcal disease is generally very low; as a precaution, close contacts are often advised to take an antibiotic, usually rifampin or ciprofloxacin. Even when that step is deemed necessary, it does not imply an increase in risk for the broader community.

The University Health Center has contacted and provided or arranged treatment for those identified as having close contact with Tom. Medical staff maintained a telephone hotline around the clock to answer questions from members of the community and to direct them to further medical consultation or treatment, as appropriate.

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

WESU Premiers New Format


Luke Snelling ’05, a DJ with WESU 88.1FM, speaks on air during his talk show March 3. The student-run station now broadcasts shows via the Internet.
 
Posted 03/15/05

On March 14, Wesleyan’s student radio station, WESU 88.1 FM, introduced a new broadcast schedule that combines original programs by students and community members with program feeds from WSHU in Fairfield, Conn.

For the first time, WESU will begin to broadcast via the Internet, a move that should add listeners both on campus and among alumni and parents. In addition, WESU will begin to raise funds from its alumni, local underwriters, and its listeners.

Live streaming of the stations broadcasts can be heard here: http://www.wesufm.org/.

The format changes are intended to provide additional programming options, to enable the station to meet FCC broadcasting requirements when local programming is not available, and to add crucial financial support that can allow it to upgrade its operations and equipment, according to University Communications Director Justin Harmon, who serves as administrative liaison to the station.

Programs produced by students and community members will continue as the mainstay of the WESU lineup. An eclectic mix of ethnic and alternative music will remain the primary feature of the station’s original programming. In addition, WESU is initiating a program to produce public affairs shows about local issues as part of a plan to further serve the listening community and the educational mission of the University. Monday’s community-based show “Talk For Your Rights” (4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.) will serve as a model for such programming. Other talk shows, such as “The Audio MTO” on Sunday nights at 10:30 p.m., feature comedic and other live talent.

Student leaders at WESU and the Wesleyan administration have developed a weekday schedule that features National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” from 5 a.m. until 10 a.m., “The Diane Rehm Show” from 10 a.m. until noon, and “Talk of the Nation” from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. On weekends, the lineup will include NPR’s “Weekend Edition” and “Car Talk.”

Students have re-organized WESU’s board and operations to put programming and operating decisions firmly in the hands of students while at the same recognizing Wesleyan’s ownership of the license and broadcast equipment. Wesleyan will hire a general manager for the station who will be accountable to the board and will report through the University Communications Office. Ben Michael, a long-time station volunteer, will serve as consulting manager for the station pending a search for a full-time general manager. Wesleyan students and members of the community will continue to serve as on-air talent, producers and technicians.

“We have maintained WESU’s distinctive blend of music and community programming and added high-quality programs from NPR,” says WESU President and Station Manager Jesse Sommer ’05. “We intend to build our listener base on campus and in the greater Middletown community, and we hope that our alumni will tune in to our new online service. We are counting on the active support of all these audiences as we move forward with our campaign to revitalize the station.”

The station’s financial support will come from a variety of sources. The University will continue to subsidize the station by providing offices and utilities. The station will continue to depend on allocations of student activity fees through the Wesleyan Student Assembly. A new non-profit affinity group, the Friends of WESU, will provide fund-raising support and structural guidance.

WESU will receive a portion of the receipts generated by WSHU’s fund-raising staff from listeners to the NPR programs WESU carries. Wesleyan will cover the station’s remaining budget until these fund-raising sources can sustain the new cost associated with hiring the general manager. It is hoped that, in the third year, fund-raising will attain levels needed to begin investments in much needed production equipment and facilities.

The contract with WSHU runs for 18 months. It places no limits on the content or format of WESU’s original programming.

“WESU’s purpose is to provide Wesleyan students the opportunity to learn radio as a medium for culture and public service,” says Harmon. “Our goal is to keep the station strong and independent. We think this partnership of students and community members, alumni and broadcast professionals best serves this goal.”

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Wesleyan Breaks Record in United Way Campaign


 
 
Posted 03/15/05

Wesleyan University made a record-breaking contribution to this year’s Middlesex United Way annual community campaign.

Frank Kuan, director of community relations and volunteer community campaign chair, reported that Wesleyan raised $140,018 for the local United Way chapter, exceeding the campaign goal of $135,000. This is the most Wesleyan has ever raised for Middlesex United Way in the 60-plus years the university has been involved in the campaign.

Middlesex United Way supports critical human care services and county-wide projects that improve community conditions.

“This goes to show that Wesleyan employees care about the community that they work in, and many of us live in,” Kuan says. “Raising a record amount is a pretty amazing feat, and it’s a result of everyone’s diligence and effort.”

Wesleyan was among the top three contributors in the Middlesex United Way Campaign. Kevin Wilhelm, Middlesex United Way executive director said Wesleyan consistently ranks in the top 4 percent of all universities nationally with respect to average gift and percent. This year, Wesleyan represents 6.5 percent of Middlesex United Way’s total of $2,150,000. 

Although it was a successful year in terms of dollars raised, the level of participation dropped, a development that has Kuan concerned. Last year Wesleyan had 62 percent of its employees participate; this year that number fell to 59 percent.

”Every dollar really counts and it all adds up for what we want to do locally,” Kuan says.

Despite the drop, seven departments did have 100 percent participation: the Center for Humanities, Classical Studies; Dean of the College Office; Financial Aid; Philosophy; Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS) and the Registrar’s Office.

The Leadership Circle, comprising 44 individuals and six vendors who pledged at least $1,000 a year, accounted for $71,050.86 or 50.7 percent of the total amount raised.

John Biddiscombe, director of athletics, chair of the department of physical education, Middlesex United Way Executive Committee 2002-04, and past president of the Middlesex United Way Board of Directors said the United Way campaign has emerged over the past ten years to the point where the employee contributions ranks first in Middlesex County. 

“Wesleyan has always provided strong support for the United Way,” Biddiscombe says. “However, now, not only does Wesleyan provide volunteers, but we also provide significant dollars to local people in need.”

In Middlesex County, United Way provides ongoing funding for 35 programs and services including the Amazing Grace Food Pantry, Girl Scouts Connecticut Trail Council Inc., Boy Scouts Connecticut River Council, Inc., Literacy Volunteers of Greater Middletown, Middlesex Hospital Family Advocacy Program, Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater and YMCA of Northern Middlesex County.

In addition to United Way’s core services, the organization is creating three new initiatives:

  • A substance abuse prevention initiative aimed at area teens.  
  • A program designed to reduce and treat behavioral problems among children from birth to 5-years-old.
  • An affordable housing project, due to launch this spring, will build upon local grassroots housing efforts to increase the affordable housing stock.
  • In 2003, United Way touched 26,809 people, or 62 percent of Middletown’s population. Overall, it reached 53,750 people or 34 percent of all people in Middlesex County.

    Middlesex United Way recognized Wesleyan’s contributions with three awards at its recent annual meeting: a Silver Award for Participation, a Special Award for Excellence in Leadership Giving, and an Employee Honor Roll award for Five Consecutive Years of Campaign Growth.

    Joyce Jacobsen, professor of economics, and Mike Zebarth, director of PIMMS, will serve as co-chairs for the 2005-06 campaign. 

    For more information go to www.middlesexunitedway.org.

     
    By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

    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

    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