|Ruth Striegel-Moore, professor and chair of psychology, is leading a binge-eating study.|
| The largest, most comprehensive binge-eating study ever undertaken has been initiated in Portland, Oregon, and the primary investigator is Ruth Striegel-Moore, professor and chair of psychology.
Striegel-Moore, an internationally-recognized expert on eating disorders, says the study will last four years and include male and female subjects between 18 and 50 years of age. People participating in the study who present with eating disorders will be offered treatment options. The study is being funded by National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Disease, and Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research of Portland, Oregon.
Kaiser-Permanentes involvement is the reason that the study will be conducted in Portland, Striegel-Moore says. Thats where they are headquartered and they will provide access to the study population and offer the clinical sites.
Kaiser-Permanentes inclusion is also part of the reason that this study will offer opportunities for ground-breaking inquiry. The HMO maintains an extensive database of all its members health care visits, conditions and treatments, as well as significant demographic information on each patient. It has extensive procedures in place that ensure patients information is protected and that individuals participation in the study is completely voluntarily. As a result, Striegel-Moore and her co-investigators will be able to look beyond the immediate data generally associated the eating disorder studies.
For example, in these studies we usually know the subjects age, sex and maybe a little bit more, she says. But this database will allow us to look at such things as health history, income level, education, past treatments sought and a wealth of other information that will allow us to get much more specific in our analysis. Its a treasure trove of comprehensive data that is, quite frankly, a researchers dream.
The studys initial phase, a screening of nearly 7,000 men and women, is just finishing up. The screening phase targeted respondents randomly, rather than inviting participation only of individuals who self-identified as having a problem with their eating behavior. This component is unique and permits a more accurate estimate of the extent of binge eating in the community than when research relies on individuals to judge whether they have an eating problem. However, not everyone suffering from binge-eating is aware of the problem.
“Not seeking help can lead to needless suffering and create additional health problems that include obesity, heart conditions, infertility and hypertension,” Striegel-Moore says.
She adds that, when studies selectively recruit individuals with eating problems and fail to actively recruit individuals who do not experience eating problems, the number of individuals who suffer from an eating disorder that are identified will be inflated.
Striegel-Moore says that this is the first major study to include male subjects and such a broad age range. As a result, the study will provide new data on how common binge- eating is in men and individuals who are beyond college-age.
We know that men and people who are not in their teens and twenties suffer from binge eating too, she says. But for some reason theyve been excluded from major studies.
From the initial pool of respondents, 250 people will be identified for the second stage of the study and invited to participate in treatment. Each participants progress will be followed for a year. Researchers will analyze the effectiveness of the treatment options on several levels.
“One of the innovative components of this study is that we will examine in detail what treatments people receive as part of usual clinical care, Striegel-Moore says. “Prior studies have investigated how successful an experimental treatment was. What is unknown is how eating disorders are being treated in clinical practices outside of clinical research studies. Our study will also examine the cost of our treatment compared to the cost of the typical treatment patients receive in the context of usual clinical care. This will help inform decisions about optimal use of scarce health care resources.
|By David Pesci, director of Media Relations|
Campus News & Events
by Olivia Drake •
| Wesleyan will reduce its budgetary reliance on endowment over the next five years as part of a strategic effort to increase the size of the endowment. At the same time, it will spend more on fund-raising activities with the expectation of substantially increasing revenues, and it will invest a higher proportion of new gifts in the endowment.
According to “Engaged with the World,” the strategic plan adopted by the trustees last spring: “One of our highest priorities will be to support a growing proportion of essential and predictable costs (faculty salaries, financial aid) through the endowment. Over the long term, this will increase our budgetary flexibility and reduce our dependence on tuition. We must take every opportunity to increase the endowment through new gifts, careful stewardship, and successful investments.”
While trustee policy has allowed a 5.5 percent annual draw from the endowment to support the operating budget, two special, additional draws were instituted in the past few years. The first of these, a roughly 0.4 percent draw this year, has been used to build and sustain the Wesleyan’s fund-raising organization. The second, approximately 1.5 percent, represents gifts invested alongside the endowment through the so-called Campus Renewal Fund and drawn down each year to pay debt service on the bonds sold to build and renovate campus facilities. Together, these draws total 7.4 percent, a level that conflicts with Wesleyan’s goal to build the endowment and its plan to borrow in future years to finance additional facilities.
Accordingly, at their November meeting, the Board of Trustees reviewed scenarios for reducing the total draw to 5.5 percent and endorsed an administrative proposal to phase it down over five years to produce approximately $5.6 million in cumulative savings. This five-year plan is intended to allow for targeted reductions in the operating budget, as well as a restructuring of the Campus Renewal Fund to meet debt service obligations without a period of co-investment.
“While we will be faced with difficult decisions about the budget we are acting from a position of overall financial strength, said President Doug Bennet. “We can be deliberate and strategic about our choices, thanks to the efforts of the volunteers and staff who have built our fund-raising, improved our investment performance, and identified operating efficiencies. I am confident that we have the financial discipline and the support to strengthen Wesleyan for the long term.”
Bennet and Interim Vice President for Finance John Meerts have met with faculty, staff and student groups to explain the change in financial practice. Meerts has invited members of the community who have suggestions concerning operating efficiencies to contact him. The Office of Finance and Administration will establish a Web site to solicit such suggestions and report on their implementation.
At the same meeting at which it was decided to reduce the University’s total endowment draw, the trustees also endorsed a plan to invest roughly $3 million in new resources in fund-raising activities. These funds, to be raised through donations, would augment fund-raising, alumni events, communications, and administrative support in order to accelerate the growth of Wesleyan’s annual gift revenues. Specific plans for this investment are being developed in consultation with the CORE Group, a firm that uses aggregate fund-raising data from more than 50 top private colleges and universities to provide normative recommendations on the allocation of resources to maximize the return on investment. According to CORE Group projections, Wesleyan’s anticipated investment could yield $26 million per year in additional gift resources in 10 years.
Wesleyan has set a goal of increasing the rate of its investment of gift revenues into the endowment. During the current fiscal year, the University will invest gifts equal to 1.5 percent of the total value of the endowment. That percentage will grow incrementally beginning in FY 2007/08, reaching 3 percent in FY 2013/14.
|By Justin Harmon, director of University Communications|
by Olivia Drake •
|The McNeil family will celebrate Thanksgiving in their new home built by more than 250 students, faculty and staff and community volunteers.|
| Wesleyan University and Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity formally welcomed Jennifer McNeil and her family into their new home on 34 Fairview Avenue on Nov. 13. Wesleyan donated the four bedroom, white colonial to Habitat for Humanity last year and faculty, staff, students and other members of the Wesleyan community assisted with the home’s renovations.
McNeil is looking forward to cooking Thanksgiving dinner next week with extended family members and her five children, Darryl, Tyquan, Titeana, Taquana and Jamarea.
Renovations are currently underway on a second house that Wesleyan also donated to Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity at 15 Hubert Street.
For more information go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsletter/campus/1005habitathouse.html
|By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations|
by Olivia Drake •
|Francisco Rodríguez, assistant professor of economics and Latin American studies, worked as the chief economist of the Venezuelan National Assembly prior to coming to Wesleyan.|
| In the recent Summit of the Americas in Argentina, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez openly defied President George Bush by reportedly declaring that the meeting would mark the end of Bushs push for free-trade era in Latin America. However, the meeting marked another step in the contentious relationship that Chávez has staked out with the American president.
According to Assistant Professor of economics and Latin American Studies, Francisco Rodríguez, this increasingly vocal and confrontational posturing by Chávez is typical. Rodríguez knows this first hand. Hes met Chávez. In fact, Rodriguez has even been a guest at the Venezuelan Presidential Palace.
That was in 2002, when Rodríguez was working as the chief economist of the Venezuelan National Assembly (2000-2004) where it was his job to compile economic outlook prediction reports for the country.
One of Rodríguez’s reports caught the attention of the moderates within Chávez’s administration. It warned of a looming Venezuelan financial crisis and deep recession.
“At that moment, it seemed that the meeting was a positive step towards Chávez becoming a more progressive, democratic leader,” says Rodríguez.
“Shortly after the meeting, however, Chávez realigned himself with the more radical advisors within his administration and our report was widely ignored.”
It wasnt long after Rodríguezs meeting with Chávez when Venezuelan citizens tried unsuccessfully to oust the dictator from power. The repercussions are being felt to this day. Numerous citizens, journalists and politicians have been thrown in jail for simply speaking out against Chávez.
Since joining Wesleyan, Rodríguez has continued much of the same research he conducted while working for the Venezuelan National Assembly.
At Wesleyan, he examines economic growth, the political economy and international trade relations of Latin American countries, like Venezuela. One of his most recent papers studies how economic policies like openness, redistribution and liberalization, which are successful within one country, cannot necessarily succeed in another.
“There are many relevant interactions between policies, institutions and economic structure that make it problematic to use one countrys growth experience to make inferences about other countries,” says Rodríguez.
Similarly, his recent research outlines how open trade could be harmful to Latin American countries. In fact, Rodríguez predicts the free and open trade agreement, proposed by the Bush administration at the recent Summit of the Americas, is bound to fail.
Latin American countries run the risk of not being able to compete with U.S. high-tech goods or East Asian low-skill intensive manufactured imports, says Rodríguez. Therefore, theyre forced to specialize in less dynamic sectors such as natural resource and agricultural exports.”
Rodríguez is both academically and personally interested in Venezuelas economic issues. He was born in Venezuela, yet admits he is critical of elements of the leftist Chávez administration.
“His human rights violations are simply atrocious,” Rodríguez says.
Even the new television station, Telesur, whose signal is broadcast over Latin America on a satellite, which Venezuela recently purchased from China, proves what a powerful hold the Chávez administration has on the people.
“It’s Latin America’s version of Al Jazeera,” says Rodríguez.
However, despite the negativity surrounding Chávez and his government, Rodríguez admits the administration has recently developed some positive social programs to assist the needy.
One called “Barrio Adentro” places doctors to live and work in the poorest areas of the country and other, Mercal,” sells food to the needy at subsidized costs.
While Rodríguez admits that these social programs have raised living standards among the poor, he is skeptical of the governments intention as well as of the sustainability of their policies.
He claims that Venezuelas economy continues to be threatened by high budget deficits and an overvalued exchange rate.
“Before Chávez, oil cost $9 a barrel and after he came into power it rose to as high as $60 a barrel, explains Rodríguez. While some of the revenues are being spent on social programs, a considerable proportion is spent on lavish government projects.”
These include such projects as a luxurious $54 million A319CJ Airbus plane for Chávezs personal use. Rodríguez says that Chávez and the Kuwaiti royal family are the only developing country government to have purchased the airplane for official use.
Another is a case of missing money — $3.2 billion. In 2002, the Venezuelan National Assembly assigned the money to the Macroeconomic Stabilization Fund a fund the nation uses to protect itself against sudden changes in oil revenues.
However, Rodríguez says the funds were never deposited and the government cannot account for their whereabouts. Rodríguez says the funds are thought to have been used to finance political destabilization in other Latin American countries.
These revenues could instead be saved, invested and used to pay off Venezuela’s current debt,” he says.
|By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media relations|
by Olivia Drake •
|Dan Michaud has been appointed as the interim associate vice president for Human Resources to manage a new department including Payroll, Benefits and Human Resources.|
| A recent reorganization of services has combined the Human Resources Department with the Payroll and Benefits Offices. The reorganization became effective on Wednesday, Nov. 9 and was announced by John C. Meerts, interim vice president for finance and treasurer and vice president for Information Technology Services. The intent is to create a single, one-stop office that handles compensation, benefits, personnel information, transactions and recruitment.
“By merging the two areas we’ve created a more efficient, more accessible service for faculty and staff,” says Meerts. “Bringing these areas together in a single department will provide better overall service in these areas and eliminate confusion about who to contact for any of these issues.”
Meerts adds that the offices will eventually be combined physically at a single location to provide additional convenience for faculty and staff.
Dan Michaud has been appointed as the interim associate vice president for human resources to manage the new expanded department. Michaud comes to Wesleyan from Caritas Christi Health Care in Boston, Mass.
“We’re very excited about Dan coming to Wesleyan,” Meerts says. “He has tremendous experience in managing these services in a nonprofit environment and we’ll be looking forward to his expertise and leadership, especially during this transitional period.”
Meerts and Michaud hope to finalize a new location for the department in the near future.
|By David Pesci, director of Media Relations|
by Olivia Drake •
|At top, fifth grader Taylor Spencer learns about the hydrogen make-up of vinegar, club soda and ammonia with Manju Hingorani, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at Spencer Elementary School Nov. 10. (Photo by Olivia Drake)|
| When 18 fifth graders from the Spencer School in Middletown came home on Nov. 10 and were asked, What did you do in school today? they had a few ready answers:
We extracted DNA from wheat germ, checked hydrogen levels in household products and stripped-away pigments from M&M candies.
Probably a little different from the responses parents had heard the day before.
The extracting, checking and stripping-away came courtesy of an all-female Wesleyan faculty and student organization called Action Science Kids (ASK), which is part of the Wesleyan Women in Science program (WesWIS). One of ASKs goals is to generate interest in science among the elementary school-aged students, as well as to demonstrate to girls and boys that the sciences are not only accessible to men.
The idea is to infuse a notion of intelligent, competent women in various scientific fields, said Kate Longley, a ASK member and Wesleyan senior biology major from Delmar, N.Y.
The Nov. 10 demonstration in Mrs. Greenlaws homeroom class was ASKs most recent effort. Students and volunteers were divided up into groups and participated in the three different science experiments.
Manju Hingorani, assistant professor of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry, led an experiment where she explained how common household products like vinegar, aspirin and ammonia, among others, contain different levels of hydrogen. When mixed with red cabbage juice, students determined that the pink mixtures, like vinegar, contained more hydrogen than the green mixtures like ammonia.
Learning how to engage such a young audience in scientific discussions is quite an experience, says Hingorani.
She adds that she enjoys the presentations and is hoping more Wesleyan students will get involved with the ASK program.
It is very effective to show kids that, at any age, how much fun they and grown-ups can have with scientific experiments, she explained.
Emily Alexy, a Wesleyan senior and math major from Ohio, worked on the experiment extracting DNA from wheat germ.
Does anyone know what DNA does? she asked. Its like a recipe for something and tells your body what youre going to look like.
Alexy discussed DNA and its functions, using common items, like soap, rubbing alcohol and water. In her experiment, DNA strands bubbled up to the top of the students test tubes when they mixed soap with wheat germ, warm water, meat tenderizer and baking soda.
One of the students, a 10-year-old named Eleanor, grew excited when her DNA strand fizzed to the top of her test tube.
I like science because you get to learn about your world and earth you live in! she exclaimed.
Samsun Nahar, a freshman from Manchester, Conn. presented an experiment called candy chromatography. She led students through rubbing coffee-filter paper across the candy coating of brown M&Ms, brown Reeses Pieces candies and purple jellybeans to observe their different color coatings and dyes.
For more information about ASK contact Manju Hingorani at 860-685-2284 or email@example.com.
|By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations|
by Olivia Drake •
|The Susan B. and William K. Wasch Center for Retired Faculty opened Nov. 5 during an Open House.|
|Posted 11/02/05. Updated 11.06.05|
| The Susan B. and William K. Wasch Center for Retired Faculty at 51 Lawn Avenue held its Open House Nov. 5 during Homecoming/Family Weekend.
The Center is named for Susie and Bill Wasch 52, P84, who contributed their vision and support for the project.
This new center creates a shared intellectual and social community where retired faculty members can continue their scholarly activities and participation in university life.
Trustee Emeritus Bob McKelvey 59 believes the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty will provide invaluable connections between different generations of Wesleyan faculty. In supporting this project, he honored former first lady Katharina Kay Butterfield with the naming of the Butterfield Room.
by Olivia Drake •
|Posted 11/02/05. Updated 11.07.05|
| Several Hollywood female stars were introduced to Middlesex County women and girls during a benefit dinner Nov. 6, titled Stardom Then and Now.
The presentation, by Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film studies and chair of the Film Studies Department Jeanine Basinger, provided an insiders look at the star system in Hollywood and how it has evolved through the years.
Basinger, who is also the curator of Wesleyans Cinema Archives, offered an exploration of the power and limitations female stars dealt with in the early Hollywood years and the influences that changed the nature of stardom into its present incarnation. She discussed the long road to creative independence in the 21st century that now sees successful female stars frequently running their own production companies, selecting their own directors and often having script approval.
Stardom in the 30s, 40s and 50s projected glamour, fashion and sex to the public,” Basinger says. “Yet at the same time, the system often dictated the stars personal as well as professional lives.”
Stardom Then & Now benefited The Fund for Women & Girls, an endowed fund of the Middlesex County Community Foundation created by women to teach Middlesex County women and girls to be self-reliant and reach their potential.
The event was held at the Film Studies Center. For more information contact the Middlesex County Community Foundation at (860) 347-0025 or email info@MiddlesexCountyCF.org.
by Olivia Drake •
| Gary Yohe, the John E. Andrus Professor of Economics, wasnt surprised to learn that Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma were churning in the Gulf of Mexico. But along with scientists across the globe, the economist was surprised by how quickly the storms intensified into catastrophic proportions.
The unpredictability of what these storms and global warmings possible effect on their intensity and increased frequency is what Yohe, a climate change economist, has been studying along with scientists for nearly 25 years.
Climatologists, biologists, and climate modelers often collaborate with Yohe as they contemplate what could happen in certain scenarios.
They take what economists like me give them and they produce climate scenarios and impact trajectories, says Yohe. Economists then take their products as inputs for vulnerability assessments.
Last fall, Yohe co-authored a paper in the journal Science outlining a possible deterrent to global warming. The paper suggested attaching a tax on the carbon content (which generates the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide) in fossil fuels of $10 per ton (or about 5 cents per gallon of gasoline) and gradually increasing it each year.
Yohe compares this possible tax increase to buying insurance against global warming. In economic terms its known as hedging – doing something that reduces the likelihood of an unpleasant outcome.
He says that hedging global warming is like diversifying governments policy portfolios just like individuals diversify their financial portfolios.
In no case is buying insurance like paying premiums into a pot from which you collect payment to cover a climate induced loss, he says. Instead, investments in hedging strategies are designed to reduce the anticipated cost of climate impacts. We need to accept that the climate is changing, perhaps increasing the intensity of hurricanes, for example, and make complementary investments in our capacity to adapt.
Yohe will be sharing his research on how scientists may adapt to the ever-changing climate when he presents his findings in January to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) the international gathering of natural and social scientists who routinely assess climate change. He and his fellow study authors hope to ultimately provide environmental policy-makers some insight into how they may intelligently voice their concerns about climate change.
Yohe also hopes that his upcoming journal article in Climatic Change will help magnify the importance of integrating climate into development plans. He is currently collecting contributions from scientists who participated in the Aspen Global Change Institute workshop of Abrupt Climate Change last summer for the article.
However, Yohe admits that it could be a while until we see any real action by policy-makers regarding global warming as the United States has withdrawn from discussions under the Kyoto Protocol. (An international agreement between more than 150 countries to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are suspected to be the cause of global warming). Still, Northeastern states have been joined by California and some Canadian provinces in an effort to reduce emissions in spite of Washington’s reluctance to proceed.
Citizens of these states can work to support and to expand these efforts to manage climate risks in anticipation that, over the coming years, the threat of climate impacts, particularly abrupt impact of the sort observed in the Arctic over the past few years, becomes so clear that the federal government will follow their lead, explains Yohe.
|By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations|
by Olivia Drake •
|Nina Felshin, curator of exhibitions and adjunct lecturer in art history, is curator of The Disasters of War: From Goya to Golub, which is on view now in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.|
From left to right, Melanie Baker’s charcoal and pastel drawing, Writing a Memo (in Blood); Francisco de Goya’s etching from The Disasters of War (Los Desastres de la Guerra) and Leon Golub’s acrylic on canvas, Interrogation III, on loan from The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica.
|War, torture and inhumane behavior in the international arena are themes of an exhibit in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.
The Disasters of War: From Goya to Golub features the work of 19 artists that explores human rights abuses in wartime. The exhibition spans five centuries and includes paintings, drawings, videotapes, audio effects, photographs and installations.
Nina Felshin, Zilkhas curator of exhibitions and adjunct lecturer in art history, is the exhibits curator. More than 600 people have already viewed the show.
Unlike most news images and the dryer forms of communication, aesthetic mediums tend to make the subject matter more accessible through the use of metaphor and by putting a human face or body on it, Felshin explains.
The exhibits images include depictions of the dead and injured — some brutally so. Such works as Jacques Callot and Francisco Goyas historical prints are juxtaposed with contemporary images, video testimonies, portraits of powerful individuals and numerous other related subjects.
Im not convinced that art, on its own, can lead to social or political change but I am certain it can encourage viewers to ask questions that challenge their long held beliefs, Felshin says, viewing artist Melanie Bakers Writing a Memo (in Blood). Art can be very seductive and draw people in. It can be very powerful.
The idea for this exhibition grew out of a project that Felshin worked on in 2002, titled From Goya to Golub, a slide projection for an anti-war concert in Los Angeles, named after Leon Golub and Francisco de Goya. Golub, an American artist who died in 2004, is known for his expressionist paintings of brutality and torture inflicted on prisoners of war.
Golubs mural-sized acrylics, Interrogation I, and Interrogation III, which are prominently featured in the exhibition, depict the brutal actions of Central American dictatorships in the early 1980s. In III, a nude, handcuffed woman sits open-legged with two clothed men physically harassing her.
Five iconic images from Goyas etching series, The Disasters of War, are also in the Zilkha exhibition. They are on loan from the Davison Art Center.
John Paoletti, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities and professor of art history admires the brilliant use of the gallery, especially in the way that the Golub paintings fill up the space and loom so threateningly overhead.
Having a wide range of historical responses to war, including the Goya Disasters of War, sets an especially chilling tone to the exhibition, suggesting that as often as the atrocities depicted have occurred, we somehow fail to find ways of working together that would eliminate such horrific actions, he says.
In the Sept. 25 New York Times, writer Benjamin Genocchio called the Wesleyan exhibition “probably the most compelling exhibition in the state today.”
I do shows like this because I believe that art has the power to raise ones consciousness about important social and political issues, Felshin says. My aim is to put ideas out there in a way that encourages people to question their assumptions and form their own conclusions.
Three deeply affecting video works accompany the artwork. Canadian artist Jayce Salloum is represented by a looped DVD projection, untitled part I: everything and nothing, an intimate dialogue with a young woman an ex-Lebanese National resistance fighter who was detained for ten years, six of them in isolation, in the notorious El-Khiam torture and interrogation center in South Lebanon.
Felshin says that although anti-war exhibitions are not uncommon at this moment in time, few touch on the torture of human beings and its political significance.
There have been lots of anti-war shows out there in the past few years, but this one is about how war affects the human body, and that is what sets it apart from the others, she says. It addresses torture both explicitly and implicitly.
One of the inspirations for this exhibition, comments Felshin, is the exhibition that accompanies it in Zilkhas South Gallery titled Inconvenient Evidence: Iraqi Prison Photographs from Abu Ghraib. Curated by Brian Wallis and co-organized by the International Center of Photography in New York and The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, this exhibition includes photographs from Abu Ghraib. Included are photos of recent newsmaker Pfc. Lynndie England posing and smiling with abused detainees.
Felshin, who held a gallery reception Sept. 9, wants this powerful exhibition to elicit reactions.
I still get goose bumps when I come in here, she says.
The Disasters of War: From Goya to Golub is open noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery and runs until Dec. 11. Admission is free. For more information call 860-685-3355.
|By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor|
by Olivia Drake •
|Habitat for Humanity recipient Titeana McNeil, 11, plays with a caulk gun while Habitat volunteers Ted Paquette and Manny Cunard, site supervisor and director of Auxiliary Operations and Campus Services work on the family’s new kitchen. Below, mother Jennifer McNeil and her children, Jamarea, 3; Tyquan, 14; Titeana, 11; and Taquana, 15 stop by their future home to check the progress on Oct. 13. (Photos by Olivia Drake)|
Jennifer McNeil had no idea that watching television would one day help her own a home. But, thanks to that and a partnership between Wesleyan University and Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity, Inc. (NMHFH) a local affiliate for Habitat for Humanity International McNeil, a single mother of five, is a first time homeowner.
In McNeils mind, home ownership had always seemed like a dream. But then, one night last summer, she was watching TV when she saw a commercial for Habitat for Humanity. It got McNeil thinking, and soon after she contacted the local Habitat office. She learned how she could apply to become a homeowner. She filled out an application and in October was notified she and her family homeowners of a home on 34 Fairfield Avenue a home that had been donated by Wesleyan to Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity.
I read the first sentence of the letter and started jumping up and down and running around with my kids! shouts McNeil.
The four bedroom, light grey colonial, located along the edge of Wesleyans campus had been refurbished by Habit for Humanity volunteers.
McNeil admits she is pleased that their new home is near Wesleyan.
There is always something going on,” she says. After school programs, events, and there are very friendly people here.
It turns out many of them are pretty good with construction tools, too.
Many of the volunteers who worked on the house were Wesleyan faculty, staff and student volunteers from Wesleyans Habitat for Humanity student chapter, WesShelter.
During the past year, over 250 students, faculty and staff have given of their time and energy along with a countless number of community volunteers, says Manny Cunard, director of auxiliary operations and campus services and site supervisor for the Wesleyan-Habitat for Humanity partnership We have created connections with the Middletown community that will serve to enhance the important relationship between Middletown and Wesleyan.”
McNeil and her children also helped work on their house-to-be every Saturday morning. Currently, the house is receiving its finishing touches and the family is set to move in before Thanksgiving.
Im having a lot of my family here for Thanksgiving, says McNeil. I want to cook five turkeys in my new kitchen! I never thought anything like this could happen to me in a million years.
McNeil, a department manager at Wal-Mart in Wallingford who grew up in the Long River Village Projects in Middletown, is looking forward to improving her family life by owning her own home. She and her children, ages 18, 15, 14, 11 and 3 have been living at her sisters Middletown home for the past two years.
This is definitely going to bring my kids and I closer, just knowing that we now own a home.
On Sunday, Nov. 13 Wesleyan University and NMHFH will host a welcoming and celebratory event for the McNeil family at 34 Fairview Avenue in Middletown.
Recently, Wesleyan donated a second house at 15 Hubert Street to Northern Middlesex Habitat for Humanity. A groundbreaking is set for Hubert Street later this fall and applications to select a family are currently under review.
In June, 2006, Wesleyan expects to participate in a national Habitat blitz-build, in which an entire house is erected and made livable in seven days. This house will be one of 1,000 built simultaneously around the country.
|By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations|
by Olivia Drake •
|Long Lane Farming Club member Rachel Ostlund 08 will welcome the community to the clubs annual Pumpkin Fest Oct. 29. At left, a flower garden still blooms at the farm, located south of Physical Plant and Wesleyan University Press.|
| Wesleyans Long Lane Farming Club will hold its second annual Pumpkin Fest from 2 to 7 p.m. Saturday Oct. 29 and people from the campus and the local community are welcome to attend. But while the freshly-grown pumpkins available the fest will be locally-grown, they wont be a product of the students land.
We had some problems this year with our primitive watering system and squash beetles, says Long Lane Farm Club member Rachel Ostlund 08, an earth and environmental sciences major. Sometimes you have a good crop, sometimes not. It is all part of learning how to farm.
These problems left the student-farmers with less than two dozen pumpkins. But the fest had to go on, so the students carved-out a deal with a local orchard, which will deliver 300 pumpkins for the festival.
The Middletown community is welcome to attend the fest. Attendees can participate in pumpkin carving, face painting, a Halloween costume contest, bobbing for apples, as well as learn about agriculture. The farm is located on the corner of Long Lane and Wadsworth Street, south of Physical Plant and Wesleyan University Press.
Student and faculty bands will provide entertainment.
Pumpkins are among 80 varieties of vegetables and herbs grown in the two-year-old organic garden. In 2004, Rachel Lindsay 05 planted the first crops in a circular-shaped 50-ft-wide plot. Local residents rounded out the corners with garlic and potato gardens, among several flower beds. A few flower species are still blooming this month in the farm yard.
Lindsay, Ostlund and other Wesleyan students later planted a tomato and broccoli garden, among rows of Swiss chard, pumpkins and squash. Much of the one-acre plot of old farmland was hand-tilled by the students.
Long Lane Farm, Ostlund explains, was created so students would have a place to come together and learn about food security issues. Its used as an educational tool and will be adapted to meet the requests of the community.
This summer, the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, the Rockfall Foundation and area shareholders paid for Lindsay and Ostlund to work full-time at the farm. Students from local high schools helped out four days a week and dozens of community members volunteered. The projects they undertook included the installation of an underground woodchuck fence and an above ground deer and critter fence.
The garden flourished, producing more vegetables than the student workers and the gardens shareholders could consume. They sold some produce to local restaurants and grocers, and donated other crops to a local soup kitchen. Any left-overs are tossed into the farms chicken coop.
Those chickens will eat just about anything, Ostlund says, peering into student-maintained coop that houses a dozen hens. Nothing goes to waste.
Ostlund, of Ithaca, N.Y., says shes never tended a garden before, but grew a green thumb after working in an organic farm with AmeriCorps. She also seeks advice from local residents who volunteer at the farm. The gardens guests have donated compost, manure, mulch and two greenhouses, which will be useful this winter. For the last two years, the students started plants in their dorm rooms and planted the seedlings into the garden when the weather conditions allowed.
Several Wesleyan staff and faculty also work at the farm. Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology, got involved in the Long Lane Farm as a way to help sustain the environment and human health.
The students are cultivating not only the land, but a deep relationship with nature, Singer says. In addition, building and running the farm requires that the students work cooperatively, understand the details of food production, and make difficult and consequential decisions. In essence, it is a chance for these students to test and live up to their ideals, a tremendously valuable experience.
|By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor|