Campus News & Events

Students Embrace Jewish Community at Wesleyan B’nei Mitzvah


Ruby-Beth Buitekant ’09 and Rebecca Chavez ’08 read from the Torah for the first time as part of their Adult B’nei Mitzvah ceremony April 29.

Posted 05/16/06
In Jewish tradition, when a child reaches the age of maturity (12 years for girls, 13 years for boys) that child becomes responsible for following Jewish law. The Jewish families hold celebratory ceremonies – B’nai Mitzvah for boys, B’nei Mitzvah for girls – which acknowledge that the child has become son or daughter “of the commandment.”

Nowadays, however, not everyone follows these traditions and some Jewish children go on to adolescence without going through the ceremony. But for Wesleyan students Ruby-Beth Buitekant, ’09 and Rebecca Chavez ’08, now is better than never.

On April 28-29, Buitekant and Chavez shared a B’nei Mitzvah through Wesleyan’s Adult B’nai Mitzvah Project. They attended a Shabbat dinner and celebrated at a campus-wide party in their honor. They were lifted in chairs and honored. Most importantly, the students had the opportunity to lead a morning Torah service in front of their friends, family and Jewish community, which involves reciting their D’var Torah. This service links segments of the Torah to their personal journey of exploring their Jewish identity.

“We hope the Adult B’nai Mitzvah Project will guide students like Ruby-Beth and Rebecca as they explore their Jewish identities,” says Rachel Bedick ’08, who co-organized this year’s B’nei Mitzvah with Lillian Siegel ’08. “We also hope that the project makes them feel supported and embraced by the Wesleyan Jewish community so that they can go on to feel comfortable in other Jewish communities that they may encounter later in life.”

The student-run Adult Bnei Mitzvah Project was created three years ago by Daniel Heller ’06 and Ari Fagen ’07. The students who elect to have a B’nai/B’nei Mitzvah ceremony as an adult spend the year studying Judaism and Hebrew. They also design a Tikun Olam or “Healing the World” community service project.

Each week, a different student, professor, or Rabbi from Wesleyan or the greater Middletown community comes to lead a class about a topic in Judaism. This year the 14 speakers including Henry Goldschmidt, assistant professor of religion, who taught a class on chosenness in Judaism; Rabbi Seth Reimer from Adath, Israel, who led a text study on the laws of purity; and Wesleyan Rabbi David Leipziger Teva, who led a class on lifecycles in Judaism.

In addition to class work, Buitekant and Chavez were matched up with a Hebrew student tutor, and they learned how to chant from the Torah.

Chavez, who joined the project to educate herself about Judiasm, says she now has an incredible sense of ownership of her Jewish identity. She was not raised in a Jewish community.

“I have really valued this process not only as a rite of passage into the Jewish community but as a vehicle for learning about myself through studying this aspect of my heritage,” she says. “I genuinely feel like a part of the Jewish community at Wesleyan, which has been a wonderful discovery. It is not a purely individual process, but one in which I’ve been supported by a group of really motivated, caring people.”

The Adult B’nei Mitvah Project culminated April 28-29 with activities devoted to the B’nei Mitzvah ceremony/service and celebration. Buitekant’s mother, Beth-Ann Buitekant, traveled from Atlanta, Georgia to attend the ceremony.

“I especially appreciate that Ruby-Beth was able to receive, at Wesleyan, the benefit of the teachings that I never fully learned myself and could not pass on to her,” Beth-Ann Buitekant says, who raised her daughter Quaker and Jewish. “It was a wonderful experience.”

For more information on the Adult B’nai/B’nei Mitvah Project, email dleipziger@wesleyan.edu
or rbedick@wesleyan.edu.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Students Conduct Local Studies through Service Learning Projects


Lirra Schiebler ’07, right, speaks on her community research project at “From the Field: First-Hand Reports of Wesleyan Service-Learning Projects” May 12 in the Center for Community Partnerships. Rob Rosenthal, center with blue shirt and tie, is director of the Service-Learning Center.

Posted 05/16/06
As part of a Service-Learning project, Lirra Schiebler ’07 learned that some residents in Middletown’s North End spend about 47 percent of their monthly earnings on heating and electric bills during the winter season.

Schiebler presented her group’s study, “Energy Costs in the North End: The Rise in Utilities and its Effect on a Low-Income Community” during a meeting at the Center for Community Partnerships May 12.

“This is a statistic I find shocking,” she says. “Our results show that the rise in energy bills has not only affected residents, but affected them to a staggering and dire degree. I hope that local agencies, will be able to use this data in a persuasive way, garnering support from governmental and other assistance programs to filter more directly to those who are in need of immediate aid.”

Schiebler was one of nine students who made presentations at the public event, titled “From the Field: First-Hand Reports of Wesleyan Service-Learning Projects.” Rob Rosenthal, professor of sociology and director of the Service-Learning Center coordinated the event. He is the instructor for the course, Community Research Seminar, in which small teams of students carry out research projects submitted by local groups and agencies.

Each student presented 10-minute talks, followed by brief opportunities for questions and answers. Several of the students were part of the course.

Jeff Stein ’08 presented his study, “Defining and mapping conservation priorities in the Maromas area of Middletown, Connecticut.” He and his classmates evaluated the unprotected, wildlife-rich, 3,000-acre area known as the Maromas, in terms of its ecological value, and then ranked its parcels in terms of their value to the conservation movement.

Advocacy groups can use Stein’s data to apply for grants, fund further studies, and focus efforts on conserving the area’s top priority parcels. The Middletown Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction approached Stein after the meeting and suggested incorporating the school’s science classes with the Maromas.

“Considering that most of us had never even heard of Maromas, we were awestruck that such an incredible resource with such extensive biodiversity existed so close to campus,” Stein says. “We’re all very excited about the awareness we’re raising about the area.”

Julie Bromberg ’06 presented her group’s study, “Disabilities and School-Based Arrests: Local Connections.”

The study was designed to determine whether the national trend of an overrepresentation of students with disabilities getting arrested holds true in Meriden and Middletown. The study involved collecting collecting statistics from the school districts, police, and juvenile court as well as conducted interviews with special education teachers, school resource officers arrested students, and their parents. Bromberg and her co-investigators found that there were a disproportionately large number of students with disabilities getting suspended in both Middletown and Meriden. Twenty-five percent of suspensions in Middletown and 31 percent in Meriden were special education students, while they only made up about 13 percent of the student population in these districts.

Other students and their studies include: Kara Schnoes ’07 with “Implementation of Evidenced-Based Practices at The Connection;” Laura Ouimette ‘06 with “Why Student Graduate From–or Drop Out of- Upward Bound;” Julie Kastenbaum ’06 with “Report from the Field,” an Integration of Clinical Experience and Life Science Learning;” Gretchen Kishbauch ‘07 with “Predictors of Repeat Child Maltreatment among Families Involved with Child Protective Services;” Kaneza Schaal ’06 with “Peer Mediation as a Model for Student Empowerment;” and Craig Thomas ’06 with “Analyzing the North End Landfill.”

Schiebler says the service learning course has brought her closer to the Middletown community, and also has taught her the importance of finding solutions to problems on a micro level.

“It’s important to look at these problems close to home before we offer grandiose solutions to global issues,” she says. “World poverty is clearly important, but how are we supposed to tackle that beast when its equally scary step-brother resides next door?”

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

AIDS Crisis, Disasters Explored in Upcoming Art Season


Gay Smith, professor of theater, speaks about upcoming art events during the 2006-07 Center for the Arts season in World Music Hall May 9. Pictured below, far right, Nina Felshin, curator of exhibitions and adjunct lecturer in art history, speaks with guests following the CFA’s season announcement.

Posted 05/16/06
A fusion of Japanese drumming and jazz, “clown”-theater, Brazilian guitar, creative conversation and West African dance are all in the Center for the Arts (CFA) pallet for the 2006-07 season.

During the CFA’s annual Season Announcement May 9, Pam Tatge, CFA director, announced the center’s upcoming highlights.

“We are very proud of what we and Wesleyan’s faculty, students and staff have created for next year,” Tatge says.

New this year will be online ticketing, a deepened interest in engaging students, and creating a partnership with Middletown’s Luce eatery and the Green Street Arts Center.

In addition, the Dean of the College Office will collaborate with the CFA next year to allow first-year students to interact with guest artists. Through the new “Engage and Imagine” program, students can exchange views, discuss art and culture with guest artists choreographer Bill T. Jones and playwright Charles L. Mee.

“This is going to be an amazing initiative and we hope it’s first of many,” Tatge says.

GALLERY SHOWS
The season begins Sept. 8 with “Disaster! One Year After”, an exhibit on display in the Ezra & Cecile Zilkha Gallery through Oct. 29. Organized on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, “Disaster! One Year After” includes both historical and contemporary art that addresses the impact of extreme weather conditions.

BREAKING GROUND SERIES
The CFA’s Breaking Ground Dance Series will open Sept. 15 and 16 with “Another Evening,” performed by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company. The ever-evolving 90-minute collage, featuring choreographer Bill T. Jones, interweaves new movement, excerpts from existing repertoire, original and traditional music and text into a vibrant multi-media work.

Compagnie TchéTché, an all-female dance troupe from Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, will perform “Dimi” Nov. 17 and 18. In Dimi, the troupe explores the inner conflicts of contemporary African women.

The Joe Goode Performance Group will perform “Deeply There (stories of a neighborhood)” and “Stay Together” on Feb. 2 and 3. “Deeply There” is an intimate exploration of the AIDS crisis and the work widely acknowledged to be Goodes masterpiece.

CROWELL CONCERT SERIES
The Crowell Concert Series begins with San Jose Taiko on Sept. 28-29. By fusing the ritual drumming traditions of Japan with contemporary jazz, Latin and African rhythms, San Jose Taiko performers express the beauty and harmony of the human spirit through the voice of taiko.

Sérgio and Odair Assad, the Assad Brothers perform “Brazilian Guitar” on Oct. 21. Hear the brothers’ fine blend of styles, time periods, and cultures ranging from gypsy melodies and American tangos.

The FLUX Quartet, featuring the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Alvin Lucier’s world premier, performs Nov. 3.

Paul Brady, one of Ireland’s most enduringly popular artists, will perform Feb. 16. Brady continues to push out the boundaries of Irish contemporary music in the new millennium.

Eight-time Grammy award winner Eddie Palmieri will perform “The Sun of Latin Music” on March 3. At Wesleyan, he will play with his ensemble, La Perfecta II.

OUTSIDE THE BOX THEATER SERIES
The Outside the Box Theater Series begins with the Pig Iron Theatre Company–performing “Hell Meets Henry Half Way” on Sept. 21 and 22. The Philadelphia-based Pig Iron Theatre Company calls itself a “dance–clown–theater ensemble.” A tournament of malcontents erupts in a deluge of florid insults and absurd cruelties.

Connecticut resident and OBIE-award winning playwright Charles L. Mee will hold “Creative Conversation” Feb. 22. His works, including “bobrauschenbergamerica,” “Big Love” and the rock-musical “True Love,” often draw inspiration from the Greek classics.

NAVARATRI FESTIVAL
The 30th Annual Navaratri Festival will be held Oct. 5-8. The longstanding tradition at Wesleyan celebrates Indian culture with music, dance, a religious service and the annual feast.

GREEN STREET ARTS CENTER
Janice Astor, assistant director and interim director of the Green Street Arts Center, says the downtown arts center will expand its age range from 7-to-14-years-old to include older teens. These high-school-aged students will have the ability to record their own videos or CDs.

She’s also allowing Wesleyan students to perform their own talents for the center’s students.

“Wesleyan has some amazing performers from tap dancers to cellists, and the kids love to interact with the Wesleyan students,” Astor says. “We really want to boost the collaboration between Green Street and Wesleyan students this year.”

For more information on any CFA event, call 860-685-3355, e-mail boxoffice@wesleyan.edu or visit www.wesleyan.edu/cfa.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor and Lex Leifheit, Center for the Arts press and marketing coordinator

Student and Friends Publish The Notebook Girls to Great Acclaim


Sophie Pollitt-Cohen ’09 is the co-author of the book The Notebook Girls published in April.

Posted 05/16/06
Sophie Pollitt-Cohen ’09 is co-author of The Notebook Girls by Warner Books. The book began the journal with her friends, Julia Baskin, Lindsey Newman and Courtney Toombs at Stuyvesant High School in New York City in 2001.

The journal provided a way for the high school freshmen to stay in touch despite demanding class schedules, extracurricular activities and busy social lives.

Formatted as a reproduction of the girls’ journal, the book is stocked with hand-written notes on lined-notebook paper, doodles and pasted-to-the-page photographs.

“It can be a lot easier to write something down than to have to admit it in words,” she says. “We’ve spent a significant portion of our adolescence trying to figure out who we are. The notebook is the closest we’ve come.”

Since the book’s debut April 13, the young authors have been featured in New York Magazine, OK! Magazine, Vanity Fair, the cover of the Daily News, the cover of the Los Angeles Times calendar section, the Boston Herald, as well as on The Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC News Now, Sirius Radio, CNN Inside Showbiz, the WB11 morning news show, and a few other TV shows as well.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Professor of Chemistry Promoted to Vice President for Academic Affairs


Posted 05/04/06
Professor of Chemistry Joseph Bruno will become Wesleyan’s vice president for Academic Affairs, effective July 1. Bruno has served as dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics since 2003.

Bruno will serve as chief academic officer for the university, responsible for attracting and retaining faculty and for supporting their research and teaching activities.

In February, after Vice President for Academic Affairs Judith Brown announced her intention to step down, Wesleyan President Doug Bennet began extensive consultations with faculty on the characteristics to seek in her successor, as well as nominations. Bennet decided to seek a Wesleyan faculty member to fill the post.

“In addition to the personal qualities one expects in an academic leader—intelligence, articulateness, fair-mindedness—faculty cited such characteristics as demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and colleagueship, and the energy and enthusiasm to launch initiatives that will distinguish Wesleyan,” Bennet says. “In every respect, Joe Bruno meets the desires expressed by the faculty. I have great confidence in his ability to lead.”

As dean of the natural sciences and mathematics, Bruno supports the research and teaching efforts of faculty in 10 departments and programs. He participates in budgeting for faculty positions, as well as in recruiting and hiring decisions. He reviews grant proposals and works with the chairs of the academic departments on curricular and administrative issues. Bruno also is responsible for developing plans for the construction and renovation of science facilities.

Bruno has served as vice chair of and science representative to the Advisory Committee, which advises the president on matters relating to appointments and promotions of the faculty. He also served as chair of the Department of Chemistry and president of the Wesleyan chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Bruno’s teaching and research activities have garnered grants from the National Science Foundation, the American Chemical Society, the State of Connecticut, and the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, among other sources.

After earning his Ph.D in organometallic chemistry from Northwestern University, Bruno spent two postdoctoral years at Indiana University before joining the Wesleyan faculty in 1984. He received tenure in 1991.

“I am very grateful for the opportunities I have had at Wesleyan over 22 years, working alongside colleagues on the faculty, in the administration and on the staff,” Bruno said. “I look forward to building on these experiences as vice president for academic affairs. Wesleyan has generated considerable momentum, and I am very excited about the opportunities ahead.”

More than 10,000 Books on Sale for Library Benefit


A handcrafted quilt, pictured at left, made by library staff members will be raffled off during a book sale sponsored by the Friends of the Wesleyan Library May 13.

Posted 05/04/06

The Wesleyan community can book some time at a library benefit this month.

Friends of the Wesleyan Library, a volunteer group dedicated to supporting the library, will hold a book sale in the Exley Science Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 13. The center will be filled with over 10,000 books for sale.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to find research, pleasure, gift or treasure books at a great price and build your own collection,” says Christina Trier, co-chair of the Friends of the Wesleyan Library book sale committee.

This is Wesleyan’s first major book sale in 20 years. Books have been withdrawn from Wesleyan’s four libraries or selected from private donations and sorted into 35 categories including art, science, literature, foreign language, religion, biography, philosophy, politics and history. Some books are new.

Prices start at 50 cents for paperbacks and $1 for hardcovers. Special titles will be priced $5 and up or sold through silent auction. A handcrafted quilt made by library staff members will also be raffled that day.

Book sale committee co-chair Greg Petropoulos says this sale is a great opportunity to promote the Friends of the Wesleyan Library, which was revitalized two years ago.

“We hope the sale will bring together people who enjoy books, while helping to raise funds to initiate special preservation projects or catalog currently inaccessible collections in the library,” he says.

The sale is open to the public and admission is free. For further information about the sale and the Friends of the Wesleyan Library, go to www.wesleyan.edu/libr/friends/index.html or contact Jennifer Hadley at jthom@wesleyan.edu, or call 860-685-3897.

If you would like to volunteer to help at the sale, please contact Christina Trier at ctrier@wesleyan.edu.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Interim Promoted to Vice President for Finance


Posted 05/04/06
Interim Vice President for Finance John Meerts has become Wesleyan’s permanent vice president for Finance and Administration effective May 1.

Meerts has responsibility for the Offices of Finance, Human Resources, Facilities and Legal Affairs. The Board of Trustees will act on a resolution to appoint Meerts as treasurer of the university at its annual meeting this month. In addition, he will continue his oversight of the Office of Information Technology Services, which he has led since coming to Wesleyan in 1996.

“In his interim role, John quickly demonstrated the ability to manage a complex budget situation,” says Wesleyan President Doug Bennet. “He successfully developed a five-year plan to reduce substantially Wesleyan’s reliance on its endowment, and he communicated the key issues with great clarity to faculty and staff and ultimately to the Board. John’s colleagues give him credit for great personal integrity and the transparency with which he conducts business. He will provide the financial and administrative leadership we need to implement the next phases of the university’s strategic plan.”

Meerts joined the Wesleyan administration in July 1996, from Yale, where he had been director of administrative systems since 1991. As director of information technology services at Wesleyan, he led a substantial overhaul of the organization, as well as the university’s technology and applications. He became vice president for information technology in 2002.

After Vice President for Finance and Administration Marcia Bromberg retired in July 2005, Meerts assumed interim responsibility for Wesleyan’s finances. His permanent appointment follows a national search for Bromberg’s successor.

“It has been tremendously rewarding for me to serve Wesleyan in this broader capacity over the past several months,” Meerts says. “I look forward to continuing as part of the team that delivers on Wesleyan’s promise of educational excellence.”

President Bennet to Step Down


Posted 05/04/06
Wesleyan President Doug Bennet will conclude his presidency at the end of the 2006-07 academic year, he informed faculty, students and staff on May 4.

Bennet, who became president in April 1995, led Wesleyan’s historic $281 million capital campaign, expanded the size of the faculty, launched an ambitious campus building program, and shaped the university’s first comprehensive strategic plan.

“Wesleyan is doing well, both institutionally and in its daily pursuit of excellence,” Bennet said to members of the campus community gathered at the steps of North College. “The university is prepared well to engage new leadership, and the time is right for Midge and me to move ahead to the next phase of our lives.”

Bennet praised the ongoing work of Wesleyan’s faculty in envisioning and implementing a liberal arts and sciences curriculum intended to engage students with the world around them and to enable them to become leaders. He also cited the strategic planning processes that have mobilized the campus and alumni communities around clear institutional priorities.

“Universities progress in several ways,” he said. “There are big turning points that affirm fundamental institutional commitments. The work we did to define a Wesleyan education for the 21st century, to improve student aid, to add faculty, and to begin a process of campus renewal—all of these show that Wesleyan can make big decisions and act upon them.”

He added: “The daily progress of an educational community is ongoing and never-ending–the discovery, the teaching, the care and respect for all within the community. New students arrive every year; new issues come to the fore. They show who we really are, especially in making good on the potential of our diversity. They help individual students define their values and learn the confidence that will empower them as change-makers.”

Midge Bennet thanked the assembled students, faculty and staff. She added that, even after their retirement, she and the president would look forward to “lectures and sporting events, as well as lunch at the new Usdan University Center.”

“We will continue helping Wesleyan in any way we can,” she said.

James van B. Dresser ’63, chair of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees, was on hand to thank and congratulate the Bennets.

“The hallmark of Doug’s tenure has been his ability to forge a strategic direction for the institution,” Dresser said. “Through cycles of planning and action, Doug has moved Wesleyan forward. His well-placed faith in the willingness of alumni, parents, and friends of the college to fund plans they believed in has brought Wesleyan important new resources. The school has never been stronger, and thanks to his leadership, the Wesleyan community has the pride and confidence to move from strength to strength.”

Dresser called Midge Bennet “for many of us … the wisest and warmest counselor and friend we have known.” He added: “Her undying faith in our common purpose and our bright future have inspired all who have had the good fortune to come into contact with her in any setting, over all these years.”

Dresser assured those assembled he would consult the Board of Trustees immediately about plans for a presidential search. “I promise that we will keep the campus community fully informed about this process, and that we will keep students, faculty and staff meaningfully involved,” he said.

Bennet’s Legacy
Douglas J. Bennet ’59 was elected the 15th president of Wesleyan University on
April 7, 1995, and began his tenure on July 1, 1995. He was U.S. assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs when tapped by Wesleyan, though he was best known for his decade (1983-93) as chief executive officer and president of National Public Radio.

Once installed as Wesleyan’s president, Bennet led the university community through its first-ever strategic planning process, a comprehensive effort that included faculty, staff and students, alumni and parent leaders. This process yielded a vision for liberal education in times of rapid change. “Wesleyan Education for the Twenty-First Century” (1997) sought to define the essential capabilities of an educated person and established the principles on which to make ongoing curricular choices. It affirmed the value of scholarship and teaching in a residential community and confirmed that knowing how to learn is the most durable legacy of a Wesleyan education. The process also produced “Strategy for Wesleyan” (1998), which defined key institutional priorities: an enduring commitment to need-blind admission and thus to building the University’s student aid program; an expansion of the faculty in order to improve teaching ratios and expand scholarship and teaching in new, interdisciplinary areas; and the beginning of a program of campus renewal. 

To view Bennet’s accomplishments, including his efforts with strategic planning, student aid, faculty additions, campus renewal, fund-raising, endowment management, technology and athletics, visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/administration/president/accomplishments.html.

These priorities became the foundation for the $281 million Wesleyan Campaign, by far the most successful fund-raising effort in the university’s history. The campaign garnered contributions from 68 percent of Wesleyan’s alumni. Total gifts in a single year tripled, from $10.4 million in 1995 to $31.3 million in 2005.

As the campaign concluded in 2004, Bennet led a second strategic planning exercise. The second strategy, “Engaged with the World” (2005), describes priorities for the period 2005-2010, including continuing curricular innovations and renewed commitments to international studies and to science. It outlines priorities for academics, campus life, student aid, and physical infrastructure.

Bennet’s emphasis on planning and on strict allocation of budget resources according to the priorities thus established has enabled Wesleyan to devote the highest proportion of its total spending to teaching and research and the lowest to administration among the top 50 schools in the annual rankings produced by U.S. News and World Report. It has enabled Wesleyan to compete for students and faculty against much better-endowed institutions. It also has enabled the University to maximize the impact of fund-raising and borrowing to invest in strategic priorities, while almost doubling the market value of its endowment during his presidency.

The Bennet presidency also represented a new era of collaboration with the city of Middletown. Under Bennet’s leadership, Wesleyan participated actively in the city’s development efforts, including investing University funds to bring to the city a downtown hotel, the 100-bed Inn at Middletown, which opened in 2003. Wesleyan established the Green Street Arts Center, a community arts center in the city’s North End, offering classes and workshops for children and adults in music, visual arts, dance, theater, literary and media arts. The center, a collaboration with the city of Middletown and the North End Action Team, is an important part of efforts to revitalize the city’s North End.

“I think they will be talking about Doug Bennet’s legacy for many generations to come,” said Alan Dachs ’70, chair of Wesleyan’s Development Committee who also served as chair of the Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2005. “He did an outstanding job as our president. He will be very hard to replace. Everything we value most has been improved under his leadership. Financial aid packages are better, and the academic enterprise is more robust. He has raised more money than ever before in our history, and our investment returns are in the top quartile. Everything he was asked to do, he did and more, much more.”

In January 2006, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation made a grant of $200,000 to Wesleyan in honor of Doug Bennet’s service to the university over the past 10 years. The grant created an endowment that will support an annual lecture and program focused on ethics, politics and society.

 
By Justin Harmon, director of University Communications

Turf Field Completed, Will Open this Month


Wesleyan’s new turf field, located behind Physical Plant on Long Lane, was dedicated April 29 during a ribbon cutting ceremony. It is expected to be available for use later this month.

Posted 05/04/06
Wesleyan athletes will be breaking new ground this month on their new synthetic turf field.

The field, dedicated April 29 during a ribbon cutting ceremony, will be put to use in May. Men’s and women’s soccer, lacrosse and field hockey teams will use the outdoor field regularly, and it will be available for several other activities, as well.

John Biddiscombe, director of athletics and chair of physical education, said Wesleyan is among the last universities in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) to possess a turf field.

“We’re no longer the turf nomads,” he said during the outdoor ceremony. “We’re no longer at the disadvantage.”

The artificial field, composed of Polytan Megagrass 2025, is located behind the Physical Plant building on Long Lane. Underneath the synthetic “grass” is a rubber padding, gravel and drainage pipes to keep the field puddle-free in the event of wet weather.

Men’s Head Lacrosse Coach John Raba said the field will be ideal for on- and off-season practices. In addition, the turf will serve as a drawing card for recruiting top student-athletes.

Baseball and softball teams will also use the field for pre-season practice in late February when Bacon Field House becomes overcrowded. The field will be available for selected club sports, intramural play, sport camps and selected use by the local community.

“This is a great situation for us, and for all sports,” Raba said, who cut the ribbon. “I’m going to guess that this field is always going to be busy.”

Wesleyan’s Office of University Relations and Athletics personnel worked with parents and alumni to raise the $920,000 needed to build the field. More than 160 alumni, parents and friends of the university were actively involved in helping to raise the funding for the field, including Bill Belichick, ’75, P’07, Moira Byer P’06, David Campbell ’75, P ‘10, Michael and Marilyn Dee P’06, Mike McKenna ’73, Jim Walsh P’07, Cole and Katherine Werble P’07 and Preston Smith ’64, P’06.

Preston Smith, who’s son, Matt, is a varsity lacrosse player, reminded the ribbon-cutting ceremony audience that it took the fund-raising effort of five teams, with support form five decades of alumni, to provide the two-acre turf field.

“This field is not only the best in the division, but the best in New England,” Smith said to the crowd.

Wesleyan hopes to raise another $400,000 to pay for lights, bleachers, a scoreboard, protective netting and a paved walkway between the Freeman Gymnasium and the turf field.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Lecture, Electronic Recycling, Food Politics Parts of Earth Week


Posted 04/17/06
The Wesleyan community will celebrate Earth Week April 16-April 22 with a series of activities, lectures and observations. Events include:
 
Lecture on “The Purpose of Nature”
Verlyn Klinkenborg, a writer and professor of literature and creative writing at Fordham University and Harvard University, will deliver the Earth Day address “The Purpose of Nature” at 8 p.m. April 20 in Memorial Chapel. A reception and book signing immediately follow in the Zelnick Pavilion.

Verlyn Klinkenborg is the author of Making Hay, The Last Fine Time, The Rural Life, and Timothy: Or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, and many magazine and newspaper articles. A modern Thoreau, his lyrical portrayals of rural living and nature captivate our imagination while delivering a critical message.  He is a member of the editorial board of The New York Times.
 
His visit is sponsored by the Robert Schumann Environmental Studies Program.
 
Recycle Computer Electronics
Information Technology Services and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety are teaming up to promote a clean and safe environment by hosting a recycle day. Anyone with old computer terminals, monitors, televisions, printers, keyboards, ink jet cartridges, or other computer parts can place them at a designated area on the Exley Science Center loading dock between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. April 17-21. For more information contact Bonnie Penders at 860-685-3096.

Food Politics Week
In addition to Earth Week, Wesleyan’s Earth House residents are organizing Food Politics Week, celebrated April 22-29 on campus. They will offer a soy workshop for making tofu and soymilk; a bread baking workshop; a “dumpster-diving” workshop; a farm workday; an edible plants walk with Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology; and a lecture on organic farming. Their observation will conclude with Veg Out on April 27, a home-cooked, primarily local, organic vegan meal open to the Wesleyan community. The cost is $4.

Brooke Duling ’08 says the group aims to raise awareness about the political implications people take simply by choosing to eat certain foods. They will highlight the consumption of local, organic, vegetarian/vegan food and open a dialogue about how to access these foods.

For additional information, visit http://www.wesleyan.edu/earthweek/ or contact Kathleen Norris, administrative assistant, Environmental Studies Certificate Program at 860-685-3733 or by e-mail at knorris@wesleyan.edu.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Now That’s Using Your Head: Student, Professor Collaborate on Brain Activity Study


Rebecca Gordon ’06 and her thesis advisor, John Seamon, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, pose with brain scans used in a recent study.

Posted 04/17/06
For psychology major Rebecca Gordon’ 06, developing a research project idea was practically a no-brainer. Well, except for the fact that she had to study brains.

By examining functional magnetic resonance images, known as fMRIs, Rebecca Gordon ’06 was able to see how the brain reacted on a cognitive and emotional level with healthy subjects and subjects diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Her study “The Mere Exposure Effect and Schizophrenia: An fMRI Study” was completed April 11 after nine months of research. The “mere exposure effect” is a psychological way of saying people express likeness for things merely because they are familiar with them.

“There have been no published fMRI studies of the mere exposure effect so I wanted to do a study that would contribute something new and important to several fields of psychology,” says Gordon, who will graduate this year with a dual degree in psychology and music.

Gordon, whose father is a clinical psychologist, coordinated her own research projects throughout high school including working with Parkinson Disease patients at a lab in New York. During her first year at Wesleyan, Gordon excelled in Psychology 101, taught by John Seamon, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Knowing that his student already had research experience, Seamon suggested that she follow up on procedures he and other students conducted in the 1980s and 1990s on explicit and implicit memory. Explicit memory is a form of memory that involves conscious retrieval of past events; implicit memory is a nonconscious retrieval of past events.

“I encourage students who do well in my classes to get involved in research, either in my own lab or with others in psychology, and Rebecca was one of those special students,” says Seamon, who became Gordon’s thesis advisor on the study.

Gordon, who was working at the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center at the Institute of Living in Hartford last summer, had access to fMRI technology. Seamon suggested that she look for brain differences in explicit and implicit memory by measuring blood flow changes using the fMRI scanner.

Since July 2005, Gordon has spent her summer, winter and spring breaks immersed in conducting research, as well two to three days a week during the school year. She continually sought research advice from Seamon and technical advice from Godfrey Pearlson, director of the Neuropsychiatry Research Center and professor of psychiatry at Yale University.

By studying patients at the center in Hartford, she was able to perform two tests on 10 healthy control subjects and 10 schizophrenia patients. The subjects were placed inside the fMRI scanner during the study so she could monitor their brain activity.

Using an assessment method called the recognition memory test to measure explicit memory, Gordon projected a series of novel objects, each for a few seconds. Subjects were then asked to answer the question: “Is this a possible or impossible object?” After viewing these novel objects several times and recording the decisions, Gordon collected her results. She then resented pairs of objects, one old and one new, and asked the subjects to select the object in each pair that they previously viewed. When she analyzed the neurological activity during this explicit recognition test, she found memory accuracy was correlated with activation of the hippocampus, the part of the brain used for new learning.

In another test, called the affective preference test, Gordon measured implicit memory by asking the subjects which shape they preferred without asking them which one they remembered. During this test she found that there was still hippocampus activity along with a strong response from the amygdala, the almond-shaped neural structure in the brain that processes emotion.

Gordon and Seamon were thrilled with the new discovery.

“This is a remarkable achievement for an undergraduate to go from a discussion with her advisor, take an idea and turn it into a tangible experiment that she then performed over a period of months, learn about this state of the art technology, collect and analyze data with technical help from the staff at the Institute of Living and produce new and interesting findings,” Seamon says.

Gordon’s report was submitted for partial fulfillment of the requirements for the bachelor’s of arts degree with departmental honors in psychology. She hopes to get her study published in a professional psychology journal.

In addition, she will present her study during the Psychology Department Poster Session April 18.

“I can’t believe that even as I got to the very end of my project, I never got tired of it. I was always excited about the idea of finding something completely new,” she says, holding two gray brain scans, speckled with colors. The colors illustrate where in the brain activity was happening during the subjects’ tasks.

Gordon will return to the Institute of Living this summer for continued research, this time focusing on autistic children and people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Next fall, she will begin graduate school at Yeshiva University in New York where she plans to continue her studies in psychology.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Breaking Down the Barriers: Trip to Middle East Provides Examples of Peaceful Co-Existence


Pictured at top, Wesleyan students and staff  walk down a street in Istanbul on their way to the mosque during a trip to Turkey and Israel March 12-23.

Pictured at right, the group takes a break in the Teldan Nature Preserve in Golan Heights, Israel with their tour guide. The Wesleyan students are Ben Sachs-Hamilton, Avi Smith, Phil Zegelbone, Jamal Ahmed, Mike Figura,  Kulsoom Hasan, Maggie Mitchell, Tussy Alam, Rachel Berkowitz, Aaron Tabek, Jessica Eber and Joel Bhuiyan. Wesleyan Rabbi David Leipziger Teva and Abdullah Antepli, pictured in center in purple and black shirts, coordinated the overseas trip.

Posted 04/17/06
Wesleyan Jewish Chaplain Rabbi David Leipziger Teva, wanted to prove to his students that Jews and Muslims can peacefully coexist with one another.

But Leipziger Teva, who also goes by Rabbi David,
admits that for students to understand this complex co-existence, they must couple classroom knowledge with real life, personal experiences.

So Leipziger Teva and former Wesl
eyan Muslim Chaplain Abdullah Antepli chose five Wesleyan Muslim students and six Jewish students, out of 23 who applied, and set out for an 11-day spring break excursion of Istanbul, Turkey and Jerusalem, Israel.

“The trip was very intense,” admits Leipziger Teva, who says he was most moved after seeing Palestinian and Israeli Christian, Muslim and Jewish children learning together in one classroom at the K-6 Hand-in-Hand School in Jerusalem.

The group also visited Kibbutz Metzer, an Israeli socialist commune, where member Dov Avital shared his story about living peacefully, just yards away, from a Palestinian-Arab village.

In November of 2002, suicide bomber from a radical Palestinian terrorist group broke into this Israeli Kibbutz and killed five people. Leipziger Teva says that despite the terrorist attack the two communities remain committed to dialogue and friendship.

“Dov told the story with tears in his eyes and we were all moved by it,” says Leipziger Teva. “This is just one hopeful example, despite the violence of how Jews and Muslims are trying to co-exist with each other in peace and we wanted the students to see this.”

Jamal Ahmed, a Pakistani freshman from New York City, was also moved by Avital’s story.

“On the trip, we learned that there was a sense of hope, a hope for peace,” says Ahmed.
“Despite terrible hardships, there are still great strives towards peace and beautiful co-existence. I learned more about the Jewish culture, religion, and Israeli society than I thought possible in such a short time.”

The group also met with journalists, lobbyists, human rights activists and political leaders, including Vatican Representative of Istanbul, George Marovitch and Chief Rabbinate and Rabbi of Turkey Isaac Halevo. They also visited popular landmarks including the Temple Mount, the Western Wall as well as other mosques, synagogues and visited with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and families.

Rabbi David says that during their trip, he witnessed a progressive transformation among the students.

“I saw a deepening of their individual religious spiritual identities,” he says. “They were all challenged and I was constantly motivated by the dialogue that was happening.”

Rachel Berkowitz a freshman from Trumansburg, NY, says the trip helped her gain a strong desire to learn more about Islam, Judaism, interfaith dialogue and about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I think the difference I have made has been internal, rather than external,” says Berkowitz. “I have learned and changed so much. I feel I now have a broader perspective.”

Leipziger Teva hopes that one day this Spring break trip will spark these students into making strides towards peace in the Middle East.

“Someone from this trip might one day become a senator, a Fulbright Scholar, or eventually may help draft future peace plans for Israel,” says Leipziger Teva, who feels that both the Israeli and Palestinian sides need to demonstrate compromise before real peace is established.

Next month Leipziger Teva, who is hoping to raise more funds in order to repeat the trip next year, will start showcasing a DVD documentary of the trip to mosques, churches, synagogues, and to high schools. He also plans on introducing the documentary at the Muslim Student Association Annual Conference and Hillel, the conference of Jewish College Communities later this year.

“No other school has ever taken Jews and Muslims together in one group to the Middle East,” says Leipziger Teva. “Wesleyan is unique and we hope we can help jumpstart dialogue and peace among all the children of Abraham – Jews, Muslims and Christians.”

 
By Laura Perillo, associate director of Media Relations