Campus News & Events

First Lady of Wesleyan Dies at 101

Posted 08/06/08
Katharina “Kay” Butterfield, wife of Wesleyan’s 11th President Victor Butterfield, died July 7 in Maine. She was 101 years old.

Victor and Kay Butterfield worked at Wesleyan from 1943 to 1967. Kay’s passing reminds the Wesleyan community of the profound and lasting contributions that her family has made to the university.

“I’ve often heard how students and alumni would burst into song when they encountered Mrs. Butterfield, a woman whose devotion to and affection for Wesleyan continues to inspire,” says Wesleyan President Michael Roth.

In 1982, Kay received the Baldwin Medal, the highest award of Wesleyan’s Alumni Association. In 1997, Wesleyan awarded her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano declared July 27 Kay Butterfield Day in the City of Middletown.

The following biographical notes were published in the Commencement program that year:
“A graduate of Cornell University, where she was women’s editor of the Cornell Daily Sun, she taught at the Deerfield Public School and the Riverdale Country Day School and was secretary to President Henry M. Wriston ’11 at Lawrence College. When Victor Butterfield came to Wesleyan as director of admissions in the fall of 1935, Mrs. Butterfield adopted the city as well as the campus. She was, within a year, president of the Middletown League of Women Voters—and remained an officer and member of the state and local League for more than 60 years. She was a member of the Middletown Board of Education for 13 years, and on the board of the YMCA for 25 years; in 1957, she was named “Woman of the Year” by the local chapter of B’nai B’rith, and she received the 1968 United Way Community Service Award. She was a founder and officer of the Connecticut Citizens for the Public Schools and a volunteer teacher of English as a Second Language.”

She volunteered for decades at the Wesleyan Blood Drive and more recently, Kay served as honorary chair of Wesleyan’s 175th Anniversary Committee.

The Butterfield family will hold a service for Kay in Middletown in the fall. Condolences may be sent to her children Daniel Butterfield and Margot Siekman in care of:

Ms. Margot Siekman
538 Bear Pond Road
Buckfield, ME 04220

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to the Class of 1954 Butterfield Scholarship at Wesleyan. Donations may be made payable to Wesleyan University and sent in care of:

University Relations
Wesleyan University
318 High Street
Middletown, CT 06459

More information on Kay Butterfield’s life is online in a previous Wesleyan Connection article at

Wesleyan Rideboard Links Campus Commuters

Posted 08/06/08
Every day, Linda Hurteau commutes 100 miles to and from Wesleyan, where she works an assistant in Olin Library. With skyrocketing gas prices and the need for oil changes every five weeks, the Mystic, Conn. resident knew she needed to find a transportation alternative.

“With gas costing about $4.30 a gallon, it costs me roughly $260 a month or $3,100 a year to drive to work,” Hurteau says. “$3,100 could get me a week relaxing in the Caribbean each year instead of dodging bad drivers, accidents, and rocks along (Interstate) 95. I’ve already had to replace all four tires on my 2005 vehicle and I’ve gotten at least five cracks in my windshield in three years.”

Hurteau sought the new Wesleyan Rideboard, a website devoted to offering carpooling and public transportation suggestions for the Wesleyan community. Users can post rides offered or needed to or from Wesleyan.

The website has specific links to Connecticut, Maryland and the Washington DC area, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and a link to “other destinations” for those needing or offering rides outside of the Northeast. In addition, Wesleyan Rideboard features a link to local transportation options such as Middletown Transit, the Wesleyan New Haven Shuttle; Connecticut Transit U-Line and Chinatown busses; Amtrak, Metro-North, Shore Line East railroads; and taxi and limo information.

Hurteau posted an ad, and nearby Waterford, Conn. resident Karen Murphy, analyst programmer, replied. The Wesleyan colleagues are planning to begin a commuting partnership in fall.

“Bottom line is we all have choices and I’d rather drive two hours a day to live on the shore in Southeastern Connecticut,” Hurteau says. “I am fortunate to be able to afford the commute, but if I can share the cost and save some carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere I will.”

Erika Taylor, assistant professor of chemistry, also is seeking a commuting partner on the Rideboard website. She drives to Wesleyan from Fairfield, Conn. – a 45-mile one-way campus commute.

“I signed up to carpool since I feel that any opportunity to use less fuel should be utilized and obviously carpooling helps accomplish that goal for people that can’t or don’t live in Middletown,” Taylor explains. “No one yet has taken me up on the offer, but I have talked to a few people about possible future arrangements.”

The idea for a Wesleyan Rideboard was initiated by the Student Activities and Leadership Development committee, now under the director, Timothy Shiner. Site developers included Nate Kaufman ‘08, Izaak Orlansky ‘08, Miranda Sinnott-Armstrong ‘11, Loic Thommeret ‘10, and David Markowitz ’11; Pat Leone, web administrator; Matt Elson, Unix system administrator; and Andrew Warner ‘08, junior programmer. Rideboard was launched March 1.

Wesleyan’s Sustainability Committee and the Office of Human Resources have since embraced Rideboard and are beginning a van-pooling cooperative with Connecticut Department of Transportation’s Easy Street van line. Easy Street travels to various cities in the state. Wesleyan employees had the opportunity to meet with representatives from Connecticut’s DOT Commuter Services July 16 to learn about commuting options. Human Resources plans on inviting the Easy Street back to campus in the fall – look for the announcement in the Wesleyan calendar.

In addition, you can learn more about it by visiting or contacting:
Kris Tower at the Rideshare Company at 800-972-3279 x 218 or

Wesleyan’s Rideboard only is accessible to Wesleyan employees and students via the Electronic Portfolio under “Tools & Links.”

“Having it in the portfolio gives you a chance to know a bit about the person you will be riding with and that’s a good thing,” says Steve Machuga, director of administrative systems.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Students Learn about Financial Issues at Workshop

Wesleyan’s McNair, Hughes, Mellon Mays and graduate students attended an informational financial management workshop July 22. 
Posted 08/06/08
Twenty-two students had the opportunity to learn about the do’s and don’ts of personal finance during a financial management workshop July 22.

The Financial Management for College and Graduate Students Program, sponsored by Wesleyan’s Ronald E. McNair Program, featured guests from the Connecticut-based American Eagle Federal Credit Union. The credit union employees delivered presentations on budgeting, savings, auto financing, credit cards, banking practices and credit history.

“The workshop gave students an opportunity to better understand how to mange their personal finances as well as gain insight into how to correct some of the negative things that may be on their credit report,” explains Santos Cayetano, associate director of the McNair Program. “It also gave them knowledge on how to avoid negative credit and the proper usage of credit cards.”

The event was attended by students enrolled in Wesleyan’s McNair, Hughes, Mellon Mays, and Graduate Studies programs. Following the session, several students requested an in-depth session on credit cards and debt.

The McNair program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, serves students who are first generation college students from low-income families, or African-American, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, or Native American. The program assists students from these under-represented groups in preparing for, entering, and progressing successfully through post-graduate education.

“This was a successful event that brought together several summer programs to take advantage of resources and knowledge that benefits all,” Caytano says. “The students appeared to have gained a better understanding of managing their finances and the impact of negative credit.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photos by Richard Marinelli.

Bergman, Hollywood Classics Coming in July

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman star in Notorious. The film will be shown free on July 9 as part of the second annual Wesleyan Summer Film Series.
Posted 06/25/08
Ingrid Bergman and four legendary leading men are coming to campus thanks to the Center for Film Studies and the City of Middletown.

“Ingrid Bergman and her Hollywood Leading Men” is the title of the second annual Wesleyan Summer Film Series. The free event will be held at Center for Film Studies’ Goldsmith Family Cinema and feature four films starring Bergman that will be screened on successive Wednesday nights in July at 8 p.m. Each film will include an introduction and question and answer session by a faculty and guest presenter.

The series begins on Wednesday, July 9, with the Alfred Hitchcock classic Notorious, co-starring Cary Grant. Casablanca, which features Bergman with Humphrey Bogart, screens on July 16. On July 23, Charles Boyer shares the screen with Bergman in Gaslight. The series concludes with Bing Crosby co-starring in The Bells of Saint Mary’s.

A gala reception is planned at the end of the film on July 9, and a basic reception will be offered for the other programs.

The film series is in part sponsored by a special initiative grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. As part of this project, Wesleyan is partnering with the City of Middletown, Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business District to present the CineFare Middletown program. The idea is to encourage film-goers to visit local Middletown restaurants prior to the films. Restaurants participating will have CineFare posters in their windows. The Middletown Transit Authority (MTA) has also been contracted to provide shuttle services from the downtown area to Wesleyan on the evenings of the film series.

By David Pesci, director of media relations

Three Faculty Awarded Tenure

Posted 06/25/08
The Wesleyan University Board of Trustees affirmed the promotion with tenure, effective July 1, 2008, of the following members of the faculty:

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, was appointed as an assistant professor of dance at Wesleyan in 2001. Prior, she was a visiting assistant professor and interim chair at Antioch College, an adjunct assistant professor at Hunter College and a graduate teaching fellow at Ohio State University. Kolcio was awarded a University Fellowship and was honored for Top Graduate Research in the Fine Arts at Ohio State University and has been the recipient of numerous grants including an artist-in-residence grant from the Kobzarska Sich Ukranian Bandura Music Summer Program. A presenter of many invited lectures, panels and performances, she has also conducted choreographic research at Wesleyan, the Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors La Casita Festival, Wittenberg College, and Duke University, in addition to other venues.

Kolcio’s scholarship is focused on social somatic theory, the role of somatic creative experience in practices of knowledge production, namely pedagogy, research methodology and technology.

Having earned certificates in both Ukrainian Studies and Ukrainian Dance, Kolcio then received an M.A. in political science at the University of Georgia, an M.A. in dance and a Ph.D. in cultural studies/somatics at the Ohio State University.

Edward Moran, associate professor of astronomy, joined the Wesleyan faculty in 2002 as an assistant professor of astronomy. Previously, he served as a Distinguished Visitor at the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, a Chandra Fellow in the Department of Astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, an IGPP Postdoctoral Fellow at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and as an engineer in the Space Science Division of the Perkin-Elmer Corporation. Moran has received many Telescope Time Awards including 12 orbits (19 hours) on the Hubble Space Telescope, two nights on the Kitt Peak 4m telescope, and 29 nights on the MDM 1.3m telescope. A member of the American Astronomical Society, the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the AAS, and of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, Moran has presented research talks at a number of institutions including the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia and Harvard Universities, the University of California (Berkeley and Santa Cruz), the University of Maryland and California Institute of Technology.

His area of specialization includes cosmic x-ray background radiation, obscured active galactic nuclei, black holes in the nuclei of dwarf galaxies, and the nature of power source in LINER galaxies.

Moran earned a B.S. in astronomy/physics at the Pennsylvania State University, an M.A. in astronomy and a Ph.D. in astronomy at Columbia University.

Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, associate professor of theater, has been an assistant professor of theater at Wesleyan since 2001 and affiliated with Wesleyan’s Latin American Studies Program since 2002. Among her most recent awards, Nascimento received a Consulate General of Brazil in New York Arts Grant for her professional staging of Brazilian playwright Nelson Rodrigues’ short stories in that city. She is a recipient of research fellowships from Wesleyan University’s Center for the Humanities and Freie Universität Berlin, and a member of the American Society for Theater Research, the International Federation for Theater Research, the Latin American Studies Association, and the Brazilian Studies Association.

Her teaching, directing and scholarly research interests lie in intercultural and avant-garde performance, the intersection of ritual and performance, and in Brazilian theater.

Nascimento earned an Acting Conservatory Degree at Casa das Artes de Laranjeiras, a B.A. in acting at Universidade do Rio de Janeiro, an M.A. in theater arts from the University of Akron and a Ph.D. in theater and drama from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For information on all faculty who were awarded tenure this semester, go to:

Physics Student Honored for Original Research

Gim Seng Ng ’08 was recently published in two internationally-recognized physics journals.
Posted 06/25/08
For his research efforts in mesoscopic physics, Gim Seng Ng ’08 was awarded the 2008 Vanderbilt Prize for Undergraduate Research in Physics and Astronomy.

Vanderbilt University, located in Nashville, Tenn., offers the annual prize to any undergraduate student in the U.S. doing original research in physics or astronomy.

Ng is part of Wesleyan’s Complex Quantum Dynamics and Mesoscopic Phenomena Group, led by Tsampikos Kottos, assistant professor of physics. The group’s objective is to develop models and theories to understand the interplay between quantum mechanics, interactions, and disorder which dictate the dynamics on the mesoscopic – or between microscopic and macroscopic – scale.

“There is an excitement right now in my group for Gim’s achievement, as it reflects and singles out on a national level the high level of education, and undergraduate research that we are conducting here at the Physics Department at Wesleyan,” Kottos says. “We are all very proud of Gim.”

Ng completed his honor thesis, “Signatures of Phase Transition in Wave Dynamics of Complex Systems” under the guidance of Kottos. His paper was already published in two internationally recognized journals, Physical Review Letters and Physical Review B, a journal devoted to condensed matter and materials physics.

Ng, a native of Penang, Malaysia, majored in physics and mathematics. At Wesleyan, he received the Freeman Asian Scholarship, the Bertman Prize, which is awarded to a physics senior who displays a creative approach to research; and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa honor society.

As the prize recipient, Ng will receive a $1,000 cash award.

More information on Complex Quantum Dynamics and Mesoscopic Phenomena Group is online at

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photo by Bob Handelman Photography.

Professor Develops Ecology-Based Classification System for Microbes

Fred Cohan, professor of biology, searches for microbe samples in Death Valley, Calif.
Posted 06/03/08
While exploring Death Valley’s parched landscape, Professor of Biology Fred Cohan collected samples of compacted clay from the dry grounds. He sought a bacterium that is closely related to the microbe Bacillus subtilis, previously isolated from neighboring, gravel-based terrains.

B. subtilis has similar genes and DNA as the bacteria Cohan discovered living in the clay soils, but Cohan argues that the clay-thriving microbe represents an ecologically-distinct “ecotype” of bacteria that has adapted to the low-nutrient habitat.

“We have identified and confirmed that Bacillus living in the clay soils is ecologically distinct from the bacteria living in the gravel soils,” Cohan explains. “Vegetation does not grow on the clay, so this makes us question how this newly discovered Bacillus has the ability to live with fewer food resources. Alternatively, this clay ecotype may have special adaptations for living in the unique chemical and physical conditions of the clay.”

Cohan, who has researched evolutionary genetics and biogeography of bacteria at Wesleyan for 22 years, will soon propose to scientifically classify the clay-thriving microbe as Bacillus subtilis, with an attached ecospecies name – borrowing a Native American word for “badlands.”

Cohan also discovered that bacteria living in hotter, south-facing desert slopes are ecologically distinct from the closely related bacteria living in cooler, north-facing slopes, although the soil is similar.

“We found that Bacillus ecotypes living on the south-facing slopes have greater growth rates at stressful high temperatures, and they produce greater amounts of particular kinds of fatty acids that are beneficial for heat tolerance in their cell membranes.” Cohan says. “These north- and south-facing populations are so closely related that they would likely escape the attention of bacterial systematists, yet we have shown that they are significantly different members of this bacterial community.”

He bases microbe classifications on similarity in lifestyle and habitat, whereas the scientific classifications norm is based on gene and metabolic similarities, without direct regard for ecology.

“Current methods in bacterial systematics fail to divide the bacterial domain into meaningful units of ecology and evolution,” Cohan says. “We are looking beyond the species and identifying groups of bacteria within a species by their ecotypes to understand what ecologically distinguishes the closest of relatives.”

In attempt to categorize other microbes by ecotypes, Cohan co-developed a software package called “ecotype simulation,” with aid from colleagues and students in the Department of Biology and Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. The program, which is accessible online for public use, models the evolutionary dynamics of bacteria and identifies ecotypes within a natural community.

Cohan and fellow researchers already used the computing method to identify 30 distinct Bacillus ecotypes in Israel desert-scapes. They presented their findings, and noted the ecotype simulation method in a paper titled “Identifying the fundamental units of bacterial diversity: A paradigm shift to incorporate ecology into bacterial systematics,” which was published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Feb. 12. Cohan’s views on identifying bacterial ecotypes were featured in the May 23 issue of Science Magazine and the June 2008 issue of Scientific American.

Other Wesleyan faculty and students who contributed to the research and Ecotype Simulation software are Danny Krizanc, professor of computer science; undergraduates Andrew Burger ’09, Scott Cole ‘09, Andrew Warner ’08, and Jane Wiedenbeck ’10; biology masters students Nora Connor BA ‘07 and Elizabeth Perry BA ’06 MA ’07; Ph.D candidate Alex Koeppel; and Regensburg University exchange student Konstanze Schiessl.

“We introduced a sequence-based approach, which has already identified multiple ecotypes within traditional species,” says Krizanc says. “Ecotype simulation provides a long-needed natural foundation for microbial ecology and systematics.”

Classifying bacteria at the level of ecotypes will bring important advantages to all kinds of microbiologists, Cohan explains. An ecotype-based classification will allow microbiologists to work more efficiently by focusing on strains most likely to differ in physiology and genome content by choosing organisms from different ecotypes.

In preparation for future epidemics, epidemiologists could identify all of the long-standing ecotype diversity within each named pathogenic species; they could then anticipate and prepare for future epidemics by characterizing the disease-causing properties of each ecotype.

Biotechnologists may also take advantage of an ecotype-based systematics.”

“After discovering a strain with a valuable enzyme, biotechnologists could discover similar enzymes with somewhat different properties by searching for the same enzyme in closely related ecotypes,” Cohan says. “An ecotype-based systematics will allow microbial ecologists to quantify the ecological diversity within a community.”

Finally, a classification of ecotypes will allow scientists to identify and characterize the ecologically-unique populations of bacteria, a critical step forward in understanding the ecological interactions within natural microbial communities.

Now that Cohan has proposed a systematic way for identifying ecotypes, he recommends that all ecotypes be recognized and classified with a scientific name.

“We believe that the fullness of ecological diversity within the bacterial world will be taken most seriously when each ecotype is given its own name,” he says.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photo by Willie Cohan.

Kauanui Co-Founds Native American, Indigenous Studies Scholarly Organization

Posted 06/03/08
A Wesleyan faculty member with Hawaiian ancestry is a founding member of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA).

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, associate professor of anthropology, associate professor of American studies, is one of six scholars to co-create the professional organization for faculty and researchers who work in American Indian, Native American, First Nations, and Aboriginal or Indigenous studies. The association was officially launched on April 11.

“It is clear that scholars in these linked fields are at critical mass, and that the intellectual work has matured in a way that makes the importance of our multi-faceted epistemological interventions undeniable,” Kauanui says. “It’s about time.”

According to the organization’s constitution, NAISA’s purpose is to “promote Native American and Indigenous studies through the encouragement of academic freedom, research, teaching, publication, the strengthening of relations among persons and institutions devoted to such studies, and the broadening of knowledge among the general public about Native American and Indigenous studies in all its diversity and complexity.”

The group was formed at an event titled “Native American and Indigenous Studies: Who Are We? Where Are We Going?” held April 10-12 at the University of Georgia. This event, which Kauanui co-organized, drew an audience of more than 450 scholars and graduate students from more than 165 institutions from 18 countries.

The first NAISA meeting is set for May 21-23, 2009 at the University of Minnesota. The new nominating committee will put together a ballot for the first official election for the NAISA council. Until then, the acting council –formerly the steering committee — will continue its work and leadership.

“Our goal is to gather a critical mass of scholars to help shape the new association and mold its agenda within the framework of a set of principles to guide its work,” Kauanui says. “As a result, our association will develop into one that is scholarly, interdisciplinary, is governed by individual members and is open to anyone who does work in Native American and Indigenous Studies.”

In addition, the association will hold annual meetings that rotate among institutional hosts or other locations.

Other founding members, which make up the organization’s acting council, are: Inés Hernández-Ávila (Nimipu), professor of Native American studies at the University of California at Davis; K. Tsianina Lomawaima (Creek), professor of American Indian studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson; Jace Weaver (Cherokee), director of the Institute for Native American Studies, professor of religion at the University of Georgia; Robert Warrior (Osage), professor of English at the University of Oklahoma; Jean O’Brien (White Earth Ojibwe), associate professor of history and chair of the Department of American Indian Studies.

More information about the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA) and the 2009 meeting is online at

An article on NAISA was published May 9 in Indian Country Today, online at

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Award Sends Graduate Student to Japan for Lamprey Study

At right, Ann Campbell Burke, associate professor of biology, and biology graduate student Frank Tulenko, look over Tulenko’s research poster explaining how lamprey embryos develop. Tulenko is continuing this research at the RIKEN Institute in Kobe, Japan this summer.
Posted 06/03/08
In the past 350 million years of vertebrate evolution, the musculoskeletal system has morphed significantly across taxonomic groups. The first vertebrates, had no jaws or paired fins, and are represented today by the eel-like aquatic the lamprey that continues to thrive with its archaic cartilage jowls.

As a recipient of an East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes for U.S. Graduate Students (EAPSI) award, biology graduate student Frank Tulenko is spending his summer studying how these primitive vertebrates develop. His study began June 1 at the RIKEN Institute’s Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan.

“Frank’s research will give us better insight into how a vertebrate’s body is formed,” explains Tulenko’s advisor, Ann Campbell Burke, associate professor of biology. “By studying this basal vertebrate, we can enrich our understanding of mesodermal patterning in our ancestors.”

At the RIKEN Center, Tulenko is conducting research with Shigeru Kuratani, director of the Laboratory for Evolutionary Morphology. Kuratani, a colleague of Burke, is an expert on jawless fishes known as agnathostomes.

In collaboration with members of the Kuratani lab in Kobe, Tulenko will be part of research team tracking how cells move and develop in the lamprey’s early stages of life. The team will do this by injecting the embryos’ cells with vital dye. As the embryos develop into larvae, the researchers observe where certain cells move within the fish’s skeletal muscles. Tulenko will be focusing specifically on the lateral plate mesoderm – a cell population within the embryo that forms the skeleton, muscles, heart, spleen and other internal organs.

“Knowledge of the developmental morphologies of lampreys is critical to understanding how the vertebrate body plan has changed throughout time,” Tulenko says. “Since lamprey lack jaws and paired fins, the evolutionary position of lamprey makes it a key model system for gaining insight into the primitive characteristics of vertebrates.”

Burke says lamprey embryo research could ultimately contribute to human embryo studies.

“By studying the lamprey, we are learning how simple systems develop, and this could lead to understanding more about how birth defects occur in humans,” Burke says.

The East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes provide U.S. graduate students in science and engineering a first-hand research experience, an introduction to the science and science policy infrastructure of the respective location; and orientation to the society, culture and language. The primary goals of EAPSI are to introduce students to East Asia and Pacific science and engineering in the context of a research setting, and to help students initiate scientific relationships that will better enable future collaboration with foreign counterparts.

Tulenko applied for EAPSI in December 2007, and was notified of the award in February 2008.

“I was really excited to learn I was chosen, and have the opportunity to be immersed in non-western perspectives on science,” Tulenko says.

The institutes last approximately eight weeks from late June to August.

Tulenko departed three weeks early to arrive in time for the lamprey spawning season.

“Although the research and experiments happen in a laboratory environment, it’s important to be there when they are spawning so we can collect the embryos fresh from the lampreys,” Tulenko explains.

At the end of his program, Tulenko hopes to write about his findings and submit them to an anatomy- or evolution-based science journal for publishing. Burke says his data could potentially lead to grant funding for additional lamprey development research.
Tulenko, who holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biology from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, applied to Wesleyan in 2005 with an interest in Burke’s research on turtle development and the evolution of the vertebrate body plan.

Burke believes Tulenko may be the first Wesleyan student to receive the (EAPSI) award, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“This really is an honor for Frank to get this award,” Burke says. “It’s good for Frank, it’s good for Wesleyan and I hope this becomes the beginning of a long student-exchange and collaboration process between Wesleyan and the Kobe Institute.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Memorable, Inspiring Speeches and 737 New Graduates at 2008 Commencement

Senator Barack Obama delivered the 176th commencement speech May 25.
Posted 06/03/08
When a pinch hitter comes into a game, it’s usually a crucial moment — hope balanced against uncertainty. At Wesleyan’s 176th Commencement May 25, the hope shone through, and by all accounts, the pinch hitter sent a grand slam far over the fences.

“I have the distinct honor today of pinch-hitting for one of my personal heroes and a hero to this country, Senator Edward Kennedy,” said U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.). “He called me up a few days ago and I said that I’d be happy to be his stand-in, even if there was no way that I could fill his shoes.”

Senator Obama then went on to give a speech talking about service inspiration that drew on his own experiences as well as the examples of Senator Kennedy and his brother, the late President John F. Kennedy.

As an estimated crowd of nearly 20,000 people listened, Senator Obama spoke about challenges graduating students faced from the daily “busyness” of their own lives to the needs for clean renewable power, more teachers for disadvantaged children, to rebuilding New Orleans.

“We need you,” Senator Obama said.

“At a time of war, we need you to work for peace. At a time of inequality, we need you to work for opportunity. At a time of so much cynicism and so much doubt, we need you to make us believe again. That’s your task, class of 2008.”

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth seemed to presage Senator Obama’s sentiments with his own remarks made moments before.

“Being in the company of students as gifted and energetic as Wesleyan’s class of 2008, gives me faith that we may well be able to reject the status quo, to build a politics and a culture of hope and community rather than of fear and divisiveness,” Roth said to the gathered graduates, who included 737 undergraduates awarded bachelor’s degrees, 29 students receiving master of arts degrees in individual fields, 64 master of arts in liberal studies degrees and 12 Ph.D. recipients.

Wesleyan also presented an Honorary Doctor of Laws to Senator Obama, an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to author Jamaica Kincaid, an Honorary Doctor of Laws to Morton Owen Schapiro, Williams College president, and an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts to photographer Philip Trager ’56.

Rashida Richardson, senior class president and student speaker, acknowledged the accomplishments that she and her peers made during their time at Wesleyan.

“Some [classmates] participated in the World Universities Debating Championship in Bangkok. Two were recipients of the Projects for Peace award, which are going to help build a bio-gas digester in Kenya. The student-run Long Lane farm was awarded Connecticut’s Higher Education Community Service Award. Two students have received prestigious Watson fellowships.”

Richardson also mentioned students who took trips to Mexico and Peru with Wesleyan Without Borders, and championed the student-run endowment initiative.

Senator Obama stayed through the entire ceremony, sitting by the stairs that the students ascended to receive their degrees, and shaking the hands of each recipient.

Senator Obama also left the crowd with a message from Senator Kennedy:

“To all those praying for my return to good health, I offer my heartfelt thanks. And to any who’d rather have a different result, I say, don’t get your hopes up just yet!” Click here to see video of Senator Obama’s complete speech.

Click here to see video of President Michael Roth’s complete speech.

Click here for additional Commencement materials.

By Media Relations staff. Photo by Nick Lacy.

13 Students, Alumni to Receive Scholarships Under Fulbright Program


Ian Renner ’08 will observe, assist and run theater activities for child laborers in Egypt as a 2008-09 Fulbright scholar.
Posted 06/03/08
In Egypt, about 300,000 children spend their days laboring six days a week to help support their families and shoulder significant responsibilities at home.

As a recent Fulbright scholar, Ian Renner ’08 will spend the 2008-09 academic year helping some of these children regain their childhood through theater. He is one of 13 Wesleyan students and recent graduates to receive scholarships under the auspices of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Administered by the Institute for International Education, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards full research grants to graduating seniors and young alumni after an extensive application process. Recipients receive a stipend to cover travel, housing and living expenses.

“The children I’ll be working with are denied an opportunity to attend school or socialize with other children, and this impairs their ability to develop into competent adults and further perpetuates poverty,” Renner says. “Childhood is a time during which children develop self-esteem, a voice, and a sense of a community that many will keep for the rest of their lives. Supporting children is supporting a society’s future.”

Renner accepted an internship with the Cairo, Egypt-based Townshouse Gallery, working with Mahmoud El Lozy, associate professor of drama at the American University in Cairo. Renner will observe, assist and run theater activities for area children, and study the performance work being done with child laborers at the Townhouse. Eventually, Renner hopes to become involved in leading theater activities with the working children.

“Since working children are often isolated, theater is a space where bonding and self-organization occurs through group work, leading to a sense of collective ownership over creative potential,” Renner explains. “Creating character in drama can potentially help children understand themselves better and visualize changing their position in society. And at a minimum, theater can provide a small but real window of time for laboring children to experience a childhood that they are otherwise denied.”

Renner has already worked with low-income children at Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown. He hopes the Oddfellows experience, along with his Fulbright, will help guide his future professional development. Renner foresees working for an organization that addresses the concerns of at-risk children on a global level.

Cedric Bien ’08 also received a Fulbright grant to study and research in China, but declined his Fulbright in favor of a Watson fellowship. Ameera Hamid ’08 was made a Fulbright alternate for study and research in Bangladesh, and may yet receive a grant.

Four students received French Government Teaching Assistantships, under the auspices of Fulbright. Emily Hauck ’08, Kai Johnson ’08, Emma Rosenberg ’08, and Sara Rowe ’08 will teach English in high schools in France during the 2008-09 academic year. The program is funded by the French government.

“Our students will be working with a master teacher and will represent American culture, leading conversation and activities with the French students,” says Wesleyan Fulbright organizer Krishna Winston. “They will help the French students realize that English is a spoken language, not just words in a textbook.”

Three other students were awarded, or selected as alternates, for English-teaching opportunities in foreign countries. Maya Bery ’08, will teach in Taiwan; Emily Malkin ’08 is an alternate to teach in Malaysia; and Hyun Hannah Nam ’08 is an alternate to teach in South Korea.

“My main goal is to begin learning Chinese, but on a more personal level, I hope to learn and grow from the challenges of moving to a country I’ve never visited before, where I don’t speak the language, and to hopefully learn to be an effective teacher as well,” Bery says. She has been assigned to an elementary and middle school in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Three alumnae also received Fulbrights. Marion Holaday ‘06 will study the rights of immigrants in South Africa; Rachel Lindsay ‘05 will study sustainable agriculture in Nicaragua, and Laura LeCorgne MA ’05 will complete a photographic-ethnographic study of musicians and musical- instrument makers in Egypt.

This year Winston worked with 27 students applying for Fulbrights and related grants, and of those 15 were recommended for grants. Only two of the 15 were rejected outright.

“This year, we had an extraordinary yield,” Winston says. “It’s the best year we’ve ever had.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Professor Robert Whitman Dies at 78

Posted 05/15/08
Robert H. Whitman, professor of Russian emeritus, died recently in Berkeley, Calif. He was 78 years old.

Professor Whitman was trained as a linguist. He earned a bachelor of arts from Hamilton College and a Ph.D from Harvard University and joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1959.

He left Wesleyan in 1963 and spent a year in the USSR, then returned to teach and continue his research at Cornell University, the University of Indiana, and the University of California at Berkeley, before returning to Wesleyan in 1971. He was a visiting professor at Yale for one semester, served as chair of the Educational Policy Committee, and taught courses in Old Russian literature and the history of the Russian language.

Professor Whitman founded a program in linguistics, with the participation of members of the anthropology, philosophy, English and psychology departments, and for many years taught popular courses in general linguistics, directing numerous honors theses written by students who went on to become professional linguists. He retired from the Wesleyan faculty in 1997.

“Bob had an extraordinary ability to inspire students to do sophisticated work, both in tutorials and in class, giving students confidence in their insights by exploring the most fruitful dimensions of what they had to say,” says Whitman’s former colleague Priscilla Meyer, professor of Russian language and literature. “He enlivened department meetings with his love of linguistic play, and was enormously generous with his time to colleagues as well as students.”

Meyer adds that in 1975, Professor Whitman took over a five-days-a-week Russian language class for a month to replace an incapacitated colleague.

Professor Whitman is survived by his wife Fran of Berkeley, Calif., his daughter Julie Zai, and grandchildren Claire and Andreus, who live in Franktown, Colo.