Campus News & Events

2 Students Earn Goldwater Scholarships

Molecular biology and biochemistry majors Noah Biro ’09, above, and Alison Ringel ’09, below will conduct independent research next year with help from a Goldwater Scholarship.
Posted 04/21/08
Alison Ringel ’09 and Noah Biro ’09, both molecular biology and biochemistry majors, will conduct independent research as Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program fellows in 2008-09.

The two students were among 321 juniors and seniors nationwide selected for highly competitive undergraduate scholarship in science, math or engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is applied to their undergraduate studies. Next year, they will receive up to $7,500 each to help defray the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

“The awards are a great external acknowledgment of the quality and significance of the student’s achievements,” explains Ringel’s advisor Scott Holmes, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. “A student might feel good about how they are progressing through our program, but still wonder how they compare to the larger population of students outside of Wesleyan who have similar aspirations. The award should be a big confidence booster that keeps them aiming high.”

Biro, who is double majoring in sociology, will conduct research with Manju Hingorani, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry. The Hingorani laboratory studies particular aspects of DNA repair and replication. Biro is currently studying the repair enzyme Msh2-Msh3 (MutS homologue), which is implicated in neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington’s disease.

“Specifically, I hope to establish some of the kinetic parameters that describe the protein’s mechanism of action in the hope that my findings will facilitate treatment of this genetic disorder,” Biro explains.

Ringel works in the Holmes lab, which studies how genes are turned on and off at the level of DNA and chromatin. She is double majoring in physics and will use her scholarship to conduct research on characterizing interaction between two proteins, one active in glycolysis (a pathway that breaks down certain types of sugars for conversion into energy) and the other required for gene silencing.

“Understanding the nature of this interaction could yield insight regarding the interplay between metabolism, aging and gene silencing,” Ringel explains.

Both students will be Hughes Fellows at Wesleyan this summer, as well, permitting them to get a head start on their research projects. Ringel and Biro are also enrolled in joint B.A.-M.A. programs in molecular biology and biochemistry and plan to go on to obtain their Ph.Ds.

Biro’s future goal is to conduct research in biomedical science for a non-profit organization, concentrating on pandemics. Ringel hopes to study biophysics and ultimately end up teaching and doing research at a college or university.

Ringel and Biro were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,035 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide.

“When I found out that I had received the Goldwater scholarship I felt incredibly proud but somewhat shocked,” Ringle says. “I’m just very happy to have received this honor.

The Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate. The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on Nov. 14, 1986.

The Goldwater Scholarship was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering.

For more information go to

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Projects for Peace Recipients Will Build Biogas Digester in Kenya, Providing Alternative Fuel to Wood

In the dry, Rift Valley province of Kenya, communities are struggling with deforestation issues and infertile soils for farming. This rural area relies heavily on firewood for cooking and warmth, however locals are being forced to travel further for resources, limiting the time spent supporting their families.As Davis United World College “Projects for Peace” recipients, Robert McCourt ’08 and Nyambura Gichohi ’08 will help this community create alternative energy through biogas this summer. They will work with the Noontoto Women’s Project, a group of 25 women that have come together to aspire to improve their livelihood.

As one of 100 Projects for Peace participants in the world, McCourt, left, and Gichohi  will facilitate construction of a biogas digester. Biogas is produced when bacteria decompose biological matter in an anaerobic environment. The decay of biomass produces methane, a gas that can be used as an energy source for cooking.

Green Street’s Director Featured in Marriage Equality Film

Sporting a blue sweatshirt, Janis Astor del Valle, director of the Green Street Arts Center, gathers with others featured in the film, “Marriage Makes a Word of Difference,” which promotes marriage equality in Connecticut. Astor del Valle’s wife, Amy Myers, is pictured in the brown sweatshirt. The film’s director Fran Rzeznik is on the far right.
Posted 04/21/08
When the Hartford-based organization Love Makes a Family (LMF) was looking for interesting stories about how same-sex couples met, Green Street Arts Director Janis Astor del Valle’s wife Amy Joy Myers sent in the unique story of their first meeting as childhood friends.

The couple didn’t know at the time that they were going to be featured in a 44-minute film titled “Marriage Makes a Word of Difference” promoting marriage equality in Connecticut. In fact, a picture of the couple on their June 2007 wedding day is the sole image on the DVD’s menu screen (pictured at left). The film was shown to the Wesleyan community on April 10, 2008 as part of the organization’s outreach efforts.

Those who were in the audience at the film’s screening learned that Astor del Valle and Myers met in rural New Milford, Connecticut, when Janis’s family moved there from Bronx, NY. Myers’s family members were the only African-Americans on the block and Astor del Valle’s were the only Puerto-Ricans.

“I love to tell the story about how I met Amy. It’s my favorite story to tell,” Astor del Valle says.

One of six couples featured in the film, Astor del Valle and Myers speak about the excitement and tensions surrounding the announcement of their intentions to marry one another, the love and support from their friends and family members on their wedding day and the lingering frustration they feel because they cannot legally marry in the state of Connecticut.

Astor del Valle says the designation of a civil union is “just not good enough,” and asks “Why should we be treated any differently?”

In the film, Astor del Valle says “If we’re good enough to pay taxes and to serve our country—to vote, to teach … then we are good enough to be married.”

“We all bleed red,” she said.

Astor del Valle says that she often speaks with people who say that they didn’t realize that there was a difference between the two legal designations of relationships.

There are several distinct differences between civil unions and marriages, one, of course, being that civil unions are only applicable to same-sex couples. Couples legally united in a civil union cannot file federal taxes jointly. If one partner is injured out of the couple’s home state, the other partner may not be entitled to make medical decisions on the injured partner’s behalf or visit him or her in the hospital. If one partner dies, the other is not able to collect Social Security benefits or veteran benefits payments.

LMF supports marriage equality by lobbying state legislators on a regular basis. They also do outreach to community organizations and non-governmental groups. Having a documentary-style film of several couples in different stages of life–with and without children—helps the organization tell the stories of Connecticut residents to various groups without them having to be there in person.

Carol Buckheit, LMF’s associate director, says the target audience of the film is “people who have yet to make up their minds regarding whether same-sex couples should have the right to marry. For others who are already supportive of this right, our hope is that the film emboldens them to become vocal advocates for marriage equality, starting simply by having conversations with friends, family, co-workers [and] fellow students.”

“Marriage Makes a Word of Difference” made its way to the Wesleyan campus through the efforts of Vicky Graham, an athletic trainer at Wesleyan who also volunteers for LMF. She contacted several on-campus student groups to sponsor the film screening. The Queer Social Committee, Spectrum, Queer Intern and Hermes agreed to her request.

The film was first screened for the six featured couples at Green Street Arts Center. Astor del Valle says viewing the film for the first time “was an incredible feeling.”

“We were just so moved and touched by everyone’s story. Some of the struggles we had, some other couples had ten times worse,” she says.

Upcoming film screenings are available at

By Corrina Kerr, associate director of media relations. Group photo by Glenn Koetzner. DVD wedding photo by Roslyn Carrier-Brault.

NESCAC All-Academic Student-Athletes Announced

Above, Liz Demakos ’09 of Amherst, N.Y. was named a New England Small College Athletic Conference All-Academic selection for Women’s Squash. Below, Sean Watson ’08, was named an All-Academic for Men’s Indoor Track and Field.
Posted 04/04/08
The New England Small College Athletic Conference announced its 2007-08 Winter All-Academic selections March 19 with 407 student-athletes that participated in a winter sport earning All-Academic recognition.

To be honored, a student-athlete must have reached junior academic standing and be a varsity letter winner with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.35. A transfer student must have completed one year of study at the institution.

The 2008 Wesleyan NESCAC Winter All-Academic winners, their sport and hometown include:

Jonah Blumstein ’09, Men’s Indoor Track and Field, Scarsdale, N.Y.
Lila Bolke ’08, Women’s Ice Hockey, Minnetonka, Minn.
Julia Cohen ’09, Women’s Ice Hockey, Washington, D.C.
Scott Cole ’09, Men’s Indoor Track and Field, Newton, Mass.
Lauren Cruz ’09, Women’s Swimming and Diving, Forest Hills, N.Y.
Liz Demakos ’09, Women’s Squash, Amherst, N.Y.
J.Z. Golden ’08, Men’s Squash, Merion, Pa.
Sam Grover ’08, Men’s Indoor Track and Field, Williston, Vt.
Tameir Holder ’08, Women’s Indoor Track and Field, Lakeview, N.Y.
Hannah Jackson ’09, Women’s Ice Hockey, Brookline, Mass.
Caroline Janin ’08, Women’s Squash, Paris, France
Agnes Koczo ’09, Women’s Swimming and Diving, Suffern, N.Y.
Derek Kuwahara ’09, Men’s Indoor Track and Field, Torrance, Calif.
Anwell Lanfranco ’08, Men’s Indoor Track and Field, Salem, N.H.
Shannah Lively ’09, Women’s Basketball, Royalston, Mass.
Meredith Lowe ’09, Women’s Basketball, Philadelphia, Pa.
Nikki Maletta ’08, Women’s Basketball, Durham, Conn.
Benjie Messenger-Barnes ’09, Men’s Squash, New York, N.Y.
Stephanie O’Brien ’08, Women’s Indoor Track and Field, Newton, Mass.
Mike Pepi ’08, Men’s Swimming and Diving, Huntington, N.Y.
Jon Sargent ’09, Men’s Basketball, Ashburnham, Mass.
Alex Shklyarevsky ’08, Men’s Ice Hockey, San Jose, Calif.
Jeff Stein ’08, Men’s Swimming and Diving, Glencoe, Ill.
Selina Tirtajana ’08, Women’s Squash, Bandung, Indonesia
Ashley Un ’09, Women’s Swimming and Diving, Swarthmore, Pa.
Sean Watson ’08, Men’s Indoor Track and Field, Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Brent Winship ’09, Men’s Ice Hockey, Manhattan Beach, Calif.

More information on the 2008 winters is online at

The NESCAC announced its 2007 Fall All-Academic selections Nov. 17 with 332 student-athletes that participated in a fall sport earning All-Academic recognition.

The 2007 Wesleyan NESCAC Fall All-Academic winners, their sport and hometown include:

Elena Bertocci ’09, Women’s Soccer, Thomaston, Maine
Sam Blank, ’09, Women’s Soccer, Chicago, Ill.
Jonah Blumstein ’09, Men’s Cross Country, Scarsdale, N.Y.
Lisa Drennan ’09, Volleyball, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Gavi Elkind, ’09, Women’s Soccer, San Francisco, Calif.
Becca Feiden ’08, Women’s Soccer, Takoma Park, Md.
Laura Fine ’08, Women’s Soccer, Seattle, Wash.
Nicole Gray ’08, Women’s Soccer, Silver Spring, Md.
Jamie Hiteshew ’08, Men’s Soccer, Montclair, N.J.
Zach Librizzi ’08, Football, Essex Junction, Vt.
Becky Malik ’09, Women’s Soccer, Warren, N.J.
Justin Mello ’08, Men’s Soccer, Rehoboth, Mass.
Tim O’Callaghan ’08, Football, Babylon, N.Y.
Molly O’Connell ’09, Field Hockey, Brookline, Mass.
Sarah Orkin ’09, Women’s Soccer, West Hartford, Conn.
Ozzie Parente ’09, Men’s Soccer, Orange, Conn.
Lucia Pier ’08, Women’s Cross Country, Sonoma, Calif.
Becca Rodger ’08, Volleyball, Long Beach, N.Y.
Maddie Rottman ’08, Field Hockey, Exeter, N.H.
Hailey Sarage ’09, Field Hockey, Springfield, Mass.
Zach Schechter-Steinberg ’08, Men’s Soccer, Iowa City, Iowa
Anna Schindler ’09, Women’s Cross Country, Newton, Mass.
David Tassone ’08, Men’s Cross Country, Arlington, Mass.
Dave Velardo ’08, Men’s Golf, Wilmington, Mass.
Sean Watson ’08, Men’s Cross Country, Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Liz Wheatley ’09, Women’s Cross Country, Arlington, Mass.
Tory Whitney ’08, Field Hockey, Brookline, Mass.
Tyler Whitley ’08, Football, Torrington, Conn.
Anna Williams ’09, Volleyball, Northfield, Minn.
Eli Wilson ’09, Men’s Golf, Honolulu, Hawaii
Jettie Word ’08, Volleyball, Albuquerque, N.M.

Founded in 1971, the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) consists of 11 liberal arts colleges and has consistently reflected its commitment to the values of athletics and academic achievement. The member colleges of the conference are Amherst College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Connecticut College, Hamilton College, Middlebury College, Trinity College, Tufts University, Wesleyan University and Williams College.

More information on the fall is online at

Squash photo by Brian Katten ’79, sports information director. Cross country photo by Steve McLaughlin.

Watson Fellows to Document World-Wide Chinese Communities, Child Soldier Reintegration Policies

Posted 04/04/08
After graduation, senior Cedric Bien ’08 will examine his Chinese roots on four continents while Rebecca Littman ’08 will investigate the plight of child soldiers being reintegrated into West African communities.

As Thomas J. Watson Foundation Travel Grant for Research Fellows, Bien, pictured at left, and Littman, pictured below, will have the opportunity to independently research these topics for 12 months in 2008-09. Each year, more than 1,000 college seniors apply to the Watson program, but only 50 fellowships are awarded.

Bien’s project, titled “Documenting the Chinese Diaspora: A Photographic Ethnography of Chinatowns” will take him to Chinese populations in Peru, Paraguay, Brazil, Italy, Ethiopia, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia. He will explore the similarities and differences of these communities primarily through interactions with community members, photography and audio recordings.

“What does it mean to be of Chinese descent in Ethopia? In Italy? I want to know,” says Bien, who is majoring in East Asian studies. “I want to document and understand how these scattered Chinatowns have evolved and adjusted to local conditions, and I want to observe and experience the livelihoods of Chinese communities around the world, with whom I share a common cultural heritage.”

Littman’s project, titled “Victim and Perpetrator: Reintegrating the Former Child Soldier,” will take her to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. In these African countries, governments and rebel groups abduct or forcibly recruit children into their armed forces. Child soldiers who survive the fighting often face mixed reactions when they return home.

“Some may sympathize with these children as victims of conflict, while others may stigmatize them as perpetrators of crimes,” Littman explains. “It is crucial to develop reintegration programs that successfully take this complex reality into account. I want to explore the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of reintegration efforts.”

Littman will analyze the factors contributing to the development of policies and programs aimed at facilitating the reintegration of former child soldiers into society. She will speak to aid workers, program administrators and policymakers directly involved in shaping, funding and implementing policies and programs.

One of the major challenges of the fellowship is overcoming language barriers.

Knowing the French language is necessary in Guinea, and Littman is preparing by studying at home and working with a tutor in Africa. English is the official language in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Bien learned Spanish in San Marcos, Nicaragua prior to enrolling at Wesleyan.

“When I was in Nicaragua, some children asked me to write something in Chinese, and I felt ashamed to respond that I knew no Chinese characters other than my name,” Bien recalls. “What kind of Chinese-American couldn’t even write Chinese? I began to regret not knowing more about my Chinese heritage and this helped shape my interest in the Chinese diaspora and immigrant Chinese communities.”

At Wesleyan, Bien studied Mandarin Chinese, and spent an additional two summers in Beijing studying the language in intensive language programs.

The Wesleyan Selection Committee nominated Bien and Littman for the Watson Fellowship in October 2007 based on their project proposals and interviews. Projects need to demonstrate serious creativity in the subject area chosen, challenge the student on many fronts, and be a personal stretch.

The winners were announced in March. Each Fellow receives $25,000 for the year of travel and exploration.

“We are thrilled Cedric and Rebecca will get to spend a year after Wesleyan as Watson Fellows,” says Louise Brown, associate dean of the college. “As fellows, they will get to travel abroad and explore a subject about which they are passionate. What an amazing opportunity for them! ”

In addition to their academic achievements, Watson Fellows have been leaders on- and off- campus. This year’s 50 fellows come from 23 states and five foreign countries.

“The awards are long-term investments in people, not research,” says Rosemary Macedo, executive director of the Watson Fellowship Program and a former Watson Fellow. “We look for people likely to lead or innovate in the future and give them extraordinary independence in pursuing their interests. They must have passion, creativity, and a feasible plan. The Watson Fellowship affords an unequalled opportunity for global experiential learning.”

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was begun in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of International Business Machines Corp., and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents’ long-standing interest in education and world affairs.

More information on the Watson Fellowship is online at

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Tuition to Increase by 5 Percent, Grant Aid by 7.5 Percent

Posted 04/04/08
Wesleyan University will increase its fees by 5 percent for the 2008-2009 academic year. The increase, equal to the lowest percentage increase in seven years, is attributable to growth in salary and benefits costs, as well as energy and other costs that outpace general inflation. The Board of Trustees approved the fee increase at its meeting on March 1.

Tuition will be $38,364 for all students in 2008-2009. For freshman and sophomores, the residential comprehensive fee will be $10,636. For juniors and seniors, the fee will be $12,088. The higher residential comprehensive fee for juniors and seniors reflects the higher cost of the options available to them. Juniors and seniors have access to apartments and houses in addition to residence hall rooms. They also have greater flexibility in dining options.

The university’s financial aid expenditures are projected to increase 7.5 percent to offset the fee increase for students receiving aid. The increase also will support the first year of an initiative to eliminate loans for Wesleyan’s neediest undergraduates and replace these with additional grants, as well as to substantially reduce overall student borrowing.

Beginning with the first-year class enrolling in the fall of 2008, most students whose total family incomes are $40,000 per year or less will receive an aid package that substitutes grants for any loan obligation. Beginning with the same class, all other students who receive aid will graduate with a four-year total loan indebtedness reduced by an average of 35 percent. Aid packages will include a single student loan, the federally subsidized Stafford Loan. The interest rates for Stafford Loans are among the lowest available. Wesleyan will raise endowment sufficient to fund the $3.2 million annual cost of this initiative.

Wesleyan admits students without regard to their financial circumstances and then provides a financial aid package that meets each student’s full demonstrated need. Forty percent of its 2,900 students currently receive grant aid. The average grant in 2007-2008 is $27,151. Wesleyan currently budgets $35.4 million of its own resources annually for grant aid for undergraduates.

“Each Wesleyan family makes a significant investment on behalf of our students, and so does the university,” says Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “We are doing everything possible to use our resources efficiently and responsibly and to maximize the funding available to ensure that students from all backgrounds have access to a Wesleyan education. One of our highest priorities in the next campaign will be to endow financial aid and need-blind admission more fully.”

NESCAC All-Conference Winners Announced

Amanda Shapiro ’08 was named a New England Small College Athletic Conference All-Conference winner for Swimming and Diving.
Posted 04/04/08
The New England Small College Athletic Conference announced the Winter and Fall All-Conference winners for each sport.

All-Conference is an honor given to athletes who are voted by the NESCAC coaches in their team sport as the best players in the conference or, for individual sports, who finish high enough in the conference championship.

The 2008 Wesleyan NESCAC Winter All-Conference winners are:

Women’s Basketball – Ali Fourney ’09, first team and Lucy Sprung ’08, second team; Men’s Swimming and Diving – David Wilkinson ’09; Women’s Swimming and Diving – Kate Krems ’08 and Amanda Shapiro ’08.

The 2008 Wesleyan NESCAC Fall All-Conference winners are:

Football – Zach Librizzi ’08 (pictured at left), Ryan Walsh ’09 and AJ Taucher ’08, all second team;
Men’s Soccer – Alan Ashenfelter ’09, Justin Mello ’08 and Jamie Hiteshew ’08, all second team; Women Soccer – Sam Blank ’09, second team; Field Hockey – Tory Whitney ’08 and Breen McDonald ’10, both second team; Women’s Volleyball – Lisa Drennan ’09, first team and Ellie Healy ’10, second team.

Founded in 1971, the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) consists of 11 liberal arts colleges and has consistently reflected its commitment to the values of athletics and academic achievement. The member colleges of the conference are Amherst College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Connecticut College, Hamilton College, Middlebury College, Trinity College, Tufts University, Wesleyan University and Williams College.

Photos by Brian Katten ’79, sports information director

Commissioner McCarthy Keynote Speaker at Earth Day Address

Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy will present “Meeting the Environmental Challenges of the 21st Century” at 8 p.m. April 22 as part of Wesleyan’s Earth Day observance.
Posted 04/04/08
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Gina McCarthy will present the 2008 Earth Day Keynote Address at Wesleyan titled “Meeting the Environmental Challenges of the 21st Century.” This free event will be held at 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 22 in the Memorial Chapel. A reception will immediately follow in the Zelnick Pavilion.

Appointed by Governor M. Jodi Rell on Dec. 10, 2004, Commissioner McCarthy came to the Connecticut DEP from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where she worked on environmental issues at the state and local level for 25 years in a variety of high-ranking positions, including Deputy Secretary of Operations for the Massachusetts Office of Commonwealth Development.

“We are very fortunate to have Commissioner McCarthy speaking at Wesleyan’s Earth Day observance,” says Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program. “She has set a very aggressive, forward thinking agenda that is increasing protections for Connecticut. Commissioner McCarthy is an excellent speaker and will have broad appeal to the Wesleyan and Middletown communities.”

McCarthy is working on key environmental priorities, including: health of Long Island Sound; the state’s air quality; the state park system; Connecticut’s innovative Climate Change Action Plan; a new solid waste master plan; and new strategies to protect the state’s natural resources.

McCarthy received a bachelor of arts in social anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a joint master of science in environmental health engineering and planning and policy from Tufts University.

Earth Day Keynote Address is part of the Robert Schumann Lecture Series for Environmental Studies at Wesleyan University. For more information, contact Valerie Marinelli, administrative assistant, at 860-685-3733, e-mail or visit

Faculty Awarded New Appointments

Posted 04/04/08
The Wesleyan University Board of Trustees awarded tenure to five members of the faculty in March. These appointments do not conclude tenure announcements for the 2007-2008 academic year, and more will be forthcoming.

The faculty members who were awarded tenure in March by the Board are:

Christiaan Hogendorn, associate professor of economics. Hogendorn’s scholarship concentrates on applied microeconomic theory in the field of industrial organization. His course offerings include Microeconomics, Introduction to Economic Theory, Economics of Technology, Regulation and Anti-trust and Industrial Technology.

Allan Isaac, associate professor of English. Isaac’s area of specialization is Asian American literature and culture. At Wesleyan, among the courses he has taught are: Asian Diaspora in the Americas, Asian American Literature and Its Discontent, Reading Race and Representation, and American Tropics: Imperial Desires and Postcolonial Realities.

Andrea Patalano, associate professor of psychology. Patalano’s teaching and research interests lie in the psychology of reasoning and decision making. Courses she has presented include an Introduction to Cognitive Psychology, Psychology of Decision Making, Quantitative Methods in Psychology, and Seminars in Thinking and in Reasoning.

Aradhana (Anu) Sharma, associate professor of anthropology and feminist, gender and sexuality studies. Sharma’s work has focused on ethnographic studies in rural India. Sharma has led courses on Gender and Political Economy in the Developing World, Gender in a Transnational Perspective, Anthropology of Globalization, and Critical Perspectives on the State.

Gina Ulysse, associate professor of anthropology and African American studies. Ulysse’s research and teaching focus on gender, transnational feminism, political economy, representation, race and class performance, migration, spirituality, and spoken word in the Caribbean, the United States and South Africa. Her course offerings have included: Black Feminist Thoughts and Practices, Contemporary Anthropological Theory, Blurred Genres: Feminist Ethnographic Writing, Color in the Caribbean, and Rereading Gendered Agency: Black Women’s Experience of Slavery.

These promotions conferring tenure are effective as of July 1. In addition:

Doug Foyle will serve as the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Government from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2013.

Don Moon became the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Chair in the College of Social Studies from January 1 through June 30, 2013.

Peter Rutland will become the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought on July 1 and will serve through June 30, 2013.

“Please join us in congratulating these wonderfully productive scholars and teachers whom we are fortunate to have in the Wesleyan community,” says Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “Their commitment to assuring the finest liberal arts education to all Wesleyan students is to be applauded.”

Additional information on the faculty members above whose tenure was affirmed by the Board of Trustees above can be found at:

Assistant Professor Explores Cultural Implications of Informal Commercial Importers in Jamaica

Posted 04/04/08
Tough, entrepreneurial, family-oriented and successful. This is how Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Associate Professor of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Gina Ulysse describes the Jamaican women who work as informal commercial importers (ICIs), who she has spent 15 years studying. Her unique, groundbreaking research has lead her to publish the book Downtown Ladies: Informal Commercial Importers, A Haitian Anthropologist, and Self-Making in Jamaica, which is the first broad analytic work to examine ICIs.

The study was inspired by a talk given by well-known Jamaican businesswoman Mabel Tenn at the University of the West Indies. Ulysse was part of a study abroad program at the time. Tenn—who worked closely with ICIs—spoke about her success and others’ accomplishments. She said, “Nobody’s paying attention to these ladies [the ICIs].”

“That did it for me,” Ulysse said.

She decided to take on the subject for her graduate dissertation. Although she originally wanted to study Haiti, the country where she was born and lived until age 11, her mentor thought it would be a better idea for her to study another Caribbean nation so that she could see how Haiti fits its regional context.

Ulysse began visiting ICIs in Jamaica in 1992. The title of her graduate dissertation was “Uptown Ladies and Downtown Women: Informal Commercial Importing and the Social/Symbolic Politics of Class and
Color in Jamaica.” She altered the original title to the current book title, explaining that the book’s title more clearly explains what she had learned in her years of study.

“Years later, while rethinking the manuscript, it became evident to me that I misunderstood what was happening,” Ulysse said.

“The methodological and theoretical tools from Michigan failed to capture what my research actually revealed. Importers whom I interviewed were engaged in remaking themselves in ways that challenged stereotypes of ‘lady’ and ‘woman’ and their concomitant color, class and spatial referents which continue to affect them in their daily lives. Ultimately, the project points to the significance of a transnational black feminist approach to illuminate how black females, who are simultaneously invisible and hypervisible, negotiate intersections of race, color, class, nationality, age and other indices that are written on our bodies,” she said.

Many people are familiar with the traditional Caribbean market woman or higgler. They are often seen or depicted wearing skirts and kerchiefs in tourist illustrations. In fact, many ICIs were once higglers or are the daughters of higglers. Marketing is the most common gendered trade in the Caribbean, according to the book.

Higglers sold goods at local markets. ICIs take on the world. They have the initiative to travel outside of Jamaica, many times to countries where they don’t speak the language, to purchase goods to resell at markets and other locations. Since the ICIs didn’t need licenses, “they were able to move goods in a way that the formal business sector could not,” Ulysse said.

Although the elitist world around them defines ICIs as working class women, they consider themselves ladies and are determined to define themselves. Historically, Jamaican society did not believe that black women were as civilized as white women, and therefore, did not possess the potential to be ladies. The ICIs refuse to be marginalized.

Although Ulysse got close to ICIs in her work, she was always an outsider. She told the ICIs her name and that she was interested in what they do. She was often asked, “Why are you doing anthropology and not business?” She told them she wanted to tell stories.

“Being from Haiti got me people’s attention and interest,” Ulysse said.

She considers herself a black anthropologist and a feminist anthropologist. Ulysse says she feels it’s important to examine in anthropological study whose voice is of greater value.

“By positioning myself in the study, the book shows how the researcher is not invisible as previous works claming objectivity have argued. In fact, I am marked both in the U.S. and in Jamaica in ways that also reveal particular narratives about Haiti and what it means to be Haitian.”

In the text of the book, Ulysse does not seem disconnected from the people she studied. In fact, she was encouraged to ‘dress up’ by the ICIs. She spent hours in beauty parlors and was told to abandon her favorite jelly platform shoes in 1995. She recounts this in her book:

“I wore them until the buckle broke. That day, a dark-skinned, Jamaican friend, Miss Q. (who is first-generation middle class), was visiting. She seemed relieved and expressed happiness that I would finally stop wearing my jellies. ‘Well thank God! You won’t have to wear these ghastly shoes ever again. They’re going in the bin.’ Surprised, actually shocked, I asked her why. ‘Oh Gina! Get serious … These shoes are so common,’” she exclaimed.

Ulysse goes on to explain that in Jamaica “shoes have been a marker of distinction, which at times separated a field hand from a house slave. The cleanliness of one’s feet and the type and style of shoes that encase them are visible signs of position.” Though the particular shoes she had on had been name-brand fashion items featured in both Elle magazine as well as the British version of Vogue, in Jamaica, they had low status, as they were associated with common folk.

The woman who work as informal commercial importers are constrained by class, but by becoming involved in the work it allows them a previously-unattainable level of freedom.

“The trade has been an occupation for many people because it makes you to be independent. It makes you to be self-reliant. It motivates you to be a person of substance,” a woman in Ulysse’s book says. “A person that … you lose you gain, you fall you raise, you fall you raise … It make you to be tough. So many time I have fallen by the wayside, I get brush up meself and start again.”

Downtown Ladies: Informal Commercial Importers, A Haitian Anthropologist, and Self-Making in Jamaica is published by the University of Chicago Press. It is available at Broad Street Books.

By Corrina Kerr, associate director of media relations

Graduate Students, Alumni Discuss Science Careers at First-Ever Retreat

Joshua Boger ‘73, P’06 P’09 speaks about “Building a 21st Century Pharmaceutical Company” during the student-organized Graduate Student Career Retreat March 29.
Posted 04/04/08
Students pursuing degrees in biology, molecular biology and biochemistry fields had the opportunity to discuss their future careers with Wesleyan alumni during the Graduate Student Career Retreat March 29.

The first-ever event, held at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown, allowed alumni to deliver a series of brief talks on their own careers and participate in panel discussions. In addition, graduate students held a poster session to share their own research with the invited guests.

“I consider this a ‘career banquet’ for our graduate students,” said Jan Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior and chair of the Biology Department. “There’s a diversity of career opportunities awaiting our graduates, and our alumni were eager to come back and speak about their careers.”

Wesleyan alumnus and trustee Josh Boger ‘73, P’06 P’09 was the retreat’s keynote speaker, and presented “Building a 21st Century Pharmaceutical Company” and “Building Your Future.” In the talks, Boger, the founder and CEO of biotechnology company Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge, Mass. discussed his company’s current research on developing an antiviral drug for Hepatitis C and increasing lung function in cystic fibrosis patients.

“To work in pharmaceuticals, you have to be passionately excited about it, and know that 99 out of 100 times you’re going to be wrong,” Boger said during his presentation. “You have to be science-driven and focus on unmet medical needs.”

Boger urged graduate students take chances to tackle the unknown and stay true to their personal values.

“Deciding what you’ll want to do is an individual decision and don’t let anyone else tell you what you should or shouldn’t do,” Boger advised. “I come into work every day smiling because I love what I do. I am happy. It is very important to work in a career that makes you happy.”

An additional 19 guests spoke on science-related careers in one of three sessions: academia, industry and alternative careers. Many of these speakers were Wesleyan alumni.

Jacek Majewski Ph.D ’99, assistant professor of human genetics at McGill University and the Genome Quebec Innovation Centre in Montreal, Canada, currently studies pre-mRNA processing among individuals and tissues. Fifteen years prior, Majewski was pursuing a completely different career path.

“I had degrees in physics and electrical engineering, and I really loved physics, but I didn’t like working, and I got confused about what to do next,” Majewski explained during the academia session. “I had a vision. I began thinking about things I liked. Nature, the environment, hiking and biology. And I ended up at Wesleyan working on a Ph.D in biology. Life is so undefined. You don’t always know what your goal is, but when you make a decision, make the most of it.”

No two alumni had similar career paths or current positions. Kristen Martins-Taylor, who received a Ph.D in molecular biology and biochemistry in 2007, is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Connecticut Health Center, where she studies embryonic stem cells. Judy Dunn, who received a Ph.D in biology in 1997, is a medical director at researched-based pharmaceutical company Sepracor in Marlborough, Mass., where she provides scientific input for therapeutic product development. Roopashree Narasimhaiah, who earned a Ph.D in biology in 2005, is an assistant director of development, corporate and foundation relations at Yale University and works as a liaison between the Yale School of Medicine and several corporations.

Stephen Saxe, who earned his Ph.D in molecular biology and biochemistry in 1985, spoke on alternative careers in the science. After working for the National Institutes of Health and teaching pharmacy classes as an assistant professor at Albany College, Saxe went on to obtain a law degree and now serves as associate general counsel in intellectual property at Alexion Pharmaceuticals in Cheshire, Conn.

“I decided to get out of the lab and into law,” Saxe explained. “Pharmaceutical companies need lawyers who can understand the science and write patents. It’s becoming more and more common for Ph.Ds to go off and become patent attorneys.”

About 15 graduate students made poster presentations at the event, sharing their research on topics such as budding yeast telomeres, interneuron death in epilepsy patients, neurons role in finch song production, and cell differentiation in chick and mouse embryonic development. (Pictured at left, Zainab Mithaiwala ’08, a prospective graduate student, examines a poster displaying graduate student research at the retreat.)

The event was funded by the Joseph and Matilda Melnick Research and Endowment Fund and organized by graduate students Noelle Ammon and Tina Motwani. Several other graduate students, faculty and staff helped plan and create the event.

About 70 students, faculty, alumni and guests attended the retreat.

“The event helped all of us feel reassured and inspired having heard about the paths the alumni took to reach their current occupations.” Ammon said. “Also, many students were able to set up network connections with alumni who are professors at various universities and scientists at several pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Overall, the retreat was a huge success.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

2008 Honorary Degree Recipients Announced

Posted 04/04/08
An award-winning writer, a college president known for his expertise in the economics of higher education, and a critically acclaimed photographer will be honored at Wesleyan University’s 176th commencement ceremonies this year.

Jamaica Kincaid, Morton Schapiro and Philip Trager of Wesleyan’s Class of 1956 will receive honorary doctorate degrees from Wesleyan on May 25, 2008.

“We are delighted that these talented and accomplished individuals have agreed to honor us by participating in our commencement,” said Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth. “Each exemplifies the qualities of courage and engagement, discernment and discipline that are essential to innovation and to leadership in all areas of human endeavor. They inspire all of us to make the most of the opportunities we have been given, in the best and truest spirit of liberal education.”

Born on the island of Antigua, author Jamaica Kincaid has been called the most important West Indian writer today. Her works include a collection of essays, A Small Place, which describes how conditions in Antigua worsened after independence in 1967, the novels The Autobiography of My Mother, Annie John, and Lucy, and the short story collection At the Bottom of the River. Kincaid gave the Annie Sonnenblick Lecture at Wesleyan in 2001.

Morton Schapiro, president of Williams College since 2000, is an economist who has taught at Williams and at the University of Southern California. Author of more than 50 articles and six books, he is among the nation’s premier authorities on the economics of higher education, with particular expertise in college financing and affordability, and on trends in educational costs.

Philip Trager ’56 is an internationally known photographer whose images are held by major collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Bibliothéque in Paris. He is particularly known for his work in dance and architecture. Wesleyan holds a collection of his work, including images of the campus.

U.S. Senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy (D-Mass), was scheduled to address the graduating seniors. However, in his absence, Senator Senator Barack Obama (D-Il), will address the graduating seniors this year.