Campus News & Events

Scholastic Honor Society Welcomes New Members

Wesleyan senior Maggie Arias was one of 15 seniors welcomed to Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest national scholastic honor society during a ceremony Dec. 13. Also pictured, at left, is Gary Yohe, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics and PBK secretary;  Mark Hovey, president of the gamma chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and Jane Tozer, assistant to the vice president of University Relations and PBK treasurer and event coordinator.
Posted 12/20/06
Fifteen Wesleyan students were inducted into the oldest national scholastic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, during an initiation ceremony Dec. 13.


Election is limited to 12 percent of the graduating class, and based on general education expectations and by having a grade point average of 90 or above. Students are nominated by their major departments.


“As individuals and as a group, you have contributed a great deal to Wesleyan through your intellectual engagement in the academic work and residential life of the institution,” said President Doug Bennet during the induction ceremony. “Recognizing your accomplishments is certainly one of the highlights of my job and while I won’t claim that my delight exceeds your own, it comes pretty close.”


Phi Betta Kappa was founded in 1776, during the American Revolution. The students join the ninth oldest Phi Beta Kappa chapter in the United States—founded in 1845.


The organization’s Greek initials signify the motto, “Love of learning is the guide of life.”


“I am struck by the breadth and scope of academic interests, and the depth of study reflected across this group,” Bennet said. “A number of you have chosen double majors allowing you to combine those interests in your professional goals.  You have furthered your varied interests through summer activities and internships and research.


“Many students excel at Wesleyan, but those of you here today have taken on the challenge of a liberal arts education by investing yourself in everything you do. In a university where academic excellence is common, you stand out. That’s why membership in Phi Beta Kappa is such a singular honor. “


The students include:


OWEN RANDALL ALBIN, a double major in the American Studies Program and in neuroscience and behavior. Albin sings with the Wesleyan Spirits, one of the oldest all-male a cappella groups in the country. He is also a member of the Wesleyan sketch comedy group, Lunchbox, where he writes comedic skits and acts in them. A senior interviewer for the admission office, Albin and has been a teacher’s assistant for biology and chemistry classes. After graduation he hopes to do a few months of clinical volunteer work somewhere in Africa.


MARGARETTE “MAGGIE” ADELINA ARIAS, a psychology major, was inducted into Psi Chi last spring, the Psychology Honor Society. As part of a research team during her sophomore year, she worked closely with a local elementary school to implement a peer mediation program to reduce playground violence.  Three of her four years here at Wesleyan, she has worked at the Edna C. Stevens School in Cromwell in the after-school program, Kids Korner. Her plans include grad school, and plans to go into counseling or clinical social work.


HYUNG-JIN CHOI, an economics major, has sung with the a cappella group “Outside-In” for three years and won the intramural basketball championship his sophomore year. A Freeman Scholar, Choi has helped organize events for the Korean Students Association. After graduation Hyung-Jin will return to Korea to serve in the military for two years then plans to go to graduate school and further pursue his studies in economics. 


JACK MICHAEL DiSCIACCA carries a double major in mathematics and physics. During his junior year he was awarded a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship to fund research during the 2006-2007 school year. DiSciacca plans to attend graduate school to study either pure or applied physics.


CHRISTINA ANN DURFEE is a double major in mathematics and psychology. While at Wesleyan, Christina won the Robertson Prize and Rae Shortt Prize in mathematics. Her plans for the future remain uncertain, but Durfee is currently debating between going into the actuarial sciences and going to graduate school for math.


JACOB STUART GOLDIN is majoring in economics and government. During his sophomore year, Goldin organized a student group that worked with local organizations to push for gay marriage legislation in Connecticut. Eventually he plans to go to law school and/or graduate school in economics.


HANNAH GOODWIN-BROWN, a music major, won the Wesleyan Concerto Competition her sophomore year and performed the Elgar Cello Concerto with the Wesleyan orchestra. She went abroad to the Republic of Georgia, something no one at Wesleyan has done before, and was captain of the women’s ultimate Frisbee team. Goodwin-Brown hopes to work with plants in a professional capacity, perhaps getting a degree in either landscape architecture or horticulture.


MAXFIELD WESTGATE HEATH, a music major, is an active composer/pianist in several groups of many genres including jazz, rock, and hip-hop. He has recorded several albums and is in the process of recording a debut studio album of his own songs. He plans on studying composition in grad school in preparation for making a living through some combination of writing/recording/performing and teaching. 


CHEUK KEI HO, a math and economics major, is a member of the Wesleyan Spirits and has performed extensively on and off campus for the last four years. He is a Freeman Scholar and studied in Italy during his junior year fall semester. He plans to work in the investment banking division of J.P. Morgan Hong Kong after graduation.


CHEN-WEI “JACK” HUNG, a double major in economics and French studies, is a native of Taiwan and is a Freeman Scholar. He has learned French as his third language and studied in Grenoble for a semester. Hung was co-chair of the Wesleyan Model United Nations Team representing Slovenia, Hungary, and Malaysia in different MUN (Model United Nation) Conferences. He also served as a resident advisor for a year, taking care of 35 students. After graduation he will go to New York.


GRETCHEN MARLIESE KISHBAUCH carries a double major in psychology and science in society. She served as project director on research co-sponsored by Wesleyan’s Department of Psychology and the Middletown branch of the State Department of Children and Families.  During this time she directed a research team of undergraduate and graduate students investigating child maltreatment.  She was awarded membership in Psi Chi, a national psychology honor society.  She is currently co-developing and co-leading a student form on Global Health Issues in the Science in Society Department. Kishbauch plans to pursue graduate study in public health.


MANG-JU SHER, a physics major, is a Freeman Scholar. While at Wesleyan she started learning Japanese and violin.  She loves cooking and plans to pursue a Ph.D in physics.


BECK LARMON STRALEY is an earth and environmental science major. The bulk of Beck’s energy is currently focused on Venus. When not studying, Straley can be found at a residential life staff meeting, giving tours on campus to prospective students and their families, destroying the “gender binary,” or running.


ZHAOXUAN “CHARLES” YANG, an economics and mathematics major from China is a Freeman Scholar. Yang was captain of the Ping Pong Club for two years, co-chair of the Chinese Students Association, and a resident assistant. After graduation, Yang will be working for J.P Morgan Securities in their Hong Kong Office.


KEVIN ALAN YOUNG is a double major in history and Latin American studies.  During his time at Wesleyan, Kevin has taught 6th and 7th graders at Summerbridge Cambridge in two six-week courses in literature and a self-designed social studies class on the Vietnam War. He also served as a faculty advisor and organized a camping excursion for 75 students and 20 teachers. He has been a Big Brother volunteer, mentoring a nine-year-old boy.  On campus, Kevin has been active in United Student Labor Action Coalition, Students for Ending the War in Iraq, Nagarote-Wesleyan Partnership, and English as a Second Language. Young studied abroad in Nicaragua, and he received a Davenport Grant to spend nine weeks in Chiapas and Oaxaca in southeastern Mexico conducting research on popular education programs.  Young’s future includes graduate school in Latin American history and hopes to teach at the college and/or high school level.


To view additional photos go to the Wesleyan Connection’s Campus Snapshot section at

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Betty Tishler Celebrates 97th Birthday at Wesleyan

Pictured at top, from left, Gina Driscoll, associate director of stewardship, Penny Apter; Betty Tishler, and Philip Bolton, chair of the Chemistry Department and professor of chemistry. Pictured at left, President Doug Bennet reads a Proclamation to Tishler. (Photos by Olivia Drake and  by Roslyn Carrier-Brault)
Posted 12/20/06
Betty Tishler, wife of the late Professor Max Tishler, celebrated her 97th birthday Dec. 14 in the Exley Science Center. Tishler’s family and friends, Wesleyan affiliates and students attended.

During the two-hour party, President Doug Bennet presented Tishler with a Mayor’s Proclamation that acknowledged Tishler for her contributions to the greater Middletown community.

Tishler, who was married to Max Tishler for 55 years until his death in 1989, raised two sons, Peter and Carl, and has three grandchildren.

She was a partner in her husband’s productive and distinguished career at Merck pharmaceuticals from 1937 to 1970. Max Tishler led the development of new drugs and vitamins, which culminated in his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Honor from President Reagan. His developments included products for heart disease, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, mental depression and infectious diseases.

The Tishlers came to Middletown in 1970. They had an immediate and lasting impact on Wesleyan, especially the Chemistry Department, to which Betty Tishler remains especially devoted today.

She has established prizes at Wesleyan for art, music and for an annual piano competition, and most recently a Research Chair in Medicinal Chemistry in honor of her late husband.

In addition, she is a regular and generous supporter of the Middlesex County United Way.

Over the past 36 years, Tishler’s vitality, resilience, curiosity, generosity, and engagement have marked her as a special citizen of Wesleyan and Middletown.

Professor, Student Study Children’s Ability to Count

In back, Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology, works with her student, Ariel Ballinger ’07, on data resulting from a study on children’s counting ability.
Posted 12/20/06
“So many people have had one of those moments, when a check comes after dinner and they’re having a problem adding it up, and they stop and say, ‘I’m just not any good at math!” says Hilary Barth, assistant professor of psychology. “But they are. We all are. We’re born with it.”

This isn’t just an opinion from an overly-optimistic academic. Barth is one of a growing number of researchers studying intuitive understanding of numbers. So far, they’ve established that human beings and even many other species are born with impressive mathematical abilities.

“Studies have shown that animals who have no language can think about quantities approximately – for example, rats can be trained to press a key about 40 times. And babies, who haven’t learned a language yet, can tell that adding 5 toys and 5 more toys gives you about 10 toys,” Barth says. “But animals and babies can’t count. Counting takes language.”

And counting isn’t as simple as you might think. Preschool children quickly learn to count to 10, but it takes them a while to figure out the purpose of counting.

“If I asked a child who has recently learned to count to 10 to go to the toy box and get four dinosaurs, the child will probably just give me a handful,” Barth says.

Most children learn the concept of “one” soon after learning to count. Typically, about six months after that, they comprehend the idea of “two” and about six months later they understand “three.”

“Studies have established that once children understand the concept of three it usually clicks for all the other numbers,” Barth says.

So, counting may be tougher than parents realize. But arithmetic, on the other hand, may be easier than you think! Barth confirmed this with a study published in 2005 based on work completed at Harvard University.

The study, titled “Abstract number and arithmetic in preschool children,” published in an issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that preschoolers can add big sets approximately long before they learn how to add big numbers exactly in school.

In the study, Barth showed pre-school children graphics with blue colored dots, covered them for a few moments, then showed them an array of a similar number of red dots. Then Barth asked the children which set – blue or red – had more dots. She also showed them two successive arrays of dots and asked them if the aggregate number was larger or smaller than a third array of dots. In another permutation, the dots were replaced by sounds, to make sure children weren’t just using visual imagery to solve the problem.

“The children were consistently able to recognize the differences between the dot sets, even in the tasks that included adding the dots,” Barth says. “The sets were too big for these kids to count, yet they had no problems recognizing which sets, when combined, would be larger than the third set. And we didn’t find any differences in gender: girls were just as adept at this as boys.”

One of Barth’s students, Ariel Ballinger ’07, designed a separate study based on Barth’s work thanks to a Fellowship from the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences. The fellowship provides a stipend so students can undertake full-time research during the summer.

“There’s no way I could’ve done a study like this without help from the Hughes Program,” Ballinger says.

Her study, titled “Counting, Estimation and Approximate Nonverbal Addition in Young Children,” is a new examination of number approximation in children who’ve reached different levels of verbal counting ability.

“Some previous studies done by Jennifer Lipton and Elizabeth Spelke at Harvard showed that a child’s ability to estimate numbers is related to verbal counting range,” Ballinger says. “Children were shown pictures containing different numbers of dots and asked to quickly guess how many there were, without counting. These studies showed that kids who could count to 100 guessed pretty well. But kids who could only count to 30, for example, could only guess well for sets of up to 30 dots. For bigger sets, they had no idea – they didn’t even give bigger estimates for 100 dots than for 40 dots.”

“But these studies often averaged the performance of large groups of children with very different levels of counting skill. I wanted to test this relationship by looking at more specific groups.”

Ballinger divided her children into three groups based on counting ability. She found that although counting ability was related to the accuracy of the guesses, even children who could only count to 30 guessed bigger numbers for bigger sets of dots.

“This went against the previous findings,” Barth says. “Children do seem to understand the rough meanings of big number words like 80 or 90 even before they can count that high.”

Ballinger’s study has been accepted for a presentation at a professional meeting. She will present her research at the annual meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, held in Boston in March. Barth will present another research project completed with Ballinger and AnjaLi Carrasco ‘07, Rachel Jacobson ‘08, and Jessica Tsai ‘07.

“It’s great to be at a place like Wesleyan where undergrads can get involved with ongoing faculty research,” Ballinger says.

Ballinger will continue to work with Barth in the next semester gathering more data for her thesis.

Barth has been working with local children – who are rewarded with stickers and prizes for participating, and their parents are compensated for travel expenses – and has recently entered into an arrangement with some local schools.

“We assure parents that we aren’t ‘testing’ the children to see how good they are at math, but rather, finding out how kids in general think about numbers,” Barth says. “There are educational implications as well. “Understanding these abilities better will help us figure out the most effective ways to teach kids.”

Barth’s Cognitive Development Lab is always looking for new participants. Interested people may visit the lab Web site at, call 860-685-3588, or email

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations. Photo by Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Students Pedal for Affordable Housing

Five Wesleyan students will participate in the Habitat for Humanity Bicycle Challenge this summer. Each biker is trying to raise $4,000 for the cause.
Posted 12/04/06
Five Wesleyan students will pedal to help the cause of more affordable home-ownership this summer, raising funds and awareness for Habitat for Humanity coast-to-coast.

The students, led by Jessalee Landfried ’07, will bike 70 miles a day, hoping to cross the entire country in two months. Landfried will be accompanied by Elizabeth Ogata ‘09, Liana Woskie ‘10, Margot Kistler ‘09 and Shira Miller ‘07, along with 90 other students from Yale University.

This is the 13th year Yale has hosted the Habitat Bicycle Challenge (HBC) and Wesleyan came aboard this year.

“The trip is essentially a large-scale service project with a strong commitment to supporting Habitat for Humanity,” Landfried says.

Before leaving, each rider will raise $4,000 – approximately a dollar for every mile biked – for Habitat for Humanity. Every night, the riders will give presentations and answer questions in churches and community centers, trying to increase Habitat’s visibility, stimulate the formation of new chapters and encourage donations.

The event will generate approximately $430,000 in proceeds, enough to underwrite the construction of eight Habitat homes.

Each year, the Habitat Bicycle Challenge not only raises more money for Habitat than any other student-run fundraiser in the country, it introduces thousands of people to the good work that Habitat for Humanity does. Last year, the students raised $430,000.

Landfried learned about the challenge from a teammate in the Americorps.

“My team leader had just finished HBC, and said it was the most exciting, challenging, fun thing she’d ever done,” she says. “I chose to become a leader this year because I’m excited by the opportunity to have an adventure and do something really amazing for a great organization.”

The riders can choose a northern, central or southern route to the west coast. All three routes depart from New Haven, Conn. on June 1, and they end in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco, respectively.

Landfried and Miller will ride the central route, biking across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho before reaching Portland, Oregon. Kistler will be on the northern trip and Ogata and Woskie will ride the southern trip.

Ogata chose to participate to combine meaningful service work with a journey across the country. This will be her second trek across the U.S.

“Several summers ago, I biked across the country for my own enjoyment,” she says. “Although the trip was amazing, the Habitat Bicycle challenge really excites me because it has the purpose of helping other people in all parts of the country.”

The students will sleep in churches and community centers along the way. In every community where they spend the night, the riders will give a short slideshow presentation about Habitat, the trip, and the goal of ending poverty housing. These venues generally supply meals for the riders.

“When biking all day long, most people need around 6,000 calories a day – so we’re going to be hungry,” Landfried says.

During the ride, every route is accompanied by a support van, which carries the bikers’ clothing and necessities. When they reach their destinations, the van will bring the riders back to Connecticut along with their bikes.

In exchange for raising $4,000 per rider, the bikers receive a free road bike, deep discounts on gear, and free room and board for the duration of the trip. The bike, gear discounts and food are provided for by corporate sponsorships that the leaders arrange over the course of the year.

Since most of the riders are recreational riders who are excited by the combination of adventure and service, every rider is expected to start training once they receive their bike.

Landfried says she bikes about 50 miles a week now, and is training for the trip by increasing the number of miles every week.

But having the physical ability is minor to having the mental ability.

“The prospect of biking across the country is certainly daunting,” Landfried says. “My parents won’t even drive that far! But I try to keep reminding myself that students have been completing the trip for more than a decade now, and that if they could do it, so can I.”

Landfried says her energy is currently too focused on securing corporate sponsorships, individual fundraising, planning the route and arranging housing to get too worried about the biking itself.

The bikers will spend at least one day a week working on various habitat home sites along their journey west.

Miller says the tip may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I’m doing the trip because I can’t imagine a more unique way to explore the country, or a better time to do it than right after graduating college,” she says. “It is a great personal experience because I know I will be supporting a social cause that is important to me while pushing my limits and having a great time.”

In addition to raising awareness and funds for Habitat, Landfried says she has other goals in mind.

“I hope to gain a greater appreciation for the vastness and diversity of our country, to meet interesting new people, to have fun, and to develop quads the size of a football,” she says.

The Wesleyan fund-raisers are currently accepting donations to support their efforts. They plan to hold fund-raising events later in the year. For more information on making a donation, visit or email Jessalee Landfried at

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Men’s Cross Country Competes at Nationals for Second Straight Year

The men’s cross country team encountered a muddy course at the Division III NCAA National Championships Nov. 18, however finished in the top half. (Photos by Steve Maheu)
Posted 12/04/06
The Wesleyan Men’s Cross Country team overcame an uneven season of performances to finish in the top half of the field at the Division III NCAA National Championships in Ohio on Nov 18.

“We started off running instead of racing,” Men’s Head Coach John Crooke says about the early part of the season. “It’s quite simply competing. Cross country is not about time, it’s about place. When you race, you are competing, not running.”

The team had three mediocre efforts in its first three tests of the season, dipping from 10th to 14th in the New England Open, coming up short of both Williams and Amherst in the Little Three meet and placing a disappointing fifth of 11 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) meet.

“I would say we had a roller-coaster season,” Matt Shea ’08 says. “I feel like we lost some of our morale in the middle of the season.”

Some, but not all. A little more than two weeks after their disappointing showing at the NESCAC meet, the men placed 4th out of 45 teams at the New England Division III Regional Championships in Springfield, Mass. Out of 309 total finishers, the Wesleyan scoring five finished: 17th Alex Battaglino ’07; 24th Anda Greeney ’07; 34th Sean Watson ’08; 43rd Jon King ’07; and 47th Mike Brady ‘07.

“We really put our best team race together when it counted at regionals with a 34-second spread from one to five and less than a minute from one to seven,” says Brady.

The top two teams at the event, Williams and Bowdoin, received automatic bids to the NCAA National Championship meet. Wesleyan’s outstanding performance earned the team an at-large bid to the 32-team field. It was the school’s second-ever invite to the nationals, the first coming last year.

“I was exceptionally proud of how we never gave up and we were able to come together as a team and have great races at both regionals and nationals,” says Shea.

Nationals were hosted by Wilmington College in Ohio and held at the Voice of America Park in West Chester on Nov. 18th. Wesleyan athletics director John Biddiscombe, who attended the event, described them as “some of the worst conditions for a sporting event I have ever seen.” Days of torrential rain had left the ground saturated and muddy with standing water inches deep throughout the course.

“Course conditions were nuts,” says Anda Greeney. “Cross country is about running in all types of weather, but this being Nationals, you’d think they would choose a place that wasn’t sitting at or under the water table.”

Overall, the Cardinal finished 15th – ahead of Bowdoin (17th) and Trinity (31st); Williams (7th) was the only New England school to finish higher than Wesleyan. Watson posted the team’s best individual performance, crossing the finish line 67th out of 279 runners.

“Running at Nationals is an exciting experience,” Brady says. “The dinner, the free stuff, flying out to Ohio, the NCAA symbol painted on the grass near the starting area. It’s quite an atmosphere.”

By Brian Katten, sports information director

Professor Awarded Grant, Will Co-Direct State Stem Cell Facility

Laura Grabel, the Fisk Professor of Natural Sciences and professor of biology, received $878,348 for her study on embryonic stem cells.
Posted 12/04/06
Wesleyan and one of its researchers were major beneficiaries of the State of Connecticut’s initial round of nearly $20 million in grants to fund non-federally-sanctioned stem cell research.

The awarding of the grants was announced on November 22 in Hartford.

Wesleyan was a co-recipient with the University of Connecticut of $2.5 million dedicated for the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core Facility, which will be located in Farmington. Laura Grabel, the Fisk Professor of Natural Sciences and professor of biology, also received $878,348 for her study titled “Directing Production and Functional Integration of Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Neural Stem Cells.”

Grabel will also be co-director of the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core Facility with Ren-He Xu, associate professor and director of the human embryonic stem cell laboratory at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

“The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core Facility will be a world class facility that will be a tremendous benefit to the state’s residents as well as our faculty and students,” Grabel says. “It lets us maximize the available resources and gives researchers a dedicated space to work with the unapproved stem cell lines.”

The stipulation regarding unapproved stem cell lines is extremely important to stem cell researchers because of the federal guidelines. It is not illegal to work with these non-approved stem cell lines; in fact, researchers in private industry have been doing so for several years. However, researchers cannot use facilities or resources that have been paid for by federal funds for approved stem cell lines in conjunction with research on non-approved lines.

“Most of the researchers involved have received federal funding for their work on approved stem cell lines,” says Grabel, who has received NIH funding for her work with these lines. “To partition a lab and replicate much of the materials and resources that are dedicated to federally-funded work would be tremendously wasteful and extremely impractical. This facility will eliminate any chance of overlap.”

A similar facility will also be created at Yale with an identical $2.5 million state grant.

Grabel adds that use of these facilities will not be limited to the three universities who are being funded by the state’s stem cell initiative – Wesleyan, Yale and UConn.

“Students from all the universities and colleges in the state will have the opportunity to be trained there,” she says. “That’s another great advantage of this facility. We’ll be training a whole new generation of stem cell researchers.”

Grabel’s work at the facility will be based on the individual grant she received from the state. Her research focuses on how to improve the effect of stem cells can be implanted in the brain to replace damaged neurons.
“In some cases the stem cells become healthy neurons and reverse the damage,” she says. “But this doesn’t happen every time. Sometimes nothing is reversed. So we’ll be looking at why this occurs and how we might improve the chances of a positive outcome.”

When Grabel says “we” she is referring to her co-investigators, Janice Naegele, chair and professor of biology, professor of neuroscience, and Gloster Aaron, assistant professor of biology.

“We have some fantastic researchers here, and our capabilities and interests complement each other quite well,” Grabel says. “It’s really the strength of our research abilities that the state responded to by making us a partner in this initiative.”

Parts of the Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core Facility in Farmington are already up and running. The rest should be fully operational in early 2007.

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations.

Grant to Fund Epileptic Seizure Study at Wesleyan

Gloster Aaron, Janice Naegele and Laura Grabel will study if stem cell-based treatment in mice brains could possibly control epileptic seizures in human brains.
Posted 12/04/06
A $300,000 grant from the McKnight Foundation will help a Wesleyan University researcher investigate the possibility of using brain transplants of embryonic stem (ES) cells to control epileptic seizures in mice. If successful the study could lay the early groundwork for using similar therapy in human beings.

Janice Naegele, chair and professor of biology and professor of neuroscience and behavior at Wesleyan, is the principle investigator in the study that will bring together the expertise two other Wesleyan faculty – Laura Grabel, Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of biology, and Gloster Aaron, assistant professor of biology – as well as Gordon Fishell, professor of biology at New York University.

During the three-year study, Naegele and her colleagues will attempt to create GABAergic neurons from mouse ES cells and implant them in the brains of mice that experience epileptic seizures. The hope is that the new neurons derived from the grafted ES cells will be able to restore normal levels of the brain’s inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA by replacing GABAergic neurons destroyed by the epileptic seizures. GABA is one of the key chemical messengers in the brain that regulates the firing of neurons and prevents seizures.

“A lot of the focus in stem cell-based treatment is in treating neurodegenerative disorders,” Naegele says. “Due to ethical roadblocks in harvesting neural stem cells from human embryos, a preferred course is autologous donation – taking an individual’s own stem cells and using them to generate neural stem cells for treatment. However, in the case of some forms of inherited epilepsy, there a genetic defect in the neurons that causes the seizures. This defect is likely mirrored in the patient’s stem cells, which is one reason why we are focusing on using non-autologous cell lines.”

From a clinical perspective, animal epilepsy isn’t identical in all facets to human epilepsy. However, it is close enough that Naegele’s successful use of these GABAergic neurons to control seizures will go a long way to help scientists understand the potential treatment implications in humans.

For the study, the researchers will chemically induce the initial epileptic seizures in the mice. After two to three weeks, the mice develop spontaneous seizures, making the overall effect more similar to the way seizures occur in humans. The stem cell grafts will be made into the brains of transgenic mice that have fluorescent neurons, allowing the scientists to identify interactions between the cells in the grafts and the host brains using a combination of electrical recording and microscopic imaging. The studies will attempt to demonstrate that the grafted stem cells form connections with the host brain, a critical step for functional recovery from epilepsy.

To create the cells needed to potentially suppress the seizures, Naegele’s team will use a new method to produce high yield GABAergic neurons.

“We plan to use molecular-genetic approaches to get the neural stem cells to express a sequence of transcription factors that will regulate the genes required to produce the GABAergic neurons,” Naegele says. “They will then be transplanted to the mouse hippocampus and then we’ll see if they have enough genetic information to act properly.”

Along with the faculty mentioned, this three-year study will also involve post-doctoral students, graduate, and undergraduate students at Wesleyan who will be assisting with components of the research.

“This is really exciting because it is bringing together three labs here and a lab down at NYU,” Naegele says. “The expertise at each complements the others. It’s a more risky study than others in this area, but the potential information we can generate will really be useful as we move forward investigating if this can be an effective treatment for epileptic seizures.”

In addition to supporting this collaboration, Naegele will participate in a yearly McKnight Conference on Neuroscience, which fosters interactions among the awardees of all of their programs. This year’s conference will be held in the June 2007 in Aspen, Colorado and will focus on music, art, and the brain.

According to their Web site, The McKnight Endowment Fund for Neuroscience is an independent charitable organization established by The McKnight Foundation to carry out the wishes of its founder, William L. McKnight (1887-1979), who led the 3M company for three decades. McKnight had a personal interest in memory and its diseases. He chose to set aside part of his legacy to bring hope to those suffering from brain injury or disease and cognitive impairment. The Neuroscience of Brain Disorders Awards were established in 2000 as the Memory and Brain Disorders Awards. Each year, up to six awards are given. Awards provide $100,000 per year for three years. For more information go to

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations. Photo by Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Plous Named Connecticut Professor of the Year

Posted 12/04/06
Scott Plous, professor of psychology, was named the Connecticut Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

This designation means he is among only 43 professors working in the United States, the District of Columbia and Guam to be considered a 2006 U.S. Professor of the Year.

“It was quite a surprise, as you can imagine,” Plous says, modestly.

The goal of the U.S. Professors of the Year Program is to increase awareness of the importance of undergraduate instruction. In recognizing faculty members for their achievements as teachers, the award gives institutions an opportunity to celebrate excellence and provide models for faculty and students.

Plous, who joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1990, is an expert on psychology of prejudice and discrimination, decision making, and the human use of animals and the environment.

The CASE-Carnegie award is Plous’s second major teaching award. In 1998, he received Wesleyan’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Plous credits Ruth Striegel-Moore, the Walter A. Crowell University Professor of the Social Sciences and professor of psychology, for nominating him while she was chair of the Psychology Department.

“I’m deeply grateful to Ruth for her support of my teaching, and I also owe a huge debt to the wonderful teaching apprentices and course assistants I work with,” he says.

Plous is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and the American Psychological Association, and has been the recipient of several APA division awards, including the William James Book Award, for his book The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making, the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize, the Otto Klineberg Intercultural and International Relations Award, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Award for Distinguished Service to the Society. In addition, he is a faculty associate of the Tufts University Center for Animals and Public Policy and is on the editorial board of Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy.

The Professor of the Year program is the only national initiative specifically designed to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

“One of the things that pleases me about the award is that Wesleyan held its own when compared with large research universities,” Plous says. “This reflects well on Wesleyan’s Instructional Media Services, library and support staff.”

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education began the program in 1981, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching became a partner and major sponsor the following year.

Winners of the award must meet the program’s demanding criteria. The primary characteristic the judges consider is an extraordinary dedication to undergraduate teaching demonstrated by the impact on and involvement with undergraduate students; scholarly approach to teaching and learning; contributions to undergraduate education in the institution, community and profession; and support from colleagues and current and former undergraduate students.

For this achievement, Plous was invited to a congressional reception in Washington, DC, and given a framed certificate of recognition.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

United Way Campaign Begins With Hope to Raise $143,000 from Wesleyan

Wesleyan is raising awareness and support for the Middlesex United Way.
Posted 11/17/06
Each fall, Wesleyan employees have an opportunity to demonstrate an enduring connection with the greater Middletown community by simply making a donation to the Middlesex United Way.

By giving to the Middlesex United Way, Wesleyan employees are insuring that the local community has greater access to essential health and human services. Contributions to United Way have translated into disaster relief, support services for the homebound and disabled, emergency food and shelter and after school programs.

Middlesex United Way is working to fight the root causes of chronic human service needs including substance abuse, mental health and housing.

“In my tenure as president, I have encouraged a deepening of Wesleyan’s connection to the community with the belief that what is good for Middletown is good for Wesleyan,” says Wesleyan President Douglas Bennet. “Our gifts help address several needs.”

Wesleyan has achieved an outstanding record in past campaigns. Wesleyan is one of the top three institutions in the Middlesex County United Way Campaign, and nationally ranks in the top four percent for contribution and participation among colleges and universities.

Wesleyan’s goal this year is to raise $143,000. Frank Kuan, director of community relations for the Center of Community Partnerships, and Pam Tatge, director of the Center for the Arts, are this year’s co-chairs.

“To achieve our goal, we need a community-wide effort,” explains Tatge. “We hope to encourage 75 people to become new givers this year, and if you have not participated in the past, please consider doing so.”

Although the average gift has increased to $288, the percentage of Wesleyan employees contributing to the campaign has slipped from more than 65 percent to less than 50 percent. Kuan and Tatge hope to reverse the downward trend in participation.

Employees can donate to the campaign in a lump sum or by payroll deduction.

For more information contact Frank Kuan at or Pam Tatge at

Report Shows Impact of Digital Imaging on College Teaching, Learning

Posted 11/17/06
Digital images are changing the way professors teach at colleges and universities, but often only after the huge expense of personal time and resources, according to a new study titled “Using Digital Images in Teaching and Learning,” published on Academic Commons, a Web journal that Wesleyan’s Michael Roy helps to edit.

The study, commissioned by Wesleyan University and the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE), suggests ways of how the teaching profession as a whole can harness these new resources in a more efficient manner.

“The big story here is that we’ve still got a long way to go before we realize all of the educational and scholarly possibilities afforded by digital images in particular, and new media in general,” says Michael Roy, director of Academic Computing Services, Digital Projects and Academic Commons founder. Roy is pictured at left.

“Using Digital Images in Teaching and Learning” details the results of an intensive study of digital image use by more than 400 faculty at 33 liberal arts colleges and universities in the Northeast. The report makes a set of recommendations for optimizing the deployment of digital images on campus.

Wesleyan and NITLE undertook the study in 2005 in response to questions about how digital image use might be changing teaching practices in higher education.

The impact on teaching is at the heart of the study. One third of participating faculty reported digital images had changed their teaching greatly. Those teaching image-based subjects found that having anytime/anyplace accessibility to a “vast variety of images from a variety of sources,” has given them greater flexibility and creativity in the classroom. With new access to images provided by the Web and other sources, faculty teaching non-image-based subjects are often using images for the first time or using substantially more, and are more likely to build them into the core substance of their teaching. New relationships to images stimulate ideas about visual thinking and visual learning that are themselves changing approaches to teaching.

“Faculty, however, often feel like lone pioneers in their transition to using digital images as because support, resources and infrastructure at local and national levels in many cases are not sufficiently in place to allow them to use these new resources to their full potential,” Roy explains. “In addition to the pedagogical interest of the report, related issues of image supply, support and infrastructure make up much of its fabric.”

Key findings include:

1. Tools and services are badly needed to assist faculty organize, integrate, catalog and manage their personal collections. Most faculty use images from their personal digital image collections (91 percent), assembled from many sources, rather than from licensed (30 percent), departmental (19 percent) or library collections (14 percent). Campuses should define and enhance the relationship between individual faculty collections and emerging institutional collections.

2. Available resources need to be made easier to find. Faculty are often unaware of digital image resources on campus and as a consequence expensively-produced, often licensed resources go underused. Similarly, while faculty call for high-quality, dependable and free online databases of images, these often do exist, but evidently need to be better publicized and more easily discoverable.

3. Fair Use is vulnerable on many campuses. For several reasons, visual resource curators and instructional technology departments are often risk-averse and shy of exploring the possibilities for faculty to legally use copyrighted digital images in their classrooms and on closed course websites. Creating institutional copyright policy, with full community participation and expert copyright legal advice, is an important first step for campuses to be clear about legal responsibilities and the rights of intellectual property users.

4. Image “literacy” skills need to be developed for optimum use of digital images by teachers and students. As digital images become widely used, many faculty need pedagogical support, especially for ideas and assistance in how to use images most effectively, as well as for opportunities to share pedagogical needs and discoveries with their peers. In addition, students often fail to grasp the skills needed to work with images. Many need training in image literacy (analyzing or reading images, including maps), digital literacy (handling and manipulating image files), and image composition (creating and communicating through images).

5. Transitioning to digital image resources affects every level of an institution. Few appreciate the cross-institutional implications of creating digital image resources and the production and presentation facilities required to satisfactorily work with the new medium. Empowering and funding cross-department, cross-functional groups to make coordinated, informed decisions is one good way for laying the right foundations. Dedicated imaging centers can highlight issues, focus decisions and bring disparate parts of the campus together around the benefits that coordinated digital image production and delivery can bring.

This report is rooted in the faculty experience of going digital, as shown in 400 survey responses and 300 individual interviews with faculty and some staff at 33 colleges and universities: 31 liberal arts colleges together with Harvard and Yale Universities. Two-thirds of the survey respondents worked in the arts and humanities, 27 percent in the sciences and 12 percent in the social sciences. Faculty were self-selected.

The report is online at

Faculty Receive Fulbright Scholar Grants

From left, Stephen Angle, associate professor of philosophy; Ronald Jenkins, professor of theater; and Jeff Rider, professor of romance languages and literature, received Fulbright grants for the 2006-07 year.
Posted 11/17/06
Three members of the Wesleyan faculty have been awarded Fulbright Scholar grants for the 2006-2007 academic year: Stephen Angle, associate professor of philosophy; Ronald Jenkins, professor of theater; and Jeff Rider, professor of romance languages and literature.

They join approximately 800 other U.S. faculty and professional who will travel abroad through the Fulbright Scholar program, which is sponsored by the U.S. department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Angle’s his Fulbright-sponsored study will take place at Peking University in Beijing, China to further his research, titled: “Sagehood: The Contemporary Ethical Significance of Neo-Confucianism.

Jenkins will travel to Bali, Indonesia in January to study “Messages of Tolerance in Balinese Temple Festival Performances” under the auspices of Bali’s College of the Performing Arts.

Rider’s Fulbright takes him to the University of Charles de Gaulle-Lille III, in Lille, France where he will pursue a translation of Galbert of Bruges’ “Journal.”

According to the Fulbright Program recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. For further information on the Fulbright Program:

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Men’s Soccer Reaches NCAA Tourney 2nd-Round

Sam Griswold, 2nd-team all-NESCAC, drives a ball past a Montclair opponent Nov. 11. The men’s soccer team had a heart-breaking 1-0 loss to end their National Championship run. (Photos by Peter Stein ’84)
Posted 11/17/06
A goal by Montclair State’s Bill Anthes in the game’s 18th minute held up as the home team Red Hawks, ranked eighth nationally, improved to 20-1 with a 1-0 victory over Wesleyan on Nov. 11 in the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament.

The loss to the New Jersey school ended the Cardinals’ season at 11-3-3. It was the second year in a row that Wesleyan, currently ranked 23rd, saw its season conclude in the second round of the NCAAs.

Wesleyan defeated Baruch, 5-0, in the opening round three days earlier to advance to the game with Montclair State.

The Cardinals turned up the pressure in the second half generating a 7-2 margin on shots over the final 45 minutes but were shut out. The closest they came a was shot in the 79th minute by Jared Ashe ’07 off a Julian Canzoneri ’07 corner kick but were denied by a dramatic defensive save by a Red Hawk.

Ashe, pictured at left, was one of four Cardinals recently honored by the NESCAC with a spot on the all-NESCAC squad. He was a first-team choice along with Matt Nevin ’09 and Peter Glidden ’07. Sam Griswold ’08 was named to the second team.

By Brian Katten, sports information director