Nicole Stanton has been announced as Wesleyan University’s 12th Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, with her tenure beginning on May 15, 2020.
Stanton joined Wesleyan in 2007 as an associate professor of dance, has twice served as chair of the department (2008–2011; 2014–2017) and is currently serving as Dean of the Arts and Humanities. A dance artist and an educator by training, Nicole’s work explores the cultures and histories of the African diaspora, especially the ways in which the arts and dance serve as sites of reclamation and platforms for cultivating community. Nicole earned a BA in dance and foreign civilizations and languages/European studies from Antioch College and an MFA in dance from The Ohio State University, where she was both an assistant and associate professor of dance and undergraduate studies chair from 2004 to 2007.
“At a time of rapid change in our field and country, Nicole’s inclusive leadership style and focus on shared governance will be critical in helping Wesleyan strengthen and hone its distinctive brand of liberal education going forward,” said President Michael S. Roth ’78. “She is the right choice at the right time for Wesleyan. I look forward to working with her.”
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In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.
Wesleyan in the News
- NPR: “Book Review: ‘The Movie Musical!’ Is a Symphony in Praise of the ‘Razzmatazz’ of the Genre”
“Encyclopedic in scope, but thankfully not in structure, The Movie Musicals! is a downright delightful read,” this NPR review of Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, Jeanine Basinger’s new book proclaims. The Movie Musicals! truly “dazzles” for its insight into the roles these films have played over the 20th century and into the 21st, the review states, noting, “And throughout the hefty volume, Basinger addresses—both directly and indirectly—the essential question at the heart of musicals: What compels us to suspend disbelief and accept, if not wholly enjoy, the fantastical idea of people spontaneously breaking into song? What does this sorcery say about the immersiveness of film, and the power of song, and the mechanism of the human imagination?”
2. BBC: “Galileo’s Lost Letter”
Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein is interviewed on “Discovery” from the BBC about the historical conflict between religion and science. “The notion that religion is somehow a backward, authoritarian, anti-rational opponent to science really comes at the end of the 19th century,” she says. There is a misperception that science and religious belief have to always be in conflict, but in actuality, Rubenstein says, it is “a battle between Protestants and Catholics that gets grafted onto and renewed as some sort of dispute between the secular and the religious.” Rubenstein comes in around 15:44 minutes.
3. PBS Newshour: “Why Haitians Say They Won’t Stop Protesting”
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The members of Wesleyan’s Startup Incubator stand together on pitch night, held in downtown Middletown on the second floor of Main Street Market. From left to right, beginning with the front row: Tommy Doyle ’21 and Bobby Iwashima ’22. Along the wall: Itzel Valdez ’23, Daniel Banks ’22, Lucas Pabarcius ’22, Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Rosemary Ostfeld ’10, MA ’11, Shane Chase, program director at reSET (an affiliated organization), Nigel Hayes ’23, Ona Hauert ’20, Will Huestis ’22, Zachary Zavalick ’20, and Nolan Collins ’23 (missing from photo: Beckett Azevedo ’21). (Photo by Dennis Hohne)
Eleven students from CSPL 239, Startup Incubator: The Art and Science of Launching Your Idea, took turns standing before an audience of their peers and members of Middletown’s Chamber of Commerce on the second floor of Main Street Market. Each offered a polished presentation detailing the need for their proposed startup, their mission, target market, and success indicators for the business, nonprofit, or community-based program they imagine. The evening was hosted through Collision-CT and the Middletown Entrepreneurs Workspace Plus (MEWS+). The course was made possible by CTNext and the Newman’s Own Foundation.
Taught this year by Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Rosemary Ostfeld ’10, MA ’11, the course was initially developed in 2018 by Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, in collaboration with reSET, the Hartford-based social enterprise trust.
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From left, Cheryl Sharp ’90, deputy director of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO); Jason Torello, Center for Prison Education alumnus; Allie Cislo, CPE program manager; Daniel McGloin, CPE academic development and planning manager; and Tanya Hughes, CHRO executive director, gathered at the 2019 Leaders and Legends award ceremony on Nov. 21.
On Nov. 21, Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education (CPE) was honored by the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) at its annual Leaders and Legends award ceremony in Hartford, Conn. The ceremony celebrates the state’s civil rights leaders in many different areas, including education, business or law, community activism, civic leadership, and social justice.
CPE received the Edythe J. Gaines Award for Inclusive Education, named in honor of the first African American and first woman to head the Hartford school system. The award recognizes educators who dedicate their careers to promoting equality, inclusion, and fairness in education.
Since 2009, CPE has offered accredited Wesleyan courses to students at Cheshire Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison for men. Wesleyan faculty teach courses ranging from English to biology to philosophy, and which have the same rigor and expectations as courses on Wesleyan’s Middletown campus. About 50 Wesleyan students volunteer in the program each semester, working in study halls at the prison or on campus, filling research requests and serving as project assistants.
The program was expanded to serve incarcerated students at York Correctional Institution in spring 2013. CPE held its first graduation ceremony for incarcerated students in August 2018.
Learn more about the Center for Prison Education here.
In the Introduction to GIS course, Joshua Reed ’21 used governmental data to explore “The Relationship Between Education and Poverty in the US.”
Fifteen Wesleyan students who were enrolled in the Introduction to GIS course this fall learned how to apply GIS concepts and skills to solve local problems in environmental sciences.
Kim Diver, associate professor of the practice of environmental sciences, taught the class and an accompanying service-learning lab component. After learning about the basic theory of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), data collection, data management, spatial analysis, visualization, and map preparation, the students were paired with a community partner or organization to assist them with an issue.
On Dec. 5, the students presented the results of their projects to their community partners and other students and faculty.
Joshua Reed ’21 worked with Wesleyan Book Buds, an Office of Community Service student group on a study titled “The Relationship Between Education and Poverty in the US.”
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Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin’s book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism (Princeton University Press), was awarded an honorable mention for the 2019 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize.
Established in 1983, the Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize is sponsored by the Association for Slavic Studies, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) and the Stanford University Center for Russian and East European Studies. It is awarded annually for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences published in English in the United States in the previous calendar year. The prize carries a cash award and is presented at the association’s annual convention.
Smolkin is a scholar of Communism, the Cold War, and atheism and religion in Russia and the former Soviet Union. A Sacred Space Is Never Empty explores the meaning of atheism for religious life, Communist ideology, and Soviet politics. Read more about the book and see photos from her book talk here.
Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, is the author of a new book, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, published by Wesleyan University Press in August 2019.
According to the publisher:
Celluloid Classicism provides a rich and detailed history of two important modern South Indian cultural forms: Tamil Cinema and Bharatanatyam dance. It addresses representations of dance in the cinema from an interdisciplinary, critical-historical perspective. The intertwined and symbiotic histories of these forms have never received serious scholarly attention. For the most part, historians of South Indian cinema have noted the presence of song and dance sequences in films, but have not historicized them with reference to the simultaneous revival of dance culture among the middle-class in this region. In a parallel manner, historians of dance have excluded deliberations on the influence of cinema in the making of the “classical” forms of modern India. Although the book primarily focuses on the period between the late 1920s and 1950s, it also addresses the persistence of these mid-twentieth century cultural developments into the present. The book rethinks the history of Bharatanatyam in the 20th century from an interdisciplinary, transmedia standpoint and features 130 archival images.
Wesleyan’s community-based radio station, WESU 88.1 FM, celebrated its 80th anniversary on Dec. 8 with a Free Form Jubilee.
The event, held in the Daniel Family Commons, featured special musical performances and talks by local dignitaries.
Established in 1939, WESU began as one of the first student-owned and -operated radio stations in the country. That fall, Wesleyan freshman Arch Doty Jr. began broadcasting his homemade 1-watt AM transmitter from his Clark Hall dorm room. Eighty years later, WESU is among the largest student groups on Wesleyan’s campus, uniting nearly 150 student and community volunteer broadcasters.
The event featured Noah Baerman, director of the Wesleyan jazz ensemble; Cormac Chester ’20, public affairs director of WESU; Connecticut Senator Mary Abrams; City of Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim ’14; Ben Michael, manager of WESU; Americana musicians Rani Arbo and Scott Kessel; Clifton Watson, director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships; Kate Rushin, award-winning poet; Don Minott, roots-reggae singer; Wesleyan rapper Laszlo; Banning Eyre ’79 of Afropop Worldwide; The Super Girls Group, including Lilian Walker of The Exciters, Margaret Ross Williams of The Cookies, and Louise Murray of The Hearts and Jaynetts; and Randy and Freddie Moses of Middletown’s legendary R&B group, The House of Moses.
WESU’s eight-decade legacy of service can be explored in an online exhibit.
(Photos by Simon Duan ’23)
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Be the Change Venture (BCV), a nonprofit organization founded and led by Anthony Price ’20, has been chosen as a 2019 Changemaker Challenge Winner by T-Mobile and Ashoka.
BCV was one of 30 winners selected from 300 applicants for the Ashoka-T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge, a yearly prize that supports young changemakers across the United States and Puerto Rico.
BCV aims to train and empower young people to be workforce-ready. It works with youth aged 14 to 18 to help them develop soft and practical skills, find and obtain internship and job opportunities, and foster professional relationships with various career experts. The organization operates in the Lincoln, Neb., and Cleveland, Ohio, areas.
As challenge winners, Price and one team member have been invited to attend the T-Mobile Changemaker Lab, held in Seattle on February 19–21, with all expenses paid.
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Sherman Hawkins, professor of English, emeritus, died on Dec. 3 at the age of 90.
Sherman received BA degrees from both Harvard University and the University of Oxford and his PhD from Princeton University. He served in the US military at the conclusion of the Korean War. Arriving at Wesleyan in 1971 after teaching at Princeton, Bryn Mawr, and University of Rochester, he taught English here for 20 years until he retired in 1991. For decades, his essay on college as a green world experience was given to every freshman entering Wesleyan.
“Sherman was an unforgettable colleague and presence at Wesleyan,” said Professor of English and Letters Kach Tölölyan. “As a teacher, he combined a dramatic style that captivated students and a sense of responsibility that made him scrupulous in every aspect of teaching. I have never forgotten our conversations concerning Shakespeare.”
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Helen Poulos examines a high fire severity site.
Wildfires can transform forest ecosystems to varying degrees, depending on fire severity. While low-severity wildfires change plant community composition by killing short-statured trees and understory plants, high-severity fires result in top kill of above-ground vegetation. This variation in wildfire effects can have major impacts on post-fire vegetation composition and water stress.
Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, received a $300,000 grant from NASA on Dec. 5 to examine how forests can permanently change in response to high-severity wildfire in southeastern Arizona.
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On Dec. 4, 15 students from the Class of 2020 were elected to Wesleyan’s scholastic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa.
To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of his or her major. The student also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations and must have achieved a GPA of 93 or above.
Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Society was organized in 1845 and is the ninth oldest chapter in the country.
Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest surviving Greek letter society in America, founded in December 1776 by five students who attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The emblem contains the three Greek letters “Phi,” “Beta,” and “Kappa,” which are the initials of the Greek motto, Philosophia Biou Kybernetes. This essentially means “the love of wisdom is the guide of life.”
The fall 2019 inductees and their major(s) are:
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