Campus News & Events

Shusterman Offers Advice for Families on Transitioning to Homeschooling

Anna Shusterman with her sons Max and Reuben

Anna Shusterman with her sons Max and Reuben.

Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology and co-coordinator of education studies, studies learning and conceptual development in children. In this Q&A, we asked her for advice for families on transitioning children to distance learning during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Q: How should parents talk to kids about what’s happening in the world and why their daily lives look so different?

A: Full disclosure: I am not a clinician. However, as a parent and a research psychologist, I think it’s important for parents to validate their children’s emotions rather than dismissing them or telling them they are being silly. It’s also important that we’re not running around in a state of panic, as this can be too unsettling for kids. Children feel our stress and they need real social connection, so some time should be made for sitting together, talking, and reading books, when parents put their phones away, too. NPR’s Life Kit has good advice on talking to kids about scary current events.

No matter what else is happening, young children need human connection—board games, talking, working together on a project, cooking, anything together, the more child-led the better. Here’s a good commonsense report on the topic.

Q: What is your advice for parents on helping kids transition to distance learning?

A: Try to set up a gentle routine that involves getting up, getting dressed, chores, exercise, creativity, academics, regular meals, and sleep. By age 5 or 6, children can be a part of the conversation to create this schedule.

Grossman on Mitigating the Economic Fallout from the Coronavirus

Grossman

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman, professor and chair of economics, is an expert in economic history as well as current policy issues in macroeconomics, banking, and finance. In this Q&A, we asked him about the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, and how the government is responding in efforts to mitigate the damage.

Q: We’ve all seen the headlines about a coronavirus-induced recession. What is the current state of the economy, and what do you predict we’ll see over the coming months?

A: Prior to the virus outbreak, the American economy was doing well by conventional standards. The unemployment rate was 3.5% in March, down from a peak of 10% around a decade ago. According to the government’s most recent estimate (released on Feb. 27), real gross domestic product grew by 2.3% in 2019. Not stellar, but high relative to other developed economies. It is going to get substantially worse quite soon.

Adapting to a New Normal at Wesleyan

The central consideration for Wesleyan’s faculty and administration during the transition to a distance-learning model as a result of the threat of COVID-19 has been how best to support students (particularly those who are high-need or have extenuating personal circumstances) and ensure the continuity of their Wesleyan experience.

“We say we’re a caring community,” President Michael Roth ’78 noted in an all-staff call on Tuesday, March 17. “Now is the time to prove that. We are practiced at pulling together, usually on joyous occasions. But right now, we have to prioritize flexibility for our students, faculty, and staff so that they stay as healthy as possible…and I’m very grateful to them for figuring out how to retool classes and deliver a rewarding Wesleyan experience remotely.”

Academic Support

remote learningThe hallmark of a Wesleyan education has long been the rich personal interactions between faculty and students. Recreating that in the online space has posed an interesting challenge for faculty, but it has come as no surprise to Rob Rosenthal, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, to see them rise to it.

“It’s so impressive the way faculty have just jumped into this,” Rosenthal said. “Together, we are figuring out ways to deliver a Wesleyan education that we had never envisioned three weeks ago. It’s inspiring to me.”

Johnston: What History Can Teach Us About the COVID-19 Pandemic

Bill Johnston

Bill Johnston

William Johnston, the John E. Andrus Professor of History, is a historian who studies disease and medicine, with expertise in epidemics of infectious diseases. In this Q&A, Johnston discusses the novel coronavirus outbreak and what can be learned from the past.

Q: How and when did you start studying the history of disease and medicine?

A: About 30 years ago, I wrote my dissertation on the subject, which became my first book, The Modern Epidemic: A History of Tuberculosis in Japan. Around that time, people were starting to consider epidemics of infectious diseases a thing of the past that were no longer of concern to us, but then HIV took off. I’ve continued to study and teach on the history of disease and pandemics ever since.

Q: Please tell us about the course you teach.

A: It’s called Critical Approaches to the History of Disease and Epidemics. Ironically, almost every year I’ve taught it, the world has seen another major epidemic. I’m offering it again this semester, and our first day of class was January 23, just as the novel coronavirus was emerging as a serious threat in China. Seeing that this was coming down the pike, I adjusted the direction of the course to incorporate a combination of historical readings and articles from contemporary medical journals. For example, I gave students one reading on the plague and how it went pandemic in the Middle Ages—what it took for that to happen.

Redfield Receives NASA Grant to Study the Properties of Outer Space

Seth Redfield

Associate Professor of Astronomy Seth Redfield will use the Hubble Space Telescope to measure composition, density, temperature, motion, and the spectroscopic signatures of gas and dust.

If a spacecraft were to quickly travel outside the solar system—potentially en route to a nearby exoplanetary system—it would need to pass through an atmosphere unfamiliar to scientists on Earth.

As a recipient of a $415,000 grant from NASA, Seth Redfield, chair and associate professor of astronomy, hopes to learn more about the mysterious makeup of this “outer space.”

“There are several very early designs for an interstellar probe, but first, we need to understand the properties of the space in between the stars if you are traveling through it, especially at high speed,” Redfield said. “Given the vastness of space, even in our nearest cosmic neighborhood of the closest stars, very high speeds are needed. The designs for an interstellar probe involve speeds that range from 11,000 miles per hour to 6 million miles per hour! These require the biggest rockets that NASA has ever built and new propulsion ideas that are still in very early design phases.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. USA Today: “America Has a History of Lynching, but it’s Not a Federal Crime. The House Just Voted to Change That”

Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language Ashraf Rushdy is interviewed on the topic of legislation that would make lynching a federal crime. In the interview he called lynching “the original hate crime.” “Lynching is a blot on the history of America,” he said. “But it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

2. The New York Times: “Starbucks Baristas Accuse Service Company of Abuse and Pay Gaps”

Associate Professor of Sociology Jonathan Cutler is interviewed about transgender issues in labor organizations as immigrant, transgender, and black baristas face discrimination at airport Starbucks. “Organized labor often lives or dies by its ability to tap into broader social movements,” he said. “In this case, you’re seeing the most public effort to organize around transgender issues.”

3. The Washington Post: “Does Money Even Matter? And Other Questions You May Have About Bloomberg’s Half-Billion-Dollar Failed Candidacy”

Wesleyan Transitions to Online Classes for the Safety of the Campus Community


For the safety of the campus community, amid the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting thousands of known cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) nationwide, Wesleyan is transitioning all classes to distance-learning models for the remainder of the spring semester.

“As hard as we work to make the on-campus Wesleyan experience the best it can be, we must apply that same diligence and care to protecting our community’s well-being in light of this growing threat,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 in a campuswide email.

While there are no confirmed cases at Wesleyan, there are five confirmed cases in the State of Connecticut, and Governor Ned Lamont declared a public health emergency.

After consulting with a variety of public health experts and other higher education institutions around the country, Wesleyan announced the following preventive measures:

  • In-person classes are suspended for the remainder of the spring semester; all courses will transition to distance learning models.
  • Effective immediately, all University-sponsored, connected, or funded domestic and international travel for students, faculty, and staff is prohibited. The University also strongly discourages all personal domestic and international travel by students, faculty, and staff, except for the purposes of students returning home.

7 Faculty Conferred Tenure, 1 Promoted

Seven faculty were conferred tenure by the Board of Trustees at its most recent meeting. Their appointments will be effective on July 1. They are:

  • Ren Ellis Neyra, associate professor of English
  • James Greenwood, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences
  • Cameron Donnay Hill, associate professor of mathematics
  • Daniel Licata, associate professor of computer science
  • Rashida Shaw McMahon, associate professor of English
  • Laura Ann Twagira, associate professor of history

In addition, one faculty member was promoted:

  • Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies

Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching appear below.

Ren Ellis Neyra is a theorist and practitioner of poetics of the Americas, whose work complicates boundaries between critical and creative practices, as well as in modes of public engagement. Their book, The Cry of the Senses: Listening to Latinx and Caribbean Poetics (Duke University Press, forthcoming November 2020), is “a paradigmatic disturbance built around the cry in the Caribbean Americas. The cry’s waywardness with the binary of being/non-being moves in the book’s method of multi-sensorial, poetic listening, which attunes readers of Latinx and Caribbean poetics and aesthetics to how abnormal insurgencies go off.” They offer a wide range of courses, including The Senses and the Subject in Poetry and Cinema; Brown, Black, and Queer Forms and Feelings; and Law, ‘Savage,’ and Citizen in Contemporary Literary and Cinematic Imaginations.

James Greenwood is a planetary geochemist and cosmochemist whose primary research focuses on the origin of the Earth’s water.

Livingston ’21 a Finalist in a Worldwide Writing Contest

Katie Livingston

Katie Livingston ’21

Wesleyan English major Katie Livingston ’21 is one of 12 young writers around the world who will be honored at the 36th Annual L. Rob Hubbard Achievement Awards on April 3 in Hollywood, Calif.

She’s a finalist for the Writers of the Future Contest, which was initiated by Hubbard in 1983 to provide “a means for new and budding writers to have a chance for their creative efforts to be seen and acknowledged.” Based on its success, its sister contest, Illustrators of the Future, was created five years later to provide that same opportunity for aspiring artists.

The grand prize winners will each receive $5,000. Quarterly winners also receive cash prizes from $500 to $1,000. Their winning stories and illustrations will appear in the annual anthology L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers and Illustrators of the Future Volume 36 (Galaxy Press, April 2020).

Oklahoma native Livingston spent her high school years tending chickens and writing speculative fiction novels. She’s a fan of Stephen King novels, ’80s horror flicks, rural living, and cats—all of which inspire her work. Her submission for the Writers of the Future Contest addresses the themes of rural living and religion.

At Wesleyan, she’s the assistant opinion editor for The Wesleyan Argus; a thesis mentor in the Shapiro Writing Center; a teaching assistant for the course, American Literature 1865-1945; the design editor for Sthoscope Press; an assistant in the Writing Certificate Program; and assists with grant-funded work in the writing center. On weekends, she works in the Usdan Café.

Livingston hopes to attend graduate school for American literature so that she can continue learning, reading, and writing.

Watch a video about Livingston online here.

Hockey Wins First-Ever NESCAC Championship

hockeyOn March 8, the men’s hockey team celebrated its first-ever NESCAC Championship with a 7-2 victory over Trinity College. Although the win secured the league’s automatic bid into the 2020 NCAA Tournament, NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Board of Governors decided to cancel all remaining winter championships as well as the spring sports season across all divisions (I, II, and III). Wesleyan had several winter sports scheduled to compete in their respective NCAA Championships, including men’s hockey, which are affected by this news.

The Cardinals scored seven goals in just over 30 minutes of action, erasing an early deficit to thunder past No. 8 Trinity at Lansing Chapman Rink on the campus of Williams College.

hockeyThe victory was a resounding one as the fifth-seeded Cardinals scored four unanswered goals in a span of just 10:25 between the second and third periods to take a commanding 4–1 lead that proved enough in the end. Six different goal scorers lit the lamp for Wesleyan while Walker Harris ’20 finished with four points (one goal, three assists) to tie the NESCAC Championship game record for the highest point total by a single skater. One night removed from making 40 saves in the Cardinals’ semifinal win over the Ephs, Tim Sestak ’20 was tremendous once again, posting 38 saves on 40 shots-on-goal from Trinity as he continues to deliver in the postseason for Wesleyan throughout his career.

Wesleyan Vows to Divest from Fossil Fuel Investments by the End of the Decade

At its most recent meeting on Feb. 29, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees discussed how to better align endowment investment practices with the University’s broad sustainability efforts.

In a recent campus-wide email, President Michael Roth ’78 and Board of Trustees Chair Donna Morea ’76, P’06 shared the following message:

Given the climate emergency, the investment and ecological risks associated with fossil fuels and the Investment Committee’s own environmental, social and governance guidelines, there was broad agreement among trustees not to make new fossil fuel investments and to wind down current investments in this sector as quickly as possible while minimizing the negative impact to the value of the endowment. The University will be divested from direct fossil fuel investments by the end of the decade.

Wesleyan has already made a climate commitment aiming at carbon neutrality and will now be accelerating work in this direction. This weekend, the Board authorized the first phase of converting our energy infrastructure from steam to hot water. When complete, this project will reduce Wesleyan’s carbon footprint by thousands of metric tons per year.

Longenecker in The Conversation: A Brief History of Invisibility on Screen

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, Marc Longenecker ’03, MA ’07, assistant professor of the practice in film studies, explains the history of invisible characters in films. Longenecker ’03 majored in film studies and physics for his BA, and film studies for his MA.

Elisabeth Moss stars in the latest adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel. Universal Pictures

Elisabeth Moss stars in the latest adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel. (Photo by Universal Pictures)

A brief history of invisibility on screen

What would you do if you could be invisible? Would this newfound power bring out the best in you, instilling you with the courage to discreetly sabotage the efforts of evildoers? Or would the ability to slip in and out of rooms unnoticed tap into darker impulses?

This alluring fantasy has long been fodder for filmmakers, many of whom have taken cues from the eponymous character in H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel, The Invisible Man.

First adapted to the screen in 1933, the invisible man (and his descendents) appeared in six films from 1933 to 1951. Now, he’ll be making his latest screen (dis)appearance in a film directed by Leigh Whannell. This iteration takes a horror-movie tack: Its protagonist, played by Elisabeth Moss, is harassed by an ex who has faked his own death. But beyond “The Invisible Man” franchise, the concept of invisibility has inspired a raft of movies over the decades.

As a film professor who studies adaptations and series, I’m most interested in the versatility of these invisible characters. They can star in cautionary tales or embody underdog heroes; they can act as vessels for social critique or vehicles for masochistic power fantasies.