Campus News & Events

Roundtable Meetings Promote Conversation, Sharing of Resources


Mike Sciola, standing, director of Wesleyan’s Career Resource Center, speaks during an Academic (Technology) Roundtable meeting Feb. 8.
Posted 02/16/07
Intellectual property issues, using visual images in the classroom and rock and roll memories are all upcoming topics for the Academic (Technology) Roundtable.

The weekly roundtable meetings aim to promote conversation, cooperation, and the sharing of information and resources among Wesleyan’s faculty and staff.

“This is an informal way for faculty, librarians and staff members to get together and talk about technologies, academic issues and student life,” explains Andy Szegedy-Maszak, director of the Center for Faculty Career Development, the Jane A. Seney professor of Greek and chair of the Classical Studies Department and roundtable moderator.

During the Feb. 8 meeting, some 40 guests came to hear a talk by Mike Sciola, director of Wesleyan’s Career Resource Center. After a presentation on learning styles of “The Millennials,” or the students born after 1988, more than a dozen participants chimed in with questions or stories pertaining to the topic of the day.

Like “The Millennials,” not all topics are entirely technology-focused. The Academic (Technology) Roundtable, which is abbreviated as A(T)R shifted gears about four years ago when Szegedy-Maszak and Michael Roy, director of Academic Computing Services and Digital Projects, took charge of coordinating the meetings.

Rather than discussing technology only, they began welcoming a wide variety of other subjects such as university services, grading practices, publishing in academic journals, and students’ mental health. Most presentations are by Wesleyan staff or faculty members, along with some outside speakers.

“That’s why we put the ‘T’ in parentheses now,” Szegedy-Maszak says. “Although we still include technological topics, our subjects are broader to appeal to faculty and staff with different interests.”

Future A(T)R topics vary. On Feb. 22, Don Moon, dean of the Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs and the John E. Andrus Professor of Government, will lead a discussion on public speaking, which has been identified by Wesleyan faculty as one of the academic “essential capabilities.” On March 1, James Neal, vice president for Information Services at Columbia University, will speak on intellectual property issues within higher education; March 5, David Green will speak on a National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education report on visual images in the classroom. Other upcoming topics and presenters can be found at: http://www.wesleyan.edu/atr.

Roy and Szegedy-Maszak encourage the Wesleyan community to suggest a topic of interest, nominate a presenter or volunteer to make a presentation via its Web site at http://www.wesleyan.edu/atr/suggestions.html.

“A(T)R is really the best-kept secret on campus,” says Barbara Jones, the Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian and regular meeting-attendee. “It’s a wonderful resource for our library staff, and it’s a great place to meet new colleagues.”

Sponsors of A(T)R include The Center for Faculty Career Development, Olin Library and Information Technology Services. Meetings take place at noon most Mondays and Thursdays in Olin Library’s Develin Room. Buffet lunch is served and any member of Wesleyan’s faculty and staff is welcome to attend.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Committee Lists Impacts of New Computer Cluster


Posted 02/16/07
Members of the Wesleyan Cluster Computing Committee have listed the impacts on research from the newly-installed computer cluster.

The Cluster Computing Committee members are Eric Aaron, assistant professor of computer science; David Beveridge, the University Professor of the Science and Mathematics; Tsampikos Kottos, assistant professor pf physics; George Petersson, professor of chemistry; and Francis Starr, assistant professor of physics.

The committee is supported by the Information Technology Services staff, who made commitments of space, personnel resources, and developed an upgrade program so that the facility does not become rapidly obsolete.

ITS staff involved include Henk Meij, applications technology specialist; Jolee West, academic computing manager; James Taft, assistant director of technology support services and Ganesan Ravishanker, associate vice president for Information Technology Services.

Among other abilities, the cluster will enable the following:

1. Faculty can produce new science in diverse research projects, including the structure and formation of galaxies, molecular dynamics of proteins, elucidating activity patterns in cortical circuits, DNAs and protein DNA recognition, methods developments and applications in molecular quantum mechanics, complex quantum dynamics and mesoscopic transport phenomena, computer simulations of the clustering of nanoparticles and studies of the assembly and properties of soft materials.

2. Distributed resources currently are maintained by individual faculty who aim to have enough computing resources to meet their peak needs. As a result, computational resources sit idle during non-peak usage periods. A shared facility would allow users to take advantage of computing time that would otherwise go wasted, meaning that the total aggregate computing resources needed not be as large as if they are distributed.

3. A central computing facility and internal computing workshops would provide an environment to bring together researchers from different areas of the sciences and foster collaborative activities. The current distributed model does not encourage collaboration.

4. A centralized cluster facilitates the present computational research and lowers the barrier to initiate new computational projects, permitting faculty and students quicker involvement with projects and the ability to more-easily explore new approaches to their research.

5. Removing the burden of maintaining computational facilities from faculty members will free them to focus on the effective use of resources to strengthen research and educational activities. Moreover, access to such facilities is vital to maintain the competitiveness with larger universities.

6. The cluster serves as a learning tool to develop student scientific computing proficiency both through existing courses and though assisting faculty with research. Such training is invaluable to prepare students for the expanding field of information technology.

7. Computational facilities quickly become obsolete with the furious pace of technological development. Often, individual faculty are not able to keep up with the pace of innovation lacking either the time needed to stay informed about the latest innovations or funds necessary to buy them (or both). Wesleyan’s ITS is committed to the maintenance and regular upgrading of facilities once they are in place. This is a truly major matching commitment and provides a longevity, continuity and stability to research computing that is currently missing in the current model of distributed resources.

8. Six faculty research groups involving postdoctoral research associates, graduate students and undergraduate students pursuing honors thesis research comprise the primary cadre of users of the cluster. Nine additional groups are expected to be involved in significant but smaller scale computer-related research initiatives, as well as a number of inter-group collaborations and projects. In total, there will be roughly 50 regular users of this facility. A centralized cluster computer introduces a new era to the quality and inclusiveness of computationally intensive research at Wesleyan, affecting both faculty programs and the undergraduate and graduate students involve in those programs. Overall, this revision in Wesleyan’s institutional strategy towards information technology fits naturally within the university’s mission of achieving excellence in undergraduate education via the effective integration of teaching and scholarship.

New Computer Cluster Will Improve Research Campus-Wide


From left, Henk Meij, applications technology specialist; Francis Starr, assistant professor of physics; and James Taft, assistant director of technology support services, look over the newly-installed 10-terabyte computer cluster at Information Technology Services.
Posted 02/16/07
It takes 10, 250-volt plugs to power up. It takes 9,000 BTUs to keep it cool. It can communicate 14 times faster than high-speed internet, and it has the potential to store more than 2.5 million MP3s.

But most important, this state-of-the-art high-performance computer cluster will offer both education and research opportunities for the university on a level which has never before been available. The cluster was installed this month, and will be connected to the entire Wesleyan network.

“This is going to change the way Wesleyan conducts research,” explains Ganesan Ravishanker, associate vice president for Information Technology Services. “This powerful computing cluster will offer advanced hardware and software resources for teaching strategies and research not specific to any one department or discipline.”

The high-performance cluster is made up of 288 central processing units from Dell, Inc. that work together as one machine. The unit has two functions – it can either split one computational task across several different computers for a faster result, or it can process dozens of tasks at one time.

Together, these units offer 10 terabytes of storage, equivalent to 10,000 gigabytes. A typical desktop computer has 150 gigabytes of disk space.

“It takes three to four terabytes to store all the information from the entire campus and this unit alone has 10,” explains Henk Meij, applications technology specialist, who is overseeing the cluster’s operation.

The cluster was funded by a $190,000 National Science Foundation’s Major Research Instrumentation Program grant, awarded in July 2006. The grant proposal was written by Francis Starr, assistant professor of physics; David Beveridge, the University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, professor of chemistry; and Katherine Johnston, formerly an assistant professor of astronomy. Each is involved in computationally-intensive research.

In the past five years, four Wesleyan faculty set-up their own clusters. Of these, one is defunct, one is obsolete, and two are saturated and will soon be out of date. Starr, who is currently conducting research through this older, 80-unit cluster, will use the new cluster to benefit his own research on DNA-based nanomaterials and supercooled liquids. Since his work requires computer simulations that focus on molecular dynamics, the new cluster will drastically increase his ability for scientific computation.

“Now I will be able to get 288 answers in the time it would take to get one,” Starr explains, while rotating a visualization of the molecular structure of water on his Mac. “With the new hardware, I’ll be able to explore the assembly of new molecular structures on a much larger scale, helping the development of nanomaterials with customized properties.”

And since the unit will be maintained by ITS, Starr looks forward to spending less time maintaining his current cluster and more time doing research and spending time with students.

The cluster is a central resource so anyone can connect to it from their office or even home. Several Wesleyan faculty in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics have taken interest in the new computing unit, however it is not exclusive to NSM.

Rex Pratt, the Beach Professor of Chemistry, can use the cluster to make models of small molecules that bind to enzymes. Eric Aaron, assistant professor of computer science, can further his research of tumor development and treatment, using massively computation-intensive geometric computation simulations. Mark Flory, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, carries out comparative searches of proteomic data with corresponding sequence databases. Cluster facilities will enable him to greatly expand his studies from small samples analyzed on a single workstation.

Several other faculty researchers will immediately benefit as well.

In addition to faculty use, undergraduate and graduate students will have opportunities to conduct research with these machines. There are already established extramurally-funded research programs at Wesleyan in theoretical astrophysics, liquid state chemical physics, nanotechnology, quantum chemistry, molecular biophysics, and the emerging field of neuroinformatics and structural bioinformatics, all of which depend on high-end computing to be competitive. Courses that involve computers are offered in each of these areas.

“Now, students are limited to the computers at their labs,” Starr explains. “We need to teach students how to get access to the cluster and take advantage of what it can offer. There is no end in sight for what we can do.”

The impacts of the new cluster can be seen at : http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsletter/campus/2007/0207cluster2.html
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Biophysics Journal Club Encourages Active Learning, Student Teaching


Andrew Moreno, a graduate student in chemistry, teaches a lesson on probability to his peers during a Molecular Biophysics Journal Club class Feb. 7.
Posted 02/16/07
Alicia Every, a graduate student in chemistry, went to class last week not only to learn, but to teach.

She and the other 20 students taking the course, Molecular Biophysics Journal Club II, are expected to prepare a lesson on relevant course material and present a micro-lecture to their peers.

For 20 minutes she spoke, jotting equations on the chalkboard while explaining that heat is in random motion. She drew a gas molecule inside a box, and talked about its behavior at the molecular level, relating it to macroscopic systems such as in proteins and nucleic acids.

“What makes Journal Club different from a typical lecture is that we have some degree of freedom in our discussions,” Every says. “This allows us to not only focus on one particular topic, but to digress to other related topics that the class might feel necessary to cover in more detail. In a way, this allows the students to have control over the lecture.”

The Biophysics Journal Club is open to graduate and undergraduate students, and may be taken repetitively. Enrollment is unlimited, although it’s geared most closely for majors from chemistry and molecular biology and biochemistry. The program will soon include a bioinformatics track in conjunction with the Center for Integrative Genomics and the Biology Department, and students from any Natural Sciences and Mathematics department are welcome.

Faculty participants in the Molecular Biophysics Program attend the class meetings and offer input when necessary; at least one faculty member is always present to lead the class.

“The idea of Journal Club is for students to learn about the cutting edge of science in this area outside of their own research project. This also provides students experience with discussion of diverse subject in the area, and to get some teaching experience by preparing short lectures and giving them to each other and the faculty,” explains one of the class instructor David Beveridge, the University Professor of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and co-coordinator with Ishiuta Mukerji of the program. “Club is not quite the right word but is the local parlance for this kind of thing – a skull session, workshop, brainstorming session. Faculty serve as a resource and offer appropriate feedback. We are aware that various degrees of experience and language capabilities are in the mix so we expect to keep the class atmosphere friendly and constructive for students.”

Molecular Biophysics Journal Club II is a non-exclusive companion to Molecular Biophysics Journal Club I, which is held Fall Semester 2006. Biophysics Journal Club I is not a precursor to Journal Club II; each course has a different focus. In Journal Club I students lead active discussions of a series of current research articles in the field of molecular biophysics and biophysical chemistry. They read articles from the Biophysical Journal, Biopolymers, Current Opinion in Structural Biology, Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics and the Annual Review of Molecular Biophysics and Biomolecular Structure.

Journal Club II focuses its attention on only one book. This semester it’s Biological Physics by Philip Nelson. This book, Beveridge explains, is highly regarded in the field and emphasizes understanding the principles and applications of biological molecules as molecular machines. Each student prepares their presentation based on one chapter, or part of a chapter, from the Nelson text.

“It will possibly take us two semesters to get through the whole book,” he says. “Students will find that preparing lectures is far more time consuming than they expected.”

The Journal Club is part of Wesleyan’s Biophysics Training Program, which is funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, an arm of the National Institute of Health (NIH). As part of this grant, the NIH requires that participating students receive ethical and quantitative training on the nature of their interdisciplinary area.

During the class, Andrew Moreno, a graduate student in chemistry, provided a lesson on probability, to relate the distribution of molecules in their physical states to the likelihood of a molecule being in a specific state.

He took Journal Club I last semester to discuss current research that is outside his field of interest. In addition, he hopes improve his teaching ability.

“It is difficult to get in front of your peers and teach, but at the same time, it’s rewarding because they can give you insight on what was good about your lecture and what was bad,” he says.

While some of the students are less comfortable speaking in front of their classmates, it now comes naturally to Every, who has taken the Journal Club for 10 semesters, her entire graduate career.

“It is not difficult as long as you have some idea of your peers’ background knowledge,” she says. “I prefer Journal Club over a standard lecture course because it forces you to be an active learner. We usually spend 15-20 minutes in lecture and the rest is spent discussing or analyzing the topic. This requires you to learn the information as well as analyze and apply it to different systems.”

After graduating with a Ph.D., Every hopes to continue research in biophysics. She is considering a post-doctoral position. Moreno also plans to continue doing research and eventually wants to teach.

“I have not yet decided if I would like to be a professor, but either way, I think it is important that I have some experience teaching because it has trained me to clearly understand different topics as well as be able to put into words what I have learned,” Every says.

The Molecular Biophysics Journal Club is open to the campus community. Meetings are held 1:10 to 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays in the NSM Conference Room. For more information e-mail David Beveridge, Ishita Mukerji or Manju Hingorani.

Laure Dykas, a Ph.D candidate in chemistry said student guest lectures Andrew and Alicia did “an excellent job” teaching.

“I hope I can do as well,” Dykas says, smiling. “I give my presentation next week!”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Dean of the College to Leave Wesleyan, Become Fulbright Scholar in Peru


Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, will leave Wesleyan to conduct a study at the Universidad del Pacifico’s Research Center in Peru.
Posted 02/01/07
Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, will leave Wesleyan at the end of her contract in June 2007.

At the invitation of a United Nations office and Universidad del Pacifico, Lima, Peru, Cruz-Saco will lead a study on aging, equity and income security in Peru. While leading this study in 2007-08, she will be a Fulbright Scholar at Universidad del Pacifico’s Research Center. In 2008-09, Cruz-Saco will resume teaching as professor of economics at Connecticut College.

“My response when I heard the news was that as a former economic development person, I could only celebrate Maria’s mission,” says President Doug Bennet. “I want to thank Maria for her extraordinary leadership as Wesleyan’s dean.”

Under Cruz-Saco’s leadership, Wesleyan created the Office for Diversity and Academic Advancement, enhanced First Year Matters through collaborations with the Center for the Arts and the Office of Academic Affairs, introduced a new peer advising program, integrated orientation for new and international students and created opportunities for rich educational experiences outside the classroom. Wesleyan has established a task force that is articulating a vision for religious and spiritual life on campus, preparing the opening of the Usdan University Center, and better aligning student affairs with our educational mission. The dean’s office has grown in strength and has the capacity to handle a leadership transition.

“Wesleyan is an exceptional place, students are bright and creative, the educational opportunities are rich, and I have been honored to serve as dean of the college and work with a splendid group of professionals,” Cruz-Saco says. “I know that I will miss being part of this community. But, I will come visit since I will be down the road when I get back from Peru!”

Bennet intends appoint an acting dean for a year, allowing time for his successor to develop a sense of what the dean’s office requires and to organize a search for a permanent replacement.

“I believe the acting dean should be a current faculty member or staff person who is familiar with the institution and able to provide leadership for a strong, ongoing enterprise,” Bennet says.

Bennet welcomes nominations and volunteers, and will consult broadly with faculty, students, and staff as I review faculty and staff lists for candidates.

Wesleyan to Begin New Dining Contract


Bon Appétit Management Company will provide the meals for the new university center.
Posted 02/01/07
Wesleyan is finalizing an agreement with a new dining services provider, Bon Appétit Management Company, to begin a new dining contract as of July 1, 2007.

The new company will provide campus dining in the new Suzanne Lemberg Usdan University Center, Summerfields, Pi Café, WEShop and campus catering.

“This was a difficult decision to make but also an exciting one,” says John Meerts, vice president for Finance and Administration, and member of Wesleyan’s Dining Review Committee.

Bon Appétit says it cooks food from scratch with seasonal ingredients. The company aims to serve a wide variety of menu items at each meal, offering authentic and nutritious foods, even for vegetarian, vegan, kosher and international diners.

In addition, the new dining plan provides flexibility, including longer service hours and variety in meal plan options; and promotes sustainability and making socially responsible purchasing decisions in regards to produce, meat, seafood, eggs, coffee and disposable plates and service wear.

Bon Appétit’s proposal for the new campus dining program will maintain the current level of represented dining staff.

“Much of the success Bon Appétit can anticipate at Wesleyan will depend upon the many staff members who have been a part of campus dining for years,” Meerts says.

As the semester progresses, the Dining Review Committee will work with Bon Appétit to provide more detailed information about the future of campus dining.

Bon Appétit has agreed to have longer hours of operation to meet the varied schedules of students, faculty and staff. Summerfields will be open for lunch and dinner. Pi Café and WEShop will continue to operate hours similar to their current schedules.

While WesWings, Red and Black Café, Chic Chaque and Star and Crescent operate independently from the campus dining program, they will continue to offer alternative options in the upcoming year.

According to Rick Culliton, dean of Campus Programs and director of the university center, the second floor of the Usdan Center, known as The Marketplace, will offer All-You-Care-to-Eat meals seven nights a week, plus brunch on Sunday. During breakfast and lunch for the rest of the week, the Usdan marketplace will be open for retail dining. The café on the first floor of the Usdan Center will be open from 8 a.m. through late night seven days a week.

In addition, the Daniel Family Common, located on the third floor of Usdan, will serve as a faculty/staff dining room and be available for special events when not in use for residential dining.

“We are very excited that the Usdan Center and our campus dining program will bring together the Wesleyan community in so many new ways,” Culliton says. “The convergence of these significant changes will transform campus life for all of us.”

The Dining Review Committee met for six months with student focus groups. They relied on Wesleyan Student Assembly’s Concept for dining narrative, which helped frame their efforts. The review committee included Meerts; Culliton; Annie Fox ’07; Chris Goy ’09; Deana Hutson, director of events for University Relations; Estrella Lopez ’07; Peter Patton, vice president and secretary of the university; Nate Peters, associate vice president for Finance; Joyce Topshe, associate vice president for facilities; and Michael Whaley, dean of Student Services.

Aramark Campus Services will continue to serve the Wesleyan community throughout the spring semester. The campus community is grateful to the Aramark management team for all they have contributed to the campus over the years.

“We are excited about the challenges that lie ahead and look forward to working together to make Wesleyan’s dining program the very best it can be,” Meerts says. “Our goal is to be recognized by the campus community and by peer institutions as having a premier dining program.”

For more information on Bon Appétit, go to: www.bamco.com

Daniel Stern Dies at Age of 79


Posted 02/01/07
Daniel Stern, former fellow in the Wesleyan Center for the Humanities, the Boynton Visiting Professor in Creative Writing in the College of Letters and a visiting professor in Letters and English, died on Jan. 24 at the age of 79. He was living in Houston, Texas.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Stern had taught in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, where he was a Cullen Distinguished Professor of English since 1992.

Wesleyan Professor of Letters Paul Schwaber has shared the following tribute to Professor Stern, which he wrote in 1991 when Stern was given the Cullen Professorship at the University of Houston:

“You already know of his extraordinary literary talent and productivity, that he broods on the moral catastrophes of the century and how they have been and may be rendered in art. He is a novelist, essayist, and dramatist of consistent and genuine accomplishment, and his commitment to the art and hard work of writing is inspirational. He is also a wonderful teacher–for he brings to bear in especially vital ways his loyalty to craft, his insider’s view of the literary world, his fascination with persons, his love of music, and his broad, lively experience in business. He talks easily with student and evokes from them a pitch of pleasure in words and a moral seriousness they may not have sensed in themselves. Very successful with lecture courses, seminars, and writing workshops, Dan is witty, kind, full of information, a superb anecdotalist, a splendid responsible, warm, and delightful colleague. He is also a fine listener. As you may imagine, I wish I could offer him a job here. Your students will be lucky indeed to be taught by him, to be inspired and encouraged by his presence.”

Stern grew up on New York City’s Lower East Side and began playing cello as a child. At 17 he skipped his high school graduation to go on the road behind jazzman Charlie Parker. He spent a year playing with the Indianapolis Symphony, during which time he began writing stories. Although he studied at various institutions, including Columbia University and the Juilliard School, he never earned a college degree.

In 1953 he published The Girl With the Glass Heart, the first of his nine novels. His most important novels include Who Shall Live, Who Shall Die? (1963), an early contribution to literature of the Holocaust, and After the War (1965), which focuses on postwar experimentation by young people trying to make up for lost time.

Stern held high-profile day jobs to support his writing habit. In 1963, he married Gloria Branfman and went to work in advertising, eventually becoming senior vice president of the McCann-Erickson agency. In 1969 he joined Warner Bros. as the studio’s vice president for advertising and publicity worldwide.

When Stern taught at Wesleyan he inaugurated the annual Philip Hallie lecture at the College of Letters. He worked at CBS before joining the University of Houston, where he succeeded Donald Barthelme in the prestigious Cullen professorship.

The late 1980s marked a watershed in Stern’s writing. He published Twice Told Tales, stories organized in a fresh, imaginative way. Stern took famous works like Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener or Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and wove their themes into a new context. A second volume of twice-told tales, Twice Upon a Time, came out in 1992.

Stern numbered among his friends literary heavyweights such as Elie Wiesel, Joseph Heller, Frank Kermode, and Bernard Malamud. In a 2006 festschrift devoted to Stern and his work, Wiesel wrote, “To spend an evening with him without laughing is quite simply impossible.”

Stern is survived by his wife, Gloria Stern; son and daughter-in-law Eric and Beverly Branfman; and grandchildren Melissa and Joshua Branfman.

Burial was in Sag Harbor, N.Y.
 

Obit information adapted from the Houston Chronicle.

PBS Broadcaster to be Commencement Speaker


Posted 02/01/07
Jim Lehrer P’85, anchor of Public Broadcasting Service’s “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer,” will be the featured speaker at Wesleyan’s 175th Commencement ceremony, which will be held on May 27, 2007.

Lehrer began his career at PBS in 1972 and partnered with Robert MacNeil in 1973 to cover the Watergate hearings. In 1975, the two men began anchoring “The MacNeil/Lehrer Report” In 1983 the show became the nations first 60-minute television evening news program and was re-titled “The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour.”

Lehrer has been honored with numerous journalism awards, including a Presidential National Humanities medal in 1999. During the last five presidential elections, he moderated 10 of the nationally-televised candidate debates.

An accomplished writer, Lehrer has written 15 novels; his latest, The Franklin Affair, was published in 2005 by Random House. He has also written two memoirs and three plays. His daughter Lucy Lehrer is a member of Wesleyan’s Class of 1985.

This year’s Reunion-Commencement Weekend, which will run from May 24-27, will also mark the finale of Wesleyan’s 175th Anniversary Celebration. Wesleyan’s charter was granted on May 26, 1831.
 

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations. Photo courtesy of The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

Poet Delivers Keynote Address at Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

 

Civil rights activist Sonia Sanchez speaks during Wesleyan’s Celebration of the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. event Jan. 30 in Memorial Chapel.
Posted 02/01/07
Poet, author and civil rights activist Sonia Sanchez delivered the keynote address during Wesleyan’s Celebration of the Life of Martin Luther King Jr. event Jan. 30. She met King in 1957 and shared excerpts of King’s speeches with an over-flowing audience in Memorial Chapel.

Often in poetic rhythm, Sanchez spoke about her own life and the troubles she and her family faced as being poor, black Americans. She emphasized her years in New York City, and explained her struggle for identity. She talked about her involvement in the Civil Rights movement. She shared her opinions on war and offered advice to the students.

“My brothers, my sisters. This is your century. Demand that this world moves forward in peace,” she said. “This is your country. This is your time. … Learn what it means to walk upright as a human being in the 21st century. What does it mean to be human? You got to ask yourself that question.”

In addition to Sanchez’s talk, Ruby-Beth Buitekant ’09 and Melanye Price, assistant professor of government, offered a reflection; The Roadside Girls (pictured at right) and Ebony Singers provided song, and Kevin Butler, associate dean of Student Services, welcomed the audience.

Following an excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Wesleyan Baccalaureate Address June 7, 1964, President Doug Bennet delivered remarks on King Jr.’s history with Wesleyan.

To chronicle King’s visits, Bennet and staff consulted with several people who were part of the King era at Wesleyan and wanted to share their memories. Bennet thanked John Maguire, formerly a professor of religion at Wesleyan and president emeritus of the Claremont Graduate Schools; Willard McRae, an administrator at Middlesex Memorial Hospital, frequent adviser, and guide to Wesleyan students volunteering in Middletown; and Rick Tuttle, ‘62 who was a civil rights volunteer in Mississippi and Georgia in the summer of 1963.

The Wesleyan connection with King began when John Maguire joined the Religion Department at Wesleyan in 1960. As an 18-year-old student in Virginia, Maguire had by chance met and become a close friend of the then-21-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. who was studying at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. During the late 1950’s, King had begun coming to New England to speak and raise money for the civil rights movement. When he arrived at Bradley airport, Maguire, who was by then studying at Yale, would pick him up and drive him to his speaking engagements.

These weren’t King’s first visits to Connecticut. When he was 16, after his first year at Morehouse College, he spent a summer working in the tobacco fields near Hartford. He came north for the good pay and the chance to observe race relations in New England. King later reflected that he was elated to find that he could sit anywhere in a restaurant and order food.

In May, 1961, Maguire and his department chair, David Swift, joined the Freedom Riders. They were jailed briefly in Montgomery, and later met with King. Maguire invited King to preach at Wesleyan, and arranged it so that King’s first visit to campus. On Jan. 14, 1962, King preached to an overflowing chapel. He stayed overnight at the university guesthouse on High Street in order to be available most of the next day to the College of Social Studies students and faculty.

In February of 1963, King preached at Yale’s Battell Chapel in the morning, got a ride from Maguire to his house at 44 Home Avenue, took a brief a nap, then preached again that evening in the Wesleyan chapel.

Early in 1964 President Victor Butterfield asked Professor Maguire to see if King would be willing to be Wesleyan’s end-of-school Baccalaureate preacher and to receive the university’s honorary doctorate degree. King agreed, but said that he had to make it tentative since he was not always sure of his schedule.

Then, on the Monday before he was to arrive for the weekend ceremonies, King went to jail challenging segregation in St. Augustine, Fla. Maguire and King’s chief aide, Andrew Young persuaded King to post bail on Saturday afternoon and fly to Bradley, arriving early Sunday morning.

Following his baccalaureate address, Maguire presented King with his degree and they stood while the crowd gave King a long, standing ovation. As they made their way from the platform back to North College, there was continuous applause. On Monday, King flew back to St. Augustine and reentered jail for another few days.

In 1966, King paid his last visit to Wesleyan, again to preach at McConaughy Hall. The audience overflowed.

The Wesleyan Board of Trustees was meeting on the weekend following King’s death in 1968. President Ted Etherington asked the meeting to adjourn early the morning after the assassination and move to the Chapel where he asked John Maguire to provide an informal eulogy for King.

“The Wesleyan community has continued its commitment to civil rights and justice,” Bennet said. “Poet Sonia Sanchez keynote embodies that tradition.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration received funding from the Office of the Dean of the College, the President’s Office, and the Office of Affirmative Action, with planning and support from a committee of staff, students and faculty.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor and Elan Barnehama, university writer

Pop Culture, Extremists and a Disco Beat at Zilkha Gallery


Robert Boyd’s Xanadu is on display in Zilhka Gallery through March 4.
Posted 02/01/07
A new exhibit at the Ezra and Cecile Zilhka Gallery tweaks, condenses, and re-frames contemporary events into montages of quick cuts, representing a history of apocalyptic thought as a series of MTV-style music videos within a setting reminiscent of a discotheque.

Robert Boyd’s Xanadu is a synchronized four-channel video installation that probes society’s self-destructive impulse and parodies avenues of popular culture such as documentaries, news media, cartoons, and pop music. Xanadu takes its title from the 1980 American pop musical starring Olivia Newton-John.

“One of the extraordinary things about Xanadu, beyond its content, is the way it engages the viewer physically and how that engagement actually relates to and reinforces its meaning,” says Nina Felshin, curator of exhibitions for the Center for the Arts. “In order to see all the projections, the viewer is forced to move around. The soundtrack of upbeat disco music not only provides a disjunctive counterpoint to the often horrific images of destruction but it makes you want to move your body to the beat of the music.”

Xanadu
’s installation in Zilkha Gallery features a photograph of a disco ball in flames, falling before a delicate pink background; three video projections on three free-standing walls; a fourth on the far wall of Zilkha’s contiguous North Gallery. Visitors become surrounded by stimuli.

Hundreds of hours of archival footage of doomsday cults, iconic political figures, and global fundamentalist movements were mined for the exhibition. Introducing the theme of the “Apocalypse,” Boyd’s video Heaven’s Little Helper (2005) begins with an excerpt from Masada, a 1981 mini-series about The Zealots, a sect of Jews who defended their right to be free from an oppressive Roman regime but who finally succumbed through an act of mass suicide.

Fast-forwarding into “family” footage of seemingly wholesome hippies and children dancing in natural settings, Boyd marks the end of sunny popular culture in the U.S. with iconic images of the Manson Family. Continuing in this vein, the video incorporates archival footage of some of the most infamous doomsday-cult gurus and their devout disciples.

“While this is not the intention of the artist, I came away feeling that if we don’t do something, if we don’t challenge what’s being served up to us, we will meet essentially the same fate as the victims represented in Boyd’s Xanadu,” Felshin says. “ There is a subtext to this work which, as an activist I would characterize as a call to action or resistance.”

Robert Boyd is an interdisciplinary installation artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y. Xanadu premiered at Participant, Inc., in New York in 2006, and has also been presented in Beijing and London. The artist suggests that Xanadu is a conglomerate of our fears, paranoia, and prejudices—an envisioned Apocalypse in the process of becoming reality.

Xanadu is on display through March 4 in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, 283 Washington Terrace. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and noon to 8 p.m. Friday. A New York Times review of Xanadu is online at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9402E6DE1F3FF936A35756C0A9609C8B63.
 

Wesleyan, Community Prepares for Week of Play a Day


Nikhil Melnechuk ’07 and Jessica Posner ’09 are co-producing a week-long theater event based on Suzan-Lori Parks’ “365 Days/365 Plays.” The plays will be shown throughout campus and the Middletown community this month.
Posted 02/01/07
In November 2002, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks committed to writing a play a day for 365 days. Since November 2006, this year of new plays has been debuting across the country as “365 Days/365 Plays.”

Wesleyan is among 52 universities and more than 700 venues taking part in this project, and will perform eight of Parks’ plays Feb. 5-11.

“Wesleyan is making history,” explains co-producer Jessica Posner ’09. “This festival is the largest theater collaboration in U.S. history, and Wesleyan gets to be part of that. It is very exiting.”

According to Posner and co-producer Nikhil Melnechuk ‘07, Wesleyan’s take on 365 Days/365 Plays will use Parks’ plays as a centerpiece for a week-long festival that “attempts to re-contextualize every interaction as theater.”

Wesleyan students will act in the plays, changing roles each time the play is re-performed. Each one of Parks’ plays runs about 10 minutes long, and will be performed seven times a day at seven different venues.

“These plays are about finding connections – either with each other or within yourself,” says Melnechuk 07. “They manage social critique without being didactic because of their absurd humor and circumstances.”

Melnechuk and Posner have devoted more than 40 hours a week for four months preparing for the event. They are encouraging their actors to exercise their creativity so no play is performed the same way twice. The plays do not have sets; actors will rely on costumes and props to help tell the story.

Plays will take place all over the campus, such as in Pi Café, Davenport Campus Center and the Science Library. Olin Library will host and interactive piece titled “365 Tasks.”

The Opening Ceremony, scheduled at 8 p.m., Feb. 5, in the Center for the Arts Theater, will feature a talk by Metzgar and Rugg, and a performance by Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of anthropology and African American Studies. During the week of performances, prominent speakers will be brought to campus including the 365 National Festival producers Bonnie Metzgar and Rebecca Rugg. Lectures, performances and workshops will be offered by distinguished artists such as Joseph Roach, professor of theater and English at Yale University; Christine Mok, a Ph.D candidate at Yale’s School of Drama, and artist-in-residence poet/activist Amiri Baraka, who perform with his septet Blue Ark Feb. 9.

Wesleyan will also present a large scale, town-wide festival that showcases Wesleyan and Middletown life and culture. It will include workshops, performances, lectures, demonstrations and discussions—all free and open to the public. This festival includes “The Write-On Marathon” where Wesleyan students and members of the Middletown community can try their hand at Parks’ project by writing a play a day. Five winning entries will be performed on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Cinema. Submissions will be accepted throughout the week (for more information on how to participate, visit www.wesleyan365.com/write.html).

“We want people to see theater as an essential component of everyday life, using the plays by Suzan-Lori Parks as the point of departure,” Posner says.

A gala performance of all the plays will take place at 8 p.m. Feb. 10 in the Patricelli ’92 Theatre with a reception to follow. The plays will be performed by actors Michael Chandler ’08, Jennifer Celestin ‘07, Maya Kazan ‘09, Garrett Larribas ‘07, Jermaine Lewis ‘09 and Carter Smith ‘09. Steven Sapp, founding member of New York City’s acclaimed poetry/theater ensemble UNIVERSES, will be conducting an open theater workshop from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 10 and will open the performances at 6 and 8 p.m. with a solo piece.

Festival coordinators raised over $6,000 to put on the week-long event. Sponsors include the Center for African American Studies, Center for the Arts, Theatre Department, Second Stage, Wesleyan Student Assembly, Adelphic Education Fund, Community Development Fund, Feminist Gender and Sexuality Studies, Ethics in Society Program, Office of Affirmative Action, and the fund for Diversity and Academic Advancement.
 
For reservations of information, go to www.wesleyan365.com, e-mail: info@wesleyan365.com or call Jessica Posner at 303-919-5994 or Nikhil Melnechuk 413-230-0740.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Howard Bernstein Dies at 63


Posted 02/01/07
Howard Bernstein, a long-time visiting professor at Wesleyan, died Jan. 15, 2007 at the age of 63.

Bernstein was a member of the Wesleyan faculty from 1979 to 2001, during which time he taught in the College of Letters, the History Department, the programs in Educational Studies and Science in Society, and in Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program. Bernstein also was a major contributor to the Masters of Arts in Teaching Program. In addition, he supervised a large number of senior honors theses.

Bernstein earned a bachelor’s of arts from the City College of the City University of New York and a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. Before coming to Wesleyan he taught at Brooklyn College, City College, York University and Yale University. For the past five years, Bernstein was a mentor and educator at Suffield Academy in Suffield, Connecticut.

Bernstein was a world-renowned expert on the work of the German scholar G. W. Leibniz and was a major contributor to a series of international conferences on Liebniz held in Germany in the early 1980s. He also published a number of works on Diderot, Einstein, and on Marxist philosophy. He was passionate about music, particularly classical choral music, and was an avid athlete.

A memorial service is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 6 at St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University, in Manhattan.

In lieu of flowers, Bernstein’s daughter Christina has asked that those wishing to remember him consider a contribution to one of the many organizations Howard supported. These include The Center for Constitutional Rights, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Innocence Project, Equal Justice Works, Lambda Legal, and Electronic Privacy Information Center.