Campus News & Events

77 Seniors Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa

eve_ruc_2017-0527160949On May 27, 77 members of the Class of 2017 were inducted into Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest national scholastic honor society. They join 14 others who were initiated in fall.

To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of his or her major. He or she also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations, and must have achieved a GPA of 93 and above.

The inductees and their majors include:

Joie Akerson, neuroscience and behavior;
Taiga Araki, biology, government;
Eric Arsenault, chemistry, physics;
eve_ruc_2017-0527163654Jeremy Auerbach, biology;
Fred Ayres, economics, neuroscience and behavior
Brennan Baker, biology;
Henry Barrett, economics, government;
Clayton Baumgart, physics;
Jordan Bell, neuroscience and behavior;
Kate Bodner, English, hispanic literatures and cultures;
Emma Broder, biology, science in society;
Henry Bushnell, biology, mathematics;
Sarah Corner, English, psychology;
Allison Cronan, film, mathematics;

Badr ’20 Runs Website to Empower Youth to Tell Their Stories

Ahmed Badr '20

Ahmed Badr ’20

Ahmed Badr ’20, who was born in Iraq and came to the United States as a refugee in 2008, was profiled recently on NPR. According to the story, Badr used writing to figure out what it meant to be an Iraqi-American kid:

Over time, Badr realized that writing on his personal blog helped other people understand who he was and where he came from.

“There was this feeling of empowerment that was just overnight, all of sudden people were interested in my story,” Badr says. “… And so with that in mind, two years passed, and I thought, ‘OK, well this was great, but this is only helping me. This is only helping my own expression. So how about I take that feeling and that space that I created for myself and turn it into something that allows youth, refugee or otherwise, all over the world to do the same exact thing.’ “

Badr founded the website Narratio to empower other young people from around the world to tell their own stories. He curates essays, poems and stories submitted by young people, and also runs youth writing workshops.

Badr tells NPR he feels guilty when he sees family still living in Iraq, and feels a sense of personal responsibility to give the millions of youth in that country an outlet to express themselves.

“I want to be able to turn that guilty feeling that I had when my cousins asked me, ‘What are you up to?’ into a responsibility … and make it possible for them to be able to answer that question as freely as they would like to,” he says. “And so, if I can do that by giving them a website that they can share their stories on, that’s a step in the right direction.”

At Wesleyan, Badr is both an Allbritton Fellow and a Patricelli Center Fellow.

Johnson Awarded Postdoctoral Fellowship to Explore Settler-Colonialism

Khalil Johnson

Khalil Johnson

Khalil Johnson, assistant professor of African American studies, is the recipient of a National Association of Education Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship for the 2017-18 academic year.

The National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program supports up to 30 early career scholars working in critical areas of education research. These $70,000 fellowships support non-residential postdoctoral proposals that make significant scholarly contributions to the field of education.

Johnson, who will be on scholarly leave for the 2017-2018 academic year, will work on a manuscript for his book project, which examines the intersections between education and settler-colonialism in the United States. He also plans to conduct interviews in Alaska Native villages and the Navajo and Tohono O’odham nations to document the historic relationships forged between Native students and African American educators who taught in Bureau of Indian Affairs schools between 1950 and 1980.

“Although I will be living and writing in New Haven for the year, I hope to remain active in on campus events at Wesleyan,” he said.

Johnson specializes in the intertwined histories of the African diaspora and Indigenous people in North America, with emphases on U.S. settler colonialism, education and counter-hegemonic social movements. His teaching areas include courses in the history of emancipatory education and U.S. empire, early African American history, American Indian history and popular music.

Johnson has already received support from numerous institutions, including the Ford Foundation, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation and a predoctoral teaching fellowship at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. His essays and editorials have appeared in American Quarterly, Pacific Historical Review and The Navajo Times. In 2015, he received recognition from the Western History Association for the year’s best essay on Native American history.

Matesan Discusses Manchester Terror Attack on CBS Connecticut

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan discussed the recent terror attack in Manchester, England on CBS Connecticut.

Matesan said the big question on her mind is the nature of the perpetrator’s connection to ISIS. At this time, not much is known about the perpetrator’s background.

We know from terrorism studies that there is no single profile to explain “why an individual would join a terrorist group or why they would undertake a terrorist attack, so there are so many possible paths to radicalization. That story we do not know yet,” she said. “The other interesting question that we’re not exactly sure about yet is the connection to ISIS. Because ISIS has claimed the attack […] but it seems like they don’t have their story straight.”

“It seems most likely that [ISIS] simply inspired the attack but had no direct connection in organizing or coordinating it,” she said.

Understanding how ISIS is either inspiring or directing terror attacks like this this is important in dictating policy response, she added. It’s quite difficult to predict where the next attack will come from when attackers are acting relatively independently.

Matesan also noted that in this case, the attacker chose a high-profile venue with significantly less security than in other locations, such as in London. The fact that the victims included many women and children resulted in a high shock value.

“The message that ISIS wants to send is to be scared, that they’re coming for us, and that’s exactly the message that we need to undermine,” she said. “In terms of responses, of course enhanced security and intelligence cooperation and hardening targets is the only clear and obvious response. What perhaps is most important is what we should not do, and that is not to fall into the trap of provocation and in the trap of Islamophobia and xenophobia.”

Matesan also is a tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Yohe Rebuts Sen. Paul’s Call to Withdraw from Paris Climate Agreement

Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, rebuts an op-ed on Fox News in which U.S. Senator Rand Paul argues for the United States to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Writing on the site Climate FeedbackYohe explains that Paul’s opinion relies on the flawed claim that the agreement would do little to slow climate change and would cost American jobs.

Yohe breaks down Paul’s assertions regarding anticipated global warming—both with and without the agreement—as well as the Senator’s predictions that the agreement would cost the country 6.5 million in lost jobs and $3 trillion in lost GDP. Yohe contends that Paul relies only on analysis by economists who will produce numbers that support his view. Instead, Yohe points to the recent experience in both the U.S. as a whole and in California, which has a cap and trade program. Both have seen carbon emissions fall dramatically while unemployment has fallen and GDP growth has increased. “These simple economic observations contradict the Senator’s claims,” he writes.

Yohe goes on to explain why energy transformation on the scale envisioned by those who support the Paris Accord is economically feasible, and writes that renewable energy will be the growth sector of the first half of the century. For the U.S. to withdraw from the climate agreement “would reduce investment incentives in the United States. Leaving the Accord would thereby limit employment growth opportunities. It is here that the future employment of those displaced by the contraction of, for example, the coal industry, would otherwise be found.”

Community Celebrates Opening of Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore


From left, co-owner of Grown Shanon Allen, Wesleyan President Michael Roth, RJ Julia owner Roxanne Coady, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, and Middlesex Chamber of Commerce President Larry McHugh cut the ribbon at the new Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

On May 23, Wesleyan celebrated the opening of the new Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The store, located at 413 Main Street in Middletown, was packed with Wesleyan faculty and staff, city and state officials, members of the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce and other community members, and those who worked to transform the 13,000-square-foot space into a gorgeous bookstore and café. Guests milled about and explored the store’s offerings while sampling small bites provided by Grown™ café. Brief remarks were delivered by Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth, RJ Julia owner Roxanne Coady, and Grown™ owner Shannon Allen, followed by the cutting of the ribbon. (View the entire photo album in this Wesleyan Flickr album.)

Boasting high ceilings with tin detail, ample natural light, and a two-story open concourse design that provides a spacious, airy environment for reading and shopping, the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore houses approximately 18,000 books, with a special section highlighting authors from the Wesleyan community. In addition to books, the store sells a wide range of both Wesleyan-themed and general apparel and merchandise. The store’s quiet lower level evokes a library, with seating areas for exploring new books. This area opens up to seat hundreds of guests for author events, and also houses the store’s textbook department.

Social Sciences in China Press Forum Focuses on Globalization

eve_chinapress_2017-0518063022 (1)From May 17-19, the Fries Center for Global Studies hosted the Wesleyan University — Social Sciences in China Press Forum on Globalization.

The 18 conference participants — all faculty or research fellows — hailed from universities and academies in China, Germany and the U.S. Participants from Wesleyan included Lisa Dombrowski, professor of film studies; Don Moon, the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Professor in the College of Social Studies, professor of history; William “Vijay” Pinch, professor of history, professor of environmental studies; and Paula Park, assistant professor of Spanish.

Wesleyan Dining ‘Food Recovery Verified’ for Donating Excess Food to Shelter

frvThe Food Recovery Network recently named Wesleyan’s Dining Services “Food Recovery Verified” for donating unsold surplus food to a local charity.

The Food Recovery Verified (FRV) program recognizes and rewards food businesses of any type that are working to fight waste and feed people through food recovery.

Now in its sixth year, Wesleyan’s student-run Food Rescue organization donates its unsold food from Usdan’s Marketplace, Summerfields and Pi Cafe to the Eddy Shelter in Middletown, which provides emergency shelter and meals for single adults. Food Rescue is an Office of Community Service program under the supervision the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships.

Lydia Ottaviano ’17 and Lili Kadets ’17 have co-coordinated this group since spring semester 2014. Throughout the academic year, 

Wesleyan Awards Hamilton Prize for Creativity to Incoming First-Year Student


An all-star committee of Wesleyan University alumni, chaired by Hamilton writer/creator and former star Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ‘15 and director Thomas Kail ’99, has selected the recipient of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity: Audrey Pratt of Needham, Mass. Pratt’s submission, a short piece of fiction titled, “Thorns, Black and White,” was selected from among more than 600 entries.

Pratt will receive a four-year full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan, worth as much as $200,000.

“The selection committee was blown away by the range and quality of the submissions we reviewed,” Miranda said. “Audrey’s story stood out as exceptional, but all of the finalists’ work displayed great originality and promise. Being part of Wesleyan’s Hamilton Prize selection process has deepened my faith in our creative future.”

“We were honored to work with our amazing fellow alumni in selecting this very deserving recipient,” Kail said. “I can’t wait to see what this remarkable group of creative students produces with their Wesleyan education.”

The Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity was established in honor of Miranda and Kail’s contributions to liberal education and the arts and named for the pair’s hit Broadway musical, Hamilton: An American Musical, which in 2016 won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book and Best Original Score.

In the first year of the Hamilton Prize, Wesleyan received more than 600 creative written work submissions, ranging from short stories to slam poetry, from screenplays to songs. All entries were first reviewed by Wesleyan’s faculty, and finalists were judged on their originality, artistry and dynamism by the alumni selection committee.

“Wesleyan has been home to so many dynamic writers over the years. We’re delighted to welcome these bright and imaginative students to campus, and to help develop their creative talents through a broad liberal education,” said President Michael Roth.

In addition to honorary chairs Miranda and Kail, the selection committee members include alumni Carter Bays ’97, Amy Bloom ’75, Daniel Handler ’92, Maggie Nelson ’94, Amanda Palmer ’98, Mary Roach ’81, Bozoma Saint John ’99, Kaneza Schaal ’06, Tierney Sutton ’86, Craig Thomas ’97, Matthew Weiner ’87, P’18, and Simone White ’93. Learn more about the committee and read bios of all its members here.

See the original announcement of the Hamilton Prize here, and learn more on the website.

Submissions for next year’s Hamilton Prize are due Jan. 1, 2018, the regular decision deadline for Wesleyan’s Class of 2022.

Petit Foundation Supports Girls in Science Summer Camp

Greenstreet Teaching & Learning Center 5.5.17

Pictured fourth from left, Sara MacSorley, director of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center, accepts a grant from the Petit family and the Petit Family Foundation on May 5.

This month, Wesleyan’s Green Street Teaching and Learning Center received an $8,000 grant from the Petit Family Foundation to support the 2017 Green Street Girls in Science Summer Camp.

The Girls in Science Summer Camp is open to all children going into grades 4, 5 and 6. Children perform experiments and explore chemistry, electronics and physics with Wesleyan faculty. Campers will meet college student mentors, learn about science careers, create scientific posters, and share what they learn with family and friends at a Science Showcase.

The camp will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Aug. 7-11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center and on Wesleyan’s campus.

Wesleyan Hosts 30th Annual Keck Geology Consortium Symposium

During the Keck Geology Consortium Symposium, participants explored the Bulls Bridge area in Kent, Conn. to learn about the importance of a knickpoint (change in gradient) on the Housatonic River. Participants also examined interesting formations of glacial pot holes.

During the Keck Geology Consortium Symposium, participants explored the Bulls Bridge area in Kent, Conn. to learn about the importance of a knickpoint (change in gradient) on the Housatonic River. Participants also examined interesting formations of glacial pot holes. (Photos by James Zareski)

From April 27-30 the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences hosted the 30th Annual Keck Geology Consortium Symposium at Wesleyan. The event involved several field trips to local sites of geographic significance and concluded with presentations at Exley Science Center from those who attended the field trips.

Graduate student Melissa Luna examines a piece of slag left behind from the Buena Vista Iron Furnace in Canaan, Conn. Iron furnaces were an important industry in Connecticut during the 19th century.

Graduate student Melissa Luna examines a piece of slag left behind from the Buena Vista Iron Furnace in Canaan, Conn. Iron furnaces were an important industry in Connecticut during the 19th century.

The first trip was led by Paul Olsen, the Arthur D. Storke Memorial Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. This excursion examined the Connecticut River Valley Basin for remaining traces of the mass extinction that preceded the rise of the dinosaurs 202 million years ago.

“The Connecticut River Valley Basin is one of the best places on the planet to observe the record of the biological and environmental of this mass extinction,” said Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

The second trip was led by Will Ouiment, assistant professor of geography at the University of Connecticut. It focused on the evolution of the New England landscape from the late Pleistocene to the present. Some topics included the impact of human activities, historic land use practices and landscape adjustment following deglaciation. The trip stopped at a variety of features including waterfalls, beaver dams, river terraces and wetlands.

Porrazzo ’19 to Study in China as Critical Language Scholar

Emma Porrazzo '19 is one of 550 American students in the U.S. to receive a Critical Language Scholarship. She will spend about eight weeks abroad learning the Chinese language and culture in Suzhou, China. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Emma Porrazzo ’19 is one of 550 American students in the U.S. to receive a Critical Language Scholarship. This summer, she will spend more than eight weeks abroad learning Chinese language and culture in Suzhou, China. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Emma Porrazzo ’19 has received a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Chinese in Suzhou, China this summer.

According to the CLS program website, the scholarship is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. “CLS scholars gain critical language and cultural skills that enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.” Porrazzo is among approximately 550 American students at U.S. colleges and universities to receive the scholarship this year.

“Critical languages” are defined as those that are less commonly taught in U.S. schools but are essential for America’s engagement with the world. Students spend eight to 10 weeks overseas, where they receive intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language development.