Campus News & Events

Wesleyan Mathematics Faculty Train Area School Teachers

Wesleyan’s Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen teaches an Intel Math class Aug. 11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. Wesleyan’s Assistant Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen teaches an Intel Math class Aug. 11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Wesleyan’s Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen teaches a math class Aug. 11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

This month, the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center is once again hosting its K-8 Math Institute for 29 school teachers from Vernon and Hamden, Conn. The 80-hour program aims to increase teachers’ mastery of math concepts as well as their confidence with math.

Sharon Heyman, a mathematics education specialist from the University of Connecticut, works with teachers at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Sharon Heyman, a mathematics education specialist from the University of Connecticut, works with teachers at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Wesleyan Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen is teaching the institute along with Sharon Heyman, a mathematics education specialist from the University of Connecticut. This is the fifth time the pair has taught the course together. The institute includes the content-intensive, 80-hour Intel Math course over the summer as a foundation for teachers, several follow-up workshops during the school year for advancing teaching practices and arts integration strategies, and two professional learning community sessions a year in the form of Math Potlucks.

Green Street Director Sara MacSorley said this year’s course is going very well.

“As a group, the participating teachers are strong in math and really engaged in the material,” she said. On this particular day, a Friday afternoon with temperatures soaring into the 90s, “there are lively discussions about fractions at each table.”

Kuenzli, Horst Honored with NEH Grants for Book Projects

Two Wesleyan faculty received National Endowment for the Humanities grants on Aug. 9.

Katherine Kuenzli

Katherine Kuenzli

Katherine Kuenzli, associate professor of art history, received a $250,000 Scholarly Editions and Translations grant. She and project co-directors Michael André and Kathleen James-Chakraborty will use the funds to prepare a critical edition and translation of a selection of writings by the Belgian artist and essayist Henry van de Velde titled Henry van de Velde: Selected Essays, 1889–1914.

Scholarly Editions and Translations grants support the preparation of editions and translations of pre-existing texts of value to the humanities that are currently inaccessible or available in inadequate editions. Typically, the texts and documents are significant literary, philosophical, and historical materials; but other types of work, such as musical notation, also eligible.

Kuenzli also is working on a monograph titled Henry van de Velde: Designing Modernism. Together with Selected Essays, these projects recover van de Velde’s important role in Neo-Impressionist painting and the German Werkbund, and they demonstrate how ideas of internationalism and the total work of art lie at the heart of modern approaches to museum display, art education, and industrial design.

Rutland Speaks on BYUradio about the Olympics, Nationalism

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, was interviewed on BYUradio about the Olympics and nationalism.

“The Olympics are practically built for indulging in what you might call ‘good nationalism,’ as opposed to the xenophobic kind,” said host Julie Rose in the introduction. Yet this year’s Olympic Games come at a time of fear of outsiders, both in the U.S. and abroad.

They begin by discussing the difference between patriotism—which has more positive connotations—and nationalism, which implies dislike of foreigners. The key distinction, says Rutland, is about having respect for people from all countries.

“In practice, the Olympics is a competition, it’s about winners and losers,” he said. “The Olympics is very contradictory. On the one hand, it claims to be transcending nationalism in a kind of fellowship of international athletes. But at the same time, in practice, it reinforces nationalism by encouraging people to cheer for their team and take pride in their team’s victories, and correspondingly, the defeat of other nations’ teams.”

Rutland also commented on the mass appeal of such competitions.

“It does tap into a desire to express our belonging to a bigger community—not just our family and neighborhood, but our country. And, at least when it’s going through the media—when it’s watching the Olympics or watching the World Cup for soccer, it seems to be pretty benign. It’s not like going to war. Sport, as George Orwell said, is a kind of substitute for war. Nobody is getting killed, nobody is getting hurt, and we’re all kind of on the same side, in that everybody is enjoying the competition, and you win some, you lose some.”

Rutland also is professor of government, professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies, and tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Gross Writes About a ‘Tipping Point’ in Relations Between Police, African Americans

Professor of African American Studies Kali Nicole Gross

Professor of African American Studies Kali Nicole Gross

Kali Nicole Gross, professor of African American studies, writes in The Huffington Post about the case of Korryn Gaines, the latest death of an African American at the hand of police. Gaines was fatally shot after a five-hour standoff with police and SWAT officers in Maryland, and had prophesied her own demise during an earlier traffic stop, in which she had also been defiant.

While Gaines’ behavior may once have appeared irrational, and possibly a sign of mental illness, Gross writes, “after these and so many other deaths of black women and men killed during minor traffic stops, killed for selling loose cigarettes, or found dead in jail after failing to signal a lane change, Gaines’ defiance may gesture toward a desperate tipping point: that the system is so corrupt there is little distinction between notions of legal and illegal. It may also mark the mounting fear that for black people there is little chance of survival during even the most routine police encounters.”

Whedon ’87, Hon. ’13 Talks with Basinger on WNPR

Joss Whedon '87 presented Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, with an honorary degree from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2006. This photograph is on display in the "Buffy to Bard" exhibit.

Joss Whedon ’87 presented Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, with an honorary degree from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2006. This photograph is on display in the “Buffy to Bard” exhibit.

WNPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show featured a conversation between Joss Whedon ’87, Hon. ’13; Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives; and David Lavery, author of Joss Whedon, A Creative Portrait: From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Avengers and co-founder of the Whedon Studies Association.

Basinger described her experience with Whedon while he was a student at Wesleyan.

“When I encountered Joss at Wesleyan, he was my superhero because he was a really fabulous student, an original thinker and somebody who you just knew was born to be a storyteller. Those things were very, very clearly in place already with him at college,” she said.

Basinger is also asked about influences apparent in Whedon’s work.

“Joss is an original. Whatever he learned or saw from past movies, or got in my class—or in Richard Slotkin’s class—has been totally filtered through his own sensibility…

“For me, I definitely perceive it as work by Joss because I hear his voice, I feel his concerns. People sometimes ask me, ‘Who is Buffy?’ and I say ‘Buffy is Joss.’ There isn’t any other answer. He’s made things so much his own, and the kinds of conventions that come out of genre that he understands and uses, the whole reason they’re in our culture is to be tempered and redesigned and reconstituted and brought forth through the creative force of a new generation. And that’s what Joss has done with them.”

 

Hingorani Finishes Program Director Appointment with NSF

Manju Hingorani

Manju Hingorani

Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, professor of integrative sciences, recently completed a two-year tenure working for the National Science Foundation’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB). Hingorani served as the program director of the MCB Genetic Mechanisms program.

Hingorani worked with investigator-driven proposals submitted to both the Genetic Mechanisms and the Cellular Dynamics and Function programs. As a rotating program director, Hingorani managed proposal reviews and awards and responded to inquiries from principal investigators conducting fundamental research related to the central dogma of biology.

Wesleyan Students Recognized for Scientific Images

This summer, Stephen Devoto, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, launched the inaugural Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest. The contest, which recognizes student-submitted images from experiments or simulations done with a Wesleyan faculty member that are scientifically intriguing as well as aesthetically pleasing, drew 35 submissions from the fields of physics, biology, molecular biology and biochemistry, psychology, earth and environmental science, chemistry and astronomy.

Participants submitted an image along with a brief description written for a broad, scientifically literate audience. The entries were judged based on the quality of the image and the explanation of the underlying science. The first-place prize went to Eliza Carter ’18 from the Earth and Environmental Science Department. Aidan Stone ’17 and Jeremy Auerbach ’17 tied for second places, while Riordan Abrams ’17 won third place. The images were judged by a panel of four faculty members: Devoto; Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology, assistant professor of integrative sciences; Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of integrative sciences; and Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

The first-place winner receives a $200 prize; the second-place winner receives $100; and the third-place winner receives $50. Prizes were funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

Devoto was inspired by a similar contest that his daughter won at Haverford College.

“Students at Wesleyan produce extraordinary scientific images, ranging from graphs and computer simulations to microscope and telescope images,” he said. “I wanted students to have fun, to think of their scientific images in an artistic sense. And I thought that the artistic presentations of student scientific images would be a striking testament to the quality and fun of student research here. I hope these will be displayed on campus to highlight the science and the creativity, which thrive at Wesleyan.”

The four winning images are shown below, along with scientific descriptions:

Eliza Carter '18 submitted a scanning electron microscope image of the shell of a radiolarian (a protozoa) found near the top of an Antarctic sediment core from ODP site 697. The radiolarian shell is around 2.7 million years old and is made from silica that was produced by the radiolarian. Studying the percent biogenic silica in a sediment sample is a proxy for primary productivity: the more biosilica you have, the more productive it was.

Eliza Carter ’18 submitted a scanning electron microscope image of the shell of a radiolarian (a protozoa) found near the top of an Antarctic sediment core from ODP site 697. The radiolarian shell is around 2.7 million years old and is made from silica that was produced by the radiolarian. Studying the percent biogenic silica in a sediment sample is a proxy for primary productivity: the more biosilica you have, the more productive it was.

De Boer Remembered for Teaching Connecticut Geology

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, emeritus, died July 23 at the age of 81.

De Boer received his BS and PhD from the University of Utrecht before coming to Wesleyan as a postdoctoral fellow in 1963. During his early years at Wesleyan he worked closely with Geology Professor Jim Balsley in the field of paleomagnetism. In 1977, de Boer was named the George I. Seney Professor of Geology and in 1984 he was named the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Sciences.

In the 1970s de Boer worked as a joint professor at the University of Rhode Island at the Marine Sciences Institute where he was a PhD supervisor for Bob Ballard, who found the Titanic in 1985. Ballard later invited de Boer to go diving in the submersible Alvin to collect rocks in the Cayman Trough.

Originally interested in coming to the United States to study the Appalachian Mountains, de Boer’s research focused on the geotectonics of the Appalachians, Southeast Asia and South and Central America.

In 2015 de Boer received the Joe Webb Peoples Award,

Forbes Ranks Wesleyan in the Top 10 Colleges in America

Forbes magazine has featured Wesleyan among the top 10 in its list of America’s Top Colleges 2016. Ranked at number 9, it shares the highest echelon with major research universities including Stanford, Princeton and Harvard, and liberal arts colleges like Williams, Pomona and Swarthmore.

The Forbes ranking is based on a weighted three-year moving average of each school’s total score. Critical factors include student satisfaction (measured by faculty ratings and freshman-to-sophomore retention rates), post-graduate success (alumni salaries and alumni on American Leaders List), academic success (alumni receiving PhDs and student nationally competitive awards), student debt, and four-year graduation rates.

President Michael Roth blogged about this honor in July, writing, “Despite knowing that ranking schools is more magazine public relations than science, and despite the tendency to reward the wealthiest schools with the highest rankings (all the schools in the Forbes’ top 10 except Wesleyan have endowments way over a billion dollars), I have to admit I was tickled to see alma mater get this recognition. This magazine (unlike U.S. News) paid more attention to outputs (how our alumni and faculty are doing) than inputs (how much do we spend per student, how many applicants do we reject), and I couldn’t help but think that we did well here because of the impact our grads are having beyond the university.”

He added, “I still think that all college rankings are pretty artificial, and that prospective students should find the right fit with a school rather than choose a place on which a magazine has conferred prestige. […] But it’s gratifying to see Wesleyan faculty and alumni recognized for the great work they do every year—whatever the rankings.”

Mellon Mays Fellows Generate Research Topics during 6-Week Summer Program

Pictured, from left, are Delia Tapia '18, Alicia Strong '18, Aura Ochoa '17, Iryelis Lopez '17 (back row), Paige Hutton '18 and Aleyda Robles '18. 

From left, Delia Tapia ’18, Alicia Strong ’18, Aura Ochoa ’17 (front), Iryelis Lopez ’17 (back), Paige Hutton ’18 and Aleyda Robles ’18 spent six weeks this summer developing research topics as part of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program. They presented their ideas on July 28 at the Center for African Studies.

For six weeks this summer, 11 Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows received an intensive introduction to graduate school expectations while developing a research topic to pursue during their time in college.

On July 28, the students, who hail from Wesleyan (6) and Queens College (5), offered brief project presentations at the Center for African American Studies.

Aleyda Robles '18 speaks on her research topic, "From the Salvadoran Civil War to the Refugee Crisis: Can there be U.S. accountability and reparations for El Salvador?"

Aleyda Robles ’18 speaks on her research topic, “From the Salvadoran Civil War to the Refugee Crisis: Can there be U.S. accountability and reparations for El Salvador?”

The fundamental objective of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Program is to increase the number of minority students, and others with a demonstrated commitment to eradicating racial disparities, who will pursue PhDs in core fields in the arts and sciences. The program aims to reduce over time the serious underrepresentation on faculties of individuals from certain minority groups, as well as to address the attendant educational consequences of these disparities.

Wesleyan fellows, their majors and research topics include: Paige Hutton ’18 (American studies),”White Skin, Black Masks: The Appropriation of Black Womanhood by White Gay Men;” Iryelis Lopez ’17 (American studies), “Committing to Difference? Performing Diversity at the Neoliberal University;” Delia Tapia ’18 (American studies), “Historicizing and Combating Colonial Threats to Community and Survival in Harlem;” Aura Ochoa ’17 (American studies and chemistry), “Deconstructing ‘Humanness’: Understanding and Rehistoricizing the Exploitation and Erasure of Women of Color in Science and Medicine in the United States;” Alicia Strong ’18 (religion and government), “Blurred Lines: The Politics of Islamic Identity in Postwar Kosovo;” and Aleyda Robles ’18 (American studies), “From the Salvadoran Civil War to the Refugee Crisis: Can there be U.S. accountability and reparations for El Salvador.”

Gordon Career Center Teaches Career Education through Course, Podcast Interviews

The Gordon Career Center launched Careers by Design.

The Gordon Career Center’s Careers by Design program is a series of lectures and exercises designed to help students identify what factors may be influencing their choice of major, internship, or career path.

The Gordon Career Center is helping students design their futures.

Through a new intensive seminar called Careers by Design, Wesleyan students can explore the many influences on their career decision making and make choices that are right for them. The Gordon Career Center’s innovative approach to career education encourages students to design their own careers by exploring the intersection between their interests, the skills they have and wish to acquire, and market demand.

“Careers by Design is a framework that applies the principles of design thinking to solve every college student’s ultimate questions: ‘Who do I want to be? What do I want to become?’” said Sharon Belden Castonguay, director of the Gordon career Center.

Careers by Design, which is offered in January as part of Wesleyan’s Winter on Wyllys career programming, also is taught through an online course and can be taken at any time. Students learn how to apply design thinking to the search for meaningful work, write an “elevator pitch” to describe themselves, analyze the past and visualize the future, understand and define workplace success, and explore ways to launch their career. The online course, which runs for about an hour and 15 minutes, includes multiple exercises and recommended resources.

In addition, Careers by Design boasts a series of interviews by well-known Wesleyan alumni and guests including Joshua Boger ‘73, founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals; Andy Brandon-Gordon ‘86, managing director of Goldman Sachs; Majora Carter ’88, founder of Sustainable South Bronx; Laura Walker ‘79, CEO of WNYC; Bradley Whitford ‘81, actor (The West Wing, The Cabin in the Woods, Transparent); and more. New episodes of the podcast will be released every other Friday. A conversation with athlete Kathy Keeler ’78 is slated for Aug. 5, just in time for the start of the Olympics.

These interviews are offered as podcasts and can be accessed through iTunes and Sound Cloud.

careers

$1 Million Cardinal Challenge Exceeds Expectations

Cardinal Challenge thank you
Last month members of the Cardinal community joined together to secure an additional $1 million for financial aid for students during Wesleyan’s $1 Million Cardinal Challenge. The success of the challenge provided a strong finish to Wesleyan’s THIS IS WHY fundraising campaign, which came to its close on June 30.

The Cardinal Challenge was funded through the generosity of John L. Usdan ’80, P’15, ’18, ’18, who pledged $500 for financial aid for every gift of any amount to any Wesleyan cause received during the month of June, for a total of up to $1 million for financial aid. The challenge inspired 2,831 Wesleyan Fund gifts for a total of $3,178,864—plus the additional $1 million from Usdan.

“As an institution, we’re lucky to have such consistent and generous donors who understand how important their giving is to the lives of students,” said Chuck Fedolfi ’90, director of annual giving for the Wesleyan Fund. “And it’s extra-special when someone like John Usdan steps forward to inspire our alumni and parents with such a generous challenge.”