Campus News & Events

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors Desai ’03, Logan ’16, and Savarese ’86

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

The Dance Towards Death coverTejas Desai ’03, The Dance Towards Death (The New Wei, 2020)

In the third volume of his crime thriller trilogy The Brotherhood Chronicle, Tejas Desai delivers awe-inspiring narration that easily follows through in its mission to add a breathtaking final installment to the series. The Dance Towards Death follows former private investigator Niral Solanake and his journey through an intricate international criminal world across all corners of the globe. Desai’s realistic and clear-cut use of dialogue is most striking in his prose, as he manages to capture a multitude of tones and attitudes within each of his characters.

In an interview with Digital Journal, Desai explained that the exquisite precision of the book is no coincidence—he spent years engaging in a rigorous editing and revising process. “I’m meticulous, so even though the basic draft of The Dance Towards Death was finished years ago, it has still been chiseled and revised several times since,” he said. His attention to detail shows, and readers and fans will not be disappointed with the result.

2 Wesleyan University Press Books Win 4 Awards

booksTwo Wesleyan University Press music titles garnered four awards, from the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) and the American Musicological Society (AMS) this month.

Wild Music: Sound and Sovereignty in Ukraine, by Maria Sonevytsky, received the 2020 Lewis Lockwood Award from the AMS. The Lockwood Award honors a musicological book of exceptional merit published during the previous year in any language and in any country by a scholar in the early stages of his or her career who is a member of the AMS or a citizen or permanent resident of Canada or the United States.

Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America, edited by Victoria Lindsay Levine and Dylan Robinson, received the 2020 Ellen Koskoff Edited Volume Prize from the SEM, which annually honors a book collection of ethnomusicological essays of exceptional merit edited by a scholar or scholars. Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America also received the 2020 Ruth A. Solie Award for edited collections from the American Musicological Society (AMS), which annually honors a collection of musicological essays of exceptional merit published during the previous year in any language and in any country and edited by a scholar or scholars.

In addition, co-editor Dylan Robinson received the SEM’s Helen Roberts Prize for his chapter contributed to Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America, “Speaking to Water, Singing to Stone: Peter Morin, Rebecca Belmore, and the Ontologies of Indigenous Modernity.” The prize recognizes the most significant article in ethnomusicology written by members of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

Hot off the Press: Papers by Psychology Faculty, Alumni Published in Journals

Hilary Barth, professor of psychology; Andrea Patalano, professor of psychology; Liana Mathias ’17; and former lab coordinators Alexandra Zax and Katherine Williams are the co-authors of an article titled “Intuitive symbolic magnitude judgments and decision making under risk in adults,” published in Cognitive Psychology, 118, in May 2020.

Barth; Williams; postdoctoral fellow Chenmu Xing; Jamie Hom ’17, MA ’18, Meghana Kandlur ’18, Praise Owoyemi ’18, Joanna Paul ’18, Elizabeth Shackney ’17, and Ray Alexander ’18 are the co-authors of “Partition dependence in financial aid distribution to income categories,” published in PLoS ONE 15, in April 2020.

Barth; Patalano; Williams; Zax; and Sheri Reichelson ’16, MA ’17 are the co-authors of “Developmental change in partition dependent resource allocation behavior,” published in Memory & Cognition 48, March 2020.

Barth; Patalano; Williams; Zax; Paul; and Williams are the co-authors of “Number line estimation and standardized test performance: The left digit effect does not predict SAT math score,” published online in Brain and Behavior, October 2020.

Psychological Scavenger Hunt Helps Alleviate Zoom Fatigue

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 5, more than 100 students participated in an on-campus Psychological Scavenger Hunt created by Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, and Sarah Carney, assistant professor of the practice in psychology. Carney, pictured second from left, spoke with Stemler through Zoom during the event. 

On Oct. 27 and Nov. 5, more than 100 students participated in an on-campus Psychological Scavenger Hunt created by Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, and Sarah Carney, assistant professor of the practice in psychology. Carney, pictured second from left, spoke with Stemler through Zoom during the event. One group walked more than 2.5 miles during the scavenger hunt.

This fall, the introductory-level course PSYC 105: Foundations of Contemporary Psychology is being taught entirely online to 200 students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

After six weeks of remote lectures and interactive breakout sections via Zoom, Professors Steve Stemler and Sarah Carney who are team-teaching the course, hoped to break the “Zoom fatigue” routine and get their students physically interacting. So working together with the eight course TAs, they created a campus-wide psychological scavenger hunt.

With the first wave of students participating on Oct 27, and other waves participating subsequently, more than 110 students participated in the activity in person, while others joined in virtually.

“This was a fun way of doing some course-relevant activities while getting students out and about and interacting with each other,” Stemler said.

The instructors and TAs worked hard to ensure the scavenger hunt adhered to all COVID-19 protocols by keeping team sizes small, start times staggered, and locations spread out across campus and outside.

During the hunt, students worked in groups of four and looked for clues at various campus locations. The clues led them to a station run by a teaching assistant, who asked the undergraduates to complete a task relevant to the course content.

At an “intelligence station,” for example, the groups engaged in a word recognition test that relies on past experiences to prime their perceptions. At a “consciousness station,” students were asked to write down five things about themselves, and then the TA shuffled around their cards. After the cards were revealed, students had to categorize the notes as belonging to the social self, spiritual self, or material self in accordance with William James’ theory of the empirical self. And at a “methods station,” students read a description of a fictional research study and were allowed to ask 10 follow-up questions. The goal of that activity was to get students thinking about what information they wanted to know and why in order to evaluate the validity of the study rather than simply recalling the correct answers about the study design.

The scavenger hunt also led students to stations on memory, cognition, and bystander intervention.

The Teaching Apprentices for the course are Nolan Collins ’23, Maya Verghese ’23, Sarah Hammond ’22, Charity Russell ’21, Will Ratner ’22, Christian Quinones ’22, Arianna Jackson ’22, and Ezra Levy ’21.

Photos of the scavenger hunt on Oct. 27 are below: (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Psychological Scavenger Hunt

Hot off the Press: Short Stories by Ospina; Research Articles by Thomas

ospina book Associate Professor of Spanish María Ospina’s collection of short stories, Azares del Cuerpo (Variations on the Body), was published in Spain in September 2020, after being previously published in Colombia, Chile, and Italy. The book also is forthcoming in the U.S. next summer by Coffee House Press.

Azares del Cuerpo was reviewed in one of Spain’s most important national newspapers (El Mundo) on Oct. 30. Read more here.

Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History, and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, is the co-author of three papers:

They include:

The enigma of Oligocene climate and global surface temperature evolution,” published in PNAS on Oct. 13, 2020;

I/Ca in epifaunal benthic foraminifera: A semi-quantitative proxy for bottom water oxygen in a multi-proxy compilation for glacial ocean deoxygenation,” published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Vol. 533, March 2020.

And “Earth history of Oxygen and the iprOxy,” published in Cambridge Elements’ series on “Elements in Geochemical Tracers in Earth System Science.”

Students Reflect on Presidential Election Voting Experience

voting

From left, Annie Roach ’22, Julia Jurist ’22, and Emma Smith ’22 proudly display their “I Voted” stickers after casting their ballots in Beckham Hall on Nov. 3. “The whole process of voting was much easier than I expected,” Jurist said. “It was very convenient and easy to be able to vote on campus.”

By Annie Roach ’22 and Olivia Drake MALS ’08

After the whirlwind of 2020, Wesleyan students—many of them first-time voters—were particularly eager to exercise their right to vote in the presidential election. While several students cast absentee ballots in their home states weeks ahead of time, others voted in person on Nov. 3.

Marangela James

Marangela James ’24

Marangela James ’24 decided to vote in person in Connecticut, here on campus at Beckham Hall. She registered at Wesleyan earlier this semester, when some students had set up a voter registration table in front of Usdan. “It was a little bit hard navigating how to vote at first with everything going on,” she said, “but I thought it was helpful that Wes had a table set up to register us.”

Thomas Holley ’22 voted via absentee ballot. However, he physically dropped it off in the election box outside his town hall in Cheshire, Conn. “I mostly chose to vote absentee because of its ease and to avoid crowds on Election Day,” he said. “I voted in the 2018 midterms, but this election feels much more important. This statement comes from an unbelievable point of my privilege, but this is the first time political events have directly impacted my daily life. In 2018, I enjoyed voting, but going to the polls did not have the same sense of necessity.”

In conversations with his peers, Holley feels there is a shared sense of “we have to act now, and voting is the least we can do.” Issues such as climate change, reproductive rights, and the virus have come up frequently in discussions, he said.

E2020 Experiences Shape Students’ Views of the Election

Led by the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP), the University launched its new Engage 2020 (E2020) Initiative last fall to deepen Wesleyan’s commitment to civic engagement. To date, 33 students have already received funding to support the development of their civic literacy and their preparedness to engage in political life through hands-on experiences such as working to register voters, issues advocacy, and volunteering on political campaigns. E2020 encourages participation regardless of political affiliation or stances on specific issues.

Since the initiative’s inauguration, Wesleyan has joined forces with colleges and universities across the U.S. to reaffirm the University’s collective responsibility as institutions of higher learning. (Read more about how E2020 has supported student action in civic life in this September 2020 Wesleyan University Magazine article.)

Leading up to the election, three E2020 veterans offered to reflect on their experiences and explained whether, and how, they helped shape their views of the 2020 presidential election and the current political climate.

Dani Dittmann ’22

Dani Dittmann ’22

Government and economics double major Dani Dittmann ’22 interned with Deb Ciamacca’s campaign for Pennsylvania state representative in Pennsylvania’s 168th District, and as she had hoped, she gained much confidence in speaking about politics today, especially the importance of local elections in a swing state. Although her internship concluded at the end of the summer, Dittmann continued to help with the campaign this fall, whether it was phone banking or helping out with social media content.

On campus, Dittmann co-founded a club named New Voters at Wesleyan, which has been registering high school students to vote in Connecticut and beyond. And she also signed up to be the field hockey team’s Voice in Sport’s “More Votes More Voices” campaign team leader. She kept track of teammates’ voter registration status and made sure every member of her team had a plan to vote.

“My E2020 project absolutely impacted me and my actions leading up to the election,” she said. “My experience definitely ignited something within me to ensure I was making some kind of tangible difference leading up to Nov. 3. The experience definitely encouraged me to be as involved as I am in voter registration work and political discussions on campus, and I am so grateful!”

7 Wesleyan Faculty, Alumni, Graduate Student Make Presentations at SEM Annual Meeting

semFour faculty, two alumni, and one graduate student participated in the virtual Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting held Oct. 22–31.

As part of a panel addressing contemporary musical issues in Iran, Bridgid Bergin MA ’17 spoke about the Iranian Female Composers Association (IFCA), which was established in 2017 by three female-identifying Iranian composers: Anahita Abbasi, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, and Aida Shirazi. IFCA supports Iranian female-identifying composers by encouraging organizers and ensembles in Iran and beyond to commission and engage these composers in collaborations, while also discovering and mentoring young female composers who are fighting against all odds to become contemporary classical composers in 21st-century Iran. In 2018 the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) became an organizational partner in reinforcing IFCA’s platform as well as advocating for its members. Bergin presented three composer portrait videos and explored IFCA’s “her-story”—its founding members and an analysis of the intersections of gender, music, politics, and identity.

Eric Charry, professor of music, spoke about “An Ethnography of the Five Spot Café,” as part of a panel on rethinking jazz canons. Drawing on cultural geography, Charry examined from multiple perspectives the Five Spot Café (on the Bowery, 1956–62), one of the most important venues in jazz history: as an object in the Lower East Side and in downtown New York City jazz club landscapes; as a place imbued with sociocultural meaning; as a phenomenological space with a unique feel; and as a flashpoint in a historically dynamic scene. Moving beyond reports by American and European journalists, over a half-dozen live LP recordings, and published interviews with musicians, Charry focused on photographs taken inside the club. In this talk, Charry investigated race, gender, age, and especially modes of participation in jazz performance, and explored how an expanded view of ethnographic analysis of the inner workings of a historic venue has much to offer the history of jazz.

Makomenaw Focuses on Resilience Building, Prevention in Student Mental Health

Angie Makomenaw

Angie Makomenaw is the mental health education and prevention coordinator at CAPS.

Angie Makomenaw, mental health education and prevention coordinator, joined Wesleyan’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) in January 2020. She talks about her goals in this new position, the uniquely challenging circumstances affecting students’ mental health, and how CAPS is reaching and supporting students during the pandemic.

sleepYou are Wesleyan’s first mental health education and prevention coordinator. Please tell us about your role and what needs on campus you were hired to address.

This position was created out of an understanding of the importance of prevention in mental health. I am accountable for organizing initiatives for the Wes community in the areas of resilience building, holistic wellness, and suicide prevention. I am also responsible for program development, planning, and implementation, as well as assessing and evaluating the effectiveness of these programs.

Student mental health is always a need that Wesleyan takes seriously, but it seems the stakes are higher than ever this year. How would you describe the current climate and how it is affecting students?

​The combined impacts of the global pandemic, nationwide racist violence, and a contentious presidential election have resulted in unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress among students. This is why we are collaborating with our campus partners—WesWell, the Office of Support, Healing, Activism, and Prevention Education (SHAPE), and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (ORSL)—to provide virtual drop-in spaces. In recognition that our BIPOC students are being particularly affected by national and global events, we are offering two spaces per week specifically for these student communities so they can come together to provide and receive support. Only staff of color will facilitate these spaces. Two spaces per week are designated for student allies, and students attending these sessions will be able to receive support for themselves as well as talk more about how to be effective allies for BIPOC students. Two spaces per week will be offered as general drop-in sessions for all members of the Wesleyan community to come together. One of these sessions will involve structured mindfulness/mediation, and the other will be unstructured general support.

What is your advice for students—or anyone reading this—about coping with stress?

Stress is a natural reaction to an overwhelming situation. Just like taking care of our bodies by sleeping and eating well and exercising, it is important to take care of our minds. There are many ways this can be done: journaling, art, talking, taking recharging breaks. The CAPS team has put out videos with great advice on managing stress; see “Staying Well in the Midst of Social Distancing – Mental Health and Self-Care Routines with Dr. Visalli,” “Stress Management with Elena Cela,” and “Resilient Wellness with Dr. Kidkarndee, Tamanna Rahman, Sri Harathi, and Priya Senecal.”

Watch Engage 2020 Speaker Series Recordings

engageAs a lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships is sponsoring an Engage 2020 (E2020) Speaker Series featuring an array of public figures from diverse backgrounds, all with compelling messages about the urgency of this moment, and the power of students and young people to affect change.

Topics for this ongoing series include voter education and registration in battleground states; elections under threat; post-debate conversations with Wesleyan faculty; religion, diversity, and democracy; strategizing politics; discussing the election and staying friendly; young voters; criminal justice and the 2020 elections; and more.

The E2020 Speaker Series is supported by generous contributions from the Wintman Family Lecture Series Fund.

Recordings of past E2020 events are now posted. Watch some below, or click here for more.

Sept. 8, Organizing Communities. Strategizing Politics: From the Arab Spring to Election 2020:

Wesleyan Hires 14 New Ongoing Faculty in 2020–21

Wesleyan welcomes 14 new ongoing faculty to campus this fall, including five professors of the practice. They include:

Charles Barber, associate professor of the practice in the College of Letters, is a nonfiction author who writes about mental health and criminal justice issues, for both popular and scholarly audiences. He has previously taught at Wesleyan for eight years as a visitor, primarily as Writer in Residence in the College of Letters, and also in the Psychology and English departments, and Allbritton Center. He has written three books: Songs from the Black Chair: A Memoir of Mental Interiors, Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry is Medicating a Nation, and Citizen Outlaw: One Man’s Journey from Gang Leader to Peacekeeper. Barber has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, Salon, The Nation, and Scientific American MIND. Before becoming a full-time academic, he worked with homeless and incarcerated people for two decades, and conducted federally-funded studies on how to best engage such individuals into treatment and services. He also is a lecturer in psychiatry at Yale University.

Garry Bertholf is an assistant professor in the African American Studies

Garry Bertholf, assistant professor of African American studies is an expert on Africana literature and Black critical theory, and the intellectual and cultural history of the African diaspora.

Garry Bertholf, assistant professor of African American studies, holds a doctorate in Africana studies from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a master’s degree in jazz and popular music studies from the University of Pennsylvania. He is working on two book projects. The first, titled The Black Charismatic: Demagoguery and the Politics of Affect, examines the performance, practice, and rhetoric of demagoguery in post-Civil Rights Black political leadership, showing in what ways this form of what he calls “the Black charismatic” threatens to make illusory what should be a vibrant Black public sphere based on substance rather than affect. The second, Afro-Pessimism and Black Optimism in Africana Literature, theorizes a distinctively literary genealogy of that antinomy (Afro-pessimism/Black optimism) by exploring earlier Africana texts that potentially give a new shape to the debates that currently circulate around that antinomy. Bertholf has published articles in south: a scholarly journal, Anthurium: A Caribbean Studies Journal, and in the edited volume Reconstruction at 150: Reassessing the Revolutionary “New Birth of Freedom.”