Campus News & Events

Wesleyan Partners with Organization to Recycle Surplus Furniture

Highrise

On June 17, Wesleyan employees moved outdated furniture from the High Rise apartments into a truck. The contents will be donated to IRN, an organization that recycles and finds new homes for the furniture.

Every summer, when campus is relatively quiet, the Facilities Team is hard at work maintaining, renovating, and upgrading all of Wesleyan’s buildings and grounds. Part of this work involves the large-scale replacement of furniture in residential facilities—a process that has recently been made more environmentally friendly thanks to a partnership with IRN, an organization dubbed “The Reuse Network.”

According to Jeff Sweet, Wesleyan’s associate director of facilities management, the University has partnered with IRN for the past three years to recycle old residential furniture that is being replaced. IRN “matches the needs of charities and nonprofits throughout the world with surplus furnishings and equipment from schools, universities, corporations, and other large organizations,” according to its website. IRN estimates it has saved 80 million pounds of surplus from ending up in landfills.

Roth Speaks on Panel about Campus Speech

President Michael Roth '78 participated in a panel discussion titled, “Protesting the Podium: Campus Disinvitations” at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

President Michael Roth ’78 participated in a panel discussion at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

On June 18, President Michael Roth ’78 participated in a panel discussion titled, “Protesting the Podium: Campus Disinvitations” at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. He spoke alongside three individuals who were involved in higher education disinvitation incidents—former U.S. senator Bob Kerrey, Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield, and Middlebury professor Matthew J. Dickinson—in a wide-ranging discussion that covered such high-profile disinvitations, as well as broader questions of free speech, inclusion, and safe spaces on campuses. Roth’s latest book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses, due out from Yale University Press in August, focuses on these issues facing colleges today.

In his remarks, Roth pointed out that despite the dominant narrative in the media, college students today have a higher devotion to the concept of free speech than older generations, according to some measures. However, he said, “Our students are very suspicious of the use of free speech to advance particular political agendas. And when they hear that there’s a ‘wrong’ kind of free speech and a ‘right’ kind of free speech, and the right kind of free speech sounds a lot like civility as practiced by a certain kind of person with a certain social class and standing, they’re even more suspicious.”

Wesleyan University Press Author Harjo Named U.S. Poet Laureate

Joy Harjo

Poet Laureate of the United States Joy Harjo (Photo by Shawn Miller)

Joy Harjo, an author published by Wesleyan University Press and W.W. Norton has been named the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, as announced by the U.S. Library of Congress. Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation. She is the first Native American to serve as U.S. Poet Laureate.

Harjo’s American Book Award–winning In Mad Love and War was published by Wesleyan in 1990. Other books include the pedagogical work Soul Talk, Song Language: Conversations with Joy Harjo, edited by Tanaya Winder; and theater work Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light: A Play by Joy Harjo and a Circle of Responses, with contributing editor Priscilla Page.

The Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1937. During his or her term, the Poet Laureate seeks to raise the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry. Harjo will begin her new role in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary season on Sept. 19 with a reading of her work.

Harjo is a past recipient of the PEN Open Book Award, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the Arrell Gibson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Center for the Book. Her recent honors include the Jackson Prize from Poets & Writers (2019), the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation (2017) and the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets (2015). In 2019, she was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Books

Books by Joy Harjo.

Wesleyan Community Walks in Middletown’s Inaugural Pride Parade

Pride

Wesleyan was a cosponsor of the Middletown Pride Parade. Police estimate that more than 10,000 people attended the inaugural event.

In celebration of Pride Month, more than 50 members of the Wesleyan community showed their support for LGBTQ communities by participating in Middletown’s inaugural Pride Parade on June 15.

Parade

Chris Cruz carries her daughter, Nora, in Middletown’s inaugural Pride Parade on June 15. Chris’s wife, Tara, is pictured at right.

The parade was jointly coordinated and sponsored by the City of Middletown, the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, and Wesleyan University. In 2018, the City of Middletown formed an LGBTQ advisory committee to work on the inclusion of Middletown’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning residents.

The parade stepped off at 2 p.m. at St. John’s Square and proceeded down Main Street to Union Street. A festival on the South Green followed the parade.

Sitting atop her “ba’s” shoulders, 22-month-old Nora Cruz proudly waved a rainbow flag while passing by thousands of cheering spectators lining Main Street. Nora and her 3-year-old brother, Colin, participated in the Pride Parade with their parents Tara and Chris Cruz. Chris, a 17-year Wesleyan employee is manager of fire safety.

“I have always felt like I could be myself at Wesleyan and being able to march as a Wesleyan employee who is gay was an awesome feeling,” Cruz said. “My family and I marched not only with other members of the Wesleyan community but with some of our closest friends and we had so many family members and friends at the parade celebrating with us all. It was just an amazing experience and such a great day to be a part of.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Morning Call: “Allen Student Wins ‘Hamilton’ Scholarship, Congrats from Lin-Manuel Miranda”

Anna Tjeltveit of Allentown, Penn., winner of the 2019 Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, is profiled. She shares how her winning submission, a one-act play titled, “Five Steps,” came together at the last minute, and discusses her early career in theater as well as her plans for her time at Wesleyan.

2. WJLA: “Arlington Teen Wins ‘Hamilton’ Prize Gets a Shout Out from Lin-Manuel Miranda”

Cole Goco of Arlington, Va., who received an honorable mention in the 2019 Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, is interviewed. He discusses his years-long work on his winning web comic strip, “Billy the Pop,” and what it felt like to have Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 congratulate him by name on Twitter.

6 Faculty Receive Endowed Professorships

Fred Cohan

Fred Cohan is one of six Wesleyan faculty to receive an endowed professorship in 2019.

In recognition of their career achievements, the following faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1, 2019:

Frederick Cohan, professor of biology, is receiving the Huffington Foundation Professorship in the College of the Environment, established in 2010.

Susanne Fusso, professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, is receiving the Marcus L. Taft Professorship of Modern Languages, established in 1880.

William Johnston, professor of history, is receiving a John E. Andrus Professorship of History, established in 1981.

Ethan Kleinberg, professor of history and professor of letters, is receiving the Class of 1958 Distinguished Professorship, established in 2008.

Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics, is receiving the Lauren B. Dachs Professorship of Science and Society, established in 2008.

Daniel Krizanc, professor of computer science, is receiving an Edward Burr Van Vleck Professorship of Computer Science, established in 1982.

Brief biographies appear below:

Frederick Cohan arrived at Wesleyan in 1986 after completing his BS at Stanford University, his PhD at Harvard University, and a postdoctoral appointment at University of California, Davis. His research focuses on the origins of diversity in bacteria. His publications, which have been cited more than 8,000 times, recently include “How We Can All Share the Fight Against Infectious Disease” (Arcadia Political Review, Spring 2019) and “Systematics: The Cohesive Nature of Bacterial Species Taxa” (Current Biology, 2019). Cohan has received numerous grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and he was elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering in 2017.

Gottschalk in The Conversation: Hate Crimes Associated with Both Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism Have a Long History in America’s Past

Peter Gottschalk

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk writes about the history of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim movements in the U.S., and the confluence of the two. 

Hate crimes associated with both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have a long history in America’s past

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted recently that “Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are two sides of the same bigoted coin.”

Her comments came in response to media reports that the suspect behind the shooting at a San Diego synagogue was also under investigation for burning a mosque.

Hate crimes associated with both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have shown an increase in recent years. But is there an association between the two?

As author of “American Heretics,” I have found that American antagonism toward Islamic and Jewish traditions goes back nearly 500 years, and shares some unfortunate connections.

Grossman in The Conversation: May Jobs Report Suggests a Slowing Economy—and Possibly an Imminent Interest Rate Cut

Richard Grossman

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Professor and Chair of Economics Richard Grossman analyzes the latest jobs report.

May jobs report suggests a slowing economy – and possibly an imminent interest rate cut

The latest jobs data suggests an interest rate cut may be imminent.

The Labor Department reported on June 7 that U.S. nonfarm payroll employment increased by 75,000 in May, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6%. This level of job creation was well below economists’ forecasts of about 185,000 new jobs, as well as below the average monthly increase of 164,000 in 2019 and 223,000 in 2018.

Although it’s difficult – even for an economist like me who studies economic policy – to interpret the data reported in any one jobs report as the beginning of a trend, the latest numbers do suggest the Federal Reserve may have to lower its benchmark interest rate to shore up the economy.

That may happen as soon as this month, when the Fed’s interest rate-setting panel, the Federal Open Market Committee, convenes its next meeting June 18-19. A cut would be a sharp reversal from Fed policy as recently as December, when it last raised the rate.

Chaplain Mehr-Muska Offers Strategies for Living with Peace and Preparedness

Tracy BookUniversity Chaplain Rev. Tracy Mehr-Muska is the author of a new book titled “Weathering the Storm: Simple Strategies for Being Peaceful and Prepared,” published by Wipf and Stock on April 19.

The book offers simple and proven strategies to develop resilience that will be of benefit to anyone who is yearning to feel more peaceful and prepared. Mehr-Muska draws upon wisdom from different spiritual and religious traditions and from secular scholarship.

“With enthusiasm and passion generated from personal experience, I present the reality that resilience is not inborn, but is instead a simple set of characteristics that can be cultivated,” Mehr-Muska said. “I detail these characteristics; invite readers to identify areas of strength and areas for growth; and provide concrete, proven strategies for building these critical resilience characteristics.”

A Coast Guard veteran, interfaith chaplain, and pastor, Mehr-Muska shares the stories of her own struggles with self-esteem, sexual assault, and miscarriage that inspired her to research resilience. Mehr-Muska brings these characteristics to life using inspirational secular and multifaith stories, as well as compelling scientific evidence. She ties each chapter together with uplifting stories of personal friends who bravely and gracefully overcame obstacles and embody each of these essential characteristics.

Personick Selected to Participate in an NSF-Funded Project

Michelle Personick joined the faculty this fall, and is teaching courses in Chemistry of Materials and Nanomaterials and an Integrated Chemistry Lab. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Michelle Personick

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, has been selected by the Leadership Council of the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists (IONiC) to participate in a National Science Foundation–funded study to develop, test, and refine a flexible, foundation-level inorganic chemistry course.

As a Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource (VIPEr) Fellow, Personick joins 17 other inorganic chemists from across the country in a community of practice dedicated to improving student learning. The 2018 VIPEr Fellows are the first faculty who have been selected for this groundbreaking project.

The study, titled “Improving Inorganic Chemistry Education,” is being conducted with support from the National Science Foundation’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program. The project will use classroom observations, analysis of student work, student surveys, and faculty interviews to study how changes in the classroom affect student learning, interest, and motivation. The project also will investigate how IONiC may encourage the adoption of evidence-based classroom practices.

At Wesleyan, Personick teaches general, inorganic, and materials chemistry. Her research group focuses on developing tailored metal nanomaterials to enable fundamental research toward improved catalysts for resource-efficient chemical synthesis and the clean production of energy.

She received her undergraduate degree from Middlebury College, where she studied platinum anticancer drug analogs, and her PhD from Northwestern University, where she developed syntheses for shaped gold and silver nanoparticles. As a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, she studied the catalytic behavior of bimetallic nanoporous alloys.

Read more about Personick in these past News @ Wesleyan articles.

NEA Supports Dance Artist Yerushalmy’s Residency at Wesleyan

Netta Yerushalmy: "Paramodernities." Photo by Maria Baranova.

New York City dance artist Netta Yerushalmy will present “Paramodernities” at Wesleyan in October. Her work at the Center for the Arts is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. (Photo by Maria Baranova)

Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts recently received a $15,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the presentation and residency activities of dance artist Netta Yerushalmy, who will perform the work “Paramodernities” in October.

The Center for the Arts is one of 977 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an Art Works grant.

“Support from the National Endowment for the Arts is central to our ability to fulfill our mission to be a vibrant center for dance in the state, and to bring contemporary dance to audiences who might not otherwise be able to access it,” said Sarah Curran, director of the Center for the Arts. “We are grateful for the vote of confidence that this grant implies.”

Yerushalmy’s performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 in the Center for the Arts Theater. It’s part of the CFA’s Performing Arts Series, which features cutting-edge choreography, world-renowned dance companies, and companies pushing the boundaries of the art form, as well as a wide array of world-class musicians and groundbreaking theater performances and discussions. 

Smolkin Speaks at “Culture of Unbelief” Conference in Rome

Victoria Smolkin

Victoria Smolkin

From May 28 to May 30, Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin attended a conference in Rome, Italy, on the “Cultures of Unbelief,” organized by the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network and the Vatican’s Council on Culture.

She spoke on “The Culture of Unbelief 50 Years On,” which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the original “Culture of Unbelief” conference, organized in 1969 by the Vatican’s Secretariat on Non-Believers and the University of California, Berkeley. Her copanelists included Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Andrew Copson, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion and Director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary’s University Stephen Bullivant moderated the panel.

The “Cultures of Unbelief” conference brought together leading academics, leaders of religious and nonreligious groups, journalists, educators, and others to understand the meaning of being a religious “unbeliever.” Topics explored how “unbelievers” engage with religion; their diverse existential, metaphysical, and moral beliefs; and prospects for dialogue and collaboration between believers and unbelievers.

Smolkin also presented a conference paper titled, “Atheism as a vocation: What can socialists teach us about modern belief and unbelief?”

A photo exhibit titled Unbelievers by Aubrey Wade took place during the Cultures of Unbelief Conference. The series offers an insight into the diversity of beliefs and worldviews held by people who don’t believe in God, or gods, in five countries around the world: Brazil, Japan, Norway, the U.K., and USA.