Campus News & Events

Students Honored with Academic Prizes, Fellowships

The Office of Student Affairs hosted a Spring 2016 awards banquet for students who received academic prizes, fellowships and awards on May 4 in Daniel Family Commons.

Students received awards for demonstrating outstanding character, leadership and intellectual commitment; intercollegiate debating; extracurricular participation; promoting the health, visibility, and participation of the Latino community at Wesleyan; writing the best paper that uses econometric techniques to analyze an economic problem; excellence in environmental stewardship; excellence in modern languages; exhibition in painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, photography, or architecture; and much more.

To view the entire list of awards and recipients see Student Affairs Prizes website. (Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)

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Students Solve, Analyze Complex Problems at DataFest

Students from Wesleyan, Trinity College, Connecticut College, Yale University and the University of Connecticut participated in the American Statistical Association DataFest, hosted at Wesleyan in April. 

Students from Wesleyan, Trinity College, Connecticut College, Yale University and the University of Connecticut participated in the American Statistical Association DataFest, hosted at Wesleyan in April. (Photos by Will Barr ’18)

Three teams from Wesleyan received honors during the American Statistical Association DataFest, hosted at Wesleyan April 8-10.

During DataFest, students are presented with a large, complex, surprise data set and work over the weekend to explore, analyze, and present their findings. Teams of three to five undergraduate students from Wesleyan, Trinity, Connecticut College, Yale, and the University of Connecticut competed against each other.

After two days of intense data wrangling, analysis and presentation design, each team was allowed only five minutes and no more than two slides to impress a panel of judges.

The event, coordinated by Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center, is part of a set of initiatives to strengthen quantitative reasoning and facilitate computational and data analysis work across the curriculum. It is designed to bring together current students, alumni and data analysis professionals as they work together in addressing real world problems that involve computational data work.

The event also provided an opportunity for recruiters to connect with students who are interested and skilled in data analysis, and may be candidates for internships or job openings.

Wesleyan team 1,588,506 received the "Best in Show" award. Teammates included Jack Gorman ’19, Samara Prywes ’17 and Tiffany Coons ’18,

Wesleyan team 1,588,506 received the “Best in Show” award. Teammates included Jack Gorman ’19, Samara Prywes ’17 and Tiffany Coons ’18,

Wesleyan Faculty, Staff Named United Way Coordinators of the Year

Wesleyan has set at a goal of raising $130,000 through its annual United Way workplace campaign, which kicked-off Oct. 6.

Middlesex United Way held its annual awards program May 5 at the Middletown Elks Lodge, and among the honorees were campaign “Coordinators of the Year:” Associate Professor of Biology Gloster Aaron and Provost Joyce Jacobsen, who served as Wesleyan’s campaign co-chairs this year, and Cathy Lechowicz, director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships.

Middlesex United Way also awarded Rob Rosenthal, director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life and the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, with the Community Leadership Award in January. Bill Holder, director of University Communications, is president of the Middlesex United Way Board.

Since 2001, Wesleyan employees have donated more than $1.7 million to the organization. Read more online here.

United Way

Middlesex United Way “Coordinators of the Year” include Gloster Aaron, Cathy Lechowicz and Joyce Jacobsen.

In accepting the award, the three chatted on stage with the M.C. of the event, former local television reporter Jamie Muro, and they discussed their reasons for supporting Middlesex United Way.

In accepting the award, the three chatted on stage with the M.C. of the event, former local television reporter Jamie Muro, and they discussed their reasons for supporting Middlesex United Way.

Wesleyan Responds to Syrian Refugee Crisis

As part of the Wesleyan community’s response to the refugee crisis, the student-run Wesleyan Refugee Project is hosting an exhibit titled "Art in Crisis" through May 22 at the Center for the Humanities. “Art in Crisis” features work by artists within Za'atari Refugee camp, the largest refugee camp in Amman, Jordan, home to over 100,000 refugees. The artwork will be sold at a silent auction with funds going back to the artists.

As part of the Wesleyan community’s response to the refugee crisis, the student-run Wesleyan Refugee Project is hosting an exhibit titled “Art in Crisis” through May 22 at the Center for the Humanities. “Art in Crisis” features work by artists within Za’atari Refugee camp, the largest refugee camp in Amman, Jordan, home to over 100,000 refugees. The artwork will be sold at a silent auction with funds going back to the artists.

(By Charles Salas)

Last fall President Michael Roth took what some thought was a risk. Appalled by the Syrian refugee crisis, he issued a challenge to the Wesleyan community, asking what can we do?

On Feb. 17, the Allbritton Center hosted a panel discussion on “The Refugee Experience,” the second in a three-part series titled, “The Refugee Crisis: The Development of the Crisis and the Response in Europe.” Moderated by Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, it featured discussion between Steve Poellot, legal director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP); Mohammed Kadalah of the University of Connecticut Department of Literature, Cultures and Languages, who was recently granted asylum after fleeing Syria in 2011; and Baselieus Zeno, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and a Syrian refugee. Read more about the full series here. (Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)

On Feb. 17, the Allbritton Center hosted a panel discussion on “The Refugee Experience,” the second in a three-part series titled, “The Refugee Crisis: The Development of the Crisis and the Response in Europe.” Moderated by Assistant Professor Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, it featured discussion between Steve Poellot, legal director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP); Mohammed Kadalah of the University of Connecticut Department of Literature, Cultures and Languages, who was recently granted asylum after fleeing Syria in 2011; and Baselieus Zeno, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and a Syrian refugee.

How would people respond? Would they say that’s not Wesleyan’s business? Ask why this crisis and not another? Demand more of Wesleyan than it could possibly do? In fact, the Wesleyan community made some good suggestions which the university has been able to act upon, doing the kinds of things it does well:

  • Hold panel discussions to increase understanding and awareness
  • Sponsor student internships with organizations assisting refugees
  • Host a refugee scholar on campus, and enroll a refugee student
  • Work with local officials to welcome refugee families to Middletown.

Read about the Wesleyan community’s remarkable response to the refugee crisis here in Wesleyan magazine online.

McGuire: Is Brazil Better Prepared Than the U.S. to Fight Zika?

James McGuire

James McGuire

James McGuire, professor and chair of government, professor of Latin American studies, is the author of a new op-ed titled, “Is Brazil Better Prepared than the U.S. to Fight Zika?”

Brazil is ground zero for the recent wave of Zika infections. McGuire argues that the country “is better prepared to fight Zika than many people think—and is, in some ways, better prepared to fight Zika than the United States.”

The Zika virus is difficult to fight, and Brazil faces some major obstacles, including a deep economic crisis, political turmoil, and an ongoing battle against other infectious diseases. Still, he writes, “Brazil has advantages in the struggle: a history of public disease control in the northeast dating back to World War II; a large and talented public health community; and years of experience with evidence-based public health interventions.

“It is no accident that the government knew where to send the 220,000 soldiers, because health data on the country’s 5,600 counties have become more complete, transparent and available during the last couple of decades. Most important, the Brazilian government in the mid-1990s expanded the Family Health Program (now Family Health Strategy), which by 2014 involved 39,000 health teams, each providing primary health care to about 1,000 specified households, including through home visits.”

In contrast, the United States “lacks a public health structure of the size and efficacy of Brazil’s for destroying mosquito breeding sites, educating high-risk populations, monitoring the spread of the disease and counseling expectant mothers.”

In the United States, mosquito monitoring and eradication is handled by 700 disconnected and underfunded public agencies, mostly administered at the municipal level but funded in part by the federal government. Federal funding for mosquito control fell from $24 million in 2004 to $10 million in 2012.

In February 2016 Congress denied President Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika, demanding instead that he shift money earmarked for the fight against Ebola. On April 7 the Obama administration, citing a public health emergency, shifted about $500 million from Ebola to Zika.

The United States is a rich country with a temperate climate, but lacks an integrated public health service provision and disease control program like Brazil’s Family Health Strategy. Not surprisingly, then, both Mississippi and the vastly poorer Brazilian state of Espirito Santo have identical infant mortality rates: 9.6 per 1000.

Originally published on Inside Sources, the oped also appeared in Newsday.

Wesleyan Students, Local Seniors Become ‘Fast Friends’

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Every week, a group of Wesleyan students in the Wesleyan Alliance for Generational Exchange (WesAGE), visit local senior centers to play card games and bingo and interact with the residents.

“Our residents can’t get out into the community because of mobility and safety issues,” David Frankel, activities coordinator at One MacDonough House, told The Middletown Press in a feature story about the program. “So Wesleyan students through a program called WesAGE come to MacDonough Friday afternoons rather than party with their friends. These are special young men and women. They let us know that we’re a value to the community.”

“Wesleyan University has worked very hard at becoming part of the Middletown community,” he added, praising how the program motivates students and encourages assisted-living residents to remain active.

Gabe Borelli ’16 coordinates the WesAGE Companions Program. Borelli, who is studying economics, politics and history, says students in his program are paired with an elderly companion from one of the area’s assisted living homes: Heritage Commons, One MacDonough, South Green Apartments or Wadsworth Glen.

“I try to match student volunteers with residents’ interests,” said Borelli, who became involved in the program when he was a sophomore. “Whether it’s Scrabble, dominoes or other social games, they really enjoy getting to know the residents.”

Borelli says though some people believe there’s a wide gap between generations, “we usually find common interests such as politics, sports and our personal histories.”10255339_10203921605587222_6579148984284863708_o

Carolina Elices ’17, also a program coordinator, is majoring in art history and English. From Arlington, Massachusetts, Elices plans on earning a master’s degree in English, then teaching or working in publishing. She says WesAGE is her favorite activity at school and looks forward to spending Friday afternoons sharing stories with residents at MacDonough.

“It makes a nice change talking to people who aren’t 18 to 22,” she says. One of her favorite resident companions is a woman who is an excellent Scrabble player. “Ann usually beats me,” Elices says. “But, the two times I’ve beaten her she vows never to play me again,” she laughs.

Wesleyan Observatory Opening for 100th Anniversary Events

cam_vvo_2013-0102225113The Hartford Courant featured the 100th anniversary of Wesleyan’s Van Vleck Observatory, which will be celebrated with an exhibit and a series of events this month and next. The “Under Connecticut Skies” exhibit, located in the observatory library, will open May 6 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and will remain open indefinitely during the observatory’s public hours.

Amrys Williams, visiting assistant professor of history, who has been working on the exhibit since last year, said the Van Vleck Observatory and the astronomy department building are part of the exhibit, telling the story of how astronomers did their work 100 years ago.

“One of the things most interesting to me as a historian of science is that this building itself is our most important artifact we’re interpreting in this exhibit,” she said. “The way it’s organized really reflects the way astronomy happened in the early part of the 20th century. There was a period when astronomical data was not series of numbers or something electronic. The raw data was pieces of glass, negative images of the sky, and we have 40,000 in the basement.”

Williams and students have been gathering oral history accounts and making videos to document the historical significance of the artifacts and research.

“Astronomy is historical in and of itself,” Williams said. “It deals with issues of time. When you look into a telescope you’re looking back in time, and that makes the act of observing a historical act as well as a scientific one.”

Learn more about the exhibit, the 100th anniversary re-dedication on June 16, and other planned events here.

 

Bachner, Eudell, Lipton to Receive Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching

On May 4, President Michael Roth announced that Sally Bachner, associate professor of English, Demetrius Eudell, professor of history, and James Lipton, professor of computer science, will be awarded Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching at Commencement on May 22. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the university’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.

Bios of the recipients follow:

Wesleyan Students Partner with City Water, Sewer Workers for Unique Show

Juliana Castro '19, Michael Edwards '16, and Melissa Leung '16 are among the students who have been working with the city's Water and Sewer Department to create a performance that will debut at the Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter on May 9. (Photo courtesy of The Middletown Press).

Juliana Castro ’19, Michael Edwards ’16, and Melissa Leung ’16 are among the students who have been working with the city’s Water and Sewer Department to create a performance that will debut at the Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter on May 7. (Photo courtesy of The Middletown Press).

This spring, Allison Orr, the Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment, is leading a group of Wesleyan students in partnering with the city of Middletown’s Water and Sewer Department to develop a unique performance that will debut at the Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter on May 7. The performance starts at noon at Harbor Park.

Allison Orr

Allison Orr

According to this story in The Middletown Press, Orr has long used “her choreography talent to expose the work of those who would otherwise go unnoticed.” She is the artistic director of Forklift Danceworks, and is known for “Trash Dance,” a 2012 documentary film that explored the work of the Austin, Texas Sanitation Department.

“What I do is I embed myself within these groups of employees over a period of time,” Orr said. “I convince them to come along with me and we create together performances that educate people about the work.”

Under her direction, eight Wesleyan students “joined” the city’s water department. Since February, they have been collecting interviews, shadowing employees and studying their movements to create a performance based on the workers’ daily lives, and raise awareness about how they keep Middletown’s waterfront clean.

For Gretchen LaMotte ’18, this performance is not only a way to bridge a gap between the Wesleyan community and Middletown, but is also an opportunity for her to bring the Water and Sewer Department’s work to the forefront.

“All of this is invisible work that is supporting the infrastructure of our daily lives. I’m excited about this performance because hopefully it will make that work more visible,” LaMotte said.

In March, Orr also taught movement classes to students at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Scholar Student Athletes Honored at Banquet

On April 28, the Wesleyan Athletics Department honored more than 175 scholar student-athletes that excelled both on and off the field throughout the course of the 2015-16 season. Coaches, faculty and staff from the department also attended the event, which included dinner, speeches and awards in Beckham Hall.

To be recognized, a student-athlete must be at least a sophomore with a grade-point average of 3.25 or above, and be a key contributor to his or her team’s success.

In addition, scholar athletes Joe Edmonds ’16 of the men’s basketball team and Rachel Hobert ’16 of the women’s soccer team presented inspirational speeches to their peers.

(Photos by Caroline Kravitz ’19)

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Equity Task Force Issues Final Report

The Equity Task Force established in January to explore the establishment of a resource center, and other means of improving equity and inclusion on campus, has issued its final report.

The nine-person task force is made up of faculty, students and staff, and tri-chaired by Gina Ulysse, professor of anthropology, professor of feminist gender and sexuality studies; Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion and Title IX officer; and Shardonay Pagett ’18. Over the course of the spring semester, it dedicated a considerable amount of time to studying Wesleyan’s historical attempts to address equity and inclusion, and meeting with various groups of faculty, staff and students to receive input. In February, it released an interim report.

The final report, issued May 3, makes three recommendations:

  • The university should establish a new Center “that has a clear, intellectually grounded mission in social justice and a focus on intercultural development and literacy, which integrates students, faculty and staff in its core operations at the developmental stage to work sustainably toward a deeper commitment to inclusion campus-wide;”
  • The university should embark on a “long-term, comprehensive, campus-wide initiative with concrete action plans” addressing student concerns, patterns of inequity, and retention problems among faculty and staff on campus;
  • Finally, the university should transform the task force into a standing institutional committee comprised of students, faculty and staff, to work together with the larger Wesleyan community toward ongoing institutional change efforts.

In a response sent out to the campus community, President Michael Roth thanked the task force for its hard work and urged everyone to read the report. He wrote, “…it is vital that we seize this moment to improve the educational experience for all Wesleyan students, most especially those who have felt marginalized by practices of this institution, past or present.”

Roth says the administration will proceed with all three recommendations in the report.

“We will plan a Center within the time frame suggested that will enable students to deepen their education and enhance their ability to thrive on campus – especially those groups of students who have struggled against legacies of discrimination. This will build on the accomplishments of student activists, and also of professors and staff members who have worked hard to make this university a more equitable and inclusive place.”

He also promised to “add to the considerable resources we have already dedicated to recruiting and supporting students, faculty and staff from under-represented groups. […] Our goal is to ensure that all students have every opportunity to excel in all sectors of the curriculum and co-curricular activities.” The university will also establish a committee to coordinate efforts and measure their outcomes.

Wesleyan to Consider Undocumented/DACA Status Applicants as Domestic Students in Admission Process

Wesleyan University announced that it will begin considering undocumented and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status applicants who have graduated from a U.S. high school as if they were U.S. citizens or permanent residents, beginning with the class entering in fall 2017. This policy change has important implications for admission and financial aid for these prospective students.

“Supporting these talented and deserving young people is the right thing to do, and is consistent with Wesleyan values and our commitment to equity and inclusion,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth.  “Many of these students were brought to this country at a young age by their parents and have lived here most of their lives. They ought to have the same access to a high-quality college education as any other student from this country.”