Campus News & Events

$1 Million Cardinal Challenge Reaches Its Goal

In June, the Cardinal community joined together to gain an additional $1 million for financial aid for students during Wesleyan’s $1 Million Cardinal Challenge.

This year’s Cardinal Challenge was funded through the generosity of the members of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees, 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. The challenge inspired 2,300 gifts from alumni, parents and friends—securing the additional $1 million for financial aid and bringing a $64 million fundraising year to a successful close.

Velez, Wong ’18 Author Paper in ‘The Journal of Politics’

Yamil Velez at Wesleyan University.

Assistant Professor of Government Yamil Velez and Grace Wong ’18 are the authors of a new paper, “Assessing Contextual Measurement Strategies,” published May 17 in The Journal of Politics.

According to the paper’s abstract, “Contextual scholars have explored the impact of residing in racially and ethnically diverse environments on political attitudes and behavior. Traditionally, the literature has employed governmental administrative units such as counties as proxies for citizens’ social contexts. Recently, these measures have come under attack by scholars desiring more personalized measures. This article evaluates the performance of two personalized measures of intergroup context and finds that census-based measures are more closely aligned with subjects’ perceptions of local area demographics than measures that ‘bring the person back in.’ The implications of these findings on the contextual literature are discussed.”

Read the full article here.

Students Catalog Wesleyan’s Lost Fossil Collections

Research fellows Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20 and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 are discovering and cataloging thousands of fossils at Exley Science Center. The fossils were once housed at the former Wesleyan Museum, a natural history museum that occupied part of the Orange Judd Hall of Natural Sciences from 1871-1957. Once the museum closed, the fossils and other objects were displaced at various locations on campus. “We’d love to make these fossils accessible to Wesleyan students, faculty, classes and the general public,” McKee said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Research fellows Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20 and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 are discovering and cataloging thousands of fossils at Exley Science Center. The fossils were once housed at the former Wesleyan Museum, a natural history museum that occupied part of the Orange Judd Hall of Natural Sciences from 1871-1957. Once the museum closed, the fossils and other objects were displaced at various locations on campus. “We’d love to make these fossils accessible to Wesleyan students, faculty, classes and the general public,” McKee said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Scattered throughout campus are remnants of not only Wesleyan’s history, but world history. After the closing of the Wesleyan Museum in 1957, thousands of specimens in many collections were displaced, often haphazardly, to nooks, crannies, tunnels, attics, storage rooms, and random cabinets at Exley Science Center, Judd Hall, and the Butterfield and Foss Hill residence complexes.

A fossilized bee was discovered in the fossil collections.

A fossilized bee was discovered in the fossil collections.

Many of these specimens haven’t been accessed in 60 years.

“Sadly, few people are aware that Wesleyan has these unique resources,” said Ellen Thomas, the University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and research professor of earth and environmental sciences. “The collections have not been well curated, and not much used in education and outreach. We are discovering beautiful fossils, but the knowledge that they are at Wesleyan has long been lost.”

This summer, Thomas, along with two student research fellows, began the painstaking process of not only locating and organizing collections, but digitally cataloging their finds.

Sajirat Palakarn ’20 and earth and environmental science graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 work 40 hours a week on the project and have created a “fossil assembly line” in Exley Room 309. The students take turns sorting trays of fossils by class and phylum, and then match the fossils with identifying hand-written cards or books from an archaic card catalog, entering the information, piece by piece, into a spreadsheet. They’re expecting to itemize more than 15,000 fossils this summer.

“Look here,” Thomas says, while opening a wooden cabinet at random in Exley’s specimen storage room. “We’ve got shells, fossils of shells, one after another with no labels. They are all disorganized. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make these accessible to the students?”

Melissa McKee holds a plant fossil from Greenland, collected during the second relief expedition for a Peary Arctic Expedition. The leaves were then thought be by Miocene (~20 millions years old), but now they've been identified as being much older at ~ 60 million years.

Melissa McKee holds a plant fossil from Greenland, collected during the second relief expedition for a Peary Arctic Expedition. The leaves were then thought be by Miocene (~20 millions years old), but now they’ve been identified as being much older at ~ 60 million years.

So far, the students have discovered dozens of fish fossils from the Jurassic Period (99.6 to 145.5 million years ago) and Triassic Period (251 million and 199 million years ago). They’ve encountered fossils of preserved leaves and insects from what is today Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, dating back to the Eocene Period, when the world was much warmer (40-45 million years ago). They’ve also found fossilized plants from coal deposits in Illinois (about 300 million years old), as well as fossil sea lilies (crinoids), which lived in shallow warm seas in what is now Indiana. Many of these fossils were collected by S. Ward Loper, who was curator of the Wesleyan Museum from 1894 to his death in 1910.

They’ve even discovered a plant fossil from Greenland, donated to the Wesleyan Museum in 1895 by A.N. Varse, who was on the second relief expedition attempting to assist Robert Peary on one of his early expeditions to explore Greenland and reach the North Pole.

“It’s really incredible to hold a piece of history like this in our hands,” McKee said. “Not only can fossils tell us what an organism might have looked like and how it lived, but fossils also give us clues about ancient environmental conditions. We can use fossils to understand how the Earth has changed over time.”

While most of the fossil finds are located in locked drawers in the hallways of Exley Science Center, the students also are cataloging fossils in the Joe Webb Peoples Fossil Collection, located on the fourth floor. The museum is named after the late Professor Joe Webb Peoples, who was chair of the Department of Geology from 1935 until his retirement in 1975.

The students not only catalog the artifacts, but they also write about their finds, and the museum, on a blog and on Twitter.

McKee and Palakarn, a College of Social Studies major, are constantly learning on the job. “I don’t have a science background, but here I am learning about unicellular microorganisms, sponges, coral, arthropods, trilobites and sea urchins,” Palakarn said.

“I know by the end of this summer you’re going to change your major to earth and environmental science,” McKee said. “I’m sure of it.”

Sanjirat "Bright" Palakarn '20; Ellen Thomas; and graduate student Melissa McKee '17 hold fish fossils inside the Joe Peoples' Museum in Exley.

Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20; Research Professor Ellen Thomas; and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 hold fish fossils inside the Joe Webb Peoples’ Fossil Collection in Exley.

While rummaging through drawers in Exley's Specimen Storage room, Ellen Thomas discovered large collections of old coins including miniature intaglios and ancient Chinese coins collected by the Methodist missionaries who started Wesleyan. The coins are documented in an accompanying booklet.

While rummaging through drawers in Exley’s Specimen Storage room, Ellen Thomas discovered large collections of old coins including miniature intaglios and ancient Chinese coins collected by the Methodist missionaries who started Wesleyan. The coins are documented in an accompanying booklet.

Melissa McKee holds polished halves of a Perisphinctes species found in Madagascar.

Melissa McKee holds polished halves of a cephalopod found in Madagascar. This species lived during the late Jurassic Period.

Sanjirat Palakarn '20 displays a fossil of Diplomystus dentatus from the Eocene Period. The fossil was discovered in what is now Wyoming. Diplomystus is an extinct freshwater fish distantly related to herrings and sardines.

Sajirat Palakarn displays a fossil of Diplomystus dentatus from the Eocene Period. The fossil was discovered in what is now Wyoming. Diplomystus is an extinct freshwater fish distantly related to herrings and sardines.

The students transcribe hand-written records into electronic form. Pictured is the record of A.N. Varse's fossil discovery in 1895.

The students transcribe hand-written records into electronic form. Pictured is the record of A.N. Varse’s fossil discovery in 1894. It was donated to Wesleyan in 1895.

The research team also found dozens of coral samples stashed away above these cabinets in Exley Science Center.

The research team also found dozens of coral samples stashed above these cabinets in Exley Science Center. “Some of these are now extinct. We will want to catalog these too, but this will be a project for another time,” Thomas said.

The New Yorker Profiles New Wes Faculty Member Sorey MA ’11

Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11 will join the Wesleyan faculty this fall. (Photo by John Rogers)

“Tyshawn Sorey Defeats Preconceptions,” proclaims the The New Yorker headline on a profile of Wesleyan’s newest assistant professor of music, Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11, who will join the Wesleyan faculty this fall. “The prodigious multi-instrumentalist and composer transcends the borders of jazz, classical, and experimental music.”

Slobin’s Afghanistan Music Recordings, Field Notes Archived Online

Mark Slobin

Mark Slobin

Between 1967-1972, ethnomusicologist Mark Slobin was one of only four Western ethnomusicologists who managed to complete research in Afghanistan before the subsequent Soviet invasion, civil war, and anti-music Taliban regime.

During these five years, Slobin, who retired from Wesleyan 2016 as the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, completed a comprehensive documentation of music, culture, language and society in the Afghan North. Given the region’s volatile unrest, no further musical—and by extension cultural—studies have been undertaken since.

Slobin’s rare survey of this time period is now available online through Alexander Street, a producer of online educational resources. “The Mark Slobin Fieldwork Archive, Music in the Afghan North, 1967-1972” draws on materials deposited at Wesleyan’s World Music Archives, directed by Alec McLane. McLane brought Slobin’s work to the attention of Alexander Street. The site packages all of Slobin’s materials: the sound files of folk music recordings, films, hundreds of images and field notes. 

Grossman Comments on the Economic Impact of Brexit

Richard Grossman

Professor of Economics Richard Grossman was asked by Wales Online about his expectations for the economic impact of Brexit over the next few years. He said:

“Leaving the European Union will be a drag on the British economy in the medium term. Even before Brexit takes effect, however, the economy will be hurt by two factors: expectations and uncertainty.

“The expectation that the UK will no longer have free access to the European market may lead exporters to reorient production toward domestic consumption or export to non-EU regions well before Brexit comes into force. UK-based financial firms may shift operations to EU locations in anticipation of Brexit, rather than waiting until it is a fait accompli.

“And firms that rely on high-skilled labour may relocate to other countries if they expect the reduction in immigration that is expected to accompany Brexit to  reduce the pool of talented workers in the UK.

“In addition to its anticipated effects, the economy will suffer from the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. There really is no precedent for a country to leave the EU, so no one really knows how the negotiations will turn out.

“And markets hate uncertainty. The worse the perceived effect of Brexit, the worse a drubbing the pound will take.

“A steady decline might support exports to some extent, but will lead to inflation at home as imported goods become more expensive. What is more likely than a steady decline is a more volatile pound, which will help no one.”

 

Grossman Presents Paper at the Bank of England

Richard Grossman

On June 23, Professor of Economics Richard Grossman presented a paper at an economic history symposium jointly sponsored by the Bank of England and the the Centre for Economic Policy Research. Titled, “Beresford’s Revenge: British equity holdings in Latin America, 1869-1929,” the paper looks at stock market returns of Latin American firms traded on the London Stock Exchange.

The program for the conference can be seen here.

McClain-Frederick ’20, Bekele ’19 Excel at Korean Language Speech Contest

Madison McClain-Frederick '20, pictured third from left, and Bethlehem "Betty" Bekele, pictured fourth from left, won prizes at the Five College Korean Language Speech Contest.

Madison McClain-Frederick ’20, pictured third from left, and Bethlehem “Betty” Bekele, pictured fourth from left, won prizes at the Five College Korean Language Speech Contest.

Two Wesleyan students received top prizes in the Five College Korean Language Speech Contest held April 14 at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This was Wesleyan’s second year participating in the contest.

The recipients include Madison McClain-Frederick ’20, who took first prize for the beginning level with her speech titled “My Red Sneakers,” and Bethlehem “Betty” Bekele ’19, who took second place at the intermediate level with her speech titled “My Country Ethiopia and Korea.” Bekele is supported through a Center for East Asian Studies language study grant to spend this summer studying language in Korea.

The contest is sponsored by the Five College East Asian Language Program and is open to any college student in New England who is currently enrolled in Korean language classes. Contestants cannot be native Korean speakers nor heritage learners. Participating students must write their own short speeches in Korean.

Hyejoo Back, assistant professor of the practice of East Asian studies, served as the team’s advisor. “My students worked very hard to prepare for the contest,” Back said. “We’re very proud of them.”

Read about the 2016 award recipients in this article.

Biology Team Samples Drought-Tolerant Bacteria in Death Valley

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizospheres of a juniper tree at about 7,000 feet above sea level.

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizosphere of a juniper tree.

This spring, a research team from Wesleyan traveled to Death Valley National Park to explore the ways bacteria diversifies in extreme environments.

Death Valley, located about 130 miles west of Las Vegas, is a below-sea-level basin known for being the hottest place on earth and driest place in North America. The average rainfall is less than 2 inches, annually.

“National parks are ideal for research, in general, because the land is protected indefinitely from commercial development,” said team leader Fred Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. “Death Valley is a nice model system for exobiology because of its extreme habitat.”

Cohan, along with graduate student Jerry Lee, Bella Wiener ’19 and Nicole DelGaudio ’18, traveled to California May 29 through June 4. During this time, the researchers trekked through miles of parched — and often prickly — landscapes seeking to sample root soil, or rhizosphere, from various plant species, each over a wide range of elevations that differ notably in their temperatures.

Connecticut Walk Book, Published by Wesleyan U. Press, Blazes the Trail to Outdoor Fun

Just in time for summer, Wesleyan University Press has published the newest edition of the ultimate guide to Connecticut’s extensive public trails system, the Connecticut Walk Book: The Complete Guide to Connecticut’s Blue-Blazed Hiking Trail, by the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA), the primary not-for-profit organization that maintains these recreational trails in concert with partners, landowners, volunteers and countless supporters.

The comprehensive guide features detailed descriptions and easy-to-follow full-color maps for more than 60 trails (and many additional side trails and connectors) included in the over 825 miles of blue-blazed trails maintained by the CFPA statewide—from quick jaunts to long journeys, from hikes winding through state parks and forests to those meandering across private land.

“We hope folks will be inspired and become stewards of the great green places these trails intersect,” says Clare Cain, trails stewardship director at CFPA. “Whether a walker is looking for a loop hike, a family ramble, a summit destination or a beautiful waterfall, these trails offer access to the goodness of the great outdoors.”

“The blue trails are a special part of Connecticut and part of what makes Connecticut special. We are honored to be part of the new edition of this book,” said Suzanna Tamminen, director and editor-in-chief at Wesleyan University Press. “Now that the good weather is here, people are ready to get outside, and this book is a perfect way to start exploring the natural beauty right in our own backyards.”

The Connecticut Walk Book is available at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore (413 Main Street in Middletown), which offers a 10 percent discount on all books to Wesleyan faculty and staff (Wesleyan ID required). It is also available online.

5 Faculty Appointed to Endowed Professorships

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

Joe Knee, professor of chemistry and dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division, is receiving the Beach Professorship of Chemistry, established in 1880.

Janice Naegele, professor of biology, is receiving the Alan M. Dachs Professorship of Science, established in 2011.

Stewart Novick, professor of chemistry, is receiving the Joshua Boger University Professorship of the Sciences and Mathematics, established in 2010.

Christopher Parslow, professor of classical studies, is receiving the Robert Rich Professorship of Latin, established in 1863.

Irina Russu, professor of chemistry, is receiving the E. B. Nye Professorship of Chemistry, established in 1908.

Brief biographies appear below:

Wesleyan Earns Silver Rating for 2016 Sustainability Performance

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (STARS) recently awarded Wesleyan with a Silver rating for its 2016 sustainability performance.

Wesleyan completed its first STARS report in 2013 and earned a Silver rating with a score of 53.06. Over the past three years, Wesleyan developed a Sustainability Action Plan to address many of the areas of improvement found in the 2013 report, and has increased its score to 58.11. Sixty-five points are needed to obtain the Gold rating, and 85 points are needed to obtain the Platinum rating.

Wesleyan’s commitment to sustainability began in the 1980s with the creation of a recycling program. This commitment expanded over the years, explained Sustainability Director Jen Kleindienst, to include addressing climate change, waste diversion, energy reduction, water conservation, integrating sustainability into the curriculum, promoting sustainability in co-curricular activities, and changing purchasing, building construction and grounds practices.

“Wesleyan began tracking its carbon footprint in 2007 and we’re continuously working to make significant progress toward a more sustainable future and meet our 2050 carbon neutrality target,” Kleindienst said.