Campus News & Events

Students Share Statistical Research at QAC Poster Session

During the Quantitative Analysis Center's Student Poster Session Dec. 11, Stacy Uchendu '17 shared her research titled "The Power of the People: The Relationship between the Support of Social Activist Movements and the Perceived Political Influence in Government." She discovered that those who have positive sentiments towards the government have higher approval ratings of activists movements.

During the Quantitative Analysis Center’s Student Research Poster Session Dec. 11, Stacy Uchendu ’17 shared her research titled “The Power of the People: The Relationship between the Support of Social Activist Movements and the Perceived Political Influence in Government.” She discovered that those who have positive sentiments towards the government have higher approval ratings of activists movements. Several Wesleyan faculty, alumni and community members evaluated the students’ poster presentations.

Alcohol use, traffic fines and race, and the impact of caffeine on sleep were among the topics presented at a poster session in which students enrolled in a project-based course at the Quantitative Analysis Center demonstrated the power of statistical analysis to illuminate social problems.

The QAC Student Research Poster Session, held Dec. 11 in Beckham Hall, served as a final exam for students taking QAC 201: Applied Data Analysis. Several Wesleyan faculty and alumni evaluated the students’ poster presentations.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the QAC 201 class allows students to spend a semester studying a topic they are passionate about. They learn to generate hypotheses based on existing data; conduct a literature review and evaluate the content of empirical research; prepare data for analysis; select and conduct descriptive and inferential statistical analyses; and present research findings to expert and novice audiences at the poster session.

Basinger Praised as Iconic Film Professor in The Hollywood Reporter

Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies

Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies (Photo credit: Smallz + Raskind)

Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, was recently featured in a Hollywood Reporter article “The Professor of Hollywood,” by film historian and best-selling author Sam Wasson ’03, who studied with Basinger at Wesleyan. The magazine brought together 33 of her former pupils who work prominently in the film industry for “an A-list class reunion” photo—and several of them talk about how Basinger inspired them, encouraging their self-expression while also sharing with them her love for the medium.

In the article, Basinger discusses how and why she came to devote her life to the study of film and how working as an usher in a movie theater, watching the same film over and over, helped her to understand the filmmaking process—and gave her the foundation for her future as a film scholar at a time when there were no film schools. In 1960 she began work in the advertising department at a scholastic publisher on the Wesleyan campus, but within a decade, she began teaching at the University some of first film study classes in America.

Firshein Remembered for being a Founding Member of the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department

William "Bill" Firshein

William “Bill” Firshein

William “Bill” Firshein, the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, emeritus, died Dec. 7 at the age of 85.

Firshein arrived at Wesleyan in 1958 after receiving his BS from Brooklyn College and his MS and PhD from Rutgers University. He taught at Wesleyan for 47 years before retiring in 2005.

Firshein was an active scholar who was awarded research grants totaling more than $2 million over his career. He investigated the molecular biology of DNA replication cell division in Bacillus subtilis and Escherichia coli and their plasmids. In his most recent book, The Infectious Microbe, published by Oxford University Press in January 2014, he discussed the relationship between humans and viruses and illustrated how pathogens are spread. This book was based on a very popular general education course that he taught for decades.

Firshein was a founding member of the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department, and served as chair of MB&B for seven years, and as chair of the Biology Department for three years. He was instrumental in the establishment of the PhD programs in biology and MB&B.

The Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department annually awards the William Firshein Prize in his honor to the graduating student who has contributed the most to the interests and character of the department each year.

William "Bill" Firshein. (Photos courtesy of Wesleyan University Special Collections & Archives)

William “Bill” Firshein. (Photos courtesy of Wesleyan University Special Collections & Archives)

“Bill was a true friend to his colleagues and always available for effective useful advice and guidance to the young faculty,” said Anthony Infante, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, emeritus.

Firshein is survived by his wife, Anna, and his children, Kyrill, Alex, David, Alan and Eva. His family requests that memorial contributions be made in his name to the Wesleyan Memorial Fund and sent to the care of Marcy Herlihy, University Relations, 318 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

A memorial will take place at 4:15 p.m. Jan. 25 in Memorial Chapel. A reception will follow in Zelnick Pavillon.


Money and Social Change Class Awards $10K to 4 Local Non-Profits

Students who are enrolled in the Money and Social Change: Innovative Paradigms and Strategies class donated $10,000 to local non-profit organizations on Dec. 7. The award recipients gathered with the students for a group photo following the award ceremony. The class is taught by Joy Anderson ’89, pictured in center.

Students who are enrolled in the Money and Social Change: Innovative Paradigms and Strategies class awarded $10,000 to local non-profit organizations on Dec. 7. The recipients gathered with the students for a group photo following the ceremony. The class is taught by Joy Anderson ’89, pictured at left.

The gift-giving season came early for four non-profit organizations in the local community. On Dec. 7, a class of 10 innovative problem solvers with an interest in philanthropy, awarded $10,000 in grant funds to selected organizations.

As part of the the course Money and Social Change: Innovative Paradigms and Strategies, students spent the fall semester thinking about the role of capital in social change. Students researched the mission statements of 188 organizations in Middlesex County, compared them side by side, and after a final six-hour voting process, whittled their selection to four. The surprise monetary awards, provided to the class by the Learning by Giving Foundation, were presented to the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, Gilead Community Services, the Connecticut Library Consortium, and the Community Foundation of Middlesex County.

“We felt these organizations best fostered sustainable independence and helped to bridge systemic gaps,” said student Gaby Montinola ’17.

Montinola, who is majoring in psychology, minoring in East Asian studies and is pursuing an Education Certificate, enrolled in the class because she was looking for a practical, hands-on course.

The Endeavor Foundation Supports First Year Seminar Program

Wesleyan’s First Year Seminar Program (FYS) is benefiting from a three-year, $225,000 grant from The Endeavor Foundation of New York. The FYS program is part of a comprehensive effort to realize the potential of the first year of college to be academically transformative. With the Foundation’s support, Wesleyan will expand and enhance the program. This fall 43 FYS courses were offered to students; 10 FYS will be offered in the spring.

“The FYS program is a key part of our structure to support development of multiple student competencies, in this case in the area of writing, and to tie competency-building to different stages of students’ intellectual development,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen. “On behalf of the university, I would like to thank The Endeavor Foundation for its generous support for our FYS program.”

The Endeavor Foundation’ generosity will enable Wesleyan to build a program that will be a model of pedagogical innovation and collaboration across disciplines.

Grant funds will be used to provide faculty stipends to develop and teach new FYS courses, and to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge and the work they have done in the seminars in public presentations. Program funds are also available for faculty to collaborate with or bring to campus scholars and practitioners who are working in fields related to the seminar topic. The grant has already supported visitors at Wesleyan, including Cheryl Rose, DMV, deputy director at U.S. Arctic Research Commission in Anchorage, Alaska who visited the philosophy class, “What do Animals Think;” and Kevin Rothrock, project director at Global Voices Online, who visited the government class, “Writing the World.”

Ellen Nerenberg, the Hollis Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and Dean of the Arts and Humanities, is steering the FYS Program.

“Wesleyan also is considering focusing living-learning groups around a select set of the FYS courses next year,” Nerenberg said.

Founded in 1952 by Christian A. Johnson, The Endeavor Foundation is dedicated to efforts that foster independent thought, ethical understanding, deep appreciation of the arts and reverence for the natural world. The Endeavor Foundation pursues this objective primarily by supporting and catalyzing excellence in liberal arts education and related fields, and has supported the curricular and pedagogical development of a significant number of liberal arts colleges in the United States.

Wesleyan Recognized for Efforts Diverting Food Waste


For the second consecutive year, Wesleyan recently was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its work diverting food waste. It is the only educational institution in Connecticut to receive a “Regional Food Recovery Achievement Certificate.”

Wesleyan joined the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge in 2013. Through this program, organizations pledge to improve their sustainable food management practices and report results. Organizations are encouraged to follow the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy to prioritize their actions to prevent and divert food waste. The hierarchy suggests a range of options, from reducing the volume of surplus food generated and donating extra food to hungry people to composting and landfill incineration.


Usdan’s food waste, in tons.

“Our efforts have resulted in a dramatic increase in the amount of food waste from Usdan that is composted—from 17.63 tons in 2013 to 46.98 tons in 2014,” said Sustainability Director Jen Kleindienst. When the program began in March 2013, different bins were installed for disposing of different types of food waste. All food waste coming from meal preparation in the kitchen (called pre-consumer waste) is composted in two large Earth Tubs located near Long Lane Farm, while food waste scraped off diners’ plates (called post-consumer waste) is taken off-site to be composted, due to a lack of capacity on-site.

NEA, NEH Supports Wesleyan U. Press, Humanities Books, Fellowships at Wesleyan

On Dec. 8, Wesleyan received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts and two grants from National Endowment for the Humanities. The grants will support a poetry program at Wesleyan University Press, a faculty fellowship, and electronic dance and theater publications.

The NEA provided an Art Works award of $25,000 to Wesleyan University Press to support its poetry program. The Art Works category of the NEA supports the creation and presentation of both new and existing work — a goal that aligns with the mission of the Wesleyan University Press, a program that has already published an internationally renowned poetry series, which collected five Pulitzer Prizes, a Bollingen, and two National Book Awards.

“The arts are part of our everyday lives — no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Supporting projects like the one from Wesleyan University Press offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

The Art Works award will support the publication and promotion of books of poetry. The press will publish works by Rae Armantrout, Blunt Research Group, Peter Gizzi, Ted Greenwald and Mark McMorris. Books will be accompanied by online reader companions for teachers, students and general readers, and will be promoted through social media, the press’s website, newsletter and author events.

Sumarsam, University Professor of Music, received a $50,400 fellowship grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to fund his project titled “Expressing and Contesting Java-Islam through Performing Arts in Indonesia.” Sumarsam is planning to complete this fellowship during the Spring 2017 and Fall 2017 semesters.

In addition, Wesleyan’s Humanities Open Book Program will receive $100,000 from the NEH for a reissue of 18 foundational books in dance and theater as free e-publications.

Read more in this Middletown Press article.

Pilot Program Gives Students Insight into Local Nonprofits

Wesleyan Nonprofit Board Residency Program

Members of the Center for Community Partnerships’ new Nonprofit Board Residency Program. From left to right: Joe Samolis (Middlesex Historical Society), Ben Romero ’16, Patrick McKenna (rear, Middlesex Habitat for Humanity), Liza Bayless ’16, Jennifer Roach (Wesleyan Civic Engagement Fellow), Kevin Whilhelm (rear, Middlesex United Way), Sarah Bird (Middlesex Habitat for Humanity), Nancy Fischbach (Community Foundation of Middlesex County), Cynthia Clegg (Community Foundation of Middlesex County), Cathy Lechowicz (Center for Community Partnerships), Diana Martinez (Wesleyan Center for Community Partnerships), Arpita Vora ’16, Makaela Kingsley (Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship), John Bassinger (NEAR, Buttonwood Tree), and Bria Grant ’17. Missing: Aidan Martinez ’17. (Photo by Lu Imbriano ’18)

Arpita Vora ’16 clicks through a website that seeks to raise awareness about the hardships faced by low-income families in North Carolina. Middlesex United Way, the organization at which Vora was placed through the Center for Community Partnerships’ yearlong pilot Nonprofit Board Residency Program, is hoping to create a similar site using data from Connecticut.

Several Wesleyan Projects Awarded NASA’s CT Space Grants


Jesse Tarnas ’16 (left) one of this year’s award winners, accompanied Associate Professor of Astronomy Seth Redfield (second from right) on an observing run at the Kitt Peak National Observatory to do research on exoplanet atmospheres. Also pictured are Estella Barbosa Souza, now a graduate student in physics at Yale University, and Adam Jensen, previously a postdoctoral researcher at Wesleyan.

Four Wesleyan undergraduates and a faculty member received awards in the latest call for proposals from NASA’s Connecticut Space Grant Consortium.

Astronomy major Rachel Aronow ’17 was awarded an Undergraduate Research Fellowship in the amount of $5,000 for her project, “Planet Formation and Stellar Characteristics in Tatooine-like Systems.” She is working with Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, studying Tatooine-like systems (named after the fabled home system of Luke Skywalker), which are planet-forming disks that surround a close pair of stars that are in orbit around each other. Aronow conducted research with Herbst last summer, and these funds will support further work this academic year and possibly next summer.

Two students each received Student Travel Grants of $1,000. Melissa Lowe ’17, an earth and environmental sciences major, is working with James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, and will use the travel grant to present research at the Lunary and Planetary Conference in Houston, Tx. in March. Jesse Tarnas ’16, an astronomy and physics double major with a minor in planetary science, is working with Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, on a project using data from the Kepler Space Telescope to measure the atmospheric and planetary properties of distant exoplanets. He is working on a senior thesis and will present preliminary results at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Florida this winter. He is also attending the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco to present research he did as part of a summer research program at NASA Ames Space Academy.

Aylin Garcia Soto ’18 was awarded a $5,000 Undergraduate Scholarship, given to a student preparing for a career in STEM. Last summer, Garcia Soto worked at Williams College as part of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC) Research Experience for Undergraduates program, of which Wesleyan is a member.

Finally, Amrys Williams, visiting assistant professor of history, was awarded a Faculty STEM Education Programming Grant of $5,000 for the “Under Connecticut Skies” project. She is leading an effort that involves several faculty in the Astronomy Department, History Department, and Science in Society Program to create a museum exhibit in the library of the Van Vleck Observatory inspired by the celebration of the observatory’s centennial anniversary. Supported by the Connecticut Humanities Council, Williams led research with a team of student last summer into possible exhibit topics. This NASA CT Space Grant award will support the implementation of the exhibit.





RL&L Presents Two Evenings of Theater

Italian Play (4)Two evenings of theater will be presented by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures this month. Both events are free and open to the public and will take place at the department’s common room at 300 High Street in Middletown, Conn.

Students from French 281 and Theater 291 will present three plays in French on Dec. 9 at 6 p.m.: “Tu honoreras ton père et ta mère”  or “You Will Honor Your Father and Mother,” by Samira Sedira; “Ah! La belle vie” or “Oh! The Good Life,” by Anne Giafferi; and “First Lady,” by Sedef Ecer. A reception will follow. The evening is sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Thomas and Catharine McMahon Fund, and the Center for Pedagogical Innovation.

Non tutti i ladri vengono per nuocere” or “The Virtuous Burglar,” by Dario Fo, will be performed entirely in Italian, with a plot summary in English, on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. A reception will follow. The play is directed by Hannah Skopicki ’18, stage managed by Ryan Dobrin ’18, and produced by Camilla Zamboni. The evening is sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and the Thomas and Catharine McMahon Fund.