Campus News & Events

Students Partner with Community Groups for GIS Service Learning Projects

During the fall semester, 17 Wesleyan students collaborated with a community partner to create a geographic information system and conduct data analysis and visualization related to the community partner’s objectives. GIS is a computer system for capturing, storing and displaying data related to positions on Earth’s surface.

The students, who are enrolled in the service-learning course E&ES 324 Introduction to GIS, presented their semester-long findings at a public presentation Dec. 8.

“By partnering with a local group, the students are not only learning GIS skills, they’re also helping our community,” said the course’s instructor Kim Diver, assistant professor of the practice of earth and environmental sciences.

Students learned about data collection, project management, editing, analysis and cartographic design.

Emily Hart points to a tree during her study with the Middlesex Land Trust.

Annie Flom, Emily Hart, Jess Brennan and Riordan Abrams partnered with the Middlesex Land Trust to analyze the Sumner Brook Corridor for properties that should perhaps be protected. The students reviewed parcels both up and down stream to see how to protect the water corridor, the associated green-way and various ecosystems.

While a previous GIS group has already worked on a project similar to this in Middletown, this group extended their analyses southward to the Durham/Guilford, Conn. boundary. The group created ranked overlays to determine what properties have higher scores based on their size, zoning and proximity to water.

14 Seniors Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa

Fourteen members of the Class of 2017 were inducted into Wesleyan's Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest national scholastic honor society.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth, pictured in the back row, joins the new members of Phi Beta Kappa for a group photo following their initiation ceremony on Dec. 7 at the Office of Admission

On Dec. 7, 14 members of the Class of 2017 were inducted into Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest national scholastic honor society.

To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of his or her major. He or she also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations, and must have achieved a GPA of 93 and above. The students in this particular group have GPAs of 93.47 and above and have already met all their undergraduate requirements.

“It’s delightful to be here and celebrate your accomplishments today,” said President Michael Roth during the PBK initiation ceremony. “Being a member of Phi Beta Kappa is a tribute to your abilities and accomplishments, but also your curiosity and desire to learn. We celebrate you and your work as a community of friends, colleagues and teachers.”

They new inductees and their majors include: Rachel Aronow, astronomy and mathematics; Redwan Bhuiyan, College of Integrative Sciences, molecular biology and biochemistry, neuroscience and behavior; Grace Carroll, American studies, sociology; Jennifer Cascino, Hispanic studies, molecular biology and biochemistry; Kaitlin Chan, art studio, College of East Asian Studies; and Roxie Chuang, psychology.

Also Emma Davis, College of Letters; Jenny Davis, English; Julia Indivero, biology, environmental studies; Melissa McKee, earth and environmental sciences; Jessica Perelman, feminist, gender and sexuality studies, psychology; Elizabeth Shackney, government and psychology; Meredith Smith, economics, psychology; Danny Weiss, mathematics, physics.

The Wesleyan Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was organized in 1845 and is the ninth-oldest chapter in the country.

Photos of the initiation ceremony are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Local Artist Paints Portrait of Master Drummer Adzenyah MA ’79

The artist Pierre Sylvain is joined by Chair of the Music Department, Director of the Electronic Music and Recording Studios, and Professor of Music Ronald Kuivila.

Music Department Chair Ronald Kuivila congratulates artist Pierre Sylvain on his painting of Abraham Adzenyah. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Hanging in the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall is a new portrait of Abraham Adzenyah MA ’79, master drummer and adjunct professor of music, emeritus, painted by local artist, Pierre Sylvain.

After 46 years of teaching at Wesleyan, Adzenyah was honored during a special retirement ceremony this past May. The ceremony included a building dedication of the Abraham Adzenyah Rehearsal Hall, formerly Rehearsal Hall. Two farewell concerts followed, featuring 150 musicians in West African music and dance ensembles from across the Northeast, culminating in an all-night dance party.

Sylvain was contacted by Ronald Kuivila, chair of the Music Department, director of the electronic music and recording studios, and professor of music, to paint Adzenyah’s portrait, using acrylic paint.

Sylvain first met Adzenyah 20 years ago, and painting his portrait gave them a chance to reconnect.

Sylvain explained, “The painting was truly inspired by him and the generous person he is. I felt his spirit coming out of my brush strokes.”

 

 

 

 

Watch a series of videos from Adzenyah’s Retirement Celebration:

Jenkins on the Life and Legacy of Dario Fo and Franca Rame

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater and scholar on the life and work of the late Italian artist, Dario Fo, has the pleasure of honoring the legacy of Dario Fo and his wife, Franca Rame.

On Oct. 13 Italian actor/playwright/director/painter/designer/activist/Nobel Laureate Dario Fo died at the age of 90. His wife, Franca Rame a actress/playwright/activist passed away in 2013. Together, they were symbols of hope, as their work, based in satirical theater, served as an inspiration for activist and theater makers around the world. “… Fo’s plays gave voice to his times and continue to live most fully in the moment of performance,” Jenkins states.

Serving as the chief American translator for the written and on-stage performances of Fo and Rame, Jenkins has worked with the couple since the 1980’s and has now become one of the pre-eminent scholars on their work. In an article Jenkins wrote on the life of Dario Fo and his wife, published in the American Theatre, Jenkins highlights Fo’s creative process and the significance it had on the times. He remembers watching Fo create new work by “first making drawings, then putting the drawings into motion, recreating them through gesture while improvising a text for an audience. Only then would he put the script on paper making his words born out of vibrant images and physical actions.”  Jenkins job was to capture that raw kinetic energy in his on-stage translations, and he recalls that every time, he was “possessed by his (Fo’s) language, allowing himself to be taken over entirely by the rhythmic drive of his sentences.”

This also was a topic of conversation in Middletown’s effort to commemorate Fo’s legacy. Jenkins was a guest speaker at “The Politics of Laughter: A Tribute to Dario Fo and Franca Rame,” held at the Buttonwood Tree in Middletown on Dec. 8.

Sultan Speaks at Conference on New Trends in Evolutionary Biology

Sonia Sultan

Sonia Sultan

Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, was a guest speaker at the “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology: Biological, Philosophical, and Social Science Perspectives,” conference hosted by The Royal Society, London held Nov. 7-9.

The international event, in an effort to encourage cross-disciplinary discussion, brought together researchers from the humanities, sciences and social sciences to examine the many “developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields, which have produced calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution.”

As part of the conference, Sultan spoke about “Developmental Plasticity: Re-conceiving the Genotype,” a topic which examines the possibility of “re-conceiving the genotype as an environmental response repertoire rather than a fixed developmental program.”

Sultan’s work also was featured in an article published in The Atlantic on Nov. 28, which highlighted the move to expand upon the theory of evolution.

Using the smartweed plant and its living, environmental conditions as an example, Sultan explained how allowing the plant to grow in low sunlight versus allowing the plant to grow in bright sunlight produces plants “that may look like they belong to different species, even though they’re are genetically identical.” In low sunlight the leaves take on a very broad shape, where as in bright sunlight they are narrower. “This flexibility or plasticity in adapting to the amount of sunlight can itself help drive evolution, by allowing the plant to spread to a range of habitats,” she says.

More on Sultan’s work, as well as, the work of other presenters can be found here.

Wesleyan Announces All-Star Hamilton Prize Selection Committee

Hamilton Prize Committee

Wesleyan University has announced the distinguished members of its inaugural Hamilton Prize Selection Committee. The all-star committee, made up of Wesleyan alumni, will choose the first-ever recipient of the university’s newly established Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity—a four-year full-tuition scholarship that will be awarded to the incoming Wesleyan student of the Class of 2021 whose creative written work is judged to best reflect the originality, artistry and dynamism embodied in Hamilton: An American Musical.

Wesleyan to Open Bookstore on Middletown’s Main Street

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A new university bookstore will open in late spring on Main Street in Middletown and will be operated by R.J. Julia Booksellers, the nationally known independent bookstore in Madison, Conn.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth speaks to a crowd at the new bookstore location on Nov. 30. (Photos by Laura Matesky) 

Wesleyan President Michael Roth speaks to a crowd inside the new bookstore location on Nov. 30.

The new bookstore will be located at 413 Main Street, near the intersection of Washington Street, and is expected to contribute significantly to Middletown’s thriving downtown. Popular restaurants, Kidcity Children’s Museum, and retail outlets are nearby.

The 12,000-square-foot space will be renovated with an open concourse design. Work will begin in December and the opening is planned for late spring of 2017.

“We’re committed to strengthening the ties between campus and Main Street,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “Relocating Wesleyan’s bookstore is a major step in the direction, and I am so delighted that R.J. Julia Booksellers, with their phenomenal reputation, will be our partner in this effort.”

During previous discussions about moving the bookstore, Wesleyan community members had advocated a Main Street location and urged that the university avoid using a national chain to run it. The new location responds to those concerns and will be a vibrant place for special events, as well as ongoing business. It will improve first impressions for prospective students and families. Also, the new location will create more connections between campus and Main Street by giving students, faculty, and staff reasons to go downtown to take advantage of a new cultural hub.

During textbook buying periods, Wesleyan will provide additional shuttle service to the new bookstore.

Opened 26 years ago as an independent bookstore, R.J. Julia hosts more than 300 events each year in Madison and has won several major awards. Among those are Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year, Lucile Pannell award for bookselling excellence, and Connecticut Magazine Best Bookstore.

Wesleyan Exceeds Giving Tuesday Goal

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On Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29, members of the Wesleyan community joined together to support Wesleyan students. This was Wesleyan’s fourth year participating in the global campaign, which encourages people to support their favorite organizations during the holiday season.

This year, Wesleyan’s Giving Tuesday goal was 3,000 gifts received between Nov.1 and Nov. 29. By the end of the day on Giving Tuesday, Wesleyan had received a total of 3,674 gifts.

“Our sincere thanks to everyone who gave in support of students this year, including the Frank-Kim Family—John Frank ’78, P’12, Diann Kim P’12, and Peter Frank ’12—who generously inspired others to give with their gift of $300,000 to financial aid,” said Chuck Fedolfi, director of annual giving for the Wesleyan Fund. “And a special thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who continue to humble us with their dedication, their time, and their passion for Wesleyan,” he added.

Board of Trustees Confers Tenure on 4 Faculty

In its most recent meeting, the Board of Trustees conferred tenure on four faculty members including Tiphanie Yanique, associate professor of English; Jay Hoggard, professor of music; Ron Kuivila, professor of music; and Sumarsam, professor of music. Sumarsam also was appointed to the Winslow-Kaplan Professorship of Music. The appointments will be effective on Jan. 1, 2017.

“Please join us in congratulating them on their impressive records of accomplishment,” said Joyce Jacobsen, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Tiphanie Yanique

Tiphanie Yanique

Tiphanie Yanique is a widely published and highly regarded fiction writer, essayist and poet. She is the author of two novels, one children’s book, one collection of poems, numerous works of short fiction, and many nonfiction essays. Her novel, Land of Love and Drowning (Penguin Random House Publishers/Riverhead Books, 2014), is the recipient of several awards, including the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and the American Academy Rosenthal Prize, and her recent poetry collection, Wife (Peepal Tree Press, 2015), received the 2016 Bocas Poetry Prize in Caribbean Literature and the 2016 Forward/Felix Dennis Prize for best new collection in the United Kingdom. Her work has focused on themes of belonging and freedom. She offers courses on creative writing and literature. (Yanique’s photo by Debbie Grossman)

Comfort Remembered for Teaching Mathematics 40 Years at Wesleyan

Wis Comfort

Wis Comfort

William Wistar “Wis” Comfort II, the Edward Burr Van Vleck Professor of Mathematics, Emeritus, died Nov. 28 at the age of 83.

Comfort received his BA from Haverford College, and an MSc and PhD from the University of Washington (Seattle) and was an expert on point-set topology, ultrafilters, set theory and topological groups. He joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1967 after teaching at Harvard, University of Rochester and University of Massachusetts (Amherst). Comfort taught in the mathematics department for 40 years until his retirement in 2007, where he supervised 17 PhD theses and three MA theses. He was a key figure in the founding of the Math Workshop, a drop-in help center for students that he directed for many years that remains widely used today.

Comfort was named an American Mathematical Society Fellow in the inaugural class of AMS Fellows in 2013 in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the creation, exposition, advancement, communication and utilization of mathematics. He was active in the AMS, serving as associate secretary of the Eastern Section and as the managing editor of the Proceedings of the AMS. He published three books, including Chain Conditions in Topology (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1982), and more than 100 mathematical papers.

Comfort was a Quaker, a musician who played the trombone in a Dixieland band, and a dignified gentleman who exuded collegiality. He is survived by his daughter, Martha, and his son, Howard. His beloved wife, longtime Wesleyan staff member Mary Connie Comfort, passed away in May 2016. His family requests that memorial contributions be made in Wis’s name to Middletown Friends Meeting (Quakers) or the Essex Meadows Employee Scholarship Fund. A memorial service will be held on campus in April 2017.

President Roth Presents Beyond 2020: Strategies for Wesleyan

wes2020In May 2010, the Board of Trustees adopted Wesleyan 2020 as a tool for strategic decision making at Wesleyan. Reflecting the input of faculty, trustees, staff, alumni and students, and designed to be flexible, this framework for planning has assisted the University in making decisions about the allocation of resources since that time.

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth has provided an update, Beyond 2020: Strategies for Wesleyan, organized under the rubric of Wesleyan’s three overarching goals: to energize Wesleyan’s distinctive educational experience; to enhance recognition of Wesleyan as an extraordinary institution; and to work within a sustainable economic model while retaining core values. Beyond 2020 outlines new investments Wesleyan can make to ensure that the university remains at the forefront of innovative, pragmatic and progressive education.

“It has become ever clearer to me,” says Roth, “that our university can continue to represent something relevant and admirable in American higher education—not just for our own alumni and friends but for a much broader constituency. Our ‘bold and rigorous’ work will add substantial value to our diplomas and has the potential to make a lasting contribution to our country and beyond. We are in a much better position now than we were a decade ago to make the investments required to make this happen.”

Roth said he will be discussing the goals of Beyond 2020 during the current academic year with various university constituencies on campus and off.

Mitchell Scholar Treuhaft-Ali ’17 Will Continue Theater Studies in Ireland

May Treuhaft-Ali '17, donning a reindeer sweater she acquired from a study abroad experience in Ireland, poses near the '92 Theater where she "spends half her time." Treuhaft-Ali recently was awarded a Mitchell Scholarship to study theater and performance in Dublin.

May Treuhaft-Ali ’17, donning a sweater she acquired from a study abroad experience in Ireland, poses near the ’92 Theater where she “spends half her time on campus.” Treuhaft-Ali recently was awarded a Mitchell Scholarship to study theater and performance in Dublin.

Next spring, May Treuhaft-Ali ’17 will graduate from Wesleyan with a degree in theater, but that won’t be her final curtain call. As a Mitchell Scholar, Treuhaft-Ali will have the opportunity to advance her studies on theater and performance at Trinity College in Dublin.

The George J. Mitchell Scholarship Program is a nationally competitive award for U.S. citizens sponsored by the U.S.-Ireland Alliance. Named in honor of the former U.S. Senator’s pivotal contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process, the Mitchell Scholarship is designed to introduce and connect future American leaders to the island of Ireland, while recognizing and fostering academic excellence, leadership and a commitment to public service.

The scholarship will allow Treuhaft-Ali to return to Ireland; she studied abroad there in 2015 and “completely fell in love with Irish theater and the city of Dublin.”

“So many of the plays and playwrights I studied there are fascinating not just from an artistic standpoint, but because they were directly in dialogue with Irish politics,” Treuhaft-Ali said. “For example, it’s one of the only countries I know of where the content of a play has caused a riot to break out in the theater!”

At Wesleyan, Treuhaft-Ali wrote and directed plays for the Theater Department and Second Stage.