Faculty

New Short Story by Scibona Published in Harper’s

Salvatore Scibona, the Frank B. Weeks Visiting Assistant Professor of English, is the author of a new short story published in the September 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

Titled, “Tremendous Machine,” the story follows Fjóla Neergaard, a failed fashion model, lacking direction, and living in seclusion at her wealthy parents’ vacant Polish country house. She sets out to purchase a sofa for the house, which contains almost no other furniture, and finds herself in an odd store full of pianos. She purchases a piano and signs up for lessons with an elderly, once famous pianist.

Somera New Head Coach of Women’s Volleyball

Ben Somera is the new head coach of women's volleyball.

Ben Somera is the new head coach of women’s volleyball.

In this Q&A we speak to Ben Somera Jr., adjunct associate professor of physical education, head coach of volleyball. Somera joined the faculty at Wesleyan this summer.  

Q: Ben, welcome to Wesleyan! You had a very successful three-year stay at New England rival Roger Williams, building the Hawks into a regional and national power in women’s volleyball. What tempted you to make the move to Wesleyan?

A: I have coached collegiate volleyball for almost 20 years and have had the opportunity to experience four university cultures and how they operate.

It was important to me that Mike Whalen, our athletics director, wants to win in all sports. I have always believed that the characteristics that lead to academic success are the same for athletic success, and those student-athletes who are willing to prioritize, time-manage, and sacrifice are able to maximize their potential in the classroom and on the court.

Ulysse’s Author of Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle

Gina Athena Ulysse

Book by Gina Athena Ulysse.

Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, is the author of Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle, published by Wesleyan University Press in 2015.

In this book, Ulysse, a Haitian-American anthropologist and performance artist, makes sense of her homeland in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

Mainstream news coverage of the catastrophic earthquake of Jan. 12, 2010, reproduced longstanding narratives of Haiti and stereotypes of Haitians. Cognizant that this Haiti, as it exists in the public sphere, is a rhetorically and graphically incarcerated one, Ulysse embarked on a writing spree that lasted more than two years. As an ethnographer and a member of the diaspora, Ulysse delivers a critical cultural analysis of geopolitics and daily life in a series of dispatches, op-eds and articles on post-quake Haiti.

Her complex yet singular aim is to make sense of how the nation and its subjects continue to negotiate sovereignty and being in a world where, according to a Haitian saying, tout moun se moun, men tout moun pa menm (all people are human, but all humans are not the same). This collection contains 30 pieces, most of which were previously published in The Haitian Times, Huffington Post, Ms Magazine, Ms Blog, NACLA and other print and online venues. The book is trilingual (English, Kreyòl and French) and includes a foreword by award-winning author and historian Robin D.G. Kelley.

Art History Research Team Led by Mark Wins Major Grant

Peter Mark on the summit of the Ortler, the highest mountain in the Italian Sudtirol, in August. At Wesleyan, Mark teaches a course on “The Mountains and Art History.” (Contributed photo)

Peter Mark on the summit of the Ortler, the highest mountain in the Italian Sudtirol, in August. At Wesleyan, Mark teaches a course on “The Mountains and Art History.” (Contributed photo)

An international research team headed by Professor of Art History Peter Mark has been awarded a grant for a project titled “African Ivories in the Atlantic World.” The $115,000 three-year grant from the Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) will make it possible for the research team to carry out the first laboratory analyses of selected ivories, in order to determine more precisely the age and the provenance of these little-known artworks. In addition, team members will compile the first comprehensive catalogue of “Luso-African ivories” in Portuguese collections, as well as the first thorough study of those carvings that were exported to Brazil at an early date.

Mark is the co-founder and director of the research group, based in Lisbon, Portugal.

Grants Support New CEAS Faculty Positions, Japanese Language Databases

With support from The Japan Foundation, Wesleyan acquired three electronic databases including JapanKnowledge, a large collection of language dictionaries, encyclopedias, biographical dictionaries, and other Japanese reference works for Japanese-only searches of historical terms and figures. It includes abbreviate version of the Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan in English and full-text coverage of the Toyo Bunko and Shan Ekonomisuto (Weekly Economist).

With support from The Japan Foundation, Wesleyan acquired three electronic databases including JapanKnowledge, a large collection of language dictionaries, encyclopedias, biographical dictionaries, and other Japanese reference works for Japanese-only searches of historical terms and figures. It includes an abbreviated version of the Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan in English and full-text coverage of the Toyo Bunko and Shan Ekonomisuto (Weekly Economist).

The College of East Asian Studies (CEAS) received two major, multi-year grant awards to hire new faculty and improve library resources.

The Korea Foundation has awarded the CEAS a $314,330 five-year grant to support the hiring of a tenure-track faculty member in Korean political economy. The mission of The Korea Foundation is to promote better understanding of Korea within the international community and to increase friendship and goodwill between Korea and the rest of the world through various exchange programs. Located in Seoul, the foundation was established in 1991 with the aim to enhance the image of Korea in the world and also to promote academic and cultural exchange programs.

The Japan Foundation grant also supports the Yomiuri Shinbun, a full text database of the Yomiuri Shinbun from its initial publication in 1874 to date, as well as full text of the Daily Yomiuri, its English language equivalent, and a biographical dictionary of modern Japanese figures.

The Japan Foundation grant also supports the Yomiuri Rekishikan, a full text database of the Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper from its initial publication in 1874 to date.

The Japan Foundation has awarded the CEAS a four-year grant to support a tenure-track faculty position in pre-modern Japanese literature as well as fund the library’s acquisition of new Japanese language digital materials, managed by EunJoo Lee, head of access services, at Olin Library. During the first year, Wesleyan will receive $197,125.

The new databases include JapanKnowledge, a large collection of language dictionaries, encyclopedias, biographical dictionaries, and other Japanese reference works for Japanese-only searches of historical terms and figures; the Kikuzo II Visual for Libraries Database, which provides access to the newspaper Asahi Shimbun (full text from 1984 to the present); and the Yomidas Rekishikan database, which provides the full text of the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun from its initial publication in 1874 to date, as well as full text of the Daily Yomiuri, its English language equivalent, and a biographical dictionary of modern Japanese figures.

The Japan Foundation, based in Tokyo, aims to deepen the mutual understanding between the people of Japan and other countries/regions. The foundation was established in 1972 as a special legal entity supervised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the objective of promoting international cultural exchange through a comprehensive range of programs in all regions of the world.

The faculty searches for both faculty positions will begin this fall with the new hires starting in the fall of 2016.

Mary Alice Haddad, chair of the College of East Asian Studies, professor of government, associate professor of environmental studies, is overseeing the CEAS awards.

Wilkins, Wellman, Schad ’13, MA ’14 Paper Examines Reactions to Claims of Anti-Male Bias

Clara Wilkins, assistant professor of psychology, has studied perceptions of discrimination against whites and other groups who hold positions of relative advantage in society—such as heterosexuals and men—since she was a graduate student at the University of Washington. She became became interested in the topic of perceptions of bias against high status groups after hearing Glenn Beck call president Barack Obama racist. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Clara Wilkins

A paper authored by Assistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins, her former post-doc Joseph Wellman, and Katherine Schad ’13, MA ’14, was published in August in the journal Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 

Titled “Reactions to anti-male sexism claims: The moderating roles of status-legitimizing belief and endorsement and group identification,” the paper examines how people react to men who claim to be victims of gender bias, an increasingly common phenomenon. In particular, the researchers considered how status legitimizing beliefs (SLBs), which encompass a set of ideologies that justify existing status hierarchies, and gender identification (GID) moderated men’s and women’s reactions to a man who claimed to have lost a promotion because of anti-male sexism or another cause.

They found that for both men and women, SLB endorsement was was associated with a more positive reaction toward this man, consistent with theory that claiming bias against a high-status group reinforces the status hierarchy. With regard to group identification, they found that men evaluated the claimant more positively the more strongly they identified with their gender, while women who identified more strongly with their gender evaluated the claimant more negatively. The researchers also demonstrated that SLBs and GID moderated the extent to which the claimant was perceived as sexist. They discussed how these reactions may perpetuate gender inequality.

NSF Supports Thomas’s Study on the Impact of Rapid Carbon Emissions on Global Climate

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas, the University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, received a grant in August from the National Science Foundation to support her research on “Evaluating Deep-Sea Ventilation and the Global Carbon Cycle during early Paleocene Hyperthemals.”

The $105,000 award is part of a combined $619,000 grant shared with Yale University and the University of Texas at Arlington.

Rapid, short-term global warming events in the Early Paleogene (~65-45 million years ago) were caused by massive greenhouse gas release into the ocean-atmosphere system. These warming events, called hyperthermals, had far-reaching effects on the evolution of life on Earth, ecosystems and the carbon cycle. The most extreme of these events was the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (~55.5 million years ago). Hyperthermals resemble what could happen during anthropogenic climate change, and provide analogs for the effects of greenhouse gas emissions and their long-term effects on life on Earth.

By testing earth system interactions during the Paleogene hyperthermals, this interdisciplinary project will provide new insight into the impact of rapid carbon emissions on global climate—carbon cycle feedbacks and extremes in climate.

In this three-year collaborative project, new biotic, isotopic and trace element proxies will be integrated with existing data into a state-of-the-art, high-resolution, comprehensive earth system model to test the hypothesis that deep-sea ventilation released a massive amount of carbon from the refractory dissolved organic matter (DOM) pool during hyperthermal events, increasing atmospheric CO2 levels, thus amplifying climate change through carbon-cycle feedback.

“We will investigate the environmental response (e.g., ocean acidification and deoxygenation) and its impact on pelagic ecosystem structure for three Paleogene hyperthermals with different magnitude and duration,” Thomas explained. “The project will focus on a key mechanism involving remineralization of organic matter and oxidation of the DOM pool in the ocean, with potentially major implications for future climate evolution.”

Wesleyan Welcomes 15 Faculty this Fall

Joseph Coolon, assistant professor of biology, joined the faulty this fall. Coolon's research interests include ecological and evolutionary genetics and genomics.

Joseph Coolon, assistant professor of biology, joined the faulty this fall. Coolon’s research interests include ecological and evolutionary genetics and genomics.

This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 15 new faculty to the university. They are:

Francesco Aresu, assistant professor of Italian;

Joseph Coolon, assistant professor of biology;

Daniel DiCenzo, adjunct associate professor of physical education and head coach of football;

Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics;

Anthony Hatch, assistant professor of Science in Society;

Han Li, assistant professor of mathematics;

Jeffrey Naecker, assistant professor of economics;

Paula Park, assistant professor of Spanish;

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, is an expert on inorganic nanomaterials chemistry.

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, is an expert on inorganic nanomaterials chemistry.

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry;

Felipe Ramírez, assistant professor of mathematics;

Ben Somera Jr., adjunct associate professor of physical education, head coach of volleyball;

Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history;

Shellae Versey, assistant professor of psychology, faculty fellow for the College of the Environment;

Yamil Velez, assistant professor of government;

Kimberly Williams, adjunct assistant professor of physical education; head coach of women’s lacrosse.

Poisson Discusses Simone de Beauvoir on France Culture Radio

Catherine Poisson

Catherine Poisson

Associate Professor of French Catherine Poisson recently participated in a radio series on the French writer and intellectual Simone de Beauvoir. The series aired the week of August 17-21 on the France Culture network; it can be heard online here.

Taped in Paris, New York and Chicago, the Grande Traversée (the “great crossover”) show sought to reveal another Simone de Beauvoir, considering every stage of her life–from the dutiful daughter to the independent and engaged woman to, finally, breaking the taboo of old age. It showed her as passionate and multi-voiced—intimate and political, unleashed in her youth diaries and love letters, audacious in her novels, rigorous in her autobiography.

Appearing in multiple episodes in the series, Poisson discussed the personal and literary companionship of Beauvoir with Jean-Paul Sartre and Nelson Algren. She also talked about Beauvoir’s complex relationship with America, and read excerpts from America Day by Day, Beauvoir’s book recounting the four-month journey she took from coast to coast in the U.S., immersing herself in the country’s culture, customs, people and landscape.

Jenkins Profiles a Popular and Provocative Puppet Master

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins writes in The Jakarta Post about Wayan Nardayana, a popular and provocative puppet master in Bali who “combines the political insight of a social activist with the spiritual wisdom of a priest and the comic instincts of a master entertainer.”

Jenkins describes the artist’s recent performance at a celebration of the birthday of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno. “The dalang’s ability to make connections between sacred texts, Indonesian history and contemporary reality is at the core of his art,” Jenkins writes.

Nardayana tells the audience, “Indonesians today can also harness the power of their ancestors to inspire them to take the actions to make their country as strong as the other great nations of the world. Sukarno is one of those ancestors and remembering him is one way our generation can preserve our cultural identity and use it to take the actions necessary to create freedom today.”

Seamon is Author of New Book on Memory and the Movies

Professor John Seamon has studied cognitive psychology for more than 40 years at Wesleyan.

Professor Emeritus John Seamon studied cognitive psychology for more than 40 years at Wesleyan.

John Seamon, professor of psychology, emeritus, is the author of a new book, Memory and the Movies, published August 14 by The MIT Press. The book is an outgrowth of a Psychology course, “Memory in the Movies,” which Seamon taught at Wesleyan for five years before his retirement in 2013. He is currently preparing a MOOC version of it to run on Coursera next winter.

The book examines what films such as Slumdog Millionaire, Memento, and Away From Her can teach us about how human memory works. Seamon explains that memory is actually a diverse collection of independent systems, and uses examples from movies to to offer an accessible, nontechnical description of what science knows about memory function and dysfunction. He also demonstrates how movies frequently get certain things, like amnesia, wrong.

Read more about the book on The MIT Press website.

President Roth Makes the Case for a Broad, Contextual Education

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

Writing for Inside Sources, President Michael Roth made the case for a broad, contextual education, in a counterpoint to an essay by Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson, arguing for education that provides “a transferable set of skills.”

Roth writes that the types of contentious debates currently raging over the value of a college education are as old as America itself, something he explores in-depth in his book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. He writes:

Several of the Founding Fathers saw education as the road to independence and liberty. A broad commitment to inquiry was part of their dedication to freedom. But critics of education also have a long tradition. From Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century to today’s Internet pundits, they have attacked its irrelevance and elitism — often calling for more vocational instruction.

Yet Franklin was also dismissive of anti-intellectual displays, and believed that earlier and earlier specialization would make Americans “less capable citizens and less able to adjust to changes in the world of work.”

Roth writes:

Citizens able to see through political or bureaucratic doubletalk are also workers who can defend their rights in the face of the rich and powerful. Education protects against mindless tyranny and haughty privilege. Liberal learning in the American tradition isn’t only training; it’s an invitation to think for oneself. Broadly educated citizens aren’t just collections of skills – they are whole people.

It’s no wonder that in a society characterized by radical income inequality, anxiety about getting that first job will lead many to aim for the immediate needs of the marketplace right now. The high cost of college and the ruinous debt that many take on only add to this anxiety. In this context, some assert that education should just focus on practical skill building.

But when the needs of the market change, as they surely will, the folks with that narrow training will be out of luck. Their bosses, those responsible for defining market trends, will be just fine because they were probably never confined to an ultra-specialized way of doing things. Beware of critics of education who cloak their desire to protect privilege (and inequality) in the garb of educational reform.