Faculty

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Washington Post: “How One College Is Helping Students Get Engaged in Elections—and, No, It’s Not Political”

President Michael Roth writes about Wesleyan’s initiative to engage students meaningfully in work in the public sphere ahead of the 2020 elections, and calls on other colleges and universities to do the same. He writes: “Now is the time for higher education leaders to commit their institutions to find their own paths for promoting student involvement in the 2020 elections. This kind of direct participation in civic life provides an educational benefit that will help students develop skills for lifelong active citizenship; participants will gain organizational skills, learn to engage productively with others with whom they disagree and learn about themselves.”

2. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: “Nicole Stanton Will Be the Next Provost at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut”

Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will begin her new role as Wesleyan’s 12th provost and vice president for academic affairs on May 15. She joined Wesleyan in 2007 as associate professor of dance, and currently serves as dean of the Arts and Humanities.

Alumni Gather at Liberal Arts + Film and Storytelling Forum in Mumbai

Liberal Arts Forum Mumbai

Indian director Navdeep Singh, Wesleyan Professor Scott Higgins, and director and Wesleyan alumnus Matthew Weiner ’87, P ’18 spoke at the Liberal Arts + Film and Storytelling forum in Mumbai, India, on Jan. 12.

On Jan. 12, several creatives gathered in Mumbai, India, to share valuable insights on liberal arts and the impact of Indian cinema on global entertainment.

The event, Liberal Arts + Film and Storytelling: A Wesleyan University Forum, brought together Wesleyan faculty, distinguished alumni, aspiring students and their parents, and the wider Wesleyan community across the globe.

Speakers included Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78; Scott Higgins, Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies and director of Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image; and acclaimed global film- and entertainment-industry personalities Matthew Weiner ’87, P ’18, and Navdeep Singh. Weiner is known as the creator of the hit television series Mad Men and The Romanoffs, and Singh is an Indian director best known for his Bollywood film NH10.

“I have always admired Wesleyan University and its focus on liberal arts education,” said event host Manisha Ajay Vaghani P’18. “They provide unique cross-cultural learning experiences and offer graduates the opportunity to explore different professional paths around the world. By hosting this event, we hope to give audiences a sense of Wesleyan’s distinct culture and its strong interdisciplinary educational approach, and thus spread the word to more suitable students.”

Roth and Higgins discussed the experience of studying film in a liberal arts context, and how Wesleyan’s distinctive education prepares students to be leaders in the film and entertainment industry.

Pearl Creates MILTON, a Performance, Community Engagement Experience

miltonFrom Wisconsin to Massachusetts, Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl has visited five small American towns named Milton and developed a series of performances, each focused on (and performed in) a particular Milton.

Since 2012, Pearl and Lisa D’Amour—known collectively as PearlDamour—have led the performance and community engagement experiment.

In November 2019, PearlDamour released MILTON, a book that includes the full text of PearlDamour’s North Carolina performance, along with photos and excerpts from performances in Oregon and Massachusetts, and essay reflections on the process and practice of community-based art-making.

For more than 20 years, Obie-Award winning PearlDamour has pushed the boundaries of theatrical experience both inside and outside traditional theater spaces. PearlDamour’s work also includes the 8-hour performance installation How to Build a Forestinspired by Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill and devised for traditional theatre stages; and Lost in the Meadow, created for a 40-acre hillside at Longwood Botanical Gardens outside Philadelphia, exploring the short-sightedness of humans. They were honored with the Lee Reynolds Award in 2011 for How to Build a Forest, and with an Obie Award in 2003 for Nita and Zita.

This spring, Pearl is teaching the THEA 381 course Directing II.

MacQueen, Coolon, Mukerji Receive NIH Academic Research Enhancement Awards

Three Wesleyan faculty recently received Academic Research Enhancement Awards (R15) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

R15 grants stimulate research at educational institutions that provide baccalaureate training for a significant number of the nation’s research scientists, but that have not been major recipients of NIH support. Awards provide funding for small-scale, new, or ongoing health-related meritorious research projects, enhancing the research environment at eligible institutions and exposing students to research opportunities.

Amy MacQueen

Amy MacQueen

Amy MacQueen, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, received a $492,900 award on Aug. 7 for her research titled “How do Synaptonemal Complex Proteins Mediate the Coordinated?”

MacQueen investigates the molecular mechanisms that underlie how reproductive cells (sperm and eggs in humans and spores in yeast) form. In particular, she focuses on how the genetic material (DNA)—which is packaged into chromosomes—is evenly distributed during the cell division cycle (meiosis) that gives rise to reproductive cells.

Watanabe Explores Japanese Historical Tale in New Book

flowering talesTakeshi Watanabe, assistant professor of East Asian studies, is the author of Flowering Tales: Women Exorcising History in Heian Japan, published by Harvard University Press in January 2020.

The book is the first extensive literary study of A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (Eiga monogatari), a historical tale that covers about 150 years of births, deaths, and happenings in late Heian society, a golden age of court literature in women’s hands.

According to the publisher:

Takeshi Watanabe contends that the blossoming of tales, marked by The Tale of Genji, inspired Eiga’s new affective history: an exorcism of embittered spirits whose stories needed to be retold to ensure peace.

Tracing the narrative arcs of politically marginalized figures, Watanabe shows how Eiga’s female authors adapted the discourse and strategies of The Tale of Genji to rechannel wayward ghosts into the community through genealogies that relied not on blood but on literary resonances. These reverberations, highlighted through comparisons to contemporaneous accounts in courtiers’ journals, echo through shared details of funerary practices, political life, and characterization. Flowering Tales reanimates these eleventh-century voices to trouble conceptions of history: how it ought to be recounted, who got to record it, and why remembering mattered.

Gilmore’s Paper on Venus’s Volcanoes Published in Science Advances

Martha Gilmore

Martha GIlmore

Martha “Marty” Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is the author of a research article titled “Present-day volcanism on Venus as evidenced from weathering rates of olivine,” published in Science Advances Vol. 6 on Jan. 3, 2020.

According to the paper’s abstract:

At least some of Venus’ lava flows are thought to be <2.5 million years old based on visible to near-infrared (VNIR) emissivity measured by the Venus Express spacecraft. However, the exact ages of these flows are poorly constrained because the rate at which olivine alters at Venus surface conditions, and how that alteration affects VNIR spectra, remains unknown. We obtained VNIR reflectance spectra of natural olivine that was altered and oxidized in the laboratory. We show that olivine becomes coated, within days, with alteration products, primarily hematite (Fe2O3). With increasing alteration, the VNIR 1000-nm absorption, characteristic of olivine, also weakens within days. Our results indicate that lava flows lacking VNIR features due to hematite are no more than several years old. Therefore, Venus is volcanically active now.

The research was mentioned in Science Alert and Universe Today.

Pinch Consults on Recent Hindi Feature Film

William "Vijay" Pinch (Photo credit: Thomas A. Pinch)

William “Vijay” Pinch (Photo by Thomas A. Pinch)

Professor of History William “Vijay” Pinch, a scholar of South Asian History, recently consulted on Laal Kaptaan, a Hindi feature film directed by Navdeep Singh. The film was released in India in October 2019 and can be viewed on Amazon Prime in the US.

Director Singh referred to one of Pinch’s books, Warrior Ascetics and Indian Empires (Cambridge University Press, 2006), in imagining the period and the drama’s lead character, a warrior ascetic in the late 18th century.  Pinch was then contacted to read and comment on the script, and to answer questions during the filming.

In November 2020, Pinch and Singh will jointly present at a film/history symposium held in conjunction with a film festival in Windsor, Canada. Read more about Pinch’s presentation here.

Read more about the film in the Firstpost article “Laal Kaptaan’s textured portrayal of warrior ascetics brings a new, much-needed focus to an obscure history,” and see an interview with the director on Scroll.in.

Thomas Co-Authors 5 New Publications

Thomas

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History and University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, is the co-author of five new publications. They include:

Pemberton’s Essays Released as Audiobook

pembertonAn audiobook featuring Gayle Pemberton‘s memoir/essays, The Hottest Water in Chicago: Notes of a Native Daughter and other essays has been released on iTunes and Audible.

Pemberton is professor of English and African American studies, emerita.

The Hottest Water in Chicago was published in 1998 by Wesleyan University Press. In the book, Pemberton interweaves her own history with reflections on American literature, art, music, and film through 16 autobiographical essays.

Stanton Announced as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

stanton

Nicole Stanton.

Nicole Stanton has been announced as Wesleyan University’s 12th Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, with her tenure beginning on May 15, 2020.

Stanton joined Wesleyan in 2007 as an associate professor of dance, has twice served as chair of the department (2008–2011; 2014–2017) and is currently serving as Dean of the Arts and Humanities. A dance artist and an educator by training, Nicole’s work explores the cultures and histories of the African diaspora, especially the ways in which the arts and dance serve as sites of reclamation and platforms for cultivating community. Nicole earned a BA in dance and foreign civilizations and languages/European studies from Antioch College and an MFA in dance from The Ohio State University, where she was both an assistant and associate professor of dance and undergraduate studies chair from 2004 to 2007.

“At a time of rapid change in our field and country, Nicole’s inclusive leadership style and focus on shared governance will be critical in helping Wesleyan strengthen and hone its distinctive brand of liberal education going forward,” said President Michael S. Roth ’78. “She is the right choice at the right time for Wesleyan. I look forward to working with her.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. NPR: “Book Review: ‘The Movie Musical!’ Is a Symphony in Praise of the ‘Razzmatazz’ of the Genre”

“Encyclopedic in scope, but thankfully not in structure, The Movie Musicals! is a downright delightful read,” this NPR review of Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, Jeanine Basinger’s new book proclaims. The Movie Musicals! truly “dazzles” for its insight into the roles these films have played over the 20th century and into the 21st, the review states, noting, “And throughout the hefty volume, Basinger addresses—both directly and indirectly—the essential question at the heart of musicals: What compels us to suspend disbelief and accept, if not wholly enjoy, the fantastical idea of people spontaneously breaking into song? What does this sorcery say about the immersiveness of film, and the power of song, and the mechanism of the human imagination?”

2. BBC: “Galileo’s Lost Letter”

Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein is interviewed on “Discovery” from the BBC about the historical conflict between religion and science. “The notion that religion is somehow a backward, authoritarian, anti-rational opponent to science really comes at the end of the 19th century,” she says. There is a misperception that science and religious belief have to always be in conflict, but in actuality, Rubenstein says, it is “a battle between Protestants and Catholics that gets grafted onto and renewed as some sort of dispute between the secular and the religious.” Rubenstein comes in around 15:44 minutes.

3. PBS Newshour: “Why Haitians Say They Won’t Stop Protesting”

Smolkin Receives Honorable Mention for Prestigious Book Prize

Victoria Smolkin

Victoria Smolkin

Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin’s book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism (Princeton University Press), was awarded an honorable mention for the 2019 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize.

Established in 1983, the Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize is sponsored by the Association for Slavic Studies, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) and the Stanford University Center for Russian and East European Studies. It is awarded annually for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences published in English in the United States in the previous calendar year. The prize carries a cash award and is presented at the association’s annual convention.

Smolkin is a scholar of Communism, the Cold War, and atheism and religion in Russia and the former Soviet Union. A Sacred Space Is Never Empty explores the meaning of atheism for religious life, Communist ideology, and Soviet politics. Read more about the book and see photos from her book talk here.