Faculty

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Beware the Doyens of Disruption”

In this op-ed, President Michael Roth ’78 responds to predictions that COVID-19 is going to “change everything” in higher education with a reminder that “the desire of bright young people from all over the world for an on-campus education remains strong.” He writes, “It’s because the connectivity among people and practices that takes place in person intensifies the learning experience.”

2. HxA Podcast: “Michael Roth, Safe Enough Spaces”

President Michael Roth ’78 is interviewed on the Heterodox Academy’s podcast about his book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. Heterodox Academy recently chose Safe Enough Spaces as the subject of its first ever book club. Roth was also recently interviewed on “The Way We Live Now,” a podcast from Dani Shapiro P ’22.

3. The Wall Street Journal: “Noted: Class of 2020”

The Wall Street Journal featured remarks by Caroline Bhupathi ’20 delivered at Wesleyan’s virtual commencement ceremony on May 24.

4. TLS: “Respect New Haven”

Assistant Professor of English Hirsh Sawhney reflects on the past, present, and politics of New Haven as he takes long, rambling walks through his city with his dog Pinky, a tiny chihuahua-dachshund mix.

5. PIX11: “College Students Create Program Connecting Young People with Senior Citizens in COVID-19 Isolation”

Marysol Castro ’96 features “Support a Pal,” a program created by Walker Brandt ’22 and Lars Delin ’22 to form connections between college students and elderly people in order to combat social isolation during the pandemic.

5. NJ.com: “‘A Smile Never Left His Face’: Steve Pikiell’s Forgotten Season Leading a Division-3 Underdog, 20 Years Before Rutgers”

Wesleyan alumni recall Steve Pikiell’s brief but memorable time as head coach of Wesleyan’s basketball team, long before he became head coach of Rutgers’ men’s basketball team. “I needed a guy like that in my life when he came along,” said Josh Schaer ’96, one of the senior captains on the team. “He had this infectious energy about basketball. He made me love the game again. He was just able to give us a boost. He lived up to expectations. He was a breath of fresh air. A smile never left his face. He loved where he was and he loved what he was doing.”

5 Faculty Conferred Tenure, 4 Promoted

monogramWesleyan’s Board of Trustees recently announced the promotions of nine faculty members, effective July 1, 2020.

Five faculty were conferred tenure with promotion. They join six other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.

  • Joslyn Barnhart Trager, associate professor of government
  • Anthony Keats, associate professor of economics
  • Andrew Quintman, associate professor of religion
  • Michael Slowik ’03, associate professor of film studies
  • Takeshi Watanabe, associate professor of East Asian studies

In addition, four faculty members are being promoted. They join one other faculty member who was promoted earlier this spring.

  • Erika Franklin Fowler, professor of government
  • Barbara Juhasz, professor of psychology
  • Hari Krishnan, professor of dance
  • Phillip Resor, professor of earth and environmental sciences

Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching appear below:

Joslyn Barnhart Trager is a political scientist whose research focuses on international security and the effects of psychology and biology on international conflict. Her work examines the ways collective emotions shape national identity, how gender and suffrage interact to affect war and peace, and how rhetorical justifications for territory relate to the use of force. In her recent book, The Consequences of Humiliation: Anger and Status in World Politics (Cornell University Press, 2020), she argues that when international events trigger a sense of humiliation among people who identify with a country, those people become more likely to behave aggressively to restore the country’s image. She offers courses on Psychology and International Relations, Introduction to International Politics, and The Nuclear Age in World Politics, and she received Wesleyan’s Carol Baker Memorial Prize for excellence in teaching and research in 2019.

Erika Franklin Fowler’s research focuses on American politics, with a specialty in political communication—examining the ways political information is disseminated and the effects of such dissemination on political attitudes, knowledge, and behavior. Her Wesleyan Media Project, which provides information on spending and the content of political advertising, has received over $2.7 million in external grant funding. She has co-authored a book, Political Advertising in the United States (Westview Press, 2016), along with numerous peer-reviewed articles and invited publications. She received the APSA Political Organization and Parties Section’s Jack Walker Award for the best article in 2017, and Wesleyan’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 2019. She teaches courses on American Government and Politics, Media and Politics, and Empirical Methods.

Barbara Juhasz is a cognitive psychologist who studies reading and word recognition in adults. Through her Wesleyan Eye Movement and Reading Laboratory she investigates how words and their meanings are represented in memory and processed during reading as revealed by eye movements. Her work seeks to answer questions such as what variables can predict how, and how quickly, a word is processed. She has published extensively in many peer-reviewed journals, including Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition; Memory and Cognition; and Behavior Research Methods, and her publications have received over 3,000 citations to date. She offers courses on Sensation and Perception, Psychology of Reading, Experimental Investigations into Reading, and Statistics: An Activity-Based Approach.

Anthony Keats’s research in development economics uses a variety of approaches, including randomized control trials conducted in the field and quasi-experimental methods using household survey data, to answer causal questions related to education, early child health, financial access and savings, and occupational choices in developing countries. His highly-cited work has been published in the Journal of Development Economics and the Economic Journal. He has received over $3.3 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund, Omidyar Network, and other funding organizations. He teaches courses on Quantitative Methods in Economics, Econometrics, and Development Economics.

Hari Krishnan is a dance artist and scholar, specializing in bharatanatyam, queer/contemporary dance, and the interface between dance history and film studies. Bridging theory and practice, he interrogates the boundaries between modern and traditional dance forms, engaging critically with questions of gender, sexuality, and race. His choreographies have been featured at esteemed venues including Jacob’s Pillow, La MaMa’s, Asia Society, Canada Dance Festival, HarbourFront Centre (Canada), Maison des Cultures du Monde (France), The Other Festival, and the Music Academy Dance Festival (India). He is a Bessie award nominee in the Outstanding Performance category, and his recent monograph, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, was published by Wesleyan University Press. His courses include Bharatanatyam; Contemporary Dance from Global Perspectives; Mobilizing Dance and Cinema; and Queering the Dancing Body.

Andrew Quintman is a scholar of premodern Buddhist traditions in Tibet and the Himalayas. He has special expertise in biographical and autobiographical literature, in particular the analysis of Buddhist hagiography and historiography, religious poetry, and representations of sainthood. His monograph, The Yogin and the Madman: Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet’s Great Saint Milarepa (Columbia University Press, 2014), presents a systematic analysis of the entire Himalayan literary tradition about Milarepa, including all 128 biographies written about the 11th-century Tibetan saint. His book received numerous awards, including the American Academy of Religion’s Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion and Yale University’s Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize for Outstanding Scholarship. He offers courses on Buddhist Traditions of Mind and Meditation, Tibetan Buddhism, and Who is the Dalai Lama?

Phillip Resor is a structural geologist who studies rock deformation with an emphasis on fault zones. His research, which combines field work and modeling, has important applications in planetary science, energy resources, and present-day hazard assessment related to earthquakes. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation Tectonics Program, NASA’s Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program, and the Southern California Earthquake Center. He has published widely, and in 2019 he received Top Author recognition from NAGT Teach the Earth. In 2016 he received the Joe Webb Peoples Award in recognition of his contributions to promoting the understanding of Connecticut geology. He offers courses on Dynamic Earth, Structural Geology, Field Geology, Modeling the Earth and Environment, and Geologic Field Mapping.

Michael Slowik’s research focuses on the history of film and film aesthetics, with a special emphasis on the uses and evolution of sound and music in cinema. His book, After the Silents: Hollywood Film Music in the Early Sound Era, 1926-1934 (Columbia University Press, 2014), which provides a detailed analysis of the evolution of film music from the start of synchronized sound through 1934, was a top 10 finalist for the 2015 Kraszna-Krausz Foundation Moving Image Book Award. His latest manuscript, Defining Cinema: The Films of Rouben Mamoulian, is under contract with Oxford University Press. He teaches courses on Film Genres: The Western; History of Film Sound; Sex and Violence: American Filmmaking Under Censorship; and Cinema Stylists: Sternberg, Ophuls, Sirk, Fellini. Slowick is a 2003 alumnus of Wesleyan.

Takeshi Watanabe is a scholar of premodern Japanese literature. In his recent book, Flowering Tales: Women Exorcising History in Heian Japan (Harvard Asia Center, 2020), he examines the historical tale A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (c. 1000), and demonstrates how the rise of writing in the vernacular allowed a new type of historical writing that captured court gossip and channeled its divisive energy into stories that brought healing. He has published broadly in both English and Japanese, and his scholarship covers art history, material culture, and the history of food. He teaches courses on Japanese literature and culture and East Asian culture, including From Tea to Connecticut Rolls: Japanese Culture through Food; Samurai: Imagining, Performing Japanese Identity; and In Search of a Good Life in Premodern Japan.

Birney Studies Ancient Perfume “Knock-Offs” in Athens as New Directions Fellow

bottles

Greyware unguentaria (perfume bottles) were produced in Greece (pictured at left); however, Wesleyan’s Kate Birney excavated similar bottles in Ashkelon, Israel (pictured at right). By using the scientific process of ceramic petrography, Birney is revealing that the unguentaria from Israel are likely “knock-offs” of the Greek perfumes. “When we excavated these bottles at Ashkelon in Israel, their coloring and fine quality looked exactly like the ones known from Greece. We’d seen some crummy imitations before—basically thick-walled bottles painted grey and haphazardly striped, clearly echoing the Greek original but not going to fool anybody—but the assumption was that the nice, super-delicate ones must be imported from Greece,” Birney said. “That is not necessarily the case.” (Image at left: Unguentaria (P10734) from graves near the Agora. Image from the Athenian Agora Excavations Collection at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Image at right: courtesy of the Leon Levy Expedition.)

Kate Birney

Kate Birney

There was something about Kate Birney’s research that smelled a little off.

As far back as the 4th century B.C., Greece was a global leader in producing a plethora of posh perfumes sold in handcrafted ceramic bottles marked with three chalky-white stripes.

“Much like today, some of these ceramic perfume bottles were ‘branded‘—made in distinctive shapes, and painted or decorated in distinctive ways—probably to tell the consumer what scent they contained, or which perfume house/region they were imported from,” said Birney, associate professor of classical studies and chair of Wesleyan’s Archaeology Program.

So when similar bottles, or unguentaria, were excavated from the site of Ashkelon in southern Israel, scientists assumed the Hellenistic-period (4th–1st century B.C.) perfumes were imported via trade routes. Or were they?

Through a Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship, Birney spent this past winter and early spring at the Wiener Lab of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, studying the ceramic petrography of bottles collected from Ashkelon. There, she worked with petrographic specialists and accessed the lab’s comparative collections.

4 Faculty Receive Honorary MA ad Eundem Gradum Degrees

ad Eundem Gradum2020

At left, Hilary Barth, Robert Conn, Sanford Shieh, and Nicole Stanton.

This month, four Wesleyan faculty received the honorary degree of Master of Arts ad eundem gradum.

This degree has been awarded by Wesleyan since 1894 to those members of the faculty who are not graduates of Wesleyan at the bachelor’s level and who have attained the rank of full professor. The award makes each full professor an alumnus/a of the University.

Recipients include Hilary Barth, professor of psychology; Robert Conn, professor of Spanish; Sanford Shieh, professor of philosophy, and Nicole Stanton, professor of dance.

Wesleyan Honors 8 Retiring Faculty

monogramEight Wesleyan faculty members are retiring at the end of the 2019–20 academic year. They include:

RICHARD ADELSTEIN
Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics (2010–2020)
Professor of Economics (1990–2020)
Associate Professor of Economics (1981–1990)
Assistant Professor of Economics (1976–1981)
Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics (1975–1976)

IRINA ALESHKOVSKY
Adjunct Professor of Russian Language & Literature (2003–2020)
Adjunct Associate Professor of Russian Language & Literature (1995–2003)
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Language & Literature (1992–1995)
Adjunct Lecturer of Russian Language and Literature (1987–1992)
Teaching Associate in Russian Language and Literature (1983–1987)

Bendall Remembered for Teaching Philosophy 29 Years at Wesleyan

L. Kent Bendall, professor of philosophy, emeritus, died on May 15 at the age of 88.

Bendall received his BA from Rice University and his MA and PhD from Yale University. He arrived at Wesleyan in 1963, where he taught philosophy until his retirement in 1992. During his 29 years at Wesleyan, Bendall was an integral part of the University and the Philosophy Department. He served many terms as chair of the Education Policy Committee and of the Philosophy Department; he also served as chair of the University Senate and was a member of the planning committee for the new African American Institute in 1974.

He was a philosopher who was devoted to the ideal of truth and a rigorous search for it. Joe Rouse, Hedding Professor of Moral Science and Professor of Philosophy, recalled: “Kent Bendall was an excellent logician and philosopher, and a generous colleague and friend. Two considerations will always stand out in my recollection of Kent: his extraordinary clarity of thought and expression, and his utterly unquestionable personal and intellectual integrity.”

Aaron, Autry, Shinohara Honored with the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Every spring, Wesleyan recognizes outstanding faculty with three Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching.

This year’s recipients include Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, Robyn Autry, associate professor and chair of sociology, and Keiji Shinohara, artist-in-residence.

Made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, these prizes underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the University’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Rosenthal to Receive Baldwin Medal

Rob Rosenthal

Rob Rosenthal

At the University’s 188th Commencement on May 24, Wesleyan will present the Baldwin Medal, the highest award of the Alumni Association, to Rob Rosenthal, John Andrus Professor of Sociology, Emeritus.

The Baldwin Medal pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin ’16, the only man to have held the offices of Connecticut governor, U.S. senator, and chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. First awarded Sept. 20, 1981, during the opening convocation of Wesleyan’s Sesquicentennial, the Baldwin Medal is the highest honor Wesleyan’s alumni body presents for extraordinary service to Wesleyan or for careers and other activities that have contributed significantly to the public good.

Rosenthal served as Wesleyan’s provost and vice president for Academic Affairs from 2010 to 2013, and as director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life from 2014 to 2017. He returned to serve as interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs again from July 2019 through May 2020.

Traveler’s Lab Creates Map of COVID-19 Cases in the NYC Commuting Region

COVID-19 map

Wesleyan’s Traveler’s Lab released a time-enabled regional map of COVID-19 cases in the tri-state area surrounding New York City.

In late March, as New York City’s coronavirus infection rate skyrocketed to five times higher than the rest of the country, members of Wesleyan’s Traveler’s Lab explored a movement-focused approach to the rapid spread of the disease.

Rather than focusing on political borders, lab members depicted major freeways, highways, and commuter rail lines out of New York City, and examined counties within a 2.5-hour drive from the City.

“While New York City may be the center, it is the travel region immediately surrounding the city that provides the true context of how COVID-19 has spread and is spreading to, and from, the City,” said Traveler’s Lab manager Jesse Torgerson, assistant professor of letters. “Informed by geographic and historical methods, this approach provides a truer context for human interactions.”

Varekamp Plots Pandemic, Measures Growth Curves in US, Italy

varekamp map

In this linear graph, Professor Joop Varekamp shows logged plots of coronavirus time versus death data in Italy (green) and the United States (blue). The straight-line segments represent exponential growth, and the curved arrays occur after social distancing rules and lockdowns were imposed. Extrapolation of the straight line for the United States (deep blue line) would have reached 1 million casualties (black circle) around April 21 if the U.S. had not imposed social distancing rules, according to Varekamp.

Last March, Johan (Joop) C. Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, intended to teach an ore deposit and formation class in Italy; however, the COVID-19 pandemic caused him to stay near campus.

Nevertheless, Varekamp kept a keen watch on Italy. With a fascination with the pandemic’s wildfire spread, Varekamp began plotting coronavirus data from both the United States and Italy to see how their growth curves compared.

“Infectious diseases follow initially exponential growth patterns until measures are taken to limit transmission or a vaccine becomes available,” Varekamp said. “I wanted to know how disease propagation compares to population growth, which I teach in some detail in my classes.”

On May 7, Varekamp shared his ongoing Coronavirus Plot Maps with the campus community through Wesleyan’s Community Forum. His study features some of the differences in the progression of the disease in the two countries that may provide some insights “and possibly some dark thoughts about our future.”

Varekamp suggested that if social distancing rules are weakened too early, the disease will pick up where it left off at the exponential end. “This will all be repeated until about 60–70% of the population has been infected with the disease,” he said. “Only then the virus burns itself out, to some degree as a result of lack of non-immune individuals, and transmission rates will decrease to values below one.”

He also stated that if no social distancing had been ordered in the U.S. in late March, the U.S. would have stuck to its exponential growth pattern, and close to 1 million people would have died by the end of April.

If he’s able to safely fly internationally next year, Varekamp hopes to have another attempt at teaching the EU-coordinated ore deposit class at the University of Bologna.

“It is hard to see how all of this evolves,” he said.

Kuenzel’s Paper on WTO Tariff Commitments Published in European Economic Review

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel, assistant professor of economics, is the author of a paper titled “WTO Tariff Commitments and Temporary Protection: Complements or Substitutes?” The paper was published in the January issue of the European Economic Review.

In the paper, Kuenzel investigates the link between traditional tariff instruments and temporary protection measures (antidumping, safeguard, and countervailing duties). There is a long-held notion in the trade policy community that most-favored-nation (MFN) tariffs and temporary protection measures are substitutes. Despite this prediction, there is only mixed empirical evidence for a link between MFN tariff reductions and the usage pattern of antidumping, safeguard, and countervailing duties.

Wesleyan Student Assembly Commends Faculty on Distance Learning Efforts

wes fest andy

After the Wesleyan Student Assembly commended Wesleyan faculty for their efforts transitioning to distance learning, Andy Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, penned a responding resolution, expressing gratitude to the students.

When President Michael Roth announced in mid-March that Wesleyan would suspend in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester because of the increasing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty had less than two weeks to prepare their courses for distance learning before classes resumed after spring break. Trying to recreate the immersive Wesleyan classroom experience in a digital format presented a variety of challenges, particularly for faculty who had never taught online previously.

It’s become clear over the last month that faculty have been able to rise to those challenges, and the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) formally recognized their efforts on April 19 with the unanimous passage of a resolution “Commending the Wesleyan Faculty for their Efforts in the Transition Towards Distance Learning.” Chair Jake Kwon ’21 and vice-chair Ben Garfield ’22 of the WSA’s Academic Affairs Committee sponsored the resolution in order to recognize the faculty’s hard work and advocacy for students.

“Faculty are going through a lot of similar extenuating circumstances as students are” in transitioning to distance learning, said Kwon. “This has definitely proven difficult, and I wanted to make sure that the faculty knew how appreciative the students were of their efforts, and that in fact they are not unnoticed.”

The resolution recognizes “the faculty’s efforts to maintain the integrity of Wesleyan’s liberal arts education.” It expresses appreciation for “the empathetic faculty who have provided accommodations for students encountering various challenges surrounding the transition to distance learning and the determined professors who aim to continue providing learning opportunities while being conscious of the various potential stressors that could befall the student body and seek to alleviate additional stress from academic work.”

Kwon noted that while the WSA has passed resolutions in solidarity with many groups on campus, “I do not think we have addressed the entire faculty before in a resolution.”

“Many of my professors have been very understanding about deadlines, and many prioritize student health over academia, which I am so thankful for,” Kwon said of his personal experience with the transition to distance learning. “Some have changed testing formats to accommodate online learning, and many professors had to change their entire course design to allow students to learn at home. For me, I have been fortunate to remain healthy amid the crisis, so I have been able to focus on academia, but it is nice to know that I have a safety net to fall onto if I ever get sick as we finish off the semester.”

Faculty have responded to the resolution with deep gratitude. Sean McCann, chair of the faculty, said that at their next meeting on May 20, faculty leadership plans to ask the faculty to endorse a responding resolution written by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, Professor of Classical Studies. It states: “We, the Wesleyan faculty, collectively express our gratitude to you, our students. During the immense upheaval in all our lives and our difficult transition to online teaching and learning, you have been patient, thoughtful, good-humored, and responsive. We deeply appreciate your good will and engagement, and we will do our best to ensure that you continue to get the excellent education you deserve.”

“Personally, I was deeply touched by the WSA resolution, and I know many other Wes faculty were as well,” said McCann. “It was such a very kind and thoughtful thing to do.

“In general, I think many of us have found teaching-by-Zoom a trying experience, and a pale substitute for in-person learning. But I’ve also just been very grateful for the opportunity to work with students, even if virtually. Seeing them pop up on the computer screen is one of the best parts of my day and always a mood lifter—very welcome indeed in a time that can seem so bleak and isolating.”

Bill Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History and academic secretary, echoed this sentiment. “I tell my students that my meetings with them are the highlights of my week, and I really mean that. Many write to say that they do find the virtual classes challenging, but I very much appreciate the efforts they are making to learn through Zoom meetings, emailed papers, and Moodle posts. Not perfect, but it is working.”

McCann noted that the faculty will also be expressing their gratitude to staff, administrators, and librarians through a tandem resolution.