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 Morning Call: “Allen Student Wins ‘Hamilton’ Scholarship, Congrats from Lin-Manuel Miranda”

Anna Tjeltveit of Allentown, Penn., winner of the 2019 Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, is profiled. She shares how her winning submission, a one-act play titled, “Five Steps,” came together at the last minute, and discusses her early career in theater as well as her plans for her time at Wesleyan.

2. WJLA: “Arlington Teen Wins ‘Hamilton’ Prize Gets a Shout Out from Lin-Manuel Miranda”

Cole Goco of Arlington, Va., who received an honorable mention in the 2019 Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, is interviewed. He discusses his years-long work on his winning web comic strip, “Billy the Pop,” and what it felt like to have Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 congratulate him by name on Twitter.

6 Faculty Receive Endowed Professorships

Fred Cohan

Fred Cohan is one of six Wesleyan faculty to receive an endowed professorship in 2019.

In recognition of their career achievements, the following faculty members are being appointed to endowed professorships, effective July 1, 2019:

Frederick Cohan, professor of biology, is receiving the Huffington Foundation Professorship in the College of the Environment, established in 2010.

Susanne Fusso, professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, is receiving the Marcus L. Taft Professorship of Modern Languages, established in 1880.

William Johnston, professor of history, is receiving a John E. Andrus Professorship of History, established in 1981.

Ethan Kleinberg, professor of history and professor of letters, is receiving the Class of 1958 Distinguished Professorship, established in 2008.

Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics, is receiving the Lauren B. Dachs Professorship of Science and Society, established in 2008.

Daniel Krizanc, professor of computer science, is receiving an Edward Burr Van Vleck Professorship of Computer Science, established in 1982.

Brief biographies appear below:

Frederick Cohan arrived at Wesleyan in 1986 after completing his BS at Stanford University, his PhD at Harvard University, and a postdoctoral appointment at University of California, Davis. His research focuses on the origins of diversity in bacteria. His publications, which have been cited more than 8,000 times, recently include “How We Can All Share the Fight Against Infectious Disease” (Arcadia Political Review, Spring 2019) and “Systematics: The Cohesive Nature of Bacterial Species Taxa” (Current Biology, 2019). Cohan has received numerous grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, and he was elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering in 2017.

Shapiro Translates Coran’s RhymAmusings

Norman ShapiroShapiro, Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation and Poet in Residence, is the translator of Pierre Coran’s book, RhymAmusings, published by Black Widow Press in 2019.

“These 78 amusing rhyme-vignettes by preeminent Belgian children’s poet and novelist Pierre Coran speak with an adult sophistication and endearing grace to the ‘child in all of us,’” Shapiro wrote about the book.

Among the poems are “Six Hundred Six Sour Cherries,” “The Little Goldfish,” “Why Do Potatoes Have Eyes,” “Scat, Cats,” “The Whale in My Hat,” and “The Flea and the Elephant.”

Publication of the book was aided by a grant from the Thomas and Catharine McMahon Fund at Wesleyan.

Shapiro is an Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française and a member of the Academy of American Poets. His many translations have won several major awards over the last 50 years.

Gottschalk in The Conversation: Hate Crimes Associated with Both Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism Have a Long History in America’s Past

Peter Gottschalk

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk writes about the history of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim movements in the U.S., and the confluence of the two. 

Hate crimes associated with both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have a long history in America’s past

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted recently that “Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are two sides of the same bigoted coin.”

Her comments came in response to media reports that the suspect behind the shooting at a San Diego synagogue was also under investigation for burning a mosque.

Hate crimes associated with both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have shown an increase in recent years. But is there an association between the two?

As author of “American Heretics,” I have found that American antagonism toward Islamic and Jewish traditions goes back nearly 500 years, and shares some unfortunate connections.

Grossman in The Conversation: May Jobs Report Suggests a Slowing Economy—and Possibly an Imminent Interest Rate Cut

Richard Grossman

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Professor and Chair of Economics Richard Grossman analyzes the latest jobs report.

May jobs report suggests a slowing economy – and possibly an imminent interest rate cut

The latest jobs data suggests an interest rate cut may be imminent.

The Labor Department reported on June 7 that U.S. nonfarm payroll employment increased by 75,000 in May, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6%. This level of job creation was well below economists’ forecasts of about 185,000 new jobs, as well as below the average monthly increase of 164,000 in 2019 and 223,000 in 2018.

Although it’s difficult – even for an economist like me who studies economic policy – to interpret the data reported in any one jobs report as the beginning of a trend, the latest numbers do suggest the Federal Reserve may have to lower its benchmark interest rate to shore up the economy.

That may happen as soon as this month, when the Fed’s interest rate-setting panel, the Federal Open Market Committee, convenes its next meeting June 18-19. A cut would be a sharp reversal from Fed policy as recently as December, when it last raised the rate.

Personick Selected to Participate in an NSF-Funded Project

Michelle Personick joined the faculty this fall, and is teaching courses in Chemistry of Materials and Nanomaterials and an Integrated Chemistry Lab. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Michelle Personick

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, has been selected by the Leadership Council of the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists (IONiC) to participate in a National Science Foundation–funded study to develop, test, and refine a flexible, foundation-level inorganic chemistry course.

As a Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource (VIPEr) Fellow, Personick joins 17 other inorganic chemists from across the country in a community of practice dedicated to improving student learning. The 2018 VIPEr Fellows are the first faculty who have been selected for this groundbreaking project.

The study, titled “Improving Inorganic Chemistry Education,” is being conducted with support from the National Science Foundation’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program. The project will use classroom observations, analysis of student work, student surveys, and faculty interviews to study how changes in the classroom affect student learning, interest, and motivation. The project also will investigate how IONiC may encourage the adoption of evidence-based classroom practices.

At Wesleyan, Personick teaches general, inorganic, and materials chemistry. Her research group focuses on developing tailored metal nanomaterials to enable fundamental research toward improved catalysts for resource-efficient chemical synthesis and the clean production of energy.

She received her undergraduate degree from Middlebury College, where she studied platinum anticancer drug analogs, and her PhD from Northwestern University, where she developed syntheses for shaped gold and silver nanoparticles. As a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, she studied the catalytic behavior of bimetallic nanoporous alloys.

Read more about Personick in these past News @ Wesleyan articles.

Smolkin Speaks at “Culture of Unbelief” Conference in Rome

Victoria Smolkin

Victoria Smolkin

From May 28 to May 30, Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin attended a conference in Rome, Italy, on the “Cultures of Unbelief,” organized by the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network and the Vatican’s Council on Culture.

She spoke on “The Culture of Unbelief 50 Years On,” which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the original “Culture of Unbelief” conference, organized in 1969 by the Vatican’s Secretariat on Non-Believers and the University of California, Berkeley. Her copanelists included Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Andrew Copson, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion and Director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary’s University Stephen Bullivant moderated the panel.

The “Cultures of Unbelief” conference brought together leading academics, leaders of religious and nonreligious groups, journalists, educators, and others to understand the meaning of being a religious “unbeliever.” Topics explored how “unbelievers” engage with religion; their diverse existential, metaphysical, and moral beliefs; and prospects for dialogue and collaboration between believers and unbelievers.

Smolkin also presented a conference paper titled, “Atheism as a vocation: What can socialists teach us about modern belief and unbelief?”

A photo exhibit titled Unbelievers by Aubrey Wade took place during the Cultures of Unbelief Conference. The series offers an insight into the diversity of beliefs and worldviews held by people who don’t believe in God, or gods, in five countries around the world: Brazil, Japan, Norway, the U.K., and USA.

Herbst and Greenwood in The Conversation: The Tell-Tale Clue to How Meteorites Were Made

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy Bill Herbst and Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences James Greenwood write about the model they’ve proposed for how the most common kind of meteorites form—a mystery that has dogged scientists for decades.

The tell-tale clue to how meteorites were made, at the birth of the solar system

April 26, 1803 was an unusual day in the small town of L’Aigle in Normandy, France – it rained rocks.

Over 3,000 of them fell out of the sky. Fortunately, no one was injured. The French Academy of Sciences investigated and proclaimed, based on many eyewitness stories and the unusual look of the rocks, that they had come from space.

The Earth is pummeled with rocks incessantly as it orbits the Sun, adding around 50 tons to our planet’s mass every day. Meteorites, as these rocks are called, are easy to find in deserts and on the ice plains of Antarctica, where they stick out like a sore thumb. They can even land in backyards, treasures hidden among ordinary terrestrial rocks. Amateurs and professionals collect meteorites, and the more interesting ones make it to museums and laboratories around the world for display and study. They are also bought and sold on eBay.

Despite decades of intense study by thousands of scientists, there is no general consensus on how most meteorites formed. As an astronomer and a geologist, we have recently developed a new theory of what happened during the formation of the solar system to create these valuable relics of our past. Since planets form out of collisions of these first rocks, this is an important part of the history of the Earth.

This meteor crater in Arizona was created 50,000 years ago when an iron meteorite struck the Earth. It is about one mile across. W. Herbst, CC BY-SA

This meteor crater in Arizona was created 50,000 years ago when an iron meteorite struck the Earth. It is about one mile across. (Photo by Bill Herbst, CC BY-SA)

The mysterious chondrules

Researchers Explore the Effects of Dam Removal on Bottom-Dwelling Aquatic Animals

COE

Kate Miller PhD ’13

Although dam removal is an increasingly common stream restoration tool, it may also represent a major disturbance to rivers that can have varied impacts on environmental conditions and aquatic biota.

In a paper titled “Dam Removal Effects on Benthic Macroinvertebrate Dynamics: A New England Stream Case Study, five researchers from Wesleyan examined the effects of dam removal on the structure, function, and composition of benthic macroinvertebrate (BMI) communities in a temperate New England stream. The benthic—or “bottom-dwelling”—macroinvertebrates are small aquatic animals that are commonly used to study biological conditions of water bodies.

The paper is published in the May 21 edition of Sustainability, an international, cross-disciplinary, scholarly, peer-reviewed and open-access journal of environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability of human beings.

Ross Heinemann '09, MA '13

Ross Heinemann ’09, MA ’13

The paper’s coauthors include Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies; Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies; Kate Miller PhD ’13; Ross Heinemann ’09, MA ’13; Michelle Kraczkowski PhD ’13; and Adam Whelchel from the Nature Conservancy in New Haven, Conn.

The results of their study indicated that the dam removal stimulated major shifts in BMI community structure and composition above and below the dam.

“Our research shows that the effects of dam removal on the river were not predictable. During the fours years of the study after dam removal, the river did not return to its original state in the areas where the dam was removed,” Chernoff explained.

Hatch Authors New Book on “The Secret Drugging of Captive America”

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer).

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer).

Associate Professor of Science in Society Anthony Ryan Hatch is the author of a new book, Silent Cells: The Secret Drugging of Captive America, published on April 30 by University of Minnesota Press.

The book is a critical investigation into the use of psychotropic drugs to pacify and control inmates and other captives in the vast U.S. prison, military, and welfare systems.

According to the publisher:

“For at least four decades, U.S. prisons and jails have aggressively turned to psychotropic drugs—antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers—to silence inmates, whether or not they have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. In Silent Cells, Anthony Ryan Hatch demonstrates that the pervasive use of psychotropic drugs has not only defined and enabled mass incarceration but has also become central to other forms of captivity, including foster homes, military and immigrant detention centers, and nursing homes.

Yohe in The Conversation: The Economic Cost of Devastating Hurricanes and Other Extreme Weather Events Is Even Worse Than We Thought

Gary Yohe

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Gary Yohe writes about the economic costs of climate change, which he argues will hit our economy much sooner than many people realize.

The economic cost of devastating hurricanes and other extreme weather events is even worse than we thought

June marks the official start of hurricane season. If recent history is any guide, it will prove to be another destructive year thanks to the worsening impact of climate change.

But beyond more intense hurricanes and explosive wildfires, the warming climate has been blamed for causing a sharp uptick in all types of extreme weather events across the country, such as severe flooding across the U.S. this spring and extensive drought in the Southwest in recent years.

Late last year, the media blared that these and other consequences of climate change could cut U.S. GDP by 10% by the end of the century – “more than double the losses of the Great Depression,” as The New York Times intoned. That figure was drawn from a single figure in the U.S. government’s Fourth National Climate Assessment. (Disclosure: I reviewed that report and was the vice chair on the third one, released in 2014.)

Fowler, Northrop, Siry Receive Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching

2019 Binswanger winners

Wesleyan faculty (from left) Joseph Siry, Brian Northrop, and Erika Franklin Fowler join President Michael Roth before the 187th Commencement ceremony, May 26. During the ceremony, the three professors were honored with Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Every year at Commencement, Wesleyan recognizes three outstanding teachers with Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the University’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.

This year, during the 187th Commencement ceremony, Wesleyan honored the following faculty members for their excellence in teaching:

Erika Franklin Fowler
Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and director of the Wesleyan Media Project, has taught at Wesleyan since 2009. She has a BA in political science and mathematics from St. Olaf College, and an MA and PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She served as a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan School of Public Health from 2007 to 2009.