Faculty

Sumarsam, PhD Students, Alumni Present at Symposium

University Professor of Music Sumarsam demonstrated puppet movements at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA), in Penang, Malaysia.

University Professor of Music Sumarsam demonstrated puppet movements at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA), in Penang, Malaysia.

University Professor of Music Sumarsam and several PhD students and alumni recently presented papers at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA). The symposium was hosted by Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, Malaysia, from July 31 to Aug. 6.

Sumarsam presented a paper titled, “Religiosity in Javanese Wayang Puppet Play,” and demonstrated puppet movements.

Wesleyan Mathematics Faculty Train Area School Teachers

Wesleyan’s Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen teaches an Intel Math class Aug. 11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. Wesleyan’s Assistant Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen teaches an Intel Math class Aug. 11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Wesleyan’s Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen teaches a math class Aug. 11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

This month, the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center is once again hosting its K-8 Math Institute for 29 school teachers from Vernon and Hamden, Conn. The 80-hour program aims to increase teachers’ mastery of math concepts as well as their confidence with math.

Sharon Heyman, a mathematics education specialist from the University of Connecticut, works with teachers at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Sharon Heyman, a mathematics education specialist from the University of Connecticut, works with teachers at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Wesleyan Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen is teaching the institute along with Sharon Heyman, a mathematics education specialist from the University of Connecticut. This is the fifth time the pair has taught the course together. The institute includes the content-intensive, 80-hour Intel Math course over the summer as a foundation for teachers, several follow-up workshops during the school year for advancing teaching practices and arts integration strategies, and two professional learning community sessions a year in the form of Math Potlucks.

Green Street Director Sara MacSorley said this year’s course is going very well.

“As a group, the participating teachers are strong in math and really engaged in the material,” she said. On this particular day, a Friday afternoon with temperatures soaring into the 90s, “there are lively discussions about fractions at each table.”

Kuenzli, Horst Honored with NEH Grants for Book Projects

Two Wesleyan faculty received National Endowment for the Humanities grants on Aug. 9.

Katherine Kuenzli

Katherine Kuenzli

Katherine Kuenzli, associate professor of art history, received a $250,000 Scholarly Editions and Translations grant. She and project co-directors Michael André and Kathleen James-Chakraborty will use the funds to prepare a critical edition and translation of a selection of writings by the Belgian artist and essayist Henry van de Velde titled Henry van de Velde: Selected Essays, 1889–1914.

Scholarly Editions and Translations grants support the preparation of editions and translations of pre-existing texts of value to the humanities that are currently inaccessible or available in inadequate editions. Typically, the texts and documents are significant literary, philosophical, and historical materials; but other types of work, such as musical notation, also eligible.

Kuenzli also is working on a monograph titled Henry van de Velde: Designing Modernism. Together with Selected Essays, these projects recover van de Velde’s important role in Neo-Impressionist painting and the German Werkbund, and they demonstrate how ideas of internationalism and the total work of art lie at the heart of modern approaches to museum display, art education, and industrial design.

Rutland Speaks on BYUradio about the Olympics, Nationalism

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, was interviewed on BYUradio about the Olympics and nationalism.

“The Olympics are practically built for indulging in what you might call ‘good nationalism,’ as opposed to the xenophobic kind,” said host Julie Rose in the introduction. Yet this year’s Olympic Games come at a time of fear of outsiders, both in the U.S. and abroad.

They begin by discussing the difference between patriotism—which has more positive connotations—and nationalism, which implies dislike of foreigners. The key distinction, says Rutland, is about having respect for people from all countries.

“In practice, the Olympics is a competition, it’s about winners and losers,” he said. “The Olympics is very contradictory. On the one hand, it claims to be transcending nationalism in a kind of fellowship of international athletes. But at the same time, in practice, it reinforces nationalism by encouraging people to cheer for their team and take pride in their team’s victories, and correspondingly, the defeat of other nations’ teams.”

Rutland also commented on the mass appeal of such competitions.

“It does tap into a desire to express our belonging to a bigger community—not just our family and neighborhood, but our country. And, at least when it’s going through the media—when it’s watching the Olympics or watching the World Cup for soccer, it seems to be pretty benign. It’s not like going to war. Sport, as George Orwell said, is a kind of substitute for war. Nobody is getting killed, nobody is getting hurt, and we’re all kind of on the same side, in that everybody is enjoying the competition, and you win some, you lose some.”

Rutland also is professor of government, professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies, and tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Gross Writes About a ‘Tipping Point’ in Relations Between Police, African Americans

Professor of African American Studies Kali Nicole Gross

Professor of African American Studies Kali Nicole Gross

Kali Nicole Gross, professor of African American studies, writes in The Huffington Post about the case of Korryn Gaines, the latest death of an African American at the hand of police. Gaines was fatally shot after a five-hour standoff with police and SWAT officers in Maryland, and had prophesied her own demise during an earlier traffic stop, in which she had also been defiant.

While Gaines’ behavior may once have appeared irrational, and possibly a sign of mental illness, Gross writes, “after these and so many other deaths of black women and men killed during minor traffic stops, killed for selling loose cigarettes, or found dead in jail after failing to signal a lane change, Gaines’ defiance may gesture toward a desperate tipping point: that the system is so corrupt there is little distinction between notions of legal and illegal. It may also mark the mounting fear that for black people there is little chance of survival during even the most routine police encounters.”

Whedon ’87, Hon. ’13 Talks with Basinger on WNPR

Joss Whedon '87 presented Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, with an honorary degree from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2006. This photograph is on display in the "Buffy to Bard" exhibit.

Joss Whedon ’87 presented Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, with an honorary degree from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2006. This photograph is on display in the “Buffy to Bard” exhibit.

WNPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show featured a conversation between Joss Whedon ’87, Hon. ’13; Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives; and David Lavery, author of Joss Whedon, A Creative Portrait: From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Avengers and co-founder of the Whedon Studies Association.

Basinger described her experience with Whedon while he was a student at Wesleyan.

“When I encountered Joss at Wesleyan, he was my superhero because he was a really fabulous student, an original thinker and somebody who you just knew was born to be a storyteller. Those things were very, very clearly in place already with him at college,” she said.

Basinger is also asked about influences apparent in Whedon’s work.

“Joss is an original. Whatever he learned or saw from past movies, or got in my class—or in Richard Slotkin’s class—has been totally filtered through his own sensibility…

“For me, I definitely perceive it as work by Joss because I hear his voice, I feel his concerns. People sometimes ask me, ‘Who is Buffy?’ and I say ‘Buffy is Joss.’ There isn’t any other answer. He’s made things so much his own, and the kinds of conventions that come out of genre that he understands and uses, the whole reason they’re in our culture is to be tempered and redesigned and reconstituted and brought forth through the creative force of a new generation. And that’s what Joss has done with them.”

 

Hingorani Finishes Program Director Appointment with NSF

Manju Hingorani

Manju Hingorani

Manju Hingorani, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, professor of integrative sciences, recently completed a two-year tenure working for the National Science Foundation’s Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB). Hingorani served as the program director of the MCB Genetic Mechanisms program.

Hingorani worked with investigator-driven proposals submitted to both the Genetic Mechanisms and the Cellular Dynamics and Function programs. As a rotating program director, Hingorani managed proposal reviews and awards and responded to inquiries from principal investigators conducting fundamental research related to the central dogma of biology.

De Boer Remembered for Teaching Connecticut Geology

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, emeritus, died July 23 at the age of 81.

De Boer received his BS and PhD from the University of Utrecht before coming to Wesleyan as a postdoctoral fellow in 1963. During his early years at Wesleyan he worked closely with Geology Professor Jim Balsley in the field of paleomagnetism. In 1977, de Boer was named the George I. Seney Professor of Geology and in 1984 he was named the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Sciences.

In the 1970s de Boer worked as a joint professor at the University of Rhode Island at the Marine Sciences Institute where he was a PhD supervisor for Bob Ballard, who found the Titanic in 1985. Ballard later invited de Boer to go diving in the submersible Alvin to collect rocks in the Cayman Trough.

Originally interested in coming to the United States to study the Appalachian Mountains, de Boer’s research focused on the geotectonics of the Appalachians, Southeast Asia and South and Central America.

In 2015 de Boer received the Joe Webb Peoples Award,

Jenkins Stages Play in Florentine Prison

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, recently completed a collaboration with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Florence, Italy. The center asked Jenkins to stage a play in a Florentine prison on the theme of human rights.

The play, which was based on Dante Aligheri’s 14,000 line epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” was performed on July 14 and featured Coro Galilei, a choir that specializes in Gregorian chants, and actors from a local prison. The script consisted of texts written by the prisoners on the theme of justice intertwined with fragments from the “Divine Comedy” and interviews with human rights activists from around the world.

“Dante’s Inferno” is the most famous section of “The Divine Comedy” and is based on Dante’s real life in 14th century Italy, where he was a city official, diplomatic negotiator, and a man who dared to cross the Pope. Dante also was a convict and convicted of crimes, and Jenkins uses Dante to connect with incarcerated men and women.

“Dante was condemned to death, but we do not remember him as a convict,” Jenkins told the audience at Sollicciano prison in his prologue to the play. “We remember him as writer and philosopher who denounced the lack of justice in his society. After having seen our play, we hope you will remember the performers, not as convicts, but as writers whose words are born from the wisdom of experience, as Dante said, ‘Men of great value…. Suspended in this limbo.'”

Jenkins has already taught “Dante’s Inferno” and acting to inmates in Connecticut and Indonesia. Jenkins encourages incarcerated men and women to make connections between their own life stories and the experiences of the characters in classics like “Dante’s Inferno.” Their thoughts are used to create play scripts that are performed inside a prison. Wesleyan students also perform the scripts at other colleges and in the community, and engage in discussions about issues related to reforming the country’s criminal justice system.

Wesleyan Students Help Local Preschoolers Get a Kickstart on Kindergarten

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Stephanie Blumenstock ’16 works with children in the Kindergarten Kickstart program on July 14 at Bielefield School in Middletown. The program, which is taught by Wesleyan students and local teachers, is celebrating its fifth year this summer. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Kindergarten Kickstart, a research-based, summer pre-K program for children in Middletown created by Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman and her students, is celebrating its fifth year. It’s marking the occasion with an event July 20 at the Middletown Roller Skating Rink (free for any current or past Kickstart family, 4 to 6 p.m.) and using a new grant to further develop student innovation in the program.

stu_psychology_2016-0714142901

At left, Megan Dolan ’17 and Stephanie Blumenstock ’16 help Kindergarden Kickstart students during outdoor playtime.

Shusterman and three of her students first launched Kindergarten Kickstart in summer 2012 as a pilot program with 15 children at MacDonough School. They designed the curriculum and taught the program together with a MacDonough teacher. Today, this five-week program serves 35 children at Bielefield and Farm Hill schools (who will be entering kindergarten at those schools plus MacDonough), with six Wesleyan undergraduates and recent alumni leading the classes and developing the curriculum. A certified teacher continues to work at each site. Funding comes from a variety of sources, including a small budget from Wesleyan’s Provost, the Foundation for Greater Hartford, Safe Schools/Healthy Students, and a seed grant from Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

The program is intended for children who could benefit from an extra pre-school experience before beginning kindergarten in the fall. Through a partnership between university-based research labs, Middletown Public Schools and local community organizations, Kindergarten Kickstart aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap and improve participants’ school readiness skills through a short-term, high-impact, low-cost preschool program.

According to Shusterman, children in low-income neighborhoods start kindergarten with academic skills up to two years behind their peers. Research shows that quality early childhood education makes a huge difference in helping to shrink this achievement gap. In fact, economists estimate a $7 return for every $1 invested in early childhood education, resulting from lower spending on school remediation, incarceration, unemployment and other programs that become necessary when children do not start out on the right foot.

Shusterman said Kindergarten Kickstart was started as a way to put early childhood research into practice.

Shapiro Translates Anthology of French Poet Cécile Périn

51foxWquF1L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Norman Shapiro, professor of French and the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, is the author/translator of The Gentle Genius of Cécile Périn: Selected Poems (1906-1956), published by Black Widow Press, 2016. This comprehensive bi-lingual anthology covers the full expanse of Périn’s (1877-1959) works.

“A reader of Cécile Périn’s work cannot help being struck by the spontaneous and intuitive nature of her poems, effortlessly flowing from one subject to another, touching the reader by their unstrained yet profoundly beautiful images and sounds,” Shapiro said.

Despite limited bibliographical resources available on Périn’s life, The Gentle Genius provides readers with sufficient material to embrace fully her talent and confidently identify her as a significant femme de lettres. For contemporary readers, this work gives renewed access to the world of female imagination in the mostly male-dominated field of early and mid-20th-century French poetry. Her images of female sexuality, free and uncensored, are placidly combined with descriptions of nature and human emotions-not overly romanticized-to create a harmonious and warm verse, candid and authentic, yet no less profoundly artistic.

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.

Hornstein, Hounsell ’11 Co-Author Paper in Journal of Economics and Business

Abigail Hornstein

Abigail Hornstein

Associate Professor of Economics Abigail Hornstein and James Hounsell ’11 are the authors of a new paper published in The Journal of Economics and Business titled “Managerial investment in mutual funds: Determinants and performance implications.”

In the paper, Hornstein and Hounsell examine what determines managerial investments in mutual funds, and the impacts of these investments on fund performance. By using panel data they show that investment levels fluctuate within funds over time, contrary to the common assumption that cross-sectional data are representative. Managerial investments reflect personal portfolio considerations while also signaling incentive alignment with investors. The impact of managerial investment on performance varies by whether the fund is solo- or team-managed. Fund performance is higher for solo-managed funds and lower for team-managed funds when managers invest more. These results are consistent with the higher visibility of solo managers, and less extreme investment returns of team-managed funds. The results suggest investors may not benefit from all managerial signals of incentive alignment as managerial investments also reflect personal portfolio considerations.

Read the full paper here.