Faculty

Sumarsam, Students, Alumni Attend Traditional Music Conference in Kazakhstan

PhD candidate Ander Terwilliger, University Professor of Music Sumarsam and PhD candidate Christine Yong attended the International Council for Traditional Music conference in Astana, Kazakhstan.

PhD candidate Ander Terwilliger, University Professor of Music Sumarsam and PhD candidate Christine Yong attended the International Council for Traditional Music conference in Astana, Kazakhstan.

From July 14–23, two ethnomusicology PhD candidates — Christine Yong and Ander Terwilliger — along with five alumni —Tan Sooi Beng ’80, Donna Kwon ’95, Jonathan Kramer ’71, Sylvie Bruinders ’99, and Becky Miller ’94 — joined University Professor of Music Sumarsam at the 2015 conference of the International Council for Traditional Music (ICTM) in Astana, Kazakhstan. Tan Sooi Beng was elected to the ICTO executive board.

The International Council for Traditional Music is a non-governmental organization in formal consultative relations with UNESCO. It aims to further the study, practice, documentation, preservation and dissemination of traditional music and dance of all countries.

At the conference, Sumarsam presented a talk titled “Expressing And Contesting Java-Islam Encounters In The Performing Arts;” and Kwon spoke on “Glimpses Beyond The Curtain: Making Sense Of North Korean Musical Performance in the Age of Social Media.” Kwon also was a recipient of this year’s prestigious American Council of Learned Societies grant.

 

Ulysse Reflects on Sandra Bland’s Self-Possession, Neo-Black Codes of Conduct

Writing for Africa is a Country, Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse reflects on the story of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman who was arrested by a state trooper during a traffic stop in Waller County, Texas and was later found dead in her jail cell. Video footage from a dashboard camera found the trooper had threatened Bland with a Taser after she refused to put out her cigarette and the encounter escalated. Her death was found to be a suicide, though her family has doubts.

Ulysse writes that she identified with Bland, and responded strongly to images and videos of the young woman while she was alive.

There is a radiance that emanated from her, which came from a fierce black woman on a quest of self-discovery with all of its ups and downs, a black woman determined to be of significance in this unjust world, a black woman who, as her mother described was “an activist, sassy, smart, and she knew her rights.” She was using her knowledge and skills to creatively create her life. Sandra Bland was not uppity. That may have been a perception of her by a white officer of the law clearly insecure in his position of authority who had no idea who he is when faced with someone like her. Sandra Bland embodied a rare charismatic self-possession that disrupts social orders. […] This way of being in the world is one for which black women who do not submit continually pay a very high price. Within the social limits of white imagination, complexity is never ours, black women like Sandra Bland, black women like us, are be reducible to four, maybe five, stereotypes at the most.

Ulysse, too, has been pressured many times to “keep my mouth shut, stay in my place, not question my seniors, or watch my comportment too often by white men and women in power.” She writes, “Every time I consider Sandra’s reaction, I identify with it. Her response whatever else you may think of it, was an act of self-possession. Her constitutional rights were being violated and she simply would not stand for it.”

Ulysse concludes:

As black people, we live with the continuities of slavery and the Jim-Crow era when state sanctioned slave codes determined how we expressed fundamental parts of our “partial” personhood. We are being ruled by neo black codes of conduct enforced by social and legal machinery that demand we submit in the presence of white power or else become part of a landfill of hashtags. Sandra Bland refused because she knew her rights.

Sheehan-Connor Authors Paper on Effect of Gas Tax on Vehicle Safety

Damien Sheehan-Connor

Damien Sheehan-Connor

Assistant Professor of Economics Damien Sheehan-Connor is the author of “Environmental Policy and Vehicle Safety: The Impact of Gasoline Taxes,” published in the July 2015 issue of Economic Inquiry.

In the paper, Sheehan-Connor considers the impact that policies to reduce carbon emissions by vehicles, such as fuel economy standards and gasoline taxes, have on vehicle weight and, consequently, on safety. The paper develops a model that separately identifies the impact of vehicle weight on mortality and selection effects that impact accident propensity. He found that the safety externalities associated with heavy vehicles are greater than the environmental ones; that under fuel economy standards, vehicle weights have recently decreased with little likely effect on accident deaths; and that similar environmental benefits could be combined with substantial reductions in deaths by implementing higher gasoline taxes.

Read the paper online here.

Loui’s Study of Chill-Inducing Music Featured in BBC

Psyche Loui is assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Psyche Loui is assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior.

When Psyche Loui first heard Rachmaninov’s Piano Concert No. 2 on the radio as a college student, she still remembers the chill that went down her spine, the fluttering in her stomach and the racing heart. Now an assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience and behavior at Wesleyan, Loui studies this phenomenon–which she refers to as “frissons” or “skin orgasms”–in her lab. She recently co-authored a paper with Luke Harrison ’14 in Frontiers in Psychology reviewing the evidence and theories in this area, and spoke to the BBC about their findings.

Loui, also an accomplished pianist and violinist, points out that the sensations associated with music can be as varied as trembling, flushing and sweating, and sexual arousal. People can often pick out particular measures in a song that trigger such sensations, allowing researchers to pinpoint specific features that are most likely to trigger the sensations in listeners.

Sudden changes in harmony, dynamic leaps (from soft to loud), and melodic appoggiaturas (dissonant notes that clash with the main melody, like you’ll find in Adele’s Someone Like You) seem to be particularly powerful. “Musical frisson elicit a physiological change that’s locked to a particular point in the music,” says Loui.

Researchers have been able to use fMRI scans to map out the regions of the brain that respond to music, and chart the mechanisms that correspond to this phenomenon.

One major component seems to be the way the brain monitors our expectations, says Loui. From the moment we are born (and possibly before), we begin to learn certain rules that characterise the way songs are composed. If a song follows the conventions too closely, it is bland and fails to capture our attention; if it breaks the patterns too much, it sounds like noise. But when composers straddle the boundary between the familiar and unfamiliar, playing with your expectations using unpredictable flourishes (like appoggiaturas or sweeping harmonic changes), they hit a sweet spot that pleasantly teases the brain, and this may produce a frisson.

For instance, violated expectations seem to startle (albeit gently) the automatic nervous system, in its most primitive region, the brain stem – producing the racing heart, the breathlessness, the flush that can signal the onset of a frisson. What’s more, the anticipation, violation, and resolution of our expectations triggers the release of dopamine in two key regions – the caudate and the nucleus accumbens, shortly before and just after the frisson. You see a similar response when people take drugs or have sex, which may explain why we find shiver-inducing songs so addictive, says Loui.

O’Connell Named Society Fellow of the Geological Society of America

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

For her distinguished contributions to the geosciences, Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, recently became a Fellow of the Geological Society of America.

Society Fellowship is an honor bestowed on leading professional geoscientists. New fellows are nominated by existing GSA fellows in recognition of their contributions to the geosciences through such avenues as publications, applied research, teaching, administration of geological programs, contributing to the public awareness of geology, leadership of professional organizations, and taking on editorial, bibliographic and library responsibilities.

“Suzanne O’Connell is an accomplished geoscientist who highly honors the traditions of research and scholarship in the geosciences, but also pays great attention to the societal well-being of the community, reflected by her service in professional societies, her work in policy, and her persistent and caring attention to students,” said GSA fellow and nominator Marilyn Suiter, who earned her MA from Wesleyan in 1981.

At Wesleyan, O’Connell teaches courses in the geosciences

3 Wesleyan MOOCs Now On-Demand

Wesleyan is the first small liberal arts college focused on the undergraduate experience to partner with Coursera.

Wesleyan is the first small liberal arts college focused on the undergraduate experience to partner with Coursera.

Two Wesleyan massive open online courses (MOOCs) are now available on-demand through Coursera. They are “The Modern and the Postmodern,” taught by President Michael Roth, which was recently broken into Parts 1 and 2, and “The Ancient Greeks,” taught by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, the Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, chair and professor of classical studies. A third Wesleyan MOOC, “Property and Liability: An Introduction to Law and Economics,” taught by Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, has been on-demand since earlier this year.

“On-demand courses are always available and therefore allow learners to begin at any time and proceed at their own pace,” said Jeffrey Goetz, online programs development manager. “While the new format encourages deadlines, it no longer imposes them, and as such is more flexible for learners with busy lives.”

While certain aspects of the courses, such as peer-assessed assignments and online discussions, will look slightly different in the on-demand versions, Goetz said, “Because there are tens of thousands of people potentially taking each course, it’s highly likely that there will be a critical mass at any point in the curriculum, allowing for plenty of interaction among participants. Professors will have a more hands-off approach to the on-demand courses, checking in sporadically on discussion forums. The professors may choose to answer common questions that arise in the forums, hold occasional ‘office hours,’ or tap in for an extended period of time to work with a cohort though the entire course.”

Stemler Presents Findings on Creativity, Citizenship in HOT Schools

Steve Stemler

Steve Stemler

On July 1, Associate Professor of Psychology Steven Stemler presented the results of a two-year study measuring creativity and citizenship in Connecticut’s Higher Order Thinking (HOT) schools to an audience of faculty, staff and students in Judd Hall.

The HOT schools are a collaborative of about 14 public schools in Connecticut that voluntarily commit to a philosophy of education, which emphasizes “teaching and learning in, about, and through the arts in a democratic setting,” according to the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development Office of Culture and Tourism’s website. About two years ago, the HOTs leadership team approached Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center about conducting a study to assess the effectiveness of their program. Emmanuel Kaparakis, director of the Centers for Advanced Computing, asked Stemler to lead the study, which was a good fit with research he’d been working on in his lab to develop assessments of creativity and citizenship. They received a two-year, $60,000 grant from the state for the study.

In order to assess the program’s effectiveness, the study sought to go beyond measures of critical thinking, which an be assessed with standardized tests, by measuring creativity and citizenship — important student outcomes, according to the schools’ mission statements.

Johnston, Nakamura Present Papers at History of Science in East Asia Conference

Bill Johnston and Miri Nakamura celebrating after the conference at the Terroir Paris restaurant.

Professor Bill Johnston and Associate Professor Miri Nakamura celebrated with a toast after presenting papers in Paris.

Two Wesleyan faculty members presented talks at the 14th International Conference on the History of Science in East Asia, held in Paris, July 6-10.

On July 7, Miri Nakamura, associate professor of East Asian studies, read from a paper titled “Atomic Maids,” which focused on the role of Japanese housekeepers in mystery novels that were indirect criticisms of nuclear issues. On July 9, Bill Johnston, professor of history, professor of East Asian studies, professor of Science in Society, professor of environmental studies, spoke about the changing role of the environment in ideas about disease causation in 19th century Japan.

The conference is held every four years at venues around the world. Researchers from around the world came together to present and discuss their latest research relevant to the history of science, technology and medicine in East Asia from antiquity up to the present day. With 317 papers, about 200 of which were delivered as part of the 45 panels, this year’s conference was the largest ever held.

 

Beatles Benefit Concert Created in Memory of CFA Intern

A 21-member all-star band, featuring four members of the Wesleyan community, will come together to perform the Beatles White Album in its entirety at Blackbird: A Benefit Concert for the Stephanie Nelson Memorial Scholarship Fund, on Saturday, July 25 at Crowell Concert Hall. Pictured: Nadya Potemkina, Andy Chatfield, and Shona Kerr. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell).

A 21-member all-star band, featuring four members of the Wesleyan community, will come together to perform the Beatles’ White Album in its entirety at Blackbird: A Benefit Concert for the Stephanie Nelson Memorial Scholarship Fund, July 25 at Crowell Concert Hall. Pictured, from left, are Wesleyan’s Nadya Potemkina, Andy Chatfield and Shona Kerr. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

A 21-member all-star band will come together to perform the Beatles’ White Album in its entirety at Blackbird: A Benefit Concert for the Stephanie Nelson Memorial Scholarship Fund, at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 25 at Crowell Concert Hall. The concert is being held in memory of former Center for the Arts intern Stephanie Nelson, of Middletown, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 25. All proceeds from ticket sales will go toward creating a scholarship fund for Middlesex Community College students in support of internships at Wesleyan.

The concert is the brainchild of drummer Andy Chatfield, press and marketing director of the Center for the Arts. “Stephanie was the CFA’s first broadcast communications and multimedia intern from Middlesex Community College in 2013, and we all appreciated the energy and light that she brought to our office and to everything she did,” Chatfield said. “This event will celebrate Stephanie’s life with her family and friends and create a scholarship fund in her memory to support interns from Middlesex Community College to be paid for time spent working at Wesleyan.”

Basinger Comments on Why Today’s TV is So Good

Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, curator of the Cinema Archives, spoke with The Huffington Post about why today’s television is so good. TV has come a long way since 1961 when Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton Minow proclaimed television “a vast wasteland” in an address to the National Association of Broadcasters. The article explores how advances in technology and television production have vastly improved the experience for viewers.

One of the biggest changes was the introduction of DVR and streaming services, which mean we’re no longer slaves to the television schedule, required to sit on the couch for an hour when our favorite show airs.

“I think that’s a very ‘old people’ view, that we’re all just sitting around on our couch and eating cookies,” Basinger told The Huffington Post. “That’s very 1960s. I don’t think people do that anymore. We can control our viewing of TV, when we watch it and how we watch it.”

The writer also argues that “TV is now the definitive space for starting a dialogue around social issues.”

“TV has become a global forum of discussion, information, entertainment and intellectual stimulation,” Basinger agreed. “Watching TV doesn’t eliminate your intellectual life. It actually adds to it.”

GSTLC Math Course Provides Tools for Teachers

This summer, almost 30 K-8 teachers from Middletown and Meriden are participating in the Intel Math Summer Course at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. The intensive 80-hour math content course is being co-taught by a mathematician and a math education specialist: Wesleyan’s Cameron Hill, assistant professor of mathematics, and Shelley Jones from Central Connecticut State University. The course is part of Green Street’s Math Institute, a program designed to get teachers excited about math, prepared for Common Core, equipped with a toolkit of activities to bring key math concepts into their classrooms through the arts, and more.

“With Common Core and STEM interest taking center stage in education, mathematics is a major area of focus for school districts,” said Sara MacSorley, director of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center and Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS). “Our Math Institute helps teachers better understand the concepts they are teaching, build their own math confidence, and also gives them tools to use in the classroom.”

Green Street teaching artist Elizabeth Dellinger is also participating in the program. “The arts can play an important role in differentiation and helping each student math content in different ways,” MacSorley said. “Since Elizabeth is an incredible vocalist and musician, shel’ll be helping to develop a math and music workshop to help educators integrate the arts into math instruction.”

Later this month, Green Street will be hosting a second Intel Math Summer Course in Killingly, Conn. featuring Christopher Rasmussen, assistant professor of mathematics, and Sharon Heyman, a PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut.

(Photos by Laurie Kenney)

Almost 30 teachers are participating in this summer's Intel Math Summer Course at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Almost 30 teachers are participating in this summer’s Intel Math Summer Course at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Haverford Hosts Belanger’s “Rift/Fault” Photography Series

Marion Belanger, an instructor in Graduate Liberal Studies, is currently displaying her photography series “Rift/Fault” at Haverford College. The series is two dozen photography pairings of the North American continental plate, which stretches from California to Iceland. In an intersection of geology and art, the display walks a viewer through images of plate tectonics and the stories that they tell.

More information about the gallery, including dates and hours of operation, can be found here.  Samples of her photography are below:

One of Belanger's photo pairings in her "Rift/Fault" series.

belanger-rift-fault-2

One of Belanger's photo pairings in her "Rift/Fault" series.