Andrew Curran, the William Armstrong Professor of the Humanities, has received the 2018 Prix Monsieur et Madame Louis Marin from the Académie des sciences d’outre-mer for his 2017 book L’Anatomie de la noirceur [The Anatomy of Blackness], which was published by Classiques Garnier.
This prize, which is given by the French Académie des Sciences d’outre-mer, recognizes an outstanding work in the social sciences. The Académie des Sciences d’outre-mer was founded in 1922 and has conferred the Prix Marin since 1976.
Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, was widely quoted in the media about the fourth National Climate Assessment, the first to be released under the Trump Administration. “The impacts we’ve seen the last 15 years have continued to get stronger, and that will only continue,” Yohe, who served on the National Academy of Sciences panel that reviewed the report, told The Washington Post. “We have wasted 15 years of response time. If we waste another five years of response time, the story gets worse. The longer you wait, the faster you have to respond and the more expensive it will be.” Yohe was also quoted on the report in The Hill, The Verge, Al Jazeera, and many other news sources. He is also professor of economics, and professor, environmental studies.
In this op-ed, Richard Grossman, professor and chair of economics, writes that Brexit, or Britain’s “divorce” from the European Union, is anticipated to “reduce Britain’s economic prospects in both the short and long run and leave the country poorer than it would have been had it remained within the European Union.” He writes: “There is a way out of this mess,” but the difficulties are political, not legal.
Sumarsam, pictured standing, at right, was named an honorary member of the Society for Ethnomusicology.
For his contribution to the field of ethnomusicology and music scholarship, Sumarsam, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, was recently named an honorary member of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM).
The encomium was presented by Wesleyan alumna Maria Mendonca MA ’90, PhD ’02, during the 63rd SEM General Membership Meeting, Nov. 17, in Albuquerque, N.M.
Sumarsam was commended for his scholarship on gamelan and wayang performance traditions, which inspired the SEM membership, explained Gregory Barz, president of the Society for Ethnomusicology.
“Your mentorship of countless students and colleagues, both directly and by example, is held in high esteem, and the ways that you simultaneously embrace and speak to the various subfields among the disciplines of music scholarship is exemplary,” Barz said. “You demonstrate not only a unique career, but one to which we all aspire.”
Sumarsam is the third Wesleyan faculty member to receive this award. The first one is the late David McAllester, professor of music and anthropology, emeritus (2001); the second is Mark Slobin, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, Emeritus (2013).
During the meeting, Sumarsam also attended a number of panels, the Society for Asian Music Business meeting, and the SEM Journal of Editorial Board meeting, in which he is a member.
Students in Assistant Professor of Government Logan Dancey’s Campaigns and Elections course conducted exit polling around Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District on Election Day.
Students in Assistant Professor of Government Logan Dancey’s GOVT 232 Campaigns and Elections course got a real-world lesson in the subject matter this Election Day.
On Nov. 6, the students stood out in the rain to field an exit poll—a survey of voters as they’re leaving their polling locations—in Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District. The students conducted the surveys at nine different polling places spread out across six different towns in the district.
In order to generate a diverse sample that reflected the demographics of the congressional district, the precincts were intentionally selected to provide a balance of more Republican-leaning, Democratic-leaning, and balanced precincts. The survey included a mix of demographic and political questions, such as respondents’ race; sex; age; party identification; approval of Trump and Governor Dannel Malloy; vote choice for House, Senate, and governor; and positions on issues such as the Affordable Care Act, border wall, and abortion.
Barry Chernoff, second from right, is pictured on stage with, from left, composer Felipe Perez Santiago, composer Graham Reynolds, and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler.
Barry Chernoff, director of the College of the Environment, was one of eight scientists recently honored with a new musical composition based upon his research—part of a concert and album titled “The Sound of Science, performed in New York City on Nov. 10.
The project aims to build “bridges between the musical and scientific worlds, celebrating their shared culture of inquiry,” according to the website. The pieces were written by seven celebrated composers for amplified cello and electronics, and were all recorded and performed by world-renowned cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, longtime member of Kronos Quartet and several other groups. The Grammy Award–winning quartet has performed at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, most recently in April 2018.
Each composer was paired with a scientist of his or her choosing and tasked with creating music inspired by and reflective of the scientist’s life and practice.
Chernoff’s piece, titled, “Pastaza,” was composed by Graham Reynolds, an Austin-based composer-bandleader-improviser who creates, performs, and records music for film, theater, dance, rock clubs, and concert halls. “Pastaza” and the other works can be played online here.
According to the website: “Graham was drawn to Chernoff’s work for its influence and importance on this grand scale…. When it comes to considering what future we are creating, there is nothing more crucial than the planet, its limited resources, and how it will fare for generations to come.”
The piece aims to honor Chernoff’s “abundant curiosity for the world” around him, and to examine the ways in which his work influences our understanding of “what came before and what’s ahead.”
“I am incredibly honored to have a piece of music inspired by my research and conservation efforts in the Amazon and in South America—and I am in awe of Graham Reynolds’s ability to have imagined the music without having traveled by dugout in the Amazon basin himself!” said Chernoff. “His composition, ‘Pastaza’ is so beautiful, if not breathtaking. Hearing the music performed live by Jeffrey Zeigler with Graham’s electronic backing with my photos being displayed on the wall was an experience I will never forget.”
Chernoff is also the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and professor and chair of environmental studies.
Led by Professor of Physics Tsampikos Kottos, Wesleyan will serve as the lead institution for a four-year grant developing cutting-edge technology toward the next generation of navigation systems, optical diodes, efficient frequency converters for night vision, and high-powered filters.
Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics, and Wesleyan University will lead a complex, multi-institution initiative to research and develop the next generation of national instrumentation technology thanks to a four-year, $2,794,606 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Awarded this August, the grant is the culmination of at least eight years of photonics research by Kottos and his fellow collaborators, and will have significant implications for the future of a variety of technologies employed by the federal government and the private sector. An agency of the US Department of Defense, DARPA funds research and development projects that push the boundaries of technology and science. The focus of Kottos’s project is to “develop models and photonic devices that utilize dynamical (hidden) symmetries in order to achieve extreme light-matter interactions” and has three main targets:
Target 1: Develop the next generation of navigation instruments by designing photonic architectures with an extreme response to small perturbations. The goal is to use them to hone gyroscopes and accelerometers, which measure and guide the rotation and maneuvers of vehicles like race cars and jet airplanes.
Target 2: Utilize the temporal dimension (or time) as an altogether different degree of freedom in order to manipulate the flow of light. Applications vary from efficient night vision cameras, to management of thermal radiation in turbine aircraft engines.
Target 3: Investigate how to protect sensitive sensors from high-powered sources—this could include a pilot’s eyes from a laser source, an antenna from a directed electromagnetic burst, or a radar receiver from its own outbound signal.
In this op-ed, President Michael S. Roth writes: “In a year when inducements to political violence have become normalized at the highest level, colleges and universities must do more than just encourage our students to vote.” It is crucial that colleges actively work to protect free expression, free inquiry, and fact-based discussion, Roth argues.
Melanie Khamis, associate professor of economics and associate professor, Latin American studies, recently presented her paper, “Reversed Migration Trends and Local Labor Markets” at two meetings. She spoke at the North East Universities Development Consortium (NEUDC) at Cornell University on Oct. 27, and at the Kiessling Presentation, Economic Studies Division at The Brookings Institution on Oct. 16.
Khamis coauthored the paper with Emily Conover of Hamilton College and Sarah Pearlman of Vassar College. According to the abstract, the paper estimates the effects of the unprecedented decline in Mexican net migration from 2006 to 2012 on labor markets in Mexico, and finds that declines in migration can have an impact on labor markets in sending countries.
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 Government Mary Alice Haddad writes that the recent election of many pro-environment mayors was a promising sign for our country’s response to climate change. She describes the progress that cities in the U.S.—and around the world—have made in this area in recent years, at a time when the federal government is moving backwards. Haddad is also professor, environmental studies, and professor, East Asian studies.
Americans elected mayors who care about climate change
Being pro-environment was a winning strategy for this country’s mayors.
Twelve mayors in America’s 100 largest cities faced re-election battles during the 2018 midterms, and mayors – both Democrats and Republicans – who followed pro-environmental policies were rewarded. All six mayors who had demonstrated their commitment to the environment by signing the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy – including Stephen Adler of Austin, Texas, Greg Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky, and Libby Schaff of Oakland, California – won re-election. The other big city mayors in re-election battles weren’t so fortunate – two won, two lost, and two are facing runoffs.
Of course, voters consider many issues when they cast their ballot. It’s unlikely that the environment was the deciding issue in these races. However, mayors that prioritize the environment seem to be making changes in their cities that please constituents. The positive election results in 2018 were not an anomaly – all 15 mayors who signed the covenant and sought re-election in the last two years have been victorious at the ballot box, usually by large margins.
Mayors with pro-environmental agendas aren’t just popular. I believe they are an important part of the answer to the global challenge of climate change.
As a scholar of civil society and environmental policy – this is just one of the positive signs I see not just in American cities, but around the world.
Climate change is urgent
A month before the election, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report about the risks associated with climate change. The news was bad. Our planet is now expected to reach a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in average global temperatures as early as 2030. One billion people will regularly endure conditions of extreme heat. Sea levels will rise, exposing between 31 and 69 million people to flooding. Seventy to 90 percent of coral reefs will die. Fishery catches will decline by 1.5 million tons. And that is if we are lucky and keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which will not be easy.
As my colleague Gary Yohe reflected in a recent New York Timesarticle, “2 degrees is aspirational and 1.5 degrees is ridiculously aspirational.” At exactly a time when we need to become more ambitious in our efforts to tackle this global problem, the United States has pulled out of the Paris agreement and is dismantling many of its clean energy and other climate policies at home. One of my students recently expressed a common feeling of helplessness: “It makes me wonder if the best thing I can do is just go out in the backyard and compost myself.”
So, I’d like to say: There is hope. While the president of the United States may not be making much progress, many other people are. The election of pro-environment mayors and governors is one excellent sign.
Cities take the lead
A number of U.S. cities have gained global reputations for their innovative responses to the challenge of climate change.
San Francisco, which reduced its carbon emissions by 30 percent between 1990 and 2016, cemented its global leadership position by hosting the 2018 Climate Action Summit this past September, which gathered 4,500 leaders from local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and business together to address climate change. The summit resulted in numerous corporate and city commitments to become carbon neutral, as well as trillions of dollars of investment in climate action.
New York City reduced its emissions by 15 percent between 2005 and 2015. Its residents have a carbon footprint that is only one-third that of the average American. The mayor of the financial capital of the United States has also become a champion of oil divestment.
As in the U.S., global cities are also making significant progress on climate change. Tokyo reduced its energy consumption more than 20 percent between 2000 and 2015, with the industrial and transportation sectors making astounding 41 percent and 42 percent reduction respectively. By 2015, the city of London had reduced its emissions 25 percent since 1990, and 33 percent since peak emissions in 2000.
These cities are not waiting for presidents and prime ministers to act, they’re making changes right now that are improving the lives of the tens of millions of their own residents by improving air quality, reducing flooding risk, and expanding green space, all while helping to bend the global emissions curve downward.
Steve Stemler, associate professor of psychology, participated in the High Value Talents and Innovators’ Entrepreneurship Retreat Oct. 26-27 on campus. The new industry-academic initiative, supported by the CTNext Higher Education Entrepreneurship and Innovation Fund works to increase entrepreneurial education and output among the state’s top researchers. The event was sponsored by Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.
Stemler joined faculty and researchers from the University of Connecticut, Unilever, Quinnipiac University, and The Jackson Laboratory at the retreat. Stemler attended the retreat to learn how his research on testing could have potential real-world applications. He also had many students come up with projects in his Psychological Measurement course that could result in important commercial ventures.
Activities included a combination of instructor talks, attendee presentations, active interactions between participants, and a customer discovery, where participants explored potential product-market fit and a wider business model. Faculty received targeted training modules to help attract and retain high-value researchers and were encouraged to engage in Connecticut’s growing innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem. The goal of the initiative is to increase the number of successful ventures coming out of universities in the state; launch new products and/or business lines with corporate partners; attract investment and partnership deals for these startups and products; and improve the entrepreneurial ecosystems at these institutions to better attract and retain researchers.
“One thing I took away from the retreat is that as researchers we often get very excited about our own technological/research innovations and assume that people will immediately understand how it fills a need they have,” Stemler said. “I learned that in business ventures, you have to start by really understanding the needs of the people you think will be your potential customers. To do that, it is critically important to interview and really listen to a whole lot of people whom you think will be most interested in your innovation. What I found is that when we engage in that process, we often find that people we thought would find our innovation appealing actually have very different needs. But we can also walk away with more refined ideas for how to apply our innovation, practically communicate about it in a way that resonates with their needs, and which segments of the market will find our innovations useful and which will not.” (Photos by Preksha Sreewastav ’21)
President Michael Roth moderated a discussion with alumni in the entertainment field—from left, Jon Turteltaub ’85, Julia Zhu ’91, and Jon Hoeber ’93—on “practical idealism in action” at the inaugural Liberal Arts + forum in Shanghai on Oct. 20.
On Oct. 20, Wesleyan held its inaugural Liberal Arts + forum in Shanghai, China. This year, the forum focused on film education and U.S.-China film collaborations, and featured discussions between three alumni in the entertainment industry; President Michael Roth; and Scott Higgins, director of the College of Film and the Moving Image. Each year, the forum will highlight a different area of liberal arts education for an audience of prospective families, alumni, and the general public in China.
The centerpiece of this public event, which was attended by approximately 80 people, was a panel discussion featuring Jon Hoeber ’93 and Jon Turteltaub ’85, screenwriter and director of the summer blockbuster, The Meg, as well as Julia Zhu ’91, a media and entertainment expert and entrepreneur and CEO of Phoenix TV Culture and Live Entertainment Company. Roth moderated the discussion, titled, “Practical Idealism in Action,” in which the three alumni described how their liberal arts educations prepared them for successful careers in the entertainment industry.
The three later shared insights into the future of film collaborations between the U.S. and China, in a conversation moderated by Higgins, who is also the Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies, chair of Film Studies, and curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives.
Higgins also offered a simulated film studies class for prospective students and others in the audience—bringing the Wesleyan liberal arts film education experience to Shanghai.
Higgins said of the Forum: “I learned a lot about how the Chinese and American media industries are interacting, and renewed my long-time interest in Chinese cinema. I also met with a few recent graduates who are now making commercials and short films in the country, and was introduced to a whole new generation who are just now applying to Wesleyan. It was touching to be so far away from Middletown and yet feel connected to our ever-growing community.”
Watch a video (created by Chengjun Huang) of the forum highlights below:
Additional photos (taken by Weiji Sun) of the forum are below:
Front row, from left, Julia Zhu ’91, Scott Higgins, and President Michael Roth.
On Oct. 15, Seth Redfield, associate professor and chair of astronomy, gave a lecture at the Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences. He was invited to speak as part of the Benjamin Dean Astronomy Lecture series. The title of his talk was, “Exploring Our Galactic Neighborhood.” The talk will be posted to the Academy’s iTunes University site.
Redfield is also associate professor, integrative sciences, and co-coordinator, planetary science.