In the Media

Aetna Taps Sabatino ’80 and Loveman ’82 as High-Level Hires

Thomas Sabatino Jr. ’80 joins Aetna as executive vice president and general counsel.

Thomas Sabatino Jr. ’80 joins Aetna as executive vice president and general counsel.

Aetna has tapped two Wesleyan alumni for recent high-level hires. Thomas Sabatino Jr. ’80 is joining the insurance giant as executive vice president and general counsel. Sabatino worked most recently at Hertz Global Holdings as its chief lawyer, and previously in pharmaceuticals and medical products.

He joins Gary Loveman ’82, who in September became Aetna’s corporate executive vice president and president of Healthagen, the company’s consumer business. Loveman, a former management professor at Harvard Business School, had been chairman and CEO of Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Gary Loveman ’82 is Aetna’s corporate executive vice president and president of Healthagen, the company’s consumer business.

Gary Loveman ’82 is Aetna’s corporate executive vice president and president of Healthagen, the company’s consumer business.

Dan Haar ’81, business editor of the Hartford Courant, wrote that both Hertz and Caesar’s are known for tracking and managing their top customers. Loveman created a data-based customer loyalty program as well as an incentive-based health and wellness program for the company’s 70,000 employees and their families.

At two of the three big Hartford insurance companies, Wesleyan alumni hold the general counsel position – David Robinson ’87 has the post at The Hartford. Also, Tom Cowhey ’94 is head of investor relations at Aetna, and Gabriella Nawi ’89 has the same position at Travelers.

Wesleyan Leading the Way in Connecticut With Its Microgrid

Alan Rubacha, director of Physical Plant, stands near the university's microgrid engine that generates power to provide heat and electricity to the school. The engine is located in the Combined Heat and Power room at the Freeman Athletic Center. (Photo courtesy of Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant)

Alan Rubacha, director of Physical Plant, stands near the university’s microgrid engine that generates power to provide heat and electricity to the school. The engine is located in the Combined Heat and Power room at the Freeman Athletic Center. (Photo courtesy of Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant)

In a story about the spread of microgrids in Connecticut, The Hartford Courant points to Wesleyan as a leader. Wesleyan’s microgrid was the first project to come online under the inaugural round of Connecticut’s first-in-the-nation statewide microgrid pilot program.

According to the Courant, the $23 million state program to create a network of mini power generation plants across Connecticut was prompted by Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy, which caused widespread power outages, flooding and other problems. In the case of a widespread power outage, microgrids can continue providing power to water treatment plants, emergency shelters, hospitals, police and fire stations.

In March 2014, Alan Rubacha led a tour of Wesleyan’s new generator package that delivers 4,700 mWh annually. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In March 2014, Alan Rubacha led a tour of Wesleyan’s new generator package that delivers 4,700 mWh annually. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

The Courant interviewed Alan Rubacha, director of Wesleyan’s Physical Plant, who said these mini-power plants offer advantages that go beyond providing power in emergencies. He said the university’s microgrid, which went on line in 2014, is producing enough electricity and steam to save Wesleyan an estimated $300,000 a year in energy costs.

Not only does the university’s natural gas engine produce electricity “as efficiently as a utility,” according to Rubacha, “the big thing is we use all the heat off the back end” as steam to heat the Freeman Athletic Center.

Wesleyan’s plant was one of the first Connecticut microgrids and the overall cost amounted to $4.1 million, including a $603,836 state grant. The combination of university and state funding paid for a 676 kilowatt natural gas engine that operates continuously to power the athletic center.

The center is also a designated emergency center for the area and a distribution point for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Wesleyan’s microgrid includes some solar power as well, and Rubacha said university officials calculate that the system will pay back the entire investment in a little over a decade.

Read more about Wesleyan’s microgrid here, and learn about the new solar array in the works that will supply power to the microgrid.

Ulysse’s Essay Says U.S. Foreign Food Aid Policy Undermines Farmers in Haiti

Gina Athena UlysseIn her latest essay on The Huffington PostProfessor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse takes on the matter of U.S. foreign food aid policy vis-a-vis Haiti, which she writes is undermining farmers in the Caribbean nation. She focuses on mamba, the Kreyòl word for peanut butter, which she fondly recalls being made by locals when she was growing up in Haiti.

“To me, mamba is as quintessentially Haitian as basketball is (North) American. Now, it faces risks as another charitable gift of food aid undermines Haitian autonomy by threatening to bench local farmers’ peanuts production, our cultural practices, and even our tastes,” she writes. “This is not our first time. Haiti has been tripped up by the U.S. before.”

Ulysse quotes retired Wesleyan Professor of Sociology Alex Dupuy, who puts this in historical context: “First, the U.S. destroys Haitian agriculture by compelling the then Aristide government to lower tariffs to a level lower than anywhere else in the Caribbean, and then exports its own subsidized agricultural goods (rice, cereals, chickens, etc.) to the country, as former President Clinton acknowledged with crocodile tears. Now, it is dumping its subsidized peanuts on Haiti and undermining the ability of Haitian farmers to increase peanut production. The hypocrisy never stops, and Haiti’s own sycophantic government officials are all too willing to abide them in their destructive policies for the crumbs they get in return.”

Ulysse concludes by urging President Barack Obama to “address this foul play” and “avoid another post-presidential apology that Haiti’s people and fragile economy can actually do without.”

Ulysse also is professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Southard ’78 Receives Lukas Book Prize

Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War, by Susan Southard ’78, has been awarded the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, administered by the Columbia University School of Journalism and Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism.

Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear WarOne of three annual Lukas Prizes honoring the best in American nonfiction writing, the Book Prize is given to a book exemplifying “the literary grace, commitment to serious research, and the social concern that characterized the distinguished work of the award’s namesake, J. Anthony Lukas.”  The prize comes with a $10,000 award.

“I couldn’t be more honored that Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War has been included among the remarkable books of narrative journalism that have received the Lukas Book Prize since 1998,” said Southard. “And I am elated that, 70 years after the atomic bombings of Japan, the survivors’ stories have been recognized in this way.”

The judges in their citation noted, “Susan Southard’s Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War will upset you. With lean and powerful prose she describes the indescribable taking the reader almost minute by minute through the bombing of Nagasaki and then the aftermath. With thorough careful research she exposes a half-century of lies and half-truths about the reasons for the bombing and the results, even denying that radiation poisoning was real. Seventy years later, following the lives of survivors, she reaches the final chapter and at last tells the complete story. Without diatribes or polemics she leaves the reader with a resolve that such a thing must never happen again.”

Star Runner Bill Rodgers ’70 Featured in Runner’s World

In May 2009, Bill Rodgers ’70 – a decorated cross-country, and track and field athlete at Wesleyan – was featured in an article in Runner’s World magazine by Steve Rushin. Following graduation, Rodgers became one of the best-known and most popular American marathon runners ever. The feature takes a look at Rodgers’ life and his successes, which include four wins in the Boston Marathon, four consecutive wins in the New York Marathon, and twice qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team. In all, Rodgers won more than 20 marathon events in a span of 11 years (1973-1983). In addition to his athletic success, Rodgers also battled back from prostate cancer and now uses running as a way to raise awareness about the disease.

In the feature, titled “The Most Likely Return of Boston Billy,” the author interviews Rodgers’ college roommate and teammate, Amby Burfoot ’68. As a senior at Wesleyan, Burfoot won the Boston Marathon in 1968 to become the first collegian to win the world’s oldest continuous marathon event. The duo are pictured in the article in their 1967 cross-country team photo.

Author Nick Weldon recently updated the story seven years after it was published. Read the full article here.

President Roth Comments in The Atlantic on College Admissions Process

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

The Atlantic education writer Alia Wong turned to President Michael S. Roth for his perspective in a three-part series on “Where the College Admissions Process Went Wrong.” One critical problem is that the intense focus on the college application process means that rather than preparing themselves for college or for life, students are preparing simply for the “moment of admission.”

“What we want is to have students who want to come and work hard because they can leverage their experience at the university and do something after they leave,” said Roth. “One of my predecessors used to say to students, ‘If these turn out to be the best four years of your life, we’ve failed you.’”

In recent years, different groups have attempted to reform the process to change this focus, and the values it promotes in students.

“I think that that’s the missing part now—this consumer mentality [of], ‘Oh, I got in and now I get to enjoy the exclusive club,’ rather than ‘I got in, and now I get to use these resources to do something after the university,’” said Roth.

One new campaign, called Turning the Tide, tries to emphasize the character-building potential of the application process by calling on selective colleges to encourage applicants to engage in “meaningful, sustained community service,” contribute to their families, and focus on the quality (versus the quantity) of extracurricular activities. Yet Roth remains skeptical of this approach.

“I do worry about trying to create a new system that will measure qualities that will supposedly make people better people. Because insofar as it becomes a new system, it will be gamed by people who already pad their resumes with all kinds of activities that supposedly show empathy, but what they really show is a desire to get into schools where empathy is a criterion for admission,” he said.

He sees the fundamental problem as being the American obsession with exclusivity.

“Part of what’s attractive [about] going to a great Ivy League institution is not so much the anticipation of a wonderful undergraduate education,” he said. “But the fact that it’s just really hard to get in—that’s just a trait of our culture.” Once “you set up another grid, people will create another profile to match the grid as long as the competition for seats remains intense.”

The third article in Wong’s series looks at the effect of the U.S. News & World Report’s rankings on colleges and universities.

They’re “highly pernicious,” said Roth. “I think they’ve had a really deleterious effect on higher education as [colleges and universities] try to meet requirements that may not be in the best educational interest of their students.”

He added that college rankings contribute to the admissions frenzy, giving the impression that the most desirable schools—irrespective of the applicant and his or her specific interests and needs—are the ones at the top of the list, the ones that are harder to get into.”

“They accentuate the race toward the wealthiest schools,” said Roth.

Read more in parts two and three of the series.

 

NPR Previewed SXSW Performers Elion ’15 and Mitchell ’15 of Overcoats

Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival. (photo credit: Lex Voight)Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival. (photo credit: Lex Voight)

Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival.

NPR’s All Songs Considered featured the former Wesleyan band Overcoats in its preview of the 2016 South by Southwest Music festival in Austin Texas. Overcoats, made up of Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15, have made the leap from small on-campus concerts to performances in New York City’s Mercury Lounge and the Longitude Festival in Ireland. Currently, Overcoats resides in New York City where they are performing and recording new music in studio.

Overcoats describe their style as “combining electronic backdrops with soaring, harmonic intimacy — a sort of Chet Faker meets Simon & Garfunkel.” Their songs “draw strength from vulnerability, finding uplifting beauty in simple, honest songwriting,“ the duo write.

In their preview, NPR host Bob Boilen wrote, “The charming East Coast duo Overcoats reminds me of [the Scandinavian folk duo] My bubba — the heart of what these two do is in the playfulness of their vocal performances.”

Nelson ’94 Receives National Book Critics Circle Award for Argonauts

Maggie Nelson ’94 won the National Book Critics Circle award for The Argonauts (Graywolf Press, 2015).

Maggie Nelson ’94 won the National Book Critics Circle award for The Argonauts. (Photo by Harry Dodge)

Maggie Nelson ’94 received the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in the criticism category for her book, The Argonauts (Graywolf Press, 2015). Literary editor and book critic Michael Miller describes it on the National Book Critics Circle blog as “a potent blend of autobiography and critical inquiry…[which] combines the story of her own adventures in queer family-making with philosophical meditations on gender, art, literary history, sexual politics, and much more.”

Previous works include The Art of Cruelty, a 2011 Notable Book of the Year, and Jane: A Murder, a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. Nelson was awarded an Arts Writers grant in 2007 from the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation. In 2011, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Poetry. She currently teaches in the CalArts MFA writing program. Nelson also has taught at Wesleyan, where, as an undergraduate, she majored in English.

See, also, a review by David Low ’76: wesconnect.wesleyan.edu/news-20150609-maggie-nelson

Rudensky’s Photos Featured in The New York Times

Ricky Preslar, who has undergone growth-attenuation therapy, in his bedroom. (Photo by Sasha Rudensky/For the New York Times.)

Ricky Preslar, who has undergone growth-attenuation therapy, in his bedroom. (Photo by Sasha Rudensky/For The New York Times)

Photographs by Sasha Rudensky ’01, assistant professor of art, are featured in the March 22 online edition of The New York Times. The images accompany an article “Should Parents of Children With Severe Disabilities Be Allowed to Stop Their Growth?

Rudensky’s images are of 9-year-old Ricky Preslar, who who underwent a controversial medical intervention known as growth-attenuation therapy. When children with intellectual and developmental disabilities enter adolescence and adulthood, the simple tasks of caring for them — dressing, toileting, bathing, holding and carrying — can become prohibitively difficult for parents. Arresting a child’s growth could benefit both child and parent. Ricky currently weighs 43 pounds and is 43 inches high.

From the time he was 4 until just shy of his 7th birthday, he received doses of estrogen high enough to stimulate the premature closing of the epiphyseal or “growth” plates, the thin wedges of cartilage found at the end of the long bones in children and adolescents.

Rudensky studied studio art and Russian literature at Wesleyan where she received a BA in 2001. She received her MFA in photography from Yale University in 2008. Her other photographs can be found online at http://www.sasharudensky.com.

The Preslar family at home. (Photo by Sasha Rudensky/For The New York Times).

The Preslar family at home. (Photo by Sasha Rudensky/For The New York Times).

President Roth: Jefferson Would Not Have Liked This College Trend

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

Writing in The Washington PostPresident Michael S. Roth decries the push for students to turn away from “college as exploration” and toward “college as training.”

“Everywhere one looks, from government statistics on earnings after graduation to a bevy of rankings that purport to show how to monetize your choice of major, the message to students is to think of their undergraduate years as an economic investment that had better produce a substantial and quick return,” he writes.

This movement is understandable, given the “scourge of student indebtedness” in our country, yet parents, pundits and politicians are misguided in their insistence that students must study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM fields), or else “miss the economic boat,” Roth writes.

As president of a university dedicated to broad, liberal education, I both deplore the new conformity and welcome an increased emphasis on STEM fields. I’ve been delighted to see mathematics and neuroscience among our fastest growing majors, have supported students from under-represented groups who are trying to thrive in STEM fields, and have started an initiative to integrate design and engineering into our liberal arts curriculum.

Choosing to study a STEM field should be a choice for creativity not conformity. There is nothing narrow about an authentic education in the sciences. Indeed, scientific research is a model for the American tradition of liberal education because of the creative nature of its inquiries, not just the truth-value of its results. As in other disciplines (like music and foreign languages), much basic learning is required, but science is not mere instrumental training; memorizing formulae isn’t thinking like a scientist. On our campus, some of the most innovative, exploratory work is being done by students studying human-machine interactions, using computer science to manipulate moving images to tell better stories, and exploring intersections of environmental science with economics and performance art.

At Wesleyan, Roth sees many students connecting seemingly disparate fields—math and art, biology and theater—in a type of exploration that “develop[s] habits of mind that allow them to develop connections that others haven’t seen”; these students “will be creating the opportunities of the future.”

He concludes:

When Thomas Jefferson was thinking through a new, American model of higher education, it was crucial for him that students not think they already knew at the beginning of their studies where they would end up when it was time for graduation. For him, and for all those who have followed in the path of liberal education in this country, education was exploration – and you would only make important discoveries if you were open to unexpected possibilities. About a century later W.E.B. Du Bois argued that a broad education was a form of empowerment not just apprenticeship. Both men understood that the sciences, along with the humanities, arts and social sciences had vast, integrative possibilities.

This integrative tradition of pragmatic American liberal education must be protected. We must not over-react to fears of being left behind. Yes, ours is a merciless economy characterized by deep economic inequality, but that inequality must not be accepted as a given; the skills of citizenship acquired through liberal learning can be used to push back against it. We must cultivate this tradition of learning not only because it is has served us well for so long, but because it can vitalize our economy, lead to an engaged citizenry and create a culture characterized by connectivity and creativity.

PBS Newshour Features Wesleyan’s Posse Veteran Scholars

PBS Newshour's Jackie Judd interviews Michael Smith '18 about his experience at Wesleyan as a Posse Veteran Scholar.

PBS Newshour’s Jackie Judd interviews Michael Smith ’18 about his experience at Wesleyan as a Posse Veteran Scholar.

On March 15, Wesleyan’s Posse Veteran Scholars program was spotlighted on PBS Newshour, in an episode featuring interviews with President Michael S. Roth and several students. Wesleyan is first mentioned around 3 minutes with Michael Smith ’18 speaking.

According to the show, more than 1 million vets are using GI benefits, but most attend public or for-profit schools. The number of veterans attending top-tier colleges “is so small, it’s not even known.” A few years ago, the Posse Foundation—which has a long history of sending groups, or posses, of talented students “who don’t fit the mold” to top colleges—started a program focused on military veterans. Wesleyan welcomed its first posse of veterans to campus two years ago and, this spring, will admit its third. Vassar and Dartmouth colleges also participate in the Posse Veteran Scholars program.

“I think it’s going to allow for the trajectory of my life to be more vertical by virtue of being here,” Smith told interviewer Jackie Judd. “By virtue of the educational experience I’m getting, by virtue of the skills I’m developing, and by virtue of the resources that I just wouldn’t have had access to.”

Judd also interviewed Bryan Stascavage ’18, an Iraq war veteran and a conservative, about finding himself in the middle of a “culture clash” on campus this fall after he penned an article critical of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I knew that the articles I was writing were not the prevailing opinion on campus, and I knew that it was only a matter of time when, I like to say, that I connect with the beehive,” said Stascavage.

“Unlike a fighting unit, where you really need cohesion and you all have to point in the same direction, at a university you can afford dissent and controversy as long as you learn to listen while that’s going on,” said Roth. Though difficult in the moment, Roth said, the episode was a positive “teachable moment” for the community. “That’s what you want. Because if you’re learning to listen, you’re learning to learn,” he said.

“I don’t want to be in an environment where everybody thinks the same as me, because you just don’t learn that way,” added Stascavage.

Chronicle Publishes Excerpt from Crosby’s New Memoir

The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an excerpt from a new memoir by Christina Crosby, professor of English, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. The book, A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain, is due out later this month from NYU Press.

Crosby tells the story of how her life changed after a bicycle accident in 2003, just after her 50th birthday, left her paralyzed. According to the publisher, “In A Body, Undone, Crosby puts into words a broken body that seems beyond the reach of language and understanding. She writes about a body shot through with neurological pain, disoriented in time and space, incapacitated by paralysis and deadened sensation. To address this foreign body, she calls upon the readerly pleasures of narrative, critical feminist and queer thinking, and the concentrated language of lyric poetry. Working with these resources, she recalls her 1950s tomboy ways in small-town, rural Pennsylvania, and records growing into the 1970s through radical feminism and the affirmations of gay liberation.”

Read the excerpt here.