People

Graduate Student Blasser: an Artisan, Entrepreneur, Educator

Graduate student Peter Blasser tunes one of his hand-crafted analog instruments. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Graduate student Peter Blasser tunes one of his hand-crafted analog instruments. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

#THISISWHY
In this Q&A, we speak with Peter Blasser, a music graduate student. 

Q: What was your first experiences with music? When did you decide that music would be your life work?

A: I was in elementary school in the 1980s when music programs were still part of the public school curriculum. I remember that those music classes were not very noteworthy at the time. In middle school I took a wood shop class and liked working with the tools. After taking classical civilization classes, I started to triangulate all three — I wanted to work with wood to make ancient Greek instruments to see what they sounded like. The first instruments I decided to recreate were ancient stringed instruments.

Blasser changes where the transistors are connected in order to tune the instrument.

Blasser changes where the transistors are connected in order to tune the instrument.

Q: Where did you complete your undergraduate studies?

A: I went to Oberlin College. I initially went as a classics major, but still had a passion for making classical instruments. Oberlin had a conservatory for music, and they offered introductory courses in electronic music. I started to use electronic music to model and tune classical instruments. I also was able to take a course in analog music, learning about transistors and electronics, and how they could be used to make music. This caused me to combine wood and analog electronics, which is all about the flow of the transistors.

Q: What did you do after graduating?

A: I purchased a home in Baltimore about 10 years ago as a space to work on my art. Fixing up the house was an artistic experience in of itself. I also started my own business where I sold analog instruments. I wasn’t making much money, so I spent a lot of time working on poetry, thinking of ideas for my business and exploring my philosophy. I also toured with my instruments, but didn’t like how much I had to promote myself and push my brand.

Q: Why did you choose Wesleyan for your graduate school?

Blasser likes to work with wood, which is frequently used in his instruments.

Blasser likes to work with wood, which is frequently used in his instruments.

A: I decided to attend Wesleyan after developing a friendship with Ron Kuivila, chair of the Music Department. After graduating from Oberlin I never thought I would return to school, but I found that I enjoyed giving lectures and helping other students make their instruments. I also liked how Wesleyan’s music program, and art program in general, is experimental — there are no prejudices from students about what music should “be” like. The different departments are porous, there is mixing between different mediums and styles. This enables me to sit with undergraduates and help them make a piece that the student will own, with a shared experience. This made me realize that I enjoy teaching, and in order to become a professor, formal education is required.

Q: What are your plans after Wesleyan?

A: Right now my analog electronics business,

Steinberg ’16 Studies Effects of Artificial Feeders on Hummingbird Diversity, Interactions in Costa Rica

Hannah Steinberg '16 studied hummingbirds in Monteverde, Costa Rica  through the School for Field Studies.

Hannah Steinberg ’16 studied hummingbirds in Monteverde, Costa Rica through the School for Field Studies.

#THISISWHY
In this Q&A, we speak with Hannah Steinberg from the Class of 2016.

Q: Hannah, you studied abroad through the School for Field Studies’ (SFS) Costa Rica program in Spring 2014. Why did you choose this program and why did you decide to conduct research during your study abroad experience?

A: I chose SFS Costa Rica because I wanted to go to Latin America to improve my Spanish skills and get practical hands-on experience in biological science. Another cool part of the program was that it was situated on a sustainable orange and mango farm in central Costa Rica, but also took us on field trips around the country, and even to Nicaragua for a week.

Q: You were one of six students to receive SFS’s Distinguished Student Research Award this month. Please tell us about your research project, “Effect of Artificial Feeders on Hummingbird Diversity and Level of Interactions in Monteverde, Costa Rica.”

A: My research project was part of an ongoing study of the ecology of hummingbirds

McLaughlin ’15 Helps Students Discover Body-Mind Awareness through WesBAM! Classes

Katie McLaughlin '15 teaches a WesBAM! class called Vinyasa Flow Fusion, which combines meditation, breathing techniques and traditional asana practice for whole body health and happiness.

Katie McLaughlin ’15 teaches a WesBAM! class called Vinyasa Flow Fusion, which combines meditation, breathing techniques and traditional asana practice for whole body health and happiness.

In this Q&A we speak with Katie McLaughlin from the Class of 2015. (Story and photos by Hannah Norman ’16)

Q: Katie, what are you majoring in?

A: I’m majoring in French and environmental studies with the certificate in international relations. For my capstone project in the environmental studies major, I am researching the academic justifications of contemplative pedagogy and developing a curriculum which integrates it and movement-based learning into elementary school, high school and adult education. The goals of the curriculum are to explore the environment through physical inquiry and embodiment, reevaluate the ways we perceive ourselves as a part of, or apart from nature and reexamine how we interact with ourselves, our communities and the spaces we inhabit.

Q: You are a WesBAM! manager and yoga instructor on campus. Please explain what WesBAM! is all about.

A: Started by Renee Dunn ’14 and Shira Engel ’14, Wesleyan Body and Mind (WesBAM!) is a student-run organization that makes mind-body awareness and fitness accessible at Wesleyan by offering a wide variety of daily classes, free community classes every weekend, and free workshops throughout the semester. WesBAM! instructors are students certified in a variety of athletic disciplines.

Government Major Sveen Promotes Political Diversity on Campus through the Wesleyan Republican Committee

Emmakristina Sveen '17, of Denver, co-founded the Wesleyan Republican Committee this fall. The group now has more than 75 active members.

Emmakristina Sveen ’17, of Denver, Colo. co-founded the Wesleyan Republican Committee this fall. The group now has more than 75 active members. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

In this Q&A we speak with Emmakristina Sveen from the Class of 2017.

Q: How and when did you form the Wesleyan Republican Committee (WRC)?

A: Meghan Kelly ’17 and I founded the Wesleyan Republican Committee this fall. The previous Republican student group on campus, which was started in 2009, gradually deteriorated after the 2012 elections and after their senior leadership graduated. We wanted to establish a club that served as a vehicle in which students with any level of affiliation with the Republican Party could discuss their political views in a safe environment. With the help of Meghan’s brother, who served as chairman of the College Republican chapter at Northeastern, we received our charter from the College Republican National Committee and the Connecticut Federation of College Republicans. We are now the largest College Republican chapter in the state of Connecticut.

Q: Wesleyan has a reputation as being a rather liberal institution. Was political diversity a consideration for you in choosing a college, and how did you feel about Wesleyan?

A: Wesleyan is an incredibly liberal institution,

Staff on the Move January 2015

The Office of Human Resources announces the following new hires, transitions and departures for January 2015:

Newly hired

Christopher Chenier was hired as a digital design technician in the Art and Art History Department on Jan. 5.

Rebecca Foster was hired as the technical director and production manager of theater/manager of ’92 Theater in the Theater Department on Jan. 5.

CS Major Gansley ’15 Hopes to Use Programming Skills to Help with Good Causes

As a service-learning project, Alicia Gansley '15 helped create a web application for the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. Gansley enjoys writing programs from the comfort of the Science Library. "This is where you're usually find me," she said.

As a service-learning project, Alicia Gansley ’15 helped create a web application for the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. Gansley enjoys writing programs from the comfort of the Science Library. “This is where you’ll usually find me,” she said.

#THISISWHY
In this Q&A meet Alicia Gansley from the Class of 2015. (Story by Rosy Capron ’14, civic engagement fellow at Wesleyan’s Allbritton Center.)

Q: Alicia, what are you majoring in?

A: I’m majoring in computer science and I’m also completing the economics minor and Civic Engagement Certificate.

Gansley discusses her recent programming project with Kristie Cruz '15.)

Gansley discusses her recent programming project with Kristie Cruz ’15.)

Q: Last fall, you brought your programming knowledge to COMP 342: Software Engineering, a service-learning course where groups of computer science majors develop special projects for local organizations. Tell us more about your project.

A: My group made a web application for Green Street Teaching and Learning Center to use to sign students up for one of its after school programs. Our system will allow Green Street to collect students’ contact information and course preferences, as well as allow the staff to keep track of this information throughout the semester.

Q: How did the experience of working on a project for an organization differ from working on a project for a typical academic course? Were there unexpected rewards and challenges that came with having a client?

A: It was a real pleasure working closely with Sara MacSorley at Green Street and learning more about their facility and programs. Part of what struck me about working on a project for a client was the fact that you can never just say “90 percent is enough.” We needed to always figure out some way to meet their specifications, which I think pushed the team to really learn and work together.

Sociology Major, Football Player Fabien ’15 Planning to Coach, Join Special Forces after Graduation

Jay Fabien '15 and his "rescued" husky, Glacier, hang out on Citrin Field Jan. 23. Fabien, formerly a wide-receiver for the Wesleyan Cardinals Football Team, hopes to coach student-athletes after graduation and later join the U.S Army Special Forces. 

Jay Fabien ’15 and his “rescued” husky, Glacier, hang out on Citrin Field Jan. 23. Fabien, formerly a wide receiver for the Wesleyan Cardinals Football Team, hopes to coach student-athletes after graduation and later join the U.S. Army Special Forces. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

He loves “chick-flicks” and played alto-sax in high school. But he also wants to earn a spot in the Special Forces after graduation. In short, the Cardinals’ No. 80 in football has many layers. They all start and end with respect, and comfort in being himself, on and off the field.

He’s no prima donna, even though he has only played one position since he was 9 — wide receiver. Being a distraction to the team is not in his DNA.

“I’ve never been that way,” said Jay Fabien ’15. “I love all aspects of being a wide receiver.”

Dean for Equity and Inclusion Earns a Doctorate in Education

Renee Johnson-Thornton, dean for equity and inclusion.

Renee Johnson-Thornton, dean for equity and inclusion, is exploring ways to better understand the experiences students have that interfere with success and wellbeing. She has a deep commitment to social and environmental justice, conservation and environmental sustainability.

In this Q&A we speak with Renee Johnson-Thornton, dean for equity and inclusion.

Q: Renee, when did you come to Wesleyan and what was your first position? When did you join the Office of Equity and Inclusion?

A: I was hired in 1998 to be the associate director of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. The Office of Equity and Inclusion was established in 2013 following the hiring of Vice President Antonio Farias. Prior to his arrival, I served as dean for diversity and student engagement from 2009-2013, and the associate coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program from 2000-2013. I also have held the following positions at Wesleyan: assistant dean for student academic resources from 2005-2006, and assistant to the dean of the college from 2000-2005.

Q: How would you describe your role as the dean for equity and inclusion?

A: The dean for equity and inclusion promotes access, education and compliance through collaboration with students, faculty, staff and alumni that engage the campus community in developing all students’ capacity to achieve at the highest level.

Hurteau Earns Cardinal Achievement Award for Planning Library Project

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Linda Hurteau

Linda Hurteau

Linda Hurteau, library assistant, was recently presented with a Cardinal Achievement Award for her work in anticipation of moving the Art Library collections into Olin Library. Hurteau created a plan to make space for and integrate transferred books from Olin Library into the Science Library.

She planned the project, supervised student employees to do a major shift of the Science Library’s monographic collection, and had the space allocated and ready when professional movers relocated the books. The planning work that Linda did resulted in significant savings to the library and the university. Hurteau also planned and initiated a project to create a separate oversize book area. The oversize shelves will help to preserve these materials by reducing the costs associated with rebinding books that are damaged by shelving them on edge or torqued when squeezed onto shelves of inadequate height or depth.

Lastly, Hurteau also undertook a project to integrate seven separate small collections into one when it became apparent that users were having difficulty locating individual items.

“Linda’s proactive approach to cost-savings and dedication to customer service deserve recognition. She is always looking for ways to improve the Science Library and the services we offer,” said Melissa Behney, science librarian.

This special honor comes with a $250 award and reflects the university’s gratitude for those extra efforts. Award recipients are nominated by department chairs and supervisors.

Nominations can be made anytime throughout the year. For more information or to nominate a staff member for the award, visit the Cardinal Achievement Award website. Recipients will continue to be recognized in News @ Wesleyan. See past Cardinal Achievement Award recipients here.

Bernstein ’15 Remembered for His “Large Personality,” Athleticism

Rex Bernstein ’15

Rex Bernstein ’15

Rex Bernstein ’15 died peacefully in his sleep Jan. 10 while visiting family in the San Francisco Bay area. He was pursuing a government major at Wesleyan with a minor in history. He was a former member of the Wesleyan swim team and a member of Beta Theta Pi.

Bernstein, 22, was “a large person with a large personality, and he will be missed by many here on campus,” wrote Dean Mike Whaley, vice president for student affairs.

Bernstein is survived by his parents and younger sister, Olive, and his dog, Gato. View Bernstein’s guestbook online here.

A memorial service is being planned by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life.

Hovey to Serve as Interim Associate Provost

Mark Hovey, professor of mathematics and director of graduate studies, will serve as interim associate provost, part-time through May 15, and then full-time through Aug. 31. Hovey will focus on curricular initiatives and budget management.

Hovey came to Wesleyan in 1997 after receiving his BS from Ohio State University and his Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has taught at Yale, University of New Haven, University of Kentucky and MIT, and has been a regular speaker at international conferences in algebraic topology.

Hovey is the author of the book Model Categories and more than 50 scholarly papers. He has served as editor of publications including Advances in Mathematics and Homology, Homotopy, and its Applications and has been a referee for multiple journals, including Annals of Math, American Journal of Math and Topology.

At Wesleyan he has served as chair of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science and as a member of the Review and Appeals Board.

“Mark has been doing an excellent job as the director of graduate studies this year, and I know that he will contribute immensely to Academic Affairs, and to Wesleyan, as he takes on his new responsibilities as interim associate provost,” said Ruth Striegel Weissman, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “Please join me in thanking Mark for taking in this important role.”

Samy ’18 Begins Collegiate Squash Career with 12-0 Record

Egypt native Laila Samy '18 says she chose Wesleyan because "the squash team .. was not just a team, it was a family."

Egypt native Laila Samy ’18 says she chose Wesleyan because “the squash team .. was not just a team, it was a family.”

#THISISWHY
In this Q&A meet Laila Samy from the Class of 2018.

Q: You came to Wesleyan from your hometown of Cairo, Egypt. Can you describe your life growing up in a foreign country? What was your secondary-school education like?

A: Growing up in Egypt and going to school there made me feel very grateful because I had a great opportunity to both play squash and get a decent education which lead me to move on to the next experience which is completing my last two years of high school in the U.S. and that lead me to be able to attend Wesleyan.

Q: You have already established yourself as one of the top newcomers on the collegiate squash scene with a 12-0 record at No. 1 and a title in the Division III National Championships. When did you begin playing the sport and when did it become apparent you were far from a run-of-the-mill player?

A: I started playing squash when I