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Category Archive for 'People'

Mike Robinson studies the role of uncertainty in gambling, and how in a certain environment, the lack of predictability can spur more malicious, compulsive, gambling

Mike Robinson studies the brain mechanisms underlying motivation and reward and how they come together to produce desire. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, who joined the faculty in January.

Q: Welcome to Wesleyan, Professor Robinson! Please fill us in on your life up to now.

A: I was born and grew up in France, in the west suburbs of Paris, but my parents are both British, so that makes me bi-national and bilingual. I went to high school in France and decided to go to university to study neuroscience at the University of Sussex in the U.K. Then I went to McGill University in Montreal, Canada to do a master’s and a Ph.D. in experimental psychology. From there, I went to the University of Michigan for a post-doc before coming to Wesleyan. So I’ve almost jumped a country per position.

Q: What brought you to Wesleyan?

A: I was attracted by the balance Wesleyan offers—both the work-life balance, and the work balance between the amount of research and the amount of teaching. I really enjoy both teaching and research, but I always felt like I’d have to compromise one or the other if I went to a research institution or a more teaching-intensive small liberal arts school. I feel like Wesleyan has the perfect balance. Plus the opportunity to be with really high-quality students, which I thought would be really stimulating and almost like working with grad students. I currently have four students in my lab, and so far I’ve been very impressed by them.

Q: What classes are you teaching this semester?

A: I’m teaching one course called “Motivation and Reward.” In the fall, I’ll be co-teaching “Intro to Neurobiology” with Jan Naegele (professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, director of the Center for Faculty Development), and a research methods course on research in animal behavior. Next spring, I’ll be teaching “Motivation and Reward” again, and an advanced research course looking at where a lot of my research is focused, which is gambling, diet-induced obesity and drug addiction.

Q: Please tell us more about your research interests.

A: I’m interested in understanding how the brain works. I’ve always wanted to do something that helps people in as direct a way as possible, considering I’m not doing human research. I started out doing research on drug addiction. My Ph.D. work looked at the ability that we may have to affect memory after it’s been created and consolidated, either strengthening or weakening it. (more…)

BUKO founder Joaquin Benares explains BUKO components to teachers.

BUKO founder Joaquin Benares explains BUKO components to teachers.

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Joaquin Benares ’15, who recently was awarded a Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship Seed Grant for his project, Boundless Updated Knowledge Offline (BUKO). BUKO uses an electronic bookshelf (Raspberry Pi powered server) to bring video lectures, e-textbooks and other educational tools to Philippine public schools to supplement their (sometimes nonexistent) libraries, teaching aids and contact time with teachers.

Q: Where did you grow up and how did you end up coming to Wesleyan?

A: I was born and raised in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. I attended high school at the International School of Manila. Long story short, I learned about Wesleyan from my uncle, who went here in the 80’s. I always knew that I wanted to go to school in New England, but I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go to a university or a smaller liberal arts college. As I was touring around the area, my uncle told me to drop by Wes and he gave me a tour of his old campus, which he injected with memories of his adventures. I was sold.

Q: How did your personal experience growing up in the Philippines influence your decision to create Boundless Updated Knowledge Offline (BUKO)?

A: In high school, I worked with a small group teaching supplementary English classes in public schools just outside the city. I was given a first-hand view of the lack of resources afforded to these schools, coupled with the increased demand from an ever-growing number of students. I learned that many of the children we taught had family members who had left the country to pursue service-level jobs so that their families could make ends meet. (more…)

Staff on the Move

The Office of Human Resources reported the following new hires, advancements and transitions, and departures for March 2014.

Newly hired
Courtney Becher joined the Corporate Foundation and Government Grants Office  as an assistant director on March 17.

Edwin Flynn joined Physical Plant as a boiler tender in the Central Power Plant on March 10.


Advancements and transitions
Lisa Sacks became assistant director of curricular initiatives on March 1.

 

Departures
Rosanna Carabelas, administrative assistant of the Wesleyan Fund.

Jonathan Connary, area coordinator in Residential Life.

Graduate student Eric Edelman is writing a master's thesis on the process of measuring the winds of stars. He's focusing on stellar systems that have known planets orbiting them, with the aim of trying to decipher how the measured winds of these stars may affect or potentially even dissipate the atmospheres of their host planets. (Photos by Hannah Norman '16)

Graduate student Eric Edelman is writing a master’s thesis on the process of measuring the winds of stars. He’s focusing on stellar systems that have known planets orbiting them, with the aim of trying to decipher how the measured winds of these stars may affect or potentially even dissipate the atmospheres of their host planets. (Photos by Hannah Norman ’16)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with astronomy graduate student Eric Edelman ’13, who is one of 16 BA/MA students at Wesleyan. 

Q: You’re one of only a few who pursue the BA/MA option — it seems like a lot of work. But it seems tailor-made for work in the sciences… Are you still happy with your choice?

A: Absolutely. The BA/MA program provided me with the possibility to realistically pursue astronomy as a late bloomer in the field. I entered Wesleyan with the plan to major in English, and focused my efforts on that path for my first two years here. I took my first introductory course in astronomy and physics as a junior, switched into the astronomy major that semester, and was barely able to complete the bare minimum requirements to receive a BA degree.

Eric Edelman applauds the Astronomy Department's student-to-faculty ratio.

Eric Edelman applauds the Astronomy Department’s student-to-faculty ratio.

Even though I was able to get a degree, the amount of classes I had taken in astronomy and physics in only those two years would not have made me very competitive for Ph.D. programs, which tend to be the next logical step when pursuing a career in astronomy. With the flexibility provided from the BA/MA program, I have been able to stick around for an extra year and really sink my teeth into some incredibly difficult and worthwhile upper level physics and astronomy courses.

Q: The Class of 2018 is getting their admission letters this week. If a prospect is interested in studying sciences, what would you say are the bonuses of studying at Wesleyan?

A: My answer when it comes to physics and particularly astronomy is the student to faculty ratio. It really does literally approach the golden ratio over here. There tend to be around a total of 10-15 graduate and undergraduate majors in the astronomy department per year, with five professors and one postdoc to go around. While trying to land a research position with a professor at larger universities can sometimes feel like being part of a crazy rat race, the astronomy department here at Wes has more than enough space to accommodate any and all students who want to invest themselves in a worthwhile research project. It is an incredibly open and welcoming department. (more…)

Robert Borman, athletic facilities maintainer, was recently presented with a Cardinal Achievement Award for his extraordinary efforts during the snowstorm on Feb. 13. The storm dropped 9.5 inches of snow on campus so quickly that snow was piling up in front of critical building entrances and creating dangerously slippery conditions on campus. The Stonehedge landscaping crew could not keep up with the rapidly accumulating snow so Borman stepped up and walked across campus shoveling every building entrance and stairway on central campus at least once.

“This was not a normal or typical work assignment for Rob Borman by any account,” said Joyce Topshe, associate vice president for facilities. “I applaud Rob’s initiative, his endurance and his accountability to keeping our Wesleyan community as safe as possible.”

This special honor comes with a $150 award and reflects the university’s gratitude for those extra efforts. The 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 Human Resources website and scroll down to Cardinal Achievement Award under “Forms.”

Recipients will continue to be recognized in The Wesleyan Connection.

#THISISWHY

Staff on the Move

The Office of Human Resources reported the following new hires, advancements and transitions, and departures for February 2014.

Newly hired
Ivan Torres, Jr. joined the Office of Public Safety as an officer on Feb. 24.

Advancements and transitions
Andrew Chatfield became the press and marketing director at the Center for the Arts.
Marc Longenecker became the programming and technical director of the Film Studies Department.
Jeffrey Sweet became the associate director of facilities management.

Departures
Shawn MacDuff associate director of finance.
Carolyn Sorkin, director of international studies.

Tracie McMillan, the Koeppel Journalism Fellow at the Shapiro Writing Center, is teaching the upper-level seminar "Topics in Journalism: Writing and Arguing About Inequality: How to Make Your Case."

Tracie McMillan, the Koeppel Journalism Fellow at the Shapiro Writing Center, is teaching the upper-level seminar “Topics in Journalism: Writing and Arguing About Inequality: How to Make Your Case.”

(Story contributed by Emma Davis ’17. The full interview appears in the Feb. 21 issue of The Wesleyan Argus)

Tracie McMillan is Wesleyan’s Koeppel Journalism Fellow and author of The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table, a New York Times Bestseller. Her recent work appears in Best Food Writing 2013 and she has received a James Beard Award, the Sidney Hillman Prize, the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism and other national awards for her writing about food, consumers’s choices and other social issues.

Q: How did you become a reporter?

A: I became a reporter after interning at the Village Voice under Wayne Barrett. Wayne was the City Politics investigative reporter at the Voice for around 40 years; he left the Voice a couple of years ago. Every semester, he had a cadre of interns who would come in and help him do his work, and that was one of the internships I had as an undergraduate. I did well there, and got on well with Wayne, and that led me into doing reporting work.

When I took that internship, I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to be a journalist. I knew that I wanted to do something with writing, and I had a vague idea that I would work at a magazine, but I hadn’t really thought through the specifics of that. And certainly at the time, I think I was more interested in national politics, and Wayne’s work was very local. But I lucked into getting paired with him at the Voice, and that put me on that path.

Q: What brought you to Wesleyan?

A:  [Director of Writing Programs] Anne Greene brought me to Wesleyan. I have a little bit of a relationship with Wesleyan. In 2006, I got a Davidoff scholarship to attend the Wesleyan Writers Conference. That was when I had just gone freelance. I had taken some time off, and I had taken basically half my life savings and gone traveling for six months. Because I had been working since I was 14, and I had this epiphany—I was about 29 at the time—that I had always been working, and I had never stopped to figure out where I wanted to go; I just went where it seemed like I could go… I didn’t really know if the work I was doing as a journalist was what I really wanted to dedicate myself to, or if maybe there was something else I wanted to be doing. And I didn’t really know myself well enough to make that call, and I realized that I was at a point in my life where I didn’t have anything tying me to any one place.

And once I had enough time to really clear my head, I kept coming back to writing. I didn’t just want to write about me, myself, and I; I wanted to write about the world. (more…)

Mike Conte, associate director in Physical Plant, recently was presented with a Cardinal Achievement Award for his expert handling of serious building emergencies during the winter holiday break, which occurred at all hours.

“We are grateful to Mike for going above and beyond the call of duty by responding to an unusual number of late night and weekend emergencies during the especially cold winter break this year,” said Joyce Topshe, associate vice president for facilities.

Stacy Baldwin, project coordinator in Physical Plant received a Cardinal Achievement Award for her work in advance planning for the winter adverse weather conditions. In November, 2013 Stacy proposed that the university purchase 180 shovels, one for each house on campus, and 60 canisters of ice melt (12 pound containers). She researched the pricing, purchased both items and hand delivered them to every faculty, staff and graduate house on campus during the first two weeks in December. Students helped with distribution of shovels to undergraduate houses.

“Kudos to Stacy for thinking about safety and for planning well in advance of the first storm. We are now facing a national shortage of ice melt in the country but thanks to Stacy, our Wesleyan community is better equipped to weather the storms,” Topshe said.

Evelyn Bozeman, payroll administrator in Human Resources, received a Cardinal Achievement Award for providing support to the benefits area during a transition to a new employee benefits website.

“This was a time-consuming project and Evelyn offered to help – even though she does not have a benefits background. She was able to learn quickly and provide great suggestions for enhancements to the website,” said Pat Melley, director of Human Resources. “Evelyn’s positive attitude and ability to make herself available at every possible opportunity made the transition to the new website a success.”

This special honor comes with a $150 award and reflects the university’s gratitude for those extra efforts. The 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 Human Resources website and scroll down to Cardinal Achievement Award under “Forms.”

Recipients will continue to be recognized in The Wesleyan Connection.

#THISISWHY

The Cardinal Fit team “NoCoTen” is participating in a group walk this week. Team members, most from Academic Affairs, will wear their 100 percent polyester shirts during the walk, each sporting his or her own number.

The team members are: #1, Ruth Weissman, provost and vice president for academic affairs, the Walter A. Crowell University Professor of the Social Sciences, professor of psychology; #2, Joyce Jacobsen, the Andrews Professor of Economics, dean of the social sciences and director of global initiatives, interim director of Allbritton Center, professor of economics, tutor for the College of Social Studies; #3, Joy Vodak, assistant director of academic affairs; #4, Michael Whitcomb, director of institutional research; #5, Megan Flagg, executive assistant to the provost and vice president for academic affairs and academic deans; #6, Lisa Sacks, coordinator of academic affairs; #7, Andy Curran, dean of the arts and humanities and director of curricular initiatives, professor of French; #8, Rommel Guadalupe, assistant director of institutional research; #9, Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion; #10, Karen Anderson, senior associate provost; #11, Eloise Glick, faculty resource specialist; #12, Ishita Mukerji, dean of natural sciences and mathematics and director of technology initiatives, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

The group’s team captains are Joyce Jacobsen and Andy Curran and the “official cheerleaders” are Eloise Glick and Ishita Mukerji.

For more information on the 2014 Cardinal Fit Challenge see this link.

Academic Affairs' Cardial Fit Team.

Academic Affairs' Cardial Fit Team.

Jon Lubeck '14  is the co-founder of Wesleyan's Local Food Co-op Organization, which provides locally-sourced cheese, bread, meat, coffee, vegetables and other goods from various farms throughout Connecticut and southern Massachusetts.

Jon Lubeck ’14 is the co-founder of Wesleyan’s Local Food Co-op Organization, which provides locally-sourced cheese, bread, meat, coffee, vegetables and other goods from various farms in Connecticut, New York and southern Massachusetts.

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Jon Lubeck ’14 from the Class of 2014.

Q: Jon, what are you majoring in and what attracted you to Wesleyan?

A: I am majoring in anthropology and am currently in the process of writing my senior thesis. Wesleyan first piqued my interest when I had a class in high school with a super-inspiring history teacher who was a Wes graduate. When I visited the school, I loved the small, liberal arts atmosphere, the active arts and music scene on campus, and the history of active student organizing. Wesleyan seemed like a place to me where students were passionate about things that mattered to them, whether it was art, academics, music, political activism, food, etc. I wanted to be surrounded by passionate, excited people, and am so happy that I have the chance to be now!

From left, Jon Lubeck, prepares a meal with co-op co-organizers Scott Zimmer '14 and Will Curran-Groome '14.

From left, Jon Lubeck, prepares a meal with co-op co-organizers Scott Zimmer ’14 and Will Curran-Groome ’14. (Photos by Hannah Norman ’16)

Q: You’re currently a member and co-founder of Wesleyan’s Local Food Co-op Organization that provides an affordable option for students to purchase local and sustainable food. Tell us more about the group and why you got started?

A: The Wesleyan Local Food Co-op has a long history behind it. It was started during my sophomore year by Cathryn Herlihey ’12, who was unsatisfied with the meal plan options offered by Bon Appetit. She felt like there was no option for her to purchase locally grown and ethically raised products (since then, Bon Appetit  has begun to offer some great options at Usdan and Weshop). The Co-op started with around 20 members who were friends of hers and allowed to join this pilot program. Soon after, we started actively organizing it ourselves, buying more kinds of foods, and quickly expanded. We now have nearly 600 members, including faculty and staff for the first time this semester. We have plans next year to expand to Middletown residents and offer subsidized shares to participants on various forms of food aid: SNAP and EBT benefits and the Woman Infants and Children program. We are in the process of applying for grants and positions to administrate this new incarnation.

Along with Will Curran-Groome ’14 and Scott Zimmer ’14, I am in charge of organizing and administrating the Co-op. We all became involved very early on in the Co-op’s history, and really found the work we did fulfilling. As a student-led and administered group, we strive to incorporate as many members as possible in the decision-making and administration (more…)

Staff on the Move

The Office of Human Resources reported the following new hires, advancements and transitions and departures for January 2014.

New hires
Hrissi Haldezos joined the Student Accounts Office as an associate director on Jan. 2.
Brian Lee ’13 joined University Relations as an assistant director of the Wesleyan Fund on Jan. 6.
Beatriz Pazmino Betancourt joined the Physics Department as a research assistant on Jan. 16.

Advancements and transitions
Sarah Benson became director of research and prospect management on Jan. 1.
Frantz Williams became the director of alumni and parent development on Jan. 1.
Kathleen Roberts became the assistant director of university events and scheduling on Jan. 27.
Antonio Gonzalez, professor of Spanish, became the interim director of International Studies on Feb. 11.

Departures
Anne Bergen, director of development, University Relations.
Vanessa Sabin, human resources coordinator, Human Resources.
Sean Gomez, network administrator, Information Technology Services.
Sean Malone, general maintenance mechanic, Physical Plant.
Joseph Hopkins, boiler tender, Physical Plant.

Quiara Alegría Hudes wrote the book for the Broadway musical In the Heights, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, which received the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical and a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical.

Quiara Alegría Hudes wrote the book for the Broadway musical In the Heights, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, which received the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical and a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical.

Quiara Alegría Hudes, a Pulitzer Prize recipient, will be the new Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater for three years beginning in the fall of 2014. The appointment marks a return to campus for Hudes, who taught as a visiting playwright in 2012.

Hudes’s most recent publication is The Elliot Cycle, three standalone plays written over an eight-year period. Each play uses a different kind of music – Bach, Coltrane, and Puerto Rican folk music¬ ¬– to trace the coming of age of a haunted young man from Puerto Rico. Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue, the first play, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. Water by the Spoonful won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and The Happiest Song Plays Last, the third play, is about to open Off-Broadway in New York on February 11 at Second Stage Theatre.

“What a thrill to bring all I’ve learned about process, storytelling, and structure to the next generation of young writers,” Hudes said. “There is a palpable curiosity among the Wesleyan student body, along with a willingness to do the hard work that marries creativity and craft. I’m honored and only slightly giddy with the possibilities.”

She also wrote the book for the Broadway musical In the Heights, music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, which received the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical and a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical; it was also a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Hudes’s honors include the United States Artists Fontanals Fellowship, the Joyce Fellowship at the Goodman Theatre, the Aetna New Voices Fellowship at Hartford Stage, the Roe Green Award at the Cleveland Playhouse, and fellowships at Sundance Theater Institute and the O’Neill Theater Center. (more…)

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