Society

Rutland Speaks on BYUradio about the Olympics, Nationalism

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, was interviewed on BYUradio about the Olympics and nationalism.

“The Olympics are practically built for indulging in what you might call ‘good nationalism,’ as opposed to the xenophobic kind,” said host Julie Rose in the introduction. Yet this year’s Olympic Games come at a time of fear of outsiders, both in the U.S. and abroad.

They begin by discussing the difference between patriotism—which has more positive connotations—and nationalism, which implies dislike of foreigners. The key distinction, says Rutland, is about having respect for people from all countries.

“In practice, the Olympics is a competition, it’s about winners and losers,” he said. “The Olympics is very contradictory. On the one hand, it claims to be transcending nationalism in a kind of fellowship of international athletes. But at the same time, in practice, it reinforces nationalism by encouraging people to cheer for their team and take pride in their team’s victories, and correspondingly, the defeat of other nations’ teams.”

Rutland also commented on the mass appeal of such competitions.

“It does tap into a desire to express our belonging to a bigger community—not just our family and neighborhood, but our country. And, at least when it’s going through the media—when it’s watching the Olympics or watching the World Cup for soccer, it seems to be pretty benign. It’s not like going to war. Sport, as George Orwell said, is a kind of substitute for war. Nobody is getting killed, nobody is getting hurt, and we’re all kind of on the same side, in that everybody is enjoying the competition, and you win some, you lose some.”

Rutland also is professor of government, professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies, and tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Gross Writes About a ‘Tipping Point’ in Relations Between Police, African Americans

Professor of African American Studies Kali Nicole Gross

Professor of African American Studies Kali Nicole Gross

Kali Nicole Gross, professor of African American studies, writes in The Huffington Post about the case of Korryn Gaines, the latest death of an African American at the hand of police. Gaines was fatally shot after a five-hour standoff with police and SWAT officers in Maryland, and had prophesied her own demise during an earlier traffic stop, in which she had also been defiant.

While Gaines’ behavior may once have appeared irrational, and possibly a sign of mental illness, Gross writes, “after these and so many other deaths of black women and men killed during minor traffic stops, killed for selling loose cigarettes, or found dead in jail after failing to signal a lane change, Gaines’ defiance may gesture toward a desperate tipping point: that the system is so corrupt there is little distinction between notions of legal and illegal. It may also mark the mounting fear that for black people there is little chance of survival during even the most routine police encounters.”

Jenkins Stages Play in Florentine Prison

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, recently completed a collaboration with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Florence, Italy. The center asked Jenkins to stage a play in a Florentine prison on the theme of human rights.

The play, which was based on Dante Aligheri’s 14,000 line epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” was performed on July 14 and featured Coro Galilei, a choir that specializes in Gregorian chants, and actors from a local prison. The script consisted of texts written by the prisoners on the theme of justice intertwined with fragments from the “Divine Comedy” and interviews with human rights activists from around the world.

“Dante’s Inferno” is the most famous section of “The Divine Comedy” and is based on Dante’s real life in 14th century Italy, where he was a city official, diplomatic negotiator, and a man who dared to cross the Pope. Dante also was a convict and convicted of crimes, and Jenkins uses Dante to connect with incarcerated men and women.

“Dante was condemned to death, but we do not remember him as a convict,” Jenkins told the audience at Sollicciano prison in his prologue to the play. “We remember him as writer and philosopher who denounced the lack of justice in his society. After having seen our play, we hope you will remember the performers, not as convicts, but as writers whose words are born from the wisdom of experience, as Dante said, ‘Men of great value…. Suspended in this limbo.'”

Jenkins has already taught “Dante’s Inferno” and acting to inmates in Connecticut and Indonesia. Jenkins encourages incarcerated men and women to make connections between their own life stories and the experiences of the characters in classics like “Dante’s Inferno.” Their thoughts are used to create play scripts that are performed inside a prison. Wesleyan students also perform the scripts at other colleges and in the community, and engage in discussions about issues related to reforming the country’s criminal justice system.

Wesleyan Students Help Local Preschoolers Get a Kickstart on Kindergarten

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Stephanie Blumenstock ’16 works with children in the Kindergarten Kickstart program on July 14 at Bielefield School in Middletown. The program, which is taught by Wesleyan students and local teachers, is celebrating its fifth year this summer. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Kindergarten Kickstart, a research-based, summer pre-K program for children in Middletown created by Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman and her students, is celebrating its fifth year. It’s marking the occasion with an event July 20 at the Middletown Roller Skating Rink (free for any current or past Kickstart family, 4 to 6 p.m.) and using a new grant to further develop student innovation in the program.

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At left, Megan Dolan ’17 and Stephanie Blumenstock ’16 help Kindergarden Kickstart students during outdoor playtime.

Shusterman and three of her students first launched Kindergarten Kickstart in summer 2012 as a pilot program with 15 children at MacDonough School. They designed the curriculum and taught the program together with a MacDonough teacher. Today, this five-week program serves 35 children at Bielefield and Farm Hill schools (who will be entering kindergarten at those schools plus MacDonough), with six Wesleyan undergraduates and recent alumni leading the classes and developing the curriculum. A certified teacher continues to work at each site. Funding comes from a variety of sources, including a small budget from Wesleyan’s Provost, the Foundation for Greater Hartford, Safe Schools/Healthy Students, and a seed grant from Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

The program is intended for children who could benefit from an extra pre-school experience before beginning kindergarten in the fall. Through a partnership between university-based research labs, Middletown Public Schools and local community organizations, Kindergarten Kickstart aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap and improve participants’ school readiness skills through a short-term, high-impact, low-cost preschool program.

According to Shusterman, children in low-income neighborhoods start kindergarten with academic skills up to two years behind their peers. Research shows that quality early childhood education makes a huge difference in helping to shrink this achievement gap. In fact, economists estimate a $7 return for every $1 invested in early childhood education, resulting from lower spending on school remediation, incarceration, unemployment and other programs that become necessary when children do not start out on the right foot.

Shusterman said Kindergarten Kickstart was started as a way to put early childhood research into practice.

Students Catalog Roman Gems during Museum Internship

Margot Metz '18 holds a tiny intaglio gem from the early Roman Empire that appears to be made of carnelian or sard, and depicts an athlete holding a strigil (a tool for scraping oil and sweat from the skin during exercise). Metz, Maria Ma '17 and Emma Graham '19 spent four weeks this summer cataloging about 200 gems during an internship at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. 

Margot Metz ’18 examines a tiny intaglio gem from the early Roman Empire that appears to be made of carnelian or sard, and depicts an athlete holding a strigil (a tool for scraping oil and sweat from the skin during exercise). Metz, Maria Ma ’17 and Emma Graham ’19 spent four weeks this summer cataloging about 200 gems during an internship at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford. An intaglio is made by grinding material below the surface of the gem, leaving an inverse image.

During the Roman Empire, the art of gem carving or intaglio provided a way to characterize one’s self, family or acquaintances.

This summer, three Wesleyan students with an interest in classical studies worked with a Roman intaglio collection previously owned by J. Pierpont Morgan (father of J.P. Morgan) at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford.

As interns, Maria Ma ’17, Margot Metz ’18, and Emma Graham ’19 collaborated on documenting and cataloging about 200 intaglio gems, which made the collection accessible to a wider audience of scholars and museum visitors. The gems were hidden from public view for decades.

The student researchers determined this Roman intaglio (at right) pictured Ajax carrying Achilles over his shoulder. An arrow is sticking out from the top of Achilles' foot. By using The Handbook of Engraved Gems by C. W. King, the students were able to find an illustration of a similar gem. "This is how we came to the conclusion that it is Ajax carrying Achilles," Margot Metz said. 

The student researchers determined this Roman intaglio (at right) pictured Ajax carrying Achilles over his shoulder. An arrow is sticking out from the top of Achilles’ foot. By using The Handbook of Engraved Gems by C. W. King, the students were able to find an illustration of a similar gem. “This is how we came to the conclusion that it is Ajax carrying Achilles,” Margot Metz said.

“It’s so exciting that our students had the opportunity to work in the local community and to employ what they know about Greek and Roman antiquity in a partnership with a wonderful museum like the Wadsworth Atheneum,” said Lauren Caldwell, associate professor of classical studies.

Graham, a College of Letters major, felt the internship would perfectly combined her two intellectual passions: classics and art history.

“I have always been interested in how these two areas of study overlap and influence each other,” Graham said. “Also, I have always been a great lover of museums and I was interested in what goes on behind the scenes at a museum.”

The students would frequent the museum three days a week for about six hours a day. During their time, they documented the gems’ measurements, material and imagery.

“The subject matter of the gem determined how long we spent on each one. For example, we were able to identify animals very quickly but other gems, such as badly weathered gems or gems with more complex imagery, took more much time,” Graham said.

In order to determine the symbolic meaning of each gem, the students worked together and consulted intaglio collections online owned by the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and The British Museum, as well as a huge collection of imprints of intaglio gems housed at Cornell University.

“We were able to personally work with every gem in the collection, which was truly an amazing experience,” Graham said.

Metz was interested in the internship because she wanted to explore another area of ancient civilization. “It was fascinating being able to apply what I had learned in the classroom at Wesleyan in a practical manner at the museum. We were able to identify generic figures as gods and goddesses, such as Neptune and Ceres, by using the objects they were pictured with in gems and comparing them to stories in mythology,” she said. 

The internship, which concluded June 23, was jointly supervised and organized by Wesleyan faculty and Atheneum staff including Caldwell; Clare Rogan, curator of the Davison Art Center; Linda Roth, the Charles C. and Eleanor Lamont Cunningham Curator of European Decorative Arts; and Johanna Miller, school and teacher programs specialist at the Wadsworth Atheneum. The Watson Squire Fund in the Department of Classical Studies supported the students’ room and board expenses. Students applied and interviewed for the internship through the Atheneum.

“The interns did a great job and their work will be entered into our database and made available to the public through our website,” Roth said. “There already is a small selection on view now in a gallery devoted to Art and Curiosity Cabinets.”

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.

Wright ’16 Recipient of Keasbey Scholarship

Claire Wright '16

Claire Wright ’16

As a 2016 recipient of the Keasbey Scholarship, Claire Wright ’16 will continue her education at Oxford University after graduating from Wesleyan this May. While at Oxford, she will pursue an MPhil in Comparative Social Policy.

“Throughout my time at Wesleyan I have become increasingly passionate both about international development efforts and gender equality initiatives,” she said.

Wright’s senior thesis focused on medical, social and political implications of using PTSD-focused aid for survivors of sexual violence in postcolonial nations.

“I wanted a course of study that would allow me to translate these theoretical, intellectual insights regarding responses to violence against women into socially relevant, implementable policy,” she said.

For more than 50 years, the Keasbey Foundation has supported some of the most gifted and intellectually curious American college graduates as they embark on post-graduate study in the United Kingdom. Recipients of the Keasbey demonstrate academic excellence, active participation in extracurricular activities, leadership abilities, and the promise of personally and intellectually benefiting from two years of study in Britain. The scholarship includes a stipend and covers the cost of tuition, room and board at Oxford.

The American students are selected on a rotating basis from the following institutions: Amherst, Bowdoin, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Haverford, Middlebury, Princeton, Swarthmore, Wesleyan and Yale.

At Wesleyan, Wright also worked as an academic peer advisor, Title IX special projects coordinator, as a student activities and leadership development intern and as a teacher’s assistant for the course Foundations of Contemporary Psychology. She received the Chadbourne Prize and Wesleyan Memorial Prize for demonstrating outstanding character, conduct and scholarship, and was honored with the Morgernstern-Clarren Social Justice Award for her commitment to social justice efforts at Wesleyan.

Wright is majoring in the College of Letters, psychology and French.

6 Alumni Receive 2016 Guggenheim Fellowships

David Rabban ’71 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for his work in constitutional studies.

David Rabban ’71 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for his work in constitutional studies.

On April 5, six Wesleyan alumni–David Rabban ’71, Roxanne Euban ’88, Lyle Ashton Harris ’88, Rick Barot ’92, Adam Berinsky ’92 and Jonas Carpignano ’06–were each awarded Guggenheim Fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. According to the foundation, these prestigious awards aim to “further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions and irrespective of race, color or creed.”

Rabban is an award winning author and academic whose research focuses on labor law, higher education and the law, and American legal history. For his 1997 book Free Speech in its Forgotten Years, he received the Morris D. Forkosch Prize presented by the Journal of the History of Ideas and the Eli M. Oboler Award of the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Round Table. From 1998 to 2006 he served as the General Counsel of the American Association of University Professors and from 2006 to 2012 as the Chair of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.

Over the course of his career Rabban has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Whitney Humanities center, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and other institutions. During his Guggenheim Fellowship, he intends to author a book the history, theory, and law of academic freedom.

Lyly Ashton Harris was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for photography. (Photo by Rob Kulisek.)

Lyly Ashton Harris ’88 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for photography. (Photo by Rob Kulisek)

Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 received his fellowship for his contributions in the field of photography. On his website, Harris writes that his work “explores intersections between the personal and the political, examining the impact of ethnicity, gender and desire on the contemporary social and cultural dynamic.” In particular, his projects are known for employing self-portraiture and using iconic figures in popular culture such as Billie Holiday and Michael Jackson.

Rick Barot ’92 received a 2016 Guggenheim for poetry. (Photo by Mara Barot.)

Rick Barot ’92 received a 2016 Guggenheim for poetry. (Photo by Mara Barot)

Harris has exhibited his work around the globe at institutions like the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the 52nd Venice Biennale. After graduating from Wesleyan, Harris went on to receive his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. He currently lives in New York City where he teaches at New York University.

Rick Barot ’92, a poet, published his most recent collection of poems, Chord, with Sarabande Books in 2015. The book was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and the PEN Open Book award and won the 2016 UNT Rilke Prize. Barot has published two other titles with Sarabande Books, The Darker Fall (2002) and Want (2008), which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and won the 2009 Grub Street Book Prize.

Barot resides in Tacoma, Wash., where he directs The Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University. He serves as the poetry editor of New England Review.

Adam Berinsky ’92, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a specialist in the fields of political behavior and public opinion. His work focuses primarily on questions of representation and the communication of public sentiment to the political elite.

Adam J. Berinsky ’92 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for political science.

Adam Berinsky ’92 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for political science.

He has authored two books, In Time of War (University of Chicago Press, 2009) and Silent Voices (Princeton University Press, 2004). He has received multiple grants from the National Science Foundation and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

He currently edits the University of Chicago Press’s Chicago Studies in American Politics book series and is the founding director of the MIT Political Experiments Research Lab. During his fellowship, Berinsky intends to study the spread of political rumors spread and how they can be effectively debunked.

Jonas Carpignano ’06 received a 2016 Guggenheim for film and video.

Jonas Carpignano ’06 received a 2016 Guggenheim for film and video.

Writer and director Jonas Carpignano’s most recent film, Mediterranea, had its world premier at the prestigious 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Since then, it has screened at festivals such as BFI London Film Festival, AFI Fest and Stockholm Film Festival where it won three awards including Best Debut Film and Best Actor. The film was also a New York Times critics’ pick.

Carpignano’s two short films, A Chjàna (2011) and A Ciambra (2014), have won many international awards including the Controcampo Award at the 68th Venice Film Festival and The Discovery Award at 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Currently, Carpignano is working on a feature film based on A Ciambra that has received the support of various institutions such as the Torino Film Lab and the Sundance Institute.

Roxanne L. Euban ’88 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for her work in political science.

Roxanne L. Euban ’88 was awarded a 2016 Guggenheim for her work in political science.

Since 1997 Roxanne Euben ’88 has served as the Ralph Emerson and Alice Freeman Palmer Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College. Her work has spearheaded a new area of inquiry often referred to as “comparative political theory.” This entails an “understanding of political theory…as inclusive of intellectual traditions of the “non-West” and global South, as well as of indigenous traditions in but not of ‘the West.'” In particular, she also focuses on the relationship between Islamic and European political thought.

Euben is also the author of several books including Enemy in the MirrorIslamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism (Princeton 1999, Oxford 2001) and Journeys to the Other Shore: Muslim and Western Travelers in Search of Knowledge, (Princeton, 2006). Her writing has also appeared in a number of scholarly and widely read publications including The Review of PoliticsThe Journal of PoliticsInternational Studies Review, the Atlantic’s digital magazine and The London Times Higher Education Supplement.

While on her fellowship, Euben will work on a book that examines Arab and Islamic rhetorics of humiliation in comparative perspective.

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

Investigative Journalist McKim ’88 Receives Freedom of Information Award

The New England First Amendment Coalition presented Wesleyan English major Jenifer McKim ’88 with a 2016 Freedom of Information Award.

Investigative journalist Jenifer McKim ’88 won this year's Freedom of Information Award in recognition of her series on child abuse and neglect cases.

Investigative journalist Jenifer McKim ’88 won this year’s Freedom of Information Award in recognition of her series on child abuse and neglect cases.

McKim is senior investigative reporter and trainer at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR), a nonprofit based out of Boston University and WGBH. The Freedom of Information Award is presented annually to New England journalists who protect or advance the public’s right to know under federal or state law.

McKim’s award-winning series, “Out of the Shadows—Shining Light on State Failures to Learn from Rising Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths,” first published by the Boston Globe, examined the effectiveness of the Department of Child and Family Services oversight for suspected cases of abuse and neglect.

McKim noted that the stories—often heartbreaking and thus difficult to write—did instigate important systemic changes when published..

“Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker immediately held a press conference and announced that the state would improve screening of suspected abuse and neglect calls, particularly requiring that criminal history reports would be done on every caretaker, something we had pointed to in our reporting. About two months later, the governor eliminated the troubled two-tier system [of graduated risk] altogether, an issue that before our stories had not been in play at all. And we are still fighting for better government transparency when it comes to child abuse and neglect fatalities.”

McKim, who also teaches investigative skills to students and mentors journalists, said, “I really am proud of this work and being part of the small but growing world of nonprofit journalism. It’s exciting to be at the forefront of finding new ways to pay for and tell important stories that make a difference.”

Read moreNew England Center for Investigative Reporting » Child Fatalities

Bevilacqua ’12 and Alam ’15: Translating, Publishing Wiesel’s Night in Indonesian

Max Bevilacqua ’12 spent a year teaching English in Indonesia on a Fulbright. Elie Weisel's memoir, Night, proved a bridge to understanding between cultures.

Max Bevilacqua ’12 spent a year teaching English in Indonesia on a Fulbright. Elie Weisel’s memoir, Night, proved a bridge to understanding between cultures. (photo credit: Sarah Gormley)

It doesn’t seem an obvious choice, publishing one of the most important memoirs to come out of the Holocaust into the language of a country that is home to the world’s largest Muslim population—but that’s exactly the project Max Bevilacqua ’12 and Mansoor Alam ’15 have taken on.
The project is the brainchild of Bevilacqua, who grew up in a Jewish household and studied Christianity as a religion major at Wesleyan. As a Fulbright scholar, he requested placement in Indonesia, which is 88 percent Muslim, and where he taught English. State department officials—as well as family and friends—encouraged Bevilacqua not to reveal his religious identity, since Judaism is not sanctioned there.

“I struggled with that,” he said. “But I came to see it as— I wanted to be ‘Max, the American who is our teacher.’ I didn’t want my religion to be distraction.”
Still, the secret weighed on him. Ten days before his year was complete, he gathered his friends. “You should know that I’m Jewish,” he said.

His announcement was met with some confusion—why hadn’t he told them? It was a time to acknowledge his own fears and biases—and the best way seemed to be with a book: Night, by Elie Wiesel. This memoir recounted Weisel’s horrific experiences as a young boy in the German concentration camps during World War II.

“The book provided an epiphany of the trauma that has been associated with being Jewish,” Bevilacqua said.

Back in the United States, Bevilacqua continued pondering the bridge he’d found. What would it take to share this powerful book with a country that had never had it available to them?

He remembered that he already knew a publisher: Mansoor Alam ’15. The two had met as undergrads. Alam describes Bevilacqua as “very personable—you can sit down and really talk with him.” Bevilacqua calls Alam “humble and brilliant; a true Renaissance man.”

With his own publishing company, Mansoor Alam ’15 was the ideal partner for Bevilacqua. In this 2012 photo, Alam was in Karachi, Pakistan, supporting community educational initiatives.

With his own publishing company, Mansoor Alam ’15 was the ideal partner for Bevilacqua. In this 2012 photo, Alam was in Karachi, Pakistan, supporting community educational initiatives.

Alam had started his own publishing company as a first-year student at Wesleyan. “There are so many good writers and great content that doesn’t make it to readers; I wanted to figure out a way to give authors autonomy and make it cost effective,” he explained. He provides his clients with assistance in copyediting, graphics and marketing.

“When Max talked to me about the project, I knew we absolutely had to do this,” Alam said. “The challenge of it—the ‘what’— was thrilling to me, and Max was so passionate about the ‘why’ of it.”

The “what” began with obtaining rights from the French publishing company, in a series of carefully crafted letters written in French. Next, they lined up a cohort of French/Indonesian translators.

The process is intensive. “It’s such a visceral, personal book,” Bevilacqua said.

Bevilacqua urges us not to forget Indonesia when we, in the West, look to form relationships with Muslim-majority countries.

Bevilacqua urges us not to forget Indonesia when we, in the West, look to form relationships with Muslim-majority countries.

“Max was worried about losing the impact of those details,” Alam said. “To make sure that doesn’t happen, we rely on a network. Translators compare their work—how they rendered this word, that phrase.”

With the translation nearly completed, Bevilacqua is focused on coordinating classrooms in American and in Indonesia who will read Night together. “It’s a book that can bridge cultures,” he said. “When we think about the Muslim world, let’s also look to developing friendships in Indonesia.”

To follow their progress, see http://growingoodfaith.org/.

Philadelphia’s Heller ’04 is Urban Innovator of the Week

Greg Heller ’04, CEO of American Communities Trust in Philadelphia, was named Urban Innovator of the Week for his work  on social impact real estate.

Greg Heller ’04, CEO of American Communities Trust in Philadelphia, was named Urban Innovator of the Week for his work on social impact real estate.

Gregory Heller ’04, CEO of American Communities Trust (ACT), was named Urban Innovator of the Week on Feb. 15, by Urban Innovation Exchange (UIX), an initiative to advance urban improvement and highlight those who are on the leading edge of this movement. Begun in 2012 as a three-year project in Detroit and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, UIX is now showcasing talented people from all over the country who are transforming the cities and neighborhoods in which they live.

As head of ACT, Heller, who has spent more than 10 years in community development in Philadelphia, helps nonprofits build and finance social impact real estate—projects that improve the quality of life, particularly in low-income areas, by providing needed services and offering desirable real estate for new businesses and residents.

In a TEDx talk given last June in Philadelphia, “How To Set up Social Impact Real Estate,” he explained the impetus behind his work: “Our cities and our communities are defined by the interaction of people and places… but who shapes the built environment around us?” he asks. “We walk around our cities and we say, ‘Oh, look, they’re building that new project over there,’ or ‘Why haven’t they built anything here yet?’ Who are they? Why is it ‘they’ and not we? Too often developers in low income neighborhoods have profit rather than the community’s best interest…I believe that [social impact real estate projects] s are critical to the future of our cities, our communities and ultimately our society.”

An American studies and German studies major at Wesleyan, Heller is the author of Ed Bacon: Planning, Politics and the Building of Modern Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).