Society

President Roth’s “Beyond the University” Reviewed

President Michael S. Roth’s new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Mattersis reviewed in The Washington Post by Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis. Nelson begins with the remark: “Michael Roth’s new book may finally answer a question I have often asked myself: Why do the leaders of our nation’s liberal arts colleges find it so difficult to define liberal education clearly and so challenging to communicate its benefits?”

He continues, “After reading Roth’s economical and nearly jargon-free historical account of liberal education in America, I think the answer may be this: There are many distinct threads of liberal education in America that have been woven and rewoven over time in many different ways. As a result, nearly every college now existing can legitimately lay claim to a distinctive sort of liberal education. Generic descriptions simply cannot convey the variegated vitality of liberal education as it is lived on our many college campuses.”

In presenting the ideas of prominent Americans who historically have shaped educational thought–from Thomas Jefferson to Ralph Waldo Emerson to Booker T. Washington–Roth provides a “substantial and lively discussion that allows the reader to maintain an open mind while examining the strengths and weaknesses of the several threads, each in its own turn,” writes Nelson.

Read more about Beyond the University in Roth’s op-eds in The New York Times and The Boston Globe, and in this interview in The Atlantic magazine.

The Thesis Project

Thesis Project

The HuffPost College Thesis Project gives students a chance to share with a wide audience the fruit of their hard academic work.

The Huffington Post is on a mission to share excellent student research and writing with a wider audience through “The Thesis Project.” With the motto “Because your college thesis deserves more than a shelf to sit on,” the project offers students an opportunity to share the fruits of their academic labor with a wide audience. Wesleyan is one of about a dozen schools partnering with The Huffington Post on the project.

The first four Wesleyan senior theses have been published on The Huffington Post site. Matt Donahue ’14, a double major in psychology and neuroscience and behavior, writes about the struggle of psychology researchers to confirm the validity of their experimental findings, and the bogus “lie detector” device they developed to identify deceptive subjects.

For her thesis, Taylor Goodstein ’14, a biology and neuroscience and behavior double major, interviewed people affected by mental illnesses and wrote about their daily struggles in hopes of “illuminat[ing] and rectify[ing] some of the stigma that is associated with neurological disease.”

Oluwaremilekun “Remi” Ojurongbe ’14, a psychology and government double major, wrote about portrayals of immigrants in the print news media in 1996 and 2013, during the deliberation/passage of immigration legislation.

And for her thesis, theater major Emma MacLean ’14 used theater as an “experimental landscape” to explore the question “What does the disabled body look like?” She considered the portrayal of disabled characters in plays as old as Shakespeare’s Richard III and as recent as John Belluso’s The Rules of Charity (from the 2000s).

Check back as more theses are added to Wesleyan’s collection.

 

Bush ’93 Offers a Prescription to Fix Hospitals

Jonathan Bush ’93, CEO of athenahealth and author of Where Does It Hurt?: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Fixing Health Care, writes in The Boston Globe magazine about the problem with the business model of today’s hospitals, and offers a prescription for change.

Currently, he writes, “The business model of practically every hospital is predicated on mysterious and outrageous charges that someone else, either an insurance company or the government, will eventually pay or haggle down. There is almost no consideration of the patient as customer, someone who could conceivably compare prices and service and value. In our convoluted system, the insurance company is the customer and the patient is a widget to be processed, administered and billed for.”

The result? A system that is threatening to bankrupt our economy. But Bush offers a glimmer of hope:

“From the point of view of an entrepreneur, this scene is dripping with potential. All you have to do is to bite off a chunk of that hospital business, reduce the overhead, and offer routine services at reasonable rates. In a market economy, as prices become transparent and shoppers entertain more choices, the big hospitals will increasingly struggle to draw business. And these battles are already underway.”

Read more here.

Students Share Their Summer 2014 Internship Opportunities

As the semester ends and students head off on their summer adventures, The Wesleyan Connection checked in with several students about their summer internships. Here’s a sampling of some of the exciting opportunities they will be pursuing.

Gabe Rosenberg

Gabe Rosenberg ’16

I’m moving all the way from my hometown of Pittsburgh to New York City for the summer, to work for a tech-journalism startup called Contently. They are a place for freelance journalists and brands to connect and tell great stories that aren’t being told elsewhere, and they publish two magazines of their own: The Content Strategist, which focuses on new trends in content and marketing, and The Freelance Strategist, which is aimed at helping up and coming freelancers navigate the world and tell their own stories. I’m going to be an editorial intern, so I’m going to be drifting between their two magazines and writing for brands myself, as well as hopefully getting to table in the marketing and advertising sides of things. I also took a part-time position writing for the Columbia Journalism Review, where I will be reporting and writing about the media and the journalism industry.

 

Adi SlepackAdi Slepack ’16

I’ll be interning with Channel Frederator, the web division of Frederator Studios, in New York City. Frederator has been making cartoons for television, movies, and the Internet since 1998 and are best known for shows such as The Fairly Odd Parents, Chalkzone, Adventure Time, and – on the internet – Bravest Warriors and Bee and Puppycat. I’ll be working under the Network Manager and the Director of Marketing, Publicity, and Licensing, learning the ins-and-outs and helping manage of one of the first and largest networks of animation on the web. I’m pretty stoked about it.

 

Lily HermanLily Herman ’16

This summer I’m interning a HelloFlo, an absolutely incredible women empowerment startup that sends monthly feminine hygiene products to subscribers (along with treats, of course) and also seeks to empower women to no longer feel ashamed of their periods. Since the HelloFlo team has only two full-time employees besides myself, I will be the definition of a startup intern the summer as I run rampantly around New York City doing everything from writing content and working on social media to helping create marketing campaigns and doing research.

Ming ZhuMing Zhu ’15

I’ll be interning at Archer Entertainment Group in LA this summer. It’s a talent management firm founded by Mr. Alan Jacobs and my main responsibilities will include assisting with casting submissions, preparation of client materials, scheduling casting sessions, communications with talent agencies, etc.

 

Caitlin Daniels ’15

Caitlin DanielsI will be working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Office Of Policy under Wesleyan alumnus Matthew King’s (’81) international affairs team in Washington, D.C.  In this position, I will be working with either the Asia-Pacific or Canada Director on international affairs projects, lending administrative support, and attending events/meetings with staff; I think being able to see these meetings from an internal perspective will be one of the most rewarding aspects of this opportunity. My past semester spent studying in New Zealand sparked my interest in foreign relations, so I am excited to take what I have learned from my overseas experience and apply it to the context of Homeland Security’s mission abroad. I am incredibly appreciative to have received this opportunity, and I look forward to gaining a better understanding of the United States’ relations with foreign countries.

 

Dylan NiehoffDylan Niehoff ’15

My internship is an Account Executive position at a marketing agency called Epsilon. Epsilon does the marketing for 26 out of the Fortune 100 companies. I will be working out of their NYC office in the financial district. My department/position is responsible for client servicing and client acquisitions. We are the intermediaries between the Epsilon team and the client. We are responsible for ensuring their satisfaction with our service. I’m very excited to be living in the city and having the honor to be working with such a phenomenal company. 

 

Andrew Hove '15Andrew Hove ’15

I’m working for Atlas Holdings LLC in Greenwich, Conn., and I’ll be a summer analyst for them. I can’t actually tell you exactly what I’ll be doing, as they haven’t described the position in great detail, but I’ll be researching various companies/industries that they would potentially invest in and find out if the return would be profitable and if the company is able to be saved (they specialize in failing companies). The company is super young, bright and enthusiastic about what they do, which really stuck out to me during the interviews.

 

Donovan Brady '15Donovan Brady ’16

I will be interning for a cloud computing company called Logicworks, located in Soho in New York City. My official title will be Technical Operations Intern, where I mostly will be fixing and building computers, and coding in addition.

Why Liberal Education Matters

Beyond the UniversityIn connection with the release of his new book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education MattersWesleyan President Michael S. Roth has new op-eds and interviews published about the value of a pragmatic liberal education.

Writing in The New York TimesRoth warns against education that overemphasizes critical deconstruction of literature, art or other material. He writes:

Of course critical reflection is fundamental to teaching and scholarship, but fetishizing disbelief as a sign of intelligence has contributed to depleting our cultural resources. Creative work, in whatever field, depends upon commitment, the energy of participation and the ability to become absorbed in works of literature, art and science. That type of absorption is becoming an endangered species of cultural life, as our nonstop, increasingly fractured technological existence wears down our receptive capacities.

Roth calls upon students to allow themselves to be absorbed in compelling work, and consider how they might find inspiration, meaning or direction through it.

Roth also had an op-ed published in The Boston Globe on “The Case for a Liberal Education.” In an age when pundits continually question whether the cost of a college education is “worth it,” and undergraduates behave like consumers, Roth argues against notions that non-monetized learning is wasted or worthless. He writes, “The bartender with a chemistry degree is the contemporary version of the Jeffersonian ideal of a farmer who reads the classics with pleasure and insight, or John Dewey’s image of the industrial worker who can quote Shakespeare. For generations of Americans, these have been signs of a healthy republic.”

And Roth concludes:

The willingness today by some to limit higher education to only certain students or to constrict the college curriculum to a neat, instrumental itinerary is a critical mistake, one that neglects a deep American tradition of humanistic learning. This tradition has been integral to our nation’s success and has enriched the lives of generations of students by enhancing their capacities for shaping themselves and reinventing the world they will inhabit. Since the founding of this country, education has been closely tied to individual freedom, and to the ability to think for oneself and to contribute to society by unleashing one’s creative potential.

The pace of change in American higher education has never been faster, and the ability to shape change and seek opportunity has never been more valuable. Our rapid search engines can only do so much: If we want to push back against inequality and enhance the vitality of our culture and economy, we need pragmatic liberal education.

Roth also was interviewed recently in The Atlantic  about his book in an article titled “There’s Nothing Liberal about Specializing in Philosophy.” He muses on what Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin would think about the state of higher education today; economic inequality and access to a college education; liberal versus vocational learning; and the power of a liberal arts education to expand horizons and transform world views.

Ojurongbe ’14 to Speak on Media Depictions of Immigration

After graduating this May, Oluwaremilekun "Remi" Ojurongbe '14 will spend two years working at a law firm in New York City. She plans on going to law school and eventually working with immigration law and policy. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

After graduating this May, Oluwaremilekun “Remi” Ojurongbe ’14 will spend two years working at a law firm in New York City. She plans on going to law school and eventually working with immigration law and policy. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Oluwaremilekun “Remi” Ojurongbe of the Class of 2014. She will deliver a WESeminar at Reunion & Commencement on the topic of her capstone project, “Illegality, Criminality, and the Taxpayer’s Burden: The Incomplete U.S. Immigration Narrative.”

Q: Remi, what is your major and why did you decide to write a thesis?

A: I am a psychology and government double major, but I decided to conduct research in psychology mainly because of the classes that I took in the department. Courses like Professor Sarah Carney’s “Psychology in the Law,” and “Cultural Psychology” with Professor Robert Steele really made the connection between psychology and social policy for me. I felt that psychology was a great medium to further explore these topics of race, class, power and the media.

Q: How did you choose the topic of media coverage of immigrants and immigration?

A: I choose the topic of immigration because it is an area that I am personally familiar with, but I also wanted to learn more about it. My parents are Nigerian immigrants so I have some personal experience with the process of emigrating to the U.S. My sophomore year with the Ronald McNair program, I did independent research on past restrictive immigration and the creation of a perceived American identity. It was through this project that I learned more about restrictive immigration legislation, public attitudes and trends in immigrant representation.

New Assessment: Climate Change is Here and Now

Gary YoheOn May 6, the Obama Administration released its most comprehensive analysis to date about the impact of the human activity on the climate in the National Climate Assessment, of which Huffington Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Gary Yohe is vice chair of the Development and Advisory Committee. The report concludes with more certainty than ever that climate change is affecting the daily lives of Americans right now through increases in extreme weather, sea level rise, heat, heavy downpours, drought and other adverse conditions.

PBS Newshour covered the release of the report. Speaking at a press conference at the White House, Yohe said, “What keeps me up at night is a persistence across the population not to recognize that the old normal climate is broken, and we don’t know what the new normal climate is going to be. That lack of recognition and the inability of this community and decision-makers to communicate those risks to individuals unnecessarily puts economic assets at risk, unnecessarily puts human lives at risk, unnecessarily puts ecosystems at risk.”

Yohe also spoke to The Associated Press about the assessment, explaining that this final report is a re-written and shortened version of the draft that was released in January 2013, with more scientific references, reviews by experts and the public, and a thorough review by the National Academy of Sciences. There is even stronger evidence now of climate change than there was in 2013, he said.

And Yohe told NBC News that at a personal level, “…everybody can look out their window and see something about their climate that has changed over the last 5, 10 or 15 years.”

In addition, Mother Jones quotes Yohe as saying: “One major take-home message is that just about every place in the country has observed that the climate has changed…It is here and happening, and we are not cherry-picking or fear-mongering.”

Yohe was also interviewed by Voice of Russia UK radio.

Watch the full White House press conference on C-SPAN.

 

 

President Roth Charts the Development of Pragmatic Liberal Education in His New Book

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth is the author of a new book published in May 2014.

The broad contextual education that Wesleyan and peer institutions offer is frequently critiqued, sometimes excoriated, by those who accuse it of not preparing graduates for success in today’s world. But that accusation, says President Michael S. Roth in his sixth and latest book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters (Yale University Press, 2014), is as old as liberal education itself – and never less convincing than now.

A historian whose previous scholarship has focused on making sense of the past, Roth charts the development of pragmatic liberal education through a succession of important American thinkers. Liberal education has deep roots in American culture and society, he says, as does the tension between liberal education and vocational education.

“The commitment to liberal learning that Jefferson described has been attacked for its potential elitism and irrelevance for more than two hundred years,” he writes. Jefferson saw education as both a key preparation for citizenship, essential for the health of the republic, and a means for fighting abuses of wealth and privilege. As the founder of the University of Virginia, he stressed that students would have the freedom there to pursue study that they found meaningful, not prescribed coursework.

“In the last few years,” Roth continues, “commentators (who usually themselves have had a liberal education) have again questioned whether we should encourage so many people to have the opportunity to make this discovery.

“If higher education is conceived only as a job-placement program for positions with which we are already familiar, then liberal learning does not make much sense. But if higher education is to be an intellectual and experiential adventure and not a bureaucratic assignment of skill capacity, if it is to prize free inquiry rather than training for ‘the specific vocations to which [students] are destined,’ then we must resist the call to limit access to it or to diminish its scope.”

Wesleyan Media Project’s Research Cited in Senate Committee Hearing

The Wesleyan Media Project’s research was cited by U.S. Senator Angus King of Maine during a hearing April 30 of the Senate Committee on Rules & Administration. The subject of the hearing was “Dollars and Sense: How Undisclosed Money and Post-McCutcheon Campaign Finance Will Affect 2014 and Beyond.” Watch a recording of the webcast here.

The Wesleyan Media Project, directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and collaborators at Bowdoin College and Washington State University, works to increase transparency about political advertising. It tracks political ad airings on television and reports in real time about ad sponsors, spending, tone and content. The project’s co-directors submitted written testimony to the Senate committee about growing interest group involvement in elections and how disclosure matters.

Knight Foundation Supports Wesleyan Media Project

The Wesleyan Media Project has received a grant of $74,800 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to track and analyze campaign ad spending in the 2014 midterm election cycle. The project is directed by Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, along with Michael Franz of Bowdoin College and Travis Ridout of Washington State University. A resource for journalists, policymakers, scholars and voters, the project has worked to increase transparency in federal elections since it was established in 2010 with support from Knight Foundation.

Read more about the grant and the Wesleyan Media Project’s work here.

Chakravarti Authors Sing the Rage: Listening to Anger after Mass Violence

New book by Sonali Chakravarti

New book by Sonali Chakravarti.

Sonali Chakravarti, assistant professor of government, is the author of Sing the Rage: Listening to Anger after Mass Violence, published by University Of Chicago Press on April 23.

In Sing the Rage, Sonali Chakravarti examines the relationship between anger and justice through a careful look at the emotionally charged South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Between 1996 and 1998, the commission saw, day after day, individuals taking the stand to speak—to cry, scream, and wail—about the atrocities of apartheid. Uncomfortable and surprising, these public emotional displays, she argues, proved to be of immense value, vital to the success of transitional justice and future political possibilities.

Chakravarti takes up the issue from Adam Smith and Hannah Arendt, who famously understood both the dangers of anger in politics and the costs of its exclusion. Building on their perspectives, she argues that the expression and reception of anger reveal truths otherwise unavailable to us about the emerging political order, the obstacles to full civic participation, and indeed the limits—the frontiers—of political life altogether. Most important, anger and the development of skills needed to truly listen to it foster trust among citizens and recognition of shared dignity and worth. An urgent work of political philosophy in an era of continued revolution, Sing the Rage offers a clear understanding of one of our most volatile—and important—political responses.

Government Class Visits Local Court, Speaks with Clerk, Judges

An upper-level political theory seminar, "Citizens, Judges, Juries: Who Decides in Democracy," taught by Sonali Chakravarti, assistant professor of government, visited the Middlesex County Courthouse on April 22 to see proceedings and speak with the clerk and two judges. Students had the opportunity to talk about the relationship between the law and racial injustice, discretion in sentencing, jury nullification, and the current populist movement to change the way family law courts adjudicate custody cases. This is the first semester that this course is offered and the first time Professor Chakravarti took students to the courthouse. Pictured in the photo are (from left to right) Sam Furnival ’15, Ben Romero ’16, Ruby Lang ’17, Yiyang Wang ’15, Hannah Goodman ’16, Aiden King ’14, Deputy Chief Clerk Jonathan Field, Ari Ebstein ’16, and Hadas Werman ’14 with Professor Chakravarti to the far right.

An upper-level political theory seminar, “Citizens, Judges, Juries: Who Decides in Democracy,” taught by Sonali Chakravarti, assistant professor of government, visited the Middlesex County Courthouse on April 22 to see proceedings and speak with the clerk and two judges. Students had the opportunity to talk about the relationship between the law and racial injustice, discretion in sentencing, jury nullification, and the current populist movement to change the way family law courts adjudicate custody cases. This is the first semester that this course is offered and the first time Professor Chakravarti took students to the courthouse. Pictured in the photo are, from left, Sam Furnival ’15, Ben Romero ’16, Ruby Lang ’17, Yiyang Wang ’15, Hannah Goodman ’16, Aiden King ’14, Deputy Chief Clerk Jonathan Field, Ari Ebstein ’16, and Hadas Werman ’14 with Professor Chakravarti to the far right.