Wesleyan Earth and Environmental Sciences students and faculty attended and contributed to this year’s Geological Society of America (GSA) Annual Meeting, held Nov. 1–4 in Baltimore, Md.
Wesleyan Earth and Environmental Sciences students and faculty attended and contributed to this year’s Geological Society of America (GSA) Annual Meeting, held Nov. 1–4 in Baltimore, Md.
The world is currently facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Concerned Wesleyan students are volunteering with community organizations, coordinating various speaker panels, fundraising for international NGOs and agencies, and engaging in advocacy efforts.
This fall, Casey Smith ’17 and Cole Phillips ’16 founded the Wesleyan Refugee Project (WRP). Smith, a College of Social Studies major who is pursuing certificates in Middle Eastern studies and international relations, has worked with refugees since high school, advocated for refugees’ rights in Washington, D.C., and volunteered for refugee resettlement organizations. She is currently studying abroad in Jordan, where she helps refugees access legal services with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) and teaches yoga at the Collateral Repair Project (CRP). Phillips is a government major pursuing certificates in Middle Eastern studies and international relations. While studying abroad in Jordan, he worked for CRP, an NGO that provides aid to Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Phillips then returned to Jordan in August via a Davenport grant to conduct research for his thesis, and grew close with a Syrian refugee with whom he worked as an interpreter. These experiences inspired Smith and Phillips to engage the Wesleyan community in refugee aid work.
“More broadly, we also wanted to start conversations and bring awareness about refugee issues to campus,” said Smith.
Currently, there are 34 Wesleyan students volunteering through WRP, and many more have expressed interest. Every week, student volunteers work with three different organizations: Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), helping refugees apply for housing and energy subsidy programs; the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), working on refugees’ resettlement applications; and Paper Airplanes, tutoring Syrian refugees in English.
Sophie Zinser ’16 joined early in the project as the volunteer coordinator for the IRIS group, but her role has expanded to co-coordinating the group’s efforts. A College of Letters and French studies major, Zinser has been studying Arabic since her sophomore year at Wesleyan. After interacting with refugees as a student studying abroad in Paris and as an Olin Fellow in Morocco, Sophie was inspired to engage further with refugees via volunteer efforts on campus.
“Working with IRIS has exposed my fellow students and I to just how much time and energy incoming refugees and their case workers spend dealing with endless paperwork and bureaucracy just to ensure their eligibility for basic things, such as subsidized housing or electricity,” she said. “Realizing this has made my fellow students and I more passionate about being the friendly faces that guide them through the processes, so that they can spend more time worrying about the million other concerns on their minds, such as learning English, assimilating into American culture, and being happy.”
The basement of the University Organizing Center at 190 High Street is now home to Red Feather Studios, Wesleyan’s first and only student-run recording studio.
Red Feather officially opened in spring 2015 after being a work in progress for a few years.
“The music culture at Wesleyan is unlike any I’ve seen at other universities,” added Oscar Parajon ’16, a founding member and head studio manager at Red Feather, who is majoring in American Studies. “Before Red Feather Studios, what was happening was a plethora of ‘bedroom producers’ throughout campus that did not have a platform to make their art.”
According to Parajon, the studio’s name comes from the Wesleyan cardinal mascot, “and the idea that its red feathers have the potential to lift the cardinal to extraordinary heights.”
“I think the need for Red Feather stemmed from a discrepancy between Wesleyan students’ creative output and our collective access to creative resources on campus,” said Derrick Holman ’16, another founding member and head of external affairs. While other colleges and universities have student-run studios, Holman said that Red Feather is unique in being a completely student-run venture, with everything from the idea to the funding to the construction to the day-to-day operations under student control.
“In my personal experience, I have found that there is so much value in creative freedom and—unlike any other musical space on campus—Red Feather provides its leadership and users with the ability to experiment in an unconstrained manner, not only musically, but also with the process of developing and managing a creative space,” Holman, a sociology major, said.
In its first semester of operation, the studio was booked for upwards of 175 sessions, during which artists, bands and performers logged more than 500 hours of recording, production and musical output, according to Holman.
“So far the response has been amazing,” he added. “To date, we have been responsible for the production of multiple EPs and dozens of songs, and even have a member whose self-produced album is now available for purchase on iTunes that was completed almost entirely in our facilities.
Q: Anna, where are you from and what attracted you to Wesleyan?
A: I am from Woodbridge, Conn. but born in New York. It’s actually a funny story because I didn’t actually seriously looking into Wesleyan until probably October of my senior year of high school! When I was looking for schools I tried to stick closer to home and, at the time, I was being recruited for swimming. I have been an athlete for my entire life and swimming had dominated my time during high school so I decided to pursue it further into the collegiate level; however, I was co-captains with an Olympic Trials qualifier and my little national qualifying events were nothing in comparison to coming in 21st in the nation in an event. On the bright side I’ve always known my education was what would bring me farthest in the long run. Of the schools I looked at, I had narrowed it down to a couple NESCAC schools. After getting to be on other college campuses and really be invested in their campus life, I thought Wesleyan was the best fit for me. Actually looking back on it, I was interviewed on a Wesleying page as an “incoming freshman!” I just feel so lucky to be here with all my peers, regardless of what goes on, everyone deserves to be happy and I believe Wesleyan is that safe space.
Q: What are you majoring in and why?
A: I came into Wesleyan thinking I would major in psychology but as time progressed, I fell in love with neuroscience and behavior. But then last May, I changed my major from neuroscience to the Science in Society Program. SISP allows me to reach outside of my comfort zones. Within SISP I am also a philosophy concentration with a focus on ethics and political philosophy, which allows me to really focus in on the current and even historical issues within our healthcare.
Two members of the Wesleyan community participated in a discussion on WNPR’s Where We Live focused on “Confronting Social Injustice.”
Bashaun Brown, a former student at Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education who spent more than six years incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional Institution, is now pursuing an entrepreneurial venture called TRAP House.
“All prison experience is pretty bad, but thanks to Wesleyan, I was able to transform my prison space. My prison experience was one of educating myself, and trying to get better and make sure I never make the types of mistakes that I made to get into that situation in the first place. Wesleyan Center for Prison Education allowed me to imagine I was in a college setting throughout four years of my prison sentence,” he said.
There are not many programs available to help inmates work through the issues that got them incarcerated, Brown explained, and the time is wasted for many people. People who run prisons are primarily concerned with safety and security.
“In reality, if you really want to change the people in prison, you focus more on bringing more programming to prison. I think everybody should be able to get the opportunity that I had to take part in a quality, in this case liberal arts, education. If anyone wants to make the case for liberal arts, it should be in the prison,” he said. “Getting a liberal arts education allowed me to really evaluate where I’m at politically, socially, economically on the spectrum. Exactly where do I stand as a black man in America, now as a felon in America? How did we get here, and what can I do to change the situation? There’s something valuable to learning psychology, literature, and mixing and matching all types of education to custom make your experience.”
Later in the show, Hannah Sokoloff-Rubin ’16 discussed the Wesleyan Doula Project, a social entrepreneurship venture that she co-leads.
“The Wesleyan Doula Project is an organization that trains students and a few community members to work as non-medical support people for women receiving abortions,” she explained. There’s a common misperception that doulas only support women going through birth, but the Wesleyan Doula Project is part of a new movement to support women across the “full spectrum” of pregnancy outcomes, from miscarriage to stillbirth to adoption.
“One of the reasons I’ve devoted all of my time as a student to this project is become I think it both hits a level of social justice that’s really important…and helps fix a broken healthcare system, especially around reproductive healthcare, in that we have a problem where the care that is being provided really isn’t meeting the needs of the people who are receiving it.” The Wesleyan Doula Project helps to increase patient safety, open lines of communication, and make the process go more smoothly, she said.
All the gifts raised by the fund count in Wesleyan’s THIS IS WHY fundraising campaign promoting access, inquiry and impact across the university. (Photos by Will Barr ’18)
On Nov. 6, four Wesleyan seniors spoke to members of the Wesleyan community about their thesis topics and research. The event, “Celebrating Seniors: Research Excellence at Wesleyan and Abroad” took place in Judd Hall, and was moderated by the Class of 2016 Dean David Phillips.
The student presenters were Tahreem Khalied ’16, Claire Wright ’16, Simon Chen ’16 and Kate Cullen ’16, and their projects varied widely. (Story by Margaret Curtis ’16, photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)
Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrated sciences, is the co-author of a new study, “Rhythmic Effects of Syntax Processing in Music and Language” published in Frontiers in Psychology in November. The article’s lead author is Harim Jung ’16, and it is also co-authored by Samuel Sontag ’14 and YeBin “Shiny” Park ’15.
According to Loui, the paper grew out of her Advanced Research Methods in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience course, and is the precursor to Jung’s senior and master’s theses. The study uses a behavioral test to look into how music and language—two universal human functions—may overlap in their use of brain resources. The researchers show that perturbations in rhythm take up sufficient attentional resources to interfere with how people read and understand a sentence. The results support the view that rhythm, music, and language are not limited to their separate processing in the auditory circuits; instead, their structure creates expectations about tempo, harmony, and sentence meaning that interfere with each other in other sensory systems, such as vision, and in higher levels of cognitive processing.
“We think that the role of rhythm in this sharing of brain resources dedicated to music and language is an important finding because it could help people who use music as a therapy to help their language functions,” explained Loui. “For example, people who have aphasia (loss of language) due to stroke are sometimes able to sing, a fascinating paradox that led to the development of Melodic Intonation Therapy—a singing therapy designed to help aphasics recover their language functions. Rhythm is important for this therapy, but its precise role is unclear. By studying how rhythm guides the way the brain shares its processing between music and language, we might be better able to target Melodic Intonation Therapy in the future.”
From Nov. 4-7, Gabriel Lipton Galbraith ’16 participated in the 67th annual Student Conference on United States Affairs (SCUSA) at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The conference, titled “Confronting Inequality: Wealth, Rights and Power” brought together students, scholars and members of the military to talk about pressing challenges currently facing U.S. policy makers.
Student delegates were split into roundtables to discuss specific topics touching on this broader theme. Lipton Galbraith’s roundtable focused on international trade and inequality. Over the four day conference they authored a position paper focusing on the possible consequences of the recently signed Transpacific Partnership (TPP) on inequality.
Lipton Galbraith, who is majoring in government and minoring in economics, is interested in international relations, international economics and law. He’s currently writing a senior thesis on government surveillance policy in North America and Western Europe.
“The SCUSA conference definitely enabled me to explore my academic interests, as well as get a sense of the various avenues of public service that are available to new graduates,” he said.
In addition to the time spent in the roundtable discussion, Lipton Galbraith attended a number of talks from subject matter experts on the implications of inequality in the 21st century. The opening panel discussion brought together policymakers from the military, U.S. AID, the U.N. Population Fund (UNPFA), among others. Former United States Secretary of State Madeline Albright delivered the keynote address.
Lipton Galbraith also spoke with representatives working at the State Department, major human rights organizations, and numerous think tanks.
“All in all, the conference was a wonderful opportunity to converse with scholars of all sorts and to better understand the goals of the military.”
The 5th Annual Stone A Cappella Concert at Memorial Chapel on Nov. 8 featured the vocal talents of Wesleyan’s many student a cappella groups. “A cappella” is Italian for “in the manner of the chapel.” (Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)
Just ahead of Veteran’s Day, The Hartford Courant has published an in-depth feature on Wesleyan’s Posse veteran scholars. According to the story:
For more than two decades, Posse has run a program on the principle that high school students from diverse backgrounds will have a better chance of becoming successful students and leaders on campus if they come in a tight-knit group and with a network that helps to support them.
Two years ago, Posse expanded that concept to teams of veterans, starting at Vassar College. Wesleyan had its first posse of 10 veterans enter last year, and a second posse of 10 more this fall and will add 20 more over the next two years. Next year, Dartmouth College plans to become part of the program. As part of the arrangement, the schools agree to pick up whatever costs the federal veterans programs don’t cover.
In 2013, Wesleyan decided to partner with Posse because the university was having a hard time attracting veterans on its own.
“Wesleyan is known as a school pretty much on the left …” President Michael Roth told the Courant, “but a school that’s only on the left and seems hostile to anything that’s not stereotypically on the left is a school that would be weak, I think. It would be an echo chamber, rather than a place of real conversation and debate.
“I thought it would be good for Wesleyan because these young men and women — their life experience has been different from most of our students.”
The article leads with Army veteran Ryan “Doc” Polk ’19, who admits he was elated but “terrified” to start at Wesleyan.
But Polk, who is 32, says his experience in a “posse” of 10 veterans at Wesleyan has allayed his reservations. He has found the students open and easy to talk to, and he’s taking every class he can cram into his schedule. His career plan to drive a truck has given way to plans to become a writer.
Polk described his experience at Wesleyan:
When he got into Wesleyan, he said, beyond his questions about the cultural atmosphere on campus, his first thought was, “OK, I have a future. That was my reaction. I have a future now.”
Polk didn’t know how he would relate to younger students fresh out of high school, but he said he’s been pleasantly surprised. “They actually want to know what’s happening,” Polk said. “They don’t try and understand it, they just want to listen and they are like, ‘wow, that’s different.'”
Polk left the Army in 2014 after he was wounded in Afghanistan. He was in and out of the hospital for eight months with various medical issues. His marriage dissolved. “You’ll hear this story from a lot of vets. You’re just not the same afterward, so it’s kind of like learning who you are.”
It’s part of the reason “Doc” doesn’t go by his old name — Ryan — anymore. “I don’t even know that guy anymore,” he said.
From that point of view, Polk said he is very much like the freshmen around him. “They are trying to figure out who they are, so even though I’m 120 years older, I can still relate to where they are at.”
The article also describes the role of faculty mentors for the Posse veteran scholars.
As part of the Posse program, Wesleyan faculty mentors provide close advising to Posse students, meeting with them one-on-one and in groups. In addition, Posse Foundation staff visit the campus several times a year.
Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, a professor of Greek and Classical Studies and a faculty mentor, said that one of the biggest issues veterans face is the “impostor syndrome,” which was discussed in the ’70s and ’80s.
Many of the veterans had unsuccessful high school careers or attended community colleges, where they were “racking up A’s,” Szegedy-Maszak said.
But the work at Wesleyan is much harder, and they may be finding it “a shock to the system.”
“There’s still this anxiety about whether they should really be here,” he said. “Whether they can really cut it here, and they absolutely can.”
While having a posse of older students with shared military experience is helpful, Antonio Farias, Wesleyan’s vice president for equity and inclusion, said the students are expected to get out of their “comfort zones,” become leaders on campus and participate in extracurricular activities.
The Christian Science Monitor also interviewed Polk for a story about the challenges veterans face when entering college after military service, and programs designed to help them.
Despite his anxiety about being at Wesleyan, he said, “Everyone I’ve talked to has been very open, not just asking questions because it’s fun, but because they just want the raw information of what happened.” In the process he’s found that the first time he’s been able to talk openly about his experiences in combat, “It’s been with 18-year-olds.”
President Michael Roth told the Monitor about why Wesleyan brought the Posse veterans program to campus.
“We’ve been engaged in a series of wars that haven’t even been labeled wars, and they demand an enormous sacrifice from a very small percentage of the population, and the rest of us depend on that sacrifice whether we like it or not, but never really have to talk to somebody who patrolled the streets of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan,” he said.
“I thought this was a great thing – we’d both help deserving student veterans with financial assistance, and it would also be good for the campus because they would have a very different life experience from most of our other students,” he adds. “They’re a little bit older, more mature, and they are intensely curious about the world and about themselves. I think they want to make the most of their education, and they don’t take it for granted. There’s a kind of intensity to that that’s just great.”