Students

PhD Candidate Drum Discusses Biology Research during Graduate Speaker Series

Drum

Zachary Drum, a PhD candidate in biology, delivered the first 2020–21 Graduate Speaker Series talk on Oct. 2 through Zoom. Drum’s advisor is Joseph Coolon, assistant professor of biology. The Coolon Lab uses genetic and genomic tools to better understand how insects evolve to form a resistance to pesticides, damaging $10 billion in crops annually.

Zachary Drum, a PhD candidate in biology, delivered the first 2020-21 Graduate Speaker Series talk on Oct. 2 through Zoom. Titled "The Forbidden Fruit: How Drosophila sechellia came to Love Morinda citrifolia," Drum's research explores how a fruit fly species in Africa is able to eat a poisonous fruit that flies in the the rest of the world would find toxic.

Titled “The Forbidden Fruit: How Drosophila sechellia came to Love Morinda citrifolia,” Drum’s research explores how a fruit fly species in Seychelles is able to eat a poisonous fruit (noni) that flies in the rest of the world would find toxic. Ripe noni fruit contains the fatty acid volatiles octanoic acid and hexanoic acid, which are poisonous to other Drosophila species. “The host fruit has these chemicals that they [sechellia] like, and other flies don’t. They’re attracted and resistant to the fatty acid volatiles in the noni fruit,” Drum explained. “So we’re trying to build this puzzle. How does it resist these volatiles?” (Slide show photo by Charlotte Freeland)

drum

Drum explained the two types of Drosophila sensory organs used for smelling, based on past research.

Graduate Speaker Series events are open to the entire Wesleyan community.

Graduate Speaker Series events are open to the entire Wesleyan community.

Students, Faculty Perform West African Drumming and Dance

African Studies and Akwaaba Wes invited members of the Wesleyan community to a West African Music and Dance performance on Sept. 25 on the Rugby Practice Field. 

African Studies and the African Students’ Association (ASA) invited members of the Wesleyan community to a West African Music and Dance performance on Sept. 25 on the rugby practice field.

The socially-distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the African Students’ Association.

The socially distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the ASA.

Assistant Professor of Dance Iddi Saaka performed a solo dance. Saaka is teaching DANC 111: Introduction to Dance; DANC 260: West African Dance I; and DANC 360: West African Dance II this semester.

Assistant Professor of Dance Iddi Saaka performed a solo dance. Saaka is teaching DANC 111: Introduction to Dance; DANC 260: West African Dance I; and DANC 360: West African Dance II this semester.

John Dankwa, assistant professor of music, also performed a solo. Dankwa is teaching MUSC 300: Seminar for Music Majors and MUSC 446: West African Music and Culture this fall. 

John Dankwa, assistant professor of music, also performed a solo. Dankwa is teaching MUSC 300: Seminar for Music Majors and MUSC 446: West African Music and Culture this fall.

West African dance is a gateway to the cultures and ways of life of its people. It is the medium on which the very existence of the people is reinforced and celebrated. In this introductory course, students will learn the fundamental principles and aesthetics of West African dance through learning to embody basic movement vocabulary and selected traditional dances from Ghana. The physical embodiment of these cultures will be complemented with videos, lectures, readings, and discussions to give students an in-depth perspective on the people and cultures of Ghana. Students will also learn dances from other West Africa countries periodically.

The socially distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the ASA.

The event was sponsored and organized by the Provost, the Fries Center for Global Studies, the Freeman Athletic Center, and Physical-Plant Facilities.

The event was sponsored and organized by the Provost, the Fries Center for Global Studies, the Freeman Athletic Center, and Physical-Plant Facilities. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Docter-Loeb ’22 Serves as Panelist on D.C. Statehood, Racial Justice Discussion

Hannah Docter-Loeb ’22, a features editor at The Wesleyan Argus, participated in a public discussion about the intersection of D.C. statehood and racial justice Sept. 18.

The “Panel on D.C. Statehood and Racial Justice” was hosted by Georgetown Students for D.C. Statehood and featured Docter-Loeb; Anthony Cook, professor of law at Georgetown University; Jamil Scott, assistant professor of government at Georgetown University; and Cosby Hunt, adjunct professor at the University of the District of Columbia and senior manager of social studies education at the Center for Inspired Learning.

Docter-Loeb, a D.C. native, was invited to be a panelist after writing an article for Study Breaks on the same topic. She believes one reason D.C. statehood is meeting resistance is that the area is rooted in white supremacy and racism.

“D.C. residents have advocated for D.C. statehood since the 1980s, with no luck,” she wrote. “However, on June 26, the House approved the Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51). This bill, if approved by the Senate and the president, would establish D.C. as a state and provide us with adequate representation in proportion to the city’s size, as well as other features that accompany statehood. . . . [Representatives’] comments reflect the racist belief that Black people are unfit to govern or play a role in our democracy by voting. These beliefs are still apparent in the current debate for D.C. statehood.”

A Call to Action: McMahon ‘22 Pushes for Student-Athlete Voter Registration

McMahon

Off the ice, women’s hockey team member Audrey McMahon ’22 is serving as Wesleyan’s resident ambassador for Voice in Sport (VIS), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to supporting women student-athletes and the #MoreVoicesMoreVotes initiative. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)

Although many amendments have been ratified since the first election in this country more than 230 years ago, the simple fact remains: Voting is a right and a privilege.

With just 46 days (upon the publishing of this article on Sept. 18), remaining until Election Day 2020, Audrey McMahon ’22 of the Wesleyan women’s ice hockey team has set an ambitious goal: to get 100% of eligible student-athletes registered and pledged to vote.

McMahon has taken on the role of Wesleyan’s resident ambassador for Voice in Sport (VIS), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to supporting women student-athletes. In an initiative that has gathered steam over recent months, McMahon has joined a campaign initiated by VIS called #MoreVoicesMoreVotes.

Wesleyan as a whole has taken drastic action in 2020, making Tuesday, Nov. 3 a University holiday with all classes canceled for the entire day. In addition, the athletic department has mandated no sport practices on Election Day, giving student-athletes the opportunity to vote at their own leisure. Building off the University’s support, Wesleyan students can register to vote in Middletown, making the process easier for those who haven’t registered elsewhere or who want to switch. McMahon is tripling down on the campus-wide initiative to create a groundswell that’ll make the voices of student-athletes heard.

McMahon is already encouraged by the initial support she has received amongst the athletic programs at Wesleyan. She started the campaign by contacting Wesleyan’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), who passed the message along to other members to distribute to their respective teams. From there, teams showing interest will designate a team leader tasked with ensuring each eligible teammate is registered and pledged to vote. Thus far, 17 teams have designated team leaders and committed themselves to the campaign with others expected to join in the weeks to come.

“Most of the athletes who have signed up as leaders, as well as the coaches who have reached out, are really supportive of the campaign itself,” McMahon said. “Since many students may already be registered, the pledging aspect of the process is key, which is simply making a plan for how you will vote. This is done by either determining the location of your in-person polling place or requesting an absentee ballot.”

Face Coverings become a Form of Student Expression


Three weeks into the fall semester, Wesleyan students are adapting to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Face coverings or masks are required in all public spaces to help reduce the spread of the virus. Some students find the masks also can serve as a fashion accessory or statement piece. (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

campus during COVID-19

Classes Held in Socially-Distanced Indoor and Outdoor Classrooms

This fall, Wesleyan is holding in-person classes on campus in both indoor and outdoor classroom settings. More than 180 classrooms have been revised in order to achieve a minimum six-foot distance between occupants. Updated floor plans and maximum room capacity are clearly posted in each classroom.

Faculty and students are required to wear face coverings in classrooms at all times. In addition, break times have been expanded to 30 minutes or more to allow for custodians to disinfect all touchable surfaces in each classroom between classes.

(Photos by Olivia Drake)

outdoor classroom

Mary Alice Haddad, the John E. Andrus Professor of Government and chair of the College of East Asian Studies, teaches her GOVT 296: Japanese Politics course in the Hogwarts classroom, located between the Davison Health Center and the Davison Art Center. The outdoor classroom will safely accommodate up to 40 students.

Black Lives Matter Events Celebrate History, Navigate Race Conversations

On Sept. 4, Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD) hosted a four-part series of Black Lives Matter-themed workshops celebrating the contributions of the Black community at Wesleyan.

black lives matter

Alphina Kamara ’22 and Qura-Tul-Ain “Annie” Khan ’22 hosted the event’s opening remarks and provided an interactive history of racism at Wesleyan. Pictured, the students discuss the Fisk Hall Takeover, in which Black faculty, staff, and students took a stand against racism and occupied Fisk Hall on Feb. 21, 1969. Fisk Hall was one of the main academic buildings at the time.

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persude participants to take action. "While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views and having these conversations can help mitigate these views," Kamara said. 

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persuade participants to take action. “While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views, and having these conversations can help mitigate these views,” Kamara said.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan's first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, where approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan’s first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, when approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of Blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association (ASA) spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

BLM

“ASA is my home away from home,” said Alvin Kibaara ’22 of Kenya. “It provides a space for me to relate to people who come from the same continent that I do, and we find similarities, and it gives you confidence.”

Sydney Ochieng '22 of Kenya said, "Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn't know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I'm African."

Sydney Ochieng ’22 of Kenya said, “Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn’t know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I’m African.”

The third workshop, titled "Did My Professor Just Say That?" focused on navigating race among conversations with college professors.

The third workshop, titled “Did My Professor Just Say That?” focused on navigating race in conversations with college professors.

"All of us are born and raised and living in systemic racism," said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. "So nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember we all went through this too. You can talk to us."

“All [faculty] are born and raised and living in systemic racism,” said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. “I had to deal with micro-aggressions and people … so nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember, we all went through this too. You can talk to us.”

 "I see myself engaged in long game. You know, in a, in an Epic struggle for, for human freedom, there's many front lines of battle.
There's many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed
to overcome. So, you know, black folks, at least I'm speaking as a black person, we need to survive.

“I see myself engaged in a long game,” said Tony Hatch, associate professor of science in society. “In an epic struggle for human freedom, there are many front lines of battle. There are many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed 
to overcome. So, Black folks, at least I’m speaking as a Black person, we need to survive.”

ted shaw

Keynote speaker Professor Theodore Shaw ’76, the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill, was the fifth Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., for which he worked in various capacities over the span of 26 years.

shaw

“The essence of the Black Lives Matter movement: It’s extraordinary that the simple statement that Black lives matter should provoke the reactions that it does. You know, all lives matter, you know, blue lives matter.
 I don’t know that there was any doubt about those other lives mattering. But we can look at American history and look at Black and Brown lives
 and they haven’t mattered in the same way.
”

 

Class of 2024 Attends Virtual Orientation Program

class of 2024Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state regulations, Wesleyan is delivering its annual Orientation Program virtually through live Zoom meetings, townhalls, and webinars.

Orientation activities began in mid-July, where members of the Class of 2024 and transfer students participated in sessions on charting a course through the open curriculum, sustainability at Wesleyan, wellness, financial aid, student employment, career center information, and working with an academic peer advisor. They also learned the Wesleyan fight song and participated in virtual social events including a virtual escape room, Jeopardy!, drag race bingo, and a magic show.

Sudbury, Mass. resident Sabrina Ladiwala ’24 chose to defer her on-campus enrollment until the spring semester due to the pandemic, but has participated in several first-year orientation webinars.

“After my orientation meetings, I would hang back to ask the leader a question. Multiple times, that simple exchange led to sharing experiences about what spring term was like for each of us or developed into a really in-depth talk about life on the Wes campus. As I started having more of these conversations, not only did I welcome all the information, but I also enjoyed listening to all the personal, on-campus stories these students told. In spite of sitting in my home, I already felt connected to the community,” she said.

Ladiwala also attended several social events, including a virtual escape room.

“After my group completed this fun exercise, we just stayed back and talked for around 20 or 25 minutes about moving in, what dorms we were in and how quarantine was going for us. Even though I am deferring, I was still included in that conversation which really meant a lot to me,” she said. “Even though orientation is over and classes are starting, I am excited to stay in touch with all my Wesleyan friends and am really looking forward to being on campus in the spring!”

Students also participated in several health and safety webinars on returning to campus, COVID-19 testing, and the importance of quarantine.


During an "End of Summer Bash" social event on Aug. 21, students met with community artists, psychic
s, a Tarot card reader, and Rune stone reader.

During an “End of Summer Bash” social event on Aug. 21, students met with community artists, psychic
s, a Tarot card reader, and Rune stone reader in Zoom “breakout rooms.”

Students Accelerate Their Research Skills through New Summer Bootcamp

poster

This summer, McNair Fellow Mohammed Ullah ’22, participated in a virtual McNair Bootcamp where he created a hypothetical study titled “One Drug for All RNA Viruses.” “My idea was to make a single drug for all RNA-based viruses, and based on my findings and all the online research I did on the drugs, techniques, etc., I was able to come up with a proposal based on my idea and expand it into something that can happen for several years,” Ullah said. “With the resources and knowledge from a biochemist and virologist, this idea/proposal is something that can happen in real life if people took an interest in it.”

This summer, 12 Wesleyan students who identify as first-generation/low-income learned more about research methods and proposal-writing through the first McNair Bootcamp.

Held in conjunction with Wesleyan’s Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program and the Wesleyan Mathematics and Science Scholars (WesMaSS) Program, the bootcamp provided a solution for summer research students who were unable to transition their in person research projects into remote research during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You certainly don’t want students doing organic chemistry in their kitchens back home,” said bootcamp co-founder Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry. “Many types of research aren’t able to be translated to ‘virtual research’ in response to campus closing down, so we wanted to make sure these students didn’t have a ‘lost summer’ with respect to their growth as researchers.”

Taylor and Ronnie Hendrix, associate director of the McNair Program, focused their new program on teaching students how to conduct independent research. Students learned to brainstorm, build hypotheses, work collaboratively with peers, write a research proposal based on the criterion of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program application, peer-review a research proposal, edit and improve a research proposal, and ultimately craft and present a research poster.

3 Students Win Scientific Imaging Contest

Images depicting star collisions, atom movement in yeast ribosomes, and herbaceous plant root scans were the winning entries of the 2020 Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest.

The Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest, held annually in August, recognizes student-submitted images—from experiments or simulations done with a Wesleyan faculty member—that are scientifically intriguing, as well as aesthetically pleasing. The contest is organized by the College of Integrative Sciences as part of the summer research program.

The winners included Osama Elgabori ’22, Carol Dalgarno ’21, and Jolie Villegas ’21. Elgabori’s advisor is Brian Stewart, professor of physics; Dalgarno’s advisor is Michael Weir, professor of biology; and Villegas’ advisor is Sonia Sultan, professor of biology.

Chong ‘21 Rallies against ICE Policy, Speaks at Capitol Press Conference

chong

Bryan Chong ’21 spoke during a press conference at the state Capitol, where Attorney General William Tong announced a lawsuit filed by Connecticut, 16 other states, and the District of Columbia against the government’s proposal to revoke student visas for international students should their universities choose to move classes online due to COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Mark Mirko @markmirko/Hartford Courant @hartfordcourant)

On July 6, when the U.S. government made a federal ruling that international students would be deported should their studies be held exclusively online, Bryan Chong ’21 took immediate action to fight back.

The Hong Kong native and visa holder had already spent six years in Connecticut, attending high school in Kent before enrolling at Wesleyan. If the COVID-19 pandemic moved Wesleyan to return to an all-online format again, the policy would have forced Chong to return to China for his senior year of college. But he wasn’t worried about himself as much as his international peers.

“I couldn’t imagine the mental toll this would have on international students who don’t necessarily have a secure home to go home to. There are many international students who see colleges and universities as a safe haven from their hometowns, or maybe from income insecurity, housing insecurity, and food insecurity,” Chong said.

After receiving blowback from universities and colleges across the country, on July 14 the government abruptly rescinded the proposal, easing the minds of the more than 400 international students at Wesleyan.