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Roth Reviews ‘In Defense of a Liberal Education’

Writing in The Daily BeastPresident Michael Roth reviewed In Defense of a Liberal Education by Fareed Zakaria, a refreshing change from the scores of books published in recent years decrying the state of higher education. Roth writes:

Into this atmosphere of cynicism and spleen, Fareed Zakaria offers a compact, effective essay on the importance of a broad, contextual education. Cheerfully out of step with the strident critics of higher ed, In Defense of a Liberal Education is a reminder that American colleges and universities are a powerful resource that has allowed so many young people to learn about themselves and their ability to have a positive impact on the world. Although he is well aware of the pressures on advanced study in this time of economic anxiety, Zakaria has confidence that the resources for addressing contemporary challenges lie within the very traditions being criticized.

Zakaria writes of his own personal journey through higher education, and “presents a brief sketch of its history in Europe and the United States.” Roth writes, “Most powerful in his personal and general history is his commitment to the idea that flexibility and judgment are enhanced by an education that toggles between deep engagement with specific material and the exploration of possible interconnections across a wide variety of fields.”

Wesleyan Welcomes Second Cohort of Posse Veteran Scholars

The newly accepted class of Posse Veteran Scholars, holding Wesleyan shirts, together with some current Posse scholars. Also shown are Andy Szegedy-Maszak, faculty mentor of the Class of 2018 Posse scholars, and Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek; John Gudvangen, associate dean of admission and financial aid/director of financial aid; and Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion/ Title IX officer.

Pictured are the newly accepted Class of 2019 Posse Veteran Scholars, holding Wesleyan shirts, together with some current Posse scholars from the Class of 2018. Also shown are, second from left, Andy Szegedy-Maszak, faculty mentor of the Class of 2018 Posse scholars, and Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek; fifth from left, John Gudvangen, associate dean of admission and financial aid/director of financial aid; and, far right, Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion/ Title IX officer.

Wesleyan has accepted a second cohort of Posse Foundation Veteran Scholars into the Class of 2019. The group, which includes three women and seven men, come from all over the United States, and have served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Italy, South Korea and Germany. Seven served in the Army, one in the Marine Corps, one in the Air Force, and one in the Connecticut Army National Guard.

The group’s faculty mentor will be Giulio Gallarotti, professor of government, professor of environmental studies, tutor in the College of Social Studies.

In 2013, Wesleyan became only the second institution, after Vassar, to partner with the Posse Foundation in a new program to recruit veterans to top-tier colleges and universities, where they receive full scholarships. Read more about the partnership in this story. The first “posse” of students entered Wesleyan in fall 2014. Meet them here.

“Our second Posse Vets cohort brings an even more diverse and eclectic group of veterans to Wesleyan,” said Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion/ Title IX officer. “What continues to impress me is the unshakeable confidence that is backed by academic rigor and a deep sense of duty each of the vets brings to their educational journey.”

The first group of Posse vets “have set a high bar in terms of academic performance and community engagement, so we’re looking forward to welcoming the next cohort and watching them thrive,” he said.

Farias added that he’s grateful to the faculty who have volunteered to serve as mentors to these students, as well as the tireless staff that help ensure the transition from the military to a liberal arts college is successful.

“We’re thrilled that Giulio Gallarotti has been selected as the faculty mentor. Giulio brings a deep empathetic understanding of how to integrate and help different types of students excel at Wes, which makes him an ideal mentor.”

Packer ’15 Creates Online Community to Unify Collegiate Sustainability Movement

Brent Packer '15 is the founder of Potlux, which is on track to be the first online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are effectively aggregated and shared.

Brent Packer ’15 is the founder of Potlux, which is on track to be the first online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are effectively aggregated and shared. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

#THISISWHY
In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Brent Packer from the Class of 2015. 

Q: Brent, where are you from and what are you majoring in?

A: I was born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Growing up nearby Amish farms and having tortoises, dogs and a semi-domesticated duck scampering around my house piqued my environmental interests. At Wesleyan, I’m a member of the College of the Environment with a double major in economics and environmental studies.

Q: You are the founder of Potlux, an online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are aggregated and shared. What is the community’s mission?

A: Our mission is to accelerate global environmental progress by unifying the collegiate sustainability movement. View our pitchdeck online.

Q: When did you come up with the idea for Potlux? When did you begin the project?

Unger ’15 Writes about “Coexistence and its Discontents” in Israel, Palestine

Rachel Unger '15 in Nazareth, Israel.

Rachel Unger ’15 in Nazareth, Israel.

Writing in Tikkun Magazine, government major Rachel Unger ’15 offers a first-hand account of Israeli-Palestinian relations she witnessed during her two trips to the region, and how these experiences shaped her views of a “two-state solution” to the ongoing conflict.

Unger describes watching “religious Jews marching through the Muslim quarter of the Old City celebrating the ‘reunification’ of Jerusalem while the authorities blocked Palestinians from the streets with barricades and prevented an old man from taking the bus to his home. I witnessed police knocking a Palestinian man to the ground while hordes of young Yeshiva boys cheered and sang ‘Am Yisrael Chai!'”

She writes, “This incident felt like a culmination of the nationalism, racism, and contradicting narratives that drive the Israeli-Palestinian conflict forward.” It was, she writes, a side of Israel from which most American Jews are shielded when the tour the country.

Visiting the region and hearing a broad range of Israeli and Palestinian perspectives showed Unger that many on both sides of the conflict gave up long ago on the possibility of a two-state solution. Read more about her thoughts on this here.

War Veteran, Posse Scholar Stascavage ’18 Pursuing Degree in Economics

Posse scholar Bryan Stascavage '18 served from August 2006 until March 2012 as a U.S. Army military intelligence analyst. He was deployed three times: twice to Iraq and once on a humanitarian aid mission in Haiti in 2010. Now Stascavage is a member of the Class of 2018 at Wesleyan. (Photo by Laurie Kenney)

Posse scholar Bryan Stascavage ’18 served from August 2006 until March 2012 as a U.S. Army military intelligence analyst. He was deployed three times: twice to Iraq and once on a humanitarian aid mission in Haiti in 2010. Now Stascavage is a member of the Class of 2018 at Wesleyan and is working towards a degree in economics. (Photo by Laurie Kenney)

While walking back to his room from Al-Faw Palace in Baghdad, Iraq, Bryan Stascavage ’18 remembers telling a friend about his plans for the future.

“When I get out of the military, I’m going back to college with a vengeance,” Stascavage said. “A perfect 4.0 GPA or bust. I’m not messing around and wasting this opportunity like I did my first time around.”

His first time in college, which he attended right after high school, had been an “unmitigated disaster,” Stascavage recalls. He only lasted three semesters with a GPA hovering around a 2.0. After taking a wide array of courses at several community colleges in Connecticut, and then working as an apprentice for a writer in California, Stascavage joined the military as an intelligence analyst in August 2006.

“I joined for personal and patriotic reasons: the war in Iraq was going poorly,

Gruen’s New Book Explores Human-Animal Relationships

Lori Gruen

Lori Gruen

Lori Gruen, professor and chair of philosophy, professor of environmental studies, and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, is the author of a new book, Entangled Empathy: An Alternative Ethic for Our Relationships with Animals, published by Lantern Books on Feb. 15.

In Entangled Empathy, Gruen argues that rather than focusing on animal rights, we ought to work to make our relationships with animals right by empathetically responding to their needs, interests, desires, vulnerabilities, hopes and unique perspectives. Pointing out that we are already entangled in complex and life-altering relationships with other animals, Gruen guides readers through a new way of thinking about and practicing animal ethics.

Gruen defines “entangled empathy” as “a process whereby we first acknowledge that we are already in relationships with all sorts of other animals (humans and non-humans) and these relationships are, for the most part, not very good ones. We then work to figure out how to make them better and that almost always means trying to promote well-being and flourishing.”

Gruen discussed her book with University of Colorado Professor Emeritus Mark Bekoff in The Huffington Post. Bekoff calls the book “a wonderful addition to a growing literature in the transdisciplinary field called anthrozoology, the study of human-animal relationships.”

McLaughlin ’15 Helps Students Discover Body-Mind Awareness through WesBAM! Classes

Katie McLaughlin '15 teaches a WesBAM! class called Vinyasa Flow Fusion, which combines meditation, breathing techniques and traditional asana practice for whole body health and happiness.

Katie McLaughlin ’15 teaches a WesBAM! class called Vinyasa Flow Fusion, which combines meditation, breathing techniques and traditional asana practice for whole body health and happiness.

In this Q&A we speak with Katie McLaughlin from the Class of 2015. (Story and photos by Hannah Norman ’16)

Q: Katie, what are you majoring in?

A: I’m majoring in French and environmental studies with the certificate in international relations. For my capstone project in the environmental studies major, I am researching the academic justifications of contemplative pedagogy and developing a curriculum which integrates it and movement-based learning into elementary school, high school and adult education. The goals of the curriculum are to explore the environment through physical inquiry and embodiment, reevaluate the ways we perceive ourselves as a part of, or apart from nature and reexamine how we interact with ourselves, our communities and the spaces we inhabit.

Q: You are a WesBAM! manager and yoga instructor on campus. Please explain what WesBAM! is all about.

A: Started by Renee Dunn ’14 and Shira Engel ’14, Wesleyan Body and Mind (WesBAM!) is a student-run organization that makes mind-body awareness and fitness accessible at Wesleyan by offering a wide variety of daily classes, free community classes every weekend, and free workshops throughout the semester. WesBAM! instructors are students certified in a variety of athletic disciplines.

Fowler on the Effects of Politicization of Vaccines in the Media

Erika Franklin Fowler is co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

Erika Franklin Fowler is also co-director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

As controversy over the measles vaccine continues to grow, and prominent politicians weigh in with their views, Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler writes in The Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” blog about the dangerous consequences that politicization of vaccine issues in the news media can have on public support for vaccines in general.

In an article co-authored with with Sarah Gollust ’01, now an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, Fowler considers the the 2009 dust-up over mammography screening recommendations, and the 2006-07 debate over whether to require girls to get the HPV vaccine. Though neither started out as controversial, “once the news media highlighted political sources or partisan conflict about these issues, future news coverage continued to reflect this politicization — even as news coverage of these issues tapered off,” they write. That is, the “political firestorm” continued long after the original issue faded.

Moreover, Fowler and Gollust write that politicized media coverage was associated with lower support for requiring the HPV vaccine, as evidenced in a survey of respondents’ attitudes and media coverage in their states. They also conducted an experiment in which people were exposed to brief news excerpts discussing the debate over requiring HPV vaccines. For people who were less likely to have previously encountered news stories about the HPV vaccine controversy, reading about political conflict over the issue decreased support for vaccines in general, and decreased trust in doctors.

“This suggests a very troubling implication: media coverage of the controversy about the measles vaccine could actually affect the general public beyond the very small ‘anti-vax’ community,” they write. “But our research also suggests a way for news coverage to avoid this. We found that news coverage that did not emphasize conflict was associated with increased support for both the HPV vaccine and immunization programs generally. This shows how news media could bolster support for needed vaccinations: steer clear of the political controversy.”

Fowler and Gollust also wrote about their findings in a brief for the Scholars Strategy Network (SSN).

Dean for Equity and Inclusion Earns a Doctorate in Education

Renee Johnson-Thornton, dean for equity and inclusion.

Renee Johnson-Thornton, dean for equity and inclusion, is exploring ways to better understand the experiences students have that interfere with success and wellbeing. She has a deep commitment to social and environmental justice, conservation and environmental sustainability.

In this Q&A we speak with Renee Johnson-Thornton, dean for equity and inclusion.

Q: Renee, when did you come to Wesleyan and what was your first position? When did you join the Office of Equity and Inclusion?

A: I was hired in 1998 to be the associate director of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. The Office of Equity and Inclusion was established in 2013 following the hiring of Vice President Antonio Farias. Prior to his arrival, I served as dean for diversity and student engagement from 2009-2013, and the associate coordinator of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program from 2000-2013. I also have held the following positions at Wesleyan: assistant dean for student academic resources from 2005-2006, and assistant to the dean of the college from 2000-2005.

Q: How would you describe your role as the dean for equity and inclusion?

A: The dean for equity and inclusion promotes access, education and compliance through collaboration with students, faculty, staff and alumni that engage the campus community in developing all students’ capacity to achieve at the highest level.

Miranda ’02, Tatum ’75, Price to be Honorary Degree Recipients at Wesleyan’s 183rd Commencement

Wesleyan will honor three remarkable leaders in their fields with honorary degrees at the university’s 183rd Commencement on May 24, 2015. Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, an award-winning composer, lyricist, writer and actor, will present the Commencement Address. Wesleyan also will award honorary degrees to Beverly Daniel Tatum ’75, president of Spelman College and an expert in race relations and higher education, and Michael Price, the longtime executive director of Goodspeed Musicals.

Lin-Manuel Miranda '02 (Photo courtesy of linmanuel.com)

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 (Photo courtesy of linmanuel.com)

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02
Lin-Manuel Miranda is the Tony and Grammy-winning composer-lyricist of Broadway’s In the Heights, which received four 2008 Tony Awards, with Miranda receiving a Tony Award for Best Score, and a nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. In The Heights was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The show’s first incarnation was staged at the ’92 Theater at Wesleyan in 2000. Miranda is also the co-composer/co-lyricist of Broadway’s Bring it On: The Musical, which received a 2013 Tony nomination for Best Musical. His latest stage work is Hamilton, a musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, which had its world premiere at the Public Theater in New York City in 2015.

Along with composer Tom Kitt, Miranda won the 2014 Creative Arts Emmy

Writing at Wesleyan Announces Spring Series on Prose and Poetry

Writing at Wesleyan announces the Spring 2015 Russell House Series on Prose and Poetry.

Writer/authors in the Spring 2015 series include Ron Padgett on Feb. 25, Millett Fellow Caryl Phillips on March 4, Sadia Shepard on March 25, Rowan Ricardo Phillips on April 1 and Ruth Ozeki on April 8.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information on these talks visit the Writing at Wesleyan website.

Support for this series is provided by Writing at Wesleyan, the English Department, the Annie Sonnenblick Fund, the Joan Jakobson Fund, the Jacob Julien Fund, the Millett Writing Fellow Fund, the Center for the Arts, and the Shapiro Creative Writing Center.

The 2014/2015 Series organizers include Lisa Cohen, associate professor of English; Elizabeth Willis, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing; Amy Bloom, the Kim-Frank Family University Writer-in-Residence; and Anne Greene, director of Writing Programs.

Everett ’15 Co-Authors Paper Published in Nature Communications

Holly Everett '15

Holly Everett ’15

A paper co-authored by molecular biology and biochemistry major Holly Everett ’15 is published in the December 2014 issue of Nature Communications. The article, titled “High-throughput detection of miRNAs and gene-specific mRNA at the single-cell level by flow cytometry,” describes a novel approach to visualizing RNA and protein simultaneously at the single cell level.

Everett has been working on the accompanying research at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard.

This new technology uses gene-specific probes and a signal amplification system based on a “branched DNA” principle. The authors show that this novel flow-FISH (for “Fluorescent in situ hybridization”) technique is sensitive, specific and can be multiplexed with simultaneous detection of three different gene-specific RNAs. The results further demonstrate their ability to measure expression of genes critical for immune cells, such as cytokines, in white blood cells specifically targeting the HIV or CMV viruses. The authors also demonstrate the capacity to detect mRNAs for which flow antibodies against the corresponding proteins are poor or are not available. Read more about the study online here.

Everett, who is completing her degree in three years, worked on this study between her sophomore and senior (gap) year, starting in 2013. She hopes to continue this research next year at a HIV and TB research institute in Durban, South Africa.

Everett’s advisor is Don Oliver, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology.