Tag Archive for alumni publications

Middle School Misfits Inhabit New Wilder ’88 Novel

Robert Wilder ’88

Book by Robert Wilder ’88.

Robert Wilder ’88 draws on his 25 years of teaching experience to paint a complex, funny, poignant picture of life in middle school in Nickel (Leaf Storm Press, 2016). The novel tells the story of two middle school misfits who bond over a mutual love for 1980s pop culture: Coy, whose mother is in rehab and whose stepfather is trying, but not always succeeding, to hold things together in her absence; and Monroe, his just-as-quirky female best friend whose braces have given her a rash that becomes a life-threatening illness. Booklist, in a starred review, says, “Wilder powers his classic coming-of-age narrative with a ferocious storytelling voice . . . A humorous, poignant, and formidable debut.”

The idea of Nickel stemmed from Wilder’s love of the quiet, quirky kids he’s taught over the years, as well as his teenage son, London. “I love teenagers, and I ask them questions daily,” says Wilder. “I take notes on their obsessions, dreams, fashion choices and language, and I learn something new from them every day without fail. I have to be subtler with my own children. They think it’s weird when I ask them a question that has to do with a character I’m working on. They want me to make them enchiladas and give them money.”

Wilder used the elements of storytelling he learned from studying fiction for his first two books—collections of comedic essays based on his own personal experiences as a teacher and a father. In writing Nickel, Wilder found some similarities but also one notable difference. “With nonfiction, you already have the world created for you. If something happened in my kitchen, I can refer to it anytime I need to,” he says. “When writing fiction, you need to create an entire world from the ground up.”

Robert Wilder ’88

Robert Wilder ’88

For Wilder, the process of writing Nickel began with the voice of the book’s main character, Coy. “I started with Coy’s voice and let it lead me,” he says. “Many of the kids I was thinking about when I developed that voice spoke in code and sound effects, so my early drafts were an attempt to try and emulate that shorthand manner of speech. When I sent the manuscript to my friend Christopher, he said, ‘This is great but totally unreadable.’ So I had to try to keep the core elements of Coy’s voice but allow the casual reader access to him and his world.”

Wilder drew on his own high school memories and experiences, as well as his experience as a teacher, to flesh out the book’s relatable, realistic characters and setting. “For the character of Coy, I tried to recall what it was like when I was his age and how hard it was being a relatively sensitive teenager who suffers loss, especially in a large school. When I created the school that Coy and Monroe attend, I drew on all the telling details I’ve gathered in my 25 years of teaching. Schools are such a rich environment and culture; it was a lot of fun trying to capture what it’s like being in that world day after day. I also allowed myself to see the challenges and absurdities of school life the way Coy and Monroe would.”

Wilder, an English major and soccer player during his years at Wesleyan, recently finished another novel, which he hopes to publish soon. He is also working on a television pilot loosely based on his two essay collections, Daddy Needs a Drink: An Irreverent Look at Parenting from a Dad Who Truly Loves His Kids—Even When They’re Driving Him Nuts, which the Los Angeles Times called “consistently hilarious,” and Tales from the Teachers’ Lounge: What I Learned in School the Second Time Around—One Man’s Irreverent Look at Being a Teacher Today, which Publishers Weekly called “honest and funny.”

“There is no doubt that I have far more empathy for the teenage species after writing Nickel,” says Wilder. “How couldn’t I? Writing is an act of empathy, after all.”

Smith ’82 Explores How Fear Distorts Reality in First Novel

Book by Patricia Smith ’82.

Book by Patricia Smith ’82.

“At seven thirty, with SJ still asleep, Deirdre Murphy left the house for school. She walked side streets shaded by trees in their glory—pale autumn reds, yellows the color of honey. She scuffed through piles of leaves, each whoosh a reminder of every other autumn and every other beginning of the school year, the only way Deirdre knew how to mark time. She kept track of events based on the girls she taught: the drama queens, the freaks, the year they were all brilliant. This year, Deirdre could already tell after a week of classes, was the year of the needy girls.”

So begins The Year of Needy Girls, the debut novel from Patricia Smith ’82. The book is published by Kaylie Jones (’81) Books, an imprint of Akashic Books, headed by publisher and editor-in-chief Johnny Temple ’88.

The Year of Needy Girls tells the story of Deirdre, a dedicated private school teacher from a working class background, and her partner, Sara Jane (SJ), who live in a tolerant New England town, divided by a river and by class, until the murder of a 10-year-old boy changes the way the townspeople look at themselves…and at others. Publishers Weekly says, “Smith’s crisp prose and dedication to moralistic ambiguity make for a provoking read,” while Library Journal notes, “Smith’s first novel successfully builds tension and a sense of dread among the picture-perfect New England fall.”

Ainspan ’88 Receives Katzell Award for Work with Veterans, Research-Based Insight

Nathan Ainspan ’88, the editor of The Handbook of Psychosocial Interventions for Veterans and Service Members and When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Nathan Ainspan ’88, the editor of The Handbook of Psychosocial Interventions for Veterans and Service Members and When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Nathan Ainspan ’88, an industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologist with the Department of Defense’s Transition to Veterans Program Office, has received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in I-O Psychology from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) for his work improving the lives of military veterans and for his commitment to promoting research-based insights designed to improve organizations and the lives of individuals.

Ainspan’s work has focused on influencing policy and educating service members, veterans, clinicians, and corporate leaders to improve the military-to-civilian transition process. The editor of When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, The Handbook of Psychosocial Intervention for Service Members, and Returning Wars’ Wounded, Injured, and Ill: A Reference Handbook, he has just begun editing another handbook to guide private-sector human resource professionals on hiring and retaining military veterans in their companies.

An American Studies major at Wesleyan, he earned his doctorate from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He attributes his interest in I-O psychology to a course he took at Wesleyan and traces his work with veterans from there.

Sienkiewicz ’03 Authors Book on U.S. Efforts to Reshape Middle Eastern Media

Matt Sienkiewicz ’03

Book by Matt Sienkiewicz ’03.

The U.S. has poured millions of dollars into local television and radio programming in the Muslim World in an effort to win the hearts and minds of that region’s citizens. But according to communications scholar Matt Sienkiewicz ’03, the Middle Eastern media producers who rely on these funds are hardly puppets on an American string.

In The Other Air Force: U.S. Efforts to Reshape Middle Eastern Media Since 9/11 (Rutgers University Press, 2016), Sienkiewicz explores America’s efforts to employ “soft-psy” media—a combination of “soft” methods, such as encouraging programs modeled on U.S. entertainment and reality programs, with more militaristic approaches to information control—to generate pro-American sentiment in the Middle East. Drawing on years of field research and interviews, Sienkiewicz gives readers an inside look at radio and television production in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories to show how Middle Eastern media producers are working to forge viable broadcasting businesses without straying outside the American-set boundaries for acceptable content.

“Although much of the U.S. power apparatus desires Middle Eastern media that will parrot American perspectives, this is no longer the sole, or even dominant, strategy in the region,” says Sienkiewicz in his introduction. “Instead, the encouragement of certain media forms serves as the organizing principle for a wide range of American projects.  More so than asking local agents to transfer specific, American-vetted messages to viewers, U.S.-funded projects have instead tended to demand that Afghans, Palestinians and others create programming the embraces the industrial and aesthetic conventions of for-profit, American-style commercial television and radio, while being constrained mainly by a basic set of ‘red lines’—words and ideas that are off-limits.”

Sienkiewicz is an assistant professor of communication and international studies at Boston College. In addition to authoring The Other Air Force, he is the coeditor of Saturday Night Live and American TV (Indiana University Press, 2013) and has produced several documentaries, including Live from Bethlehem (2009), which chronicled the shaping of the Ma’an News Network, the only major independent news source in the Palestinian Territories.

Aubry ’89 Pens Science Fiction Book for Young Adults

Edward Aubry '89 courtesy of Curiosity Quills Press.

Edward Aubry ’89.

Edward Aubry ’89 is the author of a new young adult science fiction book, Prelude to Mayhem, published by Curiosity Quills Press in November 2016.

Prelude to Mayhem is the first book out of five in the Mayhem Wave series. The next installment is slated for release in mid-2017, according to Lisa Gus, managing partner at Curiosity Quills Press.

In this apocalyptic novel, Harrison Cody’s world is in ruins. He follows a mysterious voice on the radio as he and his pixie sidekick travel on foot across a terrifyingly random landscape. They discover Dorothy O’Neill, who has had to survive among monsters when her greatest worry used to be how to navigate high school. Together they search for what remains of Chicago, and the hope that civilization can be rebuilt.

Aubry, who studied music composition at Wesleyan, is the author of the young adult books Unhappenings (2015), Caprice (2012), and Static Mayhem (2010). He lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters, where he has taught high school math for the past 12 years.

Photographs by National Geographic Photographer Yamashita ’71 on Exhibit in Beijing

Acclaimed photographer Michael Yamashita ’71 captures the Meili Snow Moutains in all of their breathtaking grandeur. The photograph appears in the Return to Tea-Horse Road exhibition in Beijing.

Acclaimed photographer Michael Yamashita ’71 captures the Meili Snow Mountains in all of their breathtaking grandeur. The photograph appears in the Return to Tea-Horse Road exhibition in Beijing.

Return to the Tea-Horse Road, an exhibition by acclaimed National Geographic Magazine photographer Michael Yamashita ’71, will be featured in the Sony U Space in Beijing, from Dec. 6, 2016, to Jan. 8, 2017.

An exhibition by acclaimed photographer Michael Yamashita ’71 will be held in Beijing, starting Friday, Dec. 9, 2016.

An exhibition by Michael Yamashita ’71 will be held in Beijing, starting Dec. 6, 2016, and running through Jan. 8, 2017.

Drawn from a series of photographs created for a 2010 National Geographic article, “Tea Horse Road,” Yamashita traces the legendary trail of grand vistas, where both Chinese tea and Tibetan horses were traded. His photographs offer cultural highlights rendered with intimacy—equestrian festivals revealing pageantry and brightly-colored flags, travelers sipping tea by yak-butter candlelight, men squatting to gather worms for herbal healers—as well vast landscapes of distant mountains traced with switchback trails and breathtaking majesty.

The exhibition highlights and features large-scale prints of his work, some two-by-three meters in size. Multiple Sony 4K television monitors will play a 200-picture slide show.

Additionally, Yamashita will be on hand for portions of each day this upcoming weekend (Dec. 9–11, 2016). He’ll be at a reception on Friday, Dec. 9, signing books from 1 to 6 p.m., and on Saturday afternoon he will offer a slide show, as well as attending the show on Sunday. Admission is free, Yamashita notes and adds, “I hope to see many Wesleyan alumni.”

The gallery is located at Jiuxianqiao Road No. 2, 798 Art Zone, Taoci 3rd Street E05-8, Chaoyang, Beijing, China.

Vidich ’72 Celebrated in Poets and Writers as First-Time Author

Paul Vidich ’72 is first-time author of the noir spy-thriller "An Honorable Man," garnering rave reviews.

Paul Vidich ’72 is first-time author of the noir spy-thriller An Honorable Man, garnering rave reviews.

The article in Poets and Writers begins, “From the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 program to the New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list, many organizations make a point of recognizing young, gifted authors at the start of their literary careers. In the November/December 2016 issue of Poets & Writers magazine, we feature five debut authors over the age of 50 … whose first books came out this past year, and who stand as living proof that it’s never too late to start your literary journey.”

Highlighted here was Paul Vidich ’72, whose first book, “An Honorable Man” was published in April 2016 by Atria/Emily Bestler, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Kirkus Review called it “A moody debut spy novel inspired by real events…Dead-on Cold War fiction. Noir to the bone,” and Publisher’s Weekly listed it as one of their “top ten mysteries and thrillers of spring 2016.”

The novel is set in 1953, in the midsts of McCarthyism, and with the Cold War underway. Vidich’s hero, George Mueller, is assigned to help the CIA find the double agent in its midst who is selling secrets to the Soviets. Read the excerpt published in Poets and Writers here.

Prior to this novel, Vidich has written both fiction and nonfiction pieces that have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Fugue, The Nation, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. His story, “Falling Girl,” was nominated for a 2011 Pushcart Prize and appeared in New Rivers Press’s American Fiction, Volume 12: The Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers.

A College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan, Vidich previously served as executive vice president in charge of global digital strategy at Time Warner’s Warner Music Group. A past member of the National Academies committee on The Impact of Copyright Policy on Innovation in the Digital Era, he testified in Washington before rate hearings.

Vidich is currently a venture investor and serves as an advisor to Internet media companies in video and music. He is on the boards of directors of Poets and Writers, The New School for Social Research, and the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation. A former trustee of Wesleyan, he received a Distinguished Alumni Award and is a graduate of The Wharton School.

Zweigenhaft ’67, Borgida ’71 Co-Edit Book on Psychological Science Collaborations

Collaborartions bookTwo alumni who did not know each other as undergraduates—but were both psychology majors and students of Professor of Psychology Karl Scheibe—have collaborated on editing a book examining academic collaborations.

The book, Collaboration in Psychological Science: Behind the Scenes, was published this fall by Worth Publishing, a division of MacMillan. The editors, Richie Zweigenhaft ’67, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology at Guilford College, and Eugene Borgida ’71, Professor of psychology and law at the University of Minnesota and a Morse-Alumni Distinguished Professor of Psychology, dedicate the book to Professor Karl Scheibe, their undergraduate mentor, five years apart.

Separated by this age difference, the two did not meet on Middletown campus, but through Zweigenhaft’s mother, Irene, when Borgida showed up at her place of employment, American Institutes for Research (AIR), looking for a job. Seeing his résumé, and noting that Borgida attended Wesleyan and one of his references, Professor Karl Scheibe, was one of her son’s favorite professors, Irene took the young graduate under her wing and he was hired at AIR. The two Wesleyan graduates eventually met and developed a warm collegial friendship from their respective institutions.

The two began speaking of the importance of collaborations in research and noting an increased trend. In their introduction, the editors note,”[P]sychologists today engage in a good deal of collaboration, collaborative research is likely to generate the most frequently cited work in the field, and some scholars and some institutions very much encourage collaboration. Ironically, however, little has been written about the complicated behind-the scenes process of working with others to design research, to gather and analyze data, and to write reports, articles, or books…. With these issues and questions in mind, we encouraged those who wrote chapters for this volume to tell us how they came to collaborate and the nature of their interactions, while collaborating.” The result is a book of 21 essays, with contributors from Princeton, University of Michigan, the American Psychological Association, and the University of Kent, to name a few—and a section on interdisciplinary collaboration, with conclusion by the editors offering best practices.

The book is dedicated to both Irene Zweigenhaft and Professor of Psychology Emeritus, Karl Scheibe. Both Zweigenhaft and Borgida consider their Wesleyan experience a crucial factor in shaping their scholarship and interest in developing collaborations across academic disciplines.

“My undergraduate experience at Wesleyan very much emphasized interdisciplinarity,” says Zweigenhaft. ” In fact, although I was a psychology major, I wrote my honors thesis with Phil Pomper in the history department. It was a study of Hitler’s personality—the result of a conversation that Phil and I had after I wrote a paper about Lenin in a seminar on the Russian Revolution that I took with him. Karl Scheibe was on the thesis committee, and he, like Phil, encouraged me to think across traditional disciplinary lines.”

“From my perch,” says Borgida,” there is no question that my own deep affinity for interdisciplinary scholarship was activated and nurtured while at Wesleyan. And with such a view of research questions comes a commitment to collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and state lines in order to generate the most insight into the questions posed. To me, Wesleyan was then and is now all about interdisciplinarity and collaboration. So in a very basic way the book with Richie basks in the value of a Wes education.”

Mysterium Conference Draws Writers, Readers

Stickers in the form of "bloody" handprints welcomed campus guests to Mysterium, the conference for mystery writers and readers.

Plastic window stickers in the form of bloody handprints welcomed campus guests to Mysterium, the conference for mystery writers and readers.

Bloody handprints smeared the glass doors to Usdan, the clue to Mysterium attendees that they had arrived at the scene of their conference on Oct. 8. Red footprints led them to the sign-in table and the schedule, which boasted a cohort of award-winning mystery writers and those in publishing—including Wesleyan alumni.

Hosted by Amy Bloom ’75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing at Wesleyan, the day-long event opened with a keynote with Laura Lippman—a New York Times bestselling author of detective fiction including the Tess Monaghan series—and brought alumni, parents, as well as mystery writers and readers to campus for panel discussions, book signings, master classes and networking.

“A great mystery is a frigate,” said Bloom, introducing the conference and Lippman. “It takes you away. Great ones do it with extraordinary vision, extraordinary language. A mystery is the only literary form that lulls, compels, intrigues and gratifies you.” She praised Lippman for her capacity to illuminate characters—and to follow the thread of the story in a way that “never seems formulaic.”

Bonin, Louie ’15 Co-Author Paper in Journal of Comparative Economics

John Bonin, the Chester D. Hubbard Professor of Economics and Social Science, and his former student Dana Louie ’15, are authors of a new paper published in Journal of Comparative Economics titled, “Did foreign banks stay committed to emerging Europe during recent financial crises?”

In the paper, Bonin and Louie investigate the behavior of foreign banks with respect to real loan growth during times of financial crisis for a set of countries where foreign banks dominate the banking sectors. The paper focuses on eight countries that are the most developed in emerging Europe and the behavior of two types of banks: The Big 6 European multinational banks (MNBs) and all other-foreign controlled banks. The results show that bank lending was impacted adversely during recent financial crises, but the two types of banks behaved differently. The Big 6 banks’ lending behavior was similar to domestic banks supporting the notion that these countries are treated as a “second home market” by these European MNBs. However, the other foreign banks in the region were involved in fueling the credit boom, but then decreased their lending aggressively during the crisis periods. The results suggest that both innovations matter for studying bank behavior during crisis periods in the region and, by extension, to other small countries in which banking sectors are dominated by foreign financial institutions having different business models.

“I am particularly proud of this collaborative publication because it does not stem from a student’s honors thesis, but rather from work that began with the Quantitative Analysis Center summer program and that Dana and I continued throughout her senior year in addition to her regular coursework,” Bonin said.

The paper is available online and will appear in a forthcoming hardcopy issue of the journal.

Hickenlooper ’74 Releases Engaging Memoir

The20Opposite20of20Woe20by20John20Hickenlooper-197x300Irrepressibly optimistic, funny, self-deprecating, at times self-doubting but driven to tackle difficult challenges. These are the qualities that shine through in John Hickenlooper ’74’s disarming autobiography, The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and Politics (with Maximillan Potter; Penguin Press, 2016).

It was in a moment of self-doubt, or perhaps profound personal insight, that Hickenlooper chose Wesleyan over Princeton, having been accepted to both universities in 1970. He confesses now that he didn’t think he was good enough for Princeton, but then adds, “I had a feeling that Princeton would be a bit too conservative, too buzz-cut and buttoned-down for me, and that Wesu’s long-haired liberal arts types would be more my crowd.” He was right.

Hickenlooper’s time at Wesleyan was remarkable for its longevity, and he devotes three chapters to “That Decade I Spent in College.” With candor unlike any politician bent on image burnishing, he tells in detail how he had his heart broken in love. An English major, he discovered his interest in geology in the second semester of his senior year, when he attended a lecture with a friend and found himself captivated by a discussion of leach fields and perc tests. He stayed at Wesleyan as a special student to take courses specified by the Geology Department as a prerequisite to being admitted into the master’s degree program, which he received in 1980.

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Roach ’81 Excerpted in NYT

Grunt_Cover-crop-animate2Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, the new book by Mary Roach (W.W. Norton & Company; June 2016), was excerpted in the New York Times’ Science section on May 30. Describing her visit to the Aberdeen Proving Ground (“a spread of high-security acreage set aside for testing weapons and the vehicles meant to withstand them”), Roach’s first-person account offers her characteristic lively narrative and wry humor. She allows her guide, Mark Roman, to be ours as well.

“’By and large, an army shows up to a war with the gear it has on hand from the last one. In 2003, the Marines arrived in Iraq with Humvees. ‘Some of the older ones had canvas doors,’ says Mr. Roman, who was one of those Marines. They were no match for the R.P.G.s trained upon them. So the Army tried plating vehicles with armor panels, which work well against heavy machine-gun fire. You might as well have armored your vehicle with road signs.

“’We were like, ‘Crap, this does not stop an R.P.G.,’ Mr. Roman told me.”

Following the successful creation of a device to stop an RPG—with what Roach describes as “a hoopskirt [for the armored combat vehicles] of heavy-duty steel grating called slat armor” in which they “would lumber back to base like up-armored hedgehogs…” —Roman notes that the insurgents then switched to making bombs.

It is through this process of the escalation of danger and that resultant need for greater protection that Roach proves a friendly guide, rendering jargon accessible and never losing sight of what is truly at stake: that while the WIAMan — the Warrior Injury Assessment Manikin—may answer questions posed in the proving grounds, a human will bear the cost of any false or incomplete answers. “The long-term quality of a soldier or Marine’s life is a relatively new consideration/ In the past, military decision makers concerned themselves more with go/no-go: Do the injuries keep a soldier from completing the mission?…The answers may or may not affect the decisions that are made in the preparations for war, but at least they’ll be part of the equation for those inclined to do the math.”

In an interview with John Bonazzo for the Observer, Roach highlighted her respect for those working behind the scenes on saving lives and lowering the risks of combat: “There’s a tremendous amount of dedication and work that doesn’t get covered very much,” she said. “I want people to come away with respect for and recognition of that work.”