Tag Archive for Class of 2012

12 Wesleyan Alumni Receive Webby Nomination for ‘Wolf 359’ Radio Drama

Behind the scenes in a production of Wolf 359: Noah Masur ’15, Zach Libresco ’13, Michelle Agresti ’14, Emma Sherr-Ziarko ’11, and Zach Valenti ’12.

Behind the scenes in a production of Wolf 359: Noah Masur ’15, Zach Libresco ’13, Michelle Agresti ’14, Emma Sherr-Ziarko ’11 and Zach Valenti ’12.

Gabriel Urbina ‘13 had been out of college for eight months when, “one day, for whatever reason, this idea for a show popped into my head.” The show manifested itself as a radio drama called Wolf 359 which, four years later and in the midst of its final season, has found itself maintaining a vibrant cult following among its ever growing fan base and a finalist in the Digital Audio Drama category of the 2017 Webby AwardsOf further note: Wolf 359 is a hugely Wesleyan collaborative effort — of the 12 cast and production members, all are Wesleyan alumni!

Staff writer and producer Sarah Shachat ’12 describes Wolf 359 as “a sort of wonderful way to work with awesome people you didn’t know how to approach in college.”

Wolf 359 is based around the life of the communications officer of the U.S.S. Hephaestus Research Station, Doug Eiffel (voiced by Zach Valenti ’12), who is orbiting around the red dwarf star Wolf 359 on a scientific survey mission of indeterminate length. Eiffel’s only companions are the stern mission chief Minkowski (Emma Sherr-Ziarko ’11), the insane science officer Hilbert (also Valenti ’12), and the station sentient, an often-malfunctioning operating system called HERA, (Michaela Swee ’12).

While rooted in the sci-fi genre, Urbina says “no genre has made a conscious effort to stay out of the show,” with inspiration drawn on from “conversations I have with the cast members about politics, philosophy, religion, and ecology.” Urbina, Valenti, and Shachat all describe their time as film majors at Wesleyan as integral in their ability to, as Valenti says, “pull the magic trick that is film on the audience’s nervous system with deliberate and intentful choice.”

Urbina describes the experience of working on Wolf 359 as “a proof-of-concept for all of us, to feel that we can execute something creative that we can put out regularly.” As a project that began as a side experiment in the midst of the busy lives of the cast and crew, “the fact that Wolf has found an audience that really cares about it is unspeakably cool,” says Shachat.

As Urbina and Co. gear up to record their final season of Wolf 359 this summer, Urbina respond to the inevitable “what’s next” question with, “The short answer is, ‘We don’t know’; the slightly longer answer is, ‘We all would love to continue working together as much as we can.’”

When asked for a photo that includes Gabriel Urbina, the creator of Wolf 359 admits, "There aren't many with me and Sarah, as usually we're the picture-takers during rehearsals and recordings! This snap of the full cast and crew of our first live show is probably the best one to get us is. Sarah is left-most, and I'm fourth going from left to right. "

When asked for a photo that includes Gabriel Urbina ’13 himself, the creator of Wolf 359 admits, “There aren’t many with Sarah Shachat ’12 [staff writer and producer] and me, as usually we’re the picture-takers during rehearsals and recordings. This snap of the full cast and crew of our first live show is probably the best one to get us is. Sarah is left-most, and I’m fourth from the left “

me and

A very Wesleyan Wolf 359: The core cast from left to right: Scotty Shoemaker ’13, Zach Valenti ’12, Emma Sherr-Ziarko ’11, Cecilia Lynn-Jacobs ’11, and Michaela Swee ’12

A very Wesleyan Wolf 359: The core cast from left to right: Scotty Shoemaker ’13, Zach Valenti ’12, Emma Sherr-Ziarko ’11, Cecilia Lynn-Jacobs ’11, and Michaela Swee ’12

Lefkowitz ’12, Thomas, Varekamp Co-Author Chapter On Volcanic Lakes

Based on the senior thesis of Jared Lefkowitz ’12, “A Tale of Two Lakes: The Newberry Volcano Twin Crater Lakes, Oregon, USA,” was published online, Nov. 25, by the Geological Society of London, U.K, as part of the volume, Geochemistry and Geophysics of Active Volcanic Lakes. The study is co-authored by Lefkowitz; Ellen Thomas, research professor in earth and environmental science; and Johan Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor in Earth Science. Varekamp also is professor of environmental science, adjunct professor in Latin American studies, and chair of the Geological Society of America’s Limnogeology Division. Thomas also is the University Professor in the College of Integrates Sciences.

The chapter examines the complex ecosystems of Newberry Volcano’s two small crater lakes, East Lake and Paulina Lake, which are of interest to scientists because of the presence of highly toxic components and the signs gas-charging in East Lake. “These factors present natural hazards, which may change when new volcanic activity is initiated,” Varekamp explained. The presence of nearby “seismic triggers or disrupted lake stratification gives scientists a situation to monitor, as these factors can cause sudden intense CO2 degassing in the very different chemistries and gas contents of the two lakes.”

The authors’ abstract is online here.

Additionally, Varekamp contributed papers on Taal Lake in the Philippines and on the Copahue Volcano crater lake in Argentina. Both of these chapters will be published in the same volume in the upcoming weeks.

Bevilacqua ’12 and Alam ’15: Translating, Publishing Wiesel’s Night in Indonesian

Max Bevilacqua ’12 spent a year teaching English in Indonesia on a Fulbright. Elie Weisel's memoir, Night, proved a bridge to understanding between cultures.

Max Bevilacqua ’12 spent a year teaching English in Indonesia on a Fulbright. Elie Weisel’s memoir, Night, proved a bridge to understanding between cultures. (photo credit: Sarah Gormley)

It doesn’t seem an obvious choice, publishing one of the most important memoirs to come out of the Holocaust into the language of a country that is home to the world’s largest Muslim population—but that’s exactly the project Max Bevilacqua ’12 and Mansoor Alam ’15 have taken on.
The project is the brainchild of Bevilacqua, who grew up in a Jewish household and studied Christianity as a religion major at Wesleyan. As a Fulbright scholar, he requested placement in Indonesia, which is 88 percent Muslim, and where he taught English. State department officials—as well as family and friends—encouraged Bevilacqua not to reveal his religious identity, since Judaism is not sanctioned there.

“I struggled with that,” he said. “But I came to see it as— I wanted to be ‘Max, the American who is our teacher.’ I didn’t want my religion to be distraction.”
Still, the secret weighed on him. Ten days before his year was complete, he gathered his friends. “You should know that I’m Jewish,” he said.

His announcement was met with some confusion—why hadn’t he told them? It was a time to acknowledge his own fears and biases—and the best way seemed to be with a book: Night, by Elie Wiesel. This memoir recounted Weisel’s horrific experiences as a young boy in the German concentration camps during World War II.

“The book provided an epiphany of the trauma that has been associated with being Jewish,” Bevilacqua said.

Back in the United States, Bevilacqua continued pondering the bridge he’d found. What would it take to share this powerful book with a country that had never had it available to them?

He remembered that he already knew a publisher: Mansoor Alam ’15. The two had met as undergrads. Alam describes Bevilacqua as “very personable—you can sit down and really talk with him.” Bevilacqua calls Alam “humble and brilliant; a true Renaissance man.”

With his own publishing company, Mansoor Alam ’15 was the ideal partner for Bevilacqua. In this 2012 photo, Alam was in Karachi, Pakistan, supporting community educational initiatives.

With his own publishing company, Mansoor Alam ’15 was the ideal partner for Bevilacqua. In this 2012 photo, Alam was in Karachi, Pakistan, supporting community educational initiatives.

Alam had started his own publishing company as a first-year student at Wesleyan. “There are so many good writers and great content that doesn’t make it to readers; I wanted to figure out a way to give authors autonomy and make it cost effective,” he explained. He provides his clients with assistance in copyediting, graphics and marketing.

“When Max talked to me about the project, I knew we absolutely had to do this,” Alam said. “The challenge of it—the ‘what’— was thrilling to me, and Max was so passionate about the ‘why’ of it.”

The “what” began with obtaining rights from the French publishing company, in a series of carefully crafted letters written in French. Next, they lined up a cohort of French/Indonesian translators.

The process is intensive. “It’s such a visceral, personal book,” Bevilacqua said.

Bevilacqua urges us not to forget Indonesia when we, in the West, look to form relationships with Muslim-majority countries.

Bevilacqua urges us not to forget Indonesia when we, in the West, look to form relationships with Muslim-majority countries.

“Max was worried about losing the impact of those details,” Alam said. “To make sure that doesn’t happen, we rely on a network. Translators compare their work—how they rendered this word, that phrase.”

With the translation nearly completed, Bevilacqua is focused on coordinating classrooms in American and in Indonesia who will read Night together. “It’s a book that can bridge cultures,” he said. “When we think about the Muslim world, let’s also look to developing friendships in Indonesia.”

To follow their progress, see http://growingoodfaith.org/.

Wilkins, Alumni Author New Paper on Threat of Racial Progress to Whites

Clara Wilkins, assistant professor of psychology, has studied perceptions of discrimination against whites and other groups who hold positions of relative advantage in society—such as heterosexuals and men—since she was a graduate student at the University of Washington. She became became interested in the topic of perceptions of bias against high status groups after hearing Glenn Beck call president Barack Obama racist. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Clara Wilkins

A paper by Assistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins, Alexander Hirsch ’13 and Michael Inkles ’12 has been published in the journal Group Processes & Intergroup Relations

Titled, “The threat of racial progress and the self-protective nature of perceiving anti-White bias,” the paper describes two studies in which the researchers examine whether racial progress is threatening to whites, and if perceiving anti-white bias assuages that threat. The first study showed that whites primed with racial progress—by reading an article on social advancement by minorities—exhibited evidence of threat: lower implicit self-worth relative to the baseline. The second study replicated the threat effect from the first study, and examined how perceived discrimination may buffer the white participants’ feelings of self-worth. After the participants attributed a negative event to their race, their implicit self-worth rebounded. For those primed with high racial progress, greater “racial discounting” (attributing rejection to one’s race rather than to oneself) was associated with greater self-worth protection. The researchers concluded that these studies suggest changes to the racial status quo are threatening to whites and that perceiving greater racial bias is a way to manage that threat.

Read more about Wilkins’ other research here, here and here.

Israeli ’17 Speaks at Awards Gala Hosted by the Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights

Ella Israeli '17 mingled with entertainer/philanthropist Robert De Niro at the Ripple of Hope Gala and Awards Dinner, held Dec. 16 in New York City.  The event was supported by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Ella Israeli ’17 mingled with entertainer/philanthropist Robert De Niro at the Ripple of Hope Gala and Awards Dinner, held Dec. 16 in New York City.

Two Wesleyan students and two alumni participated in the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights Ripple of Hope Gala and Awards Dinner in New York City in December.

Ella Israeli '17, Kennedy Odede '12 and Kiley Kennedy '16 shared a group hug at the Ripple of Hope Gala. 

Ella Israeli ’17, Kennedy Odede ’12 and Kiley Kennedy ’16 shared a group hug at the Ripple of Hope Gala.

During the event, Ripple Awards were presented to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, entertainers/ philanthropists Robert De Niro and Tony Bennett, and Physicians Interactive Chairman Donato Tramuto.

Ella Israeli ’17, a government major minoring in film studies film studies, was chosen to introduce New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who presented the Ripple of Hope Award to De Niro. Israeli also spoke about her involvement in the center’s film contest. Her speech is online here.

Kennedy Odede ’12, founder of Shining Hope for Communities, was honored as a defender of human rights. Kiley Kennedy ’16 and Edward “Ted” Kennedy Jr. ’83, P’16 also attended the event.

View Israeli’s website, with links to her videos, here.

Hornstein, Nguyen ’12 Published in International Review of Financial Analysis

Abigail Hornstein, associate professor of economics, and her former thesis student, Zachary Nguyen ’12 are the co-authors of a paper titled “Is More Less? Propensity to Diversify via M&A and Market” published in the International Review of Financial Analysis, June 2014, pp. 64-88.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) could lead to a firm diversifying into new industries, and the impact of this may be related to the firm’s prior diversification. By using a panel of 1,030 M&A transactions from 2000-2010, Hornstein and Nguyen found that that previously diversified firms are more likely to pursue industrially diversifying M&A.

“Both previous and contemporary diversification measures are not associated with the firm’s cumulative abnormal returns (CAR) at time of announcement but have a lasting effect on various performance measures up to two years later,” Hornstein explained. “We find evidence supporting both a diversification discount and premium, which can be predicted by the sign of the CAR at time of announcement.”

Their study suggests that while diversification is necessary to explain firm value, it is not sufficient.

After graduating, Nguyen worked at Charles River Associates in Boston 2012-14 and is now a first year student at The University of California — Berkeley School of Law.

Lin ’12 Honored with NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Zin Lin '12

Zin Lin ’12

Zin Lin ’12 received the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship for his research on PT-symmetric systems performed while a student at Wesleyan. Lin’s advisor was Tsampikos Kottos, the Douglas J. and Midge Bowen Bennet Associate Professor of Physics.

Lin was selected for his “outstanding abilities and accomplishments, as well [his] potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the U.S. science and engineering enterprise. He’s currently studying quantum nonlinear photonics as a second-year graduate student at Harvard University.

As a fellow, Lin will receive a $32,000 stipend for 2014-15. Fellows are expected to make satisfactory academic progress towards completion of their graduate degrees, as defined and certified by the Fellow’s GRFP institution. Upon completion of his fellowship, Lin is required to provide an Annual Activities Report that documents his activities, accomplishments, progress and productivity.

At Wesleyan, Lin double majored in physics and mathematics and graduated with high honors. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and received the Robertson Prize, awarded during his sophomore year for “excellence in mathematics.”

Olson, Levan ’12 Published in Molecular Biology Journal

A paper co-authored by Rich Olson, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Sophia Levan ’12 was published in The Journal of Molecular Biology, March 2013. The article is titled, “Vibrio cholerae Cytolysin Recognizes the Heptasaccharide Core of Complex N-Glycans with Nanomolar Affinity.”

The human intestinal pathogen Vibrio cholerae secretes a pore-forming toxin, V.cholerae cytolysin (VCC), which contains two domains that are structurally similar to known carbohydrate-binding proteins. Olson and Levan used a combination of structural and functional approaches to characterize the carbohydrate-binding activity of the VCC toxin.

At Wesleyan, Levan was the recipient of the Butterfield Prize, the Graham Prize and she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She’s currently a student at Harvard University.

Rodriguez Mosquera Co-Authors Article on Muslim’s Emotions after 9/11 Anniversary

Assistant Professor of Psychology Patricia Rodriguez Mosquera, together with Tasmiha Khan ’12 and post-doc Arielle Selya, recently published an article in Cognition & Emotion titled, “Coping with the 10th anniversary of 9/11: Muslim Americans’ sadness, fear, and anger.’

A decade after the events of Sept. 11, 2001—which prompted an increase in prejudice, discrimination and other forms of unfair treatment toward Muslim Americans—the researchers examined the emotions of Muslim Americans in the days preceding the 10-year anniversary. They found that the anniversary precipitated intense concerns with loss and discrimination, and feelings of fear, anger and,  most intensely, sadness. They also measured three coping responses—rumination, avoidance of public places, and religious coping—and found that participants engaged in all three, but especially sought solace in religion.  The researchers write: “…rumination and avoidance were psychologically as well as socially harmful for the participants. Yet, participants also tried to seek solace in their religion, with religious coping being the most frequent coping response. Religious coping involved engaging in solitary practices, like reading religious texts, or more socially oriented practices, like seeking guidance from a religious authority. Because of these communal practices, religious coping probably acted as a form of social support for the participants.”

In addition, the researchers found that specific emotions explained the different coping responses. That is, sadness accounted for the association between concern with loss and rumination; fear explained the association between concern with discrimination and avoidance; and anger accounted for the association between concern with discrimination and religious coping. This study’s examination of the mediating role of sadness, fear and anger in the relationship between psychological concerns and diverse coping responses is novel, and has important implications for future research on stigma.

The article can be read online here.

Fellow Pellegrino ’12 Encourages Wesleyan Community to Become Civically Engaged

Dana Pellegrino '12 is the Civic Engagement Fellow for the Center for Community Partnerships and the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Dana Pellegrino ’12 is the Civic Engagement Fellow for the Center for Community Partnerships and the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Q: Dana, you’re Wesleyan’s first Civic Engagement Fellow. How do you describe your role?

A: As the Civic Engagement Fellow, I focus on promoting civic engagement throughout the entire university, with students, faculty and staff. While the focus may be broad, I mainly work with two specific centers: the Center for Community Partnerships, under Director Cathy Lechowicz, and the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, under Director Paul Gagnon. At CCP, I’m primarily involved in informing students about the many opportunities for immediate impact here in Middletown, and in assisting student coordinators of the Office of Community Service’s programs. We’re also developing ideas for tapping into other networks and social media platforms to increase awareness and communication among CCP, students, and the Middletown community. With the Patricelli Center, I help students with more global-minded engagement, including opportunities for grants, workshops in entrepreneurial skills, and networking with alumni. Both offices offer an incredible amount of resources.

Q: What are some recent ways you’re helping Wesleyan students become “civically engaged?”

A: Just before Thanksgiving, my director, Cathy, and I rounded up students from all different groups on campus — fraternities, athletic teams, program houses — to assist in the Middletown Community Thanksgiving Project. Students came by throughout the day to help assemble Thanksgiving Dinner baskets for over 500 families in our community. Not only were Wesleyan students presented with the opportunity to civically engage in combatting food insecurity,

Thesis Research: Ocean Fish Consumption, Not Volcanoes, Cause High Mercury Levels in Costa Rica

Audrey Haynes '12 stands on the rim of the Turrialba volcano in Costa Rica. When she tested samples of human hair from 53 residents in the area, she discovered high levels of mercury in more than half of the samples.

Audrey Haynes ’12 stands on the rim of the Turrialba volcano in Costa Rica. When she tested samples of human hair from 53 residents in the area, she discovered high levels of mercury in more than half of the samples.

(Story contributed by Jim H. Smith)

Senior thesis research conducted last spring by Audrey Haynes ’12 at Costa Rica’s National University, under the tutorship of Johan “Joop” Varekamp, has shown that many residents of the Central American nation have levels of mercury in their hair that far exceed those recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Varekamp, whose student made the discovery as part of a broad evaluation of environmental mercury in Costa Rica, says the elevated mercury levels are probably a consequence of over-consumption of large ocean fish, not exposure to mercury in the air emitted by volcanoes, as a controversial 2011 study suggested.

The research was done in collaboration with Maria del Mar Martinez of the volcanology and seismic monitoring center (OVSICORI/UNA).

Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, and his student were invited last spring to test Costa Rica’s mercury levels because research conducted by another team of scientists had found levels of mercury in Costa Rican air that were dramatically higher than those documented anywhere else in the world. While the average environmental mercury concentrations worldwide are in the neighborhood of two or three nanograms (billionths of a gram) per cubic meter of air, the 2011 study reported extraordinarily high concentrations of 600-800 nanograms Hg per cubic meter.

“This was puzzling because many small and remote countries that are less industrialized, like Costa Rica, report modest levels of airborne mercury from coal-fired power plants. Costa Rica doesn’t have any coal fired power plants, though, nor does it have any major mercury-emitting industries,” Varekamp explains.

Barsotti ’12 Signs Pro Baseball Contract

Michael Barsotti ’12

Michael Barsotti ’12, signed a contract to pitch for the minor league Joliet Slammers of the independent Frontier League. Barsotti, a government major, is Wesleyan’s all time strike-out leader. In his first appearance for Joliet he threw a scoreless inning in relief and did not allow a batter to reach base.

On July 14, he was named the M&M Bank Player of the Game for the Slammers after inducing a ground out, a fly out and a pop out while throwing just nine pitches, seven of them strikes.

Barsotti was twice named the NESCAC pitcher of the week during his Wesleyan career, including in March 2012 after throwing a three-hitter with 13 strikeouts, no walks and no earned runs allowed against Bowdoin, a team that went on to qualify for the NCAA Division III tournament.

“The entire Wesleyan baseball family is so proud of Mike,” said Wesleyan baseball coach Mark Woodworth. “This is a great accomplishment and a credit to his desire and work ethic. He was a great teammate and he improved so much over four years. This affirms that he is one of the all-time greats in Wesleyan baseball’s long and tradition-rich history.”

More on Barsotti can be found here.