Tag Archive for faculty achievements

Wesleyan Welcomes 48 New Faculty, Postdocs, Scholars

2019 faculty

New faculty gathered for a group photo during New Faculty Orientation on Aug. 26. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 48 new faculty to campus.

Of those, there are 16 tenure-track, 10 professors of the practice, one artist-in-residence, one adjunct, and 20 new visiting faculty members.

The new faculty bring a diverse skill set to campus. Among them are experts in international political economy; Indian cinema and film; environmental archaeology and ancient DNA; German poetry and aesthetic theory of the 18th century; music and expressive culture in Kazakhstan; politics in the African diaspora; Russian and Anglo-American literature; physiological and psychological effects of alcohol; and digital video production.

In addition, three are Wesleyan alumni.

Bios of the new ongoing faculty are below:

Joseph Ackley

Joseph Ackley

Joseph Ackley, assistant professor of art history, is a specialist in precious metalwork of the European Middle Ages, circa 800–1400. He received his BA from Dartmouth College (2003) and both his MA (2008) and his PhD (2014) from New York University’s Institute for Fine Art. His dissertation focused on portable, liturgical objects such as chalices, reliquaries, figural statuettes, and jewelry. He has investigated the symbolic associations of gold and gilding, the preferred media for these works, and has theorized “the radiant aesthetic” that underlies and informs them. His work not only expands the corpus of medieval art, but also deepens our understanding of the “multi-media glory” that would have characterized medieval architectural spaces, draped with silks and enlivened by processional objects.

Grossman Discusses British Stock Market on Economics Blog

Grossman

Richard Grossman

Richard Grossman, professor of economics, authored a blog post on the Vox CEPR website with Gareth Campbell and John Turner (Queen’s University Belfast) titled, “New monthly indices of the British stock market, 1829-1929.”

Although long-run stock market data are an important indicator, obtaining them is challenging. This column constructs new long-run broad-based indices of equities traded on British securities markets for the period 1829-1929 and combines them with a more recent index to examine the timing of British business cycles and compare returns on home and foreign UK investment. One finding is that the capital gains index of blue-chip companies appears to be a good bellwether of macroeconomic behavior.

The post is based on their CEPR and Wesleyan Economics Working Paper, “Before the cult of equity: New monthly indices of the British share market, 1829-1929.”

MacLowry ’86 Directs “The Feud” on PBS

Strain and MacLowry '86

Tracy Heather Strain and Randall MacLowry ’86 are new assistant professors of the practice in film studies and codirectors of the Wesleyan Documentary Project.

A film written, directed, and produced by Peabody Award winner Randall MacLowry ’86 tells the story about the most famous family conflict in American history—the Hatfield-McCoy feud.

The one-hour documentary titled “The Feud” premiered Sept. 10 on PBS and PBS.org as part of the station’s American Experience programming. Watch the film’s trailer online.

MacLowry also is a new assistant professor of the practice in film studies. He’s teaching the course Advanced Filmmaking this fall.

The clashes between the Hatfields and the McCoys evolved into a mythic American tale of jealousy, rage, and revenge—a story that helped create the negative “hillbilly” stereotype that has shaped attitudes towards Appalachia for more than a century. Much more than a tale of two warring families, “The Feud” is the story of a region and its people forced into sudden change by Eastern capitalists, who transformed Appalachia from an agrarian mountain community into a coal- and timber-producing workplace owned and run primarily by outside interests.

“The Hatfield-McCoy feud conjures up this exaggerated image of two families shooting at each other across a river for no good reason, but the story of the feud is really about the impact of capitalism and industrialization on rural America,” MacLowry said. “Mountain families lost their land and their livelihoods in the face of this enormous pressure and became the victims of media accounts that depicted them as violent, uncivilized, and standing in the way of progress. The Hatfield-McCoy feud is part of that story.”

“The Feud” is a project of The Film Posse, Inc., a production company cofounded by MacLowry and Peabody Award-winning director Tracy Heather Strain. Strain also is a new professor of the practice in film studies.

Together, MacLowry and Strain are codirectors of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, an initiative to teach, support, and produce nonfiction film and video.

During the upcoming academic year, MacLowry and Strain will be teaching courses in documentary creation and studies. Listen to a podcast featuring the filmmakers created by Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image.

3 Wesleyan Faculty Honored with Prizes for Excellence in Research

Wesleyan President Michael Roth, left, and Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Rob Rosenthal, right, congratulate the three recipients of the second annual Faculty Research Prize. They include Natasha Korda, professor of English; Joseph Rouse, the Hedding Professor of Moral Science; and Tsampikos Kottos, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78, left, and Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Rob Rosenthal, right, congratulate the three recipients of the second annual Faculty Research Prize: Natasha Korda, professor of English; Joseph Rouse, Hedding Professor of Moral Science; and Tsampikos Kottos, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society.

On Sept. 3, during the first faculty meeting of the fall semester, three Wesleyan professors were honored with the Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research.

The faculty-nominated prize is presented to members of the faculty who demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in their research, scholarship, and contributions to their field. Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for academic affairs Rob Rosenthal acknowledged the recipients during the faculty meeting. Each winner received a plaque and funding for his or her research.

This year’s recipients include:

Natasha Korda, professor of English, plays a highly visible role in keeping scholarship on Renaissance drama a thriving and intellectually dynamic field. Her work combines deep, interdisciplinary learning, wide-ranging archival research, and keen critical insight, illuminating the complex and profound relations among gender, theater history, and economic history. Her recent monograph and edited collection have brought attention to the many and varied forms of labor that enabled dramatic production in early modern England and that linked the stage to the international trade in goods and services of a developing capitalist economy. Korda is widely admired by her colleagues for her scrupulous, innovative, and dynamic scholarship, as well as for her willingness to contribute through work on multiple editorial boards and with the Shakespeare Association of America.

Brunet’s Dissertation Summarized in the Journal of Economic History

A summary of Assistant Professor of Economics Gillian Brunet’s dissertation, “Understanding the Effects of Fiscal Policy: Measurement, Mechanisms, and Lessons from History,” was published in the June issue of the Journal of Economic History. She wrote the paper while pursuing her PhD in economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

The global recession of 2008 and the resulting fiscal stimulus packages in many countries have reignited academic interest in government spending multipliers. Despite a growing theoretical and empirical literature, there is little consensus on the impact of government spending on macroeconomic aggregates. Gillian Brunet’s dissertation makes significant contributions to this contested literature by focusing on the largest fiscal shock in modern American history—WWII. Besides providing novel estimates of the fiscal multiplier during the war period, her work also seeks to understand how the economic and institutional contexts affect this important statistic.

The dissertation also won the Economic History Association’s 2018 Allan Nevins Prize Competition.

Brunet’s research interests lie at the intersection of economic history, macroeconomics, and public economics. Her work uses microeconomic data to study macroeconomic questions, often in historical contexts. She is particularly interested in understanding the United States economy during and after World War II.

This fall, she is teaching Economics of Alexander Hamilton’s America and Macroeconomic Analysis.

Board of Trustees Promotes 7 Faculty

On July 1, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees awarded tenure and promotions to seven faculty members.

The board conferred tenure with promotion to Ilesanmi Adeboye, associate professor of mathematics; Logan Dancey, associate professor of government; Meredith Hughes, associate professor of astronomy; and Stéphanie Ponsavady, associate professor of French. They join seven other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.

In addition, three faculty members are being promoted: Hilary Barth, professor of psychology; Robert Conn, professor of Spanish; and Sanford Shieh, professor of philosophy. They join one other faculty member who was promoted earlier this spring.

Brief descriptions of their research and teaching appear below:

Ilesanmi Adeboye
Adeboye’s research lies at the intersection of topology and geometry, and is motivated by the foundational question: To what extent does the shape of a mathematical object specify the ways to measure it? He focuses on concepts of area and volume in non-Euclidean geometries, in particular hyperbolic geometry and projective geometry. In addition to his published articles, he has given 20 invited talks in the United States and internationally. His most recent publication is “The Area of Convex Projective Surfaces and Fock-Goncharov Coordinates” in Journal of Topology and Analysis (2018). He teaches a wide variety of courses, including Multivariable Calculus, Fundamentals of Analysis, Complex Analysis, Differential Equations, Differential Forms, and Topology.

President Roth Authors New Book on ‘Safe Enough Spaces’

Safe SpacesPresident Michael Roth ’78 is the author of a new book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses, published Aug. 20 by Yale University Press.

In the book, Roth takes a pragmatic and empathetic approach to the challenges facing higher education. He offers important historical, sociological, and economic context, as well as firsthand observations from his decades as a higher ed administrator, to debates over free speech, political correctness, safe spaces, affirmative action, and inclusion. As the book’s title suggests, he envisions a higher education space that is “safe enough” for students to openly explore new ideas and perspectives—even those that are unpopular or cause discomfort—and where no idea is protected from reasoned challenge.

Theater’s Oliveras Performs in World Premiere of Kiss My Aztec!

Desiree Rodriguez and Maria-Christina Oliveras in Kiss My Aztec! (Photo by Kevin Berne)

Desiree Rodriguez and Maria-Christina Oliveras in Kiss My Aztec! (Photo by Kevin Berne)

This summer, award-winning actor, singer, producer, and new assistant professor of theater Maria-Christina Oliveras acted in the world premiere of Kiss My Aztec, a new musical on Latino history.

Written by John Leguizamo and Tony Taccone, winners of the 2018 Special Tony Award for Latin History of Morons, the musical debuted May through July at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Performances will continue at La Jolla Playhouse starting Sept. 8.

Oliveras became involved in the musical’s developmental process in 2014, when it started out as a play and evolved over time.

“I am a new works junkie. There is nothing like ‘brain-childing’ a piece from its inception,” Oliveras said in a recent interview with Broadway World. She described the show as a “non-traditional epic musical comedy with teeth. It is brash, bold, hilarious and vulgar. An Aztec take or retake of history in the vein of Spamalot or Book of Mormon. We are not aiming for historical accuracy. And we are ‘equal opportunity offenders.'”

Fowler, Northrop, Siry Receive Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching

2019 Binswanger winners

Wesleyan faculty (from left) Joseph Siry, Brian Northrop, and Erika Franklin Fowler join President Michael Roth before the 187th Commencement ceremony, May 26. During the ceremony, the three professors were honored with Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Every year at Commencement, Wesleyan recognizes three outstanding teachers with Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the University’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.

This year, during the 187th Commencement ceremony, Wesleyan honored the following faculty members for their excellence in teaching:

Erika Franklin Fowler
Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and director of the Wesleyan Media Project, has taught at Wesleyan since 2009. She has a BA in political science and mathematics from St. Olaf College, and an MA and PhD in political science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She served as a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan School of Public Health from 2007 to 2009.

Rasmussen in The Conversation: Using Computers to Crack Open Centuries-Old Mathematical Puzzles

Christopher Rasmussen

Christopher Rasmussen

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen writes about his recent collaboration with other number theorists to create a computer package to solve a problem called the “S-unit equation.”

Using computers to crack open centuries-old mathematical puzzles

In mathematics, no researcher works in true isolation. Even those who work alone use the theorems and methods of their colleagues and predecessors to develop new ideas.

But when a known technique is too difficult to use in practice, mathematicians may neglect important—and otherwise solvable—problems.

Recently, I joined several mathematicians on a project to make one such technique easier to use. We produced a computer package to solve a problem called the “S-unit equation,” with the hope that number theorists of all stripes can more easily attack a wide variety of unsolved problems in mathematics.

Bruce Performs Final “This Is It” Recital, Ending 6-Year Project

Neely Bruce performed his final “This Is It” concert March 31 in Crowell Concert Hall. (Photo by Alexa Jablonski ’22)

After publicly performing almost 16 hours of his solo piano compositions, Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music played his final concert on March 31, concluding a six-year project.

Bruce, who took up piano at the age of 8, began the series titled “This Is It! The Complete Piano Works of Neely Bruce” in 2013. He performed a total of 17 CD-length recitals at Crowell Concert Hall during this time.

“I thought it might take 12 (recitals), but it ended up being 17,” Bruce said. “This was a great opportunity to take stock of my whole life as a composer for the keyboard.”

Bruce has composed more than 300 original songs in addition to three full-length operas; five one-act operas; works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, and wind ensemble; chamber music; electronic music; and documentary film scores. He also set the Bill of Rights to music. Read more about his work on neelybruce.com.

“I never set out to be a composer of such an extensive oeuvre for piano,” he said.

This spring, Bruce is teaching 18th-Century Counterpoint and Music of the 19th Century.

In March, the Center for the Arts Radio Hour featured a conversation between Neely Bruce and composer, scriptwriter, and essayist Michael Kowalski.

Grabel Wins Women of Innovation® Award

Laura Grabel, pictured at far right, is one of 11 women in the state of Connecticut to receive a Women of Innovation® Award.

Laura Grabel, the retired Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, received an award at the 15th Annual Connecticut Technology Council Women of Innovation® Awards presentation on March 27.

The Women of Innovation® program recognizes women innovators, role models, and leaders in science and technology professions, as well as outstanding young women at the high school and collegiate level pursuing technology studies. Of 50 finalists, 11 were recognized as winners in their respective categories; Grabel took the top spot in the Academic Innovation & Leadership (Postsecondary) category.

Grabel, who also is a retired professor of biology, is an accomplished scientist engaged in understanding how the fertilized egg can become a complex organism. This spring, she is teaching Reproduction in the 21st Century.