Tag Archive for faculty

McAlear Visits Former Students Odede ’09, ’12, and Perel-Slater ’11 at Non-Profits in Africa

Professor Michael McAlear gathers with students at Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede in Kibera, Africa. 

In 2010 Professor Michael McAlear first gathered with students at Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede in Kibera, Kenya, offering a lecture on clean water. This year on his visit during spring break, he again gave a lecture to these students, now pre-teens and young teenagers, who filled his Q&A session with their concerns, interest, ideas, and a deep desire to learn.

In March, during Wesleyan’s spring break, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Michael McAlear took a trip to visit and catch up with three alumni whom he’d known when they were undergraduates, just beginning the nonprofits for which they are now known. McAlear doesn’t see them often: they live and work in Africa. All three had received Wesleyan’s Christopher Brodigan Award in their senior year, for research or work in Africa.

Kennedy Odede '12, Mike McAlear and Jessica ’09 Odede.

Pictured from left are Kennedy Odede ’12, Mike McAlear and Jessica Posner Odede ’09.

McAlear’s first stop was in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, and home of SHOFCO, Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede. Linking education for girls with community services, the organization has grown since McAlear had last visited in 2010 to help set up the school, when it held only two classes of girls ages 6 and 7, and the group was building a clinic was built to honor Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, the student slain in the spring of 2009. At that time, McAlear offered the young students a lecture on clean water and also became a sponsor for one little girl, a responsibility and relationship that is ongoing,

“I was overwhelmed by the need in Kibera— and the optimism and fearlessness of Kennedy and Jessica; you couldn’t help being swept up by that,” McAlear recalls. “They were so young and naïve that they didn’t know what they couldn’t do—so they just kept on doing things.”

Appadurai ’00 Speaks on Food Justice and Sustainability at 2017 Americas Forum

Alok Appadurai ’00, co-founder of Fed by Threads, spoke on "Food Justice and Sustainability" at the 2017 Americas Forum, April 28. (Photo by rebecca Goldfarb Terry '19)

Alok Appadurai ’00, founder of GoodElephant.org, spoke on “Food Justice and Sustainability” at the 2017 Americas Forum, April 28. (Photo by Reebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)

Alok Appadurai ’00, co-founder of Fed by Threads, the first sustainable, sweatshop-free, multi-brand, American-made organic vegan clothing store in the United States that has used a portion of its profits to feed over half a million meals to Americans in need, offered the keynote speech on  “Food Justice and Sustainability” at the 2017 Americas Forum, held at the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall on April 28. He has recently founded GoodElephant.org, designed to create a global “herd” that will work on changing the world by nurturing compassion and empathy to promote social and environmental reform—and his book, Good Elephant, will be published later this year. Appadurai’s post-Wesleyan career highlights the interests he explored at Wesleyan, where he built his own concentration in American Studies that incorporated colonialism, workers’ rights, utopian communities, the environment, and gender/class issues.

Appadurai’s talk “The Compassion Famine: Exploring The Unspoken Solutions To Hunger In America,” offered solutions to end what he calls “the compassion famine” and bring about food justice. The process begins, he says, with each person imagining a world without hunger. “While a world without hunger seems remote, we first need to each hold the idea as a possibility, before we could make this come true,” he says. He also asked his audience to “change what we imagine the face of hunger to look like.” Not just a problem for the developing nations, food insecurity is a problem that forty million people in the United States face. Yet—”We also throw out nearly 40 percent of our food—which goes to landfills and causes greenhouse gasses,” he adds.

Kolcio Leads Somatic Exercises for the Ukrainian National Guard

Professor of Dance and Environmental Studies Katja Kolcio leading a somatic workshop with Ukrainian National Guardsmen. What I’ve learned is most radical about being invited by the National Guard – The have instituted counseling and mind-body programming in an effort to mitigate the dehumanizing effects of war. There is a great concern about the long term effects that this invasion political conflict with Russia will have in Ukraine on the present and future generations.

The Ukranian National Guard invited Wesleyan Professor of Dance and Environmental Studies Katja Kolcio to their country to lead somatic workshops for Guard personnel. The request from a reserve military force, says Kolcio, was unprecedented, and it illustrates that country’s radically new understanding of conflict. “They have instituted counseling and mind-body programming in an effort to mitigate the dehumanizing effects of war,” Kolcio says. “There is a great concern about the longterm effects that this political conflict with Russia will have in Ukraine on the present and future generations.”

Wesleyan Professor of Dance and Environmental Studies Katja Kolcio traveled again to Ukraine in April, this time to work with soldiers and psychologists in the National Guard. It was her third trip to the region to teach somatic practices to those undergoing the stress of political conflict, displacement, and combat.

Somatics are “mind-body practices that combine physical activity and motion with deep reflection,” she explained in “Somatics and Political Change: Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity,” (Contact Quarterly, summer/fall 2016), detailing her first trip to the region after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. In June 2015 she had been invited to lead somatic workshops for the volunteers working with refugee families and injured soldiers and offered her first set of classes in Ukraine then.

“One goal of somatics is to become more aware of subtle physical indications of dis-ease before they become acute or chronic issues,” she wrote. “Somatics is also a practice of “sense-making’—of integrating internal experiences with the external environment in order to become more conscious in the present moment.”

Kolcio considers this crucial work for her Wesleyan students, including first-year students “who are away from home for the first time, encountering world-shifting ideas.” Working with the breath and experiencing the body in the environment—its weight, the stress it holds—helps to orient the practitioner in the present moment—and envision new possibilities, make sense of the world in a different way.”

This work of integrating experiences is particularly important for those in regions undergoing crises, Kolcio believes—and it is what she can offer this country where she has familial roots. At the invitation of the National Guard of Ukraine this time, Kolcio returned to implement a somatics program to alleviate the injuries that soldiers sustain in combat.

Offering two-day workshops, Kolcio taught the creative and contemplative physical practices of somatics, as well as the cognitive approaches to build psychological flexibility and stress resistance among soldiers. Some of the techniques included the history of the body, self-awareness, breathing, body weight, muscle tension and movement.

“Various events leave a mark not only in memory but also in the body,” says Kolcio. “Thus, when helping patients recover from traumatic events, it is important to consider not only the memory in a classic sense, but the memory within the body.”

A political science major as an undergraduate, Kolcio places her body work in the context of that country’s history. The peaceful protest of the Revolution of Dignity has helped that country envision “another kind of orientation, one that seemed intent on superseding ethnic, national, and religious definitions,” she wrote in Contact Quarterly.

”What if we treated social-political orientation in the way we approach awareness in a somatic workshop?” she asks in her article. “I believe this is why my somatic workshops are being embraced here. People are seeking new ways of making sense in the world…. Somatics is an individual practice; I also see it as a social movement.” dlya_oficeriv-psyhologiv_provely_trening_za_uchasti_zakordonnyh_ekspertiv_2

 

Otake, Johnston ‘Fukushima’ Project Culminating Events in NYC on March 11

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Eiko Otake stands on the top of a breakwater in a dark gray kimono. To her right, the ocean crashes into piles of concrete cubes–their shapes, stacked together, seem almost too clean, like abstractions of stone. She clutches a large but frayed scarlet cloth that catches the wind and encircles her, hovering just inches from her skin. Following the breakwater into the distance, a large cubic structure is visible along the water’s edge. It is the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant, 12 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. She is standing at the midpoint between the infamous two, in the area where the tsunami wave reached 68 feet and the level of radiation remains very high.

Tableaux like this constitute A Body in Fukushima (2016), a series of photographs by Otake, visiting artist in dance and the College of East Asian Studies, and her collaborator William Johnston, professor of history, East Asian studies, science in society and environmental studies. The series shows her, a lone body in the landscape of Fukushima, Japan, in the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. This collaborative photo exhibition had been on Wesleyan’s campus from February through May 2015.

Currently in New York City as part of The Christa Project: Manifesting Diving Bodies, at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, the exhibit will culminate in Remembering Fukushima: Art and Conversations at the Cathedral on March 11, the sixth anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns that followed.

Cervantes Expert Ponce-Hegenauer Joins College of Letters

Gabrielle Ponce-Hegenauer

Gabrielle Ponce-Hegenauer

Last fall, the College of Letters (COL) welcomed Gabrielle Ponce-Hegenauer to the department as an assistant professor of letters. Ponce-Hegenauer is an expert on the biography and works of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), author of Don Quixote.

She’s also interested in 16th-century translation theory and poetics; pre-Cartesian Renaissance philosophy; cultural and intellectual history in the Spanish Golden Age; early modern metaphysics; medicine and philosophy in 16th-century Spain; the history of the book and manuscript culture; Spanish theater; Renaissance and Baroque Spanish poetry; Spanish and Italian literary exchanges; the 19th-century imagination of the Golden Age; and 19th-century Spanish novelist Benito Pérez Galdós.

“I like locating the particularities of big ideas in specific texts,” she said. “I’m constantly moving between a microcosmic and macrocosmic perspective. Nuance, variation, paradox and metaphor: these are key.”

Ponce-Hegenauer, who is fluent in Spanish, Italian and French, earned a BA in rhetoric at the University of Illinois Urbana, as well as both an MFA in poetry and creative writing and a PhD in German and romance languages and literatures from The Johns Hopkins University. Her dissertation, published in April 2016, was titled Cervantes, Poet: Lyric Subjectivity as Practice in the Rise of the Novel in 16th-Century Spain. 

East Asian Studies Welcomes Korean Politics Expert Joan Cho

Joan Cho

Joan Cho

This fall, the College of East Asian Studies welcomes Joan Cho to Wesleyan.

Cho is an assistant professor of East Asian studies, a tenure-track position partially funded by the Korea Foundation. She also is an affiliate member of the Government Department.

Her research and teaching interests include authoritarian regimes, democratization, and social movements, with a regional focus on Korea and East Asia.

During the fall semester, Cho taught Social and Political Changes in Korea and Democracy and Social Movements in East Asia. In spring, she will teach Korean Politics through Film and Legacies of Authoritarian Politics.

“Although this is only my first semester at Wesleyan I’ve already noticed that Wesleyan students are very intellectually engaged and interested in applying course materials to current affairs,” she said. “The small class size we have at Wesleyan naturally facilitates an interactive learning environment, which has provided me with the opportunity to learn from my students as well.”

Cho comes to Wesleyan from Harvard University, where she worked as a teaching fellow. She earned her PhD in political science from Harvard in 2016 and completed her BA in political science from the University of Rochester in 2008.

Naegele Teaches Neuroscience to Tibetan Buddhist Monks

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In June, Jan Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, traveled to Mundgod, India to teach Tibetan monks through the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative (ETSI), a program promoting “the convergence of science and spirituality as two complementary systems of knowledge,” according to the Emory Tibetan Partnership. ETSI was founded as a pilot in 2006 by Emory University at the bequest of the 14th Dalai Lama. Naegele’s journey, which she took together with her husband, Dr. Paul Lombroso, was described in the Winter 2016 issue of Rutland Magazine, in an article featuring many photographs provided by Naegele.

Wesleyan Thinks Big Dec. 8

Wesleyan Thinks BigOn Dec. 8, Wesleyan will hold Wesleyan Thinks Big, a biannual TED-talk style event featuring Wesleyan faculty and administrators giving 10-minute speeches on an experience, a personal passion, an existential question or another topic of their choosing. The event will take place at 5 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.

This year’s event is being coordinated by Catherine Wulff ’18, with help from Rachel Godfrey ’19 and Kaiyana Cervera ’19.

“Wesleyan Thinks Big is a way to bring the community together outside of the classroom, by shedding light on the strength of personal testimony and human connection,” said Wulff. “Our main goal is for the audience to leave energized and hopeful.”

Wesleyan Thinks Big will feature:

  • Iris Bork-Goldfield, adjunct professor of German studies and chair of the German Studies Department: “Thank you for Smoking. The Unintended Consequences of Lucky Strikes;”
  • Danielle Vogel, visiting assistant professor of creative writing in English: “Narrative & Nest;”
  • Renee Johnson-Thornton, dean for the Class of 2018: “How to Excel in College by Cultivating Membership in a Community of Practice;” and
  • Khalil Johnson, assistant professor of African American studies: “Settler Colonial Blues: Musings from the Margins of Black and Indigenous History.”

Board of Trustees Confers Tenure on 4 Faculty

In its most recent meeting, the Board of Trustees conferred tenure on four faculty members including Tiphanie Yanique, associate professor of English; Jay Hoggard, professor of music; Ron Kuivila, professor of music; and Sumarsam, professor of music. Sumarsam also was appointed to the Winslow-Kaplan Professorship of Music. The appointments will be effective on Jan. 1, 2017.

“Please join us in congratulating them on their impressive records of accomplishment,” said Joyce Jacobsen, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Tiphanie Yanique

Tiphanie Yanique

Tiphanie Yanique is a widely published and highly regarded fiction writer, essayist and poet. She is the author of two novels, one children’s book, one collection of poems, numerous works of short fiction, and many nonfiction essays. Her novel, Land of Love and Drowning (Penguin Random House Publishers/Riverhead Books, 2014), is the recipient of several awards, including the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and the American Academy Rosenthal Prize, and her recent poetry collection, Wife (Peepal Tree Press, 2015), received the 2016 Bocas Poetry Prize in Caribbean Literature and the 2016 Forward/Felix Dennis Prize for best new collection in the United Kingdom. Her work has focused on themes of belonging and freedom. She offers courses on creative writing and literature. (Yanique’s photo by Debbie Grossman)

Alumnus Slowik ’03 Returns to Wesleyan, Joins Film Studies Faculty

Michael Slowik '03

Michael Slowik ’03

As an undergraduate film studies major in the early 2000s, Michael Slowik admired how Wesleyan’s film faculty emphasized “their unabashed enthusiasm for movies,” the history of film and ways films impacted the audience. “These were things I closely connected with,” Slowik said.

Slowik, who graduated from Wesleyan in 2003 with a BA in film studies, was appointed assistant professor of film at Wesleyan this fall. His research interests include U.S. film history, film sound, film authorship and film’s relationship to music and theater.

“Nearly all of the film professors who were so influential to me are still at Wesleyan, so when I was offered a position in the department, I was happy and honored to accept it,” he said. “I feel privileged to be able to teach in our beautiful film building, and I also love the warm, almost family-like atmosphere of the department. It’s great to be back ‘home’ at Wesleyan.”

After graduating from Wesleyan, Slowik received a MA in humanities from The University of Chicago and a MA and PhD in film studies from the University of Iowa. His dissertation, After the Silents: Hollywood Film Music in the Early Sound Era, 1926-1934, was ultimately published by Columbia University Press in 2014.

AFAM Program Welcomes 2 New Faculty

This fall, the African American Studies Program welcomed two new faculty members: Kali Nicole Gross, professor of African American studies, and Khalil Anthony Johnson Jr., assistant professor of African American studies.

Kali Gross

Kali Gross

Kali Gross is the author of Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880-1910 (2006) and the newly released, Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America (2016). She has been featured on NPR, C-SPAN2 and other television programs, and has consulted for the PBS show “History Detectives.” Gross’s op-ed pieces have appeared in The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Houston Chronicle, American Prospect, Ebony, Jet Magazine, The Root and Truthout.

“Wesleyan University has an excellent reputation,” Gross said. “It’s a school that is known for its high academic standards and super-smart students. When I learned of the opportunity to join the faculty, I was pretty excited, and I was heartened by the fact that the program was doing a cluster hire — meaning the institution had committed to more than one line; to me that suggested a sustained investment in the development and growth of African American Studies—that was and remains of paramount importance to me.”

Gross has a PhD and MA from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA from Cornell University.

This fall she is teaching a junior colloquium on African American Women, Sex, Crime and Punishment. Next spring, she will teach Introduction to Modern African American History and African American Women’s History.

“I have been so impressed by the students in the AFAM Junior Colloquium. The students are brilliant, dynamic, and tireless in their educational pursuits. They are doing graduate-level coursework—and they have done so bravely,” Gross said. “Each week we have been grappling with dense histories covering African American women and sex, crime, and punishment in U.S. history. This is not easy or light reading. It can be incredibly difficult and frustrating because few of the works end with some sort of triumph—but my students have been diligent and have critically engaged the material. They have also brought fresh insights to texts that I have been reading for nearly a decade.”

Khalil Johnson

Khalil Johnson

Khalil Johnson specializes in the intertwined histories of the African diaspora and Indigenous people in North America, with emphases on U.S. settler colonialism, education, and counter-hegemonic social movements. In his current manuscript project, Schooled: The Education of Black and Indigenous People in the United States and Abroad, 1730-1980, Johnson historicizes the Post-War migration of hundreds of African American educators to Indian Country ultimately unearthed a colonial genealogy of four generations of social reformers, missionaries, philanthropists, activists, and teachers who, since the 18th century, have used schooling to reconcile the founding cataclysms of the United States––the ongoing presence of Indigenous nations, free black people, and non-white immigrants. The result is a dramatic and transnational reinterpretation of American education and its consequences for colonized peoples across the globe.

“It’s only my first semester, but I love teaching at Wesleyan,” Johnson said. “The students are not only whip-smart, but more importantly they exemplify a politically engaged and compassionate mode of intellectual inquiry that inspires me to be more a humane, intentional, and active human in class, on campus, and in the world.”

Johnson received his PhD from Yale University and his BA from the University of Georgia.

This fall he is teaching Freedom School and Early African American History. Next spring, he will teach Black and Indigenous Foundations of U.S. Society.

The African American Studies Program at Wesleyan offers a dynamic interdisciplinary approach to the study of people of African descent in the Black Atlantic world, especially in the United States and in the Caribbean. The major enables undergraduates to bring the methodologies, theories, and insights of diverse disciplines to bear on their studies of the history, literature, politics, culture, and art of peoples of African descent. Courses, which range from seminars to larger discussion classes, are informed by theoretical and empirical approaches and explore topics such as conceptualizations of race, issues of race and identity, as well as the social structures, cultural traditions, and political realities of Africans in the Diaspora.

AFAM Program Welcomes Its First Core Faculty

This fall, the African American Studies Program hired its first core faculty members. They include Kali Nicole Gross, professor of African American studies, and Khalil Anthony Johnson Jr., assistant professor of African American studies.

Wesleyan opened the Afro American Institute in 1969 and offered minimal courses on African American history. In 1983, students could major in African American studies, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the university created the African American Studies Program. Now the program is poised to make institutional history by African American Studies gaining departmental status, which would put Wesleyan on par with other top-tier universities and colleges.

“Having faculty members hired solely into the AFAM Program represents a real growth and commitment to the long-term stability of the program,” said Lois Brown, professor and chair of the African American Studies Program. “Kali Gross and Khalil Johnson also bring remarkable research strengths to the university.”