Two faculty and an alumna celebrated the publication of their new books during a gathering Oct. 11 at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.
All three books focus on Russian literature and culture.
Two faculty and an alumna celebrated the publication of their new books during a gathering Oct. 11 at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.
All three books focus on Russian literature and culture.
This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 71 new faculty, including 15 tenure-track faculty, 10 professors of the practice, 1 adjunct, and 45 new visiting faculty.
“Academic Affairs, in conjunction with a number of departments and centers, ran successful searches for a number of new professor of the practice positions this year in order to expand the curriculum in particular areas such as writing, education studies, physics, and others, where these faculty could be of great value,” explained Joyce Jacobsen, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
Bios of the new ongoing and full-time visiting faculty are below:
Joseph Weiss, assistant professor of anthropology, received his BA from the University of British Columbia, and his MA and PhD in anthropology from the University of Chicago. He comes to Wesleyan from a position as curator of western ethnology at the Canadian Museum of History. Weiss is a sociocultural and political anthropologist whose scholarship explores intersections between indigenous sovereignty, time, and ecology. He has conducted fieldwork with the Haida community of Old Massett, in Western Canada, since 2010. His first book, Shaping the Future on Haida Gwaii: Life Beyond Settler Colonialism (University of British Columbia Press), refutes settler colonial ideas of indigenous people as futureless by foregrounding Haida self-determination in reckoning with pressing political, social, and environmental change. Weiss is currently working on two projects: the first an oral history of the relationships between the Haida community and the Canadian Forces Station Masset, a naval radio base on Haida territory (1943–97); the second an ethnographic project tracing the category “Indigeneity” and its ecological imaginaries at the United Nations. His research has been funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the American Philosophical Society, among others, and he has collaborated with the University of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History on a project examining relationships between indigenous people and museums. Weiss’s teaching interests include global indigeneity, temporality, ecological politics, ethnographic methods, anthropological theory, research ethics, and museum anthropology. This semester, he is teaching The Anthropology of Time and Toxic Sovereignties: Life after Environmental Collapse.
This year’s Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, “Suicide and Resilience: Finding the Words,” will be held Sept. 14–15. It will begin with opening remarks by Leslie Shasha ’82, PhD, in Memorial Chapel at 4 p.m., followed by the keynote address by author and suicide loss survivor Eric Marcus on “Resilience in the Aftermath of Suicide.”
The Shasha Seminar, an annual educational forum for Wesleyan alumni, parents, and friends, explores issues of global concern in a small seminar environment. Endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues. Last year’s seminar for example focused on Guns in American Society.
This year’s codirector, Professor Emeritus of Psychology Karl Scheibe, spoke with the Connection about the preparation, the program, and his hopes for what this might bring to the campus.
Q: How did you come to be codirector of the Shasha Seminar this year?
A: It came to me as an invitation. It’s like a lot of things; it grows out of your history. Having been at Wesleyan a long time, I taught a lot of students, and many of them have gone on in psychology. Occasionally, one of those former students will have an assignment for me that, as a teacher, makes sense. Leslie Shasha ’82 is a psychologist, and she wanted to have a Shasha program focus on suicide: suicide awareness, suicide prevention, treatment for people who are suffering from loss, and a whole host of related problems.
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, Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, discusses “Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and Why Haven’t They Voted in 30 Years?” Gottschalk also is professor of science in society, director of the Office of Faculty Career Development, and coordinator of Muslim studies.
Who are Pakistan’s Ahmadis and why haven’t they voted in 30 years?
Pakistani cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan, is all set to be the country’s new prime minister. His party emerged the single largest in recent elections.
It is only for the second time in the 71-year history of this second largest Muslim majority country that a democratically elected government, will transfer power to another after completing its full term. The nation’s military has intervened repeatedly to remove leaders and has directly controlled the country for about half of its history.
And so this recent milestone in Pakistan’s democracy has elated many citizens. However, one community boycotted the recent elections, as they have for over three decades: the Ahmadi, a religious minority.
Who are the Ahmadis and what does their boycott tell about the role religion has played in Pakistan’s nationalist politics?
The Ahmadi of Pakistan
The origin of the Ahmadi community goes back to the British-ruled India of 1889. At the time, in the province of Punjab (a region that would later be split between an independent India and Pakistan), a Muslim religious leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, became disenchanted with what he viewed as Muslim decadence that allowed for the humiliating experience of foreign rule.
Like many Indians, he wondered what needed to change in order to overcome the invaders.
In its most recent meeting, the Board of Trustees conferred tenure to three faculty members, effective July 1: Roger Grant, associate professor of music; Clara Wilkins, associate professor of psychology; and Marcela Oteíza, associate professor of theater. They join eight other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.
In addition, eight faculty members are being promoted: Kim Diver, associate professor of the practice in earth and environmental sciences; Erik Grimmer-Solem, professor of history; Katherine Kuenzli, professor of art history; Joyce Ann Powzyk, associate professor of the practice in biology; Patricia Rodriguez Mosquera, professor of psychology; Charles Sanislow, professor of psychology; Patrick Tynan, adjunct professor of physical education; and Tiphanie Yanique, professor of English.
Brief descriptions of their research and teaching appear below:
Diver is an expert in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) whose research focuses on island biogeography. She promotes the use of GIS and other geospatial data analysis and visualization across the curriculum by providing GIS consulting to faculty, as well as a WesGIS workshop series. She has partnered with many local community groups to offer a GIS Service-Learning Laboratory course that allows students to apply GIS concepts and skills to solve tangible problems in the surrounding community. In addition to this service-learning lab, she offers courses on Introduction to (Geo)Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization; Introduction to GIS; and Advanced GIS and Spatial Analysis.
In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.
Recent Wesleyan News
Joyce Jacobsen, the Andrews Professor of Economics, is interviewed about how unpaid labor—such as childcare and housework—can be measured, and the potential impact on GDP. Jacobsen is also provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Masami Imai, professor and chair of economics, professor of East Asian studies, and Richard Grossman, professor of economics, are the authors of an op-ed in support of the proposed Postal Banking Act. The law would mandate that the U.S. Postal Service offer low-cost retail banking services, which, if properly implemented, would expand banking access to many low-income and rural families, improving their financial well-being, while also helping to shore up the USPS’s finances.
3. Connecticut Jewish Ledger: “Conversation with Vera Schwarcz”
Vera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, Emerita, discusses her new book, In the Crook of the Rock: Jewish Refuge in a World Gone Mad—The Chaya Leah Walkin Story.
4. The Washington Post: “On the Subject of Evolution, a Way to Hang on to Both Science and Religion”
President Michael S. Roth reviews The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness and Free Will, a new book by Kenneth R. Miller.
5. One Green Planet: “10 Colleges with Plenty of Vegan Options!”
Wesleyan is featured among the best colleges for vegans thanks to well-known vegan chef Stephanie Zinowski and her “to-die-for vegan apple crisp.”
Recent Alumni News
In a Q&A with the Miranda family (Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, father Luis Miranda, brother-in-law Luis Crespo, wife Vanessa Nadal, mother Luz Towns-Miranda, and sister Luz Miranda-Crespo), Winfrey and In The Heights collaborator Hudes (Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater) ask the clan to explore the roots of their familial commitment to philanthropy.
National Public Radio Morning Edition host Rachel Martin asks U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb ’94 about the agency’s new enforcement actions against those who sell vape pens and other non-burning nicotine devices—such as JUUL—to children and teens.
3. Courant.com: “Senators Hail Ted Kennedy, Jr. [’83 P’16, ’20] After 4 Years in Chamber”
Kennedy, who is not seeking re-election this fall, is lauded as a “down-to-earth, gracious, hard-working lawmaker” in the Connecticut Senate.
4. The Wellesley News: “Professor Kate Gilhuly [’86] Pursues Interest in Literature Through Research in Classics”
From a childhood where her mother read Homer and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology aloud, to becoming a classics major at Wesleyan, Gilhuly traces her path to Wellesley, where she is a professor in the Classics Department.
“The Ciambra, directed by Jonas Carpignano [’06] and executive produced by Martin Scorsese, is a gritty penetrating story of adolescence to adulthood set in Southern Italy featuring Romani actors and extras.” Carpignano was the assistant director of Benh Zeitlin’s [’04] Beasts of the Southern Wild.
On May 9, a group of students, faculty, and Middletown friends joined Jumoke McDuffie-Thurmond ’19 and Chief Ayanda Clarke ’99 in a spiritual commemoration ceremony to honor a woman, Silva Storms, who died in 1820 and was buried in the cemetery on Vine Street, across from the Beman Triangle. Research indicates she had been born in Africa and was brought to Middletown as an enslaved person. The event was part of McDuffie-Thurmond’s research project for Black Middletown Lives, the service-learning course taught by Jesse Nasta ’07, visiting assistant professor of African American studies.
Nasta notes that McDuffie-Thurmond, who had been documenting the African American burials in the cemetery as part of his final project in the class, “completely took it upon himself to take that 10 steps beyond the assignment, to envision this ceremony. Jumoke is not just documenting the gravesites, but honoring the people who were enslaved here in Middletown.”
For his part, McDuffie-Thurmond remembers the first time Nasta took the class to the cemetery as a significant experience. “I’d never been to the section of the graveyard that was designated for Black Middletown residents, and Silva Storms’s gravesite—her tombstone stood almost alone in an open space—resonated with me. Professor Nasta told us it was the oldest tombstone in the African American section. I sat down there and listened to what was around me, what I felt, and I thought, I have to do something that tends to the spirit. We have a legacy of slavery in this land that constantly informs the space we live in—and it is unresolved. I wanted to do something that would resonate with those of us who live here now. It was a very intuitive decision.”
In this issue, we speak to Noah Baerman, director of the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble. Baerman is a teacher, jazz pianist, composer, and author. He is also founder and artistic director of the nonprofit Resonant Motion, Inc. (RMI).
Q: You’ve directed the Jazz Ensemble at Wesleyan for 11 years. Was there an ensemble before you?
A: Wesleyan’s history of jazz is intense, and perhaps its most significant architect was the great Bill Barron, which I’ve always found kind of cosmic given that his “little” brother Kenny (now 74 and an NEA Jazz Master) was my own mentor. The group I direct runs parallel to the Jazz Orchestra, directed for years by my colleague Jay Hoggard. The Jazz Ensemble was previously directed by several different musicians, including current faculty Pheeroan akLaff and Tony Lombardozzi, as well as the legendary Ed Blackwell.
Q: Do students need to audition for the class? What are the requirements? How many musicians do you accept?
A: It is an audition-based group—there is some diversity of skills and experience, but it is not the setting for those with no prior jazz training. We generally have 6–7 musicians (occasionally more), and in true Wesleyan fashion the instrumentation varies widely from each semester to the next, which is fine since a) I write my own arrangements and b) I want to work with the most serious and motivated students, not necessarily those who just happen to play certain instruments.
Q: What is unique about performing jazz as opposed to classical music? What about it appeals to you? When did you realize that you wanted to be a jazz musician?
In this Q&A, we speak with Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies Scott Aalgaard. Originally a native of British Columbia, he joined Wesleyan after completing his doctorate at the University of Chicago. Affiliated with Wesleyan’s College of East Asian Studies, his courses this year included Pop Music Revolutionaries, Japanese Women’s Writing, and The Everyday in Modern Japan.
Q: Tell us a bit about your background.
A: I’ve been on the move for most of my life. I grew up in a small resource town on Vancouver Island, off the west coast of Canada; we had a sister city in northern Japan, and it was through that relationship that I got to visit Japan for the first time when I was 12. I was just a kid at the time, and in all honesty, it was more my mother’s idea that I should go to Japan and see the world beyond our little town than it was mine. But being able to see and experience a different part of the world and different ways of life had a real impact on me, and made me ask different questions, both of myself, and of what I was experiencing. I guess now I’d call that a thirst for knowledge, but I didn’t understand it in those terms at the time—I just felt that I needed to keep going back, keep talking to people, listening, learning.
I went back to Japan when I was 15, again when I graduated from high school, and that set the pattern—I’ve been living somewhere in between Canada, Japan, and now the United States for more than 30 years now. I’ve been fortunate to have a wide range of experiences in Japan—I’ve been a student, a farm worker, a local government employee; I’ve even worked in the music industry in Tokyo. I can’t say that any of this has brought me closer to any answers, but I hope that I’ve been able to refine the questions. How do individuals in Japan and elsewhere make sense of their lives? Why? How does this get expressed in things like literature and music? What are some of the consequences of that? These are some of the questions that drive me, and Wesleyan is an ideal place to pursue them.
Q: What drew you to Wesleyan?
A: Wes is renowned for attracting sharp, inquisitive, critically-minded students, and being able to think through these questions with them is a real treat for me. Rather than trying to offer up some stock answer to the question of what “Japan” is all about, in other words, I see my role as helping students to formulate and articulate different sorts of questions, in a way that not only addresses Japan and its cultures and contexts, but students’ own circumstances, contexts, and historical moments, as well.
Q: In your faculty bio, you say that your scholarship “aims to hear and amplify voices that can challenge and reshape our own stances upon the world.” Can you talk about how/where/if you’ve seen that happening today? How do you emphasize that in your work?
A: I’m really interested in questions of collectivity, and in how different social actors and cultural producers deal with those questions. Collectivity is something that we all need, but when that gets reduced to exclusionary, reactionary forms of nationalism, or questions of nation-state power and prestige, then we’ve got a problem. People grapple with this question of collectivity in different ways.
“This is the history of right here,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of African American Studies Jesse Nasta ’07, speaking of his work with Black Middletown Lives, his service-learning class. “We venture deep, but no farther than two blocks.” He and his class of 13 students are doing firsthand archival research on individual projects, documenting the lives of those African Americans who lived in the area now called “The Beman Triangle,” after the most prominent black property owner in that five-acre patch of land bordered on one side by Knowles Avenue to the corner where Neon Deli now stands at Cross and Vine.
On Tuesday, April 17, Nasta spoke about this work at the Center for African American Studies, noting that almost a dozen years ago, he was standing in the same spot, presenting his honors thesis, “Their Own Guardians and Protectors: African American Community in Middletown, Connecticut, 1822–1860.” Nasta, a Middletown native, is delighted to return to Wesleyan and pursue this project that captured his scholarly interests at a young age.
In his talk, he provided historical context for the development of this area, recounted brief biographies of some of the residents of the area, and discussed the work of the class in light of the Beman Triangle today.
Recent Wesleyan News
Wesleyan is highlighted as one of the best schools to study film. An exceptional group of filmmakers, including Joss Whedon ’87 and Michael Bay ’86, have cited Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, as a major influence on their understanding of film.
2. Hartford Courant: “New Bike Share at Wesleyan Offers Speedy Transport for Students”
Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst discusses Wesleyan’s new partnership with San Francisco–based start-up Spin to provide bicycles on campus for quick and low-cost rental by students and other community members.
3. WNPR: “Where We Live”
Katja Kolcio, associate professor and chair of dance, and Anna Fox ’19 discuss Wesleyan’s partnership with a university in Kiev, Ukraine, their recent visit to the country, and what they have learned from activists involved in the country’s revolution in 2014. Kolcio is also associate professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies and associate professor of environmental studies. (Kolcio and Fox come in around 26 minutes).
4. Poets & Quants for Undergrads: “The Case for ‘Test Optional’ College Admissions”
A new study, which analyzed data from Wesleyan and many other schools that don’t require the SAT or ACT in admission, finds that “test optional” institutions tend to enroll a higher proportion of low-income, first-generation students on average, and students from more diverse backgrounds. The study also found that high school GPA was a better predictor of success in college than standardized test scores for these students.
5. Gizmodo: “What Shapes Are Things in Outer Space?”
Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, assistant professor of integrative sciences, paints a picture of the planet formation process, and explains why planetary systems tend to be flat.
Recent Alumni News
“Alexander Chee is best known as a novelist, and after the operatic plot of his Queen of the Night, readers may be surprised at the quiet intimacy of his first essay collection, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel,” writes reviewer Crystal Hana Kim. “By offering the reader such advice in the form of personal revelation, we are asked to journey with him, to learn how to write alongside him. In the ensuing essays, Chee reflects on his professional trajectory. In some, like ‘The Writing Life,’ which chronicles Chee’s class with Annie Dillard at Wesleyan University, he discusses craft explicitly. In others, like ‘The Rosary,’ he only alludes to his writerly life….”
Nataly Kogan, who arrived with her parents in the United States as Russian refugees when she was only 13, is the founder of Happier, a learning and technology platform. In this op-ed she writes about the pressure she put herself under to succeed in America, but through work with a life coach, she learned important lessons about self-compassion. She is the author of Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Sounds True; May 1, 2018).
Terry Nardin, professor of political science and director of Common Curriculum at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, offers an explanation of a liberal arts education that challenges the cultural expectation that “the purpose of tertiary education is to equip students with technical or other specialised skills that qualify them for a specific job and stable employment.” As an example of a liberal arts graduate who has met with success he offers: “Luke Wood [’91] graduated in 1991 from Wesleyan University, an American liberal arts college, where he had majored in American studies. Wood was able to turn his passion for music into an internship at Geffen Records, after which he signed artists for DreamWorks and Interscope.” Nardin traces Wood’s path further, concluding that “Wood’s success is another good reminder that ‘useless knowledge’ can not only turn out to be useful after all, but also that usefulness is in the eye of the beholder.”
Ostin Fam ’17 (Dung Quoc Pham ’17) was selected as one of eight filmmakers for “the second edition of the Bloom/Spiegel Partnership, an alliance between New York’s IFP Marcie Bloom Fellowship in Film and Jerusalem’s prestigious Sam Spiegel Film School.” The article includes this background on the Wesleyan alumnus: “Born in Vietnam and based in New York, Fam graduated from Wesleyan University and received the Steven J. Ross Prize for his senior film thesis. Fam is currently finishing the screenplay of his first feature, Small Wars. Taking place in a rural village in Vietnam, the story is about a family of three.”