Tag Archive for student achievements

Fellows Explore Black History in School Curricula, Deglaciation, Schooling in Nicaragua, More

Elsa Hardy '14 presents her Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship research on July 26.

Elsa Hardy ’14 presents her Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship research on July 26. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Last summer, Elsa Hardy ’14 worked for a youth enrichment program in New York City. Several of the children came from the Frederick Douglass Academy, a middle school in Harlem where 75 percent of the students are black.

“I asked the students who went there, ‘Do you know who Frederick Douglass was?’ None of them did. They had no idea,” Hardy recalls. “I was shocked to learn that the students didn’t know who the namesake of their school was.”

Hardy, who is majoring in African American studies and Hispanic literatures and cultures, became curious as to why the average middle school student received such a diluted black history lesson in the classroom. As a 2012 participant in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship summer session, Hardy launched a research project on “Middle School U.S. History Curricula, Black National Identity, and Academic Performance.”

“If U.S. history curriculum covers black history minimally, or not at all, what effect does this have on the ways in which black students understand their place in our nation’s history or in contemporary American society,” she asks.

The Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program is a highly selective mentoring program that prepares students of color and others committed to overcoming racial and ethnic disparities in education for graduate study and careers as university professors in the arts and sciences. Four fellows from Wesleyan and six fellows from Queens College spent six weeks this summer working on their preliminary research. They presented their findings and plans on July 26.

“The summer session is just the beginning of a life-long relationship with these students,” says MMUF coordinator Krishna Winston,

Ribner ’14 Studying Spatial Navigation, Early Number Knowledge

University major Andrew Ribner ’14 is working in the Cognitive Development Lab this summer. He’s also a photographer, a campus tour guide and a baker.

Q&As with outstanding students is an occasional feature of The Wesleyan Connection. This issue we speak with Andrew Ribner from the Class of 2014.

Q: Andrew, you’re a rising junior, working toward a university major in educational psychology and learning theory and biology. Please explain what a university major is and why you chose this degree path.

A: A university major is essentially an interdisciplinary create-your-own major. It’s an option that isn’t very highly publicized, and is completely unique to each student who does it. It’s an intense application process that involves writing a formal proposal and four-year class schedule, finding three advisors who will support and recommend you to the committee, and justifying the necessity of the major. Essentially, it’s creating an entire unique department using classes that are already offered in other departments. For my university major, I’ll be investigating how children learn through a combination of psychology, sociology and neuroscience.

Q: This summer, you’re working in the Cognitive Development Lab with Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology. Why did you want to spend your summer at Wesleyan?

A: I chose to stay at Wes this summer for a number of reasons. Anna is the primary advisor on my university major, and I’m planning to do an experimental thesis through her lab as it intersects with sociology. She recommended I stay this summer to get a start on my thesis research because she’s going to be on sabbatical in the fall and I need to start running participants while she’s out. I also just wanted to see what research was like and whether it’s something I enjoy—which it is.

MINDS Foundation, Students, Featured in Huffington Post

The MINDS Foundation, an organization started by Raghu Appasani ’12, was recently featured in the June 6 Huffington Post. The MINDS Foundation is working to eradicate mental illness stigmas and provide mental healthcare services to patients in rural villages in India.

According to the article, the conditions of many mental health facilities are inexcusable; people lack basic human dignity, and necessities such as clothes, clean water, and food; they are often locked away in prison-like rooms; and lack even the most basic legal protections.

Since 2012, the MINDS Foundation has educated nearly 1,000 individuals, and is currently treating 36 patients suffering from a variety of illnesses ranging from schizophrenia to depression. The Foundation operates in Gujarat, outside the city of Baroda, and works through a close partnership with Sumandeep Vidyapeeth University to reach out to a cluster of 19 villages and 15,000 individuals in the surrounding vicinity. University psychiatrists volunteer their time pro bono to diagnose, treat, and counsel patients.

This summer, Setarah O’Brien ’14 and Simone Hyman ’15 are volunteering with the organization in India.

The Huffington Post article is online here.

Hoskins ’12 Creates Treasure Hunt Installation on Campus

Jack Hoskins '12 spent his senior year creating a permanent Wesleyan Treasure Hunt. The game has more than six clues, and takes treasure-seekers on an adventure across campus. The plaques were installed in May.

Striking clocks gongs per day from Hartford to Middletown.
Silver wedding anniversary years from Laos to Chad.
Squares on a chess board from Warsaw to Kinshasa.

Can you solve this puzzle? If so, you’ve started a treasure hunt, right on Wesleyan’s campus.

The Wesleyan Treasure Hunt, a permanent campus installation, begins at a plaque located in the southeast corner of Usdan University Center near the Huss Courtyard. It encourages students to explore the nooks and crannies of campus, and interact with the buildings as they look for new clues.

“The hunt encapsulates everything I like about Wesleyan,” says its creator Jack Hoskins ’12. “The students I’ve met here are people who love to explore and think and solve puzzles, so not only is the treasure hunt intellectually challenging, it captures the same adventurous spirit and curiosity that makes people at Wesleyan so incredible.”

Hoskins, a government major, warns that although the clues are “elegant,” most are non-verbal and challenging. He suggests going on the hunt in groups, and bringing along a smart phone with internet-searching capabilities. Pre-frosh and first-year-student may need a campus map and be willing to ask the upperclassmen for help.

“This treasure hunt is very, very difficult, and it can’t be done in an afternoon,” he says. “A lot of people give up when they see the second clue. It’s going to take you a while to finish.”

Hoskins, a native of Olympia, Wash., grew up solving puzzles and making treasure hunts for his friends. His spirit for adventure continued throughout high school and college, and in 2011, he suggested the idea of a treasure hunt to his class dean and the Wesleyan Student Assembly. After approving the idea, the WSA’s Student Budget Committee awarded Hoskins with $500 to cover the cost of supplies and installation.

Wesleyan’s Physical Plant designed the wood plaques and coated them with an environmentally-friendly finish to withstand rain, sun, snow and sleet. Hoskins used the Center for the Arts’ wood burning printer for the lettering.

“I think a lot of people might think of a treasure hunt as something childish, but Wesleyan is a place where people don’t think that the curiosity and love of new things that some people call childish is a bad thing,” Hoskins says.

So far, 15 students have completed the treasure hunt, which was installed in May.

But is there really a treasure at the end of the hunt?

“There’s something there … but I cannot say what,” he says, smiling. “But, like at a real treasure hunt, if you get there second, there’s no gold left.”

Students Receive Academic Prizes, Fellowships, Scholarships

Shane Donahue '14 received the Richard A. Miller Summer Internship Grant Business summer internship, and Matthew Donahue '14 received the Social Activist Award during the awards banquet May 9. (Photos by Nam Anh Ta '12)

Students who received academic prizes, fellowships and scholarships, were honored at a reception May 9 in Daniel Family Commons. The awards and the recipients are:

George H. Acheson and Grass Foundation Prize in Neuroscience Neuroscience and Behavior: Jad Donato ’12, Cassidy Mellin ’12

Alumni Prize in the History of Art Senior who has demonstrated special aptitude in the history of art and who has made a substantive contribution to the major: Sarah La Rue ’12, Alyssa Lanz ’12, Katherine Wolf ’12

American Chemical Society Analytical Award Excellence in analytical chemistry: Chinh Duong ’13

American Chemical Society Connecticut Valley Section Award Outstanding achievement by a graduating chemistry major: Rachel Merzel ’12

American Institute of Chemists Award Outstanding achievement by a graduating chemistry major: Charles Baron ’12

Ayres Prize The first-year student who attains the highest academic standing in the first semester: Quinta Jurecic ’15, Rebecca Rubenstein ’15

Baden-Württemberg―Connecticut Sister State Exchange Study abroad in Germany: Lana ’12, Jessica Spates ’12

Bertman Prize Senior physics major who displays a particularly resourceful and creative approach to research: Wei Dai ’12, Zin Lin ’12

Blankenagel Prize German studies: Matthew Alexander ’12

Odede ’12 Featured in Hartford Courant

Kennedy Odede ’12 was featured in a May 5 Hartford Courant article discussing his mother’s impact on all he has done in the last four years. Odede came to Wesleyan from the Kibera slum of Nairobi and has since built a school, a clean water latrine, and a health center back home.

“Work hard and read books. Look around you, but don’t hate,” Jane Achieng Odede told the young son she struggled to feed in Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums next to Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. Residents there are mostly jobless or live on less than a dollar a day, the article says.

He presented the Senior Class Welcome at Wesleyan’s 2012 Commencement.

Seniors, BA/MAs Present Thesis Research at NSM Poster Session

Seth Hafferkamp '12 presents his thesis titled, "Autoionization Lifetime Measurements of Na2 Rydberg States" at the "Celebration of Science Theses" April 19 in Exley Science Center. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Fifteen Wesleyan students presented posters on their research in the sciences and mathematics at the seventh annual “Celebration of Science Theses” event held April 19.

“You help keep our sciences here vibrant and alive,” Ishita Mukerji, dean of natural sciences and mathematics, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, tells the students gathered in the lobby of Exley Science Center as she congratulates them. Mukerji says she hopes that after pausing to celebrate their achievements, the students will continue to pursue research for many years to come.

The work presented by seniors and BA/MA students spans a wide range of disciplines.

Micah Wylde ’12 presents his research on “Safe Motion Planning for Autonomous Driving."

For his project, Micah Wylde ’12, a computer science major, developed algorithms for self-driving cars, like the cars reportedly being developed by Google. The algorithms translate high-level navigation goals (eg. Drive from home to the grocery store) into actual turns of the steering wheel. “I was working particularly on safety, which is a big deal when you have one-ton cars hurtling down the road,” he explains.

Wylde says self-driving cars are no longer the stuff of science fiction. “Everything has come together in the last five years—algorithms, sensing technology,” he says. “Now it’s just refining it.”

He adds, “In the next decade, there are going to be autonomous cars on the road—no question.”

Tom Oddo ’12, a Science in Society Program major, studied the work of D. D. Palmer, who founded chiropractics at the turn of the 20th century. Oddo plans to train to be a chiropractor after graduation, and sought to explain the stigma attached to the practice.

Professor, 3 Students to Study, Teach Abroad as Fulbright Fellows

Su Zheng

As a 2012-12 Fulbright recipients, Miriam Berger ’12 will study journalism in Egypt; and Matthew Alexander ’12 and Lynn Heere ’12 will teach English in Germany. Su Zheng, associate professor of music, associate professor of East Asian studies, will study, “China’s Emergent Soundscape: New Music Creativities, Body Politics and the Internet in Defining a Global Chineseness,” in Shanghai, China.

The Fulbright Program is the largest U.S. international exchange program offering opportunities for students, scholars, and professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools worldwide.

Miriam Berger, a College of Social Studies major, will begin her year abroad on June 1, as a fellow at the Center for Arabic Studies Abroad (CASA) in Cairo, Egypt. There, she will study Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Egyptian. After improving her Arabic and cultural literacy skills, she will begin her Fulbright research on how Egyptian print newspapers have responded to the

Students Inducted into French Honor Society, Pi Delta Phi

This year, 11 seniors were inducted into the French National Honor Society, Pi Delta Phi, on April 18. The students were recognized for their outstanding scholarship in the French language and literature. Pictured, from left to right, are inductees Rachel Tretter, Carina Kaufman, Sarah La Rue, Emma Mohney, Kelvin Kofie, Rachel Silton, Meera Suresh, Hahn Le, Alexandra Kinney.

Catherine Poisson, associate professor of romance languages and literatures, led the initiation ceremony. The society seeks to increase Americans' knowledge and appreciation of the cultural contributions of French-speaking countries, and to stimulate and encourage French and francophone cultural activities.

Rachel Tretter , in the foreground, signs the Pi Delta Phi book, making her membership official, while Poisson watches on.

Carina Kaufman, Sarah La Rue, Emma Mohney recite a pledge in French. Members of the society pledge to continue to promote and celebrate the French language and the Francophone culture throughout their life.

In foreground, Alexandra Kinney, and behind, from left, Rachel Silton, Meera Suresh and Hahn Le recite the pledge. (Photos by Charlotte Christopher '12)

English, American Studies Major Ross ’12 Participates in A Cappella Group, Equestrian Team

Grace Ross ’12.

Q&As with outstanding students is an occasional feature of The Wesleyan Connection. This issue we speak with Grace Ross from the Class of 2012.

Q: Grace, you’ll be graduating this May with a double major in English and American Studies. Why did you choose to major in those areas?

A: It was the American Literature survey course I took with Joel Pfister my freshman fall that drew me to English and American Studies. We read Mary Rowlandson’s Indian captivity narrative. Professor Pfister essentially summarized what I had been attempting to argue in A.P. U.S. History and offered analysis far beyond the scope of my high school research paper. I knew then that I wanted to major in both.

Q: You recently attended the Center for America’s Americas Forum on April 20, which focused on “Authenticity in the Americas: Constructions and Contestations of Identity.” (View photos of the event online here). Can you elaborate on what was discussed in this four-hour event?

A: The panel was structured around “authenticity” and how it functions within identity formation, nation building, and oppressive systems in North and South America. The panel was composed of six authors we had read throughout the semester: Daphne Brooks, Rebecca Earle, Ben Irvin, Jeff Pilcher, Scott Lyons and Florence Babb. Our Wesleyan professors (and postdoctoral fellows) Amelia Kiddle and Christian Gonzales, spearheaded the effort to find authors who could participate and mediated the event. It was primarily targeted toward the students, although many faculty were present. I was most excited to talk with Daphne Brooks, as she provided a key perspective in my thesis and I was most familiar with her work. She also teaches English and African-American studies at Princeton.

Q: In 2010, you spent your summer working at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. collecting, documenting, and transcribing surveys and managing all the archival material. Is this something you’d like to do more of?

Getting to know the Library of Congress was a rewarding experience and showed me a side of D.C. that I wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to. It’s been illuminating to delve into the topic of ethical codes in human subject research. But, I’m really an extrovert. As much as I love working with archival material, I don’t see myself spending too much time in an archive, unless it’s research for a graduate thesis or maybe even a book way down the road.

Q: Tell us more about the student-run a cappella group, the Mixolydians.

 The Mixolydians is an ensemble group that performs choral music. Our final concert this spring includes pieces in French, Russian, English and Latin ranging from the past 300 years.

Q: What other organizations, services or clubs did you take part in during your four years at Wesleyan?

I rode on the Equestrian Team for three years, which provided a good excuse to get off campus every week and to be around horses. Right now, I’m volunteering for Julia Star, a program that sends Wesleyan students to talk with fifth graders about stereotypes and difference. I also served as a member of the English Department Majors Committee, promoting the major to pre-frosh and underclassmen.

Q: What are you going to miss most about Wesleyan, and what are your post-Wesleyan plans?

 I think I’m going to miss the people here most. Everyone you meet on this campus has a passion and has something to offer the world. Ultimately, the late night conversations, unexpected interactions, and multitude of events, performances, and shows will make me most nostalgic. After completing my thesis, I decided to take this summer off and travel around the world. Beyond that, I plan to move to New York in September with my sights set on the publishing industry.

Lana ’12, Spates ’12 Receive Baden-Württemberg Award to Study in Germany

Lana Lana ’12 and Jessica Spates ’12 received a Baden-Württemberg–Connecticut Exchange Grant for a one-year study in Germany.

The Baden-Württemberg Exchange Program offers students an opportunity to earn college credits in one of Germany’s top nine universities. Students spend the academic year at the university they choose.

The Baden-Württemberg Exchange originated from a legislative partnership formed between the State of Connecticut and the German state of Baden-Württemberg in 1989. The agreement invites all students enrolled in four-year colleges and universities in Connecticut to study at any institution of higher learning in Baden-Württemberg. With nine universities from which to choose and a large number of Fachhochschulen (advanced technical colleges) and Kunsthochschulen (art colleges), students of all disciplines can be accommodated.

The Baden-Württemberg Exchange is a reciprocal exchange program. This means that Connecticut students prepay their usual tuition and then trade places with a German student from the Exchange, who has paid their German tuition.