In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.
Wesleyan in the News
Joyce Jacobsen, formerly Wesleyan’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs and the Andrews Professor of Economics, was inaugurated Oct. 18 as the first woman president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. At the ceremony, the chairman of the HWS Board of Trustees said: “Dr. Jacobsen enters the presidency of Hobart and William Smith at a time of increasing complexity in higher education both here on campus and nationally. It is my belief, and the unanimous belief of the Board of Trustees, that there is no one better to help us navigate this future than Dr. Joyce Jacobsen.” Read more coverage of the inauguration in Finger Lake Times.
2. Wilson Center Blog: “Victoria Smolkin: A History of Soviet Atheism”
In this Q&A, Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin discusses her book, A Sacred Space is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism. She explains how religion in the former Soviet states has changed since the fall of the Soviet Union, and offers a preview of her second book project. Smolkin was a Title VIII Research Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in 2014–15.
3. The GlobePost: “Adapt, Abate, or Suffer – Lessons from Hurricane Dorian”
In this op-ed, Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, Emeritus, and his co-authors write that Hurricane Dorian is emblematic of the “extremely damaging events whose intensity and frequency can be attributed in large measure to a human-induced changing climate.” While Dorian’s “exaggerated strength” is a well-known signature of this link to climate change, they write, “its stalling over the Bahamas is evidence of a new signature.” They explain what an “iterative risk management process,” as recommended by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, looks like, including investments in adaptation and mitigation.
4. The Washington Post Magazine: “Are Liberal Arts Colleges Doomed?”
President Michael Roth ’78 comments in this story about the cautionary tale of Hampshire College, and the challenges facing the higher education business model overall. In speaking about Hampshire’s distinction as a place where many first-generation students and students from other underrepresented groups have historically thrived, Roth says, “The market punishes distinction. If we’re going to have this rush to vanilla, that would be terrible. And I do think you see some of that now when high school seniors talk about getting into a very selective school: ‘I got into fill-in-the-blank and now my work is done.’ Because when you go to any of these schools, they’re kind of the same. … It’s as if you had won a race, instead of going to a school that has opportunities you never knew existed.”
5. Todd Feinburg: After 6: “Richard Grossman”
Richard Grossman, professor and chair of economics, discusses the latest data on unemployment released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate has reached a new low, Grossman reports, yet this one figure doesn’t tell the full story. “Historically, and certainly for the last 10 years, the number peaked at 10% after the financial crisis, and it’s been working its way down ever since,” Grossman said. “That doesn’t mean all is wonderful if you’re in the labor force. There’s a lot of other things going on … people working part-time who would like to be working full-time … people who are doing contract work that would like to be having full-time jobs with benefits.”
Alumni in the News
1. Politico: “Can Any of These People Beat Trump?”
Tim Alberta, chief political correspondent for Politico Magazine, watches the Democratic debates with Michael Bennet ’87, Hon. ’12, contrasting Bennet’s responses to those of televised candidates. Writing of Bennet, a former school superintendent Alberta says “wherever there is a battle being waged, whether over immigration or gun control or climate change, Bennet can be found in the deal-making trenches, laboring to build a bipartisan coalition in pursuit of a workable outcome rather than lobbing bombs from the safety of an ideological bunker.”
2. The New York Times—Essay: “Those Superfast Nike Shoes Are Creating a Problem”
In this essay, Amby Burfoot ’68, winner of the Boston Marathon in 1968, former editor of Runner’s World, and author of six books on running, notes that in breaking the two-hour marathon barrier while wearing special shoes, Eliud Kipchoge raised the “already simmering question: Does the International Association of Athletics Federations need a more stringent rule to define legal running shoes?”
3. Daily Nation: “Rhodes Scholar on a Mission to End Illiteracy in Kilifi”
Back at her former primary school, Claudia Kahindi ’18 talks about her goal. She says: “People always shared their challenges with me. Others were being lured to join terrorist groups and criminal gangs. I decided to apply for grants and start a project that would change the future of students, 10-plus years from now.”
WBUR-FM (90.9) Boston public radio station hosts Jeremy Hobson and Serena McMahon highlight the work of Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, Thomas Kail ’99, and Anthony Veneziale ’98 in creating the hip-hop improvisational show that is one of the hottest on Broadway. Tracing its path from the beginning, the hosts note: “The group, which started more than a decade ago while working on In The Heights at Wesleyan University, ‘was just a terrible idea that spun into an awful 15 years’ of performing, Veneziale jokes.” Also included: video of the group on the The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and audio of the group freestyle-rapping on that day’s news.
5. The Hastings Center—Bioethics Forum Essay: “Hannah Arendt in St. Peters Square”
Joseph J. Fins ’82, MD, MACP, FRCP is co-author of this essay, with Jenny Reardon. Fins is a member of the board of directors and a fellow of The Hastings Center, and the two were “invited to give talks at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the scientific and ethical challenges posed by personalized medicine.” They continue the ruminative essay and later Fins recalls a moment in 1961, “as Wesleyan University hosted C.P. Snow, professors William Firshein, a biologist, and William Ward, an artist, called for a ‘common frame of reference … based on the assumption that science and the humanities are concerned with the same world—even though they may look at different aspects of it and observe it with different feelings…’”