Wesleyan in the News: April 2024

Mike MavredakisApril 17, 202418min
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President Michael S. Roth ’78 urged for the defense of academic freedom and democracy in a piece for TIME: “If we are to strengthen our democracy and the educational institutions that depend on it, we must learn to practice freedom, better. We must learn to be better students. Our future depends on it.” 

As many colleges across the country have seen protesting on their campuses, Roth appeared on CNN’s “The Assignment with Audie Cornish” to talk about free speech and the campus climate at Wesleyan. “It’s so much better that [Wesleyan students] are worried about Gaza, than just getting an A on a paper. It’s so much better that they care.”

Roth spoke with PBS NewsHour on the measured approach academic institutions can take amidst widespread campus protest. “What we have tried to do at Wesleyan is to keep people talking to each other, even when they disagree. And, sometimes, they disagree vehemently, but we want them to talk to each other, because, after all, you only learn from talking to people who don’t share your point of view. You’re not going to learn a lot from talking to somebody who agrees with you.”

Roth wrote a piece for Forward on campus protests on the war in the Middle East during the Passover celebration. “Paying attention to suffering, remembering it, is also the first very human step toward escaping our narrow places and repairing, even in small ways, this broken world.” 

Roth celebrated Immanuel Kant’s idea of the modern student as “someone in the process of learning to think for oneself in the company of others” on what would be Kant’s 300th birthday in a piece for The Chronicle for Higher Education. 

Basinger Recognized for Contributions to Film

Jeanine Basinger, Corwin Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, will receive the Turner Class Movies Classic Film Festival’s Robert Osborne Award, which recognizes an “individual who has helped keep the cultural heritage of classic film alive for future generations.” Basinger spoke with The Hollywood Reporter Magazine about her career.

“It’s a great honor to be associated in any way with TCM and the late Bob Osborne and to be in the company of [Martin Scorsese]; Leonard [Maltin], who I’ve known since he was a teenager; and Kevin [Brownlow] and Donald [Bogle],” Basinger said. “We all share the wish that classic movies will be shown and studied forever.”

Basinger came to Wesleyan in 1960 as marketing director for American Education Publications and began teaching film in 1969. Since then, she founded Wesleyan’s Film Studies Department and ushered it into a “film powerhouse.” The department has since played a role in the careers of many notable alumni in film.

“Jeanine Basinger’s love of cinema and the people who make it is joyful and infectious; it’s overflowing,” said Scorsese, one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all-time.

“…Her books should be required reading for any aspiring filmmaker. . . or anyone who simply loves film,” said actor and filmmaker Clint Eastwood.

Two-time Oscar-winning director Alexander Payne is set to make his first documentary in 2025—a film on Basinger’s 60-year career spanning her days as a movie theater usher in South Dakota to building one of the nation’s first film studies programs, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 

Basinger appeared on the The Hollywood Reporter’s “Awards Chatter” podcast to reflect on how the field of film studies has changed throughout her career and the catalog of 13 influential film books she has authored. 

Faculty, Staff, and Alumni Media Appearances, Awards

Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Martha S. Gilmore appeared on NPR’s “Morning Edition” on April 5 for the show’s series on The Science of Siblings, analyzing Earth’s “twin” Venus. Gilmore, a planetary geologist who studies Venus, gave some insight into how these two planets ended up on wildly different paths despite their relatively similar size. Since Venus is a bit closer to the sun, its oceans dried up. “Once you get rid of an ocean, you turn off the major mechanism to store carbon dioxide in rock. And therefore, it just stays in the atmosphere, and the greenhouse effect takes over,” Gilmore said.

Assistant Professor in the College of Social Studies Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins discussed the current state of the fascism debate on The Nation’s “American Prestige” on April 23. Steinmetz-Jenkins recently published Did it Happen Here? Perspectives on Fascism and America, a collection of key voices and texts on the current political moment. 

The admissions journey of incoming student Rania Khan ’28, of Yonkers, New York, was highlighted in a New York Times piece on the admissions process. In high school, Khan interned with Google, did research for biotechnology company Regeneron, and won a national award for her study of sewage treatment chemicals.

The leader of the Russian Orthodox Church declared the war in Ukraine a “holy war” to “defend the single spiritual place of Holy Russia.” Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin appeared on ABC RN in Australia to discuss the potential impact of this move on the length of the war. 

Associate Director of Fellowships Erica Kowsz spoke to US News & World Report for a piece on how to secure a Fulbright Scholarship. She said the application process requires deep reflection since the Fulbright Program considers “your candidacy as a whole person and your motivations for undertaking a Fulbright grant at this moment in time.” 

Justice David Thomson ’91 was sworn in as the chief justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court on April 22. He is the 43rd chief justice in the state’s history.  

Shapiro-Silverberg University Professor of Creative Writing and Criticism Merve Emre appeared on the “Reading Writers” podcast with writers Jo Livingstone and Charlotte Shane to discuss Erich Segal’s novel Love Story.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visited Connecticut to highlight Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education‘s partnership with the state Department of Correction, which provides college-level programming for people who are incarcerated at two state correctional facilities, according to WNPR. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont also toured the facilities with Cardona and spoke with incarcerated people “who told him education helps make communities safer and opens doors for people,” the story said. “With great leadership and great educators and leaders at the state level here at the universities, at the community colleges, and in our correctional facilities, I know we can continue to raise the bar,” Cardona said.”

Desaree Edwards ’25 was one of 60 student leaders in the United States awarded a Truman Scholarship. Her great accomplishment was highlighted in a Forbes piece covering the announcement. Edwards aims to become a legal advocate for the adult survivors of human trafficking.

Hari Krishnan, professor of Dance, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and Global South Asian Studies, and Tavia Nyong’o ’95, professor of Theater & Performance Studies at Yale University, received Guggenheim Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Both were mentioned by The Hartford Courants piece on Guggenheim recipients with Connecticut ties.

Associate Professor of Astronomy Meredith Hughes and Carlos Ordoñez G’25 joined WNPR’s “Where We Live” on April 8 to talk about the partial solar eclipse and how the Astronomy Department ensured access to Spanish speakers at its viewing event at Van Vleck Observatory. The event was also mentioned within CT Insider’s coverage of the eclipse.

Assistant Professor of Art Tammy Nguyen went through the ins and outs of her studio space—her routine and planning, her favorite features, what music she listens to while working, and more—with Apollo Magazine. Nguyen just opened her A Comedy for Mortals: Purgatorio exhibit at the Lehmann Maupin art gallery in London, which will be on display through April 20.

Nina Vazquez-Rosa, Upward Bound coordinator, spoke about Connecticut’s influence in shaping Reggaetón at the Connecticut Museum of Culture and History, according to the Record Journal. “Reggaetón has so much history,” she said. “And it’s important to educate people on what it truly means for Puerto Ricans.”

Ryan McLaren ’08 competed in his fourth Boston Marathon as a hand cyclist, just seven years after suffering a spinal cord injury from a skiing accident, according to a piece by in NBC5 in Essex, Vermont.