Avery Kaplan '20

King ’97, Perez ’98, Santana ’98 at 27th Dwight L. Greene Symposium

Allison Williams at the podim introducing the speakers

On Nov. 2, the 27th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium presented “Changing the Narrative: Women of Color Impacting Culture through Storytelling.” Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Officer Alison Williams ’81 introduced the panel. “Our topic today is near and dear to my heart. Telling our stories, changing the narratives, and women of color telling their stories and impacting culture through storytelling.” (Photos by Rich Marinelli)

Alumni speakers on stage

From left to right: Maria Santana ’98, New York-based anchor and correspondent for CNN En Español and frequent contributor to all CNN networks and platforms; Chrishaunda Lee Perez ’98, writer, producer, and orator best known for her popular debut novel, We Come as Girls, We Leave as Women; and moderator Kimberly King ’97, chair of the Alumni of Color Council and a marketing professional. This is not the first time these three women have come together to hold a dialogue in front of an audience: the first iteration of their panel was organized by Perez two years ago in New York City. With photos from their undergraduate days projected behind them, King opened the dialogue by asking, “What better way to talk about storytelling, than to start with a story?” According to King, “My narrative never looked like anyone else’s and I was able to find a space for myself when I was at Wesleyan.” Noted Santana, “If something doesn’t exist at Wesleyan, you create it.”

Photos of three alumnae on stage

Perez called Wesleyan “the best place to explore your ideas, and everybody is supporting you—that’s the school I remember.” Despite her deep interest in developing a career in fashion, she chose to attend Wesleyan rather than art school. “I told my mother, I want to meet future dentists; I want to meet future physicians. And I can dress everybody!” Drawing from friends pursuing majors across the curriculum, Perez was able to assemble a group around her interests, even holding her “very first fashion show.”

Women on stage

Santana recalls that she was shy when she arrived on campus, but at Wesleyan she learned to “figure things out by myself.” She and seven other Latinx students formed a dance group, Caliente, which would perform at La Casa house parties. With an appearance onstage at the all-campus talent show, Caliente gained popularity and grew to include about 35 multicultural members. “Seeing what it started out as and what it became was an obsession for me,” says Santana. “This group was where I gained a lot of confidence.” Noting her current career in front of a television camera, she says, “Wesleyan is the place that made it all happen.”

Genomics Analysis Students Collaborate on Second Published Article

This fall, Assistant Professor of Biology Joe Coolon is teaching Principles of Biology (MB&B181) and Cell and Development Journal Club (BIOL505).

Assistant Professor of Biology Joe Coolon and 26 Wesleyan students are coauthors of a recent paper published in G3.

The second publication by students in Genomics Analysis (BIOL 310) has been accepted by the well-known journal G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics. This adds 26 Wesleyan students to the ranks of more than 40 students who have become published authors through the course’s research on Drosophila sechellia, a type of fruit fly evolved to eat a plant that is toxic to most insects.

The recent paper, “Genomics Analysis of L-DOPA Exposure in Drosophila sechellia,” is coauthored by all 20 students in Assistant Professor of Biology Joseph Coolon’s class, and six students in his lab.

“I created my Genomics Analysis course as a way to provide more students with a course-based research experience where students participate in scientific discovery and the generation of new knowledge, and don’t just consume knowledge generated by others,” said Coolon. “This means each year the students taking the course learn material generated and published by the previous iterations of the course.”

Wave-Transport Lab Receives DoD, NSF Grants to Support Research

wave lab

Wesleyan’s Wave-Transport Lab recently received $709,000 in grants to study the movement of waves. The lab is spearheaded by Professors Tsampikos Kottos and Fred Ellis, pictured in the back row.

The Physics Department’s Wave-Transport Lab recently received awards totaling $709,000 to support its ongoing aim to understand and manipulate the movement of waves—sound, mechanical, or electromagnetic—through natural or human-made materials.

The lab received a $340,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Innovation program titled “Engineering Dynamical Symmetries for Extreme Wave-Matter Interactions in Elastodynamics,” and a $369,000 grant from the Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) titled “Waveform Shaping Techniques for Targeted Electromagnetic Attacks.”

The Wave-Transport Lab was established in 2016 when Fred Ellis, chair and professor of physics, and Tsampikos Kottos, the Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society and professor of physics, developed arguments for a mechanical system that would detect very small surface cracks, like the micro-cracks an airplane’s exterior collects after many hours of flight.

Aleshkovsky Discusses Novels With Translator White, Editor Fusso

On Sept. 27, the award-winning contemporary Russian writer Yuz Aleshkovsky sat down with two collaborators and former colleagues, Duffield White and Susanne Fusso, at the RJ Julia Bookstore to discuss the publication in English of his novels, Nikolai Nikolaevich and Camouflage.

On Sept. 27, the award-winning contemporary Russian writer Yuz Aleshkovsky (third from left) sat down with two collaborators and former colleagues, Duffield White and Susanne Fusso (left), at the RJ Julia Bookstore to discuss the publication in English of his novels, Nikolai Nikolaevich and Camouflage. Pictured at right is Yuz’s wife, Irina Aleshkovsky, adjunct professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies.

Born in 1929 in Krasnoyarsk, Aleshkovsky grew up in Moscow and served in the Soviet Navy. He was imprisoned for three years on a petty criminal charge and released after the death of Stalin led to a general amnesty. He published children's books but became best known for his songs and novels circulated in samizdat (the underground network of censored literature in the USSR). Aleshkovsky left the Soviet Union in 1979, and the following year Wesleyan sponsored his entry into the United States, where he was invited to serve as Visiting Russian Writer in Wesleyan's Russian Department.

Born in 1929 in Krasnoyarsk, Aleshkovsky grew up in Moscow and served in the Soviet Navy. He was imprisoned for three years on a petty criminal charge and released after the death of Stalin led to a general amnesty. He published children’s books, but became best known for his songs and novels circulated in samizdat (the underground network of censored literature in the USSR). Aleshkovsky left the Soviet Union in 1979, and the following year Wesleyan sponsored his entry into the United States, where he was invited by Priscilla Meyer, professor of Russian language and literature, emerita, to serve as visiting Russian writer in Wesleyan’s Russian Department.

Blaine ’92 Brings One-Woman Show and Brain Surgery/Art Tour to Campus

On Sept. 25, Jennifer Blaine ’92 performed The Vicissitudes of Travel in Usdan 108.

Hosted by the neuroscience and pre-med students of the MINDS Foundation and the Basal Gang, The Vicissitudes bridges the gap between medical science, mental health, and performance art.

In the solo show performed by Blaine and co-written with Karen Getz, Blaine’s portrayals of each member of a family comes to life against the sparse set that invites the audience’s imagination to fill in the gaps. Terrified by the idea of losing her brother, “Sister” goes on a journey through her brother’s brain surgery that blends visual art, memory, and tangled neurons in an attempt to connect with “Brother” before it’s too late.

During the post-performance discussion, Blaine and the students in the audience delved into the healing journey, the creative process, and the role of art in medicine.

“Every time I perform The Vicissitudes I am amazed at what it evokes for people. People enjoy a character, find themselves laughing one moment and the next are moved by a poignant revelation,” Blaine said. “As the creator and performer it’s both terrifying and exhilarating to perform the piece for new audiences since even I don’t know what will happen. We begin the journey as strangers, but by the end of the piece we have such a deeply bonded experience that segues into meaningful dialogue and sharing that’s unique to each particular group.”

At the Wesleyan performance, Blaine was particularly struck by the insightful line of questioning and sharing.

“Students’ questions about the text unearthed things I had never even thought about,” Blaine said. “One of the missions of the performance is to connect the invisible community affected by brain issues and create a way that we can be present, listen to one another, and have more compassion. I believe we achieved that. I hope this performance can be the beginning of a dialogue with the Wesleyan community about these issues.”

The event was coordinated by Kush Patel ’20 of Wesleyan MINDS, graduate student Helen Karimi from The Basal Gang, and Meg Zocco, director of parent development.

After performing at Wesleyan, Blaine will bring The Vicissitudes to Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, where she will also hold workshops for medical students.

Photos of the performance are below. (Photos by Tom Dzimian)

Jennifer Blane

Buchanan ’92 and Gordon ’89 Talk Effective Philanthropy at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

On Sept. 24, Phil Buchanan '92 and Elysa Gordon '89 discussed Buchanan's new book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count at Wesleyan's RJ Julia Bookstore.

On Sept. 24, Elysa Gordon ’89, left, and Phil Buchanan ’92, right, discussed Buchanan’s new book, Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count, at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

Buchanan '92 is the president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), a leading provider of data on philanthropic effectiveness. He is a co-author of many CEP research reports, a columnist for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and a frequent blogger for the CEP Blog.

Buchanan ’92 is the president of the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP), a leading provider of data on philanthropic effectiveness. He is a co-author of many CEP research reports, a columnist for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and a frequent blogger for the CEP Blog. In 2016, Buchanan was named the NonProfit Times‘s “influencer of the year.”

O’Connell Works with International Scientists to Collect Sediment Cores from Scotia Sea

JOIDES

The JOIDES Resolution at the pier in Punta Arenas, Chile. (Credit: Thomas Ronge & IODP)

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

As campus was winding down for spring break last semester, Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell was packing her bags for a two-month expedition in the Scotia Sea, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula, to drill for marine sediment miles below the ocean waves.

On her ninth expedition since 1980, O’Connell was one of 30 international scientists working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, navigating “Iceberg Alley” aboard the JOIDES Resolution research vessel. It is the only ship in the world with coring tools powerful enough to extract both soft sediment and hard rock from the ocean floor.

At five carefully selected sites the ship stopped, and—provided the vicinity was iceberg-free—scientists lowered coring equipment through an opening in the floor of the ship to drill 0.5 to 2.5 miles down through the water and into the ocean sediment. After two hours, the equipment (which uses an action similar to that of coring an apple), would bring back the 31-foot-long core. Back on board, the cores were cut into 1.5-meter segments and then split lengthwise to reveal a layer cake of preserved mineral and organic sediment, each layer representing a snapshot of the ocean floor from a moment in geologic history.

Audio Book Narrator Ballerini ’92 Wins Audie Award—Again

Edoardo Ballerini ’92

Edoardo Ballerini ’92 was named Best Male Narrator for his work on Watchers, by Dean Koontz, at the 2019 Audie Awards, sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association. He had also won this award three years earlier for Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters, and has narrated the work from a wide variety of authors, including Dante, the Dalai Lama, James Patterson, and Franz Kafka. (Photo by Max Flatow)

This year at the 24th annual Audie Awards, held on Feb. 4, Edoardo Ballerini ’92 was named Best Male Narrator for his work on Watchers by Dean Koontz.

The awards are sponsored by the Audio Publishers Association. In this winning entry, Ballerini was cited for “do[ing] a top-notch job of narrating this story. Listeners join Travis Cornell, who is hiking while trying to make sense of his life. When he chances upon an apparently stray golden retriever, things will never be the same. Ballerini creates a balance of warmth and suspense that reflects the heartwarming, yet at times frightening, aspects of the plot. He helps to characterize the three protagonists, including Einstein, the highly intelligent dog.”

This was Ballerini’s second time to receive the Audie for Best Male Narrator. In 2013, he stepped up to the podium for his work on Jess Walters’s Beautiful Ruins. But it’s not only modern fiction that finds its voice through Ballerini. His narration has made vibrant the books by a wide range of authors across centuries, including those by Dante, the Dalai Lama, James Patterson, and Franz Kafka.

Ballerini began working in film and television as a recent graduate, “then audiobooks kind of came to me,” he said. “Somebody asked me if I would record a version of The Prince, by Machiavelli, and I said, ‘Sure. Why not?’”

That was in 2007, when the audiobook industry started taking off. Although this form had been around for decades, the industry has been growing rapidly in recent years: in 2018 alone audiobook revenue increased 22.7 percent. While this uptick has been attributed to advancing technology, which makes it easier to stream or download and listen anywhere, Ballerini thinks other factors are at play.

Posse Vet Snashall ’21 Proposes Higher Education Policy

Gabriel Snashall ’21 Gabriel Snashall ’21

Gabriel Snashall ’21

Gabriel Snashall ’21 is a Posse veteran studying government and the author of a policy proposal that aims to introduce consumer transparency to the college application process. Similar to a dealership’s sheet on a car window that lists mileage and crash test ratings, Snashall designed a simple form that breaks down the important data on an institution that incoming students should know but often don’t, such as accreditation status and post-grad job placement rates. The proposal earned Snashall a fellowship with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Student Veterans of America joint legislative group, which later garnered him support from Connecticut Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty.

Snashall discovered the need for better policy after leaving the navy and going back to school in 2016. The year before coming to Wesleyan, he enrolled in two schools in his hometown of Fresno, California: a local community college and the University of Phoenix (a for-profit college). Thanks to military benefits, schools can pay student veterans a basic allowance for housing (BAH). The average BAH rate in Fresno was $1,200 a month, but University of Phoenix offered him $3,500. Snashall attended class one evening a week, and in return was able to pay off his mom’s mortgage. “I didn’t really put much effort into University of Phoenix because it was just like a source of income,” said Snashall “but I got to see some things that I was just shocked at. The education they were providing.”

Wesleyan, Eversource Begin 3-Year Strategic Partnership

Eversource Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Morton and Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 seal the deal on a partnership between Eversource Energy and the University.

Wesleyan recently kicked off a strategic partnership with Eversource Energy that will support the University’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth and Eversource Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Morton signed an agreement on Oct. 30 before receiving a tour of the Freeman Athletic Center’s recent energy efficiency upgrades.

The new strategic partnership supports a three-year energy efficiency plan that will save an additional 3.2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

Poulos Authors Papers on Managing Ecological Fire Risks, Recovery Strategies

Helen PoulosHelen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, is the coauthor of two papers published Oct. 22 in the journals Fire and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, respectively.

Poulos lead-authored a paper on fire and plant evolutionary ecology titled, “Do Mixed Fire Regimes Shape Plant Flammability and Post-Fire Recovery Strategies?” Contrary to a new model assuming that plant species have evolved three divergent flammability strategies, Poulos and her fellow researchers present three case studies that indicate plant species have evolved “bet-hedging strategies” that mix a variety of flammability and post-fire recovery strategies.

Poulos also co-authored a paper led by ecologist Christopher Johnson of the University of Tasmania titled, “Can trophic rewilding reduce the impact of fire in a more flammable world?” This paper is about managing fire risk by reintroducing large mammals and has received a lot of buzz, including a nod in Science.

“Working with a group of international scientists has really helped me in terms of thinking about global issues associated with fire, and also how humans can work together to create more sustainable landscapes,” Poulos said.

Artist Melissa Stern ’80 on Strange Girls as a State of Being

Artist Melissa Stern ’80 and her piece, ‘Wig Shop,’ that appears in her latest exhibition, Strange Girls, now at the Garvey|Simon Gallery in New York City through Nov. 11. “All the people in my work and in my head are triumphant,” she says.

In this Q&A, we speak to artist Melissa Stern ’80, whose latest exhibition, Strange Girls, is open at the Garvey Simon Gallery in New York City Oct. 11–Nov. 11. Stern double-majored in anthropology and studio art at Wesleyan, and earned her MFA in ceramics from SUNY New Paltz. In Strange Girls, Stern uses media such as assemblage, ceramics, painting, drawings, and collage to explore girlhood as a state of being and state of mind.

Q: You have been exhibiting your art since the ’80s, and Strange Girls is your ninth solo show in New York. How is this exhibition a continuation of your past work, and how is it a departure?

A: I think that an artists’ work is like handwriting, if you look hard enough you will always recognize who they are from the work. If you look at my work from college on, maybe younger, you would always know it’s mine. Obviously, it’s changed. Hopefully it’s gotten better, more skillful, more developed, richer, but it is always a continuation of what’s going on in my head, what my cares and concerns are.

My interest in storytelling and narratives, none of that has fundamentally changed. This show is called Strange Girls, but, as I say in my artist statement, boys can be strange. It’s a show about the feeling of being on the outside. It’s about feelings that both genders have of trying to fit into the expectations of your gender, and the expectations of society. It’s about feeling like an outsider. It’s certainly more female-oriented because I’m a girl. My memories are of all of those things that you grow up with when you’re female, both positive and negative. The show encompasses a lot of ideas that I’ve always been interested in—identity, storytelling, and memory. I’m really interested in the stories that people have to tell. And the fact that my work can elicit a response, whether it be a story or a memory, a smile or a knowing laugh from someone is wonderful. This desire for connection is pretty fundamental to why I make things.