Faculty presented talks during Wesleyan Thinks Big April 21 in Memorial Chapel. During the TED-talk style event, Wesleyan professors lectured for 10 minutes on an experience, a personal passion or an existential question.
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
In April, the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program presented scholarships to five Wesleyan undergraduate students. As Doris Duke Scholars, Olivia Won ’18, Emily Murphy ’18, Ryan Nelson ’19, Gabby Vargas ’18 and Kelly Lam ’19 will receive two summer experiential learning and research opportunities at the University of Washington and the University of Michigan.
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation initiated the Conservation Scholars programs at several universities across the country in 2013 with the intention of attracting and training members of under-represented communities in the field of conservation. Over the course of their two years in the program, the scholars will work right alongside conservation professional and researchers that will serve as mentors.
“More than ever, the conservation field needs to increase its efforts to attract, train and employ individuals from communities
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
An article in the journal Sapiens highlights the current work of anthropologist Ruth Behar in “Lifting the Emotional Embargo With Cuba.” Working with poet Richard Blanco, the two are “cultivating reunion and reconciliation among people and cultures that have been estranged for decades,” said author Barry Yeoman.
Cuba is part of both the poet’s and the anthropologist’s identities. While Blanco grew up hearing about Cuba from his ex-pat community in Miami, Behar was born in Havana, Cuba. Her parents were of Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish descent who moved the family to New York City after the Cuban revolution. As a child in New York she gravitated to poetry, which she admits, “offered a refuge…a way to be myself.”
While attending Wesleyan, Behar took a class taught by anthropologist Johannes Fabian that provided a wider lens through which to view other cultures. After graduating from Wesleyan with a College of Letters major, Behar pursued this new passion by enrolling in a PhD program in cultural anthropology at Princeton University.
Throughout her career as a cultural anthropologist Behar has attempted to meld these two interests and her cultural heritage. During the 1990s, she returned to her birth country where she published a bi-lingual poetry collection while studying poet-anthropologists such as Edward Sapir and Ruth Benedict.
When President Obama announced the renewal of Cuban and American diplomatic relations in late 2014, Behar felt compelled to explore this deeply personal and historical division. She began to collaborate with Blanco on a new project that would reconcile poetry and ethnography, and Cuban and American identity. The two named the project “Bridges to/from Cuba.” It consists of a bilingual blog that serves as a unified space for the various stories of Cubans and those of Cuba’s diaspora.
Writing about one of the duo’s visits to Cuba, Yeoman observed Behar’s comfort in this role of cultural bridge-builder. “She was spending the afternoon with two good friends who live in countries that have historically been at odds—countries that form the halves of her own identity—and the relationship between their governments was starting to relax,” he wrote.
Behar currently teaches at the University of Michigan and has received honors that include the MacArthur “Genius” Grant, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Fulbright Senior Fellowship.
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
The Portland Business Journal named Kaiser Permanente President Andy McCulloch ’76 one of the top 10 executives of 2016. This award honors area executives whose business strategies have successfully expanded their companies over the last year.
During the past year with Kaiser Permanente, McCulloch boosted membership by 3 percent while maintaining a member retention rate of 97 percent. In just their two hospitals, Kaiser Permanente physicians logged 3 million doctor visits and 420,000 dental appointments while earning $3.4 billion in yearly revenue.
McCulloch began his presidency in 2006 and directs Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and Washington State. During this time, the company has been ranked as one of the highest performing healthcare systems in the region. For five consecutive years Medicare has given the Northwest Region’s Medicare Advantage plan a five star rating while the National Commission for Quality Assurance recently rated the Northwest’s Medicare and commercial plan as the highest in the region.
After earning a BA in government from Wesleyan, McCulloch receive a master’s degree in health administration degree from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. Prior to joining Kaiser Permanente, he held executive positions at the University of North Carolina Health Care System, the University of Washington Health Sciences Center, Peace Health and Mercy Health.
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
On April 5, six Wesleyan alumni–David Rabban ’71, Roxanne Euban ’88, Lyle Ashton Harris ’88, Rick Barot ’92, Adam Berinsky ’92 and Jonas Carpignano ’06–were each awarded Guggenheim Fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. According to the foundation, these prestigious awards aim to “further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions and irrespective of race, color or creed.”
Rabban is an award winning author and academic whose research focuses on labor law, higher education and the law, and American legal history. For his 1997 book Free Speech in its Forgotten Years, he received the Morris D. Forkosch Prize presented by the Journal of the History of Ideas and the Eli M. Oboler Award of the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Round Table. From 1998 to 2006 he served as the General Counsel of the American Association of University Professors and from 2006 to 2012 as the Chair of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure.
Over the course of his career Rabban has earned fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Whitney Humanities center, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and other institutions. During his Guggenheim Fellowship, he intends to author a book the history, theory, and law of academic freedom.
Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 received his fellowship for his contributions in the field of photography. On his website, Harris writes that his work “explores intersections between the personal and the political, examining the impact of ethnicity, gender and desire on the contemporary social and cultural dynamic.” In particular, his projects are known for employing self-portraiture and using iconic figures in popular culture such as Billie Holiday and Michael Jackson.
Harris has exhibited his work around the globe at institutions like the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the 52nd Venice Biennale. After graduating from Wesleyan, Harris went on to receive his MFA from the California Institute of the Arts. He currently lives in New York City where he teaches at New York University.
Rick Barot ’92, a poet, published his most recent collection of poems, Chord, with Sarabande Books in 2015. The book was a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and the PEN Open Book award and won the 2016 UNT Rilke Prize. Barot has published two other titles with Sarabande Books, The Darker Fall (2002) and Want (2008), which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and won the 2009 Grub Street Book Prize.
Barot resides in Tacoma, Wash., where he directs The Rainier Writing Workshop, the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at Pacific Lutheran University. He serves as the poetry editor of New England Review.
Adam Berinsky ’92, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is a specialist in the fields of political behavior and public opinion. His work focuses primarily on questions of representation and the communication of public sentiment to the political elite.
He has authored two books, In Time of War (University of Chicago Press, 2009) and Silent Voices (Princeton University Press, 2004). He has received multiple grants from the National Science Foundation and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.
He currently edits the University of Chicago Press’s Chicago Studies in American Politics book series and is the founding director of the MIT Political Experiments Research Lab. During his fellowship, Berinsky intends to study the spread of political rumors spread and how they can be effectively debunked.
Writer and director Jonas Carpignano’s most recent film, Mediterranea, had its world premier at the prestigious 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Since then, it has screened at festivals such as BFI London Film Festival, AFI Fest and Stockholm Film Festival where it won three awards including Best Debut Film and Best Actor. The film was also a New York Times critics’ pick.
Carpignano’s two short films, A Chjàna (2011) and A Ciambra (2014), have won many international awards including the Controcampo Award at the 68th Venice Film Festival and The Discovery Award at 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Currently, Carpignano is working on a feature film based on A Ciambra that has received the support of various institutions such as the Torino Film Lab and the Sundance Institute.
Since 1997 Roxanne Euben ’88 has served as the Ralph Emerson and Alice Freeman Palmer Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College. Her work has spearheaded a new area of inquiry often referred to as “comparative political theory.” This entails an “understanding of political theory…as inclusive of intellectual traditions of the “non-West” and global South, as well as of indigenous traditions in but not of ‘the West.'” In particular, she also focuses on the relationship between Islamic and European political thought.
Euben is also the author of several books including Enemy in the Mirror: Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Modern Rationalism (Princeton 1999, Oxford 2001) and Journeys to the Other Shore: Muslim and Western Travelers in Search of Knowledge, (Princeton, 2006). Her writing has also appeared in a number of scholarly and widely read publications including The Review of Politics, The Journal of Politics, International Studies Review, the Atlantic’s digital magazine and The London Times Higher Education Supplement.
While on her fellowship, Euben will work on a book that examines Arab and Islamic rhetorics of humiliation in comparative perspective.
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
NPR’s All Songs Considered featured the former Wesleyan band Overcoats in its preview of the 2016 South by Southwest Music festival in Austin Texas. Overcoats, made up of Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15, have made the leap from small on-campus concerts to performances in New York City’s Mercury Lounge and the Longitude Festival in Ireland. Currently, Overcoats resides in New York City where they are performing and recording new music in studio.
Overcoats describe their style as “combining electronic backdrops with soaring, harmonic intimacy — a sort of Chet Faker meets Simon & Garfunkel.” Their songs “draw strength from vulnerability, finding uplifting beauty in simple, honest songwriting,“ the duo write.
In their preview, NPR host Bob Boilen wrote, “The charming East Coast duo Overcoats reminds me of [the Scandinavian folk duo] My bubba — the heart of what these two do is in the playfulness of their vocal performances.”
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
Manju Hingorani, Wesleyan professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, was featured in the “Coordinates” section of ASBMB Today, the monthly publication of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Here, Hingorani briefly reflected on her marriage and career through a haiku.
Her haiku read:
Home is where the lab
is, was, will be, my partner
he’s home too – elsewhere.
She added, “I’m a professor of biochemistry, and my husband is a pharmacologist in the industry. We’ve lived under the same roof for about seven of our 19 years as a married couple. But it has been a fabulous life, doing what we love and meeting up for a few days/weeks/months at a time in different cities around the U.S. and the world. We wouldn’t change a thing.”
The link to the full article: http://www.asbmb.org/asbmbtoday/201602/Coordinates/
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
A research paper co-authored in 1995 by Johan Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science; Ellen Thomas, research professor of earth and environmental science; and Wesleyan alumnae Koren Nydick ’95 and Alyson Bidwell ’95 has returned to the spotlight.
The paper, “A Sea-level Rise Curve from Guilford, Connecticut, USA,” originally published in Marine Geology, was cited last month in another paper on sea-level rise in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.
Professor Varekamp admits that the “paper has done remarkably well, with 93 citations, not bad at all for a senior thesis-based article. The inclusion in this PNAS study is the icing on the cake.”
The paper developed from Nydick and Bidwell’s senior thesis work in salt marshes in nearby Guilford, Conn. As a testament to the quality of this work, a group of scientists from Boston University, Yale and Rutgers reproduced Nydick’s study two years ago with additional resources and found an identical sea level rise curve.
After earning her PhD and pursuing a post-doctoral career in ecology, Nydick now works as the science coordinator for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Incidentally, a Smithsonian scientist funded by NASA recently contacted Nydick to inquire about the carbon core data from her thesis study for a wetlands carbon storage project.
“I am proud to note that some of my former students who are now professors or practicing scientists in their own right, have their undergraduate thesis articles among their most cited papers,” Varekamp said.
by Andrew Logan ’18 •
Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, and James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, co-authored an article published in the planetary science journal Icarus. Their article, “A New Mechanism for Chondrule Formation: Radiative Heating by Hot Planetesimals” grew out of research seminars from the recently introduced Planetary Science graduate concentration and minor at Wesleyan.
Their work focused on chondrules, or tiny spheres of molten rock that permeate primitive meteorites and date to very close to the beginning of the solar system.
For decades, the existence of chondrules has puzzled astrophysicists and cosmochemists as no obvious heat source exists at the time and location of their formation. Herbst and Greenwood set out to find this elusive heat source by combining their expertise in astronomy and earth science, respectively.
“It could be that the heat source is hot lava — oceans of magma– that may appear on nascent planets in their earliest days. The heat source is radioactive decay of a short-lived isotope of Aluminum, incubated in planetesimals with the size of small asteroids and brought to the surface as molten rock,” Herbst said.
Most of the material available for planet formation ends up on a planet very early on. A few “lucky bits,” represented by the primitive meteorites, avoided collision with a planet until just recently.
“It is, perhaps, not surprising that many, if not all of them, had a close encounter with a hot planetesimal that produced the chondrules and, likely, the chondritic meteorite in which they are embedded,” he said.