Cynthia Rockwell

Hendel ’85: It’s Not Always Depression Offers Guidance on Emotional Health

Psychotherapist and author Hilary Jacobs Hendel ’85 will be speaking about her new book, It’s Not Always Depression, at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 1. (Photo by Chia Messina)

Hilary Jacobs Hendel ’85, P’18, a licensed psychoanalyst and certified Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) therapist and supervisor, is the author of It’s Not Always Depression (Random House and Penguin UK, 2018). She’ll be speaking at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore, at 7 p.m. on March 1, about a psychotherapeutic tool she calls the Change Triangle, a guide to carry people from a place of disconnection back to their true self. It’s a step-by-step process to work with emotions to minimize stress and move toward authentic living. Through moving, persuasive stories of working the Change Triangle with her own patients, Hendel teaches us how to apply these principles to our everyday lives.

In this Q&A, she discusses the book:

Q: Your book is titled “It’s Not Always Depression”—then what is it?

HJH: It’s the effect that adverse life experiences have on us.

Traumas, adversity or just feeling alone or different from others—poor, gay, transgender, from another country, disabled—can overwhelm us and evoke emotions that we can’t process. For instance, if we feel anger about our difficult experiences, but that emotion is too much to bear, we block it and turn it inward, so we feel it as depression or anxiety.

Scheibe Explores “Wisdom of Hamilton,” Psychological Depth, in Talk, New Books

Professor Emeritus Karl Scheibe joins his former students Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Owen Panettieri ’01, both playwrights and alumni of his Dramaturgical Approach to Psychology, at a production of Hamilton in New York City. Scheibe will speak on “The Wisdom of Hamilton,” at the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty on Feb. 14 at 4:30 p.m.

Professor of Psychology Emeritus Karl Scheibe recently published two new books, The Storied Nature of Human Life: The Life and Works of Theodore R. Sarbin (co-written with Frank J. Barret), which, he says, “sets the tone” for the second, Deep Drama: Exploring Life as Theater, a collection of recent essays. The latter book’s final piece, “The Wisdom of Hamilton,” recalls Scheibe’s first meeting with Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, his advisee in the autumn of 1998, and then explores the psychological depth and truth within Miranda’s award-winning Broadway musical. Miranda had been a member of Scheibe’s course, A Dramaturgical Approach to Psychology, in the spring of his junior year.

Scheibe also presented a talk on “The Wisdom of Hamilton” at the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty on Feb. 14.

In a Q&A, he further discusses the two books in context to each other and his work:

Q: You’ve said that your intellectual formation as a psychologist owes so much to Sarbin and the intellectual positions that he taught you to honor and value. How would you describe this intellectual stance that you owe to Sarbin, your mentor?

Grateful Dead Lyricist, Internet Rights Advocate John Perry Barlow ’69 Dies

This photo of John Perry Barlow ’69, seated on Foss Hill, ran in the 1994 summer issue of Wesleyan, for the article titled “Cognitive Dissident,” by Lisa Greim ’81, (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Lyricist for the Grateful Dead and cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation John Perry Barlow ’69 died Feb. 7, 2018. He was 70.

A College of Letters major as an undergraduate, he collaborated with his friend from high school, Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, on lyrics for songs that included “Cassidy,” “Mexicali Blues” and “Black-Throated Wind.”

In the 1980s Barlow was active in an early online community. Then in 1990, with John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). In the summer 1994 issue of Wesleyan, an article, “Cognitive Dissident,” written by Lisa Greim ’81, profiled his journey.

“To the surprise of many who know him, John Perry Barlow ’69 has become respectable,” wrote Greim.

“In the last ten years, Barlow, 46, has evolved from a Wyoming cattle rancher into one of the nation’s most outspoken computer experts and defenders of the right to electronic freedom….

‘I don’t know anyone else who is welcome at the White House, backstage at a Grateful Dead concert, at CIA headquarters and at a convention of teenage hackers,’ says Howard Reingold, author of The Virtual Community.

In a statement released by the EFF, Executive Director Cindy Cohn said of Barlow: “He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”

To read the article from the 1994 issue of Wesleyan, click this link: JPBarlow_WesMag1994.

 

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

1. Science Magazine: “India Plans Tricky and Unprecedented Landing Near Moon’s South Pole”

James Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences, comments on India’s plans to unleash a rover into previously unexplored territory near the moon’s south pole.

2. Newsweek: “Putin Keeps His Foot Firmly Pressed on Europe’s Windpipe”

Matthew Finkel ’18 writes that Moscow will likely be able to leverage its enormous energy exports to project soft power in Eastern Europe for years to come.

3. Electric Lit: “7 Books by Women that We Should Not Forget”

Amy Bloom, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, reviews seven exceptional books by women writers.

4. New Haven Register: “New Haven Composer Tyshawn Sorey Named to USA Fellowship”

Assistant Professor of Music Tyshawn Sorey MA ’11 wins a spot in the annual fellowship class of 45 artists and collaboratives across the country, receiving a $50,000 grant.

5. The Wesleyan Argus: “A Body in Fukushima Beautifully Re-Creates a Painful History”

New work from the A Body in Fukushima project by dancer/performer Eiko Otake, Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment, and photographer William Johnston is on view now through Feb. 15 at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan.

6. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan University Earns Ford Foundation Grants, Which Will Increase Scope of Performance Center”

Wesleyan’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance has been awarded three grants from the Ford Foundation, which will allow it to advance diversity among participants and amplify its impact on the field of performance.

Recent Alumni News

1. Talking Biz News: “WSJ hires Parish as editor of Future of Everything

Mike Miller, senior editor for features and WSJ Weekend, announced that Stan Parish ’06  joined the WSJ staff as editor of the Future of Everything franchise. “His high journalistic standards, creativity, and mastery of magazine presentation have been instrumental in building FOE into a powerful new Wall Street Journal brand, now also encompassing a successful podcast and a live festival scheduled for May in New York,” Miller said in an announcement.

2. NPR.org: For One Family, Contract Work Means ‘Feast Or Famine’ As Income Varies

In this series on the rise of the contract worker, NPR business reporter Jim Zarroli turns to Diana Farrell ’87, president of JPMorgan Chase Institute, which has studied the U.S. workforce, to give context to the numbers.

3. Rolling Stone: MGMT’s Pop Adventure: How Duo Bounced Back 11 Years After Debut;

Andrew VanWyngarden ’05 and Ben Goldwasser ’05, the pair who are MGMT, talk about the making of Little Dark Age, their newest LP.

4. Broadway WorldSarah Burgess’ Kings Begins Previews at the Public Theater, 1/30

Previews began on Tuesday, Jan. 30, for the world premiere of Kings, written by Sarah Burgess and directed by Thomas Kail ’99. The play, scheduled to run through March 25, is billed as “a scathingly funny new play about the people at the heart of our democracy.” Previously, Burgess and Kail collaborated on her award-winning play, Dry Powder.

 

 

Sustainability Workshop Sparks Discussions, New Ideas

Sustainability Across the Curriculum, a Jan. 23 workshop organized by Wesleyan’s Sustainability Office and the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, provided faculty and instructors with the opportunity to discover ways to integrate sustainability into a variety of courses across academic disciplines.

The workshop featured a panel highlighting work by faculty who participated in the first year of Sustainability Across the Curriculum and had integrated sustainability into their own courses, followed by small-group sessions offering brainstorming opportunities. The focus of the SATC program is to amend an existing course to include sustainability, explained Jennifer Kleindienst, Wesleyan’s sustainability director, “The groups were divided into individuals who are early in this journey (not sure where to start) and those with an idea but looking to clarify details.” Kleindienst was there to facilitate discussions, along with Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Suzanne O’Connell, faculty coordinator for Sustainability Across the Curriculum, and assistant Ori Tannenbaum ’20.

O’Connell reports that involvement in this initiative has broadened her understanding of sustainability: “I now see it as an intricate network of ideas and actions that reaches almost every facet of life and society.”

Kleindienst heard a key phrase several times: “‘I never thought of doing it that way!’ It’s my job to get people to say that about what they do in the classroom and in daily life.”

She notes that the full program includes this workshop along with four seminars later in the semester, and then course integration over the next year. Following that, the faculty cohort reconvenes to discuss their experiences. Kleindienst invites the community to view the program website or contact her or Suzanne O’Connell with questions or for further information.

Photos of the workshop are below (photos by Cynthia Rockwell):

The event's faculty panel offered information on ways they've approached sustainability issues within their own curriculum. Panelists included Tony Hatch, associate professor of Science in Society, associate professor of African American studies, associate professor of sociology; Jan Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior; and Elise Springer, Chair and associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

The event’s faculty panel offered information on ways they’ve approached sustainability issues within their own curriculum. Panelists included past Sustainability Across the Curriculum participants Tony Hatch, associate professor of science in society, associate professor of African American studies, associate professor of sociology; Jan Naegele, the Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior; and Elise Springer, chair and associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. Hatch noted he had pursued the subject of sustainability in terms of biomonitoring—that is, what elements are now in the human body that were not found there in previous eras. Naegele spoke about adding a module to the course on brain development that considered the effect of neurotoxins on that process. And Springer noted that sustainability is not a goal that can be fully achieved, but a genre of critique that evolves as we understand the ecological complexity of our practices.

At right, Jennifer Kleindienst, Wesleyan’s sustainability director, facilitates a group discussion. (Rachael Barlow, associate director for assessment, is at left.)

Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, whose research focuses on the history of energy in modern China, participated in the brainstorming session.

Rachael Barlow, Wesleyan’s first associate director of assessment, who teaches the courses associated with the university’s new integrative learning project, also joined the seminar as a facilitator, offering examples of sustainability courses designed at other institutions that have proven successful.

Facilitator Suzanne O’Connell (right), professor of earth and environmental sciences and an early adapter to introducing sustainability concepts in her classes, shares teaching techniques that she has found effective in approaching the topic.

John Cooley, who has taught The Art of Academic Writing: The Environmental Movement in American History, raised questions on the seemingly inevitable temporal lag between when companies put a product on the market, scientists discover its harmful attributes and regulators then try to catch up, setting restrictions on the use of the product. (Paula Blue, instructional technologist at CPI, is at left.)

Constance Leidy (right), associate professor of mathematics, noted that she found it important to help students visualize extremely large numbers in order to contemplate the effects of exponential growth in population versus available resources. (From left to right, Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental science; Peggy Carey Best, director of service learning and visiting assistant professor of sociology; and William Johnston, professor of history, East Asian studies, science in society, and environmental studies.

Pearce ’08 Directs LoveYourBrain Yoga for Patients with Traumatic Brain Injuries

Kyla Pearce ’08 works with people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, teaching yoga as a technique to calm their minds and develop mind-body connections through the LoveYourBrain yoga program. “For me, yoga has been a pathway to connecting with myself in a more authentic and kinder way,” she says. “For much of my life, I was constantly pushing myself to achieve and measuring my self-worth based on these outcomes and how others perceived me. Yoga and meditation have helped me learn to recognize that my strength and value comes from within, and also how to observe instead of becoming entangled in my thoughts.”

Kyla Donnelly Pearce ’08, a government major at Wesleyan with a certificate in international relations, is now senior director of the LoveYourBrain yoga program, an outgrowth of the work her husband and the Pearce family are doing for those who suffer from traumatic brain injury. Their journey began after snowboarder Kevin Pearce, Kyla’s brother-in-law, was injured in a training accident in Utah on Dec. 31, 2009, as he prepared for the Olympic trials. The previous year he had won three medals at the 2008 Winter X Games XII in Aspen, Colo. He spent the first six months of 2010 in rehabilitation hospitals with brother Adam (Kyla’s spouse) at his side, before returning home to Vermont to continue healing.

Kyla Pearce’s interest in yoga has become an integral part of that healing.

“I vividly remember being in Dharamsala, India, with my 200-hour yoga teacher training program nearly completed—when I received an excited call from Adam. Kevin, he said, was finding a sense of peace, accomplishment and vitality in yoga and meditation that were unavailable elsewhere,” she recalls.

When she returned, she saw it for herself. “I noticed that he loved the feeling of accomplishment from engaging with what he deemed a fitting challenge (be it focusing his mind in meditation or holding a strength-building yoga posture), instead of assessing his progress based on some medical benchmark. When he practiced yoga, he no longer felt defined by his injury.

“The LoveYourBrain yoga program grew out of the need that my husband, Adam Pearce, saw for supporting his brother—and others affected by TBI—in the healing process.”

While it admittedly seems a circuitous path—from government major to therapeutic yoga instructor, Pearce notes it is actually more linked than it might appear. At Wesleyan, she was on a premed track with a clear goal:

“I wanted to be at the helm of delivering women’s health care services, specifically maternal health and family planning, in underserved communities abroad,” she says, noting her undergraduate interest in international relations. As for yoga during that period, she sporadically showed up in the basement of the Butterfield dorms, where her friend taught a yoga class. Pearce still keeps one track of her life back on her original health-care goals, completing an MPH at Dartmouth with a focus on women’s health. She is now midway through a doctorate there, investigating the quality of abortion care in the United States. On the other track, yoga has come into prominence.

Liseo, Hardigg ’90 Share WESU Connection Spanning 3 Decades

Francaccio (Franco Liseo) co-hosts a show of Italian music on WESU 88.1 FM with Lucilla Caminito, who Skypes in from Italy. (Photos of Francaccio by Cynthia Rockwell)

 

For two hours every Saturday—and any early morning or late night shift available—Middletown resident Franco Liseo fills the airwaves of WESU 88.1 FM, with Italian music. His specialty is the sounds from the ’60s and ’70s; “Love songs,” he says. “When I left Italy, I left with the music”—and he’s been doing this for 30 years.

The Saturday show is special; he broadcasts with a co-host, the daughter of a childhood friend, Lucilla Caminito, who Skypes in from Melilli. These shows feature contemporary music that Caminito chooses and sends to Liseo—whose DJ name is “Francaccio”—via the internet, YouTube or on a CD. “She’s prepared for this music; it’s more rap sounds now, the new generation,” he says.

Between songs, the two talk on air in rapid-fire Italian, smiling always and laughing frequently—never with a script—until it’s time for Francaccio to announce, “WESU Middletown,” and push the buttons for another song for their listeners throughout Connecticut and in his native Italy. Then he relaxes, continuing a conversation in Italian with Lucilla and in English with any visitor to the Broad Street location above Red and Black Café.

“Right here,” he says, opening his arms wide to encompass the whole studio. “I am home; the radio is me; I’m in paradise.”

Fels ’06 Wins Gates Grand Challenges Explorations with macro-eyes Health Care Initiative

Benjamin Fels ’06, co-founder of macro-eyes, is the recipient of a Grand Challenges award to explore a pilot project on vaccine delivery in Arusha, Tanzania, that will combine algorithms with information gleaned from on-the-ground observations.

“Pattern recognition was a constant in my explorations at Wesleyan—and what I focused on afterwards,” says Benjamin Fels ’06, explaining the unity behind a seeming diversity of interests.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Organization is interested, also, in what Fels finds intriguing. The company Fels co-founded, macro-eyes, is one of 20 that the foundation selected to be a Grand Challenges Explorations winner. The project that macro-eyes proposed seeks to use their own breed of statistical machine learning, trained on supply chain and immunization data at health facilities in Tanzania. The goal is to maximize the number of children who get vaccinated and minimize vaccine wastage.

Fels and his partners believe that by adding important data, information and observations from health-care workers at the site, they will be able to train and test algorithms, which will learn to identify predictive patterns to forecast demand and recommend the optimal delivery of vaccines to each site in the program.

At Wesleyan, Fels was an art history major who wrote an interdisciplinary University Major Honors thesis with advisor Khachig Tölölyan, professor of Letters and English. “He knew the kinds of topics he was interested in and the things he liked—but the exploration of the things he liked weren’t easily available within a departmental structure,” recalls Tölölyan. “Both of us wanted to think hard in the ways we wanted to think and not worry too much about whether a single discipline could comfortably accommodate that.”

Post-graduation, Fels spent a number of years trading derivatives, which he describes as, “I sat in front of 12 computers, dense with data, looking at patterns; working with technology and people from other cultures to develop algorithms to predict what came next. I really liked the rigor and clarity of it.” After a while, though, he sought to take his interest in pattern recognition in another direction, launching his company, macro-eyes, with a chief scientist who is also a principal research scientist at MIT, and a chief design officer.

“Machine learning—data analytics, or working with large amounts of data to discern those predictive patterns—is important in other domains outside of financial markets, so I went and founded a company,” he explains. Fels and his team are convinced that macro-eyes can solve the problem of ineffective health-care supply chains by harnessing effective machine learning paired with on-the-ground human information.

Fels initially became interested in this specific application of this theory through talking with Anna Talman Rapp ’05, a program officer at the Gates Foundation, which invests heavily in the development of vaccines, a crucial component of the global health climate. At the time, macro-eyes was working with a large U.S. health-care system, exploring questions around determining the value of different devices: which produced the best outcome for the lowest price for which type of patients.

The problem of predicting need captured his imagination: “On one hand, we could celebrate the effectiveness of vaccine delivery,” he says, “because on a global scale, more and more people are vaccinated against deadly diseases—global coverage is something like 86 percent. However, as more and more people are vaccinated, there’s a greater rate of coverage that will run in parallel to a greater wastage of vaccine. The approach so far has been to accept that as the cost of doing business.”

But the cost of vaccines has skyrocketed. Additionally, the vaccines themselves are fragile, with a limited shelf life and narrow range of temperatures in which they remain viable. Over-delivery practically guarantees some will spoil before they can be used—a waste of resources. In Fels’s mind, what is worse is undersupply.

“Let’s think about this one clinic in Arusha, Tanzania, that we’re going to work with: Let’s say, I decide to take my child to this clinic to be immunized. And I spend a good portion of my day traveling from where I live to get to this site. And when I get there, I’m told, ‘Sorry, we’ve run out of those vaccines.’ Rationally enough, I’m probably not going to come back. And even more dangerously, I’m probably going to tell my community, ‘Don’t bother to take your kids to get immunized, because they’re going to tell you that there aren’t any vaccines.’”

What he proposes is to use technology to much more accurately predict demand. Growing out of data from immunization events, he believes that patterns will emerge that can be translated to quantity and type of vaccine to be delivered. “The better you get, the less waste, more opportunity you have to provide the health care to the people who need it.”

Additionally, a key element Fels sees is: “We want to engage these caregivers at the frontline, get their information—and I use that word very carefully because information is many steps up from data; it’s filtered through somebody’s brain and understanding—about the context for care. We believe that these are people who are the world’s foremost experts on the delivery of care at that clinic in Arusha; nobody else knows more than they do; they have this deeper insight into what is happening around them.”

From there he notes a connection to health care in this country:  “You’ve probably read about how many doctors spend probably about half their day entering data. And you see this when you go to a doctor, typing away. That frustrates them, because they feel like, ‘That’s not what I trained to do.’ The data collection doesn’t seem important—and the reason is, it’s not flowing out and bouncing back with insights that would make their data collection worthwhile, an ‘Okay, this is why I’m making this investment.’ If we collect data, the initiative must be worthwhile for everybody.”

“I think of this health care project in terms of problems worth solving—and finding those has always interested me. I like the interdisciplinary aspect. And I would bet that everyone who goes through Wesleyan thinks in similar terms. That’s the point, right? To solve a problem that is worthwhile.”

 

Mastrogiovanni ’79, Lala Pettibone and the Writing While Female Tour

Heidi Mastrogiovanni ’79 speaks on the Writing While Female 2017 Tour with her friend and fellow author, Teri Emory, whose book is also published by Amberjack. Mastrogiovanni notes that they frequently receive similar questions—on juggling career and home life—but observes that she does not believe John Irving, for instance, is regularly queried on this by his readership.

“The title character is, of course, a Wesleyan graduate,” says author Heidi Mastrogiovanni ’79, of her debut comic novel, Lala Pettibone’s Act Two (Amberjack Publishing, 2017). The novelist herself is also a comic actor, an animal welfare advocate and a screenwriter—and her second novel, sequel Lala Pettibone: Standing Room Only, will be available in August. To celebrate, she and a fellow Amberjack author—with similarly titled books, both with a reference to a second act—visited bookstores and venues across the country to talk about the writer’s life and the ways in which a book written by a female is perceived, welcomed and marketed.

In a question-and-answer interview, Mastrogiovanni speaks about her journey from Wesleyan to cross-country author’s events.

Q: You were a German and theater major at Wesleyan. How did this translate into a career in writing?

H.M.: Looking back, the connection is clear. It was at Wesleyan where I really grew to love spending time in the company of words. We read so much wonderful German literature, it was almost impossible to not be inspired. And being an actor in the Theater Department provided a solid foundation for developing an ear for dialogue—absolutely essential to a writer in any medium. Both majors shared an appreciation for the profound power of words.

After college, I moved to New York (back when you could still get a one-bedroom for less than $500 a month: AKA, the Stone Age) and formed a sketch comedy group with people I met at Manhattan Punch Line Theater. That’s when the urge to write really hit. We needed new material all the time, so I started writing sketches with another performer in the group. I discovered that saying a line and getting a laugh was addictive, and especially compelling when I’d also written the line.

Q: Where did the character of Lala Pettibone come from—how did she arrive in your head?

H.M.: Lala had such an unexpected arrival. My ideas for stories often come from an observed moment, a snippet of thought, a piece of overheard dialogue. Lala had two distinct phases in her journey to the forefront of my mind. It began with the first dog my husband and I adopted together, a wonderful, 12-year-old Beagle we named Eunice Petunia, because it just fit. Eunice had a lot of nicknames, among them “Baba Ganoush” and “Lala.” I have always believed—to borrow from T.S. Eliot’s words regarding the naming of cats—that a dog should have at least three different names.

Months after Eunice joined our family, the phrase “Lala Pettibone, Journalist to the Stars,” popped into my head out of nowhere. That was the first time Lala’s full name appeared to me—although she didn’t end up being a journalist to the stars.

Lala Pettibone is a lot like me in many respects. We’re both Wesleyan graduates, we were both widowed at a young age and found love again in our Act Two, and we both overuse ellipses in our writing. . . .

Library Access Services Assistant Jasmine Cardi: International Books and Local Clients

Jasmine Cardi, the weekend and evening supervisor for Interlibrary Loans—both for Olin library’s scholars in need of incoming books and outgoing volumes for academic institutions elsewhere—appreciates the institutional standard of service that she and her colleagues are able to provide.  (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

In this Q&A, we speak to Jasmine Cardi, who joined the Access Services staff at Wesleyan’s Olin Library on Jan. 7, 2013 (“Five years already!” she says). Now the weekend and evening supervisor, she provides support to the departments of Interlibrary Loan (ILL), Olin Reference, Reserves/E-Reserves, and Olin Circulation. With her arrival, the ILL office was able to lengthen their hours until 10 p.m. some evenings, offering availability for those geared to later study nights in the library.

Q: What do you like best about working for Interlibrary Loan?

A: I love seeing all the books we get from around the world—Italy and Russia, everywhere, depending on what people are studying. When we get one of these volumes from far away, we all think it’s really cool and just have to hold it and open it—before we quickly put it on the shelf for the borrower.

Q: How many people does ILL assist each year?

A: ILL serves hundreds of people, between borrowing from other libraries and lending to them. Last year there were almost 14,000 requests, combined.

Q: Tell us about Olin Library—as building, an institution, a workspace?

A: Olin is a unique building. My favorite place is on the second-floor balcony, overlooking the front foyer. I love the chandelier; I love on Saturday and Sunday morning when I come in to open the library, the way the sun shines through the windows and onto that chandelier. I actually took a picture one morning of that and made it into the screensaver on my phone.

When we think of a library, we think of books—but I love that libraries are evolving into places where the core value is patron service—whether it’s students, faculty, staff, co-workers, or the community.

Q: What’s your own educational background? Where did you begin your career?

A: I went to the University of St. Joseph back when it was an all-girls school known as St. Joseph College. My major was psychology and education with a minor in art history. Before coming to Wesleyan, I worked at Hartford Public Library for more than 10 years. Fun fact: My first job was at a library at age 16.

Q: Outside of work, what are your interests and hobbies?

A: I love to read and I run—I’ve done four half-marathons, and a lot of 10Ks and 5Ks, more than I can count. I also did my first Spartan race in November. They’re a mix of running and obstacle courses, and the tradition goes back to ancient Greece. I like that we’re bringing that into the contemporary culture; I’m training to do more this year. I also like to go boating on the Connecticut River. We have a small 14-foot boat; my husband’s family has been boating every weekend their whole life, and now it’s our tradition. We’ve been together 17 years and we make it a point to get out on the water at least once on Saturday or Sunday.

Q: Are there any challenging/surprising moments—an outstanding moment that illustrates your work day you’d like to share?

A: Much of my day is spent helping someone find something in the stacks, or finding it elsewhere via interlibrary loan. Many times it’s an urgent request, with a deadline in the next 48 hours. It’s like saving the day when you can find what is needed within that timeframe.

And another story: One night as I was getting ready to leave, a family came in with an urgent request. Their two middle-school children had reports due the next day, but the family had been out of power for a few days after a storm, and they needed to print their papers. The kids were so grateful that the library was open and we could help them be ready for school the next day. Their appreciation was heartwarming.

Former Curator Feller Expert on Jewish Philosophy, Museum Studies

Yaniv Feller joined the faculty in 2017. He’s teaching religion courses this spring.

Yaniv Feller is the Jeremy Zwelling Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and assistant professor of religion. Feller specializes in Jewish philosophy, Jewish-Christian relations, post-Holocaust theology, material culture and museum studies. His current book project is titled “Leo Baeck and the Tradition of Dialogical Apologetics.” Prior to Wesleyan, Feller worked as an exhibition curator for the new permanent exhibition project at the Jewish Museum Berlin.

In this Q&A, Feller speaks about his time working at a renowned Jewish museum, the importance of incorporating the lives and histories of objects into his courses and woodworking. 

Q: You just joined the faculty at Wesleyan this year. What are you enjoying and how would you characterize your new academic home?

A: It is hard to believe that a semester has already passed—time flies by when you are having fun! Reflecting on the last couple of months, I realize that Wesleyan is indeed everything I hoped it to be: it is a passionate community of learners, and this is true of faculty and students alike. I obviously heard about how smart and engaged people at Wesleyan are, and it was a pleasure to discover that sometimes, positive reputation is more than justified.

Q: What courses are you teaching this spring?

A: I am teaching RELI 203, Jews and Judaism, and RELI 213, Refugees and Exiles: Religion in the Diaspora.

Q: Do you have a favorite course? (Or is that like asking a parent about a favorite child?) Is there one that seems particularly well received or apropos?

A: It IS a bit like asking for a favorite child. I like them all! I like to teach classes that examine Jewish history and philosophy as a springboard for larger theoretical questions, or ones that ask the theoretical questions through a series of case studies. Perhaps most relevant this semester is “Refugees and Exiles” in which we will examine contemporary discussions on refugees in light of philosophical, literary and historical perspectives. What do narratives about the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, for example, have to teach us about today? More than you might suspect.

Contemporary Physics Class Takes Virtual Tour of World’s Largest Particle Accelerator

Foss Professor of Physics Tom Morgan (right) and his contemporary physics class enjoy a morning “virtual visit” to the CERN laboratory in Geneva, via Skype, with images of the Hadron Collider projected on a screen in Exley along with real-time conversations with physicists working there.

On Dec. 11, Foss Professor of Physics Tom Morgan invited his class, Introduction to Contemporary Physics, to join him in Exley Science Center for a virtual visit to the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, located in Geneva. With Senior Instructional Media Specialist Heric Flores-Rueda projecting images on a classroom screen through video conferencing, Morgan’s students enjoyed a real-time view of the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) laboratory and an on-screen peek inside the collider. Physicist Steven Goldfarb—a member of the team that discovered the Higgs Boson Particle—led the tour, explaining the experiments underway, as well as offering a question/answer period.

This course, a sophomore-level gateway to the physics major, is new to the department in this format, said Morgan, and slated to become part of the curriculum, due to its popularity. This semester five seniors, six juniors, six sophomores, and what Morgan calls “one lucky first-year student”—admitted after an interview—make up the class.