David Pesci

Wesleyan’s 3-Year Degree Path Gains National Notice

Co-reporting with USA Today, ABC News highlights Wesleyan’s new three-year degree path as an alternative to the traditional four-year degree, and its ability offer substantial savings to students and their families over four-year costs. The three-year option at Wesleyan does not require course overloads but rather combines traditional semester offerings with summer classes.

Odede ’12, Wood ’12 Featured Graduates

In a story on outstanding Class of 2012 graduates by NBC Nightly News, Kennedy Odede ’12 and Lowell Wood were both profiled by the newscast. Odede, who scraped his way to Wesleyan from Kibera, the worst slum in Kenya, and who created a school, health center and clean water station in Kibera while studying at Wesleyan, discussed hope and opportunity.

Wood, who transferred to Wesleyan as a sophomore but remained in ROTC from his previous school, discussed building bridges and understanding regarding his choice to serve in the military. Wood’s piece is below the main graduation story in the personal profiles section. He is the third student profile in the series (first row, third profile).

Researchers: Thin Out Trees to Avoid Fire Dangers

A piece in The Economist cites an OpEd by two members of the College of the Environment’s think tank that advocates thinning forests on federal lands to increase water supply and reduce wild fire hazards. In their original Los Angeles Times piece, Helen Poulos, postdoctoral teaching fellow, Mellon Environmental Studies Program, and James Workman, visiting professor of environmental studies, argued that the practice of simply letting nature take its course in federal forests has led to disastrous trends of massive wild fires and sapping of precious water resources.

Redfield and Herbst Discuss Transit of Venus

On a feature for Fox 61, Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy, and Bill Herbst, Chair and John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy discussed the transit of Venus across the Sun, and showed viewers how Wesleyan would be marking the event with public viewings from Van Vleck Observatory.

President Roth Discusses New 3-Year B.A. Path

On Marketplace Radio, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth discussed with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal the introduction of a formalized three-year path to a Bachelor’s degree at Wesleyan. While not for everyone, Roth says students deciding to pursue the three-year option will save substantial costs while still engaging in the academic rigor required for a Wesleyan degree. Their conversation was inspired by a guest blog on President Roth wrote for The Washington Post where he introduced the three-year path at Wesleyan.

“Evaporating” Planet May Hold Clues to Gas Giants, Other Exoplanets

Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy and Adam Jensen, visiting assistant professor of astronomy, documented an exoplanet that is slowly evaporating “hot hydrogen.”

In a nearby solar system, a planet the size of Jupiter orbiting a star similar to our own sun is doing something that has astrophysicists very intrigued: It’s dissolving–albeit very, very slowly.

The findings are detailed in a study by primary investigators Adam Jensen, visiting assistant professor of astronomy, and Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy. They made the majority of their observations using the 9.2 meter telescope at The University of Texas’s McDonald Observatory. The paper, “A Detection of Ha In An Exoplanetary Exosphere,” will appear in the June 1 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Jensen and Redfield studied the planet, HD 189733b which is about the size of Jupiter, orbiting a star 63 light years from Earth.

The planet in question, a gas giant similar in size to Jupiter called HD 189733b, orbits a class K star, which is about 63 light years from Earth–a virtual next-door neighbor in astronomical terms.

What Jensen and Redfield observed was HD 189733b discharging significant amount of atomic hydrogen into space.

“This type of evaporation of atomic hydrogen, or what is called ‘hot hydrogen,’ is something that has never been observed before,” says Redfield. “When we first saw the evidence we thought, ‘Wow, can that be right?’ But more careful analysis and cross-checks confirmed it. At that point we got really excited because we knew we’d found an important phenomenon.”

The orbital path of HD 189733b is 12 times closer to its star (HD 189733) than Mercury is to our own sun (a class G star, and 32 times closer than the Earth is to the sun. While somewhat smaller than the sun, the star HD 189733 is more volatile–often discharging massive solar flares hundreds of miles into space–and dangerously close to HD 189733b.

The astronomers’ observations indicate an interaction between the stellar activity and the planet’s atmosphere. This can have implications for understanding other planetary systems, especially those which may have potentially habitable planets.

That is not the case with HD 189733b, a gas giant orbiting very close to a somewhat volatile star. But is it that very degree of proximity that is causing the planet to slowly evaporate?

“This mass loss is almost certainly due to the proximity of the planet HD 189733b relative to its central star, HD 189733, along with the star’s radiation,” says Jensen. “This isn’t to imply it’s not going to last much longer. It is a very slow evaporation, and ultimately the planet will lose only 1 percent of its mass. Still, that is significant.”

What Jensen, Redfield and other observers contributing to the paper saw to indicate this was a significant spike in spectrographic readings suggesting the planet was shedding significant amounts of hydrogen. They were also able to detect it using visible light–another first. Past detections of hydrogen dissipation, which have been rare, used ultraviolet light.

“We’ve only been able to observe exoplanets for about 20 years, and we’ve detected atmospheres in just a few dozen of those, so this is an exciting finding,” Redfield says. “We’re hoping to do more observations of this planet and others that are similar in their composition and positioning to their stars. This will help us determine how rare of a phenomenon this is.”

The astronomers hope to do further studies at the McDonald Observatory, and perhaps try to book time on the Hubble Telescope, which would afford them the clearest view of HD 189733b.

The astronomers were supported in this study by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

President Roth Addresses Graduating Seniors

Wesleyan President Michael Roth addressed the Class of 2012 during the 180th Commencement Ceremony May 27. (Photo by Nick Lacy)

President Michael S. Roth’s remarks:

Members of the board of trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees and the mighty Class of 2012, I am honored to present some brief remarks on the occasion of this commencement.

When most of you began your Wesleyan education in the fall of 2008, the world was in a precarious state. It was an odd time to be investing in the future. But that’s what education is, as Kennedy said: a hopeful investment in the future. When you began here, America was waging two distant wars, the twisted legacies of a vicious attack on our country that took place when most of you were still in middle school. Today America has ended combat operations in Iraq and announced our intention to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan in the next two years. It is Memorial Day weekend, a time to reflect on the sacrifices that so many have made on behalf of our country, as we also reflect on the civilian lives that have been lost during these conflicts. We remember, but what shall we do with these memories?

In the fall of 2008 our country was headed toward the most significant economic dislocation since the Great Depression. Gigantic financial institutions that had ingeniously found ways to make enormous amounts of money, while claiming to have mastered risk with casino-like schemes, were suddenly calling loudly for government help. The entire financial system seemed to be on the brink of collapse, and through a series of measures designed to restore some basic stability to our economic life, the Federal government averted an even greater disaster than the one which has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs, their homes and their hopes for the future. We can recall those who suffer still in this economy, even as a fortunate few reap huge rewards. We remember, but what shall we do with these memories?

Odede ’12 Featured in Hartford Courant

Kennedy Odede ’12 was featured in a May 5 Hartford Courant article discussing his mother’s impact on all he has done in the last four years. Odede came to Wesleyan from the Kibera slum of Nairobi and has since built a school, a clean water latrine, and a health center back home.

“Work hard and read books. Look around you, but don’t hate,” Jane Achieng Odede told the young son she struggled to feed in Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums next to Kenya’s capital of Nairobi. Residents there are mostly jobless or live on less than a dollar a day, the article says.

He presented the Senior Class Welcome at Wesleyan’s 2012 Commencement.

Wesleyan Clears Path for a 3-Year Degree

Writing a guest blog in The Washington Post, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth discusses how the university has cleared a path for enrolled students to earn a four year degree in just three years. Cautioning that this route to graduation is not for everyone and requires a high degree of discipline and a distinct desire to forgo a fourth year, Roth says the three-year degree program does offer significant savings to students and their families, and could increase overall access to Wesleyan for more students.

Wesleyan Offers New Opportunities in Tough Economy

In a Wall Street Journal article by Lauren Weber, Wesleyan is cited as one of the nation’s liberal arts institutions that has responded to the difficult economy by expanding opportunities for graduates. Wesleyan’s College of the Environment is named as an innovative academic center that has created new post-graduation avenues. President Michael S. Roth is also quoted in the article.

For those who do not have a subscription to the Journal a PDF of the document can be found here: WSJ.comMay222012LiberalArtsSchools