Frederic Wills '19

WESU Hosts Spring Record Fair April 10

WESUWESU, Wesleyan’s radio station, is hosting its annual Spring Record Fair in Beckham Hall on April 10. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., vendors from across the greater Connecticut area will be selling rare records and CDs. Those in attendance will have the opportunity to not only browse through hundreds of records, CDs, posters, and T-shirts, but also enjoy WESU DJs spinning vinyl live.

WESU is one of the oldest non­commercial radio stations in the United States. It offers a diverse mix of news and public affairs from NPR, Pacifica, and independent and local media sources on weekdays; weeknights and weekends are dedicated to Wesleyan students and community volunteer broadcasters, who provide a freeform mix of creative music programming featuring music not readily available elsewhere on the radio.

Tune in to 88.1 FM or online at

Sumarsam Named Fellow in the American Council of Learned Societies



Professor of Music Sumarsam was named as a fellow in the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) 2015-2016 fellowship competition. He was chosen as one of 69 fellows from a pool of nearly 1,100 applicants through a rigorous, multi-stage peer review process. As a fellow, Sumarsam will receive the opportunity to spend six to 12 months researching and writing full time on the project of his choosing, the support of the ACLS’s endowment.

The ACLS is dedicated to supporting scholars in the humanities and related social sciences at the doctoral and postdoctoral levels. Matthew Goldfeder, director of fellowship programs at ACLS, said, “The fellows’ projects exhibit great disciplinary, temporal, geographic, and methodological diversity. This year’s cohort, moreover, includes several independent scholars as well as faculty of all ranks, on and off the tenure track, from more than 50 colleges and universities, working on projects that peer reviewers deemed best poised to make original and significant contributions to knowledge.”

Sumarsam’s project, titled, “Expressing and Contesting Java-Islam Encounters: Performing Arts at the Crossroads,” examined the link between religion and culture in an Indonesian society and how the performing arts bolsters that link. He delves into “Javanese culture, the largest cultural group in a nation with the largest Muslim population, and analyzes discourses of trans-culturalism, the performing arts, and Islam.” The study “addresses the history and diversity of both traditional and popular Indonesian -Muslim expression, while unpacking Indonesia’s modern socio-cultural and religious development.”

Wright ’77 Elected to American Pediatric Society

Dr. Joseph L. Wright ’77, MD, was elected to the American Pediatric Society.

Dr. Joseph L. Wright ’77, MD, was elected to the American Pediatric Society.

Dr. Joseph Wright ’77, MD, MPH, and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health at Howard University College of Medicine, was recently elected to the American Pediatric Society (APS).

“Election to the APS is a special honor,” said Wright, noting that membership provides a platform for him to further, not only “Howard’s commitment to outstanding patient care and service to the community,” but also the missions of the numerous national advisory bodies he serves on, including the Department of Transportation’s National EMS Advisory Council, the American Hospital Association’s Maternal and Child Health Council, the March of Dimes’ Public Policy Advisory Council, and recently, as an Obama Administration appointee to the Food and Drug Administration’s Pediatric Advisory Committee.

He was a psychology major at Wesleyan.

Barth, Patalano Co-Author Paper on How Numeracy Affects Risky Decision Making

Hilary Barth and Andrea Patalano, associate professors of psychology, recently co-authored a paper in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review along with two former Psychology Department undergraduates, Laura Machlin and Jason Saltiel.

The paper is titled, “The Role of Numeracy and Approximate Number System Acuity in Predicting Value and Probability Distortion.”

When people make “risky decisions” like choosing between two gambles with different values and different probabilities of success, their choices appear to be based on distorted versions of both the values and probabilities. Although there are many theories attempting to explain the distortion, we don’t know exactly why it happens. This study investigated whether some of this distortion comes from people’s numerical abilities (specifically, verbal numeracy and a measure of numerical approximation: the ability to rapidly discriminate sets of different numbers of elements).

“We did not find evidence for links to numerical approximation, but we found that individual differences in value and probability distortions were clearly related to numeracy skills (the higher a person’s numeracy score, the less distortion),” Barth explained.

Roberts Publishes Journal Article on Gregory, Bishop of Tours

Michael Roberts, the Robert Rich Professor of Latin, professor of medieval studies, professor of classical studies, recently contributed his work, “Venantius Fortunatus and Gregory of Tours: Patronage and Poetry,” to a journal dedicated to providing an expert guide to interpreting the works and legacy of Gregory, Bishop of Tours (573-594) in religious and historical studies.

Published in A Companion to Gregory of Tours, in December 2015, Roberts’ article looked particularly at the relationship between the historian of 6th century Gaul, Gregory, Bishop of Tours, and the Italian-born poet Venantius Fortunatus. Throughout his work, Roberts argues, “that Gregory was Fortunatus’ patron and friend and that Gregory’s appreciation for poetry in general and for the poetic skills of Fortunatus in particular lay at the root of their relationship.”

The purpose of this book is to gain a deeper understanding into the life of Gregory, Bishop of Tours, who was a writer, often described as “ahead of his time.” In his work, Gregory covered history, hagiography and religious instruction and wrote about events, as well as himself as an actor and witness. Roberts uses this platform to explore just a small excerpt of the life and work of Gregory, Bishop of Tours.

Varekamp Leads Invited Talk at Geophysical Union Meeting


Johan “Joop” Varekamp

Johan “Joop” Varekamp, the Howard T. Stearns Professor in Earth Science, led an invited talk at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, Dec. 2015.

The earth and space science community participated in discussions of emerging trends and the latest research. The session, which was co-authored by former Wesleyan E&ES graduate student Lauren Camfield, focused on the 2012 eruption of the Copahue volcano in Argentina.

Due to the success of the invited talk on Volcanic Hydrothermal Systems, Varekamp will be a co-editor for a special issue of a journal based on that session. As part of his role as chair-elect of the Committee on Geology and Public Policy of the Geological Society of America (GSA), he will be interviewing five candidates in Washington D.C. for the position of congressional fellow.

Finn Suggests Recipes Invite the Cook to Experience and Perform, Rather than Simply Reading Them

John Finn

John Finn

John Finn, professor of government, is the author of an article published in Table Matters, an interdisciplinary journal of food, drink and manners.

Titled “How Does a Recipe Mean: Interpreting the Recipe as a Text,” Finn makes the argument that recipes invite the cook to experience and perform them, rather than simply read them. Using the classic work “How Does a Poem Mean,” by John Ciardi, Finn draws a connection between poems and recipes through Ciardi’s idea that a “poem cannot be defined by dictionaries or understood simply by reading or memorizing it. It can be know only though experience. The question we should ask…is not what a poem means, but how it means.”

Cooking, writes Finn, is an active task. “One has to cook a recipe to know how it means … The recipe becomes yours, and you become the recipe.”

At Wesleyan, Finn teaches courses in constitutional theory and public law, as well as in cuisine and popular culture.
Finn’s scholarship and writing in the field of food studies lay at the intersection of food, recipes and politics. His other published works in food studies include an entry on “Measurements,” in The Oxford Companion to Sweets (2015), an essay on Julia Child in Gastronomica (2007), and articles on “The Perfect Recipe,” (2011) and “The Kitchen Voice as Confessional,” (2004) in Food, Culture & Society.

Professor Finn earned his BA in political science from Nasson College, a JD from Georgetown University, and a PhD in political science from Princeton University. He also has a degree from the French Culinary Institute.

Chabad at Wesleyan Group Teaches Challah Braiding

Chabad at Wesleyan, an organization dedicated to allowing students to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of their Jewish heritage, hosted a Challah braiding event on Feb. 6 in Usdan University Center. Students from all religious and spiritual beliefs were welcome.

While there are a few explanations to the importance of braiding Challah, the three braids are thought to be in accordance with the commands that appear in the Ten Commandments: one for “Zachor,” remember; another for “Shamor,” guard; and the third, “b’Dibbur Echad,” which represents the words “guard” and “remember” together as one unit.

Rabbi Levi Schectman coordinated the event and leads Chabad at Wesleyan. Chabad opened its doors in the fall of 2011 with social, educational, recreational and religious programming for students and faculty.

Photos of the Challah braiding are below: (Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)