Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Matesan Speaks at Meeting with Policymakers in Switzerland

From left, Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan, Imelda Deinla, Clark Lombardi and moderator, Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs on a panel discussion with policymakers on conflict resolution.

From left, Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan, Imelda Deinla, Clark Lombardi, and moderator Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs in a panel discussion with policymakers on conflict resolution.

On Sept. 29–Oct. 1, Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan traveled to Switzerland to participate in a research workshop that brought together an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars working on conflict and violence, as well as in a meeting with policymakers.

Matesan was one of only six researchers from five different countries invited to attend the meeting with policymakers—primarily from the Human Security Division within the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs—which was organized by the Folke Bernadotte Academy (the Swedish government agency for peace, security, and development), the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, the Center for Security Studies in Zurich, and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.

Matesan participated in a panel discussion on resolving conflicts involving Islamist actors, along with Imelda Deinla, the director of the Philippines Project at Australian National University, and Clark Lombardi, the director of Islamic legal studies at the University of Washington.

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

“The panel was centered on the question of what research can tell us about the prospects of conflict resolution, and what questions it raises for policymakers and practitioners who want to engage in negotiations and mediation,” said Matesan. “In my comments I drew on my research on Egypt and Indonesia to emphasize that group ideology and tactics can change over time in response to internal dynamics and public condemnation, but I also warned against policies that use overwhelming force, and the assumption that either groups or publics are passive recipients of propaganda with little agency.”

Wesleyan Receives Major Grant to Teach Hindi and Urdu, Expand South Asian Programming

The annual Navaratri Festival is an example of Wesleyan’s long-time commitment to South Asian cultural programming.

Wesleyan has received a two-year $165,699 grant under the U.S. Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) program to support the teaching of Hindi and Urdu, the research of STEM faculty and students in India, and the increase of cultural programming related to South Asia.

“This grant will allow Wesleyan to become one of a very small number of liberal arts institutions in the country with classroom instruction in Hindi and Urdu,” said Stephen Angle, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies. “We are excited about the ability this grant will give us to support STEM faculty and students doing summer research in India as a way of growing opportunities for international experiences in the sciences. Together with our existing faculty strength in South Asian studies (currently nine faculty across the arts, humanities, and social sciences) and the president’s initiative to expand Wesleyan’s visibility in India, the new grant will help to further solidify Wesleyan as a leader in South Asian studies.”

Slotkin Authors New Book of Semifictional Stories

Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, Emeritus, is the author of a new book, Greenhorns: stories, published Oct. 10 by Leapfrog Press.

Slotkin writes more personally in Greenhorns than in his past nonfiction books, in a series of linked semifictional stories based on his ancestors’ immigration from Eastern Europe early in the 20th century.

A kosher butcher with gambling problems; a woman whose elegant persona conceals unspeakable horror; a Jewish Pygmalion who turns a wretched orphan into a “real American girl”; a boy who clings to his father’s old-world code of honor on the mean streets of Brooklyn; the “little man who wasn’t there,” whose absence reflects his family’s inability to deal with their memories—these tales of early 20th-century Jewish immigration blur memoir and fiction, recovering the violent circumstances, the emotional costs of uprooting that left people uncertain of their place in America and shaped the lives of their American descendants.

Badr ’20 Named UN Young Leader for Sustainable Development Goals

Ahmed Badr ’20 was one of 17 young people appointed by the UN to serve as Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals. They were selected from over 8,000 applicants from 184 countries, based on their “proven leadership and ability to inspire others.” Badr, holding the sign, at left, is pictured at the UN General Assembly in September.

The United Nations has named Ahmed Badr ’20 to the 17 Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), class of 2018. The UN Young Leaders, a flagship initiative of the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, recognizes young people for their exceptional leadership and contributions to a more sustainable world.

“It’s an absolute pleasure and privilege to be selected for this program,” said Badr, who is the second youngest UN Young Leader ever and the only Iraqi and American in this year’s class. “It’s an immense honor and responsibility to be a representative of these multiple identities and communities. Above all, it’s an exciting avenue to advocate for the world’s young people, regardless of their nationality or background.”

Badr is a junior at Wesleyan, studying anthropology and pursuing independent projects as an Allbritton Fellow and Patricelli Center Fellow. He was born in Iraq and in 2008 came to the United States as a refugee, after his family’s home in Baghdad was bombed by militia troops.

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. The New York Times Magazine: “Letter of Recommendation: Phyllis Rose’s ‘Parallel Lives'”

Professor of English, Emerita Phyllis Rose’s 1983 book Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages, is featured in the New York Times Magazine. The book, which the reviewer notes she has re-read every few months recently, is a “group biography of several notable Victorians and their marriages,” through which the reader can gain deeper insight into intimate relationships and societal change.

  1. Middletown Press: “Middletown Musician Noah Baerman Wins Guilford Performing Arts Fest Artists’ Award”

Noah Baerman, director of the Wesleyan Jazz Ensemble, received the inaugural Guilford Foundation/Guilford Performing Arts Festival Artists’ Award at a ceremony on Sept. 29. The award was created this year to encourage the development of new work by professional Connecticut artists and to provide a vehicle for the debut of original material at the festival.

2. Commentary: “Among the Disbelievers”

Wesleyan to Assume Leadership of Center for Creative Youth (CCY)

Wesleyan will oversee the Center for Creative Youth (CCY) for camps beginning in summer 2019. The program, which targets high school students ages 14–18, features daily art classes in a variety of majors, including music, theater, creative writing, and visual arts. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Next summer, Wesleyan will assume leadership of the Center for Creative Youth (CCY), a precollege residential program that offers four weeks of intensive study in the arts.

CCY, a program created by the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC), has been hosted on the Wesleyan campus since its inception in 1976. Wesleyan will oversee the noncredit program for camps beginning in summer 2019.

Eck ’19 Helping City of Middletown Earn Sustainability Certification

Ingrid Eck ’19, pictured here in the West College Courtyard on Sept. 12, is working to certify the City of Middletown by Sustainable CT. Sustainable CT recognizes thriving and resilient Connecticut municipalities. An independently funded, grassroots, municipal effort, Sustainable CT provides a wide-ranging menu of best practices. Municipalities choose Sustainable CT actions, implement them, and earn points toward certification. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Since arriving on campus freshman year, Ingrid Eck ’19 has fully immersed herself in all Wesleyan has to offer: working on the Wesleyan Green Fund; founding Veg Out, a student group dedicated to food justice; and joining—and currently serving as president of—Wesleyan’s only sorority, Rho Epsilon Pi. She is also working toward not one, but three majors: government, environmental studies, and French studies. More recently, she’s felt a desire to get involved in the broader Middletown community and “truly get to know the city in which I have been living.”

This summer, Eck had a unique opportunity to become intimately familiar with the City of Middletown as she prepared and submitted the city’s application to Sustainable CT for certification.

According to Jen Kleindienst, Wesleyan’s sustainability director (for whom Eck interns), the Sustainable CT certification is similar to the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) sustainability rating for colleges and universities. Wesleyan received a silver rating by STARS, a program of The Association of the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, in 2013, and was re-certified in 2016. Like STARS, Sustainable CT encourages municipalities to become more sustainable in many different realms—such as environmental, social, and economic.

New Assistant Professor May ’05 Researches Suicide Risk and Prevention

Assistant Professor of Psychology Alexis May

Alexis May ’05

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Assistant Professor of Psychology Alexis May ’05, who joined the Department of Psychology this fall. May will be among the speakers at the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns on Sept. 14–15.

Q: Welcome (back) to Wesleyan, Professor May! You earned your BA from Wesleyan in psychology and neuroscience and behavior in 2005. Please tell us about your journey since then.

A: After gaining substantial clinical research experience in the psychology department as a project coordinator for [Walter Crowell University Professor of Social Sciences, Emerita] Ruth Striegel Weismann, I was sure of my passion for clinical science but wasn’t sure how I wanted to pursue that professionally. I took the opportunity presented by this uncertainty to move cross-country to Santa Cruz, Calif., and work some “random” jobs. I landed in a position coordinating a suicide prevention crisis line. I loved the work but was frustrated by how little empirical knowledge there was about suicide prevention. This prompted my decision to return to school to pursue a degree in clinical psychology with a focus on suicide research. I completed my PhD in clinical psychology at the University of British Columbia, my clinical internship at Alpert Medical School of Brown University, and my postdoctoral fellowship at the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah. Throughout my positions I’ve maintained my focus on understanding the phenomena of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in the service of improving prevention and intervention efforts. Suicide is a devastating, complex, and unsolved problem. I feel very fortunate I get to spend my time working towards better solutions.

Q: How is it being back as a faculty member? Has Wesleyan changed much since your time as a student?

A: I was excited to see how much the psychology department has grown and diversified. I was also thrilled to learn about the addition of the Quantitative Analysis Center—it is a huge resource to both students and faculty. Overall, the students seem as skilled, passionate, and creative as ever!

Hornstein Coauthors Article on Corporate Philanthropy Strategy

Abigail Hornstein

Abigail Hornstein

Associate Professor of Economics Abigail Hornstein, together with Minyuan Zhao of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, has coauthored an article on corporate philanthropy published in Strategic Management Journal.

Corporate philanthropy has long been recognized as an important part of multinational strategy, but little is known about how it is allocated across different countries. Using data from a sample of more than 200 U.S.-based corporate foundations from 1993 to 2008, Hornstein and Zhao examined how foundation giving is associated with the funding firm’s need to navigate the local business environments.

They found that foundations give more in countries characterized by weak rule of law and high levels of corruption, as well as when funding firms have newly-established subsidiaries or a stronger need to connect with local stakeholders. Donations to countries with weak institutions are more likely to go through international intermediaries to avoid potential liabilities. The results are consistent with the view that corporate foundations support corporate diplomacy and help obtain the social license to operate in the host countries.

McAlister in The Conversation: For Some Catholics, It Is Demons That Taunt Priests with Sexual Desire

Elizabeth McAlister

Elizabeth McAlister

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, writes about a lesser-known factor contributing to the abuse of children uncovered in the Catholic Church: In some strands of Catholic thought, priests who abuse children have succumbed to temptation by demons. McAlister is also chair and professor of African American studies, director of the Center for African American Studies, professor of American studies, professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies, professor of Latin American studies.

For some Catholics, it is demons that taunt priests with sexual desire

A Pennsylvania grand jury recently released a report on the systematic ways Catholic priests aided and abetted one another to sexually abuse children for 70 years.

It reveals once again how the strict patriarchal hierarchy of the Catholic Church gives rise to conspiracies of silence and allows for routine cover-up of crimes. Cover-ups are also encouraged by clericalism – the belief that ordained priests are inherently superior and closer to God than the laity. This much has been demonstrated by countless observers.

But there is another, lesser-known factor contributing to the abuse, that I want to point out as a scholar of spiritual warfare in some forms of Christianity. This factor lies in the realm of belief: In some strands of Catholic thought, when priests abuse children, it is because they have been tempted by demons, and succumbed.

History of demon beliefs

The Catholic Church invites priests to view sexuality as a battle in the war between good and evil. Spiritual warfare is one name for this view of the world and it has a long history in Catholic teachings.

The idea of demons has been around since antiquity – in the Mediterranean world, the Middle East and elsewhere. In Christianity, preoccupation with demons reached its peak in the Middle Ages. Demons were explicitly defined by the church in 1215 under Pope Innocent III.

Theologians worked to identify classes and ranks of demons who operated under the authority of the devil himself. Demons were seen as fallen angels who disobeyed God and worked to subvert God and goodness.

Demons are malevolent beings who lord over specific domains of sin. Christians are called to battle evil, including evil that comes by way of the demonic. The more pious one is, the more intense will be the attacks from the demons.

After the Second Vatican Council of 1964, demons faded out of focus and exorcisms were rare. But my research shows that the spiritual warfare world view is on the rise in the Catholic Church. This is despite the fact that demons and exorcisms are largely viewed by most American Catholics as remnants of a medieval past.

The return of demons and exorcisms

In 1999, Pope John Paul II brought back a focus on the formal rites of exorcism – the official ritual that priests use to rid a person from demonic affliction or possession. The pope later recommended that every diocese in the Catholic world appoint and train an exorcist.

The Catholic Church in the United States took up the call and in 2012 founded the Pope Leo XII Institute in Illinois to support “the spiritual formation of priests to bring the light of Christ to dispel evil.” To this day it serves as a “school for exorcism and deliverance” of the laity from demons.

The institute offers workshops for clergy such as “Angels and Demons, Natures and Attributes.”

Under this belief system, in the battle for souls, demons can establish relationships with people who open the door to them through sin and disobedience to God. If someone masturbates, for example, which is a mortal sin, they are opening the door wider to demons of more serious sexual perversion.

Such demons include figures mentioned in the Bible such as Baal, the ancient Phoenician sun God, and his consort Ashtoreth, now viewed as a force of sexual immorality and perversion. Jezebel, the ninth-century B.C. Phoenician princess, lives into the modern era as a demonic personality who encourages illicit sexual acts, violence and rape.

Devil and role-play in one church

Writing for Commonweal, an American Catholic journal, one ex-seminarian described a formation, or training, workshop sponsored by his seminary. He described how participants were given nametags with the names of demons on them and asked to play the role of demons to tempt one another. He explained how they would choose one person and “hiss and curse” to entice him to “watch pornography” and “masturbate.”

The point, of course, was to train the participants how to choose chastity and to stand strong against sexual desire.

To be clear, this is only one documented instance. However, I would argue that it points to the Church’s current preoccupation with evil spirits and the need for priests to ritually remove that evil.

It is sobering that one seminary should choose to offer those training for a life of service and celibacy, a role-play of hissing demon impersonators, as a way to govern their conduct.

Medieval practices in today’s church?

Ascribing sexual desire to demonic temptation takes away the blame from the perpetrators. It puts the cause, the consequences, and questions of accountability into an invisible world populated by angels and demons, sin and repentance.

Suggesting that the offending priests were afflicted by demons is a version of “the devil made me do it.”

There is a second heartbreak. Many of the abused report feeling guilty, as if they had sinned themselves. I have heard from my own research participants that because sinning opens the door to more demons and more sin, then some abuse survivors think of themselves as being in relationships with personal demons and more vulnerable to demonic attack.

As investigations continue into the institutional factors allowing for this horrific abuse, it may also be pertinent to look into some of the intellectual and theological elements at the heart of the Catholic tradition.

For some branches of the Church, this includes the medieval world of demons.

Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, Wesleyan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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. The New York Times: Defending Conservatism, and Seeking Converts

President Michael Roth ’78 reviews Roger Scruton’s new book on Conservatism, which he writes provides an “enlightening” background on a variety of important conservative thinkers, but stoops to scapegoating Muslims to “rally the troops.”

2. Hartford Courant: First Group of Students Graduates from Wesleyan’s Prison Education Program

The first-ever Wesleyan Center for Prison Education Program graduation ceremonies, held in partnership with Middlesex Community College at York and Cheshire correctional institutions on July 24 and Aug. 1, respectively, was also featured in The Washington PostABC News, Fox News, among other publications.

Robinson in The Conversation: How Gambling Distorts Reality and Hooks Your Brain

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, writes that brain science explains how gambling games hook players, including casual ones. Robinson also is assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences.

Designed to deceive: How gambling distorts reality and hooks your brain

To call gambling a “game of chance” evokes fun, random luck, and a sense of collective engagement. These playful connotations may be part of why almost 80 percent of American adults gamble at some point in their lifetime. When I ask my psychology students why they think people gamble, the most frequent suggestions are for pleasure, money, or the thrill.

While these might be reasons why people gamble initially, psychologists don’t definitely know why, for some, gambling stops being an enjoyable diversion and becomes compulsive. What keeps people playing even when it stops being fun? Why stick with games people know are designed for them to lose? Are some people just more unlucky than the rest of us, or simply worse at calculating the odds?

As an addiction researcher for the past 15 years, I look to the brain to understand the hooks that make gambling so compelling. I’ve found that many are intentionally hidden in how the games are designed. And these hooks work on casual casino-goers just as well as they do on problem gamblers.