Lauren Rubenstein

Director of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Students Volunteer with Civic Organizations Over Winter Break

Perri Easley '23 spoke at her former high school, Morristown-Beard School in Morristown, N.J., to educate students about important issues around the 2020 elections, including the U.S. Census, the Electoral College, and voter suppression. Easley worked with Rock the Vote, a non-partisan group dedicated to building the political power of young people. (Photo by Steve Patchett).

Perri Easley ’23 spoke at her former high school, Morristown-Beard School in Morristown, N.J., to educate students about important issues around the 2020 elections, including the US Census, the Electoral College, gerrymandering, and voter suppression. (Photo by Steve Patchett)

The first cohort of students participating in the Wesleyan Engage 2020 (E2020) initiative dedicated their winter breaks to working for voter registration and issues advocacy groups, as well as for a range of candidates for presidential, congressional, and local offices.

The 18 students participating over winter break were stationed in states as far-flung as Georgia and Alaska, New York and Arizona. Wesleyan awarded over $20,000 to assist with participants’ living and travel expenses while they conducted this work.

Many students chose to work with organizations advocating for particular issues, including criminal justice reform, housing justice, reproductive rights, and immigration.

Others focused their efforts on voter engagement and registration. Perri Easley ’23 spoke at her former high school, Morristown-Beard School in Morristown, N.J., and at the Morris County Chapter of Jack and Jill of America to educate young people about important issues around the 2020 elections, including the US Census, the Electoral College, gerrymandering, and voter suppression. Voter registration drives were held at both events for high school students who are of eligible age to register to vote.

Wesleyan in the News

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

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Washington Post: “How One College Is Helping Students Get Engaged in Elections—and, No, It’s Not Political”

President Michael Roth writes about Wesleyan’s initiative to engage students meaningfully in work in the public sphere ahead of the 2020 elections, and calls on other colleges and universities to do the same. He writes: “Now is the time for higher education leaders to commit their institutions to find their own paths for promoting student involvement in the 2020 elections. This kind of direct participation in civic life provides an educational benefit that will help students develop skills for lifelong active citizenship; participants will gain organizational skills, learn to engage productively with others with whom they disagree and learn about themselves.”

2. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: “Nicole Stanton Will Be the Next Provost at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut”

Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will begin her new role as Wesleyan’s 12th provost and vice president for academic affairs on May 15. She joined Wesleyan in 2007 as associate professor of dance, and currently serves as dean of the Arts and Humanities.

Pinch Consults on Recent Hindi Feature Film

William "Vijay" Pinch (Photo credit: Thomas A. Pinch)

William “Vijay” Pinch (Photo by Thomas A. Pinch)

Professor of History William “Vijay” Pinch, a scholar of South Asian History, recently consulted on Laal Kaptaan, a Hindi feature film directed by Navdeep Singh. The film was released in India in October 2019 and can be viewed on Amazon Prime in the US.

Director Singh referred to one of Pinch’s books, Warrior Ascetics and Indian Empires (Cambridge University Press, 2006), in imagining the period and the drama’s lead character, a warrior ascetic in the late 18th century.  Pinch was then contacted to read and comment on the script, and to answer questions during the filming.

In November 2020, Pinch and Singh will jointly present at a film/history symposium held in conjunction with a film festival in Windsor, Canada. Read more about Pinch’s presentation here.

Read more about the film in the Firstpost article “Laal Kaptaan’s textured portrayal of warrior ascetics brings a new, much-needed focus to an obscure history,” and see an interview with the director on Scroll.in.

Wesleyan Invests in the Future of Campus

PAC

In early 2020, the University is planning for a $75 million bond issue which will support construction on the Public Affairs Center.

Wesleyan’s physical campus plays an important role in the distinctive residential liberal arts education it offers students. Facilities planning has been a focus on campus recently, with major upgrades in the works for the academic buildings housing Wesleyan’s art, social science, and science programs.

“Our work on campus involves modernizing, upgrading, and, in some cases, expanding our core academic centers. These facilities will be transformed into spaces where courageous faculty and students can activate their ideas to make a difference in the world,” said President Michael Roth ’78. “We are taking steps now to ensure Wesleyan is a high-impact university for decades to come.”

Students to Work in Public Sphere Over Winter Break

engageNearly 20 Wesleyan students are dedicating their winter breaks to civic participation.

Eighteen Wesleyan students will spend a portion of December and January engaging in projects related to voter registration and issues advocacy in Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, and Arizona, amongst others states through the Wesleyan Engage 2020 Initiative. E2020 is a comprehensive University effort to support student learning via civic engagement and liberal arts education.

“This will be an intense learning experience for students,” said Clifton Watson, director for the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships. “Students will engage folks from diverse backgrounds—across the country—during a unique moment in American society, around issues that many Americans are deeply passionate about.”

Participants in the initiative will enroll in CSPL494, a quarter-credit course that includes orientation, structured reflection, and a final paper. Students may apply to the E2020 Fund for funding to offset transportation and living expenses while participating in engagement work. All applications are assessed on the degree to which they address the educational value inherent in civic engagement, as well as the reasonableness of proposed budgets. E2020 is open to and encourages participation regardless of political affiliation or stances on specific issues.

A full menu of programs aligned with E2020 will be announced in the coming weeks. In addition, students may apply for financial support for work over spring break (deadline: Feb. 7, 2020) and over summer and fall breaks (deadlines to be announced at a future date).

Wesleyan has a long history of providing opportunities for student engagement in the public sphere. The Civic Action Plan sets goals for building civic preparedness among students, faculty, and staff, and for enhancing the University’s role in public life.

Wesleyan in the News

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

Wesleyan in the News

  1. NPR: “Book Review: ‘The Movie Musical!’ Is a Symphony in Praise of the ‘Razzmatazz’ of the Genre”

“Encyclopedic in scope, but thankfully not in structure, The Movie Musicals! is a downright delightful read,” this NPR review of Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, Jeanine Basinger’s new book proclaims. The Movie Musicals! truly “dazzles” for its insight into the roles these films have played over the 20th century and into the 21st, the review states, noting, “And throughout the hefty volume, Basinger addresses—both directly and indirectly—the essential question at the heart of musicals: What compels us to suspend disbelief and accept, if not wholly enjoy, the fantastical idea of people spontaneously breaking into song? What does this sorcery say about the immersiveness of film, and the power of song, and the mechanism of the human imagination?”

2. BBC: “Galileo’s Lost Letter”

Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein is interviewed on “Discovery” from the BBC about the historical conflict between religion and science. “The notion that religion is somehow a backward, authoritarian, anti-rational opponent to science really comes at the end of the 19th century,” she says. There is a misperception that science and religious belief have to always be in conflict, but in actuality, Rubenstein says, it is “a battle between Protestants and Catholics that gets grafted onto and renewed as some sort of dispute between the secular and the religious.” Rubenstein comes in around 15:44 minutes.

3. PBS Newshour: “Why Haitians Say They Won’t Stop Protesting”

Center for Prison Education Honored by Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities

From left, Cheryl Sharp '90, deputy director of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO); Jason Torello, Center for Prison Education alumnus; Allie Cislo, CPE program manager; Daniel McGloin, CPE academic development and planning manager; and Tanya Hughes, CHRO executive director at the 2019 Leaders and Legends award ceremony on Nov. 21.

From left, Cheryl Sharp ’90, deputy director of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO); Jason Torello, Center for Prison Education alumnus; Allie Cislo, CPE program manager; Daniel McGloin, CPE academic development and planning manager; and Tanya Hughes, CHRO executive director, gathered at the 2019 Leaders and Legends award ceremony on Nov. 21.

On Nov. 21, Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education (CPE) was honored by the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) at its annual Leaders and Legends award ceremony in Hartford, Conn. The ceremony celebrates the state’s civil rights leaders in many different areas, including education, business or law, community activism, civic leadership, and social justice.

CPE received the Edythe J. Gaines Award for Inclusive Education, named in honor of the first African American and first woman to head the Hartford school system. The award recognizes educators who dedicate their careers to promoting equality, inclusion, and fairness in education.

Since 2009, CPE has offered accredited Wesleyan courses to students at Cheshire Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison for men. Wesleyan faculty teach courses ranging from English to biology to philosophy, and which have the same rigor and expectations as courses on Wesleyan’s Middletown campus. About 50 Wesleyan students volunteer in the program each semester, working in study halls at the prison or on campus, filling research requests and serving as project assistants.

The program was expanded to serve incarcerated students at York Correctional Institution in spring 2013. CPE held its first graduation ceremony for incarcerated students in August 2018.

Learn more about the Center for Prison Education here.

Smolkin Receives Honorable Mention for Prestigious Book Prize

Victoria Smolkin

Victoria Smolkin

Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin’s book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism (Princeton University Press), was awarded an honorable mention for the 2019 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize.

Established in 1983, the Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize is sponsored by the Association for Slavic Studies, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) and the Stanford University Center for Russian and East European Studies. It is awarded annually for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences published in English in the United States in the previous calendar year. The prize carries a cash award and is presented at the association’s annual convention.

Smolkin is a scholar of Communism, the Cold War, and atheism and religion in Russia and the former Soviet Union. A Sacred Space Is Never Empty explores the meaning of atheism for religious life, Communist ideology, and Soviet politics. Read more about the book and see photos from her book talk here.

Venture by Price ’20 Wins 2019 Changemaker Challenge

Anthony Price

Anthony Price

Be the Change Venture (BCV), a nonprofit organization founded and led by Anthony Price ’20, has been chosen as a 2019 Changemaker Challenge Winner by T-Mobile and Ashoka.

BCV was one of 30 winners selected from 300 applicants for the Ashoka-T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge, a yearly prize that supports young changemakers across the United States and Puerto Rico.

BCV aims to train and empower young people to be workforce-ready. It works with youth aged 14 to 18 to help them develop soft and practical skills, find and obtain internship and job opportunities, and foster professional relationships with various career experts. The organization operates in the Lincoln, Neb., and Cleveland, Ohio, areas.

As challenge winners, Price and one team member have been invited to attend the T-Mobile Changemaker Lab, held in Seattle on February 19­–21, with all expenses paid.

Tucker in The Conversation: From Their Balloons, the First Aeronauts Transformed Our View of the World

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” On the release date of the new film The Aeronauts, Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker writes about how the first hot-air balloon trips in the 19th century transformed our views of the world and opened up a new “laboratory for discovery” for scientists interested in studying the atmosphere and meteorology.

From their balloons, the first aeronauts transformed our view of the world

A lithograph from Gaston Tissandier’s balloon travels depicts falling stars. Archive.org

A lithograph from Gaston Tissandier’s balloon travels depicts falling stars. Archive.org

Near the beginning of the new film “The Aeronauts,” a giant gas-filled balloon called the “Mammoth” departs from London’s Vauxhall Gardens and ascends into the clouds, revealing a bird’s eye view of London.

To some moviegoers, these breathtaking views might seem like nothing special: Modern air travel has made many of us take for granted what we can see from the sky. But during the 19th century, the vast “ocean of air” above our heads was a mystery.

These first balloon trips changed all that.

Wesleyan in the News

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

Wesleyan in the News

  1. CNN: “What the ‘Woke Student’ and the ‘Welfare Queen’ Have in Common”

“Every age seems to need a bogeyman, some negative image against which good people measure themselves,” writes President Michael Roth ’78 in this op-ed. Roth compares today’s bogeyman, the “woke” college student, with those of past eras—the “welfare queen” and “dirty hippie”—and seeks to build understanding and dispel negative misperceptions of activist college students. “The images of the welfare queen and of the woke student are convenient because they provide excuses to not engage with difference, placing certain types of people beyond the pale,” he writes. “These scapegoats are meant to inspire solidarity in a group by providing an object for its hostility (or derision), and educators and civic leaders should not play along.”

2. Los Angeles Times: “Opinion: Our Food Is Tainted with E. Coli, Yet the FDA Is Rolling Back Safety Rules”

As yet another food-borne E. coli outbreak sickens Americans, Fred Cohan, the Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment and professor of biology, and Isaac Klimasmith ’20, argue in this op-ed that more can and should be done to prevent dangerous contaminations of our food supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rolled back rules that “would have required monitoring and treating irrigation water for E. coli,” a major cause of these outbreaks. “We should not be surprised that a regulation-averse administration would disregard the science of food safety, but it is concerning that consumers have become complacent about yearly outbreaks of E. coli contamination and largely silent about the rollback of food safety regulations,” they write.

3. The Washington Post: “What Happens When College Students Discuss Lab Work in Spanish, Philosophy in Chinese or Opera in Italian?”

Stephen Angle, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, professor of philosophy, and the Mansfield Professor of East Asian Studies, is interviewed about Wesleyan’s efforts to promote language study, including the new Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) initiative, through which students can study a range of disciplines in other languages. For example, Angle teaches a Mandarin-language section of Classical Chinese Philosophy, a course historically taught in English. Read more about CLAC and Wesleyan’s language instruction here.

Language Study at Wesleyan Holds Strong, Bucking Trend of National Declines

Bologna study abroad class

Students use and develop their Italian language skills through Wesleyan’s study abroad program in Bologna, Italy, designed to complement the rigorous language curriculum offered on campus.

Foreign language enrollments at colleges and universities across the country have sharply declined in recent years, according to the Modern Language Association, yet language study at Wesleyan is holding quite strong.

Despite the fact that Wesleyan, unlike the vast majority of our peers, has no language requirement, 60 to 70% of Wes students choose to study a language other than English. The average student takes around three semesters of language classes, while approximately 30% go on to study at advanced levels and 13% study more than one language.

Wesleyan has stepped up to meet students’ interest in language study. With the addition of courses in Hindi-Urdu in Fall 2019, Wesleyan now offers full classroom instruction in 15 different languages—the most of any liberal arts college in the country, tied only with Wellesley College.