Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Barber in The Conversation: From Homelessness to Citizenship

Michael Rowe, left, and Charles Barber, right.

Michael Rowe, left, and Charles Barber, right.

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, Charles Barber, visiting writer at Wesleyan, and Michael Rowe, professor of psychiatry at Yale University, write about a citizenship intervention program they developed over the past 20 years in New Haven to help homeless individuals reintegrate into society.

Not just a place to live: From homelessness to citizenship

Twenty years ago, Jim lived under a highway bridge in New Haven, Connecticut. He was in his 50s and had once been in the Army.

After an honorable discharge, he bounced from one job to another, drank too much, became estranged from his family and finally ended up homeless. A New Haven mental health outreach team found him one morning sleeping under the bridge. His neon yellow sneakers stuck out from underneath his blankets.

The team tried for months to get Jim to accept psychiatric services. Finally, one day, he relented. The outreach workers quickly helped him get disability benefits, connected him to a psychiatrist and got him a decent apartment.

But two weeks later, safe in the apartment, Jim said he wanted to go live under the bridge again. He was more comfortable there, where he knew people and felt like he belonged, he said. In his apartment he was cut off from everything.

As researchers in mental health and criminal justice at Wesleyan and Yale universities, we have been studying homeless populations in New Haven for the past 20 years. In that moment, when Jim said he wanted to leave what we considered the safety of an apartment, the outreach team, which co-author Michael Rowe ran, realized that, while we were capable of physically ending a person’s homelessness, assisting that person in finding a true home was a more complicated challenge.

President Roth to Debate Safe Spaces, Free Speech on June 23

President Michael S. Roth

President Michael Roth

On June 23, President Michael Roth ’78 will participate in a debate titled, “Trigger Warning: Safe Spaces Are Dangerous,” presented by Intelligence Squared U.S. in partnership with the John Templeton Foundation.

The debate will take place before a live audience in Banff in Alberta, Canada, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. (9:30–11:00 p.m. EST). It will be livestreamed here, and will air soon after as part of the syndicated public radio show and podcast “Intelligence Squared U.S.”

According to the Intelligence Squared website: “Universities and students have come under attack in recent years for promoting the concept of ‘safe spaces.’ Proponents of the idea argue that safe spaces promise a reprieve from bigotry and oppression by allowing students of all backgrounds the opportunity to express themselves freely. But to their critics, safe spaces pose a dire threat to free speech. Are safe spaces coddling young minds, or are they a necessary component of modern education?”

Sultan Delivers Lectures around the World

Sonia Sultan, right, is presented with a plaque by Ellen Harrison, wife of the influential biologist Rick Harrison after whom the Harrison Keynote Lecture is named. Sultan presented the lecture at Cornell's annual Evo Day symposium in May.

Sonia Sultan, right, receives a plaque from Ellen Harrison, wife of the influential biologist Rick Harrison after whom the Harrison Keynote Lecture is named. Sultan presented the lecture at Cornell’s annual Evo Day symposium in May.

This spring, Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, has delivered several notable invited talks in different parts of the world.

In February, she presented the annual Darwin Day talk at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Sultan was the first woman scientist to present this prestigious lecture, in which a prominent evolutionary biologist shares their research and its broader implications. Sultan spoke on “Eco-Devo Insights to Evolutionary Questions,” using results from her Wesleyan lab’s plant research to address basic questions about individual development, inheritance, and adaptation. She was also interviewed about her contributions to current evolutionary biology for the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine podcast, Naturally Speaking.

In April, Sultan also gave a research seminar in Mexico City at the National University of Mexico’s Institute for Ecology, and in March, she presented her work to philosophers of biology at a European Union–sponsored conference in London.

Finally, on May 10, Sultan delivered the Harrison Keynote Lecture at Cornell’s annual “Evo Day” evolutionary biology symposium. The lecture is named in honor of Rick Harrison, an influential and much admired evolutionary biologist who served on the Cornell faculty until his death in 2016. Sultan’s next speaking event will be to give the closing lecture at a September meeting on “Advances in Evolutionary Biology” at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany.

First Cohort of Posse Veteran Scholars Graduates

The Posse Veteran Scholars Class of 2018.

The Posse Veteran Scholars Class of 2018.

As the Class of 2018 accepted their diplomas this month, among them was a special group of students: Wesleyan’s first full cohort of Posse Veteran Scholars to graduate.

In 2013, Wesleyan made a commitment to dramatically increase the number of veterans it enrolls by entering into a new partnership with The Posse Foundation, Inc. At that time, Wesleyan was only the second institution to join the Posse Veteran Scholars Program, which identifies talented veterans interested in pursuing bachelor’s degrees, and places them at top tier colleges and universities, where they receive four-year full scholarships. Each year, the veterans enter in “posses” of 10, which act as support networks to help these nontraditional students adapt to college life. As of the 2017–18 school year, Wesleyan has enrolled four full cohorts. One member of the first posse, Ky Foley, graduated a year early in 2017.

Before arriving at Wesleyan, members of the Class of 2018 Posse Veteran Scholars were members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and several served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some had previously attended other colleges and universities; two have families.

Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, professor of classical studies, is the faculty mentor for the Class of 2018 posse.

“I’ve often said that the Posse initiative is one of the best things Wesleyan has done, and I still believe that,” he said. “Being the mentor for the first cohort has been at various times rewarding, challenging, frustrating, infuriating, and joyful, but never dull.”

From left, Darryl Stevenson '18, Ryan Poulter '18, and Michael Smith '18 at the Wesleyan Posse Veteran Pre-Graduation Celebration on May 26.

From left, Darryl Stevenson ’18, Ryan Poulter ’18, and Michael Smith ’18 at the Wesleyan Posse Veteran Pre-Graduation Celebration on May 26.

Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion, Title IX officer, agreed.

“Without question, the partnership with the Posse Foundation and the influx of a critical mass of post-9/11 veterans on campus has been an overwhelming success,” he said. “The Posse Veteran Scholars are exceptional human beings who contribute across the board to the living-learning environment, and demonstrate the vast talent pool that exists within this particular nontraditional student population.”

Wesleyan University Awards 2018 Hamilton Prize for Creativity

Sydney Kim of Weston, Mass. has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan, worth as much as $200,000. Her submission, a short story titled, “The Driveway,” was selected by an all-star committee of Wesleyan alumni chaired by Hamilton writer/creator and former star Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ‘15 and director Thomas Kail ’99, from more than 550 entries. Kim attends Concord Academy, and will be a member of Wesleyan’s Class of 2022.

“This year’s submissions gave us insight into the minds of so many creative students,” said Miranda. “I admire their bravery in sharing who they are with the committee. Taking that leap isn’t easy. They are all inspiring.”

The Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity was established in honor of Miranda and Kail’s contributions to liberal education and the arts and named for the pair’s hit Broadway musical, Hamilton: An American Musical, which in 2016 won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. The first Hamilton Prize was awarded to Audrey Pratt in May 2017.

Hamilton: An American Musical has inspired and energized so many young people. Through this prize, we look forward to bringing promising new writers to Wesleyan, where they will find a community that encourages experimentation and values the sharing of creative work,” said Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth. “I can’t wait to see what these students produce with their Wesleyan educations.”

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. BBC: “How Economists Forgot Housework”

Joyce Jacobsen, the Andrews Professor of Economics, is interviewed about how unpaid labor—such as childcare and housework—can be measured, and the potential impact on GDP. Jacobsen is also provost and vice president for academic affairs.

2. The Hill: “Postal Service Banking System Possible If Past Pitfalls Avoided”

Masami Imai, professor and chair of economics, professor of East Asian studies, and Richard Grossman, professor of economics, are the authors of an op-ed in support of the proposed Postal Banking Act. The law would mandate that the U.S. Postal Service offer low-cost retail banking services, which, if properly implemented, would expand banking access to many low-income and rural families, improving their financial well-being, while also helping to shore up the USPS’s finances.

3. Connecticut Jewish Ledger: “Conversation with Vera Schwarcz”

Vera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, Emerita, discusses her new book, In the Crook of the Rock: Jewish Refuge in a World Gone Mad—The Chaya Leah Walkin Story.

4. The Washington Post: “On the Subject of Evolution, a Way to Hang on to Both Science and Religion”

President Michael S. Roth reviews The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness and Free Will, a new book by Kenneth R. Miller.

5. One Green Planet: “10 Colleges with Plenty of Vegan Options!”

Wesleyan is featured among the best colleges for vegans thanks to well-known vegan chef Stephanie Zinowski and her “to-die-for vegan apple crisp.”

Recent Alumni News

  1. Town and County: “How Lin-Manuel Miranda [’02] and His Family Made Giving Back Their Tradition” by Oprah Winfey and Quiara Alegria Hudes

In a Q&A with the Miranda family (Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, father Luis Miranda, brother-in-law Luis Crespo, wife Vanessa Nadal, mother Luz Towns-Miranda, and sister Luz Miranda-Crespo), Winfrey and In The Heights collaborator Hudes (Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater) ask the clan to explore the roots of their familial commitment to philanthropy.

2. NPR.org: “FDA to Take Action Against Companies That Sell Vape Pens to Teens”

National Public Radio Morning Edition host Rachel Martin asks U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb ’94 about the agency’s new enforcement actions against those who sell vape pens and other non-burning nicotine devices—such as JUUL—to children and teens.

3. Courant.com: “Senators Hail Ted Kennedy, Jr. [’83 P’16, ’20] After 4 Years in Chamber

Kennedy, who is not seeking re-election this fall, is lauded as a “down-to-earth, gracious, hard-working lawmaker” in the Connecticut Senate.

4. The Wellesley News: “Professor Kate Gilhuly [’86] Pursues Interest in Literature Through Research in Classics”

From a childhood where her mother read Homer and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology aloud, to becoming a classics major at Wesleyan, Gilhuly traces her path to Wellesley, where she is a professor in the Classics Department.

5. Travellers Times: “The Ciambra: A Feature Film About a Southern Italian Romani Family to Be Shown in UK Cinemas in June

The Ciambra, directed by Jonas Carpignano [’06] and executive produced by Martin Scorsese, is a gritty penetrating story of adolescence to adulthood set in Southern Italy featuring Romani actors and extras.” Carpignano was the assistant director of Benh Zeitlin’s [’04] Beasts of the Southern Wild.

 

 

Badr ’20 Guides Upward Bound Students to Write about Their Experiences

A 100-person choir performed “Identities,” which included a poem written by Wesleyan Upward Bound student Chelsea Anthony. Chelsea is pictured front and center with Ahmed Badr ’20, who led a storytelling workshop that resulted in Chelsea’s poem being published.

How did a young refugee from Iraq inspire a high school student from New Britain, Conn., to write a poem that went on to be performed by a 100-person choir made up of high schoolers from around the East Coast?

It all began at Wesleyan.

Ahmed Badr ’20 was born in Iraq and came to the United States as a refugee in 2008, after his family’s home in Baghdad was bombed by militia troops. As he struggled to adjust to life in the U.S., he started a personal blog to write about his experiences, and “found it incredibly empowering” to share his story.

“I soon began to realize the power of storytelling to inspire and bring people together,” he wrote on his website, Narratio. Determined to empower other youth, he created Narratio to publish written work by young people around the globe. It has been recognized by the United Nations, We are Family Foundation, and featured on NPR and Instagram. Today, Badr is a sophomore at Wesleyan, studying anthropology and pursuing independent projects as an Allbritton Fellow and Patricelli Center Fellow, while continuing to run Narratio, which includes leading creative storytelling workshops for youth around the country.

Students Inducted into Honor Society, Present Research at American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Meeting

Undergraduates from the Biology, Chemistry, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry majors showed off their science at the 2018 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From Left, Alex Shames '18 (MacQueen Lab), BA/MA student Arden Feil (MacQueen Lab), Will Barr '18 (Weir Lab), Christine Little '18 (Mukerji Lab), Cody Hecht '18 (Taylor Lab), and Emily Kessler '18 (Hingorani Lab).

Undergraduates from the biology, chemistry, and molecular biology and biochemistry majors showed off their science at the 2018 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From left, Alex Shames ’18 (MacQueen Lab), Arden Feil BA/MA ’18 (MacQueen Lab), Will Barr ’18 (Weir Lab), Christine Little ’18 (Mukerji Lab), Cody Hecht ’18 (Taylor Lab), and Emily Kessler ’18 (Hingorani Lab).

Seven Wesleyan students recently were inducted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Honor Society, and many of them presented research posters at the ASBMB annual meeting in San Diego, April 21–25.

The ASBMB Honor Society recognizes exceptional undergraduate juniors and seniors who are pursuing a degree in the molecular life sciences for their scholarly achievement, research accomplishments, and outreach activities. The Wesleyan students inducted were Will Barr ’18, Alexa Strauss ’19, Emily Kessler ’18, Christine Little ’18, Julie McDonald ’18, Rubye Peyser ’18, and Alexander Shames ’18.

The following students attended the annual meeting:

• Kessler, whose poster was titled, “Investigating the Mechanistic Basis of Mutant MutS DNA Repair Protein Malfunction in Lynch Syndrome”
• Barr, “An mRNA-rRNA base pairing model for efficient protein translation”
• Little, “Investigation into the Binding Interactions of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Histone H1 with Holliday Junction”
• Shames, “The Long and Short of Synaptonemal Complex Assembly: Investigating the genesis and functional relevance of a smaller Zip1 isoform”
• Cody Hecht ’18, “Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I: Examining Protein Dynamics with Pyrene Excimer Fluorescence and Tryptophan-Induced Quenching”
• Arden Feil BA/MA ’18, “Scraping the Tip of Zip1’s Role in Meiotic Chromosome Dynamics: Using lacO/LacI corecruitment to identify crossover promoting factors that interface with the N-terminus of a synaptonemal complex protein”

“It was a joy to present the research that I’ve been working on for the past two years as a part of Wesleyan’s Beckman Scholars Program,” said Barr. “Science research can seem like a roller coaster at times, and presenting my research in the company of scientists at all levels of their careers helped me remember just how thrilling this process has been.”

The mission of ASBMB is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, promotion of the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce, and publication of a number of scientific and educational journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Lipid Research.

Cassidy in The Conversation: No, the War in Afghanistan Isn’t a Hopeless Stalemate

Col. Robert Cassidy, Retired Officer Teaching Fellow at Wesleyan.

Col. Robert Cassidy, Retired Officer Teaching Fellow at Wesleyan.

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, Col. Robert Cassidy, Retired Officer Teaching Fellow at Wesleyan, writes about both the apparent stalemate in the war in Afghanistan, as well as why he harbors hope of an eventual resolution. Cassidy is a scholar of Afghanistan and strategy, as well as a soldier who served four tours in the country.

No, the war in Afghanistan isn’t a hopeless stalemate

The war in Afghanistan has become so protracted that it warrants the epithet the “Groundhog Day War.”

Fighting has gone on for nearly 17 years, with U.S. troops in Afghanistan seven years longer than the Soviets were.

The U.S. leadership claims to have a strategy for victory even as warm weather brings in yet another “fighting season” and new rounds of deadly violence in Kabul.

Sixteen years and seven months of violence, loss, sacrifice and significant investment, without victory, is alarming – but is it without hope?

As a scholar of Afghanistan and strategy and a soldier who has served four tours in the country, I’d like to explore both the apparent stalemate and the reasons for harboring hope of an eventual resolution.

The ‘Groundhog War’

In terms of fighting battles and taking ground, momentum in the war in Afghanistan has ebbed back and forth from the coalition formed by the U.S., NATO and Afghan troops to the Islamist insurgents who call themselves the Taliban, or “the students.”

Student-Athletes Honored at 6th Annual Dinner, Awards Ceremony

On May 2, the sixth annual Scholar-Athlete Dinner was held in Beckham Hall to honor top scholar-athletes in all 29 varsity sports.

Photos from the event are below: (Photos by Tom Dzimian)

Francine Rivkin '78 was honored with the Cardinal Award, the Athletic Advisory Council's recognition of extraordinary contributions and dedication to the success of the Wesleyan Athlete Program. Rivkin is pictured with Mike Whalen, the Frank V. Sica Director of Athletics and chair of Physical Education, at left.

Francine Rivkin ’78, a former five-sport athlete at Wesleyan and an ardent supporter of Wesleyan Athletics, was honored with the Athletic Advisory Council’s Cardinal Award. Mike Whalen, the Frank V. Sica Director of Athletics and chair of Physical Education, presented the award to Rivkin in recognition of her extraordinary contributions and dedication to the success of the Wesleyan Athletics program.

Eisner Participates in Prestigious Department of Defense Program

Dean of the Social Sciences Marc Eisner was selected to participate in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC), a program hosted by the U.S. Secretary of Defense. It is the oldest and most prestigious public liaison program in the Department of Defense, and has been held since the 1940s.

Marc Eisner

Marc Eisner

On April 22–25, Eisner joined other college and university deans, provosts, and presidents at military installations in Virginia, where he engaged with senior military officers and U.S. service members. He participated in a variety of tactical training exercises and, through conversations and experiences, gained a better understanding of the roles and mission of the U.S. Armed Forces as well as their skills, capabilities, and equipment.

According to Eisner, the goal of the program is to help bridge the civilian-military divide. Leaders in the fields of education, business, and religion are invited to gain a better understanding of the military in order to help them better serve veterans.

“Unlike past periods in our country’s history, we have an all-volunteer Armed Forces now. The vast majority of students at Wesleyan would likely never know anyone who has served in the Armed Forces or been deployed to one of our recent wars,” said Eisner. “There’s a lack of understanding as to the nature of the wars and the people fighting in them.”

Bringing veterans to campus—as students, such as through the Posse Veteran Scholars program, or as faculty, such as through the Retired Officer Teaching Fellowship (ROTF)—is an important way to introduce students to new and different viewpoints. According to Eisner, Wesleyan’s first retired officer teaching fellow, Col. Bob Cassidy, just signed on for a second year at Wesleyan. His course on “Policy and Strategy in War and Peace” has been extremely popular, with students being wait-listed, and he has also guest lectured in other courses and given presentations on campus.

At the same time, said Eisner, many people in the military lack understanding of college campuses. It was interesting for him to speak to service members and learn why they decided not to pursue college, or left college early to join the military. He also observed that many service members were now taking classes online or at nearby institutions.

Eisner also is the Henry Merritt Wriston Chair in Public Policy, professor of government, professor of environmental studies.

Haddad, Cho in The Conversation: The Goal in Korea Should Be Peace and Trade–Not Unification

Mary Alice Haddad

Mary Alice Haddad

Joan Cho

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, Mary Alice Haddad, professor and chair of the College of East Asian Studies; Joan Cho, assistant professor of government, assistant professor of East Asian studies; and Alexis Dudden, professor of history at the University of Connecticut provide historical context to the negotiations happening between North and South Korea, and argue that the focus now should be on peace and trade. Haddad also is professor of government, professor of environmental studies.

This article emerged as a direct result of Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Jin Hi Kim’s One Sky II project. Haddad, Cho, and Dudden spoke on a panel April 17 at a Music Department Colloquium on the current political conflict, and U.S. and North Korean policy, as well as Korean urban culture.

The goal in Korea should be peace and trade – not unification

Last week, the world witnessed a first tangible step toward a peaceful, prosperous Korean peninsula.

On April 27, 2018, Kim Jong-Un became the first North Korean leader to step foot in South Korea – where he was welcomed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

A few days later, the South Korean government reported that Kim had promised to give up his nuclear arsenal under certain conditions.

While some viewed the summit with skepticism and issued reminders about Kim’s villainous past, others began talking of a unified Korea – a reasonable reaction considering that the leaders signed a document called the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula.

The intentions of these two leaders is key. For while Donald Trump and Xi Zinping and Vladimir Putin may tweet and hold meetings, it is the nearly 80 million Koreans who will determine the future of how they will share their peninsula.