Olivia Drake

Glick Wins Book Prize from National Women’s Studies Association

Megan Glick

Megan Glick

Megan Glick, associate professor of American studies, is the recipient of the Alison Piepmeier Book Prize for her book, Infrahumanisms: Science, Culture, and the Making of Modern Non/personhood (Duke University Press, 2018).

Awarded by the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA), the Piepmeier Book Prize honors the author of a groundbreaking monograph in women, gender, and sexuality studies that makes significant contributions to feminist disability studies scholarship.

The award comes with a $1,000 prize and honors Alison Piepmeier, an active member and leader of NWSA whose scholarship examined the intersection of feminist and disability studies, with a particular emphasis on reproductive decisions and disabilities and parenting and disabilities.

At Wesleyan, Glick’s research and teaching focus on representations of difference along lines of race, gender, disability, and speciation, from both cultural and scientific perspectives. This fall, she is teaching Introduction to American Studies and a Junior Colloquium.

Wesleyan Places 1st in National Cybersecurity Competition

CSAW

Cher Qin ’21, Shuyuan Hung ’21, John Jiang ’21, and Kevin Koech ’21 took first place in a recent cybersecurity policy competition.

A team from Wesleyan took first place in the 2019 CSAW Policy Competition, the most comprehensive security competition in the world.

Hosted by the New York University Tandon School of Engineering and NYU School of Law Center for Cybersecurity on Nov. 6–8, the U.S.-Canada policy competition challenged contestants to think about the big picture of cybersecurity policy, economics, law, and governance. The purpose of the competition is to encourage students who are interested in the nexus of policy and emerging technology issues to think critically about major policy issues affecting society and to impact the cyber industry by presenting their ideas to leaders within the field.

Wesleyan’s team included College of Social Studies (CSS) and quantitative analysis center (QAC) major Cher Qin ’21; CSS and economics major Shuyuan Hung ’21; CSS and physics major John Jiang ’21; and computer science and economics major Kevin Koech ’21.

The team took home a $1,000 prize for the first-place win. Teams from the United States Naval Academy took the second and third prizes.

“We did not expect that [we], coming out of a liberal arts university, would win, but having diverse backgrounds helped,” Hung said.

Read more about the competition in this QAC student blog.

Alumni Speak with Students about Careers in Public Policy, Criminal Justice Reform

: James, Sarah, Nina, Aaron, Lexi

James Jeter ’16, Sarah Cassel ’13, Nina Stender ’16, Aaron Stagoff-Belfort ’18, and Lexi Jones ’17 spoke with students about careers in public policy and criminal justice reform. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

More than 50 students attended an alumni conversation on “Careers in Public Policy and Criminal Justice Reform” Nov. 13 at the Gordon Career Center.

Each of the panelists: Sarah Cassel ’13, James Jeter (who earned his degree in 2016 while incarcerated through Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education), Lexi Jones ’17, Aaron Stagoff-Belfort ’18, and Nina Stender ’16 are working in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York, analyzing and impacting policies dealing with inhumane jail conditions, policing, housing inequality, and issues around incarceration.

Stagoff-Belfort and Jim Kubat, associate director for job and internship development at the Gordon Career Center teamed up to assemble this dynamic panel as part of the career center’s ongoing mission to support students as they transition into the world of work.

“Three things are true,” Kubat explained. “1. There is a broad effort underway by a variety of governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations to reform our criminal justice system through shaping and changing public policy; 2. A Wesleyan education is excellent preparation for public policy work; and 3. Wesleyan alumni are demonstrating points 1 and 2 every day.”

For some students, starting a career in policy work can be daunting. The panelists provided their own perspectives.

Stagoff-Belfort explained, “At Wesleyan, I was surrounded by people passionate about politics, social change, and learning. It completely blindsided me and made me want to educate myself about the things I cared about as much as possible. Wesleyan taught me how to be more skeptical and to ask better questions, think critically and strategically, and write efficiently and effectively, all valuable skills in making and thinking about policy.”

Professor Kirn Remembered for Neurobiology Research, Gentle Demeanor

John Robert Kirn, professor of biology, died on Nov. 10 at the age of 67.

John Kirn

John Kirn

Kirn was born in Columbus, Ohio, and received his BA from the University of Denver, his MA from Bucknell University, and his PhD from Cornell University. Arriving at Wesleyan in 1994, he went on to teach courses on animal behavior, hormonal systems, and the neurobiology of learning and memory for the next 25 years. Kirn was a vital member of the biology department and a pillar of the neuroscience and behavior program (NS&B). He served as the director of graduate studies from 2005–2010, as the chair of the biology department from 2015–2017, and as the chair of the NS&B program for 12 consecutive years from 2001–2013, during a period of tremendous growth in the NS&B major.

Kirn’s research on song learning and song maintenance in birds explored questions of neuronal replacement and the ways the brain acquires and stores information. This is a critical area of neuroscience research, with important clinical applications that help us understand the potentially parallel processes that occur in humans during recovery from brain injury. John’s work was widely respected for opening new neurobiological paradigms and was often published in the most authoritative journals in the field, including The Journal of Neuroscience. He received numerous grants supporting his research from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation, as well as a recent three-year grant from the Whitehall Foundation.

“John was an unusual combination: a highly accomplished scientist and lab head, and an exceptionally kind and gentle person,” said colleague Sonia Sultan, professor of biology.

Gloster Aaron, associate professor of biology, described John as having “a very gentle demeanor” and as “a kind and caring colleague and mentor.”

Ann Burke, chair and professor of biology, said Kirn was respected for his intellect and loved for his generous personality and wry sense of humor. “He trained over 17 graduate students in his lab, and influenced hundreds of undergraduates in his classes,” Burke said. “His colleagues and students are deeply saddened by his loss.”

Kirn is survived by his two children, Jake and Ella, and their mother Cynthia Seiwert.

A memorial event will be held on campus later this year. Read Kirn’s full obituary online here.

 

Swain ’90 Passes through Middletown, Honoring Children who Died in Federal Custody

Christopher Swain '90

Christopher Swain ’90 carries a torch through Middletown.

Human rights advocate Christopher Swain ’90 returned to Middletown last week, carrying an Olympic-style torch during what will be a nearly 5,000-mile journey to the spot where the US-Mexico border begins at the Gulf of Mexico, and then on through the border states to San Diego.

Swain, a parent of two, is participating in a March for the Kids, honoring the memory of the six children known to have died in federal custody.

He is hoping to bring awareness of the children who have been separated from their families and imprisoned and lost at the border; to advocate for all children to be found, freed, and reunited with family; and to share the voices and hopes of the people he meets along the way.

“I don’t know how we will find all of these kids. I don’t know how we will free all of these kids. And I don’t know how we will get them all back to their families. And I don’t know what it will take to make amends,” he said. “But I do know this—even if it takes a moon landing-level effort—we can find a way.”

Swain plans to walk, and occasionally run, 15 to 20 miles per day, five to six to days per week, stopping to refuel his torch every 45 minutes or so.

“The torch is a symbol of hope. I am keeping the flames of hope alive for these children and their families,” Swain said.

Swain invites anyone who feels strongly about the issue of the children to join him.

“If you have ideas about how to find and free these kids, I invite you to walk along with me and share those ideas. Let’s find a way, together.”

Swain graduated from Wesleyan with a double major in French literature and film studies. He stayed on to work for the Wesleyan Development Office until 1992. He also swam through Middletown in the Connecticut River as part of a Swim for Human Rights during the summer of 1996.

“I used to row crew for Wesleyan. I walked into Middletown on Friday over the Arrigoni Bridge from Portland. I used to row under that bridge. And I swam under that bridge during my Swim for Universal Human Rights in 1996. It’s not just another bridge to me,” he said. “And Middletown is not just another town.”

While in Middletown, Swain made a point of connecting with one of his favorite professors, Jeanine Basinger, as he passed the 160-mile mark of his March. “Jeanine transmitted the values of discipline, deep work, and clear thinking to her students. The values and skills she taught me shape my work every day.”

Swain’s March for the Kids is supported entirely by donations. Through a crowdfunding effort, he hopes to raise enough to cover the costs of the march, crew, equipment, and events, and eventually, a documentary film. For more information, follow Swain on Twitter @marchforthekids or email MarchForTheKids@gmail.com.

Wesleyan Earns Gold Seal for Student Voting Rates

At the 2019 ALL IN Challenge Awards Ceremony held to recognize colleges and universities committed to increasing college student voting rates, Wesleyan received a gold seal for achieving a student rate between 40% and 49%. A full list of seal awardees can be viewed here.

“Wesleyan University is proud to receive this national recognition for our efforts,” said Rob Rosenthal, interim provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs. “It is a core part of our educational mission to develop bold and rigorous practical idealists, thoughtful and brave participants in the public sphere. Our faculty, staff, administrators, and students are committed to working together to reduce apathy, increase engagement, and graduate students prepared to engage in civic participation throughout their lives.”

Student participation in elections has increased from the 2014 midterm election to the recent 2018 midterm election. According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, an initiative of Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, voter turnout at the more than 1,000 institutions participating in the study increased by 21 points, from 19% to 40%. Wesleyan’s data showed an increase by 30 points, from 17% to 47%.

“We are excited to honor Wesleyan University with an ALL IN Challenge gold seal in recognition of their intentional efforts to increase democratic engagement and full voter participation,” said Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, executive director of the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge. “More institutions like Wesleyan University are changing culture on campus by institutionalizing nonpartisan democratic engagement efforts that are resulting in the incredible student voter turnout rates that we’ve seen across the country.”

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a nonpartisan, national initiative recognizing and supporting campuses as they work to increase nonpartisan democratic engagement and full student voter participation. The Challenge encourages higher education institutions to help students form the habits of active and informed citizenship, and make democratic participation a core value on their campus.

More than 560 campuses, enrolling more than 6.2 million students, have joined the Challenge since its launch in summer 2016.

In 2018, the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships was charged with voter registration and engagement. To prepare for the midterm elections, we launched a number of new initiatives to support student political engagement. We launched the Political Engagement Fund, and awarded 30 stipends for students to do campaign or political advocacy work locally or in their home states. We hosted Engage Today: Bridging the Ballot and the Block, a half-day conference highlighting local leaders activating voters on the ground, as well as students engaged in political activism on campus and beyond. And we continued to support student-led voter registration initiatives—including the WSA’s Storm the Dorms event. We are proud of the work put in by politically active students as they continue to make Wesleyan an Engaged University.

Papers by Barth, Patalano, Others Published in Psychology Journals

Hilary Barth, professor of psychology; Andrea Patalano, professor of psychology; Joanna Paul ’18; and former postdoctoral fellow Chenmu (Julia) Xing are co-authors of a paper titled “Probability range and probability distortion in a gambling task,” published in Acta Psychologica in June 2019.

Barth and Emily Slusser, a former postdoctoral fellow, are the co-authors of a paper titled “Spontaneous partitioning and proportion estimation in children’s numerical judgments,” published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology in September 2019.

Barth; Patalano; Slusser; Alexandra Zax, visiting scholar in psychology; and Katherine Williams, lab coordinator; are the co-authors of a paper titled “What Do Biased Estimates Tell Us about Cognitive Processing? Spatial Judgments as Proportion Estimation,” which was published in the Journal of Cognition and Development in August 2019.

Thomas: Carbon Impact—Not Volcanism—Key in Driving the Cretaceous Mass Extinction

Thomas

Ellen Thomas

(By Kayleigh Schweiker ’22)

As scientific study regarding the mass extinction of marine life during the Cretaceous era has progressed, theories including extraterrestrial impact and intense volcanism have surfaced. However, a recent study co-authored by Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, suggests that carbon impact—not volcanism—was key in driving the Cretaceous mass extinction.

In a paper titled “Rapid ocean acidification and protracted Earth system recovery followed the end-Cretaceous Chicxulub impact,” which was published in the Oct. 21 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Thomas and her colleagues discuss how increases in ocean acidity played a driving force in the mass extinction of marine organisms. This mass extinction, labeled the “Crustaceous-Palogene die-off,” or the K-Pg event, led approximately 75% of plant and animal life on Earth to extinction. Though scientists have suggested that the presence of sulphuric acid proceeding the crash may have caused ocean pH levels to drop, Thomas and her team’s research on this topic reveals a different possibility.

Karimi Shares Enzyme Research during Graduate Speaker Series

graduate student

Neuroscience and biology BA/MA graduate student Helen Karimi presented a Graduate Speaker Series talk on Nov. 1.

On Nov. 1, neuroscience and biology BA/MA graduate student Helen Karimi presented a Graduate Speaker Series talk titled “All good things come in pairs: Uncovering the activity of BcnI through co-localization microscopy.”

Karimi’s talk focused on restriction endonucleases (REases), a large family of enzymes that make sequence-specific cuts in DNA. As her abstract details, type IIP REases usually cleave sequences as homodimers. However, BcnI, an enzyme belonging to this subtype, acts in a different way. Karimi’s work aims to observe the fine details of BcnI’s cleavage mechanism by using Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy, an imaging technique in which only molecules within a few hundred nanometers of a glass surface are illuminated.

Football Victory Highlight of Homecoming/Family Weekend

Wesleyan celebrated Homecoming/Family Weekend Nov. 1–3. The Wesleyan Cardinals won their 2019 Homecoming game 27 to 21 against Williams College on Nov. 2.

Attendees attended WESeminars, tailgating festivities, music and art events, multiple athletic contests, the 27th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium, the annual parents’ assembly, and much more.

View the entire Homecoming/Family Weekend photo album online here.

View video highlights below:


Halloween Celebrated with Parade, Decorative Pumpkin Displays

In honor of Halloween, several offices created or carved decorative pumpkins. Usdan University Center hosted its 11th annual Usdan Pumpkin Contest with Public Safety, Residential Life, Events and Conferences, Cardinal Tech, Usdan Operations, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, and Student Leadership and Development (SALD) and Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Office participating. SALD/WSA Office won the contest with its Dia de los muertos pumpkin. The Office of University Communications carved and painted pumpkins and displayed them in offices in South College and Exley Science Center.

Photos below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

pumpkins

pumpkin1

Freeman Scholars Gather for Group Photos, Dinner

More than 40 Wesleyan Freeman Asian Scholars gathered for their annual group photos and dinner on Oct. 27.

The Freeman Asian Scholarship Program provides expenses for a four-year course of study toward a bachelor’s degree for up to 11 exceptionally able students annually from these countries and regions: the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The program was established in 1994–95 and supported scholars for 20 years through the generosity of the Freeman family—Mansfield Freeman ’16, P’43, Hon. ’79; Houghton Freeman ’43, P’77, Hon. ’93; Doreen Freeman P’77, Hon. ’03; and Graeme Freeman ’77.

Wesleyan continues to honor the Foundation’s legacy through this scholarship, which aims to improve understanding and strengthen ties between the United States and the countries and regions of the Pacific Rim. A number of early Wesleyan graduates were influential educators and ministers in Asian countries, and today Wesleyan has formal ties to several prominent universities in Asia.

Photos of the gathering are below: (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

freeman scholars

Class of 2023.