Steve Scarpa

Wesleyan Hosts Its First Bugsgiving

bugs giving

(By Madi Mehta ’24)

A group of students came together for a unique picnic on the Alpha Delta Phi Lawn on Saturday Nov. 20. On the menu: bugs of all types. 

Welcome to Wesleyan’s first-ever Bugsgiving. 

Bugsgiving brought students together for tasty bug dishes prepared by Brooklyn Bugs Chef Joseph Yoon and a host of activities and presentations surrounding the benefits of entomophagy – the scientific term for eating insects. 

The event was led by Megan Levan ‘22 and sponsored by the Green Fund, the College of the Environment, and the Office of Sustainability. Levan, environmental studies and South Asia studies in a global context (university major), has done extensive writing and research in the field of entomophagy, particularly on the ‘ick’ factor surrounding eating insects in Western culture.  “We grow up being told that bugs are gross, but in reality they are delicious and the benefits that entomophagy has on environmental sustainability are immense,” Levan said. 

Her interest in the field and thesis research led her to Joseph Yoon, an edible insect ambassador who started Brooklyn Bugs, an organization working to raise appreciation for insect consumption through creative programming that demonstrates that bugs can be an easy snack or beautifully plated by a chef.

Organizer Megan Levan ‘22 and Chef Joseph Yoon. Photograph: Nick Sng/Communications

Organizer Megan Levan ‘22 and Chef Joseph Yoon. Levan’s COE research last summer centered on how edible insect-based products are being promoted by companies and received by consumers in countries not known for their entomophagic practices. Levan believes diets of the future will need to be supplemented with other available protein sources, and her research explored how insects fit into the picture.

Aside from being quite delicious, insect consumption offers a host of environmental benefits. Insects take far less resources like large amounts of arable land, feed, and water to farm in comparison to conventional sources of protein like beef and chicken. Marcus Choo, a writer for Earth.org, said in a recent article that farming insects takes about 100 times less greenhouse gases per kilogram of organism gain. Insects are also rich in proteins and other minerals that offer a similar nutritional value to the types of food that are typically found on the table at Thanksgiving. 

Levan hopes that Bugsgiving will encourage a sense of appreciation and open mindedness when it comes to eating insects as a sustainable and delicious alternative to conventional sources of protein. 

Although entomophagy is widely practiced in many countries, eating bugs isn’t yet readily available and affordable for all in the United States. The goal is for events like this one to counter the ‘ick’ factor woven into society, creating  a consumer demand for insect products.

On the menu at Bugsgiving was a multicourse meal including dishes like Mealworm Chocolate Brownies to Cicada Nymph kimchi. Trying to describe the flavor of specific insects is like trying to describe the flavor of chicken or pork, but the mealworm in the brownies added a crunchy texture and the nymphs in the kimchi perfectly soaked up the flavors and paired nicely with the rice and tofu. 

“The food prepared by Chef Yoon was incredible, especially the dessert,” said Bugsgiving guest Zoe Holbo ‘24. “I’ve been into entomophagy for a while, but I’ve been listening to others say that they had no idea bugs could taste like this!”

Additional photos of Bugsgiving are below: (Photos by Nick Sng ’23)

bug

bugs

bugs

bugs

Free Bus Passes Available for Wesleyan Students

One of the archetypal images of the college experience is a student, toting bags of laundry, waiting for a train or a bus to get home for break.

For many Wesleyan students, at the least the first leg of that journey can be free.

Starting this semester, Wesleyan students are able to use their college ID cards to ride all local Middletown Area Transit (MAT) and 9-Town Transit buses for free via the WesPass program in a collaboration between the University and Middletown Area Transit taking place during the 2021-22 academic year.

Funded through Wesleyan’s Finance Office, Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, and Sustainability Office, WesPass is a pilot program designed to create an affordable and accessible platform for Wesleyan students to increase local transit use while reducing Wesleyan’s contribution to Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Transportation emissions make up the largest single chunk of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. That’s primarily from people driving individual cars,” said Jen Kleindienst, Wesleyan’s Sustainability Director.

Kleindienst hoped to meet and exceed 300 rides for the semester. Students had taken 250 trips by the end of October, so she felt confident that the University would reach its goal. “This is successful enough that we are going to continue it into the Spring semester and then we can decide what makes sense for the future and what a reasonable price for the service should be going forward,” she said.

Students tend to go to the usual haunts, Kleindienst said – grocery stores on Washington Street, nearby doctor’s appointments, and occasional trips to the mall in Meriden. Perhaps the most important places students travel to for free are local train stations, giving them another possible way to get home if they live in the region.

“The feedback has been generally positive,” Kleindienst said. “We are working with the Allbritton Center’s Civic Engagement Fellow and students to help roll this out and to address student concerns and questions. There have been a lot of basic questions, like how do I know what the schedule is, where do I get off?”

Kleindienst and her team have developed posters, social media posts, and updated the website to help students make a bit more sense of the system. She and others at Wesleyan are also working closely with MAT to investigate the feasibility of a downtown shuttle, which would serve Wesleyan students and the greater Middletown community. “We are still very early into our discussions with Middletown Area Transit, but there seems to be some openness and interest on all sides in doing something like this,” Kleindienst said.

She said it is important for the relationship with MAT to be mutually beneficial. To that end, she hopes that routes can be put in place for Wesleyan students that also make sense for city residents to use. “We are just trying to think about how we might improve the bus service so that it serves our students better. But we are also trying to do that in a way that includes the broader community. By getting students out and about in Middletown and in the broader area, it is good for economic development. I also think it is beneficial for students to get out and explore where they live,” Kleindienst said.

Wesleyan Earns Top Honor in Campus Democracy Challenge

voteSeventy-seven percent of Wesleyan students who were eligible voted in the 2020 presidential election, earning a Gold Seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, an increase of 10 percent from the previous presidential election.

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a national, nonpartisan initiative of Civic Nation, which strives for a more inclusive democracy.

While civic participation is embedded in Wesleyan’s DNA, this level of turnout is due to a sustained voter registration effort, said Diana Martinez, Assistant Director, Jewett Center for Community Partnerships.

“We are always looking for ways to bring the students together,” Martinez said.

In addition to periodic voter registration drives (including efforts to help students register in their home states), student groups encouraged each other to get to the polls, and Martinez’s team made sure that same day voter registration was painless.

The act of voting for a student living on campus can be complicated, Martinez said. This past election, students were extremely conscious of where their vote would have the most impact – back in their hometowns or in Middletown itself. The question of whether it was appropriate to vote in Middletown at all came up for students – are they just visitors in this community or are they full-fledged participants?

Students Seek to Make Electoral Impact Through Political Engagement Fund

e2020

As part of the E2020 initiative, Mitchell Motlagh ’20 of Keller, Texas, spent his winter break in Berlin, N.H., where he helped raise awareness of the upcoming presidential campaign. “Some days it was -2 outside,” he said.At right, Derek Chen ’23 worked with Turnout Nation, employing relational organizing to increase voter turnout. For Chen, the biggest challenge was convincing student populations who aren’t as civically engaged to become more so, particularly in North Carolina, which is a swing state. “My goal is to make voting a ‘regular thing’ that everyone does, talking to friends and family, convincing them to vote,” he said. Wesleyan is now taking applications for the Political Engagement Fund.

As we approach Election Day 2021 and look toward the 2022 midterm elections, Wesleyan continues its push to get students more civically involved. Wesleyan saw much success with its original Wesleyan Engage 2020 Initiative Fund and hopes to build on that momentum for next year, with enrollment for the Student Political Engagement Fund now open.

Through Wesleyan’s ongoing support of student learning through engaging the electoral process, students have found a variety of ways to get involved in the political process.

Working on a sheriff’s campaign in Georgia. Supporting a New York City Council race. Canvassing in small-town Connecticut elections. Registering voters. Lobbying against fracking. Wesleyan students have found a variety of interesting ways to get involved and make an impact on what is important to them.

The Political Engagement Fund is a non-partisan effort to support student civic engagement. Fund recipients receive grants to support costs associated with lodging, meals, software, supplies and more. About 50 students have taken part in the program over the past several years.

Families, Alumni, Students Gather for Homecoming/Family Weekend 2021


HCFW

There was no shortage of ways to find community, enlightenment, and a deep sense of the Wesleyan experience this Homecoming/Family Weekend, which took place Oct. 29-30.

Lectures were given on recent glacier-related flood events in high mountain environments and the uncertain future of the Senate filibuster. Graduates of Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education told their personal stories. “What Happened to Baby Jane?” screened at the Jeanine Basinger Center for Film Studies. There were two sold-out dance performances in the ’92 Theater and exhibits at Olin Library.

The campus was alive with activity, with parents, alumni, and students connecting over the weekend’s activities. “Education is the opposite of isolation,” President Michael Roth ’78 told parents at a talk Saturday morning.

Researchers Create New Collaborative to Guide Effective Health Communications

Erika Franklin Fowler is professor of government and the director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

News media, advertising, and other messaging can be important tools in promoting a healthy and equitable society. The COVID-19 pandemic shows just how catastrophic the consequences can be when a communication crisis is added to a health crisis.

Wesleyan’s Erika Franklin Fowler, Steven Moore and Laura Baum are launching the Collaborative on Media & Messaging for Health and Social Policy (COMM) to help. In summarizing their research—including more than a decade’s worth of health-related advertising and news coverage on childhood vaccinations, the Affordable Care Act, education, paid leave, and health equity—they find some broad takeaways.

For example, according to COMM, the federal government’s early response to the COVID-19 pandemic was a textbook example of what not to do when talking about complex health issues. The early missteps in communication and politicization of messaging created an environment where the safety and efficacy of life-saving vaccines was called into question.

Wesleyan Food Rescue Looking for Volunteers

food rescue Like many other activities on campus, Wesleyan Food Rescue went into a kind of hibernation during the height of the global pandemic last year.

When Food Rescue distributed food daily, over 40 students were involved. Last year the number dwindled to seven participants. Now, student coordinators were looking to rebuild the ranks of their almost 10-year-old organization.

Student coordinators Gina Gwiazda ‘22, Ari Hart ‘24, and Lucia Voges ’24 are looking for at least three or four drivers to help them bring more food to the Eddy Shelter, located on Labella Circle in Middletown. Expanding the number of available drivers would allow them to increase the number of days they can serve the shelter. The students also receive some help from staff members who will drop food off at the shelter at the end of their shift.

“We are the Eddy Shelter’s only reliable food source,” Gwiazda said. “Last year we got money from the Innovation Fund to buy the shelter a few things, like a microwave and an air fryer.”

Food Rescue’s work is elegant in its simplicity. Wesleyan routinely has more food available at Usdan, Summerfields and other campus dining haunts than can be eaten. Food Rescue collects the food and delivers it to the shelter, assuring that people who are food insecure receive help and the university has a positive way to distribute unused food.

Wesleyan Facilities Staff Showcased through “WesWorks” Performance (with Photo Gallery)

wesworks

Forklift Danceworks, in conjunction with the Center for the Arts, presented “WesWorks”—a performance with Wesleyan University facilities staff on Oct. 14 and 15.

A man fixes a street light. Another washes windows. Two women take customer service calls. These are not events that are ordinarily the subject of artistic expression.

Take these everyday tasks, add a personal narrative, evocative lighting, and music that ranges in tone from the whimsical to the driving, and the work takes on an incandescent quality.

Work becomes a kind of magic.

Forklift Danceworks, in conjunction with the Center for the Arts, created “WesWorks,” a dance/theatrical presentation that highlights the important work of custodial staff, groundskeepers, power plant workers, and the other Physical Plant workers who make Wesleyan University run. The workers’ personal narrative was interwoven with a stylized presentation of their jobs in order to create a compelling piece of art. “You get a real understanding of (campus workers) daily lives,” said Samantha Angulo ’25.

Board of Trustees to Extend President Roth’s Contract Through 2026

President Michael S. Roth

Michael Roth ’78 is the 16th President of Wesleyan University.

Wesleyan University’s Board of Trustees announces the extension of President Michael Roth’s contract through the summer of 2026.

“Michael has been an extraordinary steward of this university. His leadership has guided Wesleyan through the perils of an international economic crisis and a global pandemic; he has encouraged innovation while keeping the principles of a pragmatic liberal education in the forefront of everything we do,” said John B. Frank, Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Building on discussions with faculty, staff, and students, President Roth has developed a vision for Wesleyan that builds on its rich tradition of academic exploration, and a new strategic plan is being finalized that will take the university through the celebration of its bicentennial in 2031.

The overarching goals of the plan remain threefold—to enhance Wesleyan’s distinctive educational program, continue to build its reputation as a leader in pragmatic liberal education, and strengthen the university’s sustainable economic model while enhancing access and diversifying revenue. President Roth is leading a collective effort to increase equitable access while strengthening its interdisciplinary approach to subjects across the breadth of curricular offerings and to ensure that the student experience is a resource for a lifetime of learning and engagement.

SHAPE Office Recognizes Violence Awareness Month with Activities

Wesleyan's SHAPE office: (from left) eft to right it is Charissa Lee ’23, Johanna DeBari, and Asiyah Herrero ’22.

At left, Charissa Lee ’23, Johanna DeBari, and Asiyah Herrero ’22 are from Wesleyan’s SHAPE office.

One in five women and one in 16 men experience sexual violence in college, according to recent studies. The percentages are even higher amongst women of color and the LGBTQ+ community.

The frightening thing about those already disturbing numbers is that they are almost certainly not the whole story. “We know that this is one of the most underreported experiences of harm,” said Johanna DeBari, director of the Office of Support, Healing, Activism, and Prevention Education (SHAPE).

DeBari and her team at SHAPE are hoping that their work during Dating Violence Awareness Month this October will help draw attention to the problem. There will be a series of lectures and opportunities for students to reflect and connect with one another in a safe environment. The schedule of events can be found here.

“The problem is certainly not unique to Wesleyan. It is something that every campus navigates,” DeBari said. “My hope is that everyone can walk away feeling like they have a role to play in the conversation.”

Basinger Celebrated at Center for Film Studies (with Photos)

basinger

Corwin-Fuller Emerita Professor of Film Studies Jeanine Basinger, center, watches in awe during a firework show that occurred after the dedication of the Jeanine Basinger Center for Film Studies on Sept. 25. About 300 people attended the event. (Photo by Nick Caito)

The grand finale of Jeanine Basinger’s storied career at Wesleyan took place in late September with the naming ceremony in her honor of the new Center for Film Studies.

The event, held Sept. 25, celebrated the completion of the third and final phase of the center. The 16,000 square-foot addition includes a state-of-the-art production studio, a cyclorama and green screen, a 50-seat screening room, additional indoor and outdoor classroom spaces, a three-story house dedicated to on-site film shooting, and increased archival research space.

Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Emerita Professor of Film Studies and founder of The Ogden and Mary Louise Reid Cinema Archives has been the lynchpin in securing funding for the $27 million project over the past 20 years. The center has been in development since 2000.

Wesleyan Participates in Efforts to Protect Visiting Scholars

Henry Meriki

Henry Meriki

One day, back in 2019, three armed men came to Henry Dilonga Meriki’s house. He knew why they were there—they needed money to keep the fight against the Cameroon government going, or, they’d resort to kidnapping him. Anticipating the worst, Meriki put on warm clothes and shoes that would allow him to walk miles into the bush to their camps.

They were separatists, a group of English-speaking fighters who have been battling with the government of Cameroon for over five years.

He gave them about $180—down from $1,100 they asked for—to let him go. “We had to negotiate, and it’s better to negotiate with them because if you report them to the military, they can become violent,” said Meriki.

Academics like Meriki are a desirable and lucrative target. “So many of my colleagues have been kidnapped. Others have been killed for not respecting the rules of not teaching or not going to school,” said Meriki, a visiting assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

People from both sides were watching. Meriki had been warned not to teach on Mondays or to work at the local hospital, where he served as a laboratory scientist. The Anglophone separatists had called a “ghost town” for Mondays—in solidarity with their leaders in detention and to showcase the crises to the international community.

Residents of the Anglophone regions in Cameroon are careful to respect “ghost town” days. No social or economic activities are allowed. Disobeying these orders can attract retaliation from the separatist fighters. For many of the supporters of the resistance, it was presumed that people who traveled or disrespected these orders sympathized or were working with the government.

It was, for most residents, an impossible situation. “You have to sit on the fence because you must mind who you have a conversation with. That is how people survived in that area,” Meriki said.

In order to escape the danger, Meriki joined the Wesleyan faculty this Fall through the Scholar Rescue Fund, an international organization committed to protecting intellectuals. The Institute for International Education (IIE), an independent non-profit organization, started the fund in 2002 to formalize its commitment to protecting the lives, voices, and ideas of scholars around the globe.

Since 2002, the program has placed 925 scholars from 60 countries into 425 colleges and universities across the globe. Meriki will be at Wesleyan for at least a year. This is Wesleyan’s first time participating in the program.

Stephen Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies and director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, approached the University administration two years ago with a desire to participate in this program. “What we do, fundamentally as an educational institution is to promote the ability to speak, write, and research freely. Academic freedom lies at the core of what we do,” Angle said.

Some academics are persecuted based on their beliefs or the nature of their research. Many others, like Meriki, are harassed because of their ethnic identities. “It is not ideas that they are always after. It can literally be the individual,” Angle said.

The conflict between English-speaking Cameroonians and the French-speaking government dates back to the end of colonial rule six decades ago. Over time, the French-speaking government sought to remove what was left of Anglophone culture, putting unjust laws in place.

The latest violence stemmed back to 2016 when lawyers went on strike to prevent the changes to the judicial system that would conduct all court cases in French, regardless of whether the accused and judicial officers speak the language. Teachers joined the strike shortly afterward to protest similar prohibitions in the classroom. “In the beginning, it was a peaceful protest,” Meriki said.

Government troops attacked protestors, killing an undetermined number, sparking further armed conflict. Meriki’s neighborhood quickly became a war zone. It was one of the few areas through which the Anglophone separatists could strike at government forces and retreat back into the bush. Machine guns were poised directly behind his home. He routinely heard gunfire and saw bodies in the street.

Meriki applied to the program in 2019, but the global pandemic and the closure of consulates and embassies around the world made it extremely difficult to get a visa. Now that he’s on campus, he will be given opportunities to teach, continue his research, and network with other academics.

Despite Wesleyan’s intervention, Meriki’s future is uncertain. At the moment his family is safe, away from the violence but threatened given the uncertainty. He misses them, but chats with them every day. “I am only praying that they continue to remain safe until the day they can join me here,” he said.

Ideally, he hopes the violence calms down and he can return safely to Cameroon. He wants to help rebuild the country. He wants to perform research that would help improve the health of his fellow Cameroonians, for example, he is already learning COVID-19 protocols at Wesleyan that would be helpful back home.

“This has been a welcoming place. Donald (Oliver, chair, molecular biology and biochemistry) has been helpful from the first day I got in. So has every other member of the department and human resources. They have helped me settle in,” said Meriki.

Meriki will hopefully be the first of many visiting scholars coming to Wesleyan from the world’s hotspots. Angle said the university is currently working with the organization Scholars at Risk to bring an Afghan academic and their family to Wesleyan. The timing of their arrival on campus is unknown, Angle said. “We are in a place of privilege and should be trying to do what we can in collaboration with similar institutions,” Angle said.