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Gottschalk in The Conversation: Hate Crimes Associated with Both Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism Have a Long History in America’s Past

Peter Gottschalk

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, Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk writes about the history of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim movements in the U.S., and the confluence of the two. 

Hate crimes associated with both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have a long history in America’s past

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar tweeted recently that “Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are two sides of the same bigoted coin.”

Her comments came in response to media reports that the suspect behind the shooting at a San Diego synagogue was also under investigation for burning a mosque.

Hate crimes associated with both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism have shown an increase in recent years. But is there an association between the two?

As author of “American Heretics,” I have found that American antagonism toward Islamic and Jewish traditions goes back nearly 500 years, and shares some unfortunate connections.

Grossman in The Conversation: May Jobs Report Suggests a Slowing Economy—and Possibly an Imminent Interest Rate Cut

Richard Grossman

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, Professor and Chair of Economics Richard Grossman analyzes the latest jobs report.

May jobs report suggests a slowing economy – and possibly an imminent interest rate cut

The latest jobs data suggests an interest rate cut may be imminent.

The Labor Department reported on June 7 that U.S. nonfarm payroll employment increased by 75,000 in May, while the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6%. This level of job creation was well below economists’ forecasts of about 185,000 new jobs, as well as below the average monthly increase of 164,000 in 2019 and 223,000 in 2018.

Although it’s difficult – even for an economist like me who studies economic policy – to interpret the data reported in any one jobs report as the beginning of a trend, the latest numbers do suggest the Federal Reserve may have to lower its benchmark interest rate to shore up the economy.

That may happen as soon as this month, when the Fed’s interest rate-setting panel, the Federal Open Market Committee, convenes its next meeting June 18-19. A cut would be a sharp reversal from Fed policy as recently as December, when it last raised the rate.

Chaplain Mehr-Muska Offers Strategies for Living with Peace and Preparedness

Tracy BookUniversity Chaplain Rev. Tracy Mehr-Muska is the author of a new book titled “Weathering the Storm: Simple Strategies for Being Peaceful and Prepared,” published by Wipf and Stock on April 19.

The book offers simple and proven strategies to develop resilience that will be of benefit to anyone who is yearning to feel more peaceful and prepared. Mehr-Muska draws upon wisdom from different spiritual and religious traditions and from secular scholarship.

“With enthusiasm and passion generated from personal experience, I present the reality that resilience is not inborn, but is instead a simple set of characteristics that can be cultivated,” Mehr-Muska said. “I detail these characteristics; invite readers to identify areas of strength and areas for growth; and provide concrete, proven strategies for building these critical resilience characteristics.”

A Coast Guard veteran, interfaith chaplain, and pastor, Mehr-Muska shares the stories of her own struggles with self-esteem, sexual assault, and miscarriage that inspired her to research resilience. Mehr-Muska brings these characteristics to life using inspirational secular and multifaith stories, as well as compelling scientific evidence. She ties each chapter together with uplifting stories of personal friends who bravely and gracefully overcame obstacles and embody each of these essential characteristics.

Personick Selected to Participate in an NSF-Funded Project

Michelle Personick joined the faculty this fall, and is teaching courses in Chemistry of Materials and Nanomaterials and an Integrated Chemistry Lab. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Michelle Personick

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, has been selected by the Leadership Council of the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists (IONiC) to participate in a National Science Foundation–funded study to develop, test, and refine a flexible, foundation-level inorganic chemistry course.

As a Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource (VIPEr) Fellow, Personick joins 17 other inorganic chemists from across the country in a community of practice dedicated to improving student learning. The 2018 VIPEr Fellows are the first faculty who have been selected for this groundbreaking project.

The study, titled “Improving Inorganic Chemistry Education,” is being conducted with support from the National Science Foundation’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program. The project will use classroom observations, analysis of student work, student surveys, and faculty interviews to study how changes in the classroom affect student learning, interest, and motivation. The project also will investigate how IONiC may encourage the adoption of evidence-based classroom practices.

At Wesleyan, Personick teaches general, inorganic, and materials chemistry. Her research group focuses on developing tailored metal nanomaterials to enable fundamental research toward improved catalysts for resource-efficient chemical synthesis and the clean production of energy.

She received her undergraduate degree from Middlebury College, where she studied platinum anticancer drug analogs, and her PhD from Northwestern University, where she developed syntheses for shaped gold and silver nanoparticles. As a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, she studied the catalytic behavior of bimetallic nanoporous alloys.

Read more about Personick in these past News @ Wesleyan articles.

NEA Supports Dance Artist Yerushalmy’s Residency at Wesleyan

Netta Yerushalmy: "Paramodernities." Photo by Maria Baranova.

New York City dance artist Netta Yerushalmy will present “Paramodernities” at Wesleyan in October. Her work at the Center for the Arts is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. (Photo by Maria Baranova)

Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts recently received a $15,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the presentation and residency activities of dance artist Netta Yerushalmy, who will perform the work “Paramodernities” in October.

The Center for the Arts is one of 977 nonprofit organizations nationwide to receive an Art Works grant.

“Support from the National Endowment for the Arts is central to our ability to fulfill our mission to be a vibrant center for dance in the state, and to bring contemporary dance to audiences who might not otherwise be able to access it,” said Sarah Curran, director of the Center for the Arts. “We are grateful for the vote of confidence that this grant implies.”

Yerushalmy’s performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 in the Center for the Arts Theater. It’s part of the CFA’s Performing Arts Series, which features cutting-edge choreography, world-renowned dance companies, and companies pushing the boundaries of the art form, as well as a wide array of world-class musicians and groundbreaking theater performances and discussions. 

Smolkin Speaks at “Culture of Unbelief” Conference in Rome

Victoria Smolkin

Victoria Smolkin

From May 28 to May 30, Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin attended a conference in Rome, Italy, on the “Cultures of Unbelief,” organized by the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network and the Vatican’s Council on Culture.

She spoke on “The Culture of Unbelief 50 Years On,” which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the original “Culture of Unbelief” conference, organized in 1969 by the Vatican’s Secretariat on Non-Believers and the University of California, Berkeley. Her copanelists included Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and Andrew Copson, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. Professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion and Director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary’s University Stephen Bullivant moderated the panel.

The “Cultures of Unbelief” conference brought together leading academics, leaders of religious and nonreligious groups, journalists, educators, and others to understand the meaning of being a religious “unbeliever.” Topics explored how “unbelievers” engage with religion; their diverse existential, metaphysical, and moral beliefs; and prospects for dialogue and collaboration between believers and unbelievers.

Smolkin also presented a conference paper titled, “Atheism as a vocation: What can socialists teach us about modern belief and unbelief?”

A photo exhibit titled Unbelievers by Aubrey Wade took place during the Cultures of Unbelief Conference. The series offers an insight into the diversity of beliefs and worldviews held by people who don’t believe in God, or gods, in five countries around the world: Brazil, Japan, Norway, the U.K., and USA.

Scholarship Supports Graduate Study at Oxford for Mundangepfupfu ’19

Keith Mundangepfupfu '19

Keith Mundangepfupfu ’19

Zimbabwe native Keith Mundangepfupfu ’19, a College of Social Studies major and African studies minor, is the recipient of a scholarship through the Oxford-Weidenfeld and Hoffmann Scholarships and Leadership Programme.

The scholarship will fund full course fees and living costs at St. Antony’s College at Oxford.

The Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Scholarship supports “leaders of tomorrow by providing outstanding university graduates and young professionals from developing countries and emerging economies with the opportunity to pursue fully-funded graduate studies, combined with a specially created program of leadership development, long-term mentoring and networking.”

At St. Antony’s, Mundangepfupfu will pursue a Master of Science in migration studies, focusing on the immigration of Zimbabweans to South Africa and how they interact with the law, specifically LGBTQ+ Zimbabwean immigrants. 

Paper by Robinson, Alumni Published in Behavioural Brain Research

Robinson Lab

A paper coauthored by several members of the Robinson Lab is published in the Oct. 3 issue of Behavioural Brain Research, Volume 371.

The coauthors include Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology; graduate student Charlotte Freeland, Callie Clibanoff ’19, Anna Knes ’19, John Cote ’19, and Trinity Russell ’17.

The flashing lights and celebratory sounds that dominate slot-machine gambling are believed to promote engagement and motivation to keep playing. However, these cues are often presented in the absence of reward, and previous research suggests that this reward uncertainty, which degrades their predictive value, also increases their incentive value. In their paper titled “Distinguishing between predictive and incentive value of uncertain gambling-like cues in a Pavlovian autoshaping task,” the researchers used a process called autoshaping to tease apart the impact of reward uncertainty on the predictive and incentive value of a conditioned stimulus using serial cues.

The Robinson Lab’s research program seeks to identify how intense incentive motivations are produced by brain systems, both naturally in extreme cases and less naturally, but still powerfully, in pathological addictions. Their areas of interest include the role of cues in diet-induced obesity, the impact of uncertainty in gambling, and how cues produce craving in drug addiction.

Herbst and Greenwood in The Conversation: The Tell-Tale Clue to How Meteorites Were Made

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, John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy Bill Herbst and Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences James Greenwood write about the model they’ve proposed for how the most common kind of meteorites form—a mystery that has dogged scientists for decades.

The tell-tale clue to how meteorites were made, at the birth of the solar system

April 26, 1803 was an unusual day in the small town of L’Aigle in Normandy, France – it rained rocks.

Over 3,000 of them fell out of the sky. Fortunately, no one was injured. The French Academy of Sciences investigated and proclaimed, based on many eyewitness stories and the unusual look of the rocks, that they had come from space.

The Earth is pummeled with rocks incessantly as it orbits the Sun, adding around 50 tons to our planet’s mass every day. Meteorites, as these rocks are called, are easy to find in deserts and on the ice plains of Antarctica, where they stick out like a sore thumb. They can even land in backyards, treasures hidden among ordinary terrestrial rocks. Amateurs and professionals collect meteorites, and the more interesting ones make it to museums and laboratories around the world for display and study. They are also bought and sold on eBay.

Despite decades of intense study by thousands of scientists, there is no general consensus on how most meteorites formed. As an astronomer and a geologist, we have recently developed a new theory of what happened during the formation of the solar system to create these valuable relics of our past. Since planets form out of collisions of these first rocks, this is an important part of the history of the Earth.

This meteor crater in Arizona was created 50,000 years ago when an iron meteorite struck the Earth. It is about one mile across. W. Herbst, CC BY-SA

This meteor crater in Arizona was created 50,000 years ago when an iron meteorite struck the Earth. It is about one mile across. (Photo by Bill Herbst, CC BY-SA)

The mysterious chondrules

Researchers Explore the Effects of Dam Removal on Bottom-Dwelling Aquatic Animals

COE

Kate Miller PhD ’13

Although dam removal is an increasingly common stream restoration tool, it may also represent a major disturbance to rivers that can have varied impacts on environmental conditions and aquatic biota.

In a paper titled “Dam Removal Effects on Benthic Macroinvertebrate Dynamics: A New England Stream Case Study, five researchers from Wesleyan examined the effects of dam removal on the structure, function, and composition of benthic macroinvertebrate (BMI) communities in a temperate New England stream. The benthic—or “bottom-dwelling”—macroinvertebrates are small aquatic animals that are commonly used to study biological conditions of water bodies.

The paper is published in the May 21 edition of Sustainability, an international, cross-disciplinary, scholarly, peer-reviewed and open-access journal of environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability of human beings.

Ross Heinemann '09, MA '13

Ross Heinemann ’09, MA ’13

The paper’s coauthors include Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies; Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies; Kate Miller PhD ’13; Ross Heinemann ’09, MA ’13; Michelle Kraczkowski PhD ’13; and Adam Whelchel from the Nature Conservancy in New Haven, Conn.

The results of their study indicated that the dam removal stimulated major shifts in BMI community structure and composition above and below the dam.

“Our research shows that the effects of dam removal on the river were not predictable. During the fours years of the study after dam removal, the river did not return to its original state in the areas where the dam was removed,” Chernoff explained.

High School Counselors from India, Middle East Visit Wesleyan

Several high school counselors visited Wesleyan on June 5 through the 2019 Global Educator Program. The visit was coordinated by Chandra Joos deKoven, director of admission (pictured third from right).

On June 5, 17 high school counselors from India and the Middle East visited campus to learn about Wesleyan’s distinctive liberal arts education.

Over the past decade, an increasing number of students from India have chosen to pursue higher education in the United States. Wesleyan has seen applications from India increase by 70 percent over the past 5 years.

“We’re hoping to expand our presence and raise our visibility in India,” said Chandra Joos deKoven, director of admission. “During our four-hour program, we wanted to give the counselors a visceral sense of what Wesleyan has to offer, what makes us distinctive amongst our peers, and how our greater campus community may be a good fit and match for their students.”