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Kolcio’s Dancing During Pandemic Course Investigates the Current Environment through Movement

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the third of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an in-person, online, or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center. Kolcio also is a core faculty member of the College of the Environment, Environmental Studies, and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Programs at Wesleyan. This fall, she’s teaching DANC 216: Contemporary Dance Technique: Dancing During Pandemic; DANC 435: Advanced Dance Practice A; and DANC 445: Advanced Dance Practice B.

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Katja Kolcio, pictured in the background in black clothing, teaches her Dancing During Pandemic class Sept. 4 near the Wesleyan softball field. Students keep a 12-foot distance between themselves. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

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Twenty-five students are enrolled in the Dancing During Pandemic course.

In a standard Wesleyan dance technique course, students corral inside a studio setting and work to develop artistic virtuosity in a particular dance genre: ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, West African, South Indian, and Afro-Brazilian.

But when the pandemic and its effects altered the way people interact, communicate, and engage with one another, Katia Kolcio, associate professor of dance, decided to design a course specifically focusing on bringing attention to the physical experience of our new reality. So she created the practice-based course DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic, open to all students.

“It’s common to feel too busy to dedicate attention to our physical sensations and experiences, or to the way in which new ideas or realities encountered in the world resonate within us,” Kolcio said. “So with this course, we examine, ‘How do we physically and socially navigate the new environment?’ We need to fully engage in our physical selves and awareness and bring greater attention to the ways humans utilize our physical and creative capacities.”

Docter-Loeb ’22 Serves as Panelist on D.C. Statehood, Racial Justice Discussion

Hannah Docter-Loeb ’22, a features editor at The Wesleyan Argus, participated in a public discussion about the intersection of D.C. statehood and racial justice Sept. 18.

The “Panel on D.C. Statehood and Racial Justice” was hosted by Georgetown Students for D.C. Statehood and featured Docter-Loeb; Anthony Cook, professor of law at Georgetown University; Jamil Scott, assistant professor of government at Georgetown University; and Cosby Hunt, adjunct professor at the University of the District of Columbia and senior manager of social studies education at the Center for Inspired Learning.

Docter-Loeb, a D.C. native, was invited to be a panelist after writing an article for Study Breaks on the same topic. She believes one reason D.C. statehood is meeting resistance is that the area is rooted in white supremacy and racism.

“D.C. residents have advocated for D.C. statehood since the 1980s, with no luck,” she wrote. “However, on June 26, the House approved the Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51). This bill, if approved by the Senate and the president, would establish D.C. as a state and provide us with adequate representation in proportion to the city’s size, as well as other features that accompany statehood. . . . [Representatives’] comments reflect the racist belief that Black people are unfit to govern or play a role in our democracy by voting. These beliefs are still apparent in the current debate for D.C. statehood.”

Wesleyan University Press Receives Grant from the Literary Arts Emergency Fund

On Sept. 16, the Literary Arts Emergency Fund awarded Wesleyan University Press with a $25,000 grant to help with its financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Literary Arts Emergency Fund is administered by the Academy of American Poets, the Community of Literary Magazine and Presses, and the National Book Foundation. Wesleyan is among 282 nonprofit literary arts organizations, magazines, and presses across the nation that are receiving part of the $3,530,000 million in emergency funding.

“We are delighted and grateful to receive this support from the Literary Arts Emergency Fund. So much in the world is difficult right now, and literature, books, and reading can help,” said Suzanna Tamminen ’90, director and editor-in-chief of Wesleyan University Press. “The act of reading is also a kind of active listening. We are given new perspectives, and we are drawn into a moment that connects us to the past and the future in transformative ways. Reading brings us into dialogue and into community, even when we are remote.”

Wesleyan University Press publishes books of poetry as well as scholarly books in dance, music, and literary studies. The Press has garnered national and international accolades for its work, including six Pulitzer Prizes, three National Book Awards, three Griffin Poetry Prizes, and an Anisfield-Wolf Award, among many others.

A Call to Action: McMahon ‘22 Pushes for Student-Athlete Voter Registration

McMahon

Off the ice, women’s hockey team member Audrey McMahon ’22 is serving as Wesleyan’s resident ambassador for Voice in Sport (VIS), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to supporting women student-athletes and the #MoreVoicesMoreVotes initiative. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)

Although many amendments have been ratified since the first election in this country more than 230 years ago, the simple fact remains: Voting is a right and a privilege.

With just 46 days (upon the publishing of this article on Sept. 18), remaining until Election Day 2020, Audrey McMahon ’22 of the Wesleyan women’s ice hockey team has set an ambitious goal: to get 100% of eligible student-athletes registered and pledged to vote.

McMahon has taken on the role of Wesleyan’s resident ambassador for Voice in Sport (VIS), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to supporting women student-athletes. In an initiative that has gathered steam over recent months, McMahon has joined a campaign initiated by VIS called #MoreVoicesMoreVotes.

Wesleyan as a whole has taken drastic action in 2020, making Tuesday, Nov. 3 a University holiday with all classes canceled for the entire day. In addition, the athletic department has mandated no sport practices on Election Day, giving student-athletes the opportunity to vote at their own leisure. Building off the University’s support, Wesleyan students can register to vote in Middletown, making the process easier for those who haven’t registered elsewhere or who want to switch. McMahon is tripling down on the campus-wide initiative to create a groundswell that’ll make the voices of student-athletes heard.

McMahon is already encouraged by the initial support she has received amongst the athletic programs at Wesleyan. She started the campaign by contacting Wesleyan’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), who passed the message along to other members to distribute to their respective teams. From there, teams showing interest will designate a team leader tasked with ensuring each eligible teammate is registered and pledged to vote. Thus far, 17 teams have designated team leaders and committed themselves to the campaign with others expected to join in the weeks to come.

“Most of the athletes who have signed up as leaders, as well as the coaches who have reached out, are really supportive of the campaign itself,” McMahon said. “Since many students may already be registered, the pledging aspect of the process is key, which is simply making a plan for how you will vote. This is done by either determining the location of your in-person polling place or requesting an absentee ballot.”

Face Coverings become a Form of Student Expression


Three weeks into the fall semester, Wesleyan students are adapting to the “new normal” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Face coverings or masks are required in all public spaces to help reduce the spread of the virus. Some students find the masks also can serve as a fashion accessory or statement piece. (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

campus during COVID-19

Classes Held in Socially-Distanced Indoor and Outdoor Classrooms

This fall, Wesleyan is holding in-person classes on campus in both indoor and outdoor classroom settings. More than 180 classrooms have been revised in order to achieve a minimum six-foot distance between occupants. Updated floor plans and maximum room capacity are clearly posted in each classroom.

Faculty and students are required to wear face coverings in classrooms at all times. In addition, break times have been expanded to 30 minutes or more to allow for custodians to disinfect all touchable surfaces in each classroom between classes.

(Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Mary Alice Haddad, the John E. Andrus Professor of Government and chair of the College of East Asian Studies, teaches her GOVT 296: Japanese Politics course in the Hogwarts classroom, located between the Davison Health Center and the Davison Art Center. The outdoor classroom will safely accommodate up to 40 students.

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors Goodman ’06, Thoms MAT’62, and Blake ’78

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

The Shame coverMakenna Goodman ’06, The Shame (Milkweed, 2020)

In a letter to her children that she writes in case of an untimely death, Makenna Goodman’s protagonist Alma muses, “My great fear, which has kept me up nights for years, is that you will have to live without a mother when you need one the most.” This sentiment does not stop her from abruptly escaping her rustic Vermont home one night and leaving behind her young children and professor husband in pursuit of a life in New York City. As Alma’s identity crisis unfurls throughout her road trip to Brooklyn, she gradually reveals to the reader the circumstances of her departure in hushed, urgent prose.

The development of the narrative mirrors the progression of a long drive: at times the story feels electrifying and precipitous, at other times dreamlike and ponderous. Goodman manages to create a character who is desperate, imaginative, and lost, evoking an image of motherhood that is Elena Ferrante-adjacent in its subtle rage and self-doubt. Goodman’s novel also ties issues of the female consciousness to overlying sociopolitical systems and modern-day capitalism, making her work revolutionary in the world of female-authored literature. The Shame feels ultra-relevant in its interrogation of the contemporary female psyche and the pressures of marriage, motherhood, and career.

Cooperation, Careful Planning Drive Successful Reactivation Efforts

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Following a mandatory two-week quarantine, students continue to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week on campus. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Following a carefully coordinated return to campus and an initial period of remote learning during Connecticut’s mandated two-week quarantine, just two students and three employees at Wesleyan have tested positive for COVID-19 to date this fall. The low positivity rate, well under 0.1% of the entire campus population and tracked regularly on Wesleyan’s COVID-19 dashboard, reflects the care and planning that have gone into preparing the campus for the fall semester, as well as commendable adherence to safety protocols by the Wesleyan campus community. More than 15,000 tests have already been conducted.

Students are required to wear masks in all public spaces.

Students and Wesleyan employees are required to wear masks in all public spaces.

“Our positivity rate on campus is lower than in Connecticut and we’re very pleased about that,” said Rick Culliton, associate vice president and dean of students, during a virtual All-Staff Convocation on Sept. 10. “We know that’s because of the hard work of our students, and of our testing to be able to isolate . . .  watching all of the students wear masks, having physical distance between each other, and adhering to what we’re asking them to do has really been a very positive thing to see.”

Mike Whaley, vice president for student affairs, noted in a Sept. 6 message that the community’s care and diligence in following quarantine and safety protocols helped the University maintain positivity rates “well below the levels predicted by modeling.” This allowed Wesleyan to move forward into its first week of in-person classes, which saw the University maintain its low case count throughout the week. Wesleyan was recently among schools highlighted for “seemingly crack(ing) the code” in effectively navigating an in-person opening.

Culliton and President Michael Roth ’78 cited Wesleyan’s Reactivating Campus plan as a crucial part of these efforts, specifically the Community Agreement, which suggests that all members of the Wesleyan community “must act in a manner that demonstrates respect and consideration for the health and safety of others and are prohibited from creating a health or safety hazard.” Students, faculty, and staff must undergo regular COVID-19 testing, adhere to social distancing standards, and wear face coverings in classrooms and outside private spaces. They must exercise precautionary sanitization practices including regular hand washing, limiting gatherings on campus to a maximum of 25 individuals, suspending University-sponsored travel, and not permitting campus visitors. In addition, all students were required to participate in a 14-day quarantine upon arriving on campus.

Peter Rutland on Teaching during the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the second of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an online or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Peter Rutland from the Government Department.

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Peter Rutland, at left, teaches his course, Nationalism, online. In this class, his 19 students explore the role of nationalism in countries such as the U.S., France, India, China, and Japan, and nationalist conflicts in Northern Ireland, Quebec, Yugoslavia, the former U.S.S.R., and Rwanda. Rutland plans to keep a newly-structured “flipped” classroom model when he returns to in-person teaching.

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, is teaching GOVT 157: Democracy & Dictatorship and GOVT 278: Nationalism this fall. He’s holding both classes entirely online this semester.

“I had grown complacent over 30 years of teaching and the virus forced me to innovate,” Rutland said.

In a normal semester, Rutland would teach in a lecture/discussion format. “I don’t use PowerPoint. I ask questions and steer the discussion towards the points I want to make.” To teach online, Rutland ‘flipped’ the class, making PowerPoint presentations, and recorded his lectures in advance so that students can watch them before the class meeting.

“That frees up all the class time for discussion,” he said, which typically includes 20 minutes in break-out rooms during each 80-minute class.

He also uses a Moodle forum before each class so that students can post individual questions. “That helps me to structure the class discussion,” Rutland said. “I also pose anonymous questions in Moodle during the class, enabling me to instantly summarize the results.”

Rutland developed the new teaching techniques over the summer, when he taught a section of Democracy and Dictatorship to a group of 15 pre-frosh. He’s repeating the same class this semester.

“My experience was surprisingly positive. Overall, I would even say that the class went better than when I teach it in person,” he said. “When I did that in a live class, it involved handing out pieces of paper and then gathering them back up. Likewise, holding breakout rooms in a live class was very cumbersome and in some classrooms impossible.

“In sum, students have a lot more opportunities for feedback in online teaching. I feel I have a much better grasp on how they are understanding the material. So when I return to in-person teaching I will keep the flipped classroom model,” Rutland said.

Sept. 11 Memorial Garden Decorated with Flowers, Flags for 19th Commemoration of World Trade Center Attacks

On Sept. 11, members of the Wesleyan community remembered the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. In 2002, a September 11 Memorial Garden was planted in front of North College and honors those who “gathered at this place to console one another, to remember those lost, to share and learn, to pray for peace.” Wesleyan’s grounds crew annually decorates the garden with fresh flowers and flags during the annual commemoration. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

911 garden

911 garden

911 garden

OFCD Collects, Publishes Remote Teaching ‘Success Stories’

Several remote teaching and learning “success stories” are now published on the Office for Faculty Career Development’s (OFCD) Teaching Matters website.

“We hope the stories inspire others to make changes and make it clear to everyone that it was possible to make the transition well,” said Mary Alice Haddad, the John E. Andrus Professor of Government and director of the OFCD.

The stories are based on surveys administered by Academic Affairs last spring. Although there were many courses that went well in spring 2020, Haddad selected to present a diversity of courses drawn from different class sizes, pedagogy styles, synchronous/asynchronous teaching, and divisions.

Lindsay Dolan, assistant professor of government, taught a 12-student project-based seminar titled Experiments in International Development. During online learning, the class met synchronously (using Zoom) for half the class, and also in Zoom breakout groups, where students worked through puzzles and activities together.