All News

Wesleyan Launches New Home Page

On Thursday, Sept. 20, Wesleyan University launched a new home page, part of a broader core messaging effort to update and strengthen University-wide communications.

The home page design process was driven by rigorous analysis of usage statistics and by examining best practices for websites. The home page’s state-of-the-art functionality is intended to differentiate Wesleyan in an increasingly crowded and competitive higher education landscape, and to highlight the University’s distinctive qualities.

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. The Washington Post: “Have Parents Made Their Kids Too Fragile for the Rough-and-Tumble Life?”

President Michael Roth reviews The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. While the authors make some important points, Roth is skeptical of their argument, writing, “Are students today disempowered because they’ve been convinced they are fragile, or do they feel vulnerable because they are facing problems like climate change and massive, nasty inequality?”

2. WNYC’s “The Takeaway”: “Will Trump’s Take on the Economy Resonate with Voters?”

Kogan ’98: “What I Wish I Knew When I Was A Super-Successful Wesleyan Overachiever”

Nataly Kogan ’98, the author of Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones), will present a WESeminar on Family Weekend about strategies she has learned to manage stress and develop self-compassion. (Photo courtesy of Nataly Kogan)

Nataly Kogan ’98 will present a WESeminar, “What I Wish I Knew When I Was a Super-Successful Wesleyan Overachiever” in the Ring Family Center at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 28.

Kogan, who at 13 emigrated with her family to the U.S. as a refugee from the former Soviet Union, graduated from Wesleyan with High and University Honors as a CSS major. She achieved early success as a consultant with McKinsey & Co, a venture capitalist at the age of 26, and a tech executive with companies like Microsoft. However, this came at a huge personal cost, she says, and it didn’t have to. Now the founder and CEO of Happier, she is the author of Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones), published in May 2018.

Kogan looks forward to sharing her strategies for how to manage stress, treat yourself with compassion to increase motivation, connect with your sense of purpose to boost your resilience during challenges, and thrive while achieving goals.

She spoke about her upcoming talk with the Connection in this Q&A:

Q: What is it about college campuses that make your message particularly important for students to hear?

A: According to The American College Health Association, in 2011, half of undergraduates reported they felt overwhelmed with anxiety. By 2017, 61 percent did.

These are scary numbers and it’s a scary trend. American college students are stressed out, overwhelmed, and feel intense pressure from themselves, their parents, their professors, and our society to succeed.

And what makes it scarier is that we don’t teach college students—or any students, at any level of education—the skills to cultivate and strengthen their emotional and mental well-being. As a society, we’ve not yet embraced that these are not optional soft-skills, but that emotional wellbeing is the foundation for helping students thrive and learn, without burnout, depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, instances of which are increasing every year.

Wes Press Authors Nominated for 2018 Book Awards

Four Wesleyan University Press–affiliated authors were nominated for book awards this month.

Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Rae Armantrout is one of 10 contenders for the National Book Award for Poetry. Her collection, Wobble (Wesleyan University Press, 2018) was named to the award’s longlist on Sept. 13. Finalists will be revealed on Oct. 10.

Teetering on the edge of the American Dream, Armantrout’s Wobble seeks to both playfully and forcefully evoke the devastation of a chaotic, unstoppable culture.

Two authors were named 2018 CT Book Awards Finalists by the Connecticut Center for the Book, a Connecticut Humanities program. The awards recognize and honor authors and illustrators who have created the best books in or about Connecticut in the past year.

Between three and five finalists have been selected in each of five categories: Fiction; Nonfiction; Poetry; Young Readers—Young Adult; and Young Readers—Juvenile. Five distinguished judges per category read each entry and reviewed works using rigorous criteria. A total of 140 books were submitted this year.

Middletown, Conn., resident Gina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology; professor, feminist gender, and sexuality studies; was nominated in the Poetry category for her book, Because When God Is Too Busy: HAITI, me & THE WORLD (Wesleyan University Press, 2017).

And Chester, Conn., resident David Hays, Hon. ’86, was nominated in the Nonfiction category for his book, Setting the Stage: What We Do, How We Do It, and Why (Wesleyan University Press, 2017).

Winners will be announced at the 2018 Connecticut Book Awards ceremony on Oct. 14 at Staples High School in Westport, Conn. Okey Ndibe, the 2017 Connecticut Book Award winner for nonfiction, will deliver the keynote speech. A reception and book signing will follow, and all finalists’ and winners’ books will be available for purchase.

In addition, Wesleyan University Press author sam sax is the recipient of a 2018 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from The Poetry Foundation. The $25,800 fellowship is among the largest and most prestigious awards available for young poets in the United States.

sax is the author of bury it (Wesleyan University Press, 2018), winner of the 2017 James Laughlin Award given by the Academy of American Poets.

Bean ’78 Offers Insider’s Portrait of Congressional Oversight in Book, WESeminar

Elise Bean ’78, author of Financial Exposure: Carl Levin’s Senate Investigations into Finance and Tax Abuse, will offer her insider’s perspective on governmental oversight in a WESeminar on Saturday, Sept. 29, during Family Weekend. (Photo courtesy of Elise Bean)

On Saturday, Sept. 29, during Family Weekend, Elise Bean ’78 is offering a WESeminar titled: “Congress’ Constitutional Duty to Investigate: One Senator Who Got It Right.” The Washington co-director of the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School, Bean is the author of Financial Exposure: Carl Levin’s Senate Investigations into Finance and Tax Abuse.

At a time when congressional investigations have taken on added urgency in American politics, Bean offers an insider’s portrait of how the world of congressional oversight operates. Drawing on more than 30 years on Capitol Hill, the last 15 at the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations working for Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Bean will explain how Congressional oversight investigations can be a powerful tool for uncovering facts, building bipartisan consensus, and fostering change, using actual Levin inquiries as proof. She will describe Levin-led investigations from 1999 to 2014 into money laundering, offshore tax abuse, and banks behaving badly; explain how, despite rampant partisanship and dysfunction, they achieved policy reforms; and invite the public to demand fact-based, bipartisan, high-quality oversight from the next Congress. The seminar, sponsored by the Wesleyan Lawyers Association, will take place in the Taylor Meeting Room (108) of the Usdan University Center.

She discusses her work in this Q&A with the Connection—and offers tips for better bipartisan communication.

Q: You were a government major at Wesleyan. Was there one perspective, class, or piece of advice at Wesleyan that you found particularly helpful in your career path?

A: While majoring in government at Wesleyan, I was inspired by a course called the Moral Basis of Politics, taught by [Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Professor in the College of Social Studies] Don Moon. A mix of politics and philosophy, it examined the interplay of values, governments, and the public. While the subject matter seemed theoretical in class, it took on a lot more substance when I left school for a semester and worked as an intern in the U.S. House of Representatives, getting my first real look at how politics play out in Washington. It was then that I decided to accept the challenge of becoming a public servant fighting for better government. It’s been a wild ride ever since, full of fun, surprises, hard work, and deep satisfaction.

Dierker, Rose Win $2.8M NSF Award for Innovative Approach to Teaching Statistics

Lisa Dierker

Wesleyan professors Lisa Dierker and Jennifer Rose were recently awarded a $2.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to extend and disseminate their research on passion-driven statistics. The grant begins in the fall of 2018 and extends through 2023.

Recognizing the rapidly increasing importance of data-oriented skills in the modern workforce, passion-driven statistics was developed as a novel approach to make statistics and quantitative methods courses more accessible and engaging, particularly for traditionally marginalized students. It moves away from canned exercises, toward more applied, real-world, project-based learning experiences.

”An empowering curriculum needs to rise to many challenges,” Dierker said. “Those include promoting inquiry across a wide range of disciplines, building new skills as challenges arise, facilitating the use of modern computing tools, providing support for students regardless of educational background, and framing statistics as an exciting set of tools for understanding a complex world. We are confident in and excited about this project’s ability to do all of that.”

Blackness, Race, Sexuality, Power Explored During AFAM’s 50th Anniversary

Center for African American Studies.

The Center for African American Studies is celebrating its 50th anniversary during the 2018–19 academic year.

On Feb. 21, 1969, a group of brave students chained the doors shut to their Fisk Hall classroom and demanded that Wesleyan offer more support to its black community. As a result of this peaceful protest, Wesleyan established the Center for African American Studies, the Malcolm X House dormitory, and the black student union, Ujamaa. The black students who graduated that spring became known as the Vanguard Class of 1969.

During the 2018–19 academic year, African American Studies is commemorating its 50th anniversary with a plethora of events surrounding the topic of “Blackness, Race, Sexuality, and Power.” In addition, the Vanguard Class will be honored at their 50th reunion, along with other students of that era, for their groundbreaking efforts. Their courage helped spur Wesleyan’s now cutting-edge scholarship and teaching in black history, literature, and the arts, along with race theory and critical approaches in anthropology, religion, science, and beyond.

The fall events include:

“Solidarity, Intersectionality & Resisting Oppression”
Feminist philosopher Carol Hay
Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m.
Russell House
Sponsored by Philosophy Department

Boukman Eksperyans & Paul Beaubrun – Haitian Music
Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.
Downey Lounge
Sponsored by African American Studies and Music

Brunet Honored by Economic History Association

Gillian Brunet

Gillian Brunet, assistant professor of economics, was awarded the Allan Nevins Prize in American Economic History by the Economic History Association Sept. 8 in Montreal, Canada.

The prize is awarded annually on behalf of Columbia University Press for the best dissertation in U.S. or Canadian economic history completed during the previous year.

Brunet, who joined the faculty at Wesleyan this fall, completed her dissertation at the University of California at Berkeley. Her dissertation focused on the state-level effects of World War II spending in the United States.

Titled, Understanding the Effects of Fiscal Policy: Measurement, Mechanisms, and Lessons from History, Brunet explored the government’s ability to stimulate economic activity through expansionary fiscal policy by asking “How much economic activity results when the government increases spending by one dollar, and how does the economic and institutional context affect the answer to that question?”

Brunet’s dissertation uses a variety of empirical techniques to explore aspects of this question using historical data on U.S. military spending. Chapter one uses state-level variation in war production spending to measure the fiscal multiplier during World War II, and examine how features of the wartime economy influenced the size of the fiscal multiplier. In chapter two, Brunet focuses on how the measurement of government spending influences the estimated size of the multiplier and she introduces a new time series measure of aggregate defense spending. In chapter three, she returns to World War II, but this time examines the effects of wartime military spending on the postwar economy, establishing causal evidence for its role in driving the immediate postwar boom.

This fall, Brunet is teaching Economics of Alexander Hamilton’s America and Macroeconomic Analysis.

Cross Country’s Mitchell ’19 Takes 1st Place at Little 3 Championship

Student-athlete Julia Mitchell ’19 took a first-place finish during the Little Three Championship at Amherst. (Photo by Geoff Bolte)

Julia Mitchell ’19 paced the women’s cross country team with a first-place finish at the Little Three Championship on Sept. 8 in Amherst, Mass. Although Williams College ultimately won the Little Three title, the Cardinals had four runners place in the top 10 as they finished in second place, ahead of Amherst College.

Little Three Championships are declared when a varsity team from Wesleyan, Williams, and Amherst defeats the other two rivals. The fierce competition among the schools dates back to at least 1910. In 2017-18, women’s crew, volleyball, men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse won Little Three titles.

Mitchell, of Bellevue, Wash., completed the 4k course with a time of 15:33.9, which was three seconds ahead of second-place finisher Emma Herrmann of Williams.

For her efforts, NESCAC named Mitchell the Performer of the Week on Sept. 10.

Mitchell capped off last season with an impressive ninth-place finish at the 2017 NCAA Division III New England Regional Championship meet. During head coach John Crooke’s 19-year career at Wesleyan, the women’s team has qualified for the NCAA Division III Championship three times and has placed in the top 10 for the past two seasons at the New England Regionals.

Mitchell is one of eight runners to return to the women’s cross country team this year. On Sept. 29, the team will head to Lehigh University for the 45th Paul Short Run, one of the largest cross country meets in the nation. Last year, Mitchell tallied a seventh-place nod, completing the 6k course with a time of 22:35.

Read more in the Wesleyan Athletics press release.

Lukens Remembered for Cofounding the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Lewis “Lew” N. Lukens

Lew Lukens

Lewis “Lew” Lukens, professor emeritus of molecular biology and biochemistry, passed away on Sept. 8 at the age of 91.

Lukens received his BA from Harvard University and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. He came to Wesleyan in 1966, first in the Biology Department and then as one of the founding members of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, where he remained until his retirement in 1999.

Lukens’ research involved the regulation of gene expression by eukaryotic cells, specifically the genes for Type I and Type II collagen. He received many research grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the United States Department of Agriculture. During his years at Wesleyan, Lew served as chair of the Biology Department, on the Committee on Graduate Instruction, and as program director of the Biomedical Research Support Grant. In his retirement, he served on the advisory board of the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty.

Yohe, Siry, Sultan Awarded Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research

At left, Wesleyan President Michael Roth '78 congratulates the recipients, Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies; Joseph Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities; and Sonia Sultan, professor of biology.

At left, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 and the recipients of the inaugural Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research: Gary Yohe, Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies; Joseph Siry, Kenan Professor of the Humanities; and Sonia Sultan, Professor of Biology.

Three Wesleyan faculty were honored with the Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research on Sept. 4. The inaugural prize, presented by Joyce Jacobsen, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, is similar to the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching, but is presented to members of the faculty who demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in their research, scholarship, and contributions to their field.

Each recipient received a plaque and citation as well as research funds for their award. Nominations by faculty colleagues for this new prize will be accepted through the end of April each spring, and the prize will be awarded at the first faculty meeting the following fall.

The 2018 award recipients include Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies; Joseph Siry, the Kenan Professor of the Humanities; and Sonia Sultan, professor of biology. Their award citations are below: