All News

Kabacoff: Teaching Quantitative Analysis during the Pandemic

Robert Kabacoff,

Robert Kabacoff

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 fourth 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 Robert Kabacoff, professor of the practice in the Quantitative Analysis Center. This fall, he’s teaching QAC 201: Applied Data Analysis; QAC 356: Advanced R: Building Open-Source Tools for Data Analysis; and QAC 385: Applications of Machine Learning in Data Analysis.

In the past, all of Kabacoff’s classes were taught in-person, but he’s currently teaching all three virtually.

“It’s a new experience,” he said. “The biggest challenge is keeping students engaged so they don’t feel like they are watching television or a YouTube video.”

To prevent Zoom fatigue, Kabakoff takes the following steps:

  1. He encourages all students to keep their video on to have a “classroom” feel.
  2. He sets up a forum at the beginning of the course where students share a bit about themselves, including their year, major, goals in the course, and at least one fun fact about themselves.
  3. He regularly checks in with them via Zoom chat, asking them to share a word or two about how they are doing.
  4. He uses polls to check their learning.
  5. He regularly groups students into breakout rooms to discuss and work on problems. Each group selects a representative to share their findings when they come back into the main room.
  6. They use Google’s Jamboard (whiteboard) during discussions, so that each student can add their thoughts in real time.
  7. Students read articles and watch videos via Perusall, a software tool that encourages them to comment on what they are reading or viewing. Students share thoughts and ask questions that other students try to answer. “The goal is to make a community learning environment,” Kabakoff said.

Although these approaches are working well, remote teaching has its downsides. Since he’s not meeting the students in person, Kabakoff tries diligently not to let students “fall through the cracks” and to keep them actively engaged in their own learning. He also helps students in different time zones feel connected and assists those who have poor internet service.

Kabakoff’s QAC 356 and QAC 385 classes have semester-long group projects. “Students work together via Zoom and use other team-building tools to complete the assignments together. At the end of the semester, they present their results to the class virtually,” he said.

But for his QAC 201 course, the class is a flipped classroom; students watch videos, complete readings, and take short quizzes on the material before class. In class, they work on a semester-long original research project. They do this by working at permanent virtual tables with five other students and a peer mentor (a student who has taken the course before and excelled on their own project).

“My role in this course is to provide very short lectures and act as a resource for each ‘table’ as they work on their projects,” Kabakoff said. “The course was designed by two Wesleyan psychology faculty and funded by an NSF grant. It has always been a flipped classroom, but has only now been offered virtually at Wesleyan.”

Jewish Community Celebrates Journey to the Holy Land in WesSukkah

sukkah

During the first week of October, Wesleyan’s Jewish community constructed its annual WesSukkah on the McKelvey Green. During the festival of Sukkot, held Oct. 2–9, 2020, students use the dwelling for socializing, meditating, eating meals, studying, and occasionally sleeping. The eight-day celebration is generally observed by Jews, although students from any faith or background are allowed to enter and use the sukkah.

sukkah

During Sukkot, the Jewish community celebrates the Israelites’ 40-year journey to the Holy Land, which concludes with the celebration of Hoshana Rabbah. Although sukkah walls can be constructed from any material, Rabbinic building code suggests that the roof must be built from organic material. The WesSukkah’s roof is made of bamboo.

sukkah

Decorating the sukkah with artwork is a Jewish tradition. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Criminal Justice and Election Discussed at E2020 Speaker Series Event

As part of Wesleyan's E2020 Speaker Series, on Oct. 1, a group of Wesleyan alumni and community leaders discussed the topic "Criminal Justice and the 2020 Election." This event featured a panel of Wesleyan alumni and community leaders including Alicia Hernandez Strong ’16, Julian Adler ’02, Lorenzo Jones, Andrew Clark, Earl Bloodworth and Tracie Bernardi, who are all committed to criminal justice reform (bios below). They will speak about their work and their thoughts on the upcoming election.

As part of Wesleyan’s E2020 Speaker Series, on Oct. 1 a group of Wesleyan alumni and community leaders discussed the topic “Criminal Justice and the 2020 Election.” The event, hosted on Zoom, was open to the Wesleyan community and the public.

This event featured a panel of Wesleyan alumni and community leaders including Alicia Hernandez Strong ’16, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations; Julian Adler ’02, director of policy and research at the Center for Court Innovation; Lorenzo Jones, co-founder and co-executive director at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice in Hartford, Conn.; Andrew Clark, director of the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy (IMRP) at Central Connecticut State University; Earl Bloodworth, director of The Warren Kimbro Reentry Project whose mission is to help formerly incarcerated New Haven residents successfully return to the community after their release from prison; and Tracie Bernardi, co-founder and co-director of Once Incarcerated… Once In–a non-profit organization geared toward ending recidivism and generational incarceration.

This event featured a panel of Wesleyan alumni and community leaders, including Alicia Hernandez Strong ’18, executive director of the Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations; Julian Adler ’02, director of policy and research at the Center for Court Innovation; Lorenzo Jones, co-founder and co-executive director at the Katal Center for Health, Equity, and Justice in Hartford, Conn.; Andrew Clark, director of the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy (IMRP) at Central Connecticut State University; Earl Bloodworth, director of The Warren Kimbro Reentry Project, whose mission is to help formerly incarcerated New Haven residents successfully return to the community after their release from prison; and Tracie Bernardi, co-founder and co-director of Once Incarcerated… Once In, a nonprofit organization geared toward ending recidivism and generational incarceration.

The discussion was moderated by Allie Cislo, program manager of Wesleyan's Center for Prison Education.

The discussion was moderated by Allie Cislo, program manager of Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education. She asked the panelists to reflect on their own work and discuss the uses and limitations of elections at every level of government—from the federal to the municipal—in affecting transformative change to the landscape of law and punishment in America. She also asked, “What is the relationship between prospective changes in the criminal legal system and an electoral paradigm?”

Julian Adler ’02 is the director of policy and research at the Center for Court Innovation, where he oversees a broad portfolio of teams, projects, and new initiatives. Julian was previously the director of the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, New York, and he was part of the planning teams that created Brooklyn Justice Initiatives and Newark Community Solutions in New Jersey. Julian is the co-author (with Greg Berman ’89) of Start Here: A Road Map to Reducing Mass Incarceration (The New Press), and he is a co-chair of the advisory board for Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education.

Julian Adler ’02 is the co-author (with Greg Berman ’89) of Start Here: A Road Map to Reducing Mass Incarceration (The New Press), and he is a co-chair of the advisory board for Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education.

licia Hernandez Strong ’18, a leader and community activist in her hometown of New Britain, was named one of Connecticut Magazine‘s 2019 “40 under 40.” At 21 years old, Strong became the youngest person nationally to be given the title of executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Strong is working to empower young Muslim women and, in her work with the New Britain Board of Education, tackle socioeconomic and racial disparity in New Britain schools. After taking a course in comparative religion during her junior year at New Britain High School, Strong converted from Catholicism to Islam. She went on to double-major in government and religion at Wesleyan, studying abroad in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Serbia her junior year and graduating with honors. During her time at Wesleyan, Strong received the Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship for a research proposal seeking to explore the Muslim identities of the Albanian population in Kosovo.

Alicia Hernandez Strong ’18, a leader and community activist in her hometown of New Britain, was named one of Connecticut Magazine’s 2019 “40 under 40.” At 21 years old, Strong became the youngest person nationally to be given the title of executive director of the Connecticut chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Strong is working to empower young Muslim women and, in her work with the New Britain Board of Education, tackle socioeconomic and racial disparity in New Britain schools. After taking a course in comparative religion during her junior year at New Britain High School, Strong converted from Catholicism to Islam. She went on to double-major in government and religion at Wesleyan, studying abroad in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Serbia her junior year and graduating with honors. During her time at Wesleyan, Strong received the Mellon-Mays Undergraduate Fellowship for a research proposal seeking to explore the Muslim identities of the Albanian population in Kosovo.

racie Bernardi is a formerly incarcerated woman who entered prison a teenager and served 23 years in prison. Seven of which she spent in Solitary Confinement. Since her release just five years ago Tracie has become a Certified Recovery Support Specialist. She is the co-founder and co-director of Once Incarcerated… Once In – a non-profit organization geared toward ending recidivism and generational incarceration. Tracie co-facilitates Once In Anonymous (OIA) an on-line safe haven for formerly incarcerated people. Tracie is also a dedicated ACLU Smart Justice Leader fighting to end mass incarceration. She is also a Phoenix Member helping to change the culture of corrections. Tracie is a public speaker- Venues such as Yale, Wesleyan, CCSU, Capital Community College, The Connecticut Women’s March, The Connecticut Convention center, and several public libraries and churches, panels, and rally’s. Tracie is published in Kenneth E. Hartman’s Too Cruel Not Unusual, the other death penalty. Tracie is an avid writer, looking to publish a memoir. Visit her blog. Tracie is also an artist who has also had her art displayed in The Brooklyn Museum, The American Visionary Art Museum, Maier Museum of Art at Randolph College, and Hartford Public Library.

Tracie Bernardi is a formerly incarcerated woman who entered prison as a teenager and served 23 years in prison, seven of which she spent in solitary confinement. Since her release five years ago, Bernardi has become a Certified Recovery Support Specialist. Bernardi co-facilitates Once In Anonymous (OIA) an online safe haven for formerly incarcerated people, and she’s also a dedicated ACLU Smart Justice Leader fighting to end mass incarceration. “I’m in this game for every person who ends up incarcerated. If you don’t help us, and let us back into society, you essentially block us out of society,” she said, “You’re doing a disservice to our kids, our families, and new victims. . . . I just want to make changes. I speak out and try to change perspectives and change hearts, and change minds, and hopefully who we vote for will help change the world.”

The E2020 Speaker Series features an array of public figures from diverse backgrounds, all with compelling messages about the power of students and young people to affect change amid the urgency of this moment. The E2020 Speaker Series is a centerpiece of Wesleyan’s E2020 Initiative, the University’s comprehensive effort to support student learning and civic participation, while engaging the public around the electoral process and broader questions related to civic life.

Upcoming E2020 Speaker Series events include a vice presidential debate watch party with Logan Dancey, associate professor of government; “Don’t Hate, Communicate: Discussing Politics and Maintaining Relationships”; “Our Country Our Votes: Young Voters Weigh in on the Election, Election Coverage, and Political Discourse Today”; “Religion, Diversity, and Democracy: Eboo Patel in conversation with Michael Roth”; an election results watch party; and more.

The E2020 Speaker Series is supported by generous contributions from the Wintman Family Lecture Series Fund.

BIPOC Artists and Theatermakers Discuss the Challenges of Working in White Spaces

Inspired by August Wilson’s 1996 keynote address to the Theater Communications Group, Wesleyan's Theater Department presented a discussion titled "Re-Evaluating the Ground on Which We(s) Stand(s)" on Sept. 25.

Inspired by August Wilson’s 1996 keynote address to the Theater Communications Group, Wesleyan’s Theater Department presented a discussion titled “Re-Evaluating the Ground on Which We(s) Stand(s)” on Sept. 25.

The event, hosted by Assistant Professor of Theater Maria-Christina Oliveras (left) and Associate Professor of English Rashida Shaw McMahon (right) explored how Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists and theater-makers are engaging in conversations about the challenges of BIPOC theater in predominantly white spaces.

The event, hosted by Assistant Professor of Theater Maria-Christina Oliveras (left) and Associate Professor of English Rashida Shaw McMahon ’99 (right) explored how Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists and theater-makers are engaging in conversations about the challenges of BIPOC theater in predominantly white spaces. Oliveras is an actor, singer, and educator whose career spans theater, film, television, and voice-overs. On Broadway, she originated the role of Gina in Amélie, and also appeared in Machinal and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. McMahon, an author and researcher, is the author of The Black Circuit: Race, Performance, and Spectatorship in Black Popular Theatre (Routledge, March 2020). Her current research projects include an investigation into the hypervisibility of African American women characters within the plays of August Wilson.

Guest speakers and acclaimed actors Crystal Dickinson (Clybourne Park and You Can’t Take It With You on Broadway; Showtime’s The Chi) and Brandon Dirden (Martin Luther King, Jr. in All the Way starring Bryan Cranston and Jitney on Broadway; FX’s The Americans; Netflix’s The Get Down) were the event's key panelists. Guest speakers and acclaimed actors Crystal Dickinson (Clybourne Park and You Can’t Take It With You on Broadway; Showtime’s The Chi) and Brandon Dirden (Martin Luther King, Jr. in All the Way starring Bryan Cranston and Jitney on Broadway; FX’s The Americans; Netflix’s The Get Down) were the event's key panelists. 

Acclaimed actors Crystal Dickinson (Clybourne Park and You Can’t Take It With You on Broadway; Showtime’s The Chi) and Brandon Dirden (All the Way and Jitney on Broadway; FX’s The Americans; Netflix’s The Get Down) served as the event’s guest speakers. They also presented, as actors, scenes from four plays which served as anchoring points to engage the audience in direct conversation with the work, its themes, and its resonance and relevance today. “It’s important for you to see our work and see us perform, but our goal and our mission—the purpose of the work, the purpose of the art—is to educate and to inform,” Dickinson said. “All the work that I choose, it doesn’t matter if it’s TV or theater, I’m always hoping people will have a conversation at the end of it—there’s something that sparks, something uncomfortable, or something sticky. We’re interested in how the work affects society, how the art can change and mold how people are imagining the America we live in.”

The event featured excerpts from plays by Adrienne Kennedy, Alice Childress, Lorraine Hansberry, and Dominique Morriseau,

Dickinson and Dirden performed excerpts from plays by Adrienne Kennedy, Alice Childress, Lorraine Hansberry, and Dominique Morriseau, and spoke about them afterward.

theater

Dickinson and Dirden perform a scene from Dominique Morisseau’s Detroit ’67. The play depicts the race riots that ravaged Detroit in 1967. “This play in particular, we’ve been talking about it in white spaces. This is not a secretive conversation that we’ve kept to ourselves,” Dirden said. “Detroit 1967. The fact that that it isn’t taught in our schools. We were doomed to repeat it, and that was about police brutality.”

Co-sponsored by the Theater Department and the English Department.

The audience was encouraged to ask questions via chat throughout the event.

Watch the full event recording online here. And RSVP for the Theater Deparment’s next event, “A Conversation with Associate Professor Rashida Shaw McMahon” at 4 p.m. Oct. 19.

“Thank you again for all your support and presence,” Oliveras said. “The first of many conversations, as we collectively lean into the stickiness and beautiful potential change of this moment.”

Broker ’66 Speaks on Infectious Disease, Cancer at Biophysics Retreat, Public Seminar

Tom Broker ’66, professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama at Burlington, delivered a public science seminar titled "Infectious Disease Pandemics and Cancer" on Sept. 30. He was joined by Rich Olson, Ishita Mukerji, and Jan Naege, who provided an introduction. 

Tom Broker ’66, professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama at Burlington, delivered a public science seminar titled “Infectious Disease Pandemics and Cancer” on Sept. 30. He was joined by Rich Olson, associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; and Jan Naegele, Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division, Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science.

Broker is an expert on Human papillomaviruses (HPVs), which are sexually-transmitted diseases of viral origin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 million Americans become infected each year, and HPV is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women. Broker has been involved in the development and validation of topical agents to treat the virus and is the founding President of the Human Papillomavirus Society.

Broker is an expert on human papillomaviruses (HPVs), which are sexually-transmitted diseases of viral origin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 million Americans become infected each year, and HPV is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women. Broker has been involved in the development and validation of topical agents to treat the virus and is the founding president of the Human Papillomavirus Society.

tom

“This one was actually a bit of a surprise to me, and if this was data-based on prevalence and macroeconomic status, and I fully expected that the low ‘this is human development index’ would be the place where the worst . . . and it was the worst in the richest countries, at least by what the data shows,” Broker said. “China has a tremendous prevalence, as does India, as a single country, but in the wealthy areas of North America, and Europe and East Asia, papillomaviruses’ prevalence is very high and would benefit immensely from training and treatment, and in the long run, a vaccine could prevent it.”

During the 21st annual Molecular Biophysics Virtual Retreat on Sept. 28, Tom Broker ’66, professor emeritus of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Alabama at Burlington, delivered the keynote address titled "HPV—Host Cell Interactions and Anti-Viral Drug Discovery in 3D-Tissue Systems. "Generally from infection to someone getting a HPV cancer, like cervical cancer, is 20 years, so these viruses are persistent, they’re opportunistic, a little bit of damage every once and a while tips them closer and closer to overexpression, and eventually the failures of the defense responses and the overexpression of the virus drive us down the cancer pathway," he said.

Broker also delivered the 21st annual Molecular Biophysics Virtual Retreat keynote address titled “HPV—Host Cell Interactions and Anti-Viral Drug Discovery in 3D-Tissue Systems” on Sept. 28. “Generally, from infection to someone getting a HPV cancer, like cervical cancer, is 20 years, so these viruses are persistent, they’re opportunistic; a little bit of damage every once and a while tips them closer and closer to over-expression, and eventually the failures of the defense responses and the over-expression of the virus drive us down the cancer pathway,” he said.

bio p retreat

The annual retreat, which is open to all faculty and students, was sponsored by the Molecular Biophysics Program and the Biology, Chemistry, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and Physics departments. Broker was joined by Olson, Mukerji, and Donald Oliver, Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Several students presented virtual poster sessions during the retreat including Oliver Cho '22, a chemistry and philosophy double major; Jack Kwon '21, a molecular biology and biochemistry and College of Integrative Sciences double major; Carol Dalgarno ’21, a molecular biology and biochemistry and Science in Society double major; and Rujun Yan ’21, a computer science and math double major.

Several students presented virtual poster sessions during the retreat, including Oliver Cho ’22, a chemistry and philosophy double major; Jack Kwon ’21, a molecular biology and biochemistry and College of Integrative Sciences double major; Carol Dalgarno ’21, a molecular biology and biochemistry and Science in Society double major; and Rujun Yan ’21, a computer science and math double major.

Oliver Cho

Oliver Cho presented “Modifying a Mini Protein with Two Conformational States to Instead Adopt Only One Conformation.” (Click to enlarge)

GCN Sensitive Protein Translation in Yeast

Jack Kwon presented “GCN Sensitive Protein Translation in Yeast.” (Click to enlarge)

Carol Dalgarno

Carol Dalgarno presented “Molecular Dynamics Studies of the Ribosome CAR Surface.” (Click to enlarge)

Rujun Yan

Rujun Yan presented “A Promising Machine Learning Tool for the Permeability of Alpha Helical Peptide.” (Click to enlarge)

Working at Wes during a Pandemic: Hurteau Helps Science Library Adapt to New Social Distancing Guidelines

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected the way faculty teach, students learn, and staff work to help the University. In this article, we spotlight Linda Hurteau, Science Library assistant, who has helped make the library a safe environment for patrons and staff alike.

The once busy and bustling Science Library, which stays open until 2 a.m. to accommodate those who study late into the night, is open for service this fall semester. However, the pandemic has drastically changed the way students interact with and use the library. And no one knows this better than Science Library Assistant Linda Hurteau, a 16-year veteran of Wesleyan Libraries.

“Most people are aware that Sci Li has always been the ‘noisy library’ because, from the basement to the second floor, the building is basically designed for students to be more social and group-study-friendly,” Hurteau said. “Without the ability to study in groups during this semester, we have less student traffic, and it feels very different and much quieter.”

Prior to the pandemic, Hurteau would come to campus prepared for a busy day of dealing with the remnants of the day before: searching for requested books, fixing jammed printers, maintaining copiers, working with fines and fees, putting furniture back where it belongs, and dealing with various building issues.

“I’d deal with so many students every day, and as any student who used the Science Library knows, we are a science library and supply store in one. We had always had available for any student pencils, pens, markers, staplers, scissors, folders, envelopes, and just about any other office supply they needed for their classwork. Obviously, lots of unseen projects are always happening, with library materials coming in and out and back on the shelf.”

But nowadays, Hurteau has altered her daily routine to emphasize keeping her library community safe.

Although students continue to frequent Sci Li to use public computers and printers, or to study or relax, the facility’s capacity may not exceed 50 percent. All library-goers and library staff wear masks at all times and practice social distancing.

Like students who first arrived on campus, the books also go through a quarantine period (of four days) before being recirculated. “We have the book stacks closed or off-limits at this time, and I think many students actually prefer it this way,” Hurteau said. “They request their books online, and we have them ready for students to grab and go in the lobby.”

The circulation desk is now lined with a clear, plexiglass wall to provide the staff and student workers with separation from the public. And the library’s lobby was reconfigured, by Hurteau, to allow for a safe and redirected traffic flow. You simply follow the oversized arrows.

“I have designed and constructed many parade floats on land and water for various holidays or other reasons. Anybody who works with large-scale temporary mediums knows we use lots of duct tape, cardboard, and zip ties,” she said. “I must have 50 different colors of duct tape. Using a couple carpet runners and those under-your-desk-chair carpet protectors, and making bright neon arrows out of duct tape on them, gets attention. It works very well for us.”

Hurteau credits the operating successes of the Science Library and Olin Library during the pandemic to early planning. Library staff began COVID-19 discussions as early as February and developed hypothetical scenarios and talked out various solutions to potential problems.

“Despite what some people may think, library people are very adaptable,” Hurteau said. “We knew we needed to successfully finish the semester.”

Hurteau recalls discussing how faculty could have all their course content available online; how the libraries could accommodate students’ needs in their pursuit to finish the academic year and earn their degree; how to deal with late books and waiving fines; how the campus community would retrieve their library materials; and who would and could work remotely.

“It was very obvious from the start that most of the circulation and reserve staff would still need to come to campus and work in the buildings. Once everything settled down from the spring 2020 semester, the digital requests for fall 2020 started coming in. Tons of scanning is still being done to upload for faculty course requests and reserves.”

Hurteau worked from home full-time for only two weeks and continued to manage 40 student workers through emails and Zoom meetings. “Once it was decided that the Science Library could offer many of the services we previously had through contactless means, it was (almost) business as usual,” she said.

In addition to working at the Science Library, Hurteau volunteers as a team captain for Wesleyan’s Campus Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT).

“CERT members and Physical Plant staff have been . . . unsung heroes to many during this time,” she said. “Since the beginning of the pandemic and up until two days ago, it was mostly CERT members who would deliver breakfast, lunch, and dinner to students in quarantine on- and off-campus and be responsible for all the PPE kits on campus, from ordering and filling the bags, to distributing them to students, staff, and faculty. CERT members also would be the people on campus at 6 a.m., setting up the COVID testing tent, and in the evenings they would be the ones to pack it up for the day.”

Lock Shop’s Sean Higgins Remembered for Helping Keep Wes Safe

Sean Higgins

Sean Higgins worked at Wesleyan for 16 years.

Sean Higgins, Wesleyan’s Lock Shop foreman, passed away suddenly on Sept. 25. He was 60 years old.

Higgins worked for Wesleyan’s Physical Plant for 16 years maintaining the physical security of the campus where he insured the safety of students, faculty, and staff.

According to his obituary in The Middletown Press, Higgins “showed his love in the form of full-body hugs, homemade pasta sauce, big family breakfasts, and a shared Guinness, no matter the time of day. He loved to hate the New York Giants, indulged in bad action films, and never turned down helping someone in need. His quick wit and humor never failed to spark a giggle or a smile; his mischievous nature kept everyone on their toes, waiting for the next surprise. Sean’s protective demeanor, endless patience, and unquestioning support will leave a gaping hole in the lives of those who loved him most.”

Higgins found solace on the golf course and was very involved in the Wesleyan Open Golf Association, which annually raised funds for charity.

Friends may call at The Ahern Funeral Home, 111 Main St., Rt. 4, Unionville, Conn. on Wednesday, Sept. 30 from 4 to 8 p.m. Funeral procession from The Ahern Funeral Home will be Thursday, Oct. 1 at 9:45 a.m. followed by the Funeral Liturgy in the Church of St. Dominic, 1050 Flanders Road, Southington, at 10:30. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Southington Bread for Life, PO Box 925, Southington, CT 06489.To send online condolences to the family, visit www.ahernfuneralhome.com

Discovery by Chernoff and Students Challenges a Tenet of Evolutionary Biology

Barry Chernoff and students in University of Michigan lab

Barry Chernoff and students in his Tropical Ecology course conducted research at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, where they discovered two new species of fish that challenged an expectation from evolutionary theory.

As organisms evolve over time, changes in size—both miniaturization and gigantism—are a major theme. In fish, which are the specialty of Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, Professor of Biology and of Earth & Environmental Sciences, miniaturization happens in many lineages, though it’s not very common. Evolutionary biology has long held that this miniaturization is often accompanied by developmental simplification or paedomorphisis (becoming sexually mature while appearing juvenile-like).

chernoffLast March, just before the pandemic began, Chernoff and students in his Tropical Ecology course (ENVS/Bio/E&ES 306) took a trip to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., which is home to one of the largest scientific collections of natural history objects, or specimens, and allows visitors to work with their collections. There, they discovered two new species of fish from the tropics—one from Honduras and one from Colombia. In these new species, the data demonstrated the opposite of expectations from evolutionary theory: that miniaturization occurred with developmental acceleration. That is, the miniatures achieve adult morphology in a shorter period of time by accelerating the transformation from juvenile morphologies to adult morphologies.

Students, Faculty Perform West African Drumming and Dance

African Studies and Akwaaba Wes invited members of the Wesleyan community to a West African Music and Dance performance on Sept. 25 on the Rugby Practice Field. 

African Studies and the African Students’ Association (ASA) invited members of the Wesleyan community to a West African Music and Dance performance on Sept. 25 on the rugby practice field.

The socially-distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the African Students’ Association.

The socially distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the ASA.

Assistant Professor of Dance Iddi Saaka performed a solo dance. Saaka is teaching DANC 111: Introduction to Dance; DANC 260: West African Dance I; and DANC 360: West African Dance II this semester.

Assistant Professor of Dance Iddi Saaka performed a solo dance. Saaka is teaching DANC 111: Introduction to Dance; DANC 260: West African Dance I; and DANC 360: West African Dance II this semester.

John Dankwa, assistant professor of music, also performed a solo. Dankwa is teaching MUSC 300: Seminar for Music Majors and MUSC 446: West African Music and Culture this fall. 

John Dankwa, assistant professor of music, also performed a solo. Dankwa is teaching MUSC 300: Seminar for Music Majors and MUSC 446: West African Music and Culture this fall.

West African dance is a gateway to the cultures and ways of life of its people. It is the medium on which the very existence of the people is reinforced and celebrated. In this introductory course, students will learn the fundamental principles and aesthetics of West African dance through learning to embody basic movement vocabulary and selected traditional dances from Ghana. The physical embodiment of these cultures will be complemented with videos, lectures, readings, and discussions to give students an in-depth perspective on the people and cultures of Ghana. Students will also learn dances from other West Africa countries periodically.

The socially distanced event featured live student performances and a welcome message from the ASA.

The event was sponsored and organized by the Provost, the Fries Center for Global Studies, the Freeman Athletic Center, and Physical-Plant Facilities.

The event was sponsored and organized by the Provost, the Fries Center for Global Studies, the Freeman Athletic Center, and Physical-Plant Facilities. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Roth ’78, Amherst President Issue Statement on DOE’s Investigation of Princeton

On Sept. 24, Wesleyan University President Michael S. Roth ’78 and Amherst College President Biddy Martin issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s investigation of Princeton University surrounding racism and adherence to federal non-discrimination law:

Across the nation, individuals, families, communities, businesses, corporations, and educational institutions are coming to grips with the country’s legacies of slavery and racial oppression,  which stretch back over four hundred years. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education announced that it will be investigating Princeton University for possible misrepresentations in its reports of adherence to federal non-discrimination law because its president publicly recognized that historic racism has been embedded in the institution over time.

It is outrageous that the Department of Education is using our country’s resources to investigate an institution that is committed to becoming more inclusive by reckoning with the impact in the present of our shared legacies of racism.

As presidents of colleges and universities, we, too, acknowledge the ways that racism has affected and continues to affect the country’s institutions, including our own. We stand together in recognizing the work we still need to do if we are ever “to perfect the union,” and we urge the  Department of Education to abandon its ill-considered investigation of Princeton University.

Michael S. Roth ’78, President, Wesleyan University
Biddy Martin, President, Amherst College


Jeff Abernathy, Alma College
Barbara K. Altmann, Franklin & Marshall College
Carmen Twillie Ambar, Oberlin College
Teresa L. Amott, Knox College
David R. Anderson, St. Olaf College
Lawrence Bacow, Harvard University
Bradley W. Bateman, Randolph College
Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Trinity College
Scott Bierman, Beloit College
Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia University
Leon Botstein, Bard College
Elizabeth H. Bradley, Vassar College
John Bravman, Bucknell University
Mark Burstein, Lawrence University
Alison Byerly, Lafayette College
Michael T. Cahill, Brooklyn Law School
Roger Casey, McDaniel College
Kimberly Cassidy, Bryn Mawr College
Shirley M. Collado, Ithaca College
Marc C. Conner, Skidmore College
Elizabeth Davis, Furman University
Sean M. Decatur, Kenyon College
Kent Devereaux, Goucher College
Harry J. Elam, Jr., Occidental College
Margee Ensign, Dickinson College
Damián J. Fernández, Eckerd College
Jacquelyn S. Fetrow, Albright College
William L Fox, St. Lawrence University
Michael L. Frandsen, Wittenberg University
Jorge G. Gonzalez, Kalamazoo College
Jonathan D. Green, Susquehanna University
Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania
Philip J. Hanlon, Dartmouth College
Kathleen Harring, Muhlenberg College
David Harris, Union College
Majorie Hass, Rhodes College
Jonathan Holloway, Rutgers University
Joyce Jacobsen, Hobart & William Smith Colleges
Paula Johnson, Wellesley College
Rock Jones, Ohio Wesleyan University
Cristle Collins Judd, Sarah Lawrence College
Thomas Katsouleas, University of Connecticut
Water Kimbrough, Dillard University
Maria Klawe, Harvey Mudd College
John C. Knapp, Washington & Jefferson College
Frederick M. Lawrence, Phi Betta Kappa Society
Hilary L. Link, Allegheny College
Maud S. Mandel, Williams College
Biddy Martin, Amherst College
Michael C. Maxey, Roanoke College
Kathleen McCartney, Smith College
Patricia A. McGuire, Trinity Washington University
Anthony Monaco, Tufts University
Kathleen Murray, Whitman College
S. Georgia Nugent, Illinois Wesleyan University
Melvin L. Oliver, Pitzer College
Lynn Pasquerella, Association of American Colleges & Universities
Laurie L. Patton, Middlebury College
Martha E. Pollack, Cornell University
Vincent Price, Duke University
Wendy Raymond, Haverford College
Ravi S. Rajan, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)
L. Rafael Reif, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Suzanne Rivera, Macalester College
Clayton Rose, Bowdoin College
Michael S. Roth, Wesleyan University
Peter Salovey, Yale University
Ruth J. Simmons, Prairie View A&M University
Valerie Smith, Swarthmore College
Clayton Spencer, Bates College
G. Gabrielle Starr, Pomona College
Sonya Stephens, Mount Holyoke College
Tania Tetlow, Loyola University New Orleans
Lara Tiedens, Scripps College
Stephen E. Thorsett, Willamette University
Laura Trombley, Southwestern University
Laura R. Walker, Bennington College
Jianping Wang, Mercer County Community College
Wim Wiewel, Lewis & Clark College
Edward Wingenbach, Hampshire College
David Wippman, Hamilton College

Music Graduate Students Share Recent Projects

On Sept. 23, two students from the Music Department kicked off the 2020–21 Wesleyan Music Graduate Series, which is being hosted on YouTube this semester. Hosted by Wesleyan’s Music graduate students, this series showcases the performance, compositional, and research capabilities of Wesleyan graduate music students, alumni, and other Wesleyan affiliates. Panels will be streamed in six weekly installments on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. during September and October 2020.

Wheeler

Stuart Wheeler, a second-year MA student, presented a talk and performance of his composition “Mr. Bernard Shaw from On Vivisection.” The song, which can be performed by 1–13 singers, is based on a poem Wheeler wrote using source text from On Vivisection. The content focuses on Shaw’s political opposition to the practice of vivisection in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Wheeler's construction of the text is drawn heavily from the composer, performance artist, and poet Jackson Mac Low.  "There's specific methods of selection and rearrangement of words in the text, and these methods are both nonintentional and completely pre-determined," Wheeler said. "I'm making no intentional decisions on the granular level, I'm simply developing my own system for selecting and rearranging words from the source text."

Wheeler’s construction of the text is drawn heavily from the composer, performance artist, and poet Jackson Mac Low. “There are specific methods of selection and rearrangement of words in the text, and these methods are both nonintentional and completely predetermined,” Wheeler said. “I’m making no intentional decisions on the granular level, I’m simply developing my own system for selecting and rearranging words from the source text.” Wheeler also explained that his piece is built around a single chord that forms the harmonic architecture for the piece.

Bianca

Bianca Iannitti MA ’19, a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology, presented an an autoethnographic case study of the 2018 song Italiana by Fedez and J-Ax. Iannitti, who is fluent in Italian, recalled overhearing the song during a trip to Italy in 2018. “Italiana became an immediate success and is considered Italy’s top summer hit of 2018,” she said. “It was an integral part of my local surroundings. I would hear it in passing on the radio, in retail stores, local bars, or even watching MTV with my cousins.”

video

Italiana’s chorus serves as a double entendre, to highlight the tourism, and popularity, and beauty of the Italian summer, while also revealing the cracks within this often romanticized portrayal of the country,” Iannitti said. “Although there are references to the summer weather, the Italian beachside, and the beautiful people, there also lies this double meaning, or added layer, which serves as a political critique against the country’s immigration policy as well as the treatment toward undocumented citizens.”

pizza

Iannitti pointed out several pop cultural references and cultural stereotypes in the song and video, including the use of hand gestures, the love of pizza and spaghetti, and a laid-back mindset. “The song’s Italian music style, lyrical content, and music video ultimately exemplifies the complexity of the Italian culture and its identity on a local, national, and international scale,” she said. (Image: Italiana by Fedez and J-Ax.)

Stanton, Hoggard Discuss Collaborative “Storied Places” during Faculty Luncheon Series

During the fall semester's first Faculty Luncheon Series on Sept. 23, Jay Hoggard '76, professor of music, and Nicole Stanton, provost, professor of dance, and senior vice president for academic affairs, presented a talk titled "Storied Places: A Collaborative Exploration of Migration and Memory" over Zoom. Hoggard and Stanton discussed their collaboration on the "Storied Places" project, which was performed in the Center for the Arts Theater in February 2020 as part of "New England Dance on Tour."

During the fall semester’s first Faculty Luncheon Series event on Sept. 23, Jay Hoggard ’76, professor of music, and Nicole Stanton, provost, professor of dance, and senior vice president for academic affairs, presented a talk titled “Storied Places: A Collaborative Exploration of Migration and Memory” on Zoom. Hoggard and Stanton discussed their ongoing “Storied Places” project, which was performed in the Center for the Arts Theater in February 2020.

Their project, "Storied Places" initially explored the stories of how their own families migrated from the south to the north. In time, the project evolved into science-fiction, where the characters envisioned themself in the future. 

“Storied Places” initially explored the stories of how the two collaborators’ own families migrated from the south to the north. In time, the project evolved into science-fiction, where the characters envisioned themself in the future.

nicole stanton

Stanton, a choreographer with a scholarly interest in the histories of the African Diaspora, and Hoggard, a vibraphonist and composer, began their artistic collaboration in 2014. “I’m very interested in the idea of collaboration as a composition practice, one that decenters a single voice and tries to create a space where multiple voices, multiple bodies, and multiple stories can thrive and exist in a community,” Stanton said.

Hoggard, who graduated from Wesleyan's World Music program in 1976, has recorded more than 20 CDs as a leader and more than 50 as a collaborator. He's served as director of the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra for more than 25 years. As a composer, Hoggard said Stanton's arrangements "really challenged to think outside the box." In most productions, very specific lyrics are tied to the emotions of a particular scene, "whereas, working with Nicole, there's something much more subtle than that. It's performance art. There's a symbolic part of modern and post-modern conceptions of choreography, dance, and movement, so ... it was an expansion [for me] in terms of how how to translate that into sound, or fragments of sound as opposed to structured pieces. It was more of a texture. Working with the Dance Department at Wesleyan and seeing the dancers, I got a better understanding of dance at Wes."

Hoggard, who graduated from Wesleyan’s World Music program in 1976, has recorded more than 20 CDs as a leader and more than 50 as a collaborator. He’s served as director of the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra for more than 25 years. As a composer, Hoggard said Stanton’s arrangements “really challenged me to think outside the box.” In most productions, very specific lyrics are tied to the emotions of a particular scene, “whereas, working with Nicole, there’s something much more subtle than that. It’s performance art. There’s a symbolic part of modern and post-modern conceptions of choreography, dance, and movement, so … it was an expansion [for me] in terms of how to translate that into sound, or fragments of sound, as opposed to structured pieces. It was more of a texture. Working with the Dance Department at Wesleyan and seeing the dancers, I got a better understanding of dance at Wes.”

All performers and musicians affiliated with "Storied Places" are Wesleyan faculty, alumni, or community members. The work collaboratively with one another throughout the entire performance process.  "It's not about me creating material and asking all the other bodies in the room to be exactly like my body," Stanton said. "We're all asking one another to try on our physical perspective ... so in that we are engaging our experience. We take our histories and expand them and put them into a context by learning and moving with other people with other bodies."

All performers and musicians affiliated with “Storied Places” are Wesleyan faculty, alumni, or community members, and/or independent artists from New York, Boston, and New Jersey. They work collaboratively with one another throughout the entire performance process. “It’s not about me creating material and asking all the other bodies in the room to be exactly like my body,” Stanton said. “We’re all asking one another to try on our physical perspective … so in that we are engaging our experience. We take our histories and expand them and put them into a context by learning and moving with other people, with other bodies.”

storied places

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78, top left, hosted the webinar and introduced Stanton and Hoggard. The Faculty Luncheon Series normally takes place at Daniel Family Commons over the lunch hour, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hosted online.

Watch a “Storied Places” video below: