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Shasha ’50, P’82, Founder of Human Concerns Seminar, Is Remembered

James Shasha, the businessman and benefactor who founded and endowed the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns at Wesleyan, died Oct. 21. He was 91.

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1929, he emigrated to the United States when he was 15 and later attended Wesleyan, graduating in 1950 with a major in economics. In 1955 he moved to Argentina, where he pursued his business interests in the wool and carpet industries, serving as the country’s delegate to the International Wool and Textile organization. Later, at 73, he decided to delve into the hotel business without previous experience in this industry. He acquired four hotels: three in Argentina and one in Uruguay.

Always interested in education and the qualities of citizenship, he told Hebrew University in Jerusalem, an institution with which he was also affiliated: “After World War II there was a lot of idealism about how to build a better world and that was what made me understand and incorporate what a citizen’s responsibility should be: take responsibility for the environment, be it the community, the country, or culture in which it participates.”

He developed the Shasha Seminars first at the Hebrew University and then imported them to Wesleyan.

Smolkin Receives Honorable Mention for Prestigious Book Prize

Victoria Smolkin

Victoria Smolkin

Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin’s book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism (Princeton University Press), was awarded an honorable mention for the 2019 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize.

Established in 1983, the Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize is sponsored by the Association for Slavic Studies, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) and the Stanford University Center for Russian and East European Studies. It is awarded annually for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences published in English in the United States in the previous calendar year. The prize carries a cash award and is presented at the association’s annual convention.

Smolkin is a scholar of Communism, the Cold War, and atheism and religion in Russia and the former Soviet Union. A Sacred Space Is Never Empty explores the meaning of atheism for religious life, Communist ideology, and Soviet politics. Read more about the book and see photos from her book talk here.

Krishnan Speaks on South Indian Cultural Forms at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

On Dec. 3, Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, presented a talk about his new book, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore. 

On Dec. 3, Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, presented a talk about his new book, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore. 

Celluloid Classicism, published by Wesleyan University Press in August 2019, provides a detailed history of two important modern South Indian cultural forms: Tamil Cinema and Bharatanatyam dance. Krishnan addresses representations of dance in the cinema from an interdisciplinary, critical-historical perspective.

Celluloid Classicism, published by Wesleyan University Press in August 2019, provides a detailed history of two important modern South Indian cultural forms: Tamil cinema and Bharatanatyam dance. Speaking at the event, he observed that Wesleyan is “a primary site of the reinvention of the dance in the 20th century” with noted Bharatanatyam dancer T. Balasaraswati serving as the first artist in residence at Wesleyan University in the 1960s. Additionally, her brothers, T. Viswanathan and T. Ranganathan, taught in the Music Department for several decades. “So this art form is very much embedded into pedagogy into the DNA at Wesleyan,” he said, noting the responsibility he felt in continuing this tradition at Wesleyan, adding “I’m not interested in relegating Bharatanatyam as some kind of museum historical dance style. I’m interested in giving the form a kind of postmodern currency and how the form can live and breathe, mutate, transform in a variety of ways.”

Krishnan is an expert on queer subjectivities in South Asian and global dance performance, colonialism, post-colonialism and Indian dance, and the history of devadasi (courtesan) dance traditions in South India. He's also the artistic director of Toronto-based dance company inDANCE.

Reading from the introduction, he explained, “Much of this project is concerned with intersections—historical, aesthetic, political and social—between new cultural forms as they were circulated the early 20th century in South India.” Krishnan is an expert on queer subjectivities in South Asian and global dance performance, colonialism, post-colonialism and Indian dance, and the history of devadasi (courtesan) dance traditions in South India. He’s also the artistic director of Toronto-based dance company inDANCE. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Krishnan Authors New Book on Tamil Cinema, Bharatanatyam Dance

Krishnan book Hari Krishnan, associate professor of dance, is the author of a new book, Celluloid Classicism: Early Tamil Cinema and the Making of Modern Bharatanatyam, published by Wesleyan University Press in August 2019.

According to the publisher:

Celluloid Classicism provides a rich and detailed history of two important modern South Indian cultural forms: Tamil Cinema and Bharatanatyam dance. It addresses representations of dance in the cinema from an interdisciplinary, critical-historical perspective. The intertwined and symbiotic histories of these forms have never received serious scholarly attention. For the most part, historians of South Indian cinema have noted the presence of song and dance sequences in films, but have not historicized them with reference to the simultaneous revival of dance culture among the middle-class in this region. In a parallel manner, historians of dance have excluded deliberations on the influence of cinema in the making of the “classical” forms of modern India. Although the book primarily focuses on the period between the late 1920s and 1950s, it also addresses the persistence of these mid-twentieth century cultural developments into the present. The book rethinks the history of Bharatanatyam in the 20th century from an interdisciplinary, transmedia standpoint and features 130 archival images.

Paintings by Schechter ’17 on Exhibit in NYC

Sarah Schechter, Walrus at Night, 2019, oil and mixed media on canvas, 36" x 48"

Sarah Schechter, Walrus at Night, 2019, oil and mixed media on canvas, 36″ x 48″

Sarah Schechter ’17 is exhibiting her first solo show, “Kasual Bagel,” at the Shrine Gallery in New York City. Her paintings will be on display through Jan. 5.

Shrine is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and is located at 179 East Broadway.

Schechter, who majored in history at Wesleyan, lives and works in Harlem, and is completing an art education certification program at Teachers College, Columbia University.

WESU 88.1 FM Celebrates 80th Anniversary with Free Form Jubilee

Jubilee

Wesleyan’s community-based radio station, WESU 88.1 FM, celebrated its 80th anniversary on Dec. 8 with a Free Form Jubilee.

The event, held in the Daniel Family Commons, featured special musical performances and talks by local dignitaries.

Established in 1939, WESU began as one of the first student-owned and -operated radio stations in the country. That fall, Wesleyan freshman Arch Doty Jr. began broadcasting his homemade 1-watt AM transmitter from his Clark Hall dorm room. Eighty years later, WESU is among the largest student groups on Wesleyan’s campus, uniting nearly 150 student and community volunteer broadcasters.

The event featured Noah Baerman, director of the Wesleyan jazz ensemble; Cormac Chester ’20, public affairs director of WESU; Connecticut Senator Mary Abrams; City of Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim ’14; Ben Michael, manager of WESU; Americana musicians Rani Arbo and Scott Kessel; Clifton Watson, director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships; Kate Rushin, award-winning poet; Don Minott, roots-reggae singer; Wesleyan rapper Laszlo; Banning Eyre ’79 of Afropop Worldwide; The Super Girls Group, including Lilian Walker of The Exciters, Margaret Ross Williams of The Cookies, and Louise Murray of The Hearts and Jaynetts; and Randy and Freddie Moses of Middletown’s legendary R&B group, The House of Moses.

WESU’s eight-decade legacy of service can be explored in an online exhibit.

(Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

Noah Baerman

Noah Baerman.

roots reggae singer. Don Minott

Don Minott.

Students Create Performances Based on Shadowing Physical Plant Employees

As part of the Introduction to Environmental Studies class, six students embedded themselves into the work lives of Wesleyan’s Physical Plant employees to learn the inner workings of campus.

Leila Henry ’23, Serena Aimen ’22, Tanvi Punja ’22, Molly Scotti ’22, Nina Criswell ’22, and Mikaela Marcotullio ’23 shadowed the Physical Plant workers for three-hour shifts every week throughout the fall semester. The experience concluded with performances on Dec. 5 that represented the culmination of that work.

The class was taught by Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, and the performances were curated with the help of Allison Orr, creative director of Forklift Danceworks and the Distinguished Fellow in the College of the Environment.

The second-annual project grew out of BUILD (2016), a dance thesis performance choreographed by Clara Pinsky ’16.

Photos of the class presentations are below and on this Flickr album: (Photos by Laurie Kenney)

Venture by Price ’20 Wins 2019 Changemaker Challenge

Anthony Price

Anthony Price

Be the Change Venture (BCV), a nonprofit organization founded and led by Anthony Price ’20, has been chosen as a 2019 Changemaker Challenge Winner by T-Mobile and Ashoka.

BCV was one of 30 winners selected from 300 applicants for the Ashoka-T-Mobile Changemaker Challenge, a yearly prize that supports young changemakers across the United States and Puerto Rico.

BCV aims to train and empower young people to be workforce-ready. It works with youth aged 14 to 18 to help them develop soft and practical skills, find and obtain internship and job opportunities, and foster professional relationships with various career experts. The organization operates in the Lincoln, Neb., and Cleveland, Ohio, areas.

As challenge winners, Price and one team member have been invited to attend the T-Mobile Changemaker Lab, held in Seattle on February 19­–21, with all expenses paid.

Hawkins Remembered for Teaching English at Wesleyan for 20 Years

Sherman Hawkins, professor of English, emeritus, died on Dec. 3 at the age of 90.

Sherman received BA degrees from both Harvard University and the University of Oxford and his PhD from Princeton University. He served in the US military at the conclusion of the Korean War. Arriving at Wesleyan in 1971 after teaching at Princeton, Bryn Mawr, and University of Rochester, he taught English here for 20 years until he retired in 1991. For decades, his essay on college as a green world experience was given to every freshman entering Wesleyan.

“Sherman was an unforgettable colleague and presence at Wesleyan,” said Professor of English and Letters Kach Tölölyan. “As a teacher, he combined a dramatic style that captivated students and a sense of responsibility that made him scrupulous in every aspect of teaching. I have never forgotten our conversations concerning Shakespeare.”

NASA Supports Poulos’s Wildfire Research

Helen

Helen Poulos examines a high fire severity site.

Wildfires can transform forest ecosystems to varying degrees, depending on fire severity. While low-severity wildfires change plant community composition by killing short-statured trees and understory plants, high-severity fires result in top kill of above-ground vegetation. This variation in wildfire effects can have major impacts on post-fire vegetation composition and water stress.

Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, received a $300,000 grant from NASA on Dec. 5 to examine how forests can permanently change in response to high-severity wildfire in southeastern Arizona.