Campus News & Events

Film Inspired by Brown’s Immodest Acts Debuts Dec. 5

“Benedetta,” a film based on the book, Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy (Oxford University Press, 1986) will debut Dec. 5 in Middletown. Tickets are free of charge and available from the Usdan Box Office.

Written by Judith Brown, professor emerita of history, Immodest Acts shares the documented story of Sister Benedetta Carlini, Abbess of the Convent of the Mother of God, who had a lesbian affair with another nun, Bartolomeo.

Brown will discuss the film and her book at 5 p.m., Dec. 7 in Russell House.

More information is below:

Benedetta

Wesleyan Hosts Its First Bugsgiving

bugs giving

(By Madi Mehta ’24)

A group of students came together for a unique picnic on the Alpha Delta Phi Lawn on Saturday Nov. 20. On the menu: bugs of all types. 

Welcome to Wesleyan’s first-ever Bugsgiving. 

Bugsgiving brought students together for tasty bug dishes prepared by Brooklyn Bugs Chef Joseph Yoon and a host of activities and presentations surrounding the benefits of entomophagy – the scientific term for eating insects. 

The event was led by Megan Levan ‘22 and sponsored by the Green Fund, the College of the Environment, and the Office of Sustainability. Levan, environmental studies and South Asia studies in a global context (university major), has done extensive writing and research in the field of entomophagy, particularly on the ‘ick’ factor surrounding eating insects in Western culture.  “We grow up being told that bugs are gross, but in reality they are delicious and the benefits that entomophagy has on environmental sustainability are immense,” Levan said. 

Her interest in the field and thesis research led her to Joseph Yoon, an edible insect ambassador who started Brooklyn Bugs, an organization working to raise appreciation for insect consumption through creative programming that demonstrates that bugs can be an easy snack or beautifully plated by a chef.

Organizer Megan Levan ‘22 and Chef Joseph Yoon. Photograph: Nick Sng/Communications

Organizer Megan Levan ‘22 and Chef Joseph Yoon. Levan’s COE research last summer centered on how edible insect-based products are being promoted by companies and received by consumers in countries not known for their entomophagic practices. Levan believes diets of the future will need to be supplemented with other available protein sources, and her research explored how insects fit into the picture.

Aside from being quite delicious, insect consumption offers a host of environmental benefits. Insects take far less resources like large amounts of arable land, feed, and water to farm in comparison to conventional sources of protein like beef and chicken. Marcus Choo, a writer for Earth.org, said in a recent article that farming insects takes about 100 times less greenhouse gases per kilogram of organism gain. Insects are also rich in proteins and other minerals that offer a similar nutritional value to the types of food that are typically found on the table at Thanksgiving. 

Levan hopes that Bugsgiving will encourage a sense of appreciation and open mindedness when it comes to eating insects as a sustainable and delicious alternative to conventional sources of protein. 

Although entomophagy is widely practiced in many countries, eating bugs isn’t yet readily available and affordable for all in the United States. The goal is for events like this one to counter the ‘ick’ factor woven into society, creating  a consumer demand for insect products.

On the menu at Bugsgiving was a multicourse meal including dishes like Mealworm Chocolate Brownies to Cicada Nymph kimchi. Trying to describe the flavor of specific insects is like trying to describe the flavor of chicken or pork, but the mealworm in the brownies added a crunchy texture and the nymphs in the kimchi perfectly soaked up the flavors and paired nicely with the rice and tofu. 

“The food prepared by Chef Yoon was incredible, especially the dessert,” said Bugsgiving guest Zoe Holbo ‘24. “I’ve been into entomophagy for a while, but I’ve been listening to others say that they had no idea bugs could taste like this!”

Additional photos of Bugsgiving are below: (Photos by Nick Sng ’23)

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Free Bus Passes Available for Wesleyan Students

One of the archetypal images of the college experience is a student, toting bags of laundry, waiting for a train or a bus to get home for break.

For many Wesleyan students, at the least the first leg of that journey can be free.

Starting this semester, Wesleyan students are able to use their college ID cards to ride all local Middletown Area Transit (MAT) and 9-Town Transit buses for free via the WesPass program in a collaboration between the University and Middletown Area Transit taking place during the 2021-22 academic year.

Funded through Wesleyan’s Finance Office, Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, and Sustainability Office, WesPass is a pilot program designed to create an affordable and accessible platform for Wesleyan students to increase local transit use while reducing Wesleyan’s contribution to Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“Transportation emissions make up the largest single chunk of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. That’s primarily from people driving individual cars,” said Jen Kleindienst, Wesleyan’s Sustainability Director.

Kleindienst hoped to meet and exceed 300 rides for the semester. Students had taken 250 trips by the end of October, so she felt confident that the University would reach its goal. “This is successful enough that we are going to continue it into the Spring semester and then we can decide what makes sense for the future and what a reasonable price for the service should be going forward,” she said.

Students tend to go to the usual haunts, Kleindienst said – grocery stores on Washington Street, nearby doctor’s appointments, and occasional trips to the mall in Meriden. Perhaps the most important places students travel to for free are local train stations, giving them another possible way to get home if they live in the region.

“The feedback has been generally positive,” Kleindienst said. “We are working with the Allbritton Center’s Civic Engagement Fellow and students to help roll this out and to address student concerns and questions. There have been a lot of basic questions, like how do I know what the schedule is, where do I get off?”

Kleindienst and her team have developed posters, social media posts, and updated the website to help students make a bit more sense of the system. She and others at Wesleyan are also working closely with MAT to investigate the feasibility of a downtown shuttle, which would serve Wesleyan students and the greater Middletown community. “We are still very early into our discussions with Middletown Area Transit, but there seems to be some openness and interest on all sides in doing something like this,” Kleindienst said.

She said it is important for the relationship with MAT to be mutually beneficial. To that end, she hopes that routes can be put in place for Wesleyan students that also make sense for city residents to use. “We are just trying to think about how we might improve the bus service so that it serves our students better. But we are also trying to do that in a way that includes the broader community. By getting students out and about in Middletown and in the broader area, it is good for economic development. I also think it is beneficial for students to get out and explore where they live,” Kleindienst said.

Math Jam Offers Supportive Peer-Tutoring Space For Students

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Math doesn’t always come easily to every student, but this semester, Professor of Mathematics Ilesanmi Adeboye relaunched Math Jam, a supportive space for students to seek peer assistance for their math-related school work.

“Math Jam is an additional resource for students taking math classes intended to complement the Math Workshop, CA sessions, and professor’s office hours,” Adeboye said. “The difference is in the set up. Space is available for students to come on their own, or in a group, to work on homework sets or study for exams. Experienced tutors are available to answer questions as they come up. One can think of the old school ‘study hall’ model.”

Math Jam holds sessions every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 8 to 9:30 p.m. in the Vanguard Lounge of the Center for African American Studies, located at 343 High Street. While the tutors mostly specialize in introductory math, they can also assist students in higher level courses, including those in economics, physics, and statistics.

“The mathematical background that students arrive at Wesleyan with varies significantly,” Adeboye said. “The idea was to bring students together, in a supportive and informal setting, to let them get help and find study partners in an environment where they wouldn’t feel they needed to ‘compete’ with peers that were further ahead. As it turns out, such a community-based approach has an even wider appeal than to just the audience we originally thought of.”

 

Zyaire Sterling ’22 became a tutor for Math Jam after taking a course called Differential Equations with Adeboye and later working as his course assistant.

“The most enjoyable thing about Math Jam for me would have to be the feeling after helping a student solve a problem,” Sterling said. “It’s a great moment for me and the student. The student gains knowledge on a topic they may have not understood prior and I’m able to be that person that was able to help them gain that knowledge. It’s a win-win.”

After hearing about Math Jam from Adeboye, Osama Elgabori ’22 agreed to become a tutor. Elgabori’s favorite part is working with peers to solve problems.

“We both end up learning something together in our discussions,” Elgabori said.

Henrick Koo ’23 has attended Math Jam over the course of the semester and found it to be very useful, especially because of the casual nature of the sessions.

“Everyone is super friendly so people can work freely and ask about any questions you have,” Koo said. “Sometimes TA session hours constraint the number of questions asked which leads to not getting personal help, depending on how many people show up. Math Jam is a comfortable space that meets twice a week so you can almost always get personalized help on any questions you have.”

Elie Feinsilber ’23 emphasized that Adeboye’s presence at the Math Jam sessions also works to improve student experiences.

“He pairs students and tutors depending on the course in question,” Feinsibler explained. “I remember going to a math workshop where the professor was unavailable because (they were) helping students for a first-year course, and I left with my question unanswered. This does not happen at Math Jam. Professor Adeboye makes sure that you receive help.”

Terrion Thirsty ’25 felt encouraged after going to Math Jam and expressed how supportive Adeboye and the Math Jam tutors are.

“Math is a real friction point for me when it comes to school and Math Jam provides a space where I feel comfortable bringing my questions,” Thirsty said.

Anyone looking for math help is welcome at Math Jam. Adeboye highlighted the communal nature of the tutoring sessions and the connections that students have forged.

“Students coming for help from the same class find new study partners,” Adeboye said. “In some cases, tutees end up themselves tutoring students in classes they have already taken. At Math Jam, there is time and space for conversation, and give and take, on subject material.”

Adeboye added that Math Jam also seeks to broaden the accessibility of the mathematics field so that everyone feels comfortable and supported in their math work.

“While Math Jam serves everyone, our primary mission is to broaden the franchise of mathematics throughout the Wesleyan community,” Adeboye said. “First generation students, underrepresented minority students, the math shy, and the math phobic are especially encouraged to stop by.”

Sterling, too, emphasized the open and welcoming nature of Math Jam.

“Math Jam is an evolving initiative and it continues to grow every week,” Sterling said. “Anyone who thinks they would be a good fit to help tutor or anyone in need of help in math-related courses is always welcome. Come check us out!”

(Photos by Willow Saxon ’24)

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Autry Discusses the Use of Skin-Bleaching Agents During Luncheon Talk for Staff

robyn autry

Robyn Autry, associate professor of sociology, spoke on “Bleach, and Other Performance Enhancing Drugs” as part of Wesleyan’s staff luncheon series Nov. 17.

While it’s considered acceptable, or even expected, for women to cover fine lines and wrinkles with makeup, creams, injectables, or undergo cosmetic procedures like facelifts as they age, the idea of altering skin tone—especially for Black and brown people who are the most likely to face colorism—is a newer, and oddly popular, skincare craze.

“For [some] Black people it’s not about whether our skin is dewy, glowing, or glassy, or whether we’re trying to conceal acne scars or minimize the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. It’s about whether we’re trying to appear closer to white,” said Robyn Autry, associate professor of sociology.

Autry, a critical sociologist, is an expert on topics related to racial identity, Blackness, and memory studies. On Nov. 17, she delivered a talk titled “Bleach, and Other Performance Enhancing Drugs” as part of Wesleyan’s staff luncheon series.

The face-whitening trend is booming in America, especially among Black celebrities. Autry showed “before and after” images of professional baseball player Sammy Sosa; model Blac Chyna; and musical artists Beyonce, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj—all of whom have been accused of transforming their dark skin to light brown or even white. Their bright faces are frequently framed by silky blonde hair.

Sammy Sosa

Sammy Sosa, then and now.

Dominican Republic native Sammy Sosa, in particular, “has always stood out to me not for his athletic ability but for his open embrace of skin bleaching and other modifications to his hair texture and eye color,” Autry said. “A couple of years after he retired in 2009 some commented on his lighter complexion, but it would be several more years before he reappeared at the 10-year anniversary of his retirement looking undeniably bleached out. Sosa admitted to using bleaching creams; he used them every night to soften his skin, and they happened to also lighten it.”

Blac Chyna

Blac Chyna models for Whitenicious’ Diamond Illuminating and Lightening facial cream.

Similarly defiant, entertainer Blac Chyna received public slack after endorsing a new product line called Whitenicious in Nigeria.

“Many of her fans and other observers felt betrayed and insulted by the blatant disavowal of dark skin as a problem to be treated or corrected. Others saw it as a money grab noting that it’ll cost you $250 to get a 3.5-ounce jar of the signature lightening cream,” Autry said.

Sammy Sosa and Blac Chyna, along with a handful of other celebrities like rapper Azealia Banks who compared whitening her skin to wearing a weave, stand out “because they neither deny nor apologize for desiring lightened complexions. And Black people are not expected to admit to skin bleaching let alone desire it,” Autry said.

Blackness, Autry says, carries with it a demand for the truth, a claim to authenticity that is wrapped up in notions of being and looking natural. She wonders if a natural skin movement will follow in the footsteps of the recent natural hair movement. “Will I one day proudly declare ‘Oh, I wear my skin natural.’ What would that mean? No concealer? No more cat eyes?”

Several of Autry’s comments brought chuckles to the 50 staff members in attendance. And she also led a Q&A following the talk. Others continued to discuss the idea of skin-bleaching after the event.

“Professor Autry was engaging and funny, and it seemed clear that she was eager to share her insights. It was such a compelling new set of ideas and I left curious to know more,” said Anne Marcotty, senior designer in University Communications. “I was interested to learn that there is a social shame (judgment) associated with skin bleaching similar to steroid use in athletes, which suggests that there’s a belief that making one’s skin lighter is akin to cheating. It made me wonder about the nature of cultural meaning, and how deeply ingrained certain beliefs/prejudices are, for instance, the way white people getting a tan has changed meaning as labor and leisure practices have changed over time.”

Autry noted that America’s desire for liquid bleach skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Clorox ranked No. 1 in the 2020 Axios Harris Poll that ranks corporate reputations. Of course, the bleaching agents used to whiten skin are different from the ones used to whiten laundry and disinfect counters and floors. Whitening face creams contain hydroquinone—a topical skin-bleaching agent, which was banned from over-the-counter beauty products in the U.S. in 2020. Nevertheless, Vogue estimates that by 2027, the skin whitening industry is projected to be worth more than $27 billion dollars.

“What’s more important to me is that the word ‘bleach’ and ‘bleaching’ is used to talk about skin lightening,” Autry said. “Many people view bleach as the ‘gold standard’ for household cleaning of all sorts, and not just during pandemics. Bleach has corrosive properties and has also been linked to a number of health concerns from skin irritation to respiratory illness.”

Skin “bleachers,” then, are in a way “enhancing their performances by scrubbing themselves clean,” she said. “Or that’s the idea anyway.”

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Fifty staff members attended Autry’s talk.

Intercultural Learning, Study Abroad Celebrated during International Education Week

italian game night

Students participated in Italian Game Night during International Education Week activities. (Photo by Willow Saxon ’24)

Members of the campus community played Italian Tombola Bingo, ate Spanish Polvoróns, learned how to pronounce their names in Chinese, savored snacks from South Korea, danced to Afrobeats, and learned about study abroad opportunities all during Wesleyan’s annual International Education Week (IEW) celebration.

“International Education Week is a dedicated time for students, faculty, and staff to recognize the many ways in which we can engage meaningfully in intercultural learning and understanding at Wesleyan,” said Hannah Parten, assistant director, study abroad, for the Fries Center for Global Studies. “The 2021 event focused specifically on ways to emerge from the pandemic with a greater sense of interconnectedness, self-awareness, and empathy.”

IEW, held Nov. 13-19, was celebrated through a series of more than 20 globally-focused events. The PINOY Club—a group of Filipinos, Filipino-Americans, and Filipino-culture enthusiasts—offered a sampling of Filipino dishes; the African Student Association hosted an Afrobeats Dance Class showcasing fun and energetic moves from all over Africa; the Office of Study Abroad held an interactive session about the benefits of studying in another country; and the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship offered a virtual session on ways to take action on social and environmental issues through grassroots organizing, activism, fundraising, and more.

Participants also were treated to an Italian Game Night, Chinese Name Pronunciation Workshop, and a screening of the Greek box-office hit “A Touch of Spice” and the Indian Hindi-language comedy “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.”

International Education Week concluded with a Wes Stories— a multilingual event showcasing talented students on campus through songs, spoken stories, dances, speeches, and other creative performances, and an International Festival of Games, hosted by the Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs).

In addition to activities, IEW provided the Fries Center for Global Studies an opportunity to celebrate the return to study-abroad programs, which were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although some countries still have travel restrictions, 30 students are currently studying abroad this fall in countries such as Spain, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

According to Emily Gorlewski, director of study abroad, 152 students have already applied for spring semester study abroad programs.

“(After the pandemic), there was a lot of initial interest,” she said. “We normally have about 100 in the spring. However, there has been much more attention than usual.”

In a “normal” academic year, Wesleyan sends about 325 students abroad. Students travel to programs on six continents, in all different countries.

“Going abroad changes your perspective in so many different ways, and this is the only time in your life you will be able to participate in this kind of experience,” Gorlewski said. “There are lots of opportunities on campus to learn about the world and other cultures, but studying abroad is a unique opportunity.”

Study abroad also allows students to engage with and learn from the world and its cultures. “A meaningful cross-cultural experience sharpens our understanding of ourselves in relation to the world in which we live,” Parten added.

IEW is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education. It aims to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences. Wesleyan’s first organization of IEW was in 2017, one year after the Fries Center for Global Studies (FCGS) was formed.

“Every fall Wesleyan’s IEW committee convenes to discuss our goals for the year and remind ourselves of our ‘why,'” Parten said.

Photos of various 2021 International Education Week activities are below:

The Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) and International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) hosted an open house and meet and greet. 

The Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) and International Student Advisory Board (ISAB) hosted an open house and meet and greet.

The African Student Association and Fries Center for Global Studies hosted an Afrobeats Dance Class at the Malcolm X House. 

The African Student Association and Fries Center for Global Studies hosted an Afrobeats Dance Class at the Malcolm X House.

Several study abroad alumni led a discussion titled "From Ghana to Middletown: Maximizing Your Study Abroad Experience Overseas and Back Home." 

Four study abroad alumni led a discussion titled “From Ghana to Middletown: Maximizing Your Study Abroad Experience Overseas and Back Home.”

During an "Opportunities Abroad" discussion, Wesleyan faculty learned about opportunities for travel and work in countries around the world. The session, which included information on faculty exchanges and Fulbrights, was hosted by the Fries Center for Global Studies, Office of Career and Faculty Development, and Office of Corporate, Foundation, and Government Grants

During an “Opportunities Abroad” discussion, Wesleyan faculty learned about opportunities for travel and work in countries around the world. The session, which included information on faculty exchanges and Fulbrights, was hosted by the Fries Center for Global Studies, Office of Career and Faculty Development, and Office of Corporate, Foundation, and Government Grants.

Wesleyan Earns Top Honor in Campus Democracy Challenge

voteSeventy-seven percent of Wesleyan students who were eligible voted in the 2020 presidential election, earning a Gold Seal from the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge, an increase of 10 percent from the previous presidential election.

The ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge is a national, nonpartisan initiative of Civic Nation, which strives for a more inclusive democracy.

While civic participation is embedded in Wesleyan’s DNA, this level of turnout is due to a sustained voter registration effort, said Diana Martinez, Assistant Director, Jewett Center for Community Partnerships.

“We are always looking for ways to bring the students together,” Martinez said.

In addition to periodic voter registration drives (including efforts to help students register in their home states), student groups encouraged each other to get to the polls, and Martinez’s team made sure that same day voter registration was painless.

The act of voting for a student living on campus can be complicated, Martinez said. This past election, students were extremely conscious of where their vote would have the most impact – back in their hometowns or in Middletown itself. The question of whether it was appropriate to vote in Middletown at all came up for students – are they just visitors in this community or are they full-fledged participants?

Students Perform a Series of 10-Minute Plays during Dramathon

(By Madi Mehta ’24)

The crowd of students, nestled on the Exley patio, buzzed in anticipation to awaiting the start of the Dramathon, a performance of student-created 10-minute plays based on the prompt “the unknown persists.”

The event, which took place on Nov. 7, is similar to MonoLogOn, which was performed last year on Zoom due to the pandemic.

Dramathon began when the music faded and the audience watched intently as the first set was built: a couple of chairs, a spattering of empty food containers, and assorted plastic bags. As the actors entered and positioned themselves, Exley disappeared and the crowd was enthralled by the world created by the people standing before them.

In this collection of plays, a college student battled the demons in her head, which had manifested as slimy monsters that ate her social security card and kept her from going to classes. An uptight food inspector tried to bust a lone grocery store in an end-of-the-world exclusion zone. An idealistic student got repeatedly shot down by a teacher at her high school.

Students were put into teams of a writer, director, and a few actors that collaborated over the course of eight weeks to produce plays based on the prompt.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan’s intellectually dynamic faculty, students, alumni, staff, and parents frequently serve as expert sources for national media. Others are noted for recent achievements and accolades. A sampling of recent media hits is below:

Glenn Ligon ’82, Hon. ’12 is prominently featured in New York Times Magazine‘s 2021 “Greats” issue, which celebrates those who have helped make and change the culture. For over 30 years, Ligon has been making work that speaks to American history—ambiguous, open-ended, existentially observant. “Ligon’s art is often both an indictment and a kind of reframing of American history. He has worked across a wide range of media, in addition to writing the kind of criticism and curating the kinds of shows that revolutionize canons. He isn’t a painter of the human form, and yet bodies—desired, objectified, pathologized, policed, and pitied—are central to all of his work.” (Oct. 17)

In DanceTeacher, Hari Krishnan, chair and professor of dance, explains how the synthesis between technique and theory is something that drives Wesleyan’s Dance Department. “We’re not a conservatory,” he says in the story, where more of an emphasis might be placed on technique alone. “We’re interested in a bigger-picture discourse. How does your major affect a larger line of inquiry, especially with what’s going on in the world right now—disease, immigration, Black Lives Matter, BIPOC identity? I always say, ‘I’m not interested in how good or bad a dancer you are. It’s how engaged you are to the material.’” (Oct. 22)

In a Politico op-ed, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 discusses the controversy surrounding the founding of the University of Austin. “As a teacher, it’s a great joy to see a student’s prejudices dissolve through conversation, inquiry, and the study of powerful works, and it’s an even greater thrill when this happens to oneself while teaching!” (Nov. 13)

In The Conversation, Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, questions why medieval weapons laws—including a 1328 English statute prohibiting the public carry of edged weapons without royal permission— are at the center of dueling legal opinions in a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court—New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen. “So how did a 1689 English Bill of Rights that never gave any absolute right to carry guns turn into a key justification for that very right in the U.S.?” she writes. “Essentially, they invented a tradition.” (Nov. 5)

The New Yorker interviews Lin Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ‘15 for making his directorial début, “Tick, Tick . . . Boom!,” which channels the bohemian life and spirit of the theater composer Jonathan Larson. “That’s part of what hit me so hard about it when I saw “Tick, Tick . . . Boom!” Off-Broadway: that [Larson] understood so much, and yet at a certain level you can’t let yourself understand. You don’t know the day you’re going to die. On a subcellular level, he understands there’s a clock ticking. I think we all have moments where we allow ourselves to hear that ticking and times when we can’t listen to it, in order to stay sane.”

Sonali Chakravarti, professor of government, shares an op-ed in The Guardian titled “No, Black jurors aren’t ‘biased’ when it comes to shootings of Black people.” Jury service, she writes, “cannot only be for the white, the lucky, and the obstinately stoic in the face of racial injustice. The jury seated in the trial over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery – a Black man who was shot and killed by three white men in Glynn County, Georgia – makes a mockery of the need for a randomly selected jury. Of the 12-person jury, 11 are white and just one is Black, in a county where more than 25% of the residents are Black.” (Nov. 11)

Former captain of the Wesleyan football team Quincy Chad ’06 is mentioned in 2 Paragraphs and Outsider after appearing in the S.W.A.T. episode “West Coast Offense.” Chad also “is known for his roles on Power (Zigg), Orange Is the New Black (Leon McDonald), Netflix’s The Get Down (Caesar Leader), FX’s Snowfall (Big Deon), and Tell Me a Story (Detective Grant), among others.” (Nov. 5)

The obituary of Richard Ohmann, a former associate provost at Wesleyan, is featured in The New York Times and The Boston Globe. “Unlike some activist academics at the time, Ohmann never drew a line between his activism and his teaching or scholarship. His book English in America: A Radical View of the Profession (1976) illuminated what he saw as the role of literary studies in perpetuating capitalist hierarchies: It both diverted attention and, by applying standards to writing and rhetoric, perpetuated class distinctions,” he wrote. (Nov. 3).

Tracey O’Shaughnessy MALS ’02, associate features editor and columnist for The Republican-American, has won two national awards for her feature writing from the Society for Features Journalism. O’Shaughnessy won first place in the General Column category for a portfolio of three columns. In their comments, judges cited O’Shaughnessy’s columns on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on society. (Nov. 2)

The Connecticut Post mentions that a new exhibit by Don Sexton ’63 titled “Places I Know” is open at the East 67th St Library in New York City until Dec. 18. In the show, Sexton shows scenes from around the world, people going about their lives, with their families, at play, on the streets. Sexton studied painting and drawing at Wesleyan and has been a professional painter for more than 30 years. (Oct. 30)

The Connecticut Post reports that Karen Xu ’22, a seasonal employee at Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown, painted a new tent outside the theater after the original tent was stolen last September. Xu received minimal instruction for the project. “The result is a colorful array of characters enjoying various forms of art. [The director] is very pleased with the outcome because it perfectly encapsulates what the place is all about.” (Oct. 28)

Khachig Tölölyan, professor emeritus of the College of Letters, discusses Vartan Matiossian’s The Politics of Naming the Armenian Genocide: Language, History and ‘Medz Yeghern, in The Armenian Weekly. The book, he says, “offers a matchless analysis of texts ranging from newspaper articles and books to 114 monuments and shows how diplomats seeking to evade the moral and legal consequences of fully acknowledging the genocide sought to use the Armenian term for shameful camouflage.” (Nov. 8)

Seth Redfield, professor of astronomy, is mentioned in Hamlet Hub for delivering a live-streamed discussion on Nov. 8 in connection with National STEM/STEAM Day. Housatonic Community College hosted STEAMFest 2021 with a theme of “Helping Everyone Reach For The Stars.” (Nov. 6)

Joseph Russo, visiting assistant professor of anthropology, is cited in The New York Post in an article about the Astroworld Festival Tragedy and conspiracy theories. (Nov. 9)

Yahoo! Life says to “forget the turkey— all the cool kids are celebrating Bugsgiving.” Wesleyan students will enjoy an insect-heavy holiday meal at a new event on campus: “Bugsgiving: A Celebration of Edible Insects,” occurring Nov. 20. The host, Wesleyan student Megan Levan ’22, is an entotarian. That means she doesn’t consume animal proteins—only insect protein. (Nov. 13)

Wesleyan’s new science center is featured in The Middletown Press. The science center will be made of stone and will use a quarter less energy than the current building. (Nov. 14)

A new collaboration between Wesleyan and Middletown Area Transit allows students to use their college ID cards to ride all local MAT and 9-Town Transit buses for free via the WesPass program, according to The Middletown Press. WesPass, a pilot program, “is designed to create an affordable and accessible platform for students to increase their use of local transit while reducing the university’s contribution to Connecticut state greenhouse gas emissions, recognizing that single-occupancy vehicles accounted for 38 percent of the state’s total emissions in 2017.” (Nov. 16)

Columbia Journalism Review mentions that the Collaborative on Media & Messaging for Health and Social Policy—a project that is affiliated with Wesleyan, the University of Minnesota, and Cornell University—has launched a new website. The collaborative is designed to help explore the question of how journalists can build healthy and equitable communities. (Nov. 9)

Sea Dwelling Teleosaur Restored and Displayed in Exley Science Center

exley exhibit

A restored Teleosaur cast was mounted in Exley Science Center this month after spending 63 years in storage. Plaster casts are not fakes, but accurate replicas of actual specimens that retain fine details of the original that are important for study and access, especially for fragile specimens, destroyed originals, or specimens in private collections. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

A 7-foot-long extinct marine crocodile has finally found a permanent home on Wesleyan’s campus—exactly 150 years after it arrived.

Known as a Teleosaur (Macrospondylus bollensis), the sea-dwelling lizard lived during the early Jurassic period, approximately 180 million years ago. A cast was gifted to Wesleyan in 1871 by chemist Orange Judd of the Wesleyan Class of 1847, and the namesake of the University’s Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences.

When the museum closed in 1957, more than 900 animal casts, including the Teleosaur, were moved into storage in random locations throughout campus.

teleosaur

Yu Kai Tan BA/MA ’21 and Andy Tan ’21 restored the Teleosaur’s cast using more realistic coloring.

Over sixty years later, the Teleosaur cast was discovered in a large packing case in the Exley Science Center penthouse.

“When we unpacked it, it was still in reasonable shape. There weren’t many cracks, but the paint on its surface was badly damaged and there were many white spots,” said Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Emerita Professor of Integrative Sciences, Smith Curator of Paleontology of the Joe Webb Peoples Museum of Natural History.

Thomas, along with Yu Kai Tan BA/MA ’21 and Andy Tan ’21, is spearheading efforts to restore and display the hundreds of artifacts placed in storage following the natural sciences museum’s closing. All restored casts become part of Wesleyan’s Joe Webb Peoples Museum.

The restored Teleosaur was originally exhibited alongside another 22-foot-long Teleosaur which—as seen in archival photos—was built into the wall of the museum.

“That large specimen was destroyed when the wall was blasted to pieces during renovations to the building but this one, thankfully, survived,” Yu Kai Tan said.

The team began working on it during the first phase of COVID-19 lockdowns in March 2020 and finished the restoration in May 2021 with the help of student curators, Cole Goco ’23 and Vivian Gu ’23. They used compressed air for the general dusting of the specimen and consolidated the cracks with archival resin. The missing paint flecks were filled in, then the entire specimen was retouched with colors that reflect the color of the original fossil.

“When these casts were custom-made for Wesleyan in 1871, they were rather simply painted with available paints at hand. Our restoration with modern reversible archival paints creates a better visual relief and more accurately reflects the original specimen from which the cast was made,” Tan said.

To top it off, they applied several coats of UV-resistant archival varnish to stabilize the paint surface and protect it from fading.

According to Henry Ward’s Catalogue of Casts of Fossils from 1866, the Teleosaur’s jaws were “armed with numerous long, slender, sharp-pointed, slightly curved teeth” and the hind limbs were “longer and stronger” than the forelimbs, “which indicated that the T. was a better swimmer” than the modern-day crocodile and likely “lived more habitually in the water and less seldom moved on drylands as its fossil remains have only been found in the sedimentary deposits from the seas.”

The Teleosaurus joins several other recently-restored creatures from the Joe Webb Peoples Museum and Collections including a single-tusked walrus skull, a restored taxidermied peacock, a Mosasaur marine lizard cast; an armadillo-like Glyptodon cast, and the “terrible beast” Deinotherium cast. The casts are used frequently for outreach and teaching.

Funding for the restoration projects is supported in part by Henry Monmouth Smith (1868-1950), a former Wesleyan chemistry professor well known for his book on Gaseous Exchange and Physiological Requirements for Level and Grade Walking, and Torchbearers of Chemistry. Smith left money to Wesleyan “to use and apply the income for the care, maintenance and increase of the collections in its Museum of Natural History.”

View additional photos of the restored Teleosaur below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

exley exhibit

The original fossil was discovered in Baden-Württemberg, Germany in 1828. The cast, which measures 7-feet 2-inches by 2-and-a-half-feet, originally cost $18. Today, it is still for sale at $1,450.

teleosaur

The Teleosaur cast is prominently displayed inside Exley Science Center. “Yu Kai and Andy aimed to restore it to the colors of the original,” Thomas explained. “The fossils are partially replaced by pyrite (‘fool’s gold, iron sulfide), hence the golden color.”

Wesleyan Community Honors Pandemic Loss through Movement, Dance

dance

On Nov. 5, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Joya Powell, in center, led a “collective mourning” at the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio to honor those who passed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day. Keep smiling through just like you always do ‘til the blue skies drive the dark clouds away.”

These lyrics, sung by Vera Lynn in the 1939 song “We’ll Meet Again,” are especially moving for Donna Brewer, director of employee benefits at Wesleyan. They’d be even more meaningful for her uncle Jim, an avid maple syrup maker and World War II vet, who died of COVID-19 in May 2020.

“Uncle Jim passed away early on in the pandemic and at that time, we weren’t able to have a service and I didn’t have an opportunity to grieve with others,” she said.

But a “collective mourning” on Nov. 5 offered Brewer a place to grieve in a communal environment.

Led by Joya Powell, visiting assistant professor of dance, the collective mourning welcomed anyone from the campus community to honor those who have passed during the pandemic through movement and improvisational dance. The event took place in the Bessie Schönberg Dance Studio; 17 students and staff gathered to move and mourn.

Families, Alumni, Students Gather for Homecoming/Family Weekend 2021


HCFW

There was no shortage of ways to find community, enlightenment, and a deep sense of the Wesleyan experience this Homecoming/Family Weekend, which took place Oct. 29-30.

Lectures were given on recent glacier-related flood events in high mountain environments and the uncertain future of the Senate filibuster. Graduates of Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education told their personal stories. “What Happened to Baby Jane?” screened at the Jeanine Basinger Center for Film Studies. There were two sold-out dance performances in the ’92 Theater and exhibits at Olin Library.

The campus was alive with activity, with parents, alumni, and students connecting over the weekend’s activities. “Education is the opposite of isolation,” President Michael Roth ’78 told parents at a talk Saturday morning.