Campus News & Events
by Olivia Drake •
This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 48 new faculty to campus.
Of those, there are 16 tenure-track, 10 professors of the practice, one artist-in-residence, one adjunct, and 20 new visiting faculty members.
The new faculty bring a diverse skill set to campus. Among them are experts in international political economy; Indian cinema and film; environmental archaeology and ancient DNA; German poetry and aesthetic theory of the 18th century; music and expressive culture in Kazakhstan; politics in the African diaspora; Russian and Anglo-American literature; physiological and psychological effects of alcohol; and digital video production.
In addition, three are Wesleyan alumni.
Bios of the new ongoing faculty are below:
Joseph Ackley, assistant professor of art history, is a specialist in precious metalwork of the European Middle Ages, circa 800–1400. He received his BA from Dartmouth College (2003) and both his MA (2008) and his PhD (2014) from New York University’s Institute for Fine Art. His dissertation focused on portable, liturgical objects such as chalices, reliquaries, figural statuettes, and jewelry. He has investigated the symbolic associations of gold and gilding, the preferred media for these works, and has theorized “the radiant aesthetic” that underlies and informs them. His work not only expands the corpus of medieval art, but also deepens our understanding of the “multi-media glory” that would have characterized medieval architectural spaces, draped with silks and enlivened by processional objects.
by Olivia Drake •
A film written, directed, and produced by Peabody Award winner Randall MacLowry ’86 tells the story about the most famous family conflict in American history—the Hatfield-McCoy feud.
The one-hour documentary titled “The Feud” premiered Sept. 10 on PBS and PBS.org as part of the station’s American Experience programming. Watch the film’s trailer online.
MacLowry also is a new assistant professor of the practice in film studies. He’s teaching the course Advanced Filmmaking this fall.
The clashes between the Hatfields and the McCoys evolved into a mythic American tale of jealousy, rage, and revenge—a story that helped create the negative “hillbilly” stereotype that has shaped attitudes towards Appalachia for more than a century. Much more than a tale of two warring families, “The Feud” is the story of a region and its people forced into sudden change by Eastern capitalists, who transformed Appalachia from an agrarian mountain community into a coal- and timber-producing workplace owned and run primarily by outside interests.
“The Hatfield-McCoy feud conjures up this exaggerated image of two families shooting at each other across a river for no good reason, but the story of the feud is really about the impact of capitalism and industrialization on rural America,” MacLowry said. “Mountain families lost their land and their livelihoods in the face of this enormous pressure and became the victims of media accounts that depicted them as violent, uncivilized, and standing in the way of progress. The Hatfield-McCoy feud is part of that story.”
“The Feud” is a project of The Film Posse, Inc., a production company cofounded by MacLowry and Peabody Award-winning director Tracy Heather Strain. Strain also is a new professor of the practice in film studies.
Together, MacLowry and Strain are codirectors of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, an initiative to teach, support, and produce nonfiction film and video.
During the upcoming academic year, MacLowry and Strain will be teaching courses in documentary creation and studies. Listen to a podcast featuring the filmmakers created by Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image.
by Olivia Drake •
On Sept. 3, during the first faculty meeting of the fall semester, three Wesleyan professors were honored with the Wesleyan Prize for Excellence in Research.
The faculty-nominated prize is presented to members of the faculty who demonstrate the highest standards of excellence in their research, scholarship, and contributions to their field. Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for academic affairs Rob Rosenthal acknowledged the recipients during the faculty meeting. Each winner received a plaque and funding for his or her research.
This year’s recipients include:
Natasha Korda, professor of English, plays a highly visible role in keeping scholarship on Renaissance drama a thriving and intellectually dynamic field. Her work combines deep, interdisciplinary learning, wide-ranging archival research, and keen critical insight, illuminating the complex and profound relations among gender, theater history, and economic history. Her recent monograph and edited collection have brought attention to the many and varied forms of labor that enabled dramatic production in early modern England and that linked the stage to the international trade in goods and services of a developing capitalist economy. Korda is widely admired by her colleagues for her scrupulous, innovative, and dynamic scholarship, as well as for her willingness to contribute through work on multiple editorial boards and with the Shakespeare Association of America.
by Olivia Drake •
The rare Guadalupe fescue once thrived in abundance atop mountains spanning the Texas-Mexico border, however, the desert-growing perennial grass is now so endangered, it only flourishes in two locations on Earth.
The rapid population decline is leaving scientists puzzled.
“Developing an effective recovery plan is essential for protecting Guadalupe fescue, however, the lack of basic information about this species’ ecology is a serious barrier to that goal,” explained Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies. “Urgent action is needed to stabilize the two extant populations.”
This summer, under Poulos’s leadership, Wesleyan received a National Park Service Grant to study Festuca ligulata through the Southwest Borderlands Resource Protection Program. She joined a bi-national team of scientists known as “Fescue Rescue” to research the two isolated fescue populations in Texas’s Big Bend National Park and the Maderas del Carmen Protected Area in Coahuila, Mexico.
Said Poulos, a plant ecologist who has worked at desert borderland sites for more than a decade, “The Guadalupe fescue has become so endangered that this has become a significant national and international conservation concern.”
Backed by the NPS grant, the Fescue Rescue team will conduct onsite visits from October to mid-November 2019 during Guadalupe fescue seed maturation. Seeds will be collected during this time and transported to labs at Sul Ross State University in Texas and Universidad Autónoma Antonio Narro in Mexico. At these locations, scientists will germinate the seeds and grow their own fescue refugial populations for multiple research purposes.
“Together, they’ll provide a springboard for future plant population genetics, enrichment planting, and adaptive management research on both sides of the border,” Poulos said. “Such information is vital for elaborating site-specific management plans for the species on both U.S. and Mexican soils.”
They’ll study environmental variables, inventory seed production, identify key factors that promote reproductive viability, and ultimately establish refugial populations on both sides of the border.
Although virtually nothing is known about the environmental influences on the growth and reproduction of Guadalupe fescue, Poulos believes the fescue’s population decline is a result of multiple factors.
“Environmental factors that have likely negatively influenced the fescue populations include a recent shift to a hotter and drier climate, the genetic and demographic consequences of small population sizes and isolation, trampling by humans and pack animals, trail runoff, competition from invasive species, and fungal infection of seeds,” she said.
In addition, naturally occurring wildfires, which play an important role in rejuvenating ecosystems, are rare due to livestock grazing in the early 1900s and subsequent direct fire suppression continuing to the present. The remaining plants in the two disjunct populations are likely highly inbred and lack genetic diversity. This can threaten the capacity of populations to resist pathogens and parasites, adapt to changing environmental conditions, and colonize new habitats.
Poulos hopes to deliver her final reports to the National Park Service by summer 2020.
by Olivia Drake •
A summary of Assistant Professor of Economics Gillian Brunet’s dissertation, “Understanding the Effects of Fiscal Policy: Measurement, Mechanisms, and Lessons from History,” was published in the June issue of the Journal of Economic History. She wrote the paper while pursuing her PhD in economics at the University of California, Berkeley.
The global recession of 2008 and the resulting fiscal stimulus packages in many countries have reignited academic interest in government spending multipliers. Despite a growing theoretical and empirical literature, there is little consensus on the impact of government spending on macroeconomic aggregates. Gillian Brunet’s dissertation makes significant contributions to this contested literature by focusing on the largest fiscal shock in modern American history—WWII. Besides providing novel estimates of the fiscal multiplier during the war period, her work also seeks to understand how the economic and institutional contexts affect this important statistic.
The dissertation also won the Economic History Association’s 2018 Allan Nevins Prize Competition.
Brunet’s research interests lie at the intersection of economic history, macroeconomics, and public economics. Her work uses microeconomic data to study macroeconomic questions, often in historical contexts. She is particularly interested in understanding the United States economy during and after World War II.
This fall, she is teaching Economics of Alexander Hamilton’s America and Macroeconomic Analysis.
by Olivia Drake •
In the paper, Kuenzel and his co-authors examine the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) forecast accuracy of 29 key macroeconomic variables for countries in times of economic crises. In general, forecasts of the IMF add substantial informational value as they outperform naive forecast approaches. However, the paper also documents that there is room for improvement: Two-thirds of the examined macroeconomic variables are forecast inefficiently, and six variables (growth of nominal GDP, public investment, private investment, the current account, net transfers, and government expenditures) exhibit significant forecast biases.
These forecast biases and inefficiencies are mostly driven by low-income countries, perhaps reflecting larger shocks and lower data quality. Most importantly, errors in private consumption growth forecasts are the main drivers of GDP growth forecast errors. The results can help to shed light on which macroeconomic variables require further attention by the IMF in designing future forecast models.
The paper is co-authored by Theo Eicher (University of Washington), Chris Papageorgiou (International Monetary Fund), and Charis Christofides (International Monetary Fund).
Kuenzel is also the author of a paper published in the August issue of the Review of International Economics titled “Do trade flows respond to nudges? Evidence from the WTO’s Trade Policy Review Mechanism.” In the paper, Kuenzel examines whether interactions between WTO members through the Trade Policy Review Mechanism, the WTO’s prime transparency institution, lead to subsequent changes in trade flows. This question is of particular interest, as relatively little is known about the economic effects of WTO members’ communications outside of official negotiations and dispute proceedings. Kuenzel’s analysis shows that trade policy concern submissions by WTO members are more likely to lead to positive trade responses when (i) the receiving country is less concerned about terms‐of‐trade losses, (ii) the submitter is more willing to engage in WTO disputes with the reviewed member to challenge controversial trade policies, and (iii) the submitting country challenges trade policies in the nonchemical manufacturing sector. However, nudges through the TPR process are not successful in raising agricultural trade.
by Olivia Drake •
A paper written by Kaitlyn Thomas-Franz ’20 was the recipient of the 2018–19 Lebergott-Lovell Prize for the best paper written for a course that uses empirical techniques to analyze an economic problem.
Thomas-Franz wrote the paper “The 1918 Influenza Epidemic and U.S. Female Labor Force Participation” while she was taking Macroeconomic Analysis during the spring 2019 semester. The class was taught by Gillian Brunet, assistant professor of economics.
Honorable mentions included Qiyuan Zheng ’20 for a paper titled “FPI in Emerging Markets: Does the Equity Home Bias Theory Extend?” and Dominic Oliver ’19 for a paper titled “The Determinants of Zoning Regulation.”
Zheng wrote the paper while taking Econometrics during the spring 2019 semester. The class was taught by Anthony Keats, assistant professor of economics.
Oliver wrote his paper while taking Macroeconomic Policy during the spring 2019 semester. The class was taught by Gillian Brunet.
Stanley Lebergott and Michael Lovell, the prize’s namesakes, both held the title of Chester D. Hubbard Professor of Economics and Social Science.
Faculty nominated five papers for the prize.
by Olivia Drake •
On Aug. 28, 781 members of the Class of 2023—along with their families—flocked to campus for Arrival Day. Hauling armfuls of personal belongings and comforts from home, students settled into their new home-away-from-home amid fond (and a few teary) farewells.
President Michael Roth ’78 provided a personal welcome, helping carry students’ belongings into residence halls and offering warm greetings to the new members of the Wesleyan family. Athletic teams also helped carry the load, hoisting plastic tubs of cold-weather clothing and draped bedding over their shoulders.
Clark Hall volunteers had organized their sidewalk space, chalking it into squares labeled with room numbers to keep belongings all in one place. Inside the new room, families helped their first-year students to settle in and brand-new roommates found common ground and made plans for their space. Wesleyan’s mascot, a bright red Cardinal, fluttered about to add to the spirit of the day.
A total of 13,358 individuals applied for a spot in the Class of 2023, the most in Wesleyan history. Of those, Wesleyan admitted 2,187 and 781 matriculated. An additional 52 transfer students enrolled this fall.
Below are some stats about the Class of 2023:
- 45% men and 55% women
- 52% attended public high schools
- A record-breaking 18% are from outside the USA
- 44% are students of color (including international)
- 24% identify as Asian/Asian American
- 14% are international students (view story)
- 8% are the children of Wesleyan alumni
- 15% are among the first generation in their family to attend a four-year college
- 48% are receiving financial aid
- 80% have already studied a foreign language
- 84% graduated in the top 20% of their high school class
- English, biology, economics, film, and psychology are the top projected majors (identical to the Class of 2021 and 2022).
by Cynthia Rockwell •
In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.
Wesleyan in the News
1. Where We Live: “The Life and Legacy of American Composer Charles Ives”
Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, is a guest on this show about the legacy of composer Charles Ives. Bruce is the only pianist who has ever played all of the Ives music for solo voice, in a project called the Ives Vocal Marathon, which took place at Wesleyan in 2009. He is also the co-editor of a new collection of Ives songs, a former member of the board of the Charles Ives Society, and the chair of the Artistic Advisory Committee of the society.
2. The New York Times: “Don’t Dismiss ‘Safe Spaces'”
In this op-ed, President Michael Roth argues that while “safe spaces” can be taken too far on college campuses, the much-maligned concept actually “underlies the university’s primary obligations” to its students. He advocates for creating “safe enough spaces,” which “promote a basic sense of inclusion and respect that enables students to learn and grow—to be open to ideas and perspectives so that the differences they encounter are educative.” Roth further explores this topic and many others in his new book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. He was interviewed recently about the book on several radio shows, including The Jim Bohannon Show, The Brian Lehrer Show, WGBH On Campus Radio, and Wisconsin Public Radio, among others, and published op-eds in the Boston Globe and The Atlantic.
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Five Wesleyan alumni and one parent were recently elected to the Board of Trustees.
The board is the governing body of the University and responsible for ensuring that the University fulfills its mission, sustains its values, and appropriately balances its obligations to current and future generations. The board establishes long-term strategic policy and direction; approves the University’s budget and major financial expenditures, program initiatives, and construction projects; oversees the University’s financial affairs; stewards the University’s endowment and other capital resources; and appoints and supervises the president of the University.
The board is composed of up to 33 trustees, a diverse group of leaders in their respective fields who are united by a deep affection for and commitment to the institution.
The new members include:
Adam C. Bird ’87, P’19, ’22 is a senior partner with McKinsey & Company and the global leader of the Consumer Tech & Media practice, advising top management of the most disruptive (and disrupted) companies. A board member of the Paley Center for Media, he is past vice chair of the board of the Munich International School, and was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. At Wesleyan, he was a College of Social Studies major, a student representative to the Board of Trustees, and graduated with honors. He is also the father of Matthew ’19 and Sophie ’22.
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker is coeditor of a new book, A Right to Bear Arms?: The Contested Role of History in Contemporary Debates on the Second Amendment, published Aug. 20 by the Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press.
This collection of essays offers a glimpse into how and why historical arguments have been marshaled on both sides of today’s debate over the Second Amendment. It includes writings by leading historians on firearms and the common law (including Saul Cornell, Kevin Sweeney, Joyce Malcolm, Priya Satia, Patrick Charles, Lois Schwoerer, Randolph Roth, and others) and—for the first time in one place—by the lawyers who have served as leading historical consultants in litigation for both sides (Mark Anthony Frassetto, counsel for Everytown for Gun Safety, and Stephen Halbrook, legal counsel for the National Rifle Association).
Taken together, these essays offer both general readers and specialists a valuable study of how history itself has become a contested site within the wider national legal debate about firearms. It fills a major gap in public historical writing about firearms and the law, a field characterized by strong polarities and in which scholarly exchanges among people with different perspectives on the history of firearms are relatively rare.