Campus News & Events

Kolcio Shares Healing from Trauma Research at U.S. Capitol Visitor Center

Katja Kolcio

Chair and Associate Professor of Dance Katja Kolcio, second from left, helped organize the “Heroes of Liberty: Enhancing Well-Being, Resilience, and Civic Engagement of Ukrainian Veterans” event held at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Pictured in the center wearing a bow tie is George Kent, an American diplomat serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs.

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The “Heroes of Liberty” panelists, from left, were Katja Kolcio, Chaplain Svyatoslav Yurkiw, Marta Pyvovarenko, Oleksandr Tereshchenko, Yana Zinkevych, and a translator.

katja

The Embassy of Ukraine co-sponsored the event. Pictured third and fourth, from left, are Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Volodymyr Yelchenko, who delivered the opening remarks. (Photos by Vitali Kharechk)

Katja Kolcio, chair and associate professor of dance, recently joined other scholars and Ukrainian officials to speak on topics concerning veterans issues and the democratization of civil society in Ukraine during the current war on the border between Ukraine and Russia.

The event, titled “Heroes of Liberty: Enhancing Well-Being, Resilience, and Civic Engagement of Ukrainian Veterans,” took place at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center on March 11. (The center closed on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Kolcio, who also is an associate professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, presented her research on “Recurrent Inter-Generational Trauma in the Current State of War,” based on five years of work and research in Ukraine on the role of physical movement practice in response to trauma. Her research began working with families and communities and in civic settings. More recently, she has worked directly with the National Guard and active soldiers in the Armed Forces, as well as veterans.

Strain, MacLowry ’86 Host Online Forum with Creators of Miles Davis Documentary

Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith, together P’22 and a multi-award-winning team, discussed their film Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, with the Wesleyan community via Zoom.

Stanley Nelson and Marcia Smith, together P’22 and founders of Firelight Media, joined the Wesleyan Documentary Project co-directors Tracy Strain and Randall MacLowry ’86 for an online forum with the Wesleyan community to discuss Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, for which Nelson was director/producer and Smith was consulting producer.

Co-director of the Wesleyan Documentary Project and Professor of the Practice in Film Studies Tracy Strain co-hosted the forum via Zoom.

McGuire Studies the Relationship Between Democracy and Public Health

James McGuire

Professor of Government James McGuire is a political scientist with expertise in the association between democracy and public health.

You study the relationship between democracy and population health. Does the literature find that democracy is good for population health?

As a political scientist I’ve long been interested in democracy, and especially in its possible impact on other aspects of well-being. Many other political scientists have studied democracy’s impact on economic growth and income inequality. My interest has been in democracy’s impact on the risk of early death, and particularly on child mortality in developing countries. For Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, whose capabilities approach I endorse, the end of human development is to enable each of us to lead a thoughtfully chosen life. To live the life one has reason to choose, however, one has to be alive.

For my forthcoming book Democracy and Population Health, I reviewed more than 200 quantitative studies of the association between the two phenomena. On balance, these studies find that democracy is usually, but not invariably, beneficial for population health. One can certainly dredge up examples of authoritarian countries that have done well. China, Saudi Arabia, and Cuba have reduced infant mortality quite steeply over the past 30 years, but for every such case there is a North Korea, Venezuela, or Zimbabwe—authoritarian countries where infant mortality has declined only at a glacial pace.

Fowler: Effective Communication Around Health Crises Has “Life-Saving Consequences”

Erika Franklin Fowler

Erika Franklin Fowler

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler is an expert on political communication. When she’s not analyzing campaign advertising with the Wesleyan Media Project, she investigates how media, including ads and news, influence opinions and attitudes in a variety of health-related policy areas. Her past studies, many of which are co-authored with Sarah Gollust ’01, have examined media around the Affordable Care Act, mammography screening and the HPV vaccine.

“I’m drawn to research on messaging at the intersection of health and politics because it has such important—sometimes life-saving—consequences for citizens, and there are practical actions we can all take to improve the information environment,” said Fowler.

As the current coronavirus pandemic unfolded, Fowler reached out to government leaders in Connecticut with advice on communicating effectively in order to best protect public health. Here was some of the advice she shared:

  • We know from prior situations that the time is now for government (and specifically health authorities) to get out in front with simple clear messaging. Uncertainty and a lack of clear communication to ordinary citizens breeds lots of opportunity for misinformation and risks confusion in behavior that is very dangerous to the state’s public health response.

Dubar: Psychological Well-Being and Sleep Health in Troubling Times

Royette Dubar

Royette Dubar

Assistant Professor of Psychology Royette Dubar leads the Sleep & Psychosocial Adjustment Lab at Wesleyan. She’s a developmental psychologist who studies the links between sleep and a range of indices, including emotional well-being, academic performance, quality of interpersonal relationships, and technology use, in adolescents and emerging adults. She has just launched a new study on the psychosocial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic among adolescents and the challenges that come with it, especially for college seniors.

Your research focuses on sleep and psychosocial well-being among young people ages 15 to 29 years old. The pandemic and near-global shutdown has been extremely disruptive to everyday life, and many college students are struggling with needing to abruptly leave their campus homes and transition to distance learning. How do you anticipate this will affect them?

While at this point, I think many students have come to understand the motivations for suspending in-person classes, the move to distance learning has, undoubtedly, been generally upsetting and stressful for students. One of the factors that leads to stress is not being able to control what’s going on. At Wesleyan, as at numerous other colleges and universities, students did not have much time to process the switch to online learning and it was not a decision they could control.

We know that not all students are fortunate enough to be able to make arrangements to go home on such short notice. [Through a petition process, Wesleyan has made it possible for a small number of students, who are housing-insecure or unable to return home, to remain on campus.] Students may also feel especially overwhelmed if they have limited resources in a range of areas. These can be tangible resources, like money; interpersonal resources, such as having someone to talk to; or even psychological resources—having the psychological strength and coping strategies to deal with this change.

In addition, a residential college campus is a very intimate social environment, and we know that within a university setting, interpersonal relationships are extremely important for emotional adjustment. Furthermore, as students often use their relationships to navigate their sense of identity and belonging, not having that direct contact with roommates and friends can potentially be detrimental to their overall well-being. This is especially true for seniors, who expected this last semester to be a heightened time of social engagement with friends and peers, visiting places for the last time, etc. For them, particularly, knowing that they’re having to leave an environment they’re really comfortable in is heartbreaking. The loss of this interpersonal contact may impact students’ psychological well-being and sleep quality.

You have studied sleep and psychological well-being among young people in the context of a natural disaster. Are there any relevant lessons for the current situation?

The study we did looked at associations between the experience of a natural disaster and coping strategies, as well as possible links with sleep among high school-aged and college-aged students on my home island of Dominica. This was a cross-sectional study, so we can’t make conclusions about directionality or causation. One variable we looked at was rumination—replaying thoughts of an event over and over in one’s mind. Typically, rumination is considered a construct that has negative implications for well-being, because this cycle may prevent an individual from adjusting to whatever negative situation they’re going through. Not surprisingly, in our study, we found that individuals who scored high on rumination also reported higher scores on PTSD symptoms from the storm, but interestingly, these individuals also scored high on measures of post-traumatic growth (the belief that one’s psychological well-being is improved as a result of going through a negative/traumatic experience). We know that individuals who are struggling to process a traumatic event often have contradicting or mixed emotions, and these can serve as a vehicle to promote personal growth. For example, in reading the news, you might feel really overwhelmed about everything that’s going on. But at the same time, that negative feeling might motivate you to reach out to a neighbor, or to do something for yourself that brings you calm.

How can faculty help to mitigate the negative psychological effects of this experience on students?

I believe that many faculty members, myself included, are using this first week of distance learning as an adjustment week, helping students to grieve and heal by talking about things going on in their lives. (This was recommended to me by a colleague, Assistant Professor of Psychology Alexis May, who is a clinical psychologist). We’re trying to let students know that they have the support of their professors, and that we’re all in this together. I know a lot of faculty are offering students extra flexibility, and are working to make the syllabus more manageable. Our students may have circumstances in their lives that we don’t know about, so we must create space so they can share with us if they’re comfortable. Just being empathetic with our students is really necessary at this point.

We’re all spending a lot more time on our technological devices these days, with education and every other aspect of our lives having moved online. What does the research say about the effects of technology use on sleep?

There is a good bit of research on technology use and sleep. It’s a field that’s evolving as rapidly as the technology we use, though sometimes the research lags behind a bit.  Many studies have focused on the amount of time individuals spend on technology. One theory is that there’s a sort of displacement going on, where the more time we dedicate to technology use, regardless of the type of technology, that’s time taken away from other activities, including sleep. We often don’t prioritize sleep in our lives, and this is especially true for people who are overwhelmed with other demands like school or work. There’s also research looking at bedtime procrastination—delaying the time it takes to initiate sleep (e.g., because we’re sitting in bed using our phones). And most of the content we encounter on our phones is not very soothing these days.

Another line of research looks at the content and context of technology use, particularly close to bedtime. You might see a different effect on sleep quality if you’re playing a highly arousing video game just before bed versus watching a relaxing TV show. Given that we live in a world where information is readily accessible at our fingertips, we need to be extremely diligent about pacing our exposure to news and media content that can be upsetting and depressing. Being exposed to updates about the coronavirus pandemic can motivate us to keep ourselves and loved ones safe. However, constant access to that type of information can stir up feelings of anger, frustration, confusion, and fear that might be debilitating to the point where we are not able to create that sense of calm that is required for a good night’s sleep. This can lead to a vicious cycle because when our sleep health is compromised, we tend to be more susceptible to negative emotions.

For people whose lives have been turned upside down, do you have general advice about maintaining good sleep health?

Try to keep a routine of consistent bedtimes and wake times in order to create a sense of normalcy when it comes to sleep hygiene. This is always valuable, but it’s especially important at a time when everything feels like it’s turned upside down. Also, try not to spend too much time on your phone engaging with upsetting news or information. Many smart phones have good time management features that can be helpful in limiting exposure to news and information that’s detrimental to mental health.

What are you researching currently? 

We launched a study earlier this year looking at associations among negative life experiences, spirituality, and sleep. The idea for the study came to me at church when my pastor talked about using prayer as a form of coping (particularly when we are going through certain experiences that keep us up at night). Our subjects include people who have had a negative experience (e.g., change in living and health conditions). We’re interested in how spirituality might be linked to sleep, perhaps through the use of religious practices as a form of coping. We’re also looking at age as a possible factor that may influence results because the significance of religion and spirituality may change as we age. Although this is not a question that we can assess with this study, I think it is interesting to think about the different coping strategies that individuals of different faiths are currently using to make sense of this pandemic.

Rushdy to Serve as Wesleyan’s Academic Secretary

Ashraf Rushdy

Professor Ashraf Rushdy will serve as Wesleyan’s academic secretary.  (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Ashraf Rushdy, Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language and professor of African American studies, has agreed to serve as academic secretary for a one-year appointment beginning July 1.

The academic secretary facilitates academic decision-making and supports faculty governance by providing advice and support to the Executive Committee of the Faculty, the Academic Council and its committees, and the standing committees of the faculty. He also provides parliamentary advice, helps to administer faculty elections, and generally informs all of the University community on matters related to the academic program and faculty responsibilities.

Rushdy will be replacing William Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History, who is currently completing a three-year term as academic secretary.

Roth, Whaley, McLarney Host Video Forum for Students Remaining on Campus

Spring semester courses resumed on March 23 after the two-week spring break. Faculty contacted students in each of their classes to update them on how the classes would continue to meet. In many cases, classes will continue to meet via Zoom and Moodle, regardless of students' physical locations.

A student works in Usdan University Center on March 23. Approximately 300 students are staying on campus during the coronavirus pandemic. All students are completing their classes remotely due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), regardless of their physical locations. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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Another student works inside Usdan University Center on March 23.

On Sunday evening, President Michael S. Roth ’78, Vice President for Student Affairs Mike Whaley, and Medical Director Tom McLarney invited the approximately 300 students who will be remaining on Wesleyan’s campus for the spring semester to participate in a video forum hosted by the University’s virtual Zoom platform. The event was aimed at communicating important information about on-campus resources during the remainder of the semester and answering participants’ questions.

Although the University has temporarily transitioned to distance learning in efforts to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, students who are housing-insecure, who were unable to return to their homes, or who had extenuating circumstances were allowed to petition to continue to live on campus in Middletown.

“It’s a crazy moment at Wesleyan and around the world,” Roth said during the video forum. “There’s a lot we don’t know about what will happen in this country and around the world over the next several weeks. We do know that the best way to defeat this virus is to prevent it from passing from one person to another.”

Roth, McLarney, and Whaley stressed the importance of practicing the best advice of medical professionals for combatting the virus’s spread: washing hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, using hand sanitizer when necessary, and, most importantly, maintaining a physical distance from others.

“Whether you’re sitting on Foss Hill…or exercising outside, maintaining a physical distance from one another is really important over these next few weeks,” Roth said.

Spring semester courses resumed on March 23 after the two-week spring break. Faculty contacted students in each of their classes to update them on how the classes would continue to meet. In many cases, classes will continue to meet via Zoom and Moodle, regardless of students’ physical locations. Classes are “not going to be the same [as they had been when held in person], but we’re going to do our best,” Roth said. “The faculty is taking this very seriously.”

Bashir, Lezhanskyy Receive Watson Fellowships

As recipients of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, two Wesleyan seniors will explore their academic aspirations internationally through a yearlong personal project.

Inayah Bashier

Inayah Bashir ’20

Inayah Bashir ’20 and Luka Lezhanskyy ’20 are among 47 Watson Fellows selected from 153 finalists. This year’s class comes from 20 states and eight countries, and exhibits a broad range of academic specialties, socio-economic backgrounds, and project diversity.

Bashir, a College of Social Studies major with a Writing Certificate, plans to explore the histories, stories, and teachings of African spirituality through her project titled “African Spirituality: Obscured Foundations of the Diaspora.”

“In a world dominated by Abrahamic religions, African spirituality has been stigmatized by tropes of demonic practice, witchcraft, and black magic. Yet African spirituality has always served as a form of healing, protection, and resistance across the African diaspora,” Bashir explained in her project proposal. “Ultimately, I hope to understand the spiritualities that served as the foundation of my ancestors’ cultures and traditions.”

Bashir hopes to travel to South Africa, Ghana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago; however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, travel may be restricted.

Luke Lezhanskyy

Luka Lezhanskyy ’20

Lezhanskyy, an English major, hopes to spend his Watson year studying how NGOs and communities combat child trafficking in hot spots around the world through his project “The Global Campaign Against Child Trafficking.”

“An estimated 5.5 million children are trafficked worldwide. I will collaborate with NGOs engaged in anti-trafficking work in nations with a high prevalence of child trafficking,” Lezhanskyy explained in his project proposal. “In so doing I hope to understand the causes of this pernicious business, and the solutions devised to counter it.”

Lezhanskyy had planned to travel to Nepal, Romania, Senegal, and Brazil for his study, but also due to the coronavirus pandemic his travel may be restricted.

Through one-of-a-kind programs and over 100 global partnerships, the Watson Fellowship provides students with personal, professional, and cultural opportunities that expand their vision, test and develop their potential, and build their confidence and perspective to be more humane and effective leaders on a global scale.

Watson Fellows are selected from 40 private colleges and university partners across the United States. They receive $36,000 for 12 months of travel and college loan assistance as needed. Afterwards, they’ll join a community of peers who provide a lifetime of support and inspiration. Nearly 3,000 Watson Fellows have been named since the inaugural class in 1969.

Watson Fellows have gone on to become leaders in their fields, including CEOs of major corporations, college presidents, Emmy, Grammy and Oscar Award winners, Pulitzer Prize awardees, artists, diplomats, doctors, entrepreneurs, faculty, journalists, lawyers, politicians, researchers, and inspiring influencers around the world.

In 1961, the Watson Foundation was created as a charitable trust in the name of Thomas J. Watson Sr., best known for building IBM.

Wesleyan Resource Center Collecting Donations for Pantry

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The Wesleyan Resource Center has set up a temporary pantry, which is open to any student in need. The pantry will be open for the duration of the spring semester.

The Wesleyan Resource Center is collecting food and other items to support low-income and food-insecure students who continue to reside on campus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The center will be open seven days a week. Items can be dropped off or picked up between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and noon to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Suggested donations include:

  • Pasta kits (microwaveable mac and cheese, rice meals, ramen, etc.)
  • Canned food with pull tabs (vegetables, beans, pasta, etc.)
  • Food in sealed individual serving cups (applesauce, vegetables, fruits)
  • Toiletries (shampoo, body wash, soap, mouthwash, tissues)
  • Cleaning supplies (disinfecting products, paper towels, dish soap, sponges)
  • Candy, chips, snacks
  • Kitchenware (pots and pans, cookware, cooking utensils, cups)

For those who would like to donate and are sheltering in place or residing off campus, products can be purchased online and delivered to the Resource Center at 167 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

For more information, contact Demetrius Colvin, director of the Resource Center.

NESCAC Announces Winter All-Academic, All-Sportsmanship Honorees

Andrew Schwartz

Andrew Schwartz ’20, of the men’s swimming and diving team, was named to the NESCAC Winter All-Sportsmanship Team. (Photos by Steve McLaughlin)

Coleen Castro,

Women’s hockey player Coleen Castro ’20 was named to the NESCAC Winter All-Academic Team.

Wesleyan’s winter athletic teams put a total of 80 student-athletes on the 2019–20 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Winter All-Academic Team, while eight earned a spot on the 2019–20 NESCAC All-Sportsmanship Team.

In order to earn a spot on the All-Academic Team, a student-athlete must have reached sophomore academic standing and be a varsity letter winner with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.50 or equivalent on a 4.0 scale. Transfer students are eligible as long as they have completed at least one year of study at the institution.

Wesleyan ranked seventh out of 11 schools with its 80 honorees.

Grant, Naegele to Lead Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences and Mathematics as New Deans

Beginning May 4, 2020, Roger Mathew Grant will succeed Nicole Stanton as Dean of the Arts and Humanities division, and beginning July 1, 2020, Janice Naegele will succeed Joe Knee as Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division.

The announcement was made by Rob Rosenthal, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

Roger Mathew Grant

Roger Mathew Grant

Roger Mathew Grant, associate professor of music, received his undergraduate degree from Ithaca College and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania. In his recent book, Peculiar Attunements: How Affect Theory Turned Musical (Fordham University Press, 2020), he considers contemporary affect theory in relation to European music theory of the 18th century. He is also the author of Beating Time & Measuring Music in the Early Modern Era (Oxford University Press, 2014), which combines music theory, music analysis, and philosophy to trace the history of meter from the 16th century to the 19th century, and for which he received the Emerging Scholar Award from the Society for Music Theory.