Campus News & Events

Wesleyan in the News

NewsSeveral Wesleyan faculty and alumni have been featured in national media outlets recently. They include:

NBC News—Biden Picks Jessica Rosenworcel [’93] as Acting FCC Chief

NBC Think—Trump’s ‘1776 Commission’ Tried to Rewrite U.S. History. Biden Had Other Ideas.; by Robyn Autry

Inside Higher Ed—Everything Won’t Be Different; by Michael Roth ’78

NPR’s Short Wave—Let’s Go Back to Venus!; features Martha Gilmore

MyRecordJournal.com—WRESTLING: Paint It, Black! Wesleyan Coach Drew Black of Cheshire Tabbed for National Hall of Fame

The New York Times Magazine—Poem: Variation on a Theme by Elizabeth Bishop; poem by John Murillo (PDF attached)

Thrive Global—What We Learned From Teaching a “Living a Good Life” Course During the Pandemic; by Steven Horst, Stephen Angle, and Tushar Irani

The Washington Post—Germany Looks Ahead to Life Without Merkel. But the Leadership Race is Leaving Voters Cold.; quotes Sarah Wiliarty

Forbes—Meet Joe Biden’s Science Team; Narda Jones ’91 will serve as Biden’s Office of Science and Technology Policy legislative affairs director

EXBulletin—Starting From the First Take, She’s Leading New Developments for ESPN Podcasts in 2021; Kimberley Martin ’03

The Bitter SouthernerMarion Brown’s [MA ’76] Musical Portrait of Georgia

Patch—America’s Coach Declares Distance Running is About to Boom; features Jeff Galloway ’67

The Atlantic—What the Chaos in Hospitals is Doing to Doctors; features Joseph Fins ’82, MD

The Wall Street Journal—Covid is Reshaping Death. And Maybe Life.; by Katy Butler ’71

Washingtonian—Meet Our 2020 Washingtonians of the Year; includes Alan Miller ’76

The Middletown Press—Have You Heard ‘Little Dark Age’ on TikTok? Did You Know the Band Behind It Has Ties to Connecticut?; features MGMT (Ben Goldwasser ’05 and Andrew VanWyngarden ’05)

President Roth on the New Year, New Semester

keep wes safeWesleyan’s 2021 spring semester is scheduled to begin Tuesday, Feb. 9, with university housing opening Friday, Feb. 5. All incoming students will be required to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival and be tested for COVID-19 on campus.

Classes will take place online only for the first two weeks.

“Starting a few weeks later than usual, combined with careful testing and quarantine protocols around arrival, should allow us to start off on the right foot, despite the high positivity rates around the country,” wrote Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 in a Jan. 20 post. “Of course, we will have to be vigilant about contagion throughout the semester. The vaccine rollout is making progress, but we still have a long way to go.”

Nominate Faculty for 2021 Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Each year, three faculty members are presented the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching during the Commencement Ceremony. The Binswanger Prize recognizes outstanding faculty members as exemplified by a commitment to the classroom, student accomplishment, intellectual demands placed on students, lucidity, and passion.

Juniors, seniors, graduate students, and GOLD alumni (Graduates Of The Last Decade) are eligible to nominate up to three professors who had the most enduring impact on students’ Wesleyan experience.

An invitation to nominate will be sent on Jan. 30 by Vanessa Guida ’04, chair of the Binswanger Committee. For questions, contact Gina Driscoll (gdriscoll@wesleyan.edu), associate director, alumni and parent relations.

View past Binswanger recipients online here.

Murillo’s Poetry Longlisted for PEN/Voelcker, Believer Book Awards

Murillo

John Murillo

A poetry collection authored by John Murillo, assistant professor of English, is longlisted for both the 2021 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection and the Believer Book Awards.

Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (Four Way Books, 2020) explores the legacy of institutional, accepted violence against Blacks and Latinos and the personal and societal wreckage wrought by long histories of subjugation. The collection includes a sonnet triggered by the shooting deaths of three Brooklyn men that becomes an extended reflection on the history of racial injustice.

The PEN/Voelcker Award, which comes with a $5,000 prize, is awarded to a poet whose distinguished collection of poetry represents a notable and accomplished literary presence. Rae Armantrout’s Conjure and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s The Age of Phillis, which are both published by Wesleyan University Press, also are longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry (read more). Winners will be announced in February.

The Believer Book Awards honor works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that are the best written and most underappreciated. The shortlists and winners will be announced online in the spring.

Murillo also is the author of Up Jump the Boogie (Cypher, 2010; Four Way Books, 2020), which was a finalist for both the Kate Tufts Discovery Award (2011) and the PEN Open Book Award (2011). His honors include two Larry Neal Writers Awards, a pair of Pushcart Prizes, the J. Howard and Barbara M. J. Wood Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Cave Canem Foundation, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing.

His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, and Best American Poetry 2017, 2019, and 2020. Most recently, Variation on a Theme by Elizabeth Bishop appeared in the Jan. 14 edition of New York Times Magazine.

At Wesleyan, Murillo also is director of creative writing and assistant professor, African American studies. This spring, he’s teaching ENGL 337A: Advanced Poetry Workshop, Radical Revision.

Wesleyan Offers 2 New Coursera Courses Focused on Creating Social Change

This month, Wesleyan is launching two new MOOCs (massive open online courses) on the Coursera platform. Enrollment for both classes is free of charge.

Take Action: From Protest to Policy launches on Jan. 17 and is taught by Mary Alice Haddad, John E. Andrus Professor of Government, and Sarah Ryan, attorney and associate professor of the practice in oral communication. Jeffrey Goetz, associate director, Center for Pedagogical Innovation, also assisted with creating the course.

From Global Pandemic to Anti-Racism: Wesleyan’s Year in Review

The year 2020 will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most memorable of the modern era. From the threat and real-life toll of a global pandemic to domestic clashes over social, racial, and political injustice, 2020 was full of challenges—and the Wesleyan community met each one head-on. We banded together to keep our students and staff safe and pushed each other to show our resilience, to step up and speak out, and to use our trademark creativity to adapt and lead the way in addressing our new socially distanced and politically charged reality.

In this timeline, we look back and explore some of the University’s accomplishments and happenings amid an evolving pandemic.

Jan. 21: The Jewett Center for Community Partnerships announces the grantees of the JCCP Student Innovation Fund. Students from a range of majors and backgrounds—all with shared interests in utilizing resources in innovative ways to positively impact the greater Middletown community—applied to this fund. Read the story.

Feb. 2: In response to the World Health Organization announcing an outbreak of a novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, Wesleyan’s Chinese community (particularly students and parents) bands together to help their fellow citizens. The student-initiated group WesInAction raises more than $23,000, which is used to purchase medical equipment for hospitals in the pandemic’s epicenter in Hubei province, China. Read the story.

On Feb. 16, WesInAction delivered seven sets of oxygen concentrators and ventilators and 26,000 pairs of medical gloves to the First People’s Hospital of Xiaochang County and the People’s Hospital of Dawu County in Xiaogan, Hubei province.

On Feb. 16, WesInAction delivered seven sets of oxygen concentrators and ventilators and 26,000 pairs of medical gloves to the First People’s Hospital of Xiaochang County and the People’s Hospital of Dawu County in Xiaogan, Hubei province.

Schatz Pens New Book on the Influence of the National War Labor Board

Book by Ron SchatzRonald Schatz, professor of history, is the author of The Labor Board Crew: Remaking Worker-Employer Relations from Pearl Harbor to the Reagan Era, published by the University of Illinois Press on Jan. 11, 2021.

According to the publisher:

Schatz tells the story of the team of young economists and lawyers recruited to the National War Labor Board to resolve union-management conflicts during the Second World War. The crew (including Clark Kerr, John Dunlop, Jean McKelvey, and Marvin Miller) exerted broad influence on the U.S. economy and society for the next 40 years. They handled thousands of grievances and strikes. They founded academic industrial relations programs. When the 1960s student movement erupted, universities appointed them as top administrators charged with quelling the conflicts. In the 1970s, they developed systems that advanced public sector unionization and revolutionized employment conditions in Major League Baseball.

Schatz argues that the Labor Board vets, who saw themselves as disinterested technocrats, were in truth utopian reformers aiming to transform the world. Beginning in the 1970s stagflation era, they faced unforeseen opposition, and the cooperative relationships they had fostered withered. Yet their protégé George Shultz used mediation techniques learned from his mentors to assist in the integration of Southern public schools, institute affirmative action in industry, and conduct Cold War negotiations with Mikhail Gorbachev.

Schatz’s research focuses on 20th century U.S. history and labor history. He investigates labor and management, conservatism, labor and religion, arbitration, and Connecticut history.

Crosby Remembered for Being a Brilliant Scholar-Teacher

Crosby

Christina Crosby (Photo by John Van Vlack, Image Pro Photography)

Christina Crosby, professor of English, passed away Jan. 5 at the age of 67. She also was professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies.

Crosby arrived at Wesleyan in 1982 after receiving her AB from Swarthmore College and PhD from Brown University. She was a respected Victorianist, feminist, and theorist who was widely published, including two books, The Ends of History: Victorians and “The Woman Question” (Routledge, 1990) and A Body, Undone: Living on After Great Pain (NYU Press, 2016). She received Wesleyan’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 1994.

“Christina was a brilliant scholar-teacher,” recalled Natasha Korda, professor of English, “and an uncommonly generous colleague and mentor. Suddenly bereft of her presence, many of us are reeling, and at a loss for words, wishing that we could channel her eloquence to convey fully the contours of her extraordinary life and achievements. Our only solace is that Christina is now beyond the ‘great pain’ through which she lived on after her bicycling accident, and about which she wrote so beautifully in her recent book, A Body Undone. She was, as one colleague put it, the ‘heart and soul’ of the FGSS program over many years.”

Adjunct Associate Professor of Asian Languages and Literatures, Emerita, Sheng Dies at 95

Frances Sheng, adjunct associate professor of Asian languages and literatures, emerita, passed away on Jan. 3 at the age of 95.

Sheng completed her undergraduate degree at Fu Jen Catholic University in Beijing, and her MA at the University of Connecticut. In 1972 she arrived at Wesleyan, where she founded Wesleyan’s Chinese language program and inspired generations of students by teaching Chinese faithfully until her retirement in 1994. During her 22 years at Wesleyan, Sheng was involved in the establishment of the East Asian Studies program as well as study abroad in China, and she founded the Frances M. Sheng Prize, which is still awarded today for excellence in Chinese language and excellence in Japanese language.

“Frances’ students loved and admired her for being a demanding but caring teacher,” said longtime colleague and John E. Andrus Professor of History William Johnston. “Frances created a foundation for our program in Chinese language instruction, whose continued success is itself a tribute to her earlier efforts. CEAS and Wesleyan owe a debt of gratitude to Frances.”

Ellen Widmer, professor of Asian languages and literatures, emerita, remembers Sheng as being “full of dignity but also humor. She cared about people’s qualities as a person.” Widmer also noted that although Sheng ran a “tight ship,” her classes were also always full of laughter.

“How well I remember Frances’ kindness in my first years at Wesleyan,” said Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, Emerita, Vera Schwarcz. “Her great sense of humor. How she pushed her students to do their best. May her soul rest in peace.”

Sheng is survived by her sister, Rita Mao Hechler; her brother, Mao Yuan; her daughter, Diane Sheng; her niece, Lucille Sheng-French; and four grandchildren: Stacy Tarver Patterson, Andrew Herzer, Aaron Tarver, and Alexandra Herzer. If desired and in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the CAF/Suzanne Sheng Fund, a scholarship fund for Connecticut architectural students, c/o Connecticut Architecture Foundation, AIA Connecticut, 370 James St, Suite 402, New Haven, CT 06513.

Wesleyan University Press Authors Longlisted for PEN Awards

Wesleyan University Press authors Hafizah Geter, Rae Armantrout, and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers were recently longlisted for awards from PEN America.

Un-American book

Un-American, published by Wesleyan University Press, is longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award.

Hafizah Geter’s debut poetry collection, Un-American, is longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. The PEN Open Book Award honors a work of fiction, literary nonfiction, biography/memoir, or poetry written by an author of color. The award was created by PEN America’s Open Book Committee, a group committed to racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities.

Geter’s collection moves readers through the fraught internal and external landscapes—linguistic, cultural, racial, familial—of those whose lives are shaped and transformed by immigration. The daughter of a Nigerian Muslim woman and a former Southern Baptist Black man, Geter charts the history of a Black family of mixed citizenships through poems imbued by migration, racism, queerness, loss, and the heartbreak of trying to feel at home in a country that does not recognize you.

Rae Armantrout’s Conjure and Honorée Fanonne Jeffers’s The Age of Phillis are both longlisted for the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. The PEN/Voelcker Award honors a distinguished collection of poetry that represents a notable and accomplished literary presence.

Armantrout takes pleasure in uncertainties and conundrums, the tricky nuances of language and feeling. In Conjure that pleasure is matched by dread; fascination meets fear as the poet considers an increasingly toxic world.

The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of Phillis Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley’s “age”—the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade.

According to PEN America’s press release, the 2021 Literary Awards Longlists span 11 book awards and encompass more than 125 writers and translators, representing the year’s most extraordinary literary talents. Over 80 judges have selected the longlists, which are made up of categories including the novel, short story collection, translation, poetry, science writing, essay, biography, and more. (Read the full release here.)

Finalists for PEN America Literary Awards will be announced in February 2021.

Wesleyan University Press publishes books of poetry, and scholarly books in dance, music, and literary studies. The Press has garnered national and international accolades for its work, including six Pulitzer Prizes, three National Book Awards, three Griffin Poetry Prizes, and an Anisfield-Wolf Award, among many others.

Students’ Essays on Infectious Disease Prevention, COVID-19 Published Nationwide

cohan

More than 25 students in Fred Cohan’s Global Change and Infectious Disease course have had op-eds published in media outlets nationwide. Cohan, professor of biology and Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment (pictured), assigns the op-ed writing as part of his course and offers students extra credit if they are able to get their work published.

As part of the BIO 173: Global Change and Infectious Disease course, Professor Fred Cohan assigns students to write an essay persuading others to prevent future and mitigate present infectious diseases. If students submit their essay to a news outlet—and it’s published—Cohan awards them with extra credit.

As a result of this assignment, more than 25 students have had their work published in newspapers across the United States. Many of these essays cite and applaud the University’s Keep Wes Safe campaign and its COVID-19 testing protocols.

Cohan, professor of biology and Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment (COE), began teaching the Global Change and Infectious Disease course in 2009, when the COE was established. “I wanted very much to contribute a course to what I saw as a real game-changer in Wesleyan’s interest in the environment. The course is about all the ways that human demands on the environment have brought us infectious diseases, over past millennia and in the present, and why our environmental disturbances will continue to bring us infections into the future.”

Over the years, Cohan learned that he can sustainably teach about 170 students every year without running out of interested students. This fall, he had 207. Although he didn’t change the overall structure of his course to accommodate COVID-19 topics, he did add material on the current pandemic to various sections of the course.

“I wouldn’t say that the population of the class increased tremendously as a result of COVID-19, but I think the enthusiasm of the students for the material has increased substantially,” he said.

To accommodate online learning, Cohan shaved off 15 minutes from his normal 80-minute lectures to allow for discussion sections, led by Cohan and teaching assistants. “While the lectures mostly dealt with biology, the discussions focused on how changes in behavior and policy can solve the infectious disease problems brought by human disturbance of the environment,” he said.

Based on student responses to an introspective exam question, Cohan learned that many students enjoyed a new hope that we could each contribute to fighting infectious disease. “They discovered that the solution to infectious disease is not entirely a waiting game for the right technologies to come along,” he said. “Many enjoyed learning about fighting infectious disease from a moral and social perspective. And especially, the students enjoyed learning about the ‘socialism of the microbe,’ how preventing and curing others’ infections will prevent others’ infections from becoming our own. The students enjoyed seeing how this idea can drive both domestic and international health policies.”

A sampling of the published student essays are below:

Alexander Giummo ’22 and Mike Dunderdale’s ’23 op-ed titled “A National Testing Proposal: Let’s Fight Back Against COVID-19” was published in the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.

They wrote: “With an expansive and increased testing plan for U.S. citizens, those who are COVID-positive could limit the number of contacts they have, and this would also help to enable more effective contact tracing. Testing could also allow for the return of some ‘normal’ events, such as small social gatherings, sports, and in-person class and work schedules.

“We propose a national testing strategy in line with the one that has kept Wesleyan students safe this year. The plan would require a strong push by the federal government to fund the initiative, but it is vital to successful containment of the virus.

“Twice a week, all people living in the U.S. should report to a local testing site staffed with professionals where the anterior nasal swab Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, used by Wesleyan and supported by the Broad Institute, would be implemented.”

Kalyani Mohan ’22 and Kalli Jackson ’22 penned an essay titled “Where Public Health Meets Politics: COVID-19 in the United States,” which was published in Wesleyan’s Arcadia Political Review.

They wrote: “While the U.S. would certainly benefit from a strengthened pandemic response team and structural changes to public health systems, that alone isn’t enough, as American society is immensely stratified, socially and culturally. The politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic shows that individualism, libertarianism and capitalism are deeply ingrained in American culture, to the extent that Americans often blind to the fact community welfare can be equivalent to personal welfare. Pandemics are multifaceted, and preventing them requires not just a cultural shift but an emotional one amongst the American people, one guided by empathy—towards other people, different communities and the planet. Politics should be a tool, not a weapon against its people.”

Sydnee Goyer ’21 and Marcel Thompson’s ’22 essay “This Flu Season Will Be Decisive in the Fight Against COVID-19” also was published in Arcadia Political Review.

“With winter approaching all around the Northern Hemisphere, people are preparing for what has already been named a “twindemic,” meaning the joint threat of the coronavirus and the seasonal flu,” they wrote. “While it is known that seasonal vaccinations reduce the risk of getting the flu by up to 60% and also reduce the severity of the illness after the contamination, additional research has been conducted in order to know whether or not flu shots could reduce the risk of people getting COVID-19. In addition to the flu shot, it is essential that people remain vigilant in maintaining proper social distancing, washing your hands thoroughly, and continuing to wear masks in public spaces.”