Campus News & Events

Meislahn Reflects on Challenges of Her Career as Dean of Admission

"As my team knows, my mantra is, ‘If we are going to work this hard, we better be having fun!’ I certainly have," Meislahn said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Student success “is what has recharged my batteries over the years and kept me doing this wonderful work,”  Meislahn said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid, will retire in September following the arrival of the Class of 2023, the 20th class she admitted to Wesleyan. In this Q&A, she reflects on the main challenges, changes, and highlights of her accomplished Wesleyan career. (Read her retirement announcement in this past News @ Wesleyan article.)

Q: You are the longest-serving dean of admission in Wesleyan’s history. How are you feeling ahead of your impending retirement?

A: Definitely a bittersweet moment, but I’m ready. I’ve admitted 20 classes to Wesleyan and that should be enough—for me and for the institution. Time for new leadership! I firmly believe we are all replaceable and that change is good.

Q: During your tenure, applications to Wesleyan (including international student applications) have nearly doubled. To what do you attribute this impressive growth?

A: It was a clearly articulated strategic goal to double the international student population, and create a bigger “global footprint” on campus. So, we set out to work! We increased Wesleyan’s on-the-ground presence, expanding recruitment especially in India, Europe, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, building on the very strong reputation of the Freeman Scholars program. We invited overseas counselors to campus and increased our engagement with international professional associations. It has been a team effort and extremely rewarding to see how we’ve been able to bring more students from all over the world to Wes.

Barth, Patalano Receive $1.09M NSF Grant to Support Numerical Cognition Research

Sophie Charles ’20,

Student research assistant Sophie Charles ’20, a neuroscience and behavior major, shows the line estimation task used by the Psychology Department to understand how people make judgments about number and quantity.

Hilary Barth and Andrea Patalano, both professors of psychology, have received a major grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support collaborative research on numerical cognition.

Hilary Barth, professor of psychology, and Andrea Patalano, professor of psychology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, have received a major grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support collaborative research on numerical cognition.

Collaborative research by Hilary Barth and Andrea Patalano is supported by the National Science Foundation.

The three-year $1,091,303 grant, which is funded by NSF’s EHR Core Research program focused on STEM learning, includes support for Wesleyan student participation in the proposed research project, which will involve experimental studies of children’s and adults’ understanding of, and judgments about, number and quantity.

The two labs collaborate frequently, and have been working jointly on another project for the past three years supported by an earlier NSF grant. The new project is distinct, but grew out of a discovery made in the Barth lab during the earlier project related to a number line estimation task. In this task, participants are shown a line with numbers at each endpoint (e.g., 0 and 1,000) and asked to estimate where on the line a particular three-digit number would fall. The researchers found that participants had a tendency to place two numbers much farther apart on the line than they actually were when those numbers had a different first digit, even if they were quite close to each other in actuality (for example, 799 and 802). This was true even of adult participants, who have a good understanding of numbers.

Jenkins Analyzes 200-Year-Old Theatrical Tradition in New, Bilingual Book

Ron Jenkins, pictured second from left, celebrated his new book in a garden of an 18th century villa with performances of the play that is the subject of his book, Resurrection of the Saints: Sacred Tragi-Comedy in Venafro. He's pictured with actors, from left, Adriano Cimino, Gianni Di Chiaro, and Emanuela Paolozzi along with the translator of the Italian version of the book, the poet Maria Giusti.

Ron Jenkins (pictured second from left) celebrated his new book in the garden of an 18th-century villa with performances of the play that is the subject of his book, Resurrection of the Saints: Sacred Tragi-Comedy in Venafro. He’s pictured with actors (from left) Adriano Cimino, Gianni Di Chiaro, and Emanuela Paolozzi, along with the translator of the Italian version of the book, the poet Maria Giusti.

Ron Jenkins, professor and chair of theater, is the author of a new book titled Resurrection of the Saints: Sacred Tragi-Comedy in Venafro published by Bulzoni in July 2019 as part of the company’s international series on “Theater and Memory.” The volume is in dual languages; the first part is in Italian, the second translated into English.

Resurrection of the Saints is an analysis of a 200-year-old theatrical tradition in the Italian village of Venafro, where the citizens still perform an 18th-century play that recounts the martyrdom of their patron saints in the third century. In 1792, Giuseppe Macchia wrote the play, “Religion Triumphant” and labeled it “a sacred tragicomedy.”

The book includes Jenkins’s translation of the play and interviews he conducted with the performers, whose professions include nurse, architect, graphic designer, and art restorer.

“Framed as a battle between an angel and a devil for the souls of the saints, the play is a lost link between the medieval traditions of sacred theater and the modern comic masterpieces of the late Italian Nobel Laureate, Dario Fo,” said Jenkins, who has translated Fo’s works for performance at the Yale Repertory Theater, Harvard’s American Repertory Theater, and other venues.

“My experience working with Fo helped me to capture the comic theatrical rhythms of Macchia’s play,” he said. “Anyone interested in the power of the arts to unite a community and preserve the traditions that define its cultural identity would enjoy the play and this book.”

Jenkins is the author of numerous books and was named Honorary Member of the Dante Society of America for having performed theatrical representations of excerpts from Dante’s “Divine Comedy” in prisons throughout Italy, Indonesia, and the United States. Resurrection of the Saints is part of Jenkins’s ongoing research on theater and community.

Price’s Civic Engagement Work Supported by Newman Civic Fellowship

Anthony Price '20

Anthony Price ’20 will begin a Newman Civic Fellowship next fall.

For his efforts in demonstrating the potential for effective long-term civic engagement, Anthony Price ’20 was invited to participate in Campus Compact’s 2019 Newman Civic Fellowship. He will have access to exclusive virtual and in-person learning opportunities during the 2019–2020 academic year for the duration of the one-year fellowship term.

The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes and supports community-committed students who are changemakers and public problem-solvers at Campus Compact member institutions. Price joins 261 student fellows representing Campus Compact member colleges and universities from 41 states; Washington, D.C.; Mexico; and Greece.

Price, a government and American studies double major, is the founder and executive director of Be The Change Venture, a Cleveland-based nonprofit that teaches young people networking skills to support their career development. He also spent a full semester in Washington, D.C., with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Program (see article). Price returned back to the Capitol this summer working for New Jersey Senator, Cory Booker, in the United States Senate. He also served as one of the executive core-planning members for the TedXWesleyan U conference.

“I look forward to being a part of an amazing cohort, building lifelong relationships, and learning from other change agents who are also on the ground serving others,” Price said. “[The fellowship] will be essential for my own civic engagement work serving young people in both inner city and rural communities that tend to get overlooked.”

Wesleyan President Michael Roth nominated Price for the fellowship.

“[Anthony has an] inspiring talent for civic engagement and an admirable dedication to making our society more equitable,” Roth wrote. “At Wesleyan, Anthony has consistently sought opportunities to collaborate with peers and community members on projects with social impact, from organizing a pitch competition for local high school and college students to joining our Nonprofit Board Residency program. As someone who seeks out opportunities to improve his skills in building relationships across sectors and industries, Anthony has held internships with various organizations, ranging from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Office of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown.”

As a Newman Fellow, Price receives training and resources that nurture his passions and help develop strategies for social change. He’s able to participate in virtual events focused on skill development and professional learning; present papers at Campus Compact conferences; receive one-on-one leadership development mentoring; and connect and network with other engaged student leaders.

Although the fellowship doesn’t begin until fall, Price has already had conversations with his mentor and attorney Rudhir Krishtel, regarding Price’s nonprofit work. The connection was made through Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

“Rudhir already has played a pivotal role in thinking about how I want to expand upon the impact my team and I have made while at the same time remaining committed to civic engagement work long-term. Specifically, he has advised me on a few things I’m considering pursuing—law school, Fulbright, or perhaps working on Capitol Hill, and staying civically engaged,” Price said. “Overall, I’ve already gotten a head start in crafting the scope of my fellowship months in advance before the fall conference.”

The Newman Civic Fellowship was created in honor of Frank Newman, one of Campus Compact’s founders and a tireless advocate for the role of higher education in preparing students for active and engaged citizenship. The Newman Civic Fellowship is generously supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.

The 2019 Newman Civic Fellows National Convening will take place in November 2019, in Boston.

“There I’ll meet other fellows and learn about the work they’re doing in communities across the country,” Price said. “I’m looking forward to it!”

After graduation, Price aspires to be a cross-sector change agent, focused in particular on low-income communities. He plans to become an attorney, using the power of the law and policy to address the root causes of inequity in American society.

YAF Ghana Wins 2019 Davis Projects for Peace Award

The Young Achievers Foundation (YAF) Ghana, spearheaded by Ferdinand Quayson '20 (pictured in the black shirt), is a recipient of a 2019 Davis Projects for Peace Award. YAF Ghana exposes disadvantaged students in Northern Ghana to available scholarship opportunities and provides them with free resources needed to be successful applicants.

The Young Achievers Foundation (YAF) Ghana, spearheaded by Ferdinand Quayson ’20 (pictured in the black shirt at left), is a recipient of a 2019 Davis Projects for Peace Award. YAF Ghana exposes disadvantaged students in Northern Ghana to available scholarship opportunities and provides them with free resources needed to be successful applicants.

In the economically disadvantaged Northern Region of Ghana, only 6 of 100 high school students enroll in college, leaving many otherwise bright students trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.

As recipients of the 2019 Davis Projects for Peace Award, four Wesleyan students who make up the Young Achievers Foundation Ghana are helping low-income students in the region access and apply for scholarship programs within Ghana and beyond. The grassroots group is led by Cofounder and Executive Director Ferdinand Quayson ’20 and members Afrah Boateng ’20, Abdallah Salia ’22, and Alvin Kibaara ’22.

The $10,000 Projects for Peace grant is awarded annually to undergraduate students at American colleges and universities to design grassroots projects that promote peace and conflict resolution around the world. YAF Ghana is using the award this summer to host workshops, seminars, student-led panels, and hands-on training for high school students seeking college scholarship opportunities.

Yang ’21 Participates in NSF-Sponsored Workshop on Antarctic History

Donglai Yang ’21 worked at the University of Arizona this summer on a project titled “Cenozoic detrital record offshore Dronning Maud Land.” His workshop concluded on July 8.

For two weeks this summer, Donglai Yang ’21 used isotope dating of rocks, minerals, and sediments from the Weddell Sea near Antarctica to determine the age of a section of Earth’s southernmost continent.

Yang, an earth and environmental sciences and physics double major, was selected as one of 10 undergraduate and graduate students from around the world to participate in the National Science Foundation–sponsored Antarctichron/Chronothon 2019 workshop held June 24 to July 8 at the University of Arizona.

The workshop introduced participants to geo- and thermochronology through some applications to the geology of Antarctica. Students learned to analyze and interpret their own samples and data in the context of their own research projects.

Yang’s study focused on the “Cenozoic detrital record offshore Dronning Maud Land,” a Norwegian territory that makes up approximately 1/6 of Antarctica. He specifically studied rock and sediment fragments that broke away from a landmass.

“These sediments were deposited around 30 million years ago, but the minerals within that layer of sediments have diverse ages,” he said. “Those minerals are scraped directly from the Antarctic bedrock by glaciers so their ages bear complicated terrestrial thermal history.”

During the workshop, Yang participated in informal lectures and discussions and learned the fundamentals of radioisotopic dating, laboratory techniques, analytical instrumentation, basics of thermochronologic modeling, and the geology of Antarctica. Core samples were provided by the International Ocean Discovery Program sediment core repository and the fellowship also was supported by Wesleyan’s College of the Environment.

Yang’s advisor, Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, initially introduced Yang to the concept of radiometric dating in geosciences.

“I was fascinated at once,” he said. “Its current applications have far transcended its use since its advent when, about a hundred years ago, scientists finally managed to fathom the absolute age of the Earth.”

Now with a much-expanded understanding of the kinetics in multiple decay systems, questions that arise from almost every single field in earth and environmental sciences become resolvable to varying extents, Yang explained. “On top of this, our sedimentology lab reckons it a valuable opportunity to bring in some new techniques as we have rarely dealt with unstable isotopes in minerals before.”

After Yang graduates from Wesleyan, he plans on attending graduate school, conducting research in geophysics or geochemistry.

College of the Environment Supports 32 Student Researchers this Summer

This summer the College of the Environment is funding 32 research opportunities here on campus, from coast to coast, and worldwide, from Connecticut and California to Costa Rica and Ghana.

That’s more than $135K for undergrad research, regardless of major or class year.

Students are studying forest fragmentation in Connecticut; volcanic lake ecosystems in Oregon; Lingzhi mushroom’s influence on Chinese medicine; effects of mercury pollution on Eastern Blacknose Dace snakes; solar cell materials; and much more. 

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn 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. The New York Times Magazine: I’m 20. I Have 32 Half Siblings. This Is My Family Portrait.

Eli Baden-Lasar ’22 always knew he was conceived using a sperm donor, but he didn’t discover he had half siblings until he was 19. He went out searching for them and found more than 30 young men and women around the country. In this photo essay, he writes about the experience of meeting his half siblings. Photo portraits he took of each of them are featured along with their quotes about meeting blood relatives they hadn’t previously known existed.

2. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): Geologist Embarks on 60-Day Voyage to Study Past Climates

Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell is featured in this blog post. She has studied paleoceanography for more than 30 years and recently sailed to the Subantarctic Ocean just north of the Antarctic Circle to drill for and study ocean sediment samples on the JOIDES Resolution research vessel. She talks about dodging icebergs, and how she hopes the data she helped collect will be useful for climate modelers working to figure out how fast the ice will melt in the future.

Matesan in The Conversation: Why Do Rebel Groups Apologize?

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan and Ronit Berger of Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya write about their research trying to understand when and why armed groups apologize for their mistakes. They hope this research will help to find ways to negotiate resolutions during conflicts.

Why Do Rebel Groups Apologize?

Armed groups often rely on violence and instilling fear to show strength and resilience. And yet, every so often, they are willing to apologize when things go wrong.

The New IRA recently apologized for killing Lyra McKee, an investigative journalist, during a riot in Derry. The group’s targets, which they described as “enemy forces,” were officers of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Biology’s Lynch Remembered for Mentoring Women in the Sciences

Carol Lynch

Carol Lynch, former professor of biology, passed away last week at the age of 76.

Lynch joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1973 and served as dean of the natural sciences and mathematics in the late 1980s and early 1990s. During her time here, Lynch established a model system for studying the evolution of complex traits using house mice and played a pioneering role in supporting and mentoring women in the sciences.

She left Wesleyan in 1992 to join the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she served as dean of the graduate school and vice chancellor for research from 1992 to 2004, and was a professor of ecological and evolutionary biology and a fellow of the Institute for Behavioral Genetics.

Lynch and her husband, Bob, generously established the Carol and Robert Lynch Student Research Fund at Wesleyan, which continues to support the research of undergraduate biology students.

A memorial service will be scheduled later this summer in Boulder.

Rosenthal Serves as Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Rob Rosenthal

Rob Rosenthal

Rob Rosenthal, John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, is serving as interim provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. His appointment began on July 1.

Rosenthal previously served as provost from 2010 to 2013, after which he directed the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, becoming an emeritus professor in 2018. Rosenthal also was a founding director of Wesleyan’s Center for Community Partnerships and Service-Learning Center.

“Rob has long been an extraordinary Wesleyan citizen, whose loyalty to Wesleyan is evident to all who know him,” wrote Wesleyan President Michael Roth in a campus-wide email. “He is much respected for his work as an administrator, chair of the faculty, and celebrated teacher-scholar.”

Now, for a period of time as interim provost, Rosenthal again assumes the responsibility for matters relating to the faculty, the curriculum, continuing studies, athletics, and the library.

Rosenthal joined the Department of Sociology at Wesleyan in 1987, writing and teaching in the areas of housing and homelessness, community-based learning, and the use of music in social movements. His most recent book, coedited with his son, Sam, and titled Pete Seeger: In His Own Words, was published in 2012 to great acclaim.

The search for a permanent appointee continues with the expectation that Wesleyan will have someone in place by January 2020.

Members of the Class of 2019 Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa

PBK

On May 25, members of the Class of 2019 were inducted into Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest national scholastic honor society. The Wesleyan Gamma Chapter was organized in 1845 and is the ninth-oldest chapter in the country.

To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of his or her major. The student also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations and must have achieved a GPA of 93 and above.

Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest surviving Greek letter society in America, founded in December 1776 by five students who attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The emblem contains the three Greek letters “Phi-Beta-Kappa,” which are the initials of the Greek motto, Philosophia Biou Kybernetes. This essentially means “the love of wisdom is the guide of life.”

The spring 2019 inductees are:

Caroline Adams
Yulia Alexandr
Erin Angell
William Bellamy
Cara Bendich
Zachary Bennett
Chiara Bercu
Sophie Brett-Chin
Nicholas Byers
David Cabanero
Talia Cohen
John Cote