Campus News & Events

Pop Culture, Extremists and a Disco Beat at Zilkha Gallery


Robert Boyd’s Xanadu is on display in Zilhka Gallery through March 4.
Posted 02/01/07
A new exhibit at the Ezra and Cecile Zilhka Gallery tweaks, condenses, and re-frames contemporary events into montages of quick cuts, representing a history of apocalyptic thought as a series of MTV-style music videos within a setting reminiscent of a discotheque.

Robert Boyd’s Xanadu is a synchronized four-channel video installation that probes society’s self-destructive impulse and parodies avenues of popular culture such as documentaries, news media, cartoons, and pop music. Xanadu takes its title from the 1980 American pop musical starring Olivia Newton-John.

“One of the extraordinary things about Xanadu, beyond its content, is the way it engages the viewer physically and how that engagement actually relates to and reinforces its meaning,” says Nina Felshin, curator of exhibitions for the Center for the Arts. “In order to see all the projections, the viewer is forced to move around. The soundtrack of upbeat disco music not only provides a disjunctive counterpoint to the often horrific images of destruction but it makes you want to move your body to the beat of the music.”

Xanadu
’s installation in Zilkha Gallery features a photograph of a disco ball in flames, falling before a delicate pink background; three video projections on three free-standing walls; a fourth on the far wall of Zilkha’s contiguous North Gallery. Visitors become surrounded by stimuli.

Hundreds of hours of archival footage of doomsday cults, iconic political figures, and global fundamentalist movements were mined for the exhibition. Introducing the theme of the “Apocalypse,” Boyd’s video Heaven’s Little Helper (2005) begins with an excerpt from Masada, a 1981 mini-series about The Zealots, a sect of Jews who defended their right to be free from an oppressive Roman regime but who finally succumbed through an act of mass suicide.

Fast-forwarding into “family” footage of seemingly wholesome hippies and children dancing in natural settings, Boyd marks the end of sunny popular culture in the U.S. with iconic images of the Manson Family. Continuing in this vein, the video incorporates archival footage of some of the most infamous doomsday-cult gurus and their devout disciples.

“While this is not the intention of the artist, I came away feeling that if we don’t do something, if we don’t challenge what’s being served up to us, we will meet essentially the same fate as the victims represented in Boyd’s Xanadu,” Felshin says. “ There is a subtext to this work which, as an activist I would characterize as a call to action or resistance.”

Robert Boyd is an interdisciplinary installation artist who lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y. Xanadu premiered at Participant, Inc., in New York in 2006, and has also been presented in Beijing and London. The artist suggests that Xanadu is a conglomerate of our fears, paranoia, and prejudices—an envisioned Apocalypse in the process of becoming reality.

Xanadu is on display through March 4 in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, 283 Washington Terrace. Gallery hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and noon to 8 p.m. Friday. A New York Times review of Xanadu is online at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9402E6DE1F3FF936A35756C0A9609C8B63.
 

Wesleyan, Community Prepares for Week of Play a Day


Nikhil Melnechuk ’07 and Jessica Posner ’09 are co-producing a week-long theater event based on Suzan-Lori Parks’ “365 Days/365 Plays.” The plays will be shown throughout campus and the Middletown community this month.
Posted 02/01/07
In November 2002, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks committed to writing a play a day for 365 days. Since November 2006, this year of new plays has been debuting across the country as “365 Days/365 Plays.”

Wesleyan is among 52 universities and more than 700 venues taking part in this project, and will perform eight of Parks’ plays Feb. 5-11.

“Wesleyan is making history,” explains co-producer Jessica Posner ’09. “This festival is the largest theater collaboration in U.S. history, and Wesleyan gets to be part of that. It is very exiting.”

According to Posner and co-producer Nikhil Melnechuk ‘07, Wesleyan’s take on 365 Days/365 Plays will use Parks’ plays as a centerpiece for a week-long festival that “attempts to re-contextualize every interaction as theater.”

Wesleyan students will act in the plays, changing roles each time the play is re-performed. Each one of Parks’ plays runs about 10 minutes long, and will be performed seven times a day at seven different venues.

“These plays are about finding connections – either with each other or within yourself,” says Melnechuk 07. “They manage social critique without being didactic because of their absurd humor and circumstances.”

Melnechuk and Posner have devoted more than 40 hours a week for four months preparing for the event. They are encouraging their actors to exercise their creativity so no play is performed the same way twice. The plays do not have sets; actors will rely on costumes and props to help tell the story.

Plays will take place all over the campus, such as in Pi Café, Davenport Campus Center and the Science Library. Olin Library will host and interactive piece titled “365 Tasks.”

The Opening Ceremony, scheduled at 8 p.m., Feb. 5, in the Center for the Arts Theater, will feature a talk by Metzgar and Rugg, and a performance by Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of anthropology and African American Studies. During the week of performances, prominent speakers will be brought to campus including the 365 National Festival producers Bonnie Metzgar and Rebecca Rugg. Lectures, performances and workshops will be offered by distinguished artists such as Joseph Roach, professor of theater and English at Yale University; Christine Mok, a Ph.D candidate at Yale’s School of Drama, and artist-in-residence poet/activist Amiri Baraka, who perform with his septet Blue Ark Feb. 9.

Wesleyan will also present a large scale, town-wide festival that showcases Wesleyan and Middletown life and culture. It will include workshops, performances, lectures, demonstrations and discussions—all free and open to the public. This festival includes “The Write-On Marathon” where Wesleyan students and members of the Middletown community can try their hand at Parks’ project by writing a play a day. Five winning entries will be performed on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Center for the Arts Cinema. Submissions will be accepted throughout the week (for more information on how to participate, visit www.wesleyan365.com/write.html).

“We want people to see theater as an essential component of everyday life, using the plays by Suzan-Lori Parks as the point of departure,” Posner says.

A gala performance of all the plays will take place at 8 p.m. Feb. 10 in the Patricelli ’92 Theatre with a reception to follow. The plays will be performed by actors Michael Chandler ’08, Jennifer Celestin ‘07, Maya Kazan ‘09, Garrett Larribas ‘07, Jermaine Lewis ‘09 and Carter Smith ‘09. Steven Sapp, founding member of New York City’s acclaimed poetry/theater ensemble UNIVERSES, will be conducting an open theater workshop from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Feb. 10 and will open the performances at 6 and 8 p.m. with a solo piece.

Festival coordinators raised over $6,000 to put on the week-long event. Sponsors include the Center for African American Studies, Center for the Arts, Theatre Department, Second Stage, Wesleyan Student Assembly, Adelphic Education Fund, Community Development Fund, Feminist Gender and Sexuality Studies, Ethics in Society Program, Office of Affirmative Action, and the fund for Diversity and Academic Advancement.
 
For reservations of information, go to www.wesleyan365.com, e-mail: info@wesleyan365.com or call Jessica Posner at 303-919-5994 or Nikhil Melnechuk 413-230-0740.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Howard Bernstein Dies at 63


Posted 02/01/07
Howard Bernstein, a long-time visiting professor at Wesleyan, died Jan. 15, 2007 at the age of 63.

Bernstein was a member of the Wesleyan faculty from 1979 to 2001, during which time he taught in the College of Letters, the History Department, the programs in Educational Studies and Science in Society, and in Wesleyan’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program. Bernstein also was a major contributor to the Masters of Arts in Teaching Program. In addition, he supervised a large number of senior honors theses.

Bernstein earned a bachelor’s of arts from the City College of the City University of New York and a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. Before coming to Wesleyan he taught at Brooklyn College, City College, York University and Yale University. For the past five years, Bernstein was a mentor and educator at Suffield Academy in Suffield, Connecticut.

Bernstein was a world-renowned expert on the work of the German scholar G. W. Leibniz and was a major contributor to a series of international conferences on Liebniz held in Germany in the early 1980s. He also published a number of works on Diderot, Einstein, and on Marxist philosophy. He was passionate about music, particularly classical choral music, and was an avid athlete.

A memorial service is scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb. 6 at St. Paul’s Chapel, Columbia University, in Manhattan.

In lieu of flowers, Bernstein’s daughter Christina has asked that those wishing to remember him consider a contribution to one of the many organizations Howard supported. These include The Center for Constitutional Rights, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Innocence Project, Equal Justice Works, Lambda Legal, and Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Dean of the College to Leave Wesleyan, Become Fulbright Scholar in Peru


Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, will leave Wesleyan to conduct a study at the Universidad del Pacifico’s Research Center in Peru.
Posted 02/01/07
Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college, will leave Wesleyan at the end of her contract in June 2007.

At the invitation of a United Nations office and Universidad del Pacifico, Lima, Peru, Cruz-Saco will lead a study on aging, equity and income security in Peru. While leading this study in 2007-08, she will be a Fulbright Scholar at Universidad del Pacifico’s Research Center. In 2008-09, Cruz-Saco will resume teaching as professor of economics at Connecticut College.

“My response when I heard the news was that as a former economic development person, I could only celebrate Maria’s mission,” says President Doug Bennet. “I want to thank Maria for her extraordinary leadership as Wesleyan’s dean.”

Under Cruz-Saco’s leadership, Wesleyan created the Office for Diversity and Academic Advancement, enhanced First Year Matters through collaborations with the Center for the Arts and the Office of Academic Affairs, introduced a new peer advising program, integrated orientation for new and international students and created opportunities for rich educational experiences outside the classroom. Wesleyan has established a task force that is articulating a vision for religious and spiritual life on campus, preparing the opening of the Usdan University Center, and better aligning student affairs with our educational mission. The dean’s office has grown in strength and has the capacity to handle a leadership transition.

“Wesleyan is an exceptional place, students are bright and creative, the educational opportunities are rich, and I have been honored to serve as dean of the college and work with a splendid group of professionals,” Cruz-Saco says. “I know that I will miss being part of this community. But, I will come visit since I will be down the road when I get back from Peru!”

Bennet intends appoint an acting dean for a year, allowing time for his successor to develop a sense of what the dean’s office requires and to organize a search for a permanent replacement.

“I believe the acting dean should be a current faculty member or staff person who is familiar with the institution and able to provide leadership for a strong, ongoing enterprise,” Bennet says.

Bennet welcomes nominations and volunteers, and will consult broadly with faculty, students, and staff as I review faculty and staff lists for candidates.

New Dean of Sciences has Full Slate


David Bodznick, the new dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, researches neuron signals in skate brains when he’s not busy with administrative duties.
Posted 01/22/07
When David Bodznick took on the role as dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics in July 2006, he became, in essence, a part-time mediator. In his new position, the professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, works as the liaison between the Wesleyan’s science and mathematics faculty and the administration.

“For example, I have the chance to present the needs and aspirations of the Division III faculty to the rest of the administration,” Bodznick explains from his office in Shanklin, “and the responsibility of presenting the wider perspective and long range planning goals of the Administration back to the faculty.”

Bodznick was nominated to the four-year position by former Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dean Joseph Bruno, who is the current vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, and professor of chemistry. Bruno’s nomination came after hearing input from colleagues. They cited Bodznick’s expertise and experience working as the director of Graduate Studies and chairing the Biology Department.

The position encompasses the departments of Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Math and Computer Science, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Physics and Psychology, and the Neuroscience and Behavior Program.

“What really attracted me to the dean position was that it involves a lot of problem solving,” he says. “I enjoy trying to find the best solution that works most effectively toward the goal that needs to be met.”

Bodznick has already set short and long term goals for himself.

For one, he wants to continue where Bruno left off, raising awareness and the visibility of the sciences at Wesleyan to the larger Wesleyan community and to the outside world. He looks for ways to support the continued successes of the science and math faculty in both teaching and research, and he encourages them to share their research with their students and the media.

He mentions the outstanding research on stem-cells and neuron replacement that are part of the recent Connecticut Stem Cell Initiative as a great example of the important work going on throughout the sciences at Wesleyan.

Bodznick’s own research is on neuron signaling in the brains of vertebrates including marine fishes. In fact, every summer, Bodznick and his students move their lab equipment to the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. There, the group is among 300 neurobiologists from all over the world working on research.

As dean, Bodznick will also work with the Science Advisory Council, which comprises several Wesleyan alumni and Board of Trustee members, to find ways to increase outside funding for undergraduate and graduate science programs. He hopes to increase the applicant pool for science majors and offer additional courses for non-science majors.

“Too many Wesleyan students graduate without taking science courses, despite the fact that now, more than ever before, science literacy is a critical part of a liberal arts education,” Bodznick says. “We need to continue offering a large number of attractive, palatable classes for non-science majors so they’ll want to include science courses in their curriculum.”

The dean’s heaviest workload falls on the new science center’s planning. This facility will house three departments and will likely replace Hall-Atwater, which has exceeded its useful lifespan. Bodznick, Wesleyan’s own facilities experts and a building committee of faculty, students and trustees, are meeting with architects. They are discussing the new building’s feasibility options from the size and location to program planning, and a renovation of Shanklin. Groundbreaking is expected by the end of 2009.

The at-home handyman says the new science center is one project he’s very excited about.

“To work on this from the beginning to end and see the ground breaking will be a major accomplishment,” he says. “There’s a lot to be decided and a lot of problem solving to do.”

With his plate full of administrative duties, Bodznick has to devote less time to teaching, however it hasn’t affected his research or interaction with Wesleyan students. He offers to present lectures in other classes, attends biology and neuroscience graduate student meetings and meets regularly with his four lab students. Next year, he expects new undergraduates to join his research group, and he looks forward to teaching them the methods of the lab.

“Ask anyone and they’ll tell you the best thing about working at Wesleyan is the students,” Bodznick says. “I’d never want to lose contact with the students, so I do what I can to interact with them, even when I’m not teaching as much.”
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Family Health Fair Set for Employees, Families


The Anderson Fitness Center will be open for tours during the 2007 Family Health Fair Feb. 3.
Posted 01/22/07
Yoga, skin analysis, blood pressure screenings and massages are all part of the 2007 Family Health Fair for Wesleyan’s faculty, staff and their families.

The free event takes place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 3 in the Freeman Athletic Center. It is sponsored by the Employee Benefits Office.

“All of us could use a little inspiration now and then when it comes to staying healthy and fit,” explains Pat Melley, director of Employee Benefits. “The Wesleyan Health Fair provides the opportunity for all of us to start or continue building healthy lives. It will be fun and informative for people of all ages to learn about fitness and well-being.”

Events of note include balance and rowing demonstrations; glucose, body-mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings; a “How to Get Reliable Medical Information on the Web” presentation; and information on children’s health, skin analysis, nutrition, fire safety and more.

In addition, the Anderson Fitness Center will be open and tours will be offered. Demonstrations will be presented on how to use the athletic facility’s equipment. Attendees may go to open swimming, ice skating or squash.

The first 100 employees will receive a free T-shirt. Participants can also enter their name in a raffle. Prizes include a $60 gift certificate at Yoga at Middletown; bike helmets and tune ups from Pedal Power; a $40 gift certificate for Broad Street Books; a $25 gift certificate for It’s Only Natural Market; a golf basket from The Hartford Insurance Company; and a $50 cash certificate from WesCard.

Lisa Currie, director of the Health Education Program, says the health fair will highlight the various ways that the university and community organizations can support employees in being healthier individuals and families. This ultimately contributes to a healthier university, she says.

“There is great truth in the old adage, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’” Currie says. “Research has shown that employees who participate in prevention-oriented wellness programs in the workplace are more productive and enjoy their jobs more. Given how much of our lives we spend at work, it makes sense to make the most of it, especially given the great facilities and programs Wesleyan offers. “

Face painting will be offered for children. Parking is available in Q Lot behind the Freeman Athletic Center. Participants are encouraged to enter through the back lobby.

Some sessions will have limited space and will be filled on a first-come, first served basis. Some vendors will have items for sale.

For more information, e-mail benefits@wesleyan.edu or call 860-685-4889.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

New Directors Head Human Resources Department


Pat Melley, left, and Julia Hicks have been promoted to directors of Human Resources.
Posted 01/22/07
Julia Hicks and Pat Melley have been appointed to the position of director of human resources for Wesleyan University.

A national search for the head of Wesleyan’s Human Resources organization has been underway for the past few months, during which Hicks and Melley came forward to propose their partnership to lead the human resources department.

“I believe each has the credentials and leadership qualities we need and that together they have the experience to advance all aspects of our service to the campus community,” says John Meerts, vice president for Finance and Administration.

Hicks joined Wesleyan in May 2004 as associate director of human resources and was promoted to senior associate director in 2006. She has over 25 years experience in all areas of human resources and has held progressively responsible human resources positions with major organizations in Connecticut and New York. Hicks will be responsible for compensation, performance management, employee and labor relations, recruitment and staffing.

Melley was hired as director of employee benefits in July 2006. She will continue to be responsible for all employee benefits and now will oversee the payroll department. Melley has over 20 years of experience in employee benefits, payroll and human resources. In addition to a background in brokerage and reinsurance, she has been responsible for designing, implementing and leading the human resources departments of two companies.

Both Hicks and Melley have the skills and qualifications required to successfully lead human resources as we move forward with new initiatives, Meerts says. Although each will have specific points of focus as outlined above, employees may feel free to contact either of them for assistance. Ultimately, both are responsible for the performance of the Human Resources Department.

“Please join me in congratulating both Pat and Julia on their new appointments and wishing them continued success,” Meerts says. “I also want to thank the search committee for their hard work and Dan Michaud for having lead the Human Resources Department while the search was underway.”
 

By Justin Harmon, director of Public Affairs. Photo by Olivia Drake.

An Evening With Bill Cosby Raises $2.5M for Scholarships


Bill Cosby mingles with Midge and Doug Bennet during a gala benefit in New York Jan. 17.(Photo by Bill Burkhart)
Posted 01/22/07
Bill Cosby donated his talents to a gala benefit performance at the Pierre Hotel in New York City Jan. 17, raising $2.5 million for Wesleyan scholarships from the more than 400 individuals in attendance. Cosby, father of Erica ’87, is widely known for his personal commitment to education and his generous support of educational causes.

Cosby spoke warmly of the efforts by Wesleyan alumni to support financial aid and said, “Mrs. Cosby and I believe that the price of education in the United States of America shouldn’t be unattainable.”

He delivered a comedic monologue that had the value of education as a central theme. Following the performance, Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson announced that a four-year Wesleyan scholarship had been named in Cosby’s honor.

Cosby received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Wesleyan in 1987.

Civil Rights Activist to Speak on Martin Luther King, Jr.


Posted 01/22/07
Wesleyan will celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. with a keynote by the poet, author and civil rights activist Sonia Sanchez, pictured at left, from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 30 in the Memorial Chapel.

Professor Sanchez’s works are often passionate poems or works of prose that touch on social issues of modern and past times. Many of her poems are blunt, passionate and painfully truthful. She addresses the history of African-Americans from slave times to modern oppression. From Malcolm X she also learned how to present her poetry and always sustain the attention of the audience.

Sanchez refers to the influence of Martin Luther King, Jr. She met King in 1957 during a stop on his book tour. In an interview with a Seattle newspaper, Sanchez reflected on Dr. King’s work and recalled her reaction to his death. A more in-depth biography can be found at: http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/276.

“We are excited to have such a prominent poet and civil rights activist at Wesleyan for this important celebration,” says Rick Culliton, dean of Campus Programs and member of the MLK Jr. Celebration Planning Committee. “Professor Sanchez’s poetry speaks to the legacy of Dr. King in so many ways and we are honored to welcome her to campus to help us remember Dr. King and his many accomplishments.”

The Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration received funding from the Office of the Dean of the College, the President’s Office, and the Office of Affirmative Action, with planning and support from a committee of staff, students and faculty.

The MLK Jr. Celebration Planning Committee consists of Ruby-Beth Buitekant ’09; Kevin Butler, dean of Student Services; Rick Culliton, dean of Campus Programs; Nicole Chabot, Student Activities program coordinator; Diana Dozier, associate director of Affirmative Action; Persephone Hall, assistant director of Human Resources; Julius Hampton, ’09; Frank Kuan, director of Community Relations; Cathy Crimmins-Lechowicz, director of Community Service and Volunteerism; Tim Shiner, director of Student Activities and Leadership Development; Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of African American studies and anthropology.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Men’s Ice Hockey Takes Europe by Storm


At top, The men’s ice hockey team played the HC Valvenosta in Laces, Italy over Christmas break while touring Europe and playing several games. At right, members of the team take in the sights in Innsbruck, Austria.

Below, Wesleyan plays the Caldaro Under-26 squad in Caldaro, Italy. (Photos contributed by Chris Potter)

Posted 01/22/07
During the winter holiday break, the men’s ice hockey team toured Germany, Austria and Italy, competing against four local club teams, and winning all the games while beating opponents by a combined score of 30-1.

“I’m afraid the competition there wasn’t quite up to level we expected,” said fourth-year head coach Chris Potter. “But it still gave us a chance to skate, practice a few new things and improve our game overall.”

The planning for the trip began almost two years ago. Wesleyan teams are permitted foreign travel once every four years. Following the 2004-05 season, Coach Potter and his upperclassmen began discussing options. “We talked about the Czech Republic and Scandinavia, but in the end this trip won out,” Coach Potter explained.

Using numerous fund-raising techniques to help cover the $1,900 cost per individual, the team accumulated enough money to bring a contingent of 36 people, including all 32 players, the three coaches and the head athletic trainer. They were joined by 30 family members, bringing the total for the trip to 66.

The three-country trip began in began in Munich, Germany, a city that left an impression on at least one player.

“I thought our three days in Munich were the best,” said forward J.J. Evans ’09. “It seemed so European and I thought the bratwurst was spectacular. Even though I got a kiss from an Italian girl on New Year’s Eve when we were in Bolzano, I’m still going with Munich.”

For team captain Will Bennett ’07 Innsbruck, Austria was a favorite. He also said the location of the team’s final contest against the Caldaro (Italy) Under-26 squad, an 8-0 Wesleyan win, was amazing.

“This rink was dropped right into the countryside,” Bennett said. “It made you wonder how they managed to build it where they did.”

Soon after returning, the Cardinals managed to get their skates back on for their regular-scheduled home games on January 5 and 6. Wesleyan won both to extend its current unbeaten streak to five games and hold a 5-3-2 overall record. It is the first time the team has held a winning record after 10 games since 1988-89.

“I’m seeing the team starting to gel,” said Coach Potter. “I think the trip was valuable and I made some interesting rooming assignments to help the players get more comfortable with each other. I’m hoping the whole thing will pay off as the season progresses.”
 

By Brian Katten, sports information director

Associate Professor Judges Biomedical Conference for Minorities


Ishita Mukerji, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, uses a UV resonance Raman spectrometer in her research at Wesleyan. Mukerji recently attended a conference in California, judging presentations on biomedical sciences.
Posted 01/22/07
Encouraging underrepresented minority students to pursue advanced training in the biomedical and behavioral sciences was the purpose of a recent conference in Anaheim, Calif. And the chair of Wesleyan’s Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department was there to help guide these students down that path.

Ishita Mukerji, chair and associate professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, was among 220 scientists around the country who attended the 2006 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS), held Nov. 8-11.

The scientists volunteered their time and energy in judging the 1,048 poster presentations and 72 oral presentations.

“The number of minority students in biomedical research is very small,” Mukerji explains. “I and my colleagues are committed to improving diversity in the sciences and this is a great opportunity to meet and interact with minority students. We would like to have more under-represented students at all levels in the sciences at Wesleyan and this is one way to interact with minority students and potentially recruit them to come to Wesleyan University.”

Now in its seventh year, ABRCMS is the largest professional conference for biomedical and behavioral students. Over 2,500 people attended the 2006 conference including 1,633 students, 421 faculty and program directors and 418 exhibitors. ABRCMS is supported by a grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and managed by the American Society for Microbiology.

By volunteering as a judge, Mukerji served in one of the most important roles at the conference, explains Ronica Rodela, spokesperson for the ABRCMS.

“The judge’s role in providing constructive feedback to student presenters positively enhances the professional development and advancement of students in their scientific research,” Rodela says.

These presentations were given by undergraduate, graduate, post-baccalaureate students as well as postdoctoral scientists in nine sub-disciplines in the biomedical and behavioral sciences. The top 120 undergraduates received monetary awards of $250 for their outstanding research.

Mukerji says some of the research she judged was comparable to the research being done by Wesleyan undergraduates. On the other hand, there is a wide range of science presented at the conference, and some of the students are coming from two-year institutions that don’t have a lot of resources for doing science.

“The judging process is an interactive one in which I usually talk to the students about their research project, their scientific interests and what their future plans are,” Mukerji explains. “Many of them are very enthusiastic about their projects and that makes the judging a lot of fun. On the whole I find it to be a very rewarding experience.”

Mukerji is currently the chairperson of the Minority Affairs Committee for the Biophysical Society. For their annual meeting in March, she has arranged a panel discussion on “Recruitment, Retention and Mentoring of Under-represented Students.” Featured panelists will be representatives from MentorNet and Venture Scholars. Both of these organizations are committed to increasing diversity at all levels in the sciences.

For more information on the conference, visit www.abrcms.org. The 2007 ABRCMS is scheduled for Nov. 7-10 in Austin, Texas.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Web Site Teaches Haitian Celebration Through Text, Sound, Video


A new learning objects tool, designed by Associate Professor Elizabeth McAlister, features multimedia tools to help teach the story of Rara.
Posted 01/17/07
In Haiti, the people celebrate their African ancestry and religion with a Rara festival, a culturally rich musical and dance event.

Elizabeth McAlister, associate professor of Religion and chair of the Religion Department, associate professor of African American studies, and associate professor of American studies, has studied this tradition for 15 years. Through a newly-created teaching tool, she hopes people can gain new insights on the Rara festival.

Designed by Wesleyan’s Learning Objects Studio staff, the Web site, http://rara.wesleyan.edu/ is available for academic and public use. The site is already being used at classes at New York University and Swarthmore.

“My hope is that people interested in Rara, students, musicians, artists, travelers and other researchers, will be able to use this Web site as an interactive study guide,” McAlister says.

McAlister’s interest in Rara dates back to 1991 when she began researching Haiti’s vibrant culture, often celebrated through Rara. In 2002, she published a book titled, “Rara! Vodou, Power and Performance in Haiti and its Diaspora.” The Web site serves as a companion piece to her book on Rara.

“After my book on Rara came out, internet technology made it possible to display the photographs and videotape that I made in Haiti, together with my friends and collaborators,” she explains.

Through the online tool, McAlister posted a 15-minute film about Rara, music and dance clips. She included images, video and audio clips of Rara as a carnival; Rara as a religious obligation in Vodou; Rara and the Christians and Jews; Rara gender and sexuality; Rara and politics; and Rara in New York City.

In each section, McAlister includes media, notes from the field, and an analysis, often adapted from her book.

When explaining Rara as a form of carnival, McAlister explains, in the analysis, that “the ‘tone,’ or ‘ambiance,’ of Rara parading is loud and carnivalesque … As in Carnival, Rara is about moving through the streets, and about men establishing masculine reputation through public performance. Rara bands stop to perform for noteworthy people, to collect money. In return, the kings and queens dance and sing, and the baton majors juggle batons-and even machetes!”

The site includes clips on several Rara bands including La Belle Fraicheur de l’Anglade in Fermathe, Mande Gran Moun in Darbonne, Rara La Fleur Ginen in Bel Air, Rara Inorab Kapab in Cite Soleil and Rara Ya Seizi.

Donning traditional Rara costumes, which are known for their delicate sequin work and vivacious colors, dancers are shown in action, in low or high bandwidth videos of dances and music. In one clip, a queen and two kings dance the “mazoun.” Traditional instruments such as bamboo and the paper-fabricated konet are shown in several accompanying images like the one at right.

The music featured on the Web site was produced by Holly Nicolas, postal clerk, and mixed and mastered by Peter Hadley, conductor of Wes Winds.

McAlister, who lived in Haiti to study Rara, says she walked with the bands, took them seriously and listened to what they had to say.

“My book, and now this Web site, tell that story,” she says.

For more information on the Learning Objects Studio go to: http://learningobjects.wesleyan.edu.
 

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor