Campus News & Events

Wesleyan Professor Collaborates with other Universities on Stem Cell Research Initiative


Posted 02/01/06

Laura Grabel, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science and professor of biology, is working with Connecticut’s Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee on ways to save the state money on a research laboratory.

 

Grabel along with scientists from Yale University and the University of Connecticut, believe at least one core laboratory could be established in the state. The scientists told a panel overseeing Connecticut’s 10-year, $100 million stem cell research initiative that they are willing to collaborate and avoid repeating the same work and save money. They said they could share expensive equipment and conduct certain research with human embryonic cells that is not eligible for federal money and prohibited in facilities built using federal funds.
 

The Stem Cell Research Advisory Committee is in the beginning stages of determining how best to distribute the first chunk – $20 million – of the state’s $100 million investment. The committee hopes to award grants this summer, possibly as early as June 30.

Fish May Help Unmask Muscle Diseases


Stephen Devoto, associate professor of biology, neuroscience and behavior, studies vertebrate developmental patterns in zebrafish.
Posted 02/01/06
A tiny fish popular with aquarium enthusiasts is poised to make a big splash in our understanding of muscle development. The results could have implications on the comprehension and perhaps treatment of muscular dystrophy, certain types of heart disease and other serious muscle-based ailments.

These findings by Stephen Devoto, associate professor of associate professor of biology, neuroscience and behavior were recently published in the paper titled “Generality of vertebrate developmental patterns: evidence for a dermomyotome in fish,” in the January issue of the scientific journal Evolution & Development.

Devoto’s research examined the musculature of the tiny zebrafish, an aquarium favorite indigenous to South Asian streams. What the researcher found was that although fish and human beings comprise widely different physical forms, their underlying muscular development is much more similar than scientists had previously believed.

“This research validates the idea that understanding fish development will tell us how human muscle stem cells develop at the very beginning stages,” says Devoto, who has been studying zebrafish at Wesleyan since 1992. “At their very basic level, we found developmental similarities between all vertebrates are much more striking than previously documented.”

In basic terms, Devoto’s work compared the cell layer that contributes to muscle formation in many different vertebrate species, including zebrafish, trout, skates and chickens, among others. He demonstrated that this cell layer in fish, know as the dermomyotome evolved prior to the last common ancestor of all vertebrates.

“It was one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments,” admits Devoto, who has always been fascinated by how cells talk to one another, how they are created and how they morph. “It was the kind of moment that is so rewarding for a scientist.”

But such moments are rare and often require tremendous amounts of work in and out of the lab. In Devoto’s case, the journey actually took him to Europe.

While on sabbatical at Kings College in London during 2004, Devoto engaged in many lengthy talks with Simon Hughes who was Devoto’s host. Hughes, who provided Devoto with laboratory access during his stay in London, is also a fellow co-author, about chicken and frog muscle development.

“Our conversations planted the initial seeds that maybe muscle in all vertebrates is formed the same way,” Devoto says.

Their ideas were solidified after Devoto reviewed a cross section of trout embryos with Walter Stoiber, another co-author, at the University of Salzburg in Austria.

“Surprisingly, these connections had not been demonstrated before,” Devoto says.

After returning to Wesleyan in the summer of 2004, he threw himself into researching the early muscle cell development in as many fish species as he could find.

Katherine Wolfe, an Olin Library assistant in the Interlibrary Loan Department, helped Devoto obtain copies of obscure hand-drawings and research from the 1800 and 1900s. Often he had to do his own translations of the German and French citations.

“I got so excited when I found out one of the journals was in I couldn’t wait to analyze it,” Devoto says. “It turned out that some nineteenth century scientists doing comparative embryology suspected these similarities, but they did not have the ability to provide conclusive evidence back then.

After analyzing their findings, Devoto and co-authors began writing the paper in the fall of 2004.

Devoto and his team continues their research with zebrafish. The tiny fish are a transparent species that is easy to study and breed. Currently, about 5,000 of the fish reside in his laboratory.

One of Devoto’s ongoing projects examines their skeletal muscle signaling protein, named Hedgehog. He and his colleagues learned that, when the protein is intentionally blocked in zebrafish, muscle development is disrupted. With his new work demonstrating close similarities between fish and humans in muscle development, Devoto believes that it is very likely that Hedgehog signaling is required for muscle development in humans. Anomalies in this signaling may underlie some muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy and certain types of heart disease.

Devoto and his undergraduate and graduate students are also trying to find out what happens next to the embryonic zebrafish muscle cells after they form.

“We’re now extending our thought process and asking ourselves where do the cells go from this point and what exactly does this mean?”

 
By Laura Perillo,  associate director of Media Relations

“Ferocious Beauty: Genome”  Premiers at Wesleyan


“Ferocious Beauty: Genome” premiered Feb. 3 and Feb. 4 in the Center for the Arts Theater.

Posted 02/01/06

How we heal, age, procreate and eat may soon change because of genetic research happening right now. The world premiere of renowned choreographer Liz Lerman’s “Ferocious Beauty: Genome” explores this moment of revelation and questioning in an arresting theatrical work that combines movement, music, text and film.

 

The world premier of “Ferocious Beauty: Genome” took place Feb. 3 and Feb. 4, in the Center for the Arts Theater.

 

The piece is the result of an unprecedented partnership with scientists and ethicists to confront the promise and threat of a new biological age.

 

For the past three years, the CFA and Wesleyan faculty have partnered with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, led by Liz Lerman, to explore the ethical and social repercussions of genetic research. The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange is a professional company of dance artists that creates, performs, teaches, and engages people in making art.

 

Through relationships with Wesleyan’s science faculty and students, Wesleyan served as a “laboratory” for Lerman’s development of the piece. This collaboration reflects both the Dance Exchange’s and Wesleyan’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning, as the project has initiated an unprecedented dialogue between scientists and artists. The outcome will be represented through a plurality of viewpoints, mirroring a dialogue among multiple voices—artistic, scientific and scholarly—in their varied perspectives.

 

Wesleyan provided extensive information, assistance and feedback in helping Lerman to create the piece.

 

“The piece took a conceptual turn several times because of the contributions from the scientists at Wesleyan,” Lerman says. “And, the fact that one of the scientists is a dancer made the leap between the two disciplines easier.”

 

The partnership with Wesleyan has also resulted in the most comprehensive residency ever undertaken by a dance company at Wesleyan. Lerman joined Wesleyan’s dance faculty as a visiting assistant professor for fall 2005. Students in her class had the opportunity to explore scientific, ethical and social issues related to genetic research.

 

Liz Lerman, who received a MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellowship in 2002 for her visionary work, exposed Wesleyan students and faculty to the Dance Exchange’s methods and interdisciplinary approach. The ultimate goal was to refine ways to teach science to non-scientists and to gain knowledge through embodied movement.

 

Wesleyan and the Flint Cultural Center in Flint, Mich. are the lead commissioners of “Ferocious Beauty: Genome.”

 

The show will soon tour major performing arts centers including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and the Krannert Center for Performing Arts at the University of Illinois.

 

For more information on the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange visit http://www.danceexchange.org/.

Events Educate About Diversity


Posted 02/01/06
As part of Wesleyan’s on-going efforts to provide staff education dedicated to diversity issues, the Office of Affirmative Action is sponsoring a workshop, “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Academic Workplace,” on Feb. 9.

The workshop will be offered twice: at 9:30 a.m. in the Russell House, and at 1:30 p.m. in Woodhead Lounge. Each session meets for two hours and 15 minutes.

“This workshop will provide frameworks for understanding sexual orientation and gender identity in a more integrated way and offer participants in-community perspectives on work-related issues,” explains Michael Benn, interim director of Affirmative Action.

The workshop will be conducted by Dorothea Brauer, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning & Ally Services, Diversity & Equity at the University of Vermont.

Topics of discussion will include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights, same-sex marriages versus civil unions, benefits and family configurations.

Participants will have opportunities to work with language and terminology and become more culturally competent and confident that their workplace conversations are respectful and inclusive.

Wesleyan’s revised and expanded policy on discrimination and harassment can be found online at http://www.wesleyan.edu/affirm/policy_harassment.html.

Space is limited to 30 participants per workshop. For more information or to register e-mail Janice Watson at jwatson@wesleyan.edu or call 860-685-2006.


Pedro Noguera Challenges Racial Inequality in Schools

The Office of Affirmative Action and The Center for Faculty Career Development sponsored a discussion titled “Challenging Racial Inequality in Our Schools” featuring Pedro Noguera on Feb. 1

Noguera, a professor specializing in urban sociology in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University, spoke on the ways schools are influenced by social and economic conditions in the urban environment.

Noguera has served as an advisor and engaged in collaborative research with several large urban school districts throughout the United States. He has also done research on issues related to education and economic and social development in the Caribbean, Latin America and several other countries throughout the world.

President Bennet Attends Summit on International Education


Posted 02/01/06
Editor’s Note: The following article is written by Douglas Bennet, president of Wesleyan University.

During the first week of January I represented Wesleyan at a two-day summit on international education hosted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings. The summit brought together 120 college presidents to discuss concerns, opportunities, and initiatives related to study abroad for U.S. students and study in the U.S. for international students. Both President Bush and Mrs. Bush addressed the summit.

The summit gave me the chance to reflect on Wesleyan’s role in international education. I was reassured that we are doing well. Many of the initiatives proposed during the summit confirm that we are on track.

President Bush opened the summit by announcing a “national strategic language initiative”. Much of the media attention devoted to the summit focused on his call for $114-million to teach languages critical for national security to students from kindergarten through college. While the President’s comments focused on security issues, colleges engage in international education for reasons that go far beyond war and security.

Secretary of Education Spellings’ remarks broadened the goals of language study as a way to prepare students to engage in all facets of global business, economic, research, as well as security issues. She pointed out that only 44 percent of U.S. high school students study any foreign language while most European and Asian countries require that all their students take a second language.

Wesleyan has been very strong in language and studies of cultures for a long time. Most students arrive here with a substantial background in at least one foreign language and are likely to study a new language while they are here. While only 8 percent of college students nationally take any foreign language courses, 60 percent of Wesleyan students enroll in at least one foreign language class. We do not formally require language study, but some of our language faculty have found Wesleyan students more interested and motivated because they are choosing to study a language instead of filling a language requirement. In addition to European languages, Wesleyan students are very interested in Arabic, Chinese and Japanese. We will consider where there are ways to connect the Wesleyan curriculum that the President’s critical language initiative.

Slightly more than half of our students participate in study abroad programs compared with 2 percent of all U.S. college students. Of those, half participate in programs outside Western Europe – considerably more than at our peer institutions. Having spent several years working on economic development issues, both here and abroad, I am convinced that many aspects of globalization are most clearly understood in these emerging countries.

Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes raised the issue of how to make it easier for science students find research opportunities abroad. Our science faculty regularly travel and collaborate internationally in their research, but it’s more difficult for our science students to participate in a semester abroad without disrupting their research. We will follow up on initiatives raised at the summit and look for opportunities to expand study abroad options for science majors.

When the President and Secretary Rice each mentioned finding a balance between security considerations and attracting international students to study in the U.S. they received loud applause. I hope the summit helped calibrate this balance. We must compete successfully for international scholars and students if the United States is to offer an education with a meaningful global perspective. As the President and others recognized, many current world leaders were educated in the United States.

Wesleyan will continue to recruit international students and faculty. Currently, 6 percent of our student body comes from abroad. This figure includes 88 Freeman Asian Scholars from 11 Southeast Asian countries who are at Wesleyan for a full four years. All of these students bring an international perspective to the campus. The Freeman Asian Scholars program is without precedent elsewhere and a truly unique asset for Wesleyan.

There will always be more to do as we prepare our students for a global society and our current strategic plan, “Engaged with the World,” sets ambitious goals for us. Still, I returned from the summit knowing that Wesleyan’s engagement with international issues is robust and ongoing.

Ergonomics Target Workplace Strain, Pain


Steve Windsor, database administrator, suffers from repetitive strain injury and uses special ergonomic tools at work such as rubber-ball chair, a specially designed mouse, a headset and a touch-sensitive keyboard.
Posted 01/17/06
Working on a computer all day can become a real pain in the neck (and the back and forearms and hands). Fortunately, a new ergonomics Web site created by Information Technology Services has several suggestions to keep bodies in balance.

The site, http://www.wesleyan.edu/its/ergonomics/, offers advice on good working positions, stretches, workstation guidelines for health, an office ergonomics checklist and even the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s guidelines for proper video display viewing.

Ergonomics is the science that studies the relationship of humans to their working environment and seeks to improve working conditions and increase efficiency. Proper ergonomics can prevent repetitive strain injury, explains Steve Windsor, database administrator.

“Repetitive strain injuries are a subtle affliction which may develop undetected for months or years before it is noticed by the user,” Windsor says. “Correspondingly, it may take the same amount of time for the user to completely heal.”

Windsor knows about work-related physical stress first hand. Ten years ago, the then-corporate programmer noticed tightness in his neck and shoulders and pain in his arms and wrists. He tried to ignore the pain for several months, but by the time he saw a doctor and was prescribed physical therapy, it was too late. For six months, he was unable to type, and any forms of gripping – jars, door handles, steering wheel and even shaking hands – became too painful to bear. Windsor lost his job as a result.

In 1997, Windsor came to Wesleyan where “they were very receptive and supportive of my condition,” he explains. Windsor currently goes to physical therapy sessions in combination with anti-inflammatory drugs and nutritive supplements.

At work, he uses a rubber-ball chair to align his spine, a specially designed mouse, a headset that he can use to dictate text rather than type it, and a touch-sensitive keyboard that eliminates the need to push keys.

Several body-aligning illustrations are depicted on Wesleyan’s ergonomics Web site. The site suggests simple stretches, such as a head rotation, lateral neck stretch, finger flexor stretch, standing back bend and arm stretch.

Each stretch should be performed throughout the workday, explains Brandi Hood, senior project coordinator for Physical Plant and ergonomics expert. Hood makes formal assessment of Wesleyan employees’ workstations.

Windsor says when an employee is diagnosed with a repetitive strain injury a typical reaction is to throw ergonomic equipment at the problem. However, the employee’s posture and work habits are the most important issues to study for a correct diagnosis.

“All the ergonomic equipment in the world will not affect positive change unless the user addresses postural and working habits,” says Windsor.

When setting up a computer workstation, Hood suggests that employees should be aware of neutral body positioning. This is a comfortable working posture in which joins are naturally aligned. This reduced stress and strain on the muscles, tendons and skeletal system.

“Proper posture and limb alignment include making sure your feet are flat on the floor, your butt is all the way back in the chair, your back is in contact with the back of the chair, and your arms are relaxed close to your sides to reduce the severe angles between your shoulder and elbow and your elbow and wrists,” she says.

These postures are illustrated on the ergonomics site.

This year, Hood and Julia Hicks, associate director of Human Resources, are planning at least one ergonomics session for Wesleyan employees.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Turf’s Up! New Synthetic Field to Open in Spring


Posted 01/17/06
Thanks to more than $920,000 in private donations, including one from a notable alumnus, Wesleyan will install a new synthetic turf field in hopes of having it ready for play this spring.

The field will be located on the grounds of the former Long Lane School and provide a competitive playing surface for Wesleyan’s varsity lacrosse and field hockey teams, as well as foul-weather practice space for other varsity sports including football and soccer. Baseball and softball teams will also use the field for pre-season practice in late February when Bacon Field House becomes overcrowded. The field will be available for selected club sports, intramural play, sport camps and some use by the local community, as well.

Wesleyan is installing the field in part to maintain a competitive edge with peer schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).

“The sport of field hockey in particular has adopted synthetic turf as the surface of choice,” says John Biddiscombe, Wesleyan’s director of athletics and chair of physical education. “The synthetic turf provides a faster, more exciting game for participants and spectators. High schools throughout the country are moving field hockey games and practices from grass to synthetic surfaces and soon high school players will come to Wesleyan with an expectation to play on the artificial surface.”

The same can be said for lacrosse.

More than 160 alumni and parents earmarked donations for the field, including one of Wesleyan’s more famous former lacrosse players, Bill Belichick, ’75. Belichick is coach of the New England Patriots and father of Amanda, ‘07, who is a varsity lacrosse player.

The field will be composed of Polytan Megagrass 2025. The project is scheduled for completion by April of this year. Wesleyan is hoping raise an additional $300,000 to outfit the field with lights, bleachers, a scoreboard, protective netting and other amenities.

Several alumni, parents and friends of the university have been actively involved in helping to raise the funding for the field, including Moira Byer P’06, David Campbell ’75, P’10, Michael and Marilyn Dee P’06, Mike McKenna ’73, Preston Smith ’64, P’06, Jim Walsh P’07 and Cole and Katherine Werble P’07.

 
By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Student, Alumnae Research Orphan Care In South Africa and Establish Aid Organization


College of Social Studies majors Angela Larkan ’06 and Lindsey Reynolds ’04 raise funds and awareness for orphaned pre-schoolers in South Africa through their non-profit organization, Thembanathi. Larkan’s thesis at Wesleyan involved establishing a method of care for AIDS orphans using their school system. (Photos contributed by Maya Casagrande)

Posted 01/17/06
Angela Larkan ’06 was raised in an apartheid South African town knowing that she could have been born into a poor family just down the road. With an estimated one in three South African children expected to be orphans by the year 2010 due to the AIDS virus, Larkan always knew she wanted to make a difference in her native country.

“When I look into the eyes of the orphans, they all seem to be telling me the same thing,” says Larkan, who has family roots in South Africa reaching back to the 1800s. “They show me that they matter as human beings; that they have energy, love and innocence to offer the world, and that they need someone to help them survive.”

In 2003, Larkan took on the task of co-founding a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for children in South Africa. The organization, Thembanathi, means “hope with us” in Zulu. Social studies major Lindsay Reynolds ’04 has worked on and off in South Africa for the last three years on HIV prevention projects and co-directs Thembanathi with Larkan.

According to the South African Department of Health, in 2004, South Africa had more HIV positive people than any other country in the world. In the province of KwaZulu-Natal, known as the “AIDS belt,” 40.7 percent of women attending antenatal clinics had HIV/AIDS. Mothers have a one in three chance of passing the deadly disease onto their children.

Thembanathi partners with Holy Cross AIDS Hospice, a non-governmental organization which supports orphans of AIDS and other vulnerable children. Money raised by Thembanathi goes toward feeding programs, a summer camp, children’s educational fees, and transportation for children to and from the preschool, among other needs.

Larkan’s interest in the orphaned children of AIDS was intensified during her sophomore year at Wesleyan. She applied for the Davenport Study Grant, normally awarded to juniors doing thesis research, to go to South Africa and conduct research on the AIDS orphan crisis, and determine a strategy to best handle the dramatic increase of orphans expected by 2010.

“I wanted to work on something that was real and more relevant to today’s world,” she says.

Larkan received the grant, and for six weeks, she traveled around the city of KwaZulu-Natal, interviewing key players in orphan care and the AIDS pandemic. There, she worked with Reynolds, who received a similar grant her junior year to study in South Africa. That opportunity crystallized Reynolds’ interest in AIDS on an international level and expanded her interest to working with children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.

Together, the women witnessed dozens of pre-school-aged children left alone to fend for themselves in areas where hunger, disease, and poverty were already part of daily life. They communicate with the children through an acquired “toddler Zulu” and hire a translator when conducting research.

“Our time there was fateful because we left with a desire, drive, and persistence to do more than just write about the AIDS situation,” Larkan explains. “We knew that we had to do something, no matter how small, to help the children that we had seen.”

Larkan, who spearheads Thembanathi’s fundraising efforts, has coordinated benefit concerts, bake sales, candy-grams, refreshment sales at athletic games and jewelry sales to raise money for the organization. Beaded AIDS pins, handmade by Zulu women, are the program’s top seller. Thembanathi raised $14,000 in its first two years, and acquired a $33,000 grant from the Wellesley Rotarians and Rotary International to establish a water purification system at Holy Cross.

Last summer, support from President Doug Bennet and the Christopher Brodigan Fund afforded the Thembanathi directors to return to South Africa for two months. While there, Larkan conducted some follow-up research on her thesis, which involved establishing a method of care for AIDS orphans using the school system. In addition, she developed a proposal that would link at-risk children in orphanages and schools with non-governmental agencies and social workers.

Larkan and Reynolds are also building networks, and are trying to have their ideas discussed in academic public policy circles.

Richard Elphick, professor of history, supervised Larkan’s thesis.

“I certainly encourage my students to do projects in public service, but Angela is doing extraordinary things on a number of different fronts,” he says. “Rather than studying AIDS prevention, Angela is working on the other end – how to deal with victims, or the tsunami of orphans. She’s very intellectually acute and practical, and it’s wonderful that she’s out there raising money for her cause.

A good part of running Thembanathi is administrative work, so Larkan and Reynolds can work using remote devices. Reynolds is living in Chad, Africa for 2 1/2 months doing more research as part of the completion of her Master’s in International Public Health from Johns Hopkins. Larkan, who finished her studies at Wesleyan in December, is living in Colorado.

“Some people don’t understand why I want to spend four hours a day working on something that doesn’t pay me, but they haven’t met the children I worked with,” Larkan explains. “They haven’t interviewed officials who sadly, slowly, tell you how they country is being ruined. It is the experience on the ground that keeps me going. Children are innocent and don’t deserve to be the victims of a crisis this large before they have even learned to read.”

Larkan and Reynolds hope to run Thembanathi full-time in the future and set up AIDS testing clinics and pediatric antiretrovirals for those AIDS orphans that are positive.

Larkan credits her experience at Wesleyan with her present and future plans. She’s worked in the Office of Community Service where she ran a group called AIDS and Sexual Health Awareness, teaching HIV prevention in local high schools and raising awareness about local and global AIDS issues.

Classes in government, economics, history and philosophy at Wesleyan provided Larkan with a broad range of pertinent information, allowing her to use to use these tools innovatively to build a model for orphan care. But it was Wesleyan’s students, she says, that inspired her to jump at the problem and try to change it.

“Wesleyan’s atmosphere is inspiring and makes you want to be active in creating change,” she says. “Most importantly, it makes you realize that you can be a part of that change.”

For more information on Themabanathi visit http://www.thembanathi.org/.

 
By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

Bible Studies, Buddhist Meditations, Mass and More During 10th Annual Spirituality Week


The Memorial Chapel will host several Spirituality Week events between Jan. 27 – Feb. 2.
Posted 01/17/06
The 10th annual Spirituality Week will take place Jan. 27 to Feb. 2 at various locations on campus.

Spiritually Week is coordinated by the University Chaplains each year to emphasize weekly religious and spiritual programs on campus and to sponsor and recognize special events.

“This is a good opportunity for people to understand the range of spiritually that happens on campus,” says Rev. Gary Comstock, protestant chaplain. “The students will return to campus fresh and open to new ideas. We want them to know that you don’t need to be Jewish to go to a Jewish service.”

The chaplains’ regular events, such as the Catholic Mass, the Protestant Worship, Muslim prayer and a Jewish Shabbat will be held during this period.

In addition, the chaplains have coordinated events with student-run organizations. Wesleyan Christian Fellowship is sponsoring an Athletes Fellowship to discuss the relationship between faith and life as a student-athlete. There will also be a discussion titled “Jesus, Revolution and the Pursuit of Justice” and two Bible studies. Wesleyan Dharma Study Group is sponsoring three Buddhist meditations.

Rev. Comstock will lead an activity with the Vespers for students of any or no religious affiliation and a luncheon requested by students titled, “Queerness & Spirituality.” He also is presenting a workshop on painted prayers titled “Rangoli: Sand Designs of India.”

This year’s Faculty Panel will speak on “Integrating Spirituality and Academics.” Comstock expects more than 50 students and faculty to attend the discussion that includes a period for questions, posed by the audience.

“Even I am surprised by how much is going on,” Comstock says. “Spirituality Week is a nice highlight of everything that happens here on a regular basis.”

The schedule of events, including the date, contact information and location, is as follows (to print this schedule click on the print button at the end of this page):

Friday, Jan. 27

  • Jumu’a Friday Prayers, with Imam Mahan Mirza, Muslim chaplain. 12:45-1:15 p.m., 169 High Street, Room 210. Congregational prayer service with sermon (mmirza@wesleyan.edu).
  • Shabbat, with Rabbi David Leipziger Teva, Jewish Chaplain. Services, 6 p.m.; Home-cooked Shabbat dinner, 7:30 p.m., Bayit, 157 Church Street (dleipziger@wesleyan.edu).
  • “Why Jesus?” 7:30 p.m., Woodhead Lounge. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Discussion on ‘What makes Jesus unique among religious teachers?’ (cchow@wesleyan.edu).
  • Sunday, Jan. 29

  • Middletown Friends Meeting, 10 a.m., Zelnick Pavilion (wholder@wesleyan.edu).
  • Gallery Talk with Israeli artist Hagit Mogan, 2 p.m., Zilkha Gallery. Part of “Women, Bodies, and Rituals” conference (http://mteter.web.wesleyan.edu/Molgan.htm).
  • “We Refuse to Be Enemies: Jews, Christians, and Muslims for Peace,” discussion with area scholars and activists who work together for peace. 3 to 6 p.m. Woodhead Lounge, dinner. Sponsored by Imam Mirza (mmirza@wesleyan.edu).
  • Buddhist Meditation, 3 p.m., Mediation Room, lower level, Chapel. Sponsored by Wesleyan Dharma Study Group (glesser@wesleyan.edu).
  • Catholic Mass, with Father Louis Manzo, Roman Catholic Chaplain. 9  p.m., Chapel. Meditate on Scripture and share the Eucharist; social/refreshments (lmanzo@wesleyan.edu).
  • Monday, Jan. 30

  • Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, 4 p.m., Chapel. Sponsored by the Center for Community Partnerships (ccrimmins@wesleyan.edu).
  • Protestant Worship, with Rev. Gary Comstock, Protestant Chaplain. 5:30 p.m., Chapel. Communion, Bible reflection, contemplation, prayer, supper (gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • Athletes Fellowship, 7 p.m., 43 Lawn Avenue. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Pizza and talk with Leah Kelly, assistant softball coach, about relationship between faith and life as student-athlete (ereding@wesleyan.edu).
  • Tuesday, Jan. 31

  • Volunteer at Soup Kitchen, 8 a.m., St. Vincent de Paul, 617 Main Street. Sponsored by Office of Community Services & Volunteerism and Chaplain Comstock. Let us know if you’re coming and/or need a ride (ccrimmins@wesleyan.edu; gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • Queerness & Spirituality, noon, Chaplains’ Lounge, 169 High Street. Lunch and discussion led/co-sponsored by students and Chaplain Comstock (mmatthews@wesleyan/edu).
  • Faculty Panel, “Integrating Spirituality and Academics,” 4:15 p.m.,Meeting Rooms 1/2, Campus Center. Food at 4 p.m. Moderator: Kulsoom Hasan ‘07. Participants include Maria Cruz-Saco, dean of the college and visiting scholar in economics; Ravishanker, director of Information Technology Services and adjunct associate professor of chemistry; Vera Schwarcz, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies and professor of history; Gina Ulysse, assistant professor of anthropology and African-American Studies; Greg Voth, assistant professor of physics.
  • Rangoli: Sand Designs of India, 5:30 p.m., Zelnick Pavilion. Learn about and participate in making what are called “painted prayers” in the Hindu tradition. Led by students and co-sponsored with Chaplain Comstock (mbery@wesleyan.edu).
  • Buddhist Meditation, 7:30 p.m., Buddhist House, 356 Washington Street. Sponsored by Wesleyan Dharma Study Group (glesser@wesleyan.edu).
  • Bible studies. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Freshman Bible Study, 8 p.m., Butterfield C Lounge (jychan@wesleyan.edu). Women’s Bible Study, 8  p.m., AAA House, 107 High Street (vlew@wesleyan.edu). Men’s Bible Study, 9:00 p.m., 14B Warren Street (csamsen@wesleyan.edu).
  • Wednesday, Feb. 1

  • Making a Day-by-Day Spiritual Guide, 4:15 p.m., Chaplains’ Lounge, 169 High Street. Learn about and get involved in this new project. Snacks. Sponsored by students and Chaplain Comstock (hjackson@wesleyan.edu; gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • Vespers, with Chaplain Comstock, 5:30 p.m., Chapel. A different ritual/activity each week for students of any or no religious affiliation. Vegetarian meal (gcomstock@wesleyan.edu).
  • “Jesus, Revolution, and the Pursuit of Justice,” 7:30 p.m., Chapel. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship. Mako Nagasawa, speaker (lallison@wesleyan.edu).
  • Thursday, Feb. 2

  • Buddhist Meditation, 7:30 p.m., Buddhist House, 356 Washington Street. Sponsored by Wesleyan Dharma Study Group (glesser@wesleyan.edu).
  • Co-Ed Bible Study, 8 p.m., 43 Fountain Avenue. Sponsored by Wesleyan Christian Fellowship (gvoth@wesleyan.edu).
  •  
    By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor

    Unprecedented Star Cluster Study May Offer View of Planet Formation and Our Solar System’s Own Early Beginnings


    Posted 01/17/06
    An unprecedented 14-year study by Wesleyan University researchers has revealed a phenomenon that may indicate the forming of new planets or perhaps even the existence of young planets orbiting young sun-like stars more than 1,600 light years away.

    The observations were presented at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Washington, DC. on January 11 by William Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy and chair the astronomy department (pictured at right), Gabriel Roxby ‘06, a Wesleyan undergraduate involved in the study, and Eric Williams, the systems manager of the Van Vleck observatory.

    The Wesleyan team analyzed 500 stars in the Orion Nebula Cluster (ONC) which is approximately 500 pc or 1600 light years from earth. The data from the stars were collected by faculty and graduate and undergraduate students during a continuous 14-year period. The observations gave the astronomers the unique opportunity to track the long-term behavior of these stars concurrently with their subtle changes over short timescales.

    The findings presented at the AAS meeting detail the discovery of a large number of young T Tauri stars with intriguing patterns in brightness variation over both short and long timescales. One star discovered, Trapezium 093/JW#669, became of particular interest because it seemed to grow brighter then fainter in a remarkably steady pattern with a possible period of about 10 years. This is an extremely long cycle, given that it rotates every 1.18 days.

    One theory suggests the presence of a disk of dust and rock orbiting the star. Such a circumstellar disk would have to contain a large clump, such as a planet or proto-planet, in order to obscure the light of the star at certain times and not others. Another possible explanation for the brightness fluctuations may be that the star is experiencing magnetic cycles akin to those seen in our Sun, where its magnetic field becomes stronger and weaker over time, causing the total area covered by sunspots to grow and shrink. Another theory is that the phenomenon is being caused by the presence of a young fully-formed gas-giant planet akin to Jupiter.

    Whatever the cause, the observations by the Wesleyan researchers may offer significant insights into our own solar system’s origins. Trapezium 093/JW#669 bears a strong resemblance to a younger version of the Sun, and it may be undergoing processes similar to those in the Sun’s early history. Further investigation may reveal whether these or other explanations can account for this star’s long and regular period.

    This active star-forming region is a promising area for observations because of its relative nearby distance and its large population of T Tauri stars, which are typically young (about 1 million years old).

    The study also offers a new perspective on the changes that occur in T Tauri stars over many years. For the first time a large collection of long-term light curves for a vast sample of young variable stars has been gathered. The sample can be used to further analyze general trends among these stars, as well as locate other unique stars that may help to shed light on the genesis of our own Solar System.

    The data were obtained using Wesleyan’s 0.6 meter (24 inch) Perkin telescope. Researchers used differential photometry to calculate stars’ alterations in brightness from night to night by comparing the variable stars to a few stars in each field known to have relatively unchanging brightness. They used these calculations to plot “light curves,” or diagrams of the change in brightness over time, for each star.

    Wesleyan astronomers will continue their study of the star cluster and generate data for further analysis.

     
    By Clara Moskowitz ’06 and David Pesci, director of Media Relations

    Alumni Donate $500,000 to Wesleyan Museum


    The new Wesleyan University Museum will provide a single secure, environmentally-controlled space to house valuable collections of art and materials. Pictured below is a cross section model of how the building will appear. The third-floor spaces will contain three gallery spaces and glass enclosed seating and study areas.
    Posted 12/19/05
    Rick Segal ’75 and Monica Mayer Segal ’78 have donated $500,000 toward the new Wesleyan University Museum, which will be built on College Row through an extensive remodeling of the historic former squash building.

    The new museum building, now in its final planning stages, will make an important architectural impact in the center of the campus. Three exterior walls of the former squash court building will be retained insuring the integrity of College Row. However, the west facade of the building facing Andrus Field will gain a dynamic new architectural expression featuring glass and metal.

    “Rick and I both feel that there needs to be a stronger visual arts presence on the Wesleyan campus, and that an attractive, inviting, well-placed, user-friendly museum would do wonders to inspire undergraduates to enjoy the arts during their college years, and hopefully into their adult years,” says Monica Mayer Segal, who, along with her husband Rick, is an avid art collector. “We all know that Wesleyan students are attracted to arts and culture, so it seems a straight shot that they would make great use of a first class museum.”

    The museum, which will cost approximately $23 million to complete, will provide a single secure, environmentally-controlled space to house valuable collections of art and material culture currently dispersed throughout the campus. These collections include more than 18,000 European and American prints, 600 Japanese prints and over 6,000 photographs displayed or stored in the Davison Art Center, as well as some 30,000 archeological and ethnographic items now housed in Exley Science Center, a collection of musical instruments from throughout the world now in storage in the Music Building, and a variety of Asian objects currently in the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies.

    The need for a new museum building was signaled by the Collections Committee Advisory Report in 1997. The report indicated that Wesleyan was beyond reasonable capacity for its collections and that conservation demanded stricter standards of climate and light controls.

    “In addition to new, secure exhibition spaces and much-needed expanded storage the museum will provide new lab spaces and study areas where students can work closely with objects in our collections under the guidance of the faculty and the curatorial staff,” says John Paoletti, Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history and director of the new museum. “More of our collections will be able to be shown on a regular basis, highlighting what are now some of Wesleyan’s best kept secrets.”

    The new facility will also permit Wesleyan to borrow works of art from other institutions and alumni and alumnae collectors, enhancing the university’s exhibition program and teaching capabilities. The space will also include a new auditorium and reception area on the museum’s main floor.

    Paoletti has been on the Wesleyan faculty since 1972 and has seen the interest in the arts at Wesleyan and other institutions develop in extraordinary ways during that time. And yet, Wesleyan has been without an appropriate museum facility comparable to its peers. His enthusiasm for the museum is contagious, as the Segals soon discovered.

    “We had been talking with the administration about this project for a few years, and it had gone through several permutations, but when John got involved it all coalesced for us,” says Rick Segal. “John’s vision for the physical component of the museum and his programmatic ideas are very exciting.”

    Paoletti is most excited about the impact that the museum will have on Wesleyan’s educational programs.

    “We’ve recently had sophomore and juniors who have had internships at The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Frick Collection in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Chicago Art Institute, just to name a few,” says Paoletti. “Many of our students have gone on to prestigious positions in the gallery and museum world and in academics. The new museum will improve our ability to provide more extensive teaching opportunities and give our educational programs a very public face to the world outside Wesleyan.”

    Paoletti does not have an exact date for the museum’s completion, though the gutting of the old squash courts has already begun as part of the work being done for the Susan Lemberg Usdan University Center, which will be next door to the museum.

    “The speed at which will be able to move this project along will be strongly linked to the support we receive from alumni and friends of the university who want to make it a reality,” says Paoletti. “Rick and Monica have helped us take a very big first step, and for that we are all very grateful. I am anxious to seize the momentum they have created to keep the museum project moving forward in a creative and expeditious manner.”

    For more information about the Wesleyan University Museum please go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/masterplan/teaching.html. For illustrations of the Wesleyan University Museum please go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/masterplan/teaching_detail.html.

     
    By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

    Professor Studies How Black, Immigrant Outcasts Become WWI Heroes, but still Return as Outcasts


    Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, professor of American Studies, studied the 369th Battalion’s and 77th Division’s roles in France for his latest book, “Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality.”

    Posted 12/19/05
    In 1918, the United States loaned its all-black 369th Infantry Regiment to fight under the French flag in World War I. These soldiers, rejected for combat duty by their own country because they were black, fought for 191 days, longer than any other American unit in the war. The ‘Harlem Hell Fighters,’ received an honorable award for bravery from the French. In their heroic attack on Sechault, of some 2,500 riflemen who began the battle only 700 survived unhurt.

    “They kept fighting until they couldn’t fight anymore,” Slotkin says. “Their efforts were extraordinary. Studies of combat psychology show that no person can handle more than 180 days in combat, and they fought for more than 190 days.”

    Twenty miles away, 700 New York immigrants forming a battalion of the United States’ 77th Division, or ‘Melting Pot Division’ crossed German lines and advanced into France’s Argonne Forest. This unit of Jewish, Italian and other eastern Europeans battled for six days with limited ammunition and supplies, food, water and shelter. They refused to surrender, although their unit was completely surrounded. Only 200 survived.

    Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, professor of American Studies, has spent the past four years extensively researching the 369th Battalion’s and 77th Division’s roles in France. His latest book, “Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality,” published in December 2005 by Henry Holt and Co., depicts American black and immigrant soldiers who were considered to be lesser citizens and racially inferior during and after the war.

    In 1917, one in three people living in America was from a foreign country or had a foreign-born parent. Although the U.S. government would have preferred to send only white, American-born citizens to combat, immigrants were promised equality in return for their loyal service in the war.

    “During World War I, we had to raise an army of 2 million men overnight, and we could not play this role without having minorities involved in the war,” Slotkin explains. “The government basically told these Blacks and immigrants that ‘if you go to war, we will accept you.’ The U.S. had to look at how all men are created equal in a way that never existed before.”

    “Some of these guys were from Germany or Austria and could have taken an exemption from being in the war, but they wanted to show their American patriotism,” Slotkin explains. “But when they came back to the U.S., they still got the shaft.” Congress identified them as “races” incapable of full Americanization, banned further immigration and signalled acceptance of ethnic discrimination.

    The U.S. also broke its promise to the Blacks.

    The Army gave the French a “Secret Information Concerning Black American Troops,” which demanded the adoption of strict racial separation. The document stated that it was essential that Frenchmen understand that to Americans, displays of interracial friendship were deeply offensive. It declared that friendships would encourage “intolerable pretensions to equality, which would pose a danger to America’s civil peace when the troops came home.”

    Slotkin studied World War I unit histories written in books and published on microfilm. He visited the National Archives to study World War I military books, and hired research assistants, one of which translated Yiddish newspaper clippings for the project.

    He focused his research on the lives of about two dozen characters, including the Lost Battalion’s captain Charles Whittlesey, who was named a recipient of the Medal of Honor, the highest award given by the U.S. Army following the war. Whittlesey is also the main character in the Arts and Entertainment movie titled “Lost Battalion” from 2001. Slotkin says the movie portrays an accurate depiction of the events that occurred between Oct. 2-8, 1918.

    The author says history buffs and scholars would be interested in his research, although the story is written in a way that can appeal to the general public. The History Book Club and Military Book Club have both accepted Slotkin’s book into their listings.

    A recent Publishers Weekly Starred Review states that Slotkin’s story “examines the relationship between war and citizenship in this trenchant, gracefully written military and social history. … Slotkin smoothly telescopes from the trenches to the political and social implications for decades to come in this insightful, valuable account.”

    “Stories like these haven’t been taught in schools because Americans don’t like to look at how hard it has been to become a multicultural nation,” Slotkin says.

    Slotkin is the author of seven other books including “Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln,” “Gunfighter Nation” and “Regeneration Through Violence.” He is a National Book Award Finalist and winner of the Albert J. Beveridge Prize.

     
    By Olivia Drake, Wesleyan Connection editor