Campus News & Events

Posse Fellow Rodriguez ’20 Helps Establish Inaugural Film Screenings through Arts in the Armed Forces

Pictured in center, Wesleyan Posse Veteran Scholar Daní Rodríguez ’20 recently arranged for a group from Wesleyan to travel to New York City to attend a film screening offered by the Arts in the Armed Forces. (Photos by Jenn Emerling)

On Sept. 22, several members of the Wesleyan community traveled to New York City to attend the Arts in the Armed Forces (AITAF) inaugural Student Veteran Film Screening. AITAF is a nonprofit organization that brings the best of contemporary theater and film screenings to veterans across the world free of charge.

Several Wesleyan Posse Fellows attended the screening.

Thirty people from Wesleyan attended, including 17 Wesleyan Student Veteran Organization (WESVO) members; 10 family and friends, 2 nonveteran students; and 1 faculty member.

While in New York, the group watched a screening of The Taking of Pelham 123 (1974), a film about a New York City subway train hijacking. The film was recommended to AITAF by actor/producer Ben Stiller, whose father, comedian Jerry Stiller, is a WWII veteran and acted in the film. Ben Stiller and Adam Driver, AITAF’s founder, participated in a Q&A session with the guests following the film. Emmy-nominated actor Driver (Star Wars, Logan Lucky, Girls) was an honorably discharged U.S. Marine who later attended the Juilliard School and found difficulties readjusting to civilian life. However, his experiences with the arts transformed his life.

The trip was organized by Wesleyan Posse Veteran Scholar Daní Rodríguez ’20, a 14-year U.S. Marines Corps veteran who interned for the AITAF last summer. While active, Staff Sergeant Rodríguez participated in multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s also been deployed to Korea, Japan, and U.S. Naval Ships abroad.

Like Driver, Rodríguez is pursuing film and acting in his post-military life.

“I understand the challenges veterans face within our own veteran community,” he said. “Generally, the arts are not prioritized in or out of the military and is perceived as a hobby or entertainment rather than a profession or tool. I know this because I was one of those people that thought of it that way.”

Donning a Wesleyan cap, Daní Rodríguez illuminates a scene for a student’s senior thesis in 2017.

Rodríguez discovered that his love for playing guitar and acting could be much more.

“I quickly began drawing the parallels between those disciplines to the newfound mental stability and empathy that has been transformative. Now, cathartic experiences are frequent in my life and I have become calmer and more articulate about my own emotions,” he said.

Last summer, Rodríguez received a Summer Experience Grant funded by the Gordon Career Center. With this support, he was able to volunteer with the AITAF and raise awareness of the program through advocacy and outreach. Rodríguez generated interest with fellow veterans at Columbia University, New York University, Pace University, the City University of New York, and others, and ultimately helped create the inaugural Student Veteran Film Screening. WESVO advisor Robert Cassidy, retired officer teaching fellow, government, and Mike Whaley, vice president for student affairs helped secure funding for the Wesleyan group to attend the screening in NYC.

Rodríguez hopes to explore the possibility of hosting AITAF on Wesleyan’s campus in the future.

Next summer, Rodríguez will assist AITAF in launching its first student veteran paid-internship program.

Robinson, Hellberg ’16, Russell ’17 Coauthor Paper on the Interactions between Gambling, Anxiety, Substance Abuse

Assistant Professor of Psychology Mike Robinson, Samantha Hellberg ’16, and Trinity Russell ’17 are coauthors of a study published in the Journal of Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, October 2018.

In the paper titled “Cued for risk: Evidence for an incentive sensitization framework to explain the interplay between stress and anxiety, substance abuse, and reward uncertainty in disordered gambling behavior,” the coauthors propose a theoretical framework about how cross-sensitization of reward systems in the brain, in part due to uncertainty, leads to high levels of comorbidity between gambling, substance use, and anxiety disorder.

In particular, the coauthors review the literature on how cue attraction and reward uncertainty may underlie gambling pathology, and examine how this framework may advance our understanding of comorbidity with anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders, such as alcohol and nicotine, which are both frequently consumed in gambling settings.

Gruen Edits, Weil Contributes to Critical Terms for Animal Studies Book

Lori Gruen, William Griffin Professor of Philosophy, is the editor of the book Critical Terms for Animal Studies, published by the University of Chicago Press in October 2018. Gruen also wrote the book’s introduction and a chapter on empathy. In addition, she invited Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters, to write a chapter on difference.

Animal studies is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary field devoted to examining, understanding, and critically evaluating the complex relationships between humans and other animals. Scholarship in animal studies draws on a variety of methodologies to explore these multifaceted relationships in order to help us understand the ways in which other animals figure in our lives and we in theirs.

Bringing together the work of a group of internationally distinguished scholars, Critical Terms for Animal Studies offers distinct voices and diverse perspectives, exploring significant concepts and asking the questions: How do we take nonhuman animals seriously, not simply as metaphors for human endeavors, but as subjects themselves? What do we mean by anthropocentrism, captivity, empathy, sanctuary, and vulnerability, and what work do these and other critical terms do in animal studies?

The book provides a framework for thinking about animals as subjects of their own experiences but also serves as a touchstone to help readers think differently about their conceptions of what it means to be human, and the impact human activities have on the more than human world.

Other chapters focus on the topics of activism, emotion, ethics, extinction, law, pain, rights, sanctuary, veganism, vulnerability, welfare, and more.

Gruen also is professor, feminist, gender, and sexuality studies; professor, science in society; and coordinator, animal studies. Weil also is University Professor, College of the Environment; University Professor, environmental studies; and co-coordinator, animal studies.

Gruen will speak about Critical Terms for Animal Studies and sign copies of the book during an event held at 6 p.m. Nov. 1 at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

Jackson Translates Second Play from Brazilian Playwright Newton Moreno

A play translated by Elizabeth Jackson, adjunct associate professor of Portuguese, was performed at Yale Cabaret Oct. 25–27. The play, titled “Agreste (Drylands),” is a Brazilian tale of love and loss, desire and death, ignorance and violence, written by Brazilian playwright Newton Moreno.

Based on true events, “Drylands” is a poetic narrative set in Brazil’s suffocating and desertified northeast. Three storytellers share with the audience their accounts and reenactments of a moving love story between two young farm workers that unravels in perplexing ways, as their intimacy becomes the subject of local gossip, and the memories of their relationship are ransacked by a conservative, violent, and deeply fragile community.

The New Haven Review published a review of “Drylands” on Oct. 28, noting that “with its ensemble presentation, the play is simply fascinating to watch, its story seeming to be spun from the air around us.”

The “Drylands” translation was completed during a playwriting conference at Wesleyan in February 2012 titled “Contemporary Conventions, Cultural Innovations, Playful Traditions.” The series of talks, performances, and readings culminated in Wesleyan’s first conference on playwriting pedagogy and creative processes. Moreno was an invited international guest.

This is the second play by Newton Moreno that Jackson translated. In February 2017, the Yale Cabaret staged her translation of “The Meal: Dramatic Essays on Cannibalism,” which tells three stories about people consuming—and being consumed.

Women’s Golf Joins Wesleyan Varsity Sports

The three individuals that competed in fall competition this season were juniors Saadia Naeem and Emma Mehta, and first-year Meg Wiley. Naeem is the most experienced of the trio, having been a member of the Wesleyan golf team since 2016–17. She will serve as the team's captain in its inaugural 2019–20 season.

Saadia Naeem ’20 has been a member of the Wesleyan golf team since 2016–17. She will serve as the new women’s golf team’s captain in its inaugural 2019–20 season. (Photos by Steve McLaughlin)

Wesleyan University has announced the addition of women’s golf to its list of varsity sports beginning in the fall of 2019. Women’s golf will become the 30th varsity sport and the 15th for women at Wesleyan, which will become the eighth school in the NESCAC to sponsor the sport. Jon Wilson, a PGA professional at Lyman Orchards, has been named the head coach of the program.

“There have been ongoing discussions for several years about adding women’s golf,” said Director of Athletics Mike Whalen ’83. “We feel now that we have enough interest on the part of our student-athletes that we are confident we can provide a positive experience.”

American Studies Celebrates 50 Years with Series of Speakers

Fifty years ago, Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, Emeritus, founded American studies at Wesleyan University. As he recounted last year while speaking on campus, “We were doing what was not yet called cultural criticism: studying all the manifestations of American culture to understand the ideological fictions through which American nationality had historically been constituted. We were part of a revisionist wave that departed from the established form of American studies, which tended to celebrate American exceptionalism.”

American Studies at Wesleyan sponsored the first courses in women’s studies, cosponsored some of the first African American studies courses, and supported the development of film studies by sharing courses and faculty. Since then, the department has been at the forefront of interdisciplinarity with a focus on diverse topics of political urgency. In 2011–12, the Education Policy Committee approved the request that American Studies be elevated from a program to departmental status.

To honor the department’s anniversary, the Wesleyan community celebrated on Nov. 2 with an event titled “American Studies Takes on the World: Celebrating Wes AMST @ 50.”

“Celebrating Wes AMST” celebrated the department’s legacy with select luminaries discussing the state of the field, and AMST alumni presenting their cutting-edge work.

The event included: Welcome and opening remarks, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, chair of American Studies

Inaugural Liberal Arts + Forum in Shanghai Focused on Film Education, Collaborations

President Michael Roth moderated a discussion with alumni in the entertainment field, from left, Jon Turteltaub '85, Julia Zhu '91, and Jon Hoeber '93, on "practical idealism in action" at the inaugural Liberal Arts + forum in Shanghai on Oct. 20.

President Michael Roth moderated a discussion with alumni in the entertainment field—from left, Jon Turteltaub ’85, Julia Zhu ’91, and Jon Hoeber ’93—on “practical idealism in action” at the inaugural Liberal Arts + forum in Shanghai on Oct. 20.

On Oct. 20, Wesleyan held its inaugural Liberal Arts + forum in Shanghai, China. This year, the forum focused on film education and U.S.-China film collaborations, and featured discussions between three alumni in the entertainment industry; President Michael Roth; and Scott Higgins, director of the College of Film and the Moving Image. Each year, the forum will highlight a different area of liberal arts education for an audience of prospective families, alumni, and the general public in China.

The centerpiece of this public event, which was attended by approximately 80 people, was a panel discussion featuring Jon Hoeber ’93 and Jon Turteltaub ’85, screenwriter and director of the summer blockbuster, The Meg, as well as Julia Zhu ’91, a media and entertainment expert and entrepreneur and CEO of Phoenix TV Culture and Live Entertainment Company. Roth moderated the discussion, titled, “Practical Idealism in Action,” in which the three alumni described how their liberal arts educations prepared them for successful careers in the entertainment industry.

The three later shared insights into the future of film collaborations between the U.S. and China, in a conversation moderated by Higgins, who is also the Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies, chair of Film Studies, and curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives.

Higgins also offered a simulated film studies class for prospective students and others in the audience—bringing the Wesleyan liberal arts film education experience to Shanghai.

Higgins said of the Forum: “I learned a lot about how the Chinese and American media industries are interacting, and renewed my long-time interest in Chinese cinema. I also met with a few recent graduates who are now making commercials and short films in the country, and was introduced to a whole new generation who are just now applying to Wesleyan. It was touching to be so far away from Middletown and yet feel connected to our ever-growing community.”

Watch a video (created by Chengjun Huang) of the forum highlights below:


Additional photos (taken by Weiji Sun) of the forum are below:

Front row, from left, Julia Zhu, Scott Higgins, and Michael Roth.

Front row, from left, Julia Zhu ’91, Scott Higgins, and President Michael Roth.

King Coauthors Paper and Is Elected to Chair Research Seminar on Noble Metal Nanoparticles

Melissa King

Melissa King, a PhD student in chemistry, and Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, are the coauthors of a study titled “Iodide-induced differential control of metal ion reduction rates: synthesis of terraced palladium–copper nanoparticles with dilute bimetallic surfaces,” published in Journal of Materials Chemistry A, August 2018.

In this paper, King and Personick report the use of low concentrations of iodide ions as a means of differentially controlling the reduction rates of a noble metal (palladium) and a non-noble metal (copper). The iodide in this system increases the rate of reduction of palladium ions while concurrently slowing the rate of copper ion reduction, thus providing a degree of control that is not achievable using most other reported means.

In addition, last June, King presented a talk as part of the Gordon Research Seminar on Noble Metal Nanoparticles, a graduate/postdoc meeting that takes place the day before the corresponding Gordon Research Conference. She also was elected to chair the next Gordon Research Seminar on Noble Metal Nanoparticles in two years. King also received an award for her poster at the Gordon Research Conference and gave a 10-minute poster award talk to the Gordon Research Conference audience. With the exception of the poster award talks, all presentations at the Conference portion were invited talks given by faculty.

Alumni Gatherings, Athletic Contests Highlights of 2018 Homecoming

Alumni joined students, faculty, staff, and friends for Wesleyan’s Homecoming celebration Oct. 19–20. This year, Wesleyan athletics took on Little Three rival Amherst College. Football lost 33–3; women’s soccer won 3–2; men’s soccer lost 3–0; and women’s field hockey lost 3–0. In addition, women’s crew Varsity 8 placed 6th of 28 boats at Head of the Charles and men’s crew Varsity 8 placed 12th of 36 and bested all NESCAC boats at Head of the Charles.

Other Homecoming highlights included an Athletics Hall of Fame ceremony and dinner, an alumni volunteer leaders meeting, team tailgates, a reception honoring leadership donors and volunteers, campus tours, a guided gallery tour of the Center for the Arts Kahlil Robert Irving exhibition, and more.

Photos of 2018 Homecoming events are below and on this Wesleyan Flickr Album.

Matesan Speaks at Meeting with Policymakers in Switzerland

From left, Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan, Imelda Deinla, Clark Lombardi and moderator, Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs on a panel discussion with policymakers on conflict resolution.

From left, Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan, Imelda Deinla, Clark Lombardi, and moderator Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs in a panel discussion with policymakers on conflict resolution.

On Sept. 29–Oct. 1, Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan traveled to Switzerland to participate in a research workshop that brought together an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars working on conflict and violence, as well as in a meeting with policymakers.

Matesan was one of only six researchers from five different countries invited to attend the meeting with policymakers—primarily from the Human Security Division within the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs—which was organized by the Folke Bernadotte Academy (the Swedish government agency for peace, security, and development), the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, the Center for Security Studies in Zurich, and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.

Matesan participated in a panel discussion on resolving conflicts involving Islamist actors, along with Imelda Deinla, the director of the Philippines Project at Australian National University, and Clark Lombardi, the director of Islamic legal studies at the University of Washington.

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

“The panel was centered on the question of what research can tell us about the prospects of conflict resolution, and what questions it raises for policymakers and practitioners who want to engage in negotiations and mediation,” said Matesan. “In my comments I drew on my research on Egypt and Indonesia to emphasize that group ideology and tactics can change over time in response to internal dynamics and public condemnation, but I also warned against policies that use overwhelming force, and the assumption that either groups or publics are passive recipients of propaganda with little agency.”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “Career Path Intervention–Via a MOOC”

An open online course by Gordon Career Center Director Sharon Belden Castonguay, which helps young people explore their interests and career options, is featured.

2. NPR“Midterm Election Could Reshape Health Policy”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, explains why Democrats are “laser-focused on health care” this election season. Fowler also recently was quoted on advertising in the midterm elections in The Washington Post and USA Today, and interviewed on NPRMarketplace, and The Takeaway.

3. Religion & Politics“Russia’s Journey from Orthodoxy to Atheism, and Back Again”

Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin’s “engaging book is full of striking analysis and counterintuitive insights,” according to this review. The book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism, was also recently reviewed in Foreign Affairs, while Smolkin, who is also associate professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian Studies, was quoted in The Washington Post.

4. AnthroBites: “Queer Anthropology”

Margot Weiss, associate professor and chair of anthropology, speaks about the study of queer anthropology in this podcast interview. Weiss is also associate professor, feminist, gender and sexuality studies; associate professor of American studies; and coordinator, queer studies.

5. The Hill: “The Memo: Trump Remark Sparks Debate Over Nationalism”

Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought Peter Rutland, who has taught courses on nationalism for 30 years, says it was “surprising” that Trump called himself a nationalist. “The words ‘nationalist’ and ‘nationalism’ are not part of the normal American political vocabulary. It has got very negative connotations.” Rutland is also professor, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; professor of government; and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

6. WNYC’s Soundcheck“Composer and Drummer Tyshawn Sorey [MA ’11] Explores Time”

Assistant Professor of Music Tyshawn Sorey performed live, in-studio with his newly formed ensemble that incorporates turntablism, electronics, and spontaneous composition. Sorey is also assistant professor, African American studies.

Recent Alumni News

1. Forbes: This New $100 Million VC Fund Is Looking to Help Crypto Startups Bridge China and Silicon Valley

Alexander Pack ’14 and his new $100 million venture capital fund, Dragonfly Capital Partners, are profiled. With his partner, Bo Feng, Pack will “look to invest in a mix of crypto-first funds, protocols, and applications, as well as tech startups building infrastructure for crypto-driven economies.” The company is also featured in Venturebeat.

2. UMass Med Now: UMMS Alum Raghu Kiran Appasani [’12Addresses UN General Assembly on Global Mental Health

Raghu Kiran Appasani ’12 helped launch the United for Global Mental Health campaign with an event at the United Nations General Assembly cohosted by Appasani, United for Global Health campaign CEO Elisha London, and Cynthia Germanotta of the Born This Way Foundation.

3. XO Necole: “4 Gems ‘Women In Media’ Can Learn From Angela Yee [’97]”

Entrepreneur and radio host Angela Yee ’97 was recently honored by Women In Media during their annual conference. XO Necole celebrates Yee’s “hustle hard” mentality and breaks down 4 “top-notch takeaways” from Yee’s motivational speech.

4. Coronado Eagle & Journal: Documentarian Matt Tyrnauer [’91] To Be Honored With Coronado Film Festival Director Award

Producer/director Matt Tyrnauer ’91 will receive Best Director honors at the Coronado Island Film Festival (Nov. 9-12). His prolific career as a writer and filmmaker is discussed, as is his latest film, Studio 54, which is generating industry-wide Oscar buzz.

5. MariaShriver.com: “Where There Is Anger There Is Hope

Shriver highlights the book by Dr. Helen Riess ’87,The Empathy Effect: 7 Neuroscience-Based Keys for Transforming the Way We Live, Love, Work, Connect Across Differences, as well as The Good Men Project, founded by Tom Matlack ’86, MALS ’87, P’16.