Campus News & Events

Rankine Hon. ’17 Addresses First-Year Students on ‘Citizen’

Claudia Rankine Hon. ’17 addressed the Wesleyan Class of 2021 in Memorial Chapel on Sept. 1, discussing her book, Citizen: An American Lyric, as part of Wesleyan’s First Year Matters program.

For this year’s First Year Matters program, incoming new students read Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric during the summer before their arrival on campus.

Rankine, a noted poet and author, had been on campus for Commencement 2017, when she received an honorary degree and addressed the graduating class.

On Sept. 1, Rankine was back at Wesleyan to address the Class of 2021, offering insights into the development of the book. She also entered into a discussion with first-year students, taking questions from the audience, who gave her snaps of approval throughout her talk and a standing ovation at the end.

Kevin Butler, assistant dean of students, who spearheaded this year’s program, noted that the selection committee had chosen Citizen for a number of reasons.

“It is extremely powerful and has thought-provoking passages,” he said. “We thought we could engage both the first-year students and the community at large in some really in-depth conversations on microaggressions, equality and fairness.

“There are very few speakers I’ve seen who have the certain style, voice quality and tone that is engaging and comfortable—even when the questions and answers are difficult,” he added.

New Resource Center Celebrates Multicultural, Diverse Identities

Demetrius Colvin, director of the new Resource Center, speaks with guests at at the center's open house on Sept. 28. 

Pictured second from left, Demetrius Colvin, director of the new Resource Center, speaks with guests at at the center’s open house on Sept. 28. The Resource Center will provide a centralized location on campus that recognizes and celebrates diverse and often underrepresented or misrepresented identities.

On Sept. 28, Wesleyan’s new Resource Center opened its doors at 167 High Street with the intention of providing an “intellectually grounded mission in social justice and a focus on intercultural development and literacy.”

Demetrius J. Colvin, newly hired in the Office of Student Affairs, is the director of the center. Colvin comes to Wesleyan from Macalester College, where he was assistant director of the Lealtad-Suzuki Center for Multicultural Life. He previously worked as coordinator of the Multicultural Resource Center at Amherst College. He earned his BA in international studies from Case Western and also has a M.Ed. in counseling from the University of Maryland College Park.

“I came to Wesleyan because I was inspired by how the students advocated for the creation of the Resource Center and how the staff and faculty came together with the students to develop a thoughtful and integrated plan for the vision of the center,” Colvin said. “I am excited by the opportunity to aid the students, faculty, and staff at Wesleyan with seeking psychosocial connections for personal achievement and success.”

The facility includes a large space for collaboration, presentations, programs, and group gatherings – particularly in addressing issues related to race, class, gender and sexuality on campus. A conference room is available for academic study and mentorship. Other spaces include a library and offices for the director, student interns, and faculty fellow Amy Tang, associate professor of English and American Studies.

The center’s overall objectives are to:
● Provide a centralized location on campus that recognizes and celebrates diverse and often underrepresented or misrepresented identities.
● Create meaningful avenues for both privileged and underprivileged individuals and groups to learn together about privilege and intersectionality and actively contribute to equity on campus.

Speakers, Poster Sessions at Annual Molecular Biophysics Program Retreat

Wesleyan’s Molecular Biophysics Program hosted its 18th annual retreat Sept. 28 at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown. Wesleyan affiliated speakers included:

Professor Francis Starr, spoke about DNA junction dynamics and thermodynamics during the 18th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat.

Professor Francis Starr spoke about DNA junction dynamics and thermodynamics during the 18th annual Molecular Biophysics Retreat.

  • Colin Smith, assistant professor of chemistry, on “An Atomistic View of Protein Dynamics and Allostery;”
  • Meng-Ju Renee Sher, assistant professor of physics, on “Tracking Electron Motions Using Terahertz Spectroscopy;”
  • Kelly Knee, PhD ’07, principle scientist for Pfizer’s Rare Disease Research Unit, on “Protein Folding Chaperones: Molecular Machines for Tricky Problems;”
  • and Francis Starr, professor of physics, director of the College of Integrative Sciences, on “DNA Four-Way Junction Dynamics and Thermodynamics: Lessons from Combining Simulations and Experiments.”

Arthur Palmer, the Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, delivered the keynote address on “Conformational dynamics in molecular recognition and catalysis: Lessons from ribonuclease H, AlkB, and GCN4.”

The day-long retreat also included two poster sessions, where undergraduates, graduate students and faculty shared their research with their peers and colleagues. The event concluded with a reception.

The Molecular Biophysics Training Program, Chemistry Department, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department sponsored the event.

Photos of the retreat are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Robinson Writes About the Real Reason Some People Become Addicted to Drugs

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Writing in The ConversationAssistant Professor of Psychology Mike Robinson looks to the brain to explain the real reason that some people become addicted to drugs.

Robinson, who also is assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrative sciences, begins by debunking two popular explanations for drug addiction: that compulsive drug use is simply a “bad habit,” and that overcoming the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms is too hard for some addicts.

While pleasure, habits and withdrawal can play a role in drug use, Robinson says, the true reason for addiction can be explained by the psychological differences between “wanting” and “liking.”

Resident Writer Reed Remembered for being a Fierce Advocate for Students, Fiction

Kit Reed (Photo by Beth Gwynn)

Kit Reed (Photo by Beth Gwynn)

Kit Reed died on Sunday, Sept. 24, in Los Angeles, Calif., at the age of 85.

After several post-college years as an award-winning journalist, Kit Reed moved to Middletown in 1960 when her husband, Joe Reed, took a position with Wesleyan’s English Department. Kit Reed became a visiting professor of English in 1974, an adjunct professor of English in 1987, and resident writer in 2008. A former Guggenheim fellow, Reed was the first American recipient of an international literary grant from the Abraham Woursell Foundation. Her work has been nominated for the Locus Award, the Campbell Award, the World Fantasy Award, the Tiptree Award and she was twice nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award.

Reed was instrumental in the construction of the Creative Writing Program, helping to attract notable writers from across the country, both within the program and yearly at the Wesleyan Writers Conference. She was a fierce advocate for her students and for fiction itself. Many notable writers came through her care, including Stephen Alter, Suzanne Berne, Peter Blauner, Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snickett), Akiva Goldsman, Nina Shengold, DB Weiss (Game of Thrones), and Zack Whedon, as well as many others who remained dear, lifelong friends.

Reed, by last count, wrote 39 books of fiction. As her daughter Kate Maruyama noted, “Kit’s last novel, MORMAMA, came out the day she went in for a biopsy. Her last short story, Disturbance in the Produce Aisle, came out in Asimov’s Magazine the month that she died. May we all be that dedicated, determined and prolific.”

Gruen to Teach at Princeton through Rockefeller Visiting Professorship

Lori Gruen will serve as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching in the Center for Human Values next spring at Princeton.

Lori Gruen

Lori Gruen, the William Griffin Professor of Philosophy, is the recipient of a Laurance S. Rockefeller Distinguished Teaching Visiting Professorship at Princeton.

Next spring, Gruen will co-teach a course titled the Environmental Nexus at Princeton’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach. The undergraduate environmental studies course will examine a collection of global environmental crises and address multiple dimensions of these issues, including scientific, political, social and ethical aspects.

At Princeton, she will serve as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching in the Center for Human Values. At Wesleyan, Gruen also is professor of science in society; professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies; and coordinator of Wesleyan Animal Studies.

Gruen is a leading scholar in animal studies and feminist philosophy. She is the author and editor of 10 books, including Ethics and Animals: An Introduction (Cambridge, 2011), Reflecting on Nature: Readings in Environmental Philosophy and Ethics (Oxford, 2012), Ethics of Captivity (Oxford, 2014), Entangled Empathy (Lantern, 2015) and the forthcoming Critical Terms for Animal Studies (UChicago Press, 2018).

Her work in practical ethics focuses on issues that impact those often overlooked in traditional ethical investigations, e.g. women, people of color, non-human animals. She is a fellow of the Hastings Center for Bioethics, a faculty fellow at Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Animals and Public Policy, and was the first chair of the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Center for Prison Education at Wesleyan.

Wesleyan Defeats Tufts During Night Football Game

Head Coach Dan DiCenzo celebrates the Cardinal football team’s victory over Tufts on Sept. 23. The Saturday game was the second night game in school history.

Trailing by 14 with just over 10 minutes remaining in regulation, quarterback Mark Piccirillo ’19 helped orchestrate an incredible comeback as the Wesleyan University football team defeated Tufts University Sept. 23 in overtime, 24-17. The Saturday game was the second night game in school history, as the Cardinals picked up its first win of 2017.This is DiCenzo’s eighth season coaching, and third season as head coach in 2017.

Piccirillo found captain Eric Meyreles ’18 in the corner of the end zone for a 24-yard score with :06 on the clock, and minutes later connected with senior Mike Breuler for a 14-yard game winning touchdown in overtime. On the Jumbos’ ensuing possession, captain Shayne Kaminiski ’18 sealed the victory with an interception.

Lobster, Clam Bake Highlight of Eat Local Challenge

Hundreds of students, faculty and staff attended the Eat Local Challenge, held Sept. 26 on Andrus Field. All food served was sourced or harvested from within 150 miles of Wesleyan’s campus.

During the 13th annual Eat Local Challenge on Sept. 26, Wesleyan students, faculty and staff dined on a midday meal made entirely from local ingredients.

The event challenged Bon Appétit Management Company staff to create a meal from products and ingredients harvested within a 150-mile radius of the campus. The meal included produce, meat, dessert and drinks from local farmers, ranchers, food crafters and fishermen.

Food included house-smoked pork-belly bacon from Lucki 7 Livestock Co. in Rodman, N.Y.; Bloomsday cheese from Cato Corner in Colchester, Conn.; lobster, little-neck clams and mussels from Damariscotta, Maine; apple cider-glazed chicken and baked corn from Horse Listener’s Orchard in Ashford, Conn.; potatoes from Szawlowski Farm in Hatfield, Mass.; butter and cream from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy in Ancramdale, N.Y.; turkey burgers and baked berry cobbler from Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Sterling, Conn.; rosemary focaccia bread, prepared with graham flour from Kenyon’s Grist Mill in Usquepaugh, R.I.; among much more.

Photos of the Eat Local Challenge are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Makri Awarded Graduate Scholarship from Greek America Foundation

PhD candidate Eleana Makri and Professor Tsampikos Kottos work on reflective optical limiter research at Wesleyan. On Sept. 25, Makri received a $5,000 scholarship from the Greek America Foundation to support her research for the 2017-18 academic year.

For her ongoing research in developing electromagnetic filters that block high power radiation, physics PhD candidate Eleana Makri recently received a Constantine and Patricia Mavroyannis scholarship from the Greek America Foundation. The $5,000 award will support her doctoral research during the 2017-18 academic year.

At Wesleyan, Makri works with Professor Tsampikos Kottos in the development of the reflective limiter concepts that block high power radiation from damaging sensitive sensors, like the eye, while they allow low power radiation to reach the sensor for further processing. Kottos is professor of physics, professor of mathematics and professor of integrative sciences.

The Mavroyannis scholarship is awarded to Greek and Greek-American graduate students studying in U.S. and Canadian institutions and universities. After completing the scholarship, Makri will submit a brief progress report to the Greek America Foundation highlighting her research efforts.

“[Eleana] has distinguished [her]self as not just one of the strongest applicants, but also as someone whose scientific career we look forward to following,” said Jennifer Kellogg, executive director of the Greek America Foundation.

Smolkin Discusses Soviet Atheism on BBC

Victoria Smolkin

Assistant Professor of History Victoria Smolkin was recently a guest on BBC Radio 4’s “Beyond Belief” to discuss Soviet state atheism.

Smolkin said that Lenin’s conviction that banishing religion was necessary to create a revolutionary society was right ideologically, but wrong politically.

“If they wanted to stay in power, they needed to accommodate religion, and they understood that,” she said. “However, if they wanted to build a Communist society, ultimately religion had to go.”

WesPress Book Longlisted for 2017 National Book Award for Poetry

For the second year in a row, a book of poetry published by Wesleyan University Press has been longlisted as one of ten nominees for the National Book Award for Poetry. This year’s nominee, In the Language of My Captor, by Shane McCrae, examines the idea of freedom told through stories of captivity. Comprised of historical persona poems with a prose memoir at its center, the book addresses the illusory freedom of both black and white Americans.

“We are delighted and honored that Shane McCrae’s book is on the long list for poetry—and to be in such esteemed company,” said Suzanna Tamminen, director and editor-in-chief of Wesleyan University Press. “It’s a tremendous achievement for our press, following on the heels of last year’s National Book Award finalist for poetry, Archeophonics, by Peter Gizzi.”