Campus News & Events

Hispanic Heritage Month Celebrated with Contemporary Cinema Series

film

Wesleyan is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with the annual Contemporary Cinema from the Hispanic Wold film series. On Oct. 21, the series will feature the Spanish film Rosa’s Wedding, directed by Icíar Bollaín, 2020. Rosa, about to turn 45, realizes that she has always lived for others, so she decides to leave it all and grab hold of the reins of her life. But before all this, she wants to embark on a very special commitment: a marriage to herself. Marrying, even if it is with herself, will be the hardest thing she has ever done.

Since 2012, Associate Professor of Spanish Maria Ospina has worked with the Wesleyan Film Board to organize an annual film series titled Contemporary Cinema from the Hispanic World and celebrate Hispanic cultures following Hispanic Heritage Month. The series has run every year since then, except for in 2020 (during the pandemic).

This year, the series will occur in the Goldsmith Family Cinema on Thursdays at 8 p.m. from Oct.  7 to Nov. 4, with five recent award-winning films from Latin America and Spain featured in the span of a month.

“This film series aims to showcase cultural, social and political issues of the Spanish speaking worlds (worlds that are also plurilingual, of course) and contribute to the intellectual conversations and artistic life at Wesleyan,” said Ospina, who also chairs the Wesleyan’s Latin American Studies program. “This is particularly important in a country where the cultures and languages of these regions are central to the lives of so many, but where diverse groups and institutions are constantly attempting to ignore or erase this presence. There is a huge interest in the Wesleyan Community in Latinx and Latin American issues, and I think cinema is a great space where people can congregate to explore them in a profound way.”

The five films come from four countries: Lemebel (Chile, 2019), Identifying Features (Mexico and Spain, 2020), Rosa’s Wedding (Spain, 2020), The Wolf House (Chile, 2018), and Panquiaco (Panama, 2020).

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan’s intellectually dynamic faculty, students, alumni, staff, and parents frequently serve as expert sources for national media. Others are noted for recent achievements and accolades. A sampling of recent media hits is below:

Forbes ranks Netflix CMO Bozoma Saint John ’99 as the world’s most influential CMO. Saint John, who also is a member of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees, took the helm of Netflix’s marketing department last year following her leadership roles at powerhouse brands including Endeavor, Apple and Uber. More than half of the honorees on this year’s list are women and around 20 percent of the list are CMOs who come from diverse backgrounds. (Sept. 29)

The Los Angeles Review of Books interviews New York Times best-selling author Maggie Nelson ’94 about her books The Argonauts and On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint. “My books tend to be very different from each other, so each requires new skills. That keeps me at the edge of what I feel able to do, as a writer,” she said. (Sept. 20)

Also, The New York Times reviews Nelson‘s new book On Freedom. “It’s fitting that On Freedom is dedicated to her son, Iggy, whose presence reminds us, as it has before in her writing (including, memorably, in the candid account of his birth in The Argonauts), that care both enables and constrains our freedom.” (Sept. 5)

In Lit Hub, Poet John Murillo, assistant professor of English and director of the creative writing program at Wesleyan, is mentioned for being nominated for the $10,000 Maya Angelou Book Award. “Throughout my writing life, I write from and about and to the lives of primarily people in urban situations, so there’s always an aspect of social justice in that sense,” Murillo said. (Sept. 29)

Robyn Autry, associate professor of sociology, speaks to The 19th News about the history of abduction in the United States. “The discrepancy between how women are treated is not surprising and doesn’t feel isolated or random,” Autry said. “It suggests something structural and systemic, and this racism is harder for the mainstream to wrap its mind around. You can get caught up in how these longer histories implicate our criminal justice system — more complicated and harder truths to face.” (Sept. 29)

The dedication of the Jeanine Basinger Center for Film Studies is featured in The Hartford Courant. The center has been in development since 2000. It was completed in three phases, one finished in 2004, one in 2007, and the final phase in 2020. “She is that rare scholar who speaks to diverse audiences through a combination of meticulous research, clear thinking, and elegant writing,” said Wesleyan President Michael Roth. “Jeanine has inspired loyalty and love from her students, and she has remained a mentor to many.” (Sept. 27)

On a new podcast hosted by PlayerFM, Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, discusses his new book, In Recharging China in War and Revolution, 1882–1955 (Cornell University Press, 2021). Tan explores the fascinating politics of Chinese power consumption as electrical industries developed during seven decades of revolution and warfare. (Oct. 1)

Photographer Alana Perino ’11 is mentioned in V Magazine for being one of 20 finalists for the Creator Labs Photo Fund—a visual art platform which financially help artists who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “From New York City and after having studied European Intellectual History and Photography at Wesleyan University, Alana Perino worked as a photojournalist in the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts territories. Returning to the United States, Alana continually have been completing several road trips across the country to photograph American landscapes as she seeks for land identity.” (Sept. 30)

In Times Reporter, Amy Swartelé ’93 is mentioned for showcasing her latest works in an exhibit titled “Supernormal” at the Massillon Museum in Ohio. “Supernormal” is a selection from Swartelé s “Carnival-Sideshow” series, where she envisions a group of characters as carnival sideshow performers. The characters combine species, genders, the animate and inanimate, and the paintings are mixed media, including graphite, charcoal, inks, acrylics and oils, on various surfaces. The works range in size from 15- to 64-inches. (Sept. 29)

News 8 WTNH reports that Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, is a finalist for the 17th annual Women of Innovation awards presented by the Connecticut Technology Council and Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology. (Sept. 28)

Wesleyan’s 16th annual Eat Local Challenge is featured in The Middletown Press. Themed “limited miles, unlimited flavors,” Wesleyan’s food service provider Bon Appétit was charged with crafting a meal from products and ingredients harvested within a 150-mile radius of the campus — without sacrificing flavor. (Sept. 27)

In The New York Post, Chris Erikson ’87 shares his memories of Willie Garson ’86. Erikson recalls meeting Garson “39 years ago this month, on our first night of Wesleyan University, when I was paired up with an 18-year-old sparkplug from New Jersey on a freshman-hall ice-breaking exercise.” (Sept. 25)

Garson also is featured in The Connecticut Post and The Middletown Press. John Carr, professor emeritus of theater at Wesleyan, recalls going bowling with Garson and now-director Jon Turtletaub. And members of the Theater Department communicated with Garson in 2020 for the college’s first digital alumni reunion. “He showed so much fondness for his Wesleyan background. It was a joy to hear him talk about his work in the TV/film industry. He is a bright star for us that will be missed,” said Assistant Professor of Theater Maria-Christina Oliveras. (Sept. 22)

In Hartford Business Journal and the CT Mirror, Balazs Zelity, assistant professor of economics, discusses why higher-income communities are doing better now because their residents recovered faster from the recession and resumed spending, “A large fraction of the money a person spends ends up in the local economy,” Zelity said. “If a number of local residents re-start their spending, a virtuous cycle of spending will ensue, triggering a recovery. The more residents are in a position to participate in this process, the stronger and quicker the recovery will be.”

The Connecticut Post reports that a team of researchers led by Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment Fred Cohan and PhD candidate Fatai Olabemiwo has discovered new strains of bacteria located on campus that may have the ability to break down microplastics, and aid in the world’s ongoing plastic waste crisis. (Oct. 3)

 

Wesleyan Participates in Efforts to Protect Visiting Scholars

Henry Meriki

Henry Meriki

One day, back in 2019, three armed men came to Henry Dilonga Meriki’s house. He knew why they were there—they needed money to keep the fight against the Cameroon government going, or, they’d resort to kidnapping him. Anticipating the worst, Meriki put on warm clothes and shoes that would allow him to walk miles into the bush to their camps.

They were separatists, a group of English-speaking fighters who have been battling with the government of Cameroon for over five years.

He gave them about $180—down from $1,100 they asked for—to let him go. “We had to negotiate, and it’s better to negotiate with them because if you report them to the military, they can become violent,” said Meriki.

Academics like Meriki are a desirable and lucrative target. “So many of my colleagues have been kidnapped. Others have been killed for not respecting the rules of not teaching or not going to school,” said Meriki, a visiting assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

People from both sides were watching. Meriki had been warned not to teach on Mondays or to work at the local hospital, where he served as a laboratory scientist. The Anglophone separatists had called a “ghost town” for Mondays—in solidarity with their leaders in detention and to showcase the crises to the international community.

Residents of the Anglophone regions in Cameroon are careful to respect “ghost town” days. No social or economic activities are allowed. Disobeying these orders can attract retaliation from the separatist fighters. For many of the supporters of the resistance, it was presumed that people who traveled or disrespected these orders sympathized or were working with the government.

It was, for most residents, an impossible situation. “You have to sit on the fence because you must mind who you have a conversation with. That is how people survived in that area,” Meriki said.

In order to escape the danger, Meriki joined the Wesleyan faculty this Fall through the Scholar Rescue Fund, an international organization committed to protecting intellectuals. The Institute for International Education (IIE), an independent non-profit organization, started the fund in 2002 to formalize its commitment to protecting the lives, voices, and ideas of scholars around the globe.

Since 2002, the program has placed 925 scholars from 60 countries into 425 colleges and universities across the globe. Meriki will be at Wesleyan for at least a year. This is Wesleyan’s first time participating in the program.

Stephen Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies and director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, approached the University administration two years ago with a desire to participate in this program. “What we do, fundamentally as an educational institution is to promote the ability to speak, write, and research freely. Academic freedom lies at the core of what we do,” Angle said.

Some academics are persecuted based on their beliefs or the nature of their research. Many others, like Meriki, are harassed because of their ethnic identities. “It is not ideas that they are always after. It can literally be the individual,” Angle said.

The conflict between English-speaking Cameroonians and the French-speaking government dates back to the end of colonial rule six decades ago. Over time, the French-speaking government sought to remove what was left of Anglophone culture, putting unjust laws in place.

The latest violence stemmed back to 2016 when lawyers went on strike to prevent the changes to the judicial system that would conduct all court cases in French, regardless of whether the accused and judicial officers speak the language. Teachers joined the strike shortly afterward to protest similar prohibitions in the classroom. “In the beginning, it was a peaceful protest,” Meriki said.

Government troops attacked protestors, killing an undetermined number, sparking further armed conflict. Meriki’s neighborhood quickly became a war zone. It was one of the few areas through which the Anglophone separatists could strike at government forces and retreat back into the bush. Machine guns were poised directly behind his home. He routinely heard gunfire and saw bodies in the street.

Meriki applied to the program in 2019, but the global pandemic and the closure of consulates and embassies around the world made it extremely difficult to get a visa. Now that he’s on campus, he will be given opportunities to teach, continue his research, and network with other academics.

Despite Wesleyan’s intervention, Meriki’s future is uncertain. At the moment his family is safe, away from the violence but threatened given the uncertainty. He misses them, but chats with them every day. “I am only praying that they continue to remain safe until the day they can join me here,” he said.

Ideally, he hopes the violence calms down and he can return safely to Cameroon. He wants to help rebuild the country. He wants to perform research that would help improve the health of his fellow Cameroonians, for example, he is already learning COVID-19 protocols at Wesleyan that would be helpful back home.

“This has been a welcoming place. Donald (Oliver, chair, molecular biology and biochemistry) has been helpful from the first day I got in. So has every other member of the department and human resources. They have helped me settle in,” said Meriki.

Meriki will hopefully be the first of many visiting scholars coming to Wesleyan from the world’s hotspots. Angle said the university is currently working with the organization Scholars at Risk to bring an Afghan academic and their family to Wesleyan. The timing of their arrival on campus is unknown, Angle said. “We are in a place of privilege and should be trying to do what we can in collaboration with similar institutions,” Angle said.

Student Researchers Discover Potential “Plastic-Eating” Bacteria on Campus

Chloe De Palo '22

Chloe De Palo ’22 explains how potential plastic-degrading bacteria were collected from a soil sample at Long Lane Farm.

A team of researchers at Wesleyan has discovered new strains of bacteria—located on the University’s campus—that may have the ability to break down microplastics and aid in the world’s ongoing plastic waste crisis.

Microplastics, which measure less than .20 of an inch, enter the ecosystem— and our bodies— largely through the abrasion of larger plastic pieces dumped into the environment. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, the average person consumes at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and inhales a similar quantity.

“Plastic is typically classified as a non-biodegradable substance. However, some bacteria have proven themselves to be capable of metabolizing plastics,” said Chloe De Palo ’22. “Ultimately, through our research and experiments, we hope to find an effective method of removing plastic pollutants from the environment.”

Fatai Olabemiwo

Fatai Olabemiwo

De Palo ’22, along with Rachel Hsu ’23; Claudia Kunney ’24; and biology PhD candidate Fatai Olabemiwo are members of the Cohan Laboratory in Microbiology, led by Fred Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology. The team has spent almost two years working on a project titled “Isolating Potential Plastic Degraders from a Winogradsky Column.” They presented their most recent findings at Wesleyan’s Summer Research Poster Session.

On March 7, 2020 the research team gathered soil samples from Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm. They placed samples of the agricultural soil, along with plastic strips, inside a modified Winogradsky column, a microbiological tool for culturing broad microbial diversity. The device—invented by Russian scientist Sergei Winogradsky in the 1880s—is still commonly used today to culture bacteria from natural soil and sediments.

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Pictured is a Winogradsky column on day 1 (March 7, 2020) and day 496 (June 28, 2021)

“We modified this wonderful device to yield a range of plastic degrades by placing plastic strips at four different zones inside the column,” Olabemiwo explained. “Then we added a medium called Bushnell-Haas Broth, which contains all the requirements for the growth of the microbes except for carbon, to the modified device.”

Now that the columns are sealed, it’s time to wait—for 16 months.

“During this time, we expected the bacteria to ‘tickle’ the strips and eventually adhere to the strips,” Olabemiwo said.

The experiment worked surprisingly well. After 496 days in the soil-broth mixture, Cohan Lab members removed the plastic strips aseptically. Not only did they weigh less, proving that bacteria were effectively decomposing the plastic, but the strips also hosted a diverse community of bacteria from which the lab members isolated 146 strains.

While the majority of the bacteria cultures could be identified through the National Center for Biotechnological Information (NCBI) taxonomy browser, the researchers learned that 24 were discovered species but not characterized and classified, and 28 were novel, undiscovered species.

“We’ll actually be naming them, genomically sequencing them, and adding them to the NCBI taxonomy browser, ” Cohan said.

Now that each bacterium is isolated, the Cohan Lab is working this fall to confirm their potential plastic-degrading abilities by feeding them minute plastic discs in a petri dish. If confirmed, the “plastic-eaters” could help biotechnological companies create a product that could remove microplastics from the environment.

Rachel Hsu '23, Kunney, Chloe De Palo '22

Rachel Hsu ’23, Chloe De Palo ’22, and Claudia Kunney ’24 are the undergraduate researchers working on the project.

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Rachel Hsu, a biology and psychology double major, holds samples of the isolated bacteria in a petri dish.

Student Activity Groups Excited to Get Back to Normal


Like every other part of the campus community, Wesleyan’s student activity organizations are learning to adapt to the realities of the pandemic.

The biggest change for many of those groups is a simple one—having the ability to get back together again.

Hundreds of students attended the university’s annual Student Involvement Fair (view photos) in early September, and the excitement was, understandably, quite high. Wesleyan’s wide array of activities are always an opportunity for students to expand their intellectual and cultural horizons.

For many, stuck in a pandemic stasis for almost two years, the Involvement Fair is a chance to interact with many of their like-minded peers for the first time.

“I just missed out on a lot of events because of COVID,” said Avery Kelly ’23. “I am looking at a lot of fun activities—a music magazine, an arts magazine, a comedy club. Just fun group things. It is nice to talk to people who are really excited about their stuff.”

Cho to Join Washington Research Consortium on Korea

Joan Cho

Joan Cho

As a newly-selected non-resident adjunct fellow for the Washington Research Consortium on KoreaJoan Cho hopes to showcase South Korea’s democratization through a new scholarly book tentatively titled, Dictator’s Modernity Dilemma: Development and Democracy in South Korea, 1961-1987.

Cho, assistant professor of East Asian Studies, will participate in the multi-year laboratory research project until 2024 through the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The project, titled “The South Korean Pathway: Understanding the Theoretical and Policy Significance of Korean Democracy and Foreign Policy,” will conduct an in-depth analysis of South Korea’s democracy and foreign policy to fill an important gap in the U.S. and European political science literature.

“Current literature overlooks the importance of Asian cases and to the extent that the political science literature uses Asian cases, these are overwhelmingly focused on using the China case to explain why Asia does not fit into mainstream theorizing,” Cho explained.

67-Year-Old Time Capsule Discovered during PAC Renovation

time capsule

Amanda Nelson, university archivist at Olin Library’s Special Collections and Archives, prepares to open a time capsule discovered this month during the Public Affairs Center renovation.

The ongoing demolition of the 1954 wing of the Public Affairs Center (PAC) yielded a touch of history on Sept. 17 when crews unearthed a time capsule sealed into the concrete entry slab on the east side of the building.

A demolition contractor found a partially damaged copper box that had been encased in concrete. The outside of the box was green and brown with oxidation and dirt, but the inside retained its original bright sheen and color. This particular contractor had seen time capsules on other building projects and knew what he was dealing with.

“The Language in Common” on Exhibit in Zilkha Gallery

Unspun wool. Silver-spray painted stones. A worn leather suit. Sketches from an iPad. A video of children studying.

Each object offers its own narrative. Set again the viewers’ assumptions and impressions, a whole new set of meanings are created.

A new art exhibition titled “The Language in Common,” curated by Benjamin Chaffee, associate director of visual arts, attempts to offer more questions than answers.

The exhibition, featuring installation, sculpture, video, sound, drawing, poetry and performance, brings together five international and intergenerational artists, including Cecilia Vicuña, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Julien Creuzet, Jasper Marsalis, and Alice Notley. It opened to the public Sept. 14 and will be on display through Dec. 12.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan’s intellectually dynamic faculty, students, alumni, staff, and parents frequently serve as expert sources for national media. Others are noted for recent achievements and accolades. A sampling of recent media hits is below:

Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters, authors a commentary titled “How to read your dog’s mind” in Salon. “For the early 20th-century biologist/ethologist Jacob von Uexküll, the fact that all animals (humans included) have the capacity to be affected by things in their particular environment or world and to respond to them, is evidence that they (like humans) are subjects of their worlds and not merely objects in them. In other words, they are not simply machines reacting to stimuli in the way that Descartes suggested in the 17th century.” (Sept. 4)

Dr. Scott Gottlieb ’94, Hon. ’21 is mentioned in The Washington Post for leading a Washington Post Live talk on Sept. 23. Gottlieb served as the 23rd FDA Commissioner from 2017-2019. In his new book, Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic, Gottlieb shares why the United States was so vulnerable against the coronavirus and how we can stop it from happening again. (Sept. 17)

In The Nation, Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, associate professor in the College of Social Studies, leads a conversation with Samuel Moyn about his new book Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War. “Humane warfare is a paradoxical idea with a long history. Essentially, the notion speaks of the attempt to make war less lethal and more ethical for the purpose of minimizing the suffering of soldiers and civilians, a concern that, by the 19th century, had grown on account of the carnage of industrialized and mechanized warfare,” he writes. (Sept. 16)

Theater major Willie Garson ’86, the actor best known for his role as Carrie Bradshaw’s best male friend, Stanford Blatch, in “Sex and the City,” has died at 57. He’s remembered in The New York Times.

Peter Rutland, Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, co-authored an op-ed in The Hartford Courant titled “As the years since 9/11 have passed, we have forgotten why the attacks took place.” To form a fuller picture of 9/11, Rutland writes, “students must understand at least something about the conditions in the Middle East prior to the attack—frustrated Arab expectations, and a long history of U.S. backing oppressive regimes in the region.” (Sept. 11)

Justin Lacob ’02 shares his memory of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on MSN.com. “I was in my senior year at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and was just about to get ready for class when my housemates burst into my room to tell me that a plane just hit the World Trade Center. As a New Yorker, it was surreal, a punch to the gut moment of heartbreak, grief, outrage, anxiety, and sheer terror. This was a moment before widespread cell phones, before social media, and with telephone networks down across the world, our inability to get in touch with each other provided a whole other level of fear. At that moment, in those hours, before we knew what happened, my friends and housemates and I just had each other.” (Sept. 10)

In American Towns, Kaneza Schaal ’06 is mentioned for “exorcis[ing] the ghost of King Leopold II through a mytho-biographical performance” during the Crossing the Line arts festival in New York City Nov. 4-6. Building off Mark Twain’s King Leopold’s Soliloquy published in 1905, a fictional monologue written after Twain’s visit to Congo Free State, and Patrice Lumumba’s 1960 independence speech in Congo, Schaal “considers the residue of colonialism in our everyday lives.” (Sept. 15)

Yahoo! Finance explores the net worth of Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15. “By far, Miranda’s largest paycheck has come from ‘Hamilton: An American Musical.’ As one of the original cast members, not to mention the writer, composer and lyricist for the show, Miranda earned $6.4 million annually while starring as Alexander Hamilton on Broadway.” (Sept. 14)

In an op-ed published in Portside, Julia Boland ’20 discusses gerrymandering which carves up communities based only on the partisan inclinations of each household. “The public has an important role to play in pushing back against the practice, but it’s important to understand that recognizing unfair maps means considering more than just the shapes of their districts,” she writes.  (Sept. 19)

Wesleyan University is mentioned in The Hartford Courant for being ranked No. 17 for Best National Liberal Arts College by U.S. News and World Report. Wesleyan also was cited for being No. 14 for Best Value Schools; No. 1 for Best Colleges for Veterans; No. 48 Best Undergraduate Teaching; and No. 122 Top Performers on Social Mobility. (Sept. 13)

Wesleyan’s Creative Writing Specialization offered on Coursera is featured in The Herald as one of the “10 Best Writing Help Online Resources Every Student Must Know.” “If you aim to polish your creative writing and want to apply your skills professionally, Coursera has gathered a series of free courses from Wesleyan University. It is aimed at beginners with no prior experience, takes about 6 months to complete, and offers subtitles in 10 languages for overseas learners.” (Sept. 15)

Students Continue to Wear Masks Indoors, Keep Wes Safe

As students settle into a fully-residential fall semester with more than 95 percent of the student body vaccinated for COVID-19, the University continues to mandate the wearing of masks inside all university buildings. Wearing masks outdoors is optional.

“Because of your hard work and diligence thus far, we have taken important steps towards creating a healthy campus environment,” said Wesleyan Medical Director Dr. Tom McLarney in a recent campus-wide health update. “We will continue to monitor our situation and adjust accordingly.”

View the latest updates and campus guidelines on Wesleyan’s Keep Wes Safe website.

Photos of student activities during the early fall semester are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

students

New, Ongoing Faculty are Experts on Japanese Pedagogy, Costume Design, Immersive Media

2021 faculty This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 43 new faculty to campus of which 24 are ongoing members of the campus community. Fourteen are tenure-track, eight are professors of the practice, two are adjunct, and 19 are visiting (read about the new visiting faculty in this story). In addition, two new members of the Wesleyan faculty are graduates of Wesleyan.

Wesleyan’s new teacher-scholars bring diverse skills, passions, and research interests to the university including Indian sectarian violence, costume design, animal behavior and neurophysiology, Japanese pedagogy, post-structural semiotics, structural inequalities in education, digital media analysis, and more.

Bios of the new, ongoing faculty are below: Bios of the new visiting faculty appear here.

George Bajalia, assistant professor of anthropology, holds a PhD in anthropology from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. His research is concerned with borderlands, primarily in the Western Mediterranean region. His dissertation, “Waiting at the Border: Language, Labor, and Infrastructure in the Strait of Gibraltar,” dwells on the political, social, and cultural forms that emerge during time spent waiting among cross-border workers and West and Central African immigrants living and working around the Moroccan-Spanish borderlands surrounding Tangier and Ceuta. Bajalia has held research and dissertation fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, Fulbright-Hays, Fulbright-IIE, and the American Institute for Maghrib Studies. He is the co-founder and co-director of the Youmein Festival, a 48-hour contemporary art and performance festival and residency in Tangier, Morocco, and has published in The Review of Middle East Studies, The Journal of North African Studies, MIGRANT Journal, as well as numerous southern Mediterranean arts publications. Throughout his work, he is interested in questions of temporality, circulation, and exchange, post-structural semiotics, regional formations, and the practices and politics of boundary-marking, belonging, and difference. His courses at Wesleyan will explore the relationships between anthropology, performance, and curation; migration and borderlands; endurance and the otherwise; and theories of cultural and social change.

Pedro Bermudez, assistant professor of the practice in video and audio production, is a filmmaker working at the intersection of cinema, theater, and immersive media. Bermudez will be teaching courses in video and audio production, designed for students with an interest in capturing live performances. His documentary and narrative work has explored the relational dynamics of colonization and its cultural effects. Bermudez has produced documentary work for Connecticut Public Television and has collaborated closely with arts and cultural institutions in the Hartford region; the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and The Center for Leadership and Justice among them. His most recent work, a filmed production of “The Sound Inside,” was featured in The New York Times. He received his MFA in Directing from the American Film Institute, where he was the recipient of the Petrie Award for excellence. Bermudez is the owner of Revisionist, a production company based in Hartford, and has worked with a range of commercial clients including Nike and international non-profit BuildOn.

Carycruz Bueno, assistant professor of economics, is an applied microeconomist who studies the effects of education policy on educational inequality. Her research interests, which stem from her experience as a special education teacher, encompass topics such as virtual schools, school choice, teacher labor markets, and student non-cognitive skills. She has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the American Society of Hispanic Economists, and the National Economics Association. In 2021, Bueno was named an Emerging Education Policy Scholar by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Prior to joining Wesleyan University, she was a Postdoctoral Researcher at Brown University. Bueno has been featured in The Atlantic, NPR’s Planet Money, Bloomberg, and Politico Nightly.

Christopher Chenier, assistant professor of the practice in integrative sciences and IDEAS, joins the Wesleyan faculty as a PoP after six years on staff managing the Digital Design Studio and teaching courses in the art and IDEAS programs here at Wesleyan. Prior to this, Chenier completed graduate work at the Hagley Library in Wilmington Delaware, taught digital art and design courses at Bennington College, and worked in art and advertising production in New York. Chenier’s research is focused on the ways people make and think about images and objects. His recent projects have employed custom software to process and remix images and generate sculptural forms. These were then carved in stone with the help of industrial robots and traditional stone carving techniques.  Alongside his work in the studio, Chenier’s ongoing historical research is focused on material culture and the history of design, technology, and American enterprise.

Benjamin Elling, assistant professor of chemistry, specializes in synthesizing and characterizing new environmentally sustainable polymers. He completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University, received his PhD from Stanford University, and has most recently been a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University. He has made fundamental contributions to understanding and utilizing Ring Opening Metathesis Polymerizations (ROMP) for sequence-specific polymers. His research program at Wesleyan is multifaceted and is focused on the design and synthesis of new polymers that are both soluble in water and can be broken down under controlled conditions. He will also be developing new cross-links that can reformed to provide new classes of fully recyclable materials, and his group will be exploring novel approaches to using carbon dioxide as a source of carbon for polymer syntheses. Elling has previously received a variety of teaching awards and will be offering new interdisciplinary courses in polymer chemistry.

Maryam Gooyabadi, assistant professor of the practice in quantitative analysis, customizes, develops, and utilizes appropriate computational and mathematical methodologies to study social conventions (e.g., shared linguistic meaning, belief systems, norms, culture, or ideologies). Examples include agent-based dynamic and evolutionary models, Bayesian non-parametric clustering, along with other machine learning techniques (e.g., reinforcement learning). Social conventions such as shared beliefs or ideologies influence group attitudes and behavior. Understanding how ideologies form, evolve, and influence groups can provide powerful insights into how such beliefs could be shaped through targeted social interventions. This can be particularly useful in identifying how extremist beliefs form and spread, changing attitudes towards marginalized groups, and increasing between-group cooperation, to name a few. Whereas the study of ideology and beliefs gets artificially divided into topics and studied by various departments separately, each with different departmental aims (e.g., political science, religious studies, sociology), her research studies them holistically. Her research has employed methodologies and collaborated with researchers from computer science, philosophy of science, social sciences (e.g., anthropology, economics), and mathematics.

Miyuki Hatano-Cohen, assistant professor of the practice in East Asian studies, was born and raised in Fukushima, Japan. She has been teaching Japanese at Wesleyan for seven years and was promoted to an assistant professor of the practice this year.  Before coming to Wesleyan, she taught Japanese in the Boston, Mass. area for several years. She is particularly interested in Japanese pedagogy. She enjoys working with students and seeing them gradually being able to express their interests. In her spare time, she loves music and taking care of feral cats.

Rachel Heng, assistant professor of English, was born and raised in Singapore.  She  received her MFA in Fiction and Playwriting from the Michener Center for Writers, University of Texas, Austin, and her B.A. in Comparative Literature & Society from Columbia University. Heng is the author of the novels The Great Reclamation (forthcoming from Riverhead in 2022) and Suicide Club (Henry Holt, 2018), which has been translated into ten languages worldwide and won the Gladstone Library Writer-In-Residence Award. Her short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review, and has been recognized by anthologies including Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions and Best New Singaporean Short Stories.  Rachel was recently longlisted for the 2021 Sunday Times Short Story Award, “the world’s richest and most prestigious prize for a single short story.” Her non-fiction has been listed among Best American Essays’ Notable Essays and published in Al Jazeera, Guernica, BOMB Magazine, The Rumpus and elsewhere. She has received grants and fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Fine Arts Work Center and the National Arts Council of Singapore.

April Hickman, assistant professor of the practice in theater, is a costume designer, stylist, and costume illustrator originally from Denver. She received a MA in costume design at Yale School of Drama in May 2020. Hickman previously lived in Chicago and Washington D.C., where she worked as the resident costume design assistant at the Goodman Theatre and was a costume fellow turned costume design assistant at Arena Stage. She has assisted several prominent costume designers, including Emily Rebholz, Jess Goldstein, Ilona Somogyi, Paul Tazewell, and Catherine Zuber.  Her most recent design credit was at Williamstown Theatre Festival; she has several design projects in the work.  She was awarded the William R. Kenan Jr. Costume Design Fellowship at the Kennedy Center in 2014 and the Leo Lerman Fellowship in 2020. April received her BFA in costume design from The University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Anuja Jain, assistant professor of film studies, was previously an assistant professor of film and media studies at University of St. Andrews. She earned her BA, MA, and M.Phil from University of Delhi and her PhD in cinema studies from New York University. Her dissertation, “Suffering and Spectatorship: Sectarian Violence in Indian Documentary Film and Media,” explores the development and redefinition of documentary that took place around coverage of Indian sectarian violence of the last 30 years. She has also studied Indian popular cinema more broadly, editing and contributing to the dossier on “Poetics of Indian Cinema” which appeared in Screen. Jain specializes in the aesthetics and spectatorship in Indian film. She teaches courses on South Asian cinema, global cinema, and film history.

Roseann Liu, assistant professor of education studies, draws from critical race and abolitionist frameworks in her teaching and research on structural inequalities in education, including their effects on communities of color and the organizing strategies used to enact change. She writes about the pitfalls and possibilities of progressive pedagogy, multiracial coalitions, and liberal teleologies. These interests are informed by her experiences as a student and teacher in New York City public schools. Her research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the American Educational Research Association. Her scholarship has appeared in Radical History Review,  Anthropology & Education Quarterly, and Ethnography, among other journals. She engages broad audiences through producing short films and writing op-eds that have been featured in  Colorlines,  The Philadelphia Inquirer, and  Hechinger Report. Liu received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, earning a joint degree in education and anthropology.

Antonio Machado-Allison, University Professor of COE, holds a Licentiate degree in biology from the Central University of Venezuela and a PhD from George Washington University-Smithsonian Institution. He is professor emeritus at the Central University of Venezuela and is linked to the Institute of Zoology and Tropical Ecology and the Museum of Biology of the UCV. For his extensive and far-reaching scholarship and his service to scientific and humanitarian programs, Machado-Allison was elected to the Venezuelan Academy of Physics, Mathematics and Natural Sciences and the Latin American Academy of Sciences. He served as the president of the Foundation for the Development of Physics, Mathematics, and Natural Sciences (FUDECI), and was the director of the Research Institutes of the Central University Academic Vice-rectorate, Venezuela. Professor Machado-Allison studies the systematics, evolution, and ecology of fish. He is dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity in neotropical aquatic environments. He has published several books on the diversity of South American fishes, including Venomous and Poisonous Animals of Venezuela, Caribe Fishes of Venezuela, The Cichlids of Venezuela, Fishes of the Plains of Venezuela, Biodiversity of the Orinoco, and Bases for Conservation and Sustainable Development Vols. I and II, Principles of Evolution, and he is now editing a book on the fishes of the Caura River co-authored with Professor Barry Chernoff. Machado-Allison has published more than 40 book chapters and over 100 scientific papers in national and international journals. He has served on the editorial management boards of several national and international scientific journals. He has participated in numerous national commissions on wildlife, oceanology, fisheries, and aquaculture. He was a member of the National Council of Science and Technology (CONICIT) of Venezuela and is the coordinator of the Council of Scientific and Humanistic Development of the UCV. Internationally, he has been a Research Associate at the Field Museum of Chicago, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Smithsonian Institution. Professor Machado-Allison was a founding member of the AquaRAP Program.

Leo Mayo, adjunct associate professor of physical education, is Wesleyan’s new head cross country coach. Mayo was hired as the first-ever head coach of the American International College (AIC) men’s and women’s cross country and track and field teams in August 2006 and has served in that role for 14 seasons. During his time at AIC, Mayo led the cross-country programs to four Northeast-10 (NE-10) Conference titles, two NE-10 indoor track and field championships, and two NE-10 outdoor track and field crowns. He also coached four national champions; one Division II Cross Country National Athlete of the Year; 10 NE-10 Cross Country Male Athletes of the Year; four NE-10 Cross Country Female Athletes of the Year; and a total of 120 Division II All-Americans. Additionally, Mayo has been named the NE-10 Cross Country Coach of the Year four times; the USTFCCCA East Region Cross Country Coach of the Year twice; the NE-10 Indoor Track Coach of the Year three times; the USTFCCCA East Region Indoor Coach of the Year three times; the NE-10 Outdoor Track Coach of the Year once; and the USTFCCCA East Region Outdoor Track Coach of the Year twice. Mayo was an excellent athlete as well and competed on the cross country and track and field teams at Central Connecticut State University from 1997 to 2002. He was a two-time Northeast Conference All-Conference Team selection and was named All-IC4A Country in 2001. Mayo received his BS in education at Central Connecticut State University in 2002 and a MA in education at AIC in 2011.

Chelsie McPhilimy, assistant professor of the practice in dance, is a lighting and media designer, crafting imaginative environments with vivid color and texture for the stage. She received her BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and MFA from the Ohio State University. McPhilimy’s work has been seen from Toronto to Abu Dhabi as she has been privileged to work with esteemed establishments such as NYUAD, New Victory Theater (NYC), Bates Dance Festival, Adirondack Theatre Festival, Flint Repertory Theatre, and the Santa Fe Opera. Her work on Rush (Paradise Factory, NYC) earned her a New York Innovative Theater Award nomination and her lighting design for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at Flint Repertory earned a regional Wilde Award. Her primary research focus centers around collaboration with other artists to create important, relevant, and thought-provoking work that inspires and challenges today’s audiences. This year, she will be teaching a course in dance production as well as a lighting-based production laboratory for the department of theater.

Jennifer Mitchel, assistant professor of biology, obtained her PhD in biomedical engineering from Brown University after receiving her SB degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in mechanical engineering. In her graduate research, she used lithography techniques to examine nerve tissue growth. She went on to do post-doctoral research at Harvard University studying mechanisms of collective cell migration, with a focus on a process called the “unjamming transition” in which cells transition from a solid-like behavior to a fluid-like migratory regime. Mitchel has co-authored more than 20 research articles and reviews, and is a co-organizer of an online seminar series on cell migration that attracts 100-300 attendees each week. She will contribute to Wesleyan’s interdisciplinary teaching in biology including new courses with an emphasis on quantitative biology.

Jesse Nasta ’07, assistant professor of the practice in African American studies, recently completed a four-year term as a visiting assistant professor of African American studies. Nasta specializes in the African American community in 19th-century Middletown, and his book project is on the Beman family. Nasta not only studies local history but is in fact one of our preeminent connections to it. He is concurrently the excutive director of the Middlesex County Historical Society, while also serving as a committee member of the Connecticut Freedom Trail, the Middletown Middle Passage Port Marker Project, and the Connecticut River Museum’s Committee on Connecticut Slavery and Public Education. He has made several presentations on Middletown’s Black past, and has taught highly-praised courses on local history for the past four years.

Andrea Negrete, assistant professor of psychology, received a MA and PhD in community psychology from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. She received a BA in psychology and M.Ed in educational leadership from the University of Washington, Seattle. Negrete’s research examines the consequences of structural inequality and other contextual factors (e.g., immigration policy) on racial/ethnic identity and development among understudied populations, specifically Latinx and Black youth. She employs multiple methods, including longitudinal and interview studies. Negrete’s courses this year include a survey course on cultural psychology, qualitative research methods, and an advanced research seminar.

Kristin Oberiano, assistant professor of history, is a historian of United States empire in the Pacific. Oberiano’s research project, tentatively titled “Territorial Discontent: Chamorros, Filipinos, and the Making of the United States Empire on Guam,” examines the evolution of the political, social, and cultural relations between the Indigenous Chamorro people and Filipino migrants/immigrants under the United States military empire on Guam over the 20th century. The project engages in frameworks of race, settler colonialism, militarism, and migration within empire. Oberiano earned a PhD in history from Harvard University, and a BA in history and American studies from Occidental College. Her work has been supported by the Fulbright Program in the Philippines, the Harvard Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Harvard Center for American Political Studies, among others. At Wesleyan, she will teach courses in 20th century U.S. history, the history of U.S. in the World, U.S. imperialism, and Asian American and Pacific Islander history. In addition to her academic roles, Oberiano is the secretary of Guåhan Sustainable Culture 501(c)(3), a non-profit organization dedicated to food sovereignty in Guam. An islander living on the East Coast, she was born to and raised by Filipino immigrant families in Guam.

Pavel Oleinikov, assistant professor of the practice in quantitative analysis, holds a MA and a PhD in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. He also holds a BS and MS in computer systems and networks from the Moscow Physical Engineering Institute. Prior to this appointment, he has been working as an associate director of the Quantitative Analysis Center since 2014. His work at Wesleyan focuses on quantification and analysis of digital media, texts, and imagery. His past employment at a Russian nuclear city serves as a motivation for his interests in remote sensing and history of the Cold War. His publications include co-authored papers on analysis of online political ads, use of remote sensing data to measure impact of natural disasters, and a paper documenting the history of German scientists in the Soviet atomic program after World War II.

Michael Perez, assistant professor of psychology, received an MA in psychology from the University of Texas, Arlington, and a PhD in social-personality psychology from Texas A&M University where he also received Graduate Certificates in Africana studies and applied statistics. His research program brings together critical race theory and cultural-psychological approaches to racism. It entails analysis of intergroup conflict related to racism, accounting for structural racial inequalities. Recent projects include multi-methodical studies of racial apologies and studies of protests and peace, specifically how racism influences perceptions of protest and peace. This year, Perez is teaching a survey course on cultural psychology, qualitative research methods, and a seminar on conflict resolution.

Hari Ramesh, assistant professor of government, earned his BA in political science and English at Williams College and his PhD in political science at Yale University. He is a political theorist with research interests in democratic theory, histories and theories of social oppression, the intersections of South Asian, Afro-modern, and American political thought, and the relationship between empirical social science and political theory. His book project, based on his dissertation research, draws insights from John Dewey, B.R. Ambedkar, and Brown v. Board of Education in order to offer an original account of the compatibility of coercive state action with a radical vision of democracy. Ramesh has published peer-reviewed articles in Modern Intellectual History and History of the Present as well as review essays in Boston Review and Dissent. Prior to arriving at Wesleyan, Ramesh was a College Fellow in Social Studies at Harvard University. In the 2021-22 academic year, he will be teaching introductory courses in political theory, a seminar on contemporary political theory, and a seminar exploring the conceptual and practical entanglements of caste in India and race in the United States.

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, assistant professor in the College of Social Studies, is a historian of modern political and intellectual thought with a specific focus on Europe and the world from the Cold War to the present. He primarily concentrates on such topics as liberalism, conservatism, populism, secularism, religion, and the Global Cold War. He runs a regular interview series at The Nation. He is the former managing editor of Modern Intellectual History and The Immanent Framer Steinmetz-Jenkins has been a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of History at Dartmouth College since January 2020. Prior to that, he was a lecturer at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University and a visiting assistant professor in the Religion Department at Yale. Steinmetz-Jenkins earned his PhD in history at Columbia University. He has an MA in history from Columbia University, an MA in liberal studies from Reed College, and a BA in history from Concordia University. Steinmetz-Jenkins is writing a book titled “Impossible Peace, Improbable War: Raymond Aron and World Order” to be published by Columbia University Press. His second book is under advanced contract with Yale University Press and is tentatively titled “Populism and the Rise and Fall of Global Secularism.” His public commentary has appeared in The Nation, The Guardian, The Atlantic, Times Literary Supplement, Dissent Magazine, Foreign Affairs and elsewhere. He has published articles in Modern Intellectual History, Journal of the History of Ideas, Global Intellectual History and elsewhere.

Tracy Heather Strain, associate professor of film studies, has been with Wesleyan since 2019 as professor of practice of film studies. Previously, she was professor of the practice in the College of the Arts, Media, and Design at Northeastern University. She is an award-winning director, producer, and writer committed to using film, video, and interactive technology to reveal the ways that race, ethnicity, gender, and classwork to shape lives. Her film about Lorraine Hansberry—Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart—earned the American Historical Association Film Award, the Peabody Award, and the NAACP Image Award. Strain co-founded with Wesleyan’s Randall MacLowry THE FILM POSSE, a production company that they relocated from Boston to Middletown. Strain earned her AB from Wellesley College and her Ed.M. from Harvard. She teaches courses in documentary studies and production, co-directs the Wesleyan Documentary Project, and is associate director of the College of Film and the Moving Image.

Jorge Vásquez, assistant professor of economics, holds a professional degree in industrial engineering and a MA in economics from the University of Chile and received a PhD in economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before joining Wesleyan, Vásquez worked at the Bank of Canada as a senior economist, and later at Smith College as a visiting assistant professor. Vásquez is a microeconomist with research interests in behavioral economics and law and economics. His research has focused on the role of empathy and beliefs in understanding market phenomena, the effects of vigilance on crime rates, and the design of regulatory mechanisms to control market power. During this academic year, Vásquez will be teaching courses in microeconomics and behavioral economics.

Kleinberg Authors New Book on Levinas’ Cultural Legacy

The first time Ethan Kleinberg, the Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor of History and Letters, immersed himself in the world of the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas 20 years ago, he wrote a book.

“It was written as a traditional intellectual history and I found that what that I had done was to completely deactivate the aspects of Levinas’ thought where he believes that there are ethical guidelines that come to us from outside our own history, these transcendent ethical guidelines puncture any historical or contextual moment,” Kleinberg said.

He didn’t like what he’d written, so he took an unprecedented step—he tore it up and started over again over a decade later.

Kleinberg’s new take on Levinas’ cultural legacy, Emmanuel Levinas’s Talmudic Turn: Philosophy and Jewish Thought will be published this October in the Cultural Memory in the Present Series from Stanford University Press. Using a series of Levinas’ lectures on the Torah and the Talmud as the touchpoints, Kleinberg has crafted an exploration of his thinking that encompasses aspects of Western philosophy, French Enlightenment universalism, and the Lithuanian Talmudic tradition.

Levinas, a man of strong convictions and a sense of humor, was born in 1906 in present-day Lithuania. Levinas was the among the first to bring philosopher Martin Heidegger’s work to France, and later wrestled with the German’s turn toward Nazism.

Levinas became a French citizen in 1930 and served in the French military during World War II. He was captured in 1940 and spend the remainder of the war in a German prison camp. He was insulated from the Holocaust because of his status as a prisoner of war. Levinas held a relatively protected position despite his religion. His family in Lithuania did not, and were murdered by the Nazis.

Ethan Kleinberg

Ethan Kleinberg

While a prisoner, Levinas turned to sacred Jewish texts, which prompted an evolution in his thinking. Initially, a philosopher associated with the existentialists, his experience during the war led him to focus on what he called “being-Jewish.” He chronicled his thoughts in a series of notebooks, which were recently published.