Faculty

Jacobsen Named President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Joyce Jacobsen

Joyce Jacobsen

On Feb. 8, President Michael Roth announced in a campus-wide email that Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen will become the president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y., beginning July 1.

In announcing Jacobsen’s appointment as president, Hobart and William Smith’s Board of Trustees Chair Thomas Bozzuto said, “President Jacobsen is a prominent scholar and an esteemed educator with a deep understanding of the interdisciplinary inquiry so vital to our mission here at Hobart and William Smith. In her work with students and colleagues in the academy, and with preeminent national and international organizations, she has distinguished herself as a remarkable leader with the experience, values, and vision to pilot the Colleges to new heights.”

Jacobsen joined Wesleyan’s Economics Department in 1993 and has contributed to the University in myriad ways—as a scholar, teacher, and administrator—since that time.

In the all-campus email, Roth wrote, “As a leader of the University, Joyce has touched nearly every aspect of university operations—overseeing the entire academic enterprise at Wesleyan, including Athletics, Institutional Research, and Community Partnerships. She has also been a thoughtful contributor to student affairs and equity and inclusion, and has helped create fundraising and stewardship plans and collaborated on admission and enrollment strategies.”

Plous Honored with Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Minnesota

Scott Plous

For his accomplishments in research and scholarship, the University of Minnesota’s Department of Psychology is honoring Professor of Psychology Scott Plous with a Distinguished Alumni Award.

Plous graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1980 with a BA degree in psychology, summa cum laude. He later completed a PhD in psychology and a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University. At Wesleyan, Plous’s research focuses on judgment and decision-making, prejudice and discrimination, and the human use of animals and the environment.

The University of Minnesota’s alumni awards honor distinguished alumni from the undergraduate and graduate programs. Nominations are solicited from alumni, faculty, and friends of psychology at Minnesota and are reviewed by a Distinguished Alumni Awards Committee, who forward their recommendations to the department chair.

“This award recognizes [Plous’s] distinguished accomplishments in research and scholarship, both basic and applied, as well as in education and enhancing public awareness and impact of psychological science and practice,” wrote Jeffry Simpson, chair of the University of Minnesota’s psychology department, and Mark Snyder of the Distinguished Alumni Awards Committee, in an award letter to Plous. “Your achievements are truly distinguished, and we are so pleased to have you among our truly distinguished alumni.”

Q&A with Amy Grillo on Education Studies

In addition to teaching at Wesleyan, Amy Grillo works with a nonprofit media/production company that makes films about teaching and teachers. “Our aim is to make visible the actual work of excellent teaching … (and) also to inform and inspire those currently in the classroom or those considering the profession.”

In this Q&A, we speak with Amy Grillo, associate professor of the practice in education studies. This spring, she is teaching Schools in Society and Practicum in Education Studies.

Q: You joined Wesleyan’s faculty during the fall 2018 semester. Welcome to Wesleyan! What are your overall thoughts so far on the University?

A: I keep pinching myself, which is to say that I am incredibly happy to have landed here. I’ve found the students to be lively and engaged, both with their academic work and with the world beyond Wesleyan. The staff and faculty seem similarly energetic and positive. I was most impressed getting to know this year’s batch of new faculty during orientation in August because they seemed to hit the ground with a natural interest in collaborating and supporting each other in both teaching and research, and very open to thinking creatively about pedagogy. Few things could make me happier than working with people who care about teaching as much as I do.

Q: What led you to Wesleyan? Where were you working/teaching prior to Wesleyan?

A: Immediately prior to coming to Wesleyan, I spent six years at Mount Holyoke College, where I taught in the Psychology & Education Department and also in the graduate Master of Arts in Teaching Program. That was supposed to be a one-year visiting faculty gig, but it kept expanding. Prior to that, I was a core faculty member at Vermont College, an unorthodox, low-residency BA program for working adult students. This was an amazing little college, where students met all the requirements of a liberal arts degree by designing and conducting a series of 16-credit interdisciplinary independent studies with the guidance of a faculty mentor and a group of peers. We did teacher education through this model as well, which was a wonderful way to prepare teachers who know how to break out of the boxes that the current system of public education so often puts them in. I’ve also taught at places ranging from Harvard to Hampshire College, I’ve served as senior class dean at Mount Holyoke, and I was a dean of students at the tiny, democratically run, progressive Marlboro College, in Vermont. In all of these settings, my work has always been about looking closely at how we think about and conduct various processes of teaching and learning. So, when I saw that Wesleyan was looking for someone to work with the Center for Pedagogical Innovation and develop and teach courses in education studies, it seemed too good to be true.

Detroit Native Slobin Pens New Book on the Motor City’s Musical History

Mark Slobin, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, Emeritus, is the author of Motor City Music: A Detroiter Looks Back, published by Oxford University Press (November 2018).

Slobin’s book is the first-ever historical study of music across all genres in any American metropolis.

According to the publisher:

Detroit in the 1940s–60s was not just “the capital of the 20th century” for industry and the war effort, but also for the quantity and extremely high quality of its musicians, from jazz to classical to ethnic.

Slobin, a Detroiter from 1943, begins with a reflection of his early life with his family and others, then weaves through the music traffic of all the sectors of a dynamic and volatile city. Looking first at the crucial role of the public schools in fostering talent, Motor City Music surveys the neighborhoods of older European immigrants and of the later huge waves of black and white southerners who migrated to Detroit to serve the auto and defense industries. Jazz stars, polka band leaders, Jewish violinists, and figures like Lily Tomlin emerge in the spotlight. Shaping institutions, from the Ford Motor Company and the United Auto Workers through radio stations and Motown, all deployed music to bring together a city rent by relentless segregation, policing, and spasms of violence. The voices of Detroit’s poets, writers, and artists round out the chorus.

Slobin grew up with classical and folk music backgrounds. His early work on folk music of Afghanistan shifted to studies of Eastern European Jewish music in Europe and America, film music, and theory of ethnomusicology.

 

Boulware Presents Paper on Labor Market Conditions at Economics Meeting

Karl Boulware

Karl Boulware

Karl Boulware, assistant professor of economics, presented a paper at the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA) Annual Meeting on Jan. 4. The three-day meeting was attended by more than 13,000 economists, who gathered to network and celebrate new achievements in economic research.

Boulware’s paper, titled “Labor Market Conditions and Charges of Discrimination: Is There a Link?” examines whether the degree of labor market conditions affects the frequency of claims of discrimination based on race, sex, age, national origin, color, and disability.

“Our findings have implications for how macroeconomic policies might be used to promote equal opportunity in the labor market,” Boulware explained.

Economics majors Will Levinson ’19 and Avi Lipton ’20 also contributed to the project as research assistants.

This spring, Boulware is teaching courses on Quantitative Methods in Economics and Monetary Policy Transmission.

Murillo’s Poem Featured in American Poetry Review

John Murillo (Photo courtesy of American Poetry Review)

New poetry by John Murillo, assistant professor of English, is published in the Feb. 2019 issue (Volume 48, No. 1) of American Poetry Review. Murillo also is featured on the publication’s cover page.

His poem, titled “A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn,” is a nod to Dylan Thomas’s famous poem, “A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London.”

Bloom Creates New Memoir and Personal Essay Specialization on Coursera

Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, recently launched a new nonfiction writing course housed on the Coursera platform. This is Wesleyan’s 21st free massive, open, online course (MOOC) offered through Coursera.

Launched on Jan. 14, Bloom’s Memoir and Personal Essay: Write About Yourself Specialization shows participants how to write with confidence. Taught by award-winning essayists and memoirists, this specialization provides tips, prompts, exercises, readings, and challenges that prepare students to write compelling nonfiction.

Bloom, author of two New York Times best-sellers, also is professor of the practice in creative writing and professor of the practice, English. In this Q&A, Bloom discusses the new specialization. (The Q&A also appears on Coursera.)

Q: What is the Memoir and Personal Essay Specialization?

A: The Memoir and Personal Essay Specialization focuses on these two popular forms of creative writing about the self. One of the wonderful opportunities in this kind of work is that memory and observation are even more important than imagination and the ability to create fictional plot lines. Here, you weave all these skills together to help you put to paper the story you’ve always wanted to share.

Roberts’s Book Revisited by Society for Classical Studies

Michael Roberts

During the Annual Meeting for the Society for Classical Studies, Michael Roberts, the Robert Rich Professor of Latin, Emeritus, served as a respondent in a session devoted to commemorating the 30th anniversary of the publication of his book, The Jeweled Style: Poetry and Poetics in Late Antiquity.

The meeting took place in San Diego, Calif., Jan. 3–6, and included numerous paper and panel presentations; roundtable discussion sessions; performances by the Committee on Ancient and Modern Performance; meetings and receptions of affiliated groups; and more.

In The Jeweled Style (1989), Roberts offers a new approach to the Latin poetry of late antiquity, one centering on an aesthetic quality common to both the literature and the art of the period. In Roberts’s view, the writer or artist of this period works as a jeweler, carefully setting compositional units in a geometric framework, consistently demonstrating a preference for effects of patterning over realistic representation.

Bruce Named Music Ambassador for the City of Middletown

Neely Bruce, left, a professor of music and American studies at Wesleyan University, and Walter Frank, a masters student in piano performance and composition, work on some music Tuesday in Bruce's office from The Sacred Harp. Bruce was named Middletown’s Music Ambassador on Jan. 5, 2019.

Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, left, and Walter Frank, a masters student in piano performance and composition, work together on music. (Photo courtesy of The Middletown Press.)

Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, was named Music Ambassador for the City of Middletown in 2019. He received the honor during a reception Jan. 10 at the Municipal Building in Middletown, Conn.

Bruce, a composer, pianist, conductor, and scholar of American music, was previously an artist-in-residence at Middlebury College, Bucknell University, the University of Michigan, and at Brooklyn College. He is the chorus director for Connecticut Opera and music director at South Congregational Church in Middletown.

His compositions include three full-length operas; five one-act operas; works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, and wind ensemble; about 300 solo songs; chamber music; electronic music and documentary film scores; and many hours of solo piano music and other keyboard works. Recent major works include Circular 14: The Apotheosis of Aristides, for eight soloists, two choruses, and large orchestra. He is currently engaged in a series of 17 CD-length recitals comprising his complete works for solo piano.

An article in the Jan. 5 edition of The Middletown Press provides accolades for Bruce’s work as a composer and musician including:

“Neely Bruce’s importance in contemporary American music has never been sufficiently recognized…. Bruce’s art ranges from the most difficult and virtuosic contemporary writing to simple tonality, and moves from one idiom to the other effortlessly and convincingly—something hardly anyone can do without sounding forced. Bruce seems equally at home in every style he uses…. This is one of the most significant releases to come my way in quite a while.” — Timothy Taylor, professor of ethnomusicology at UCLA.

Bruce earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa; he received his DMA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This spring, he’s teaching courses on 18th-century counterpoint and music of the 19th century.

Robertson Remembered for His Love of Mathematics

Lewis Robertson, professor of mathematics, emeritus, passed away Dec. 22, 2018, at the age of 80.

Robertson received his BS and MS from the University of Chicago and his PhD from the University of California—Los Angeles. He came to Wesleyan with tenure in 1970 after serving as an assistant professor at the University of Washington, and he remained at Wesleyan for 28 years until his retirement in 1998.

Robertson’s scholarly research focused on Lie groups, topological groups, and representation theory. His PhD thesis was on algebra, influenced by topology, and that remained his primary interest throughout his career. He published 23 papers, many with Wesleyan colleagues, and supervised three PhD students at Wesleyan.

Robertson loved mathematics and was always eager to think about any mathematics problem that arose.

“Lew was a gentle fellow, and unfailingly kind. As a mathematician, he was extremely self-effacing,” said Edward Burr Van Vleck Professor of Mathematics, Emerita, Carol Wood. “Nonetheless, it was impossible for him to hide his mathematical ability. Lew was a regular in the topology seminar over the decades, and when a topic (often outside his area of expertise) caught his interest, the depth of his comments would yet again remind me that Lew was a gifted mathematician.”

His colleague, Tony Hager, professor of mathematics, emeritus said, “Lew was my colleague and friend for about 50 years. He and I coauthored three fine papers together around 1980, one of which has become a go-to reference in its field. I will miss him greatly.”

Robertson is survived by his wife of 44 years, Janet; their son, Michael; one child from a previous marriage, Laureen; Janet’s daughters from a previous marriage, Julie and Jeanne; and eight grandchildren. A memorial service is being planned for early May 2019. The family requests that memorial contributions be made in Lew’s name to the Wesleyan Fund to support students studying math and science, and sent to the care of Marcy Herlihy, University Relations, 330 High Street, Middletown, CT 06459.

Tucker in The Conversation: In ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ an Ode to the Gas Lamp

Jennifer Tucker

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker explores our ongoing romance with the gas lamp in connection with the new Mary Poppins film. Tucker is also associate professor and chair, feminist, gender, and sexuality studies; associate professor, science in society; and associate professor, environmental studies.

In ‘Mary Poppins Returns,’ an ode to the gas lamp

Mary Poppins Returns” transports audiences back to 1930s London.

The beloved nanny at the center of the original 1964 hit film will return, this time played by Emily Blunt.

But Mary’s original companion, Bert, a chimney sweep played by Dick Van Dyke, has been replaced by Jack, a lamplighter played by Lin-Manuel Miranda [’02].

Some fans of the original might be disappointed to see Bert cede screen time to Jack. But as a historian of Victorian science, I was delighted to see a bygone industrial technology – the gas lamp – take center stage.

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. Los Angeles Times“As the World Warms, Deadly and Disfiguring Tropical Diseases Are Inching Their Way Toward the U.S.”

In this op-ed, Professor of Biology Frederick Cohan and Isaac Klimasmith ’20, both in the College of the Environment, write that infectious disease is a growing threat, resulting from climate change, that humans may find hard to ignore. Cohan is also professor, environmental studies and professor, integrative sciences.

2. Hartford Courant: “Trump’s Immoral Response to Climate Report”

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, writes in this op-ed that it is “irresponsible” and “immoral” to ignore the findings of a major new report on climate change. Delaying action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will be increasingly damaging and expensive, he writes. Yohe is also professor of economics and professor, environmental studies, and was a reviewer on the new National Climate Assessment. He also recently co-authored an op-ed in HuffPost titled “People Are Already Dying by the Thousands Because We Ignored Earlier Climate Change Warnings.” 

3. National Geographic: “Both of NASA’s Voyager Spacecraft Are Now Interstellar. Where to Next?”

With both of NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft now having crossed the threshold into interstellar space, Seth Redfield, associate professor and chair of astronomy, comments on what the spacecraft are likely to encounter on their journey. Redfield is also associate professor, integrative sciences, and co-coordinator of Planetary Science.

4. Inside Higher Ed: “Ordinary Education in Extraordinary Times”

President Michael Roth writes in this op-ed that in uncommon times, “traditional educational practices of valuing learning from people different from ourselves have never been more important.”

Recent Alumni News

  1. The Takeaway; WNYC Studios: “Politics with Amy Walter: Pentagon’s First-Ever Audit Exposes Massive Accounting Fraud”

David Lindorff ’71, the investigative journalist who wrote an exclusive on the topic for The Nation, joins Walter’s guests—including Staff Sergeant Patricia King, Ambassador Eric Edelman, and Dr. Isaiah Wilson III, a retired Army colonel and senior lecturer with Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs—to discuss military spending and its alignment with the military’s strategic goals.