Faculty

Students Explore New Reality through Dance

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the third of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an in-person, online, or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center. Kolcio also is a core faculty member of the College of the Environment, Environmental Studies, and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies Programs at Wesleyan. This fall, she’s teaching DANC 216: Contemporary Dance Technique: Dancing During Pandemic; DANC 435: Advanced Dance Practice A; and DANC 445: Advanced Dance Practice B.

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Katja Kolcio, pictured in the background in black clothing, teaches her Dancing During Pandemic class Sept. 4 near the Wesleyan softball field. Students keep a 12-foot distance between themselves. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

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Twenty-five students are enrolled in the Dancing During Pandemic course.

In a standard Wesleyan dance technique course, students corral inside a studio setting and work to develop artistic virtuosity in a particular dance genre: ballet, contemporary, hip-hop, jazz, West African, South Indian, and Afro-Brazilian.

But when the pandemic and its effects fundamentally altered the way people interact, communicate, and engage with one another, Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance, decided to design a course specifically focusing on bringing attention to the physical experience of our new reality. So she created the practice-based course DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic, open to all students.

“It’s common to feel too busy to dedicate attention to our physical sensations and experiences, or to the way in which new ideas or realities encountered in the world resonate within us,” Kolcio said. “So with this course, we examine, ‘How do we physically and socially navigate the new environment?’ We need to fully engage in our physical selves and awareness and bring greater attention to the ways humans utilize our physical and creative capacities.”

Peter Rutland on Teaching during the Pandemic

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the second of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an online or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Peter Rutland from the Government Department.

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Peter Rutland, at left, teaches his course, Nationalism, online. In this class, his 19 students explore the role of nationalism in countries such as the U.S., France, India, China, and Japan, and nationalist conflicts in Northern Ireland, Quebec, Yugoslavia, the former U.S.S.R., and Rwanda. Rutland plans to keep a newly-structured “flipped” classroom model when he returns to in-person teaching.

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, is teaching GOVT 157: Democracy & Dictatorship and GOVT 278: Nationalism this fall. He’s holding both classes entirely online this semester.

“I had grown complacent over 30 years of teaching and the virus forced me to innovate,” Rutland said.

In a normal semester, Rutland would teach in a lecture/discussion format. “I don’t use PowerPoint. I ask questions and steer the discussion towards the points I want to make.” To teach online, Rutland ‘flipped’ the class, making PowerPoint presentations, and recorded his lectures in advance so that students can watch them before the class meeting.

“That frees up all the class time for discussion,” he said, which typically includes 20 minutes in break-out rooms during each 80-minute class.

He also uses a Moodle forum before each class so that students can post individual questions. “That helps me to structure the class discussion,” Rutland said. “I also pose anonymous questions in Moodle during the class, enabling me to instantly summarize the results.”

Rutland developed the new teaching techniques over the summer, when he taught a section of Democracy and Dictatorship to a group of 15 pre-frosh. He’s repeating the same class this semester.

“My experience was surprisingly positive. Overall, I would even say that the class went better than when I teach it in person,” he said. “When I did that in a live class, it involved handing out pieces of paper and then gathering them back up. Likewise, holding breakout rooms in a live class was very cumbersome and in some classrooms impossible.

“In sum, students have a lot more opportunities for feedback in online teaching. I feel I have a much better grasp on how they are understanding the material. So when I return to in-person teaching I will keep the flipped classroom model,” Rutland said.

OFCD Collects, Publishes Remote Teaching ‘Success Stories’

Several remote teaching and learning “success stories” are now published on the Office for Faculty Career Development’s (OFCD) Teaching Matters website.

“We hope the stories inspire others to make changes and make it clear to everyone that it was possible to make the transition well,” said Mary Alice Haddad, the John E. Andrus Professor of Government and director of the OFCD.

The stories are based on surveys administered by Academic Affairs last spring. Although there were many courses that went well in spring 2020, Haddad selected to present a diversity of courses drawn from different class sizes, pedagogy styles, synchronous/asynchronous teaching, and divisions.

Lindsay Dolan, assistant professor of government, taught a 12-student project-based seminar titled Experiments in International Development. During online learning, the class met synchronously (using Zoom) for half the class, and also in Zoom breakout groups, where students worked through puzzles and activities together.

Faculty Share Insights on Teaching during a Pandemic

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the first of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an online or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Naho Maruta from the College of East Asian Studies; Alison O’Neil from the Chemistry Department; and Ron Jenkins from the Theater Department.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, is teaching her Intermediate Japanese I course online this semester.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, is teaching her Intermediate Japanese I course online this semester.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, chose to teach her fall 2020 classes entirely online because several students in her Japanese language classes are international students who were not able to make it back to campus this fall due to travel restrictions. Even her foreign language teaching assistant is working remotely from Japan.

“It’s important we’re live and synchronous because we have lots of conversation activities,” Maruta said. “Luckily, all students in my class are either in the Eastern Standard time zone or in Asia time zone, so having an 8:50 a.m. class works for both sides, even synchronously.”

During a regular semester, Maruta would create “language partners” by pairing students in upper-level Japanese courses with Wesleyan students from Japan, but with most native Japanese students off-campus, she began a new collaboration with Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.

Gilmore Featured in Venus Documentary

Martha-Gilmore

Marty Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, is featured in a suite of films exploring the past and possible future of the planet Venus, often called Earth’s “sister” or “twin” planet.

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, is prominently featured in a recently released suite of five documentary films about the history, science, exploration, and possible settlement of the planet Venus.

In the films, Gilmore, who is co-coordinator of planetary science at Wesleyan, along with other experts in a range of fields, help to illuminate and elucidate the fascinating history and possible future of the second planet from the sun, commonly known as Earth’s “sister planet.” The suite of films was produced by filmmaker and space exploration advocate Dave Brody P ’24. The main feature, “Venus: Death of a Planet,” the special feature, “Cloud Cities of Venus,” and the three short films of the “Exploring Venus Series,” can be viewed online through early September, and on the MagellanTV (broadly available through various streaming platforms).

In February, two spacecraft mission concepts co-developed by Gilmore to study Venus received second-round backing from NASA’s Discovery Program. Both concepts, which were awarded $3 million each, would assess whether Venus was ever a habitable planet by examining its landscape, rocks, and atmosphere.

Potemkina Wins Orchestral Programming Award

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina. Photo by Pavel Terpelets.

Nadya Potemkina (Photo by Pavel Terpelets)

Nadya Potemkina, adjunct associate professor of music, placed third in The American Prize competition, in the category of orchestral programming.

The American Prize—Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award in Orchestral Programming—honors the memory of the great Lithuanian conductor Maestro Vytautas Marijosius, who served as the music director of the Lithuanian State Opera and the director of orchestral activities at the Hartt School of Music. The prize recognizes and rewards “the best achievement in the unique field of orchestral programming, where the selection of repertoire by knowledgeable, creative and courageous music directors builds orchestras and audiences, educates young people and adults, and enriches the community,” according to the prize’s website.

At Wesleyan, violist Potemkina directs the Wesleyan University Orchestra and Concert Choir, coaches chamber ensembles, teaches instrumental conducting and orchestral literature, and is the music director of FluteFest and AD HOC BACH, both performance and community engagement initiatives.

She’s also served as an assistant conductor of The University of Memphis Orchestras, as the music director of Mid-South Young People’s Orchestras in Memphis, Tenn., and was a founding conductor of Memphis Occasional Orchestra, an all-volunteer community outreach ensemble.

This fall, she’s teaching Materials and Design (MUSC 103), Wesleyan Concert Choir (MUSC 436), and Wesleyan Orchestra (MUSC 439).

Hot off the Press: Ellen Thomas Co-Authors 3 New Papers

Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, is the co-author of:

Miocene evolution of North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature,” published in Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 35, in April 2020.

Extensive morphological variability in asexually produced planktic foraminifera,” published in Science Advances, 6, in July 2020.

Origin of a global carbonate layer deposited in the aftermath of the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary impact,” published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 548, in October 2020.

Shusterman Awarded $1.8M NSF Grant to Design and Test Preschool Math Games

Anna Shusterman

Anna Shusterman

Before children enter Kindergarten, they’re often interested in mathematical concepts like patterns, numbers, and logic. However, math remains under-supported in most preschool settings in the United States.

As a recipient of a $1.8 million grant by the National Science Foundation, Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman hopes to address this educational need by providing preschool settings with a research-based, developmentally appropriate, conceptually rich, flexible, and fun collection of math games that can be incorporated into any classroom.

“The preschool years have long been recognized as an opportune time to engage children in mathematical thinking, bootstrapping their natural curiosity and laying a foundation for future academic success and lifelong numeracy,” Shusterman said.

Her project, titled “Implementation and Efficacy Study of the Wesleyan Preschool Math Games,” has the potential to provide evidence for the benefits of incorporating a simple, playful set of materials into early childhood settings to increase children’s foundation for STEM learning.

Hot off the Press: New Papers by Hingorani, Tucker, Case PhD ’19

Manju Hingorani, visiting scholar in molecular biology and biochemistry, and Brandon Case PhD ’19 are co-authors of a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA in July 2020. The paper, titled “Recurrent mismatch binding by MutS mobile clamps on DNA localizes repair complexes nearby,” reports novel findings about the mechanism whereby MutS protein triggers initiation of DNA repair. The research at Wesleyan was supported by NIH grant R15 GM114743 awarded to Manju Hingorani. Case is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School.

Jennifer Tucker, associate professor of history, discusses the role of material culture and visual media in shaping how museums communicate histories of science and technology in an article titled “Guns, Germs, and Public History: A Conversation with Jennifer Tucker,” published July 8, 2020 in the Journal of The History of the Behavioral Sciences.

Ryan’s Courses Teach Effective Communication with Diverse Audiences

Sarah Ryan

Sarah Ryan

Sarah Ryan is Wesleyan’s first associate professor of the practice in oral communication. She is an interdisciplinary scholar and attorney whose research explores public deliberation, civic participation, and criminal justice reform. We spoke to her about her distinctive interdisciplinary background and why learning communication skills is important for students’ future success.

Your position, associate professor of the practice in oral communication, is a new one at Wesleyan. Can you please explain the genesis of this position, and what it adds to the Wesleyan curriculum?

Sarah Ryan: In 2017, Wesleyan received a Davis Educational Foundation grant to create a regional consortium on best practices in the teaching of oral communication skills. Discussions during that initial one-year planning grant led to the development of my position. I was hired in 2019 to teach undergraduate courses in oral communication and to serve as a resource to faculty and staff who want to teach debate, group discussion, interpersonal communication, public speaking, etc.

What did you teach this past year?

SR: This past year, I taught [courses titled] Diffusion of Innovation, Communicate for Good, and From Litigation to Restorative Justice. In Diffusion, students learned how to spread pro-social practices and technologies through planned communication. In Communicate for Good, students learned how to promote public good through storytelling, informational messaging, and persuasion. In From Litigation, students learned to negotiate for their own interests and collective gain.

You have quite an interesting background as an interdisciplinary scholar and attorney. Can you fill us in on your career path?

SR: As an undergrad at Capital University, I joined the debate team. My first topic was “more severe punishment for violent crime.” To win debates, we had to research policy, law, and ethics, and develop recommendations for change. I was hooked immediately. After graduation, I became an assistant debate coach and started graduate school at Ohio University. My master’s and doctoral work were on welfare policy and perceptions of women receiving government assistance.

One summer, I taught at a high school debate camp in Vermont and became close with my debaters. They urged me to come to their tournaments. They debated for the New York Urban Debate League (NYUDL). So, my college debaters and I started driving to New York City to NYUDL tournaments. Two years later, the NYUDL needed someone to run its after-school center. I landed the job, promised my PhD advisor that I would write a dissertation someday, and moved to the Bronx. During my time at the center, my students won the state championships and we traveled to Belarus on an international debate exchange. On the side, I wrote a public affairs curriculum for Baruch College.

Faculty Publish Books, Journal Articles

Several faculty have recently authored or co-authored books, book chapters, and articles that appear in prestigious academic journals.

BOOKS AND BOOK CHAPTERS

barnhart book

Book by Joslyn Barnhart

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Book translated by Susanne Fusso

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Book by Kari Weil

Joslyn Barnhart, assistant professor of government, is the author of The Consequences of Humiliation: Anger and Status in World Politics (Cornell University Press, 2020).

Susanne Fusso, Marcus L. Taft Professor of Modern Languages, is the translator of The Nose and Other Stories by Nikolai Gogol (Columbia University Press, 2020).

Ruth Johnson, associate professor of biology, is the author of a book chapter titled “Adhesion and the Cytoskeleton in the Drosophila Pupal Eye,” published in the book Molecular Genetics of Axial Patterning, Growth and Disease in the Drosophila Eye (Springer Science and Business Media, 2020).

Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, is the author of a chapter titled “Sacred Waters of Haitian Vodou: The Pilgrimage of Sodo,” published in Sacred Waters: A Cross-Cultural Compendium of Hallowed Springs and Holy Wells (Routledge, 2020).

Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters, is the author of the book Precarious Partners: Horses and Their Humans in Nineteenth-Century France (University of Chicago Press, 2020). She also wrote a book chapter titled “The Animal Novel That Therefore This Isn’t,” published in New Approaches to the Twenty-FirstCentury Anglophone Novel (Palgrave MacMillan, 2019).

 

JOURNAL ARTICLES

Lindsay Dolan, assistant professor of government, is the author of “Rethinking Foreign Aid and Legitimacy: Views from Aid Recipients in Kenya,” which was published in Studies in Comparative International Development 55(2) in 2020.

Ruth Johnson, associate professor of biology, and Joe Coolon, assistant professor of biology, are co-authors of “Mask, a Component of the Hippo Pathway, is Required for Drosophila Eye Morphogenesis,” published in Developmental Biology in August 2020. The study also is featured on the cover of Issue 464.

Bill Johnston, professor of history, is the author of “Epidemic Culture in Premodern Japan,” published June 23 by the Society for Cultural Anthropology, from the Series “Responding to an Unfolding Pandemic: Asian Medicines and Covid-19.”

Robert Lane, associate professor and chair of molecular biology and biochemistry, is the author of “Bioinformatics discovery of putative enhancers within mouse odorant receptor gene clusters,” published in Chemical Senses, 44(9), 2019.

Ioana Emy Matesan, assistant professor of government, is the author of “Grievances and Fears in Islamist Movements: Revisiting the Link between Exclusion, Insecurity, and Political Violence,” published in the Journal of Global Security Studies in 2020.

Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Manju Hingorani, visiting scholar in molecular biology and biochemistry, are the co-authors of “Mismatch Recognition by Msh2-Msh6: Role of Structure and Dynamics,” published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences on Aug. 31, 2019.

Anna Shusterman, associate professor of psychology, is the co-author of “Working in the Research-to-Practice Gap: Case Studies, Core Principles, and a Call to Action,” published in PsyArXiv on Sept. 23, 2019. Six Wesleyan students also are co-authors of the article.

Justine Quijada is the author of “From Culture to Experience: Shamanism in the Pages of the Soviet Anti-Religious Press,” published in Contemporary European History, Vol. 29, Special Issue 2 (Religion and Socialism in the Long 1960s: From Antithesis to Dialogue in Eastern and Western Europe), 2020.

View all faculty publications online here.