Faculty

OConnell Talks Ocean Exploration in Vox Podcast

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne OConnell

Suzanne OConnell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is featured on Vox Media’s podcast Unexplainable in a March 17 episode titled “Journey Toward the Center of the Earth.”

The podcast explores unanswered scientific questions about mysterious aspects of the world and examines what scientists are doing to find answers. The episode with OConnell delves into a 20th-century quest to drill into the Earth’s layers through the ocean, specifically to learn more about a very dense region between the crust and the mantle called the Mohorovičić discontinuity, or the Moho.

“Project Moho was a bust, but it lay a foundation for exploring the ocean, which hadn’t been done before,” OConnell said in the podcast. “We still don’t know that much about it, and every day, almost, we learn something so exciting and so important about our planet.”

OConnell explained that drilling into the ocean allowed scientists to learn about past life and climate on Earth and discover life in the remotest depths of the ocean floor.

“Drilling into the surface sediment, we had no idea what the surface sediment of the ocean was like, and it defined a whole new field of geoscience: paleoceanography,” OConnell said. “And there could be a whole new field of mantle rheology that could be discovered with more pieces of mantle material.”

Read an accompanying Vox article titled “How an ill-fated undersea adventure in the 1960s changed the way scientists see the Earth” online here.

 

Volcanic Lake Study by Varekamp, Former Students, Published in Geology

Joop Varekamp

Joop Varekamp

Johan “Joop” Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor in Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental studies, is the co-author of an article published in Geology, March 2021.

The study, titled “Volcanic Carbon Cycling in East Lake, Newberry Volcano, Oregon,” focuses on the bubbling East Lake, the site of the Newberry Volcano, and the geological implications of the carbon reactions happening there.

Varekamp co-authored the article with graduate student Christina Cauley and former students: Hilary Brumberg ’17, Lena Capece ’16, Celeste Smith ’19, Paula Tartell ’18, and Molly Wagner MA ’19. The team researched this geological phenomenon from 2015 to 2019, and they are currently preparing several longer papers on their Newberry lakes findings.

Varekamp’s research centers around volcanic lakes, mercury pollution, and rising sea levels.

Wightman Remembered for Being a Dedicated and Charismatic Teacher

Ann Wightman, professor of history, emerita, died on March 11 at the age of 70.

Wightman was born in South Euclid, Ohio. She earned her BA from Duke University and her MPhil and PhD from Yale. First arriving at Wesleyan as a visiting instructor in 1979, she remained here for 36 years until her retirement in 2015. Wightman was an accomplished scholar with a focus on Latin America. She felt that she found a “second home” doing research in the Andes, and she sought to capture the history of that region in her first book, Indigenous Migration and Social Change: The Foresteros of Cuzco, 1570-1720 (Duke University Press, 1990), which received the Herbert E. Bolton Memorial Prize for “the best English language book on any aspect of Latin American history.”

She was a mentor to many faculty and students, and a popular teacher. “Ann Wightman was an extraordinary and effective University colleague,” said Nathanael Greene, professor of history. “As a scholar, she won praise and prize; her teaching was uncommonly demanding but absolutely inspirational, and she was among the early recipients of the Binswanger Prize.”

Robert “Bo” Conn, professor of Spanish, said: “For decades students flocked to Ann’s courses. Walking around campus at reunion time with ‘Wightman,’ as students affectionately knew and even called her, was like walking around with a legend. They all had memories and stories of a dedicated and charismatic teacher who made Latin America come alive in the classroom with her brilliant lectures on colonialism, state formation, and cultural resistance, and who helped them to develop as critical thinkers and people.”

Wightman had a lasting impact on Wesleyan. She was instrumental in founding Wesleyan’s Center for the Americas, which brought the Latin American Studies and American Studies programs together as part of a common enterprise with shared, team-taught introductory courses.

“Ann was one of my best friends, and as colleagues, we worked together on creating the Center for the Americas,” said Patricia Hill, professor of American studies, emerita. “Ann was not only an admired colleague and teacher but a dear and best friend to many. She was devoted to the people of Wesleyan.”

Wightman is survived by her husband, Mal Bochner. Memorial contributions may be made to the Ann Wightman Scholarship Fund, c/o Wesleyan University Advancement, 291 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457, Attn: Jennifer Opalacz.

Wesleyan Experts Explore Benefits of Vaccination

vaccinations

On March 15, a panel of Wesleyan faculty and staff experts discussed the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine during a campus-wide webinar titled “Why Get Vaccinated?”

Speakers included Dr. Thomas McLarney, medical director of Davison Health Center; Donald Oliver, Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry; William Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History; and Frederick Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology. Janice Naegele, Alan M. Dachs Professor of Science, professor of biology, and Dean of the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Division moderated the discussion and welcomed questions from the audience.

Campus Community Explores “Truth (and Lies) in Our Time” During Shasha Seminar

shasha seminar 2021

During the 2021 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, held March 11–13, participants explored the topic of “Truth (and Lies) in Our Time.”

The Shasha Seminar is an annual educational forum for Wesleyan alumni, parents, and friends that provides an opportunity to explore issues of global concern in a small seminar environment. Endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, the Shasha Seminar supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues.

David McCraw, vice president and deputy general counsel for The New York Times, presented the Shasha Seminar’s keynote address titled “Lies and Liberty: The Future of Free Speech in a Divided America.”

“Think about the information ecosystem as a spring-fed lake,” McCraw said. “You need that spring, with its fresh water, to flow and replenish the lake. Think of that as vital public information. And you need to stop people who are polluting the lake. Think of that as disinformation and misinformation.”

Torres Named 2021 Classical Directing Fellow for Old Globe

Edward Torres

Edward Torres

Edward Torres, assistant professor of the practice in theater, was named an Old Globe 2021 Classical Directing Fellow.

Torres has directed multiple productions at the San Diego, Calif.-based Old Globe, including Familiar, Native Gardens, and Water by the Spoonful, as well as two readings for the Powers New Voices Festivals. He recently directed a podcast version of Macbeth for NEXT Podcast and Play On Shakespeare. Torres directed the premiere of Kristoffer Diaz’s The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Victory Gardens Theater and Teatro Vista, which won two Jeff Awards. He’s also the artistic director emeritus at Teatro Vista.

Led by artistic director Barry Edelstein, the Old Globe 2021 cohort includes Torres, Meg DeBoard, Yolanda Marie Franklin, and Awoye Timpo.

“COVID-19 forced us to postpone our Classical Directing Fellowship last year, and I am truly delighted that we’ve found a way to gather these four talented directors virtually and resume this exciting work,” Edelstein said in a statement. “Meg, Yolanda, Awoye, and Eddie are deeply gifted, and I know our week together will be full of discovery, growth, and great art.”

The fellowship focuses on Shakespeare’s text, how it is put together, and how it works in the imaginations and voices of American actors.

At Wesleyan, Torres is teaching THEA 183: The Actor’s Experience; THEA 381: Directing II; THEA 427: Performance Practice A; THEA 431: Performance Practice B; and THEA 433: Performance Practice C this spring semester.

4 Faculty Receive Tenure, Promotions

The following faculty were conferred tenure, effective July 1, 2021 by the Board of Trustees at its most recent meeting:

David Kuenzel, associate professor of economics; Michelle Personick, associate professor of chemistry; and Olga Sendra Ferrer, associate professor of Spanish.

In addition, one faculty member was promoted, effective July 1, 2020: Valerie Nazzaro, associate professor of the practice in quantitative analysis.

Brief descriptions of their areas of research and teaching appear below:

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel

David Kuenzel’s scholarship focuses on international trade and economic growth. In his research, he analyzes nations’ trade policies, trade flows, and economic growth in connection with the policies of institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) or with national political arrangements. He has published peer-reviewed papers in such prestigious journals as European Economic Review, Canadian Journal of Economics, Review of International Economics, Journal of Macroeconomics, and International Journal of Forecasting, and has co-authored International Monetary Fund (IMF) working and policy papers. Professor Kuenzel has been a visiting scholar at the IMF and the WTO. He offers courses on economic growth, macroeconomics, international trade, and economic theory.

Karageorgos’ Paper on T.S. Eliot and Joseph Brodsky Honored by AATSEEL

Nataliya Karageorgos

Nataliya (Natasha) Karageorgos

The American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) honored Nataliya Karageorgos, assistant professor of the practice in Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies, with the Best 2020 Slavic and East European Journal Article (SEEJ) award.

Karageorgos’ article, titled “‘A List of Some Observations’: The Theory and Practice of Depersonalization in T.S. Eliot and Joseph Brodsky,” was published in the Fall 2019, Volume 63, Issue 3 of SEEJ.

Karageorgos’ article argues that Joseph Brodsky’s use of depersonalization owes a lot to Brodsky’s readings of T.S. Eliot, and that Eliot’s role in Brodsky’s evolution has thus far been underestimated. She traces Brodsky’s engagement with Eliot during Brodsky’s youth and poetic maturation, effectively showing that, rather than merely topological coincidence, Brodsky’s use of depersonalization comes from a shared set of philosophical underpinnings.

Karageorgos specializes in 20th- and 21st-century Russian literature and links between Russian and Anglo-American literature. She’s currently working on a book titled Forbidden Attraction: Russian Poets Read T.S. Eliot During the Cold War. Her scholarly interests include poetry and poetics, cognitive linguistics, modernism, postmodernism, Cold War studies, and post-colonial studies.

Siry’s Book on Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture Published

Joe Siry BookJoseph Siry, Kenan Professor of the Humanities, professor of art history, is the author of Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 1890–1970 (Penn State University Press, February 2021).

According to the book’s abstract, Air-Conditioning in Modern American Architecture, 1890–1970 documents how architects made environmental technologies into resources that helped shape their spatial and formal aesthetic. In doing so, it sheds important new light on the ways in which mechanical engineering has been assimilated into the culture of architecture as one facet of its broader modernist project.

Tracing the development and architectural integration of air-conditioning from its origins in the late 19th century to the advent of the environmental movement in the early 1970s, Siry shows how the incorporation of mechanical systems into modernism’s discourse of functionality profoundly shaped the work of some of the movement’s leading architects, such as Dankmar Adler, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Gordon Bunshaft, and Louis Kahn. For them, the modernist ideal of functionality was incompletely realized if it did not wholly assimilate heating, cooling, ventilating, and artificial lighting. Bridging the history of technology and the history of architecture, Siry discusses air-conditioning’s technical and social history and provides case studies of buildings by the master architects who brought this technology into the conceptual and formal project of modernism.

Study by Snashall ’21, Poulos Published in Forests

Gabe Snashall ’21 and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Helen Poulos are the co-authors of “Oreos Versus Orangutans: The Need for Sustainability Transformations and Nonhierarchical Polycentric Governance in the Global Palm Oil Industry,” published in the Feb. 22 issue of Forests.

According to the paper’s abstract, “While the myriad benefits of palm oil as a food, makeup, and cleaning product additive drive its demand, globally, the palm oil industry remains largely unsustainable and unregulated. The negative externalities of palm oil production are diverse and devastating to tropical ecosystem integrity and human livelihoods in palm oil nations. Given the current trend in increasing sustainability and transparency in global supply chains, we suggest that sustainability policy reforms are feasible and have the potential to promote 21st-century U.S. and international sustainability standards. Polycentric governance may improve the attainment of sustainable global palm oil standards with a set of rules that interact across linear and nonlinear hierarchies and structures, thereby improving collaboration efforts, and increasing connectivity and learning across scales and cultures. Transformations towards sustainability in international palm oil governance has the potential to make valuable contributions to global sustainable development and improve the prosperity of poor rural communities in the tropics by providing a framework for achieving palm oil trade transparency and aligning the sustainability goals across a range of actors.”

Ostfeld ’10, MA ’12 Named a “40 Under 40”

Rosemary Ostfeld

Rosemary Ostfeld

Rosemary Ostfeld ’10, MA ’12, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies and public policy, was named to Connecticut Magazine’s 2021 “40 Under 40” list.

The 32-year-old from East Lyme, Conn., is the founder of Healthy PlanEat, a new sustainable food-tech startup that helps farmers who use sustainable growing practices sell their farm-fresh goods (whether fruits or veggies, cheese or oysters) directly to local customers.

Farmers using Healthy PlanEat—which enthusiastic members of the community helped start via a crowdfunding campaign—can upload inventory, set distribution options, and manage incoming orders. Customers can purchase food to pick up at the farms themselves, at farmers markets, at pop-up shop locations, or for delivery.

Ostfeld currently works with 14 USDA Certified Organic and Northeast Organic Farming Association Farmer’s Pledge farms in Connecticut and has plans to expand Healthy PlanEat throughout the Northeast.

She completed a BA/MA in biology and earth and environmental sciences at Wesleyan, an MPhil in environmental policy, and a PhD in land economy at the University of Cambridge as a Cambridge Trust Scholar. Her doctoral research focused on exploring the impact of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a multi-stakeholder initiative designed to improve environmental sustainability in the palm oil industry.

This spring, she is teaching CSPL 239: Startup Incubator; E&ES 197: Intro to Environmental Studies; and ENVS 125: Community Gardening.

3 Works of Poetry Nominated for NAACP Images Awards

NAACP

Three titles affiliated with Wesleyan were nominated for the 2021 NAACP Images Awards in the Outstanding Literary Work — Poetry category.

According to the NAACP, Image Awards celebrate “the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts and those who promote social justice through their creative work.”

Among the five nominees is Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (Four Way Books, 2020) written by John Murillo, assistant professor of English; The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan University Press, 2020) by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers; and Un-American (Wesleyan University Press, 2020) by Hafizah Geter.

The collections by Murillo, Jeffers, and Geter also are longlisted for the PEN Open Book Award. The PEN Open Book Award honors a work of fiction, literary nonfiction, biography/memoir, or poetry written by an author of color. The award was created by PEN America’s Open Book Committee, a group committed to racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities.

The 52nd NAACP Image Awards will air at 8 p.m. March 27 on BET. Non-televised award categories will livestream over five nights March 22–26.

The virtual ceremonies will recognize winners in more than 60 non-televised award categories in the fields of television and streaming, music, literature, film, and activism.