Society

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Washington Post: “How One College Is Helping Students Get Engaged in Elections—and, No, It’s Not Political”

President Michael Roth writes about Wesleyan’s initiative to engage students meaningfully in work in the public sphere ahead of the 2020 elections, and calls on other colleges and universities to do the same. He writes: “Now is the time for higher education leaders to commit their institutions to find their own paths for promoting student involvement in the 2020 elections. This kind of direct participation in civic life provides an educational benefit that will help students develop skills for lifelong active citizenship; participants will gain organizational skills, learn to engage productively with others with whom they disagree and learn about themselves.”

2. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: “Nicole Stanton Will Be the Next Provost at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut”

Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will begin her new role as Wesleyan’s 12th provost and vice president for academic affairs on May 15. She joined Wesleyan in 2007 as associate professor of dance, and currently serves as dean of the Arts and Humanities.

Watanabe Explores Japanese Historical Tale in New Book

flowering talesTakeshi Watanabe, assistant professor of East Asian studies, is the author of Flowering Tales: Women Exorcising History in Heian Japan, published by Harvard University Press in January 2020.

The book is the first extensive literary study of A Tale of Flowering Fortunes (Eiga monogatari), a historical tale that covers about 150 years of births, deaths, and happenings in late Heian society, a golden age of court literature in women’s hands.

According to the publisher:

Takeshi Watanabe contends that the blossoming of tales, marked by The Tale of Genji, inspired Eiga’s new affective history: an exorcism of embittered spirits whose stories needed to be retold to ensure peace.

Tracing the narrative arcs of politically marginalized figures, Watanabe shows how Eiga’s female authors adapted the discourse and strategies of The Tale of Genji to rechannel wayward ghosts into the community through genealogies that relied not on blood but on literary resonances. These reverberations, highlighted through comparisons to contemporaneous accounts in courtiers’ journals, echo through shared details of funerary practices, political life, and characterization. Flowering Tales reanimates these eleventh-century voices to trouble conceptions of history: how it ought to be recounted, who got to record it, and why remembering mattered.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. NPR: “Book Review: ‘The Movie Musical!’ Is a Symphony in Praise of the ‘Razzmatazz’ of the Genre”

“Encyclopedic in scope, but thankfully not in structure, The Movie Musicals! is a downright delightful read,” this NPR review of Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, Jeanine Basinger’s new book proclaims. The Movie Musicals! truly “dazzles” for its insight into the roles these films have played over the 20th century and into the 21st, the review states, noting, “And throughout the hefty volume, Basinger addresses—both directly and indirectly—the essential question at the heart of musicals: What compels us to suspend disbelief and accept, if not wholly enjoy, the fantastical idea of people spontaneously breaking into song? What does this sorcery say about the immersiveness of film, and the power of song, and the mechanism of the human imagination?”

2. BBC: “Galileo’s Lost Letter”

Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein is interviewed on “Discovery” from the BBC about the historical conflict between religion and science. “The notion that religion is somehow a backward, authoritarian, anti-rational opponent to science really comes at the end of the 19th century,” she says. There is a misperception that science and religious belief have to always be in conflict, but in actuality, Rubenstein says, it is “a battle between Protestants and Catholics that gets grafted onto and renewed as some sort of dispute between the secular and the religious.” Rubenstein comes in around 15:44 minutes.

3. PBS Newshour: “Why Haitians Say They Won’t Stop Protesting”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. CNN: “What the ‘Woke Student’ and the ‘Welfare Queen’ Have in Common”

“Every age seems to need a bogeyman, some negative image against which good people measure themselves,” writes President Michael Roth ’78 in this op-ed. Roth compares today’s bogeyman, the “woke” college student, with those of past eras—the “welfare queen” and “dirty hippie”—and seeks to build understanding and dispel negative misperceptions of activist college students. “The images of the welfare queen and of the woke student are convenient because they provide excuses to not engage with difference, placing certain types of people beyond the pale,” he writes. “These scapegoats are meant to inspire solidarity in a group by providing an object for its hostility (or derision), and educators and civic leaders should not play along.”

2. Los Angeles Times: “Opinion: Our Food Is Tainted with E. Coli, Yet the FDA Is Rolling Back Safety Rules”

As yet another food-borne E. coli outbreak sickens Americans, Fred Cohan, the Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment and professor of biology, and Isaac Klimasmith ’20, argue in this op-ed that more can and should be done to prevent dangerous contaminations of our food supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rolled back rules that “would have required monitoring and treating irrigation water for E. coli,” a major cause of these outbreaks. “We should not be surprised that a regulation-averse administration would disregard the science of food safety, but it is concerning that consumers have become complacent about yearly outbreaks of E. coli contamination and largely silent about the rollback of food safety regulations,” they write.

3. The Washington Post: “What Happens When College Students Discuss Lab Work in Spanish, Philosophy in Chinese or Opera in Italian?”

Stephen Angle, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, professor of philosophy, and the Mansfield Professor of East Asian Studies, is interviewed about Wesleyan’s efforts to promote language study, including the new Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) initiative, through which students can study a range of disciplines in other languages. For example, Angle teaches a Mandarin-language section of Classical Chinese Philosophy, a course historically taught in English. Read more about CLAC and Wesleyan’s language instruction here.

Classics/Archaeology Class Learns about Ancient Bronze Casting from Local Bladesmiths

class

Two professional bladesmiths taught Wesleyan students how to create weapons “the old fashioned way” on Oct. 24. The class, Single Combat in the Ancient World, is taught by Kate Birney, pictured second from left.

Students taking the CCIV/ARCP 153: Single Combat in the Ancient World course learned how to cast their own bronze sword and arrowhead during class on Oct. 24.

The process is a modern-day method of how weapons would have been crafted during the Late Bronze Age (3000 to 1200 BC).

The two-hour workshop was taught by Connecticut bladesmiths Barbara Wechter of Wechter Arms and Matt Berry of Hopkins Forge. Berry is a former contestant on History Channel’s “Forged in Fire.” While Berry heated molten bronze (copper and tin) to 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit, Wechter demonstrated how to build a mold from oil-based sand, a wooden box, and a sword-shaped form. After pouring the molten alloy into the form and letting it harden, Berry cooled the sword in a bucket of water. Within 10 minutes, students took turns passing around the six-pound object, which with additional crafting, could become a complete weapon.

They also cast Scythian arrowheads—a style known from the 6th century BC—using a lost-wax technique.

The class is taught by Kate Birney, chair of the Archaeology Program and associate professor of classical studies.

“One of the things that the CCIV/ARCP 153 course explores is the reciprocal relationship between weapons design and the rules of combat, and how changes in technology demand new rules. In a world where everything is bought off-the-shelf, students rarely have a chance to think about the relationship between technology and craftsmanship, and to appreciate the tremendous technical expertise that is required for every step of the process, from sourcing raw materials to making the base alloy to casting and finishing the final blade,” Birney said.

Experimental approaches like the workshop help students better understand the material properties of the artifacts they’ve been studying in class.

“It also drives home the extent to which the adoption of new technology was a big commitment—not like simply buying the next upgrade—one which required the movement of people, ideas, and a cultural commitment,” she said.

Photos of the casting demonstration are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. CT Post: “Former Wesleyan Provost is First Woman President at Hobart and William Smith Colleges”

Joyce Jacobsen, formerly Wesleyan’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs and the Andrews Professor of Economics, was inaugurated Oct. 18 as the first woman president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. At the ceremony, the chairman of the HWS Board of Trustees said: “Dr. Jacobsen enters the presidency of Hobart and William Smith at a time of increasing complexity in higher education both here on campus and nationally. It is my belief, and the unanimous belief of the Board of Trustees, that there is no one better to help us navigate this future than Dr. Joyce Jacobsen.” Read more coverage of the inauguration in Finger Lake Times.

2. Wilson Center Blog: “Victoria Smolkin: A History of Soviet Atheism”

In this Q&A, Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin discusses her book, A Sacred Space is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism. She explains how religion in the former Soviet states has changed since the fall of the Soviet Union, and offers a preview of her second book project. Smolkin was a Title VIII Research Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in 2014–15.

Taylor ’21 Speaks to Choate Juniors on the Importance of Mindfulness

Tyla Taylor '21 She joined Choate counseling office coordinator Susanna Stinnett; coach and Chaplain James Davidson; Yale student Abigail Grimes, and Mindfulness Instructor Amanda Votto,

Tyla Taylor ’21, pictured second from left, served as a panelist for a discussion on “A Mindfulness Meditation Approach to Managing Stress” at Choate Rosemary Hall. Other panelists included, from left, Chaplain James Davidson, Yale student Abigail Grimes, Choate counseling office coordinator Susanna Stinnett; and mindfulness instructor Amanda Votto.

Tyla Taylor '21

Tyla Taylor ’21

By grounding oneself in the present moment, mindfulness can help create a free, calm, and content space without any judgment.

Tyla Taylor ’21, the mindfulness intern for Wesleyan’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, is working to share the practice of mindfulness with the campus community and beyond.

“Our minds are often going at full speed planning the next move, and the one after that,” Taylor said. “For me, mindfulness is paying attention to whatever is happening in the present moment, with compassion and non-judgment. From my own practice, I’ve seen how it’s made me a kinder friend, a more attentive student, and better able to handle situations that are thrown at me that are out of my control.”

On Oct. 15, Taylor was invited to Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, Conn., to speak on a panel titled “A Mindfulness Meditation Approach to Managing Stress.” Taylor shared her experience and knowledge of mindfulness with more than 150 high school juniors.

“I brought up how mindfulness has helped me feel more engaged with whatever I’m doing in my life—my school work, spending time with friends, extracurriculars—and helps me navigate and feel like I have power and agency when something comes up in my life that makes me feel out of control,” she explained.

Having attended an independent college prep day school for her own high school education, Taylor hoped to connect with the students on a personal level. She spoke about the stressors students face on a daily basis.

“Mindfulness was a practice that I dabbled with in high school but didn’t take seriously until college, and I tried to let them know why it is important, and how I wish I had had this tool in high school as well,” she said. “For example, when you get a bad grade in high school, it’s easy to catastrophize and think, ‘This is so bad. I’m not smart. I’ll never get into that great college, etc.’ Mindfulness can help them detach from this thought that is creating a negative emotion, and understand how that unpleasant emotion isn’t who they are, but rather a temporary state that will pass.”

Taylor, who is majoring in psychology and minoring in education studies, also is a residential advisor for West College Residence Hall. As part of her mindfulness intern responsibilities, Taylor leads Mindful Wes, a group that meets weekly for mindfulness-based meditation sessions.

She also brings different speakers to campus and hosts events related to mindfulness. Last spring, Mindful Wes ran an “Unplugging Event” and challenged students to give up their phones for one day.

“My favorite testimony after the event was that one student reduced—and maintained afterward—her phone usage from eight hours a day to two hours a day,” Taylor said.

Additionally, as a volunteer component to the job, Taylor started an initiative at Middletown’s Farm Hill Elementary School, where she leads mindfulness exercises twice a week for two different classes. She recently taught a lesson on recognizing emotions. After that class, a fourth-grade student reported back to Taylor that when his sister had made him angry by taking his toy, instead of hitting her back like he usually would have, he took three mindful breaths and then walked away.

“It’s never too young for children to start mindfulness meditation,” she said. “It can help with their academic achievement, concentration, emotional control, and overall resilience towards stress.”

For more information, contact Mindful Wes.

Indian Sarod Master Performs at Wesleyan’s 43rd Annual Navaratri Festival

Wesleyan’s 43rd Navaratri Festival, held Oct. 10-14, celebrated traditional Indian music and dance.

2019 Navaratri Festival events included:

    • A colloquium focusing on “Re-sounding Islam—Marking Religious and Aesthetic Pluralism in the Historiography of South Indian Music.”
    • The Saraswati Puja (Hindu ceremony), where audience members bring instruments, manuscripts, and other items for blessing.
    • “The Sarod Trilogy” by Amjad Ali Khan.
    • The Bhojanam (feast) featuring vegetarian Indian delicacies.
    • “The Courtesan Dance” from South India by guest performer Yashoda Thakore.
    • “Vocal Music of South India” by vocalist and Adjunct Associate Professor of Music B. Balasubrahmaniyan and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music David Nelson on mridangam and violinist Nandini Viswanathan.
    • A free interactive presentation of the fundamental concepts of Indian classical music, and how the practice of composition continually helps to preserve both tradition and musical technique.

The festival was presented by the Center for the Arts, Music Department, and Dance Department, with leadership support from the Madhu Reddy Endowed Fund for Indian Music and Dance at Wesleyan University, and additional support from the Jon B. Higgins Memorial Fund.

Grammy Award-nominated sarod (19-stringed instrument) master Amjad Ali Khan performed “Sarod Trilogy” Oct. 10 as part of the 43rd Navaratri Festival at Wesleyan.

Khan was joined by his sarod-playing sons Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash, along with tabla player Amit Kavthekar. Khan was born into the sixth generation of the illustrious lineage of the Senia-Bangash school of music, and is credited with reinventing the technique of playing the sarod, which means “melody” in Persian.

Photos of the “Sarod Trilogy” performance are below: (Photos by Rich Marinelli)

"Sarod Trilogy"

"Sarod Trilogy"

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Nation: “Edward Snowden Deserves to Be Tried by a Jury of His Peers, Just Like Everyone Else”

In this op-ed, Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti argues against the Justice Department’s decision to deny Edward Snowden’s request for a jury trial. She contends that in Snowden’s case, in which he is accused of leaking classified information from the National Security Administration in 2013, a jury trial “is not only a viable alternative to a hearing before a judge; rather, given the nature of the charges—where the defendant has supposedly acted to protect the people from the very state that would charge him with a crime—jury deliberation is the proper forum for discussion of appropriate punishment and is the bulwark against the potential misconduct of the state.”

2. Transitions Online: “Stuck in the Middle”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, and Dmytro Babachanakh ’20 explore the history of U.S. involvement in Ukraine, and call upon U.S. leaders of both parties to stop “treating lesser powers as political instruments.”

3. Tulsa World: “Save the Little Grouse on the Prairie”

Alex Harold ’20 is the author of this op-ed that calls for the lesser prairie chicken to be placed on the endangered species list to get the protections it desperately needs, as over 90 percent of its habitat has been degraded or destroyed. While many haven’t heard of this bird, Harold explains that it is an “indicator species” that “reflect(s) the health of the entire prairie ecosystem.” Harold wrote the op-ed as an assignment in E&ES 399, Calderwood Seminar in Environmental Science Journalism, taught by Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell, this semester. The Calderwood Seminars are offered in a variety of disciplines to teach students how to effectively communicate academic knowledge to the public. Read more here.

Miniature Artworks Displayed at Into the Image Exhibit

The exhibit titled Into the Image is on display at the Davison Art Center (DAC) through Nov. 24. This exhibition of miniature artworks—drawn entirely from the Davison Art Center collection—features objects made across several centuries and includes examples by Rembrandt van Rijn and Henri Matisse.

On Oct. 10, Miya Tokumitsu, DAC curator, and Andy Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek and Professor of Classical Studies, led a gallery talk during the opening reception.

Into the Image will be the final exhibition in the Davison Art Center’s current gallery at 301 High Street. A new gallery will be constructed between Olin Library and the Public Affairs Center over the next few years.

Photos of the opening reception are below: (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

exhibit
exhibit

Aleshkovsky Discusses Novels With Translator White, Editor Fusso

On Sept. 27, the award-winning contemporary Russian writer Yuz Aleshkovsky sat down with two collaborators and former colleagues, Duffield White and Susanne Fusso, at the RJ Julia Bookstore to discuss the publication in English of his novels, Nikolai Nikolaevich and Camouflage.

On Sept. 27, the award-winning contemporary Russian writer Yuz Aleshkovsky (third from left) sat down with two collaborators and former colleagues, Duffield White and Susanne Fusso (left), at the RJ Julia Bookstore to discuss the publication in English of his novels, Nikolai Nikolaevich and Camouflage. Pictured at right is Yuz’s wife, Irina Aleshkovsky, adjunct professor of Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies.

Born in 1929 in Krasnoyarsk, Aleshkovsky grew up in Moscow and served in the Soviet Navy. He was imprisoned for three years on a petty criminal charge and released after the death of Stalin led to a general amnesty. He published children's books but became best known for his songs and novels circulated in samizdat (the underground network of censored literature in the USSR). Aleshkovsky left the Soviet Union in 1979, and the following year Wesleyan sponsored his entry into the United States, where he was invited to serve as Visiting Russian Writer in Wesleyan's Russian Department.

Born in 1929 in Krasnoyarsk, Aleshkovsky grew up in Moscow and served in the Soviet Navy. He was imprisoned for three years on a petty criminal charge and released after the death of Stalin led to a general amnesty. He published children’s books, but became best known for his songs and novels circulated in samizdat (the underground network of censored literature in the USSR). Aleshkovsky left the Soviet Union in 1979, and the following year Wesleyan sponsored his entry into the United States, where he was invited by Priscilla Meyer, professor of Russian language and literature, emerita, to serve as visiting Russian writer in Wesleyan’s Russian Department.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. The Hill: “Analysis: 2020 Digital Spending Vastly Outpaces TV Ads”

The Hill reports on a new analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project, which finds that 2020 presidential hopefuls have spent nearly six times more money on Facebook and Google advertising than on TV ads. President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee lead the way in digital advertising, having spent nearly $16 million so far. All told, Facebook and Google have raked in over $60 million on online ads this cycle to date. “At this stage in the campaign, candidate spending is driven by supporter list-building and investing heavily to secure enough donors to qualify for the Democratic debates,” explained Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

2. Religion News Service: “Sixty Years Later, Only Frank Lloyd Wright Synagogue Continues as ‘Work of Art'”

Joe Siry, Kenan Professor of the Humanities and professor of art history, speaks about Beth Sholom Synagogue, the only synagogue designed by the distinguished architect Frank Lloyd Wright, on the 60th anniversary of its opening. Siry is an expert on Wright’s work, and the author of Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture (The University of Chicago Press, 2011). Read an interview with Siry about the book.

3. KERA “Think”: “Do Colleges Really Need Safe Spaces?”

President Michael Roth joins host Kris Boyd for a wide-ranging conversation in connection with his book Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. They discuss Roth’s ideas of how to balance students’ needs to feel safe and included on college campuses while keeping them open to exploring new ideas, as well as common misunderstandings about the concept of “safe spaces,” and the effects of the backlash against political correctness. Roth also recently spoke about his book on Tablet Magazine’s “Unorthodox” podcast. (Roth comes in around 49 minutes).

4. WTIC “Todd Feinberg”: “Richard Grossman”

Richard Grossman, professor and chair of economics, is interviewed about what’s going on with the US economy, why he’s not too worried about prolonged low interest rates, concerns over a recession, and what can be done to fix income inequality.

5. Exhale Lifestyle: “Award-Winning Boston Filmmaker Sparks Conversations About Change”

This profile describes how Tracy Heather Strain, professor of the practice in film studies and co-director of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, became a filmmaker specifically because she wanted to make a film about her longtime idol, Lorraine Hansberry. Like Hansberry, the author of the monumental play A Raisin in the Sun, about black families living under racial segregation in Chicago, Strain is “concerned with contemporary society’s obvious injustices.” Strain earned a Peabody Award for her 2017 documentary about Hansberry, Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.

Alumni in the News

1. Chicago Sun-Times: “The Music of Alsarah & The Nubatones Transcends Borders, Cultures”

Mary Houlihan profiles Sarah Elgadi ’04, noting, “From a young age, Alsarah, who fronts the Brooklyn group Alsarah & the Nubatones, found refuge in music.” Elgadi was 12 when her family arrived in United States. “Now, years later, the 37-year-old singer, songwriter, bandleader and ethnomusicologist (she has a degree from Wesleyan University) has forged a career with ties to her background, bringing a fresh sound to world music.”

2. Eureka Alert: ”Study: Adults’ Actions, Successes, Failures, and Words Affect Young Children’s Persistence”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science reports on the study led by Julia A. Leonard ’11, MindCore postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, who observes: “Our work shows that young children pay attention to the successes and failures of the adults around them and, reasonably, don’t persist long at tasks that adults themselves fail to achieve.”

3. Boston.gov: “Dr. Taylor Cain [’11] Appointed to Lead Boston’s Housing Innovation Lab”

In the release announcing her appointment, Cain said: “As the new director, I cannot wait to grow the threads of this work. I am looking forward to partnering with the many communities that care deeply about housing in Boston and exploring projects that grapple with the connections between housing, transportation, employment, and other important dimensions of urban life.”

4. NPR.org: “How UAW’s Strike Against GM May Affect Ford and Fiat-Chrysler”

In this interview with New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse ’73, P’08, author of Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present and Future of American Labor, NPR host David Greene asks about the strike that the United Automobile Workers union launched earlier this month in more than 30 factories after failing to reach a deal with GM.

5. Core77: ”frog’s Francois Nguyen [’94] is Actively Helping Shape What the Future Looks Like

Writer Alexandra Alexa notes in this interview—which is part of a series on the presenters in this year’s Core77 Conference, exploring the future of the design industry—that Nguyen was one of the lead designers of the original “Beats Studio” headphones by Dr. Dre. She writes: “Even when he’s not working, Francois Nguyen never really stops envisioning what the world might look like. More than a decade into his industrial design career, Nguyen knows a thing or two about staying resilient and nimble as the discipline changes.”

6. International Examiner: “‘Carrie Yamaoka [’79]: recto/verso’ is Not So Much About What You See as How it Happens

Susan Kunimatsu writes about the artist’s retrospective, currently at University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery through Nov. 3: “Yamaoka is fascinated with transformations, like the moment when exposed photo paper hits the developing chemical and an image starts to appear. Many of her artworks are about capturing that moment.”