Staff

Employees Recognized for Years of Service to Wesleyan

Joyce Topshe

Associate Vice President for Facilities Joyce Topshe is celebrating her 20th year working at Wesleyan. She credits her love for the job to a “lifelong passion” for design and construction. LEGOs, Lincoln Logs, and Etch A Sketch were among her favorite childhood toys. “I am so lucky to be getting paid to do the things I love and with people that I care about,” she said.

For 19 years, Joyce Topshe took on the role of managing Wesleyan’s construction services, environmental services, rental properties, and Physical Plant-Facilities.

Now in her 20th year of working at Wesleyan, the associate vice president for facilities is powering through “the most challenging year of my career,” she said. “As we approach the end of the fall semester during a raging pandemic, I am feeling like we almost won the World Series. My entire team has worked exhaustively to make our campus safe during the pandemic, and I am so grateful to every member of my team for staying the course despite the challenges and concerns that the pandemic brought.”

Topshe, a member of Wesleyan’s Pandemic Planning Committee and the Campus Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT), helped oversee the COVID-19 testing operation on campus and was heavily involved with the University’s reopening plans last fall.

Despite the pandemic, Topshe “continues to love coming to work every day because I enjoy the people that I work with,” she said. “Many of us have been working together for the entire time and we have this incredible sense of ownership and loyalty to our Wesleyan community, to each other, and even more so to the students that we serve. I enjoy working as a team and I am grateful for my talented colleagues who have contributed to the wonderful accomplishments that our team has achieved. I can’t believe that it has been 20 years since I joined Wesleyan. It is true that time flies when you are having fun.”

Makaela Kingsley '98

Makaela Kingsley ’98, who is celebrating her 20th year “I value my Wesleyan people deeply for the ways they support me, challenge me, and make my days tremendously enjoyable,” she said.

Like Topshe, Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, also is celebrating her 20th year working at Wesleyan. She recalls being serenaded by the Wesleyan Spirits, an engagement party hosted by her manager, ski trips, the last-minute Barack Obama campus visit in 2008, and being entrusted to grow the newly established Patricelli Center.

Working at Wes during a Pandemic: Hurteau Helps Science Library Adapt to New Social Distancing Guidelines

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically affected the way faculty teach, students learn, and staff work to help the University. In this article, we spotlight Linda Hurteau, Science Library assistant, who has helped make the library a safe environment for patrons and staff alike.

The once busy and bustling Science Library, which stays open until 2 a.m. to accommodate those who study late into the night, is open for service this fall semester. However, the pandemic has drastically changed the way students interact with and use the library. And no one knows this better than Science Library Assistant Linda Hurteau, a 16-year veteran of Wesleyan Libraries.

“Most people are aware that Sci Li has always been the ‘noisy library’ because, from the basement to the second floor, the building is basically designed for students to be more social and group-study-friendly,” Hurteau said. “Without the ability to study in groups during this semester, we have less student traffic, and it feels very different and much quieter.”

Prior to the pandemic, Hurteau would come to campus prepared for a busy day of dealing with the remnants of the day before: searching for requested books, fixing jammed printers, maintaining copiers, working with fines and fees, putting furniture back where it belongs, and dealing with various building issues.

“I’d deal with so many students every day, and as any student who used the Science Library knows, we are a science library and supply store in one. We had always had available for any student pencils, pens, markers, staplers, scissors, folders, envelopes, and just about any other office supply they needed for their classwork. Obviously, lots of unseen projects are always happening, with library materials coming in and out and back on the shelf.”

But nowadays, Hurteau has altered her daily routine to emphasize keeping her library community safe.

Although students continue to frequent Sci Li to use public computers and printers, or to study or relax, the facility’s capacity may not exceed 50 percent. All library-goers and library staff wear masks at all times and practice social distancing.

Like students who first arrived on campus, the books also go through a quarantine period (of four days) before being recirculated. “We have the book stacks closed or off-limits at this time, and I think many students actually prefer it this way,” Hurteau said. “They request their books online, and we have them ready for students to grab and go in the lobby.”

The circulation desk is now lined with a clear, plexiglass wall to provide the staff and student workers with separation from the public. And the library’s lobby was reconfigured, by Hurteau, to allow for a safe and redirected traffic flow. You simply follow the oversized arrows.

“I have designed and constructed many parade floats on land and water for various holidays or other reasons. Anybody who works with large-scale temporary mediums knows we use lots of duct tape, cardboard, and zip ties,” she said. “I must have 50 different colors of duct tape. Using a couple carpet runners and those under-your-desk-chair carpet protectors, and making bright neon arrows out of duct tape on them, gets attention. It works very well for us.”

Hurteau credits the operating successes of the Science Library and Olin Library during the pandemic to early planning. Library staff began COVID-19 discussions as early as February and developed hypothetical scenarios and talked out various solutions to potential problems.

“Despite what some people may think, library people are very adaptable,” Hurteau said. “We knew we needed to successfully finish the semester.”

Hurteau recalls discussing how faculty could have all their course content available online; how the libraries could accommodate students’ needs in their pursuit to finish the academic year and earn their degree; how to deal with late books and waiving fines; how the campus community would retrieve their library materials; and who would and could work remotely.

“It was very obvious from the start that most of the circulation and reserve staff would still need to come to campus and work in the buildings. Once everything settled down from the spring 2020 semester, the digital requests for fall 2020 started coming in. Tons of scanning is still being done to upload for faculty course requests and reserves.”

Hurteau worked from home full-time for only two weeks and continued to manage 40 student workers through emails and Zoom meetings. “Once it was decided that the Science Library could offer many of the services we previously had through contactless means, it was (almost) business as usual,” she said.

In addition to working at the Science Library, Hurteau volunteers as a team captain for Wesleyan’s Campus Community Emergency Response Team (C-CERT).

“CERT members and Physical Plant staff have been . . . unsung heroes to many during this time,” she said. “Since the beginning of the pandemic and up until two days ago, it was mostly CERT members who would deliver breakfast, lunch, and dinner to students in quarantine on- and off-campus and be responsible for all the PPE kits on campus, from ordering and filling the bags, to distributing them to students, staff, and faculty. CERT members also would be the people on campus at 6 a.m., setting up the COVID testing tent, and in the evenings they would be the ones to pack it up for the day.”

Lock Shop’s Sean Higgins Remembered for Helping Keep Wes Safe

Sean Higgins

Sean Higgins worked at Wesleyan for 16 years.

Sean Higgins, Wesleyan’s Lock Shop foreman, passed away suddenly on Sept. 25. He was 60 years old.

Higgins worked for Wesleyan’s Physical Plant for 16 years maintaining the physical security of the campus where he insured the safety of students, faculty, and staff.

According to his obituary in The Middletown Press, Higgins “showed his love in the form of full-body hugs, homemade pasta sauce, big family breakfasts, and a shared Guinness, no matter the time of day. He loved to hate the New York Giants, indulged in bad action films, and never turned down helping someone in need. His quick wit and humor never failed to spark a giggle or a smile; his mischievous nature kept everyone on their toes, waiting for the next surprise. Sean’s protective demeanor, endless patience, and unquestioning support will leave a gaping hole in the lives of those who loved him most.”

Higgins found solace on the golf course and was very involved in the Wesleyan Open Golf Association, which annually raised funds for charity.

Friends may call at The Ahern Funeral Home, 111 Main St., Rt. 4, Unionville, Conn. on Wednesday, Sept. 30 from 4 to 8 p.m. Funeral procession from The Ahern Funeral Home will be Thursday, Oct. 1 at 9:45 a.m. followed by the Funeral Liturgy in the Church of St. Dominic, 1050 Flanders Road, Southington, at 10:30. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Southington Bread for Life, PO Box 925, Southington, CT 06489.To send online condolences to the family, visit www.ahernfuneralhome.com

Gonzalez Discusses How COVID-19 Has Changed College Admission

Amin Gonzalez

VP and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96. (Photo by Adrienne Battistella)

In late June, Wesleyan was among more than 300 colleges and universities to issue a joint statement, “Care Counts in Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19,” organized by the Making Caring Common Project and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The movement underscores a commitment to equity and to encouraging students to balance self-care, meaningful learning, and care for others. We spoke to Wesleyan’s Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96 about this shared commitment, as well as how admissions at Wesleyan has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has obviously affected just about every realm of everyday life. How has it impacted high school students and the college admission process?

The disruptions caused by the pandemic have significantly set back students who were on a traditional trajectory of exploring colleges. Junior year spring is typically a launching point for students to research and visit schools, but this spring most college campuses were closed to visitors. With regard to their high school experiences, not only were academics and extracurricular activities interrupted—you can imagine the impact on student-athletes and talented musicians who plan to pursue these passions in college—but students were largely cut off from peers and adults who help them grow and think through important questions about their future. We’re also finding that inequities amongst students are being exacerbated by the pandemic, and that’s only going to become more pronounced over time.

Rich Honored Posthumously with the 2020 Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Employee Prize

brooke rich

Bon Appétit cashier Brooke Rich, center, pictured here with her three children, is the posthumous recipient of Wesleyan’s 2020 Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Employee Prize. Rich died March 4.

Brooke Rich, a former employee of Wesleyan’s food service provider Bon Appétit Management Co., was honored posthumously with Wesleyan’s 2020 Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Employee Prize.

The award was created in 2009 in memory of Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ‘03, who pursued social justice while a student at Wesleyan. Morgenstern-Clarren’s activism included securing benefits for Wesleyan custodial staff, participating in the United Student and Labor Action Committee, and contributing his leadership to the campus chapter of Amnesty International.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

  1. Inside Higher Ed: “Contagious Civic Engagement”

In this essay, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth ’78 calls for a “virtuous contagion” to stimulate voting and other forms of civic engagement among young people, and writes about how this can still be possible at a time of social distancing. “The best way to attack cynicism, apathy or voter suppression is through authentic civic engagement between elections,” he writes. “One of the great things about this kind of engagement is that it is contagious. As we replicate efforts to bring people into the political process, we create habits of engagement and participation. Concern for the public sphere—like a virus—can spread. Usually this happens through face-to-face interaction, but now we must turn to virtual tools—notorious in recent years for being deployed to misinform or stir hatred—to strengthen networks for democracy.”

2. WSHU Public Radio’s “Off the Path from New York to Boston”: “Be(a)man”

Visiting Assistant Professor of African American Studies Jesse Nasta ’07 is interviewed for this NPR podcast, which examines the histories behind sites from New York to Boston. He discusses the Beman family, who founded the Beman Triangle neighborhood of freed African American slaves, as well as Middletown’s African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. “There’s so much amnesia around New England slavery,” said Nasta. “But the other part of it is how [the Bemans] emerged from enslavement by the 1800s, built free communities, built free churches, forged the Underground Railroad. And if you think about it, the church that they founded is still going strong two centuries later.”

3. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education: “Celebrating Women in the Academy”

Associate Professor of Chemistry Erika Taylor, who serves as faculty director of the McNair Program, is honored as one of the Top 35 Women in Higher Education. The profile notes: “Her research group has included over 75 students to date, spanning high schoolers to Ph.D. students, with women and other underrepresented students comprising more than three-quarters of her lab members. In addition to her research, she has been a passionate advocate for diversity, lending time and energy to provide opportunities in science for female, minority and low-income students. Taylor was awarded the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching for her passion and dedication to supporting the academic and personal development of all of her students. Her track record of mentoring diverse students culminated in being named Wesleyan University’s McNair Program faculty director in 2018. Beyond Wesleyan, she founded and continues to run a Girls in Science camp for elementary through middle school aged girls, which highlights the diversity of women that exists in science and raises funds to enable nearly half of the students to participate tuition free.”

4. Associated Press: “Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime? Echoes of ’30s in Viral Crisis?”

Richard Grossman, professor and chair of economics, spoke to the AP for an article comparing the current economic crisis, sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the Great Depression of the 1930s.“There are more levers now for the government,” he said. “There’s a lot now that the government can do that it wouldn’t even have thought of doing in the 1930s.” One example is a rarely used 1950s-era level that Trump invoked last week, the Defense Production Act, which empowers the government to marshal private industry to accelerate production of key supplies in the name of national security.

5. The New Yorker: “Breaking Transmission: The Fight Against the Coronavirus Offers a Strategy for Cutting Carbon”

Citizen Outlaw, a book by Charles Barber, writer-in-residence in Letters, was cited in this article on interrupting cycles to solve serious problems as diverse as gang violence, the coronavirus, and climate change. “Jumping in at exactly the right time makes all the difference,” explains Barber, who has written extensively on mental-health and criminal-justice issues. He cites studies showing that, otherwise, a single death can lead to a cascade of violence. In an Illinois study, for instance, “a single incident . . . was linked through the victim’s social networks to 469 separate violent incidents.”

6. The Hartford Courant: “Learning from Home and Learning from School Have a Lot in Common”

In this op-ed, Associate Professor of Psychology Steve Stemler offers advice to parents who are now responsible for educating their children at home due to COVID-19-related school shutdowns. Drawing on his research on the purpose of school, he writes: “Many school districts are providing families with some form of online curriculum that includes instruction on all the academic subjects covered in schools. But, as educators know, schools strive to develop not just strong readers and mathematicians but also humans who are emotionally resilient and socially capable, who will contribute to the world as good citizens. Parents may have more to teach their children than they think.”

7. The New York Review of Books: “Pandemic Journal: Michael S. Roth, Middletown, Connecticut

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth ’78 wrote a first-person account of the impact that COVID-19 has had on the University. He said, “Wesleyan is a residential school, one with a strong sense of engaged and community-based learning. Now, faculty are giving seminars and singing lessons at a distance, but we all know that the fabric of liberal education here comes from mutual entanglement.”

Alumni in the News

1. NPR: “David Biello: A Journey Into Uncharted Territory

In this experimental episode of TED Radio Hour, TED Science Curator David Biello ’95 takes listeners to uncharted places, such as outer space, the deep ocean, and our own brains.

2. Rolling Stone: “‘Blow the Man Down’: A Maine Noir with Money, Murder and Matriarchy

The debut feature film from Bridget Savage Cole ’05 and Danielle Krudy ’07, now streaming on Amazon, is reviewed. The New England noir’s review is favorable: “Blow the Man Down winds its way around the notion that behind every small town’s facade is a whole mess of secrets.”

3. Jazz Journal: “Chris Dingman: Embrace

Chris Dingman ’02 was interviewed about his latest album, Embrace. Embrace received a good review in the article. The album was referred to as “a beautifully warm ensemble sound, and the publicity cites influences from West African traditions and South Indian music, which Dingman has studied.”

4. Cord Cutters News: “Apple’s First Original Movie ‘The Banker’ Is Now Available to Stream

AppleTV+ released its first major movie, The Banker, starring Samuel L. Jackson, produced by Joel Viertel ’97. The article says, “The strong acting seems to be enough to carry the film – it got a 100% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. USA Today: “America Has a History of Lynching, but it’s Not a Federal Crime. The House Just Voted to Change That”

Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language Ashraf Rushdy is interviewed on the topic of legislation that would make lynching a federal crime. In the interview he called lynching “the original hate crime.” “Lynching is a blot on the history of America,” he said. “But it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

2. The New York Times: “Starbucks Baristas Accuse Service Company of Abuse and Pay Gaps”

Associate Professor of Sociology Jonathan Cutler is interviewed about transgender issues in labor organizations as immigrant, transgender, and black baristas face discrimination at airport Starbucks. “Organized labor often lives or dies by its ability to tap into broader social movements,” he said. “In this case, you’re seeing the most public effort to organize around transgender issues.”

3. The Washington Post: “Does Money Even Matter? And Other Questions You May Have About Bloomberg’s Half-Billion-Dollar Failed Candidacy”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News
1. The Open Mind: “Democratizing the Jury”

Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti is interviewed in connection with her new book, Radical Enfranchisement in the Jury Room and Public Life, in which she offers a “full-throated defense of juries as a democratic institution.” “I am very interested in how ordinary people engage with political institutions, and juries are the place where ordinary people have the most power,” she says. Chakravarti calls for more robust civic education, continuing into adulthood, in order to have a “more effective, modern jury system.”

2. Hartford Courant: “Sen. Murphy, Aiming to Expand Pell Grant Eligibility for Incarcerated Students, Hears from Inmates at York Correctional Institution”

Senator Chris Murphy, who is the co-sponsor of a bill to expand the federal Pell grant program for college students to include inmates, met with 11 inmates who have participated in educational programs at York Correctional Institution through the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education and other college-in-prison programs.“What’s important about the REAL Act is that college affordability should be accessible to all students regardless of where they are,” said CPE program manager Allie Cislo. “It’s one thing rhetorically to commit to reentry,” she said, but resources like educational programs “can make or break it for people.”

3. American Theatre: “Digging for New Roots”

This article on “climate change theatre” features Ocean Filibuster, a play by Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl through her theater company, PearlDamour. Commenting on the play’s premise, in which a new Senate bill proposes sentencing the world’s oceans to death and the ocean stands to speak in its own defense, Pearl said, “We thought, well, what if the ocean finally got fed up with taking all of our crap, and started talking and didn’t stop until we actually shut up and listened?” American Theatre, a leading publication in the theater industry, writes: “Ocean Filibuster recalibrates the human experience by reminding us of the comparatively small scale and depth of our own existence.”

Coach Black Inducted Into New England Wrestling Hall of Fame

Drew Black

Drew Black

Wesleyan wrestling head coach Drew Black was inducted into the New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) Hall of Fame Jan. 19 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, R.I. The induction ceremony was held in conjunction with the NEWA Dual Meet Championships.

Black is the only coach in the 2020 NEWA Hall of Fame Induction Class. He’ll was joined by former wrestlers Joseph Adam of Trinity, Brian Glatz of WPI, and John Marsh of Bridgewater State, as well as contributor Dwayne Dawson of Western New England.

“To be called a coach is an honor. Coaching at Wesleyan is an honor and it has been a tremendous and impactful life experience for me. I want to thank John Biddiscombe for believing in me and hiring me 22 years ago,” Black said. “It is great to work for and work with people at Wesleyan who care about the sport of wrestling. Someone once said, ‘A coach impacts more lives in one year than most people do in their lifetime.’ I hope I have been able to make a positive impact on our Wesleyan wrestlers’ lives and I look forward to continuing to do so for many more years ahead.”

Black is in his 22nd year at the helm of the Wesleyan wrestling program and 26th year coaching overall. He is the winningest coach in Wesleyan wrestling history (which began in 1934), and entered the year with a 209-178-2 overall record at Wesleyan. Black also spent three years coaching at Phoenix College (junior college) and one year at Stow-Monroe Falls High School in Ohio.

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”

Fontanella Ebstein Reflects on 30 Years at Wesleyan

(By Ann Bertini)

Gemma Fontanella Ebstein is leaving her role as Wesleyan’s Associate Vice President for Advancement at the end of December, following a 30-year career at the University.

During her tenure, Fontanella Ebstein has helped the Office of Advancement expand and foster lifelong alumni and parent loyalty and support for Wesleyan. An important part of this work has come through facilitating local and global events, and overseeing the merging of Reunion and Commencement weekends (2000) and Homecoming with Family Weekend (1995). Fontanella Ebstein also led University Communications and the Gordon Career Center through leadership transitions, and has helped cultivate a culture of Wesleyan pride among her teams and anywhere her work has taken her.

“My entire time at Wesleyan has been spent under Gemma’s leadership and tutelage,” said Director of Special Events Deana Hutson, whom Fontanella Ebstein hired 21 years ago to help centralize Reunion and Commencement. “I have learned so much from her—from her innate ability to problem-solve through collaboration to the importance of empowering her team in a way that is genuine, nurturing, and respectful. I am so appreciative of how much she has contributed to my experience at Wesleyan and for the friendship that resulted from this journey.”