Students

Velez, Wong ’18 Author Paper in ‘The Journal of Politics’

Yamil Velez at Wesleyan University.

Assistant Professor of Government Yamil Velez and Grace Wong ’18 are the authors of a new paper, “Assessing Contextual Measurement Strategies,” published May 17 in The Journal of Politics.

According to the paper’s abstract, “Contextual scholars have explored the impact of residing in racially and ethnically diverse environments on political attitudes and behavior. Traditionally, the literature has employed governmental administrative units such as counties as proxies for citizens’ social contexts. Recently, these measures have come under attack by scholars desiring more personalized measures. This article evaluates the performance of two personalized measures of intergroup context and finds that census-based measures are more closely aligned with subjects’ perceptions of local area demographics than measures that ‘bring the person back in.’ The implications of these findings on the contextual literature are discussed.”

Read the full article here.

New Students Welcomed to Wesleyan at Summer Sendoffs

Wesleyan’s newest students and their families are welcomed to the Wesleyan community during a series of Summer Sendoffs June 20 to Aug. 25. Alumni and parents are hosting the events at various locations around the world.

All members of the Wesleyan community are invited to attend the casual socials. Pictured below are photos from a few of the gatherings:

The Taiwan Summer Sendoff, held June 17, was organized and sponsored by Mark Hsieh and May Chao.

The Taiwan Summer Sendoff, held June 17, was organized and sponsored by Mark Hsieh ’90 and May Chao ’06. Ying Jia Tan, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of East Asian studies, also attended.

Students Catalog Wesleyan’s Lost Fossil Collections

Research fellows Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20 and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 are discovering and cataloging thousands of fossils at Exley Science Center. The fossils were once housed at the former Wesleyan Museum, a natural history museum that occupied part of the Orange Judd Hall of Natural Sciences from 1871-1957. Once the museum closed, the fossils and other objects were displaced at various locations on campus. “We’d love to make these fossils accessible to Wesleyan students, faculty, classes and the general public,” McKee said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Research fellows Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20 and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 are discovering and cataloging thousands of fossils at Exley Science Center. The fossils were once housed at the former Wesleyan Museum, a natural history museum that occupied part of the Orange Judd Hall of Natural Sciences from 1871-1957. Once the museum closed, the fossils and other objects were displaced at various locations on campus. “We’d love to make these fossils accessible to Wesleyan students, faculty, classes and the general public,” McKee said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Scattered throughout campus are remnants of not only Wesleyan’s history, but world history. After the closing of the Wesleyan Museum in 1957, thousands of specimens in many collections were displaced, often haphazardly, to nooks, crannies, tunnels, attics, storage rooms, and random cabinets at Exley Science Center, Judd Hall, and the Butterfield and Foss Hill residence complexes.

A fossilized bee was discovered in the fossil collections.

A fossilized bee was discovered in the fossil collections.

Many of these specimens haven’t been accessed in 60 years.

“Sadly, few people are aware that Wesleyan has these unique resources,” said Ellen Thomas, the University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and research professor of earth and environmental sciences. “The collections have not been well curated, and not much used in education and outreach. We are discovering beautiful fossils, but the knowledge that they are at Wesleyan has long been lost.”

This summer, Thomas, along with two student research fellows, began the painstaking process of not only locating and organizing collections, but digitally cataloging their finds.

Sajirat Palakarn ’20 and earth and environmental science graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 work 40 hours a week on the project and have created a “fossil assembly line” in Exley Room 309. The students take turns sorting trays of fossils by class and phylum, and then match the fossils with identifying hand-written cards or books from an archaic card catalog, entering the information, piece by piece, into a spreadsheet. They’re expecting to itemize more than 15,000 fossils this summer.

“Look here,” Thomas says, while opening a wooden cabinet at random in Exley’s specimen storage room. “We’ve got shells, fossils of shells, one after another with no labels. They are all disorganized. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make these accessible to the students?”

Melissa McKee holds a plant fossil from Greenland, collected during the second relief expedition for a Peary Arctic Expedition. The leaves were then thought be by Miocene (~20 millions years old), but now they've been identified as being much older at ~ 60 million years.

Melissa McKee holds a plant fossil from Greenland, collected during the second relief expedition for a Peary Arctic Expedition. The leaves were then thought be by Miocene (~20 millions years old), but now they’ve been identified as being much older at ~ 60 million years.

So far, the students have discovered dozens of fish fossils from the Jurassic Period (99.6 to 145.5 million years ago) and Triassic Period (251 million and 199 million years ago). They’ve encountered fossils of preserved leaves and insects from what is today Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, dating back to the Eocene Period, when the world was much warmer (40-45 million years ago). They’ve also found fossilized plants from coal deposits in Illinois (about 300 million years old), as well as fossil sea lilies (crinoids), which lived in shallow warm seas in what is now Indiana. Many of these fossils were collected by S. Ward Loper, who was curator of the Wesleyan Museum from 1894 to his death in 1910.

They’ve even discovered a plant fossil from Greenland, donated to the Wesleyan Museum in 1895 by A.N. Varse, who was on the second relief expedition attempting to assist Robert Peary on one of his early expeditions to explore Greenland and reach the North Pole.

“It’s really incredible to hold a piece of history like this in our hands,” McKee said. “Not only can fossils tell us what an organism might have looked like and how it lived, but fossils also give us clues about ancient environmental conditions. We can use fossils to understand how the Earth has changed over time.”

While most of the fossil finds are located in locked drawers in the hallways of Exley Science Center, the students also are cataloging fossils in the Joe Webb Peoples Fossil Collection, located on the fourth floor. The museum is named after the late Professor Joe Webb Peoples, who was chair of the Department of Geology from 1935 until his retirement in 1975.

The students not only catalog the artifacts, but they also write about their finds, and the museum, on a blog and on Twitter.

McKee and Palakarn, a College of Social Studies major, are constantly learning on the job. “I don’t have a science background, but here I am learning about unicellular microorganisms, sponges, coral, arthropods, trilobites and sea urchins,” Palakarn said.

“I know by the end of this summer you’re going to change your major to earth and environmental science,” McKee said. “I’m sure of it.”

Sanjirat "Bright" Palakarn '20; Ellen Thomas; and graduate student Melissa McKee '17 hold fish fossils inside the Joe Peoples' Museum in Exley.

Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20; Research Professor Ellen Thomas; and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 hold fish fossils inside the Joe Webb Peoples’ Fossil Collection in Exley.

While rummaging through drawers in Exley's Specimen Storage room, Ellen Thomas discovered large collections of old coins including miniature intaglios and ancient Chinese coins collected by the Methodist missionaries who started Wesleyan. The coins are documented in an accompanying booklet.

While rummaging through drawers in Exley’s Specimen Storage room, Ellen Thomas discovered large collections of old coins including miniature intaglios and ancient Chinese coins collected by the Methodist missionaries who started Wesleyan. The coins are documented in an accompanying booklet.

Melissa McKee holds polished halves of a Perisphinctes species found in Madagascar.

Melissa McKee holds polished halves of a cephalopod found in Madagascar. This species lived during the late Jurassic Period.

Sanjirat Palakarn '20 displays a fossil of Diplomystus dentatus from the Eocene Period. The fossil was discovered in what is now Wyoming. Diplomystus is an extinct freshwater fish distantly related to herrings and sardines.

Sajirat Palakarn displays a fossil of Diplomystus dentatus from the Eocene Period. The fossil was discovered in what is now Wyoming. Diplomystus is an extinct freshwater fish distantly related to herrings and sardines.

The students transcribe hand-written records into electronic form. Pictured is the record of A.N. Varse's fossil discovery in 1895.

The students transcribe hand-written records into electronic form. Pictured is the record of A.N. Varse’s fossil discovery in 1894. It was donated to Wesleyan in 1895.

The research team also found dozens of coral samples stashed away above these cabinets in Exley Science Center.

The research team also found dozens of coral samples stashed above these cabinets in Exley Science Center. “Some of these are now extinct. We will want to catalog these too, but this will be a project for another time,” Thomas said.

McClain-Frederick ’20, Bekele ’19 Excel at Korean Language Speech Contest

Madison McClain-Frederick '20, pictured third from left, and Bethlehem "Betty" Bekele, pictured fourth from left, won prizes at the Five College Korean Language Speech Contest.

Madison McClain-Frederick ’20, pictured third from left, and Bethlehem “Betty” Bekele, pictured fourth from left, won prizes at the Five College Korean Language Speech Contest.

Two Wesleyan students received top prizes in the Five College Korean Language Speech Contest held April 14 at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. This was Wesleyan’s second year participating in the contest.

The recipients include Madison McClain-Frederick ’20, who took first prize for the beginning level with her speech titled “My Red Sneakers,” and Bethlehem “Betty” Bekele ’19, who took second place at the intermediate level with her speech titled “My Country Ethiopia and Korea.” Bekele is supported through a Center for East Asian Studies language study grant to spend this summer studying language in Korea.

The contest is sponsored by the Five College East Asian Language Program and is open to any college student in New England who is currently enrolled in Korean language classes. Contestants cannot be native Korean speakers nor heritage learners. Participating students must write their own short speeches in Korean.

Hyejoo Back, assistant professor of the practice of East Asian studies, served as the team’s advisor. “My students worked very hard to prepare for the contest,” Back said. “We’re very proud of them.”

Read about the 2016 award recipients in this article.

Inaugural Hamilton Prize Winner Featured in Boston Globe

Audrey Pratt, winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. (Photo by Betsy Pratt).

Audrey Pratt, winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. (Photo by Betsy Pratt.)

The Boston Globe recently published a profile of Audrey Pratt, an incoming student in Wesleyan’s Class of 2021 and the winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. Pratt, a graduate of Needham (Mass.) High School, won a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan for her short fiction submission, “Thorns, Black and White.”

Pratt, who was accepted early decision to Wesleyan, told the Globe that when she applied for the prize, she “didn’t think in a million years I’d win,” but she was excited for the chance to have Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Thomas Kail ’99 read her work. Miranda, writer/creator and former star, and Kail, the director of Hamilton, are co-chairs of the alumni selection committee for the prize.

Wesleyan received more than 600 entries, including short stories, slam poetry, screenplays and songs.

Pratt described her entry as “a dark fantasy story, almost a modern Grimm fairy tale, about a forest, the coming of age process, girls with antlers and other monstrous versions of forest creatures.”

Pratt has written stories as long as she can remember. She was captain of her high school’s speech and debate team, a member of the all-female robotics team, and a member of the National Honor Society. At Wesleyan, she plans to study creative writing, neuroscience and behavior, and film.

“I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it,” she told the Globe. “It has given me a lot to live up [to], but I’m going to try my best and make everyone proud.”

Read more about Pratt and the Hamilton Prize here.

Biology Team Samples Drought-Tolerant Bacteria in Death Valley

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizospheres of a juniper tree at about 7,000 feet above sea level.

Nicole DelGaudio ’18 samples the rhizosphere of a juniper tree.

This spring, a research team from Wesleyan traveled to Death Valley National Park to explore the ways bacteria diversifies in extreme environments.

Death Valley, located about 130 miles west of Las Vegas, is a below-sea-level basin known for being the hottest place on earth and driest place in North America. The average rainfall is less than 2 inches, annually.

“National parks are ideal for research, in general, because the land is protected indefinitely from commercial development,” said team leader Fred Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. “Death Valley is a nice model system for exobiology because of its extreme habitat.”

Cohan, along with graduate student Jerry Lee, Bella Wiener ’19 and Nicole DelGaudio ’18, traveled to California May 29 through June 4. During this time, the researchers trekked through miles of parched — and often prickly — landscapes seeking to sample root soil, or rhizosphere, from various plant species, each over a wide range of elevations that differ notably in their temperatures.

Environmental History Class Produces Radio Program

This year, students in Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker’s class, Seeing a Bigger Picture: Integrating Visual Methods and Environmental History, had an opportunity to share what they learned in an unusual format. They produced an hour-long radio program, which debuted on WESU 88.1 FM on Memorial Day. It will air again on the station this summer, and can be heard on wesufm.org or on SoundCloud.

Rosie Dawson, a producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), teaches Phie Towle '20 and Alea Laidlaw '20 about radio program development. 

Rosie Dawson, a producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), teaches Phie Towle ’20 and Alea Laidlaw ’20 about radio program development.

The course introduces students to key landmarks in the visual history of environmentalism and environmental science, from the 18th century to the recent past. The class studies the power and the limits of visual representations, addressing how images of nature have changed as well as how the nature of images has been transformed in the past 250 years, according to Tucker, who is also associate professor of environmental studies, associate professor of science in society, and associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. The students received training in radio storytelling from Rosie Dawson, a producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Tucker and Dawson first met two years ago, when Tucker contributed an essay to a BBC series that Dawson was producing

Class of 2017 Freeman Asian Scholars Celebrated at Reception

On May 27, the Class of 2017 Freeman Asian Scholars were honored at a reception in Daniel Family Commons. Scholars, their families, friends, advisors and alumni attended the event.

The Freeman Asian Scholarship Program provides expenses for a four-year course of study toward a bachelor’s degree for up to 11 exceptional students annually, one each from the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

During the event, the nine graduating Class of 2017 scholars spoke briefly about their time at Wesleyan and post-graduation plans.

Other speakers included Tracey Gardner ’96, chair of the Wesleyan Alumni Association, Trustee Saeyun D. Lee ’93, and Alice Hadler, associate dean for international student affairs; the event was organized by Gina Driscoll, associate director of alumni and parent relations.

Photo of the reception are below: (Photos by Will Barr ’18)

Chong ’18 Repeats as DIII Honda Athlete of the Year Nominee for Tennis

Eudice Chong '18

Eudice Chong ’18. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)

For the third consecutive year, Eudice Chong ’18 of the women’s tennis team was named the Division III Honda Athlete of the Year nominee for tennis, as announced by Executive Director Chris Voelz of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards (CWSA) presented by Honda.

“This past season has been a crazy ride, with our team trying to make small steps each day to improve our chances of coming up on top every match,” said Chong, the three-time NCAA Individual Singles Champion as well as the 2017 Individual Doubles Champion. “The camaraderie we have in our team is what keeps our team focused on reaching a common goal, and the support I get from them is phenomenal.”

Chong is the first player in NCAA Division III Women’s Individual Tournament history to win three-consecutive singles titles. She also captured her first DIII NCAA Double’s Championship to become the first player since 2004 to win both NCAA titles in the same year.

“It is nice to be playing at the Individual NCAA Championships knowing that my teammates will be cheering me on, but hopefully next year, we will be able to make the Elite 8 and compete as a team at the tournament venue as well,” she said. “It is such an honor to be nominated for such a prestigious award, showing that hard work really does pay off!”

Kadets, Kwon, Williams, Reyes Deliver Senior Voices, Hatch Gives Faculty Reflection

Lili Kadets ’17, Haneah Kwon ’17, Arnelle Williams ’17, and Mika Reyes ’17 delivered “Senior Voices” addresses on May 27 in Memorial Chapel. Anthony Hatch, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of sociology, assistant professor of African American studies, delivered the faculty reflection. Below are the text of their speeches:

77 Seniors Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa

eve_ruc_2017-0527160949On May 27, 77 members of the Class of 2017 were inducted into Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest national scholastic honor society. They join 14 others who were initiated in fall.

To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of his or her major. He or she also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations, and must have achieved a GPA of 93 and above.

The inductees and their majors include:

Joie Akerson, neuroscience and behavior;
Taiga Araki, biology, government;
Eric Arsenault, chemistry, physics;
eve_ruc_2017-0527163654Jeremy Auerbach, biology;
Fred Ayres, economics, neuroscience and behavior
Brennan Baker, biology;
Henry Barrett, economics, government;
Clayton Baumgart, physics;
Jordan Bell, neuroscience and behavior;
Kate Bodner, English, hispanic literatures and cultures;
Emma Broder, biology, science in society;
Henry Bushnell, biology, mathematics;
Sarah Corner, English, psychology;
Allison Cronan, film, mathematics;

Wesleyan Awards Hamilton Prize for Creativity to Incoming First-Year Student

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An all-star committee of Wesleyan University alumni, chaired by Hamilton writer/creator and former star Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ‘15 and director Thomas Kail ’99, has selected the recipient of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity: Audrey Pratt of Needham, Mass. Pratt’s submission, a short piece of fiction titled, “Thorns, Black and White,” was selected from among more than 600 entries.

Pratt will receive a four-year full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan, worth as much as $200,000.

“The selection committee was blown away by the range and quality of the submissions we reviewed,” Miranda said. “Audrey’s story stood out as exceptional, but all of the finalists’ work displayed great originality and promise. Being part of Wesleyan’s Hamilton Prize selection process has deepened my faith in our creative future.”

“We were honored to work with our amazing fellow alumni in selecting this very deserving recipient,” Kail said. “I can’t wait to see what this remarkable group of creative students produces with their Wesleyan education.”

The Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity was established in honor of Miranda and Kail’s contributions to liberal education and the arts and named for the pair’s hit Broadway musical, Hamilton: An American Musical, which in 2016 won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book and Best Original Score.

In the first year of the Hamilton Prize, Wesleyan received more than 600 creative written work submissions, ranging from short stories to slam poetry, from screenplays to songs. All entries were first reviewed by Wesleyan’s faculty, and finalists were judged on their originality, artistry and dynamism by the alumni selection committee.

“Wesleyan has been home to so many dynamic writers over the years. We’re delighted to welcome these bright and imaginative students to campus, and to help develop their creative talents through a broad liberal education,” said President Michael Roth.

In addition to honorary chairs Miranda and Kail, the selection committee members include alumni Carter Bays ’97, Amy Bloom ’75, Daniel Handler ’92, Maggie Nelson ’94, Amanda Palmer ’98, Mary Roach ’81, Bozoma Saint John ’99, Kaneza Schaal ’06, Tierney Sutton ’86, Craig Thomas ’97, Matthew Weiner ’87, P’18, and Simone White ’93. Learn more about the committee and read bios of all its members here.

See the original announcement of the Hamilton Prize here, and learn more on the website.

Submissions for next year’s Hamilton Prize are due Jan. 1, 2018, the regular decision deadline for Wesleyan’s Class of 2022.