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Wesleyan in the News

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

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The New York Times: Defending Conservatism, and Seeking Converts

President Michael Roth ’78 reviews Roger Scruton’s new book on Conservatism, which he writes provides an “enlightening” background on a variety of important conservative thinkers, but stoops to scapegoating Muslims to “rally the troops.”

2. Hartford Courant: First Group of Students Graduates from Wesleyan’s Prison Education Program

The first-ever Wesleyan Center for Prison Education Program graduation ceremonies, held in partnership with Middlesex Community College at York and Cheshire correctional institutions on July 24 and Aug. 1, respectively, was also featured in The Washington PostABC News, Fox News, among other publications.

Ashkin ’11, Delany ’09, Roginski ’87 Confront White Supremacy through Dance

Brittany Delany ‘09 and Sarah Ashkin ‘11, codirectors of GROUND SERIES dance collective, rehearse for task, “depicting the hierarchy, monstrosity, and sexual tension imbued in the weaponized white woman.” Sue Roginski ’87 served as dramaturg.

Sarah Ashkin ’11, Brittany Delany ’09, and Sue Roginski ’87 premiered an evening-length dance work, task, on Aug. 17–18, as part of the summer season at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, Calif., under the umbrella of GROUND SERIES dance collective. Ashkin and Delany, codirectors of GROUND SERIES since 2012, choreographed and performed the piece, with Roginski providing dramaturgical direction. As codirectors, Ashkin and Delany describe their work as  “collaborating in using dance performance as a tool of embodied intervention and research.”

“With our shared background in critical thinking, cultural studies, and artistic risk-taking fostered by the Wesleyan Dance Department, we wanted to create a work that responded to the current political moment,” Delany says. “The culmination of our collaboration, task, is a confrontation of white supremacy through dance performance.” Treating the theater as a site in this work, Ashkin and Delany continued their research and presentations of site-specific performance with the new challenge to remap and reframe the stage as a racialized space.

In the aftermath of their premiere, the three reflected on the experience for the Connection: 

Q:  What was it like to work with other Wes grads—those you knew on campus, those from different eras. Are there some commonalities, some ways of communicating, some understanding of dance as art and dance in the world, that you all have in common?

Butler ’71: Toward a Gentler Death

Katy Butler ’71 . (Photo by Cristina Taccone)

In Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, a New York Times Notable Book of 2013, award-winning journalist Katy Butler ’71 recounted shepherding her parents, Professor Emeritus of History Jeffrey Butler and artist Valerie Butler, through their final illnesses. When Katy’s father suffered a stroke and later was given a pacemaker, the family had no idea that the device would extend his physical life years past his cognitive ability to enjoy it or to function independently. After his death, Katy’s mother declined open heart surgery and chose instead to meet her own death head-on. From this experience Katy Butler presents her provocative thesis: Modern medicine, if allowed a single-minded focus on maximum longevity, will often create more suffering than it prevents. She has spoken on improving doctor-patient communication at Harvard Medical School and numerous hospitals around the country. Her upcoming book is The Art of Dying Well: a Practical Guide to a Good End of Life (Scribner, Jan. 2019).

In this Q&A, which ran in the May 2018 issue of Wesleyan Magazine, Butler discusses health care, modern medicine, Medicare, and more.

Q: How would you characterize the American health care system?

A: Absolutely brilliant with fixable problems—infectious diseases, drug overdoses, car accidents—where throwing many tests and treatments at someone has tremendous results. But when confronted by complex health problems that aren’t amenable to a quick fix, this kind of “fast medicine” can be pretty disastrous.

Q: Why is this?

A: Our insurance system, known as fee-for-service, pays physicians on a piecework basis—for volume, not quality. We don’t reward them financially for taking extra time with a patient who has multiple problems that need to be managed but can’t be fixed—the kind of problems that redouble as people get older.

Q: How would we judge quality in health care?

A: Quality should be defined as actually improving the patient’s life. Traditionally, medicine’s goals have been to improve function, to relieve suffering, and to prolong life. Currently, the hyper focus within medicine is on prolonging life—which also happens to be the best-compensated option. We rate surgeons on whether a patient survives for 30 days after surgery; but we don’t track whether that patient—especially an older, fragile patient—ends up so disabled by the stress that they have to move to a nursing home. And that happens quite a bit.

Q: Why do we not discuss these concerns with our doctors?

A: The communication between doctors and patients around end-of-life questions is absolutely terrible. It’s almost as if we need a foreign-language phrase book. For instance, if the doctor says, “I want to talk to you about your goals of care,” the patient might well not understand that the doctor is probably saying: “The time you have ahead of you appears to be limited, and, given that, how do you want to spend your time? Do you want to take a trip, or see a child graduate? Can medicine help you achieve this? And, if not, what are some achievable goals?” Patients can be equally tongue-tied about what matters most to them.

Ricci PhD ’14 Awarded Congressional Fellowship

(by Christine Foster)

James Ricci PhD ’14, an assistant professor of mathematics at Daemon College was named a Congressional Fellow. (Photo by Darrell Porter, Daemon College)

James Ricci PhD ’14 was awarded a 2018-2019 Congressional Fellowship. The program is administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in conjunction with The American Mathematical Society.

During this year-long fellowship, Ricci will be paired with either a member of Congress or a congressional committee. Fellows work as special legislative assistants learning about policy creation and contributing their own technical and academic expertise. “They are looking for people who are able to speak clearly and be advocates for STEM education,” says Ricci, who spoke by phone from a salmon fishing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska, where he is working this summer. “I am hopeful that I am all of those things.”

At Wesleyan, Ricci did research on number theory, with a primary focus on the arithmetic theory of quadratic forms. In April 2014 he was chosen as graduate student of the year. Since finishing his PhD, he has been working as an assistant professor of mathematics at Daemen College, near Buffalo, N.Y.

At Daemon, Ricci has worked on a team working to improve retention of students entering with weaker math backgrounds. This included reworking a computer science course he teaches adding in engaging current topics including cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, and net neutrality.

Tyner ’13 Named Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellow

William Tyner ’13 is headed to Romania on a year-long Fulbright National Geographic Fellowship. He will create an immersive film documenting the civic-tech group, Code for Romania.

William Tyner ’13 was awarded a Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship —one of only five of such grants awarded each year

The fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society and is a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and storytelling on a globally significant theme.

Tyner, who majored in anthropology at Wesleyan and enjoyed courses in the College of Film and the Moving Image, will be working with Code for Romania. He’ll be creating a documentary series that will explore Romania’s civic technology community.

“’Civic tech’ is a nascent field in which local ‘hacktivists’ use technology to deepen democracy and increase civic engagement,” he explained in his application.

Tyner notes that he has been affiliated with Codes for America, an organization that focuses on technology as a pathway to modernize government, make it more accessible—but he wanted “to observe civic tech as a social movement, from a sociological perspective.”

Romania, he says, will be the perfect place for his lens: “Their civic tech community is emerging within a historically unique anti-corruption movement. I’m going to chronicle a story of people taking action and control in their community.”

Art by 4 Alumni Featured in Popular Michael Jackson Exhibit

Artistic creations by four Wesleyan alumni are displayed as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s landmark exhibit, Michael Jackson on the Wall.

The contemporary art exhibition, which closes on Oct. 21, explores the influence of pop-music icon Michael Jackson and spans several generations of artists across all media. The exhibition opened to coincide with what would have been Jackson’s 60th birthday, on Aug. 29, 2018.

The exhibit occupies 14 rooms and includes the works of Glenn Ligon ’82, Jonathan Horowitz ’87, Michael Gittes ’10, and Lyle Ashton Harris ’88. The Wesleyan alumni are among 48 artists who have their work displayed, including Andy Warhol,  KAWS, Candice Breitz, David LaChapelle, Kehinde Wiley, and Mark Ryden.

Although the majority of the pieces are drawn from public and private collections around the world, some works were made especially for the exhibition, including an experimental video by American studies major Gittes. Gittes was honored by 43 Wesleyan alumni, students, parents, and friends in London on July 3.

Horowitz, who majored in philosophy at Wesleyan, also contributed a video to On the Wall. In 1997, Horowitz created “The Body Song,” which is a video reverse of Jackson’s “The Earth Song” music video. In the original video, disaster occurs and is undone through Michael’s healing rage. In “The Body Song,” disaster occurs and is undone through the repression of Michael’s rage.

Ligon ’82, an art major, contributed his ink drawing of “Self-Portrait at Seven Years Old.”

And Harris, an art studio major, recreated a 2017 cover of Ebony magazine on an African funerary fabric, a year after the King of Pop’s death.

Jonathan Horowitz ’87 made a single-channel video titled “The Body Song” in 1997. The video is 5 minutes and 57 seconds in duration.

Jonathan Horowitz ’87 made a single-channel video titled “The Body Song” in 1997. The video is 5 minutes and 57 seconds in duration.

Glenn Ligon ’82 created “Self-Portrait at Seven Years Old,” using ink and graphite on paper in 2005.

Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 recreated the cover of Ebony using acrylic on kente cloth in 2009.

Excerpt: De Visé ’89’s The Comeback: Greg LeMond, The True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France

As the Tour de France continues, we hope you enjoy this excerpt from the book by Daniel De Visé ’89, which chronicles Greg LeMond’s 1989 victory. Kirkus Review writes, “It’s a pleasure to ride in the peloton alongside LeMond, who emerges from this account as America’s once-and-future cycling great.” Also see our exclusive Q&A with the author.

Alumni Gather in London for Artists Reception, Honoring Gittes ’10

Artist Michael Gittes ’10, at right, speaks to fellow alumni and guests about his recent work during a gathering in London.

Forty-three Wesleyan alumni, students, parents, and friends gathered in London on July 3 for a reception featuring artist Michael Gittes ’10.

Gittes, an American studies major, discussed his work, which is being displayed as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit, Michael Jackson on the Wall. For the exhibit, Gittes created an experimental video.

In addition, alumni Glenn Ligon ’82, Jonathan Horowitz ’87, and Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 also have works exhibited in the gallery.

Alumni Coordinate Campus Visit with 7th Graders

 

On June 7, seventh graders from Alma del Mar Charter School in New Bedford, Mass. visited Wesleyan to get a glimpse of college life.

On June 7, seventh graders from Alma del Mar Charter School in New Bedford, Mass., visited Wesleyan to get a glimpse of college life. The field trip was arranged by Will Gardner ’02, executive director of the school.

Alma del Mar employees and Wesleyan alumnae Amelia Tatarian ’13, a seventh grade teacher, and Taylor DeLoach ’13, dean of culture, led the Wesleyan tour. “I enjoy giving scholars a love of math, as well as connecting with them on a personal level. As a teacher, you are influencing them; every day you are watching them become the people they will grow to become,” Tatarian said. 
As an undergrad, DeLoach was active with Wes Reads, Wes Writes and worked with Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman and other Wesleyan students to found Kindergarten Kickstart, a preschool program at Macdonough School. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

 

Alumni Celebrate a Festive Reunion, Commencement 2018

Alumni—especially those whose class years ended in 3 or 8—joined the families of graduating seniors of Wesleyan’s Class of 2018 for a campus-wide series of celebrations, WESeminars, thesis exhibitions, and festivities. Wesleyan’s Class of 1968, celebrating their 50th Reunion, began with a dinner on Thursday to gather the group and kick off the weekend. Other highlights included academic open houses, the annual parade of classes, the All-Campus Party featuring DJs Ben Resnick ’13 and Clément Guerner ’13, and Commencement speaker Anita Hill.

To see the Reunion photo gallery, click here.

To see the Commencement gallery, click here.

Wesleyan in the News

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

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. BBC: “How Economists Forgot Housework”

Joyce Jacobsen, the Andrews Professor of Economics, is interviewed about how unpaid labor—such as childcare and housework—can be measured, and the potential impact on GDP. Jacobsen is also provost and vice president for academic affairs.

2. The Hill: “Postal Service Banking System Possible If Past Pitfalls Avoided”

Masami Imai, professor and chair of economics, professor of East Asian studies, and Richard Grossman, professor of economics, are the authors of an op-ed in support of the proposed Postal Banking Act. The law would mandate that the U.S. Postal Service offer low-cost retail banking services, which, if properly implemented, would expand banking access to many low-income and rural families, improving their financial well-being, while also helping to shore up the USPS’s finances.

3. Connecticut Jewish Ledger: “Conversation with Vera Schwarcz”

Vera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, Emerita, discusses her new book, In the Crook of the Rock: Jewish Refuge in a World Gone Mad—The Chaya Leah Walkin Story.

4. The Washington Post: “On the Subject of Evolution, a Way to Hang on to Both Science and Religion”

President Michael S. Roth reviews The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness and Free Will, a new book by Kenneth R. Miller.

5. One Green Planet: “10 Colleges with Plenty of Vegan Options!”

Wesleyan is featured among the best colleges for vegans thanks to well-known vegan chef Stephanie Zinowski and her “to-die-for vegan apple crisp.”

Recent Alumni News

  1. Town and County: “How Lin-Manuel Miranda [’02] and His Family Made Giving Back Their Tradition” by Oprah Winfey and Quiara Alegria Hudes

In a Q&A with the Miranda family (Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, father Luis Miranda, brother-in-law Luis Crespo, wife Vanessa Nadal, mother Luz Towns-Miranda, and sister Luz Miranda-Crespo), Winfrey and In The Heights collaborator Hudes (Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater) ask the clan to explore the roots of their familial commitment to philanthropy.

2. NPR.org: “FDA to Take Action Against Companies That Sell Vape Pens to Teens”

National Public Radio Morning Edition host Rachel Martin asks U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb ’94 about the agency’s new enforcement actions against those who sell vape pens and other non-burning nicotine devices—such as JUUL—to children and teens.

3. Courant.com: “Senators Hail Ted Kennedy, Jr. [’83 P’16, ’20] After 4 Years in Chamber

Kennedy, who is not seeking re-election this fall, is lauded as a “down-to-earth, gracious, hard-working lawmaker” in the Connecticut Senate.

4. The Wellesley News: “Professor Kate Gilhuly [’86] Pursues Interest in Literature Through Research in Classics”

From a childhood where her mother read Homer and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology aloud, to becoming a classics major at Wesleyan, Gilhuly traces her path to Wellesley, where she is a professor in the Classics Department.

5. Travellers Times: “The Ciambra: A Feature Film About a Southern Italian Romani Family to Be Shown in UK Cinemas in June

The Ciambra, directed by Jonas Carpignano [’06] and executive produced by Martin Scorsese, is a gritty penetrating story of adolescence to adulthood set in Southern Italy featuring Romani actors and extras.” Carpignano was the assistant director of Benh Zeitlin’s [’04] Beasts of the Southern Wild.

 

 

Formerly Enslaved Woman Honored at 1820 Gravesite

Individuals honoring the gravesite and remembering Silva Storms, who was born in Africa and lived as an enslaved person in Middletown, include (left to right) Visiting Assistant Professor of African American Studies Jesse Nasta (far left), Professor Liza McAlister, chair of the Department of African American Studies (far right), and Jumoke McDuffie-Thurmond ’19 with Chief Ayanda Clarke ’99 (center). Congregants who traveled with Chief Ayanda (wearing white, left to right of center: Monica John, Shelby Olatutu Banks, Nkosi Fajumo Gray, and April Alake Silver) also gathered for the ceremony led by Clarke. Next to the Storms gravesite is that of Nancy Williams, a relative of Storms. (Photo by Wendy Black-Nasta P’07)

On May 9, a group of students, faculty, and Middletown friends joined Jumoke McDuffie-Thurmond ’19 and Chief Ayanda Clarke ’99 in a spiritual commemoration ceremony to honor a woman, Silva Storms, who died in 1820 and was buried in the cemetery on Vine Street, across from the Beman Triangle. Research indicates she had been born in Africa and was brought to Middletown as an enslaved person. The event was part of McDuffie-Thurmond’s research project for Black Middletown Lives, the service-learning course taught by Jesse Nasta ’07, visiting assistant professor of African American studies.

Nasta notes that McDuffie-Thurmond, who had been documenting the African American burials in the cemetery as part of his final project in the class, “completely took it upon himself to take that 10 steps beyond the assignment, to envision this ceremony. Jumoke is not just documenting the gravesites, but honoring the people who were enslaved here in Middletown.”

For his part, McDuffie-Thurmond remembers the first time Nasta took the class to the cemetery as a significant experience. “I’d never been to the section of the graveyard that was designated for Black Middletown residents, and Silva Storms’s gravesite—her tombstone stood almost alone in an open space—resonated with me. Professor Nasta told us it was the oldest tombstone in the African American section. I sat down there and listened to what was around me, what I felt, and I thought, I have to do something that tends to the spirit. We have a legacy of slavery in this land that constantly informs the space we live in—and it is unresolved. I wanted to do something that would resonate with those of us who live here now. It was a very intuitive decision.”