Looking to the Year Ahead

It’s late August, and students around the country are packing suitcases, organizing books and music, and figuring out how to say goodbye to friends and family as they get set to head off to their respective college campuses. Here at Wesleyan some of our student residential life staff members are already back and attending training sessions to put in place plans for the year ahead. Soon the international students will arrive, followed by fall athletes and then the Class of 2014. The campus comes back to life in stages, it seems, and with each new group I get those back-to-school butterflies and sense of excitement. I also realize that I’d better finish tinkering with my syllabus and get those lectures together for The Modern and the Postmodern!

I recently met with the Cabinet to discuss our goals for the coming year, and I was so impressed by the energy and ambition of the group. We heard two presentations, the first from Sonia Manjon, whose new title is Vice President for Institutional Partnerships and Chief Diversity Officer. Sonia described a program called Making Excellence Inclusive that has been developed by the American Association of Colleges and Universities. We discussed how important it is to go beyond rhetoric to build sustainable programs that treat the  diversity  of our communities as an educational asset. Difference, she stressed, is not a problem to be fixed but a resource on which we can draw. I look forward to working with Sonia, faculty, students, staff and alumni to continue building a vibrant, dynamic learning community from our multiplicity of perspectives and experiences.

Interim Provost Rob Rosenthal made a presentation on the “engaged university” in which he described the multiple layers of positive interactions we can create on campus and the relationships we can build between our university and the other communities in which we participate. As a faculty member, Rob has been a pioneer in campus-community partnerships, and along with several colleagues has worked tirelessly to embed civic engagement within the curriculum. We were all energized by thinking of ways we can develop our engaged university, whether that be through “action teaching,” new courses, partnerships, or other programs.

It’s late August, and we’re getting ready for a great year!

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Campus Renovations

After an extended time away from Middletown, I always enjoy coming back to see the changes to various parts of campus. This summer there are many, from the sad dismantling and recycling of MoCon to the freshly painted dome of the historic Van Vleck observatory that shines anew atop Foss Hill.

We continue to make steady progress on renovating our science facilities. New fire alarms and sprinklers were put into Hall-Atwater and Shanklin; new ceilings and energy efficient lighting are being installed in the Hall-Atwater corridors; three Chemistry teaching labs are almost unrecognizable after being newly outfitted; and various improvements to other labs will support their high levels of research.

We are finishing a major project at the CFA Crowell Concert Hall. A handicap ramp has been added to the main entrance, and a new elevator being installed inside a former stairwell is going to provide easy accessibility to all levels of the Concert Hall.

Housing renovations accommodate more than 40 new beds for undergraduates.  Most notably, 156 High Street has a brand new suite of 10 beds on the main floor including handicap accessible restrooms and card access for everyone at the main entrance. 109 Cross Street and the former Community Service Office at 162 Church Street have been transformed into senior housing. The Womanist House is relocating to 44 Brainard Avenue, the German Haus is moving to a newly renovated 65 Lawn Avenue, and 260 Pine Street has been converted into a 6-bedroom house for seniors.

Energy conservation projects continue to be implemented across campus.  Residence halls have been furnished with a new energy metering and monitoring system. The new system will allow the expansion of the student run Do-It-In-the-Dark program which has been so successful in reducing energy consumption in student houses. Monitors located in residence halls will display real time data on energy consumption.

Several programs moved this summer to spaces better suited to their needs. The College of the Environment has moved to 284 High Street (formerly GLSP). The Graduate Liberal Studies Program is now at 74 Wyllys Avenue (formerly the Investment Office), right next door to the Admission Office. The Investment Office has relocated to the 4th floor of North College alongside the Treasurer and Finance and Administration offices, and some staff from Finance and Administration are moving to 287 High Street (formerly the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies building).

The Physical Plant staff has been working hard and productively all summer long. You’ll see the happy results when you come back to campus.


Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

A Ruby Read for Late Summer

As August begins I find myself trying to fit more contemporary reading into my research and writing schedule. It’s always a pleasure to catch up on recent books by Wesleyan authors, and I have Sebastian Junger ’84, Dominique Browning ’77 and Ayelet Waldman ’86 on my list. One of the novels I really enjoyed this summer was written by a guy who was on my frosh hall at Wes, Joseph Wallace ’79. When we were just beginning our college careers we talked incessantly about writing and music, and more than a little bit about baseball.  Joe joined Alpha Delta Phi around the same time I did, and he has been writing (often about baseball) ever since. This year Touchstone published Diamond Ruby, a wonderfully entertaining historical novel set in New York during Prohibition. Ruby Thomas, the main character in the book, is a cracker-jack pitcher who has to struggle to survive after the great influenza epidemic. She takes care of her young nieces and herself by continually surprising spectators with her pitching prowess, from a Coney Island sideshow attraction to pitching against the Babe in Yankee Stadium. Ruby’s character is inspired by Jackie Mitchell, a young woman who actually did strike Ruth out before she was banned from baseball for being a woman. Ruby’s intelligence, courage and determination go far beyond her performance on the diamond, and it makes for a great story.

I’m always eager to read our Wesleyan authors, and I’m filled with pride as I mark their accomplishments. This morning, for example, I was delighted to see Maureen Dowd interview Sam Wasson ’03 in the New York Times about today’s (awful) romantic comedies. Sam’s recent book on Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a big hit. But I don’t want to give the impression that I only read books by Wesleyan authors. I’ve reviewed a new book about the Dreyfus Affair for the San Francisco Chronicle, and Milan Kundera’s new collection of essays, Encounter, for the Los Angeles Times (to appear later this summer).  I’m also a big fan of Jennifer Egan’s writing, and her new novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, has been a troubling, joyful and invigorating read.

This summer, though, it has been especially sweet to think back to 1975 and my hallmate’s writing plans as I read Diamond Ruby. As the baseball season heats up and summer winds down, Joseph Wallace’s new novel is perfect company.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,