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Now that spring break has passed, it often feels like a mad rush to the end of the semester. My own progress has been stymied by a nasty flu, but I am hoping to be up and about tomorrow to see the first senior thesis art exhibition of 2015: Wednesday, March 25 at 4 p.m. at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. The senior artists Luca Ameri, Raphael A. Leitz, Dat Vu, and Derrick Qi Wang will be at the reception, and you can check out the work through Sunday, March 29.

The Davison Art Center is holding an exhibition opening on Thursday, March 26, featuring works by Barbara Kruger, Kiki Smith, Sebastiao Salgado, and Eve Arnold. These are amazing artists, and we are so fortunate to have their pieces in our collection. On Thursday at 5:30 there will be a public conversation with the donors who made this possible, artist Jolie Stahl and photo editor, Robert Dannin. The exhibition will be up through May 24.

Personal Recollections

It’s that time of year again…lots of Wesleyans are on the road for spring break but many  seniors are busy all across campus getting their honors theses into shape to meet those April deadlines. Tina Jung, for example, is working on issues of history and memory for her thesis. Her work is based, in part, on oral interviews. Katherine Malczewski is focused on Ida, A [Performative] Novel and the Construction of (Id)entity. Katherine delves into Getrude Stein’s definitions of identity versus entity through an analysis of the novel, the writer’s personal letters, and lectures.

Colin O’Connor is working on philosophical and literary constraints on anarchist literary production in contemporary Germany. Siri Carr is working in her COL thesis on concepts of “the little” in children’s literature. Sarah Esocoff‘s COL thesis is doing a painting thesis called “Strangers,” while Dexter Blumenthal is writing on food practices in contemporary Paris.

Paul McCallion’s thesis in Science in Society is called “Doctors Without Answers: Limits, Challenges, and Dilemmas of Humanitarian (Bio)medicine, and Doctors Without Borders” while Adin Vaewsorn’s work is entitled “Towards a Holistic Understanding of Obesity and Anti-Obesity Interventions Among African-American Women.” Both are going beyond biomedical models to look at larger social and economic forces.

In English, Ronnie Alvarado is writing a scholarly thesis on the influence of liberal and neoliberal theories of childhood and education on children’s fantasy literature during two golden ages of the genre — working title: “Fantasies of Education.”

Dandara Catete is doing a sculpture thesis exhibition entitled “Amorfo” consisting of several sculptures, each of which partially joins two full-scale mattresses to suggest the ambiguities of merging yet maintaining distinct identities in a romantic relationship.

David Stouck’s thesis, provisionally entitled “Cultural Osmosis in the Modern Chinese Music Industry, is based on his writing and recording of a series of Chinese rap/hip-hop songs. The College of East Asian Studies folks tell me he’s getting help with the research from several Wes students.

I’ve just touched the tip of the thesis iceberg…getting information from deans and colleagues. If you’d like me to include others, just email or comment on this blog post.


These recently came in from Neuroscience and Behavior:

Matan Koplin-Green is working on how EEG’s might be used to help train those seeking to reduce anxiety. Neha Shafique is aiming at a “Quantitative Description of Heterogeneous Lipid Membrane Dynamics.” Ellen Lesser is working on “Diet and Motivation: effects of prenatal and lifetime exposure to junk food,” while Simone Hyman compares stigma and schizophrenia in Gujarat, India and Middletown, CT. Sam Rispaud also works on schizophrenia, asking how neurocognitive function relates to changes in functional outcome.

UPDATE: And these from Astronomy:

Sam Factor took his first astronomy class in the fall of his senior year, and graduated last spring with majors in physics and computer science.  This year he graduates with an MA in astronomy and an impressive thesis that includes an analysis of planet-forming potential in an environment similar to where the Sun is thought to have formed.  Sam’s experience at the intersection of physics, computer science, and astronomy has made him a very effective researcher and, after only one year as an astronomer, his thesis marks a significant contribution to the field of planet formation research.

Jesse Lieman-Sifry has been working since his junior year on understanding the last gasps of gas giant planet formation.  Jesse has done beautiful work on not one but two separate projects with the newly-operational ALMA telescope in Chile, the most powerful and versatile radio telescope ever built, and has been a guest observer at the Submillimeter Array in Hawaii.

Dilovan Serindag is using observations from the Kepler Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of planets around other stars.  He developed and coded his own modeling algorithm to measure the phase changes as these planets orbit around their stars.  These planets orbit in just a matter of days, and the analysis that Dilovan is doing can tell us the temperature of the planet and how reflective its atmosphere is.


Rachel Leicher is combining in vivo genetic approaches using budding yeast cells with in vitro DNA binding studies to gain a fuller picture of the functions of H’1, a basic structural component of our chromosomes. Veronica Birdsall is studying protein-DNA interactions to address questions of recognition and specificity in the case of an architectural DNA-binding protein, Integration Host Factor. Derek Frank  is using spectrocopy studies to probe the structure of DOH-N2O, a weakly bound van der Waals complex. Rotational spectroscopy is shown as a powerful technique to investigate the structure of gas phase complexes and the chemistry of weakly bound systems. Erin Cohn is exploring degradation of lignin, a paper industry waste product, and the most abundant aromatic compound found in nature. The products of its degradation by enzymes could be utilized in the generation of biofuels.

Emma Kemler is working on a project examining how to define and measure citizenship within the context of higher education in Argentina and in Middletown. Alison Goldberg is writing a psychology thesis on anti-Semitism and the relationship between physical and personality stereotypes of Jewish individuals. Kate Weiner’s “Reciprocity: Community-Making at East New York Farms!” uses creative non-fiction and a variety of disciplines to explore how community is cultivated in the context of urban agriculture. Christian Hosam‘s African American Studies thesis is entitled “Linked Fate in Asian America: Promise, Pitfalls, and Practice.” Christian looks at the concept of linked fate, identifying the ways that the extant literature actually reinforces stereotypes of the “apolitical” Asian American because it assumes that linked fate is necessarily correlated with increased levels of political engagement. Kehan Zhou, writing in CSS and Economics, analyzes alternative currency movements, in particular crypto-currencies, and in particular Bitcoin, concentrating on the supply of and demand for cryptocurrencies, how cryptocurrencies work, and the operation of the markets for crypto-currencies including pricing fluctuations, security issues, and possibilities for arbitrage.

Grace Herman-Holland‘s directing thesis examines the relationship between performers and audiences during kabuki’s golden age, identifying elements of a highly engaged spectatorship with the potential to inform contemporary theatrical practices. The Wesleyan cover band Love Hotel furnished music for her production of “Skyfall,” which was performed in the ’92 Theater the weekend of February 26-28.
There are plenty more theses out there, and lots of recitals coming up as part of the work. The first senior thesis art exhibition opens at the Zilkha Gallery on Wednesday, March 25!


On March 9, I attended a wonderful Wesleyan event in San Francisco. More than 100 alumni and parents came out to hear about liberal education today, and to discuss the importance of financial aid support. I was joined by Jonathan Schwartz ’87 (shown below, far right), a scholarship kid who went on to do great things in the technology industry and who now runs CareZone, a company he co-founded to help families organize and attend to their health care data.

San Francisco: How to Destroy Higher Education

There were folks at the reception from across the generations, and we had a good conversation about reducing student debt and expanding the curriculum.

San Francisco: How to Destroy Higher Education

San Francisco: How to Destroy Higher Education

San Francisco: How to Destroy Higher Education

San Francisco: How to Destroy Higher Education

In the morning I visited our online partner Coursera to hear about some of their new specializations. I think Wesleyan can expand the quality and quantity of our MOOCs over the next several months.

I had spent the afternoon meeting with alumni and with colleagues at Stanford. I very much enjoyed the d-school’s open spaces and giddily innovative atmosphere. Some kinship with Wes at our best?



The next day, I headed to Menlo Park for a conversation with writer Michael Chabon P ’17 and Bozoma Saint John ’99, head of consumer marketing at iTunes and Beats Music.

Menlo Park: How to Destroy Higher Education

Menlo Park: How to Destroy Higher Education

Menlo Park: How to Destroy Higher Education

Menlo Park: How to Destroy Higher Education

Menlo Park: How to Destroy Higher Education

This past weekend I got to spend some time with two young alumni who are fearlessly working to change the world. Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner Odede ’09 were back on campus (Kennedy is a trustee), taking a brief break from their leadership of Shining Hope for Communities. The two founded this organization when they were undergraduates, beginning with a school for girls and then a women’s health clinic in Kibera, Kenya.

Kari and I had seen them on television a couple of weeks ago in a segment of the PBS documentary A Path Appears. The film, created by Nick Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, documents the work of change agents in various parts of the world. We were particularly moved by footage of the women’s health clinic, named after Johanna Justin Jinich ’10, a Wesleyan student who was murdered almost six years ago. Johanna’s memory is not only kept alive —  her spirit of care and energy is reinforced every day in Shining Hope’s good work in Kibera.

Here is a brief clip from the organization:

YouTube Preview Image

Jessica and Kennedy were talking with Bob Patricelli ’61, P’88, P’90, who has been key to establishing the Center for Social Entrepreneurship named in his honor. Many Wesleyan students at the Patricelli Center are learning the skills they need to build sustainable organizations that will make a positive difference in the world. They will be joining a long tradition of Wesleyan students who turned their education toward “the good of the world.”

You can find A Path Appears on iTunes, and you can learn more about Shining Hope for Communities here and here.

Last weekend the Board of Trustees was on campus for the winter meeting. In various configurations members addressed issues relevant to the academic program and the campus, facilities and finances, and communications and alumni relations. There are just over 30 trustees, and they are dedicated to helping to steer the university through these sometimes daunting times of change.

One of the most important sessions was focused on a presentation led by students from the Committee for Investor Responsibility. They delivered an excellent analysis of why the university should divest itself of any direct holdings in coal companies, examining social, economic and ethical perspectives. My fellow trustees were very impressed with the thoughtfulness of the report and subsequent discussion. As it turns out, Wesleyan does not have direct holdings in coal companies, but the committee wanted to engage with the CIR, going beyond this specific issue to create an explicit framework for future decisions regarding investments.

The board passed a resolution to integrate a statement on ethical investment into its guidelines, recognizing the university’s “obligation to consider environmental, social and governance issues as part of its investment process.”  Quoting from The Ethical Investor, the resolution instructs the Investment Committee to take into account social harm, “the injurious impact which the activities of a company are found to have on consumers, employees, or other persons, particularly including activities which violate, or frustrate the enforcement of rules of domestic or international law intended to protect individuals against deprivation of health, safety, or basic freedoms.” The resolution concludes that “in selecting external managers or considering direct investments, the Committee and staff will consider environmental, social and governance factors as part of their investment process.” I am so grateful for the CIR’s input into this process.

The Board also discussed (among other things) campus planning, support for research,  possibilities for refinancing outstanding debt, the Wesleyan Student Assembly report on campus issues, fundraising for internships during the final year of the ‘This is Why’ campaign, and building a solar “farm” on a section of the Long Lane property.

Overall it proved to be a productive and energizing meeting that focused attention on challenges and opportunities and rallied support for Alma Mater.


An exciting overtime win for The Cardinals for our first ever NESCAC crown in men’s b-ball! More soon!!

UPDATE (from Athletics website + Hartford Courant):

Jack Mackey ’16 hit his sixth three-pointer of the game with 2:14 left in overtime, the first points of the extra period, then fed Joseph Kuo ’17 for a pair of dunks before the Cardinals hits four of six free throws in the final :17 to defeat Amherst, 74-70, and win their first-ever NESCAC championship Sun., March 1 at Trinity.  Wesleyan led most of the game but had to fend off several Lord Jeff rallies to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Divison III Championship.  The field of 63 teams will be announced early Mon., March 2 afternoon with times and locations of games.

The NCAA qualification is the first for men’s basketball.  The NESCAC crown is the sixth by a Wesleyan team in the last 10 years.  Baseball (2014), football (2013), softball (2010), men’s lacrosse (2009) and men’s soccer (2005) are the other prominent Cardinal squads with NESCAC titles to their credit.

This fancy passing (from an earlier playoff game) made ESPN highlights.

You can read more here at Wesleyan site.

And here, the Hartford Courant gives Coach Reilly’s team some fine coverage (with pics):

Go Wes! #thisiswhy

Have you seen the new Exley Science Center Lobby??? This is a great upgrade and a fine example of how student and faculty input has resulted in real improvements to the campus.


Students Settle In

Students Settle In


Exeley Lobby Coming Alive

Hats off to Brandi Hood and the team for the lovely design and great execution.

On Thursday February 26, more than 100 Wesleyan folks will meet with members of the Sasaki Associates, Inc. to discuss a framework for campus planning. We need more spaces that are friendly for studying and socializing for staff, students and faculty. And we need more places to make stuff. On that score, have you seen the new Digital Design Studio?

Make your voices heard and together we will build the campus that’s right for the kind of education we need now and tomorrow!


Campus Update

The following message is being distributed to our campus community and current parents via email.

Dear friends,

This evening Middletown Police arrested four Wesleyan students as a result of an investigation into the drug-related hospitalizations over the weekend.  The University immediately suspended the students pending a formal hearing. We take very seriously allegations concerning the distribution of dangerous drugs, and the University will continue to cooperate with state and local officials. We will do everything we can to make our community as safe as possible.

We are relieved to know that all but two of the students hospitalized over the weekend have been released and are doing much better. And I am pleased to report that the two students who remain at Hartford Hospital have made progress. We continue to be hopeful about their recovery, and we ask you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

We are a community that values freedom. None of us want to see arrests on our campus, but even less do we want to see ambulances rushing from our residences with students whose lives are in danger.

Our community has been reminded these last few days of our fragility but also of our resiliency – of our fears but also of our care for one another.

Wesleyan is an extraordinary place of exuberant self-discovery and compassionate solidarity. May we continue to find joyful inspiration in a community that looks out for the well-being of all of its members.


Yours truly,

Michael Roth


I recently learned that Hannah Steinberg’s ’16 work was recognized with the School for Field Studies’ Distinguished Student award. Hannah’s research project in the Spring 2014 semester, Effect of artificial feeders on hummingbird diversity and level of interactions in Monteverde, Costa Rica, was part of an ongoing study of the ecology of hummingbirds in the cloud forests of Costa Rica, and more specifically, the various effects of artificial hummingbird feeders on their ecology.

While the use of artificial hummingbird feeders is a popular method to attract the birds for human enjoyment and to draw visitors to ecotourist destinations, Steinberg’s research illustrated a direct impact of the use of feeders on hummingbird diversity. You can read more about Hannah’s work here.

Each year, The School for Field Studies honors its most exceptional students with Distinguished Student Researcher Awards for their important contributions in environmental research. Outcomes of these Directed Research (DR) projects provide information and recommendations to community members and other stakeholders on critical, local environmental issues.

Students are nominated by SFS faculty based on their demonstrated sophistication in research design, field work, reporting, and their contribution to the Center’s 5YRP. The SFS award also recognizes the student’s leadership exhibited while working with a team of student and faculty researchers in the field.

Congratulations, Hannah! #ThisIsWhy

Over the years I’ve occasionally given a seminar called Photography and Representation. We examine how photography has affected how we remember and forget, how we tell the truth, how we lie and how we make art. I started teaching it when I worked at the Getty Research Institute, and we were able to use its extraordinary collection to shed light on how great photographers have changed our relationship to the past and to the present.

Historical events can change one’s relationship to history; so can personal traumas. These came together for many people in the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Those who were in New York that day, and those connected to the people present were marked — in many cases indelibly. In the wake of the attacks a photographic archive began to form, and it was exhibited and then published under the title here is new york. Everyone was invited to submit their pictures — from little kids and tourists with disposable cameras to accomplished professionals. It was labeled a “democracy of photographs.” This is from the Introduction to the massive volume:

What was captured by these photographs — captured with every conceivable kind of apparatus, from Leicas and digital Nikons to homemade pinhole cameras and little plastic gizmos that schoolchildren wear on their wrists — is truly astonishing: not only grief, and shock, and courage, but a beauty that is at once infernal and profoundly uplifting. The pictures speak both to the horror of what happened on 9.11 (and is still happening), and to the way it can and must be countered by us all. They speak not with one voice, but with one purpose, saying that to make sense of this terrifying new phase in our history we must break down the barriers that divide us.

Charles H. Traub and Aaron Traub recently gave Wesleyan a large selection of these images, in honor of Professor David Schorr and David Rhodes ’68, President of the School for the Visual Arts in New York. The collection is one of only a few deposited with universities or museums, Wesleyan’s Curator of the Davison Art Center Clare Rogan told me.  This is an important addition to our photography holdings, and I look forward to working with the pictures alongside students next time I teach that seminar.

Photographs have grown increasingly ubiquitous, so much so that it is difficult to determine which images will retain meaning over time. But history and trauma have elevated some photographs beyond the ordinary such that they become scars of memory — marking their own times and connecting to those of future beholders. Such is the case with the collection here is new york.


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