Cathy Lechowicz Day!

Cathy Lechowicz, right, displaying her award with William Dyson, chairman of the Connecticut Commission on Community Service, and Jane Ciarleglio, executive director of the commission.
Cathy Lechowicz, right, displaying her award with William Dyson, chairman of the Connecticut Commission on Community Service, and Jane Ciarleglio, executive director of the commission.

Mayor Dan Drew proclaimed Tuesday, April 28 Cathy Lechowicz Day in Middletown! Many Wesleyan students, staff and faculty make enormous contributions to Middletown, and so it’s wonderful to see one of our colleagues recognized for her profound dedication to the community. Recently, the Connecticut Commission on Community Service and the Office of Higher Education announced the recipients of the 2015 Community Service Awards, and Cathy Lechowicz was singled out for her great work.

In a letter nominating Lechowicz for the honor, Rob Rosenthal, director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, pointed to her work with the Center for Prison Education and the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Under Cathy’s direction, the Center for Prison Education “has flourished,” he wrote.

“The Center now provides a program in the women’s prison at York as well as the men’s prison at Cheshire. In the 2013-14 school year, 54 students were taking classes. Over 20 professors (mainly Wesleyan, but others as well) have taught classes ranging from Molecular Biology to Political Philosophy, and always at the same level as they teach these classes to their undergraduate students. Additionally, over 130 Wesleyan undergraduates have served as teaching assistants, writing tutors, research interns, and workshop facilitators. Finally, the Center has been extremely successful securing funding.”

Rob also wrote of Lechowicz’ achievements at Green Street.

“In three years, Cathy has achieved incredible results: Wesleyan’s financial contribution has been cut almost in half, total visitors have more than doubled, student involvement has more than doubled, and faculty involvement has tripled.”

Commemorating Freedom Summer

This weekend The Center for African American Studies and the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life have put together an extraordinary celebration and commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the “freedom summer” of 1964. That year student activists from across the country headed south to work with African Americans in the struggle for civil rights. Others supported that work by organizing protests or doing important logistical tasks, often outside the spotlight. Alliances across religious affiliation, ethnicity, gender and race were key components of that heady time. There were tensions, to be sure, but there was also compassionate solidarity to “bend the arc of history” toward justice.

Wesleyan students, faculty and staff, along with other Middletown residents, were very much engaged in those efforts. Churches played a crucial role here as they did in the south. And music was everywhere linked to this work. So it’s fitting that our freedom summer celebration begins Friday with a “rolling concert” at 6 p.m. (100 Cross Street) featuring choirs from AME Zion Church, Middletown High School and Wesleyan. Dar Williams ’89 and Kim and Reggie Harris will be featured Friday evening, along with a children’s choir. The symposium gets underway Saturday afternoon.

In 1964 many in the Wesleyan community joined with a movement to work for the principles like the right to vote and equal protection under the law. These principles are under enormous pressure once again. As we celebrate 1964, may we be inspired to take up today’s challenges.

Thanks to Lois Brown, Rob Rosenthal and everyone who helped make this event happen.

 

Freedom Summer Schedule:

Friday, Sept. 12

Rolling Concert

6 p.m.

Location:   Dance Department – 100 Cross Street

Performers: Unity Choir, Cross Street AME Zion Church

6:30 pm

Location: Olin Library Steps

Performers: Middletown High School Choir and Wesleyan Singers

7 p.m.

Location: Memorial Chapel

Performers: Children’s Choir of Cross Street AME Zion Church; Dar Williams ‘89, Kim and

Reggie Harris

 

Saturday, Sept. 13

Freedom Summer Symposium

Fayerweather Beckham Hall – 45 Wyllys Avenue

1:30 p.m.   Panel: “Go South, Young Wes Men”: Freedom Summer 1964 and Wesleyan Student Activism

Panelists: Ron Young ’86, John Suter ’65, Stephen Oleskey ’65

Moderator: Ashraf Rushdy, African American Studies Program and English, Wesleyan

3 p.m.  Panel: Unwavering Courage: Civil Rights Activists of Freedom Summer

Panelists: Penny Patch, Muriel Tillinghast and Gwendolyn Simmons

Moderator: Anna Wasescha, President, Middlesex Community College

 

4:30 p.m.   Keynote Lecture by Margaret Burnham, Professor of Law and Founder of Civil Rights And Restorative Justice Institute at Northeastern University

 

Related Events

Friday, Sept. 12: 3-5

Saturday, Sept. 13: 9-12

Wesleyan Special Collections and Archives: “Civil Rights Activism and Wesleyan” An exhibit featuring historic Civil Rights-era Wesleyan materials, documents, and photographs.

 

Interdisciplinary Social Science Opportunity

The Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life has created a great opportunity for interdisciplinary study next year. Dean Joyce Jacobsen, in collaboration with Professors John Finn (Govt) and Richard Adelstein (Econ), has organized a cluster of courses on Centralization and Decentralization.

Here are some excerpts from the Allbritton website:

Two of the courses in the Cluster are sections of regular Wesleyan courses taught in the Fall semester, Professor Finn’s GOVT 203 and Professor Adelstein’s ECON 254, in each of which ten places will be reserved for Cluster students (section 2 of each course). Cluster students must take at least one of these courses, though they may take both if they are admitted to the other course through regular procedures. The third course, CSPL 320-321, is required of all Cluster students and will be a year-long, team-taught (Adelstein & Finn) research seminar on the themes of the Cluster, with one-half credit awarded each semester. Here, students will explore various approaches to the Cluster theme, hear relevant lectures from invited guests from within and without the academy, and split into small, coordinated groups to embark on sustained collaborative research projects that each focus on some aspect of the problem of centralizing or decentralizing economic and political life. The seminar will culminate in a public presentation of the work and a volume of collaborative essays on specific themes and topics that might be published by a scholarly press.

The organizers hope that students will use the perspectives gained in these two courses not only to look more deeply into how American economic and political life have been organized in the past, but to address urgent questions for the present from around the world. How should the US be governed in the next century? What is the future of the EU? What can be learned from the disappearance of the USSR or the unification of Germany? Should Scotland secede from the UK? How can artificially created, deeply divided countries everywhere be governed or restructured? Nor need all the questions be political. How do big firms differ from small ones, and why do some firms grow large while others stay small? What are the political or moral consequences of economic concentration? How can multinational firms be governed and regulated? What might an antitrust law do to concentrate or disperse power?

Professors Adelstein and Finn are hoping to attract students from all majors who are strongly interested in the Cluster’s theme and prepared to work steadily over the year to learn more about the complex and difficult questions the theme raises and present their learning in a substantial collaborative research project. Applications are welcome from students in all majors for a new program to begin in Fall 2014. They are due April 7. If you have any questions regarding this Collaborative Cluster Program, please contact either John Finn (jfinn@wesleyan.edu) or Richard Adelstein (radelstein@wesleyan.edu).

This is a great new opportunity for interdisciplinary work on a vital topic. More information at the website.

 

Make Art (and Intelligent Policy) Not Violence

Lucy+Jorge Orta: Food-Water-Life

The new exhibition at the Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan gets pretty elemental. The Ortas are in the tradition of “social sculpture,” creating works of art that are meant to function, and, most importantly are meant to change the way we think about functionality. This exhibition is co-sponsored by the College of the Environment, and its themes include biodiversity and climate change. A cool feature of the exhibit is the short essay about the art written by Wesleyan faculty: Stewart Gillmor, Doug Charles, Dana Royer, Michael Singer, Gillian Goslinga, Barry Chernoff, Clement Loo, Courtney Fullilove and Bill Stowe have written pieces that you can see here.

The opening celebration for the exhibition is on Tuesday, January 29 from 4:30-6:30pm (gallery talk at 5pm). It’s a show that will repay attention and reflection!

 

Guns and Gun Violence

Attention and reflection must be devoted to current debates about guns and violence in the United States. And that’s exactly what the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life is doing. On Wednesday evening, Feb. 6 at 7.30 p.m., the Allbritton Center will host a panel and public discussion, “Guns and Gun Violence: Crisis, Policy and Politics” in the CFA Hall on the Wesleyan campus. The event will shine a spotlight on the rich scholarship on guns and gun violence, and the need for public debate informed by research from different domains, including the social sciences, public policy and public health.

The panel will be chaired by Leah Wright, Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies at Wesleyan.  Following the panelist presentations, the audience discussion will be moderated by John Dankosky, WNPR News Director and host of “Where We Live.”

The three panelists for this event include:
Saul Cornell (Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at Fordham University, and a resident of Connecticut) is one of the nation’s leading authorities on American legal history and a specialist on the history of the 2nd Amendment. Prof. Cornell’s books include ‘A Well Regulated Militia’: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control (2006) and Whose Right to Bear Arms Did the Second Amendment Protect? (2000).
Kristin A. Goss (Associate Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University) specializes in public agenda-setting and the politics of gun control.  The author of Disarmed: The Missing Movement for Gun Control in America (2006, 2009), she has published several articles about women and gun control and gun ownership and the institutional origins of the gun war.
Matthew Miller (Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health) is a physician with training in health policy and the author of several articles on the effects of firearm legislation on rates of suicide and homicide.

Two events in the CFA that encourage us to think about (and deal with) some of the most pressing problems confronting us today.

Profiles in Academic Innovation

Two of Wesleyan’s many centers of interdisciplinary scholarship have new leaders who are doing exciting things:

Jennifer Tucker is now the interim director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. Jennifer is a historian with deep interests in the intersection of visual and scientific cultures, paying especial attention to how this intersection is often mediated by questions of gender and sexuality. She has long been a member of the Science in Society Program and also currently chairs Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies (FGSS). You probably have seen her op-ed on the “science” behind Congressman Akin’s notions of pregnancy and rape, and she is eager to see even more Wes faculty (especially women faculty) contribute to the public sphere through essays, op-eds and editorials. I’ve gotten to know Jennifer better because of our mutual interest in the intersections of photography and history. Nature Exposed, her book on Victorian science and photography, is already a key text in the field, and she recently edited an issue of History and Theory devoted to photography, history and philosophy. At the Allbritton Center, Jennifer will be developing the foundations and frameworks for planning future programs that link the campus to the most pressing issues in the public sphere.

 

Ethan Kleinberg began his stint as director of the Center for the Humanities this summer. Ethan is also a historian, with a joint appointment in the College of Letters. I first encountered his work many years ago when he was doing research for his excellent book, Generation Existential, a study of the impact of Heidegger on 20th century French intellectual history. In addition to his work in history and COL, at Wesleyan Ethan has been one of the creators of the Certificate in Social, Cultural and Critical Theory, and he is the Executive Editor of History and Theory. Ethan intends to build on the great tradition at the Center for dynamic interdisciplinary research and teaching, ensuring that Wesleyan’s humanities programs remain a crucial node in the networks of international scholarship. Students, faculty, and distinguished visitors make the Center for the Humanities a place where knowledge happens — where scholarship gets jump-started. You can learn more about Ethan’s vision for the Center here.

There are many faculty across the campus doing exciting things across the disciplines — from the College of the Environment to the Center for East Asian Studies. These two new leaders will surely add to our distinctive educational experience on campus — and beyond!

Western Swing and Local Excitement

Last week I took advantage of Fall break to make a trip out to the West Coast to visit with alumni and parents. This year I attended a series of receptions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Honolulu with alumni from the 1950s to the 1980s, with special attention devoted to those who will be celebrating their 25th reunions. It was a gratifying trip because the groups I met with were so enthusiastic about what’s happening here on campus. I was pleased to report on the new Shapiro Creative Writing Center, the opening of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the recent faculty approval of the College of the Environment, and the additions of 20 new faculty members and of dozens of new classes through our Small Class Initiative. All of this during one of the most challenging economic crises in memory!

Discussing the framework for strategic planning, we talked about what it means to energize the distinctive aspects of the Wesleyan experience. Some of our conversations focused on how technology is changing education. What will libraries look like 15 years from now? How will social networks impact continuing education and alumni engagement? We talked about our teacher-scholar model combining wide ranging educational choices with deep research, and how to support that model with a sustainable economic platform.  Of course, the ongoing support of our alumni and parents is a key aspect of that platform. Their thoughtful generosity is inspirational!

During my trip I was encouraged by meetings with high school seniors who were considering applications to Wes. This was the most encouraging part of my long trip. It is clear that many of the most talented students at fine schools are making Wesleyan their #1 choice. Indeed, so many are eager to make their way to Middletown that I have to warn them that the competition to get in is getting increasingly tough. Those who have met faculty, alumni and current students seem undeterred. They’ve heard about Wesleyan, and they want to be part of it!

While I was flying out west, the football team was doing some high flying of their own. Blake DuBois ’12 hooked up to Paulie Lowther ’13 for a last minute score to down Bowdoin in an amazingly exciting game.  Meanwhile, Ravenna Neville ’10 was racing to a Little Three Crown and a very strong NESCAC second place finish in the 5k event.  After my long trip back to Middletown, I was able to catch some of the second half of our men’s soccer game against Colby. What a team we have! After finishing a historic undefeated season, the Cardinals began the NESCAC tournament with a smashing victory. Come out this weekend to cheer for the soccer team at 11 am at Homecoming on Saturday. GO WES!!

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Back to Campus

After some weeks away from campus, it feels great to be back in Middletown. We have had an enjoyable and productive summer, and now it’s time to get ready for our new students and those returning to Wesleyan. The ever active Physical Plant staff are busily getting buildings ready for faculty and students, while many on the faculty are focused on finishing the research mapped out for the summer.

It has been a busy time for the construction crews preparing the new Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. The old Scott Labs (then Davenport) building has been cleaned up on the outside and had a real makeover internally. The Shapiro Creative Writing Center and the Quantitative Analysis Center will both have great spaces in the new facility.

photo

Speaking of creative writing, I just learned that our new Assistant Professor of English, Deb Olin Unferth, won the Cabell First Novelist Award for Vacation, published by McSweeney’s. What a great way to start off at Wes!

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Understanding and Engagement: Public Service

Last night in Washington, D.C., more than 150 Wesleyan alumni and parents gathered together to catch up with old friends, reminisce about college days, and hear from this not-so-new president about what’s been happening on campus. Although hopes for a cool June evening had given way to the reality of a scorching heat wave stretching along the East Coast, spirits were high as we looked forward to the relief that thunderstorms would bring.

The Wesleyan folks I spoke with throughout the evening seemed optimistic about how our university has remained a beacon for progressive values in liberal arts education. Of course, people of different political persuasions understand “progressive” in a variety of ways, but there remains a commitment to seeing our university graduate students who would continue to make a positive contribution to public life.

Robert and Elena Allbritton, two Wesleyan alumni who graduated in the early 1990s, hosted the event. Elena is a physician with a D.C. practice, and Robert (a Wes trustee) recently started the web-based political news organization, POLITICO.COM. They have also made the leadership gift to establish the Center for the Study of Public Life, an interdisciplinary effort to better understand national and international issues with the tools of social science and the humanities. The Allbritton Center will enable our students to study issues such as Violence and Public Life, Faith and Politics, or Health Care Economics in a project-based format using a variety of methodological tools. The study of issues in public life should increase our students’ capacity to contribute to its betterment. The new Center will open in the fall of 2009 in the building that many of you know as either Davenport or Scott Labs.

Among our Washington guests last night there was still much discussion of Barack Obama’s participation in Commencement this year. In my conversations with alumni with very different political views, I could see that the senator’s call to public service resonated in important ways. There is a long history of Wesleyan students engaging in public service, from volunteering for the military, to signing on for Teach for America. A great figure in this regard was John Macy ’38, who held a variety of posts in the government and was executive vice-president at Wesleyan from 1958-1961. John returned to Washington when President Kennedy asked him to chair the Civil Service Commission. He would later direct the White House Personnel Office and become president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Countless Wesleyan students heading to Washington received a warm welcome from John, along with counsel on how to develop fulfilling careers in public service. Many are still here in D.C. We plan to honor John Macy as we develop new programs that help students to engage in public life.

As the Allbritton Center takes shape, I imagine that it will navigate between stimulating the scholarly study of complex issues and inspiring students to find ways to turn their studies into practical applications that enhance the public good. As I finish my Washington meetings and head back to Connecticut, I realize that we need both: a deeper understanding of difficult issues, and an active engagement in the public sphere. Wesleyan will enhance understanding and engagement – that certainly is part of what it means to remain “a beacon for progressive values in liberal arts education.”
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PS Speaking of public issues, some of you may have seen my review of Philip Gourevitch’s new book on Abu Ghraib. If you missed it, here’s the link:

http://www.latimes.com/features/books/la-bk-roth25-2008may25,0,3903424.story

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