CSS — Still Going Strong

Earlier this week I wandered over to the Public Affairs Center to participate in an evening seminar of the College of Social Studies. I am working with a senior in the program, Jeremy Isard ’11, who is writing a fascinating thesis that deals with issues concerning memory, narrative and trauma in a Uganda refugee camp, and I was to hear his presentation to his fellow students. Professors Joyce Jacobsen (Economics) and Peter Rutland (Government) were the teachers leading the group. The mood in the room was serious but also very energetic. When I arrived, Vernie Chia ’11 was finishing up her discussion of “envisioning gender equality,” and she was explaining the challenges of her choice to use contemporary Sweden as her case study. This had followed Guangshuo Yang’s ’11 discussion of how Chinese academics had yet to create stable norms for intellectual work in the social sciences and humanities, and Jeff Breau’s ’11 consideration of the relationship between agriculture and obesity in contemporary Europe. What a range of topics!

Even though it was late, the conversation was animated and rigorous. Joyce and Peter had clearly developed a great intellectual atmosphere. The students seemed to know each other well, having gone through this rigorous program together over the last several semesters. Their topics were diverse, but they had in common a drive to understand complex issues and to connect that understanding to a wider set of concerns that extended far beyond academia. The professors were able to offer helpful suggestions and constructive criticism, but it was clear that they knew these seniors were ready to take the lead in making the seminar successful.

I was reminded of the great CSS thesis I read last year about Francis Fukuyama by Chan-young Yang ’10, who is now at Yale Law School. As I walked back to the president’s house, I thought back to my own philosophy teacher Louis Mink, who devoted so much of his intellectual energy to this young innovative program. And then I remembered the stories I’d heard about President Victor Butterfield, whose vision and talent helped launch Wesleyan’s interdisciplinary colleges. It is clear that after more than fifty years the College of Social Studies continues to attract gifted students and devoted faculty who team up to create an imaginative and rigorous educational experience. President Butterfield would be proud of them. I know I am!

Recognition, Acknowledgment and Celebration

Today I attended the luncheon to acknowledge the winners of the Roger Maynard Scholar-Athlete Award. Beth Kenworthy (Soccer – Neuroscience & Behavior), Clare Smith (Lacrosse – Science in Society), Jory Kahan (Soccer – Neuroscience & Behavior), and Keisuke Yamashita (Soccer — Math/Economics) were this year’s winners. Their stellar academic work and extraordinary athletic performance were described by their coaches and academic advisors. Congratulations to these wonderful Wes students and their families!

This weekend I’m sorry to miss The Mystery of Irma Veep, directed by Professor Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento. The comedy is part of actor Mark McCloughan’s senior thesis, and I’ve heard great things about it. The show is in the Patricelli ’92 Theater. Speaking of theses, I know that many will be burning the midnight oil over the weekend. Good luck to you, as well as to those giving recitals (like Vicki Cheng, who will be singing German Lieder and Jazz Saturday afternoon in Russell House).

Staying with the theme of recognition and acknowledgment, Kari and I will join in the celebration of the wedding of my esteemed assistant, Joan Adams, to her long-time partner Mary Rustico. Joan has been part of the Wesleyan family for years, and we are delighted to join with her and Mary as they make their vows (and dance up a storm!).

[tags]Roger Maynard Scholar-Athlete Award, Clare Smith, Beth Kenworthy, Jory Kahan, Keisuke Yamashita, Mark McCloughan, Vicki Cheng, Joan Adams, Mary Rustico, senior theses, The Mystery of Irma Veep, German Lieder[/tags]

Quiet Campus….People Working

I have been traveling for Wesleyan a lot recently, and it’s always good to return home to campus. During mid March, though, the place is startlingly  quiet. Many of the administrators take some vacation time before the final big push to Commencement, and faculty are busy grading papers or exams and trying to make progress on research projects. Looking out my office window toward Foss Hill, I see the physical plant staff (led by Dave Hall) getting the field ready for the baseball team, but otherwise there is  little visible activity.

But many students have been extremely busy during the March break. Let’s start with the athletes. Baseball is off to a great start, winning its first eight games against an impressive variety of opponents. Julian Sonnenfeld ’11 has been hitting up a storm, as has Talia Bernstein ’11 on the softball team. Softball also won its first eight games! The tennis teams are also starting off strong, with Genevieve Aniello ’13 for the women and Michael Piderit ’12 for the men having fine early seasons. The lacrosse teams have been hard at work, with Teddy Citrin ’12 for the men and Jess Chukwu ’11 and Erin McCarthy ’10 for the women playing like scoring machines. Crew is rowing back in CT after a very successful southern swing.

My athletic activities are just to keep the pounds off, and in the gym yesterday I ran into Greg Hurd ’10, who just finished a great wrestling career at Wesleyan. But no rest for the weary, as he’s now hard at work on his senior thesis in Earth and Environmental Science. Greg has spent a considerable amount of time doing fieldwork in the Southwest and is now writing up the results. There are many thesis writers on campus making the final push. Art projects will be going up soon, and I especially look forward to seeing Gregory James’s ’10 installation. Rebecca Krisel ’10 is writing on counter-insurgency, while Emma Van Susteren ’10 is focusing on the slow food movement. Kalen Flynn ’10 is writing about holocaust historiography and its effect on how we think about the representation of the past more generally. These are just a few of the theses that young scholars, artists, writers and scientists are busy bringing to completion. No spring break for them!

Not all senior projects take the form of theses. Some are writing stories, essays, or engaged in community service projects. Sam Hart is majoring in Chemistry and Molecular Biology, but he decided to do an art project that brings together his scientific and aesthetic interests. In addition to building the piece, he has written a computer program that will bring his sculpture to life through moving color field patterns. Check it out in the Zilkha Gallery in mid April.

Good work is its own reward, but sometimes there’s more.   Wes senior Liana Woskie has just won a Watson Fellowship ($25,000!) in support of her project entitled “Bringing Primary Healthcare Home: The Community Health Worker, Bangladesh, India, Thailand, Tanzania, Lesotho. In the words of  Cleveland Johnson, Director of the Watson Fellowship Program, “Watson Fellows are passionate learners, creative thinkers, and motivated self-starters who are encouraged to dream big but demonstrate feasible strategies for achieving their fellowship goals.”  No surprise to me that a Wes student is one of this year’s winners!

Congratulations to Liana and to all Wes students who are giving their all!

[tags]Julian Sonnenfeld ’11, Talia Bernstein ’11, Genevieve Aniello ’13, Michael Piderit ’12, Teddy Citrin ’12, Jess Chukwu ’11, Erin McCarthy ’10, Greg Hurd ’10, Gregory James ’10, Rebecca Krisel ’10, Emma Van Susteren ’10, Kalen Flynn ’10, Sam Hart ’10, Liana Woskie ’10, Watson Fellowship[/tags]