Fifteen seniors were inducted to the university’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa during a ceremony on Dec. 2.
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Fifteen seniors were inducted to the university’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa during a ceremony on Dec. 2.
In this issue of News@Wesleyan, we speak with Assistant Professor of Mathematics Felipe Ramírez, who joined the Wesleyan faculty this fall.
Q: Anna, where are you from and what attracted you to Wesleyan?
A: I am from Woodbridge, Conn. and I was born in New York, but I didn’t seriously look into Wesleyan until October of my senior year of high school! When I was looking for schools I wanted to stick closer to home and, at the time, I was being recruited for swimming—a sport that had dominated my time during high school and that I had decided to pursue at the collegiate level. Of all the schools I looked at, I narrowed it down to a couple NESCAC schools and Wesleyan was the best fit for me.
Q: What are you majoring in and why?
A: I came to Wesleyan planning to major in psychology, but as time progressed I fell in love with neuroscience and behavior. Last May, I changed my major from neuroscience to the Science in Society Program (SISP), a program that allows me to reach outside my comfort zone and, with a philosophy concentration a focus on ethics and political philosophy, allows me to focus on both current and historical issues within our healthcare system.
Q: Why did you decide to change majors?
A: My parents are neuroscientists and were neurosurgeons back in China. I’m the older child of two in my family, as well as the first generation Chinese American student-athlete in my family to attend such a prestigious school. While I originally followed in my parents’ footsteps, I never fell in love with neuroscience the way I’ve fallen for the Science in Society Program. The time I spend learning about science in society and narrowing down a big issue within public healthcare to the commodification of our own bodies is absolutely mind blowing to me.
I don’t regret the hours I spent at a lab desk, or in a fume hook, mixing chemicals as well as making observations through the lens of a microscope as a neuroscience major. During my time at Wesleyan, I’ve been able to educate myself in a way I never imagined. I consider myself an existentialist; that is, I believe that what people choose to do reflects who they are and confirms who they will become. I value my social and extracurricular interactions, and I just didn’t think locking myself in a room mixing chemicals or performing surgeries on mice would be conducive to a happy future for me.
Q: What is your interest in healthcare?
A: I’ve always been a big advocate for personal health. I guess I can thank my parents for always being concerned about personal hygiene and health; both of them graduated from medical school, and I’ve always admired them for what they’ve done and how far they’ve come.
Q: It sounds like your parents were quite influential.
A: My parents have had a big effect on me, and I appreciate them for their never-ending support, especially now that I’ve grown up and I’m experiencing more in the world.
Q: What have been your most instrumental classes at Wesleyan so far?
A: I think my most instrumental class was Cellular Neurophysiology with Associate Professor Gloster Aaron. I was going through a personal and identity crisis at the time because I found the hard sciences were just not suitable for me anymore, and yet this class with Professor Gloster really helped me realize the importance of what I had done so far, at that time, and that I don’t have to pursue medical school right after college but have other options as well. Another class I really enjoyed was Classical Chinese Philosophy taught by Professor Stephen Angle in the College of East Asian Studies. I am a CEAS minor, as well as a philosophy concentration in the SISP major, and it was an amazing class for me to really go deeper into the history and understand why my parents raised me the way they did.
Q: What extracurricular activities are you involved in at Wesleyan?
A: I was on the Wesleyan Swimming and Diving team my freshman year, but I left the sport when I found myself going through the motions just because I was comfortable with my routine. I’ve been involved in the We Speak We Stand Bystander Intervention group on campus; we did a performance during freshman orientation, and I loved the experience and really hope I can partake in it again! I’d also like to have more experience within the community as well, and I’m very curious about the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education’s teaching program.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I’ve always been an athlete, so after I stopped swimming I decided to try running. I ran the half-marathon in Middletown in April, and I plan on running my second half-marathon this coming spring. And now that I have an apartment I can finally cook, so I enjoy making food with friends.
Q: How will you wrap up your junior year?
A: Right now I’m focusing and drilling down on my new SISP major. It’s so exciting and interesting, and very suitable for me.
On Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, the Wesleyan community will join together to support Wesleyan students. This will be Wesleyan’s third year participating in the global giving campaign, which encourages people to give back by supporting their favorite causes during the holiday season.
Last year Wesleyan doubled its initial goal of 1,000 donors, with more than 2,000 members of the Wesleyan community giving a total of more than $500,000 in support of students at Wesleyan. This year, Wesleyan’s goal is 3,000 gifts between Nov. 20 and the end of the day on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1.
“The Wesleyan community is known for its generosity in supporting students,” said Chuck Fedolfi, Wesleyan’s director of annual giving. “If we all join together, I have no doubt we’ll exceed our goal this year.”
Give Now to support Wesleyan students.
The Muslim Coalition of Connecticut honored Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts on Nov. 15 for its “outstanding contributions and standards of excellence in advancing higher education,” according to a proclamation from Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman. The awards dinner in Hartford was attended by Center for the Arts Director Pam Tatge, Associate Provost Mark Hovey, and faculty, staff and students from the advisory committee and Wesleyan’s Muslim Students Association. View the event’s photo gallery online.
The honor recognized the CFA’s Muslim Women’s Voices series during the 2014-15 academic year. The series explored and celebrated the complexity of Muslim women today, and the historical and cultural context from which they have emerged, through music, theater, film, dance and artist talks.
“The Wesleyan community and the entire State of Connecticut have benefited immensely from the leadership and integrity Wesleyan University Center for the Arts has exemplified through its work both on and off campus,” Wyman’s proclamation said. “CFA’s unwavering dedication to its community and the promotion of shared values and understanding is truly extraordinary. Its work has improved the quality of life for so many, and serves as an inspiration to all.”
More than 100 alumni and other members of the Wesleyan community attended the Social Impact Summit, Nov. 13-14, on campus. The summit was sponsored by the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns. Endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, the seminar supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues. The event included keynote speakers with TED-style talks on the theme “The Change I Want to See,” panel discussions, and workshops, as well as networking opportunities.
“Social impact and entrepreneurship are deeply embedded in Wesleyan culture, and our students and alumni are known for creating significant change in the world,” said Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Rob Rosenthal, director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life; and Cathy Lechowicz, director of the Center for Community Partnerships also provided welcoming remarks.
Keynote speakers offering TED-style remarks in Memorial Chapel, which were open to the public. They included Kirk Adams ’73 P’13, international executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, who leads the work of SEIU Healthcare; Irma Gonzalez, the principal of Zoen, specializing in change and transition management in support of social justice advocacy; Jessica Posner Odede ’09 chief operating officer and co-founder of Shining Hope for Communities; and Kennedy Odede ’12, the CEO and co-founder of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO).
In their talks, Adams spoke on making voting “accessible, universal, and familiar,” calling for the effort to “push this country to be what it should be.” Gonzalez highlighted the qualities of an equitable society—one where our success would not be predetermined by birth and skin color. “How do we harness technology in the service of social justice?” she asked.
This year, four Wesleyan faculty are coordinating a year-long interdisciplinary project that enables students from an array of majors and academic disciplines to collaborate, create and work together as a learning community under the theme “Renaissance Projects: Reclaiming Memory, Movement and Migration.”
The Collaborative Clusters Initiative of the Allbritton Center enables faculty from a variety of departments and programs to develop a shared research project with a unifying theme. Cluster courses in 2015-16 provide perspectives from dance, music, English, and African American studies on the ways performance practices have engaged the past and present in the face of great migrations. The collaborative project is rooted in a multi-faceted conception of renaissance, and explores states of past and present, of vitality and decay, and of presence and absence.
Students, in collaboration with peers, faculty and visiting artist/scholars, develop original research in writing, performance or visual art around the cluster theme.
This year, faculty members Nicole Stanton, Jay Hoggard, Lois Brown, and L’Merchie Frazier are teaching courses in the Collaborative Cluster Initiative Research Seminar.
Bria Grant ’17, an African American studies and dance double major, was ecstatic to take classes in the new cluster because it addressed both her interest in the arts and black people in America in one initiative. She’s enrolled in Stanton’s and Hoggard’s class this fall.
“The discussions we have each week, coupled with the nurturing aspect of breaking bread and eating dinner together, create a familial and intellectual space that both comforts and stimulates my mind simultaneously,” Grant said. “Furthermore, the research seminar itself gives me the space to immerse myself within the subject matter in a way I personally see fit, and explore specific aspects without the heavy burden of a strict curriculum.”
Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse received the Haitian Studies Association‘s Excellence in Scholarship award during the organizations’ 27th annual conference Oct. 24. The conference centered around the theme “Haiti in the Global Environment: Presence, Representations, Performances” and took place at the Université de Montréal in Québec, Canada. Previous anthropologists awarded this honor include Paul Farmer (2001) and Michel-Rolph Trouillot (2003).
While in Québec, Ulysse presented a talk on “Successfully Individuating Within Academia: Thoughts on Rebel Mentoring and Your Voice” at the Emerging Scholars pre-conference.
Ulysse also will be recognized by her peers at the American Anthropological Association meeting next month for her work as a public anthropologist and ethno-performer.
On Oct. 28, as part of its Fall Puppet Forum Series, the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut hosted Javanase musician and scholar Sumarsam for a presentation on “Javanese Puppet Theater and the West.” Sumarsam is the University Professor of Music at Wesleyan.
Sumarsam’s talk included discussion of the complex nature of Javanese wayang kulit shadow theater in the context of his recent research into the history of Javanese gamelan culture.
Professor Sumarsam’s work analyzes adaptations in gamelan art as a result of Western colonialism in 19th century Java, showing how Western musical and dramatic practices were domesticated by Javanese performers to create hybrid Javanese-Western art forms, such as with the introduction of brass bands in traditional court music and western theatrical idioms in contemporary wayang puppet plays.
The event included a book signing for Professor Sumarsam’s newest work, Javanese Gamelan and the West, hosted by the UConn Co-op Bookstore.
The 26th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC) was held at Williams College on Oct. 17.
Five students presented results of their summer research: Julian Dann ’17, Aylin Garcia Soto ’18, and Girish Duvvuri ’17 delivered oral presentations while Rachel Aronow ’17 and Avi Stein ’17 presented a poster. Several other students came along to enjoy the weekend, which featured a dinner and social event on Friday night, the seminar on Saturday and breakout sessions on such topics as Inclusive Astronomy and how/why to program in Python.
More than 100 students and faculty from KNAC attended the event (pictured below):
During the Society for Neuroscience‘s (SfN) annual meeting Oct. 17-21, Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, received the Louise Hansen Marshall Special Recognition Award.
The Louise Hanson Marshall Special Recognition Award honors individuals who have significantly promoted the professional development of women in neuroscience through teaching, organizational leadership, public advocacy and more. Naegele shares the 2015 Louise Hansen Marshall award with Paul Greengard P’77, P’79, GP ’08, the Vincent Astor Professor at The Rockefeller University in New York.
Naegele began her career studying the characteristics of cortical neurons and more recently has performed pioneering studies of transplantation of inhibitory neurons in the brain as a potential treatment for severe epilepsy.
For seven weeks last summer, James Forster ’18 learned how to transform a female classmate into a bat and mold an older gentleman into a pointy-eared creature named “Zerbei.”
As one of six selected students enrolled in a “Make-Up FX and Prosthetics Creation” course at Groton Studios in the United Kingdom, Forster learned ways to work behind the scenes as a creative, workshop-based prosthetics artist. From concept designing through sculpting, moulding, casting and finishing, the curriculum focused on producing industry-ready craftspeople.
Forster, a potential English major with an interest in drawing and photo manipulation, got a taste for character creation while working in the costume shop for Second Stage during his freshman year.
“Up until then, I didn’t have much sculpting experience, so when I applied, I wasn’t sure whether my almost entirely two-dimensional portfolio would be what they had in mind,” he said. “I was overjoyed when I found out that they had admitted me.”
Prior to departing to the U.K., Forster, of Rye, N.Y. took a sculpting class at nearby Westchester Community College where he learned the basics of sculpting facial anatomy and expression. Five weeks later, he arrived at Gorton Studios in Chesham, which turned out to be one of the most surreal experiences of his life.
“The interior of the building itself resembled some kind of extraordinary crossbreed between a normal artists studio and a wax museum,” Forster described. “Dozens of busts, statuettes, costumes and small scale models from a variety of science fiction, fantasy, and horror films covered the walls, shelves, and floor – anywhere there was space, really. Mechanical components for animatronics were scattered in corners, and power tools covered the tabletops.”
The six students received a staggering array of tools, including saws,