People

Stamp of Approval: Assistant Post Office Manager Celebrates 40 Years


Assistant post office manager Jerry Winzer hand sorts mail inside Wesleyan Station.
 
Posted 02/23/05
After working 28 years at Middletown’s U.S. Postal Service, Gerard “Jerry” Winzer decided to it was time to retire. Winter, he learned, is not the ideal time to call it quits.

“November was a bad time to retire,” the 62-year-old says. “I wasn’t too crazy about just hanging around. I needed to keep busy.”

To beat the winter blues, Winzer took up a part-time position at Wesleyan Station delivering mail. Part-time evolved into full-time work, and, this year, the assistant post office manager will celebrate 12 years working at Wesleyan, and his 40th year in the postal services profession.

Winzer’s workday begins at 7 a.m. when he’s greeted by heaps of unsorted mail. A mail messenger picks up the parcels an hour later to deliver.

“By 8, I’ve already sorted a lot of mail,” he says noting the dozens of wood shelves he packs with envelopes, papers, publications and packages. “You can’t be a slacker in the post office.”

Lisa Davis, the post office’s manager deals with budgets, equipment and bill paying. That leaves Winzer to oversee 20 student workers, two full-time office clerks and two full-time mail messengers, who each cover a specified route twice a day. They make approximately 80 stops per route, delivering and collecting mail at more than 100 departments.

Every letter or publication that comes through Wesleyan Station is hand sorted. With no mail delivery on the weekends, the postal workers have to deal with twice as much mail on Mondays.

“You should see it in here on a Monday. It’s crazy,” he says.

Campus mail used to be sorted alphabetically, but Winzer has since developed his own sorting system. Now, mail is bundled up inside Wesleyan Station in order of the carriers’ routes.

“It runs in order,” he says, glancing over the mail shelves. “If the carrier is in North College, he’ll go to the cashier’s office, then to the top floor for payroll, the trustees, academic affairs, then to the dean’s office, and then he’ll go over to where you’re at, in South College, to communications, to the president’s office, public information, and administration. He just follows that route, so it’s a pretty good system. It’s easy to follow.”

In addition to mail sorting, rerouting letters, managing the staff and working the window, Winzer spends a portion of his day on a postage metering machine.

Winzer examines the machine’s counter. It reads “337,062.”

“Three-hundred-thirty-seven thousand,” he says. “That’s how much money Wesleyan has spent on mailing through this machine, since we’ve got this machine. And the machine is going on its third year,” he said, while metering two envelopes from the Psychology Department.

Before any letter goes through the metering machine, Winzer types in a department code, to assure proper billing. Each department has its own six-digit code, but Winzer rarely sneaks a peek. He usually types in the codes by memory.

“I know a lot of them. I guess they’re just in my subconscious,” he says.

His good memory also is put to the test when he meets customers at the transaction counter.

“Somebody will say their name, and I just know what box number they have, and they are just amazed,” Winzer says. “It just becomes a habit.”

The post office has moved to different locations throughout campus. First in the Downey House, and then Fisk Hall, Wesleyan Station now occupies space in the Davenport Campus Center, formerly the John Bell Scott building’s science laboratory.

With barely enough room to pass a mail cart through, Winzer is eagerly awaiting the much larger mailroom that will be housed in the Usdan University Center. Construction will begin early this year.

According to Alan Rubacha of Construction Services, a mail receiving, sorting, distributing and package handling area in the basement will occupy 1,230 square feet. Another 1,700 square feet of space will accommodate 3,000 post boxes, two transaction counters and additional mail sorting space.

The postal workers can use the space. In the 2002-03 academic year, Wesleyan Station received and sorted more than 3.5 million pieces of mail and packages. Winzer and his staff handle approximately 8,000 pieces of campus mail every week.

The current facility is about 1,000 square feet.

“I wish more people from the departments would come over here and see what we do,” Winzer says. “We do a lot.”

After Winzer leaves the office at 3:30 p.m., he returns to his home in Middletown. He spends his leisure time jogging or with his wife, Missy, and nine grandkids. He’s also the vice chairman of the Board of Education, and hosts two television shows on public access television titled “Today’s Issues” and “Spotlight on Education.”

But Winzer never minds coming back to work — well, all but one day of the year.

“Valentines Day. It’s by far the worst,” he says. “Worst than Christmas time. Grandmas and grandpas and everybody is sending tons of candy and flowers here. There’s those chocolate kisses all over the floor. There’s lots and lots of mail around then.”

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Instructor Impressed with Intelligence, Humanity of Students and Colleagues at Wesleyan


 
Carol Wright is a visiting instructor in the African American Studies Program.
 
Posted 01/31/05

Q: You started working at Wesleyan in 2003. What has impressed you most about the university?

A:  I am impressed with the incredible depth, intelligence and humanity of many Wesleyan students and my colleagues in the African American Studies Program.

Q: What does ‘visiting’ instructor refer to? Where are you visiting from and how did you end up at Wes?

A: Visiting instructor refers to the fact that my position is non-tenure track and temporary. As a practical matter, I am visiting from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where I held a pre-doctoral fellowship for two years. During my final year at Bowdoin, I saw the Wesleyan job advertisement and jumped at the chance to apply.

Q: Are students of all ethnic and backgrounds interested in a degree in African American studies? How would you describe it?

A:  The African American Studies Program is strong. Many, many students of all different backgrounds are interested in an AFAM degree. The program is interdisciplinary in nature. Course discussions and debates include issues of economics, globalization, gender, class, politics, cultural and literary representations among other things. Students learn important content, but further, I think the program has a profound effect on the ways students think, how they understand and re-organize the experiences of their world.

Q: What issues would you bring up in the classroom?

A: Broadly, I teach courses specializing in African American education. This includes issues of social inequality, urban educational policy and the relationship between educational theory and practice. Most recently, I’ve taught a service-learning course that will place students in a local middle-school with a focus on the effects of the No Child Left Behind policy.

Q: What do you hope students take away from your classes?

A: I would like to think students leave my courses as better critical thinkers and writers while simultaneously understanding that African Americans have a complex educational past and sometimes a contradictory educational present.

Q: Do you have a philosophy about teaching? How do you help students become critical thinkers in the classroom?

A: I approach teaching as if I’m telling a story. Stories have a beginning, middle and end and you can’t just jump in at the middle, or only a few students will figure it out. By giving a full narrative, I try to capture as many students as I can. I also try, every semester, to show at least one film, have a guest speaker and let students give their own presentations. Many students request to to work on a thesis, or are interested in doing independent studies on these subjects.

Q: Do you enjoy being in the classroom more so that researching?

A: I love teaching. I enjoy engaging students, but I can find it to be a real challenge to teach and find time to spend on my own research. I’ve been collecting a lot of data about African American college students at small, liberal arts universities, that I have to go through. None from Wesleyan, though.

Q: Where did you go to college and what are your majors?

A: I went to Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania where I majored in anthropology and sociology and French. Academically speaking, I am a huge supporter of small liberal arts colleges. Socially, well, that’s another story.

Q: On campus, have you attended many student events, concerts or dances?

A: Students have invited me to events, but I often have to decline due to scheduling conflicts. Last year I attended a creative student performance and I thought it was fabulous. It was great to see students in a less rigid, more creative/expressive milieu. I was reminded that students have many talents — I was also reminded of my lack of artistic talent — and express them in multiple ways.

Q: You mentioned that you visit family in New York. Is that where you’re from?

A: Both my parents are from the Caribbean, but I was born and raised in New York City. Other than New York, I have lived at least one year in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maine, Connecticut, Brussels, Belgium and Dijon, France.

Q: What’s something humorous or unique that I should know about you?

A: I once drove across the country in the middle of the summer in a bathing suit. It was about 100 degrees and my car did not have an air conditioner. Also, at one point I had a part-time job selling Lancome cosmetics.

Q: Oh, so you’re a saleswoman too?

A: I was pretty good; I won an award or two. Go figure!

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

History, East Asian Professor Explores Trauma Through Poetry


Vera Schwarcz, professor of History and East Asian studies, collaborated with artist Chava Pressburger for the book, “In the Garden of Memory,” published by March Street Press. The publication features 18 poems with accompanying paper-art images.
 
Posted 01/31/05

How does memory speak?

Not with words

in this small country of silenced song. Winter

is the native tongue

of children without food.

-words from Vera Schwarcz’s “In the Garden of Memory”

When visiting Jerusalem in 1991, a striking oil painting caught Vera Schwarcz’s attention. The Romanian-born daughter of Holocaust survivors instantly felt a connection with the artwork titled “Memories.”

“I was deeply moved by its abstract depiction of a shattered world,” Schwarcz said. “The painting evoked huge, shards of stone, a rubbled world held together by a fragile thread, lace and barbed wire that I envisioned as memory threads held onto by sheer will alone. In wake of total annihilation, that moved me as an act of spiritual courage.”

Schwarcz, professor of History and East Asian studies at Wesleyan and published author and poet, later met the painting’s artist, Chava Pressburger. Pressburger, a native of a Jewish community in the Czech Republic, was imprisoned in Terezin in1943-44. Her younger brother was killed in Auschwitz in 1944.

Although Schwarcz was born after the war, their similar backgrounds were the start of a friendship and professional collaboration. Six months ago, the duo released a book together titled “In the Garden of Memory,” published by March Street Press. The publication, which they consider “a conversation in paper, poetry and print,” features 18 poems by Schwarcz with accompanying paper-art images by Pressburger.

Pressburger’s artwork is created from paper she produced herself from plants cultivated in her garden and near her home in Nagev, Israel.

“As a Jew, as a China scholar, the past is not dead for me. It’s very alive, very important,” Schwarcz said. “I have been looking for ways to give it voice. Through this collaboration, we are putting into the world something that will seed reflection and pleasure. A garden is a bordered space for slow placed reflection. This is an invitation to come into the garden.”

Before going to print, Schwarcz and Pressburger exhibited the artwork in Prague, Rhode Island and Connecticut. The display explored the themes of historical trauma in contemporary life.

Schwarcz, like many children born in the generation following the war, was named after other children who had died in the war.

“Our parents often did not tell us about the earlier kin. We thus grew up carrying the name, the destiny of precursors who remained a haunting, vague nameless presence,” she said. “Hence, perhaps my compulsion as a writer to name things, as a historian to document truth. If something can have a name and place in the heart, mind the page, it may be somehow be laid to rest.”

“In the Garden of Memory” isn’t the first time she’s written about the holocaust. In her last book, “Bridge Across Broke Time,” she wove together her own family’s memoirs to with words of poets and historians to show how it is possible to maintain cultural identity in the face of the most disheartening events.

“What was new in this project with Pressburger was poetry, an art form I have been exploring for two decades. Here finally was a way to write about something historical and personal–using the craft of poetry I had been polishing for a while,” she said.  

After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in 1969, a master’s degree from Yale in 1971, and a Ph. D. from Stanford in 1977, she wrote over fifty articles on Chinese intellectual history and comparative memory studies. She’s also the author of five other books titled, “A Scoop of Light,” “Fresh Words for a Jaded World,” “Time for Telling Truth is Running Out: Conversations with Zhang Shenfu,” “The Chinese Enlightenment: The Legacy of the May Fourth Movement in Modern China,” and “Long Road Home: A China Journal.”

Since the publication of “In the Garden,” several other artists – and photographers – have approached Schwarcz interested in similar collaborations.

She’s interested, but she’s already made a commitment with a 19th century Manchu Prince named Yi Huan. Huan (1840-1891) wrote poems in Chinese responding to the burning of Beijing’s princely palaces by French and British armies in 1860.

“I am adapting Yi Huan’s voice to the cadence of historical traumas in the 20th century, including the post September 11th scorched landscape that is our inheritance today,” said Schwarcz, who is fluent in Chinese, French, Hebrew, Romanian and Hungarian, and can read Japanese and German languages.

To date, Schwarcz has already published about 25 of these renditions and envisions publishing a collection of 50 poems in the next two years called “Sea of Shards.”

Recently, she’s working on a new book, “Truth in the Ruins of History: A Comparative Inquiry.” And her latest prose/academic book, “Singing Crane Garden; Art and Atrocity in One Corner of China,” was submitted to the University of Pennsylvania Press this month. It will be part of a series on the history of landscaped spaces.

 “I find myself wanting to write new books all the time,” she said. “In the Garden of Memory is available at Broad Street Books and http://www.marchstreetpress.com/.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Career Resource Center Director Helps Students Find Meaningful Careers by Exploring Their Interests and Passions


 
Mike Sciola, Career Resource Center director, helps Talya Marshall, ’07, find photography career opportunities.
 
Posted 01/31/05

Q: The Career Resource Center (CRC) aims to establish relationships with students and help them find jobs. If a student approaches you, how would you go about helping him or her?

A: We take a three step approach: self assessment, career exploration, and job search.  Most people, and not just students, think the first step to finding a meaningful career is to write a resume and start sending it out to job sites on the Internet. The problem with this approach is that folks tend to go with the familiar. 

For a lot of students, their knowledge of the world of work is fairly limited. Many have a short list of occupations of which they have a personal understanding, such as being a ­doctor, lawyer or teacher. In reality, taking the time to assess one’s interests and passions first, next exploring a wide-variety of options, and then crafting a targeted job search strategy yields a much more satisfying result.  We have a variety of career interest assessment tools, a very specialized collection of print and electronic resources covering a wide array of occupations, and an incredible network of alumni and parent volunteers available to share their knowledge and perspective.

Q:  Where do the students end up going?

A: That’s the beauty of a Wesleyan liberal arts education – it can take you anywhere in the world. Our students have been taught to think and to analyze. They have the tools to pull together disparate information into a new understanding of the world. These skills are highly valued by top companies and institutions. I believe a Wesleyan degree is more relevant at the beginning of the 21st century than ever before.

We often get the question about where do Wesleyan graduates go after leaving Middletown. The Career Resource Center Web site has a breakdown of where our alumni work.  We analyzed the alumni database. With information on 12,252 alumni, the top five occupations are business (28 percent), education (20 percent), health professions (9 percent), law (8 percent), and entertainment (6 percent). 

Q: What is your day like?

A: As director of the career center, I have two distinct roles: managing the office and staff and, at the same time, maintain a significant counseling schedule. These are often competing needs.  I work with an incredible group of talented and dedicated professionals. To date this year, the CRC has had 3,688 counseling interactions with 1,188 individuals. We’ve already organized 69 programs and events, and have had more than 60 organizations participate in our recruiting programs. And February is traditionally our busiest month!  It is a lot to coordinate. I have to say, though – I’ve got the best job at Wesleyan. Every single day, I get to talk with smart, articulate, motivated young people about their plans for the future and about the world they are about to change for the better. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Q: How long have you been at Wesleyan?

A: I’ve been at Wesleyan for nine years. I had been the associate director of Career Services at Brown University prior to coming to Wesleyan. Before that, I worked at California State University, Fresno, the University of Rhode Island and the University of New Hampshire in a variety of student affairs positions ­ residential life, student life, and fraternity and sorority affairs. My bachelor’s degree is in gerontology and my master’s degree is in human development, counseling and family studies. I knew that I wanted to work with students, and that I wanted to use my counseling skills.

Q:  Is your job rewarding? Do you keep in touch with the students after they leave?

A: Incredibly rewarding. I’m so impressed with Wesleyan students and alumni. Now that I’ve been at Wesleyan for a significant time, I have the joy of reconnecting with former students at reunion or getting an e-mail message of the blue.  I was in New York recently and was stopped by a member of the Class of 2000. It was thrilling to hear that he was happy and enjoying life and doing amazing things.  I learn something new about the world everyday by talking with our students and alumni.

Q: Do you have any interesting hobbies or tidbits that I should know about you outside of work?

A: I’m a singer and have been a member of the Greater Middletown Chorale since coming to Wesleyan. We once got a call to sing with Kenny Rogers at the Oakdale Theater. This December, we were Governor Rell’s guests at the Governor’s Mansion in Hartford. Mostly, though, we sing the classical choral repertoire. I’m also on the board of Oddfellows Playhouse in Middletown.

Q: Do you live in Middletown?

A: Yes, on Ridge Road, and our next door neighbors on three sides are Wesleyan faculty and staff. We call it ‘The Compound.’ Did you know that there used to be a horse-drawn trolley that started in the North End on Main Street, turned up Ridge Road off of South Main and came all the way up to Crystal Lake?  I would have loved to see that.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Women’s Studies Administrative Assistant Participates in Youth Mentoring Program and has Interest in Women’s Issues


Noreen Baris, administrative assistant for the Women’s Studies Program, stands outside her office on High Street. Baris serves as a liaison between the program’s chair, faculty and students.
 
Posted 01/31/05

Q: When did you become the administrative assistant in the Women’s Studies Program? Were you working at Wesleyan before then? 

A: Yes. I first came to Wesleyan in November 1986 and worked in the Romance Languages and Literatures Department until 1992. I’ve been at Women’s Studies since then.

Q: How would you describe a typical day? Are you mostly working at your desk, talking on the phone or meeting with people?

A: This position is rather diversified and I do all the above mentioned duties on a daily basis. I work closely with the chair of Women’s Studies and I serve as a liaison between the Women’s Studies chair and the faculty and majors.  I also coordinate the scheduling of  Women’s Studies meetings, luncheons and events, manage the budget, update the Web page, do other computer related duties and monitor Women’s Studies course offerings.

Q: What do you like most about your job and working in the Women’s Studies program in particular?

A: I have found the Women’s Studies faculty to be exceptional in many ways and I enjoy working with them. I also like the diversity of the position. In addition to my other duties, the Women’s Studies Program has two major events per year: The Women’s Studies Symposium in the fall semester, and the Diane Weiss Memorial ’80 Memorial Lecture during spring semester. I enjoy coordinating the many details required for both events.

Q: Do you, yourself, have any interest in women’s issues?

A: Yes, I am interested in women’s issues such as better medical research and health care of women, equal pay for men and women doing the same job, and better benefits for working mothers.

Q: What do you do after work? Do you have any hobbies?

A: My hobbies are knitting, quilting, and gardening, and I enjoy doing them in my spare time. I also enjoy and have been serving as a mentor for children for the past eight years. Originally I started mentoring teenage girls and being a “buddy” at the Cromwell Children’s Home.  I am now affiliated with The Children’s Center Youth Mentoring Partnership and have been mentoring the same young girl for the past four years, at least five hours per week. I’m very much involved with her life, her problems and her accomplishments.

Q: Tell me about your family.  

A: I have been married to my husband John for 35 years and we live in Durham.  I have two daughters, Laney, who is 30, and Carrie, who is 26. Laney is a veterinarian practicing in New Jersey and Carrie is a high school English teacher in California. I am very proud of them both.

Q: I understand you have the summers off. Do you travel much?

A: We have traveled extensively in the U.S. Up North, down South, out West. We’ve especially enjoyed Yosemite, Yellowstone and Zion national parks, and we’ve also gone to Hawaii. We’ve been to Canada — Montreal, Quebec and cities in-between — several times. Also traveled to Aruba and Europe. Last summer,  we traveled to Switzerland and Austria. We visited Italy, France and England in May 2002.

 
By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor