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This is the time of year when high school students must decide where they’ll go to college, and while there are many criteria for this important decision (large or small school; urban or rural; public or private) Wesleyan President Michael Roth says that it’s most important to choose the place where you’ll thrive, and develop the habits that will serve you after college and throughout your life.

In an op-ed circulated by the McClatchy Tribune News Service and published in papers around the country and overseas, Roth urges young people to choose the university where they will flourish.

“Discovering these possibilities for flourishing is the opposite of trying to figure out how to conform to the world as it is,” he writes.” That’s a losing proposition, not least because the world is changing so rapidly; tomorrow it won’t be how it is today. When you flourish, you find ways of shaping change, not just ways of coping with it. Those who get the most out of college are often anti-conformists aiming to find out who they are and what kind of work they will find most meaningful. They are not ready simply to accept someone else’s assignment. Those who get the most out of college expand the horizons in which they can lead a life of meaning and purpose.”

The Boston Globe featured Wesleyan’s three-year degree option, which allows students to get a jump start on graduate school or a career while saving 20 percent off their tuition bill. The option is not right for everyone, and requires students to take on heavy workloads, and perhaps give up certain opportunities like study abroad.

The Globe interviewed students pursuing the three-year degree, including Victoria Ramos ’15, who is premed and majoring in neuroscience and behavior.

At the beginning, she was simply driven. Then she realized how much money she could save for herself and her parents. With financial aid, her family is paying $22,000 this year. She also went to one summer session, then spent the rest of the season working at her parents’ grocery store.

Last semester was “really rough,” she said, because of a tough organic chemistry class. Still, she is in a Latin dance troupe and two other student groups, earning a B+ average, and says she still has time for her friends.

Her secret: six hours of sleep is enough, she says. And when she does need rest, she ignores her friends’ text messages.

If she had time, Ramos would have liked to run track and study abroad in France. But ultimately, she doesn’t feel deprived.

“In the time I’ve spent here I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve done,” she said, “and gotten a good breadth of things I wanted to do, a taste of everything.”

Time also featured Wesleyan’s three-year option.

psycheDoes listening to your favorite song give you goose bumps, chills or a “skin orgasm,” as Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, puts it?  Loui is interested in the neuroscience behind emotional responses to music. She discussed her research with the website TRBQ and with Public Radio International (PRI).

No one type of music causes this kind of physical reaction; it’s all about personal preference.

“There are some people who will really, honestly say that some pieces of music, like Justin Bieber, are really, really, really moving to them,” Loui told PRI. “And then there will be some people who say, ‘There’s something about a piano concerto that’s really doing it for me.’”

And for some people, music just doesn’t elicit an emotional response.

Loui says her most interesting findings have to do with the disparity between the people who get chills, and those who never seem to respond to music emotionally.

She says the brains of people who get chills show a stronger connection between the auditory areas and the emotion and social processing areas.

This research could hint at answers to one of the biggest questions in the field: Why has music evolved to be so important in every human culture?

“Maybe what these results are telling us is that we use music as an auditory channel to evoke these emotional responses in other people,” she told TRBQ. “And in a way we’re using it as an emotional form of communication.”

Loui has also found a connection between musical creativity and empathy. That is, she believes we use music as a way to identify emotionally with one another. Her “pet theory,” she told PRI, is that this ability is unique to humans, setting us apart from singing birds and screeching monkeys.

South College. Memorial Chapel. Judd Hall. Though Wesleyan’s campus is defined by its eclectic architecture, a number of key buildings share the same familiar building blocks: brownstone.

CPTV’s “Connecticut’s Cultural Treasures” series looked into the story behind Wesleyan’s brownstone, which came from the nearby Portland brownstone quarry. Providing insight into the history of this industry is Alison Guinness MALS ’85, CAS ’91. She completed her master’s thesis at Wesleyan on Portland brownstone, and took CPTV on a tour around campus to appreciate the different styles of brownstone architecture.

“The need was created in the early 1800s, when major developing urban centers like New York and Boston were concerned about the risk of fire, and they created ordinances and building codes requiring stone or brick to be used,” explained Guinness. “All of the buildings were pretty much brownstone for a long period of time.”

Brownstone was critical in the founding of Wesleyan.

“They endowed the university with the sale of stone from quarries, and the stone that came out of the quarry could also be used to create more buildings,” said Guinness.

Professor of History Ron Schatz also was interviewed about the immigrant workers who took dangerous, but high-paying, jobs in the quarry.

“They worked very hard, they drank very hard, they drank at work. You and I would too if we were doing it under those conditions,” Schatz.

Watch the special here.

Climate change is already leaving its mark on countries all around the world, damaging food crops, spreading disease and melting glaciers.

This is the conclusion of a new report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on which Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, is a co-author.

“Previously the IPCC was accused of being very conservative,” Yohe told The Guardian (UK) newspaper. “This allows them to be less conservative without being open to criticism that they are just trying to scare people to death.”

According to the article, nearly 500 people must sign off on the exact wording of the summary, including the 66 expert authors, 271 officials from 115 countries, and 57 observers.

“But governments have already signed off on the critical finding that climate change is already having an effect, and that even a small amount of warming in the future could lead to ‘abrupt and irreversible changes’, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

‘In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans,’ the final report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will say.”

Read more here.

Yohe also discussed the report with The Washington Post.

Watch a webinar with Yohe on climate change and the new IPCC report here.

Donnie Cimino ’15, captain of both the baseball and football teams, “has been having fun from the day he stepped on the Wesleyan University campus 2-1/2 years ago,” according to a feature article on the Wesleyan student in the New England Baseball Journal. “A junior center fielder and No. 3 hitter, he’s a two-time NESCAC batting champion, and, last year as a sophomore, set a program record with 69 hits.”

In addition, “In the fall, he earned All-NESCAC football honors for the second time, a safety who helped the Cardinals go 7-1, their best record since 1997, and one that included wins over Amherst and Williams that secured an outright Little Three title for the first time since 1970.”

“We knew he was a great player coming in, and he’s fulfilled that,” baseball coach Mark Woodworth told the Journal. “But he’s also become a great, great leader for us. This is the best team I’ve had, and Donnie’s a big part of that. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence the football team had its best season in 40 years.”

 

Firshein

William Firshein’s book, published by Oxford University Press in January 2014

“Of the approximately ten million cells that make up the human body, there are billions of microbes that come along with them.”

In a post on OUPblog (the blog of Oxford University Press), William Firshein, the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology, emeritus, reminds readers of the multitude of microbes that can make us sick, including antibiotic resistant pathogens that infect more than 2 million people in the U.S. each year. Given the constant assault we’re under from these pathogens, how do our bodies defend us? In this blog–and in a new book titled The Infectious Microbe, published by Oxford University Press in January–Firshein walks readers through the biological processes involved in warding off pathogens.

He writes: “How does the body interact with these ‘foreign’ entities? The immune system must protect the body from attack by pathogens and also from the formation of abnormal cells which could turn cancerous. Two types of immune responses exist. One is under the control of antibodies (proteins which circulate in the blood stream) that resist and inactivate invading pathogens by binding to them. The other is mediated by a certain type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte that destroys abnormal (potentially cancerous) cells and viral infected cells. Together, with other white blood cells, they present a formidable defense against infection and abnormality.”

Game of Thrones cast members Emilia Clarke and Iain Glen. Photo: Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.

Game of Thrones cast members Emilia Clarke and Iain Glen. Photo: Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.

On the eve of the fourth season of HBO’s fantasy hit Game of Thrones, Wesleyan Visiting Writer in English Jim Windolf talks with series creators D.B. Weiss ’93 and David Benioff and novelist George R.R. Martin – on whose works the show is based – in Vanity Fair:

“Based on ‘A Song of Ice and Fire,’ the epic series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, the show seemed like an odd fit for HBO. But Benioff and Weiss believed it was in the tradition of The Sopranos, Deadwood, Oz, and other HBO shows in that it would breathe new life into a tired or maligned genre. It wasn’t an easy task, though, to persuade executives that something belonging to a category that includes Xena: Warrior Princess was right for the crown jewel of premium cable. ‘That was one of the big uphill sells,’ Weiss says. ‘It was just a question of convincing them that it applied to a genre that had never seriously crossed their minds before.’”

Windolf traces the history of the show’s creation and rocky HBO debut, and asks author Martin about the relationship between the source material and the series:

“Game of Thrones, which enters its fourth season this month, may be heading toward its second massive problem, as tough to solve as the messed-up pilot, which is this: the show is in danger of catching up to the books.

“Martin started writing the epic saga (more than 4,000 pages and counting) in July 1991. He has published five of a planned seven books. If the 2015 television season carries Benioff and Weiss through Book Five, which is possible, and if Martin has not completed Book Six (The Winds of Winter) by that time, which is also possible, there could be trouble.

“Asked if it’s conceivable the show could overtake its source material, Benioff says, ‘Yup.’ When I mention to Martin that Benioff and Weiss are catching up, he says, ‘They are. Yes. It’s alarming.’”

Windolf is editor of M magazine, contributing editor for Vanity Fair, columnist for Capital New York, and writer for The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The New York Observer.

Read more…

 

‘Mad Men’ creator Matthew Weiner ’87 talks about his vision for the show as it enters its final season. Photo: Chris Pizzello / AP

‘Mad Men’ creator Matthew Weiner ’87 talks about his vision for the show as it enters its final season. Atlantic photo: Chris Pizzello / AP

‘Mad Men’ creator Matthew Weiner ’87 speaks extensively with The Atlantic magazine about the show ahead of its final season’s premier. He discusses the evolution of several of the show’s main characters, including which characters are audience favorites; his philosophy in writing dialogue; the real-life drama that inspires his writing; the era of the anti-hero; and the possibility of redemption.

“When the first episode of ‘Mad Men’ aired, in July 2007, Weiner’s hope was to have the show renewed for enough seasons to cover the entire decade of the ’60s. Since then, we’ve followed the characters from the suburban ennui of the early part of the decade through the turmoil of 1968, a span that includes the introduction of free love, Hare Krishna devotees, wide lapels, and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. By now, Weiner has lived with these particular characters long enough to have the ‘meta-experience, if you go back and watch the first season, of nostalgia.’

“…[In the final season] whatever happens to Draper will take place against the backdrop of an era Weiner clearly sees as disappointing, in which hopes are deflated, various hypocrisies are laid bare, and cynicism eventually reasserts itself. ‘The chickens are coming home to roost,’ he says. ‘The revolution happens, and is defeated,’ in 1968. ‘There is cultural change, but the tanks roll into Prague, the students go back to school.’ All of that leads to the era Weiner witnessed as the child of a liberal father in the 1980s…”

Mad Men’s final season begins April 13 on AMC. Read more here and here.

 

Eric Asimov ’79, The New York Times’ wine critic, invites readers to “get out your corkscrew” in a new monthly “Wine School” column. In each installment, Asimov chooses a type of wine for readers to try at home, and asks them to share thoughts, comments and questions on The New York Times’ website.

“You don’t have to know much about wine to enjoy it. But if you become interested in wine and want to examine it more closely, your pleasure will deepen. What was merely satisfying becomes rewarding and, occasionally, even profound. This is the goal of the Wine School, which begins today: to help create an atmosphere of pleasure, attentiveness and curiosity about wine that will lead to knowing what you like, what you do not and why. I hope you will join me in the coming months to drink some wine together.”

Read the first Wine School column here.

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