Faculty Seminar/Presentation Descriptions

On Friday, August 30th, you will attend the Faculty Seminar you were assigned over the summer. You will need to complete the readings assigned for your seminar before arriving to campus so you are fully prepared to engage the material being presented during the seminar and during the breakout sessions immediately following the seminars.

The locations of the seminars will be indicated on the Moodle course page once they have all been finalized.  If you are unsure about how to find a particular location, you should ask your RA, an Orientation Leader, or email the Dean of Students Office.

SEMINAR SELECTION HAS BEEN CLOSED. If you have not selected a seminar, you will be assigned based on available space.  If you have any questions, please email Scott Backer in the Dean of Student's Office.

The Faculty Seminars will include the following:


Access, Diversity, and the Ethnic Canon

Professor Amy Tang and Professor Marguerite Nguyen

The goals of increasing minority access to higher education and the championing of diversity are often presumed to be synonymous. But does the diversification of our student bodies and our curriculum actually translate into greater access for historically underrepresented racial groups? Does the concept of “diversity” serve to expand opportunities for racial minorities or does it reinforce existing inequalities – or worse yet, produce new ones?

This First Year Matters talk will tackle these questions from the perspective of Asian American studies, where issues of affirmative action, racial representation, and institutionalized multiculturalism have been especially vexed in light of the model minority myth, which presumes that Asian Americans are not a minority because race is not seen as hindering their access to mainstream success. We will also explore some works in Asian American literature that engage the limits and possibilities of “ethnic canons” in the classroom and thus implicate us in the process of accessing diversity.


Can you talk the talk?  Language, access, and the case of non-human animals

Professor Kari Weil

Access to education or to rights or is usually regarded as dependent on the ability to communicate through a common language.  This is one reason that animal advocates have attempted to prove that great apes can sign, and, similarly that students must show that they know how to speak or write “correctly.”  But can language tell all? Can it speak the inner life of the ape or reveal our individual differences as humans? What are the limitations of language and what might it prevent us from saying or even from knowing?  These are some of the questions that will be raised in this session.


Does Our Current Higher Education System Help or Hinder Social Mobility?

Professor Joyce Jacobsen

Higher education is traditionally seen as a crucial path to upward mobility.  But the rising cost of education, accompanied by increased student debt and low degree completion rates, casts doubt on this picture.  Is college still a good investment, and what policy changes could make it a less risky investment for the less well-off?


El Espejismo Migratorio

Professor Octavio Flores-Cuadra

Percepciones de inmigrantes que han dejado todo –o nada—por vivir el sueño americano. La realidad se convierte en un espejismo que no siempre beneficia a todos. Ventajas y desventajas de esta aventura migratoria en busca de oportunidades para lograr un futuro más tranquilo que sus propios países no les supieron dar. Casos de discriminación en contra de inmigrantes documentados e indocumentados.

This seminar will be presented in Spanish


Understanding Access to Voting for Individuals with Disabilities

Goldie Adele, Southern Connecticut State University

We will look at the history of voting rights in the U.S. per the constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, issues related to voting access by individuals with disabilities, diversity in disability and suggestions on policies etc. moving forward. This will be an interactive session where students get to interact and provide their opinion on this important social justice and access issue.


 Trials and Bargains

Professor Richie Adelstein

The Sixth Amendment guarantees everyone accused of a crime a speedy and public trial before a jury, but the huge number of crimes committed in the United States and the relatively small budgets of the judicial system make it impossible to fulfill that promise for more than a tiny fraction of actual criminal defendants. This talk considers how access to very scarce jury trials is allocated, and what the alternatives to them are.


Understanding the School to Prison Pipeline

Professor Mariah Schug

In order to provide a safe atmosphere in which children can learn, many schools have arranged for police officers to be present during the school day. An unfortunate consequence of this action is that children are being arrested for minor offenses – such as getting in a fight or talking back to an authority figure – that previously would have been handled through in-school discipline. Non-white and special needs students are far more likely to be arrested than their white, typically performing peers. Once in the juvenile justice system, children are far less likely to graduate from high school and far more likely to be incarcerated as adults. This seminar will explore these issues and discuss Wesleyan-based programs attempting to provide educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals.


Knowing Your Place: The Possibilities of History, Mysteries, and Revelation

Professor Lois Brown

Many writers contemplate the rigors and possibilities of individuals striving to live, thrive, and survive in diverse communities.  This session focuses on works in which place--whether it be a location of origin or a mythic destination--shape the ways in which people approach, see, and imagine each other.  We will discuss the politics and possibilities of access, trespass, and what it requires of individuals and communities to negotiate the distances created by experience and place. 


Saviour Siblings: Why, How, and Should We?

Professor Laura Grabel

Saviour siblings are children who are conceived, at least in part, to generate material that could "save" an already existing sibling. We will learn how this is done, discuss an example, and have a conversation about the ethics, including who has access to the technology.


Kinship with Nature: Moral Ecologies and The Common

Professor Gillian Goslinga

As environmental crises at every turn confront us, it might prove useful to think about our relationship with the natural world.  Environmentalists and ecologists typically speak of “resource management” and “shareholding stakes” in our responsible use of nature; their language and conceptual frameworks are those of economics.  In this session you will be introduced to an indigenous model for thinking about how humans relate to the natural world and can best use it.   Whilst being sensitive to issues of cultural appropriation and colonization, we will expand our thinking about social inclusion and access to include what ecological anthropologists call the “other-than-human,” the nonhuman beings with whom we share planet Earth and upon whom our survival as a species depends.  I will also talk to you about the experimental student run farm on our campus, Long Lane Farm, and its efforts to include the larger Middletown community in a food commons. 


The "Constant Revelation" of the Wesleyan Experience

Professor Sarah Mahurin

This First Year Matters session will take the precondition of New Student Orientation -- the advent of the college experience, of your college experience -- as its primary subject.  Drawing from literature (fiction, poetry, nonfiction) with undergraduate protagonists, this discussion will invite students to consider what they bring with them to Wesleyan, what Wesleyan now offers to them, and the ways in which these perspectives might be in conflict.  Is the college experience an equalizer, a neutralizer, or a sub-divider?  How do individual students encounter the same classrooms, the same dormitories, the same professors, differently -- and how can we best understand and communicate these differences?


The Community Healthcare Model

Margaret Flinter, Middletown Community Health Center

The session will focus on the fundamental nature of primary care as the interface between personal health and public health; between care of the individual and care of the population, and the urgency of a community health model of care that can reduce disparities and improve health.  We will focus particularly on innovations in care, technology, and training that are transforming primary care—right here in Middletown as well as across the country.


Race, Religion, and Civilization: Pretexts for Exclusion

Professor Peter Gottschalk

The different moments of exclusion experienced by Native Americans, American Jews, and American Muslims have reflected the racial, religious, and civilizational norms prevalent in mainstream America. However, these sad occasions have also served as opportunities for these and other Americans to challenge such intolerance by drawing from – and reaffirming – national ideals of plurality and inclusion.

As is the case with most nations, the very self-definition of the United States is forged with a nationalism implicitly built upon exclusivity. Not everyone can be American, and Americans supposedly differ from citizens of other nations. The democratic nation-state separates the undocumented and unqualified from the true citizens and requires that those citizens ultimately subvert all of their interests and loyalties to the nation. Throughout its two centuries of history, the United States has suffered bouts of intolerance toward various religious communities, some of which have become victims of violence.


Educational Achievement Gaps in the U.S.

Professor Daniel Long

There are notable class and racial/ethnic achievement gaps in the U.S. schools.  Politicians, reformers, and scholars have suggested a wide variety of contradictory reforms to address the achievement gaps in U.S. Schools.   These reforms vary dramatically.  Some of the most prominent reforms consist of the use of testing, such as the No Child Left Behind reforms;  the use of teacher evaluation systems, advocated by the Obama Administration;  the adoption of market reforms, such as school vouchers or charter schools;  an increase in school resources, such as equalizing funding between urban and suburban schools; or  the professionalization of teachers, such as training teachers like doctors.  In this session we will discuss the sources of the achievement gap and possible solutions to the achievement gap.  We also will explore the potential of schools to address inequalities in test scores, graduation rates, and life chances.


Old Migrations, New Immigrant Youth

Stephen Pitti, Yale University

Global migration is an old phenomenon in human history, but the number of people living outside their country of birth has now grown to 200 million people worldwide, and young people play an increasingly important role in globalization and migration debates. Our discussion will focus on immigrant youth in the United States: who they are, where they live, what they experience, how they relate to their countries of origin, and how they understand their role inside and outside of national citizenship. We will explore political hostility against undocumented youth and their families in recent years, and we will end with a consideration of DREAM activists and their efforts to secure a pathway to citizenship for themselves and their family members.


Healthcare: Case Studies in Disparity

Dr. Tom McLarney

This FYM seminar will delve into the issues of health care disparities.  The session will focus on the case studies which are included in the reading material and will be an interactive forum to discuss several major issues contributing to health care disparities:

The lack of insurance