Around Campus

Ira Gessel celebrated as teacher and mathematicianPosted: May 14, 2015

Patient and generous — that is how friends, colleagues and former and current students described Ira Gessel, the Theodore W. and Evelyn G. Berenson Professor of Mathematics, who is retiring after more than 30 years at Brandeis University.

Gessel’s career and significant contributions to mathematics and the field of combinatorics were honored at a conference and dinner on Friday May 8, 2015.

Wessel with students
Gessel, fourth from left, with current and former students 
photo/Jordan Tirrell 

“It’s hard to imagine the department without Ira,” said Daniel Ruberman, chair of the mathematics department. “Not only is Ira a great mathematician but he’s also been a great citizen of the department. He is always willing to sit down with students and colleagues. Every time I walked by his office, there was also someone in there with him.”

“Ira was an incredibly patient teacher,” said Matthew Moynihan, PhD’12. “He would give me a problem to solve and suggest a few ways to solve it. Then, I would work on it for a month, finally figure it out and realize that Ira had suggested the right solution weeks ago but he wanted me to figure it out on my own.”

Andrew Gainer-Dewar, PhD’12, had the same experience.

“He never pushed you toward one solution. He always wanted you to discover the solution on your own — even if he already figured it out,” Gainer-Dewar said.

Gessel had his own way of gently correcting or pushing his students toward the right answer, said Yan Zhuang, PhD’16.

“I know I’ve said something totally wrong when Ira says, ‘Did you mean to say that?’ or ‘Something like that might be true,’” Zhuang recounted, with a laugh.

“If he said, ‘I don’t know what you mean by that, can you explain it,’ I knew I said something really wrong,” said Jordan Tirrell, PhD’16.

That patience extended to undergraduate students as well.

“He treats undergraduates with the same respect and kindness as he treats graduate students,” Jiaqi Gu ’16 said. “He has spent a lot of time with me, going over problems and concepts.”

The mathematics department honored Gessel’s commitment to his students with a framed genealogy poster — an academic family tree — of all of Gessel’s mathematical decedents.

Brandeis SPECTRUM wins 'Shining Star' award from Waltham parent councilPosted: May 12, 2015
Photo/courtesy

Brandeis student volunteers and some of the Waltham Public Schools students they worked with in SPECTRUM.

Brandeis SPECTRUM, a group that builds relationships between Brandeis students and children with disabilities and their families, was recognized with a Shining Star Award from the Waltham Public Schools Special Education Parent Advisory Council.

SPECTRUM consists of three programs: playgroup, tutoring and mentoring. Playgroup focuses on building and developing social skills among a group of children on Sundays. The tutoring program matches children from the community with Brandeis students to work on academic work the children choose. Mentoring focuses on developing a social relationship between a Brandeis student and an older child. SPECTRUM is also developing a new program at the Prospect Hill Community Center. 

The group also joined with Brandeis Buddies, another Waltham Group program, to hold the second annual “Spread the Word to End the Word” event in March. This campaign was started by Special Olympics to put an end to the use of the "R-words" in everyday language. 

The Shining Star Awards are presented at an annual reception in May to individuals or organizations that have demonstrated exemplary service and dedication in their effort to include children with special needs in the Waltham community. 

A parent of a Waltham student tutored by Kathryn Semerau '17 nominated the group. SPECTRUM is coordinated by a group of student leaders, including Benji Bernstein '15, Danielle Flaum '15, Lekha Grandhi '16, Daniel Kats '16, Sejal Kotecha '17 and Jackson Tuck '17.

Turrigiano named to new chairPosted: April 28, 2015
Professor Gina Turrigiano has been named the inaugural Joseph J. Levitan Chair in Visual Sciences for her research on how neural networks constantly “fine-tune” themselves even as they provide neuronal stability.
 
In honor of the appointment, Turrigiano will deliver a lecture titled “Self-Tuning Neurons and Brain Stability,” in Rapaporte Treasure Hall at 4:30 p.m. on April 30.
 
“In addition to being an outstanding scientist who is making great strides in understanding a fundamental problem in neuroscience, Gina is deeply committed to Brandeis,” says Susan Birren, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of neurobiology. “She is an excellent teacher and scientific mentor to both graduate and undergraduate students, and is a leader in our neuroscience community.”
 
The Joseph J. Levitan Chair in Visual Sciences was established through a gift from the late Dr. Levitan, a generous friend of Brandeis University and an optometrist with a lifelong interest in visual sciences.
TripAdvisor CEO and co-founder visits BrandeisPosted: April 23, 2015
Photo/Mike Lovett

Steve Kaufer P ’13, the current CEO and co-founder of TripAdvisor, visited Brandeis on April 22.
 
Kaufer hosted a talk inside the Presentation Room of the Shapiro Admission Center about his experiences with starting up TripAdvisor, now one of the world’s most established, recognized and acclaimed travel review websites. Under Kaufer’s guidance, TripAdvisor has grown into the largest travel site in the world and the largest web 2.0 company in the northeast. He outlined his experiences—both his successes and obstacles he's had to overcome—to a packed audience.

Before Kaufer founded TripAdvisor in 2000, he worked and co-founded software companies. He also won the 2005 Ernst & Young Entreprenuer of the Year Award. 

The event was sponsored by the Hiatt Career Center.

Brandeis expands online course offerings with Learning Analytics graduate certificatePosted: April 14, 2015
Brandeis University’s Graduate Professional Studies division (GPS) will launch a fully-online graduate certificate program in Learning Analytics in September 2015, the university announced today.

Designed to be completed in 1.5 years or less, the program is for professionals with strong backgrounds in education, instructional design, or institutional research. Cross-disciplinary in nature, the certificate will provide students with the foundational tool sets and theory of business intelligence and data analysis. These skillsets are necessary for evaluating the effectiveness of courses, programs and instruction, and prepare students to fill a highly in-demand skills gap in a burgeoning job market.

“As the learning analytics field continues to evolve, it is more important than ever before to use the technology and data we have available to us to understand and, ultimately, enhance the learning experience,” said Brian Salerno, director of Online Learning and Instructional Design at Brandeis GPS.

The five-course, 15-credit certificate program draws heavily from two existing Brandeis GPS master’s degrees: Instructional Design and Technology and Strategic Analytics. Applicants are expected to possess a post-graduate degree in a related field as well as three years of relevant work experience.

In addition to the new Learning Analytics certificate, Brandeis GPS offers eight fully online part-time master’s degrees, including Strategic Analytics, Bioinformatics, Health and Medical Informatics, Instructional Design & Technology, and Software Engineering. All Brandeis GPS programs are asynchronous, providing students with a flexible and convenient approach to completing their degree.

Students interested in applying to the Learning Analytics certificate program should complete their application by Aug. 11, 2015. Students also have the opportunity to take a course prior to applying for admission. Registration for the summer 2015 term opens on April 14, with courses beginning May 20. For more information about Brandeis GPS, please visit www.brandeis.edu/gps.
Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry visits Brandeis studentsPosted: April 14, 2015
Photo/Jarret Bencks

Finance executive and owner of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks Marc Lasry visited the Brandeis University campus Monday, where he spoke to students about finance, the business of basketball and offered some advice.

"Find the things you really love, because whatever you love you will succeed in," he said.

Lasry is the chairman, chief executive officer and co-founder of Avenue Capital Group, which was established in 1995 and now manages approximately $13 billion in assets. He and Wesley Edens purchased the Bucks in 2014.

Monday's event, held in Gosman Sports and Convocation Center, was co-sponsored by Brandeis Athletics and the Hiatt Career Center. Lasry met with student-athletes in Auerbach Arena, then spoke and took questions from students in the Napoli Trophy Room.

Donahue honored, awarded research and teaching grantPosted: April 14, 2015
Photo/Mike Lovett
The Bay State Historical League honored Brian Donahue, professor and chair of the environmental studies program, with the 2015 Bay State Legacy Award for his research on New England forestry and farming. The award is conferred to honor contributions to the interpretation and public presentation of Massachusetts’ history.
 
Last summer, Donahue was the lead writer of “A New England Food Vision,” an agricultural plan for the region to produce half its own food by 2060 by re-purposing forests and pastures.
 
In addition, the Thoreau Foundation has awarded Donahue and a $31,000 grant to support undergraduate research in Walden Woods. Donahue will use part of the grant to expand undergraduate field teaching and research at Brandeis.
GRAMMY Foundation grant to support restoration of Lenny Bruce recordingsPosted: March 31, 2015
Photo/Kitty Bruce © 2014

The GRAMMY Foundation made a $20,000 grant to Brandeis University to help digitize the personal recordings of Lenny Bruce, a collection of performances, rehearsals and home sessions by the late comedy pioneer and free-speech advocate that the University acquired as part of the Lenny Bruce papers last year. The historic recordings are extremely fragile and would be lost without restoration and reformatting.

The gift to Brandeis was one of 14 grants, for a total of more than $200,000, awarded last week by the GRAMMY Foundation to provide support for archiving and preservation programs, and research efforts that examine the impact of music on human development.

“We thank the GRAMMY Foundation for its generous gift to help support our efforts to preserve the audio recordings in the Lenny Bruce collection,” says Sarah Shoemaker, associate university librarian for archives and special collections at Brandeis. “The digitization of these recordings will ensure their safety for future generations of scholars and others who are seeking insights into the work and life of an iconic figure in American comedy.”

A generous grant from the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation last year enabled Brandeis to acquire the collection of Bruce’s recordings, photographs, manuscripts, news clippings and other material held by his daughter, Kitty. The collection is housed in the Robert D. Farber University Archives and Special Collections Department.

Brandeis is planning to host a retrospective on Bruce and his life in 2016, 50 years after his death.

“The Recording Academy is proud to provide the financial support for our GRAMMY Foundation’s longstanding grant program,” says Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation. “Not only have we awarded more than $6 million to more than 300 worthwhile initiatives over the course of this program, but we have funded such a diverse and outstanding group of grantees and significant projects that the foundation has become a driving philanthropic force in the fields of archiving, preservation and scientific research.”

Myra Kraft Transitional Year students celebrate the Stamp ActPosted: March 24, 2015
Photo/Jarret Bencks

From left: Joseph Figueroa as Thomas Hutchinson, Vanio Dos Santos as Benjamin Franklin and Christian Nuñez as Samuel Adams.

Students in the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program presented an exhibit and performance to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act.

Donning colonial garb, Joseph Figueroa '19, Vanio Dos Santos '19 and Christian Nuñez '19 wrote and performed a scene depicting conversation between Thomas Hutchinson, Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams, with Figueroa playing Hutchinson, Dos Santos as Franklin and Nuñez as Adams.

The Stamp Act of 1765 required certain documents to be printed on stamped paper from Great Britain that carried a tax. It was met with protest from many American colonists.

Students put on the performance and created the exhibit as part of History lecturer Craig Bruce Smith's course, "Preserving Boston's Past: Public History and Digital Humanities." The event Monday in Rapaporte Treasure Hall was titled "The 250th Anniversary of the Stamp Act: A Revolutionary Exhibit and Performance." To create the exhibit, students combed through archival materials to find compelling images, find out where the images came from and create captions for them.

"It was a real test of the eye, it had to be something that would really grab your attention," said Kenneth Hong '19.

The Transitional Year Program was established in 1968 and was renamed in 2013 for Myra Kraft ‘64, the late Brandeis alumna and trustee. It provides small classes and strong support systems for students who have had limitations to their precollege academic opportunities.

Fund set up for student’s family following house fire Posted: March 20, 2015
The family of Erika Carter, a student in the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program, lost their home to a fire this week. Members of the Brandeis community who are interested in offering support for Carter and her family may want to consider donating via a GoFundMe site that has been set up for the family.
Students unwind with puppies and pizzasPosted: March 18, 2015
Photo/Mike Lovett

The Brandeis Psychological Counseling Center hosted a “Puppies and Pizza” party for students who wanted to take a break from their studies. The March 18 event featured therapy dogs and offered students a chance to relax, if only for a moment, while they prepared for their midterm exams.