#MyWheaton Alumni Blog

How Wheaton's Conservatory of Music Prepared Me to be a Music Educator

Posted June 21, 2017 by Rachel Ringeisen '09

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I chose to attend Wheaton College because, along with being an evangelical Christian college, it has a music conservatory. Wheaton is one-of-a-kind in that regard. Looking back, I am astonished with the scope of my music education at Wheaton. The classes I took were rigorous and prepared me to succeed in graduate school and my career. One class in particular that really shaped me was Dr. Kathy Kastner’s 20th Century Music course. She taught me to think critically and speak intelligently about music that was completely unfamiliar to me. This skill translates beyond music to any new life experience. Despite feeling unsure or uncomfortable, I feel I can examine new ideas objectively and find a vocabulary to describe them.

For four years before my current job, I was an orchestra director in a large, diverse public high school. Transitioning to an elite private middle school was a big challenge! I had to re-create my curriculum and learn how to motivate and connect with students in a very different culture. It’s still a work in progress, but the unique personalities, backgrounds, and learning styles of each student are what make me excited and passionate about my work. Now, I teach full-time at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas as their 5th-8th grade Strings Teacher. After school and on the weekends, I teach private violin and viola lessons through Austin Suzuki Music School. Additionally, I conduct one of the Austin Youth Orchestras and enjoy performing with local orchestras and community programs. I make a living doing what I love, and I will never take that for granted!

Wheaton College developed me as a musician and shaped my abilities and knowledge; I have been able to accomplish my goals thanks to my Wheaton education. More than that, Wheaton shaped my walk with Christ. I have a deeper understanding of the Bible and who God is. I understand denominational differences and how people interpreted Scripture throughout history. I have felt the joy and vulnerability of Christian friendships. My local state university could never have provided these opportunities.

I worked so hard as a Wheaton student; I earned a double major and a minor and maxed out my schedule every semester. I wanted to get the most out of my education and I had the time and energy to do so.

To current students, take advantage of everything you can; there are so many opportunities at your fingertips.

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Rachel Ringeisen ’09 was a music performance and music with an emphasis in pedagogy double major at Wheaton. She now teaches full-time at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School as their 5th-8th grade Strings Teacher in addition to teaching private violin and viola lessons through Austin Suzuki Music School on the weekends, conducting one of the Austin Youth Orchestras, and performing with local orchestras and community programs. Photo captions (from top): some of Rachel’s students in class; Rachel leading a class

To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.

Our Journey as International Physicians

Posted June 7, 2017 by John Humphrey '05, Connie Keung '04

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Both Connie and I (John) were drawn to Wheaton for the opportunity to obtain a liberal arts education that incorporated teachings in Christian theology. We considered our faith to be the foundation of our lives and future careers, so it made sense to make it the foundation of our education as well. I majored in biology and did the Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) program in Guatemala. Connie majored in chemistry and international relations. Connie was a member of the class of 2004 and I the class of 2005. We actually never met while we were attending Wheaton!


In fact, we first met during the summer of 2005 when we were both deliberating whether to attend medical school in Israel at a program called the Medical School for International Health. We ended up enrolling together that same year; we started dating the following year and were married in 2013. After medical school, Connie completed a general surgery residency and I completed a medicine/pediatrics residency followed by a fellowship in infectious diseases. This past year, we moved to western Kenya where we now work for Indiana University at the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) program. Connie spends her time operating and teaching surgery to Kenyan medical trainees, and she also conducts trauma research. I see patients in an HIV clinic and at the children’s hospital and conduct HIV research.


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For us, moving to Kenya was the fulfillment of a decade-long career goal to work as physicians in a setting with limited resources. Here, we encounter opportunities to help the poor and sick every time we walk into the hospital. Here, the call to follow Jesus’ commandment to serve them feels urgent and tangible. Working in Kenya has its challenges, though. It is frustrating to watch people suffer while knowing that there are lifesaving medical tests and treatments in countries like the United States that are unavailable here. Still, we do our best to look for silver linings and hopeful moments whenever they happen - and they happen often! 


We are grateful to have studied at Wheaton. I look back on my HNGR internship in Guatemala as a life changing experience that set me on the path I am on today. Connie looks back on Dr. Sandra Joireman’s course on African politics as a major influence in her life. We are both keenly aware that we have acquired educations and careers that few people in the world could ever access. Yet we have still experienced disappointment along the way. We could each list dozens of medical schools, fellowships, jobs, and other opportunities that we have applied to and been rejected from over the years. For us, success meant not being crushed by those disappointments and finding new paths and goals to pursue. Amidst discouraging circumstances, it is helpful to step back and view things as God might view them – as part of a bigger picture and greater purpose than we recognize them to be at the time.


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John Humphrey ’05 majored in biology and attained a certificate in Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR), and Connie Keung ’04 majored in chemistry and international relations. They are married and recently moved to western Kenya where they work for Indiana University at the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) program: Connie is a surgeon, and John sees patients in an HIV clinic and at the children’s hospital and conducts HIV research.

Photo captions (from top): John and Connie in front of the AMPATH Centre, where they work in Kenya; Connie operating alongside one of her Kenyan colleagues; John teaching a Kenyan medical student.


To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.

How Wheaton Prepared Me to Practice Law

Posted May 25, 2017 by Stephanie Althoff Lamphere '11

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Wheaton College was profiled as "The Hottest Christian College of 2006" in Newsweek magazine when I was searching for colleges, and the article caught my attention. Wheaton was the only Christian college I applied to or visited, and from the moment I stepped on campus, I knew something was different from the other colleges I was considering.  

Looking back now, it is so clear to me that the Holy Spirit was present in every moment of that visit and was leading me to attend, through every interaction with students and faculty, starting with the moment I sat in on Dr. Sarah Borden's Philosophy 101 class. I knew Wheaton would effectively prepare me to incorporate my faith into every aspect of my personal and professional life and that would be incredibly important during my formative collegiate years. I learned valuable lessons about faith, work, and life from my professors and mentors in the political science department and from my coaches and instructors in sports and the Conservatory of Music that prepared me well for my graduate school and professional experiences.  

After graduating from Wheaton, I attended Pepperdine Law School in Malibu, California where I was actively involved with the Christian Legal Society and moot court competitions in the United States and Hong Kong. While at Pepperdine, I also worked as a law clerk at Beach Cowdrey Owen, LLP in Southern California and completed two internships: one with a Federal Judge in the Northern District of Illinois, and another as a certified law clerk at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office (Compton Branch), where I appeared in state trial court.  

When I graduated from Pepperdine, I moved back to Minnesota with my husband Paul, where I passed the Minnesota Bar exam. The first position I accepted was in government administration at the Minnesota State Capitol as the lead staff member for the Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee at the Minnesota House of Representatives. It was amazing to have the opportunity to put my Wheaton political science degree to work as I navigated the intricacies of policy making at the state level. Following the close of the 2015-16 biennium, I transitioned into private practice. I currently practice law in Minneapolis at Messerli & Kramer P.A., in the Collections & Creditors Remedies practice group. As a civil litigator, my days are consumed by regular court appearances in state and federal court. I find a deep sense of fulfillment appearing in Court throughout the Twin Cities metro area on behalf of my clients (mainly banks, creditors and other businesses) and getting to know other attorneys and judges on a daily basis.

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As an attorney, there is pressure to perform at an incredibly high level, stereotypically involving late nights and weekends, which inevitably makes work-life balance a daily challenge. Recognizing this reality, Paul and I have made involvement in our local church and time with each other top priorities, despite the demands of both our jobs. While the occasional late night or weekend is still necessary, we have experienced God's faithfulness as we have consistently put Him first.

Wheaton taught me to go into the world boldly and confidently, knowing God has called me to glorify Him in all I do. Having the security of my faith allows me to have peace each time I walk into the courtroom. When the outcome of the case has not yet been decided and I find myself pressured by challenging questions from a judge or an aggressive line of questioning from opposing counsel, I remind myself in those moments that I am not only representing my client and my firm, but I am most importantly representing God. Having prepared to the best of my ability for each hearing, I am able to surrender the outcome. I may not "win" 100 percent of the cases that I handle, but I trust and know that God's definition of success is wildly different from what the world may lead me to believe. He has never failed to be faithful.

If you're thinking about attending Wheaton, be prepared to be challenged and to grow your faith in ways you've never before imagined. Be open to new classes and experiences you may not have previously considered—I found my major by enrolling in Introduction to American Politics with the expectation I was just fulfilling a general education requirement.  If you are a current student, go all in; do all you can to develop relationships with mentors and friends and take advantage of all that Wheaton has to offer in and outside of the classroom. As a political science major who was heavily involved in the Conservatory of Music (Symphonic Band and Jazz Ensemble) and sports (women’s club lacrosse), I cannot emphasize this enough! My involvement in various organizations at Wheaton including Christian Service Council (Thanksgiving Basket Outreach and Angel Tree Ministry), BreakAway (Savannah, Georgia), The Wheaton Record, and Discipleship Small Groups enriched my experience beyond my wildest expectations.

If you're an alumnus or alumna, count your blessings and remember to touch base with and pray for your classmates as we are all scattered throughout the nation and world. You never know when one of them may be experiencing a time of spiritual need. Whenever I feel I am lacking motivation or purpose, my former peers and classmates serve as models of what it looks like for us all to work “For Christ And His Kingdom.”

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Stephanie Althoff Lamphere ’11 (above, at left) majored in political science with a minor in communication. She obtained her J.D. from Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, California, and is currently practicing law in Minneapolis, MN at Messerli & Kramer P.A., in the Collections & Creditors Remedies practice group with Bar Admissions to the Supreme Court of Minnesota and the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. Stephanie has also worked as an associate attorney at a criminal defense firm in Minneapolis and as the lead staff member for the Mining and Outdoor Recreation Policy Committee at the Minnesota House of Representatives during the 2015-2016 biennium. Photo captions (from top): Stephanie at her swearing-in to the Federal District of Minnesota with Judge Joan Ericksen in January 2017; Above, Stephanie (at left) with President Ryken and her twin sister, Allison, at Wheaton College graduation in 2011.


To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.

Providing Quality Education on the Open Seas

Posted April 7, 2017 by Brian Blackburn M.A. '06

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I first heard of Wheaton College when I was in high school and read The Journals of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot ’48. Later in life, when I was working with Mercy Ships, a fellow missionary mentioned that he had just completed a master’s program at Wheaton College Graduate School through a Billy Graham Center International Christian Leader Scholarship. I immediately looked into the various programs offered by the College’s Graduate School, and found that the educational ministries program would be of great assistance to me as I was working with missionary children on Mercy Ships’ ship school. After I completed my program at Wheaton, I returned to teaching with Mercy Ships, and in 2007 I became director of Mercy Ships Academy, a K-12 international Christian school located on Mercy Ships’ hospital ship, Africa Mercy–a position I still hold today. 

Most families leave the mission field due to a lack of quality education, and it’s my goal to provide the best schooling possible for our ship teachers, students, and parents. My current role is very administrative as I recruit teachers, oversee school finances, guide our school board, and provide overall leadership to our staff of 13 teachers on the Africa Mercy. I attend many meetings and have lots of opportunities for communication with our ship team via phone calls, video conferencing, and ship visits. This summer, I will venture back to life on a ship in Africa. 

I had two professors at Wheaton that had a profound impact on my work today. Dr. Scottie May M.A. ’87 was my adviser and teacher for many graduate classes. She never let me settle for second-best in my studies and pushed me both academically and professionally. I am a better educator/missionary as a result of her pursuit of excellence for her students. (Also, being the mother of the man who created VeggieTales was pretty impressive to me as an educator!) 

Dr. Lyle Dorsett also influenced the way that I currently do my job with Mercy Ships. I took his class at Wheaton called The History of the Care of Souls. At first, I thought that this class was a waste of my time and that it had nothing to do with running a school for missionary kids. However, in the last class session of the semester, as Dr. Dorsett called on me to share what I had learned in the course, I found myself sharing with the entire class how this topic had entirely changed the way that I viewed my role in education: “If I do not take care of my own soul, I cannot take care of those that God has allowed me to be responsible for. If my teachers are not spiritually healthy, how can they impact their students?” Soul care is a huge part of my role as a school director, and Dr. Dorsett was able to share that with me in a very unique way at Wheaton. 

The professors, school staff, and fellow students at Wheaton College Graduate School made my time there precious to me. I am so thankful for the people that I was able to spend a few years with during graduate school at Wheaton. The rich source of contacts it provided me to network with in my current role is invaluable. I am part of a group of people who want to change the world for Christ, and that I will always remember. 

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Brian Blackburn M.A. ’06 completed a master’s in educational ministries at Wheaton College Graduate School. Photo captions (top to bottom): Brian with the Africa Mercy ship in Madagascar; Brian sharing with third graders about donations of books to the Academy. 

To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.

My Experience With the Refugee Crisis in Greece

Posted March 28, 2017 by Annie Arbitter '16

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In early May 2016, I triumphantly pressed “send” on my laptop, submitting the final project of my Wheaton education: my senior capstone paper. The paper, which sought to outline a Christian response to the refugee crisis in Europe, had caught my interest in a way that I couldn’t escape. About a week after submission of my final paper, I received my diploma on the stage of Edman Chapel, and three months later, I boarded a plane for Greece to begin working in what’s been called the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. 

I recently returned from spending six months in Greece serving with Samaritan’s Purse. My role allowed me to spend a great deal of time in refugee camps, managing various shelter and WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) projects that were taking place on-site and frequently interacting with the people who lived there. I learned so much from the resilience and grace that so many refugees show in the face of such dire circumstances and I feel honored to have built relationships with some of them. It is a beautiful and humbling thing to be welcomed into someone’s tent, and to be offered a cup of tea and a chance to hear their story. These friends’ faces are forever etched in my memory and I’m thankful for the opportunity to have met them and to work on their behalf.

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While in Greece, I realized how valuable the education and experiences I had at Wheaton truly were. My studies in international relations served me well in understanding the implications and complexities of the refugee crisis as a whole. Various history classes gave me context to appreciate the region I was living in and the rich backgrounds of the people I was working with. I held tightly to so many truths from my theology courses as I wrestled with the almost palpable hopelessness in the camps and was tested to lean on Christ alone as the source of hope. Even some of my general education courses like anthropology, geology, and public speaking provided me with useful skills while living and working in Greece. 

My education prepared me not only for the responsibilities of humanitarian work, but to recognize the greater kingdom work that was being carried out as well. I saw the Gospel regularly come to life in Greece since I’d been trained to look closely for how God is in the process of redeeming the broken things of this world. I’m thankful to Wheaton for teaching me these valuable lessons, as well as for providing me with people to live them out alongside me. I left college with many dear friends and professors who have been a constant source of encouragement and prayer every step of the way. In all these ways, Wheaton College has served as a launch pad for me. Those years of learning and cultivating my passions at Wheaton can now be used for their proper purpose of serving others and ultimately pointing them toward Christ and his kingdom.

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Annie Arbitter '16 graduated from Wheaton with a degree in international relations and a minor in biblical and theological studies. Photo captions (from top): Annie with a little girl who enjoyed practicing her two English words “Ice cream?” with everyone she met; Annie with young Kurdish children enjoying getting their picture taken on the Greek islands; Annie with other Samaritan’s Purse staff at a hygiene kit distribution: Samaritan’s Purse Greece manages shelter, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) infrastructure and the distribution of non-food items in various refugee camps throughout Greece. Photos credit Samaritan’s Purse. 

To connect with alumni in various careers and vocations nationwide, join Wheaton in Network, a Vocation and Alumni Engagement program that allows alumni and parents to make themselves available to advise or mentor Wheaton students and recent grads. Students and alumni are able to contact advisers or mentors to learn from their experiences.

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