#MyWheaton Alumni Blog

From Elementary Education Teacher to Assistant Principal

Posted August 7, 2017 by Karis Parker '12

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karis-parker-wheaton-college-alumnaThe second time I set foot on Wheaton’s campus was my senior year of high school. I had been flown out for the Church Scholarship interview, along with several other high school seniors. That was the weekend I decided I wanted to attend Wheaton. For me, my decision was mostly about relationships and community—from staff like the Assistant Director of Multicultural Recruitment Raashon Daniels, to the other students I met on campus. Little did I know that those people would be so critical in my Wheaton journey, and would become some of my closest friends to this day! 

While at Wheaton, I studied elementary education, which prepared me well for my career as a third grade teacher and now assistant principal. Throughout my Wheaton experience, I valued the opportunities to critically examine the intersection of my faith and education, dialogue about real issues, and be challenged in each and every class. My work in the education department provided me with many tangible skills such as creating units of study and analyzing data to guide instruction. I often referred to my work in Dr. Jon Eckert’s class around the use of data in my day-to-day experience of being a teacher.

The most important part of my Wheaton experience, and the facet I’m most grateful for, is not the most tangible aspects such as classes, but rather the people and community. I’m grateful for staff members like Billye Kee in the Center for Vocation and Career (CVC), who taught me to advocate for myself and modeled what it looked like to be a spiritual mentor. I’m grateful for my track coach David “Wally” Walford ’02, M.A. ’06, who helped me build persistence and modeled what it meant to support individuals as they strive for their goals.

I’m grateful for my community of friends, who showed me the importance of supporting each other through the ups and downs and modeled what Christlike love and forgiveness really means. I’m grateful for Rodney Sisco and Eva Ortiz in the Office of Multicultural Development, who upheld me throughout my Wheaton experience and modeled deep, biblical care for others. Each of these lessons have been critical as I mentor, advocate for, love, support, and uphold my students.

After Wheaton, I moved to Kansas City through Teach for America and began teaching third grade in the urban core at a language immersion school. My work as an educator is so much more than teaching my scholars to read and write. I fight to break the systemic racism and inequities that cripple our education system. I work to empower my students to dream big and to make those dreams reality. I strive to help my scholars think critically and challenge the world around them. Each and every day is a new challenge and adventure. The hats I wear as an educator are ever changing: teacher, mentor, counselor, advisor, coach, motivator. This past year, I graduated with my master’s in educational leadership and am embarking on a new journey as an assistant principal. Although the technicalities of my role are different, the purpose and drive are the same. I simply have the opportunity and challenge to impact scholars on a larger scale.

I am so grateful for the lessons I learned and relationships I built at Wheaton. God has continued to use those aspects to challenge, support, and encourage me as He leads me on this journey. Wherever you are in your own journey of life and faith, I encourage you to lean into community—God continually works through His body to grow and shape us.

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Karis Parker ’12 is an assistant principal at Crossroads Academy in Kansas City and a former third grade teacher. She majored in elementary education at Wheaton. Photo captions (from top): Karis, who is now an assistant principal after working as a third grade teacher; Karis’ classroom where she worked as a third grade teacher.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now. 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 College Graduate School Trained Me For Ministry

Posted July 5, 2017 by Muriu Makumi M.A. '16

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muriu-makumi-tom-schwanda-wheaton-college-graduate-school-commencementJesus started the greatest movement in history: over 2,000 years strong, billions of loyal people, and an assurance of salvation that can only be described as divine. While working as a very green church planter in beautiful Liberia, I asked myself the question, “How did Jesus do this?” Granted, he did this after 30 years of growing up and I’m sure incarnation helped, but he was as human as you and I, leaving behind “all that was accorded to him” and he did commission us to do the same. He even sent us the Holy Spirit to help us. 

I was very new to church work and all I had in my pocket was a passion to see people grow and a felt calling to become a pastor. This was a very stretching experience for me. Thanks to the growth from deep, Christ-centered relationships I had back home, I wondered what intentional things can we do to aide the development of organic community and catalyse Christlikeness? Considering my affinity for community and relationship coupled with a felt calling, I started to investigate programs and theology schools that might equip me to cultivate this. 

Thank God for Google because I honestly had no idea that a degree in Christian formation and ministry with a specialization in theology existed (or that Wheaton existed for that matter). The more I read about Wheaton’s program, the more it resonated with my heart and what I felt God was calling me to. I applied, was accepted, and so began my journey at Wheaton College Graduate School

After completing my degree in Christian formation and ministry last year, I got to serve at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA, as the new Life Groups (Small Groups) Director. As a church worker, I have learned that we grow best in circles, and this belief has led me to do my best to catalyse Christ-like community in our small groups as part of the Small Groups staff. Being able to serve in this capacity gives me a chance to use so many of the things that I learned at Wheaton, from the creation of ministry plans and philosophies to the ability to preach and lead devotionals that inspire our leaders. All of that has caused me to lean into what I learned from Wheaton a lot more. 

As part of our church’s culture, we work hard to lead using questions that aid reflection. One thing that stuck out from my Teaching for Transformation class with Dan Haase ’97, M.A. ’02 was that transformation is often caused by reflection. Reflecting on the right question can be a lot more valuable than the answer. Disciple-making, without asking the right questions, could be incomplete and this is one of the ways that Jesus did it. This underscores the need to lead with the right questions. 

As a church worker, I get to see how the questions that cause us to align our lives with what God is doing around us strengthen Christ-centered relationships. I get to see how reflective questions form disciples who form other disciples through intentional relationships. I get to see how people love one another by actively embracing each other for the sake of the gospel, because they are courageous enough to ask themselves hard questions; moving a discussion from “what does this mean,” to “what does this mean for you?” helps facilitate more personal relationships and community. The opportunity to contribute to this endeavour because of my education is truly humbling.

I do admit that it is hard. Relationships are messy and we are all broken, yet, as Christ followers, we have been given the power to share the great gift of the Gospel. We are reminded to do this together and to depend on God. I know this too well because even though I got to study and am applying many of the amazing things that I learned, I still have the question I began this journey with: “How did Jesus do this?”

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Muriu Makumi M.A. ’16 received an M.A. in Christian formation and ministry with a theology concentration at Wheaton College Graduate School. Photo captions (from top): Muriu with Abba Schwanda (Dr. Tom Schwanda – CFM Dept) who was his 2nd reader on his final project; Muriu guest preaching at a Sunday Night Service at Mariners Church in March 2017. 

To learn more about Wheaton College Graduate School and to apply, visit their website. 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'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.

Stephanie-Lamphere-Minnesota-Supreme-Court

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.

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