From the first BITH 111 class to the last senior seminar, Wheaton students become well-versed in talking about the integration of faith and learning. Slightly less common is the conversation about faith and work—until last month, when Opus: the Art of Work launched on Wheaton’s campus.
Headquartered in the Billy Graham Center, Opus is a new institute that “exists to provide leadership in the interdisciplinary study of faith and work, and to prepare Christians to flourish in a breadth of vocational roles for the sake of the common good.” Opus intends to serve Wheaton students, faculty, and off-campus constituents by hosting activities and programs such as an undergraduate vocational discernment program, a faculty fellowship program, church workshops, and various public speakers and events.
On Saturday, January 24, Opus hosted its first official event to kick off launch week. Nancy Writebol, a missionary and Ebola survivor, and Admiral Tim Ziemer, coordinator of the President’s Malaria Initiative, spoke to an audience of students, faculty, and community members about their callings to service.
The rest of the week was filled with one fantastic event after another, including panels on solutions for poverty alleviation, entrepreneurship and innovation, a public discussion on faith and vocation, and a lecture and interview with members of the Redeemer Presbyterian Gotham Fellowship.
On Tuesday afternoon, I attended a panel called “Creativity Wanted: How Business, Mathematics, and the Hard Sciences Need Artists and Other Creative Thinkers.” Steve Garber, Dr. Kristen Page, Phil Vischer, and Mark Woodworth each spoke brilliantly on how art and science are never separate within their respective professions, but are integral parts of their work.
Mark Woodworth summed up the discussion well by saying, “We need art for life, and vice versa.” He posed the question, “How can I serve the needs of others, especially needs for truth, beauty, and good?”
On Wednesday evening, I had another opportunity to learn from people who are answering that question in their own lives. Katherine Leary Alsdorf and the Gotham Fellows kindly sat down with students to answer questions in a “speed-networking” format where groups rotated every 20 minutes. I thought this was a great way for students to engage with people who could give invaluable advice and insight into the professional world beyond Wheaton.
Opus Launch Week came to a close on Thursday, January 29th. Junior Zach Kahler, director of the Opus Student Strategy Team, described his own excitement for the new institute: “I’ve really appreciated the opportunity I’ve had to participate in Opus's debut…It’s been great to see a movement on Wheaton’s campus that emphasizes the truth of God calling us to a broad range of vocational fields for his glory.”
Sarah Britton Miller ’17 is a sophomore studying communications and international relations. Photos (from top): Mark Woodworth explaining a wood photography piece during the "Creativity Wanted" panel; Phil Vischer speaking during the "Creativity Wanted" panel; Nancy and David Writebol.
Credits: Zach Erwin ’17.
God is stirring a passion for prayer on this campus. This, I have been told, is customary before God brings revival to Wheaton. So as multiple prayer groups have been popping up in Smith-Traber Hall on Monday nights, at the Chaplain’s Office early Tuesday mornings, in Williston Hall on Wednesday nights, and at off-campus houses on Thursday nights (just to name a few), it seemed fitting to have a space where people from all different Wheaton friend groups and activities could come together in prayer for our school.
Last semester, a prayer time was held during chapel time on a Tuesday for the events surrounding Ferguson, Missouri, the people involved with it, and the change it was inspiring. I was blown away by the power of people coming together from across campus to bring our worries and hopes before God. As I was leaving the campus-wide prayer time, the students I left with vocalized the same thing I was feeling: “This needs to happen all the time.”
This semester we are making it happen every Tuesday during chapel time (from 10:30-11 a.m.). Every person who is a part of the Wheaton College community is invited to come to the east wing of Edman Chapel to join with us in prayer.
Campus Prayer began this past Tuesday, and was led by myself, freshman class chaplain Mikey Mitchell, and sophomore class chaplain Maddison McGee. We all serve in chaplain roles within Student Government. We provided the following prayer requests to give direction and inspiration during the prayer time:
- That God would give the campus a renewed desire to seek him together
- That we would all take advantage of the fresh start of the semester to examine where God is prioritized in our lives and establish new routines that keep him at the center, and
- That Wheaton would become a place where every member of the campus community would be led to confess their sins, and that with the rise of confession would come a spirit of freedom and joy.
In coming weeks, we are asking different groups around campus to lead the prayer time by sharing the things that their group hopes to see God do on campus.
Another element incorporated into the campus prayer time is art. In order to remind those who gather in prayer about the things we have been praying for, every group that leads is providing a picture—drawn, painted, or otherwise—of the things they hope to see God do on campus. The idea is that in seeing the art from past weeks, we can remain faithful in praying for those things as well as recognizing the ways in which God has answered our prayers.
So please pray with us! Whether you are able to be present with us in person on Tuesday mornings or not, we can all be praying for God to do great things at Wheaton this semester. I have confidence that you can stand with us in great expectation that our prayers will be answered.
Katrina Burlet is a senior studying political science. Every Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. during spring semester 2015, in the East Wing of Edman Chapel, students, faculty, staff, administration, and local alumni will gather for campus prayer. The photos above were captured at the first meeting of the semester on Tuesday, January 27th. Student Government Chaplain Katrina Burlet, Sophomore Class Chaplain Maddison McGee, and Freshman Class Chaplain Mikey Mitchell led students, faculty, staff, and members of administration in prayer for God to give the campus a renewed desire to seek him together; for all faculty, staff and students to take advantage of the fresh start of the semester to examine where God is prioritized in our lives and establish new routines that keep him at the center; and for Wheaton to become a place where every member of the campus community confesses their sins, and that with the rise of confession would come a spirit of freedom and joy. The illustration above, presented at January 27th’s prayer meeting, was completed by Julia Zeller ’15.
As someone who can’t remember a time before she was involved in singing for other people, it’s perhaps unsurprising that vocal performance major Hannah Benson ’15 has found a home in Wheaton’s Conservatory of Music.
“I love the way that studying voice makes me feel,” Hannah says. “I’m creating the sound physically, and it’s a very rewarding major to me because of that.”
As one of the lead roles in Wheaton’s Opera Music Theater production of Dido and Aeneas, Hannah has had ample opportunity to exercise her vocal talent in a community of fellow artists.
“I love the people in the conservatory,” she says. “Because there are so few of us and we’re constantly in the same building, we get to know each other really well. It becomes a really close-knit community.”
From Hannah’s perspective, this community includes professors, too. Working closely with well-trained professionals is made even more beneficial when paired with small class sizes and ensembles in which all participants know one another by name.
“It’s really rewarding in both the academic and emotional aspects,” Hannah says. “It’s been awesome.”
Hannah Benson '15 is a senior studying vocal performance in the Conservatory of Music. Learn more about her dreams and aspirations on her author bio page.
One of the most rewarding things I have done this year is to become a 1-2-1 leader as part of a program through the Office of Multicultural Development. As a 1-2-1 leader, my job is to be a resource to minority first-year or transfer students at Wheaton. 1-2-1 leaders make sure their 1-2-1 students know they have someone who is available to listen, hang out, study with, pray with, and help them adjust to life at Wheaton.
College is such a unique phase of life, and the change from senior year of high school to the first year of college is a dramatic transition. Being a minority adds an extra layer of complexities—at Wheaton, there aren’t many people that look like you or think like you, understand your background, or even share the same humor as you. 1-2-1 leaders provide a safe place for these students to express how they feel and know they are not alone.
College is hard. Being at Wheaton is hard. Being a person of color at a predominantly white institution is hard. But I believe that these hardships are meant to ultimately bring us together—we don’t have to navigate these unfamiliar waters alone. 1-2-1 provides a space where people can connect and begin to cultivate their own identity. Acceptance of that identity ultimately helps us begin to understand how best to interact with the people around us, regardless of race, class, gender, or other differences.
Early at the beginning of this semester, one of my 1-2-1 students sent me a text out of the blue that said, “How can you deal with being the only black person everywhere you go?” I called her and invited her to come over to my apartment, and we stayed up talking until the wee hours of the morning. Sharing our experiences ended up being so life-giving for both of us. Before she left, she gave me a huge hug and said, “Now I want to be a 1-2-1 leader!”
As part of the Wheaton community, we all have the potential to broaden each other’s horizons. We often develop false assumptions about people, and if we don’t check ourselves before acting on these assumptions, the repercussions can be hurtful. Being a 1-2-1 leader has taught me about the importance of taking time to listen to other people’s stories, pushing me to throw my preconceptions out the window. Everyone—no matter the race or culture—has a story that’s worth listening to. That is why we should approach our interactions with patience and grace.
Photos (above): Aseye Agamah '16 (front, center) gathers with her 1-2-1 students in Lower Beamer Center, fall 2014.
Jon Thornton ’16 couldn’t have guessed when he was first applying to Wheaton that working in the on-campus café—Sam’s—would become such a formative part of his undergrad experience. “I’ve made super strong relationships at Sam’s that have carried past when people have graduated from Wheaton . . . It’s a really good hub, not only for people who come to Sam’s, but for the employees to be able to get to know each other and hang out.”
Thornton describes Sam’s as one of the central meeting points on campus, and says he loves the chance to interact with “everyone on campus who doesn’t grab Starbucks on their way to work.” Located in the Beamer Student Center, which is sometimes thought of as the “living room” of campus, Sam’s workers like Thornton enjoy serving everyone from current students and professors to the visitors attracted by Alumni Weekend, Wheaton Connection visits, or community events like concerts or lectures.
Thornton’s love for people doesn’t just influence his preferred working environment—it also spills over into his chosen double major. Though he came into Wheaton as a freshman with the intent to study business and economics, Thornton discovered a passion and talent for new subjects through some of his general education courses. A communication and anthropology double major, Thornton loves to study “people groups and communication within people groups,” which he hopes will prepare him for work in advertising and marketing after graduation.
Thornton, who intends to pursue further studies in business at the graduate level, believes that the faith-based teaching he has received at Wheaton is part of what makes his education worthwhile. “I’ve interacted with a lot of really big ideas, and to be able to interact with those ideas in a Christian setting has been amazing,” he says.
Jon Thornton ’16 is a communication and anthropology double major. Video produced by Wheaton College Media Producer Kevin Schmalandt.