The Liberal Arts

The Life of an RA

Posted by Kathryn Brightly '16


While it’s not unusual for many college students to live in four different buildings during their four years of college, that’s not the experience Kathryn Brightly '16 has had at Wheaton.

“My freshman year I lived on Fischer 4 West, and then sophomore year also,” Kathryn explains. “This year, I’m an RA on the same floor.” As part of Wheaton’s Residence Life staff, Kathryn, a junior, chose to forego the privileges that come with upperclassman housing—like having her own kitchen and unlimited “open floor” hours for opposite-gender visits—for the sake of embracing the unique joys and challenges of being a Resident Assistant on a floor of freshman and sophomore women.

“It’s been so fun to walk through their freshman year with them and just be with them as they experience Wheaton for the first time,” she says. “That has been my favorite part.” While Kathryn’s responsibilities as an RA are varied and include everything from specific coursework to meetings with the rest of the Residence Life staff, many significant aspects of RA life revolve around relationship-based, community-building activities. For Kathryn, these include making time for one-on-one meals with every girl on her floor, being available in her room for regular “in nights” so her floor mates can casually connect, hosting weekly tea times, attending floor dinners, and planning events with the RAs of her brother and sister floor.

These activities are articulated by Kathryn more as an inventory of blessing than as a to-do list. “I feel like I’m so privileged to be able to have room where people can come and feel safe and welcome and they can share their stories with me, both the joys and the sorrows,” she says.

She’s grateful, too, for the framework that Wheaton’s liberal arts education and her Christian Education major classes  are providing when it comes to thinking about her RA experience. “It’s cool to see how you can disciple people in a one-on-one relationship,” she says. “I’ve really loved my classes because they seem so intertwined with the ministry that I’m doing as an RA.”

Despite all the things she loves about her role as a facilitator and leader on the floor, though, Kathryn also acknowledges the bumps along the way. “There’s so much in Residence Life that’s really challenging and hard and heavy,” she says. But in spite of difficulties, Kathryn clearly doesn’t regret her choices to get involved. “In reality, the Lord has put me in this position, but also he is the one who is performing and working, not me. This year has been a lesson of learning that I am, in reality, inadequate for this job. And that’s ok because the Lord is sufficient.”

Learn more about Wheaton College’s residence life on their website, apply to be a Resident Assistant, and read more about Kathryn’s story on her author bio page.

Nerding Out Over Flow-Mediated Dilation and Meta-analysis

Posted by Amy Early '16

amy early research

Upon coming to Wheaton, scientific research was not my idea of an exciting extracurricular. For me, science was a means to an end. I needed certain classes for graduate school. But I wasn’t that into the science itself. 

As I entered my second year at Wheaton, this began to change. I was studying human anatomy, and could frequently be found telling anyone who would listen to me about the incredible things going on inside their bodies. The human body was like a divinely directed magic show with invisible, unbelievable complexities that somehow worked in tandem to allow me to do activities as simple as lifting my arm.

Second semester of my sophomore year, I took Physiology with Dr. Hunt. On the first day of class, he assigned each student a long-term group research project. He approached my group with an idea, spouting off foreign sounding words like “flow-mediated dilation,” “endothelial cells,” and “meta-analysis.” 

I remember feeling even more lost after our first meeting with Dr. Thom, our other collaborating professor. But we pressed onward with the research, investigating the potential negative impact of eating carbohydrate-rich meals on vascular health because of the high rates of cardiovascular disease in America.

As summer approached, I was asked to stay on campus and continue researching, an opportunity provided by donations made to the Wheaton Research and Residence Program, or “Wheaton in the Lab,” as we affectionately called it. Since Dr. Thom was the professor guiding the process, I became his research assistant. And our meta-analysis became my project. 

Although I spent a significant amount of my summer reading articles—due to the nature of a meta-analysis, which is essentially a fancy literature review but with a quantitative representation of the dependent variable—it was by far my favorite part of the research process. The more I read about Flow-Mediated Dilation (FMD), the more I understood it, and the more interesting it became. Dr. Thom gave me a lot of independence, while offering enough guidance and mentorship that I did not feel abandoned. Approximately once a week, we would have longer meetings to discuss articles I had been reading and our next steps, with brief interjections about Dr. Thom’s kids. Occasionally, we would go running down the hall to Dr. Hunt’s office with some urgent question about endothelial cells or FMD.

As the summer drew to a close, we had started the initial stages of data analysis, a process that has continued throughout this year. This March, I have the incredible opportunity to present our research at the Experimental Biology Conference, before we complete our analyses.

Over 400 hours of research later, all of those big, science-y words from that first meeting intimately describe the latter part of my time at Wheaton, along with the project that I have poured my time and energy into. Now that I voluntarily do research in my spare time, I suppose it is finally time to proudly take my place among the ranks of the “science nerds.”

macronutrient ingestion research amy early

Amy Early is a junior studying French and pre-health. Learn more about her on her author bio page.

Kodon: Wheaton's Literary and Arts Journal

Posted by Jessie Epstein '16

jessie epstein kodon wheaton college

“Submit to Kodon.” I saw the ominous phrase plastered all over campus in simple font on cream-colored posters. As a freshman with an overactive imagination, I promptly looked into whether or not it was as scary as it sounded.  

After a bit of research, I found out it wasn’t. Kodon is Wheaton’s art and literary journal, a collaborative endeavor between students, faculty advisors, and the College Board of Trustees. Each semester, students all over campus—regardless of major—are encouraged to submit their works of poetry, fiction, visual art or nonfiction to be published in this journal that the whole campus can read.  

As an aspiring English major lured by this prospect of glory, I submitted my first poem to Kodon in the fall of my freshman year. It was about cats and a really big world-changing metaphor of ignorance and practicality. It did not get published.  

My sophomore year, armed with a sharper pencil and a narrower topic, I submitted a second poem that did get published. And as any writer will tell you, getting published is about as exciting as it gets—whether it’s a literary journal or an online magazine—as long as someone who’s not your mom thinks your words are worth their time.  

I guess that’s why I’ve stuck with Kodon, and why I’ve stuck with writing in general: I want to find the right thing to say. Sometimes you’re lucky and the first draft says precisely what you mean, clearly and enchantingly and precisely specific to your own voice. More often than not, though, you’re left clawing your way through the same four lines of a poem that has all the right intentions and none of the cadence for months on end.  

Writing is a mess. It’s a process. And now, as Kodon's assistant editor, I can tell you that editing is no different. Organizing and drafting your own work is frazzling enough; navigating your way through 150 poems to find 10 publishable ones is an entirely different animal.

And that is where collaboration—the great guidepost to artists everywhere—becomes invaluable. Working with fellow staff members on anything from decisions to omissions has forced me out of complacency when the magic of writing has momentarily lost its shine. Reading the work of students on campus forces me to square up with other creatives in a way I otherwise wouldn’t, causing me to constantly reevaluate the necessity of my work at Kodon, and my work as a writer in general.

Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t ignore those ominous cream-coloured posters my freshman year. 

kodon wheaton college

Jessie Epstein ’16 is a junior studying English writing. Read more about her Wheaton experience on her author bio page. Photo credits: Whitney Bauck '15.

Dance as Worship: Zoe's Feet

Posted by Matthew Adams '17


When described on paper, Matthew Adams '17 may seem like a thoroughly left-brained academic, focusing on pre-med classes as a freshman before switching to a political science major and ultimately hoping to pursue a career in law after he graduates from Wheaton.

What doesn’t come out on paper, though, is Matthew’s profound love for dance.

“When I step onto a dance floor, especially when I’m there by myself just worshipping God, there’s this peace that comes over me,” Matthew says.

In addition to dancing alone in the SRC studio or informally with his friends, Matthew has found an outlet for his passion through his involvement with Zoe’s Feet, a ministry on campus that seeks to facilitate worship for performers and their audiences through live dance routines.

“Zoe means life; and Zoe’s feet is like ‘life-feet,’ showing the life that God has given us, through dance,” Matthew notes.

The group brings together dancers with different stylistic backgrounds and different degrees of experience, uniting a diverse group of dancers with the goal of embodying worship through movement. While some Zoe’s Feet members have been dancing since childhood, others, like Matthew, only recently discovered their love for dance.

“I started [dancing] my senior year of high school, which is kind of unbelievable,” Matthew explains. “But I really just felt called to dance and worship with my body… I really enjoyed it and I was good at it, as well, so that’s why I decided to start it here at Wheaton College.

Zoe’s Feet members dance together, but they also meet regularly to fellowship and support one another spiritually. To Matthew, the potential for dance to operate as worship is so strong that the connection between praying together and twirling together seems natural.

“I feel like God created dance so we could worship him, because it’s giving our entire selves to him, which is a beautiful thing,” he says. “And that’s what dance allows me to do.”

Matthew Adams is a sophomore political science major from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Learn more about his dreams and favorite Wheaton moments on his author bio page.

Opus: The Art of Work Launch Week

Posted by Sarah Britton Miller '17


Opus the art of work wheaton college

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. 

Phil Vischer Wheaton College Opus

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.”

Opus the Art of Work Nancy Writebol

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.

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