The Liberal Arts

Wheaton College Science Station: in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Posted July 19, 2017 by Liz George '20

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cliff-jumping-at-sheridan-lake

This past month I experienced the blessing of studying at Wheaton’s Science Station in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Upon first hearing about summer programs in the Hills, I figured the General Education sequence would be an easy and fun way to satisfy my science requirements. However, my time at the Station transformed into something much more. 

The Black Hills provide an incredibly unique location to experience Christ-centered community, to learn from knowledgeable and loving professors, and to witness God’s provision and power firsthand in natural wonders. Studying at the Science Station allows for a range of educational opportunities, such as observing wildlife in Custer State Park and learning about the geological formations of the Badlands.

This summer, two classes were offered for the month of June: BIO 242: Diversity of Life and CORE 325: Nature, Environment, and Society. Biology professors led students in detailed study of local biological networks and organisms, and CORE offered us a chance to learn about environmental problems from a Christian perspective. After taking CORE 101: Living in God’s Creation during my first semester with Dr. Chris Keil, I opted to take Dr. Keil’s environmental science advanced seminar to engage in further study of creation care from a Christian perspective. 

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Our class, composed of eight students, experienced a tight-knit community in which all voices were heard. In this science seminar, we applied our learning by discussing appropriate Christian responses to contemporary environmental problems. Alongside Dr. Keil and other classmates, I was led to consider very important, yet often ignored, ecological issues. These issues ranged from water rights for people groups experiencing water shortages to land rights for Native Americans who believe the Black Hills form a sacred space to proper wildlife management. 

Though the course content did not directly relate to my major or my vision to become a book editor, it reflected my motivation to attend Wheaton: to pursue an education for my mind, heart, and soul. Socio-environmental issues covered in the course refined my fundamental beliefs. Aware of contemporary issues yet encouraged in heart, I am emboldened to embrace Dr. Keil’s motto of “living simply” in order to reduce my footprint on the environment. Studying in the Hills ignited my desire to care for all creation as an extension of my love for God and neighbor. I am beyond grateful for this precious time that God granted me to appreciate his creation with brothers and sisters in Christ. May we all experience such a transformational education, characterized by a new understanding of Christ’s love for all creation.

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Liz George ’20 is studying English Writing and took general education course requirements at Wheaton’s Science Station in the Black Hills during summer 2017. Photo captions (from top): Cliff jumping at Sheridan Lake with classmates; a view of Devils Tower; Wheaton in the Black Hills students visit Crazy Horse. 

To learn more about Wheaton in the Black Hills, visit their website. To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

A Look Inside Wheaton’s Pilgrimage to Santiago Trip

Posted July 12, 2017 by Falecia Sanchez '18, Wyatt Anderson '19

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Falecia Sanchez ’18 and Wyatt Anderson ’19 traveled on Wheaton’s Pilgrimage to Santiago trip during summer 2017, and share some insights about their experience visiting Spain and hiking the Camino de Santiago trail in the blog post below. 

Falecia: After watching the movie The Way, visiting the Cathedral of Santiago, attending Pilgrim's Mass, listening to a Camino scholar lecture on the history of the Camino, and talking to pilgrims who arrived in Santiago de Compostela during the Wheaton in Spain study abroad trip in 2016, I found myself hoping to return one day to walk the Camino. Thus, when Professor Sharenda Barlar of the Modern and Classical Languages Department asked a year later if I would assist in her research of pilgrims on the Camino, my immediate answer was, "Yes!"  

Wyatt: This summer, we walked across Spain, along an ancient pilgrimage route called “El Camino.” We first flew to Madrid, and toured many of Spain’s northern cities including Pamplona, Roncesvalles, Leon, Santo Domingo, Burgos, and Astorga. In each city, we took in the history, culture, and cuisine, visiting everything from museums and cathedrals to restaurants. We then left from Astorga, and began the long walk of 273 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela.

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Along the way we learned a great deal, though exactly what we learned varied depending on who we met and what we saw. One of the people I met was Tania, a middle-aged woman from Germany, who didn’t know what to think of religion after some deaths in her family. My friend Eric and I walked with her for 10 km. It is amazing the subjects you can cover in a 10k conversation. We talked about everything from siblings to faith, and we were all able to talk about what we believe and why. In the end, I gave her my fidget spinner, given to me by a man named Tony the previous day, and told her to pass it along to someone else in the spirit of the Camino.

Falecia: In the future, I hope to become a professor of either philosophy or Spanish literature, and Wyatt’s conversation with Tania is a perfect example of why this trip was a wonderful opportunity for me to apply the knowledge gained from my study of Spanish and philosophy at Wheaton. My Spanish courses have provided linguistic, historical, and cultural contexts to better understand and connect with Spaniards and other Spanish-speakers while my philosophy courses have provided a logical foundation to tackle the hard questions that many pilgrims on the Camino are asking, such as: What is my purpose in life? Does God really exist? If He does exist, why is there so much suffering?

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Wyatt: As a biology major, I paid a lot of attention to the woods along the Camino, and I think I found my biggest takeaway in the woods of Galicia. They stirred in me a nostalgia, but I had never seen them before. They reminded me of stories I read when was young, but I wasn’t sure which one. They reminded me of someone I once knew, but forgot. They reminded me of home, but again, I had never set foot there before. The conclusion I came to was that these longings betrayed my longing for God. And I recognized that my longing is part of His story of redemption that runs through all cities, suburbs, farmlands, and forests, if we only take the time to look.

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Falecia Sanchez ’18 is studying Spanish, and Wyatt Anderson ’19 is studying biology, Spanish, and chemistry. They both traveled on Wheaton’s Pilgrimage to Santiago trip during summer 2017. Photo captions (from top): Wyatt and Falecia in front of a statue of Santiago el Peregrino (St. James, the Pilgrim); a walking path along Molinaseca, Spain; Falecia overlooking the morning fog along the Galician mountains; The woods of Galicia.

To learn more about Wheaton’s Pilgrimage to Santiago trip, visit their website. To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Wheaton in the Holy Lands

Posted June 21, 2017 by Elise Alexander '20

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If someone had asked me where I would be at this point in life two years ago, the answer “Wheaton College” would not be surprising, but the additional “Wheaton in the Holy Lands” response would definitely be unexpected. I am one of the many Wheaton students whose attendance has been precluded by numerous family members, but like many of those “legacy” students, family ties are not the sole reason I am here. Certainly, carrying on tradition is an honor and privilege, but what ultimately drew me to Wheaton College was the same characteristics that intrigued my family members years ago: excellent academics and Christ-centered community.

I applied for the Wheaton in the Holy Lands program a few days before the application deadline based on amazing reviews from last year’s attendees and the encouragement of a friend on my floor who had already applied. With little hope of this freshman making the cut, I submitted my application and waited with less-than-hopeful expectations. By mid-November, my expectations were realized when I received an e-mail categorizing my application status as “Waitlisted.” Disappointed but not necessarily surprised, I continued preparing for the end of the semester. A small spark of hope lived on in the back of my mind as campus emptied for Christmas Break, but I tried to avoid thinking about it. Then, one unexpected January day, Dr. Chris Vlachos presented me with the best late Christmas present a girl could want: An email stating that my application status had changed from “Waitlisted” to “Accepted.”

The rest is history.

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Six months later, I am writing this story while in Greece, after three weeks in Israel surrounded by more of what originally drew me to Wheaton: Christian community and excellent academics. Between field studies in the places Jesus walked and excursions to where the Gospel was first launched to the ends of the earth, this trip has provided an academically enriching experience like no other, and I am able to say with confidence that I have never enjoying learning quite this much. In addition, team meals, long bus rides, and beautiful moments of worship have cultivated a community of brothers and sisters who strive to love in the same manner as the One we are studying. Thus, whether I am in Wheaton, Illinois or thousands of miles and several time zones away, the core principles of my experience remain the same, making for an irresistible environment that one can’t help but embrace.

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When thinking about my return to Wheaton this fall, I cannot help but consider how this trip, as well as the next three years, will impact the discovery of my vocation. As a business/economics major the range of possibilities is rather broad, but if one were to ask what my “dream job” is at this point, I would say opening my own breakfast restaurant or working for an event-planning business. Regardless of whether or not I end up in one of these fields, my time at Wheaton continues to show me that vocation, the future for which college is preparing me, is much more than a job, and that a job is much more than an income. Whatever career I land in, Wheaton classes and programs continue to demonstrate that ultimate fulfillment and purpose come from following the footsteps of Jesus every day in every situation.

Right now, however, I am not at Wheaton, nor am I looking for a job. Planning for the future is certainly important, but while in the Holy Lands, I prefer to be thoroughly present. As I reflect upon this experience, I am coming to realize that, on a small scale, this trip represents all that I am thankful for about Wheaton. The past four weeks have been filled with incredibly intelligent professors who share not only their knowledge but also their lives, learning that challenges as well as encourages, community that strives to show love and grace, and daily reminders of the abundance of life that overflows from the living God. By His grace I enter into this overflowing life, contribute to this community, learn from these incredible minds, and begin to see and know the one true God more, both at Wheaton College and abroad. Just like the headwaters of the Jordan River always gushing from the foot of Mt. Hermon, His grace never stops flowing.

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Elise Alexander ’20 is a business/economics major who traveled with Wheaton in the Holy Lands this summer. Photo captions (top to bottom): Sunflowers on the way to Cana; Bedouin man in the Judean wilderness; Sunset over the Mediterranean from the coast of Greece; Temple of Poseidon. All photos credit Kathryn Risher ’17. 

To learn more about Wheaton in the Holy Lands, visit their website. To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

My Experience in the Northwoods

Posted June 14, 2017 by Joshua Clark '19

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Taking New Testament Literature and Interpretation this summer and Introduction to Philosophy last summer as part of the Wheaton In the Northwoods (WIN) program presented me with the unique opportunity of focusing on a specific subject while enjoying the natural world around me. The two-section format of WIN allows students to take up to eight credits of General Education courses in just four weeks. Classes, ranging from Christian Thought to Ceramics, are held at Wheaton College’s HoneyRock campus, a beautiful camp located in the northern woods of Wisconsin.

Days at HoneyRock start with an early family-style breakfast before class. After classes and lunch, afternoon activities are held, including archery, canoeing, climbing, and, my favorite, riflery. Evenings were interspersed with study, classes, and eating s’mores over a campfire.

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For me, WIN exemplified the reasons I decided to go to Wheaton College. The faith-based, academically rigorous curriculum, along with the Christian community and amazing professors, make WIN classes fun and interesting. My professors at WIN, Dr. Robert O’Connor and Dr. Seth Ehorn, kept their fast-paced classes entertaining, informative, and applicable. Taking a class on the New Testament gave me a thorough understanding of its context and literary content, something I’ll use personally for the rest of my life. Taking Philosophy 101 introduced me to Christian ethics and prepared me to take Biomedical Ethics. Since I want to work in healthcare, understanding and being able to apply Christian moral principles will be invaluable to me in the future. Dr. O’Connor encouraged the application of those principles by having my class work on case studies where we applied the philosophy we learned in class to approach ethical dilemmas. Having done this will greatly benefit me in my future career.

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Unlike Wheaton’s main campus, HoneyRock is a place to disconnect from media and to immerse oneself in the enjoyment of nature and community. Lectures are given around campfires, in fields, or even on boats. One of the many things about Wheaton College I’ve been thankful for is the opportunity to interact with top-notch faculty who care about their students and their field of study. The small class sizes and group activities at WIN quickly build community, but smaller classes also give professors more time to engage with students. Both Dr. Ehorn and Dr. O’Connor held class in their cabins and made it a priority to have individual discussions with students. During both WIN sessions, having professors who highly valued what they were teaching made the classes exciting and interesting.

Overall my WIN experience was as transformative as it was informative. I would strongly urge current and prospective Wheaton College students to take advantage of Wheaton’s opportunities to study off campus. I took a chance with WIN and it paid off, not only in course credit, but in knowledge and skills I’ll use the rest of my life. The friends I made and the time I spent enjoying nature made WIN an unforgettable start to my summer, and I hope that WIN will do the same for some of you.

Joshua Clark ’19 studies biology at Wheaton and has taken part in Wheaton College’s Wheaton in the Northwoods program at HoneyRock for two years in a row. Photo captions (from top): Joshua at HoneyRock; Joshua shooting archery at HoneyRock; Joshua taking part in a class at HoneyRock. 

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

Wheaton College Geology and Environmental Science in the Southwest

Posted June 7, 2017 by Alec Fojtik '17

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Upon coming to Wheaton, my love for the outdoors transformed into a passion for earth systems and restoration within the context of the geosciences. After three years at Wheaton, I can affirm that the geology and environmental science majors provide an eye-opening avenue to learn about God’s creation and how to faithfully act as stewards towards it.

For me, one highlight of my Wheaton experience was Dr. James Clark’s Process Geomorphology course. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to pursue a master’s in physical geography. The other main highlight was taking courses at Wheaton’s Science Station in the Black Hills. All environmental science majors are encouraged to take biology classes there, and geology majors take required field courses there every other summer. Every couple of years when there isn’t a cohort of geology majors at the science station, the department organizes a field trip sometime in May for current students and alumni of the geology and environmental science department. Since I couldn’t attend two years ago I made sure I went on the trip this year.

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The Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico was our main area of interest. We spent three days in that region learning about and exploring local geology. Reefs that formed around 270 million years ago along the fringes of the once-shallow sea are now exposed as the Guadalupe Mountains. The famous Carlsbad Caverns later formed within these formations, providing another stunning geology stop. Other prominent locations on the trip included the Carrizozo Malpais lava flow, Bottomless Lakes State Park, and White Sands National Monument (pictured above). The Carrizozo Malpais (pictured below) is a geologically recent formation being only about 5,000 years old. The rugged, black basalt flow snakes 45 miles through the Chihuahuan Desert. With ropey (called Pahoehoe) textures perfectly preserved, the lava flow looks like it just cooled. Bottomless Lakes State Park features a string of sinkhole lakes along an escarpment. The blue and green lakes occupy crater-like sinks in the rock which creates a dramatic appearance. White Sands National Monument (pictured above) holds a sprawling 275 square mile gypsum sand dune field, the largest of its kind.

A typical day on this trip consisted of early starts after a quick breakfast. Then Dr. Stephen Moshier, local geology professionals, and alumni would provide their expertise and interpretations of the day’s field site. This would usually involve a hike with periodic stops to observe, discuss, and learn about what we were seeing. The day would end with dinner, conversation, and sometimes a nighttime activity like bat viewing at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Having alumni along on the trip was great for networking, as they represented a swath of geoscience careers like karst geology, petroleum geology, and coastal geomorphology. It was definitely inspiring to connect with people who all have a passion for Christ and who have built successful vocations in the geosciences.

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Alec Fojtik ’17 studied environmental science at Wheaton and traveled on a student-alumni trip to the Southwest United States in May 2017. Photo captions (from top): El Capitan rises above the Chihuahuan Desert; Ben Hess '19 and Austin Patrick '17 enjoying White Sands National Monument; Ben Hess '19 inspects the Carrizozo Malpais--this is a relatively recent (5,000 years old or so) basalt flow. 

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

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