The Liberal Arts
I remember what it was like, sitting in that classroom on Wheaton College’s campus in May with the 43 unfamiliar faces I'd be spending six weeks abroad with. Six weeks traveling across Israel, Greece, Turkey, and Italy. The air of mixed excitement and uncertainty was prominent, as Dr. Chris Vlachos stood at the front of the room giving a pre-trip lecture on the climactic moment of Jesus' ministry when He looked upon His disciples and asked:
But who do you say that I am?
Then the waves were crashing along the shoreline at Caesarea Philippi. The air was warm and the sun bright. We sat upon the rocks and the passage was read once more. The 43 faces around me were more familiar now—somehow the late hours together and sweat from a blazing Israeli sun cultivated a kind of friendship that couldn't be bought. And being there with them, the question seemed to ring louder, as if it were being asked not of the disciples but of us. In a world that denies, twists, and confuses His identity,
Who do you say that I am?
It was not asked of a single person, but to the whole of the group; an open question in need of response. I imagine them looking around at one another, letting the words hang uncertainly in the air. Perhaps the answer was what all of them were thinking. Perhaps it had not yet occurred to some of them. But it was Simon Peter who stepped forward with the bold reply:
You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.
It was the last event of our last day: the Scavi tour underneath St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Those 43 were no longer simply faces but beautiful souls with whom I'd experienced the journey of a lifetime. We went below, 12 at a time, to a small room containing an even smaller box that held the purple-stained bones of an elderly man who died in the first century, the bones more likely than not of Peter: the first person to openly declare Jesus as the Christ. The passage from Matthew 16 was read once more, closing the six-week long circle. Wheaton to Israel to Rome, the lingering question remains. In our speech, in our actions, in our lives;
Who do you say that I am?
Jillian Hedges ’17 is a Communication (Media Studies) major who traveled abroad with Wheaton in the Holy Lands this summer. Photo captions (from top): He is the Christ, the son of the living God (Enxi '17, Daniela '17, Abby '17, Jillian '17, and Caitlyn '17 in Caesarea Philippi, Israel); His provision abounds like a stream in the desert (Arad, Israel); Lifting up our voices in the most incredible places (Abby '17, Casey '17, Peter '17 and J.R. '16 in Metora, Greece); Finding peace where there should be none (Judean Wilderness, Israel). Photos by Dan Chung ’17. Tell us about your summer experiences abroad using the hashtag #MyWheaton.
One aspect about Wheaton that most intrigued me as a prospective student was the Iron Sharpens Iron (ISI) Program. As a high school senior looking to double major in economics and international relations, I dreamed of the opportunity to travel with professors and examine the economic and political well being of countries in Latin America. Thus, being in Latin America traveling to Panama, Peru, and Colombia on an ISI trip this summer is truly surreal.
After an end to an informative time in Panama, I’d like to highlight three of the many experiences that have impacted us most:
1. The Panama Canal is expanding
The Panama Canal, a 48-mile canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, is a vital channel for international marine trade in Panama. After a presentation by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), we were amazed by the utter grandness of the canal and how central it is to the lives of so many Panamanians. The business of the canal is connecting markets, and with around 14,000 ships passing through a year paying up to $450,000, it is directly responsible for four percent of Panama’s GDP, not to mention the countless jobs and further economic benefits it stimulates. Currently, the canal is undergoing an expansion that will increase capacity by 20 percent, double gross revenue, and reduce transportation costs. Currently, the canal is the cheapest way to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and vice versa.
2. Copa Airlines is “optimistic for the future”
It was fascinating to meet with Wheaton grad Dan Gunn ’90, senior vice president of operations at Copa Airlines, to learn more about Copa. Headquartered in Panama City with 74 destinations in 30 countries, Copa directly produces 4.2 percent of Panama’s GDP and 12.6 percent when including catalytic benefits through tourism. Dan stressed that Copa’s success is tied to their excellence in executing and explained the benefits of their antitrust immunity in a 1998 partnership with Continental Airlines. For me, the primary takeaway was how optimistic Copa is for the future. They will soon expand to several more cities, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their clear vision for connecting, coupled with their passenger-oriented leadership, will transform travel by air in the Americas.
3. The Kuna hope to forge partnerships with universities abroad
Our time in Panama showed us firsthand that Panama has become a regional and logistical hub with lots of economic benefits. With this modernization, it is important to also focus on indigenous populations in the region and how they are assimilating to these changes. We met with the Kuna, an indigenous group with an estimated population of 60,000 located near Panama’s northeast coast, Kuna Yala. Captain David Iglesias, our trip leader and director of the Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy, is actually half Kuna—it was beautiful to witness the love the Kuna chiefs expressed toward him during their talk. They spoke about their bilingual education system, love for environment, ecotourism, and how they have managed to maintain more autonomy than most indigenous groups. When referring to ecotourism, they told us how they loved sharing their homes with others but were disappointed with the problem of trash. Since only three percent of Kuna students attend university, Kuna economists also shared with us that they dream of forging partnerships with universities to send their students abroad to learn more languages and return to create businesses.
One might say this trip has opened my eyes to the untapped potential in Panama. As the trip leads us to Colombia and Peru, I’m looking forward to learning more about these culturally rich countries that are living in a post-terrorism state of growing their economies.
Kelen Caldwell ’17 is an economics and international relations double major traveling with ISI this summer. Photos: (top) At the Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal, with the team; (above) With Kuna indigenous chiefs and leaders after their briefing in their Panama City administration building. Read about ISI's travels in Colombia, written by Emma Schaafsma ’17, at this link.
What is your #MyWheaton summer experience? Share your stories and photos with us on social media using the hashtag #MyWheaton.
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.
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.”
Amy Early is a junior studying French and pre-health. Learn more about her on her author bio page.
“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.
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.