Words: Grant Dutro ’25
Photos: Kayla Smith
Josh Winnes ’25 in the Melvin E. Banks Welcome Center at Wheaton College.
In the fall of 2021, Josh Winnes ’25 was starting his first semester of college—in Boston. Winnes had wrapped up a gap year and wanted to attend a respected school close to his home of Dover, New Hampshire. Although he enjoyed the campus and the academics at Boston College, it still did not feel like the right fit.
That same semester, he and his family visited his older sister Sophie ’22 for Wheaton’s Family Weekend. He immediately took an interest in the smaller, tight-knit community he saw on Wheaton’s campus.
“Ultimately, I didn’t really see myself graduating from Boston College,” Winnes said. “I’d rather spend my four years at Wheaton.”
Winnes transferred to Wheaton that spring. The first half of the semester was difficult for him: He had to meet new friends, learn his way around another campus, rebuild his course schedule, and confront doubts about whether he had made the right decision. After having already plugged himself in at a new school earlier in his freshman year, the change felt like a massive step backward.
Even so, Winnes remembers that the hospitality he encountered at Wheaton helped him through the transition. He realized that a lot of the struggles about the change were just in his own head.
“At first it was tough, but that was mostly because of me,” he said. “The Wheaton community was super welcoming, and my orientation committee was great.”
Winnes, an avid player of ultimate frisbee, quickly found community on and off his freshman dorm floor through the Wheaton Mastodon Ultimate team. Many of the team’s players were his floor neighbors.
Although his freshman year was chaotic, especially with a transfer that took him halfway across the country, Winnes fondly recalls coming back to Wheaton for his sophomore year.
“It was the first time that I had returned to a place in over two years, because I had taken my gap year, moved to Boston, moved to Wheaton, and then moved back home over the summer,” said Winnes. “Wheaton was the place I returned to.”
In addition to studying mathematics with a concentration in statistics, Winnes is now involved in a variety of campus activities. He works as a staff member for intramurals, facilitating recreational games throughout the year, and continues to play on the ultimate frisbee team. But one of the extracurricular projects Winnes is most proud of is helping found the Skivangelism ministry with the Student Evangelism Cabinet.
Soon after Winnes first arrived at Wheaton, he felt a conviction to spread the gospel after engaging in conversations with friends on campus and reading Scripture. During that pivotal time of self-reflection, Ethan Kim ’24 knocked on his door and asked if he wanted to join the Student Evangelism Cabinet. Winnes jumped at the opportunity.
Winnes wanted to come up with a way to evangelize that would appeal to Wheaton students’ existing interests. As a snowsports fan since he was a kid, he found the perfect answer: Skivangelism.
The Skivangelism ministry outings allow students to spread the gospel in a very unique way. During the winter months, Wheaton skiers and snowboarders foster friendships on the slopes of nearby snowsports locations in order to share their faith.
“There are a lot of people on campus who are surface-level passionate about skiing and heart-level passionate about the gospel,” said Winnes. “Why can’t these work together?”
Skivangelism is now in its second year at Wheaton. Winnes acknowledges the club is still gaining momentum, but believes it fills a niche at Wheaton and is excited to see what the future holds for the group.
Reflecting on his college career so far, Winnes believes one of the most rewarding aspects of Wheaton is the abundance of Christian theological perspectives represented on campus. He grew up in a relatively unchurched area of the country with a small, homogenous community pouring into him spiritually. Encountering and conversing with students and faculty of different denominations and theological outlooks has been growthful for him.
“When you grow up with one set of opinions to draw from, it creates a lot of questions,” he said. “The reality is there are many ways to answer those questions that you probably have not even heard of yet. To have a lot of different sources and opinions to draw from is so rewarding because it helps fill gaps. I think my faith is stronger because of that.”
Thinking about transferring to Wheaton? Learn more at wheaton.edu/transfer.