Category Archives: Features

Throwing cancer a curveball

How Team Impact provided the Wheaton Women’s Softball team with their youngest player

By Grace Kenyon

04.18.19

Sports are about facing adversity. Athletes persevere through physical challenges, grueling training and personal limitations, always pushing themselves. Confronting the frustrations of competition and learning how to work together is part of the daily routine for an athlete. They may even have to deal with injuries that threaten to end seasons or even careers. This year, some Wheaton College athletes have had the opportunity to learn from someone who has faced enough physical adversity for a lifetime.

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In Mexico, students learn life and language

Students spending the semester in Queretaro, Mexico immerse themselves in language and culture

By Emily Smith

04.14.19

While most Wheaton students are currently breaking out the Chacos and Birkenstocks, defiantly willing it to be spring, eight students have spent the last three months in warm Querétaro, Mexico, a large city 136 miles northwest of Mexico City, through the Wheaton in Mexico program. Although the weather is definitely a perk, the program’s purpose is to help students develop both linguistic and intercultural competency as they take classes and enter into the local community.

Wheaton in Mexico began in 2014 and was offered every other year. Starting in spring 2018 the program has continued every spring semester. Since the program’s inception, students from 20 different majors have participated, and Wheaton in Mexico remains the only Wheaton-run, semester-long international study-abroad program. This characteristic is not the only thing that makes Wheaton in Mexico unique. Associate Lecturer of Spanish and Wheaton in Mexico Director Tim Klingler explained in an email, “In contrast to most study-abroad programs, a faculty member accompanies the student cohort during the entire semester, providing on-site mentoring, teaching an integrative seminar and both supporting and pushing students to deeper intercultural learning and engagement … The dual emphasis on developing linguistic and intercultural competency is very unique.”

As an academic program, students take classes taught entirely in Spanish by professors on a local college campus. Courses include Mexican History, Advanced Spanish, Mexican Art and Mexican-United States Relations. Art class stands out as a particular highlight: for each period in art history students receive an introduction through a lecture or presentation in class, then take a field trip to find examples of art in Querétaro and finally work on an art project in the style they are studying. When class lets out usually around 1 p.m., students go home for “la comida,” the biggest meal of the day. They then head back out to explore the historic center of Querétaro or do homework in a café.

Students also have the chance to complement what they learn in class through several excursions to different parts of Mexico. After learning about the different pre-hispanic civilizations in Mexico, they climb the Teotihuacan pyramids and explore other ancient ruins in Oaxaca. Students also explore Guanajuato, a smaller colonial town, canoe up turquoise rivers in the Sierra Gorda and view the artwork of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera in Mexico City.

“My favorite part of this experience so far has been all of the traveling we have done,” said Caitlyn Kasper, a sophomore currently participating in the program, in an email interview. “Traveling can be super stressful, but through the program a large majority of the logistics are taken care of for you so that you can focus on learning and exploring.”

Brian Salcedo, a senior who participated in the program last year, agreed with Kasper, adding that learning the history of the places he visited enhanced his semester. “It was a very unique, immersive experience. Whether it was in the beautiful waterfalls we visited outside, [or] the pyramids that we saw, each [experience] had [its] own story.”

The heart of Wheaton in Mexico is the opportunity for students to be immersed in the language and to invest in and learn from their local community in Querétaro. Students are individually matched with host families so that they can live and work alongside locals while steeped in the culture. Students commute to school and work. Often host families become treasured resources and confidants throughout a students’ stay. Although culture shock can make total immersion into a family difficult, many students grow to love residential life in Mexico. Rachel Novak, a sophomore currently participating in the program agreed. “[Most families] are amazing sources to learn about Mexican culture and life, and I am positive that they have played a huge role in improving my Spanish,” she told the Record in an email.

Sophomore Leah Martin also raved about her host family, reporting by email from Mexico that despite her host parents’ busy lives, “Somehow, my laundry is still done for me, I’m provided with freshly squeezed orange juice every morning and they never forget to ask me how school was. I kind of feel like an elementary schooler who is convinced their mom must have super powers.”

Students also find a variety of ways to get involved in Mexican culture apart from their host family and classes. Over the years several students have volunteered as English tutors at Instituto Asunción, a Catholic school in the area. They play English word games and facilitate discussions with Mexican students, helping to improve the students’ English language skills while also polishing their Spanish. Teaching in another language allows Wheaton in Mexico students to integrate their majors into pedagogy. Kasper, a Spanish and secondary education major, says she has enjoyed integrating her majors and experiencing “cool exchanges” of English and Spanish learning while serving in the local community.

This semester, other students have gotten involved with Centro de Apoyo Marista al Migrante, a ministry that aids Central American immigrants passing through Querétaro. Students visit the ministry center every other Thursday, cooking breakfast for those living there. The population is young, transitory and open to conversations with other young people. Martin told the Record, “Many of the individuals whom I have met there are young men from Guatemala or Honduras fleeing from violence and/or looking for work … They have been some of the individuals who have shown me the most grace with my Spanish and shown me that my presence is valued.”

Other students create their own service projects that further their specific interests. Salcedo is a senior applied health science major who interned at a local hospital during his 2018 semester in Mexico. He was able to gain invaluable experience as a medical fellow assisting medical students and doctors, attending medical lectures and talking to patients. He reported how incredible it was to observe different departments, especially in a foreign context, and to employ the training he has received at Wheaton. “My favorite part was just having a white coat, learning beside medical students and being treated as a medical student,” he said.

Regardless of how they choose to get involved in the community, all Wheaton in Mexico students find a church home for the semester. “I have been so blessed with a church family that includes some pretty great individuals around our age,” said Martin. “They’ve taken us bowling, to the movies, out for crêpes, out for ice cream, invited us to birthday parties, ran a 5K with us and have been so incredibly patient with us in the process of honing our abilities to speak Spanish.”

Novak also said that her church family has been her favorite part of the semester, but for different reasons. While the community in the church is vital, Novak loves worshipping in a Mexican context. To her, the intercultural exchange that happens during a church service foreshadows heaven’s unity. “I am often hit with the blessed feeling of being part of the Church, the body of Christ connected across the globe, believers from all different cultures and languages,” she said. “It is almost surreal.”

Developing a routine and finding a community in Mexico transforms a foreign place into a home for the Wheaton students living there. When asked what the best part of the semester has been, Martin responded, “Having a host family I belong to, a church family, a volunteer position in a local organization and the knowledge that most employees at the coffee shops within a half hour walking distance from my house definitely recognize me … is a feeling I so cherish. My favorite part about living here has been … feeling like I belong.”

Studying abroad benefits students in several ways. First of all, living cross-culturally teaches students a lot about themselves, not just about their host culture. Many students describe how their growth, while difficult, was accelerated in a foreign context, giving them incredible coping skills, a widened worldview and a better grasp on their identity. “Sometimes I feel as if Wheaton should count another four credits just from emotional and identity learning in a study abroad experience!” joked Novak.

“Wheaton in Mexico had a huge impact on me personally,” said Elizabeth Frey, a senior who participated in the program last year. “I grew incredibly as a person during my time away, not only in my language ability and worldview but as a human being. I learned independence, courage and faith at a level I hadn’t encountered before … My capacity to do my own thing, seek out the experiences I wanted, take care of myself the way my body best responds to and approach conflict expanded beyond anything I expected.” In an email, Frey acknowledged the fear associated with spending four months in an unfamiliar place but said that her experience showed her how much faith and courage she actually possessed. She returned to Wheaton with knowledge of her abilities and with more spontaneity because of her newfound confidence in God’s provision.

The personal aspect of the trip was especially meaningful for Salcedo, who is Mexican-American. Before Wheaton in Mexico, he remembered being “at a loss of what being Mexican-American meant to me.” He said his outlook was transformed by studying in a location that contained a component of his heritage and learning about Mexican history and culture. “I am proud to have a history that [Wheaton students] got to study, and at that same time use that history and mix it with American culture, American identity … and I’m proud of merging both cultures into who I am in my daily life,” he told the Record.

For other students, spending time outside of the culture they have always grown up in is revealing. It can jumpstart a passion for justice, racial reconciliation and intercultural communication. In the case of junior Abby Smith, another 2018 participant, she told the Record that she recognizes more cultural differences in communication and expression. She also noted oppression in regard to many Mexican individuals, saying the experience “opened my eyes to how much injustice there is that I’ve never had to deal with because I’ve always had it easy.”

In addition to learning more about themselves and their cultural identities, students also form strong relationships within their cohort that continue even after the semester ends. “I have been overjoyed to see the way that we have taken care of each other and treat each other like family,” Martin said. “Even though I know that our time here in Mexico will soon be coming to an end, I am so incredibly glad that I get to share the memories we have made here with my Wheaton peers and that I can continue growing in relationship with them even once we are back on campus.”

In the end, all past and present participants interviewed were unequivocal in their assessment of the program. Would they recommend it to others? “1,000 percent yes,” said Novak. “I was told many times that as a science major (and double major) that it would be very difficult to leave for a semester and I should choose a summer program instead. However, I can truly say that nothing could replace a full 16 weeks in another country.”

“I would recommend Wheaton in Mexico to everyone!” Frey said. “I saw the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, got to experience so much I will probably never get to again and made relationships with people in our group and those I met in Mexico I plan to keep the rest of my life.”

“This semester has definitely not been without its challenges … but it has been such an incredible opportunity for learning and growth. I have learned a lot about myself, had to lean an awful lot on the Lord and have pretty much fallen in love with Mexico,” Martin said.

In the end, Martin did mention one major downside: “The transition back to eating Saga fruit after a semester here might present a rather large challenge.”

Discipline and Devotion

Daily prayer services inspire students during the Lenten season

By Grace Kenyon

Unbeknownst to many passersby, students and faculty have faithfully gathered for prayer and liturgical worship in Adams Hall throughout the Lent season. At 8:30 a.m. or 4:30 p.m. art professor Matthew Milliner can be found in small upper room of Adams encouraging participants to observe the period of fasting and mourning during the 40 days before Easter.

Lent is a time in the church calendar often set aside for discipline and solemn reflection. Milliner has hosted these meetings on campus for the past six years as part of his personal desire to participate in the historic practice and to engage campus in dedicated communal prayer. An expert in visual theology, he has aptly chosen a space filled with traditional religious art, providing an opportunity for attendees to focus before their day begins, or to reflect after a day of work.

Freshman Emma Sawyer, who has been attending these services throughout Lent, described them as a “mental reset before the day begins.” It is completely non-obligatory and open to anyone within or outside the Wheaton community. Sawyer says the prayer services create  a “shared sense of peace” as they begin their day with prayer.

Senior participant Jerusha Crone described the service’s start as “a ringing of a bell and a time of silence, a time to center ourselves in the space with the bodies around us in front of the icons. We then delve into a whirlwind of words: Old Testament, Psalm and New Testament readings, either Mary or Zechariah’s song depending on the time of day and a time of communal confession and intercessory prayer.”

Whether spoken aloud or whispered in the silence of the heart, these prayers constitute a rhythm of discipline and devotion that are part of classical Anglican Lenten practices. The Record spoke to Milliner to hear the story behind the service and how it became a part of the fabric of Lent on Wheaton’s campus.

Daily practices of liturgical prayer, especially during Lent,  are commonly associated with the Anglican tradition, but for Milliner the practice has a unique origin. After Milliner received a B.A. from Wheaton College in Art History, he moved to Pennsylvania to work in youth ministry. “When I was a youth pastor at a Presbyterian church in Pennsylvania,” he said, “there was an old hermit — that’s almost the word I would use to describe him. He had a Ph.D. from Princeton Seminary in New Testament. He was probably 65, 70, not in really good health, but he just took up shop in our church and said ‘I’d like to have morning and evening prayer here.’”

Milliner started attending prayer times led by this unlikely acquaintance, a man of deep intelligence who worked at a convenience store. Milliner said, “I learned from him this half hour rhythm [of prayer] … and it became a part of my day, just getting fused with scripture.”

When Milliner left Pennsylvania to attend Princeton Theological Seminary, he momentarily gave up the ritual, but when he heard that the praying Pennsylvania hermit had died, he felt compelled to find another way to reintegrate this practice into his life. Years later, after graduating from Princeton with an M. Div, M.A. and Ph.D. and returning to Wheaton as a faculty member, Milliner decided that he would “start offering [Lenten prayer] and see what happens.”

The service hasn’t always been well publicized, and it doesn’t always attract a lot of attendees, but it survives. Milliner asserted that “it has been obvious that God wants this happening, and I know that we throw around language like that, but I can be really specific.” He went on to provide a few examples of how God has provided the means and motivation to continue holding these prayer times.

A year ago, on Ash Wednesday, he decided that he wasn’t going to keep hosting the services. “I decided I wasn’t going to do it because I’m just tired and I don’t need another hour on my day … I’ve done this for a while and it’s just time to not do it.” That, he said, was when God intervened. He received a letter from a Wheaton alumna currently living in Munich, Germany. The student beautifully expressed how much she valued his Lenten prayer services when she attended Wheaton, saying they were a wonderful reminder of grace in her daily life. He knew at that moment that the prayer services needed to continue. He said, “It was one of the most dramatic interventions I’ve ever had in my life.”

Another way Milliner has seen God’s hand is in the consistent attendance at the prayer services. He jokingly called the fellowship during  services “the Lenten miracle.”

“I’ve never been alone,” he told the Record, “there was one time, it was 4:30 p.m. on Friday and it was only me [for the first time in Wheaton Lenten history].” Fifteen minutes passed, and he thought no one was coming, but that’s when “a studio associate here who cares for this building and puts on all the shows … he walks by and says, ‘Oh, I’ll come pray with you.’” So the services have continued, drawing in a diverse mix of people from liturgical and non-liturgical traditions alike.

Sawyer and Crone, who represent a sliver of the diverse range of liturgical backgrounds that make up the Wheaton student body, both talked about how attending a regular prayer time has helped them grow in their faith.

Sawyer recounted her own journey to observing the liturgy. “I did not grow up observing Lent. I don’t think I’d ever heard of it until, when I was twelve, I moved to the Netherlands and I went to an Anglican church. And there, it’s kind of ingrained into European culture, but it’s more the party aspect of it, like a Carnival or Mardi Gras kind of thing.” In high school, she moved back to the US and started processing what the Bible says about fasting and other similar practices. Ultimately, she realized that Lent is “a time of mourning and makes Easter more significant.”

Sawyer said that having a specific time and place set aside for prayer was helpful in her devotional life, especially in learning how to pray for others. “There’s a time in the middle [of the service] where Dr. Milliner would say to pray quietly or aloud for different people and you could just say their names.” Sawyer explained,  “When I say I’m going to pray for someone, I want to pray for them.” These prayer times give her the space to do so.

Crone had some profound insight to offer about the role of Lent in her own spiritual journey. She is now Anglican, although she grew up in a Southern Baptist church. She wrote, “I think there is something powerful about rhythms and seasons in our lives that allows us to experience the full range of human emotions and experiences, and the church calendar provides us with an ordering of some rhythms that we get to enter into with our Christian community, living and dead, past, present, and future, and all around the world. It’s a chance to say, I’m having this experience of God but it’s not all about me.”

This theme of community runs deep in the tradition of Lenten prayer. Milliner made it very clear that the prayer service “isn’t meant to replace daily devotions … it is a public form of [prayer]. [Jesus] councils both, and they’re not mutually exclusive.” He went on to say that he reminds himself daily that the services are not “your little project; this is part of what it means to be the church.”

Milliner also incorporates his love of art into the services. Church icons are used as a means of further reflection and meditation.. He explained a little about the origin of these images. “These are from all male monasteries … that women couldn’t even step foot in if they wanted to.” The icons, in replica form, now take up residence on the third floor of Adams, and can be seen be anyone. Milliner hopes people see them as an “exchange of gifts across church traditions.”

In a similar way, the words used in the liturgical rhythm of the prayers and scripture are taken from a long and rich tradition that spans church history. The language is beautiful and poetic, but sometimes not gender-inclusive. Milliner decided to use the gender-inclusive NRSV for the scripture readings. However, not wanting to compromise the artistry of the original language, Milliner decided to continue using the older version of the prayers. “There’s only a couple of moments where men are referred to to signify all humanity, and we’re all adults and we can make the adjustment,” he said.

The icons, like the prayers and the words of scripture, are gifts shared between all Christians across time and space, and Milliner hopes they help participants connect to the larger body of Christ.

As the interview drew to a close, Milliner had one more message he wanted to emphasize. He acknowledged that sometimes the practice of prayer can become a burden when we make each other feel ashamed for not doing it enough. “This is not intended to make you feel guilty,” he insisted. Instead, he urged the rest of campus to “Be encouraged that prayers are rising up from Adams Hall … when we kneel and sit to repent, we’re doing this on behalf of the campus and on behalf of the church.”

The Clean White Toms Behind “Dirty White Vans”

By Sophomore Jack Bennett’s unlikely path to Spotify popularity

By Piper Curda

With over 150,000 streams on Spotify and lyrics brimming with smooth confidence, one might expect the person behind songs like “In This Moment” and “Dirty White Vans” to have a somewhat dominating presence, commanding attention in the same way his music does. But sophomore Jack Bennett and he is anything but imposing.

Like his singing voice, Bennett’s speaks with a rhythmic lilt. He uses it quietly and sparingly. He is arguably one of the most well-known artists on Wheaton’s campus, but you would not guess it from the amiable way he presents himself and the humility with which he talks about himself and his music. Ironically, he also doesn’t wear Vans, and the white Toms he does have are relatively clean.

Bennett is the first to admit that his musical success was fairly accidental. He is a business economics major with no ties to the Conservatory. He plays on Wheaton’s men’s basketball team. “I don’t really have any musical background … I’ve never had any music lessons,” he admits, though his lack of formal training has never deterred him.

Bennett, who grew up in Wheaton, started teaching himself music production in sixth grade simply by listening to music “in detail, picking apart every sound in a song and then trying to replicate it.” He taught himself guitar and piano during his junior year of high school when, on the way home from church one day, his mom pointed out that he had a nice singing voice. As if being entirely self-taught was not impressive enough, Bennett also records, produces, mixes and masters all of his own music with equipment now occupies his dorm room. It is fair to say that Bennett’s journey has been anything but ordinary.

“I honestly didn’t think it would become what it has, as small as it is still,” Bennett told the Record. He describes the positive response he has received thus far as “exciting … fun, but nerve-wracking.” There’s a level of vulnerability that comes with releasing music. “Now, a lot more people have heard my music, so there’s more association of it with me.”

Even so, Bennett does not let the reception of his music carry much weight. “I don’t care if people don’t like my music,” he said. “If they like it and they want to share that they like it, then I appreciate that. I don’t want people to fake it.”

It is difficult to fake it with Bennett’s music given the deliberately honest approach he takes with his lyrics.“I want my music to be real to what I’m thinking and how I feel,” Bennett said, describing his writing process. He expressed his desire to remain authentic when creating. “I do it out of enjoyment and it’s not to satisfy what other people want to hear.”

Enjoyment might be the only rule that Bennett applies to his creative process. Given his nontraditional entrance to the music world, Bennett believes the best process is no process at all. He explained it as something that “just kind of happens” and that often even he is not sure what the final product will end up being.

As a result of his stylized yet scattered method, even going about describing his own sound proves slightly challenging for Bennett. He dubs it “a combination of rap, pop and indie-electronica,” the last of which is heavily inspired by Jeremy Zucker, Bennet’s favorite artist. He also said it’s “a little bit of alternative.” In the end, Bennett admitted, “it’s all over the place, to be honest.” But he (and his listeners) seem to be just fine with that. “I literally just create what I want to. I’ll get on a certain trend for a couple months and then completely switch,” Bennett told the Record. Yet while he does not count on or expect any particular reaction from people that hear his music, he is certain of what he would like people to experience.

Above all, Bennett wants people to feel “connected” and understood. All of Bennett’s lyrics are inspired by his own experiences and relationships, but he intentionally keeps them open-ended in an attempt to cultivate universality. With this approach, he hopes to “put into words some emotions that [listeners] might not understand how to put into words [for themselves].” But once again, Bennett wants to avoid putting himself or anyone else in a box, saying, “I’ve always wanted people to just connect with it in some way, whatever way that is.”

Bennet’s inclination toward ambiguity is enhanced by his wish to create a musical experience that can be enjoyed by all, not just Christians. “A lot of people that would listen to my music that don’t know me wouldn’t know that I’m a Christian,” Bennett told the Record, explaining that this was, and has been, a conscious decision in order to reach both Christians and non-Christians as well as an effort to avoid ostracizing either population.

About the intersection of his music and his faith, Bennett expressed an authentic ambivalence. “I don’t really know how I want to approach it yet,” he said. Nonetheless, this willingness to embrace the unknown puts Bennet’s listeners at ease. To anyone looking to do what he has done, Bennet says, “Don’t force it. Don’t try too hard.” He speaks in earnest, but makes it clear that he does not think of himself as the prototype of a successful musician. “Have fun and don’t think you’re gonna blow up,” he said, adding, “I’m tiny. That’s fun, and that’s where I wanna be.”

While his streaming statistics and on-campus popularity may communicate otherwise, it is obvious that those are not the reasons Bennett does what he does. When asked if he plans to pursue music post-graduation, he shrugged and confessed that he did not really have any set plans for the future except one: “I do it because I love it … I’ll stop making music when I stop loving it.”  

Envisioning the future

How the OMD creates space for learning and empowerment

02.28.19

By Piper Curda

To many students at Wheaton, the Office of Multicultural Development has always been known by its snappy acronym (OMD) and its home in Lower Beamer across from the Office of Christian Outreach (OCO) and next door to the Student Activities Office (SAO). However, the OMD has only occupied in its current space since 2013 and the office itself was not always known as the OMD. Since its beginnings in the 1970s, the OMD went through multiple name changes such as Office of Minority Affairs, Office of Minority Student Development and Office of Multicultural Student Development before finally landing on the Office of Multicultural Development.

espite this mild external identity crisis, the OMD has always upheld its main goal of “being a home for students of color, a resource for ethnic minority students who want to learn more about Christ-centered diversity and an encouragement to the college to cultivate Christian unity that values and celebrates ethnic and cultural diversity.”

The OMD is also home to multiple student-led organizations such as Koinonia, the William Osborne Society, Unidad Christiana, Shalom Community and more that are aimed toward unifying and celebrating people of varying cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Senior Gabidel Miranda, the President of Unidad Christiana (the Latinx student group on campus), agreed, saying, “It’s a place where I feel the most welcome on campus. Since freshman year, it’s a place where I’ve been going for respite.” The OMD,  is a space that welcomes questions and conversations about topics otherwise difficult to discuss in Wheaton’s larger community.

“It’s always been a place where it gets the gears turning,” Miranda told the Record. “In topics of race, I’ve had a lot of feelings,” she continued, “and having these conversations in the OMD has been a new language to help [me] put a name to feelings or things that I’ve been seeing.” Senior Ziyu Gu, the current President of Koinonia (the Asian/Asian American student group on campus), also noted the reality of apathy that many people in the OMD face: “I think it’s hard for any organization … to make people who don’t care, care.” While this challenge may exist, it’s what the OMD equips students to address.

A common misconception Wheaton students may have is that the OMD is exclusively a space for students of color. However, this could not be further from the truth. In fact, the location change to Lower Beamer was motivated in part by a desire to become more accessible to all students who may wander in for a cup of coffee or good conversations. “It’s definitely a friendly space for the Caucasian students here to explore diversity and racial and ethnic relations and issues,” Gu said. The OMD holds many events and special activities, often hosted by a student groups that are open to anyone who wants to join. Events include movie nights, Q&A panels and special lectures. No matter the occasion, the OMD seeks not only to be welcoming to all but also to empower students.

“For a lot of students [the OMD] is not only a place of belonging but also a platform for empowerment,” Gu said. Gu has been a part of Koinonia since her freshman year and admits she found it confusing at first. As an international student from China, Gu found there was a dichotomy between international Asians and Asian Americans and the types of struggles they each faced. “Being in Koinonia was really helpful to understand a lot of racial relations … it’s that living together and learning and sharing differences and similarities that really make OMD special.” Miranda feels this empowerment has been exemplified by an increased interest in leadership positions from those who are part of the OMD. “In the past year or two, I’ve seen a lot of … people from the OMD branching out and applying to positions outside the OMD,” Miranda reflected. Gu concurred, describing the OMD as “a place where minority students feel safe and comfortable to go into, but not necessarily always stay.”

This balance between push and pull is precisely what the late Director of the OMD, Rodney Sisco, wanted to achieve through his work there. “Part of being the body of Christ is that we understand what grace is,” Sisco once said. “We’re preparing young men and women to know how to address that outside of Wheaton — how to be people who are able to engage with difference and conflict [in a manner] that still says we’re doing it as men and women of God.”

Remembering our past

Wheaton’s mixed legacy on issues of race

02.28.19

By Santoro Guiggio

Wheaton’s first president, Jonathan Blanchard was a dedicated abolitionist, a radical who called for racial justice. In a copy of “The Western Citizen and the Free Press” from July 8, 1851, he was listed as the chairman of a Christian anti-slavery conference that sought to “[consider] the duty of the churches in respect to slavery and other palpable sins.” For Blanchard, his advocacy for abolition expanded into the use of Blanchard Hall as a stop on the Underground Railroad. In another copy of the same paper from Oct. 7, 1851, Blanchard is reported giving a speech denouncing slavery before the American Missionary Association.

Associate Professor of History Karen Johnson, who specializes in the history of race and religion in 20th century America, complicates this narrative in her article, “Remembering Our Racial Past: Using Institutional Lament to Shape Affections.” Johnson writes about how Blanchard harbored some harmful opinions about what to do with the Native Americans who occupied land that the United States wanted to control. He felt that the Native American people needed to be removed from the land, even as he expressed regret about the way American military forces treated them. Blanchard also felt that the Native Americans needed to be “civilized” which “many Native Americans today view … as promoting cultural genocide,” according to Johnson.

Discrimination against Native Americans is a part of the story Wheaton College’s narrative cannot be told without. As Johnson writes in her article, “the college still sits on Native American land, literally grounded in native soil that American Indians continue to see as their homeland.”

As time went on, Wheaton’s record on race only grew more complicated. David Malone, the Dean of College and Seminary Library at Calvin College, addresses such issues in his article, “The Wheaton Context.” “The emergence of fundamentalism,” he writes, “influenced transitions in race relations and skewed the college’s founding vision … leaving social efforts to more liberal Christians.” During Charles Blanchard’s time as Wheaton College’s second president, there was growing discrimination against people of color on campus, including the story of Nellie Bryant, a student in the 1910s who was expelled for being African American.

Still, students of color continued to enroll at Wheaton. During an independent study in 2011, former Wheaton student Leah Fulton wrote “Historical Glimpses of Color.” Fulton’s text records several students of East Asian descent attending the college in the 1920s and 1930s. Another notable student of color at the college in the 1920s was Charles Satchell Morris. However, as Assistant Archivist Keith Call mentions in his Buswell Library Special Collections blog post Quite an Aristocratic Negro,” Morris was no fan of Wheaton College. When asked to donate to the college to help complete Blanchard Hall, he recounted how Charles Blanchard had allowed him to be unfairly expelled from the college dining hall and for that reason he would not contribute even “10 cents to complete Blanchard Hall.”

For African Americans in particular, Wheaton was not the most welcoming community in the 1930s and 1940s. According to Fulton’s text, in the 1940s Herbert Oliver was the first African American student to graduate from Wheaton since the 1920s. On top of this, several letters between President James Oliver Buswell and Rev. Wyeth Willard in 1939 describe conflict at the college over whether or not to admit an African American woman named Rachel Boone. As Malone notes in his text, there were concerns on the part of college authorities that the school could not serve people of her race. He cites the school’s Executive Council as saying that “social problems” would arise from her being accepted by the college.

During the Raymond Edman and Hudson Armerding administrations, changes occurred that began moving the college towards a path of rectifying racial disparities. Malone mentions that President Edman made an unsuccessful attempt to support the National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negros. He also established a committee on race relations that revealed the various forms of discrimination against minority students that were a part of life at Wheaton College.

As Fulton notes in her booklet, during the tenure of Armerding, several initiatives were launched in an effort to encourage minority students to attend Wheaton College. In 1968, a Compensatory Education Program was created to increase educational opportunities for minorities. A copy of the Wheaton Record from May 24, 1968 states that the program involved admitting 12 students (most of whom were black) from low-income areas. The article noted that “the program would waive certain admissions requirements and provide remedial and financial aid where needed.”

Unfortunately, the program did not work out as well as its creators had hoped. Fulton mentioned an article that described the program by saying “the idea was good but the methodology was wrong” and that some students even suffered “emotional and psychological wounds” from it. In 1970, the Educational Opportunity Program was established to improve minority enrollment at Wheaton. A decade later, towards the end of Armerding’s tenure, the Director of Minority Student Development position was established to help improve the experiences of minorities on campus.

After the end of Armerding’s time serving as president in the early 1980s, the college administration and the student body made new efforts to diversify Wheaton College, to celebrate minority cultures and pursue racial reconciliation. To emphasize the importance of diversity, President Richard Chase wrote an article titled “Diversity and Unity,” published in the college bulletin’s newsletter “InForm” during his second year at the college. This article does not specifically mention race, but it does call for members of the college to remember the unity of all believers in the body of Christ, even in the face of the diversity of the individual members of that body. It also warns of the dangers of simplistic generalizations about and judgments of others. Malone notes in his article that during President Duane Litfin’s tenure the college started the African-American Church Lecture Series and even more recently created the Church and Nieves scholarship for Latinx and African American students. Student groups like Gospel Choir (1986), the William Osborne Society (1987) and the Solidarity Cabinet (2006) were also formed during this pivotal time.

Despite these moves toward increasing the diversity of the student body and toward offering greater acknowledgment of and respect for minority students and their cultures, contradictions still characterize Wheaton’s relationship with race. Research from 1997, cited in Malone’s article, found that the white majority on campus reacted with indifference toward minority groups even if they were not aggressively prejudiced against them. The study claimed that majority students believed “that [racism] is not a problem on a ‘friendly campus’ like Wheaton’s. Such a belief … may be rooted in students’ limited definition of racism as the most overt types of prejudice.” As members of the college’s administration and student body tried to combat racism at Wheaton, this indifference by the white majority represents one of the latest of the contradictions in Wheaton’s history of race relations, one that endures to this day.

Since 1997, however, student diversity has increased 11.4 percent. As of 2016, 21.6 percent of Wheaton students were people of color. This was helped by efforts such as the From the Heart for the Kingdom campaign, which ran from 2013 to 2018.

Recent changes have included revisions to the covenant to include relevant language about diversity and community, expansion of the Office of Multicultural Development, engaging in external reviews of campus diversity, creating student leadership training for students of color and intentionally focusing on hiring a more diverse and ethnically varied staff. The Chaplain’s Office also made intentional choices to invite more speakers of color to campus for chapel and to hold events to further the discussion of racial and ethnic relations on campus.

Another large step for Wheaton was the creation of the Chief Intercultural Engagement Officer in the Senior Administrative Cabinet (SAC), which was filled by Sheila Caldwell. Caldwell, who received a doctorate in education from the University of Georgia in addition to completing the Harvard Kennedy School Strategies for Building and Leading Diverse Organizations Executive Education program, is the first woman of color to serve on the SAC. She has a vision “to deepen ethnic diversity, promote racial reconciliation, and advance cultural understanding,” according to the Wheaton Magazine.

Though Blanchard Hall’s official designation as a stop on the Underground railroad in 2012 by President Obama was significant, it was only one event in a long and complicated history of race relations at Wheaton that is still being written today.

A Taste of Home: Celebrating Lunar New Year at Wheaton

02.21.19

By Maddie Cash and Boyd Allsbrook

“It is incredibly powerful for the Chinese students of Wheaton to feel remembered and to remember,” Rose Wang, a Mandarin professor at Wheaton, told the Record. On Feb. 15, students from countries such as China and Korea remembered and celebrated their culture at the Spring Festival, colloquially called the Chinese New Year.

During the festival, hosted by the Chinese Language and Culture Club, the exchanging of blessings and the accompanying celebrations expressed the longing for peace in the new year. Chinese New Year is by far the most popular tradition in China and Korea. The 15-day festival begins on the first day of the first new moon on the lunar calendar. This year makes the ninth year that Wheaton College’s student body has come together to celebrate and share in Chinese culture.

Originally organized and hosted by Koinonia as the Lunar New Year Festival, the event has gradually come under the leadership of the CLACC. There is always an emphasis on traditional cuisine, musical and cultural performances, and crafts and games. This year the crowd of more than 100 students, professors and community members gathered to watch martial arts exhibitions, listen to Chinese songs and eat traditional foods like Tangyuan (sweet rice balls) and scallion pancakes. The event reminds Chinese students of their homes and culture while introducing the beauty and excitement of Spring Festival to Wheaties who might never be exposed to it otherwise. Freshman Ethan Iha, an attendee, remarked that although he didn’t know what the lyrics meant, “The songs were so beautiful, and I got chills.” Wang described the festival as “a time for people to come home, be with family and just celebrate.”

One performer, freshman Lucy Yang, told the Record about the sense of community that Wheaton’s Lunar New Year’s celebration gives Chinese students. “There aren’t that many Chinese students represented on campus, and it feels good to have a club like [CLACC], to remember us,” she said. “I wish that more people were aware of Chinese festivals and culture. We’re a pretty diverse group. I hope it’s even bigger next year.”

Wang agreed. “The sharing of cultures that happens is so wonderful,” she told the Record. “They are far from home, and the Spring Festival is the biggest cultural holiday that the Chinese have.” Another student, sophomore Chloe Liu, told the Record that the festival “felt like home” which is what CLACC hoped to give students thousands of miles from their homes.

“The celebration is important because it brings Chinese culture to the forefront, if only for a night, and shows love to those students, and makes them feel a sense of home away from home.” Wang explained. “It also shows love by sharing this really fun piece of culture to all those at Wheaton. Good food, good music, good fellowship.”

A conversation about women, 160 years in the making

02.14.19

By Sarah Holcomb

As over 130 students and faculty flooded the Billy Graham Center Wilson Suite for a breakout session during the student-organized “Where are the Women?” conference on Monday, chairs were in short supply. Dozens of students lined the walls or sat cross-legged at speakers’ feet, surrounded by mounds of jackets and backpacks as they munched on hockey-puck-sized cookies. Soon the adjacent session relocated to create more space.

The turnout confirmed what the event’s five organizers already believed: Wheaton College needed a campus-wide conversation focused on women.

Nearly 160 years after Wheaton’s first female graduate received her degree, 55 percent of today’s Wheaton students are women. The century following Wheaton’s founding saw the women’s suffrage movement and an influx of women to the workplace. Still, women continue to encounter unique challenges in academia, the workplace, the home and the church.

“Where are the women?” — a question many women ask as they enter male-dominated spaces, careers and conversations — served as the focus for the two-day conference which brought nine alumnae to campus to share their experiences. A dive into Wheaton’s archive reveals that students have been asking this question for decades.

Life for Wheaton’s first women

At its founding in 1860, Wheaton College was a progressive institution — one of a handful of coeducational colleges in the U.S. and the only college-level women’s program in Illinois. Wheaton’s founder and first president, Jonathan Blanchard, advocated for education open to all, regardless of race or gender.

Many of Blanchard’s fellow educators disagreed, believing women were not suited for advanced study, arguing that they lacked physical or intellectual rigor, that God did not intend women to study or that young women would corrupt the morals of their male peers.

Advocating both for the “natural equality of souls” and distinct gender roles, Blanchard wrote, “Adam and Eve got their education together in Eden; and … their sons and daughters should do so in the school, though the sons may name the cattle, and the daughters dress the flowers.”

Although female students graduated on the same level as their male counterparts, their courses of study at Wheaton diverged. Wheaton offered a “Ladies Course” and “ordinary college course,” described by Blanchard as “designed especially for young gentlemen, though the textbooks in the Young Ladies’ Course are the same, or nearly so.”

The “Ladies course” allowed “something for needlework and other things,” while omitting “something of languages and higher mathematics,” Blanchard explained in the 1862-63 course catalog, adding that students recited their lessons alongside male peers as far as their studies overlapped.

At Wheaton’s first commencement, seven students graduated, all men. Adeline Eliza Collins received her diploma the following year as Wheaton’s first female graduate. Until 1877, women received an “Artium Sororis” (Sister of Arts) degree, while other colleges awarded “Maid” or “Mistress” of Arts degrees, as it was deemed improper to call a woman a “Bachelor.”

Gender segregation extended to the course catalog, which listed women students separately until administration decided to “interfile” the names in the 1870s. Although women accounted for only 21 percent of the country’s undergraduates at the time, over the next twenty years the percentage of female undergraduates nationwide would more than double.

As a result, colleges increasingly began hiring women — including Collins, the Head of the Female Department at Wheaton — to teach and counsel female students. According to research by scholar Patsy Parker on the historical role of women in higher education, hiring a “Dean of Women” gave college administrators peace of mind that male and female students would stay separate.

Women’s roles in society

Divisions between sexes on Wheaton’s campus — whether in course requirements or extracurriculars — reflected the different roles in which they would presumably find themselves post-graduation.

A 1913 Record article applauded Wheaton alumnae who, “as a rule, followed that first and most important vocation of their sex, that of homemakers.” The article also noted, however, that “their labors have not been confined to their homes,” but alumnae were serving as missionaries, “stand-bys in church and community,” pastors and Christian workers, physicians and nurses, artists and businesswomen.

Dialogue over the next century challenged gender roles. Following the precipitous increase and decline of women in the workforce during and after the World Wars, in 1960 women comprised over a third of the labor force, compared to just five percent in 1870.

Still, one student lamented in a 1970 Record issue, “How many Wheaton women find that upon graduation prospective employers are most interested in their typing speed?”

From the late 1970s to early 1990s, a flurry of articles on women’s roles hit the pages of the Record, including a series on “Women and the Church.” Many wrote in to support the “women’s liberation movement” and urge on fellow students, while others supported traditional women’s roles. A survey in 1985 revealed that most students felt there was no need for an equal rights amendment.

When Lynn Cooper, Ph.D., professor of communication emeritus, began teaching at Wheaton in 1974 as a single 24-year-old, “it was definitely a patriarchal culture.” In the early 1970s, Professor of Music Kathleen Kastner remembers, “There was much more ‘maleness’ on campus — everywhere you looked; young women had much less of a voice.”

Students organized events to discuss women’s roles. At the “Women at the Crossroads” conference in 1986, 200 women students listened to female professionals discuss identity, two-career marriages, “women in a man’s world” and being a woman of God.

The next year, another conference responded to questions from female students on career, family and leadership. Students on the planning committee highlighted the need for women’s voices. “I put my time into it because I really believe it is an area where there needs to be a lot of thinking, questioning and observing of role models,” junior Christine Dorf told the Record in 1987. “I felt that there is a lack of discussion here on campus about the choices that women have today.”

Organizers of this week’s “Where are the Women?” conference brought this conversation again to the forefront, addressing the recurring, yet pressing, question in a twenty-first century context.

A 2019 report card

Today, nearly half of college professors in the U.S. are women, up from a third in 1987, while 32 percent are tenured.

Wheaton’s female faculty now account for 36 percent of full-time professors; they comprise 29 percent of tenured professors and 47 percent of tenure-track faculty, likely due to recent increases in female faculty. While women comprise almost half of assistant professors, less than a third of full or associate professors are women. Of Wheaton’s full time faculty, 13 are women of color (5.8 percent), including nine professors who identify as Asian, two as Black or African-American and one as Latino.

Both Kastner and Cooper recognized changes over the past 40 years. One of Kastner’s first students in 1972 constantly questioned Kastner, the first woman with a doctorate in percussion performance in the country, until he attended her recital one day.

While Cooper’s students generally respected her (“only once did a male student confront me in class as whether it was appropriate for a woman to teach a man”) she said she often encountered gender stereotyping by male faculty. “A male faculty member told me that it didn’t matter if I had a doctorate because ‘You’re a woman and have no credibility.’ While administration was supportive, there were no females at this level or on the Board to advise women faculty.”

Today, “the College has also been responsive at most levels to address the needs of female faculty,” Cooper said. “I also think having a female Provost has been so encouraging and significantly helpful,” Kastner added. However, challenges like maternity leave, finding affordable childcare and male-dominated meetings continue to affect female faculty.

College administration often fares poorly in gender diversity. Women hold 26 percent of college presidencies, but only 5 percent at Christian colleges and universities, according to 2010 data collected by Dr. Amy Reynolds, associate professor of sociology and director of Wheaton’s Gender Studies Certificate. Within the last two years, two women joined Wheaton’s senior administrative cabinet: Provost Margaret Diddams and Chief Intercultural Engagement Officer Sheila Caldwell. Since 1920, only ten percent of Wheaton’s student body presidents have been female.

Reynolds encourages young women to not “box themselves in.” When it comes to structural change, her research advocates highest-level leadership at least half comprised of women of various racial identities, along with public affirmation, setting targets and putting policies in place to punish harassment and sexism.

On Monday, Amy Brown Hughes, Ph.D., sang a Hamilton track from the chapel stage as a refrain about women’s exclusion: “I wanna be in the room where it happens, the room where it happens!”

“Whether in church, workplaces or civic organizations, there will come a time, or multiple times, when a woman is in a meeting and asks herself ‘where are the women?’” Diddams told the chapel audience. “Or, in my case, over 30 years of educational and corporate settings, I still find myself asking: ‘Jeepers, am I the only one again?’”

Women in ministry

Female professors in Bible and theology face specific challenges. During Monday’s “Women in Ministry” panel, associate professor of New Testament Amy Peeler, Ph.D., said she’s often heard, “If you’re a woman, you don’t believe the authority of scripture.” “You don’t have to take my opinion,” Peeler added, “but I will go to town with you on scripture!” She invites friendly dialogue with students on women’s ordination: “We can disagree, but let’s get to know one another.”

As attendees packed into the Wilson suite, the scene looked familiar to history. On an April day in 1990, 160 students and faculty had crowded in the same space for lectures on women in ministry, organized by graduate students who “felt like the general position perpetuated on campus is a very conservative and narrow view.” A survey two years before found 19 percent of Wheaton students — and 48 percent of faculty — agreed that women’s ordination is biblical, while around 20 percent of both students and faculty were undecided.

The same year, Wheaton hired Nancy Calvert (‘82) as a Bible and theology professor to fill in for two professors on sabbatical, marking the first female hire in the department since the 1950s.“The [BITH] department has long been in favor of having a woman, but a big concern is having a qualified person,” the department chair had told the Record.

Ironically, Wheaton College has a record of women in church leadership from its early history.

Wheaton student Fannie Townsley later became the second-known Baptist woman ordained and held evangelistic services across New England. Another early graduate, Juanita Breckenridge, became the first female Bachelor’s of Divinity (now known as the Master’s of Divinity) graduate from Oberlin Seminary. Although controversy broke out as she sought her preaching license, she was ordained in 1890. Edith Torrey joined the faculty in 1919 as the college’s first Bible and theology professor.

Panelists at the 2019 conference spoke about struggling to envision themselves in ministry, missing female role models, receiving support from professors and encountering resistance — whether being told to speak from the floor rather than the pulpit, or being excluded from meetings because of their gender.

“We’re missing half of the gifts of the church if we don’t fully involve women where they’re called to be,” Elizabeth Gatewood (‘09) said.

Caldwell shares this perspective: “It will be difficult for the church or institutions to thrive if women are undermined or excluded from prominent places and positions.”

Future hopes

All five conference organizers — senior Laura Howard, sophomore Katherine Beech and graduate students Eliza Stiles, Katherine Goodwin and Hannah Hempstead — have stories that led them to ask “Where are the women?”

Howard, a philosophy and theology double-major, remembers when, as a transfer student excited about Bible classes at her new Christian high school, she was warned by the woman at the front desk to “be careful how much you get into that kind of thing, because if you get too far into it, it will be difficult to find a man who can still lead you spiritually.”

Professor of Theology George Kalantzis initially connected the five students, who planned the event independently, from the budget to social media marketing. They secured enthusiastic support from campus offices to reach — and surpass — their $15,000 funding goal to host the conference. Convening in Kalantzis’ office between events, the group said they were impressed with turnout and how “we’ve been able to empower women without tearing down men.” The team hopes to make the conference an annual event.

Conference panelists included female medical professionals, church leaders, a development professional and a stay-at-home mother who discussed relational dynamics, sexual harassment, women in leadership and the ever-changing nature of women’s vocations. Panelists also addressed intersectionality and challenges facing women of color.

“I think there’s massive power in that we’ve flooded this campus with brilliant alumnae who are talking about what it’s like to be a woman and not shying away from hard questions, and saying, ‘I ask these questions, too, and this is where I’m at in that journey,’” Beech said.

Beech said a friend approached her during the conference to say, “It occurred to me today, I could do a Ph.D. in theology and that’s never occurred to me before!” Beech beamed. “I’m grateful this conversation is allowing people to even think those thoughts; it’s allowing women to see themselves in positions they might not have been able seen themselves before.”

“Imagination expansion is the goal, in many ways,” Howard added.

Maddy Preston (‘18) says she hopes the conference “gives women a better understanding of how to occupy spaces … boldly and confidently. And for men, an understanding of how to create and allow spaces for women in those areas.”

“In the future, I hope to see more conversations surrounding the intersection of sexism, racism and classism to encourage more effective problem-solving for all women,” Caldwell told the Record.

If history is any indicator, the conversation surrounding women at Wheaton — and the world — is far from finished.

Just making noise: Card Club’s songs bring new music to campus

02.01.19

By Piper Curda

The Tower Room in Blanchard is a quiet, modest room on the top floor of the historic building, made more tranquil by the flurries of snowfall dancing past the windows in the brutal chill of January. The space is anything but devoid of energy, however, as three of the five members of one of Wheaton’s newest student bands, Card Club, fill the room with laid-back banter and a subtle but palpable passion for the unique music that sparked their growing on-campus following. The band was formed Oct. 8, 2018 (a date immortalized on one of the band’s merch shirts) though the initial idea originated the prior semester between lead singer junior Charles Schlabach and drummer senior Jake Richardson when they both attended the BestSemester program at the Contemporary Music Center in Nashville, Tenn.

“We were talking down there about starting something when we came back … to keep it going because that was such a good experience,” Schlabach explained. Shortly after arriving back on campus, Schlabach and Richardson reached out to junior Grant Deakins and junior Josh Zuckermann to join as bass player and keyboardist, respectively. “Jake was actually the first person I met [at Wheaton]; he moved me in freshman year,” Deakins mentioned. This elicited a chuckle from guitarist sophomore Caleb Ballard who pointed out that Zuckermann had helped him move in freshman year as well. These fortuitous moments seemed to be a running theme amongst the group, with Ballard having joined the band in an almost accidental fashion, right before the band’s first gig. “I just heard from Grant, ‘Hey dude, we have these guys that I jam with, do you wanna play a show with them?’ and I said, ‘That’d be fun,’” Ballard laughed, with Schlabach adding that “There was a good week or two where it was like, ‘Is he in the band?’” Evidently, that is no longer a question given that Ballard plays an integral role in the band, as does every member.

If we keep pursuing just being genuine in our writing, there’s going to be a fingerprint of our faith in there.

Caleb Ballard

Throughout Card Club’s conversation with the Record, the group placed concerted emphasis on the idea of collaboration. Ballard, Deakins and Zuckermann all come from backgrounds of playing in bands throughout high school and performing in a wide variety of contexts ranging from worship to art rock to classical, while Richardson and Schlabach are more grounded in a structural process of creating music which is influenced by their time in the Nashville program. This balanced combination of concept and composition seems to have lent itself to the tangible brotherhood chemistry that the band emanates both on and off stage. “It’s been cool seeing that blend because it works together really well,” Ballard confirmed. “It’s really shaped how we play and perform and how we write and what our sound has become,” Deakins added.

This sound is described by the members as “synth-y pop rock” and “happy indie pop,” replete with 80s-inspired guitar riffs, drum and bass sounds rooted in funk, and Pulp Fiction references buried in the lyrics. “There’s a lot of sad music out right now … we want to write happy music!” Deakins exclaimed, adding that “at the end of the day we just want people to have a good time listening to it and going to our shows.” The somewhat vague language the group ascribes to their music is representative of the diversity in their catalog of songs and their refusal to be put into a singular box or genre. “I’m not very knowledgeable in the history of music … so honestly whatever comes out is just kind of what comes out naturally … it’s mostly accidents,” Schlabach told the Record in a moment of modest truth. The others were quick to give Schlabach credit where it was due.

“Charles really has such a great creative vision and drive behind it and the sound we’re going for … Charles really pushes that and we’re all able to support that well and provide ways to make it better,” Deakins said. Ballard continued on, explaining that “even if somebody else comes in with an idea, it’s kind of Charles coming up with a cool melody for it.” Schlabach made sure to clarify, however, that the band is in no way a one-man effort. “It all can’t come from my head,” he said seriously. “Everybody fills the space that they’re given really well,” Ballard agreed. To that end, each member has their own unique approach when it comes to creating.

Card Club from left to right: Josh Zuckerman, Grant Deakins, Jake Richardson Charles Schlabach

“At the end of the day, we’re just making noise, and it’s so cool that that’s something that brings people together and can make people feel a certain way,” Deakins said thoughtfully. “We’re just hitting instruments and it can be clash-y and weird and still people find something in it and might find something that not even us, as the artists, found.” In a different vein, Ballard explains that he tends to find vulnerability and community in his art. “I feel most free to be vulnerable with people when I’m playing music … it’s just become kind of second nature to how I think,” he told the Record, “I get to take people into these little pictures I’ve made whenever I get to play. It’s just how I love connecting with people, and that’s what I’m passionate about.” Schlabach, who contributes heavily to the lyric portion of songwriting, expressed what he views as the two primary reasons to write music: for other people or for yourself. “I definitely struggle between the two because I don’t want other people’s opinions to affect too much of what I write, but I also want to keep it honest,” he admitted. Deakins summed up their joint creative effort in describing it as “an outlet to tell a story.”

While there is a distinctive individuality to the members of Card Club in the unique ways they dress, speak and perform that lends itself to their intriguing image as a band, there is also an element of self-awareness that each one of them consciously possesses. “I think it’s really important to stay self-aware when you write music because it’s really easy to get caught up in this idealistic vision of what you’re doing,” Ballard expressed thoughtfully, explaining how easy it can be to come across (or actually be) pretentious or inaccessible when working on music seen as out-of-the-box. “You don’t want to just write for other people, but there’s a degree to which I have to know whether or not I’m in a different world … you have to maintain that awareness.”

Deakins added that the group attempts to bring this awareness to all facets of life as a band, including stylistic choices, at which point the members transitioned into a prolonged shoutout of sophomore Elliot Young, whom the band gives credit to for their logo, t-shirt designs and social media content, among other things. In an email exchange with the Record, Young spoke of how his intrigue in the band was sparked upon hearing the name. “There was a symmetry to the name that I enjoyed and I got really excited about the possibility of that name,” Young explained, saying he drew inspiration for the logo from visual trends he’d seen on Instagram. “I love the look of bold monospace characters. I think powerful and recognizable branding is a major factor to a new band’s success and I wanted to make sure Card Club had that covered.” It seems Young’s efforts have done the trick, given that Card Club is already a recognizable name on campus, despite the fact that they are a self-described secular band which can tend to operate against the grain in a place like Wheaton. Even so, the band doesn’t see this fact as an advantage nor a disadvantage.

“I firmly believe all art is God-breathed … I’ve had very spiritual moments with secular music and the joy that comes from that I feel is pretty raw and rooted in a community that is a loving environment for people to be in,” Deakins told the Record, with all members agreeing that the secular music industry can be seen as a mission field. They spoke to the opportunities they’ve had to enter into community with other bands in the unlikeliest of places, with Deakins saying, “It’s cool to just actually meet people where they are … to spark conversation and be present with people.” Ultimately, while identifying as a secular band, Card Club aims to represent themselves as Christians in a band and noted that they have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the Wheaton community since their conception. In terms of implementing any kind of spiritual nuances in their current or future music, Ballard shrugged and earnestly articulated that “if we keep pursuing just being genuine in our writing, there’s going to be a fingerprint of our faith in there.”

It’s clear that Card Club has an explicit vision for how they want to present themselves as a band. However, this doesn’t mean they know what their future as a band will look like. With Zuckermann currently studying in Nashville at the same program where the idea for Card Club was born and Richardson on the road working for a tour, the rest of the members don’t exactly know how this will change things. “It’s a lot of question marks for us right now. We’ve been trying to continue to schedule some gigs and get other guys in, but it’s not the same without them,” Schlabach said, though the group pointed out that the absence of the others allows for more opportunity to get into the recording studio and concentrate on that aspect of things for a while. “I think we all would love to see Card Club work out,” Ballard declared hopefully, while acknowledging that each member was also working on their own solo projects. “I definitely have some stuff that probably wouldn’t fit into Card Club that I’ll finish eventually, but we seem to have fallen into something fairly good,” Schlabach said in agreement. “We all feel we’ve found something special, which is such a generic music thing to say,” Deakins affirmed, “but we’re going to ride this ship until it sinks.”

Coming alive

11.24.19

By Madison Cash

“We are the house of God,” junior Katelyn Beaghan told the Record. “He does not dwell in Jerusalem, he dwells within us. Are we approaching ourselves with that same reverence and that same respect?” she asked, hand resting on the bright copy of a laminated booklet with big, colorful letters spelling out the words “Come Alive!.” The interdisciplinary studies (IDS) student, with her easy, confident mannerisms and enthusiastic grin, certainly seems to come alive talking about her new initiative that bridges a biblical understanding of nutrition with practical health principles.

Beaghan is bringing a Bible and nutrition curriculum to Wheaton, creating more conversation and support around fostering a biblical understanding of nutrition and health. This curriculum was first put together by Angela Stephenson, executive director and co-founder of Living Abundantly Ministries. Stephenson told the Record in an email that the nutrition study, entitled “Come Alive!,” had a slow start at first, but was finally published in December of 2015. Small groups started using it in 2016 in churches in Wheaton, Carol Stream and Elmhurst in Illinois and Kearney, Mo. Churches as far as Albuquerque, N.M. and Australia are interested in using the curriculum, according to Stephenson.

At Wheaton, the study also meets a common yet rarely-discussed need on campus for a biblical understanding of nutrition. Interim Director of Student Health Services (SHS) Beth Walsh explained how her job at SHS has revealed several misunderstandings about nutrition that “Come Alive!” can rectify. “I’m meeting with students who are struggling in various realms related to nutrition, from an extreme of an eating disorder to body image issues, to ‘What do I even eat?’” Milligan has also collected student stories about health and their struggles with nutrition and notes this trend at Wheaton as well. She describes the divide “between students who really don’t care much about their physical health … students [that] tend to prioritize homework above caring for our physical bodies,” and “Wheaton students who are such achievers that they do work out [or monitor their food], maybe to the point where it’s a little too much and it becomes unhealthy.” She feels that “Come Alive!” can help students who struggle with both issues, whether it be carelessness or overcare for their bodies.

Both unhealthy sides of the spectrum stem from a deep misunderstanding about the value of a biblical understanding of nutrition. For Beaghan, her grasp of biblical nutrition and why it’s important stemmed from her recent experience in Israel over Christmas break. She explained, “We obviously went to Jerusalem and went to the place where the Temple used to be.… The meaning of that verse [1 Cor. 6:19-20] grew exponentially for me after seeing where the Temple was in Israel, how people approach it with such reverence and respect.” Her approach to nutrition now revolves around pushing individuals struggling with nutrition and health to respect themselves as temples of the Lord. Sophomore TJ Whitfield, the graphic designer for “Come Alive!,” agrees with Beaghan. In his opinion, “You can’t really talk about nutrition, talk about the well-being of your body, without bringing up the conversation … that our bodies are the temples created by the Lord.”

The “Come Alive!” curriculum is specifically equipped to address these issues because of its progression from spiritual principles to practical health steps. “I think the component of ‘Come Alive!’ that’s so wonderful is that you can’t really separate who we are in Christ and our spiritual walk, and how we care for our bodies, and I think combining the two is just, it makes this unique and puts it together in a whole-person way,” Walsh told the Record. The program’s objectives walk students through how to “Seek God First, Love and Be Loved,” and finally to “Honor God with my Body” with five principles: eat delicious whole foods that are high in fiber, phytonutrients and omega-3 fats, drink water throughout your day, create a mindful approach to eating, move more in ways that get your heart pumping and practice an intentional rhythm of work, play and rest. This progression moves students through the tenants of a biblical understanding of nutrition and orients them to what Beaghan calls the right heart attitude. “Everything is always a heart attitude, so it goes back to the way that you’re approaching yourself and thinking about yourself,” she explained.

Even so, while it is a Bible study, the “Come Alive!” study also causes documented real-world benefits for men and women interested in becoming healthier versions of themselves. Volume 7 of the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC’s) Preventing Chronic Disease journal reported on the effectiveness of “Come Alive!” as a weight loss and nutrition program. The CDC found that 90 percent of participants in a church-based progression through the curriculum completed the eight-week program. Nearly 75 percent of those participants continued to maintain or lose weight in a 10-week follow up after the study’s close. Even more significantly, Living Abundantly Ministries’ website reports that the incidence of metabolic syndrome, the indicators of heart disease, “reduced from 44 percent to 24 percent of participants.” The curriculum precipitated an average weight loss of 1.3 pounds and 1.6 pounds per week for women and men respectively.

The study at Wheaton is slated to be eight sessions long and each session is about 90 minutes. Small groups of students will gather on their own time and work through the curriculum, guided by a student facilitator. “It’s very chill. They don’t have to be a nutritionist, they don’t have to be an expert, they just guide discussions,” Beaghan told the Record. She worked with the EVP of Student Care, junior Grace Milligan, and Stephenson to host an event on Reading Day last semester that garnered 40-45 interested students. In addition, SHS sent out a campus-wide announcement about the study on Friday, Jan. 18. The study’s structure stems from a desire to allow participants to progress gradually in order to maintain healthy results. Stephenson said, “We propose to address them in short time segments within the rhythm of your day, only focusing on one thing at a time. Once you have a healthy routine or habit, then it’s a lot easier to maintain that healthful aspect of your of your lifestyle. ”

This study is unique in Wheaton’s sizable landscape of Bible studies. Milligan explained that it fills a gap on campus, because it’s not a DSG or a “wellness class [that] wants to throw in a Bible study.” She thinks that the powerful difference lies in the fact that the “Come Alive!” study is student led and incorporates scientific principles along with its biblical focus. “I think that’s a really powerful way to do it because you can keep each other accountable for how well you’re sleeping or choosing to eat well, your physical well-being, if you’re working out,” she stated. One of the future student facilitators, sophomore Sara Decker, agrees. She described how her own journey of nutritional health was deeply connected to her spiritual journey, and she views leading a small group as an outgrowth of her own journey. “It’s just something that I’ve come a long way with, and how God has used that in my life as a way of revealing himself and revealing his plan to me has been really amazing,” she said slowly, pausing at intervals to emphasize her own passion about this project.

Beaghan first discovered the curriculum through Theresa Stolt, the Academic Coordinator for the IDS department. Stolt introduced her to Stephenson to discuss Beaghan’s initial research question for IDS: “How does nutrition affect your spiritual life?” Stephenson and Beaghan met, and Beaghan told the Record that “The first time that we met we talked for five hours … because we have similar passions.”

This conversation also jump-started a new passion for Beaghan. “At first, I was just like, ‘This is incredible and it’s everything that I’ve ever wanted to study, so however I can be involved I want to be involved,’” Beaghan said, laughing a little at her own enthusiasm. She went through the study, along with Stolt, as a participant. After completing the study, she realized that the principles presented in the “Come Alive!” study could be beneficial for Wheaton’s campus. She began connecting with SHS, Bon Appetit and Student Care to organize the study and tailor it to Wheaton students. SHS and Student Care endorse the study and refer individuals to it, while Bon Appetit’s role in the promotion of the study remains to be determined.

Stolt told the Record, “We’ve been really, really impressed with Katelyn’s level of initiative in moving forward with this project. She’s done so much work behind the scenes of contacting people and getting things organized and moving beyond what is traditionally the role of an undergraduate student in putting this together — it’s really impressive.” Stephenson agrees — she told the Record that “Katelyn adds tremendous value to our nonprofit as an intern and she is the initiator and leader for the “Come Alive!” launch at Wheaton College. Our mutual desire is to help students and staff on their journey to a more abundant spiritual and physical life.”

One common theme throughout the responses given by those involved in “Come Alive!” leadership was their emphasis on the sovereignty of God, not only over nutrition but also over the study itself. Walsh said,“We’re just giving it to the Lord to lead, for whoever needs to come and be a part of it.” Beaghan echoed that sentiment several times, explaining that “God has been swinging doors open. I feel like I’ve done nothing, and I’ve just been following in his footsteps and he obviously has something up his sleeve. He’s got something.” She shook her head and grinned, repeating herself in disbelief. “Because here we are… here we are.”