October 5, 2017

The Center for Urban Engagement is undergoing a series of changes in an effort to expand the Wheaton in Chicago program within both Chicago and Wheaton. Beginning in January 2018, the Wheaton in Chicago (WIC) program will relocate from the Uptown neighborhood on the north side of Chicago to a new facility located in the south side neighborhood of Woodlawn to partner with Sunshine Gospel Ministries. “Sunshine Enterprises (SE) provides neighborhood centered entrepreneurial training in Chicago’s struggling communities,” according to their website. A spring semester option will be added to the fall program, and new courses are being included in a new curriculum. The group of students participating in the fall 2018 semester in Chicago will be the first to experience these changes.

According to Noah Toly, director of the Center for Urban Engagement and professor of urban studies, the new format for the semesters will include “internships, Theologies of Transformation (which fulfills the BITH 315 Christian Thought requirement), a course on Chicago and “Civitas,” our program of vocational exploration and discernment for Wheaton in Chicago students,” with additional distinctive courses based on which semester a student attends. Both semesters include a trip outside of Chicago. Fall semester students will travel to Houston for the Christian Community and Development Association Conference, while the spring semester will include a trip to Los Angeles for additional field work.

Toly explained that the new relocation and expansion plans come from the hope “that expanding our current programs, increasing the scope of engagement with Chicago, bringing greater coherence to a college-wide strategy for urban engagement and relocating our facilities will amount to a transformative initiative for the college.” This hope of transformation within the college includes the goal of “racial reconciliation through support for and cultivation of relationships with communities and institutions comprised substantially of racial and ethnic minorities,” which is “to some extent dependent upon our presence in Chicago.”

To do so, Rachel Brown, assistant director for Student Engagement, hopes to see more students, staff and faculty engage with Chicago through Wheaton’s programs in the future, no matter what discipline they study. She “[loves] that Wheaton in Chicago is multidisciplinary [and open to any major] because it allows for conversations and encounters to happen that might not happen on campus when students are often in class with only people in a similar field.”

Senior Abby Latip who participated in the program last year believes that “the biggest reason why they are making the move is not only to expand the resources available to Wheaton in Chicago, but also to increase Wheaton’s capacity to serve the city.”

Senior Sam Bennett, another former participant in Wheaton in Chicago, agrees that the relationship between Wheaton and Chicago is symbiotic and would like to see people “tap into what the city can offer all Wheaton students, not just students who do the program. I think with this new facility, they can really do that in a better way than before … instead of being so far removed north which is where we are now.”