Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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  • Literature for the ages

    Kiddie lit with cross-over appeal

    Not only has J.K. Rowling helped a whole generation of children learn to love reading with her Harry Potter series, she also has adults to re-discover the appeal of kiddie lit. Or perhaps she has demonstrated, to publishers' marketing departments, that some stories hold magic for people of every age.

    Whatever the case, some observers see a new trend in the rise of children's literature with cross-over appeal for grown-ups, while those with a longer perspective say Rowling's success marks a return to an older tradition.

    Writing for Toronto's Globe and Mail, essayist Jeet Heer puts herself squarely in the latter camp and in good company: She cites Professor of English Beverly Clark as an authority to back up her observation that the current intergenerational appeal of the Potter series and other "children's" books is a return to an older view of literature.

    As literary scholar Beverly Lyon Clark demonstrated in her superb 2003 book Kiddie Lit, in the 19th century there was no clear-cut and obvious division between kids books and adult books. Herman Melville was praised for writing novels that “a child can always understand.”

    Professor Clark adds, "My favorite illustration of the shift early in the 20th century ... is that 19th-century commentators considered The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn pretty  much equivalent, but in the 20th century one has been relegated to children's literature while the other is a leading candidate for the Great American Novel."

    As for that trend? Clark notes that there are a goodly number of recent kiddie lit cross-overs. "There's Twilight, as you mention. Hugo Cabret perhaps? (Indeed Charles Hatfield is a great source on graphic novels and other illustrated works.) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime--but that strikes me as the kind of novel with a young protagonist that has always been eligible for crossover (e.g., Annie John is an earlier example)."

    And next on the list may be The Hunger Games, the young adult series by Suzanne Collins and soon-to-be Hollywood blockbuster, points out Professor Clark.

    Wheaton's student-run Philosophy Club and Associate Professor of Philosophy John Partridge plan to host a Hunger Games Study Break to discuss the series.


  • On the road

    A spring break trip for the entrepreneurial class

    Ah, the road trip ... nothing could be more American. Unless, of course, you decided to improve upon the venerable tradition of Jack Kerouac, the folkways of generations of college students and families who can't resist one-upping the Griswolds.

    Imagine a three-day bus trip in which the passengers spend every waking minute dreaming up the next must-have iPhone app or can't-miss investment opportunity.

    Their personal Wally World: Austin's SXSW Interactive festival and the chance to win the support of investors in a business pitch competition.

    That's the StartUp Bus.

    The odyssey from Boston to Austin began at 6 a.m. this morning, and Ted Worcester '12 is among the 31 buspreneurs who are riding toward a chance to put their business plan into action.

    The web site BostonInno wrote about the Boston bus, which will be competing against bus-teams from New York, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Cincinnati, Florida, Louisiana, Mexico, Las Vegas, Washington and Mexico. It profiled some members of the hometown team, including Ted:

    Currently in his fourth year at Wheaton College, Worcester is working on the marketing team for SaveUp, a personal finance startup out of San Francisco that rewards people for saving and paying down their debt. (We love the sound of that.)

    Ted's looking forward to the trip, of course. "They describe this as the 'spring break for entrepreneurs.' It's definitely meant to be an adventure," he said. "We have stops along the way—Charlotte, Baton Rouge, and a big one in San Antonio where we meet up with the 10 other buses from around the country. I get the vibe that it will most definitely have the classic American road trip feel with a healthy dose of innovation and coding."

  • Education that works

    Championing the liberal arts

    When it comes to higher education, public debate these days often starts with the question of whether college is worthwhile. And the measuring stick most often used is whether graduates get jobs after commencement.

    In that conversation, programs with a strong occupational focus get most of the approval from the news media and politicians.

    The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine tackled the subject in a big way, devoting the issue to a collection of stories on the topic. The lead article, written by Jon Marcus, quotes Wheaton President Ronald Crutcher, who spoke up for the value of the liberal arts.

    In the end, says Wheaton president Ronald Crutcher, employers largely want what schools like his already teach, although he admits “it sometimes gets lost in translation.” He points out that Bureau of Labor Statistics research suggests that students graduating this year will have held more than 10 different jobs by the time they’re 38. “The truth is, things are changing so rapidly that, to thrive, you have to be an agile learner,” Crutcher says. “You have to be able to think critically, and narrow training for a specific job doesn’t do that. If you’re not focusing on those other knowledge-based skills, you’re going to be doomed to entry-level jobs.”

    The subject is not new to President Crutcher, the co-chair of a national campaign championing the importance of liberal education and a frequent commentator on the practical power of a liberal arts education. The liberal arts, he says, drives career success as well as intellectual satisfaction and civic welfare.

  • High orbit

    First-year student’s hypothesis may be tested in space

    Typically, the audience for an excellent term paper in an introductory science course for undergraduates would be limited to the student, the faculty member and a few friends and family members.

    First-year student Emerald Bresnahan's paper on the possible connection between the formation of a snowflake and the formation of galaxies has won a world-wide audience.

    Last fall, Bresnahan fleshed out an idea she had been contemplating for awhile to produce a term paper she wrote for Professor of Astronomy Tim Barker's popular course, "The Universe."

    What happened next, however, is extraordinary. She submitted her experiment to YouTube's Space Lab competition, where it was selected as a finalist from more 2,000 entries. That feat has prompted a number of newspapers, including The Washington Post, to write about Bresnahan's idea.

    If her experiment is selected as one (of two) contest winners in March, it will be performed at the International Space Station.

    The competition is decidedly international. More than 60 percent of the entries came from India; just 15 percent from the United States, according an article about Bresnahan published by the Attleboro Sun Chronicle.

    The fact that the rules of the contest required Emerald to film herself explaining the idea for a worldwide audience didn't deter her in the least, she told the Post.

    I really believe in my research and I wanted to share it with people. It’s always great to get younger people involved, especially in science. It’s an important topic that should be looked into by everybody, and sharing it could help find answers.

    Professor Barker agrees that Bresnahan's idea has merit. “Hers was the most highly detailed scientific paper I’ve ever received in that course,” he told the Boston Globe in an article published on January 17th [Note: article no longer available on the Globe web site —Editor.].


  • prescrutcherhires3-150x150 Online high school

    President Crutcher comments on the limits of distance learning

    The far-reaching impact of the Internet and communication technology has yet to be fully understood. Every week, it seems, a new business venture appears that applies the power of digital technology to a new arena, raising mind-boggling possibilities and new complications.

    One of the latest developments: online high schools established by colleges and universities. The New York Times takes note of this trend with the entry of Stanford, one of the recent institutions to embark on this new business.

    While Wheaton has not joined the rush to establish its own high school, President Ronald Crutcher's role as co-chair of a national campaign to promote liberal learning led the New York Times to talk with him about the trend.

    “From my perspective, colleges, concentrate on what you’re good at,” said Ronald A. Crutcher, president of Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., who added that he had recently declined an offer from a for-profit education company to join other small liberal arts institutions in forming an online high school in their image. “Be consultants, but don’t contribute to a trend that I think has some real problems.”

    In more extensive remarks on the subject, President Crutcher has said that distance learning, itself, shows great promise.

    "Online learning has tremendous potential for extending access to education, but it has limits," Crutcher said. "This is true on the college and university level, but these limits may be even more obvious, given the age of high school students, and the importance of human interaction in their development. High school students are still developing in so many ways--intellectually, emotionally and socially as well as physically. A traditional high school provides students with opportunities to grow in all those dimensions".

    In other areas, President Crutcher has championed the use of technology in education. In fact, Wheaton and a small group of other leading liberal arts colleges are currently exploring the establishment of an online learning program in which courses would be made available to the students at each of the member institutions.


  • Where there's water

    Prof. Geoffrey Collins comments on finding water on one of Jupiter’s moons

    The possibility that life might exist, in some form, beyond planet Earth intrigues scientists and science fiction buffs alike.

    The latest findings by a group of NASA scientists who are studying Jupiter's moon Europa suggest that there may be large lakes, one of which holds enough water to fill the American Great Lakes.

    The research, which was published in the journal Science, inspired widespread international news coverage. Several journalists called on Professor of Geology Geoffrey Collins for perspective on the exciting new findings.

    News reports that quoted Prof. Collins included articles published by Sky & Telescope and the Christian Science Monitor.

    The team's new explanation "is a really interesting half-way point that is much more realistic," says Geoffrey Collins, a planetary scientist at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. "It's not just 'only liquid down here and only ice up there.' There are perched lakes or slushy areas in the ice shell that may be having a huge effect on the surface geology," he says.

    The topic is one in which Collins could be considered an expert. His research explores geological processes on the icy satellites of the outer solar system. He has been involved with various NASA projects such as the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn. A 2007 study by Collins and a research partner suggested that there is a sea of liquid water trapped beneath the ice on Enceladus, raising questions about whether the Saturn moon might feature other conditions favorable to life.

  • Brainy rep

    Counting the colleges with the smartest students

    We hate to brag about how great Wheaton students are, but we appreciate when other people are doing it.

    Case in point: The Daily Beast/Newsweek 2011 college rankings, which included a list of America's 25 Brainiac Schools.

    In order to find “where brainiacs flock and flourish,” Newsweek/The Daily Beast measured the number of scholarships awarded at each institution in proportion to its student enrollment.

    The list weighted students who have won the most competitive fellowships in academia. This includes Rhodes, Marshall, Gates Cambridge, and Truman scholars as well as winners of the Fulbright award, which is the largest international exchange program based in the U.S.

    Since 2000, Wheaton students have won 139 of these prestigious scholarships (not that we're counting).

    In compiling the list, the two publications also considered other factors, such as the percent of freshman in the top 10 percent of their high school class, the percent of applicants admitted, and SAT scores for math and reading using data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

    Five Massachusetts colleges made it on to the list: Harvard, MIT, Williams, Wellesley and Wheaton.

    Yeah, we love it.


  • On academic obligations

    Professor explores the public responsibility of private liberal arts colleges

    The public mission of private liberal arts colleges is not always well defined. Professor of English Paula Krebs, professor of English and now a special assistant to the president, would like to change that. In her view, the change should start with encouraging liberal arts colleges to think seriously about their community responsibilities.

    "The social contract between the nation and higher education, ideally, means that both parties recognize our mutual obligations," writes Krebs in an essay published by Inside Higher Education. In large measure, liberal arts colleges meet this responsibility by "preparing educated critical thinkers, ready for graduate study or a career." But campuses should also think beyond the education of individual students to building institutional efforts to serve others.

    Contributing to the institution's communities in a systematic and organized way would also serve the mission of the college, she says, by adding value to students' learning. "Becoming aware of and then cultivating ties with various off-campus entities can strengthen a liberal arts college as well as strengthening the job prospects for our students," Krebs wrote. "We need to be in the business of defining our relevance beyond our own walls as we prepare students for life beyond our campuses."

    Commenting on her essay in Inside Higher Ed and her new role at Wheaton, Krebs said:

    "We have a whole range of connections with the world beyond our walls--through the Office of Service, Spirituality, and Social Responsibility, with the volunteerism it promotes; through the Office of Career Services, with its focus on meaningful internships; and through the Alumnae/i Relations Office, which maintains connections with our graduates. But Wheaton's links off campus extend beyond the work of those offices.

    "I would like to compile a huge inventory of all the ways Wheaton works in its various communities (because we're not just part of one community) so we can see what we're already doing, as well as what we might like to be doing. When people think of Wheaton, I want them to think not only of the quality education that happens here, but also of all the ways we contribute to the wellbeing of the world beyond our walls."



  • Delvyn Case earns service award

    Assistant Professor of Music Delvyn Case has been awarded a South Shore Stars 40 under 40 award for his leadership and community involvement.

    Assistant Professor of Music Delvyn Case, who is also a conductor and composer, has a long list of community outreach projects and educational initiatives in which he is involved, including founding and directing the Quincy Summer Singers and the Quincy Bay Chamber Orchestra.

    He often makes presentations on classical music styles and trends to children at local public libraries, and he is the mastermind of The Prioress’s Tale, a 75-minute chamber opera inspired by Chaucer. The production, which deals with issues of inter-religious dialogue and anti-Semitism, tours throughout New England each winter, supported by institutions wishing to explore issues of interfaith dialogue and peacemaking in a unique way.

    Those efforts and many others have earned him a South Shore Stars 40 under 40 award for leadership and community involvement. Winners, as determined by five judges, are leaders younger than 40 who demonstrate excellence in their business and community involvement. The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) wrote an article about the award and listed the winners.

    On Case's website, he lists the four elements that inform his outreach activities:

    • Everyone can perform, create, and enjoy music—no matter their background or degree of experience.
    • Music has the extraordinary ability to create community by fostering cooperation and mutual respect among all kinds of people.
    • Our musical lives are fundamentally multicultural. Thus, when we perform or listen, we experience first-hand the incredible richness and variety of American—and human—culture.
    • Music and the arts in general play a central role in the development of a healthy community, especially when they are approached in a manner that recognizes this power and responsibility.

    Read more about him here.

  • Watch out for Ted Nesi '07

    Politico.com includes Ted Nesi ’07 as one of “50 politicos to watch: Bloggers.”

    Whether he is writing a freelance story for the Wheaton Quarterly, returning to campus to offer advice to aspiring journalists at workshop, or turning up the heat on local politicians in his news blog Nesi's Notes, Class of 2007 alum Ted Nesi’s enthusiasm for his work is inspiring. That enthusiasm, as well as talent and expertise, has put him on the fast-track in his journalism career. In just a few years he has quickly moved from working at a local newspaper to designing his own multi-media job at a CBS affiliate in Providence, R.I. The award-winning journalist is a digital reporter for WPRI-TV and FOX Providence at LIN Media. In addition to writing a news blog, he also reports on-air.

    He is gaining national attention. Politico.com this week included him as one of “50 politicos to watch: Bloggers.” Politico.com covers political news with a focus on national politics, Congress, Capitol Hill, lobbying, media and the Presidency.

    Politico calls his blog “highly readable” and notes, “He’s not a traditional television reporter—he was hired primarily to cover Rhode Island politics, policy and the economy online in his first-person voice. But his mix of breaking news blurbs and investigative pieces makes it an increasingly relevant click, even if the Ocean State isn’t considered a pivotal battleground.”

    Read what Politico.com has to say about Nesi, a political science major, here. Follow him on Twitter @tednesi.