Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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  • Presidents to president-elect

    President Hanno and other college presidents urge President-elect Trump to forcefully speak out against hate and violence.

    A group of 110 college presidents, including Wheaton President Dennis M. Hanno, issued a joint letter to President-elect Donald Trump, urging him "to condemn and work to prevent the harassment, hate and acts of violence that are being perpetrated across our nation, sometimes in your name ...."

    The letter was published on Friday, Nov. 14, by Inside Higher Education, a web-based news organization that covers higher education. President Hanno and his colleagues at campuses across the country said the message to President-elect Trump is intentionally non-partisan in nature.

    "As an institution and a community, Wheaton values diversity, inclusion and a civil and respectful exchange of ideas and perspectives. That's central to our academic mission," President Hanno said. "I want for our country what we have worked so hard to develop here on our campus—an open and inclusive environment, welcoming to people from all backgrounds and traditions."

    President Hanno has been active in advocating for respectful dialogue in civic life and in speaking out on the importance of diversity and inclusion. Earlier in the year, the Washington Post published an essay he wrote that illuminated the divisive nature of much public discourse. He also has been active in permitting these ideas on campus, leading the launch of Wheaton's "Building Community Together" campaign now in its second year.

    Students, faculty and staff at the college also have been responding to recent events with calls for greater understanding and civility, including the ongoing Community Conversation series of lectures and panels organized by the Provost's Office. Most recently, the campus hosted a  “Take a Stand Against Hate and Rally for Peace,” which was organized by the Office of Service, Spirituality and Social Responsibility, the Council on Inclusion and Diversity, and the Student Government Association.


  • Thirteen-year-old Chris Strynar, pictured during a recent interview on ABC, is taking a physics course at Wheaton College. Talent for numbers

    A Norton eighth grader with advanced mathematical skills is taking classes at Wheaton and Harvard toward a liberal arts degree.

    Local eighth grader Chris Strynar is getting a head start on his college education by attending classes at Wheaton.

    The thirteen-year-old from Norton, Mass., discovered an early talent for mathematics and a passion for the subject, leading him to pursue academics at the college level starting in fifth grade, when he took courses at nearby Bristol Community College, according to a recent piece in The Sun Chronicle. He was just 10 years old.

    His dad, Chris Strynar Sr., told the newspaper that he first noticed his son’s mathematical abilities when the boy was in kindergarten.

    "We used to play little math games with him, and noticed he had some ability," Strynar Sr. said. "One day when we all got in the car for a short trip, he blurted out 'teach me multiplication.'"

    By the end of the car ride, his son was easily working multiplication problems, Strynar Sr. said.

    This fall, the teen is taking a physics class with Wheaton Professor John Collins, as well as an advanced mathematics course at Harvard University. According to his dad, Strynar has already earned 28 credits toward a college degree and is on track to complete it by the age of 16.

    Interviewed by WCVB Channel 5 on Tuesday evening, Professor Collins said the teen was doing well in his class.

    “He seems to enjoy the work. And I think that's the key. When you enjoy the work, it's not work anymore,” Collins said.

  • Forty years of festival

    Anthropologist Bruce Owens captures a fascinating Nepali tradition in a series of photographs that are on display this fall around Nepal.

    Associate Professor of Anthropology Bruce Owens’s photographs of Nepal’s annual Rāto Matsyendranāth festival—of which he has thousands, taken over nearly 40 years—are being featured this fall in three exhibits in that country.

    Owens’s images were on display from October 21 through November 3 during Photo Kathmandu, an international photography festival, held in Kathmandu, Nepal. As part of the photo festival, the images were displayed at two temples in Kathmandu that honor Matsyendranāth, a god of rain who is worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists and who is celebrated with the annual Rāto Matsyendranāth festival.

    A third exhibition is being held at the Patan Museum in Patan, Nepal from October 27 through November 26. Following that show, Owens’ photographs will join the museum’s permanent collection and may be displayed at other museums around Nepal.

    Owens’s photos were taken between 1977 and 2016 and are part of his ongoing research on the people and cultures of Nepal, Himalaya and South Asia.

    “I used photography as a tool for learning as well as documenting a festival that was inherently chaotic,” Owens wrote of the exhibits in the Nepali Times. “As an anthropologist, I try to have as little impact as possible and introduce myself to the people involved and ask to meet them again to talk about what they were doing. I give them copies of the photographs and use them to ask questions.”

    Owens said the exhibits are “continuations of my practice of learning through sharing images and thanking those portrayed within them” and that the response to the photographs has been overwhelmingly positive.

    “Many have pointed out relatives and friends that [the images] depict who are no longer with us,” he said. “As always, I continue to learn about the festival as people share their memories and thoughts while looking at the photos.”

    In an interview published in the English edition of onlinekhabar.com, Owens explained how he first came to be interested in Nepal and in the festival in particular.

    “I walked into Patan for the first time and a crowd of little boys came around seeking to be my guide. They all said the same thing—‘Do you want to see the golden temple?’ ‘Do you want to see the Ashok Stupa?’—and one said, ‘Do you want to see a festival?’ I picked him. The rest is history,” Owens said.

  • WGBH features professor in story about mindfulness

    WGBH’s “Greater Boston” turns to Prof. Mary Lee Griffin to explain the benefits of the new emphasis on meditation in education.

    The practice of being present and mindful has many benefits that can help students academically as well as socially—especially young children.

    Wheaton College Professor of Education Mary Lee Griffin for years has been working to spread mindfulness techniques in five local schools, and she has provided many Wheaton students with training to carry out the ongoing work and secured experiential learning opportunities for them.

    On October 20, WGBH's "Greater Boston" news program took note in a story highlighting the growing number of schools adding mindfulness, meditation and yoga to the curriculum to help kids develop coping skills. Public schools statewide, including in Cambridge and Somerville, have such programs. For example, Marblehead High has a Zen Room for meditation and relaxation for students to deal with stress and anxiety. Professor of Education Mary-Lee Griffin, among others, was interviewed about the trend.

    Professor Mary Lee Griffin

    Professor Mary Lee Griffin, left, with first grade classroom teacher Brooke Alam Beach ’07 at the Paul Cuffee Charter School in Providence, R.I.

    Professor Mary Lee Griffin, left, with first grade classroom teacher Brooke Alam Beach ’07 at the Paul Cuffee Charter School in Providence, R.I.[/caption]

    There is research on depression and other stress-related ailments that supports the need for these practices, Griffin told reporter Tina Martin. “Children are under a great deal of stress. There is the stress of doing school work that often is developmentally above their capability, there is the stress of home life, there is the stress of this world we live in and what they’re bombarded with everyday.”

    The mindfullness protocol that Griffin developed was most recently used at the Paul Cuffee Charter School in Providence, R.I., to help elementary school children improve their educational experience and interactions outside of the classroom. (Read about it in the winter issue of the Wheaton Quarterly.)




  • Brava!

    Boston Globe writer Don Aucoin lists a play written by Professor Charlotte Meehan and starring Professor Stephanie Daniels as one of his picks for the upcoming theater season in the Fall Arts Preview.

    The title of the play itself is enough to get your attention: Cleanliness, Godliness, and Madness: A User’s Guide.

    But then when you realize that Wheaton College Associate Professor of Theater Stephanie Daniels stars in it and that Professor of English Charlotte Meehan wrote it, well, you know it must be crazy good fun.

    And then there is this:

    Boston Globe writer Don Aucoin lists the play as one of his picks for the upcoming theater season in the Fall Arts Preview and includes a nice shout out of praise for Daniels, who is described as “so memorably fearless in Sleeping Weazel’s production of Kenneth Prestininzi’s Birth Breath Bride Elizabeth.

    Cleanliness, Godliness, and Madness: A User’s Guide, directed by Robbie McCauley, is being presented by Meehan’s Boston-based multimedia theater company Sleeping Weazel September 15 to 17, and September 22 to 24, at 7:30 p.m., at the Plaza Black Box Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts.

    The play is Meehan’s response to the current U.S. election cycle. In an interview with Edge Media Network, the playwright discusses the inspiration behind the play and how it relates to her life on a personal level.

    “As with all my plays, the plot is a loosely assembled puzzle of surprise, tangentiality, quickly alternating moments of hilarity and anguish and, in this play, extreme displays of rapture and flashes of the sublime,” she told interviewer Killian Melloy.

    This is not the first time dynamic duo Daniels and Meehan have worked together. Their collaborations date back to 2005 when Daniels directed a mainstage production of Meehan's SpellSong, which Daniels directed. That began a decade of continued work together with projects ranging from Looking for George, a multimedia plea to then President George W. Bush to end the war in Iraq, to 27 Tips for Banishing the Blues.



  • Patriotic means

    Professor Huiskamp offers insight on competing views of patriotism

    Patriotism is complicated. It involves pride certainly, but beyond that, agreement can be hard to find.

    For some, only those who show unconditional allegiance to country can be considered patriots, while others believe it is patriotic to protest when their country acts in ways with which they disagree. Such conflicting viewpoints have often been brought into view during times of national disagreement, such as the protests over the Vietnam War.

    San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the playing of the national anthem has brought such disagreements to the fore once more, and it has prompted members of the news media to turn to Professor of Political Science Gerard Huiskamp for perspective on the debate.

    USA Today culled competing viewpoints on Kaepernick's action from social media and asked Professor Huiskamp to comment on the ideas underlying the controversy. In his scholarly work, the professor often distinguishes between perspectives on loyalty to country as "deferential" and "inquisitive" patriotism and described the latter as a dedication to national ideals.

    We tend to think of patriotism as love of country that is linked to larger principles. When we think about America we think of virtue, of our freedom, democracy, a land of opportunity. We are not allegiant to the soil, but we are allegiant to these underlying principles – and this is a notion that goes way back.

    Professor Huiskamp points out that the roots of inquisitive patriotism run deep, citing Enlightenment philosopher Edmund Burke, who mused on the loyalty that citizens owed to the state in his work Reflections on the Revolution in France.

    "To make us love our country," Huiskamp said, quoting Burke, "our country ought to be lovely."

    Presumably, Burke would approve of Kaepernick's decision.


  • A stellar neighbor

    Wheaton astronomers study nearby solar system recently found to contain a planet that could harbor liquid water.

    You may not have had the chance to meet our neighbor, Proxima Centauri, but Wheaton astronomers know it well.

    Assistant Professor of Astronomy Dipankar Maitra and his students have been studying the closest star to Earth for the past two years, using the college's telescope at the Grove Creek Observatory in Australia.

    Interest in Proxima Centauri spiked recently with the announcement that astronomers have detected a planet in the habitable zone—meaning that water could exist in liquid form there—of the red dwarf star. In writing about the discovery, the Boston Herald noted that Professor Maitra and students focus some of their research on the star. "It's very exciting," the professor said.

    "Being the closest known star, Proxima Centauri had always been an object of interest to astronomers," Professor Maitra said. "Our research project aims to figure out the motion of the star very accurately." 

    Proxima Centauri is located 4.2 light years, or 25 trillion miles, from Earth, which is considered close by cosmic standards. Until recently, astronomers had not been able to find planets orbiting the star. In fact, they have not been able to observe the newly discovered planet directly. Rather, it was detected by studying the star; variations in its light signal the planet's presence, size and location.

    Wheaton's telescope installation at Grove Creek Observatory was established in 2003 under the direction of Professor of Astronomy Emeritus Tim Barker, who has used data from the facility for two research papers. The instrument has been replaced several times over the years and is slated for an upgrade this fall.

    The telescope, which is operated from the Wheaton campus via the Internet, offers students and faculty the ability to study parts of the sky that are not visible from the Northeast. It is used for several research projects. In addition, data from the telescope are used in observational astronomy classes.

  • Why they lie

    Psychology professor Matthew Gingo talks to The Washington Post about the presidential candidates’ deceptions and public response.

    It will come as no surprise to most people that politicians occasionally lie. But does it matter why they lie? And do those reasons affect public opinion?

    Assistant Professor of Psychology Matthew Gingo says it does.

    In a recent article published by The Washington Post, Gingo says that different motivations for lying affect how voters view U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. So far in their respective campaigns, Clinton’s misstatements have tended to be defensive, in response to allegations made against her. Meanwhile, Trump’s falsehoods have been more on the offensive or self-promotional. And that distinction is key.

    “Me lying to get myself out of trouble is not nearly as bad as me lying to get someone else in trouble,” Gingo says in the Washington Post article. “People view defense as more legitimate, such as physical self-defense.”

    But that doesn’t mean voters will necessarily side with Clinton.

    Some of the former secretary of state’s lies, including false statements made about her private email server and the messages it contained, are viewed by the public as “cover-ups”—as planned or calculated—and that may make her seem less trustworthy overall, Gingo says.

    The Wheaton professor's academic research focuses on lying—specifically the role deception plays in the social and moral development in children. He and his students have gained insight into how and why people lie by observing children at the Elisabeth Amen Nursery School, a laboratory preschool on the Wheaton campus.

  • Friendly game

    Norton police and firefighters took home the trophy in their inaugural softball matchup against Wheaton faculty and staff, held July 14 on Clark Field.

    With a score of 19–5, the Norton Police Department came out on top in a softball matchup between town and Wheaton officials Thursday afternoon.

    But though it was dubbed “The Battle of East Main Street” on social media, the inaugural game, held on Wheaton’s Clark Field, was less about competition and more about bringing together town and gown for some friendly summer fun—and to thank the Norton safety officers for all they do for the Wheaton community.

    Among the players on the Wheaton side were President Dennis Hanno, Vice President of Admission and Student Aid Grant Gosselin, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Kate Kenny and Director of Public Safety Christopher Santiago, along with about 20 other faculty and staff.

    They played against Norton Police Chief Brian Clark and more than a dozen officers and firefighters.

    “I thought it would be a fun way to bring everyone together,” President Hanno told a reporter from The Sun Chronicle, which published photos and a recap of the game.

    Along with bragging rights and a trophy, the town won a special gift from Wheaton: funding and labor to help build a memorial to Norton police and firefighters.

  • Pluto's young face explained

    Professor of Geology Geoffrey Collins weighs in on two new papers that detail how the dwarf planet’s surface is continuously changing.

    Scientists like Wheaton Professor of Geology Geoffrey Collins are continuing to make new discoveries about Pluto nearly a year after NASA’s New Horizons sent back images from a flyby of the dwarf planet.

    Two different papers published this month in the journal Nature describe how a closer look at the heart-shaped geographic feature on Pluto’s surface known as Sputnik Planum has revealed a “vigorous” process that essentially gives the planet a facelift every 500,000 to 1 million years.

    After examining a pattern of interlocking polygons on the surface of Sputnik Planum, two different groups of scientists concluded that they are likely caused by convection cells, created when nitrogen ice is heated by radioactivity from Pluto’s interior.

    This vigorous process could account for why there are no craters in the area—a sign that the surface is much younger than the estimated age of the dwarf planet, Collins said in an article about the discovery published June 1 by The Christian Science Monitor. Though not involved with either research team, Collins is a planetary scientist who has worked on various NASA projects and has investigated geological features on a number of planets, including Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto.

    "These two papers are written by two completely different sets of people. One of whom is deeply involved in the New Horizons team and the other is a group that's outside the team," Collins told the Monitor. "If you wanted to have some kind of scientific fight, that's the perfect set up. And yet the two groups reach essentially the same conclusion."