Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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  • Professor of English Charlotte Meehan Unexpected and entertaining

    Sleeping Weazel, the theater company founded by Professor of English Charlotte Meehan, was praised in a recent Boston Globe review.

    Sleeping Weazel—the theater company launched three years ago by Wheaton professor Charlotte Meehan—is once again getting attention.

    As Boston Globe reporter Terry Byrne wrote in a review of the company's latest production, Badass: "Once again, Sleeping Weazel presents some of the most unexpected and entertaining evenings of theater in town."

    Badass, a collection of poetry and plays celebrating Women's History Month, was on stage at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre through March 14 and featured artist-performers Magdalena Gomez, Kate Snodgrass and Robbie McCauley. The pieces ranged in topic and tone but "share[d] the notion of identity and the ways we, and others, attach labels that are limiting and misleading," according to the Globe article.

    Meehan, an English professor and playwright-in-residence at Wheaton, founded Sleeping Weazel in January 2012 and serves as the company's artistic director. From the beginning, she has worked closely with several former students, including Amanda Weir '04, Rebecca Finkelstein '05, Jessica Foster '06 and Adara Meyers '08, as well as Wheaton faculty such as Stephanie Burlington Daniels and Professor Clinton O'Dell.

  • erincotton Writing key

    Wheaton junior interns with Phi Beta Kappa magazine

    Health care and immigration policy inspire controversy beyond America's borders.

    Cecelia Kruger '15 learned just how entwined and divisive those issues are in Sweden after spending a full summer abroad researching those issues for her senior honors thesis.

    The story of Kruger's research, and her surprising journey of discovery, is the subject of an article in the latest issue of The Key Reporter, the magazine of Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society.

    The author of the article? Erin Cotton '16, who is in the midst of a semester-long "remote" internship as a writer for the magazine. The story marked not only her first piece for The Key Reporter but also her first published non-fiction article.

    She already is a published fiction author. The Albion Review, the national literary journal for undergraduates, published two of her short stories last spring. 

    "I am considering a career in writing," said Cotton, who is pursuing a double major in anthropology and creative writing. "What I love the most about my double major is that it promotes many different types of writing. For that reason I think I have gained many skills from both majors that will help me be a successful writer in the future." 

    The internship with Phi Beta Kappa may help, too. Cotton will hold the position through mid-May of this spring.

    For her first article for the magazine, the Conway, N.H., resident chose to write about her fellow Wheaton student Kruger because "it is important for students at Wheaton to express support for each others accomplishments and that is something the Anthropology department has always encouraged."

    Cotton said the most fascinating aspect of Kruger's research was her decision to revise the focus of her thesis in the midst of her research.

    "Changing your topic after almost a month of research is a huge leap of faith for a researcher, and I find it so impressive that Cecilia trusted the knowledge and motivations of her informants enough to jump immediately into this extremely controversial topic," she said.

  • Screen Shot 2015-02-15 at 3.34.38 PM Making it happen

    WHALE Lab is at the forefront of a national “maker” movement on college campuses

    If you can imagine it, you can build it.

    That's the essential spirit of the WHALE Lab at Wheaton, an interdisciplinary space that opened in 2012 in the new Mars Center for Science and Technology.

    Professor Tom Armstrong carved out the space from his research lab to create a center that allows students—and faculty and staff—to dig into the creative process of turing ideas into tangible form. Equipped with everything from Legos to a 3-D printer, the lab has been home to a number of projects, from the design of drones and computer programming to crochet and arts initiatives.

    The lab was recently featured in EdTech magazine, which published an article about the growing movement of college-based makerspaces, such as Wheaton's WHALE Lab and the University of Southern California's Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation.

    "The idea is that by providing comfortable settings with high-tech carpentry and crafting tools, visitors will hang out, collaborate, learn and become inspired to build innovative creations," journalist Melissa Delaney wrote in the article.

    That summary neatly sums up Professor Armstrong's motivation for the lab. He told the Wheaton Quarterly:

    “I see peer-to-peer learning happening in the makerspaces daily—between students, alums and faculty,” says Armstrong. “That everyone brings skills to the table and everyone is a peer reinforces lifelong learning outside of the classroom. Everybody can be expert at something and share that with people. In WHALE, the sooner that we get to, ‘I don’t know,’ the more we all learn.”

    Learn more about the WHALE Lab by visiting its web site.

  • Lisa-Lebduska Metaphorical journey

    On the influence of location in writing and teaching

    It is a simple question that contains a universe of complexity: how did you get here?

    Professor of English Lisa Lebduska recounts tackling that question in her essay "Finding the Metaphor," which was published in the journal College Composition and Communication.

    She wrote the essay in response to a call by the journal for writings that reflected on the ways in which location influences writing and the teaching of writing. More than 250 articles were submitted for the issue.

    The professor who also oversees the college's writing program starts her essay by describing her struggle as an undergraduate to complete an essay addressing the open-ended prompt, "How did you get here." The question invited such a wide range of interpretations that she struggled to find a focus.

    Location, location, location: in real estate, a reassuring truism. In writing, though, destinations change. Sometimes the one who loses her way is the one who can’t decide where she’s going. But sometimes the one who gets lost is the one who refuses to let go of the plan.

    In her own teaching, Lebduska says that she sometimes presents her own students with similarly open-ended assignments, but not for a grade.

    "I love the open-ended assignment that remains ungraded," she said. "I try to provide both opportunities for the writers in my classes because everyone needs both the responsibility and freedom of choosing what they will write about and how they will write about that subject. Writers breathe all kinds of air."

    You can hear Professor Lebduska read her essay in the most recent episode of the podcast Plugs, Play, Pedagogy, which follows the journal's lead in exploring the theme of location and place in writing and teaching about writing.

    After Lebduska reads her essay, the podcast's host Kyle Stedman observes, "there’s something powerful about the brevity of these vignettes."

  • Photo by Kathleen Duncan The beat of her own drum

    Natalie Shelton ’05 performed at Boston’s Symphony Hall.

    It's not every day that one gets to perform on stage at Boston’s Symphony Hall, especially if you are not a professional musician.

    But that day recently came for Natalie Shelton ’05. She got to play the timpani, a giant classical drum, during a performance at Boston’s Symphony Hall. Her performance was part of a new Boston Symphony Orchestra program in which amateur musicians from various professions are selected through an application process, brought together, provided brief rehearsal time, and then given a chance to play in front of a live audience.

    Shelton, a psychobiology major, works for Helping Hands, a national nonprofit organization based in Boston, training monkeys to become service animals for people with limited mobility. For years, she has had a love for the drum that dates back to her eighth grade music class.

    She made her stage debut as a drummer in eighth grade, dressed as the Energizer Bunny in a play, she said in a story about the symphony’s program that was broadcast on 90.9 WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station.

    Shelton discovered the timpani in high school when she was in the band, but never pursued it as a professional musician. Yet, she was lucky enough to end up on stage at Symphony Hall on Saturday, January 31.

    “To play at Symphony Hall, I mean, that’s kind of a dream for any Boston-area musician I would say,” she told the interviewer. “I’ve attended concerts there, but I never imagined I’d be setting foot on the stage. And it was a lottery system, so I feel like I won the lottery!”

    Check out Shelton rehearsing with the timpani:

  • 2007-Newsmaker-Ted_Nesi2 Washington Post lists visiting instructor one of 50 best political reporters

    Ted Nesi ’07 rocks as a reporter. He made the Washington Post’s “2015 list of best state political reporters.”

    The Washington Post recently confirmed again what we at Wheaton College already know: Ted Nesi ’07 rocks as a reporter. He made the newspaper’s “2015 list of best state political reporters.”

    Nesi, who majored in political science at Wheaton, covers politics and the economy in and around Rhode Island at WPRI-TV. A frequent writer for the Wheaton Quarterly magazine (including the winter issue's cover story), this semester he is teaching “Journalism” at Wheaton as a visiting instructor of English.

    “The Fix” columnist for the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza, says of political reporters like Nesi: “The most under-appreciated reporters in the political world are the scribes covering state and local politics. They rarely get the attention of their colleagues at the national level but are often covering the very politicians and national trends that come to impact the broad political landscape.”

    Every two years, the columnist honors the “best of the best from each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia,” based on recommendations from Cillizza's blog readers.

    This isn’t the first time that the award-winning Nesi has been the news. Read more:





  • Students watch Liam Grace-Flood '16 on the webcast. Fair comment

    Wheaton students contribute to national webcast on the State of the Union

    In the political theater of the mainstream news, coverage of the annual State of the Union address typically concentrates on the president's performance and the audience's reaction to the speech.

    As an antidote to that focus on the politics of the event, a consortium of higher education associations teamed up with digital media start-ups this week to foster a more substantive conversation, via webcast and Twitter, on the policy proposals unveiled by President Obama during his address to the nation on Tuesday evening. 

    The event, #iSOTU, was sponsored by the National Student Affairs Professional Association, the American Association of State Colleges and other organizations.

    Wheaton joined the effort, thanks to the Roosevelt Institute, Media Amelioration and Discernibility House (MAD House), and #WheatonCares, which organized a "watch party" to listen in on the discussion, contribute to the tweet up, and cheer on fellow students who were selected as speakers for the national webcast.

    The event's organizers selected Liam Grace-Flood '17 and Michael Ratliff '16 as panelists for the webcast, which focused on four major topics—income inequality, criminal justice, immigration and education.

    Grace-Flood joined a panel discussing issues of income inequality. The topic relates closely to a policy proposal for making college more affordable that the vice president of Wheaton's Roosevelt Institute chapter is working on and which has been selected as a finalist for publication in the organization's national journal.

    A double major in mathematics and studio art from Guilford, Conn., Grace-Flood said that his passion for public policy reflects his interest in solving problems. "I see my involvement with the Roosevelt Institute as a way to engineer solutions to social problems."

    Similarly, Ratliff's selection to participate in the segment on criminal justice issues connected with his interest in the topic."It's a subject that I've been personally interested in, particularly since the Ferguson case and the Atlantic magazine article on the case for reparations," said the economics major from Nashville, Tenn.


  • Fradiani IDOL Pic Wheaton's Idol

    Nick Fradiani passes American Idol auditions in New York

    Update: On Thursday, February 19, Nick Fradiani was announced as one of the top 24 finalists in the "American Idol" competition! We'll be keeping a close eye on Nick's progress as he moves on through the competition. He's counting on your votes to keep him moving on. Go Nick!

    Nick Fradiani '08 won a golden ticket to Hollywood.

    The professional musician, who graduated from Wheaton with a major in U.S. history, earned a spot on American Idol in an audition in New York City that was broadcast last night.

    Fradiani, a resident of West Haven, Conn., performed the Peter Gabriel song "In Your Eyes" for the television program's panel of judges Harry Connick, Jr.; Jennifer Lopez and former Idol winner Adam Lambert.

    For the Wheaton community, his selection as one of the contestants to start the season in Hollywood, Calif., was probably expected. While he was a student at Wheaton, Fradiani performed regularly in the Loft and the Lyon's Den, on his own and with various student-led bands.

    Since graduation, he has been building up a successful career as a performer with the pop rock outfit Beach Avenue. The ensemble has opened for groups such as Styx, Third Eye Blind, and REO Speedwagon, all while promoting their work on their own. The group caught the attention of a Syco Records talent scout, who invited the band to appear on “America’s Got Talent” this past summer, where they made it to the semi-final round of the competition.

    That experience showed in his Idol audition. Fradiani watched his girlfriend, Yanni Gavrilis, audition unsuccessfully for the program, but then he calmly slung his guitar around and launched into the song that was a radio hit for Gabriel and for Jeffrey Gaines.

    About 60 seconds into his performance, Lopez held up her hand to stop him, saying "That was nice, baby." The judges exchanged a look and Connick told Fradiani, "Your genre is extremely competitive this year."

    A moment later, the Wheaton grad emerged from the audition room, holding a golden ticket and an invitation to perform in the program's competition.

    "I’m feeling kind of lost for words," he told Ryan Seacrest. "It’s a pretty incredible experience. I’m pumped."

    Wheaton fans showed their excitement on social media, too.

    Word has it that Hollywood Week begins February 4, 2015. As the contest heats up, Fradiani may need his Wheaton fans to get in on the voting. You can keep up with Nick and root him on by following #teamfradiani on Facebook or Twitter.


  • 2005-newsmaker-Kunhardt-thumb Seen at last

    Long-forgotten photos of segregation highlighted.

    In 1950, the celebrated photographer Gordon Parks returned to his hometown for LIFE magazine to produce a photo essay documenting African Americans' experience of segregation, but to his chagrin, the photographs were never published.

    Finally, sixty-five years later, Parks's work will be shown at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in the exhibition "Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott," which opens on January 17.

    In a story about the exhibition, Peter W. Kunhardt, Jr. '05, the executive director of the Gordon Parks Foundation, told the New York Times, "Gordon was very disappointed that the story never ran. He was really going back to a place that meant everything to him, and he wanted to use it to say something important."

    The New York Times observed that Parks's powerful pictures of his former classmates from Fort Scott are powerful pictures today "when racial unrest and de facto segregation in many American cities give it a new kind of relevance."

    The new exhibition provides a fresh opportunity to appreciate the work of a photographer considered among the most influential of the 20th century. Kunhardt says that his work shows a mastery of the photo essay form and a deep commitment to seeing and capturing the humanity of others.

    His genius, I think, was based on a respect and trust he brought to the people and issues that he photographed. He spent much time with his subjects, sometimes even living with them—often in the harshest conditions.

    Parks worked at LIFE with Kunhardt's grandfather, and the photographer was a friend of the family and a regular visitor to the home, the Wheaton grad remembers. But Peter's knowledge of the photographer's work runs deeper. He served as co-editor of the five-volume Gordon Parks: Collected Works, which was published in 2013.

    The art history major previously served as a co-editor (with his father and uncle) of Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon, which was published in 2009 on the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.

  • Student curators at the exhibitions' November opening. Eye-catching exhibitions

    Two fall installations at Wheaton’s Beard and Weil Galleries were positively reviewed in ArtScope magazine.

    Two exhibitions currently on display at Wheaton’s Beard and Weil Galleries received a positive review in the January/February 2015 issue of ArtScope, New England’s Culture Magazine.

    Referring to the college’s extensive Permanent Collection and spacious galleries, the article calls Wheaton “a perfect setting for the training of future art curators.”

    “Tracing the Thread,” an exhibition curated by students enrolled in the Exhibition Design course, and “Goya and Beethoven: Finding a Voice Out of Silence,” an exhibition curated by students in this year’s Wheaton Institute for the Interdisciplinary Humanities courses, are on display through February 13.

    The reviewer calls the two shows “concurrently imaginative and scholarly” and writes: “By combining visual objects with music and substantial textual content, along with supplemental in-depth podcasts, Wheaton’s student-curators in partnership with their professors and college staff have created two information-heavy innovative shows worthy of anyone’s attention and close study.”

    The Goya/Beethoven course connection and exhibition were also recently highlighted in an episode of Lyons Lunch, a live chat with President Dennis Hanno.