Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
In the news

  • Chris Denorfia at bat Denorfia remembers his roots

    Chris Denorfia ’02, an outfielder for the San Diego Padres, had high praise for Wheaton baseball coach Eric Podbelski in an interview with MLB.com.

    Chris Denorfia ’02, an outfielder for the San Diego Padres, had high praise for Wheaton baseball coach Eric Podbelski in an interview with MLB.com. “It's something special, what coach Podbelski has done there," Denorfia said. “Two years before I went there, it was a JV program. When I left, it was a powerhouse.”

    Former Wheaton teammate and current athletics director John Sutyak ’00 was on hand with other alums when the Padres visited Fenway for two games in July.

    “It’s neat to see Chris continue to excel at the sport he loves at the professional level,” said Sutyak, who caught up with Denorfia after one of the games. “With San Diego playing in the National League, he doesn't get to Boston all that much, so it was special to see him play at Fenway Park again.”

    Reporter Corey Brock wrote in the MLB story: “At age 32, Denorfia has not only found a niche with the Padres, but appears to be getting better with age.”

  • Mancall-James Spring back

    Spring: it is the best of times and the worst of times.

    Well, it can be both of those things at once, if you’re not careful, says James Mancall, associate dean for academic advising.

    It is the best of times and the worst of times: spring.

    Well, it can be both of those things at once, if you're not careful, says James Mancall, associate dean for academic advising.

    “Students, particularly those in their first year who may be new to the college experience would do well to hit the ‘reset’ button when they return from spring break,” he says.

    The college edition of USA Today turned to Dean Mancall to gather some advice for an article, titled Persevering post-break in final push of semester.

    First thing to do, says Mancall: re-read the syllabus for each course and make a plan for tackling the assignments that will be coming due during the final eight to ten weeks of the semester.

    “Maybe it’s a New England phenomenon, but as soon as the temperatures hit 80 degrees, students are tempted to hang out in the quad after class,” said Mancall. “I like to remind my students that there will be a lot of sunny days in the summer.”

  • KDN_6601 So little means so much

    Students learn from an intensive, four-week course long after earning their final grades.

    Four weeks of intensive learning can last a long time.

    Such is the case with Anthropology 215:  Tanzania: Education and Development, a course that Professor of Anthropology Donna Kerner has lead each summer for the past four years.

    Students who enroll in the course say that the experience of living in and learning about Tanzania—and teaching classes in English there—are greatly influential.

    In recent years, the collaboration that Professor Kerner has struck up with the nearby Norton Middle School continues her students' education long after the course has ended.

    The Attleboro Sun Chronicle published a story about the  Wheaton students' visit to share what they have learned with local middle schoolers.

    Professer Kerner, who has been conducting research in Tanzania for more than 30 years, says her students' volunteer work in local schools here in the U.S. works on several levels.

    From the Wheaton students' perspective, this assembly presentation and the one-on-one volunteer work in the sixth grade geography classrooms during the school's "Africa Unit" gives them a particular opportunity to reflect on and understand what they learned during their month in Tanzania. They also learn the applied value of the knowledge they gained through experiential learning because they can use it to help teach middle schoolers in the U.S. about many aspects of life in rural Tanzania that could not be learned solely by reading books.The more opportunities that Wheaton students have to articulate what they have done, the better they are able to integrate the knowledge they gained in Tanzania.

    Of course, the local middle school students learn something, too.

    This partnership enables the faculty and students at the Norton Middle School to use some of the knowledge base of the college as a resource for their curriculum. At the culmination of the unit, the sixth grade class holds a fundraiser to provide money to purchase books and supplies for us to take back to the Tanzanian schools and letters for the next round of Wheaton students to use in their lessons in their EFL classes.  In designing and holding the fundraiser these students also learn the value of concrete steps they can take to help to make the world a better place for those less fortunate than themselves.

    The partnership also yields real benefits for the Tanzanian communities that host Wheaton students.

    They were overwhelmed by the donations of cash and sports equipment that we provided last year and touched by the letters from their new pen pals in Norton. The fact that American students cared enough to write letters, hold fundraisers and send college students as volunteer teachers gives them reason to hope because they have so little in the way of qualified teachers, classrooms, or supplies. In one school the headmaster said they would use the cash donation to purchase supplies for the school shop they had just built so with the proceeds from sales they could purchase school equipment. In another school the headmaster called for the captain of the girls soccer team so that she could receive the gift of the soccer balls because the girls' team had no balls and was playing with rolled up plastic bags.

    The lesson, says Kerner: "So little can mean so much to so many."


  • MoveIn Ready, set, move-in

    How did the entire Class of 2016 move onto campus in four hours? Fast. This time-lapse shows the pace in front of the Meadows Residence Hall complex.

    How did the entire Class of 2016 move onto campus in four hours? Fast. This time-lapse shows the pace in front of the Meadows Residence Hall complex.

  • The skinny on health justice

    Dean Craig Andrade writes for health justice

    Craig AndradeNew York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on big gulps has inspired a lot of late-night jokes about the "nanny state" mentality of Manhattan.

    Craig Andrade, the college's Dean of Health and Wellness, isn't laughing. For him, New York's policy as well as a proposed tax in Richmond, Calif., are laudable steps aimed at stemming "the growing incidence of obesity, diabetes and other ills linked, in part, to the flood of sugar poured by an industry, some are now calling Big Soda."

    Dean Andrade laid out his case in an essay published by the Huffington Post.

    My rebuttal to all these arguments against promoting less sugary drinks is that it's time for a bigger helping of health justice. We need to create an environment where living healthy is the default choice. If asked, "Would you and your family like to live in a community where it's easy to find good food that's good for you at a good price?" Most of us would say, "Of course!" We all deserve equal access to the ingredients that help us live a good long life.

    The essay arises from Dean Andrade's ongoing campaign to keep a spotlight on health issues for the Wheaton community. A public health professional with a doctorate from Boston University, Andrade employs a variety of social media to regularly highlight health and wellness topics. Most recently, he started the blog, Sticky Health, to share material that's "meaningful and memorable — stuff that sticks with you and makes a difference."

    On campus, Dean Andrade has organized a number of initiatives, such as spearheading a campaign to help the college and its surrounding community of Norton achieve HeartSafe community status and founding a college-based and student-run emergency medical service. He also has collaborated with faculty in establishing two interdisciplinary minors in public health.


  • Computing for Poets Literary programming

    A Wheaton course exemplifies the trend toward technology use in the humanities

    When it comes to digital humanities, Wheaton faculty lead the way. A number of professors are incorporating technology into the classroom and scholarship in novel ways, from the use of Twitter to extend and document class discussions on literature to data analysis of texts.

    On Sunday, The New York Times picked up on the trend with an article headlined, Computer Science for the Rest of Us, which highlights how information technology and computer programming is being taught to students who are not majoring in computer science.

    The article included an interview with Professor of Computer Science Mark LeBlanc, who teaches the course Computing for Poets, in which students learn the Python programming language and use it to create software that analyzes large bodies of text.

    The course is part of Wheaton's Connections curriculum. Through the connection Computing and Texts, the course is linked with courses on Anglo-Saxon Literature and the works of the Old English scholar and Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien.

    Professor LeBlanc says teaching such courses together demonstrates the contributions that different disciplines make to studying an issue, and it serves a very pragmatic purpose as well: preparing students for professional careers. The New York Times reported:

    [LeBlanc] believes that most graduates of Wheaton, a liberal arts college, will work in fields where they must learn how to program. The liberal arts college offers “a safe place to be a novice,” he says.

    And LeBlanc could offer proof for his point, For example, English major Mitchel Edwards, who developed an innovative app for the Android phone, identified the course as one of his favorites.

    I really enjoyed Professor Mark LeBlanc’s course “Computing for Poets,” not so much because I am a poet, but because it showed me that I didn’t have to have a background in technology to pursue my idea.


  • karenmmccormack Cracking foundations

    Home ownership, the foundation of the American Dream, is showing signs of economic stress.

    The family home symbolizes the upward mobility and prosperity that forms the heart of the American Dream. But with the bursting of the real estate bubble and the ongoing global economic crisis, home ownership has slipped beyond the reach of many citizens.

    Sociology professor Karen McCormack studies the impact of the home foreclosure crisis on families and the way in which it has deepened inequality in our society.

    National Public Radio  turned to Professor McCormack for a commentary on the topic for The Academic Minute, a daily feature produced by WAMC in Albany, NY.

    In her piece, McCormack observed that the "dream" of home ownership may stand in the way of developing a more rational approach to housing policy.

    One result of this crisis may be a price correction in the value of houses, but perhaps it could also lead to a reconsideration of the meaning of home. Because we put such stock in ownership, good rental options are often not available. In ignoring other forms of housing, we frequently relegate the working poor to substandard housing, making families choose between inadequate housing or mortgage debt.

    Listen to Professor McCormack's full commentary:

    Women, Minorities, and the Foreclosure Crisis 
  • Revising the fossil record

    Prof. Kricher explains the meaning of an exciting new find from Panama

    The ongoing construction work for the historic expansion of the Panama Canal is changing evolutionary biologists' understanding of the evolution of species in the New World.

    Workers recently uncovered the fossils of camels, Aguascalientia panamaensis and Aguascalientia minuta, animals with a long snout that roamed the tropical rainforests of the isthmus some 20 million years ago.

    Associated Press writer Christine Armario turned to Professor of Biology John Kricher as one of several experts to offer perspective on the find. Her story was published by news media across the country, including ABC News, The Huffington Post and regional news outlets from Atlanta to Seattle.

    "It's pretty unusual to find camel remains that age at that place," said John Kricher, a biology professor at Wheaton College in Massachusetts who specializes in tropical ecology and is not affiliated with the project. "It certainly is a significant find by any measure. And it rewrites something of mammalian deep time history."

    After the story was published, Professor Kricher elaborated on his comments. "The fossil record is like a chronological book with many pages ripped out. You try to fill in the missing parts of the 'story' (in this case history)," he said. "Every now and then you find a missing page or two and that discovery may rewrite a bit of the story. That's what happened here."

    "In the New World, modern camels are Andean, high-elevation animals, such as the llama and alpaca, or creatures of windswept grasslands, such as the vicuna and guanaco," said Kricher, an ornithologist and ecologist who has written extensively on the environment of the tropics and the Galapagos Islands that inspired Charles Darwin's work on evolution.

    "The current large mammal fauna of South America is depauperate compared to what it was as recently as 3 million years ago. Many species of large mammals have gone extinct. With regard to camels, we know that animals such as the llama are camels and must therefore be related to the little Panamanian fossils. And North America, before people arrived, harbored numerous camel species, now all extinct."



  • 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."