Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Lessons from South Africa

South Africa-Botswana

Students listen to a presentation by a tour guide at Langa Township.

Having read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Shiwei Huang ’15 knew about the “dom passes” that black South Africans were required to carry during the apartheid era. But when she visited Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum and saw an exhibition on black South Africans’ fight for citizenship, she truly understood their plight.

South Africa-Botswana

Students visit the Old Fort Prison Complex, where political activists, including Nelson Mandela, were once detained.

“You can learn history from a book, but at the museum, you saw it, in videos, documents and pictures,” she said. “It had a big impact on me.”

That was one of many lessons that Huang and 15 other Wheaton students learned when they visited Cape Town and Johannesburg for the January course “Witnessing Contemporary African Society and Culture,” an interdisciplinary program launched in 2008.

The one-credit winter-break course, taught this year by professors James Freeman (economics) and Marcus Allen (political science), focuses on “trying to understand the culture, the sociology, the politics and the economics of post-apartheid South Africa—sort of witnessing the evolution, if you will, of a society reborn,” Allen said. [Read more...]

A minute with…Lindsay Petrenchik ’13

Lindsay Petrenchik ’13Lindsay Petrenchik, a biochemistry major, has been working with Professor of Biology Barbara Brennessel conducting research on spotted turtles on Cape Cod. The project recently won a grant from the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative. Turtle talk: “Spotted turtles are in rapid decline because their habitats are being fragmented and altered by humans. The objective of our study is to compare the genetic differences between spotted turtle populations on Nantucket Island and on the mainland, which allows us to determine how related the island populations are to the mainland populations. Because island populations are isolated, there is a high degree of inbreeding that can make animals less adaptable or more susceptible to disease. Once we have analyzed the data, we will submit a report to the Nantucket Conservation Foundation. Foundation officials have explained that a comparison between the island and mainland populations could possibly help to determine appropriate conservation and management methods of spotted turtles that have become isolated due to habitat fragmentation.” [Read more...]

Traveling scholars

Juniors win Gilman awards to study abroad

Three Wheaton juniors this winter won awards from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program to study abroad during the spring semester in Egypt, Spain and Brazil.

Maya Ennis, of Brooklyn, New York, traveled to Egypt with a $4,000 scholarship. Gilda Rodrigues, of Boston, went to Brazil with a $4,500 award, and Alexis Nieves, of Brooklyn, headed to Spain with an award of $3,000.

The Gilman Scholarship program aims to diversify the kinds of students who study abroad, as well as the countries and regions to which they go, by supporting undergraduates who might not otherwise participate because of financial constraints. Sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, the program is intended to help prepare U.S. students to play meaningful roles in an increasingly global economy and interdependent world. [Read more...]

Remote control

Samuel Kottler ’15 Sophomore thrives as telecommuting software engineer 

Samuel Kottler ’15 fondly remembers his childhood days of sitting in his living room and carefully dissecting the television remote and piecing it back together—just for fun. Armed with the same passion for figuring out how things work, today he can be found working for one of America’s leading software companies.

Kottler is a software engineer for Red Hat, where he uses his knowledge of systems design to write automation software. The company is known as an international leader in open source software, a format that allows software to be freely and universally distributed over the Internet.

The sophomore’s interest in computer science began when he built a website for his father’s company when he was 12 years old. He learned Drupal, an open source content management system, and, as a ninth-grade student, he started a Drupal consulting company to help businesses manage their web content. Kottler’s paying clientele quickly grew from several small local businesses to about a dozen customers, including Chamber Music of America. [Read more...]