Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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  • Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 2.04.33 PM 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.

  • Assistant Professor of Psychology Matthew Gingo 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.

  • At a glance, the surface of the heart-shaped Sputnik Planum on Pluto appears smooth and plain, but closer examination has revealed a pattern of interlocking polygons that can be explained by a vigorous convection process. (Photo courtesy of NASA) 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."

  • RS114602_5L3X1840-scr Challenging women's writing

    Works by Professor Charlotte Meehan and Adara Meyers ’08 open at the Boston Center for the Arts

    Sleeping Weazel's latest show may feature three plays by women, but don't call it women's theater.

    The performing and visual arts collaborative founded by Wheaton Professor of English and Playwright in Residence Charlotte Meehan will be presenting the Birds and the Bees, a festival of three new plays, starting tonight at the Boston Center for the Arts.

    Wheaton alumna Adara Meyers '08, one of the playwrights whose work is featured in the show, told Boston EdgeMediaNews that "this trio of plays questions the idea that "women's writing" is a useful or meaningful descriptor."

    The show features Beesus & Ballustrada by Professor Meehan, Birds by Myers, and The Last Bark by Kate Snodgrass. The plays explore perspectives on heterosexual love and existence (i.e., the birds and the bees), raising provocative questions for the audience.

    In EdgeMediaNews article about the plays, Professor Meehan said women's perspectives are woven through the three plays, the subjects they explore reflect the broader human condition.  

    We are playwrights and we are women, but we resist the idea of being called women playwrights. While women certainly feature in the three plays, and gender is important to the relationships within them, each play deals with broader themes of existence, including the repercussions of human interference in the natural world, and how ridiculous we all are (men and women) in the face of love. These plays are philosophical and psychological, fierce and funny, calamitous and sublime.

    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 Myers, Amanda Weir '04, Rebecca Finkelstein '05, and Jessica Foster '06, as well as Wheaton faculty such as Stephanie Burlington Daniels and Clinton O'Dell.

    The Birds and the Bees will play June 2–4 and 9–11 at the Plaza Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts at 5390 Tremont Street in Boston.

  • Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Kelly Goff Emerald City

    Art professor Kelly Goff creates sculptures for Boston Children’s Museum

    Just nine months after he created 30 shipping containers for an interactive outdoor exhibit at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, art professor Kelly Goff has produced another large-scale exhibit for residents and visitors to Boston.

    “Emerald City,” a multi-media sculpture and video installation that “explores our relationship with natural and synthetic habitats," is on view now through July 17 at the Boston Children’s Museum gallery, according to the museum website.

    According to the description: “Goff presents three unique, life-sized tree forms, including a 6-foot hollow log constructed from thousands of individual pieces of scrap wood, three facsimiles of a large tree stump cast in concrete, and a suspended, 25-foot paper cast of a fallen cedar tree. Within these forms exist light, projected imagery, and a live video feed.”

    Goff, assistant professor of art and art history at Wheaton, told the museum that each sculpture in the exhibit had been quality tested by his six-year-old.

    “In conceiving this exhibition for Boston Children's Museum, I was excited by the task of creating new work that could both engage the sense of wonder I admire so much in children while challenging families to consider our place in the natural world,” he said.

    Last summer, Goff worked with two student interns to create 30 soft foam shipping containers ranging from 2 1/2 to 5 feet in length for an outdoor exhibit at the convention center's D Street ArtLAB. The pieces were designed to be waterproof and durable, with a hard Styrofoam core that allowed visitors to stack, pile and climb on them.

    The project was inspired by the artist’s time growing up on the island of Curaçao, near one of the largest dry docks in the Caribbean.

  • Kenneth Babby '02 Team spirit

    Alum prepares for first baseball season at the helm of two Minor League teams.

    It’s been just over a year since Wheaton alumnus Kenneth Babby ’02 purchased his second Minor League Baseball team, the Jacksonville Suns, and the upgrades he has made to the team’s home park—as well as his commitment to his new community—are receiving attention.

    Babby was featured in an April 4 article in the Jacksonville, Fla.-based Daily Record.

    The article follows Babby as he makes the rounds at the park in preparation for Opening Day.

    “Babby is always surveying the stands. He watches faces. What people are eating. How they’re interacting with each other and the game. It’s a trait that began when he was a teenager, a time when most of his peers would solely watch the action on the field,” Daily Record reporter David Chapman writes.

    But it’s not just press attention the alum is receiving; since purchasing the Suns last March, Babby has been invited to serve on the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and the $1.8 million in renovations he has made to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville are getting positive reviews from local fans.

    “I don’t think we realize in the community what a gem we have,” Jacksonville Chamber CEO Daniel Davis said of Babby in the article.

    This is Babby’s first season juggling two teams. In October 2012, he purchased the Akron RubberDucks (formerly the Akron Aeros), based in Akron, Ohio. There, he also made a major investment, committing to $3.5 million in improvements to the team’s Canal Park.

    For Babby, who received a computer science degree from Wheaton College, baseball is essentially a family business. His father, Lon, served as general counsel of Major League Baseball’s the Baltimore Orioles in the 1980s and ‘90s. Babby often accompanied him on team business and even served as a batboy one year, getting to meet players such as Cal Ripken Jr., according to the Daily Record article.

    These days, Babby shares his work and his love of baseball with his own son, Josh, who hopes to attend as many games in both Akron and Jacksonville as possible.

  • Professor Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus enjoys a meal with students at Hood Café. The first potluck

    Religion professor Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus talks with The Huffington Post about the history of sharing dishes.

    Potlucks may be making a comeback, though these days they go by other names—“Friendsgivings” and “cook-offs,” to name a few.

    A March 25 article on The Huffington Post explores what’s new with the tradition of sharing dishes, as well as what’s old, talking to Wheaton Professor of Religion Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus about the history of the potluck.

    Brumberg-Kraus tells Huffington Post reporter Joseph Erbentraut that the concept of the potluck dates back to biblical times. He points to the Bible’s New Testament, where poor and well-off members of the community share dishes and unite through a symbolic offering of bread and wine.

    “They don’t call it a potluck, but that appears to be what’s happening,” Brumberg-Kraus says.

    Though the tradition has changed in many ways through the ages, today’s potluck still encourages people to be “much more inclusive and aware” of the needs of their brethren, whether it means bringing a dish that will have broad appeal or respecting the dietary restrictions of fellow diners, according to the article.

    “You want everyone at the meal to feel a part of it and have something to eat,” Brumberg-Kraus says.

    The Wheaton professor's research focuses on religion and food, particularly food traditions and rituals, and he often writes on the subject. He also teaches a First-Year Seminar on “The Rituals of Dinner.”

  • 12525176_10153966443823328_987964110005146594_o Meet and greet

    News outlets highlight Wheaton’s special delivery of acceptance packets to admitted students throughout New England.

    Wheaton’s in-person delivery of more than 75 acceptance packets to admitted students throughout New England has received attention by the Associated Press, NPR, The Boston Globe and other news outlets, as well as on social media.

    President Dennis Hanno, Vice President of Enrollment and Dean of Admission and Student Aid Grant Gosselin, the Wheaton Lyon and others from the college headed out Tuesday afternoon, March 15 to greet potential members of the Wheaton Class of 2020 with their acceptance letters, T-shirts, blue and white balloons and signs reading “Yes!.” All admission decisions were distributed electronically at 9 p.m. that evening.

    AP reporter Collin Binkley rode along with one of the groups as they visited a few accepted students, including Maya Wolf of Franklin, Mass., who was clearly excited and overwhelmed by the special delivery.

    The AP article, which was published in newspapers throughout the country, including The Washington Post and New York Post, mentioned a few other schools that have made an effort to personalize the admission process.

    Globe reporter Steve Annear also wrote about the visits, in an article published on the front page of the Metro section on Wednesday, March 16. He interviewed admitted student Paige Donahue of East Bridgewater, Mass., who said she was “stoked” to hear of her acceptance to Wheaton and called the personal delivery “heartwarming.”

    The new initiative also got a mention on the news site Mic.com and on the Web version of TeenVOGUE magazine and sparked a conversation on Boston radio station Mix 104.1 FM, on the Karson and Kennedy morning show. Locally, the story was picked up by the The Sun Chronicle

    On Wednesday, March 23, President Hanno was interviewed by host Audie Cornish on NPR's All Things Considered. Cornish asked the president whether all the "pomp and circumstance" was necessary.

    President Hanno responded: "For me, it really has that dual purpose of sending the prospective student a signal about the uniqueness and the personal nature of this place, but then also including all of our community in the process. And so, for me, you know, the pomp and circumstance, it was—it was fun. And I think, even if a student doesn't come here, they'll consider it as fun and a memorable experience."

    In April, CBS This Morning included a mention of Wheaton's unique deliveries in a piece about how the college admission process has changed in recent years.

    These visits are just Wheaton’s latest effort to show admitted students and others the kind of personalized relationships they can expect at the college. Last spring, a busload of people from the Wheaton community surprised one student who had been accepted for Early Decision by delivering her letter at her high school in Wakefield, Mass. The student’s emotional reaction was captured on video.

  • lipman_fensterstock Nature vs. culture

    A Boston Globe review explores “Theories of the Earth,” a two-person exhibit on display at Wheaton’s Beard and Weil Galleries.

    “Theories of the Earth,” a two-person exhibition of drawings, sculpture, photographs and installations on display through April 9 at Wheaton’s Beard and Weil Galleries, was highlighted recently in the arts section of the Boston Globe.

    Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid calls the creative pairing of artists Beth Lipman and Lauren Fenterstock “stunning,” noting the “beauty and ambition” of their works and “the lovely way they fit together.” But she also offers a criticism: questioning the way the artists, and others, view culture and nature as adversaries.

    The writer looks specifically at Lipman’s all-glass installation, “Laid (Time-) Table with Cycads,” which she calls a "picture of exorbitance” revealing “nature’s persistence in the face of culture,” and at Fenterstock’s “The Order of Things”—a series of cabinets covered in black shells and other objects—which she calls a “dark and foreboding cornucopia.”

    Those who may be curious about the artists’ intentions—their thoughts on the relationship between culture and nature as well as other subjects—can attend a talk by both women on Wednesday, April 6. The talk will begin at 5 p.m. at Wheaton’s Watson Fine Arts Center, in Ellison Lecture.