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  • Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, professor of religion Table talk

    Professor Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus on the history of salt and its roots in Jewish culture.

    Professor of Religion Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus talks about the history of salt and its roots in Jewish culture in the May-June issue of Moment magazine.

    Not just an “essential and universal part of the human diet” used for pickling and preserving, as Rachel E. Gross writes in the article, salt is also symbolic in Judaism and prevalent in Israel, home to the Dead Sea—a sea that is 10 times as salty as any other sea on earth. The article tracks the mineral’s use from ancient times up through the modern age, noting how salty foods became associated with Jewish immigrants in the United States.

    Lox, bagels, pastrami, corned beef, whitefish and pickles were all salty dishes that were considered part of Jewish cuisine in America, dishes with tastes that, as Brumberg-Kraus says, “were very assertive and very pungent—garlicky, salty, pickled foods.”

    As he notes in the article: “Salty foods were a way of asserting Jewish identity.”

    The piece is part of Moment’s 40th anniversary issue. Check it out at momentmag.com.

  • Nick-Fradiani-800 Final Four

    Nick Fradiani cracks the top on American Idol

    Nick Fradiani ‘08 is headed home as one of American Idol’s final four, looking forward to a hero’s welcome.

    The Wheaton College history major will return to Guilford, Conn., on Friday for a parade and concert, following his triumphant performances last night on the national television show.

    The town has declared Friday, May 1, 2015, to be Nick Fradiani Day; local schools are scheduled to close early for the celebration.

    Fradiani’s Wheaton friends are making plans to join the party, and the campus is rooting for him. We hear that he may be getting together with his former Wheaton basketball teammates for a pick-up game, too.

    Last week, he gave an interview to the student newspaper, The Wheaton Wire, reflecting on his college career.

    About his experience here, he said, “Wheaton has you thinking a lot differently than other places.” A highlight of his college experience was the people he met. Seven years after graduation, some of his Wheaton classmates are still his best friends.

    Fradiani said to the Wheaton community, “Whoever’s at Wheaton, they made the right choice. If I could, I’d rewind and go back.” To those interested in music, he suggested, “Keep playing. If it’s something that you’re passionate about, keep doing it. If you think that this is what you’re supposed to do in life, you just have to keep pushing and working.”

    The local newspapers, both near the college, and in New Haven and Guilford are following his progress, too.

    The upcoming celebration in Guilford on Friday follows a pair of performances by Fradiani that the American Idol judges agreed won the evening.

    For his first song, he performed the Matchbox 20 song “Bright Lights,”after which Judge Jennifer Lopez called the performance “so perfect,” and told him: “it was you at your best.”

    In his second performance, Fradiani sang the Rascal Flatts’ hit “What Hurts the Most.” Judge Harry Connick, Jr., said that he could envision that song selling well on Fradiani’s first major label recording.

    “Tonight, you are the star of the night,” gushed Lopez.

    He will be the star on Friday, too.

  • George Kundhardt ’09 and his wife, Jackie Phillips Kunhardt ’09 (they met freshmen year), at premier party for film. Wheaton alum's work to air on HBO

    HBO documentary on Lincoln to air April 13

    The work of Wheaton College alum George Kunhardt '09 will be in the spotlight on Monday, April 13, at 9 p.m., with the airing of the HBO documentary “Living with Lincoln.”

    Kunhardt was a producer and an editor of the one-hour documentary that chronicles their family’s connection to Abraham Lincoln and the effort to preserve his image through several generations. The personal film, which airs during the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination, draws on a rarely seen collection of 19th century photos.

    Kunhardt, who as a student was a member of the Wheaton In Focus film crew, worked on the "Living with Lincoln" with his brother, Teddy Kunhardt, a producer, and his father Peter Kunhardt, who is co-director/producer. (Three members of the Kunhardt family—George's father, his brother Peter Kunhardt Jr. ’05 and his uncle—wrote Looking for Lincoln: The Making of an American Icon.)

    Kunhardt's production company Kunhardt Films, in Pleasantville, N.Y., created the film. As the air date approached, we asked Kunhardt a few quick questions:

    How did the film come about?
    It began as a two-hour film on Abraham Lincoln, but after months developing the film we decided we wanted to take a less conventional route and produce a much more personal story about our family’s unique and extensive 19th century photographic collection, while weaving in interesting stories about Lincoln. We tried to focus on Lincoln the man, not so much Lincoln the public figure.

    Tell us about your Wheaton experience?
    I was the first studio art major with a focus in film and television. When I started at Wheaton in 2005 there were no film courses. I worked closely with Professor Andy Howard to help create the major, without whom it would never have been possible.

    How does it feel to have a documentary coming out on HBO?
    It feels incredible. I have worked on several HBO documentaries since I left Wheaton (this will be my fourth), but this is the first where I took a lead role as a producer and an editor.

    Read the official description of the film and watch the trailer here.

  • 11081063_1087021437980832_4636381644769205167_n The elite eight

    Nick Fradiani ’08 makes it to the final eight on American Idol

    Nick Fradiani '08 continues to roll up the votes and performances on American Idol. He was the first selected for the eight top contestants last night, so he could use your votes at Google or Facebook/Fox.

    For inspiration, you can watch his performance of the Kelly Clarkson hit, "Catch My Breath." Or if you use Spotify, you can listen to the complete version of Nick singing "Man In The Mirror" by Michael Jackson.

  • Kim Miller, professor of art history and women's and gender studies. Art as his(s)tory

    Prof. Kim Miller’s scholarship sheds light on art controversy in South Africa

    Art matters. It communicates values and reflects the culture in which it is produced.

    All of which helps to explain recent protests against the statue of the British mining magnate and politician Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town. Students see the colonialist's statue as a symbol of white supremacy that should be removed, repudiated.

    The controversy highlights a larger critique of public art in South Africa: the meager representation of women, particularly the many who played pivotal roles in the fight against apartheid, according to journalist Rebecca Davis, who wrote an essay on the topic for The Daily Maverick, an online news site in Johannesburg, South Africa.

    In setting up her argument, Davis cited extensively the scholarship of Wheaton College Professor Kim Miller.

    There is a Monument to the Women of South Africa at the Union Buildings in South Africa which is, to quote academic Kim Miller, “the only commemorative site dedicated entirely to women’s Apartheid-era political efforts”.

    Miller, an associate professor at Wheaton College in the US, has researched this topic extensively and is about to release a book called How Did They Dare? Women’s Activism and the Work of Memory in South African Commemorative Art. The first part of the title, Miller, explains, is a quote from Walter Sisulu when he was marveling over the courage and organisational capabilities of the women who organised the 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings.

    A professor of art history and women's and gender studies, Miller says the dearth of women in art about the struggles "is significant given that women were not silenced or marginalized during the liberation struggle, either as political actors or within visual culture."

    Her forthcoming book from the SUNY Press will explore visual representations of women political activists in South Africa both during and after the struggle against apartheid and consider the extent to which they are remembered, or forgotten, in contemporary visual culture and celebrations.

    Miller also is co-editing a book on public art in South Africa from 1999 through 2014, Stone Elephants and Plastic Presidents, with colleague Brenda Schmahmann, a professor at the University of Johannesburg. The country is particularly interesting because its Truth and Reconciliation Commission chose not to dismantle public art that commemorated its colonial and apartheid history.

  • 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: