Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
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  • Learning to lead

    What can a Wheaton professor learn from a public university?

    Professor of English Paula M. Krebs has learned a lot about higher education leadership in the past year, by “following the triumphs and setbacks” of an institution that differs markedly from Wheaton—the University of Massachusetts.

    Professor Paula KrebsIn an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Krebs reflects on the knowledge and experience she gained as an American Council on Education (ACE) fellow at UMass, and how she hopes to bring her new understanding back to Wheaton this fall.

    ACE fellowships are intended to help prepare faculty members and administrators for positions of significant responsibility in higher ed. Fellows spend an academic year observing how decision making and leadership work at other institutions. Krebs chose the five-campus UMass system as the site for her ACE fellowship in 2010-2011.

    In her essay, “Back to the Private Realm,” Krebs writes: “I wanted to learn about the public system, about the ways that states do and don’t see their obligations to higher education…. State universities are expected to be engines of economic development, work-force training, and research that can go into patents and revenue. That's very different from the small liberal-arts college's obligations, which run to the individual rather than the civic.”

    Now Krebs is asking herself, “What useful stuff can I take back to my college from a year out in the larger world of higher education?” She learned, among other things, that strong leaders learn from their mistakes, and that less effective leaders tend to shy away from taking responsibility when things don’t go well. She also had opportunities to observe how politics—institutional, statewide and national—play out at a large public university.

    “I'm coming back a different citizen of my small campus,” she writes. “I'll never be able to see it again as self-contained. I'll always be looking outside for new ideas, investigating what other folks have tried....

    “And, because I've been in a public system, I'll never again be able to see my own college separately from its location, whether that be town, state, or region. I’m coming back with a new interest in the ways we interact with and give to our community and a new desire to build on that.”

     

  • Project ace

    Professor Krebs offers a new approach to an old problem

    College ranking systems, guidebooks and the federal government pay close attention to the college and university graduation rates when assessing the quality of an institution. The theory is that the higher the graduation rate, the better the institution is performing.

    The problem with that theory is that graduation rates ignore the differences among institutions. For example, says Wheaton Professor Paula Krebs, "a student who transfers from a community college to a four-year institution and completes a bachelor's degree counts as a failure, in graduation-rate terms, for both the community college and the four-year institution."

    Krebs has spent the past year as an ACE Fellow working on a project to offer an alternative approach, which she wrote about with colleague Donna Ekal (associate provost for undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at El Paso) for the most recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

    The explanation of reverse-transfer programs is receiving a lot of attention in the higher education world. The article has been the Chronicle's most emailed article since it was published on Monday. In addition, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) shared the article with the chief academic officers of its member institutions.

    I've been very excited about the attention it has received," Krebs says. "I hope it will result in closer partnerships between many community colleges and four-year colleges, and I look forward to applying what I've learned this last year now that I'm back at Wheaton.

     

     

     

  • Cape star

    Professor Barker helps establish a public observatory on Cape Cod

    Astronomy professor Tim Barker traces his love of astronomy back to his childhood, growing up on Cape Cod, and to amateur astronomer Corwin Preshio, who lived near his family home.

    That's the back story behind the role that Barker has played in helping to establish an observatory that features the largest telescope on the Cape and perhaps the largest in all of southeastern Massachusetts.

    The Harwich Elementary School's new observatory received a big boost when Wheaton's astronomy professor decided to donate his giant, 32-inch telescope to the fledgling facility, which will serve public school children and families in Harwich and neighboring towns. The Associated Press wrote about the new facility and Barker's role in making it possible.

    "I've owned the telescope for about 12 years at my house on the Cape, and I've taken several Wheaton classes to use it there," Barker said. "The sky at my home on the Cape has become increasingly light polluted, however, and the telescope was very difficult to operate.  The location in Harwich is darker, and the storage area for it there makes it much easier to use."

    The professor said that his personal telescope would not have fit in the college's new observatory, which will open in the fall and will feature seven remotely operated digital telescopes as well as equipment for manual viewing.

    Like other star buffs on the Cape, Barker relishes the opportunity to use his former telescope now in the Harwich schools. "I took my First Year Seminar there last October, and they had a wonderful experience looking through it.  I'm going to take my FYS there again this year."

     

     

  • Good weekend

    Alumna’s spouse reflects on Commencement Reunion weekend

    Returning to an alma mater is educational in many ways, according to Ron Bancroft, who wrote about the experience of accompanying his wife Sally Bancroft '66 to her 45th reunion here at Wheaton.

    In his essay for the Portland Press Herald, Bancroft says that what distinguishes Wheaton's celebration is that it combines reunion with commencement. The pairing is ideal as it "brings the graduating class and the reunion classes together in a nice multi-generational way," he explains.

    The resonance of the combination is exemplified by the processional at the start of commencement. The graduating class leads the way, but stops short of its seats to welcome returning alumnae/i, who also march with their class banners (see above). It is always a stirring moment. Said Bancroft:

    It was a wonderful weekend and is an endearing ritual. These commencement-reunions remind us of the best of our youth and reconnect us with the best of today's youth.

    The experience left him with one question: "Why are we doing this only during reunions that come along every five years?"

  • Post graduation

    Tracking media buzz about Wheaton’s 176th commencement

  • Revolutionary voice

    Lucy Larcom’s sentiments on the start of the Civil War.

    On April 12, the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the Boston Globe featured excerpts from the 19th century diary of Lucy Larcom, one of Wheaton’s most storied educators and an ardent abolitionist.

    Lucy Larcom of Wheaton CollegeAs quoted in the Globe, Larcom wrote, “It will be no pleasure to any American to remember that he lived in this revolution, when brother lifted his hand against brother; and the fear is, that we shall forget that we are brethren still, though some are so unreasonable and wander so far from the true principles of national prosperity.”

    The Globe noted that news of the Confederacy’s attack at Fort Sumter took a full day to reach Boston. Soon President Abraham Lincoln was rallying the troops, and on April 21 Larcom wrote: “I felt a soldier-spirit rising within me, when I saw the men of my native town armed and going to risk their lives for their country's sake…. The streets of Boston were almost canopied with the stars and stripes, and the merchants festooned their shops with the richest goods of the national colors.”

    According to the Wheaton College history online, Larcom “introduced the study of English Literature at Wheaton. Famed as a poet, author, and editor, Larcom is remembered for her autobiography, A New England Girlhood, still in print, in which she describes her youth working in the Lowell mills.”

    Larcom taught literature, composition and other subjects at Wheaton for many years, beginning in 1854. She also founded the student literary journal, Rushlight, which is still published today. Her style of teaching “by lecture, reading and discussion, rather than by memorization and recitation” was revolutionary at the time, the college website notes.

     

     

  • jonathanbrumbergkraus Table worship

    On religion and the role of sharing a meal

    Many religions (perhaps most?) associate some rituals and celebrations with the act of sharing a meal.

    For Professor of Religion Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus the connection between food and religion is the stuff of scholarship. He examines the connection between dining and worship in his scholarship and in his teaching.

    Among his projects is a translation of Shulhan Shel Arba, a treatise on eating by the 13th-century Spanish kabbalist and Biblical scholar, Rabbenu Bahya ben Asher. That work, now in an online draft, inspired Brumberg-Kraus to pen a brief essay about the book and its influence on his life.

    The essay, which appears in the blog, The Jew and the Carrot, Brumberg-Kraus says: “

    Like the Temple service, the table’s purpose is to help people have a relationship with each other and with God. And that’s exactly what this book has done for me: it has deepened and elevated my most important relationships with other people, and through them, with God, through the physical and sensory experiences of food and through talk at shared meals.

  • First Lady lauds activism

    Wheaton alumnus takes on a school lunch program.

    Public school cafeteria food can be a nutritional nightmare, but when Aaron Marks '00 realized that his son's preschool was serving doughnuts and "breakfast pizza" to toddlers, he couldn't swallow it.

    The Marks familyThe local-news site Patch.com reports that Marks organized a group of parents, and within three years the City Schools of Decatur (Georgia) had given their breakfast and lunch menus a makeover. Marks's activism caught the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama, who referred to it in a speech in Alpharetta, Georgia, on Feb. 9.

    Marks was in the audience when Obama mentioned him in her talk, which centered on the first lady's Let's Move campaign against obesity and unhealthful eating.

    Obama quoted Marks as saying, "You just can't take no for an answer. You have to be tenacious."

  • Projecting history

    Learning from 19th century abolitionists

    Historians are taking seriously the old adage about those who ignore the past being doomed to repeat it.

    Inside Higher Ed reports today that history scholars around the country are forming a new organization, Historians Against Slavery, which will raise awareness of human trafficking today by changing the way slavery is taught on college campuses.

    Wheaton College History Professor Kathryn Tomasek is among those contemplating how to incorporate this into her teaching. She told Inside Higher Ed about her idea to have students study the advocacy methods of 19th century abolitionists and propose plans for applying those strategies to contemporary efforts combating slavery.

    "Students need not carry out such a plan, but they should take into account arguments they might encounter for and against contemporary abolition and how those would compare to such arguments in the nineteenth century."

  • Iconic Americana

    Talking about Grants Woods and American Gothic

    Professor of Art Tripp Evans' book, Grant Wood: A Life, tells the great unknown story of the artist who created one of 20th century America's best-known and most-imitated (parodied) artworks.

    Fox News Boston anchor Gene Lavanchy sits down with Professor Evans to talk about Woods and about the book.