As a neuroscience major, I recognize the interconnected nature of everything that I have become part of here at Wheaton. Yet, I am challenged to find the connections between the sciences and social justice issues. Sometimes I wonder: What have organic compounds got to do with understanding civil rights? Is there something that links the sciences to such topics?
I believe there is a connection. And that connection matters, because as student-scientists we are taught to see the importance of societal context in our work. It matters because doing so develops the mindset that, regardless of what our interests are, we are linked to each other in more ways than we realize.
I see that in the groups of students who cheer on our sports teams at different events. I also see it in the way that our liberal arts curriculum enables us to broaden our worldview as students. Wheaton’s sense of cohesion and of building community is more than just a string of fancy buzzwords.
During the past four years, I have had the privilege of undertaking experiential learning in Ecuador, Amsterdam and Greece. I have been able to be a part of the Student Government Association. I have formed lasting relationships with peers through student government. I have become friends with students through experiential learning trips, courtesy of the Filene Center. And I have bonded with my fellow science majors through every three-hour lab session. And I have enjoyed some of the best biology laboratory sessions of my life here.
In all of these undertakings, I have seen the genuine effort that goes into creating a real sense of community. The Building Community Together initiative does that in a big way. However, I think that we as a campus could go even further, if there were a more demonstrative connection between the world of science and the human experience.
I would love to see more discourse on issues like the lack of diversity in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, for example, in the classrooms and labs where student-scientists like myself dwell.
Let’s ask questions from a diversity of perspectives. For example, what does understanding the evolution of ecosystems have to do with institutionalized racism?
At Wheaton I’ve learned about ecosystems and how our natural world is defined by interconnectedness and complexity. This is no less true of human society.
The kinds of ways of looking at the world in science can help us understand some of that complexity. Scientists who study ecosystems can clearly see how affecting one thing has a ripple effect on many other things. There is a parallel and valuable lesson for our community that I believe would greatly inform our approach to many of the social justice problems we need to tackle together.
—Kelvin Ampem-Darko ’17, neuroscience major
In their own words
A look at the collective effort of constructing connections or go back to Close-knit
“Built by individual narratives, one at a time, the Unity Project provided us with a reminder of how communities are formed and reinforced by the unique individuals within them.”
Professor Kelly Goff
“We are a place about learning, generating new ideas and facing challenges. So we should be able to use that in response to social questions.”
Provost Renée T. White
“When the world is divided, it is easier to target and oppress groups of people. To me, community is about showing up. It is about unity.”
Olivia Benissan ’19, sociology major
“‘I see you’ is an important sentence for the 21st century, and building community is an essential task for the future, as, on a daily basis, we face interaction with diversity locally and around the world.”
Professor Russell Williams
“Community is built daily through seemingly normal dialogue.”
F. Steven Kimball ’18, economics major
“Accepting the evidence that the world is structured unfairly and that, unchecked, even our perceptions and behaviors can perpetuate that unfairness, allows us to work together toward change.”
Professors Michael Berg and Karen McCormack
“As writers, we understand writing as a way to grapple: It allows an inner confrontation with what, on the surface, we cannot accept.”
Professors Constance Campana, Ruth Foley, Lisa Lebduska and Angie Sarhan
“As a neuroscience major, I recognize the interconnected nature of everything that I have become part of here at Wheaton. Yet, I am challenged to find the connections between the sciences and social justice issues.”
Kelvin Ampem-Darko ’17, neuroscience major