Word maven

Kate Cronin attributes her appreciation for the structure and power of language to her parents, both of whom are English teachers.

Photo: Amie Rosenblum '12

The senior from Baton Rouge, LA, will take her lifelong fascination with the written word and the art of story-telling to Argentina where she will spend the year teaching English and conducting independent research on the country’s vibrant cinema industry.

Cronin has been named a 2011 Fulbright Scholar to Argentina where she will be assigned to teach English to students who are themselves training to be English teachers.

“Stories are my favorite thing in the world,” said Cronin. “When I was a little girl I hated art museums. My Mom was clever enough to figure out that if she just told me the stories of the pictures, Bible stories, the myths and the historical circumstance that inspired the paintings, I would be smitten, and I was.”

Despite her love of narrative, Cronin arrived at Wheaton determined to pursue something other than English, to distance herself from her parents’ interests. She abandoned that plan in her sophomore year while studying critical theory. “That class taught me to take ownership of my writing, which meant embracing the prospect of endless revision,” the English major recalls, “Not just taking criticism but inviting it and putting it to constructive use.”

At the same time, Cronin, who is pursuing a minor in Hispanic Studies, credits Spanish language classes at Wheaton with helping her become proficient enough in the language to spend her summer teaching English to 63 school girls in Guaimaca, Honduras. The experience, which was funded by the Balfour Scholarship stipend she received from Wheaton, “was the most challenging of my life.”

“That summer convinced me that teaching is some of the most difficult, but also some of the most rewarding work that there is,” she adds.

Cronin has excelled in her academics, earning Dean’s List honors six times as well as the college’s Presidential Award for outstanding performance. Beyond the classroom, she is active in Wheaton’s Ultimate Frisbee Club Team and she has served as a residential advisor for the past three years.

During her Fulbright year, Cronin plans to spend some of her free time as a volunteer with a girls’ soccer league, as a way to immerse herself in the local community. She also looks forward to developing a research project on Argentinian film.

“A lot of people will say that analyzing a film, or a novel even, takes the pleasure out of being a spectator or reader. I don’t find that to be true. I genuinely enjoy reading and engaging with what critics and scholars have to say about films or novels, almost as much as I enjoy being immersed in the narratives themselves. That’s how I know I picked the right major,” she says.

“The English Department at Wheaton is absolutely wonderful, and I’m really lucky to able to work with Professor Clark this year on my senior honors thesis which is analyzing three existing adaptations of George Eliot novels, and the process of adapting the narratives from the page to the screen. It’s been wonderful to have a foot in both camps, in novels and in film, this semester.”