Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Right turns

Liberal arts colleges navigate tough terrain

Ten seconds.


That’s about all the time that a college admission representative likely has to influence a potential student at a high school college fair, estimates Gail Berson, Wheaton’s vice president of enrollment and marketing, who has been in the field for 35 years.

“Students and parents stroll through crowded high school gyms or convention centers overwhelmed by choice and choked by the thought of what college costs,” she says. “In a tight economy, parents are increasingly concerned about what we call ‘the value proposition.’ It’s incumbent upon us to make the case clearly and convincingly that a liberal arts education is the best preparation for life, regardless of career choice.”

Berson and her team repeatedly have made the case so convincingly that this academic year Wheaton welcomed its largest first-year class in the college’s history. Not only are the 480 students in the Class of 2016 a testament to the success of the college’s intensified push to attract students in a highly competitive market, but also a vote of confidence that the liberal arts are still valued, says President Ronald A. Crutcher.  [Read more...]

Learning full circle

Wheaton and the Norton schools form strong ties around education.

It’s 10:45 on a Friday morning, and third-grade teacher Sarah Alves is trying on shoes. No, she’s not out shopping. She’s teaching language arts.

Sitting in a circle around her, the children giggle as she tries on a men’s hiking shoe, a baby’s cowboy boot and then a ballet slipper. With each one, Alves asks, “Is this shoe a good fit?” And each time the kids call out, “Noooo!” Then she tries on a well-worn bedroom slipper, and they all agree it’s just right.

The exercise is part of a lesson designed to teach kids how to choose a book that fits their interests and comprehension level. It’s a lot like choosing the right shoe, Alves tells them.

“Boys and girls, if I have a shoe on that doesn’t fit me, that’s too tight or too big, I’m going to be very uncomfortable—and if you pick up a book that’s too hard or too easy for you, it’s not going to be a ‘good-fit’ book. When you’re reading a story that you picked, that you like, that is the best way to be a better reader.”

When the activity ends, Alves announces, “The library is open for choosing!” and the children rush to the bookshelves in the corner.

Wheaton Students at Norton Middle School

Wheaton students who went to Tanzania present their experiences in a slide show at Norton Middle School as part of the college’s partnership with the local schools.

It’s only the second week of school at the J.C. Solmonese Elementary School in Norton, but the rapport that Alves already shares with her students bespeaks her skill as a teacher. Her training began at Wheaton, where she majored in psychology and minored in elementary education, graduating summa cum laude in 2004. She completed her student teaching in the Norton school system that year, and she’s been there ever since. Last year, for the first time, she supervised a student teacher of her own—Wheaton student Olivia Ahmadi ’12.

“It was very interesting to be on the ‘other side’ of things,” Alves says, “and it was wonderful to stay connected to Wheaton and see how the Education Department has grown and changed since my graduation. Wheaton is certainly on top of the new trends in education, because Olivia was prepared for the changing classroom and schools.”

This “full-circle” success story illustrates one of the many connections that Wheaton shares with the Norton schools—mutually beneficial partnerships that enrich Wheaton students’ experience while expanding opportunities for Norton’s youngsters. Wheaton students offer tutoring, arts performances, science lessons and more, serving as powerful role models for the younger students. Norton educators open their classrooms to Wheaton students, teach education courses at the college and model current best practices. The two institutions have even collaborated on grant writing and joint program development. [Read more...]

Which way to the medical career?

Anthropology majors map out their varied routes into health care

Why do so many Wheaton anthropology majors work in the health care industry?The question came to Donna Kerner, professor of anthropology and department chair, when she was thinking of a way for her department to participate in “Science at the Center,” a series of lectures and events held at the Mars Center for Science and Technology.“I thought it might be interesting to connect students in our course on medical anthropology—one of the fastest-growing subfields in the discipline—and our alums who had gone on to careers in medicine,” says Kerner.

When she examined the alumnae/i database, she found anthropology graduates in every area of health care, from medical doctors and international health policy experts to scientists with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Read more...]

Binh Nuygen ’99

Binh Nuygen ’99Director of global operations, InterSystems

My interest in public health developed at Wheaton. As a junior, I had the opportunity to work with elderly Vietnamese immigrants in Dorchester, Mass., who lost their health benefits due to newly enacted health care reform. Most of them were tax-paying, legal immigrants who no longer qualified for benefits because they were not citizens. This moved me so much that I spent a year volunteering as a teacher to help them pass their citizenship test, so that they could qualify for basic benefits. [Read more...]