Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Talking about conversation

Provost Renée T. WhiteMagazine editor Sandy Coleman sat down with Provost Renée T. White to talk about the Community Conversations series that the provost started at Wheaton last fall. Inspired in response to racially charged incidents in the news at that time, the ongoing series aims to stimulate discussion, debate, reflection and a desire to take action. 

Sandy Coleman: The first conversation was “The Role of Colleges in Times of National Racial Crisis.” What do you think that role is?

Renée T. White: 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. Colleges and universities prepare students to be able to function in the world in ways that show that they are civically engaged, that they do their homework about big issues and that they’re open to understanding broader perspectives. That’s sort of the long-term role. The more immediate role involves organizing opportunities for critical thinking and engagement.

Coleman: How did the conversation series get off the ground? [Read more...]

Rallying for peace

Surrounded by members of the Wheaton community, Olivia Benissan ’19 (gray sweatshirt) and other students light candles at the Rally for Peace.

Surrounded by members of the Wheaton community, Olivia Benissan ’19 (gray sweatshirt) and other students light candles at the Rally for Peace.

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.

When women’s suffragists and abolitionists worked together, it was powerful, and justice prevailed. Justice and equality are not zero-sum scenarios in which only one party can win. Everyone can benefit from a more equitable world, where people can receive what they need.

Here at Wheaton, sometimes that need is support, whether that support comes from other students, staff, faculty or administrators. Ask and you can receive it. Sometimes you don’t even have to ask.

I am grateful that the Wheaton community is always looking to step up and be a safe and inclusive place. One example that stands out to me came forth in the days after the 2016 presidential election.  [Read more...]

Clear vision

Watch the entire Convocation speech by Professor Russell Williams on the WheatonCollegeMA YouTube channel.

Watch the entire Convocation speech by Professor Russell Williams on the WheatonCollegeMA YouTube channel.

“I see you” is an interesting sentence—it has more than one interpretation. It can mean simply that you are in my line of vision—I notice you. Or it can mean something much more profound. I see you—I understand you. I have been listening to you, I have been learning how to understand you—I see you. In this moment of watching you, I know something about the meaning of your actions, and how they are tied to your beliefs and hopes. I see you.

Building community involves building capacity to see in this way. And it is particularly challenging amidst diversity, where you have to go beyond what you have previously known about people and take the time to explore and make sense of the experience of another group, or the perspectives of another person.

The skills for building community in a diverse society are not simple, and they are not just something that happen automatically—they require purposeful action, communication, patience and courage. They require consciousness of others and consciousness of your priorities. During your college years, there are many priorities competing for your attention. You are learning information; you are gaining skills with equipment, with ideas, with language, with critical thinking. College years are also a period in life when questions related to your social existence may be of high priority. Who am I as a unique person? Who are my friends, who are the groups with whom I share interests or identification? And what is my relationship with the rest of the world? [Read more...]

One Wheaton

F. Steven Kimball bannersIt is my belief that at Wheaton, community is built daily through seemingly normal dialogue. This revelation struck me at a recent Admission Office student ambassador party.

After filling up a plate at the expansive food spread, a tall underclassman named Tony asked me if I would like to sit with him. I only knew of Tony through very brief and nonchalant interactions within the Admission Office.

I learned that he is originally from Rwanda. And I told him that I had lived in a number of places in the United States but currently reside in Tennessee. Within moments of meeting Tony I was asking questions about what culture and life are like in his native Rwanda.

Tony began to explain his educational experiences within his native country in addition to aspects of the nation’s economy and cultural norms. After chatting for a few minutes about everyday life in Rwanda, he quickly turned the question around, asking me about life in Tennessee. He was especially inquisitive about country music, which is the bustling industry in Nashville.  [Read more...]