Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Professor and students examine epidemics

Karen McCormackIn 2014, the largest Ebola epidemic in history affected several countries in West Africa. Coincidentally, before the outbreak became a major media story, Associate Professor of Sociology Karen McCormack was already exploring health and crime epidemics in her First-Year Seminar (FYS) “Epidemics, Contagion and Inequality.” We talked to her about the course.

Tell us about the focus of your FYS and how the idea for it came about.

Over the past decade or so, many social scientists have used the techniques of epidemiology—the study of the determinants of health and the process and patterns of disease transmission—to learn about other social phenomena, like crime or even fashion trends. I’ve been fascinated by this attempt that parallels the work of sociologists to understand how contagion works, and how and why some people (as well as some neighborhoods, communities, and even states and countries) exhibit some degree of immunity from certain conditions. “Epidemics, Contagion and Inequality” allowed me to explore these patterns with students. [Read more...]

The how and why

Professor explores judicial decision-making

Wheaton Professor Stephen MathiasJudges constantly make important decisions: that is, after all, their job. But ever wonder how they arrive at that decision? Or why? For more than a decade, Associate Professor of Philosophy Stephen Mathis has been teaching a jurisprudence course called “How Judges Reason,” helping students decipher the many influences on judicial opinions. Every year, new cases filtering through the American legal system keep the curriculum fresh, and writer Abe Stein caught up with Professor Mathis to see how recent Supreme Court opinions on high-profile cases have impacted his course.

How do you incorporate contemporary legal cases into the curriculum? [Read more...]

Listen up: Professor exploring Jesus in pop music

Delvyn CaseAssistant Professor of Music Delvyn Case, a composer of classical music, is a scholar who is most interested in popular music—in particular the intersections of popular music and religion in America. This fall, he is teaching the First-Year Seminar “Rock of Ages: Images of Jesus in Popular Music,” which explores provocative questions about those intersections. With such an intriguing title, we, of course, just had to know more.
[Read more...]

Sifting through the science, politics of sugar

Pictured, left to right, FYS students Eloise Peabbles, Jerard Fredette, Anna Blumenthal, Professor Laura Muller, Peter Green, Sierra Luciano and Krista Van Bruggen

Pictured, left to right, FYS students Eloise Peabbles, Jerard Fredette, Anna Blumenthal, Professor Laura Muller, Peter Green, Sierra Luciano and Krista Van Bruggen

In March, the World Health Organization announced guidelines on sugar consumption, recommending that sugar intake not exceed 5 percent of total daily calories. That’s a challenge, considering that Americans are consuming more added sugar than ever, points out Associate Professor of Chemistry Laura Muller. In 1980, the per capita consumption was about 120 pounds per year. The U.S. Census Bureau now reports that Americans eat 132 pounds per year. Muller and her students took a look at the science and politics of sugar during her fall semester First-Year Seminar (FYS), “How Sweet It Is?” We recently talked to her about their work together. [Read more...]