My Wheaton

Three Impactful Experiences: Iron Sharpens Iron Panama

Posted by Kelen Caldwell '17


One aspect about Wheaton that most intrigued me as a prospective student was the Iron Sharpens Iron (ISI) Program. As a high school senior looking to double major in economics and international relations, I dreamed of the opportunity to travel with professors and examine the economic and political well being of countries in Latin America. Thus, being in Latin America traveling to Panama, Peru, and Colombia on an ISI trip this summer is truly surreal. 

After an end to an informative time in Panama, I’d like to highlight three of the many experiences that have impacted us most:

1. The Panama Canal is expanding

The Panama Canal, a 48-mile canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, is a vital channel for international marine trade in Panama. After a presentation by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), we were amazed by the utter grandness of the canal and how central it is to the lives of so many Panamanians. The business of the canal is connecting markets, and with around 14,000 ships passing through a year paying up to $450,000, it is directly responsible for four percent of Panama’s GDP, not to mention the countless jobs and further economic benefits it stimulates.  Currently, the canal is undergoing an expansion that will increase capacity by 20 percent, double gross revenue, and reduce transportation costs. Currently, the canal is the cheapest way to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and vice versa. 

2. Copa Airlines is “optimistic for the future”

It was fascinating to meet with Wheaton grad Dan Gunn ’90, senior vice president of operations at Copa Airlines, to learn more about Copa. Headquartered in Panama City with 74 destinations in 30 countries, Copa directly produces 4.2 percent of Panama’s GDP and 12.6 percent when including catalytic benefits through tourism. Dan stressed that Copa’s success is tied to their excellence in executing and explained the benefits of their antitrust immunity in a 1998 partnership with Continental Airlines. For me, the primary takeaway was how optimistic Copa is for the future. They will soon expand to several more cities, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their clear vision for connecting, coupled with their passenger-oriented leadership, will transform travel by air in the Americas.
3. The Kuna hope to forge partnerships with universities abroad

Our time in Panama showed us firsthand that Panama has become a regional and logistical hub with lots of economic benefits. With this modernization, it is important to also focus on indigenous populations in the region and how they are assimilating to these changes. We met with the Kuna, an indigenous group with an estimated population of 60,000 located near Panama’s northeast coast, Kuna Yala. Captain David Iglesias, our trip leader and director of the Wheaton College Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy, is actually half Kuna—it was beautiful to witness the love the Kuna chiefs expressed toward him during their talk. They spoke about their bilingual education system, love for environment, ecotourism, and how they have managed to maintain more autonomy than most indigenous groups. When referring to ecotourism, they told us how they loved sharing their homes with others but were disappointed with the problem of trash. Since only three percent of Kuna students attend university, Kuna economists also shared with us that they dream of forging partnerships with universities to send their students abroad to learn more languages and return to create businesses.

One might say this trip has opened my eyes to the untapped potential in Panama. As the trip leads us to Colombia and Peru, I’m looking forward to learning more about these culturally rich countries that are living in a post-terrorism state of growing their economies.


Kelen Caldwell ’17 is an economics and international relations double major traveling with ISI this summer. Photos: (top) At the Miraflores Lock, Panama Canal, with the team; (above) With Kuna indigenous chiefs and leaders after their briefing in their Panama City administration building. 

What is your #MyWheaton summer experience? Share your stories and photos with us on social media using the hashtag #MyWheaton.

My Internship at the National Civic Art Society

Posted by Elise Topazian '17


Before coming to Wheaton, I wouldn’t have guessed that I would be majoring in art history and philosophy. I certainly didn’t imagine that I would be working as an intern at the National Civic Art Society, an arts organization close to some of the country’s most renowned art collections. Yet here I am, working this summer in the heart of Washington, D.C. 

Each week last semester I spent hours researching and applying for internships. I figured I would be rejected by most, but I assumed I would be accepted by at least one. I wholly overestimated myself. Professors, friends, and parents alike warned me that an internship would be difficult to land, but somehow I never considered the possibility that all of my meticulous research and carefully written applications would result in total rejection. I’m sure you can see where this is going: God clearly had different plans for my summer than I had. After a semester spent laboring and worrying over applications, my summer plans came together in less than a week thanks to a last-minute connection made by art professor Dr. Milliner, and I was headed to a position that was never on my radar. 

Four weeks into the summer, I’ve learned that life as an intern is not all fun and games. The thing that adults call “work” can actually be hard. Before beginning my internship, I had grandiose visions of accomplishing great things at the organization I am working for, not expecting that I would spend most of my time doing small projects for others. I certainly hope I can still help further the vision of the organization this summer, in part through an assignment to develop themed tours of Washington’s art and architecture. But I am convinced that this internship, while ostensibly for the benefit of an arts organization, is actually about my own improvement. Those entry-level tasks I mentioned? They’re lengthening my attention span. I’m learning to assert myself and express my opinions. I’m appreciating that I have something to add. I'm also learning that, while I love art history and philosophy, I shouldn't limit myself to those disciplines. The skills I am developing in my studies can be applied to any type of endeavor. The world offers many more possibilities than I had imagined. 

Until this summer I hadn’t fully realized the value of my education, and it is only now that I'm appreciating the usefulness of Wheaton's beloved ‘liberal arts degree.’ I love art and philosophy classes, but for now the real point isn't to become an expert in either field, but to learn how to think deeply, write clearly, and speak articulately. My experience this summer is contributing to these goals – but I’m learning in a work setting instead of a classroom. 

Summer 2015 has been a challenge, but that challenge is rewarding, and exciting, and sometimes deliriously fun. Throughout the chaos of internship applications, rejection, acceptance, and moving to D.C., one theme has continually run through my mind: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9). I hope that wherever you are this summer, your vision of yourself and the world is being stretched; all the while knowing God is guiding your path. 


Elise Topazian ’17 is a junior studying art history and philosophy. Visit online to learn more about Wheaton’s art programs and student internship opportunities, and share your summer work experiences on social media using the hashtag #MyWheaton. Photo captions (from top): Elise with friends in D.C.; Elise in a National Civic Art Society gallery; Elise standing in front of a National Civic Art Society gallery.

Wheaton in Germany: Three Lessons Learned

Posted by Kate Fredrikson '17


Wheaton in Germany 2015: eight students and a professor traveling Germany and Austria for two months, soaking in the culture, history, language, and daily life of Germany. We have already learned enough to fill a book, but here are three of the most notable lessons I’ve learned so far:

1. Speaking exclusively in a foreign language is both fulfilling and challenging. 

An integral part of the Wheaton in Germany program is language immersion: we communicate almost exclusively in German, with only one hour of English per week. It’s so encouraging to speak German with Germans (and my fellow classmates) and realize that I can actually carry on a substantial conversation. I’ve also encountered some unexpected challenges. I had no idea how many English idioms I use until I realized that common phrases like “running errands” or “that hits the spot” don’t translate directly into German. In addition, it’s surprisingly difficult to switch back into English: it takes me a while to adjust to the particular bent of the language and abandon German mannerisms.

2. German culture is not monolithic. 

There are many different facets to German-speaking cultures, so abandoning stereotypes and actually learning to know the history and background of particular people and places is crucial. There are strong cultural differences and allegiances within state boundaries that become even stronger across borders. We spent this weekend in Vienna, and it is a city unlike any other German-speaking city I have ever been to. It straddles the boundary between East and West, and feels much more exotic to me than Munich. Because German culture is so diverse, we Americans need to be particularly sensitive as we begin to unravel its intricacies.  

3. Our home is with Jesus and the community of believers. 

My mom always said that home is where family is, and that doesn’t mean only biological family. As believers, we are deeply linked with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have the opportunity to stay with German host families during our trip, and I have found that in spite of cultural differences, we share a deep bond through our shared faith. And so after only four nights with a German host family, I feel as if their apartment were home, since they welcomed me so sincerely as a sister in Christ. It’s a powerful reminder that our ultimate home is not any one place on earth, but in the kingdom of heaven.


Kate Fredrikson ’17 is a junior studying English Literature with a German minor. Photo captions (Top): Wheaton in Germany students on an alpine hike in Garmisch; (Above): On a tour of a cloister on the Fraueninsel on the Chiemsee (left), and one of students grabbing a quick meal in Augsburg. Let us know about your summer experiences using the hashtag #MyWheaton.

Baccalaureate 2015: A Prayer of Thanksgiving

Posted by Joohee Uhm '15

Hearing one’s home language is like coming home. I saw how home was created here at Wheaton for me during my past four years on campus through friendship, love, knowledge, brokenness, and family. For a short moment, in preparation for a prayer I was asked to deliver at Baccalaureate on the day of graduation, I thought, How could I welcome ‘home’ many of the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and all who will be present? 

Beyond making that day a homecoming, we inhabit a world where, though set apart by seas, walls, fences, and enmity, we are all made in the image of God. A habit as simple as listening to another language is the practice of asking, “How are you made in the image of God?,” then loving the answerer and their answer.

Therefore, I wrote my prayer as follows:

Thank you, Lord, first and foremost for your son. Your love has redeemed us and given us hope.

Gracias Senor (Spanish), for the breath each morning, clothes on our body, roof over our head, and food to eat for the last four years.

Krap kun Prajaow (Thai), for movement through dance, and sports, and stillness, because you have given us our bodies.

Ashkulallah (Arabic), for music, because with our hands and the breath in our lungs we can praise you. For colors, shapes, and lines, because you created.

Diu Merci (French), for the privilege and burden as we sit here as college graduates, or soon to be college graduates today, remembering those who cannot.

Slava Bogu (Russian), for bringing us all to the awareness of our brokenness, and how we cause pain and suffering as individuals, communities, institutions, and nations every day.

Xie Xie Shangdi (Mandarin Chinese), for staff, family, faculty, and friends, with whom we struggle together, pray together, rejoice together.

Terima Kasih Tuhan (Indonesian), for your providence through finances, fiancees, friends for life, and memories that lead us to smile, and to solitude. 

Vielen danke zu Gott (German), for in our failing, grace was shown. 

Gam-sa Hap-ni Da Junim (Korean), for the community where we have learned to be the church and Christians truly, truly, as we said before us the nations, to all the tribes and tongues we go. 

And thank you so much, God, for all the ups and the highs, stories of woe and woo, when we look back and look now into the future we will know and be satisfied. It is well with our soul.


The article above is a description of and transcription of a prayer delivered by Joohee Uhm '15 at Wheaton College’s 2015 Baccalaureate ceremony. Photo (above): Joohee with friends celebrating commencement outside Blanchard Hall on May 10.

Faith, Hope, and Love: Answering Questions at Wheaton

Posted by Jordan Heres '15

At Wheaton, I've learned to begin questioning from a place of faith. Faith is a matter of managing the tension of seeing only in part, while knowing that we will one day know as we are fully known. If we're being honest, however, there's a lot more gray area in the journey of faith on this side of heaven than we would like to admit. But faith trusts that following Jesus doesn't promise answers for everything—though it does offer enough.

I've come to learn that “knowing in part” naturally requires a willingness to be wrong, and the ability to say “I don't know.” I think back to the past couple of years where Dr. Winnie Fung M.A. ’14 (one of our economics professors), in particular, has given me countless opportunities to be wrong—and my grades can attest to this. But through her challenging us, I have learned to a greater degree the beauty of being able to say, “I don't know,” while also making sure to seek and hold to answers where God has provided them. 

The second key to questioning well is hope: Maintaining that hope is not, never was, and never will be an individual effort. I can recall countless times of being encouraged and challenged by friends at Wheaton, at just the right time. I might even go so far as to say that it is only due to the community of believers that my faith has not only remained intact, but has become stronger while I've navigated the challenges of questioning.

And the greatest theme that should guide our questioning? Love. Here, I owe a shout out to my mom, who has asked me the same, simple question over these four years: “And how are you living it out?” Isn't this the most annoying question as an enlightened student who is going to change the world, but can't quite do it just yet? Saying this question brings back a flood of frustrating memories. Yet I am so thankful for this question, as it has taught me to never lose sight of love in the process of questioning. How do the questions I ask and the answers I've arrived at lead me to love better? For questioning in the absence of love naturally leads to cynicism. 

In closing: questions are unavoidable. But how you answer questions—how I answer questions—determines what kind of people we will become, and what our witness will be. In the past four years, when it comes to questioning, I've learned the beauty of faith (that God has revealed himself enough), hope (God hears us when we pray, and questioning is to be a communal effort), and love (the process of questioning begins and ends with love).


The article above is an adaptation of a faith and learning testimony delivered by Jordan Heres ’15 at Wheaton College’s 2015 Baccalaureate ceremony. Photo (above): Jordan, fourth from left, with family and his fiancée, Ingrid Dyk '15 (also in cap and gown), at 2015 commencement. 


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