The Liberal Arts
With more than 200 music majors and highly qualified faculty, the Wheaton Conservatory of Music has become a notable center in music education. I interviewed Hong Kong native and Music Composition major, Elliot Leung '17 about why he came to Wheaton and what his experience has been so far in the conservatory.
Alex: Why did you decide on coming to the Wheaton Conservatory?
Elliot: It's always been a dream to compose music for video games and movies. I hope I make it there one day. I've been doing a lot of both amateur music and composing work in Hong Kong, writing music for my school and a company called Tony Films Co. I knew Marty O’Donnell, the composer for Halo (one of the video games I play a lot) came to Wheaton and heard about the great composition program. So, I decided to follow his footsteps - attend Wheaton College for composition and later go to USC for the great Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television (SMPTV) degree.
Alex: How has your experience been at Wheaton as an international student?
Elliot: I grew up in an international Christian school in Hong Kong, so the Christian environment is similar. I love the professors here - they make everything interesting. Professors really want you to succeed here, so they'll try their best to make sure you do. Because Wheaton is a smaller school, and I have completed courses such as Digital Music 300, I'm also able to use the studios a lot. I love the many opportunities I get to compose soundtrack music, both in and outside of school. I'm currently scoring a 10-episode series called "Taking the Land Open" for the Athletic department.
Alex: What is your favorite class?
Elliot: As of now, my favorite class has to be music notation, Dr. Gordon makes it so funny. I don't remember a class where I did not laugh. Besides that, it's a small class, (5 people), so we all get to know each other really well.
Alex: What are you majoring in?
Elliot: I always tell people that I am majoring in soundtrack composition, though the degree I'm going to receive through Wheaton is Music Composition. The specialization degree takes an extra year to complete.
Alex: What do you hope to do with your degree?
Elliot: I have been set on getting into the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television Program at the University of Southern California since day one and have been studying for this even while I was in Hong Kong. What I learn in class is great and also helps with film/video game scoring, but in addition, I immerse myself into reading, listening, and composing for a lot of side projects.
Check out Elliot playing the cello in this year's Christmas card!
We asked students, faculty, and staff to describe their semester in one word and here is what we got:
From Orientation to finals week, it has been an awesome semester and we can't wait for next year!
In order to give students the opportunity to confront human needs issues throughout the world, Wheaton founded the Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) program. By partnering with organizations worldwide, this program integrates classroom study with service-learning internships. I contacted current HNGR intern, Heather Kaufmann and asked her to share the experiences she is encountering in Bolivia:
As a HNGR intern these past 6 months, I have been living and working in Cochabamba, Bolivia with a non-profit called Mosoj Yan. My main project here has been teaching photography at a safe house for young women who have suffered abuse. I’ve also had the opportunity to do some qualitative research interviewing artists and art teachers in Cochabamba, and quantitative research on what life looks like for the ex-beneficiaries of the safe house.
A significant portion of my time here was spent learning how best to teach art therapy to teens—I have learned that empowerment, healing, and self-expression, at least in this specific case, are best achieved outside the classroom and that perhaps the best way for these objectives to be reached is for me to give my students as much freedom as possible. The photography class culminates this coming weekend in an exhibition of the girls’ best work, which I hope will bring home to them the message that their artwork has worth, and that by extension they do as well.
HNGR for me has been a time filled with personal and spiritual growth, language learning, relationship-building, and lots of heaping plates of Bolivian food. But more importantly, my time here has given me a deeper understanding of issues related to poverty and injustice, and furthermore my role in relation to them. Working and living with these issues gives them a different face—one that is more personal but also more realistic and complex. They are not easy issues to solve, but I think I am learning to rejoice in the small achievements and successes just as much as the big ones.
To better understand the different programs at Wheaton, I recently interviewed two students, Elizabeth Schriver and Lauren Carini about their experiences within the Pre-Law program.
Alex: Do you have to major in a specific subject in order to be Pre Law?
Lauren: Not at all. For one thing, you can be part of the Pre-Law unofficial group without completing the Pre-law certificate. As far as law school applications, most majors are acceptable. If you have any idea what kind of law you want to practice, you might angle yourself according to those interests, but generally speaking, I would suggest doing something that you are interested in and passionate about right now.
Elizabeth: That is a great thing about Pre-Law. I am a Sociology major, but other Pre-Law students are Political Science, Philosophy, Business/Econ, English, etc.
Alex: Are you participating in any extra-curricular activities within the Pre-Law program?
Elizabeth: Currently I am working as a research assistant and a teaching assistant. I have had two internships with attorneys in previous semesters and was a member of Wheaton's Mock Trial team last year.
Lauren: I am participating in Mock Trial, which I have been a part of for my junior and senior years.
Alex: What is one of your favorite classes you have taken within your Pre-Law program?
Lauren: Honestly, I think that one of the most valuable components to the Pre-Law certificate was the opportunity to do a legal internship. As a Spanish major, that experience was some of the most practical exposure I got and really helped me to apply the basics that I was learning in class and get a real-world understanding of what I said I wanted to do.
Alex: Do you recommend taking any specific classes in high school that would help within your program?
Elizabeth: The skills that have been most helpful to me in the Pre-Law program have been the abilities to read critically and write clearly. Taking the time to develop logical reasoning and writing skills while in high school is a wise investment!
Alex: Do you have any advice to prospective students looking to be a part of this program?
Elizabeth: I would advise prospective students to take Professor Bretsen's Introduction to Law course as soon as they can. It is truly an excellent introductory course that will provide students with a taste of what other law related courses will be like. Further, it provides students with a chance to get to know Professor Bretsen, Wheaton's Pre-Law advisor.
Lauren: Take advantage of the opportunities offered to you. Professor Bretsen works hard at trying to make the program effective and engaging presence on campus. Avail yourself of the resources you find there. There are plenty of Wheaton alumni in the legal profession and many of them are only too happy to help you out where they can. Make those connections as often as possible.
In my search for other students blogging about their experiences at Wheaton, I came across the personal blog of Bond '14. In this post, Bond writes about the benefits he sees in receiving a liberal arts education.
As you new Wheaton students are settling into new schedules and routines, I’m sure your asking yourselves and others, “I’m a Business major so why am I in Art Survey? I’m a Philosophy major so why am I in Physics? I’m a Spanish major so why am I in Anthropology?” I know this because my friends and I asked the same questions, and we spent three years trying to figure it out. I do not wish the same on you. I want you to know the meaning and significance of a liberal education as you begin your time at Wheaton, so you can take full advantage of your opportunity. Liberal education presents students with at least 6 major benefits, according to Robert Harris from the book On the Purpose of a Liberal Education:
1. Liberal education teaches students how to think
Think of it this way: your brain is a muscle. A strong muscle needs to be worked out correctly. Its exercises cannot be repetitive for then the muscle will adapt and cease its development. Therefore, the brain needs to be drilled in different techniques for the variety makes the brain into a more useful tool for critical thinking and analysis. In return, these workouts aid you, the learner, to think for yourself by connecting dots throughout concepts and principles in various frameworks.
2. Liberal education teaches students how to learn
It allows students to develop the required skills to become lifelong learners, which will come in handy when absorbing new information and strategies needed to perform in your careers with excellence.
3. Liberal education allows students to see things whole
The opportunity to study outside of a specific major or path will advance your developing worldview. This concept is crucial to liberal education’s structure and purpose for the world’s majors and industries are not divided; all aspects in life affect how the world goes round. A broader view will allow you to live a systematic life with a wide range of understanding of different contexts.
4. Liberal education enhances students’ wisdom and faith
This is one of the most important aspects of a liberal education, for gaining wisdom is one of the highest callings from God. Throughout the educational journey you will learn to see who you are and what you need to modify to become a better human being.
5. Liberal education makes students better teachers
You may not be going into a teaching profession, but we are all teachers at some point. We inform daily by sharing our understanding and knowledge about life. Every time we communicate there is an exchange of teaching and learning.
6. Liberal education contributes to students’ happiness
Knowing more about life increases pleasure. As stated by Harris, “a cultivated mind enjoys itself and life,” and, “knowledge makes you smarter and smarter makes you happier.” It’s been proven that people who are highly educated have higher satisfaction in life.
At the end of the day, we should all know what we are doing here at Wheaton, which one of those reasons is to study liberally. We are all truly blessed to have the opportunity to be liberally educated, and I hope you take full advantage of its benefits as you learn, grow and develop.
To read more student's thoughts on the Liberal Arts, check out the winners of last year's Liberal Arts Essay Contest >