December 2016

Break Ends, But Thanks-Giving Continues

Posted December 7, 2016 by Sophie Clarke '19

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Lower Beamer Student Center bustles with excitement as the end of a class period is signaled by the presence of countless students in colorful sweaters. An eagerness for Christmas hangs in the air: two days back from Thanksgiving Break, students are returning to a decorated campus. Lower Beamer is no different: snowflakes dangle from the ceiling, trees sparkle, and garlands drape over banisters. The Giving Tuesday booth sits amidst all this festive cheeriness manned by dancing, hollering, and laughing Students Ambassadors and Student Alumni Board

“Lower Beamer is just so jolly today!” exclaims a student I run into on my way to the booth. 

Giving Tuesday is each student’s opportunity to reflect on what Wheaton has meant to them and focus on the joys our wonderful campus offers us every single day. When passers-by are asked if they'd like to add to the wall of thankfulness, there is not a single person who does not eagerly stop, choose a colorful sticky note and corresponding sharpie, and write out something that makes them smile. 

The number of people writing out the specific name of a friend (or multiple friends!) is quite the testimonial: thankfulness for campus community is reiterated over and over again through notes spelling out “My professors”, “My family and friends”, or “My roommates”. The wall of thankfulness has grown to three times the size we originally planned it to be; if you give students an opportunity to express their gratitude to Wheaton and all it has done for them, don’t expect their thankfulness to be carefully contained within a limited space! 

It is amazing to witness the many students and faculty members who are thrilled to participate in Giving Tuesday by also giving back to Wheaton financial gift or using social media to post about Giving Tuesday. I confess that prior to Giving Tuesday, I was ambivalent about the percentage of students who would participate in contributing financially to Wheaton. “We’re paying plenty in tuition,” I expected them to say. Proving me incredibly wrong, beaming student after beaming student committed a financial amount toward The Wheaton Fund. 

What a privilege it is to witness the generosity and gratitude of my fellow students and the faculty I so look up to. Giving Tuesday reminds us of all that Wheaton has given to us on both an individual and a communal level. We are thankful for the professors who pour into us intellectually and spiritually; we are thankful for the athletics and clubs that enable us to use our abilities for God’s glory. We are thankful for faithful communities, for a beautiful campus, for the excitement that comes with campus-wide Christmas decorations. Let us celebrate the countless opportunities Wheaton has given us, not just on Giving Tuesday, but every day of the year.

Sophie Clarke ’19 is an English writing and communication (media studies) major. She is also completing a journalism certificate. Photo caption: Students are thankful for donors and for the first snow of the semester!

To learn more about Wheaton, connect with Wheaton College Undergraduate Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

The Fellowship of the Rope

Posted December 2, 2016 by Juan-Fernando León M.A. '17

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A historiography class reminded me why I fell in love with history. Though I’ve always liked it, I never knew history would hold my hand as I rediscovered myself. We often have well-rehearsed speeches about our dreams and decisions, but rarely do we pause to reevaluate the journey or reflect on progress. In our fast-paced society, it seems that we pause only to catch our breath.

Well, I am pausing; not only to catch my breath, but to remember. I am pausing by looking back at the memories made at Wheaton College alongside fellow students, faculty and staff in this intellectual adventure. One of my fondest memories occurred in a historiography class where the fellowship of the rope story appeared in an article we read. Bluntly put, the author declared that in order for the teacher to survive in us, the professor in us needed to die. The author expressed the difference between teachers and professors as an analogy of those between climbers and mountaineers. 

Climbers are driven by the thrill of summiting; they are constantly looking for the next peak to climb and the fastest way to do it. They take unnecessary risks and shortcuts to reach the top. On the academic mountain, a similar dynamic happens. Many of us climb the academic mountain for the sake of reaching the top and will do anything, risk everything, to achieve our goal. The zenith of our efforts is to be a tenured professor at the cost of fellowship, which results in isolation. 

Mountaineers, however, are driven by the fellowship that forms in climbing a mountain. They are not only looking to summit a peak but rather they are looking with whom to do it. Similarly, there are those of us, who in pursuing our academic careers, look for the fellowship that comes from listening and learning from each other’s stories, experiences and strengths. The zenith of our efforts is to be a teacher at the cost of our own self-aggrandized ambitions, which results in fellowship.

The challenge for me was rediscovering who I wanted to be—a climber or a mountaineer; a professor or a teacher. I knew I was interested in history but was uncertain as to what exactly I wanted to do. However one thing became clear: history is best studied in fellowship. Poor history happens in isolation.

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Let me explain this in mountaineer parlance. For mountaineers, the fellowship of the rope embodies an ideal—a nostalgic image—of a time during which mountain climbers relied on one another more than on gear. Despite ever-improving gear, the rope has remained central. Because the rope can pull, hold, and link together climbers of any experience as they journey up a mountain, it can also be lethal. When inexperienced climbers slip, the rope harnesses the experience of expert climbers in order to avert the fall. At the times when mountaineers slip, the same rope has the ability to take the whole group down. 

This is an important reminder not only as I continue to ponder on the type of teacher I want to be, but more so, as I witness the fellowship of the rope as an intrinsic method to study history in graduate school. The words we use to write history are the ropes that pull, hold, and link us together as students of history. Ropes are to mountaineers what words are to historians. When we give voice to the voiceless and the marginalized, we are binding ourselves together with their struggles as we communicate their stories. History is about learning in fellowship with those around us and with those who came before us. When we study history, we are not only entering a foreign land—we are entering a fellowship that exceeds time and space; a fellowship that prevents us from being chronological snobs. In fellowship, we learn about ourselves and others. In fellowship, isolation disintegrates.  

The historiography class, and those in it, taught me that the climber in me needed to die if I ever wanted to see the mountaineer in me become part of the larger fellowship of learners. Here at Wheaton College I am learning alongside peers, faculty, and staff how to be an intellectual mountaineer. So friends, if you are climber, consider the mountaineer. If you’re already a mountaineer, rejoice in the fellowship of the rope. 

Juan-Fernando León M.A. ’17 is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in history of Christianity. Photo captions (top to bottom): Juan-Fernando hiking; Juan-Fernando with Dr. Jennifer McNutt and fellow graduate students and friends at the movies together.

To learn more about Wheaton, connect w/ Wheaton College Graduate School Admissions. Set up a visit, or apply now.

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