A New Appreciation

A mural of a child laying forward on a table looking at a wing covers the entire side of a brick building.

Any college class I’ve ever taught would fall inside of the business/communications/marketing space.

With those types of courses, the assignments are fairly typical and don’t change drastically between semesters of new students. Students turn in business plans, create marketing content for brands, give presentations and write research papers.

One part of the Wheaton curriculum that I love is our new Connected First-Year Experience courses, where two or more Professors from different disciplines teach a course to a group of first-year students. This year, I’m co-teaching one with Professor Kim Miller called Storytelling and Social Change.

Kim teaches as a member of both the History of Art and the Women & Gender Studies departments. As you can imagine, her assignments are a bit different than mine in Business and Management.

The first assignment for our class was for each student to write their own gender autobiography. They were each to reflect on how gender has affected and shaped their lives up until now. It was open-ended on purpose to allow each student to choose how to tell this piece of their story.

Over the weekend, I read through all of them, and I’ve never had an assignment hit me so hard. The level of truth that was shared and what some of these students have been through surprised me. I didn’t expect them to share in such detail.

One ended with a paragraph talking about how their first two weeks at Wheaton were the first time in their lives that they felt fully welcomed and could be themselves. THAT hit me right in the heart and soul, and I welled up with emotion as I read it a second time.

Our students are a complex and empowered bunch. I know these 33 students are only a small sample of our entire student body, but I love how this generation knows themselves or is actively trying to discover their true selves and are not afraid to share what they are working through.

While I love all my courses, this semester I have a feeling this might be my favorite one.