Influential professor Folch transferring to Duke

The William Osborne Society and Student Government hosted an event last Thursday in honor of assistant professor of anthro­pology Christine Folch. Entitled “Folch Unplugged: Authentic Re­flections on Wheaton, the Gos­pel, and the Church,” the event served as a time of reflection, as Folch will be leaving Wheaton to take a position in the anthro­pology department at Duke University in North Carolina.
Barrows was filled with fac­ulty and students, both current and former, who all came to hear her speak at one of her last lectures. Folch invited the audi­ence to text in questions, and she led the discussion based on the queries she received. She also shared that she was thank­ful for the moment and opportu­nity to be speaking at the event.
In late February, the sociol­ogy and anthropology depart­ment sent out a notice inform­ing faculty and students in the department of Folch’s departure. “While we are sad over losing her within our anthropology pro­gram, we are thrilled that she will be a powerful Christian witness at Duke,” professor of sociology Hank Allen said in the email.
Folch influenced the lives of her students and colleagues for the better. “Dr. Folch is fearless in sharing truth and asking difficult, pungent questions,” senior Allie Willig said. Not one to shy away from difficult issues, Folch chal­lenged those around her to expand their horizons and think critically about topics such as race, culture, environmental concerns and faith.
In addition to being a con­fidant and a mentor, Folch has been a gracious host to students. “One great thing about Dr. Folch is the way she practices hospital­ity,” Willig said. “Her apartment was open many times during her years at Wheaton with tasty food and good conversation for stu­dents from many of her classes.”
Known for her direct and pro­vocative way of lecturing, students considered her one of Wheaton’s most dynamic professors. “She is absolutely brilliant, although she would never admit it,” se­nior Michael Daugherty said.
“For her to analyze Scrip­ture with a critical and cultural perspective and say, ‘Jesus is compelling. He changed every­thing. He changed everything, Michael,’ is probably the most profound thing a professor has told me,” Daugherty added.
The magnitude of her im­pact was immeasurable, and her absence will be greatly felt by professors such as professor of anthropology Brian Howell. He said, “No question, it is a loss to Wheaton that Dr. Folch is mov­ing to Duke. She’s brought won­derful energy to anthropology. She’s a brilliant scholar, commit­ted teacher and devoted mentor.”
Folch’s departure is bitter­sweet. “In the long run, her going to Duke is a win for us. We’ll now have a person who knows the high quality of Wheaton students and faculty located at a top university and one of the best anthropol­ogy departments in the country,” Howell said. “This is a great con­nection for us and our students in the future. It’s a great move for her personally and professionally — she’ll have resources and time to do some excellent work, and I have no doubt that she’ll be an influential voice in anthropology.”
However, Howell ad­mitted that he will miss Folch’s presence on campus.
“I have to say that winter will be a bit more dreary around here without Dr. Folch’s Hello Kitty beanie to see on cold mornings. I don’t expect Hello Kitty will get out much in Durham, N.C. Maybe she should leave the Kitty behind for our new anthropolo­gist. We could write that into the contract that all new cultural an­thropologists at Wheaton must wear the Hello Kitty hat when the temperature drops below 30.”
Folch shared, “It’s impossible, in just a few words, to express the gratitude, delight and affection I feel for my community here at Wheaton. I have grown, profes­sionally, personally and spiritually, more than I could have expected, and I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”
The department is currently in the process of finding a replace­ment anthropology professor. “We have many excellent candidates,” Howell said. “Choosing two to bring to campus was difficult, as we had a number of fascinat­ing applicants. Just as God pro­vided Dr. Folch when we weren’t sure what was next for Wheaton anthropology, we are confident that he’ll lead another outstand­ing scholar to our program.”

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