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.”