A new addition has made its way onto the walls of lower Beamer, one that has been three years in the making. It’s a display that Ted Cockle, the assistant director of student involvement in the Student Activities Office, said accomplishes Student Government’s threefold mission, “To serve, represent and educate the student body.”
Upon first glancing at the curved wall right outside the Fireside Room, the assortment of pictures adorning the wall seems merely artistic and another thing to look at, but the aim of this display is beyond aesthetic pleasure. Junior Simona Andreas, the EVP of the Global Engagement Committee, explained that this is not just any old wall, but a wall that can act as a catalyst to campus-wide conversations engaging with the global realities at hand here on Wheaton’s campus — this display can serve as a “Window to the World,” as its title suggests.
Since the project began in the 2014-2015 academic year, the idea, design and execution have grown, taking on a larger form with each EVP to assume responsibility for the project. Andreas said the vision began as another way to promote study abroad. A sketched design and more concrete vision emerged in the second year. With the continued help and dedication of numerous staff members, the display began evolving into its final form.
After brainstorming over the summer with Cockle, the display took on a distinct twist inspired by Andreas’s own experience as an international student. This year, she “pushed the button in a very practical sense” to produce what is now “Window to the World.” It’s practical in that Andreas put in the elbow grease to find, arrange and place the pictures in their frames.
The trajectory of the Student Government-sponsored wall reflects the growing emphasis on international students. The committee is seeking to not only increase interest in Wheaton’s many study abroad opportunities, but also the engagement with international students here on campus. Andreas explained that a hope from this new display is to “stir up wanting” for students to go out and get their own global experience. “As an international student myself,” Andreas said, “I see that is changing my whole life.”
Upon her arrival to Wheaton, she felt that “practical, good ways to connect” with others across campus weren’t as accessible as she could hope. Her experience formed her vision for the wall, which she described as “a place for sharing experiences and seeing new, global perspectives.”
In the past, the Global Engagement Committee heavily focused on partnering with the Global and Experiential Learning office by putting on study abroad fairs and informational sessions. While they will continue to host these sorts of events, Andreas has ideas in the works to change up the traditional model. Next semester, there are already plans to have the study abroad fair be more about listening to the stories and experiences of those returning from HNGR and various semesters abroad to give those interested guidance and increase their desire to participate in study abroad.
Currently, photos from Wheaton’s annual photo contest representing global engagement cover the wall. Experiences from Student Ministry Partners, HNGR, Wheaton in England and even personal travels are reflected visually. Images of sprawling metropolises, contemplative staircases, winding canyons and remote country roads turn this Wheaton wall into a window to the world. From Botswana to Wales to Indonesia, it’s clear that a Wheaton education can include more than just a suburb-of-Chicago setting.
It’s the hope of the Global Engagement Committee to rotate through multiple displays — a new one each month — showcasing a variety of ways in which to “connect everything global to this campus.” One idea to make this happen and to show the continuing impact of an education here beyond the four years, is involving the “alumni from all over the world to show our campus what they’re doing, where they are and that your Wheaton education can be used to do great things in the world,” Andreas said.
“Window to the World” has a permanent home outside the Fireside Room — Andreas even hopes the display will expand to the opposite wall. For now, though, the focus for Andreas and her team is promoting the exhibit, visually compelling and ensuring that it invites students to engage with the stories it tells — of alumni, international students and those studying abroad. “If we can help our students to connect with another office on campus, that’s even a huge deal for us,” Andreas said. “We want international students to interact with American students. I think that’s very valuable.”