By Micah McIntyre, News Editor
Wheaton College has hired 24 new faculty members in 15 different departments and schools for the 2019-2020 academic year. “Every faculty member is hired with the joy and expectation that they will spend their professional careers at Wheaton,” Provost Margaret Diddams wrote in an email interview with the Record. “This group of incoming faculty is no exception. Not only do I believe that they will be blessed by their time at Wheaton but they have already blessed us in their short time here.” Four of the incoming faculty agreed to speak to the Record about their vision and roles for the coming year.
Visiting Professor of Music
Jerry Blackstone, a Wheaton alumnus and sabbatical replacement for Dr. John Trotter, is directing the concert choir this year. Blackstone (‘74) recently retired from the University of Michigan where he directed numerous choirs for 30 years. He also received two Grammy awards for Best Choral Performance and Best Classical Album in 2006. Trotter, who studied under Blackstone, asked his mentor to come lead the Wheaton Concert Choir during his year-long sabbatical.
The concert choir, consisting of 53 members, will be singing in Chicago and at various performances on campus throughout the semester. Blackstone said, “These are great students, and I’ve enjoyed it. I always say that meeting a new choir is like dating. On the first date, you’re thinking, ‘Am I going to like to hang out with this person? I’m not quite sure.’” Blackstone added, “I’m pleased with our progress and with the wonderful spirit of flexibility, communication and camaraderie I see developing already. There’s something very special about making music with people who have similar worldviews and dedication and sing beautifully. That’s a thrilling and wonderful challenge.”
Chair of the English Department
Tom Martin returns to Wheaton almost exactly 20 years after his initial departure to take a research professor position at Florida-Atlantic University. Martin was originally hired as a “fresh PhD” by Leland Ryken in the 1990s and filled an adjunct professor position at Wheaton. Now, Martin returns as the new Chair of the English Department.
In an interview with the Record, Martin shared some initiatives he hopes to implement this year.
“As I enter into this position of responsibility, I feel that a spiritual foundation is essential,” explained Martin. “Every other Friday morning I’m going to be hosting ‘Prayer with the Chair’ in our conference room. We will have a box in the department office for students who want to submit prayer requests, or they can join me. I’ve set aside that time to pray over the list of our students, classes and faculty.”
Another initiative is intended to equip students for their future careers. “There’s a real push to help students think pre-professionally, establish portfolios and get published. Wheaton students are generally better prepared [than their peers], and it’s rare to find this anywhere else,” Martin said.
Martin is currently teaching Renaissance Literature. In the spring semester, he will teach Bible as Literature and Literary Apologetics in addition to his chair responsibilities.
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
After teaching as a visiting professor last year, Cartagena has been hired as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy. Cartagena’s main field of study focuses on connecting the writings of philosophers such as Aquinas and Augustine with race and racism. “I want to retrieve robust, orthodox, Christian theology and bring together the best of what I can find in literature, like critical race theory and in Christian theologians like Thomas Aquinas, so that the church can have a Biblical, theological language and framework for thinking through things like race and racism,” he said.
Cartagena said he experienced the effects of racism growing up as a person of European and Puerto Rican descent. His identity created conflict in his home and community. Even in middle school, he remembers being told he didn’t belong in school and that he was only present for racial diversity numbers.
Cartagena is committed to learning more about the causes of racism and to help Wheaton students, especially racialized minorities, navigate these issues with a Christian lens.
“The big question I’m trying to answer right now is what does it look like to grow in sanctification in a racialized world?” Cartagena said. “One reason I’m happy to be at Wheaton is that I can bring theology into my class with no hesitation.”
This semester, Cartagena is teaching Race and Justice as well as Critical Race Theory. He is also co-teaching an ROTC class on Military Ethics.
Adjunct Professor of Music
Glen Schneider begins this year as an adjunct professor leading the Wheaton College Symphonic Band. Schneider teaches full time at a nearby high school as well as at an online graduate music education program for VanderCook College of Music. “I wear a lot of hats, but I love teaching music, and what brought me to Wheaton was the desire to be in a faith-based atmosphere,” said Schneider.
The band has had a different conductor each year for the past three years, so Schneider hopes to provide some consistency for the group in the future. The 45-member symphonic band regularly performs in Edman Chapel. This year, Schneider is assigning a theme to every concert, the first of which will be “Groove.” The performance will highlight pieces of music with a variety of moods, both contemporary and traditional.
“I’m really hoping to enhance and bring awareness to the fact that we, as Christians, have got to find our groove,” explained Schneider. “We have to realize where we fit in and where we can make a difference.”
Schneider encourages students to play music, even if they haven’t considered continuing an instrument at the college level. “Music is a great outlet, not only socially but emotionally. It’s a de-stressor that can get you reattached to your heart.”