Wheaton magazine

Volume 23, Issue 2
Wheaton magazine // Spring 2020
News And Profiles
Centers and Institutes

Wheaton's Academic Centers and Institutes

You may have visited C. S. Lewis's wardrobe at the Marion E. Wade Center, spent a summer at HoneyRock, or attended a global evangelism summit at the Billy Graham Center. Each of these endeavors is made possible by Wheaton’s academic Centers. Provost Margaret DuPlissis Diddams ’83 says that the Centers are “the fluid boundaries between the College, its community, and its constituents.” While they span a variety of fields, Wheaton’s Centers are united in applying Christian liberal arts to the needs of the church and society.

When the Billy Graham Center opened in 1980, Billy Graham ’43 said that he hoped the Center would be a “world hub of inspiration, research, preaching, and training that will glorify Christ and serve every church and organization in preaching and teaching the gospel to the world.” The Center continues to pursue that mission by offering academic programs, producing revolutionary scholarship, hosting annual conferences and summits, conducting webinars for a global audience, and housing institutes and initiatives.

The Center for Applied Christian Ethics engages scholars and students across disciplines to ask pressing questions with a Christian worldview. Dr. Vincent Bacote, associate professor of theology and director of CACE, says that “Our job is to connect what Christians believe with their participation in the world and its various concerns.” He continues, “We work to help the campus and surrounding community to be more thoughtful not only about their lived theology but in creating ways for people to live out holistic discipleship.”

The Director of the Center for Urban Engagement Dr. Noah Toly ’99, M.A. ’12 says that “Students are graduating into the most urban society our world has known.” The Center has dozens of local community partnerships, a diverse advisory board, and core and supporting faculty across campus. It promotes scholarly thought, programming, and engagement for Wheaton students and Christians in urban communities. “If Christians are going to promote thriving communities for the foreseeable future, that work has an increasingly urban face,” says Toly.

Led by Dr. Rob Ribbe ’87, M.A. ’90, HoneyRock, the Outdoor Center for Leadership Development of Wheaton College, actively promotes the development of the whole person through learning inside cabin classrooms and outside in God’s creation across the 1,000-acre campus in Wisconsin. Ribbe says founder Harvey Chrouser ’34 captured HoneyRock the best: It is an Experiential Leadership Laboratory. Ribbe expands, “You don’t learn leadership sitting in a classroom talking about it. You learn it in the trenches.” HoneyRock hosts budding scholars, active students, and over 50 faculty each year.

Human Needs and Global Resources offers an academic certificate program in which undergraduates integrate multidisciplinary coursework and a six-month internship in communities throughout Latin America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The John Stott Endowment has broadened this Center’s impact by supporting faculty development, research, and creative projects, and enabling academic departments to host visiting international scholars and artists who participate in College life by sharing about their engagement in church-based responses to human needs. These initiatives exist to inspire people to develop life-orienting commitments to justice, intercultural humility, compassion, hospitality, environmental health, and peacemaking as a part of the global church.

The Humanitarian Disaster Institute is the first faith-based academic research institution of its kind. HDI exists to equip the church to properly and productively engage with underserved and vulnerable populations challenged by disasters and humanitarian crises. It promotes pioneering research on disaster response, provides evidence-informed resources for survivors and the greater public, and hosts lectures, panels, and an annual conference to equip church leaders and interested humanitarian response leaders. The Institute offers a master’s degree in Humanitarian and Disaster Leadership, which develops Christian leaders to approach humanitarian crises and disasters with research-based, gospel-centered strategies.

The Institute for Cross-Cultural Training offers courses, special workshops, publications, and consultation on learning new languages and cultures and teaching English to speakers of other languages. The Institute provides resources to those currently working in their non-native communities. It extends the impact of Wheaton College by training Christian disciples to thoughtfully and effectively evangelize in communities worldwide.

The Marion E. Wade Center is home to the world’s largest archive of works by seven iconic Christian British authors, including C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Housed in a quaint stone building across from Edman Chapel, the Center is open to the public, including its lectures and panels. Co-directors Dr. David Downing and Dr. Crystal Downing say, “We want the Wade to be facing forward, rather than backward, to energize new acts of imagination through a Christian lens.” The Center reinvigorates “the timeless truths expressed by the authors” to an ever-changing audience.

The Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies fosters systematic study in the field of Patristics and early Christian literature and connects contemporary evangelicalism with the historical roots of Christianity. Founded by Director Dr. George Kalantzis, professor of theology, the Center aims to provide a space for Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians to engage with one another and with the shared roots of the faith. Kalantzis affirms, “Our faith is not new. We’re the inheritors of communities of faith throughout history.” The Center provides academic programs and actively engages with world-renowned scholars through lecture series, conferences, and an annual academic gathering of theologians and historians.

The Wheaton Center for Faith and Disability provokes biblical, ecumenical discourse on disability as it influences families, schools, and congregations. The Center seeks to foster a robust biblical understanding of disability, provide training resources, and facilitate practical support that will empower communities to become places of belonging for all. The Ann Haskins Assistant Professor of Special Education Thomas Boehm, who leads CFD, says that “Wheaton is positioned and equipped to provide national and international leadership in addressing disabilities through a biblical lens in a way that equips schools and the church—and engages the world for kingdom-building purposes.”

Director of the Wheaton Center for Faith and Innovation Hannah Stolze says that CFI asks the question, “What does it look like to be a disciple of Christ in the workplace?” Both Stolze, associate professor of marketing & supply chain management, and Dr. Keith Johnson, co-director and associate professor of theology, are developing constructive tools to equip people to pursue work as worship. “Our goal in our research and content creation is to provide tools for Christians in the marketplace to worship God every day of the week,” Stolze shares. CFI has signed on nearly 60 executive members; it supports 20 faculty research projects; and it has conducted pilot programming.

Wheaton Center for Faith, Politics & Economics is a bridge between two independent but intersecting sectors—politics and economics—and it seeks to engage both from a Christian liberal arts perspective. The Center exposes students to a global view of politics, work, and the church through on-campus lectures, international internship and research grants, and publications. Captain David Iglesias ’80, J.D., director of FPE, says, “We want to carry on Wheaton’s historical role of sending out missionaries. We’re equipping students to do that in the business and political world.” 

These academic centers provide accessible scholarship and programming to equip students, staff, and faculty to be leading contributors to society and the global church.