“Lazy” Days of Summer

Jim Amidon — They say nothing happens at Wabash in the summer; that once the students leave, the place is dead. Faculty bug out for distant locales, they say. Staff have the summers off, I’ve heard.

None of that is true at all, especially that part about some of us getting summers off.

For example, if you were to stroll through Hays Hall, our biology and chemistry building, you’d find about 20 students working side-by-side with faculty on research projects. Across the mall in Goodrich Hall, there are a dozen really smart students of mathematics attending an advanced algebra institute.

Over in the Malcolm X Institute, there are 12 guys taking an intensive, compressed business course. They’ll do in eight weeks the equivalent of a semester’s worth of business classes at any other college. The program also includes some pretty hefty fieldwork: the students will intern at local businesses to gather real world experiences in the final weeks of the program.

We’ve got students traveling and conducting research around the globe, too.

There are about 20 men involved with the Ecuadorian Studies Program in Quito. They arrived in Quito just after graduation ceremonies and were placed in homes of local people. Being thrust into a foreign country with Spanish speaking locals makes for pretty intensive language study.

The students in Ecuador are just now getting out around the country to focus on ecology, literature, politics, and economics of Ecuador, which boasts densely populated cities, rich mountainous regions, and the world’s most exotic rain forests.

Then there are individual students working internships or traveling with “Dill Grants,” which allow them conduct specialized research away from the college. One of them, Steve Hernandez, leaves Saturday for Honduras, where he’ll examine funeral rituals of the Garifuna people. Cool stuff for a 19 year-old guy!

Other things happen in the summer, too.

The Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion will have a couple hundred people in and out over the summer. Theologians from the very finest universities and seminaries come to Crawfordsville to take part in workshops and consultations.

The Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts is going full steam ahead with a groundbreaking National Study of Liberal Arts Education. Scholars there are particularly excited to have just received an additional $300,000 in funding from the Teagle Foundation that will allow them to make broad use of their research findings.

Bill Placher, who has been a mainstay in the Philosophy and Religion Department since 1975, just received another distinguished honor. A few years ago he was named the nation’s outstanding teacher of religion by the American Academy of Religion. Last week he was one of five people to receive the first ever Indiana Humanities Award for leadership in the humanities.

A new scholarship fund was established last week that will provide financial resources to students who wish to travel and study in European countries during the summer. The Kenneth Rhys Rudolph Memorial Fund honors the memory of Ken, class of 2005, who died in a tragic automobile accident just a few months ago. Ken’s own experiences traveling to Scotland between his junior and senior years at Wabash were so profound, that his family created the fund to allow other young men to have similar experiences.

And, of course, there will be change and transition taking place in the next three weeks. On July 3, Patrick White will begin his tenure as the 15th president of Wabash College. The same day Gary Phillips will join the faculty as dean of the college and Larry Griffith takes over as the chief financial officer and treasurer.

Faculty and staff will move quickly to orient the new administrators to the culture of Wabash and the way we go about our business of teaching and learning — all before students return in early August.

Stay in touch with the travels of our students and the work of our faculty by making a weekly visit to the Wabash web site:

There you’ll find an array of “travelblogs” and news stories to see for yourself that there really is never a dull moment at Wabash during the summer.