New Brown/Wheaton Fellows join the Wheaton community

From left to right: Ioana Jucan, Ashley Bowen- Murphy, Stephanie Spera, Wanda Henry (photo credit: Susan Ely)
From left to right: Ioana Jucan, Ashley Bowen- Murphy, Stephanie Spera, Wanda Henry (photo credit: Susan Ely)

There are many people who say they don’t want to be taught by students, no matter how educated the students are. When it comes to classes taught by instructors from the Brown/Wheaton Faculty Fellows Program, there should be no complaining. Not only are these instructors highly qualified; they went through a selective application process, and are extremely passionate in their fields of study.

Since 2005, Wheaton has hosted thirty of these Fellows, and next semester, the number will rise to thirty-four. Not only are the courses fascinating (one in 2012 was entitled On Vampires and Violent Vixens), but so are the instructors. The applicants for this program need to be at the dissertation-writing stage in their doctoral program, have at least two semesters of teaching experience, and be rising fourth, fifth, or sixth year students in Brown’s program. Brown sends recommendations based on applications to Wheaton, and then Wheaton reviews them, selects a group of candidates to submit syllabi for their courses, and interviews them, eventually choosing up to four.

During the 2015-2016 year, we will have four of these Fellows on campus: Ashley Bowen-Murphy, Wanda Henry, Ioana Jucan, and Stephanie Spera.

They all look forward to different aspects of the Wheaton bubble. Spera remarks, “I’m really excited about Wheaton’s ‘Connections’ curriculum, and how this course draws students from across disciplines. I’m excited to have students with different backgrounds in the class because different perspectives make classes more interesting.”

Bowen-Murphy, who will be teaching a Public Health course entitled “No Shot At Immunity: Opposition to Vaccination in the United States, 1800-2015,” characterizes herself as a “historian of public health” with a focus on the history and culture of health and medicine. She worked in the health equity and social justice program of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, along with Planned Parenthood and “other reproductive justice organizations on the social and political aspects of health and health care.”

She says that she is “looking forward to the challenge” of teaching at Wheaton, along with the ability to gain experience teaching at a liberal arts school. Bowen-Murphy wants to teach at a school like Wheaton after receiving her PhD., and is hoping to “spark more interdisciplinary conversations among science/pre-med students and folks in the humanities or social sciences.”

When not catching up on the latest vaccination information, Bowen-Murphy can be found taking improv comedy classes at the Providence Improv Guild and running marathons.

Another runner, Wanda Henry, will be teaching a History course, entitled, “A Social History of Death and Dead Bodies in Early Modern Europe.” Though her dissertation is on undertakers, women sextons, and searchers of the dead, Henry says, “I have not had any near-death experiences, seen any ghosts, or worked as an undertaker.”

History is not the first subject Henry has experience teaching. Previously, she taught mathematics and statistics, using “London’s Bills of Mortality from 1666, the year of the Great Plague, as a dataset for statistical analysis.” This is what sparked her interest in studying mortality. Henry comments, “I always wondered where the bills came from and was especially intrigued when I discovered that women collected the information. The idea of a network of women examining London’s dead intrigued me and led to my dissertation.”

While Henry is excited to spend time talking to and learning from students and colleagues at Wheaton, her main goal is to “engage students in discussions and generate excitement.” Henry’s passion for the topic is inspiring, though it may seem daunting. She explains, “The subject of death might initially seem creepy, but at some point, everyone should consider the reality of mortality…I appreciate dark humor and think that some aspects of this class will be fun. Who doesn’t enjoy a good ghost story?”

Another Fellow is certainly familiar with storytelling. Ioana Jucan, who will be teaching Beginning Directing in the fall, is very excited to be joining the Wheaton community: “It is a gift to be able to teach a subject I love in a department that emphasizes some of the aspects of a theatre education that I value most highly.” Jucan is certainly not new to the directing game, explaining that she started directing plays when she was in high school. Also possessing a passion for playwriting, Jucan has directed plays written by both “establish playwrights” and herself. “In my senior year of high school I won a national award for directing a play that I wrote at an Arts Festival held in Bucharest, Romania (my home country).” Since then, Jucan has been the artistic director of Listening LabOratory, which is a performance group that she founded at Brown.

Jucan, who hopes to bring “enthusiasm, energy, and love of directing and theatre-making,” describes her teaching style as “bring[ing] together practice and theory so as to foster both creativity and critical thinking as well as awareness of the historical and cultural contexts to which our objects of study pertain.”

While the newest Fellows have vastly different subject matters they’ll be teaching, they all bring similar attitudes, and will be wonderful additions to the Wheaton community.