Wheaton Higher Ed

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Higher Education Roundtable Overview

Wheaton College, the premier Christian liberal arts college in the US, will be hosting this regional SCL event. In addition to professional development and networking with colleagues, you’ll learn more about Wheaton’s commitment to liberal arts education, enjoy its beautiful campus 20-miles west of Chicago, and receive a special tour of the Wade Center, one of a kind archives and museum featuring documents and artifacts from seven members of the Inklings, including C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Guest Speakers

Jon Eckert

Professor, Educational Leadership
Baylor Univeristy

About Jon Eckert:
Dr. Jon Eckert serves as Professor and Copple Chair of Christian School Leadership at Baylor University.  Before entering the collegiate classroom, Jon spent twelve years teaching and coaching intermediate and middle school students outside of Chicago and Nashville. After completing his doctorate at Vanderbilt University, he was selected as a Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education where he worked in both the Bush and Obama administrations on teaching quality issues. His research interests include teaching effectiveness, evaluation, and strategic compensation to enhance that effectiveness, collective leadership of teachers, administrators, and policymakers in the service of student learning, teacher preparation, and science education.

About Dr. Eckert’s Sessions: Collective Leadership for Catalytic Improvement 
School leadership does not have to be lonely or exhausting. We can do the work of leadership better together. In fact, there has never been a better time to be in education – we know more about how people learn, we have more tools for instructional leadership, and more educational delivery models than ever. Classical schools provide unique and powerful opportunities for education. What we need are catalytic leaders. In science, catalysts accelerate reactions. They are not the focus of the reaction or used up in the process. In our time together, we will work on how to develop catalytic leadership that accelerates school improvement. You will leave with tools, strategies, and an expanded network of colleagues to help you develop the emerging leaders at your schools. The work will be grounded in Jon’s work with the Carnegie Foundation’s Networked Improvement Communities, the Center for Teaching Quality, collective leadership improvement communities of Christian schools across the U.S., and his most recent book, Leading Together.

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Dr. Margaret Diddams

Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Wheaton College

About Dr. Margaret Diddams:
Dr. Margaret DuPlissis Diddams is Provost and Chief Academic Officer of Wheaton College (IL), a liberal arts college grounded in its Evangelical Christian faith tradition and located 30 miles west of Chicago. Reporting to the President, she is a member of the Senior Administrative Cabinet and holds faculty status as Professor of Psychology.

She leads the Senior Academic Leadership Team and oversees the undergraduate and graduate academic programs of Wheaton College. She is also responsible for the Registrar, Learning and Accessibility Services, Student Advising, Global Programs and Studies, Institutional Research, the Library and Archives, numerous academic centers, the Billy Graham Center, the Center for Leadership at Honey Rock and the Black Hills Science Station.

Diddams is a 1983 graduate of Wheaton College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She earned a Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from New York University.

Diddams started her academic career as an instructor and program coordinator in the Social-Organizational Psychology Department at Columbia University. She joined the faculty at Seattle Pacific University in 1993 and held the rank of Professor of Industrial / Organizational Psychology before becoming the Director of the Center for Scholarship and Faculty Development and then Assistant Provost. In addition to her academic work, Diddams has worked as a Senior Manager at Microsoft Corporation and founded DuPlissis & Diddams Associates, a consulting practice specializing in survey research, organizational development and executive coaching. She is regularly asked to speak on issues of leadership and team development.

About Dr. Margaret Diddams’s Session: Sailing into Headwinds: Charting a Strategic Course and Strengthening the Vessel 
Our mission, “Wheaton College serves Jesus Christ and advances His Kingdom through excellence in liberal arts and graduate programs that educate the whole person to build the church and benefit society worldwide,” is immutable and the core to all that we do.  At the same time, we face external, changing and challenging pressure points and changing demographics.  To fill the gap between its unchanging mission and cultural swirl, organizations will regularly create a strategic plan that shapes its focus for a 3-5 year window, addressing its current needs while honoring its core commitments. In this session, I will walk through our academic strategic planning purpose and processes.

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Dr. Sarah Miglio

Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs
Assistant Professor of Core Studies and History
Wheaton College

About Dr. Sarah Miglio:
Dr. Miglio’s research and scholarship combines the study of American culture and religion with modern Middle Eastern history during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her goal is to write and teach globally situated history that explores the interactions of American history with the world. She is particularly interested in the intersections of private beliefs and public activism. Miglio’s research explores a network of religious social activists called “Practical Christians,” who share a commitment to non-sectarian Christian cooperation and the exercise of Christian Citizenship in order to reform their neighborhoods, their nation, and the world.

About Dr. Sarah Miglio’s Session: The Transformative Power of Christian Liberal Arts
Today’s college students face a rapidly changing marketplace and competing narratives for how to best prepare for a lifetime of work and service. Even as the number of liberal arts colleges continues to decline and as pre-professional college programs grow in number, Wheaton College faculty decided to strengthen and deepen the college’s academic commitment to Christian liberal arts. The new Christ at the Core general education curriculum invites students to read and discuss with rigor, grapple with enduring questions, and work to fashion answers that integrate Christian faith with their learning. After a brief survey of Christ at the Core’s design and goals, we will consider early results from the new core curriculum and how studying the Christian liberal arts prepares students for a lifetime of meaningful work and faithful service.

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Crystal Downing

Co-Director of the Marion E. Wade Center
Wheaton College

About Crystal Downing:
After being named Distinguished Professor of English and Film Studies at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, Crystal Downing accepted a position as Co-Director of the Marion E. Wade Center and co-holder of the Marion E. Wade Chair in Christian Thought at Wheaton College: a position she shares with her husband, David C. Downing.

Crystal’s first book, Writing Performances: The Stages of Dorothy L. Sayers (Palgrave 2004), was granted the Barbara Reynolds Award for best Sayers scholarship in 2009 by the international Dorothy L. Sayers Society. Her next two books, How Postmodernism serves (My) Faith and Changing Signs of Truth (IVP Academic 2006 & 2012), explore the relationship between cultural studies and Christianity and continue to be studied by graduate students in seminaries around the world. Crystal’s fourth book, Salvation from Cinema: The Medium is the Message (Routledge 2016), assesses the field of “religion and film,” encouraging people of faith to acquaint themselves with film theory to better understand movies – not only as cultural statements but also as works of art. In addition to her books, Crystal has published nearly eighty essays on topics ranging from the Amish to Jane Austen, and her literary criticism appears in eight critical editions of canonical texts. Delivering nearly fifty juried papers at professional conferences, she has also ben invited to serve as a keynote speaker at over thirty conferences in North America and Europe. In her rare leisure time, Crystal enjoys hiking or bicycling through rural countryside, climbing up waterfalls, and exploring distinctive architecture.

About Crystal Downing’s Sessions: Lost Tools of Learning
Crystal Downing, author of the forthcoming book Subversive: Christ, Culture, and the Shocking Dorothy L. Sayers, will discuss how “The Lost Tools of Learning” reflects Sayers’s ability to shock people with ancient truths. Providing biographical detail, such as the nationwide controversy Sayers ignited in 1941 Britain, Downing will explore how Sayers’s experiences in education and as an author prepared her to write the essay that inspired the Classical Education movement.


Monday, March 23

8:15 – 8:45 AM | Check in & Welcome
Welcome Center Great Hall
8:45 – 9:00 AM | Welcome & Introductions
Eric Cook | Phelps Room
9:00 – 9:45 AM | Session I: Sailing into the Headwinds
Dr. Margaret Diddamns | Phelps Room

9:45 – 10:30 PM | Session II: TBD
Dr. Sarah Miglio | Phelps Room
10:30 – 10:45 AM | Break
10:45 – 12:15 | Part I: Collective Leadership for Catalytic Improvement
Dr. Jonathan Eckert | Phelps Room
12:30 – 1:30 PM | Lunch Buffet

1:45 – 3:15 PM | Part II: Collective Leadership for Catalytic Improvement
Dr. Jonathan Eckert | Welcome Center Presentation Room

3:30 – 4:15 PM | Wheaton Campus Tour
Wade Center
4:15 – 5:15 PM | Guided Tour of Wade Museum
5:15 – 6:00 PM | Session IV: Sayer’s Lost Tools of Learning

Dr. Crystal Downing
6:00 – 7:30 PM | Dinner
Beamer Center, North Party Room

Marion E. Wade Center Museum

About the Marion E. Wade Center Museum:
The Marion E. Wade Center museum features memorabilia and rotating displays with selections from our collection of books, letters, manuscripts, and artifacts. Through these exhibits we invite our visitors to explore more deeply the seven authors’ lives, writings, and the historical context in which they lived. Permanent pieces on display in the museum include: a wardrobe owned by C.S. Lewisdesks and pens belonging to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, bookshelves from Charles Williams, the eyeglasses of Dorothy L. Sayers, and Owen Barfield’s chess set and pipe.


Higher Education Event: $50

*Event capacity is capped at 40 people*

Location & Lodging

Wheaton College
Wheaton, IL