Fall/Winter 2022 / Departments

Meet Wilson: Alexandra Toms

Wilson in Her Blood

“I didn’t realize the quality of education I received here until I went to my master’s program. As a professor, I want my students to get that same quality of education that sets them up to be successful in future careers or graduate programs.”

Alexandra Toms
Instructor of Psychology

M.Div., Bethany Theological Seminary
M.S. in Psychological Science, Shippensburg University
B.S. in Psychology, Wilson College

She asked her students what they love about Wilson. One said, “Nobody wants to see you fail.” In Toms’ opinion, “This is true in the way we care for our students but also for each other as faculty and staff. People genuinely care about each other.”

Music plays a big part in her life. She met her husband when both sang in their church’s praise band as teenagers. Today they lead the band. And they have a 17-month-old son, Jude, named after the Beatles song, “Hey Jude.”
Her faith has always been important to her. She is in the process of becoming a minister and hopes to be ordained this year.
On Monday nights, however, Toms drops her other obligations to play in a pool league.

Toms is a social psychologist focusing on racial justice, gender, and feminist psychology. Currently researching the interaction of anti-racist beliefs and (in)action.

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Last Word: Goosebump Moments

By Ann O’Shallie, M.Ed., Professor of Equine and Animal Studies

In the summer of 1996, my life was upended. My landlord had passed suddenly, and his wife was selling the farm I leased from them. Which meant the riding school, horse boarding, and therapeutic riding program my kids and I had built over the previous ten years had to close. I had a few months to wrap the business up, find homes for my horses, find new employment, and possibly sell my house and move my family. As a single parent with three kids, I knew I could not start another equine program from scratch. But what else could I do that would combine my education with my passion for horses?

I had heard that St. Andrews College (now University) was looking to add a concentration in therapeutic horsemanship. I flew down on a Monday and was offered the position on Wednesday. On Thursday, I visited a friend in Wilson’s adult degree program. We were talking about the program at St. Andrews in the hallway of the old science building when a gentleman walked up, apologized for eavesdropping, and said, “I want [therapeutic horsemanship] here – now!” This was my first encounter with Colonel Alfred “Bud” Kitts (who would always be Colonel to me and others). Suffice it to say that Colonel and Acting Dean Brad Engle moved some mountains that summer, and I began my career at Wilson on August 1, 1996. A life-changing Goosebump Moment.

However, academic regulations threw a speed bump in my way. By August 31 of my first semester, I had already completed the new therapeutic horsemanship curriculum proposal, only to discover that new faculty members had to wait two years before they could propose a new major. Plus, they weren’t expected to work on committees or advise! I had gone from working seven days a week in my own program to having fall and spring breaks, winter break, and three months off during the summer, and much to my consternation, it seemed that my children really didn’t need me any longer (at least according to them). Can you feel the tapping of my fingers and feet? Okay, not really a Goosebump Moment.

I wrote curricula for future classes to fill the time until my new program was up and running. But that was not enough for me. I wanted to ensure that the therapeutic horsemanship major, now called Equine Facilitated Therapeutics (EFT), would be a premier program when it did get up and running. For that to happen, I needed to be as qualified and knowledgeable as possible to teach it. I continued to work with my certifying organizations and became a master instructor and evaluator for the Council for Education and Certification in Therapeutic Horsemanship (CECTH, now CECTH), the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA, now PATH), and Horses in Education and Therapy International (HETI).

I became the Executive Director for PACTH, then Vice-President of the Board of Trustees for NARHA, and finally Treasurer and then President of HETI. It took me a long time to consider these positions as professional achievements, but I have come to realize their meaning and import. Professional Goosebump Moments.

Meanwhile, teaching was going well, and Colonel was encouraging me to do more with the equine classes. Having a background in teaching students with intellectual disabilities, I knew how important planning, writing objectives, and assessing was. Even more importantly, through this experience, I had learned how to connect with students who did not learn by sitting and listening to a lecture. I remember a class in which I was teaching aerobic versus anaerobic muscle use and the energy systems associated with each. I could tell some of the students weren’t getting it. Then I showed them a video of an endurance horse and a racing quarter horse, and they could see the different types of muscle and how they were being used. All of a sudden, they got the concept! I realized some of my students needed visual and kinesthetic support as well.

I remember walking down the stairwell and talking with Colonel and my good friend Carl Larson (Professor Emeritus) about how the students had had this “aha” moment in anatomy and physiology. They looked at me with an odd look that said, you’re kidding, not in A&P, that doesn’t happen. That year I was the recipient of the Donald Bletz Teaching Award. This would be the first of four Bletz Teaching Awards I would be honored with. Very proud Goosebump Moments.

Throughout this time and to this day, I have been active in preserving wild horse herds, studying their behavior, and promoting their conservation. Studying American wild horses has taught us how to care for our domesticated horses, how and why they behave the way they do, and what brings the best out of them in animal-assisted therapies. In spring 2007, Joan Thuebel ’52 donated the funds for a faculty member to participate in an Earthwatch expedition. Elephants have hierarchies similar to horses and are facing the same issues that our wild horses are facing – loss of migration trails, encroachment of human communities, and poaching. I wrote a proposal to go to Kenya and study elephants but figured there was no way I would get it. The award would go to a biologist or environmentalist. I was sitting in the dining hall at the academic awards dinner with Professor Dana Harriger – a great friend who started at Wilson the same year I did – when he nudged me and said, “Isn’t that your proposal that they are reading?” I was going to Kenya to study elephants! Innumerable life-changing Goosebump Moments.

Following the Earthwatch experience, I knew that I needed to see more of the world and bring the world into my classes. As President of HETI, I was able to travel around the world to teach, consult and train others on how to utilize the horse in therapeutic activities. I have been to England, Ireland, Greece (many times), Turkey, Portugal, Taiwan, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and all of the Central American countries. Because these trips were all scheduled over breaks, very few people at Wilson knew about them. I have to thank Professor Michael Cornelius for always highlighting my travels. To this day, I tell students how lucky they are to attend a liberal arts college where they can set themselves up to be successful in so many areas of life. Thousands of Goosebump Moments.

In 2013, the Wilson Board of Trustees asked for the submission of ideas for “signature programs.” Freya Burnett (Professor Emeritus) and I wrote the proposal for the Animal Studies program. Once again, a lot of work but worth it. The program we had envisioned, with a few tweaks, came into being. I could now focus on learning about the behavior, perception, training, and conservation of equines, felines, canines, farm animals, and wildlife and help students follow their dreams of a career with animals. I am now the Equine and Animal Studies Division Chair. Turning-a-corner Goosebump Moment.

Several years ago, I became the Director of the Equine Studies program. I have learned many things on this journey through the years – both positive and negative. But I can say that the current faculty and staff in the EQS program have allowed us to grow and change the program in positive directions. The Equestrian Center is truly a living laboratory. We have brought western riding to campus and are working toward two competitive teams through IHSA – Hunt Seat AND Western. The number of student boarders has increased dramatically. We now offer summer camps and have renewed the Community Riding Program. And most importantly to me, we now have “barn rats” (an affectionate term for students who want to hang around and learn and help at the barns). We owe it all to the efforts, energy, and excitement of the EQS team. Can you feel the unlimited number of Goosebump Moments?

I felt that my career at Wilson had come full circle when I was invited to speak at the retirement village where Colonel and his amazing wife Gretchen had retired. At the end of the presentation, Colonel stood up and said – “I was so right to hire you all those years ago.” Colonel passed away shortly after. Cycle-of-life Goosebump Moment.

Thank you for the walk down memory lane. Now I look forward to where my new Goosebump Moments will appear.

RELATED: Meet Wilson: Alexandra Toms Scarlet’s Letter Quick Bytes – Fall/Winter 2022

Scarlet’s Letter

Why, hello there. I do hope all is well with you and yours. Life here at Wilson College has been simply delightful. We’ve had such a lovely summer, and as the weather transitions to fall, it is once again time for my glorious coat of fur to shine.

Do you remember my dearest friend Agatha the groundhog? Of course, you do. Why, just the other day, we were sharing a pot of tea while she regaled me with stories of her adventures around campus when it occurred to me that I had yet to see the beauty of this campus with my own eyes. For nearly three years, I have lived here in Sharpe House without setting a paw outside. I certainly don’t mind entertaining guests here, but I’m a cat of the people!

As Her Late Royal Majesty once said, “I have to be seen to be believed.” So immediately, I demanded that my dads order me the finest of feline chariots so that I could get out and see the world. Here, dear reader, I bring you my first impressions of this wonderful campus.

Being chauffeured around campus was a treat for me and an honor for my dad! Our first stop was at what is called an equestrian center. You would not believe what I saw there. First, there were perhaps the largest animals I have ever witnessed — you call them horses. To my delight, these horses had a calm, soothing demeanor, much like yours truly, and I do think we will get along just fine. Second, to my utter surprise and horror (you could have knocked me over with a feather), I witnessed some of these horses carrying people! Now, I’m certainly accustomed to people carrying animals, but an animal carrying a person, have you ever heard of such a thing? What will they think of next?

From there, my campus tour continued to what you refer to as Lenfest Commons. Agatha informs me that the Commons, the courtyard in front, and the dining hall inside have all changed significantly over the past few years, and while I had not seen it prior, it is simply marvelous now. If you have not returned to campus recently, you simply must come and see it yourself. I could not believe the ridiculous variety of food you have in this dining hall. Why humans can’t eat the same thing every day as I do is beyond me.

My tour was nearly complete when we rounded the corner of the Veterinary Education Center. “Stop right there!” I hissed to my chauffeur. Why there in the window sat fellow felines! My new acquaintances and I had barely exchanged purr-leasantries when a parade of dogs appeared from the building! Excuse me? Excuuuuuuuuse me? I was certainly not informed that we had canines on this campus. I have since come to learn that these particular dogs are called whippets, and they’re used to help train our veterinary students. Anything for the betterment of animal-kind, I suppose, but this was all too much for me. I simply had to return to Sharpe House and lie down.

And thus concluded my first tour of Wilson College. As you can see, it was certainly eventful, and I can’t deny the beauty of this wonderful campus. Still, I’m sure there is much I have yet to observe. Tell me, dear reader, where should I visit next? What is your favorite part of this campus that I simply must see?

Sending all of my best to you and yours. Until next time.

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Quick Bytes – Fall/Winter 2022

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Sports Wrap

Phoenix Sweep President’s Cups

by Logan Smith, Director of Athletic Communications

On Sunday, Sept. 18, Wilson celebrated winning all three of the Colonial States Athletic Conference President’s Cups for its excellence on the field of competition for the 2021- 22 year. The celebration took place during brunch at the Jensen Dining Hall in Lenfest Commons, with special color-changing cups given out to those in attendance.

The CSAC President’s Cup is awarded annually to the men’s, women’s, and overall athletic programs with the highest competitive rating based on both regular season and conference playoff performance. Nine of the 10 CSAC sports Wilson sponsors earned a spot in the postseason last year.

Highlighting the season and punctuating Wilson’s claim to its President’s Cups were conference championships in field hockey, men’s basketball, and softball. All three secured automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament as well.
Representatives for each of the aforementioned title-winning teams spoke about their respective seasons, the athletics program’s successes, and our student-athletes in general. Softball head coach Brett Kline mentioned that not many had expected Wilson to win even one cup, never mind all three. On top of that, a school sweeping all three awards has only been done eight times, and by three schools now in total. The other two were Cabrini and Marywood, who are no longer members of the conference.


The Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) is proud to announce Jenna Carty, field hockey and softball student-athlete from Wilson College, and Josh Melchior, baseball student-athlete from Cairn University, as the 2021-22 CSAC Female and Male Scholar-Athletes of the Year following a vote by the conference’s athletic directors.

“These two student-athletes exemplify the best of the CSAC and Division III values. I’m thrilled to bestow this recognition on Josh and Jenna’s outstanding collegiate careers, not only on the field of play but also in the classroom and in the community,” said Marie Stroman, CSAC Commissioner.
Jenna Carty was a dual-sport student-athlete, including a three-year starter for the field hockey team and a four-year starter for the softball team. Carty served as captain of both teams her senior year. As a field hockey student-athlete, she was a three-time all-conference performer. She is fifth on Wilson’s career defensive saves list, helping lead a team that was tops in the nation for shutouts. On the softball field, Carty was a three-time all-conference selection tallying over 100 career hits. She was consistently on the leaderboards in the conference for home runs, triples, and RBIs.

Academically, Carty was a member of the National Leadership Honor Society and Omicron Delta Kappa. She was awarded the Wilson College Pentathlon Award, which is awarded for excellence in athletics and academics, participation, willingness to cooperate, the spirit of fair play, and enthusiastic attitude. Carty was also a member of the NFHCA National Academic Team, National Scholar of Distinction, and CSAC All-Academic Team and was on the Dean’s List for eight semesters.

Carty was an active participant in community service by volunteering for Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, and Adopt-A-Highway cleanup. Carty was also a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee from 2018-21 for Wilson College. Carty graduated with a dual certification in Early Childhood and Special Education with a 3.9 GPA. She also has a 4.0 GPA through the spring semester of graduate school.

The CSAC Scholar-Athlete Award recognizes student-athletes for their academic, athletic, and community service achievements. Each institution may nominate one male and one female for inclusion on the ballot produced by the conference office. The ballot is voted on by each Athletics and Sports Information Director for a total of two votes per institution per gender.

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