Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

From Classroom to Community

Wilson Alexander
November 16, 2015

In my last post I wrote about research opportunities and individual studies at Kenyon, but today I thought I’d write about the opportunities for community engagement and how Kenyon helps you apply your academic learning to real-world scenarios.

While research at Kenyon provides a lot of hands-on experience, especially for STEM majors, there also are several classes that involve actually going out and practicing principles learned from a textbook. Right now I’m enrolled in “Gender and Popular Culture,” which is a women’s and gender studies 100-level class. One cool thing about this class is that we’re doing our own research on gender by analyzing popular media in content analysis studies to examine gender portrayals. My group is looking at music videos, and the research is really open-ended, so you can do pretty much any medium you want, analyze it for whatever you want (so long as it’s related to gender), and have complete control (alongside your classmates) of where your research goes. Because of the data analysis aspect of performing content analyses, this course also satisfies a quantitative reasoning requirement. I think you’d have a very difficult time finding a WGS class that also satisfies QR at another college, and that’s just really cool.

Not only that, but in that class the end goal is actually to use the research gained from our content analyses to come up with a lesson plan to teach about the gender issues that we studied. These lesson plans, which we’ll present at the end of the semester, potentially will be incorporated into lessons taught in Knox County high schools. The idea of actually being able to change the world around you just as part of a class is a really cool reminder that you’re not just learning for knowledge’s sake all the time, but also that these skills have a very real application. 

Other classes have an applied dynamic to them as well. In psychology, Professor Krieg’s “Psychology in Context” course is centered on the application of previously learned knowledge in psychology to the community around us and involves six hours of out-of-class time each week at a local community agency, doing work related to psychology.

There also are just so many community service opportunities in Knox County that Kenyon students can get involved in, many of which are related to specific majors and provide invaluable experience. Many of my friends are tutors at Knox County elementary schools, helping children with math and reading skills and forming lesson plans to ensure that they have the resources to succeed. The psych club and several other STEM clubs help out at the Science Play-Space Initiative, or SPI Spot, in Mount Vernon, which helps children get excited about science by giving them the resources to perform fun experiments, learn more about science in general, take stuff apart (destroying things for science? Awesome!) and more. And there are many more opportunities out there. The Center for Community Engagement and the Community Programs Office are your friends if you want to get more involved in the community around us.

Basically, if you want to get hands-on experience and if you want to see what jobs you might enjoy doing by actually going out and doing them, there are tons of opportunities here, and it’s up to you whether you want to take them. But even as a part of the classes you take here, you will most likely come across some sort of applied portion of your learning, and that’s something that’s really great about liberal arts in general. Being able to see why what you’re learning matters, and being able to do things that can help shape the communities around you, makes everything feel a lot more worth it, and that’s a really great feeling to have.