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Professors share memories of first-year experiences

Professors share memories of first-year experiences

By Nina Zimmerman

The University of Bologna, the world’s oldest continuously operating university, was founded in 1088. Nearly 1,000 years later, the college experience has changed a lot. But the clich? that the more things change, the more they stay the same rings true in the memories of some members of the Kenyon faculty.

While attending Bryn Mawr College, Professor of Biology Joan Slonczewski also took classes at nearby Haverford College, where she met her future husband Michael Barich, now an assistant professor of classics. “Today’s students are more engaged with society because they have the Internet and are more connected with what’s going on,” Slonczewski said.

Professor of Humanities Tim Shutt spent his high school years at the rigorous Hotchkiss School, where students regularly spent six to seven hours per night on homework.

When he attended Yale University as an undergraduate, Shutt said he wanted to “kick his heels up” a bit, but his initial arrival in New Haven, Conn. proved less than ceremonious. “They sent me in July a course catalog, and a form to fill out, which I did, and showed up on the train, 45 years ago, at 11 o’clock at night,” Shutt said. “It was deserted. I walked from the train station carrying my suitcase, roused security to let me into my empty room, and that was welcome to Yale.”

Shortly before Shutt arrived at Yale, Professor of American Studies Peter Rutkoff had a similar experience when he left his home in New York City to head upstate to St. Lawrence University, a school that calls Montreal, Canada the nearest big city. Rutkoff said he had no idea what he was getting himself into when he began his journey. “I hadn’t visited the college, because people didn’t visit colleges back then,” Rutkoff said. “I had to take a train from Grand Central [Terminal] that left at like 12 o’clock at night, and my two best friends took me to the train. And so I get off the train, I have two big suitcases ナ and the college is a mile and a half down the road, there’s nobody there. I schlepped my suitcases down the street, and I go to some desk in a dorm, and I’m given a key to a room, and I walk into the room, and it’s this single room that’s the size of a prison cell with a bed on one side and a little teeny sink on the other. And I don’t know a soul. I sat down and I started to cry, thinking, ムholy shit, what am I doing here?’ So that was my first moment of college; it was the most forlorn experience I’ve ever had.”

The Lords recruited Ohio native and Associate Professor of Biology Robert Mauck to play football. Mauck said he almost went to Kenyon, but deemed the campus too small for him after visiting it. He instead attended Ohio Wesleyan University, where he spent four years on the gridiron for the Battling Bishops. Football shaped Mauck’s college experience, from the first day he set foot on campus. “I didn’t go to college right out of high school,” Mauck said. “I had spent most of the next year teaching scuba diving down in the Virgin Islands. So I’d been living on my own in a little hut on the beach all winter, and I came back and I went to school.”

Certain classes can have a lasting impact, according to Associate Professor of History Glenn McNair. McNair attended Savannah State University, where he cycled through four different majors and took three years off to be a police officer before graduating. One English course he took his first semester had a lasting impact. “In high school I thought I was a good writer, like high school students think they actually are,” McNair said. “And this class was just a class of basic composition. ナ I wrote my first essay and it was just covered with red marks, and I’m sure it was a horrible grade attached to it, and I was just devastated by that. ナ But that has become ナ the foundation of all of my writing; from essays straight through to books, I remember the stuff from that class.”

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