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Kenyon-Exeter Program Records Increase in Applicants

By Lauren Toole

The Kenyon-Exeter program will take an impressive 24 students to Devon, England next year by far the largest number the program has seen in nearly 10 years. Due to this substantial increase in interest, an additional professor will be joining the program.

Though the English department will be sending two professors to Exeter, the department in Gambier will not suffer academically for these losses, according to the Departments Chai,r Deborah Laycock.

Because we have so many students going abroad, there are that many fewer to take courses here at Kenyon, Laycock said. Thats why we were able to imagine sending another [professor] just because of the large number of students going specifically to Exeter.

This year may be an aberration; we dont really know, Laycock said. But we knew that this year we were prepared to accommodate all of the qualified applicants, no matter how many.

Established in 1975, the Kenyon-Exeter Program takes English majors to study at the University of Exeter in Devon. Its a quality program, said Marne Ausec, director of the Center for Global Engagement (CGE).

Students take a seminar-style Kenyon course in addition to British literature classes. Program participants also embark on regular excursions to London and Stratford to see plays and fully immerse themselves in English culture. In recent years, the Kenyon-Exeter group has ranged in size from eight to 18 students.

Professor of English Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, who has served as director of the program three times, was the initial resident director for the 2013-2014 year. He said that the addition of a second professor was deemed necessary in order to facilitate the excellence of the program.

We wanted to make sure that every student on the program got to work closely with a Kenyon faculty member, and that one director wouldnt be overwhelmed by the logistics of arranging travel, theater, and other events for a large group, he said. By having two directors, well be able to split the program into two groups so that we maintain the programs strengths.

Sarah Heidt, professor of English, was the resident director of the program in the 2010-2011 year. Though currently on sabbatical, she will now join Lobanov-Rostovsky for the 2013-2014 program. In her experience with the program, the largest group she has ever led included 17 people.

[The large group size] changes some things. I dont know if theres an advantage or disadvantage, she said. If the program is very small it stops being financially self-sufficient. So one good thing is that it starts being self-sufficient with this many students going. But other than that, its more complicated logistically to have 24 students than it would have been to have 16.

Matters like acquiring tickets to see shows and reserving seating arrangements for group dinners will have to be done farther in advance.None of these things is tremendously complicated, said Heidt. It just means well have to have a different mindset from the very beginning.

Both Heidt and Lobanov-Rostovsky are looking forward to working with one another. Shes an amazing teacher, said Lobanov-Rostovksy. Im excited to work with her to shape a great program.

Sergei and I work very well together, Heidt said. We know each other well.

The dramatic increase in interest in the Exeter program may be due to the changes made to the way students pay for off-campus study. Under the new policy, which will take effect beginning with the Class of 2015, students will pay their normal tuition (including room and board), from which the College will then pay the program host. In some cases, it would become more expensive for students to study abroad than under the current model.

For Exeter you always pay the Kenyon tuition, because its a Kenyon program, Heidt said. But now, as I understand it, Kenyon tuition is being charged no matter where you go [abroad], so theres less of an incentive to try and find a cheaper program. I dont know if that is what explains it, but thats been suggested to me.

I think what happens with the change in the fee structure is that parents in particular look at it and say, Okay, if Im paying this much money, what am I getting? Ausec said.

That has always been the beauty of the Exeter program as well as the other programs, she said. You get to go places and see places youd have to pay extra on top of, but is already rolled in your tuition. So I suspect that the fee may have something to do with that, but I dont know. Were trying to figure it out.

Another reason for the high level of interest may be Lobanov-Rostovskys outreach efforts. Sergei had a meeting with parents over Family Weekend, said Ausec. Thats the first time that a Kenyon program has ever done that.

Student interest in any study abroad program varies from year to year, and its hard to know why a program will get high enrollments in a specific year, said Lobanov-Rostovsky. I worked hard to recruit a terrific group of students for next year, and Im delighted that so many of our students have responded with enthusiasm.

Ausec said that the CGE is going to use the idea of talking to parents over Family Weekend for their other Kenyon programs, and continue doing so for the Exeter Program.

If the program continues to attract such a high level of interest, it could result in changes to the way that it is formatted. I think its going to be an interesting question for the future if we keep having large groups of students and how well staff that, Heidt said. I dont know how we can spare two professors every year.

I dont think we will be able to continue to send two [professors], Laycock said. But we will, year by year, try to figure out ways of addressing this phenomenon of an ever-popular Kenyon-Exeter program.

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