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Admissions flaunts Green, but some see strategy as limiting

Admissions flaunts Green, but some see strategy as limiting

By Gabe Brison-Trezise

Elise Shattuck ’14 didn’t say anything to author John Green ’00 when he was standing behind her in line at the Bookstore last November ラ not because she failed to recognize the bestselling author but, rather, because she was “starstruck.”

“This guy is one of the main reasons I ended up here, and he’s right there buying a Gatorade. Like, whoa,” Shattuck said.

Green was on campus to film a series of short, cheeky videos for the Office of Admissions, whose other promotional themes have included the Harry Potter series and Shakespeare. That Green is both a Kenyon alumnus and has a large young-adult fan base makes him a “great emissary” for the College, according to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jennifer Delahunty.

Of Kenyon’s roughly 4,000 applicants last year, 275 hopeful students referenced Green in their applications, mostly in the supplemental portion, Delahunty wrote in an email.

“In September, I was speaking in L.A. at a gathering of about 400 people and when the slide of John Green came up, there was a gasp from the audience and then applause. I asked, ムDo we have some nerdfighters out there?’ and there was more applause,” Delahunty wrote, referring to the collective of Green’s fans who, according to their website, “fight to increase awesome and decrease suck.”

“Clearly, he speaks to so many young people,” Delahunty added.

In an email, Green expressed gratitude for his fans and for the enthusiasm generated by his work. “When readers come up to me at signings or in Chipotle or whatever, it’s a genuine pleasure to meet them and they’re always really lovely,” he wrote.

A subset of those readers attend Kenyon and tried to form a nerdfighters club on campus two years ago.

“We sort of met once and were like, ムHey, let’s be friends,’ and then people sort of formed friendships or didn’t, and that was about it,” Kim Selwyn ’15 said.

“We entertained the idea for a little bit more and then just sort of let it die,” Conor Dugan ’15 said. He added, however, “I know that lots of other people here have read John Green’s books, have watched VlogBrothers videos and would consider themselves nerdfighters.”

Green maintains an active social media presence and produces, with his brother Hank, the Vlogbrothers YouTube video series, whose entries deal with everything from health care reform to The Great Gatsby, have amassed over 350 million views.

“It’s inspiring,” Dugan said, “for some people to see writers from Kenyon going out and actually making a living that way, as well as making a living doing creative content like VlogBrothers.”

“I always wanted to write, actually,” wrote Green, who briefly pursued a career in the Episcopal ministry after graduating from Kenyon. “I just never saw [writing] as a realistic career goal. When I was a senior at Kenyon, I met briefly with [Professor Emeritus of English Perry] Lentz during his office hours and he told me, ムPeople think all you can do with an English degree is go to law school or become an English professor. But there are many opportunities out there you can’t even imagine yet.’ That proved true for me.”

Shattuck said she viewed VlogBrothers as empowering for brainier teenagers: “I think that it was really great to have these two brothers talking about how it’s good to be a nerd and how you can use that for good and not have to feel weird about the fact that maybe you don’t quite fit in with what’s considered ムnormal.'”

She further attributed her fandom of Green to him being both “very articulate and very funny. ナ Even though the primary audience for his books is, perhaps, young adults, he doesn’t really talk down to people.”

In light of Admissions’ increased utilization of Green, however, Selwyn questioned the efficacy of relying too heavily on him.

“If that’s the only thing Admissions is doing, that feels worrying. John Green is a part of Kenyon, but Kenyon is a lot more than just John Green,” she said.

Selwyn also suggested that Green might not be an effective tool for recruiting males. “There’s been a huge push to make the admissions material not more accessible, but more appealing, to male applicants,” she said, “which is interesting when you consider the huge John Green push, because I would not consider his core demographic to be dudes; I would consider it to be young women.”

Green is scheduled to return to campus on Feb. 10, when he will give a talk in Rosse Hall.

“I remember, when I was a freshman, there was a senior who was like, ムYou have to try and get John Green to come to campus,'” Dugan said. “I was like, ムI’ll do it for you, I’ll do it.’ I never did, but he’s coming anyway.”

His visit, sponsored by Faculty Lectureships, will also come during a time when he plans to cut back on touring and travel.

“My kids are very young and I don’t want their childhood memories to be of packed suitcases and brief visits between airports,” Green said.

“I think he’s one of our most famous alumni, at least at the moment,” Shattuck said, “So I think if you’re trying to get Kenyon out there, it’s definitely a way, because people are familiar with his work.”

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