This past June, the Kenyon Institute brought students ranging in age from 40 to 80 back to college.
The Institute offered three intensive writing programs: Biomedical and Scientific Writing, the Kenyon Playwrights Conference and the Gund Gallery Critical Writing Workshop. Kenyon teachers and field experts from all over the world taught the programs.
Overall, it had a budget of $375,000, and funding came from students’ tuition and startup money from Kenyon. The Institute’s tuition was roughly $2,000, a price similar to that of a Kenyon College student living on campus for one week. Profits from the summer only allowed the Institute to break even, but Vice President for College Relations Sarah Kahrl is hopeful that in coming years the Institute will be more profitable.
“Ultimately we hope this will be a moneymaker for the College,” she said.
The playwriting program, which took five years to create, was the most popular, enrolling 43 students. For the program, Kenyon partnered with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago, the Atlantic Theater Company of New York and the Hampstead Theatre of London. As part of the partnership, each organization sent a representative to Kenyon to teach courses. This allowed adults from many different professional backgrounds to come to Kenyon and learn about playwriting from some of the biggest names in the business.
While working at Kenyon, the professional playwrights were commissioned to create a new play, which was then presented at the end of the workshop. Brant Russell, a visiting professor at Kenyon last year, worked at the Institute, helping the professionals create their works. After working with mostly college-aged students at Kenyon, Russell said he relished working with older students. “They have a generosity of spirit to come in and let people who are younger than them teach them something new,” Russell said.
The Institute designed the Biomedical and Scientific Writing program for doctoral students, M.D./Ph.D. candidates and postdoctoral biomedical researchers. The workshop helped them gain the skills to create work strong enough to be published in a medical journal. Kenyon professors, as well as those visiting from the Weill Cornell Medical College and Texas’ M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, led workshops.
The Institute also included a Critical Writing Workshop in the Gund Gallery. Students in this Institute worked with professional art critics, studying the art in the Gund Gallery and creating exhibition reviews.
Tuition money from the Institute also provided opportunities for Kenyon students. The three theater companies that partnered with the Institute agreed to take a graduating senior intern for three to four months. The tuition of Institute students will pay for the three internships.
“Kenyon does have a strong name as a college for writing, but the real distinctiveness was who they were working with,” Kahrl said.
While studying at the Institute, students lived in the Taft Cottages or the North Campus Apartments. They ate at Peirce and had access to the Kenyon Athletic Center, essentially experiencing the life of a Kenyon College student. Students attended class for three hours in the mornings and used the afternoon to work on their individual projects. They could attend barbeques, special topics discussions or movies during their free time.
“[The students] were open to the experience of an education vacation,” Kahrl said.
The Kenyon Institute will be returning next year with nine new courses and big goals for the future. “Like the Kenyon Review, the Kenyon Institute has the potential to introduce Kenyon College to people who have never heard the name before” Kahrl said. “We’re also looking for connections. Things can happen for Kenyon students and for Kenyon faculty as a result of the professional alliances that we create.”
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