By Sarah McPeek
For Daniel Olivieri ’19, English and computer science are more similar than one might think: both rely on the combination of language signifiers to create meaning, either as literature or HTML code. “The joke I always tell is that I’ll support my computer science with my creative writing,” he said.
Through an academic cross-registration partnership between Kenyon and Mount Vernon Nazarene University, Olivieri had the opportunity to expand his interest in computer programming at the neighboring institution.
During his first semester, Olivieri enrolled in Kenyon’s Introduction to Programming class, taught by James Skon, chair of the computer science department at MVNU and a visiting professor of mathematics and statistics at Kenyon. Skon said computer science at the two schools is taught quite differently.
“We’re basically focused on preparing people for careers in computer science or software development, whereas Kenyon is more currently focused on developing computer science as a supporting program with another discipline,” Skon said.
The partnership between Kenyon and MVNU is a long-standing tradition, according to Mel Severns, MVNU registrar and associate professor of education. But the program is not widely advertised, as space is limited to six students per semester, according to Kenyon Registrar Ellen Harbourt.
“We do not promote the program,” she said. The registrar declined to share the names of other students using the partnership, citing the fact that Kenyon does not define this as directory information.
While neither school actively promotes the opportunity, Severns said “the reciprocal agreement does provide an excellent avenue for a student from either institution to learn something their home institution does not offer.”
Skon heard about the cross-registration opportunity when his son, Luke, who graduated from Kenyon in 2013, used it to enroll in computer science courses at MVNU as part of a scientific computing concentration with his physics major. After learning of the program, Skon recommended one of his computer science students enroll in physics courses at Kenyon that were not offered at MVNU; he was also responsible for referring Olivieri to the program.
In the past, students at MVNU and Kenyon have used the partnership to enroll in courses supplementary to, or outside of, their college’s offerings. Severns said MVNU students have previously enrolled in foreign language courses at Kenyon, including Spanish, French and Japanese, that the university did not offer at advanced levels. Harbourt recalled Kenyon students taking computer science, accounting, business finance and anatomy and physiology courses at MVNU.
Olivieri is the only Kenyon student in his class. He encouraged other students to look into the opportunity, saying, “any partnership would have to be entirely good because it’s giving both colleges more options in what they can do.”
Skon felt that the program was beneficial because of the difference in each school’s specialties. “On a practical level, certainly there’s expertise and content that the two schools don’t have in common,” he said. “MVNU has a lot of computer science and business [classes], which Kenyon doesn’t have. At Kenyon there’s a lot of more liberal-arts-oriented majors that MVNU just doesn’t have.”
The benefits of the program go beyond expanded course opportunities. Skon described the two colleges as being “slightly different worlds,” as MVNU is an evangelical institution and the lifestyle of the students is generally very different from that of Kenyon students. He estimated that about half his students were engaged or already married by the time they were in their junior year.
Olivieri is enjoying expanding his worldview, taking Knox Area Transit to his class four times a week and interacting with students on the way.
“I get to talk to people about what funny stories they have, and meet people I never would have otherwise,” he said.