Since 1995, Bookstore Sales Floor Supervisor/Apparel Buyer Heather Petersen knew that she would end up as part of the Kenyon community. The time in question was when her parents moved to Apple Valley, while she stayed in Boise, Idaho and visited about twice a year. It was on one of those visits that her parents first brought her to the Kenyon Bookstore. After that, she sought opportunities to go back as often as possible.
“We’d be in Columbus, driving back to their house in Apple Valley from the airport, and I’d be asking them, ‘When are we going to the Bookstore?’ So when the position became available, I applied, and I just thought, ‘Maybe this is my chance.’” That was in 2015. Since then, Petersen has been handling sales, working with other Kenyon employees and taking the time to get to know many of the customers. “She’s kind of like a Bookstore angel, or a fairy godmother,” Teddy Hannah-Drullard ’20 said.
Since she was hired, Petersen has taken on a number of other roles at Kenyon. Many students know Petersen as a DJ for WKCO, Kenyon’s student-run radio station. She hosts a weekly show called Revolution Rock, featuring some of her favorite bands from the 1990s, when she was living in the Pacific Northwest during its musical heyday. Petersen also plays a live set at WKCO Fest each year with her brother, Eric. Outside of her musical pursuits, she is an avid aromatherapist; she has offered on-campus workshops and often sells homemade essential oils at the Weather Vane in downtown Gambier. Last month, Petersen also hosted an event with the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Mount Vernon where she explained the uses and misuses of aromatherapy.
“Aromatherapy is about art,” she said. “It’s about an ancient art and knowledge about how to go about it.”
More recently, Petersen has her eyes set on a new endeavor—serving as a campus mediator.
“We have incredible opportunities to learn from each other in the midst of differences that we may have,” Petersen said. “So to me, campus mediating is inviting two people to have that conversation that [they] may not know exactly how to start because of those differences.” Petersen, who completed mediator training three weeks ago, noted that she had often found herself serving as an unofficial mediator in various situations, so this felt like a natural position for her to take on.
Petersen also serves on Kenyon’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee, overseen by Assistant Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Timothy Bussey, and is trying to connect Unity House with students at Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU). Petersen described this work as very satisfying because it gives her the opportunity to build a community across colleges. LGBTQ+ students at Mount Vernon Nazarene are unable to form a recognized group and reserve spaces on their own campus, which makes it particularly challenging for them to meet. Petersen believes that bringing MVNU students to Unity will help them create a less restrictive setting for discussing LBTQ+ issues.
“Working with her this year has been a blast, since her passion is infectious and she has a knack for gently encouraging me to be my best self,” said Hannah-Drullard, who is one of Unity’s managers. Petersen, who previously worked for the University’s Schnormeier Art Gallery at the Buchwald Center in Mount Vernon, noted that although Kenyon and MVNU students may have different backgrounds, “your hearts are pretty similar. You’re all figuring out who you are and are constantly balancing things.”
Both on and off campus, Petersen’s main priority is fostering community. “We hear the word thrown all around, but what does it really mean—what can it mean?” she said. “Those are the things I’m really interested in talking about right now.”