Section: Features

Amid pandemic, several students make the choice to defer

After news broke that upperclass students would be learning remotely this fall, many chose to defer their Kenyon education for a semester. They have used this time to take advantage of learning outside the classroom by taking up jobs and internships, and remaining active members of the Kenyon community through student organizations and research. 

Unwilling to lose the in-person aspect of her education, Mathilde Van Doosselaere ’22 decided to defer for the fall semester. “I’m at a place in my Kenyon journey where I want to spend time there … You go to Kenyon to have an in-person education. It’s so small and intimate,” she said.

Now she is working remotely for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin while spending her deferred semester in New York City, where she has been able to see many of her college friends. “We kind of have our makeshift ‘Kenyon time’ right now,” she said. 

Van Doosseleare has found other ways to remain an active part of the Kenyon community: She is currently doing research with a psychology professor, mentoring for Kenyon’s Beer and Sex program and staying involved with the rugby team. 

Like Van Doosselaere, Brennan Doyle ’21 opted to defer following the announcement that classes would be online. He is currently taking the semester off to work for Our Future Action Fund, where he calls constituents and encourages them to vote in the upcoming presidential election. Although he is not officially enrolled this semester, he has stayed connected to the community: Doyle is living with three Kenyon classmates in Maine and doing research for Associate Professor of Drama Anton Dudley. 

For Doyle, nothing compares to the on-campus experience. “I just don’t really think I can wait a full year to have a college experience again,” he said. Intending to major in both English and drama, he also noted that if in-person classes don’t resume in February, he might have to drop the latter. 

Maggie Bradley ’21 decided to take the fall semester off and graduate in seven semesters. The process involved filling out a form and then getting approval from the administration, which proved to be stressful. Despite applying as soon as the form was made available, Bradley did not receive a decision regarding her petition until a few days before bills were sent out for the fall semester. The slow response led her to contact the Office of Student Accounts to ensure she would not be billed. “It made me feel like the College was not being very receptive to me wanting to take time off and they were just after my money,” Bradley said. 

Noah Donoghue ’21 also petitioned to graduate in seven semesters, but found the process relatively stress-free — his forms took about a week to process. The choice to graduate a semester early means he is unable to do a yearlong independent project for honors in economics, which he had planned on completing while at Kenyon. 

However, deferring a semester opened up a new opportunity for Donoghue by allowing him to work for Costar Group, a real estate tech company. “I feel pretty lucky right now,” he said.“I feel like I’m in a very good place, potentially going to amount to a job after college.” 

Donoghue is also living with a Kenyon classmate and notes that he talks to his college friends every day. 

Katie Stapenhorst ’22 felt that she could only have the same opportunities if she deferred for the semester. Majoring in both dance and international studies, Stapenhorst doesn’t have much leeway in her course schedule. She turned to her professors for guidance, which put everything in perspective.

“For me, the worst that can happen is we don’t go back at all this year, we don’t get that on-campus experience,” Stapenhorst said. “I don’t want to go out into the professional dance world without being able to perform at least one more time at Kenyon.” 

A highlight from her current time off is her ability to take remote dance classes from seasoned professionals around the world. “I’m seeing people that I recognize from Broadway shows doing stuff. I’m seeing people from around the world; they’re doing them in Sydney and the U.S. and Europe and Russia — literally everywhere,” she said.

Those who chose to defer may not be attending Kenyon classes, but these students have certainly continued their educational pursuits in the outside world. They plan on returning to the Hill in the spring with real-world experiences under their belts and a newfound appreciation for the on-campus community.

 

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