by Lauren Eller
Though Kenyon prides itself in being a top educational institution, a seminar on postmodern literature may not prepare students for the realities of adult life. “I feel like Kenyon’s classes tend to lean more towards the academic side,” McKenna Trimble ’18, who is also a Collegian designer, said. “From what I’ve looked at … there’s not a lot of classes that specifically provide real-world applications.”
Dean of Academic Advising and Support Hoi Ning Ngai said that Kenyon does not really have classes that provide explicit life skills outside of academia.
“I’m not aware of many [such classes],” she said.
She mentioned that there is at least one class specifically that offers life skills and is taught by Ted Mason, professor of English. “Ted Mason does a Doing the Work class so that class is more about productivity,” she said.
Ngai also began a series of sessions last year that focused on providing students with the opportunity to learn skills they were interested in.
“Last year when I started thinking about it, it was mainly because there were things that … Kenyon students, [and] many of us even, didn’t know how to do, like dealing with finances, like changing a flat tire.”
Last year’s pilot, Life Skills 101, was a series of sessions designed to supplement the Kenyon academic experience. Of the sessions offered last year, the personal finance events witnessed the highest number of attendees, according to Ngai. She and a few others noticed that seemed to be the most popular topic, and so recently hosted a session this year addressing financial literacy.
“We took the sessions that had high volume and high interest and tried to replicate it,” she said. “Finances was certainly one that was well-received last year.” She added that about 30 people attended the latest talk.
“Some of them [were] very specific in nature,” Ngai added, referring to topics ranging from how to use summer break wisely to how to change a flat tire.
Luke Kresslein ’15 pointed out that the definition of “real-world” is subject to the needs of individual students.
“I mean, it depends on what you mean for real-world,” he said. “I want to go to grad school in … the biological sciences, and so a lot of my classes in the sciences have been very preparatory; they teach you techniques, what’s currently being used in the field.”
According to Ngai, Kenyon may be lacking in its ability to provide students what some might call “real world” skills, but other venues such as Ngai’s own programs provide opportunities for students to acquire them outside the classroom.