Section: News

Yarbrough Fellowship funds young academics

This year, two of Kenyon’s instructors are gaining liberal arts teaching experience while they finish their doctoral research. The Marilyn Yarbrough Dissertation Fellowship allows two scholars in the final stages of their doctorates to teach here at Kenyon. Janelle Gondar and Samina Ali are this year’s fellows.

Eligible candidates for this fellowship must come from underrepresented groups in academia, such as ethnic minorities, first-generation students, people in fields dominated by a gender that is not their own and so on. They must also be pursuing careers in research or teaching, and must be in the final stages of a doctoral program. Each fellow is allowed to teach one course per semester.

According to Ali, there are few programs like this one at small liberal arts colleges. The fellowship is named after the late Marilyn Yarbrough, a legal scholar, Pulitzer Prize Board member, editor of the Black Law Journal, and Kenyon Trustee. This year’s fellows, Gondar and Ali are teaching in the Modern Languages and Literatures and Women’s and Gender Studies departments, respectively. “The Yarbrough fellowship offers … the opportunity to teach courses and design courses based on our research,” Gondar said, “so it helps us figure out a way for our dissertation research to be translated into a full-functioning practical course.”

Gondar is finishing her doctoral program through Yale. Her research focuses on the haiku in Latin America. This semester, she taught Exploring the Japanese Diaspora in Latin America (MLL 191). Next semester, she will teach The Latin American Haiku (SPAN 391). Gondar said that she has found teaching rewarding and finds herself impressed with Kenyon students, also noting that she finds Kenyon’s balance between research and teaching to be a nice mixture. Gondar has also found it beneficial to have another fellow on campus. “It has been nice to have another fellow here [who] is also going through their Ph.D., and we have a camaraderie,” she said of Ali.

Ali is finishing her doctorate at the University of Miami. Her research is focused on post-9/11 literature, examining the way writings by non-Muslims portray Muslim women, and comparing it to writing by Muslim women to see how Islam has recently been gendered and racialized. This semester, she taught Gender, Race and Technology (WGS 491). Next semester she will teach Gender and Spirituality in US Latinx/Caribean Literature (WGS 291).

Ali says that Kenyon’s small class size has been helpful to her development as a teacher. “Getting to know students, you can curate your lesson plan,” she said. This means customizing the course in such a way as to pique student interest and ensure an enriching experience.

Both instructors highlighted Kenyon’s community as a positive component of their time here. “Having the small unit … the close-knit feel of the classroom, where you can really get to know students in depth, and get to know why they came to this school,” Ali said. “What they’re interested in [for] research and beyond the college experience. That’s been really rewarding.”



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