Section: Opinion

At Kenyon, high-impact programs can be hard to access

At Kenyon, high-impact programs can be hard to access

Illustration by Henry Uhrik '18

Over break, my mom and I had a long conversation about off-campus study that included many uses of the word “fluffing.” For those not familiar, my mother’s definition of a “fluffy” study-abroad program involves a large amount of stumbling down twisting cobblestone streets singing along to Justin Bieber, cork-wedge shoes in hand. She knows me too well, because as much as I tried to deny it, my idea of off-campus study certainly didn’t not include that.

As we kept talking, though, I started to agree with her about the purpose of my OCS experience. (Lorelai Gilmore she is not, but she makes some excellent points.) Submitting an OCS application is a huge effort just to go do some glorified relaxing. This process made me evaluate my education at Kenyon. As much as I love the College, due to its location and size, curriculum and opportunities are limited here. That’s fine if your plans include heading to graduate school immediately after graduation, but I’m not totally down for that track until I’m completely sure what I want to pursue — particularly due to the enormous investment of money and time involved in acquiring an advanced degree.

As a result of that realization, I began the process with an eye toward OCS experiential-learning programs. I chose a semester at American University in Washington, D.C., which was advertised to me at the Center for Global Engagement’s OCS fair. At my initial study-abroad meeting, I was immediately told the program would not be accepted for Kenyon credit due to its perceived “pre-professional” focus, mostly a result of the internship placement at a news organization three days per week.

That was odd, because one of the foundational pedagogic changes in Kenyon’s strategic 2020 Plan is a new focus on “high-impact experiences,” or “extended, intensive opportunities for students to apply their studies as they complete their majors,” according to the plan’s web page. This particular program seemed like a perfect manifestation of that goal, due to the high level of support and training I would receive as a result of my academic experience in conjunction with the internship. A  process of petitioning followed, and I submitted a preliminary proposal to the English department. While it was challenging to keep it all straight and keep the requisite departments in the same loop, I found those within the English department and the Committee on Academic Standards to be refreshingly open to the idea, but received push back on the proposal from those in the OCS office and the registrar. Like other sophomores, I have yet to hear the result of my OCS proposal.

This experience makes me wonder about the implementation of the 2020 Plan and who has jurisdiction over its stated goals. Is it fair for students who will have graduated not to be able to take part in the new model, which tends to reflect the current function of the liberal arts college? I hope these questions will be answered, and soon.

Gabrielle Healy ’18 is an English major from Fairhaven, Mass. Contact her at healyg@kenyon.edu.

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