Graduating senior suggests 2020 policy initiatives
Having reached my final month as a Kenyon student, I’ve been reflecting more on my time here and about the school’s future after I graduate. Even though I’m leaving, I have a vested interest in what happens here in the next few years — I will have friends at Kenyon graduating as late as 2019 — and in higher education more generally speaking, as my younger brother will be graduating from Indiana University in 2020. My hope is that the best things about this campus that existed when I arrived in 2012 can last into the future as the College adapts to a rapidly changing educational context.
The first major contribution I would like to see from the 2020 Plan is in keeping with the College’s expressed desire to connect students to meaningful academic opportunities separate from Kenyon — such as research — specifically when the College cannot provide those opportunities alone. President Decatur and I agreed that Kenyon’s resources for research are limited in comparison to some other institutions. While it is a worthy goal to connect as many students as are interested to research opportunities, we simply don’t have the faculty or funding to support every student who wishes to pursue independent research projects.
One of my personal experiences could suggest a solution. I spent the summer of 2015 in my hometown of West Lafayette, Ind., where I worked with a professor in the political science department at Purdue University on a project about political engagement in American immigrant communities.
Purdue, a Big Ten school with an extensive set of graduate programs, had a greater capability to connect me to the kind of research I sought, and in a way that I was able to balance my research with my work schedule.
Informed by this advantageous arrangement, I encourage the College to craft partnerships and pathways with larger research universities like Purdue. In this way, students will be able to conduct research elsewherewhen our resource limitations or other financial demands mean that doing so on Kenyon’s campus isn’t feasible, but return to campus with the fruits of their investigations in hand.
I also must stress the necessity of a clear explication of the advantages — technological, logistical or otherwise — of “user-focused” spaces in our future library, as included in the Master Plan. I find this phrasing from the plan fascinating, vague and confusing all at once, and would like to know what reasons other than fitting into a national trend justify them. Libraries, after all, are meant to be repositories of knowledge. Non-collection spaces in a library should be included expressly for the purpose of facilitating the communication of knowledge from one group of students and learners to another, and I don’t think I am alone in being curious as to which purpose they serve where they are present. I don’t necessarily question their usefulness, I would just like to know more.
I think we have a wealth of opportunities before us, and I earnestly wish to see the best of Kenyon continued and magnified in the next half decade. I hope the snapshot I’ve provided about how 2020 looks to me from 2016 is helpful in some small way, even if it only shows how I feel about our potentialities and responsibilities as an academic community.
Alexander Pijanowski ’16 is a political science and Spanish literature major from West Lafayette, Ind. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.