Section: Opinion

Find mentors, even in unconventional places

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a day-long celebration of Women in Science, an event put together to honor and celebrate Professor Emerita of Biology Kathryn Edwards before her upcoming retirement. Unfortunately, I never took a class with Dr. Edwards, but attending Saturday’s festivities made clear to me the tremendous and positive impact she has had on Kenyon’s curriculum. I study women’s and gender studies (WGS) and film at Kenyon, something you definitely know about me if we’ve ever spent a minute of time together. I am a creative feminist, not defined entirely by one major or course of study, but by social justice, art, film and education and all of my other passions. As one of the few students at Saturday’s symposium with no formal background in the sciences, I must admit I initially felt out of place. But, as the events began, I was delighted to learn first about the history of women at Kenyon and in Gambier as students, faculty and community members. My presence was quickly validated by Kenyon faculty and students both past and present; every person there was advocating not just for women in science but for women and marginalized communities to continue following their passions.

In just one day I learned a lot about the challenges women faced during the transitional period after Kenyon became a co-ed institution. For instance, many current students may be unaware that from 1969 to 1972, female students at Kenyon technically attended Kenyon’s Coordinate College for Women. It wasn’t until several years after women initially came to campus that Kenyon became officially co-educational. I also learned that it took eight years for a women’s and gender studies class to even be added to the Kenyon curriculum, due to the contentious nature of this field of study and the ingrained patriarchal attitudes of the College. It may be hard for some of us to believe now that the study of women and gender was so controversial at that time, but I will admit that I have grappled with the notion of taking pride in my WGS major.

The celebration on Saturday, however, made me immensely proud to be a women’s and gender studies major. I feel a great amount of gratitude and respect for Dr. Edwards and other faculty and alumni who were in attendance, people who have contributed to making Kenyon — and the world at large — a better place. I especially enjoyed a panel in which alumnae Stephanie Blumer ’98, Susan Hudson ’81, Vani Patibandla ’93 and Karen Scott ’98 discussed building careers in the sciences and the ways their paths took shape. This panel and the day’s events as a whole reminded me of the importance of mentorship and human compassion in all work. Dr. Patibandla talked about building experience in Dr. Edwards’ lab while at Kenyon, getting her DDS from Case Western Reserve University and starting her own dentistry practice. Hudson talked about her path from nursing to midwifery. Blumer shared stories of bringing science teachings to different communities and sharing her knowledge with others. Dr. Scott talked about her journey from becoming an OB/GYN to her current work pursuing epidemiology and reproductive health justice. Meeting a panel of Dr. Edwards’ fierce and talented former students was definitely something I needed as a senior preparing to enter the “real world.” I told the alumnae after the panel how meaningful it was for me, as someone with multiple passions and areas of interest, to hear the ways in which their careers have evolved — to hear them say, keep going.

The concept of imposter syndrome came up several times throughout the day, as women mentioned various moments in life, in school and at work when they faced self-doubt and anxiety surrounding their achievements. It made me think critically about my own reaction to walking into that first lunch on Saturday, intimidated by the many alumni, faculty and STEM students who I was sure were meant to be there in a way that I was not. There is such value in the support that a community or a mentor can give, and I am lucky to have found that here at Kenyon, even in unexpected areas. I would urge anyone struggling with feelings of self-doubt or loneliness in their field to seek out mentorship. Based on my experiences and from what I witnessed this past weekend, I know there are wise and talented people out there excited to help young people achieve great things. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with people who inspire you, even if your experience or major does not align with theirs.   

Emma Klein ’17 is a film and women’s and gender studies major from Arlington, Va. Contact her at

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