Kenyon has received a $100,000 planning grant from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to implement a new first-year seminar that focuses on sense of place and experiential learning. In addition, a portion of the grant will be used to fund faculty development and to further explore a prototype of digital mapping.
The course, called “Life Along the Kokosing,” will bring an intensive interdisciplinary approach to a first-year seminar by looking at specific “artifacts” of the community — Foundation Park, the Kokosing River, a farmers’ co-op and a song written by a minority population in Knox County. The seminar will expose first-year students to many disciplines early in their college careers in a way that incorporates learning outside the classroom. This supports one of the cornerstones of Kenyon 2020, the strategic plan being used to guide Kenyon into the future.
“One of my priorities as president is making sure our students understand how a liberal arts education truly prepares them for life after Kenyon,” said President Sean Decatur. “Funding from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations will help us develop a stronger first-year experience and enhance experiential learning to start students on a pathway to academic success right from the beginning.”
“The grant from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations helps Kenyon put thought leadership into practical, effective action,” said Nancy J. Cable, president of The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. “The first-year seminar emphasizes sense of place, faculty development and a digital mapping prototype, which are new, innovative practices that will help students translate their liberal arts education into a successful post-graduation life.”
The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations is a philanthropic organization dedicated, in part, to providing financial assistance to private higher education institutions that focus primarily on arts and sciences.
Howard Sacks, professor of sociology, developed the class to be interdisciplinary not just for students but also for professors. “This course is going to try to bring together biologists and anthropologists and English faculty and artists and the like to try to figure out Knox County and to see how the perspectives complement one another,” he said.
Sacks designed the course, being offered for the first time this fall, to be modular, so other faculty members can teach it in the future and put together their own artifacts from different disciplines.
Provost Joseph Klesner says that while “Life Along the Kokosing” is not the only first-year seminar at Kenyon, its interdisciplinary approach is unique and something the College will explore further in a faculty workshop next summer. “We expect other faculty will want to develop interdisciplinary courses that might have either experiential learning or something about sense of place or a combination of these elements,” he said.
The final piece of the grant goes toward furthering Kenyon Compass, a digital mapping program that will help students connect their areas of interest with other resources. “Kenyon is a place that is rich in resources for students,” said Ron Griggs, vice president for library and information services, who is spearheading the project. “There are classes. There are organizations and activities. There are jobs and internships. There are people you should meet: alumni, faculty, librarians. Kenyon Compass compiles all of the different things you have available to you as a student.”
For example, students who are interested in public health can see not only courses with a public health component, but also research that faculty members are doing in the area, companies that might offer related internships and alumni who work in the field. In addition, students can save and modify their profiles on the program as their interests change.
A pilot program of Kenyon Compass will debut this fall with further development supported by The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations grant.
Meg Galipault, director of corporate and foundation relations, says she is pleased with the support from The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. “It supports three important projects at Kenyon to inspire teaching and learning.”