The years 2020 and 2021 have been extremely challenging for Kenyon, with the COVID-19 crisis bringing unprecedented financial challenges for the institution and members of the College community, significant disruption of the residential experience, and the need to pivot rapidly to new pedagogical approaches. Fortunately, this crisis came at a moment when Kenyon was at a historical high point in terms of institutional strength.
Kenyon attracts an application pool that is large and strong, both in its academic quality and diversity (and this has been a product of strategic investment in pool development over the past decade). Moreover, a recent branding study by the firm SimpsonScarborough found that prospective students and families associate Kenyon with a strong reputation in writing, close faculty mentorship of students and a tight-knit campus community positioned on a beautiful campus; these strong brand pillars give us a firm foundation upon which to build. Student achievements in national fellowship competitions, placements in major voluntary programs such as the Peace Corps and Teach for America, and success in graduate and professional school applications all attest to the student body’s strength.
Kenyon continues to attract accomplished scholars who make teaching their first priority and gives them the resources to be successful in both endeavors. Members of our faculty successfully compete for national grants and fellowships (including National Science Foundation CAREER awards, Fulbright Fellowships and National Endowment for Humanities awards) and publish regularly. In addition, faculty members have doubled down on teaching by embracing new pedagogies and the College’s own Center for Innovative Pedagogy. Kenyon’s staff brings first-rate academic preparation, years of experience working with students in residential environments and a deep loyalty to the institution. The close working relationships built by both faculty and staff with Kenyon students and their consequences for their lives after college have been lauded by students and their families for generations.
In addressing the pressing problems facing the world today, the tools of a liberal arts education are needed more than ever. Kenyon’s commitment to scientific inquiry, deep reading and analysis, excellence in writing and communicating in all forms, and public engagement are essential for this time in world history. The close interactions that we build within the Kenyon community — both here in Gambier and out in the world — stem from a kind of education that draws from different disciplines and experiences, preparing our students for a life of purpose.
Many institutions in Kenyon’s peer group struggle to articulate distinct programmatic elements. Kenyon benefits from a trio of independent partner organizations (the Kenyon Review, the Gund Gallery and the Philander Chase Conservancy) that are truly unique. The Kenyon Review, an internationally renowned literary journal, enhances Kenyon’s reputation as a writing college; the Philander Chase Conservancy is the only land-trust located in a liberal arts college and embodies our commitment to stewardship of the natural environment; and the Gund Gallery integrates an outstanding contemporary art collection into the curricular and co-curricular life of the College. All of these organizations offer professional experiences to our students during the academic year, and the Kenyon Review’s programming for high school students boosts the College’s recruitment efforts. Beyond these, the College has other areas of programmatic excellence that historically have received less attention, including the strong track record of producing science graduates who go on to complete advanced academic work, impressive recent successes in institutional and individual funding from external sources (such as the National Science Foundation and Howard Hughes Medical Institute), and a thriving Center for the Study of American Democracy, which models rigorous discourse across political difference.
Kenyon is routinely included on national and international lists of the most beautiful college campuses, and this distinction is well-deserved. Over the past 20 years, more than $250 million has been invested in campus infrastructure, from the Science Quad to the Lowry Center to new facilities for the visual arts. The new Chalmers Library, anchoring a new academic quad, will continue this improvement of campus infrastructure. And, a recent commitment of $100 million towards the construction of three new residence halls will accelerate our efforts to improve our housing facilities. All of this work has been done following a well-conceived campus master plan. In addition, the work of the Philander Chase Conservancy over the course of the past 20 years has helped to preserve the rural character of the campus surroundings as well as to support the development of the Brown Family Environmental Center and Kenyon Farm, resources that connect the surrounding environment to the curricular and co-curricular work of the institution. All of this has created a strong “sense of place” at Kenyon, a campus environment that helps to forge community connections among students, faculty and staff, as well as an attractor to prospective students.
Kenyon alumni and families of current and former students, distinguished as leaders in their communities around the country and the world, form a strong group of loyal volunteers who mentor our students, provide a network for career initiation and advancement, collaborate with faculty, and support the College with their philanthropy.
Kenyon has worked to strengthen connections with the local area on many levels of its operations. Our local foods program is a cornerstone of our dining operations, anchored in direct partnerships with local farmers. The Office of Community Partnerships connects students and faculty to project opportunities in local organizations, businesses and government. And direct person-to-person collaboration and contact leads to meaningful discussions across social, political and cultural divides at a moment when political polarization is all too common in our society.