Kenyon College’s is one of the leading private, non-profit liberal arts colleges in the United States. With a student population of approximately 1600 undergraduates and 180 faculty, we have 32 departments and programs across disciplines in Humanistic Studies, the Arts, and the Sciences. Our educational commitments closely dovetail with the Humanities across Borders Manifesto. As we put it, Kenyon’s mission is to “build strong foundations for lives of purpose and consequence. We harness the transformative power of a liberal arts education — engaging in spirited, informed, and collaborative inquiry — to form a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the world and all who inhabit it.”
We, too, believe, as articulated in the HaB manifesto, that academic institutions should reclaim their “rightful civic role and responsibility at the confluence of multiple modes of knowledge.” To this end we also have established an office of “Community Engaged Learning” embedded in the rural and small-town communities that surround us, where our faculty and students learn from community members and also support their endeavors.
For all these reasons and our past participation in HaB projects, Kenyon looks forward to providing a “institutional space” for HaB 2.0 in the next five years—and beyond. We have a designated faculty member—Professor Wendy Singer, the Roy T Wortman Distinguished Professor of History and Director of Asian and Middle East Studies (AMES)—who has already been participating in organizational meetings and planning HaB activities. AMES, in particular, will provide a space on campus for coordinating HaB. For example, in the Fall of 2019, we implemented on Kenyon’s campus a program modeled on the HaB “Reading Leiden,” that introduced international students to the local community to write and talk about it in global terms. This “in situ” learning is one of the advantages of the HaB methodology. Also, in December of 2019, Kenyon collaborated with the International institute for Asian Studies and two other HaB partners—the Madras Institute for Development Studies (MIDS) and Ambedkar University in Delhi to hold a “Writing and Storytelling Workshop” in Chennai, India. Most significantly the workshop brought together a filmmaker, a photographer, and an NGO leader, along with students, at various levels, and academics as both teachers and learners, discussing and writing about issues related to social and economic justice, inequality, and migration.
In the future we expect to continue and expand these programs. Also we have plans to broaden our collaborations. Kenyon’s President, Sean Decatur, met with leaders and Principal Investigators in India in March 2020 and is committed to future cooperation. Learning from our colleagues at Ambedkar University, we would like to explore pop-up neighborhood museums. We can imagine designating courses as part of Humanities Across Borders—base on their resonance with HaB themes and their potential for collaboration. For example, our course on “Corn,” which is indigenous to our area, might work well with HaB courses at other institutions on “rice.” This allows us to invigorate our curriculum and to support colleagues at institutions in India, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and beyond.
Institutionalizing HaB is very important to Kenyon and we have designated incoming provost Jeffrey Bowman (whose tenure begins in July 2020) as the point person in our administration. In fact, as President Decatur sees it, this period of COVID-19 makes deepening our engagement with HaB increasingly imperative. He recognizes that this moment in world history will challenge all institutions and threaten the survival of some. If those of us in the global north can provide needed support for some extraordinary programs and projects that are initiated in Asia and Africa then we can all benefit. Crossing borders in both intellectual thought and geographic distance will be critical for the future of higher education.
Prof. Jeffrey Bowman, Provost
Prof. Wendy Singer, Professor of History and Director of Asian and Middle East Studies (AMES)