An Interview On
Kenyon College

Background

Interview Date:January 2019

Gender Identity: Transgender Male
Race/Ethnicity: White
Graduation Year: December 2020
Sexual Orientation: Pansexual
High School Experience: Private school in Seattle, WA with a graduating class of about 60 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Math
Minor: None
Extracurricular Activities: [I have leadership roles in] Men’s Rugby and the Gender Group. I attend the Queer Masculinities Society and QDubs. QDubs is for everybody who is not a cisgender male.

Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
Rugby and the Trans Group are the two biggest things I do. The Trans Group was big for me when I came to college just because it’s nice to have a space for just being around other trans people. Rugby is a big part of my life because that’s where I met a lot of my friends. It’s a big fun community.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for Math?
You usually have problem sets due at least once a week, if not more than once per week. In a class I’m in this semester I have a problem set due Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. In the upper-level math classes you take a Depth Requirement, and for those you have to write mathematical papers. Coursework is pretty difficult in the math major. You have a lot of consistent work.

How does Kenyon’s focus on writing impact your coursework for Math?
The Math department definitely teaches you how to write mathematically. I wrote my first math paper when I was in the calculus sequence, so they start you pretty early on. Even though you’re doing a lot of problem sets, you’re also doing a lot of writing.

Is there anything that you feel the Math department does especially well or especially poorly?
I think the Math department is really good at courting students and encouraging them to pursue mathematics. I also think they’re particularly good at being available to students. All of my professors are really consistent in being available. There’s a community in the Math major in which we’re all taught to be very collaborative with each other. That’s something the professors really encourage, and I haven’t found that [level of encouragement] in a lot of other subjects.

What has been your favorite class in your major?
I don’t know if this counts as being towards my major, but I took a Math-Art class that I really enjoyed. I took it my freshman year and they had never offered it before. It was taught by an Art professor and a Math professor. It was about how in art there is inherent mathematics, we then learned what that math was and made that type of art.

Why did you choose your major? And are you happy with your choice?
When I started as a freshman, I ended up with an advisor who was a Math professor and she really encouraged me to take Calculus I. Then my calculus professor offered me the opportunity to do research over the summer at the end of my time taking Calculus I with her. After I had done that research I thought it made sense to keep doing it. I also really enjoy being in Math classes, so I wanted to keep doing it.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: McBride Hall with one roommate
Sophomore: Old Kenyon with one roommate
Junior: Unity House, which is the LGBTQ affinity house. I have a single room and I live with seven other housemates.

What has been your favorite living situation?
Definitely this year. I liked living in Old Kenyon because I really liked my roommate, but I really like having a single. I also like the Unity House because the location is very central.

How was transitioning from your hometown in Seattle to Gambier, Ohio?
It was interesting. I feel like I didn’t have as difficult of a time as people thought I was going to have. When people heard I was going somewhere so rural they were very concerned. I’ve found it to be pretty easy. I miss Seattle sometimes and I miss being in a city sometimes, but I kind of like being in a rural place. I like being able to focus on academics. I also like how the party culture has to be self-involved at Kenyon because there are no clubs or bars in Gambier. I like it because you have to make it for yourself, and I think that makes it so people are more likely to be close to each other.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
It’s hard for me to talk about that without talking about being trans, so I’m going to do that [laughs]. There are a lot of resources for us and people are very willing to look out for each other. If someone sees someone who is not in a situation that doesn’t look safe, they are willing to step up. One thing in terms of safety that I don’t love is that it can get really cold and wet things will ice over. The paths are pretty dangerous because people will slip and fall pretty hard. I’ve wiped out and a lot of my friends have wiped out. In terms of feeling safe in the community, I think we have a pretty high level of safety here and I feel looked out for.

Pros and cons of being located in Gambier, Ohio?
Pros:
1) Everybody’s really close to each other. If you want to go see a friend who lives in a different part of campus, it’s not a big deal.
2) You can focus more on your schoolwork because there’s not as much crazy city stuff going on.

Cons:
1) There’s not a lot to do, especially if you don’t have a car. During my first year, I had big feelings of isolation on campus because I couldn’t leave and I didn’t feel like I could do anything.
2) There are not a lot of food options.

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
Frats and sororities will sometimes throw all-campus parties. I went to those a lot my first year, but now I much prefer to hang out with my friends, go to a small house party or rugby party, or just do things that are more insular.

What nights of the week do you regularly go out?
Friday and Saturday usually.

What’s an alternative to going to a party on campus that you like for a night out?
A couple of times some friends and I have gone to gay clubs in Columbus which is fun. That’s hard to do because you’re committing to staying the night there it can be hard to get work done the next day. I usually don’t leave campus, but sometimes I’ll go on trips with friends to Chicago or Columbus if I really need to get out of Dodge.

How has identifying as LGBT+ influenced your nightlife experience?
One of the reasons I don’t like going to all-campuses or formals is that I am more worried about safety, especially being trans. When I go to those things I go with people who will stand up for me if something bad happens or will leave with me if I’m scared. Luckily, I have a lot of friends who I can put in the category of being safe people to be with. I general, I’d just say you’re more worried about your safety than you would be if you were cisgender.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Kenyon? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I think it would be fun if we had more bars or places where people could hang out and not have a really hype party. Also, not having parties at peoples’ houses would be nice because clean-up is not fun for those people.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I met them freshman year and we’ve continued to be friends. I met them all circumstantially. I also have really close friends from rugby and a lot of other really close friends that I’ve met in the LGBTQ community. The LGBTQ community at Kenyon is pretty small because Kenyon is pretty small, so we all know each other. A lot of my friends in the LGBTQ community I met because I knew one person and they introduced me to another.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Kenyon?
It can be really cliquey. Kenyon’s really small, so there are times when I’m walking around and I feel like I know everybody and that can be annoying because you can’t be anonymous. I also think that there are people who do feel anonymous here and they feel really isolated because everybody has their group that they’re a part of, and if you’re not a part of that you feel like you don’t have anything. People at Kenyon area really nice but awkward. It’s not that they don’t want to be friends with you, it’s just that people are afraid of social interaction with people they don’t know very well. I don’t think Kenyon students are mean, it’s just that we’re all a little socially awkward.

How would you describe the student body?
Everybody is really smart. I’ve had really great intelligent conversations with so many people here. People are really kind and like being around other nice people, they’ll open the door for you and be courteous and kind. A lot of Kenyon students are invested in having a civil dialogue about sometimes difficult issues, and that’s been a cool thing to see. I like the people at Kenyon, I wouldn’t stay here if I didn’t. [The undergraduate population is about 1,650 students.]

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I have a pretty diverse group of friends, but I would say that things are often very polarized in terms of race and not as much in terms of sexuality and gender. I think people are friends with a lot of people from different backgrounds in regards to race and ethnicity. In terms of race, I think things are pretty stratified especially because Kenyon doesn’t have a lot of people of color. For me, it has been important to have friends who are both cisgender and transgender because, if I didn’t have friends who were also trans it would be hard to feel like people understood me. [About 18% of Kenyon’s student body is a domestic student of color.]

How has the size of your school influenced your social experience? [Kenyon has about 1,650 students.]
I sometimes wish I went to a bigger school. When I was in high school I was always told that you can make a big school small but you can’t make a small school big, and I’ve definitely felt that here because you can’t feel anonymous. You got to the dining hall and you’re going to see someone you know, it’s just inevitable. There are times when I really like that, and then there are times when I want to not be on all of the time.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
I haven’t really used the alumni network because I’m looking for very specific types of internships in Seattle. When I looked at the alumni network, I didn’t find any doing the thing I want to do in Seattle, so I’ll just have to look for it through other avenues.

What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I went to see them to ask about applying to internships. They were pretty helpful. They gave me some tools to network and to talk to people about the careers that they have.

Have you learned any computer programs or computer languages that have been or will be especially helpful professionally?
I’ve learned RStudio and C++. I’m not very good at them but I have used them. I also learned LaTex, which is a mathematical writing software. All of those programs have been really useful for my Math major and I know a lot of places require you for you to know them for math-related jobs.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about your school before you entered as a freshman?
People want to help you more than you think they do. It’s really important to ask for help because it’s surprising how much help you can get. I also wish I knew that the counseling office is not great. It’s not as good as they say it is. They don’t have enough resources for mental health on campus. [See Kenyon Thrill article, “An Open Letter to Kenyon: On Being an ‘Inadequate’ Performer of Mental Illness.” See Kenyon Collegian articles, “Destigmatizing mental health issues,” and “College has duty to provide timely mental health care.”]

What is something a prospective transgender student should know that we haven’t touched on?
If people are mean to you, there are a ton of people on campus who can help you. You can go to the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and figure out to make things better for yourself here because there are people whose job it is to make things better for you.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Look at the stars at night.

Reason to attend Kenyon:
1) If you want to heavily focus on your academics.
2) If you want to be supported in your academic endeavors.
3) If you want your social life to dictate what your party life is going to be like. [Your party life will revolve around what you and your friends decide to do.]
4) If you want a really strong community.

Reason to not attend Kenyon:
1) If you’re invested in being able to live in a more real-world situation with a lot of things going on.
2) The tuition is expensive, [so there are a lot of wealthy students]. Don’t come if you don’t want to be around that. [Kenyon costs about $54,000 for two semesters of tuition, not including room, board, etc. Socioeconomically, 75% of Kenyon students come from families in the top 20%, and the median family income is $213,000.]

Notice: Kenyon College is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Kenyon College.

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