Assistant Professor of English Piers Brown just moved from a dim office at the end of a narrow Sunset Cottage hallway into an open, sunlit office in the newest academic building on campus.
He and 14 other English faculty members now occupy a spacious and fully accessible building next to Lentz House where every office, even those on the ground floor, benefits from natural light.
“In my introductory class, we do poetry tutorials, and it will be great to have a space where we can do that in an intimate setting that’s comfortable,” Brown said. “My new office will fit three students and me. That’s the ideal number because that size allows people to feel more comfortable about talking and offering their observations.”
Professor of English Jim Carson has had three offices since he came to Kenyon in 1988, all in historic buildings such as Sunset.
“What’s nice about this new building is that it has all the advantages of us being housed together in a modern institutional building and yet it keeps the advantages and the feel of the small scale cottage buildings that I’ve been in,” Carson said.
This building, soon to be followed by a classroom building next door, is the first completed space in the West Quad project. Kenyon is constructing a hub of interdisciplinary and innovative spaces that will include the Kenyon Commons library; a social sciences building with offices and seminar rooms; and an admissions and financial aid center that will welcome visitors to campus. Moving parking underneath the quad will mean new green space on the western side of campus.
Kenyon’s renowned English program now has a concentrated footprint: the new buildings join Lentz on the south side of Wiggin Street, while Finn House, the home of the Kenyon Review, sits just north of Wiggin. The new classroom building will also house three offices. Two are for the Kenyon Review Fellows, emerging authors who come to campus for two years to teach one Kenyon class per semester, assist with projects at the Review and work on their own writing project.
Associate Professor of English Jené Schoenfeld, chair of the department, said, “I’m excited that we’ll be more neighborly than we could be when offices were in Sunset. I could probably yell out my window at someone in the new building. I love that I will be able to pop over to ask them a question the way I can talk to people down the hall from me in Lentz now.”
The two seminar rooms in the second new English building should be completed by November and available for classes in January 2019. Its brick-walled design mimics the early 20th-century version of Sunset, before two wings were added. The College plans to preserve Sunset for a future as-yet-undetermined use.
“While we will miss the historic building of Sunset, we love having an up-to-date, comfortable space. We can be more intentional about how we interact with students,” Schoenfeld said. “Students really hang out in Lentz. It’s a space for them to study and talk. I hope that will be true in the two new English buildings as well.”
The English department has 26 faculty and graduates an average of 68 majors per year.
“From a recruitment standpoint, it will be nice to show people these new spaces,” Schoenfeld said. “The College is showing its commitment to the English department, to its strength and to its growth. English departments at other institutions are struggling, but Kenyon remains a place where the English discipline is central to the life of the College.”