Students address reducing carbon emissions, resettling refugees and prison reform with innovative solutions.
A team of four students is creating an app that will connect refugees to resources in their new communities and ease the workload on overburdened refugee-support organizations. Called DOXA after the Greek word for “opinion,” the app combines ideas behind popular apps like Coffee Meets Bagel and Coursera to create a centralized place where refugees can share their professional skills and learn about skills sought after by employers.
“Giving refugees a space to be part of a political community where they can show themselves and be heard is something we found to be really important,” said Jae June Lee ’17, a philosophy major from Cape Town, South Africa, who received funding from Davis Projects for Peace to Lee and his classmates, who plotted out the project over daily meals in Peirce Dining Hall, were chosen from a pool of 50,000 teams worldwide to compete for the Hult Prize, awarded to student startups that are tackling global issues.
Since graduating, the teammates have landed jobs at places like the Federal Reserve Board and JP Morgan Chase, but they continue to develop the app, which is being tested by a refugee agency in Columbus, Ohio.
When Kenyon pledged to achieve a net zero carbon footprint by 2040, three students went to work tracking how much energy it takes to run the College during the course of a year. They collected thousands of gas station receipts, air travel documents and electricity bills to gather data on things like employees’ commutes, students’ trips home on breaks and overseas for study-abroad programs, and power consumed by campus buildings.
“No one had ever broken down the carbon footprint of Kenyon before,” said Dani Huffman ’19, an environmental studies major from Granville, Ohio.
Huffman and her fellow interns in Kenyon's Office of Green Initiatives plugged their findings into software maintained by the University of New Hampshire that calculated how much carbon was emitted by one gallon of gas, one mile of air travel and so on. Their data showed that Kenyon’s biggest source of carbon emission is purchased electricity, accounting for 60 percent of the College’s carbon impact in 2015.
Huffman cited this data when proposing the installation of a solar panel system on campus as part of a physics course on solar power generation. The research she conducted with her classmates led to the installation of a system in Gambier — the second of its kind at Kenyon. A dozen more are being planned for students to install during the next eight years.
The Bard Prison Initiative, which allows incarcerated men and women to earn a degree from Bard College, inspired Maya Street-Sachs ’17 to start a similar program at Kenyon. “I knew that Kenyon could bring a liberal arts education behind bars,” she said.
The sociology major from New York City secured funding support as a Kenyon Summer Scholar to dig into the research on how educating prisoners reduces recidivism and increases their chances at post-release employment. She also enlisted the help of sociology and English professors Jennifer Johnson and Kathleen Fernando to make her plan a reality. Her work led to the College’s membership in the national Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program and the creation of a pilot course at Kenyon. In the fall of 2018, Fernando will teach 10 inmates and 10 Kenyon students at the Richland Correctional Institution in Mansfield, Ohio. The course, called “In Transit,” will focus in their lives.