Jenna Rochelle ’18, an anthropology major from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Mustafa Aziz ’19, a philosophy major from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, have already proven their excellence in the classroom. But for these newly minted recipients of the Franklin Miller Award, the classwork is far from over. Rochelle and Aziz each plan to build upon their Kenyon education by pursuing doctorate degrees.
The Franklin Miller Award is presented each semester to students whose academic efforts and ingenuity have made a difference in the Kenyon community. Established by Edward T. “Chip” Ordman ’64, the award pays homage to the late Professor Emeritus of Physics Franklin Miller Jr, who passed away in 2012 at the age of 100.
Rochelle was nominated for the award by Associate Professor of Anthropology Sam Pack and J. Kenneth Smail Professor of Anthropology Ed Schortman for her influential anthropology honors thesis. Rochelle’s project, “Born with a Plastic Spoon in Mouth: Food in the Experience of Low-Income Kenyon Students,” seeks to “critically analyze the inclusiveness of Kenyon’s community, particularly the experiences of low-income students,” in part through student perceptions of food in Peirce Hall and other Gambier dining establishments. Food, particularly at Kenyon, is a natural lens for class analysis, Rochelle argued.
“Because food is so normal and everyday, we don’t really realize how powerful it is. Here, everyone has access to the same food, but the way we experience it is very different. The difference in class is apparent in how you talk about the food and what you think about the food. But only people from low-income backgrounds really realize that difference,” she explained.
Rochelle’s work has been lauded by professors, students and other members of the Kenyon community.
“What I appreciate about Jenna’s work is that it transcends typical academic scholarship. It’s a topical and timely conversation, and ultimately she offers very specific prescriptions that aren’t just pipe dreams, but actually doable. She’s making a meaningful contribution to the wider Kenyon culture,” Pack said.
Rochelle, who also received the Margaret Mead Award in Anthropology and the Middle Path Partnership Award for Community Service, appreciates the recognition and response her work has garnered. “Because I’m nearing the end of my senior year, I thought I wouldn’t quite see the impact that I was having on Kenyon. It’s definitely rewarding,” she said.
Rochelle ultimately hopes to continue her research on low-income students in higher education with a doctorate in education policy.
Aziz was nominated by Associate Professor of Classics Zoë Kontes for his exceptional work in her “Elementary Latin” course. He began studying Latin last semester to enrich his studies of early medieval Western philosophy, a tradition that was largely documented in Latin.
“The prime reason I developed an inclination to study Latin was so that I could make the corpus of medieval philosophical and theological works immediately accessible. In many ways it is the fundamental language, the lingua franca, of the Western intellectual tradition,”Aziz explained. “It’s a key, as it were, that opens a whole treasure of intellectual history and heritage.”
“Mustafa is, as another student labeled him, ‘the heart and soul’ of our class,” Kontes said. “Even though this is an elementary Latin class, dealing with the nuts and bolts of the language, Mustafa has a certain gravitas in class which raises the level of study and discourse for us all. Mustafa demonstrates that Latin is not just a hurdle to overcome in the form of a language requirement, but a stepping stone to revealing a great world of interdisciplinary scholarship.”
Aziz is also interested by the many works of medieval Muslim philosophy that were translated into Latin from Arabic. He is eager to continue his Latin studies next year as preparation for an eventual doctorate in philosophy with a focus on the history of philosophy.
Aziz has enjoyed leafing through Descartes’ “Meditations” in its original Latin. His favorite Latin quote is perhaps an apt summation of his studies thus far: “philosophia est ars vitae.” Philosophy is the art of life.
For their outstanding contributions to the academic environment of the College, Rochelle and Aziz will each receive a $250 Kenyon Bookstore credit.
—Ben Hunkler ’20