Students Interview 99-year-old Genevan – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Students Interview 99-year-old Genevan

For three Hobart seniors, a community-based research course became a very personal learning experience. Rashaun Moore ’13, Thomas Michaud ’13 and Nick Alexander ’13 interviewed 99-year-old Geneva resident John Kenney for their social justice studies course. The interview was part of a class project to discuss race relations in Geneva, “One Great City Storytelling Project: Stories About Race.”

The students gained a deeper understanding of the history of Geneva as Kenney described an integrated neighborhood growing up in the Depression Era. “You have preconceived notions of people and race relations,” says Michaud, “but this project really opens your eyes.”

After talking to Kenney about race relations over the past decades, Alexander says, “We can see what has changed over time, and what we can still change.”

“It was a special opportunity for these students to interview someone whose family has been a part of the Geneva community for so long,” says Margueritte Murphy, acting chair of Writing and Rhetoric who is teaching the Introduction to the Scholarship of Engagement course this semester.

Members of the Kenney family have resided in Geneva since the early 19th century, and have often been featured by various historians. The idea of talking to Kenney “was nerve-racking at first,” says Alexander, although it was soon obvious that the 99-year-old Geneva resident had “stories for days.”

Murphy explains that the project is intended to “introduce students to doing research in the community” and is in conjunction with the Geneva Human Rights Commission’s role in working on the Community Compact.

This course has been a valuable learning experience for these students, as well as for the community as a whole. “After interviewing people like Mr. Kenney, I have a greater appreciation for Geneva,” says Michaud.

The raw footage from all of the students’ interviews will be saved and archived by the Human Rights Commission as part of their local and oral history of Geneva. Edited versions of the interviews were showcased at the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning’s annual Community Engaged Scholarship Forum, on May 7.