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Kalamazoo College

Haley Wentz

American Studies

Hometown: Minot, ND
Major: English: Literary and Cultural Studies
Concentration: American Studies
Study Abroad: Copenhagen, Denmark
Best Adjective to Describe You: Cheerful

In 20 words or less, what is the best thing about being part of this department?
American Studies, like K as a whole, targets both depth and breadth. The focus on cross-departmental education is what truly individualizes this department.

What is your advice to first years and sophomores about getting connected to this department?
“American Studies” is a rather ambiguous term, and to be completely honest I did not even know it existed until my sophomore year. My biggest piece of advice would be to look at your classes and see if they are cross-listed with American Studies, because many of them are! If you start to notice a pattern, one or two of your classes each quarter are cross-listed with American Studies, reach out to myself, your advisor, or the chair of the American Studies department, and we’ll be more than happy to outline what an American Studies concentration could mean for you and more so, what it could do for you!

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned at K?
How many people there are on campus who truly want you to succeed. My first-year seminar professor made it a point to get all of us into her office several times during our first quarter and connect with us on a level far deeper than academics. I will never forget that feeling of compassion and support, a feeling that has only grown during my time at K. I have encountered this same feeling of nurturing and caring everywhere on this campus, from the personnel at the CIP and CCPD to the staff and faculty across all academic departments, from people in the library and Writing Center to admissions officers and administration, everyone is passionate about their job and so willing to go above and beyond to help us students. The best part? I’ve also come to learn that this is true with the friends I’ve made here at K; my college friends are the most amazing people I have ever met and help me to thrive both inside and outside of the classroom.

What has been your favorite class at K?  Why?
I took Victorian America, a history class with Dr. Boyer Lewis, completely on a whim the spring of my sophomore year. Surprisingly enough it was this spontaneously selected class that has had the most serious impact on me. It was this class that connected me with the American Studies program, which laid the foundation for my SIP, that inspired my topic for my independent research project I did while studying abroad. I had never taken a class that was simultaneously so informative, but also so applicable. While I had always known what a liberal arts education entailed, it was not until this class that I truly felt I was experiencing the magic that is a liberal arts education. Victorian America has been the core of my K College experience for the past year and a half.

How have you taken advantage of the open curriculum/experienced breadth in your education?
The more classes I take outside of my major and concentration, the more I find myself learning things that prove beneficial for my major and concentration. Different points of view, different ways of thinking, even different professors and sets of students have helped me to become more informed and engaged with my areas of study and the content I am most passionate about. 

What experiential education opportunities have you participated in?
I took a class called “Global Shakespeares” and for the service learning component we went into the English classes at the Kalamazoo Juvenile Home and taught “Othello” to the students there.  Additionally, the CCPD has given me two incredible internship opportunities. I interned at the Society for History and Racial Equity (SHARE) and with a fashion blogger and founder of a small-business marketing agency in Minneapolis. 

What is your SIP?
I would like to explore ways in which fashion has been a feminist force and platform for advancing the agendas of feminism throughout American history. I would like to specifically analyze different publications such as, literature, magazines, etc. and see specifically how fashion as an avenue for promoting feminism is depicted in written formats. Examining strong examples of Americana literature I will examine how time period and the author’s gender and history play into creating and developing the fashion of their female characters and how those fashion choices are received by other characters. Using the feminist lens throughout my SIP I hope to trace female fashion and its perception all through American history.

What are your career aspirations/next steps after K?
I will be attending law school in the fall of 2018 and I intend to become a family attorney. 

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