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Kalamazoo College

Leland Merrill

Anthropology and Sociology

Farmington Hills, MI
Anthropology & Sociology
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Zingerman's Burnt Sugar
Best Adjective to Describe You:

In 15 words or less, why should a student want to be involved in this department?
If you have ever found society questionable, Anso will deepen your passion to keep investigating.

What initially drew you to this department?  What keeps you coming back?
I was drawn to the Anso department because in class, I was rarely given a concrete answer; every subject was left to critical analysis and creative, constructive debate. The regular sensation of personal and intellectual growth, however small or large, after leaving a class is what keeps me coming back.

What’s your biggest piece of advice to first years and sophomores in this department?
Embrace the conversations that make you uncomfortable. Before you defend a point, first listen to what others are saying, and then question why you feel defensive. Reflect on that. If you find a conversation or article fascinating, ask yourself why, and trust that what you’re interested in is worth studying.

How does your department connect to your other interests and activities?
My favorite part of every quarter without fail is when all of my classes somehow intersect. Yet this is not surprising, seeing as Anso classes usually cover many applicable and relative topics of the world (i.e.: race, gender, class, social value, etc.…). Being an Anso major means gaining the ability to think critically about your positionality within all contexts, not just in the classroom. Of course classroom discussions and lectures function as the necessary backbone for research and papers, but I always find them magically connecting to my poetry, where I choose to shop, the conversations I choose to have with my family, my desires, social interactions, etc.…

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned at K?
The most valuable thing I have learned from my experience at K is that transition – my strategy for happiness – is both attainable and infinite.

What has been your favorite class at K?  Why?
I have enjoyed many of my classes at K, but if I had to narrow them to favorites, it would be between Intermediate Poetry with Diane Seuss or Theories of Society and Culture with Dr. Espelencia Baptiste. I parallel these courses because both supplied original prompts to get the class thinking, yet allowed for creativity and resourcefulness of thought when writing or participating in discussion. Both courses required a commitment to the subject matter, but helped me to produce work I was both proud of and wanted to continue.

What is your SIP?
My SIP is an investigation of the history of research dedicated to autism and why, after almost 80 years, we do not have a deepened, comprehensive understanding of the concept. My hypothesis is that despite the many methodological and discursive shifts since the 1940’s, research has not produced significant findings because we too often do not listen to the spectrum community itself, the context in which I think greater knowledge lies.

What are your career aspirations/next steps after K?
Although I do not have concrete plans and am simply in the stage of applying to fellowships, something I daydream about for the long-term is a joint PhD program offered at the University of Michigan for sociology and psychology. Eventually, I would love to either be a professor of medical sociology or do clinical psychology work in my own practice.

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