Spotlight: Professor celebrates humanities, encourages study abroad

Adjunct Lecturer in English and languages and literatures Wes Kennison ‘79 is a strong believer in Geneseo’s unique requirements. Kennison graduated from Geneseo studying English and medieval studies and has taught humanities at Geneseo for almost three decades.  He explained that he has high hopes for the future of the humanities curriculum. 

“I think that the course is a great part of Geneseo and it should continue to be, but in order for it to do that, it needs to change and respond to the changing times,” he said. Kennison has now taught Humanities in Greece, Germany, Austria and Nicaragua. In addition to teaching humanities, Kennison also teaches Latin—highlighting the integrative learning practices of the Middle Ages. “Latin is not a language,” Kennison said. “It is a superpower.”

Kennison explained that he is thrilled to be able to work and travel with students. “Traveling with Geneseo students is an extraordinary experience … Geneseo has the highest percentage of students studying abroad in the whole SUNY system,” he said. He added that he believes that this is indicative of a desire to learn and grown outside of one’s own culture, a quality he thinks Geneseo students in particular harbor.

Originally from the nearby town of York, New York, Kennison explained that he thought of Geneseo as the “big city” throughout his childhood. “When I came to Geneseo as a freshman in 1975, the happy surprise that I got was that Geneseo became a window to the world,” he said.

Not only is Kennison a Geneseo alum, but many of his family members also attended. “Both of my children have Geneseo degrees, my aunt graduated from Geneseo, my niece graduated from Geneseo, my nephew is at Geneseo, my mother went to Geneseo,” he said. “Everywhere you look in my family, folks have degrees from Geneseo.”

Kennison was determined to study abroad during his time at Geneseo, although it was a “really weird thing to do at the time.” After a year of studying in England during the summer of his sophomore year, Kennison hitchhiked through Europe in 52 days on a budget of $352.

“The following summer, I got some grant money and I did a research project on Dante in Siena,” he said. This is where his lifetime love affair with the city began. Kennison noted that he has spent six years in Siena, traveling back once every year since 1978.

Kennison’s stressed that students should seek to travel abroad not just to see sights, but to actively participate and engage in a new culture and way of life. “The sooner you stop being a tourist and instead become a pilgrim and a learner, the more fun you’re going to have,” he said. One of the significant changes Geneseo students have experienced over time is this cross-cultural, open-minded perspective that Kennison advocates for with humanities.

“I know that if I set up 17 hoops at different heights and ask my students to jump through, they will do that. What I ask them to do now is set up the hoops,” Kennison said. “The core of a liberal arts education is that you can look honestly into the face of mystery and figure it out.”

Kennison can be found in the Study Abroad Office, creating faculty-led study abroad programs and pushing the idea of integrative learning.