Kentucky Kitchen Table in Relation to Our Everyday Lives


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By Kinsley

This week, I had the privilege of sitting down and enjoying a meal with familiar faces and some not so familiar ones in Bowling Green, Kentucky. My name is Kinsley, and quite possibly one of the times I learned the most during my freshman year of college is during a Kentucky Kitchen Table assignment for my advanced Citizen and Self class. The assignment’s premise was simple: grab a few people who are from culturally different backgrounds, people who grew up in different areas of the world, and ask them to a dinner where they contribute food and quality conversation. I think it’s fitting to introduce the faces of the fresh ideas and possible solutions to solve the world’s wicked problems. To put it simply, a wicked problem is one that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that often are difficult to recognize.

Katelyn is a soft-spoken, aspiring journalist with a passion for the Middle East; she is in the process of learning Arabic with intentions to better serve the people of countries in need. She spends her free time researching new ways to help the refugee influx from recent years into the Bowling Green area, and she is excited to serve in a Middle Eastern country this summer. She will begin volunteering at the International Center of Kentucky soon. She is passionate about her faith, her family, and loving her neighbors, despite the stereotypes associated with their physical attributes. Katelyn brings a heart for the nations to our table.

Taylor is a southern gentleman at his finest, as he loves the outdoors and believes strongly in the rights and privileges that the Second Amendment provides. He is a computer science major, following closely in the footsteps of his father. He loves the classics, Ocean’s Eleven and Talladega Nights topping his list, and he would classify himself as “one of the funny ones.” His ancestry is a large part of who he is; as twenty-five percent Taiwanese, he loves the history that his grandmother brought from Taiwan to the United States in the twentieth century. Taylor adds cultural diversity to our table.

Nichole is passionate about Dallas Cowboys football and feels most comfortable when gaming with her guy friends. From a young age, she has had the divine opportunity to travel the world; some of the most beautiful, enticing destinations she has visited include Munich, Germany and Brussels, Belgium. For as long as she can remember, she has had the chance to be immersed in a variety of diverse cultures. Nichole is keen to moving around the United States and sees each new move as a new way to grow. Perhaps one of the most influential points in Nichole’s life occurred a mere three weeks ago when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Nichole brings a fresh sense of emotionally raw diversity to our table.

Rylee is a fellow classmate and spends her time studying; as a part of the Mahurin Honors College at Western Kentucky University, and a writer for The Talisman magazine published on campus, she is passionate about what she does. As the only one at our table to have lived in the Bowling Green area for her entire life, she is knowledgeable about the happenings in the city we all now call home. She is passionate about her faith and the people she meets in her day to day interactions at the Beverly Hills Bargain Boutique, for her she draws much more than a paycheck. Rylee thrives on customer service. She is more liberal-minded than many in this small group, enabling her to bring forth diversity. Rylee brings a heart for people and a smile that can light up a room to our table.

Holly teaches eighth grade English at Butler County, a local middle school in Bowling Green, while she raises two children of her own. She is passionate about her line of work, but is also concerned about the crisis of cut funding in Kentucky schools. Her childhood, marked by certain events, allowed her to have differing opinions from the rest of the group. Holly loves pouring her knowledge into the children she encounters every day, and she brings strong, yet caring, opinions and ideas to our table.

Polio, a chronic disease that has seemingly plagued her since her youth, does not prevent Bonita from living her life radically. Bonita is an actively involved member of a local church and spends much of her time witnessing her grandchildren grow. As the oldest participant at our table, she brings knowledge of the early 1900s, and she is able to compare the ways in which the world was and how it is now. Bonita brings a new perspective and seasoned years to our table.

Michael is the principal of Bluegrass Middle School in Bowling Green, Kentucky. As he and his spouse, Holly, are both employed by schools systems, thus employed by the government, he has many opinions about the corruption and inequality of budget-cutting among public schools in the state. With a background in psychological science, he deals heavily with the emotional aspects of children. He has much to say about the refugee crisis in America, and especially the impact that it has had in the Warren County area. Michael brings the inner workings of the mind and emotional states of being to our table.

When asked the most crucial question of the entire night, “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you,” each person at the table emitted a variably different response. Everyone present was raised in atmospheres foreign to the others, and this created an exciting idea of citizenship. As for me, both of my parents are Air Force veterans, leading me to grow into an adult familiar to the concepts of honor and pride for my nation, which eventually led to many of my adult decisions resting upon my Republican, conservative-minded upbringing. Perhaps one of the most interesting testimonies is that of Bonita, who was born and raised in Kentucky. She was born into a farming community, and because she was overcome with Polio at such a young age, she has a unique outlook on the ways in which the world helps the disabled and needy. This question in particular caused me to be reminded of the key theme of “How can we live better, or at least less badly, together?” When people of ethnically diverse backgrounds are faced with the complex idea of citizenship, as it has possibly never crossed their minds before, they oftentimes struggle to find words enough to describe their associated thoughts and emotions.

Perhaps the most controversial conversation of the evening began with these simple words: “What kind of community do you want to live in?” Thus, a discussion about gun control and Second Amendment rights was launched. “As for me, I’d like to live in a community that is graciously armed,” says Taylor, “because that is what I am most comfortable with. I could practically shoot a gun before I could walk.” Though many at the table were in agreement with Taylor’s opinion, Holly had a strikingly different viewpoint. Even after growing up in a community where guns were present and in her own home, she feels the most comfortable when there are none in her close proximity. This topic spurred a conversation that lasted for upwards of twenty minutes, and intertwined within was the reality that citizens, those living in the same city, shopping at the same grocery stores, and enrolling their children in the same public school systems, can, and do, coexist. Political, social, and moral decisions, while crucial to one’s expressed identity, do not solely define a human being. To allow guns or not to allow guns is simply a matter of opinion in which, when handled properly, can allow for healthy stretches of the mind and the realm of normal conversation.

It was interesting to learn that the dynamic of “being neighborly” has changed drastically in recent years. In the twentieth century, it was expected that neighborhoods were familiar with the families that lived there; dinner parties and welcoming cookie platters were typical. However, when our table was faced with the question, “Do you know your neighbors? Why or why not?” the answers were more than scarily similar. I, personally, have lived in the same house for ten years, and I dare say that I have no recollection of a single person’s name on my street. This unknowing is more spurred by a busy life rather than the lack of desire to get to know those living close to me. I think community has changed with this century due to the very virtual reality that we now live in. Society as a whole is under this incorrect impression that knowing people on social media is the same as having a personal relationship with them. “No, I really don’t know my neighbors, and I’m not sure there’s a real reason behind that,” was the resounding response from many at the table. Katelyn had a different idea though; growing up in the house her parents have owned since before her birth, she came to know the girls who lived in the house next to hers. As life usually does, it drew the girls apart, reducing Katelyn’s known neighbors to an astounding zero.

Though I could write forever of the lessons I learned, I think it is essential to remember the key themes of Citizen and Self and how they truly relate to the intense realities of the world. Knowledge and intentionality of conversations was a prevailing piece of our Kentucky Kitchen Table experience. No doubt was this exposure of the inner workings of each person’s hearts one of the most eye-opening of my life; I think this is simply because the millennial generation in which I identify with has forgotten the importance of “loving thy neighbor” and of communicating, deliberating, thinking in an effective way to solve the wicked problems present in the world today. Relative to the class as a whole, I would say that Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War by Peter Maass is the most related to the ideas and topics discussed at our table. Faith, family, and personal history were the key themes in the ways that conversations were driven.

I truly believe that the first steps towards a more connected world are to obtain culturally different opinions and retain this knowledge in order to answer the questions that it seems all citizens desire to be answered:

How can we live better, or at least less badly, together?

How can we ensure that we have more of a say over our own lives, and how can we ensure that others have more of a say over their own lives?

How can we solve problems?

It is our job as citizens to strive towards the type of world these questions illustrate each and every day of our lives and to not give in to our desires to quit until we have found the answers we have always so desperately searched for.

With All Sincerity, Kinsley


Elderly Dogs, Citizenship, and Chicken Nuggets

By Zach

Through this Kentucky Kitchen Table experience, I was able to go back to how I normally eat dinner during the holidays with my family, listening to each other and discussing how our years have gone usually encompasses a majority of our dinner. Since being at Western Kentucky University I find it hard to actually have those sit down conversations with people which go beyond just small talk because that is basically all we have time for. Although I had never met McKenzie prior to the Kentucky Kitchen Table I knew it wouldn’t take long for us to open up about our school lives, future plans, and other topics relating to the Honors 251 course.

Aubrey and I had already begun to open up about our lacking cooking experience and I will admit I gave her a hard time about not being able to make no-bake cookies, which she had promised to bring, and instead bought the cookies at a store a few hours before hand. After arriving at McKenzie’s apartment we soon realized we were not the only ones with minimal cooking abilities because we were welcomed with every college student’s favorite dishes, chicken nuggets and mac-n-cheese. The biggest surprise was when one of the most energetic dogs I had ever been around came up to me and began to beg for food, his name is Johnny Karate. Johnny would soon become the center of attention for the rest of the night.

Other than Johnny Karate, I did not see much diversity seeing as Aubrey and I were from the same hometown and McKenzie was from Shepherdsville, Kentucky. But the more I thought about it the more I saw that we are much more different than I had previously supposed. I am a biology major while Aubrey is an undecided major and McKenzie has graduated from Western Kentucky University (and the Honors College) with a degree in psychology. These differences in majors show how diverse our interests are from one another. Being raised on a farm in Northern Pulaski County with one younger sibling, I have a much different view of the world as compared to McKenzie who grew up in an area around Louisville is the oldest of five. I didn’t see much of a connection to be made with talk of what we all wanted to do with our majors, or in Aubrey’s case what types of majors would be enjoyable, so I was ready to dive into the recommended questions for discussion.

When I sat down I could not help but notice a pro-Hillary Clinton coloring book. Now being an outspoken Trump supporter I had questions rolling through my head about why she would pick Hillary Clinton to support but Aubrey had already told me before dinner that I should probably refrain from any political discussions just so we could keep the night going as smooth as possible. I decided not to bring up the issue explicitly but rather implicitly.

One of the major questions we discussed stemmed from the recommended questions in the handout which pertained to what we thought the best thing in our world today could be. McKenzie seemed to have an answer already prepared for this question seeing as she hardly hesitated when she replied that social media was one of the most beneficial things we have in society today. McKenzie acknowledges social media can be used to harm others self-esteem and may be used as a vehicle for bullying to occur. She stands by her stance of social media is more beneficial than harmful simply because social media allows people from across the globe to communicate in a way never seen before in history. I can see how social media benefits humanity in how it allows the transfer of experiences to people from completely different backgrounds.

Even though I realized McKenzie and I had differing views on who should be the next person running our country, Aubrey, McKenzie, and I all had similar views on social and humanitarian issues at hand. A required question was “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?” McKenzie’s answer was spot on in how she believes we have an obligation to help others and those who cannot help themselves, yes that includes elderly dogs. McKenzie as well as myself believe no matter how small our efforts are; we can make a difference in our communities. I could see this idea relating to Pollan’s “Why Bother?” article in disagreement with what the articles theme is pushing for in that no matter what we do unless everyone participates nothing will change.

Another conversation I found interesting stemmed form the question of “Do you know your neighbors?” McKenzie stated that she was more of an acquaintance with her neighbors. I can understand why seeing as she does not necessarily have anything in common with her neighbors other than that they live in the same apartment complex. Growing up in a rural community I was very close with my neighbors, however, my neighbors and I had a majority of the same background so it seems easier to get to know them and become close. When taking on college I have noticed that it is much easier to get to know people who are much like yourself rather than reaching out and finding people with differing backgrounds and opinions. Through my experience in the Honors 251 class, I see that it would make for a more educated outlook on problems we face as a society.

As the night came to a close I realized I had most likely thrown over 100 balls for Johnny Karate and although he seemed to be exhausted he kept bringing the ball back and begged for one last throw. Aubrey and I helped clean up the leftover food and thanked McKenzie for having us for dinner. After reflecting on the night I understood how diverse our group actually was outside of our race or other physical features our opinions are what really defined the diversity of the group. Aubrey, McKenzie and I had a wonderful time with insightful conversations about elderly dogs, citizenship, and chicken nuggets.


Brian – Kentucky Kitchen Table, Bowling Green, KY (Chinese Flagship House)

By: Brian

Kentucky Kitchen Table Cast and Crew

Kelly- A transfer from Simpson College and sophomore member of the WKU Forensics team. I’ve known her about a month now but we’re not that close.

Austin- My roommate, he is originally from California and is also a member of the Chinese Flagship. I’ve been friends with him since high school.

James- A 26-year-old from California, another transfer student who is a senior here at WKU. James wants to be a speech and debate coach after he graduates and gets his masters degree. He thinks that coaching students to be policymakers will help improve decision-making at all levels of government. The reasons he articulated lined up very nicely with ideas we discuss in class surrounding deliberative democracy. I’ve known him a year.

Abby- an ASL teaching assistant from Texas who is dating James. She’s very active in Baptist Campus Ministries and along with James is very religious. I had never met her before.

Myself- Well, you know me.


There was a debate about what the meaning of citizenship was. Most of the debate was based around playing a role in the community outside the government. I talked about how important it is that when abroad you act as a citizen ambassador, specifically as a means of playing the role of American citizen outside the relevant government agencies such as the State Department or Central Intelligence Agency. They don’t want foreign governments targeting you after all. This means being willing to volunteer in foreign countries through little things like spending time with elderly people or introducing children to foreign cultures. James articulated the general understanding of what being a citizen means, specifically with regard to the social contract. He articulated the premise that being a citizen implies that we accept the government’s monopoly on violence and in return we get to feel safe. However, he took it one step further and said that it was more than just about accepting that we can’t take violence into our own hands, he further explained that when the government fails to use that monopoly on power to hold up their end of the bargain, that charges us with the responsibility to pick up the slack. He’s a big fan of Batman and made that pretty clear. In essence, we have to go out and protest abuses of government power and also volunteer where the government isn’t providing. James didn’t have the poetry of Claudia Rankine, but articulated how important it is that as citizens we recognize our privilege in all instances so as to avoid the small moments of racism, whether from ourselves or police officers. After wading through all the references to philosopher’s whose names we didn’t know, we all pretty much agreed with how James saw being a citizen, even if some of us had more faith in working through the government for structural change. Austin has already taken Citizen and Self, so he agreed that citizenship is a function of personal agency outside the realm of government action but added that it’s important to not just focus on what you can do but rather what you can convince people to do together.

We talked a lot about how everyone felt about Kentucky. None of us were originally from Kentucky, and each of us moved here at different stages in our lives. Kelly has just moved to Bowling Green from Iowa and hearing her describe what she thought of her new home was pretty interesting. Obviously, she has been pretty busy with school, but she’s acclimating to Kentucky culture pretty well. She finds that there is a lot more blatant sexism on campus than she found in other places she has lived. So we discussed how that has impacted the shift to Kentucky. She also made it pretty obvious that she wasn’t just letting those issues go either, which means that she’s probably got this Citizen and Self thing on lock. She hasn’t had a hot brown yet, a fact we all teased her about, but that’s alright. Abby had a fairly easy time transitioning to Kentucky, she and I are from more rural backgrounds than the others, and laughed about how much we hate wearing shoes during the summer- a fact that the others made fun of us for. James lamented how much he disliked Kentucky, complaints that Austin chimed in on as he was originally from California himself despite having moved to Kentucky at a young age. Sure, it isn’t the most exciting place and there is a lot of racism that all of us find problematic, but we all enjoy living here and racism is a problem everywhere not just the South. We also discussed how I went about making the main entrée and dessert for the night. My mother’s secret lasagna recipe (Stouffers) and her tiramisu recipe. Unfortunately, when I was making the Tiramisu the custard didn’t set as perfectly as it does when my momma makes it, but everyone still liked it, or at least were very polite guest. We discussed traditional kitchen gender roles and how odd it is that the perception is that only women cook and how it’s still sexist to think that men deserve bonus points for being good cooks. Yes, it’s a good trait to have, but thinking that it’s any more special than a woman knowing how to cook comes from a sexist notion that we have internalized. Kelly brought salad and some homemade ranch dressing and James and Abby brought sweet tea. Then they teased me over calling garlic Texas toast “garlic bread.” In my house, if it was bread and had garlic on it, it was garlic bread, but apparently they are two different things.

One of the most interesting parts of the activity was the breadth of languages used. Austin and I were able to teach the table some basic Chinese (hello, yes, no, etc.). Moreover, I got to give the group a tour of the house and teach them some cool things about the rules of Chinese dining etiquette. For example, the person who is the most respected in the group sits at the furthest middle seat away from the door. This is so that whoever walks in will see the person in the place of honor first. This seat is often taken up by the oldest patriarch of the family, except in instances of a funeral celebration in which case the youngest boy will sit there and represent the grandfather. We didn’t use chopsticks to eat lasagna or tiramisu, but we did think about it. Furthermore, Abby and James were able to teach the table some basic sign language (yes, no, thank you, etc.). Though many wouldn’t think it, Western Kentucky University is preparing students to interact with a broad range of backgrounds and cultures. I got to talk about my father, who was a teacher at the Kentucky School for the Deaf for a number of years. Abby, who would be traveling to KSD in the coming weeks, told me that she loves KSD. We were able to discuss this little deli in the middle of Danville, Kentucky and the world became that much smaller. When people think of language in Kentucky’s they usually think of a southern accent or maybe the state’s burgeoning Spanish-speaking population, but Kentucky’s culture is so much broader than that. Myriad languages have found their place in the Commonwealth, something that became all the more clear to me as a result of this project.

Home away from home

By Dominic


When KKT was first brought up, I had no idea what it was or what the purpose was. Eat dinner with strangers? What was this, some sort of forced friend-building exercise? I already had friends, I didn’t need to waste a Sunday night to make more. That was my first mistake of the night, my last would be buying two pies instead of just one.

When Barnabas and I first arrived at the address we actually passed it, twice. I was expecting Jared to live somewhere way off campus, maybe some remote village or something. As it turned out, he lived just down the road from Cherry! When Jared invited us in I was greeted by the heavy aroma of southern cooking. Jared had prepared homemade Chicken and Dumpling soup for us alongside some southern style green beans.

I was instantly taken away by just how neat his apartment was. Not only that, but Jared was extremely kind, and inviting; he even had music playing on Pandora and candles lit. The reason that this stuck me was because I’ve been in my friends apartments before, but they never felt like a home, just a larger dorm. As the night moved on, and the small talk began, I found out Jared was an English major here at WKU and that he would be soon graduating as a senior. Shortly there after I met his roommate Emma, who was a student at WKU but now works at a candle shop.  She mentioned that she’s now interested in transferring to a school in Oklahoma. I made the mistake of asking which one and she proceeded to rattle off the various colleges available in Oklahoma while I, with zero geographical knowledge of Oklahoma, nodded continuously like an idiot. I don’t think she noticed.


Once we got to eating the real conversations began. I asked a question I often use to get to know people, “If you could have dinner with three people who would they be?”. I got a wide variety of answers ranging from Burt Reynolds to Jesus to Hitler interestingly enough. The excuse for Hitler was that he was one of the ambitious men of his time, and it would be interesting to figure out where that drive came from. While personally,Hitler doesn’t sound like the ideal dinner date, It made me realize something. In class we discussed briefly that people have more and more homogenized their piers, that “cliques” whether they be high school friends of coworkers, tend to become less and less diverse with people searching for friends with similar traits as themselves. Now, here I was, sitting with three people that I wouldn’t have ever eaten dinner with were it not for this project, and I had a thought. It’s not because of some preconceived notion of who I am supposed to socialize with that I wouldn’t have dinner with these people, it was instead because each of our friend groups was made up, primarily, of people like each of us.  Yet, I found myself really enjoying the evening, especially as I got to learn more about Barnabas, who shared what life in Korea is like when compared to life in America. I find it amazing to think that someone from across the planet, who grew up speaking a different language, reading different books, learning different customs could sit down with three strangers from the other side of the world and carry on a conversation that interests everyone involved.


If I could take away any major thought relating to Honors 251 it would be that Homogeneity is the downfall of democracy. As demonstrated in our class, it’s the variation on opinion, the disagreement on key points that gives perspective you wouldn’t otherwise have on a given subject.  To end on a bit of a cliche note, there is a quote a friend of mine told me last week; “Two people can illustrate crudity to you.
The first is the crude man, whom you see perceiving the diamond as a stone.
The other is the refined man, who makes clear to you the crudity of the first one.”

-Idries Shah

To me that quote speak to the matter of perspective in democracy. That the first made is crude due to lack of knowledge, the second is a crude man for demonstrating a lack of wisdom in when to use his knowledge. Without diversity, or at least a diversity of thought, democracy cannot flourish, only regress. That is my take away from my KKT project, an experience I was uneasy about going it, but so thankful for looking back.

Won’t you sit and share this pizza with me?

By Michaela


For my Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I had the amazing opportunity to share a delicious pizza with my host family Tyler, Jeanna with her roommates Haley and Molly. I am going to be very honest when I say that I had my reservations when I learned that we would be eating with strangers in their home. I was concerned that I wouldn’t feel welcomed since I didn’t know how much information was exchanged. However, the experienced turned out to be one of the best ones I have ever had.

Upon arrival, I was instantly welcomed with hugs and excitement by Jeanna and my her dog.  The pizza was running a little late so we got the chance to have a causal conversation before beginning out project around the dinner table. Jeanna was actually a recent graduate of Western Kentucky University. She works as a Park Ranger at the National Park and as a worker for an Autism organization. She has a very energetic kind of character and is very interested when it comes to stories shared by others. She likes to describe herself as a compassionate person who loves the outdoors. Haley is also a graduate of Western Kentucky University. She is a part of the campaign for the American Heart Association. She works on the Hoops for Heart campaign that urges elementary children to stay active and is an active fundraiser for the campaign. She has an opposite personality than her roommate Jeanna. She is a little more laid back. She loves golf and is very engaged in her studies.

As the pizza stared to arrive, we talked a little bit about our lives. We discussed where we came from in the parts of Kentucky. Jeanna and Haley had both originated from a rural neighbor in a small town where everyone knew each other. They said the move to Bowling Green was very intimating, because the city was so big. I thought this was pretty funny, because the town I come from, which was Lexington, is a lot bigger than Bowling Green. I was every interesting to see the different perspectives based on where they are raised.  I assumed that Jeanna and Haley would have different perspectives on today’s issues because they were raised in a small, non-diverse community. Instead, I have come to find out that their perspectives on today’s issues correlate to how a view today’s issues.  For example, Jeanna and I both agree that the environment should be the world’s top priority among with diverse equality, though she would put the world’s environmental effects as her number one priority. She has told me that she has seen the devastation of the environment first hand ever since she started working for at the National Park.  She says, “No one really understands the effects of human destruction on the environment, because they don’t see the impacts that come from their constant harmful effects first hand. Hearing about it on the news only makes us think that it is an issue that will fix itself or something that we will have to be worried about later. It’s the laziness and greed of humankind that will ultimately destroy the Earth someday, and its sooner than people think.” I told her we had discussed the devastation of the environment as a wicked problem in class. I told her that we might actually be too late to come up with a fast and effective solution, the only thing we can try to do is make it better”.  Her passion on the topic made me think that if everyone in the world had that kind of passion and heart, that we really could find a solution to the wicked problems of today, not just for the environment, but for other issues such as racial inequality and poverty.

As the conversation progressed to wicked problems, Haley also added her views on these issues, in particular, the racial inequality among the U.S. She made it clear that through she was a republican, she didn’t want to affiliate herself with the republican candidate Donald Trump. “He will singlehandedly destroy the US!” Though she does agree on the immigration problems with Mexico, she doesn’t believe that the problem can be fixed by building a wall. “What ridiculous moron would even suggest that! It’s completely inhuman, and offensive, and cold. How are they going to say ‘no immigrants ALLOWED’ when they are themselves immigrants?” This discussion also connected with the concept of wicked problems. I do agree with her statement, but I can also see how some people would be upset to the fact that there are illegal immigrants taking advantage of the opportunities of America without also sharing the responsibility of an American. We threw around some ideas that could help solve this problem, but some of the solutions had holes in themselves. However, we did conclude the only way to find a true solution is to talk about it. We like to think that it is best to have one person speak and have everyone follow, but then so many other ideas will be shadowed an ignored. We have to learn to sit down and talk to each other. Without talk, there can be no action.

The KKT project was a very stimulating project. It allowed me to discuss today’s issues with people who are different from me. Its process like this where we gather people from different backgrounds to try to come up with solutions to problems that opens our horizon to our own perspectives. It indirectly shortens that gap we like to create between ourselves and others, creating what the world had intended when society came up with the word citizen. Not only are we connected with our society, but the people within it. As soon as we start to realize that, we will be able to handle the wicked problems that arise.  So, to whoever may read this, won’t you sit down and have a pizza with me?


KKT with Lil Britches

By Kendall

I had the wonderful opportunity of having dinner with McKenzie, my friend Lindsey, and McKenzie’s adorable pup, Little Britches. As a table of three college-age women, we didn’t see much diversity at first. However, we found we were all raised very differently and are all majoring in very different fields.

Lindsey, who recently turned nineteen, was raised in a small town in central Kentucky that she jokes is “population more cows than people.” She is the youngest of two with an older brother. Her parents were very conservative when she was a child so she wasn’t exposed to much in the world of rap music, video games, TV,  or other common things for most children. She was raised very Christian and still holds her faith very close to her heart. Her faith drives many of her decisions and is where most of her morals stem from.

McKenzie, on the other hand, is a 22-year-old college senior who will be graduating in just a few short weeks. She raised in a suburb just outside of Louisville. She is the oldest of five which she believes played a huge role in her upbringing. She has a huge heart for others and always puts them before herself. Although she’s not Catholic, she says people often mistake her family for being a Catholic family because of their good morals and high standards. She says her mom was very strict, with her being the oldest, and instilled in her a perfectionist complex.

Finally, I was raised in Northern Kentucky right outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. My family always stressed the importance of academics and I was taught that I can and should excel at everything I do. I was brought up in a Christian household and went to a Catholic school until I was eight. Church was always a huge part of my life growing up but, now that I’m older, my family has drifted away from our church. I can tell you the last time I attended service there was Easter of my eighth grade year; however, my faith in God still remains. My family has always been big on community service and my drive to give back and my Christian values are the main contributors to my own personal morals.

We started our dinner with some light conversation about our majors, Little Britches, and how excited we were forMcKenzie’s macaroni and cheese and my double chocolate brownies.McKenzie and I discovered we were both in the psychology field. She is headed toward a degree in developmental while I’m on a behavioral and neuroscience track. Lindsey, on the other hand, is a graphic design major and fashion merchandising minor. Little Britches is graduating with a degree in face-licking and dog modeling. We joked about the “conversation starters” and kept the required “what does citizenship mean to you?” at the back of our minds.

We all agreed that one of the great things about our world today is how connected we all are. Often times, social media is painted in a bad light but it keeps us in touch with what is going on all over the world. Lindsey said it best stating, “our world is much smaller than it used to be now that we all have Twitters and Instagrams.” We also decided the availability of instant mac and cheese makes the world go ’round.

We all wanted to avoid political discussions as much as possible seeing as none of us consider ourselves very politically informed. However,McKenzie had some good advice for future presidents saying she’d rather they be “genuinely for the people” rather than put on a good face just for votes and, most importantly, be a huge dog lover.

After a brief break in conversation used to follow Little Britches’ Instagram page (which is @instabritches if you’re interested), we finally made our way back to the important question. “What does citizenship mean to you?” Lindsey believes doing community service and giving back to the community to make it a better place to live is a very important factor of citizenship. Likewise,McKenzie believes a good citizen is one who looks out for their fellows and helps those who can’t help themselves. She wants to be a good “steward of the earth” and keep it green. One of her biggest dreams is to one day own a sanctuary for older dogs whom no one wants to care for. She, of course, would call it In the Name of Britches after her very best friend. Mackenzie also wants to give back to the community through her field of study. Her dream is to help children with mental disabilities and to tailor schooling to their needs as they’re often pushed to the wayside.

McKenzie’s want to be “green” reminded me of Pollan’s Why Bother and Jensen’s Forget Shorter Showers. Unlike the views in these articles, both Mackenzie and I believe that, despite how small our efforts are, we could still make an impact on the state of our environment. Our discussion of citizenship was also pretty similar to the class’s general definition. There were parallels in the sense of giving back and working to make the world a better place.

I had a wonderful experience having dinner with Lindsey,McKenzie, and Little Britches.  learned a lot about how people with different perspectives view our society today and I’m happy to say I made two new friends. I can’t wait to stay updated with Little Britches via Instagram and hope to see him trotting around campus in his unicorn costume very soon!


Kentucky’s Kitchen Table: “Finding Your Identity”

By Luke

After several weeks of scheduling conflicts and procrastination, our group was finally able to meet at our host Emily’s home for our Kentucky’s Kitchen Table project, which, to my enjoyment, ended up being a chicken taco night. After consuming an unsafe amount of Mexican food – as well as a delicious West 6th Amber Ale – it was finally time to have our discussion, which began of course with brief introductions.

Our host for the evening was Emily, a Bowling Green native currently completing her graduate degree at WKU involving an intricate combination of humanities courses. Dubbing herself as “Elisabeth Gish’s protégé”, Emily plans on living in a Chicago-based commune for approximately 9 months following graduation, and eventually hopes to attend divinity school in the Boston area.

Next around the circle was Daniel, a freshman on the path to nursing school. He briefly described his catholic-school upbringing in Louisville, which concluded with attendance at Saint Xavier High School. Like myself, Daniel enjoys reading and Netflix, but he also mentioned his heavy involvement with theater in high school. Volleyball is another of Daniel’s hobbies.

Ethan, another freshman honors student, was also in attendance. His interest in the broadcasting program brought him to WKU from Nolensville, TN, and his primary hobby involves working with the WKU-PBS television station. In addition, Ethan enjoys Netflix and hanging out with friends. He also mentioned being a baptist, although not extremely devout (this adjective described nearly all of our religious affiliations, aside from Emily’s).

The final member of our dinner/discussion was Alex, a fellow senior, who is wrapping up her degree in Agriculture this semester. Originally from the small town of Gallatin, TN, Alex enjoys horseback riding (specifically “barre racing”), kayaking, working on her truck & car, and shooting guns at the range with her father. She mentioned playing volleyball in high school, and identified as a southern baptist.

Only one of the “conversation starters” listed in the handbook (the required question) was officially addressed; however, our nearly two hour discussion encompassed several of the other questions indirectly. When asked about what “citizenship meant to her” (aside from voting, paying taxes, and following laws), Emily began detailing her somewhat abstract, yet immensely intriguing perspective on citizenship, which I’ll attempt to recollect.

She began by stating that we as individuals are citizens of several communities simultaneously. Some are obvious and based merely on residential locations such as hometowns, home-states and national residence (think “American citizens”). Others are more personal and greater in number/variety: extra-curricular clubs or groups, churches and other religious congregations, athletic teams at varying levels of competition, family units (whether traditional or not), friend groups, etc. As a result, human beings develop varying “identities” generated through association with varying communities (your personality/behavior around friends or colleagues changes when around parents and family, for example). According to Emily, as we grow and progress through the numerous chapters of our lives, we change how we prioritize the communities we belong to, and this in turn changes our identities over time. As a result, though any person at any given time may belong to a diverse collection of communities, one generally takes precedence over others and is responsible for what Emily referred to as that person’s “primary identity.” Think of it this way: when someone asks you to “tell a little about yourself,” the community associated with the majority of your description is your main priority (at the time) and is responsible for generating your primary identity as an individual.

For example, everyone in attendance other than Emily mentioned that practicing religious faith (i.e. our “religious community”) had become less of a priority since beginning school at WKU – an example of how priorities change in regards to communities we are citizens of. Personally, my social fraternity has been the most important community in my undergraduate career until now, and had previously generated my primary identity. However, as I prepare to graduate and move on to veterinary school in the fall, I’ve found that my primary identity has shifted, and the communities involving my girlfriend and select close friends have taken precedence. I’m sure that once I begin classes at Auburn this fall my “academic community” will become much more of a personal priority and change my primary identity. Being able to apply Emily’s theory to my own life helped it resonate all the more.

To conclude, Emily encouraged us to examine our own lives and practice articulating what our primary identities may be at the present time. This reminded me not only of Martha Nussbaum’s reading from Week 1 titled “Socratic Pedagogy: The Importance of Argument” that encouraged self-examination, but also Jonathan Haidt’s “The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tail” from Week 2 that urged readers to try and pinpoint the sources (i.e. the communities) of their own intuitions as a way to aid in debate and discussion. Discovering what motivates the decisions you make and the opinions you possess is critical to understanding yourself and properly empathizing with those around you, and I believe Emily’s theory attempts to get at the heart of what makes us who we are as individuals. If we find that we are satisfied with our primary identity, we should work to cultivate it and give our best to the communities responsible for its formation. If we are unsatisfied, however, perhaps we should begin to shift our priority to communities that can help us become the best versions of ourselves and support others in doing the same.


Back row (from left to right): Ethan, myself, and Daniel. Front row (from left to right): Alex and Emily.


KKT Project Reflection

By Alex

For the Kentucky Kitchen Table project, I was grouped with Luke, Daniel, and Ethan. We had a wonderful dinner with Emily, a former Citizen and Self student and peer mentor who has graduated from the Honors College and with a Masters of Religion at WKU and is headed on to graduate school.  We decided to potluck ingredients for tacos, and make the actual dinner together, to help cut down on having to spend extra time prepping food, but also to have some casual conversation and get to know each other a little before the actual dinner. Ethan is a broadcasting major from Tennessee. He works at the TV station on campus and in his spare time enjoys Netflix and hanging out with friends. Daniel is a nursing major from Louisville who enjoys theater, Netflix, reading, and volleyball in his spare time. Luke is a Biology/ pre-vet major from Harrodsburg, Kentucky. He is a Sigma Chi, and enjoys sports, reading and Netflix.  We had an awesome conversation which we decided to begin with our question, “What does it mean to be a citizen?”  From there we went on to talk about a more personal aspect of citizenship, and what that looks like in varying identities. We talked about how we identify as individuals, and what types of things truly define us. Emily spoke a lot about personal reflection, and encouraged us to really think about what specific communities we identify ourselves in, and whether we are putting one hundred percent of ourselves into these communities. I do not think any of us left without seriously contemplating our lives as we did.  The conversation was very high level, respectful, and meaningful.

Specifically, each of us had a slightly varying view of what citizenship meant to us.  But overall the underlying principles were the same. Be active. Be involved. Help others. Do what you can. We all had an outlook of citizenship as being part of a group or community and giving your best to help and improve that community.  We discussed how this is also an inward commitment. We must choose what community, or communities we want to be defined by, and then give one hundred percent in order to be effective citizens.  Those communities are not solely our towns, states, country, etc. but also our families, social networks, workplaces, and more. We agreed there are no real set requirements for being an “effective citizen,” but that it is more about giving what you can, and giving one hundred percent in everything.  In order to make our communities what we would like to see, we must be actively involved and engaged in the activities of that community.  We also spoke briefly of these things in a religious context.  With varying religious backgrounds, (Ethan and I were raised Baptist, Danial Catholic, and Luke Methodist) we all agreed that this was a specifically good example of our community identities and how we must realize and ultimately choose which ones take precedence.

I think our conversation relates best to our class reading on the elephant and rider from Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind. In fact, we discussed this briefly.  This is a good example of determining which is controlling which. Do we control our identities within a community, or do those identities control us? It is also a good comparison of how we function and work within our communities as active and involved citizens.thumbnail_IMG_2302

Come together

by Barnabas

On Saturday, April 9th, I went to have a dinner with my friend Dominic, who is in my Honor 251 class, and people that I have never talked to and met before. I was very nervous about having to eat with random people and being in an awkward atmosphere. I usually do not eat lunch and dinner with my friends, because it provides me extra time to do other urgent things that are in my priority list. I thought this assignment will turn out to be terrible and challenging, but my assumption was wrong.

There were total of 4 people in my Kentucky Kitchen Table (including my self), all of whom were college students. Jared and Emma hosted and invited Dominic and me to their apartment near WKU to serve a dinner. Jared, senior and major in English in WKU, was the main cook who provided us with the delicious chicken noodle soup. This was actually my first time eating true “American food” other than hamburgers and pizza, and it was very delicious that I had to eat more than twice.  And Emma was one of his roommates, currently planning to transfer to college in Oklahoma. She used to go to WKU, but once she decided to transfer to Oklahoma, she got out of WKU and started to work in a candle store.

Contrary to my prediction that it is going to be awkward, it was very exciting to talk and share my thoughts and ideas to Jared, Emma, and Dominic. I talked about how difficult it was for me to come and having a dinner with them, since English is not my first language. I shared the frustration of being left out in the American college community due to poor English speaking ability and cultural difference. We talked about how Asians  like to get along only with people with their own kind and I explained that, this was due to the culture difference. There are certain things that Asians could form a common ground and agree and understand, while Americans can not. For example, when my roommate and I went to Greenwood shopping mall, my roommate gave me a weird look as I was spending my time in Hollister, and with his weird look, he asked me ” Hey, man what are you doing here?” He could not understand the fact that I was trying to buy clothing in Hollister, and he told me that Hollister was for high schoolers. In Korea, Abercrombie and Hollister struck the clothing markets, and they have become more popular and famous than Polo and other famous brands that many college students prefer.  In Korea, people regards being respectful to the elder as one of the significant cultural value. Being insulted by 2 years younger roommate made me realize that it is very difficult to fit into American culture, which became a barrier to socialization with American students. The Asians’ tendency to get along with other Asians is because they feel comfortable and agree on things more easily than when they are with American students. The hidden difficulty in Asians’ college life relates to the topics mentioned in  the “Paying for the Party.” Colleges should not view international students as influx of money, but great assets to diversify the college culture. Many students come to college pursuing their own pathways, and colleges can facilitate this by actively engaging. For example, WKU has done a great job to enrich American college experience to international exchange students by assigning American students to exchange students.

There were many other topics that we talked about after dinner, such as wicked problems, religions, gay marriage, and which historic person you would like to have dinner with, etc. Among the many topics, we showed much passion especially in a topic relating to college tuition. We talked about how expensive college tuition is, and how the cost of college education prevents many smart students from pursuing their dreams. We came up with some suggestions and possible solutions to reduce the college tuition, such as diminishing the investment on college sports and  on building construction on campus, etc. I mentioned that there are many additional things that are expensive along with college education, such as textbooks. We also noted that everything that has to do with college education seemed to be expensive without great efficiency, and that acceptance rate is very high, but the efficiency of college education is relatively low. Sternberg, author “Giving Employers What They Don’t Really Want,” says that colleges do not always provide what the employers want, which are the critical thinking, practical problem solving skills, and communication skills etc. If we go to college and get nothing out of it, except for good GPA, colleges are doing nothing good for us, but good for themselves, especially when we are paying tons of money.

After this KKT assignment, I learned that when people come together, we can learn what problems exist in our community, in our nations, and in the world and come up with effective suggestions from different perspectives. By sharing thoughts and ideas, we could discover effective ways to approach these problems, and we could even find issues that we never thought as problematic. I certainly learned that democracy is about individuals’ effort to make the world to live together and to solve the problem. Even if the individuals’ efforts are negligible to bring an impact to the problems, these small steps that they are taking is as significant as taking big steps to take down the problems. And without the small steps, the problems will eventually remain as wicked problems.

Talking to random people and sharing my thoughts and ideas was one of the greatest experience I have had in America. The interaction I had in Kentucky Kitchen Table taught me that in spite of  my poor English speaking ability, I could still actively participate in community efforts. Thank you Dr. Gish, for providing priceless opportunity for me to learn great lessons.



Kentucky Kitchen Table

By Ethan

Our Kentucky Kitchen Table went a lot different than what I had thought would happen. I thought that it would be more awkward than insightful, but I was proven wrong. Our conversation revolved around how what we perceive as our identity can greatly influence who we are and how  we become better citizens.

My group, which included myself, Alex, Luke, and Daniel, were graciously hosted by Emily, a grad student who majored in Religious Studies. After our dinner of chicken tacos. we dove straight in and discussed what citizenship means to us. Some of the answers included having an obligation and a pride to the country we live in. As the talk progressed, we began to talk about how experience and choices we make will mold the identity we have and we present ourselves. Emily talked about how an experience she had that really had a profound effect on her and her identity. Before, she had spent her college career with the same group of friends from high school that all went to Western together. After an auto accident she was in, however she explained how her friend group essentially fractured. This essentially led her to reevaluate her identity that had been stripped bare. She also talked about she is at a crossroads in her life, and why she decided to live in a commune after graduating from grad school. Her experiences and words of wisdom were very valuable to the rest of us.

The rest of our group also talked about how our majors really have shaped or have begun to shape the identity we are creating for ourselves. Luke and Alex, both seniors talked about how the activities and majors they chose really played out in their identities. Luke is a Biology major and involved in Sigma Chi fraternity. He chose his major because his dad is a vet and he was around animals a lot growing up. He also talked about how his fraternity helped him meet friends he otherwise wouldn’t have made. Alex is an Agriculture major and she talked about how she lived at the agriculture farm WKU has and enjoys the small group of them there, who including the professors, are like family to her. Daniel and I are both freshmen and both of us are still trying to understand what our identities are and how we are presenting ourselves. Daniel is a nursing major, but went through a few other majors before deciding on it. He talked about the differences between WKU and his high school in Louisville, Saint X, an all guys Catholic school. I myself am a Broadcasting major living down near Nashville. I talked about how I came here, despite all my friends going off to the University of Tennessee, where I could have easily gone myself. But I wanted to break the norm of my surroundings, where most people in my high school end up going to Tennessee. I also chose to attend Western because of the highly ranked School of Journalism and Broadcasting and what I wanted to do with that.

One major talking point about identity that came up for us was that of our respective faiths. All of us were Christian, although different denominations for the most part. Daniel, having gone to an all Catholic school was first surprised that not everyone down here is Catholic. Luke said that he was a Methodist although he also said he doesn’t really know what that means in terms of denomination. I am technically a Baptist, and I also didn’t really know what that meant. Alex is a Southern Baptist and grew up in the church, deciding to come to Western instead of a private Christian college. Emily herself is a Christian and when she is done with grad school said she is planning on living in a commune for a few months before going to theology schools in Boston, in order to get a better understanding of herself and how a community interacts and supports one another.

In the end, the idea of identity is important to the idea of citizenship, as our identity coincides with how we act as citizens of our towns, states, and country. My Kentucky Kitchen Table really opened my eyes up to this and is something I can use to evaluate the person I am right now, and the person I will be a few years down the road.