Hannah’s KKT

By Hannah

Late on a Thursday evening I headed to a dinner where I was to eat with two girls I had never met before.  Very nervously, and after 10 minutes spent trying to parallel park, I knocked on the front door of my host’s apartment, cupcakes in hand.  I was greeted with the smiling face of my host, McKenzie, and an adorable, chunky little dog who seemed more excited than either of us.  Walking in I noticed the many walls dedicated to Western pictures, paintings, and other memorabilia.  We heard a knock on the door and welcomed in our other dinner member, Sabrina, who is also a Citizen and Self student.

Our Kentucky Kitchen Table took place in Bowling Green, Kentucky and consisted of many helpings of mac and cheese and chicken nuggets as well as Oreo’s and cupcakes.  As the three of us all sat around talking on couches and bar stools we realized how far from strangers we actually were and it seemed as though we had a lot in common.

I quickly learned that McKenzie had been my sister’s RA for two years and it was funny to realize how connected we were.  She asked me all about how my sister was, how Auburn and vet school were going, and especially about how my sister’s new puppy, a golden retriever named Zuri (all of which she knew), was. McKenzie seemed to have been close to my sister as she was very excited in telling me that they were Facebook friends and knew all about my sister’s 10 week trip to South Africa.  After filling her in on my sister’s life I asked her a little bit about her own life here in Bowling Green.  She graduated from Western and is currently working further on her psychology major and communications minor in School Psychology and the EDS program.  She is from a rural area outside of Louisville but both of her parents attended Western which is where they met and fell in love.  Growing up Western was the only school she had really ever thought about going to and she still thinks it was the perfect decision. 

When asked how she described herself, McKenzie said that the one thing all of her friends described her as was an intense lover of senior dogs.  Her dog 10 year old dog Johnny Karate, yes named after Parks and Rec, was her newest addition to the family, being rescued from the shelter, and never left her side.  Her love for him was evident in the many chicken nuggets he was slipped throughout the night, and even though she said he did not get that special treatment often I had a feeling she was just hiding how spoiled he was, as shown by his very large belly.  She told us the story of how he was found in a Walmart parking lot so she felt that she had to make up for this by giving into him, saying that he won the arguments most of the time.

I learned that Sabrina also has a degree involving communications and the two talked about who their favorite professors were and McKenzie gave some insight on who Sabrina should try to take and who she should steer clear of.  I also learned that Sabrina came to Western not knowing anybody from her hometown of Nashville and, like me, had made a lot of friends here.

We all three talked about whether we enjoyed living here or not and all had different answers which I thought showed our different personalities. McKenzie said that while she loved living in Bowling Green and loved the people here she wants to move somewhere else after living in Kentucky for her entire 23 years of life. She noted that on her study abroad trip (which I will discuss later) she fell in love with the weather in England as it never got too hot and snowed just enough for you to say “wow this is pretty” and not “oh I hope I’m not snowed in for weeks.” Sabrina, being from Nashville, said that sometimes it gets a little boring, which I can agree to.  I personally love living in Bowling Green but I think I should attribute that to the fact that my parents are not here to tell me I can’t go out past midnight (sorry mom.)

As we ate our meal, we talked about how our semesters are going and our plans for the coming years.  We all seemed to have an interest in studying abroad and McKenzie told about her experience, as Sabrina and I were very intrigued. McKenzie studied in England at Harlaxton and told of all the fun adventures she took when she had time away from all of her school work.  She said it was one of the greatest experiences of her life. Sabrina shared her plans of studying in Norwich, England at East Anglia University in the Spring of 2018.  I too am interested in studying abroad and while I have not committed to a trip I am very interested in taking a weeklong trip to Bolivia where nursing students can help underprivileged people by setting up medical tents.

Once we were finished eating and we seemed to be running out of things to talk about, as strangers eventually do, and before things got too awkward, we got to the core question and the real reason we were there.  We asked McKenzie what citizenship meant to her, beyond things like voting, paying taxes, and following laws.  There was a long pause and we all chuckled a little as she said she needed some time to think of her answer.  After a few moments, she concluded that being a citizen means that we all help each other out.  She said “we are all here on this Earth together, we might as well make it easier for each other instead of getting so wrapped up and miserable in our own lives.”  Another thing she said that I really liked was that our goal as humans should be to make our little corner of the Earth a little brighter and that kindness is such a small thing but that we don’t have enough of it, meaning we just need to try and pick everyone up and make the world a happy place.  Sabrina and I both agreed and added a little bit to what we thought being a citizen meant.  Sabrina said that citizenship is about the community and working to live well with people around us, even if it gets hard sometimes.  I personally think that we all need to be kind to each other because as cliché as it sounds, we really do not know what is going on in other people’s lives.  After we all talked about what citizenship meant to us McKenzie jokingly asked Johnny what he thought it meant and I imagined his response to be something along the lines of “citizenship means kindness and kindness means you give me more nuggets.”

While our conversations never got super in depth on our values or our morals or anything of that nature I noticed how similar our lives were in many aspects and how easily it was for all three of us to share about ourselves. This dinner taught me that even though we may not all come from the same places, we are not all necessarily interested in all of the same things, and we are varying ages, there can still be thoughtful, pleasant, and insightful conversations.  I think that McKenzie was a wonderful example of being a good citizen by inviting two random college students into her home and helping them with a project, this is kindness on her part. On mine and Sabrina’s side, kindness came from the thoughtful desserts and help we gave each other.

This whole experience relates to the central question: “How do we live well together?”  We talked about how kindness would help us all live better together.  We were all very accepting of each other and respected what everyone had to say and this is yet another example of how we live better together.  This assignment reminded me of the reading that we had at the very beginning of the semester called “How We Talk Matters” by Keith Melville.  In the article, Melville discusses the effects of listening and not just talking.  To make the world a better place and to begin to live better together we need to thoughtfully listen to others instead of discarding opinions different than ours or discarding something someone says simply because they are different than us. In our conversation about what citizenship meant to us we built off of each others ideas in a very positive way and I think this should be something the world as a whole does more often to make everyone happier and live better together.

Going into this assignment I just wanted to get it over with because I am a somewhat shy person but McKenzie and Sabrina were very easy people to talk to and I think that we all had a very good time.   Overall I very much enjoyed this assignment and getting to meet new people and hear about their lives and talk about our differing opinions on certain things. 

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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.

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Citizenship, Democracy, and an Elderly Dog

by Aubrey

4553061df8884f608358b38576cdfe48As a college student, I am constantly on the go, seldom able to make time for much of anything other than the tedious tasks that being a college student entails. I eat my meals hurriedly between classes, seldom taking the time to talk or even sit at a table. So when I was required to do the Kentucky Kitchen Table project for Honors 251, needless to say I was out of my element. However, through this project I was able to gain a valuable experience that I will always remember. This experience had an incredible impact on not only me, but also my classmate, a former Western Kentucky University student, and an unexpected furry guest that contributed equally as much to the night as the rest of us did.

When Zach and I first arrived to McKenzie’s apartment in his enormous truck, armed with nothing but prepared questions for the night and a few more-hastily prepared side dishes, we had no idea what to expect for the night. We walked into the apartment unprepared for the greeting we were about to receive. As soon as we opened the door, we were not-so-viciously attacked by an adorable elderly dog known by the name of Johnny Karate. It was obvious from the start that Johnny and McKenzie were good friends, and that this dog would be an important part of our dinner.

When I looked around at our faces, I did not see much diversity (unless you count the elderly face of the beloved Johnny Karate). I was confused as to how we would have different perspectives as we seemed to be a lot alike. However, as we began to discuss, I realized that in many ways, we are more different than alike. We each had our own experiences and backgrounds that shaped us into the people we are today. Therefore, we were each able to contribute greatly to the conversation with unique perspective and ideas.

Zach, for example, was raised on a farm in Pulaski County, Kentucky, graduating first in his class at Pulaski County High School. He is a biology major, with hopes of using this major to further plant-related science. McKenzie is the oldest of five children, raised in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. She is a graduate student at Western Kentucky University. She graduated Western Kentucky University with a psychology degree, and hopes to work with corporations in this field. I also hail from Pulaski County, graduating first in my class at Somerset High school. I was raised in a very political family, with my dad being the Pulaski County Judge Executive. Unlike Zach and McKenzie, I have no idea what I want to major in. However, that did not stop me from enjoying the good food and company of these people who have their lives a little more figured-out than I do.

When we first sat down to eat, it was at first a little awkward. However, there is no awkwardness that chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese cannot diffuse, so the awkwardness subsided quickly. After looking at my surroundings, I started to get a little bit nervous. On the coffee-table, there was a pro-Hillary Clinton coloring book. I began to panic on the inside, as I thought of my fellow classmate Zach, who is an open and avid Trump supporter. I knew that some of the questions we would be discussing would be politically charged, and I was nervous about someone in the room getting offended.

This nervousness was in vain, as no chaotic political bar-fights broke out throughout the night. What did break out was good, democracy-related conversation. It turns out that even though we may have different political views, we all have similar views on humanity and compassion. When asked “What does citizenship mean to you?”, we all were able to agree that this meant helping out those around you, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. I was able to relate this back to The Golden Rule, which states to treat others as you would like to be treated. McKenzie took citizenship a step further, by saying that we should not only be compassionate to the people around us, but also to the living things. The ears of the elderly dog, Johnny Karate, surely perked up a bit as this point was brought up. It was very clear that the elderly dog population is important to McKenzie, and her heart is big for the living things, human or not, that have the opportunity to be a part of her life.

We also discussed what we thought were the best things in our world today. McKenzie brought up the point of social media. Although social media is often used maliciously, it can be a great tool to connect with people in our world. Because of social media, it is easier to communicate with others than ever before. It is also a great way to see other people’s perspectives. This means that if you believe one thing, social media makes it easy to see someone else’s perspective about that issue, making it easy to be more open-minded. Zach and I were also able to connect social media to the election. Because of social media, we were able to stay more informed and aware of the candidates and their stances on the issue. We were all able to agree that social media was, overall, a great part of today’s society.

When asked what social issue was closest to our hearts, we all had different answers. For McKenzie, the important social issue for her was elderly dogs. She believes that all dogs deserve love, and the fact that elderly dogs are as neglected as they are is heartbreaking. After spending the whole night playing fetch with Johnny Karate, I could easily see why this issue was important to her. For me, the answer was racism. This has not always been the case, but through my participation in Honors 251, I have seen that racism is a much bigger issue than I had ever seen before. I have become more aware of racism in my everyday life, and have since felt convicted to make a change. Despite the fact that our passions about social issues were different, we were all able to see each other’s perspectives and recognize these problems.

After returning home from this night of discussion, I realized how grateful I was for this project. Although we may not have been the most diverse group of people, we all had important things to say. As we discussed citizenship and democracy, I realized that despite difference in political views, we all have similar concerns for citizenship and how we live well together. This experience has been one that I will never forget, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for Zach, McKenzie, and Johnny Karate.

Kentucky’s Kitchen Table Project

By Coreyimg_4079

I will start off by saying that I greatly enjoyed this Kentucky Kitchen Table project. It allowed me to connect with some local people in my community and share some of our life experiences. I had dinner with eight people from various backgrounds. Luke is a man from Indiana who I was introduced to through a friend for this project. He is a mechanical engineering major. He is a funny guy, who has a very similar sense of humor to mine. We got along well from the beginning, and he was a great addition to the kitchen table. He wanted to be described as a kid from a small town who has never had anything given to him. Everything he has came from his own hard work. For the required question concerning what citizenship means, Luke said that citizenship means that you get out and participate in society. You work hard every single day, and try your best to make your dreams come true. You make money and spend money, and that’s how society works.

Kayla is a graduate from WKU, and has a degree in civil engineering. She is my sister, and she is an academically brilliant student graduating with an almost perfect GPA and Honors. She now has a full time job in civil engineering. Kayla wanted to be described as not your typical girl. She works in what some consider a man’s field, and has never been interested in most of the “girly” things. When I asked Kayla what citizenship meant to her, she had a similar answer to Luke saying that you must participate in society. She believes that citizenship means treating everyone with respect.

Mallory is my girlfriend, but she comes from a very different background than me, which provided even more diversity to the table. She also attends WKU and is majoring in Civil Engineering. She comes from the “cross town rival” independent school and was raised up in a more subdivided area. Citizenship means accepting everyone as they are to Mallory. She says that even if you do not agree with the way someone thinks or feels you should still accept them as they are.

Kiersten is my little sister and she was without a doubt the most interesting character at the kitchen table. She is one of the sassiest little girls I have ever known, and extremely smart. Whenever I asked Kiersten how she wanted to be described, she said she wanted to be described as a princess which is not in the least bit surprising.

Elaine comes from a background of only having enough to make ends meet. All through her life she has not had a surplus of money so she is very economically wise and very responsible. When I asked her about what citizenship means to her she had a very simple answer. She said that being a citizen means to contribute to society and make sure that you treat everyone with an equal amount of respect because everyone is made equal in God’s eyes.

Marietta is an elderly woman who has not had it easy from what I can gather. Recently her husband of many years passed away due to an ongoing illness. She said that one of her sons was in prison, and that another had a long fight with drug addiction that he recently conquered. The easiest word that I can find to describe this woman is tough, because she has had a lot of tough times in her life and she has always come through it. Marietta said that citizenship means loving this country and fighting for what you believe in.

The final guest I had at my kitchen table was a man named Kevin who was told a few years ago that he would never walk again. He was involved in a horrible four-wheeler accident that broke several of his vertebrae along with other injuries. He was rushed to UK hospital where he underwent immediate surgery, and at the conclusion of the surgery he was told he would never walk again. Yet, here he was walking into my house to have dinner. Kevin wanted to be described as a fighter because he said it seemed like he was always the under dog. When I asked Kevin what he thought citizenship meant, he said that citizenship meant trying your best to help others out around you.

Throughout the dinner we had a lot of small talk conversations about how everyone was doing and we all shared a little background about ourselves to begin with. Then, since I had been hunting the morning of the kitchen table project, I was asked if I had gotten a deer yet, and we spent a few minutes exchanging our best deer hunting stories with one another. One of the most well responded to questions I asked was: “Did you ever have meals around the table with your family or neighbors growing up?” This question seemed to almost be universally answered as a yes except for Luke. Luke said that his dad worked a lot as he was growing up, and that he didn’t really get to spend time just sitting down and eating dinner with his family. Both Kevin and Elaine responded yes to this question. They thought that it was a normal thing for a family to sit down at the dinner table and have a home-cooked dinner together almost every single night. It was something that they had done ever since they could remember, and couldn’t imagine what life would’ve been without that. Elaine said she felt that this dinner together made the family stronger, and made them get along better.

I honestly learned a lot at this short dinner filled full of conversation and good food. It can really open your eyes to the changing generations, and the differing views between every person no matter how similar they are. This reminds me very strongly of the idea of deliberation and the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine. As I sat at the kitchen table, I was very aware of the differing view points surrounding the table, yet we could all talk about our beliefs and views without offending anyone. That is the goal of deliberation and democracy is to understand everyone’s views and come together to form a better society. Finally, it reminded me of the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine because of the fact that everyone at the table mentioned at some point or another that no matter the skin color or views or ideas we all need to accept one another regardless of the circumstances, and that is very important.

Overall, I truly enjoyed this Kentucky Kitchen Table Project, and would suggest it to anyone. It opens your eyes to the way generations are changing, and how everyone has differing view points no matter if you’re from the same state, city, or household. It was a great experience and I’m glad I was able to participate.

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

By Michaela

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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!

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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.

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