June 07, 2018

Text from the Division of Social Sciences

In Their Words: John S. Kenney

Department: Community Studies and Sociology

What Award/ Scholarship did you receive? 2018 Gabriel Zimmerman Memorial Scholarship

What year do you expect to graduate? 2019

College: Merrill

Where do you call home? San Diego, California

With all of the choices for college, what made UC Santa Cruz stand out? It’s a privilege to attend a research university, and the sociology department drew me to UCSC. Once here, when I learned about the Community Studies, I realized how unique the program was, and how in line with my aims it is. The two majors work very well together. Also, the trees are beautiful.

What is your field of focus? Within Community Studies, my current work is focused on how sexualized and gendered
production of space influences the life chances of transgender and gender non-conforming people. To that end, I’m also interested in studying the possibilities that the embodied knowledge of trans people can create for how we organizing, build
community, and understand ourselves with relation to material conditions.

What do you hope to do once you graduate from UC Santa Cruz? After graduating, I think I would like to, in some as of yet unknown capacity, return to grassroots community organizing. With that practical experience to inform my research, I
would eventually like to go to graduate school to pursue my studies in more depth. If I could say for sure though my life would be 62% less stressful.

What is one memorable moment that stands out for you as a student here? In fall quarter, I had the opportunity to present my research on the role of museums in shaping regional identity at the Humanities and Social Sciences Symposium for Undergraduate Research and was honored to receive an award for my presentation. The feedback I received, as well as a plethora of professors, TAs, and peers, encouraged me to continue to pursue this work.

What is your one piece of advice for incoming students about life at UC Santa Cruz? Although it’s beyond cliché, it bears repeating: going to office hours and taking advantage of supplemental tutoring are incredibly helpful. Professors, TAs and tutors have consistently challenged my ways of thinking and have helped to make me a better writer.
Beyond the classroom, students are doing a lot of interesting organizing and are building intentional communities. There are a myriad of structural barriers which will make it difficult to thrive in a university setting. In my experience, the ability to carve out a space for yourself is necessary for survival. In addition to academic work, marginalized students take on the important and difficult work of supporting each other, despite often being made to feel unwelcome and unrepresented in the classroom and around campus. Also I always try to encourage incoming students to take community studies or sociology
classes, though of course I’m biased.

How will this scholarship impact your academic life /research? For my six-month field study, as part of Community Studies, I will have the privilege of working with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in New York City. It’s exciting to get to work
for an organization that sees gender, racial, and economic justice as intertwined, instead of as separate, as is usually the case with mainstream LGBT organizing. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project was my top choice for field study, because they are so unique among LGBT orgs, but going to New York is, of course, no joke. This scholarship will help me to live and work in New York while on my field study. When I return to UCSC next winter, my goal is to lead a student directed seminar so that I can share what I will have learned through the experience and hopefully encourage students to further social justice efforts on our campus.

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