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Meet One of History & Politics Newest Faculty Members

February 4, 2014


Ali Kenner

Assistant Professor, Department of History and Politics and the Center for Science, Technology and Society

Allison Kenner, PhD

Hometown: Albany, New York
Degree: PhD, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Research interests: U.S. healthcare; environmental health; sustainability problems; cities and infrastructure; digital/mobile technologies

Q: What did you do before coming to Drexel?
A: Before coming to Drexel I was managing editor and program director at Cultural Anthropology (CA), the journal of the Society for Cultural Anthropology. At CA I managed the editorial office, supervised the journal’s editorial intern program, and led several digital publishing initiatives, which you can learn more about on their website.

Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: I am a serious book lover so this was by far the most difficult question to answer. “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” by James Agee and Walker Evans is a text I often turn to for inspiration.

Q: What’s your favorite food or restaurant?
A: I’m always incredibly satisfied with French fries.

Q: If you could have dinner with three people (dead or alive) who would they be?
A: Octavia Butler, Emma Goldman, Jane Addams

Q: What’s one thing you couldn't live without?
A: Hot water. I have experienced its absence many times, and on a few occasions, for long periods. While I would never say I couldn’t live without it, I am always incredibly grateful when it’s there.

Q: When is the last time you did something “for the first time”?  What was it?
A: Since I just recently landed in Philadelphia I feel like I’m doing and seeing a lot of new things. New coffee shops and restaurants. New neighborhoods and faces. New yoga and dance studios. But my most recent “for the first time” would probably be a trip to Chicago at the end of last year. That was my first time to the city.

Q: What was the most memorable class you took as an undergrad and why?
A: Ancient Philosophy with Lee Franklin—Franklin was simply an incredible, inspiring instructor; American Writers and Photographers with Edward Schwartzschild—this class simply blew my mind. It taught me how to think in new ways and engage with material analytically. The class was creative and fostered creativity in assignments. Schwartzschild was also an excellent teacher. This may have been the class that convinced me to go to grad school; Intro to Feminisms, taught by a teaching collective—memorable as my first experience of feminist pedagogy and learning about how power and oppression work.

Q: Which current event/issue do you think students should know more about and why?
A: The workings of power and inequality, and how we can eradicate oppression.

Q: What’s one thing every student who plans on taking one of your classes should know about you?
A: That each student is wholly responsible for their educational experience. Courses are a perfect place to develop skill in figuring out how to situate yourself in a specific context, in relation to a community of people (other students and the instructor).

Q: What made you want to become a professor?
A: A decade ago, when I decided I wanted to pursue a PhD, it was really because I was excited by what I was reading. I loved theory. Later, towards the end of graduate school as I was re-evaluating where I wanted to take my career, I renewed my commitment to becoming a professor because I loved research. I feel in love with social science and wanted to share that with others (students, collaborators in other disciplines, and communities who might benefit from social analysis).

Q: What do you consider to be your biggest achievement thus far in your career?
A: My work at Cultural Anthropology was very meaningful to me. Helping build digital infrastructure for a scholarly community was incredibly rewarding, and I learned a lot. I’ll be talking more about this work at the February 12th Dean’s Seminar.

Q: What course would you be most excited to teach at Drexel and why?
A: I’d be very excited to teach a year-long thesis course where students spend the first quarter writing a project proposal, the second quarter working with a local organization or conducting research, and the third quarter writing their thesis. I really enjoy mentoring. Helping students design and execute social science projects is one of my favorite activities.

Q: What do you hope to add to the CoAS community?
A: I hope to help establish a dynamic STS community, a community that excels in training the next generation of STS scholars and anchors a robust interdisciplinary research culture here at Drexel.

See Ali Kenner, PhD, in action: CoAS Dean’s Seminar: “Open Access, Digital Infrastructure, and the Future of Scholarly Publishing,” Wednesday February 12, 2014, 3:30 – 5 p.m., Disque 109