Biking to meet Trinity alums in Eugene, Oregon

On my Northwest bike tour, I was delighted to receive an invitation to visit one of my former students, Laurie Gutmann Kahn, and her husband Josh, both from Trinity College’s Class of 2003. Laurie double-majored in Ed Studies and Sociology, and as a student in my Cities Suburbs and Schools seminar, she conducted oral history interviews with adults who had participated in the Project Concern school integration transfer program from Hartford to suburban schools during the 1960s-1990s. After that semester, Laurie and another student continued working on the project through an independent study, which culminated in her senior research project. After Trinity, Laurie taught special education through the New York City Teaching Fellows alternate route program, and she has talked about her experience with current Trinity students through our Pathways to Teaching alumni video conferences. More recently, Laurie received a US Department of Education fellowship to attend graduate school at the University of Oregon, and this May was awarded her Ph.D. in Special Education with her ethnographic dissertation on lesbian/gay/transgender youth and their experiences with disabilities. This fall she has been hired to teach courses by the Department of Educational Studies at the University of Oregon. Congratulations, Dr. Laurie Gutmann Kahn!

Laurie Gutmann Kahn and her husband Josh at Voodoo Doughnuts in Eugene, OR

Laurie and Josh and I had long conversations about what they learned at Trinity (both inside and outside of the classroom), and their views on constraints and possibilities for change in higher education, given their experiences as graduate students and college instructors. (Josh was a history major at Trinity, who also completed the NYC Teaching Fellows program, and is working toward his doctorate in educational decision-making at the U of Oregon.) They also showed me around Eugene and forced me (I swear!) to visit some delicious local food establishments, including Falling Sky restaurant and Voodoo Doughnuts.

After several days of exhilarating hills along the Pacific Coast, biking across the farmland of Oregon’s Central Valley into Eugene was the mellowest ride of my trip so far. And the residents of Eugene exude mellowness. Walk up to a counter of a local food establishment, and the normal exchange between clerk and customer goes something like this:

Clerk: Hey, how’s it going today?

Customer: Awesome. How’s it going for you?

(Long pause that may make some Northeasterners uncomfortable.)

Clerk: Great. (Stretches out all of the vowels.)

Customer: Hey, we’re thinking about getting some food.

Clerk: Yeah… we’ve got that. Hey, where did you get that bag? (Long side discussion about the handbag fabric, how it came from Botswana, the clerk’s co-worker comes over to talk about how he went to Africa through the Peace Corps, and someone else mentions that they went to Africa, too. Observer is getting hungrier, but patiently continues to take notes.)