Keuka College Students Profile Community Leaders

An annual writing project brings College students closer to the surrounding community.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Keuka College students are no strangers to reading books, but helping write one is new territory. 

At least it was for nearly two dozen students in the College’s “Literature in the Wider World” course. That was until a class project saw them interview movers and shakers in neighboring Penn Yan before writing profiles compiled in a collection titled, aptly, “Who is Penn Yan.” Authors and subjects recently gathered in the College’s Lightner Library for a big book release celebration.

“The ‘Who is Penn Yan’ project was designed to get students off campus to investigate how and why literature is such a powerful tool for shaping our world,” said Chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts and Professor of English Dr. Jennie Joiner, who teaches the class. “I also wanted the students to interact with the Penn Yan community and forge a connection.”

John Martini, owner of Anthony Road Winery in Penn Yan, says it did just that.

“It was great to get together with the students,” said Mr. Martini, who was interviewed by Elizabeth Sisson ’24 and David Hunt ’22. “The project brought a broad section of the community together.” 

The 100-page collection includes profiles of 15 local leaders. During the library get-together, each member of the class and each community resident received a copy of the book—complete with photos and each of the leaders’ stories.

The book’s subjects said the project helped strengthen the ties between the College and the greater community.

“The two young men who talked with me will make excellent contributions to their communities, and I hope this project continues,” said Senior Vice President and Commercial/Agricultural Loan Officer for Lyons National Bank Ryan Hallings ’12, who was interviewed by Sam Loeffler ’22 and Hunter Bastian ’23. “This is a great way to strengthen relationships and experiences between members of the College and the community.”

Steve Stork, president and co-owner of Stork Insurance Agency, said Jordan Burley ’23 and Elisa Swinehart ’22, “asked really good questions and I was glad Jennie put this together.” 

Interviewed by Bradley Stone ’24, Penn Yan Mayor Leigh MacKerchar said the “students did a great job, and I hope they all got A’s.”

Partnering with Terry Test, a 1973 Keuka College graduate, Dr. Joiner launched the “Who is Penn Yan” project eight years ago. By collaborating with their story subjects, students gain a better appreciation of literature as a gateway to understanding the wider world, as well as greater knowledge of Penn Yan through those who call it home.