Kathryn Aung was a few minutes late for this interview. Small in stature yet alert and eager, Kathryn entered the OCH office with an air of energy and enthusiasm. Why was she late? Turns out she was catching up on some much-needed rest. As it happens, she is quite busy at TU– a member of Honors, a Senator for the Student Association, Secretary for the Association of International Students, and Secretary for College Democrats at TU. Also, she’s on her third semester of taking 18 credit hours (well above the average) — and she’s a fellow for the OCH in the “Renewal and Recovery” seminar. And now, Kathryn can add OCH Board Member to her list of responsibilities!
As an OCH fellow, Kathryn brings to the “Renewal and Recovery” seminar an interest in nostalgia and migration. Her thinking on this topic started when she was an international student from Burma (experiencing homesickness and nostalgia herself) and gained momentum with the pandemic, when she noticed people leaving the present and nostalgically dreaming of other times and places. This year’s OCH theme of recovery resonated with her in this way. Now, approaching two years of pandemic life, Kathryn is both thinking of the past with nostalgia and thinking forward, of “ways we can renew ourselves after a pandemic.”
Her past experiences, though, don’t fully explain why she is a board member for the OCH. The best answer for this is Kathryn’s interest in the “public” of “public humanities.” When it comes to programming the OCH offers, Kathryn “would really like the public to be more engaged.” She is drawn to a central mission of the OCH—helping the public experience the humanities—while at the same time recognizing that access to those ideas aren’t always available to everyone. She expresses a desire to reach a wider audience, including “first-generation and local high school students.” Her reasoning? Not only do the humanities broaden perspectives, they also help us to “engage with the world around” and provide interconnected ideas that can span “different contexts.”
Kathryn’s experience within the field of the humanities has been one of growth and personal development. She is enamored with new, different perspectives: “What can I learn from them? What do they tell me about how to navigate the world?” In this curiosity, Kathryn has found what most other proponents of the humanities have as well: “something that affects people, something that’s deeply personal.”
The Oklahoma Center for the Humanities is thrilled to welcome Kathryn Aung to the board as our inaugural student board member.