Macalester Today Winter 2011

4 firsts

Kiah: Hard work and hard times

THE FIRST YEAR of college may be exciting, but it’s rarely easy. Kiah Zellner-Smith found that out most clearly last fall. For one thing, the difficulty of college classes was a revelation to this A student from Minneapolis South. “Four classes at Macalester is ten times harder than six classes at South,” she sighs. “You really have to apply yourself here.”

The semester started off tough, when Kiah dropped a confusing math class and replaced with it with newswriting, taught by veteran reporter Howard Sinker ’78. Expecting the journalism class to be easy, Kiah was “pushed right out of my comfort zone” when Sinker required students to interview strangers at the Mall of America about their gambling habits.

Kiah gulped but did it, later saying, “It was hard but good experience, and after that the rest of the interviews we did around campus seemed easy!” Her archaeology class was also proving to be a challenge, though luckily French II was a bit of a review.

it's so different from high school, says Kiah

The most thought-provoking of Kiah’s classes, though, is her firstyear course, “The Problem of Race in U.S. Social Thought and Policy.”

“It’s so different from high school classes because it’s about learning opposing viewpoints and forming our own opinions,” says Kiah. “It’s made me think differently outside the classroom too—there are realworld applications I’ve never experienced from a class before.

“Of course it’s denser material than I’m used to and a lot to take in—it was a jolt at first how much. But the class is really chill because we all live together in Dupre so we connect with each other in a whole different way.”

The difficulty of her classes wasn’t the only challenge Kiah faced.

The social adjustment to college was also hard, which took her by surprise, given how close to home she lives. Having her best friend from high school also attending Mac probably initially interfered with her meeting new people, Kiah speculates.

Although her parents were sympathetic, they “really pushed me,” she says. “They said, ‘You can do this, you have to have a positive attitude.’”

However, she admits it has been nice to meet her mom for coffee and to see her younger sisters occasionally. “I didn’t think I’d miss them so much,” she laughs. “College has made me appreciate my family so much more.”

By November, though, things were looking up. Kiah was getting used to her job making sub sandwiches, and was learning to be a campus DJ. She was also planning to take an art class and to join Art Alliance so she could return to the drawing and painting she loves. She’s also come to realize she doesn’t know her hometown very well. “Kids keep asking me how to get here or there and I don’t know! I hardly ever crossed the river before I started college here. Yesterday we had a scavenger hunt that went from Snelling and University down to the capitol and it was cool because I finally got to know more about St. Paul.”



kiah laughing with a friend