March 05, 2007
Some of Krystle Liggins' most memorable intellectual exchanges at Knox have taken place outside the classroom, while walking back to the dorm, over dinner, or during a convocation ceremony in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. "Knox has a homey feeling. People congregate everywhere," she says.
Liggins is a sophomore at Knox. She says she is undecided about her major, but lets it slip that her interests are in anthropology/sociology or psychology or interrelations or even theatre, "to name a few."
As a first-year student, Liggins joined the Umoja Community Gospel Choir. She is also vice president of the ABLE Club and writes poetry. "When I first got to Knox, I was radical. I got involved in a lot of activities. I started playing volleyball and getting involved in all the sports. I found that I was drawn more toward the performing arts than to sports, but my high school didn't have performing arts. I was never in a choir before."
Liggins says she loves the small classroom atmosphere. "I really enjoy the interaction and the diversity of the students. Simultaneously, considering that Knox in predominantly white, I have learned more about being black in this atmosphere. I had never been in a class where the majority of the students were black. I need to know my culture, but even more so, I need to know myself."
A graduate of Houston Preparatory Academy, Liggins was introduced to private colleges in Texas and then attended a Best of Midwest conference that led to a visit to Knox College. As a visiting prospective student, she sat in on an anthropology/sociology class. "We [visiting students] got involved and asked questions. That really did it for me," Liggins says. "I couldn't leave a school that made me feel that way. Knox is my blessing in disguise." According to Liggins, the classroom conversations are just a starting point. "If we're having a debate in a class, people don't suddenly become disengaged at the time that the class stops," she says. "We keep talking about it. We want to know more."
Liggins credits Knox for helping her to broaden her interests and to get to know herself. "At Knox, you can be a neuroscience major and also really like religious studies," she says. "People can balance a lot of different things, and it's all about getting that foundation of knowledge."
Liggins found the willingness to converse extends to College administrators as well. Last year, she found a listening ear when she wanted to do some research in South Africa. Liggins went to Dean Bailey and checked into getting some funding for a research project she was interested in doing in South Africa. "Students really have access to the administration here."
After receiving a Richter scholarship for the research, Liggins and a diverse group of scholarship recipients from across the United States traveled to South Africa with other groups. During their two-week trip, the group rigorously completed community service work and volunteered at a hospice and at various local shanty towns. They also helped acquire new chemistry supplies, including the replacement of chemistry textbooks that were last replaced in 1987. "The experience was educational and entertaining. It was strenuous, but it was very uplifting," she says. "I really enjoyed giving back and seeing where they need help and knowing I can do this."
While in South Africa, Liggins and the rest of the group took toys to the children of the shanty towns. "We wanted to bring dolls to the children of one of the shanty towns, but when we went to the story, there were no black dolls," she says. "How are these girls suppose to have a good self image if they don't see themselves in the toys they play with?"
Since returning from her trip, Liggins is forming a non-profit organization in Texas. "I really felt a sisterhood and needed to do something. Sistahs With A Purpose (S.W.A.P.) helps girls have a positive self image to be self sufficient," she says.
Liggins treasures Knox's combination of academic excellence and Midwest informality. "There is a fantastic balance between studying hard and realizing this is a time to enjoy these people that you're with. Your wellbeing is important. Social learning and intellectual learning?they kind of come together."