When Jamie Kenyon says sustainability matters, what he means is St. Louisans matter.
“The planet is going to be fine. It’s the people who will suffer if we don’t take steps to make St. Louis a more sustainable place,” said Kenyon, who is scheduled to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis in May with a bachelor’s degree in sustainability from University College. “Some of my colleagues call me ‘woke’ for saying things like that. I tell them, if caring for other people makes me woke, then so be it.”
Kenyon, 52, has worked as a mechanic for Metro Transit for more than two decades. He also is a regular rider and a member of its green team. He has lived his entire life within the St. Louis region and loves it here.
“We’ve got so much going for us — the housing stock, the affordability, all eight seasons,” Kenyon deadpanned.
Here, Kenyon shares why he enrolled in University College and how he hopes to leverage his degree in the next phase of his life.
Share more about your educational journey.
I was good with my hands, so I went to Ranken Tech and got my job at Metro. I wouldn’t say it provided much stimulation, so I started taking classes at St. Louis Community College. It got to the point where the wife (School of Medicine research administrator Theresa Kenyon) said, ‘You’ve got to decide what you want to do.’ And sustainability is something I’m really passionate about. So I decided to get my degree. When it came to choosing where, it came down to two things. One was location. I like to walk or take mass transit wherever I go, and WashU is nearby. And two, the name on the diploma.
How did University College work with your life?
It was difficult because my day starts at four in the morning. And it’s hard to relearn some of the technology like PowerPoint that I’m not using on a daily basis. But the faculty are really excellent and really focused on the people part of sustainability. Almost everything I learned could be connected to St. Louis. And being with other adult learners was important because we could really learn from each other’s experience and perspectives. They really broadened my idea of what sustainability can look like. I’ll be honest, the work was hard, but I was able to do it on my own time and with every resource I needed. I’ll tell anyone who is thinking about going to school to go for it. Because whether you do it or not, time is going to slip by.
How do you plan to use your degree?
I start collecting my pension on Jan. 3, 2025, which is a Friday. So, I’ve been doing a lot of networking to figure out what’s next for me. I would like to be an advocate for better mass transit. As someone who knows the system, I know we can absolutely do better for the people. Transit just checks so many boxes. There are the financial benefits, the environmental benefits and the societal benefits. My grandfather was a public bus driver, and he would say, ‘You get people on a bus and you’ve got a community.’