Class of 2012
Major: Political Science/ WAM
Favorite weekend activity: Gardening and hiking
Career Plans: Medical school or growing medicinal herbs
"The WAM program is what made me fall in love with JSC. We're only one of two colleges in the country with such a program, and the field of alternative medicine is up and coming, so there are many job possibilities in consulting, naturopathy, making medicine and more."
At Johnson State, Kevin Kirk discovered a career that merges his interest in politics with his love of gardening: growing medicinal herbs.
How are medicinal herbs political? Just ask Kevin, who became so interested in wellness and alternative medicine that he decided to take on a double major.
“I started out in political science,” he says. “But the more I learned about the health care issues in our country - the lack of affordable care, and the bias toward Western medicine - the more I realized the health of our country could be a lot better if we focused more on preventative care instead of being reactionary.”
That’s where medicinal herbs come in. Although they have been used for healing disease and promoting health for thousands of years, Western medicine had steered away from alternative practices. Now that is changing, and more doctors are taking a holistic approach.
Kevin still is considering medical school, a path that has interested him since childhood. But the Wellness & Alternative Medicine (WAM) Program also has helped him look at careers he never would have considered before.
“The WAM Program is what made me fall in love with Johnson,” he says. “We’re only one of two colleges in the country with such a program, and the field of alternative medicine is up and coming, so there are many job possibilities in consulting, naturopathy, making medicine and more.”
Perhaps it was inevitable that Kevin would follow a more politicized track in medicine. Even before college, he was politically active, protesting against the Westboro Baptist Church’s anti-gay stance and supporting civil rights issues such as gay marriage and gender equity. He and his mother also volunteered to deliver food to low-income people with HIV/AIDS who live without transportation in rural areas of Vermont.
“I went to high school at the height of the war in Iraq,” he says. “I was always very politically aware and active. I read up on equal rights issues such as feminism, gay and lesbian issues, and acceptance of other religions. I do a lot of reading.”
Kevin has continued his political and community involvement at Johnson State, serving as a student senator and resident assistant; helping develop community gardens on campus as a member of the Gardening Club; and participating with 60 other JSC students in the Break Away alternative spring break program.
“We went to Chicago and helped out the homeless. We served a lot of food at soup kitchens, we talked to people at shelters, and we worked at a Chicago food depository,” he says. “Throughout the year, we raised money for the trip and educated ourselves and others about issues of urban poverty. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of money, so I am not a stranger to food systems. There are a lot of people living below the poverty line.”
Kevin has appreciated Johnson State for connecting him with other students and professors who share his interest in current issues.
“I have found that Johnson’s location and size have really benefited me,” he says. “When you have only 15 or 20 people in a class, you get a lot more face time with professors. You’re on a first-name basis with them.”