by Chris Killian

Kalamazoo College graduate (1980) Mark White is sitting in a high-backed chair, cushions the color of deep lime, in the front room of a faculty lounge at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, one of the few U.S. colleges older than his alma mater. Behind him are several windows that look out onto "The Lawn," one of UVa's signature areas (not unlike our Quad), and a massive door that requires - believe it or not - a skeleton key.

The air is thick with the past. In front of White, old paintings of historical figures line the walls; a massive, soot-stained fireplace seems to beg to glow again; and old furniture - the kind you're sure must be leaking springs and would never dare use for fear of ruining a bit of history - bespeaks a more innocent time.

Of all the artifacts in this room - each of which might hold a secret about the university or its famous founder Thomas Jefferson - White's attention is seized by the one piece that seems to shout: "Kalamazoo College!"

It's an old globe, a bit dusty, sitting on a table. Perhaps the associate professor of commerce (at the university's McIntire School of Commerce) had better take it. White might need it because he's set to lead a voyage of grand proportions, one requiring a really big boat. Sounds like old times at "K."

This spring UVa hosts the Semester At Sea program, celebrating its 100th voyage, with White at the helm as its academic dean. Some 700 students from more than 200 colleges and universities around the country will participate in the 15-week adventure, which set sail January 17 and will return in early May. The journey launched from Mexico and will travel 20,000 nautical miles around the world, visiting 10 countries along the way.

No problem; White's been working on his sea legs since his matriculation to "K."

"I didn't want to go out of state for school, and if you wanted to study abroad, 'K' was the place to go," said the Rochester (Mich.) native. "I guess you could say that 'K' opened-up the world for me."

His love affair with traveling began with his study abroad experience in Germany, where he lived with a host family. A 90-day Eurail pass enabled him to travel to every country he wanted "except for Portugal," he said. And for the past 10 years, White has been passing that torch of travel.

He's led student trips to South America, Asia, Africa, Australia and Europe.

"It's life changing," White said of his students' study abroad experiences. "But besides just that, (the students) go into the world to change the world for the better. They acquire a unique set of skills that they can apply to so many issues."

Several of his former students have taken their desire to improve the world into their work after graduation. One took a position at the World Bank and helped finance start-up businesses in impoverished nations. Another student is consulting with, an Internet-based organization that lets people invest their money with small start-ups around the world in the form of no interest loans.

"To travel is to realize just how much we have here," White said. "To those who are given much, much is expected. We want the students on this
"You could say that 'K' opened up the world for me."
voyage to see what the rest of the world looks like and learn along the way by developing and implementing solutions to the problems they see."

Even though finance is a primary part of his academic life (many of his courses focus on corporate and international finance), White also loves the environment (he has a master's degree in ecology from Michigan State University to complement his "K" biology major) and courses examine business's relationship with the natural environment. He believes that business and the natural world must be symbiotic, and travel helps students see how people in other countries approach environmental and economic sustainability. He spent a year in Augsburg, Germany as a Fulbright Research Professor studying business' responses to environmental challenges.

His current research focuses on the valuation of ecological capital, a topic melding his expertise in financial modeling with his interests in environmental conservation. He's taught courses in the past with titles like "The Business of Saving Nature" and "Investing in a Sustainable Future."

Getting nations around the world to learn a lesson he was taught while a student at "K" would serve them well, White said, especially as the need for a move toward sustainability in all facets of life becomes more and more pronounced.

"Kalamazoo College is a small school," he said. "We all had to work together, think together, and live together in order to succeed. I think there is a lesson there, too."

You can check out White's travel blog here.

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Kim Beattie ('72) on January 20, 2010 at 9:40 am
My family and I just completed a year long circumnavigation of the globe. We visited 34 countries on 5 continents. A life changing trip indeed for my wife and I and can only wonder how it will effect the lives of our 14 and 13 year old children. Our 21 year old joined us for part of the trip and is at K ('11) and studying in Casseres, Spain. The best year of my life.
James Sturm K'10 on January 20, 2010 at 10:53 am
Dr. White, What an incredible experience! This summer I returned from a 10-month study abroad in China and did a fair amount of travel myself. And if I'm accepted for the Fulbright ETA I'll be going to Brazil next February. But I've never done anything like circumnavigate the globe! Safe travels...
Jennie Toner 02 on January 20, 2010 at 11:09 am
Hello from Istanbul! I myself just finished circumnavigating the globe and I'm now back in Istanbul, Turkey completing a teaching contract. What an amazing experience it has been - and it all started during study abroad when I caught the travel bug. My travel blog at Thanks for sharing!
Steve Petzold ' 80 on January 20, 2010 at 2:49 pm
Greetings to my former broadcast partner at WJMD . Be safe in your travels abroad. I'm jealous :)
Dianne Willer-Sly, K '80 on February 22, 2010 at 1:04 am
Hello from a fellow biology major from K '80! Like Mark, K "opened-up the world for me". One memorable trip was a 2 week bicycle trip in the Provence region of France with our then 13 and 16 year old children. The then 16 year old is now a sophomore at K, Katy Sly (K '12). She is planning to study abroad in Sengal in the fall to complement her double major in International and Area Studies and French. Our son Taylor, the then 13 year old is now 17 and heading to France twice in the next 6 months! His first trip is with his high school and the second will be to visit the French student we hosted last summer. The K experience impacts on future generations!
John Rottaru on August 25, 2010 at 10:19 am
I'm looking for Mr. Chris Killian which, a few days ago, have sent to me a soft requirement for sugar beans. Unfortunately I lost his mail address even other identification data. So, if you have any connection with this requirement please inform me accordingly to my mail:; I'm ready tooffer him the requested sugar beans, Regards, Eng. John Rottaru, Dir. of T.D.R. ProdExim Co.LTD, Bucharest - ROmania tlf/fax: +40 212303213(tlf+fax)/311048160(tlf) skype: ionro2007 mob.: +40788393070
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