Author Archives: Chris Killian

About Chris Killian

Associate Director Alumni Relations

LEED-Like Leaders

When Kalamazoo College officials went searching for LEED certification for the Fitness and Wellness Center, they looked to the students who will use it.

Ogden Wright, Paul Manstrom and Michelle Sugimoto stand at the Fitness and Wellness Center construction site

Among those responsible for the very best sustainability measure of the new fitness center are LEED evaluators Ogden Wright, Paul Manstrom and Michelle Sugimoto.

After plans for the center were announced in 2014, the Kalamazoo College Climate Action Network, a student-organized group that advocates for sustainable and effective measures to address climate change, looked for ways to ensure the new construction was environmentally friendly. One idea was to have the addition LEED-certified.

K’s Sustainability Advisory Committee, which included faculty, staff and students, agreed, but suggested a modification of the idea. Rather than paying for LEED certification, then perhaps the College should instead hire two student LEED-equivalent auditors, training them in the design, energy and sustainability criteria that inform LEED. The College gave the green light to that idea and will divert the estimated $50,000 cost of formal certification to fund the student auditing project.

Junior Michelle Sugimoto and senior Ogden Wright were chosen from a dozen applicants. They have met with designers and builders every few weeks since late last summer. The actual cost of their training and stipends will be a fraction of the cost of LEED certification. The savings will be invested in a 12 kilowatt solar panel array installation on campus that will offset 5 percent of the new fitness center’s energy costs.

The new, $8.65 million center (29,000 square feet) will feature cardio and weight rooms, multi-purpose fitness areas and racquetball and squash courts. The scheduled opening is July 31.

Collaborating with the project’s design and construction teams, Sugimoto and Wright have been evaluating several factors to assess the LEED-like certification potential of the building. Among others, those factors include water and energy efficiency, proximity to public transportation and air quality.

Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Paul Manstrom, who is advising the students, says their work is another example of K’s commitment to provide students experiences with profoundly relevant real-world applications.

“It’s a case of the administration sharing a challenge with students and saying, ‘Join us,’” he says. “While we are using LEED standards to audit the construction of the building,” Manstrom adds, “there’s really no template for what we are calling a student-audited LEED simulation. We’re being creative and designing the process as we go through it.

“Buildings constitute a large part of the amount of waste produced in the United States each year. Putting the money up front saves the College money in the long run, while at the same time giving these students an incredible learning experience.”

The U.S. Green Buildings Council sets the standards for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Building projects earn points from certifiers based on the type and degree of sustainable practices integrated into a structure, from LED lights to insulation to the use of alternative forms of energy, and many others.

LEED-certified buildings are resource efficient, use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Around 1.85 million square feet are being certified daily, according to the Council. Two other buildings on K’s campus are LEED certified: the Hicks Student Center, with a Silver designation, and the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, which is expected to reach Gold-level certification soon.

“It’s one thing to complain about climate change, it’s another thing to try to change it,” says Wright, a native of Kingston, Jamaica. He participates in K’s 3/2 Engineering Program, a dual degree program where three years of core classes are taken at the College before a student transfers to an accredited engineering school for higher level courses. He currently studies Civil Engineering at Western Michigan University.

Having worked in Facilities Management last summer, Wright applied for the auditor position “because I wasn’t ready to throw away my ties to K,” he says. “It keeps me around here, keeps me grounded in the College, and we’re providing a service for K.”

In return, the students gain vital experience.  LEED is the new trend in building, and helps us understand how we are going to treat our environment, planet and people around us,” says Wright. He and Sugimoto are qualified to do the work.

“It helps that we’re physicists,” Wright says. “We know what’s meant by Kilowatt hours, BTUs, R-Factors (the measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat going through it).“

“And we’re not just on our own,” Sugimoto adds. “The designers and builders work with us as colleagues. I think the coolest thing is that the students here are always willing to take on a challenge and engage with the administration on it, and that the administration is willing to support real actions on the ground.”

The students will write a report for the Board of Trustees and the College community. The fruits of their work will be concrete and long lived. Says Manstrom: “The real story of what they did—duplicating the process used by LEED certifiers—will be in the building. We’ll have an idea of what our certification would be even without the official designation.”

Key K Asian Studies Architect Reflects on a Three-Decade Project

Thirty years, Madeline Chu counts. The professor of Chinese language and literature sums up her years at Kalamazoo College with three milestones reached. Her initial decade, beginning in 1988, she says, was dedicated to bringing China to K. The next 10 years helped build K’s international reputation by bringing K to China. And her final decade was dedicated to reinforcing the program she had established.

Madeline Chu

Madeline Chu was born in China, in the Shaanxi Province, “where the Terracotta Army was found,” she says. “I grew up in Taiwan—elementary school, high school, college, marriage, children. We came to the United States in 1970, and my husband and I continued our studies at the University of Arizona.” There Chu earned her master’s and doctorate degrees in Chinese language and literature.  And there her path happened to cross that of Tim Light.

At the time Light was the university’s new director of the Chinese program, and Chu was completing her Ph.D. Ten years later, when Light was provost at K and had already started the Japanese program, “he contacted me and some other people,” says Chu, “and shared with us his idea of inaugurating a Chinese program at Kalamazoo College.”

Chu was intrigued. There was something to be said about starting a new program, she thought. And, Light told her, it was an endowed chair, one of only five such positions in Asian Studies nationwide.

“He told me I could arrange the program however I liked,” Chu says. She had been offered two other positions elsewhere, but Chu pinned her destiny on Kalamazoo College.

“At that time,” she says, “Asian Studies programs in general tended to pay too little attention to language and cultural studies. I wanted to change that, and the arrangement of the language division at K was conducive to such change.”

In the beginning there was minimal understanding about China at K, but Chu’s position allowed her to grow that understanding. She led a faculty group for a China trip, and established an annual China forum on campus and involved faculty of different disciplines. A “China interest group” and intellectual resource network was built. China became visible on campus.

First mission accomplished. Over the next decade, Chu worked to build K’s reputation for its excellence in Asian studies. She became director of K’s Chinese program, the Center for Asian Studies, the East Asian Studies program, and the International and Area Studies program. She also took on the role of board member (and, later, president) of the ASIANetwork, executive director of the Chinese Language Teachers Association, and the coordinator of the Summer Intensive Chinese Language Program at the University of Michigan.

“Colleagues in the academic field of Asian studies started to know Kalamazoo College better, and I became known as “Madeline Chu from Kalamazoo,” with the rhyming email address “Chu-at-Ka-Zoo-Dot-ee-dee-you (chu@kzoo.edu),”  Chu says.

Many ASIANetwork colleges consider K’s Asian studies a role model in program building and curriculum arrangement.  “In 2001, K received a $2 million grant from the Freeman Foundation to fund a second position to teach Japanese and a second position to teach Chinese, expanding our Asian studies program,” says Chu. This grant also supported a lecture series and study tours open to the K community and the greater Kalamazoo community.

The Freeman grant and many other external grants have supported the second faculty position in Chinese for almost two decades. Starting next year, there will be two tenure-track positions in K’s Chinese program, “thanks to the vision and support of two wonderful provosts, Tim Light and Mickey McDonald,” Chu adds.

“The program is in good shape, and will be in the excellent hands of my colleague for the past seven years, Yue Hong.” Chu says, taking a long, satisfied breath. “It’s a good time to leave.”

Chu is not one to put up her feet, however. In her retirement, she plans to finish writing a college-level textbook, Mastering Chinese. The textbook maps out aural strategies in listening and interacting and associates learned materials with real-life situations. More importantly, it pays due attention to, and takes advantage of, the semantic utilities of Chinese characters in word construction, vocabulary building, sentence formation and discourse configuration.

“I’ve used K students as guinea pigs for this method, and it’s worked,” says Chu. “It’s intensive, but it’s the best way to build reading and writing as well as listening and speaking competence in Chinese.” As Chu muses about her students over her many years at she smiles. “Our students are intelligent, and some of the nicest, happiest, most decent young people. I’m going to miss them.”

Chu was awarded the Walton Lifetime Achievement Award by the Chinese Language Teachers Association in 2000. In 2001-02, she received the Florence J. Lucasse Lectureship Award at Kalamazoo College.

Blogger De-Fogger

Kalamazoo College Professor of Psychology Siu-Lan Tan exits Olds-Upton Hall, walks across the campus quad awash in the deep green of mid-summer, sits under a towering maple tree, and removes her laptop from a bag. Pasted to the keyboard are yellow, pink, and baby blue Post-It notes capturing reminders, ideas, and appointments.

“I’m a Post-It person,” she says.

Kalamazoo College Psychology Professor Siu-Lan Tan

Professor of Psychology (and very popular blogger) Siu Lan Tan

Tan, a professor of psychology at K, wouldn’t disagree if you interpreted the paper stuck to the computer as a slight aversion to technology—or at least social media. She is not on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or any other similar platform. Until a year ago, she didn’t even know what a blog was.

She does now, however, and a lot of people are noticing.

In September of last year, Tan received a phone call from the senior producer of the World Science Festival, sort of like a TED talk organization but devoted to the hard sciences. The group was putting together an event focusing on neuroscience and film music and had discovered a film-music study that Tan had published, and which an esteemed panel of artists – including filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen and actor Alec Baldwin – wanted to replicate on stage and broadcast over the Internet.

It was a big honor, Tan says, but she had to decline due to copyright issues she thought might creep-up. The producer called back. Baldwin was disappointed, she said, as was another panelist, Tufts University neuroscientist Aniruddh Patel, Ph.D. Instead, Dr. Patel would describe Tan’s research during the public presentation and organizers wondered if Tan might write a blog post about her study.

Tan agreed, and called her sister – herself an author – and asked what exactly a blog post was, and how to write one.

“That was my first trial,” Tan says. “But it paved the way for what would come next.”

Editors at Psychology Today, the popular general interest magazine published every two months, had wanted Tan to contribute content to their website for years. The journal asked to publish her post for the festival. Then Oxford University Press asked to do the same on their blog site.

Both were so impressed with Tan’s writing that they asked her to be a regular contributor to their sites. And that’s where Tan’s burgeoning notoriety began.

By October, Tan had her own personal blog on the Psychology Today site, named “What Shapes Film?” The posts present an interesting analysis of the often overlooked psychological aspects of films and how human developmental themes resonate within them.

Other posts offer content that can be both quirky and thought-provoking. Examples include “Why You Can’t Take a Pigeon to the Movies” (hint: Where you see scenes that are fluid, a pigeon would observe each frame due to its highly developed sense for visual stimuli) and “Gravity: Developmental Themes in Space,” which explores themes of human growth, development and rebirth.

Some of her work takes a closer look at viral videos, ones that become immensely popular due to their inherent humor or heart-tugging message. But where you laugh heartily or shed a tear, Tan sees more.

“I wanted people to read it and say, ‘Wow, that’s really interesting!’”

An example of that deeper perception was her post, “Why Does This Baby Cry When Her Mother Sings,” which garnered her significant recognition on the Psychology Today site. That post explored the developmental phenomena of “emotional contagion,” where humans absorb and reflect the intense emotions around them—in this case, a mother singing sweetly and passionately to her 10-month old daughter in a viral video viewed more than 30 million times. Interestingly, within 24 hours of publishing the post, Tan was surprised to hear from the baby’s mother herself, Amanda Leroux, who thanked her for the article and for sensing the special emotional bond with her daughter, Mary Lynne. Tan’s post was No. 22 on Psychology Today’s “Top 25 Posts of 2013,” competing against 13,000 posts that year. The same post on Oxford University Press’ blog was the fourth most popular post there last year.

“It can be an uphill battle to blog about things that are educational, or at least deal with more of the fundamental and research-oriented aspects of psychology,” Tan says. “But when you can present a fascinating research study or two in a fun and interesting way, people are more likely to read it and take away something that’s useful. People are more likely to learn.

“Most people are interested in movies. I wanted to do something that wasn’t esoteric. I wanted the blog to be inclusive and positive. I wanted people to read it and say, ‘Wow, that’s really interesting. I don’t think I will experience that the same way again.’”

In addition to her penchant for blogging, Tan is a published co-author of two books, The Psychology of Music: From Sound to Significance and The Psychology of Music in Multimedia. Two more books are in the works, she says, dealing with music and child development.

Psychology isn’t just about counseling, and Tan is quick to point that out. The discipline also deals with revealing the diverse facets of human nature, what we have in common and how the mind and behavior works.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in music at Pacific Union College, Tan began studying the pedagogy of piano, with the goal of teaching music as a career. When she took a required developmental psychology class, everything changed.

“I fell in love,” she says. “I thought, ‘This is the greatest thing. Why didn’t I get into this before?’ I kind of took the long route.”

So Tan dropped out of her master’s degree program and enrolled in California State University Sacramento where she took enough psychology classes to get into a graduate psychology program. She earned a Ph.D. degree several years later from Georgetown University, with a focus on developmental psychology and the psychology of music.

She came to K in 1998, where she began teaching courses in child psychology and human development.

“I love, love teaching,” she says. “The blogs are an extension to my teaching but on a larger scope with a more diverse audience. It’s also an opportunity for me to continue to be curious about many things and keep learning. I have to read extensively and fact-check every post.”

In fact, many of her blog post ideas have come from the K community, she says. She consistently bounces ideas off of her students and colleagues, and has formulated posts based off themes discussed in her courses. K students often ask her to blog about something. Her husband, himself a filmmaker and blogger, also serves as an idea generator and sounding board for ideas, she says.

For instance, a blog post titled “3 Reasons Why We’re Drawn to Faces in Film” includes research published in 2007 and co-conducted with K alumnus Matt Bezdek ’07, who now holds a Ph.D. degree in psychology and is still doing research on psychology and film, Tan says.

Another post, “Video Games: Do You Play Better With the Sound On or Off?” included research co-conducted with K alumnus John Baxa ’09.

“K students and classes are the primary inspiration for the blogs,” she says. “I’d say 80 percent of the posts relate in some way to the College. They are really our blogs. There is no disconnection. They belong, in many ways, to K.”

Watch The Stories They Tell, a professionally produced documentary about Siu-Lan’s developmental psychology class’ Co-Authorship Project, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., in Dewing Hall Room 103 during Homecoming Weekend, Saturday, October 18.

Happy Hour Cheers

I’ve been lucky enough to find Kalamazoo College in three different cities—Minneapolis, Kalamazoo, and Ann Arbor—thanks to the Hornet Happy Hour events.

Hornet Happy Hour Kalamazoo Hornets included (l-r): Andrew Miller ’99, Grace Miller (anticipated class of 2038!), Alex Werder ’15, Nick Beam ’14, Courtney Read ’06 and Rudi Goddard ’13.

Hornet Happy Hour Kalamazoo Hornets included (l-r): Andrew Miller ’99, Grace Miller (anticipated class of 2038!), Alex Werder ’15, Nick Beam ’14, Courtney Read ’06 and Rudi Goddard ’13.

Hornet Happy Hours happen quarterly (the fourth Wednesday of January, April, July and October), hosted at a local bar or restaurant, and serve as an opportunity to meet and network with other Kalamazoo College alumni.

The connections I’ve experienced at these short-and-sweet gatherings have made a difference. After graduating from K in 2012, I set off to the heart of the Amazon, where I taught English for the French Ministry of Education in French Guiana. At the end of my contract, I found myself back home in Minnesota pondering my next steps.

There I received a message from K’s alumni relations department regarding a Hornet Happy Hour hosted in Minneapolis. I attended the event, hosted by Kate Thomas ’06, at the Nomad World Pub. I saw the K flag at the end of a table, and I was greeted with smiling faces and inquisitive conversation. Most K graduates have some wisdom to impart and some great adventures to share.

At the Nomad I met Maggie Kane ’13, an English major. We started talking about life after Kalamazoo College and I mentioned my interest in graduate school. Maggie said both of her parents held master’s degrees in public policy from the University of Minnesota, and that sounded like a field that aligned with my interests. The next week I met with Matt Kane and Liz Conway at Gigi’s cafe, their local favorite in Uptown Minneapolis. The couple was eager to talk about their diverse experiences in the policy field, and our conversation influenced my decision to apply to public policy graduate programs. I am now in my first year at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

More recently I attended an October Hornet Happy Hour in Ann Arbor, hosted by Alexandra Hayward ’13. I met Cyrus Jadun ’10 and Mynti Hossain ’05, both of whom had graduated from the policy program at the Ford School and currently work for Mathematica Policy Research.

Last year 412 people attended 64 different Hornet Happy Hour events. The program began in New York City; Erin Mazzoni ’07 is one of its architects. She and a group of young K grads gathered on a monthly basis to connect, catch up and find familiarity with the Big Apple. Mazzoni contacted Sass Havilar, events planner in the alumni relations department, to share her enthusiasm about the success of the informal happy hour events in New York.

“The idea of an official College Hornet Happy Hour event definitely started off organically. Why not invite others to get together?” said Mazzoni. In June of 2011 the first official “Kalamazoo Hornet Happy Hour” occurred in New York City.

According to Mazzoni, “We continued to meet (now formally) on a monthly basis, and we had pretty good turnouts, from brand new grads to longtime retirees. Some months we had 30 alumni, other months just five, but no matter the number, we always had a good time. You always have something in common and something to talk about.”

For more than a year the New York group met at the Brass Monkey, owned by alumna Marisol de la Rosa ’97. “Marisol was very generous,” said Mazzoni. “It’s special to have a K grad open up space for us.”

Mazzoni and the alumni relations department teamed up with class agents around the country to add events in Kalamazoo, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington D.C.  And last year Hornet Happy Hours happened in 25 cities: Albuquerque, Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Houston, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Las Vegas, Madison, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Portland (Oregon), San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Traverse City and Washington D.C..

“At almost every Happy Hour there are business cards passed around,” said Mazzoni. “These connections can be life-changing. At one Happy Hour in New York, I met Marc Reeves ’93, who was supportive and instrumental in helping me find my current position at Under Armor.”

Mazzoni hopes Hornet Happy Hour will expand into new spaces and gatherings (both formal and informal) in order to get others engaged. “Last year, we met an alum in a play in the city, and a group of us went to see her performance. In January, I hosted a brunch for K women in Washington, D.C. [Mazzoni’s new residence since her career change]. I hope other alumni will make and take advantage of new opportunities to gather with fellow grads,” said Mazzoni. Since her relocation to Washington D.C., Dion Bullock ’12 has hosted the New York City events.

For Mazzoni, the K flag is a great table marker and a symbol of the College’s ubiquity. “The flag’s become a tradition,” said Mazzoni. “Kim Aldrich ’80, director of alumni relations, gave me my first K flag and I got one for Dion when he took over in New York.”

Hornet Happy Hour events rely on alumni to serve as hosts in their cities. Interested? Please contact Sass Havilar at 269.337.7283 or shavilar@kzoo.edu.

You can find dates, locations and times for alumni events on the Alumni Relations calendar of events page. When you attend an event, take pictures and post comments using the hashtag #HornetHappyHour. You can also tag @KCollegeAlumni on Twitter.

And speaking of connections, the Alumni Association Executive Board (AAEB) recently launched an improved Kalamazoo College Alumni Directory. Now it’s easy to search for K alumni in any city. Among other features, the directory includes a map view, vCard download, email enhancements, and the ability to sync a LinkedIn profile. It’s a great place to start if you host a gathering in your area!

Korean Soundscapes

If you’re walking on a fall afternoon across any college campus in Korea, you’ll probably hear the sound of Korean farmer’s music.  More accurately, the sound will enter your body.  It will synchronize your heartbeat with its own. The large drum, called the changgu, provides the pulse.  The beat grounds you, connects you to the campus, to the landscape, to Korea.

Gary Rector studies in his K dorm room in 1961

Linguist in the making: Gary studies in his K dorm room in 1961.

On countless fall days, I’ve heard the changgu resonate from unadorned citizen centers and sandy schoolyards.  Elderly housewives gather with shop owners and learn the changgu.  Awkward teens gather with other awkward teens to play the changgu.  Led by teachers of lithe grace and resounding voice, their bodies learn new rhythms.

Kalamazoo College alumnus Gary Rector ’65 found a home in Korea.  He also found a home in the changgu.

In 1994, after 27 years in Korea, Gary Rector took the famously difficult Korean citizenship exam.  He was the only one to get 100 percent.  He became a Korean national, fluent in both Korean language and the changgu.

As a fellow K alum who has lived several years in Korea, I wanted to learn more about Gary’s story, so I went to visit with him in his book-lined office near his home.  He has lived in the same northern Seoul neighborhood for 40 years.  When he first moved there, it was all traditional-style Korean houses, and many of his neighbors were fortunetellers and shamans.  Now, the neighborhood is a jumble of crumbling traditional homes, 1980s villas and shops, and soaring new apartment complexes, intersected by highway overpasses and steep hills.  I asked Gary what brought him to that neighborhood.  It turns out that it’s the place where he learned to play the changgu.

Childhood

Gary’s interest in his surrounding soundscapes started at a young age.  He grew up in a musical family in Kentucky and still treasures early memories of his family playing bluegrass and spirituals.  When he was an elementary school aged boy he moved with his father to Toledo, Ohio, and there he gained an awareness of how the sounds of language can differ, one place to another.

The Kentucky family members of Gary Rector holding instruments

Musical roots: The Kentucky family members of Gary Rector ’65 loved to play music together.

He spent childhood summers in Kentucky, and the school year in Ohio.  As he traveled between these regions of two distinct dialects, he learned to speak both, alternating the Southern dialect of Kentucky with the Midwestern pronunciation of Ohio.  Also, for a time, he and his father shared a house with Polish immigrants, and young Gary realized that he could understand their Polish.  His interest in language burgeoned in high school; he studied French at his home high school, and travelled to another high school in order to study Russian.

Kalamazoo College

In 1961 Gary started school at K. He continued to study French, as well as other languages, and became particularly interested in linguistics.  After his junior year in Caen, France, he was hired for a work-study job in the language lab helping other students with French pronunciation.

Gary also got involved in theatre and music at the College.  When he first arrived at K, his roommate (and to this day lifelong friend) John Bolin, convinced him to come along to theatre auditions.  They both performed in many plays, and John later went on to become a longtime theatre professor at Berea College.

Another K friend was learning to do flat picking on the guitar, and Gary realized that his mom and dad had done that as well.  Suddenly inspired, Gary began to play.  He joined a jug band with friends, and continued to play with the band after graduation.

Jug band?  “Wait,” I interrupted.  “Did the jug band have a name?”

“Yeah, it did have a name,” he responded vaguely, with a mischievous smile.  For a moment, I felt like I was talking to the college-aged Gary.

“What was it?”  I didn’t let him off the hook.

“New Pandora Mountain Backstairs Walkup Letters to Mother Coloring Book and Jug Band. The girl who played the washboard named it.” His eyes twinkled.

I laughed.  Classic K kid, I thought.

A significant mentor for Gary at Kalamazoo College was linguistics professor Peter Boyd-Bowman.  He fueled Gary’s interest in linguistics. He also operated an innovative program for learning neglected languages.  From 1963 to 1965, students in Boyd-Bowman’s program used a combination of audiotapes and pronunciation coaching from exchange students to learn Japanese, Chinese, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Swahili, and Brazilian Portuguese.  Many of the students who participated continued studying their language of choice more intensively through a summer program.  Gary wanted to learn Hindi, but the program was limited to first- and second-year students, so he wasn’t able to participate.  Ironically, Gary became probably the most successful student of neglected languages that Boyd-Bowman mentored.  Gary’s later experience learning Korean reflects the personal motivation and attention to pronunciation that formed the basis for K’s neglected languages program.

“The New Pandora Mountain Backstairs Walkup Letters to Mother Coloring Book and Jug Band”

After he graduated, Gary took a job at the Gibson guitar factory in Kalamazoo.   Then, he decided to join the Peace Corps, requesting a non-European language speaking country.  And so began his Korean experience.

Korea

Gary was part of the fourth class of Peace Corp volunteers sent to Korea, and arrived there at the end of 1967.  Before starting their service, the volunteers received language training, and Gary stood out as a particularly skilled linguist from the beginning. His group of volunteers focused on public health, and after training he was posted in a small village called Cheongdo, outside of Daegu.

To learn Korean he spent as much time with local people as possible, speaking only their language. He also regularly bought a monthly volume of cartoons, and read them with a little boy he knew.  Gary would ask the boy to explain any words he didn’t know, and, in exchange, would give the boy the volume when he finished reading it.  After nine months in Korea, he also began to study the Chinese character writing system, and eventually became a fluent reader as well.

Gary brought his guitar and autoharp to Korea, and continued to play music.  In 1969 he even composed and recorded a pop song in Korean titled “A Tomorrow Without Tuberculosis,” for a Peace Corps volunteer record aimed at earning money for the Korea Tuberculosis Association.  The album sold more than 20,000 copies!  Gary knew he wanted to learn Korean music, and tried more classical court-style instruments, but they did not particularly suit him. When he went to listen to Korean farmer’s music, he fell in love.

In Seoul, Gary heard the Korea-America Farmer’s Music Group, led by the man who would eventually become Gary’s long-term mentor, Kim Byeong-seop.  Kim had had a bad crop year, so the group hired him to play and teach the changgu.  At that point, Gary was in his late 20s, and Kim told Gary he was too old to start learning.  But Gary persisted and eventually played the second changgu side-by-side with his teacher.  Student and teacher playing together made a symmetrical picture—Gary right-handed, his teacher left-handed.  Korean audiences loved that symmetry.  In many ways, the music became Gary’s home.  For several years Gary slept on the floor in the practice hall and helped newcomers to rehearse.

He would work part-time to earn enough to support himself while he played.  After his volunteer service, Gary continued with Peace Corps.  He trained Korean locals to use audio-visual materials for public health education.  He also created language-learning materials and tested the language ability of new volunteers.  Gary then worked for the Language Teaching Research Center, helping to create materials for Korean language textbooks.

Gary and his teacher Kim perform farmer’s music with the latter’s band

In the 1980s Gary (second from left) and his teacher Kim (left) perform farmer’s music with the latter’s band.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, he worked professionally on many creative projects, and his career development followed the rapid trajectory of the Korean economy.  He worked as a copywriter, editor, and translator for LG Ad (formerly Heesung Advertising).  Then, he worked for the public relations committee for the Seoul 1988 Olympics Organizing Committee.

Gary’s decision to become a citizen began with loss. In 1987, he had a dream that he got a call informing him that his father had died.  The next day, he did receive a call, and he learned that his changgu teacher had died.  His father died exactly one month later.  It was then when he started to think about becoming a Korean citizen because he had more significant personal ties in Korea than in the U.S. at that point, and citizenship would give him the flexibility to do freelance work.  Gary continued to write widely on topics related to Korean language, culture, and society. He also took on translation and editing projects.  He became a citizen in 1994 and continued to write, edit, and translate for many government and corporate clients. He even wrote a weekly newspaper column on Korean society that ran for 10 years.

Current Project

One of Gary’s current interests is in cued speech, used mostly for deaf students to aid in lip reading and accurate detection of exact phonemes.  He worked with Professor Seo Chang-won, a professor of special education at Far Eastern University, to develop a version of cued speech for Korean.  Learning cued speech can significantly increase the reading aptitude of deaf students.  Gary is interested in applying cued speech to teaching foreign languages.  By signaling the exact phonemes, cued speech can help learners increase their listening comprehension, writing ability, and pronunciation.

Gary Rector’s life continues its immersion in the sounds and rhythms of language.  For me, his life story is a reminder of the ways we all are shaped by sounds and rhythms, if we only take notice.

The author: Nora Hauk ’04 majored in theatre arts at K, and studied abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  She spent two years after graduation on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in South Korea.  She is currently a doctoral candidate in sociocultural anthropology at the University of Michigan.  She received the Blakemore Fellowship for Advanced Asian Language study, and graduated from Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute.  She is now in Seoul working on research for her dissertation.

Bee Man, Bee Artists

A honeycomb and etching

An example of honeycomb and etching by Ladislav Hanka ’75 and his bees.

Ladislav Hanka ’75 has a mind that buzzes with constant activity, always attracted to the sweetness of an idea with a twist. His degree is in biology, and his love of the natural world is evident in his art. His etchings, prints, and drawings illustrate the intricacies and mystery of nature: craggy trees, elegant fish, round-bellied frogs, fierce raptors and delicate song birds, dank mushrooms, the occasional napping old dog.

So the idea of combining living bees and his etchings seemed, well, natural. He saw it as collaboration.

Some five years ago, a friend had given him a box of bees.

“There was a little bit of sugar water in there, something like mosquito netting, and the bees were climbing around inside the box,” Hanka says. “And I thought, so cute! Like having a puppy!” He laughs. “Suddenly, I was a parent. It was on that level of forethought that I became a beekeeper.”

Where the idea came from to place his etchings inside the beehives, among the living bees, Hanka can’t say.

“Who knows where ideas come from,” he shrugs. “You wake up some night, and there it is. It seems such a simple idea, too, but I’d never seen anyone do it. So I put the etching in after soaking the paper in hot beeswax, brushing it on, and the bees seem to like that paper. Typically, they start on the chunks of old, recycled beeswax and avoid the lines of the etching. Perhaps it’s the flavor? Or the waxy aromatic paper?  Otherwise they tend to chew up and destroy any foreign substance intruding on their hives. Then again, they may just be critics.” Hanka grins.

Standing in his studio, a building he constructed where the garage once stood at his residence in Kalamazoo, just a few blocks from Kalamazoo College, he leans in close to take a look at his etchings. He has them lined up in a row on a small ledge along the end wall. The etchings closely match what he exhibited in ArtPrize 2014 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

ArtPrize is an annual art competition judged both by popular vote and a jury. This past summer more than 1,500 artists from across the world exhibited their work in and around downtown Grand Rapids. Hanka’s panoramic etching in ArtPrize 2011 won the Curator’s Choice award and was purchased by the Grand Rapids Art Museum for its permanent collection.

Kalamazoo College alumnus Ladislav Hanka

The co-artist shows some the collaborative works.

Hanka’s 2014 ArtPrize entry, “Great Wall of Bees: Intelligence of the Beehive,” is his third since the competition’s inception. Contained inside a glass case along the length of a wall just inside the entrance of the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art (UICA), live bees buzzed and danced and chewed over three rows of Hanka’s etchings—detailed images of toads, salmon, trees, insects, birds—building honeycomb along the curves of his lines, indeed in surprising collaboration.

Great Wall of Bees was collaborative art and environmental message. In a description of his work on the ArtPrize website, he wrote:

“The additions bees make to the etchings are as inevitably elegant as the gently curving veils of honeycomb you find hanging from the domed ceilings within a bee tree. There is an undeniable intelligence at work in a beehive. You learn to respect that and care about these highly evolved creatures, which brings me inescapably around to bees being in trouble—not just here but worldwide.

“The cause of bee die-offs is hardly a mystery. It’s much like the growth in cancer rates. No single factor causes it. The crisis is due to a summation of assaults on the organism, until it’s all too much. Bees face a gauntlet of toxins, habitat loss, electromagnetic pollution, exotic diseases and imported parasites. …”

Hanka’s living exhibit drew a great deal of attention. He estimates that 80,000 to 100,000 persons viewed the Great Wall of Bees. His work was short-listed in the top 25 in both popular and juried categories for three-dimensional entries.

“For the three weeks of the exhibit, I was the bee-man,” says Hanka. “I heard people talking about the bees in cafes and on the street.  People still come to talk to me about the artwork and the bees, even though the show is over.”

“For the three weeks of the exhibit, I was the bee-man.”

It was profoundly gratifying, he says, to interact with the public coming to see his art and to watch the bees build their honeycomb around it. Bees crawled along the glass where children pressed their noses for a closer look. Some expressed concern over dying insects, and it gave Hanka a chance to explain something about the four-week life cycle of a bee and the difference between natural daily die-offs versus the massive losses bees currently suffer in beehives everywhere.

Kalamazoo College alumnus Ladislav Hanka with bees on his hands

The hands of collaborative art makers.

He dips a bare hand into one of his hives, set in a circle beside his house, and the bees emerge, almost lazily, spinning a hum of circles around Hanka’s head and landing on him. They swarm over his bare hands and land in his beard.

“They are not aggressive with me,” Hanka says. “Frame of mind is important. They respond much like any animal would. You have to be sensitive to their mood and show some respect..”

The bees do sting him occasionally, he says, especially when stressed, but Hanka shrugs it off. All a part of the art and all part of the natural order of things. As for the way the insects weave their intricate combs along his drawings, Hanka shrugs about that, too.

“I try to be realistic about that, how much intelligence is in the bee,” he says. “There is a spirit. I have no explanation for some of it.”

Hanka considers ArtPrize carefully, now that the citywide exhibit is done, his wall of bees packed up and brought back to the hive again. During subsequent weeks he contemplated the moment of fame.

“The space is clean and no evidence remains of the effort invested,” he says. “Honey gathering and art are both among the first recorded events in the mists of human history.  My work invited  people to partake of genuine, unfalsified sacraments.  I saw they were truly moved by the beauty they encountered and by their concern for the fate of bees.”

Landing on the competition’s short lists gave him a few seductive moments of contemplating the financial prize (ArtPrize awards two grand prizes worth $400,000, and eight category awards worth $160,000). Those moments quickly evaporated in the final stages of the competition.

“Of course, there was a build-up and then disappointment,” Hanka nods. “Though we may ardently desire the accolades and money these votes confer, it isn’t why we make art.”

What remains, Hanka says, is the message he wanted to deliver: the interaction he had with his audience and his art, the near-mystical experience he had with another tiny life form. He acknowledges the influences that have remained with him from his years at Kalamazoo College, where he studied with Marcia Wood, Johannes Von Gumppenberg, Peter Jogo, and Bernard Palchick (all former professors in the art department). Equally, in biology, he credits Professors Paul Olexia, David Evans, and Fred Cichocki.

“I still keep in contact with many of them, and I value their influence in my life,” Hanka says. Ideas, he believes, are born in the buzz of many minds working at their purpose; they are built one upon another.

Hanka walks between the aisles of his beehives in the same way he walks between the tables in his studio. Both are covered with pieces of his work. He leans forward to study a detail, and then he leans back to contemplate the whole.

He is done with this particular project, this artistic collaboration with the bees that carried over years. Now, the bees will return to what they do best: making honey. The artist will let his mind spin and dream and buzz a little, until it lands on his next big idea.

Eating Dearborn

Flatbreads seasoned with zaatar, photo David Hammond

Flatbreads seasoned with zaatar

Kalamazoo College opened me up to the inestimable value of visiting other parts of the world, yet I rarely spent much time visiting parts of Michigan beyond Kalamazoo. Even though my dad grew up in Hamtramck, a suburb of Detroit, I hadn’t visited the Motor City since the early 60s.

And then, more than a half-century later, my wife, Carolyn Berg ’72, and I visited Detroit and suburban Dearborn, each a feast in its own way.

It was fascinating to see the people of Detroit, a city on the remake, leveraging the aesthetic and financial advantages of properties abandoned when the city’s auto and other industries downsized or closed shop. Young artists, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs are revitalizing places outside the city’s center, and we were knocked out by Detroit’s old-neighborhoods-made-new, especially Corktown, bursting with renewed energy at restaurants, breweries and bars that seemingly overnight mushroomed out in old warehouses and manufacturing facilities.

We were even more eager to visit the Dearborn neighborhood.

About three years ago, the National Report mentioned that Dearborn had been placed under Sharia law. The article said the Dearborn city council “voted 4-3 to become the first US city to officially implement all aspects of Sharia Law.  The tough new law, slated to go into effect January 1st, addresses secular law… as well as personal matters …[and] could see citizens stoned for adultery or having a limb amputated for theft.”

The story was, of course, baloney – and intentionally so. National Report is a satire site. One problem with satire is the propensity of some to regard satiric fiction as fact. Sure enough, the Dearborn-under-Sharia-law story was soon repeated as fact in the Conservative Tribune, Human Events and several other publications that perhaps could use better fact-checkers.

The story may have seemed credible to some because Dearborn contains the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States. Many people from Lebanon, Kuwait and other Arabic countries came for good paying jobs. More recently, many Arabic people have immigrated in order to escape conflict zones in the Arab world. The Arab Americans we met seemed very glad to be in the U.S., and we were very glad to visit their community, which offers some of the most wonderful Middle Eastern food we’ve had, in great abundance and variety.

The Arab American National Museum is a good place to orient yourself to the local community and its history. The Museum offers food tours that include visits to local shops and restaurants, a wonderful way to learn about the culinary options available in Dearborn. What follow are a few places we visited—several as part of that tour—along with some suggestions about the wonderful foods you might try.

Baking fresh bread on site, and serving up steaming platters of grilled meat and vegetables, Al-Ameer is a neighborhood mainstay. It is, in fact, a recipient of a 2016 James Beard “American Classic” award, though that honor clearly hasn’t gone to their head. The night we visited, the servers were friendly and efficient. The pricing was downright budget-friendly.  We liked the koosa (zucchini squash stuffed with meat), shawarma and ghallaba (a Lebanese stew of meat in lightly spicy sauce).

Croissant Zaatar

Croissant Zaatar

Shatila is a huge Arab-American pastry palace on a street lined with Middle Eastern restaurants and bakeries. There’s a relatively small section serving their renowned ice creams, including pistachio and rose water (our favorite), and a vast display of delicate French pastry side-by-side with sweets showing more Arabic character. The French occupied Lebanon for some years, and their influence was noticed at a number of Dearborn pastry shops. For example, we enjoyed a croissant, the traditional French breakfast pastry, filled with zaatar, a traditionally Middle Eastern spice blend.

The grocery store Dearborn Fresh Supermarket is a wonderful place to buy Middle Eastern basics at reasonable prices. We selected some sour plums, traditionally eaten with salt to bring out the sourness, as well as several Middle Eastern breads and pickled cheeses. We also took home some dates from Saudi Arabia that were fantastic. Unlike many varieties available in the U.S., these Saudi dates were not soaked in sugar water; they had a naturally caramel-like, deliciously chewy texture. We bought a 4.4 pound case!

Fawzy Alghazali, photo David Hammond

Mocha Café owner, Fawzy Alghazali

Mocha Café is owned by Fawzy Alghazali, who came to the United States from Yemen in 2002. Alghazali specializes in Yemeni sweets, some found nowhere else in the area, including harisah, a savory block of chopped nuts and spices, and araysi, a mango smoothie with chopped strawberry, banana and other fruit, very popular in Yemen’s port of Mocha. Alghazali told us he came to the U.S. with his father, though much of his family remained in the Middle East. “I worked at a gas station,” he said, “and on an ice cream truck, then at Macy’s. I got in partnership with friends and bought a donut shop in Hamtramck.”  Today his café operates in two locations, and Alghazali considers himself living confirmation of the American dream.

The Arab-Americans of Dearborn are trying—as did my grandparents and other immigrants who arrived in this country decades or even centuries before—to make a safe home for themselves and for their families in the U.S. For those, like me, who live to eat, the restaurants and sweet shops in Dearborn offer what may well be the broadest, deepest and most concentrated selection of Arabic cuisine in the country. You don’t always have to travel to another country to explore other cultures and enjoy their cuisines.

Gum-shoe Duty

CL_Williams_Graduation

Charles Lewis Williams Jr. on his graduation day, June 19, 1907.

Kalamazoo College archivist Lisa Murphy ’98 loves the detective work associated with her position. A recent “case” transpired in June with a phone call from Lorinda Jeter. Lorinda wanted to know more about her ancestor, Kalamazoo College graduate Charles Lewis Williams Jr., class of 1907. More specifically, she wanted to know if Charles was the first African American to graduate from K. Other sources—some of uncertain reliability—make that claim for other persons, including two brothers, John and Solomon Williamson; or for Rufus Lewis Perry, who may have earned a degree in the 1860s; or for Henry A. Williams, who was on campus some three decades later.

According to Murphy, the College has generally considered the Williamson brothers as the first black students (they were from Jamaica) to graduate, and Pauline Byrd Johnson, class of 1926, as the first African American to graduate.

But is that certain? Could Lisa help settle the mystery?

“Lorinda’s family has some photos from Charles Lewis’s college years,” says Murphy, “and they knew that he was captain of the football team.” As far as Lorinda knew, Charles never married, although some photos of him were taken with a woman who may have been a girlfriend.  Lorinda is descended from Charles’ brother Harry, who was a Baptist minister.

Murphy started her sleuthing. That Charles Lewis Williams Jr. graduated from K is certain—on June 19, 1907, with an A.B. degree. “To verify that he was the first African American to graduate from K, I needed to confirm whether Rufus Lewis Perry earned a degree in the 1860s,” says Murphy.  “Perry was a freed slave and he appears as a member of the Junior Class in the Preparatory Department in the 1859-60 catalog,” she adds.  However, in the catalog for the following year, Perry was not listed. “He was not in the college classes at that time,” concludes Murphy, “and it’s clear that he did not graduate from Kalamazoo College with a bachelor’s degree. It’s possible he graduated from the seminary–a separate institution at the time, but the evidence of that is inconclusive.”

According to Murphy, besides Perry, the only other African American known to study at the college in the 19th century was Henry A. Williams, from 1896-98.  He was listed as an unclassified student in the academic catalogs from 1896-98, and there is no record of his graduating.  The Williamson brothers began their studies at K in 1906, when Charles Lewis Williams Jr. was a senior, and Williamson brothers’ graduation would have occurred after Williams’.

Based on her investigation, Murphy says: “Charles Lewis Williams Jr. is the earliest known African-American graduate from Kalamazoo College.”

Despite similarity in middle names and surnames—Lewis, Williams, Williams and Williamson—Murphy found no evidence of any familial relationship.

She did discover some interesting details. Charles Lewis Williams Jr. was born in Troughhill, Virginia, in 1878. He had previously studied at the Virginia Union University Preparatory Department. Both Kalamazoo College and Virginia Union University were founded by members of the American Baptist Home Mission Society, and indirect connection that may have played a role in Williams decision to attend K. A more direct connection may have been  Frank Coburn Dickey, Kalamazoo College class of 1899, who became the chair of the Mathematics Dept. at Virginia Union University.  “He may have been the one to refer Williams to K,” says Murphy. “We do know they were at Virginia Union University at the same time, and that Williams started his studies at K in 1903.”

At K Charles Lewis Williams lived in the men’s dormitory, and his roommate was a James Thomas Rooks from Gates, North Carolina. In addition to playing football, Williams was a member of the Century Forum literary society and served as vice-president of the College Oratorical Association and treasurer of the Brook’s Classical Club. He won the Cooper Prize in Oratory and planned to study at the University of Chicago after graduation. Some years later, the K’s Alumni Notes publication list Williams as the YMCA secretary at St. Louis, Missouri.

Where the TinyTent AT?

Hundreds of miles in, with thousands more to go—one would think these two women would be nicknamed Blisters and Wails. Instead, Emily Sklar ’15 and Margaux Reckard ’13 are known along the trail as Giggles and Chuckles, respectively.

Emily Sklar and Margaux Reckard

Hikin’ Hornets Emily Sklar ’15 (left) and Margaux Reckard ‘13.

The two laughing hikers are at this very moment somewhere along the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail, hiking from Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine on an adventure that began on March 24. The adventures of Giggles and Chuckles are being recorded, step by step and with vivid photography, on their blog, Where the tinytent AT?

“My SIP [senior individualized project] is an exploration of the relationship between humans and their natural environment on the Appalachian Trail,” wrote Emily, a.k.a. Giggles, in early April, from a point near Springer Mountain, about 164 miles into the hike.  She is a biology major with an interest in ecological issues, and she started thinking about hiking the Trail while on her LandSea expedition at the beginning of her freshman year. Her interest in nature, biology, and ecology came together in her SIP plan.

My SIP will explore what people gain from their experiences on the trail.

“I am conducting interviews along our hike to discuss individuals’ experiences, and what people gain from their experience on the trail,” Emily said. “The trip thus far has been really interesting. I’ve met a lot of people. Everyone has a different story and comes from a different place. Folks come from different geographic regions, levels of fitness, and experience levels.”

Emily Sklar encounters a wild pony in Grayson Highlands

Emily Sklar ’15 encounters a wild pony in Grayson Highlands, a portion of the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail hike she is doing for her Senior Individualized Project.

New friends (and SIP subjects) include hikers with such trail names as The Captain, Grandpa Chops, Roadrunner, Hearsay, LAF and Slim.

Emily added: “I’ve really enjoyed a lot of the company that we’ve found at the camps, although the sites very over crowded our first week. There were around 20 tents a night at each campsite. The groups are beginning to thin now because folks either leave the trail or move at different speeds.”

The two hikers have at this point hiked through the state of Georgia, and yes, there have been blisters, and rain, and frustrations along with the laughter.

“The biggest frustration that we’ve met so far has not been the rain,” said Emily. “We’ve felt like we have something to prove, being women out here. A lot of folks in camp haven’t taken us too seriously, but as soon as they learn that we’re some of the most experienced hikers out here, that changes a bit. All in all, we’re happy. We’re a little bit sore from the recent increase in mileage, but we’re having a lot of fun, making a lot of friends, staying dry (for the most part), and laughing frequently. “

As the weeks go on, the miles accumulate, and the blisters heal into calluses, the two write on their blog that they are feeling stronger. The goal of reaching Katahdin in Maine, wrote Margaux, “feels more and more possible.”

Follow their adventures and view the photos of Giggles and Chuckles at Where the tinytent AT?

Being There

There’s no business like show business. And Kalamazoo College’s Department of Theatre Arts just showed the acting world it means business.

K theatre arts majors Grace Gilmore ’15 and Lindsay Worthington ’17 recently returned from competing at the 47th annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

Grace Gilmore and Lindsay Worthington

Grace Gilmore ’15 (left) and Lindsay Worthington ’17

The pair beat out thousands of other student artists from across the country to present their work at the week-long, all- expenses-paid festival in the nation’s capital. Only 125 students were invited to attend.

Gilmore, a theatre arts major and religion minor, was one of only eight students in the country competing for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Worthington, a theatre arts and music double major, traveled to Washington, D.C. to showcase her talents in Sound Design Excellence.

Both categories featured KCACTF students from much larger colleges and universities, several of whom were graduate students enrolled in Masters of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) theatre programs and other specialized acting classes.

“Grace and Lindsay are extraordinary,” says Professor of Theatre Arts Lanny Potts. “They are recognized as the best-of-the-best in the nation in their fields. It’s rare for students from any small program and liberal arts college to achieve this sort of recognition.”

Gilmore spent the week at the Festival immersed in classes that focused on everything from stage combat to situation comedy. She worked alongside professional actors, met with casting directors, and had the opportunity to network with peers from across the nation and in the Washington, D.C. theatre community.

In addition, she went behind the scenes and toured the Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, and the world-famous Shakespeare Theatre Company.

“Just being there was so surreal,” says Gilmore. “It was an unbelievable experience.”

For the 21-year-old, whose first acting role was as a jester in a middle school play, performing on the Kennedy Center stage in front of peers, directors, New York-based casting agents (and even her parents!) was the high point of the week.

Her parents, K alums Sherry (Christy) and Jim Gilmore, class of 1983, were both theatre arts majors.

“You could say theatre is in my blood,” Grace says.

Worthington, meanwhile, experienced her own festival highlights. In her master class she worked alongside professional lighting designer (and six-time Tony award nominee) Beverly Emmon as well as award-winning composer, sound designer, and audio artist Obadiah Eaves.

Emmon and Eaves critiqued the students’ work, offering their feedback, suggestions, and ideas. And the students got the chance to share meals and free time with the two professionals.

“It really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Worthington says. “We were able to ask them questions about their careers and really get to know them.”

The Road to Nationals
Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, KCACTF is a national theatre program working to improve the quality of college theatre in the United States. Comprised of 18,000 students from more than 600 academic institutions in eight different regions, KCACTF gives theatre departments and student artists the opportunity to showcase their work and receive outside assessment.

Earlier this year, KCACTF officials visited K and critiqued the work of the students in the theatre department. Gilmore and Worthington, along with 13 others K students, were nominated to attend the KCACTF Region III in Milwaukee. Three additional K students attended as part of their senior class seminar, and two others participated for professional growth and networking. The group joined 2,000 other theatre students from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin for the weekend competition.

“They are recognized as the best-of-the-best in the nation in their fields.”

Gilmore, nominated for her performance in Romeo and Juliet, beat out 274 students for the prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Award. Of the 16 finalists who competed in the final round of the competition, 13 of the 16 were post-undergraduates working on their M.F.A.

“I was absolutely shocked. We went into it clearly as underdogs,” Gilmore says. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would win. No one from K has ever won. When they said my name, I couldn’t believe it.”

She received a scholarship and an invitation to attend the National Festival.

Worthington was the only student nominated to attend the regional competition for her work on TWO (!) different entries in sound design. Her submission for Peer Gynt ended up taking top honors in Milwaukee—giving her a ticket to the National Festival, which turned out to also be an unplanned, but very welcome, trip home for this Bethesda, Maryland, native.

Neither Grace nor Lindsay took top honors at the National Festival, but they returned to Kalamazoo with a playbill full of experiences, contacts, job and internship opportunities, and memories to last a lifetime.

“I didn’t go into it thinking I would win,” says Worthington, who was awarded the Williamstown Theatre Festival Internship for Sound Design. “I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much had I been stressed about the competition. Just being there, to me, felt like winning.”