Author Archives: Andrea Johnson ’15

About Andrea Johnson ’15

Associate Director Alumni Engagement

Memories, Mistakes and Memos

During summer 2014 rising senior Andrea Johnson completed her third legal internship—this one at the United States Bankruptcy Court in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her reflections on her experience explore the relationship between doubts, misgivings, mistakes, professional and personal growth, and the freedom to fail.

Matthew Harte, Patricia Francis, Jeffery Hopkins, Andrea Johnson and Richard Jones

The staff of Judge Jeffery Hopkins at the United States Bankruptcy Court (Cincinnati, Ohio) included (l-r): Matthew Harte ’07, Patricia Francis, Hopkins, Andrea Johnson ’15 and Richard Jones.

From the very first day at this internship I made mistakes, and mistakes made me—though the truth of that second part took some convincing.

During my initial introduction to my supervisor, Matthew Harte ’07, I learned I had parked in the wrong parking lot. I feared I had made an embarrassment of myself as a directionally-challenged intern. It was not the first impression I had hoped to make. Matthew said it was a non-issue, though I felt like I had failed already, and it was only the first day.

Every endeavor I had undertaken in my life, from athletics to academics, had stressed that failure was not an option, nor could it be accommodated. Failure was a lacklack of preparation or lack of will power or lack of both. It was the opposite of success in a polarized world—the (very) “wrong” road diametrically opposed to the one-and-only “right” path.

And, I believed, in order to prevent failure, one had to always be anticipating how one’s present choices and decisions would impact the future. In that way, one’s present and future are inextricably—and linearly— linked. Thus, foresight is essential to forego failure and continue moving forward toward future goals.

So, on this first day, nothing could have been more overwhelming to me than what I was told: mistakes were essential; mistakes were expected. What? It seemed counterintuitive to make mistakes since I wanted to make a good impression. I did not have to reflect long on my first mistake (the parking lot) when I made my second: I got lost returning to my apartment.

The perfectionist in me was rebelling against this notion of mistake-making. I am probably a typical K student in that way. Accepting the notion that failure is necessary is quite difficult for me.  Even more challenging is trying to unlearn my constant need to know how every experience will affect my future. Failure is expected? Failure is normal? Were there “right” and “wrong” ways to fail? If so, then I wanted to fail properly.

“I made mistakes, and mistakes made me…”

In the first week, I made my third “mistake”: wearing pink in the courtroom. That neutral colors in such a setting is more of an implied rather than explicit rule in no way mitigated my embarrassment. I stood out like a pink jelly bean in a sea of black and grey. Interestingly, this mistake fueled my interest in understanding gendered appearance within the legal field. My Senior Individualized Project—“‘Forsake the Self or Forsake the Law:’ A Study of Women Lawyers and Subtle Gender Inequity in the Legal Field”—built off of some of my experiences, such as clothing expectations for women lawyers and other observations at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. While none of these small mistakes jeopardized my learning experiences, they forced me to reevaluate my definitions of failure and allow myself more room to grow.

After a few weeks I became accustomed to the basics of bankruptcy law and felt comfortable in my environment. The security guards recognized me by name. Judge Hopkins’ staff checked on my progress, and they were always willing to answer my questions. I could find cases and use Westlaw without major problems, and I knew the general schedule of the court. Basically, I felt comfortable enough to make microscopic mistakes.

However, when Matthew handed me a copy of a current case and requested I write a summary memo, I panicked—even though this exercise, like so many other rewarding experiences at the court, gave me the freedom to make mistakes. I could learn without the pressure of a “grade” or judgment. And yet I still didn’t feel at ease. Instead I looked for anything that could act as a guide or an example because I did not want to fail or disappoint people I respected. Ironically, the “right” way to do this assignment was to “fail” repeatedly, accept constructive criticism, and correct my mistakes. And, in doing so, I would be introduced to proper legal research, thinking, and judicial decision making.

In the two weeks that I researched and drafted that first memo, I had to confront my own expectations and accept that my first and subsequent drafts were not going to be perfect. After plunging me headfirst into the depths of legal research and writing, Matthew and Judge Hopkins spent a lot of time on the extensive editing process, teaching me the “treading water” phase of legal research and writing. I started to become more comfortable with the discomfort of not having a structured path to follow.

After at least four drafts, my initial memo was hardly my own, but that did not matter because I had completed my assignment and had kept my head above water. About a week later Matthew gave me a new memo assignment for a different judge. This memo became my main project for the remaining three weeks of the internship. Even though the topic was more complicated, the assignment was exponentially easier to complete because I had accepted that I would make mistakes.  I crafted a stronger initial draft, one that I was proud to call my own. My final memo assignment taught me more about myself and the law through the countless drafts, checking Westlaw hundreds of times, working constructively with my supervisor and the Judge, and finally reaching a finished product worthy enough to be used as a decision of the court.

Researching and writing legal memos helped me confront my own fear of failure and making mistakes. I also had many other memories that made this internship both professionally and personally rewarding. From Judge Perlman’s rendition of “I’ve Got a Gal in Kalamazoo,” to stimulating conversations with women lawyers interested in my thesis topic, to running for coffee and Grater’s Ice Cream with Matthew and discussing our different K experiences, I learned and laughed more in six weeks than I ever thought possible.

By the end of the internship, the city of Cincinnati and the bankruptcy court felt like home. Through this experience, I had come to define “home” as a place where one is challenged, has room to grow and, most importantly, to make mistakes. The people at the court—Patricia Francis, Richard Jones, Matthew Harte and Judge Jeffery Hopkins—made my experience extraordinary because of their instructive and patient explanations and their insights about law and life. They helped make a welcoming and comfortable environment where I could thrive. I made many mistakes at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and the mistakes made me…more competent, more confident, and “more free” to make more mistakes in the future.

Great Chemistry Inspires a Unique Anniversary Gift

Wedding anniversary gifts often focus exclusively on the couple and tend toward the transitory.

Nahrain Kamber and Ralph Griffith have a provided a gift whose effects may last longer than the architecture in the background.

Not so for Nahrain Kamber ’01 and her husband Ralph Griffith. In August 2015, to celebrate the first anniversary of their 2014 marriage, the couple established the “Nahrain Kamber ’01 and Ralph Griffith Endowed Student Research Fellowship” at Kalamazoo College, a gift that not only expresses their love for each other, but also honors Nahrain’s gratitude to her alma mater and will benefit women science students at K in perpetuity.

The idea for the rather nontraditional first-year anniversary gift was Ralph’s. “I thought about the things that were most important to Nahrain,” he said. Each year, interest from the endowed principal will help students at K who are majoring in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) to conduct research in those areas, hopefully as early as possible in their undergraduate experience.

“My summer internships at K helped shape the trajectory of my career,” says Nahrain, a senior scientist and group leader in Dow Chemical Company’s Coating Materials Technical Service and Development Group. “I want to be a resource to any K student, but especially to the science majors and recipients of this endowment. I can provide career guidance as they navigate through STEM careers, where women tend to be underrepresented.”

At K Nahrain majored in chemistry. She originally planned a career in patent law. However, she worked the summer after her first year in the laboratory of her advisor and mentor, Professor of Chemistry Tom Smith.

“It was my first practical experience with chemistry beyond the classroom, and I loved it,” says Nahrain. And it changed the course of her undergraduate study and eventual career path.

During her time at K she developed her lab skills through internships, a summer undergraduate research residency (IBM Almaden Research Center, San Jose, Calif.) and a Senior Individualized Project in bioinorganic chemistry (Tom Smith was her supervisor).

At Stanford University, where she earned her Ph.D., she studied “the catalytic reactivity of organic molecules as enablers of controlled routes to produce new polymers (another name for plastics).” In 2005 she received an IBM Scholars Fellowship which she used to return to the Almaden Research Center in San Jose.

“Full circle,” she smiles. “Together, these academic and lab research experiences opened the door to my eventual career in polymer science, which is centered on the use of synthetic chemistry to produce and enable innovative new product research and development.”

Nahrain started work at Dow in 2007. She has developed several patents, written many papers and speaks frequently about her work at scientific conferences in the U.S. and abroad.

“What Nahrain and Ralph have done is inspirational,” says Executive Director of Development Andy Miller ’99. “It honors the value Nahrain attributes to her K education and supports her mission of encouraging young women to go into STEM disciplines.”

Adds Nahrain: “We’d love to see more alumni give back to K on behalf of purposes they find powerful or that were formative in their development at K and their success after K.” Endowed funds are a way to do just that, forever.

Nahrain certainly considers her and her husband’s gift a way of paying back, and forward. She always has felt grateful to the F.W. and Elsie L. Heyl Scholarship that she was awarded to attend K. She also believes in the importance of young women having opportunities in STEM subjects early in their schooling.

“For me,” says Nahrain, “Kalamazoo College was the most influential experience in my life. Without K, Stanford would have been unlikely. Without K, I doubt I’d be in my present career, which I love.”

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!

Fast Track

Sally (Warner) Read ’08 wastes no time. Two months after graduation from Kalamazoo College she began taking doctoral classes in education at Michigan State University. And in seven short years she she’s landed her dream job as head of the Kazoo School, a private, independent, progressive school less than two miles from K.

Sally Read

Sally Read, blessed with one of the great surnames for a head of a school.

“It’s all been a whirlwind, and I have a lot of learning to do as I figure things out,” said Sally.

Like many first-year K students, Sally was open to many post-graduate possibilities. She did know that she loved children and wanted to change the world. During a pre-admission visit to K, she sat in on her sister’s (Becky Warner ’04) developmental psychology class and knew that she wanted to major in that field.

During her first quarter she became a self-described “Dr. [Siu-Lan] Tan [Professor of Psychology] groupie” and signed up to be a teaching assistant for her, which she did throughout her four years at K. Sally particularly enjoyed the co-authorship program at the Woodward School where K students help the children write and illustrate fictional stories.

“She challenged me to do better and think more deeply.”

“I loved Dr. Tan’s class, even though I was a little scared of her,” said Sally. “She really challenged me to do better and to think more deeply than I ever had before.”

Sally’s Senior Individualized Project occurred at the University of Texas (Dallas) where she conducted research on social aggression for the Friendship Project, a longitudinal research project about aggression among children. Sally analyzed the Project’s data bases to discover how gender differences affected the children’s self-reports of social and physical victimization. Going to Dallas was also an opportunity to be with her boyfriend and future husband, Courtney Read ’06.

Near the end of her K experience Sally decided that a career in education made sense for her, and she applied for and was accepted into a Ph.D. program in teacher education at Michigan State University. At age 21 she was the youngest, most inexperienced student in the program, a fact that didn’t intimidate her at all. If anything, graduate school solidified her tendency toward fearlessness (well cultivated at K) and her passion for learning. Both have served her well in her new job.

During doctoral studies Sally was influenced by two progressive educators whose ideas have become cornerstones for her research and for her work at the Kazoo School. John Dewey (1859-1952) was a philosopher and psychologist who advocated for an education based on democratic principles that would prepare young people to be productive, responsible members of a democratic society. Alfie Kohn (1957- ) advocates the viewpoint that education is effective when the learner actively makes meaning as opposed to absorbing information. Knowledge, argues Kohn, should be taught “in a context and for a purpose.”

For her dissertation Sally interviewed and observed third grade students at the Kazoo School who were working on an election year project. She also followed kindergartners as they learned mathematics through the symmetry and patterns of nature at the nearby Kleinstuck Nature Preserve.

“I immediately fell in love with Kazoo School,” said Sally. “Progressive schools often get a bad name for being laissez-faire. My research focused on seeing what progressive education looks like in a real, 21st-century school. I wanted to know how teachers find meaning in their work when they are given the autonomy to teach and learn without the use of a standardized test.”

Sally’s first job after receiving her doctorate was at the Eton Academy in Birmingham, Michigan, an alternative school that specializes in working with students who have learning disabilities. She liked the experience and planned to stay at Eton to teach Spanish. Destiny intervened. Sally received a call from the former Kazoo School board chairperson who invited her to become the interim head of school (for the 2014-15 academic year) and to apply for the permanent position.

At first Sally declined.

“What do you do if you’re 27, and you’re offered your dream job?” said Sally. “I didn’t feel ready for it.”

Then she did a lot of soul searching and sought out the advice of her mentors. She concluded that she would regret missing this opportunity if she didn’t apply.

“I lived and breathed Kazoo School during my dissertation, and I liked it,” said Sally. “It was really what I was looking for in a school: small classes; children’s art everywhere; a spirit of collaboration among students, teachers and parents; and, of course, a vision of the school that I believed in.”

Kazoo School has 96 children in grades pre-kindergarten to eighth grade and it employs 18 full- and part-time teachers. Since 1972 the school has focused on challenging and nurturing children to become independent thinkers and lifelong learners in an environment that seeks academic excellence, social responsibility, and respect for others.

One of Sally’s favorite things to do at school is to interact with the students. She leads school assemblies on Friday mornings and talks with students in the halls. She also sees students at work when she visits classrooms to evaluate teachers. While most teachers fret over evaluations, Kazoo School teachers are comfortable with having Sally come to their classes. They know she misses being with the children, and that takes the edge off her official business.

“The children here are so awesome,” she said. “I take as many opportunities as I can to visit their classrooms and interact with them. The pre-kindergarteners are especially excited to see me. They call me ‘Dr. Sally.’”

Sally enjoys meeting with the children for another reason.

“It’s interesting to see how much they have changed and grown from the few short years ago when I was doing research here,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what they’ll look like a few years from now.

Although the new job has been exciting, Sally admits it hasn’t been easy. In her first month, the office assistant left. A short time later she hired a new business manager. One fine fall day she had a flood in the school basement that began on Friday at 4 P.M. Late in her first fall she had to call an early snow day. Sally got through it all—and she conducted her first fund-raising campaign.

The school had not done a big annual fund drive before, but Sally decided to try it. The results? More than $100,000 and an 80 percent parent participation rate, both significant increases from previous years. The key to her success?

“Follow-up, a great team of parent volunteers, and, more follow-up, with a personal touch,” she said. “I learned a lot about the culture of giving from my time at K.”

Although Sally’s academic background isn’t specifically in educational administration, she has turned out to be a natural leader who uses a collaborative approach with her parents, teachers, and the school’s board of directors. This style has worked well for her at a school where only two teachers are younger than she is.

“There are so many decisions to make all the time, which can be tiring,” she said. “I have been strategic in how I’ve chosen to approach it.”

Sally promised teachers she wanted to make everyone successful by drawing on everyone’s expertise rather than telling people what to do. She set up a shared file of expertise on Google Docs. And she readily consults with teachers whose long experience (15 to 20 years) at Kazoo School has given them deep institutional knowledge of the place.

Sally’s journey has combined vision, hard work, mentoring, and the execution of a plan. It all just happened quicker than she anticipated. Last May, the board of Kazoo School named Sally permanent Head of School.

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.

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.”

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.

AAEB Member Considers Externships a Vital Part of the K-Plan

Vital, perhaps a tad overlooked, and with a “porch time” aspect unique to K, Kalamazoo College’s Discovery Externship Program has connected students and alums since 2002. The externship provides students with valuable observation and participation in a field of their choosing, and, unlike a traditional internship (or any undergraduate program in the country) it  also provides students homestays with K alumni. Opportunities range in character and geography, from helping at a community kitchen and farmer’s market in Chelsea, Mich., to working with children on the autism spectrum at Daily Behavioral Health in Cleveland, Ohio, to getting up close and personal with octopi in the crystal waters of the Caribbean for the Northeastern University Marine Science Center.

Andrew Terranella ’99, M.D.

One of the program’s early alumni adopters, Andrew Terranella ’99, M.D., saw immediately how K students might benefit from time spent at his work. A physician with the Public Health Service, Terranella works with Indian Health Services to provide care to reservations in the southwest United States. In 2008, when he arrived at his first post-residency job as a pediatrician on the Navajo Reservation in Kayenta, Arizona, he called his alma mater.

“We often had medical students come to the reservation,” said Terranella, who serves on the College’s Alumni Association Executive Board, “and I thought it would be fun to have a K student come out, so I called Pam Sotherland [program and data manager at the Center for Career and Professional Development]. She said, ‘Well, we have a new thing called an externship.’”

Terranella and Sotherland composed a description of his medical, rural externship, and soon after two young women, Anna Hassan ’10 and Lauren Torres ’10, signed up and made their way from a verdant Michigan summer to the red dirt and open skies of the Southwest.

Terranella wanted to maximize the benefit of externship for the students by providing some hands-on, brains-on work in addition to job shadowing. “We were launching a program in the clinic called, ‘Adventures in Medicine,’ which was a summer science project for local children and teens,” Andrew explains. “I had a general idea for the program, but I wanted the K externs, along with two medical students, to design the curriculum and administer it.” First things first, though. “We wanted to have one week of orienting to the place and to get to really know each other, so we went on a river trip on the Green River in Utah, which was a blast.” After that, the externs had time to plan and then implement the three-week science program. It is the time students spend with alumni during homestays that differentiates the discovery externship program from any other.

In addition to having the chance to see what a physician does, Anna and Lauren worked with students from area schools, in the process learning how to run a biomedical summer class and how the tribal community functioned.  That interaction is important to Terranella. “I think it’s important for people to see that reservations exist,” he explained, “because there is an entire group of Americans that people don’t pay a whole lot of attention to. And yet the reservation is beautiful country, the people are fantastic, and the medicine is really interesting, a type that you won’t see in an academic setting.”

Through hosting externs, Terranella also hopes to inform others of the importance of public health and Indian Health Services, specifically. “Having students come here is a great way to share the cultural experience of working with IHS. Cultural competence is not something you may always learn about in medical school or as an undergrad,” he explains. In fact, in part because of that arid and exhilarating summer at Kayenta, Hassan went on to get her Master of Public Health degree and now works with underserved communities in New Orleans.

Terranella keeps in touch with many of his externs, and credits the homestay aspect of the program for fostering a close-knit bond. “Undoubtedly an important part of the experience is just having one-on-one time—what we call ‘porch time’, which is sitting together after a work day and chatting about anything. Porch time makes externships something more valuable than just getting to see my work. It’s about experiencing a life, as well. What is work-life balance like? What is like to be an IHS doctor living in Tucson? And I get to ask questions of the students and find out about their passions.”

Because of the rewards of hosting, Terranella has offered an externship to K students every year that he can. In addition to those of Hassan and Torres, he has provided externships for the following K students:  Emily Parsons ’11, Jenny Kwon ’16, Elizabeth Lenning ’16, Miranda Doepker ’16, and Karina Duarte ’18. And he intends to create an externship at his new job—deputy director of a tribal hospital on the Tohono O’odham reservation in southern Arizona—as soon as he’s settled.

“It’s a really great experience. I’ve loved having the students.”

To get involved in the externship experience, visit the Host an Extern page at Kalamazoo College’s website. Here, you can see past externships, find tips on creating a successful externship and see what past hosts say about their experience.

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?