Julia has worked on a children’s orchestra and social music project for more than a year in Bonn, Germany. The orchestra, called the Kinder VielHarmonie, recently had its first concert! “The children come from two very socially different schools,” wrote Julia, “and the aim of the project was to bring these children together through music (during the rehearsals we also played games and had snacks).” According to Julia, the seed for the project dates to her Senior Individualized Project, which she completed under the supervision of Professor of Music Les Tung. During the proposal and planning phases of the Kinder VielHarmonie, Julie relied on several K connections, including Tung, Associate Professor of Music Andrew Koehler, and Liz Youker, a fellow musician who played with Julia in the Kalamazoo College and Community Orchestra under direction of Professor Emeritus of Music Barry Ross. The KCCO is today’s Kalamazoo Philharmonia, directed by Koehler. Julia was also inspired by Kalamazoo Kids in Tune, an orchestra-based youth development program modeled after the Venezuelan youth orchestra program known as El Sistema. She spent a week as a K student observing Kids in Tune at Woodward Elementary School. An article (in German) on the first concert of Kinder VielHarmonie appeared in Bürgerstiftung Bonn.
On December 11, 2004, the board of trustees of Kalamazoo College unanimously elected Dr. Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran the 17th president, the first woman president, the first African-American president of Kalamazoo College. She began her duties some six months later, in July 2005. She will retire as president, after a long and distinguished in higher education, on June 30, 2016. The decade she led Kalamazoo College is one of the most extraordinary in the institution’s nearly 200 year history, characterized by the revitalization of the K-Plan, student-focused capital improvements and program changes, strong new connections between alumni and their alma mater, an inclusive campus that is one of the most diverse in higher education, and the College’s most successful fundraising campaign ever. Thank you, Eileen! Your legacy will affect K students forever.
The best leaders have and use a sense of humor. We’re grateful to President Wilson-Oyelaran for taking few minutes for October 2015 BeLight’s “Lighten Up” interview.
What’s the best song ever recorded?
“Light My Fire” by the Doors.
What’s your favorite childhood fairy tale or story?
I so much liked Pokey the Little Puppy as a kid that, much later, I purchased a copy for each of my own children and grandchildren. I also loved Ferdinand the Bull, about the bull who wouldn’t fight.
If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
“Well done. Come and get some rest.”
What’s your favorite word?
What’s your least favorite word?
What turns you on?
Well, I love music, dancing, and nature, so I guess it would be an outdoor party that combines all three.
What turns you off?
What sound do you love?
What sound do you hate?
What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?
A field biologist in a national forest
What profession would you not like to participate in?
I wouldn’t enjoy being a pastor.
What’s been a GREAT MOMENT in your liberal arts education?
A seminal moment for me was when my undergraduate advisor said, “I don’t see you at anything outside of class.” He went on to explain that you learn from engaging with speakers and concerts and plays, and readings and then by connecting these with what you are learning in class through a process of self-reflection. That conversation transformed my undergraduate experience.
Who’s the person (living or dead) with whom you’d most like to spend a lunch hour?
The Dalai Lama. I’d want him to speak with me about peace of mind.
What memory from childhood still surprises you?
In first grade we were asked to cut out and color pictures of the Pilgrims for Thanksgiving. The class was over half African-American, but I was the only one who used a brown crayon to color the skin of the Pilgrims so that they would look, well, like me. That was a source of amusement for the class and I was hurt that the class made fun of me. I didn’t quite know what to make of it. Only later did I come to understand how psychologically healthy (although historically incorrect) it was for me to have made my Pilgrims black.
What is your favorite curse word?
What is your favorite hobby?
I love to read novels about people of other cultures.
What is your favorite comedy movie?
Probably one of the send-ups of the “Airport” movie.
What local, regional, national, or world event has affected you the most?
The Watts riots in the summer of 1964. That was my community.
Sarah lives in Chicago and is a research associate for Food Tank: The Food Think Tank. The Food Tank highlights solutions to problems in food systems. Sarah majored in biology and art at K. She went on to graduate from DePaul University with her M.S. in International Public Service. She has traveled to many parts of the world, working to set up medical clinics, filming documentaries, practicing yoga, developing her cross cultural understanding, and building community centers.
Congratulations to Danny, whose documentary film, “The Stories They Tell,” was a 2015 official selection of the Lake Erie Arts and Film Festival, which took place in September. For more than 15 years, Kalamazoo College Professor of Psychology Sui-Lan Tan (who is married to Danny) partnered every Kalamazoo College student in her Developmental Psychology class with a child at Woodward Elementary School to create a children’s book together. The “Co-Authorship Project” has expanded education beyond the four walls of the classroom–giving psychology students rich insights into the development of young children, who in turn learn about literacy, social interaction and perhaps even catch a glimpse of their potential futures.
Megan received the 2014 Henry D. Messer Youth Activist Award for her work in Michigan’s LGBT equality movement. The award is one of the annual Catalyst Awards from Equality Michigan. As Community Engagement Coordinator of the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center since late 2012, Megan has had an impact not only in the Kalamazoo area, but across Michigan. During her K days, she worked with Habitat for Humanity as an AmeriCorps volunteer and with Queers for Economic Justice in New York. Megan will received her award at Equality Michigan’s annual dinner in February.
Ian is campaign manager for Robert Wittenberg, Democratic Party candidate for the 27th District, Michigan House of Representatives. Ian grew up in Pleasant Ridge, Mich., and has worked on numerous electoral races in the area.
Ron is currently in Micronesia, on assignment with the Peace Corps. “The Peace Corps has a relatively young program for former Peace Corps Volunteers called Peace Corps Response,” explained Ron. “The program is for older folks who have a specific skill set for a specific job in countries around the world. I will be working with the fledgling health-care computer based information system being implemented in the State of Yap,” one of the four states that compose the Federated States of Micronesia (the other three are Kosrae, Pohnpei and Chuuk). Ron’s volunteer position will last a year.
Lois died on December 4, 2013. She was 88. She was the loving mother of Martha Wright ’81 and mother-in-law of Tim Pobuda ’81. After leaving K to marry, she earned a B.S. in education from Bowling Green State University and a Master of Arts from Michigan State University. She was an assistant adjunct professor in the Department of Human Development, College of Human Medicine at MSU. She also served as a speech and language pathologist and early childhood specialist in the Flint Community Schools, and she was the first female department head of the Department of Education at the Mott Children’s Health Center in Flint. She served on numerous community boards including the Greater Flint/Thumb Area 4C Association and Easter Seals. Lois was an enthusiastic patron of the arts, a Friend of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival in her home town, and a member of the Smithsonian and the Flint Institute of Arts. She traveled the globe, visiting every continent, walked on the Great Wall of China twice, rode an elephant in India, saw the Serengeti from a hot air balloon, and the polar bears from a tundra buggy in Churchill, Manitoba. She loved theater, books, movies, dolls, miniatures, gardening, knitting, sewing, and spending time with her family.
In July of 2015 Melanie, an ordained United Methodist pastor since 1991, will begin serving as the clergy assistant to the Bishop of The Michigan Area of the United Methodist Church. In this new role Melanie will be based in Lansing and will be working with the Bishop to help serve the 900 United Methodist congregations of Michigan as well as the communities in which these congregations are located. The Spanish major she earned at K has served her well during her work through many church and community efforts with the growing U.S. Latino population. Melanie also is completing four years as the district superintendent of the Detroit Renaissance District, where in 2012 she started a now annual event called Hands 4 Detroit, a day of community service, which has involved more than 1,200 volunteers each year who roll up their sleeves and work. Volunteers have boarded up old houses, planted community gardens, painted, cleaned up trash, and even built a soccer field!
Danielle is working on her M.F.A. degree in poetry at George Mason University in Washington, D.C. She is the poetry editor of So To Speak literary journal. She recently published a chapbook of contrapuntal poetry, Dialogue with the Dead, through Finishing Line Press. In Spring 2015, she was a visiting writer at K where her chapbook was taught in intermediate and advanced poetry classes. She currently works as a T.A. at George Mason, teaching undergraduate English composition and an Arab-American literature course. Her working-thesis project involves creating conversation among marginalized communities through collaboration and de-centering authorship.