Bruce is featured in an interview with the Center on Compassion and Global Health. During his tenure at the World Bank Bruce played a key role in the global effort to eradicate onchocerciasis (river blindness) in West Africa. Bruce is writing a book on that work. The director of the Center on Compassion and Global Health is David Aldiss, a friend of Alison Geist, who directs Kalamazoo College’s Center for Civic Engagement. Alison also teaches courses in K’s new concentration called “Community and Global Health.” David taught an epidemiology class on campus during a recent visit here as a visiting fellow of the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. According to Alison, “We have a lot of alumni doing global health work as well as many students doing interesting Senior Individualized Projects and internships in the field of public health.”
Lourin was honored by Michigan’s Special Olympics as Volunteer of the Year. The state’s Special Olympics Summer Games were held at the end of May on the campus of Central Michigan University. Lourin has been a longtime volunteer for the organization.
Judge Rosen has served for 24 years as a U.S. District Court judge in Detroit (five years as chief judge). Rosen delivered the 29th annual I. Goodman Cohen Lecture in Trial Advocacy at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit in February. Rosen’s lecture was titled “Trial Practice as Viewed from the Perspective of the Trial Judge.” Rosen was also in the news for his work as the federal mediator in the Detroit bankruptcy case. One of his ideas suggested that foundations contribute money to bolster at-risk city pensions and prevent the Detroit Institute of Arts from having to sell its artworks. A Detroit Free Press article (January 14) noted that the idea had resulted in pledges of some $330 million.
LaNesha is vice president of assessment and community engagement at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit. And she recently was honored with one of Crain’s Detroit Business’s “40 Under 40” Awards, a recognition of 40 high achievers under the age of 40 in the Detroit community. Her biggest achievement: securing notable African-American speaker programs for the museum to enhance its impact in the community. Current goal: lead the museum’s efforts to gain national accreditation to increase its impact and help it achieve sustainability. LaNesha earned her bachelor’s degree in history at K and studied abroad in Nairobi, Kenya.
A native Saint Paulite, Bethany discovered her love for the arts while a student at Kalamazoo College, but also quickly discovered making art is not her forte. Since receiving a master’s degree in arts administration, she has worked within arts organizations and for artists, holding positions at the Walker Art Center, the Women’s Art Resources of MN (WARM), the American Craft Council, the Playwrights’ Center, Rain Taxi, and currently, as Executive Director of Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts. When she’s not working with writers and artists, she can be found volunteering at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport helping lost travelers, judging National History Day events, and serving on the board of the Somali women’s health organization, Isuroon. She also reads a novel a week, attends 150 art and theater events annually, travels outside the country at least once a year, obsessively collects handmade jewelry, and is training for her third triathlon.
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.
Scores of Kalamazoo College students do not usually gather outside Mandelle Hall’s Olmsted Room to await word on the fate of a faculty meeting agenda item. But gather they did late last fall, and they greeted one particular vote with applause and celebration.
The matter? At its meeting of November 14, 2014, Kalamazoo College faculty unanimously approved a new major at the school: Critical Ethnic Studies. It is the second major approved in the past two years. In 2013 the faculty voted to create a new major in Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Prior to that, the major in Business was approved in 2008.
After the vote for Critical Ethnic Studies, faculty and staff arose in a spontaneous standing ovation, which sparked the applause and cheers of the students quietly waiting in the Olmsted Room’s foyer. When the meeting adjourned high fives were shared among all.
“One reason I came to K was because of its commitment to diversity,” said Assistant Professor of Political Science Justin Berry at the meeting. “I have many students who are looking forward to this opportunity.”
Assistant Professor of Music Beau Bothell added, “I’m very excited to have new critical ethnic studies majors coming into my courses and challenging our assumptions of what and how we will teach.”
“Not only does this help K catch up to where other institutions have been for years,” said Assistant Professor of English Ryan Fong, “it places K at the forefront of where the discipline is going.”
Calls for ethnic studies at K go back more than 40 years, to the late 1960s when the discipline was first born and institutionalized as academic programs at San Francisco State University and the University of California-Berkeley. Periodically, since those early days, the call for ethnic studies at K has been sounded by various faculty, students, and groups, including, among others, the Black Student Organization (1968), the Asian and Pacific Islander Student Association (2007), and the K chapter of the the national Chican@ student organization M.E.Ch.A (2012).
From the field’s origin its founding principles were (and remain) four: self-determination, solidarity among American racial minorities, educational relevance, and an interdisciplinary approach. The ethnic studies field provided early models to examine relationships between racism, colonialism, immigration, and slavery in a U.S. context. Its rigorously intellectual approach sought to create curriculum that reflected (and exercised) multiple voices and worldviews derived from knowledges and ways of knowing that have been silenced or made invisible.
At K, the culmination of the field’s disciplinary development and the calls for campus movement on the matter began in earnest in late 2013, when K appointed Reid Goméz the College’s first professor in ethnic studies. Her position was financed by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In addition to her teaching duties, Goméz worked as part of a Core Curriculum Working Group to write a “Critical Ethnic Studies Major” proposal for faculty consideration. With the approval of the proposal the group will administer the program and serve as the major’s core faculty. They are Goméz, the Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor in Ethnic Studies; Espelencia Baptiste, Associate Professor of Anthropology; Shreena Gandhi, Assistant Professor of Religion; Amelia Katanski, Associate Professor of English; Shanna Salinas, Assistant Professor of English; and Babli Sinha, Associate Professor of English.
Ethnic studies questions how knowledge is defined and who gets identified as a thinker. It’s less about the study of a specific area, ethnicity, or culture and more about disrupting singular notions of knowledge by ending the suppression and control of multiple knowledges. It’s somewhat akin to the fable of the five “scholars” trying to define an elephant based on their singular limited engagement with one portion of the whole. In this tale about blindness, multiple knowledges are excluded; as a result, the elephant is misperceived as a tree, fan, rope, wall, and hose when each “scholar” insists on the hegemony of his “knowledge” of the leg, ear, tail, body, and trunk, respectively.
“The ethnic studies field has always been counterhegemonic,” said Goméz. During the four decades of the field’s development the intellectual inquiry of one branch (called critical ethnic studies) has focused on “the logics of racism, colonialism, white supremacy, capitalism, and hetero-patriarchy” and moved away from the notion that people are oppressed because they are not known or understood.
At K, the Working Group wrote, “Critical ethnic studies [will] interrogate the production of knowledge. The primary project is to theorize from multiple, and simultaneous, narratives of silenced peoples and epistemologies.” The major will be an interdisciplinary, intellectual, and collaborative inquiry.
Eight units are required, including three core courses, four electives, and a senior colloquium. The core courses—“Argument With the Given,” “Language: The Colonial and Imperial Difference,” and “Insurgency, Solidarity, and Coloniality of Power”—define the field’s scope and approach to scholarship and provide the necessary practice with key language and theory.
The electives currently number 17 courses in the departments of anthropology and sociology, English, and religion. More courses from other departments will be added to the electives list as professors reshape them to fit the criteria for critical ethnic studies cross-listing, a process that involves the review and assistance of CES core faculty. According to the Working Group, “The core faculty aspires to serve as a campus resource. They intend to engage the campus community in questions of power, epistemology, and discipline, and to participate in a learning community shaped by the intellectual goal of substantive engagement with each other, within and across individual faculty disciplines and areas.”
The senior colloquium involves the entire cohort of each year’s majors. The majors will meet together in the fall term to decide the form and content of that year’s colloquium including assessment guidelines and procedures. “The purpose of the colloquium is to determine an intellectual social-political project that can be carried out over the year and that contributes to the field,” wrote the Working Group.
The new major is lauded not only by faculty and students. “We recently received funding for a campaign gift of an endowed professorship,” said President Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran. “And the donors would be very pleased to have this endowed chair support a professor in critical ethnic studies.”
The College will extend Goméz’s appointment through the 2015-16 academic year and also will conduct a tenure track search that year. In academic year 2016-17 the funding for the position will transition from the Mellon Foundation grant to the endowed chair support.
“Critical ethnic studies is a process of engagement and shapes the ability to engage content in a variety of fields of study,” concluded the Working Group in its report. “The field requires the logic governing the academy to change [and] this change is realized through the relentless pursuit of other ways to engage and through ongoing discussions of additional means of engagement. These processes invert, rethink, and displace universalities. Central to the field is a refusal to consume the other. Critical ethnic studies scholars must go beyond themselves and devise conversations that move past voyeurism and consumption.”
Word of the decision spread quickly and far. One academic advisor heard within a day from an advisee on study abroad in Tokyo who expressed his delight and wondered if he’d have time to change his major.