Dan Babbitt ’96

Biologist, educator, and “bug geek,” Dan manages the O. Orkin Insect Zoo and Butterfly Pavilion (part of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History). He contributed his expertise to a recent NPR report (the delightfully titled “How Animals Hacked the Rainbow and Got Stumped on Blue”) about the evolution of the uses of color by animals. Turns out that living and reproducing depended occasionally on an organism’s ability to make itself a certain color. And it further turns out that the color blue was difficult for animals to make by ingesting dietary pigments (many animals get their color from their food). According to Dan, if you can’t make blue, then make the optical technology to appear blue. The entomologist then provides a beautiful example–the blue morpho butterfly, some of which he keeps at his insect zoo. They have tiny transparent structures on their wing surface that reflect light in a way that makes the wings appear so blue it hurts your eyes. But ground up wings, robbed of the reflective prism structures, look gray or brown. At K Dan majored in biology, and his study abroad in Ecuador gave him ample opportunity to pursue his love of insects, a passion he traces back to his freshman year aquatic ecology class. Dan has never forgotten the influence of K on the trajectory of his career. Not long ago he sponsored a K externship at the insect zoo.

Keaton Adams ’14

Keaton has joined the staff of VML Kalamazoo (formerly Biggs/Gilmore). Adams joins the digital advertising and marketing firm as an application developer. He began his career at VML as an intern in 2013. A year later, he was hired full-time as an application developer for the Kellogg Family Rewards account and internal projects. Previously he was a production planning intern at Perrigo Company in Allegan. Keaton’s expertise includes back-end software development with Java and Python; Android application development; and back-end and front-end Web development. He earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science.

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.

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.

Sneak Peek

What might life after Kalamazoo College look like?

Keith Garber ’16 (left) did a summer 2014 discovery externship at Texas Heart Institute in Houston thanks to Michele Zacks ’89 (center) and Carl Alexander (right).

Throughout the summer months, first-year and sophomore students answer that question by living and working with Kalamazoo College alumni and friends. The students seize the opportunity offered through the Discovery Externship Program, a component of the Center for Career and Professional Development.  From arts to animals, accounting to agriculture, some 50 Summer 2014 externs have learned first-hand about the professional opportunities open to K graduates.

Kendal Kurzeja ’16 (hosted by Jenn Feuerstein ’93 at Save the Chimps, Inc.) “The experience challenged my preconceived notions of what it meant to be a human being who coexists with other animals, and I think that is the most valuable lesson for anyone to learn.”

Grady Schneider ’16 (hosted by David Leonard ’71 and Jeff Hollenbeck ’11 at Ryzome Investment Advisors)

“Now I know that being an investment advisor is more than knowing price and earnings ratios, returns on equity, and the other numbers that allow you to extrapolate. Although these will always be important, and the skill that is the most important at Ryzome is being able to connect with people. For me this is the skill that makes the job truly meaningful.”

Emily Kowey ’17 (hosted by Karman Kent ’07 at the Morehead-Cain Foundation)
“I learned a great deal about the running of non-profits and the wide variety of jobs that are available in this field. This experience showed me what it was like to work for a foundation that was very collaborative, exactly the type of work environment I would love in the future. I am still inspired by all the work that the Foundation and its scholars are doing.”

Austin Sroczynski ’17 (hosted by Adam Gravley ’84 at Van Ness Feldman, LLP)
“My expectations were very high. It turned out to be a great experience. I thought that lawyers were in court more than what they really are. From the lawyers I talked to, I learned that their goal is to stay out of the courtroom.”

Dana Page ’16 “externed” with Amy Darrow ’99 at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University, and she has the hospital ID to prove it!

Jessica Hansen ’17 (hosted by Bethany Whitehead ’98 at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts)
“Before the externship, I was afraid that if I got into the art museum and gallery business I wouldn’t be able to make a difference in the world. I wouldn’t be able to create any change. Not so. It was really helpful for me to talk to my host. Her perspective on K helped me appreciate the school even more. She also helped me figure out what I want to do after college. It made me feel much more relaxed about my future.”

Greta Herrin ’17 (hosted by Stephanie Willette ’08 at Capella Farm)
“My host went out of her way to make sure that I was experiencing every part of an agriculture and food systems career, including the ways in which it can vary through meeting people and businesses.”

“Before the externship I was afraid…I wouldn’t be able to make a difference in the world.”

Grace Smith ’17 (hosted by Geralyn Doskoch ’84 at Charlevoix Area Hospital)
“For someone looking to be a doctor, this is a cool experience because you are in a hospital setting and you get to observe everything going on there. At the same time, it is a small hospital, so my sponsor had time to talk me through everything she did and teach me a lot.”

Kaylah Simmons ’17 (hosted by Addell Anderson ’78 at University of Michigan-Detroit Center)
“I learned that the theatre arts field has so many different positions, many more than acting, directing, and stage-managing opportunities.”

Hannah Kim ’17 (hosted by Sanford Schulman ’85 at Schulman Law Center)
“Watching my sponsor has encouraged me to try to think out of the box. I’ll strive to be more active in classes, take initiative to speak to professors, and try to think more critically about things, all because of this externship. I’ll also strive to become a more concise, articulate speaker.”

Alumni Bites Sampler

On behalf of the Alumni Association Executive Board, thank you for your appetite to be an engaged alumni community. During homecoming, AAEB introduced new ways to give back our alma mater, based upon your schedule and your appetite for engagement. This a la carte menu—a.k.a. Alumni Bites— provides an offering of small, medium and large engagement opportunities—a.k.a. bites—in admission, career development, and alumni relations.

Below is a sampler, highlighting just a few fellow alums whose hunger led them to select a bite that suits their busy lives. We hope it will inspire you to take a look at Alumni Bites and think about what bite will satisfy your hunger to give back to K.

Hungry? Please visit our AAEB page to learn more about the Bites.

Small Bite: Attend a Hornet Happy Hour
Menu Area: Alumni Relations
Alumnus: Tendai Mudyiwa, class of 2014
Major(s): Math, Computer Science
Lives in: New York, New York

“It’s been a good resource for advice …. It’s always great to hear K alumni share their experiences.”

Tendai Mudyiwa ’14 came to K as an international student from Zimbabwe and got involved in campus life, including serving as a President’s Ambassador. After graduation, Tendai moved to New York City to work at Morgan Stanley as a technology associate. A young alum and new to New York, Tendai noted  that, “the happy hour experience has given me the opportunity to reconnect with alumni I know as well as meet others. It’s been a good resource for advice (career and social, things to do in the city). It’s always great to hear K alumni share their experiences.”

There are now nearly thirty happy hours that occur each term—from Kalamazoo to Los Angeles to London.  As Tendai has found, these events are a great way to connect with alumni in your area in a fun, informal setting. Check out the events page for a happy hour near you. The next event occurs on Wednesday, July 22.

Medium Bite: Send congratulatory notes to admitted students
Menu Area: Admission
Alumnus: Chris Wozniak, class of 1993
Major(s): Economics & Business, English
Lives in: Denver, Colorado

Chris Wozniak ’93

The K community may not have a large Colorado contingent just yet, but Denver alumnus Chris Wozniak ’93 is helping to change that by partnering with the admission department. Chris has attended college fairs, Swarm events, and most recently he wrote congratulatory notes to admitted students. Participating in these experiences during the admission cycle can make a profound impact with a minimal investment o time; it also helps to emphasize the personal connections that characterize the K community as a student and as an alum.

Chris believes what many of us have found to be true: giving of our time and experience is something that we enjoy doing. He noted that by engaging through actions that impact others, alumni can continue to exemplify one of the key components of the K-Plan—experiential education. Through his work with admission Chris stays educated on what’s happening at K and continues to reflect on his own K experience and how K remains very relevant to his current life path.

The Alumni Admission Volunteer Program is a great way to learn about the many opportunities to help recruit prospective students. Interested?

Large Bite: Host a discovery externship/provide a summer internship opportunity
Menu Area: Career Development
Alumna: Debra (Tokarski) Yourick, class of 1980
Major(s): Health Sciences
Lives in: Silver Spring, Maryland

Deb Yourick ’80

Deb Yourick ’80 has been actively engaged in career development for more than 12 years—hosting her first externs in 2003. What started as a great way to give back and engage with students has now become a passion for Deb and her family. Deb remains determined to find ways to fuse her love of science with her love for K in order to help students engage with science and science education. Deb is director of science education and strategic communications at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. In that role she partnered with a colleague to design a STEM education program that is now army-wide, reaching underserved students to spark their interest in the sciences. Deb’s interns have helped both in the lab and as mentors and teachers in the STEM education program.

Deb finds K students’ openness to experience unmatched. With great enthusiasm she noted that her K interns have been “young, energetic students—taking science off a text book page and doing a hands-on experience with young students who may not get this experience.” Externships and internships help students better understand how to apply classroom learning, and they also enrich the lives of alumni who, because they’re K alumni, are engaged in that ongoing learning process. Deb is welcoming back a few of her interns this summer who will be working on their Senior Individualized Projects.

Ready to take a large, life-enriching bite? Contact the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) to learn more!

Alumni Awards
Thank you to Tendai, Chris, and Deb for sharing your stories and bringing to life “More in four. More in a lifetime.”

We want to hear your stories! Each homecoming, the AAEB presents the Distinguished Service Award to an alumni or friend of the College who has made exceptional personal contributions to the College—contributions that may include swallowing one or many of the Alumni Bites. Know someone deserving of this award? We encourage you to submit nominations.

Staying Engaged

We members of the Alumni Association Executive Board (AAEB) spend a great deal of time talking about alumni engagement. The Get Engaged page on the College’s website lists several opportunities for alumni to continue to be involved, not only with the College but also with current students and recent graduates.

West Nelson ’81

Sometimes the engagement is not as direct as volunteering at a college fair or identifying a prospective student. It’s often the continuation and strengthening of bonds formed when we were on campus or afterward. Turner Lewis ’63 and I served together on the AAEB for a few years. In 1996, he put together a rafting trip down the Colorado River. There’s hardly been a day since when I haven’t thought about how great the experience was. Amy Mantel Hale ’66 and her daughter, Lauren, were also on the trip. Years later, Lauren has used photos of my father in her TED Talks (which for me feels almost as good as giving one).

When I was a sophomore, during a class with [Professor Emeritus of Sociology] Marigene Arnold, we discussed voting on school millage proposals—a choice or a duty? Dr. Arnold suggested the latter, because others had done that for us when we were in elementary and middle school. Without actually saying it was our obligation, she delivered the message.

Years later, on September 11, 2001, when I was living in New York City, the first person I heard from was the late Joe Brockington [Director of the Center for International Programs] checking to make sure I was all right. I was, and because phone service in lower Manhattan was intermittent, Joe called my father to let him know I was okay. I next heard from Gail Griffin and Ed Menta, respectively. I will forever be grateful to Joe, Gail and Ed for their kindness.

I’ve not yet had the pleasure of hosting an extern or an intern, but while I was in the New York City metro area, if a K grad, newly arrived in the city, reached out to me with questions about where to live or things to do, I would first buy them a monthly Metrocard. It was a small thing and didn’t cost me much, but it took one thing off their plate, and it allowed them to explore without having to worry about that part of their budget. The second thing: I would tell them to never sleep on the subway. They were always immediately thankful for the first, and understanding about the second would eventually follow.

Some of the best people I know are children of K alumni. They never cease to amaze me. Not all of them followed their parent to K, but if they did and they knew me, they always managed to find me when I was on campus and either give me a big hug or pass along greetings from their parents.

The light bulb moment long ago in Dr. Arnold’s class has stayed with me to this day. We owe those who come after us. I give back to the college because I want them to be able to have an opportunity to see their own light. Engagement with the college is both direct and indirect. Either way, the rewards are equally bright.

You can learn more about the Kalamazoo College Alumni Association and the many ways to become more engaged with the college. Staying engaged has certainly made a difference in my life.

West Nelson is an adjunct professor and freelance document specialist. He’s currently reconnecting with his east coast roots by sampling shellfish and fishing for bluefish in Rhode Island.

Long Road and Theatre Mirror

Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College celebrates its Golden Anniversary this academic year and, in tribute, BeLight will publish short profiles of some FP alumni—two each in this year’s three issues of the e-magazine. May features Lisa Kron ’83 and Joe Hamlin ’02.

The Long Road

That beautiful thrust stage at K is still one of my favorite stages.

When Lisa Kron was nominated in 2008 for a Tony for her play, Well, the applause could be heard on the Kalamazoo College campus. Kron’s plays have walked the boards on and off Broadway, and Kalamazoo College was the first college to stage Well, a play about Kron’s experiences attending a predominantly African-American elementary school as a girl with a Jewish heritage. During that staging, Kron spoke to K students as well as to students from Western Michigan University about her career as an actress and playwright, illustrating once again how theatre at K incorporates every discipline into a liberal arts education, going Well beyond simply staging a play. Kron credits her experience at K, both on and off campus, to her success in theatre. The playwright/actor lives in New York City and is a member of the Class of 1983, though she notes she’s “still missing a science requirement, so no degree. But I did finish my SIP!”

Lisa Kron '83 - Photo by Joan Marcus.

Major:  Theater
Study Abroad
:  London.  “Loved it!!!”
  Lecture/Performance on the dearth of roles for women in theater called “There’s Nothing Like a Dame.”
Key K Experience
:  “GLCA Philadelphia Urban Semester – LOVED!”

First Job in Theatre/TV
ANTA Company National Tour – Auditioned while representing K at the regional ACTF.

Big break
“Hmm.  I don’t think there generally are big breaks. For me, as for many if not most people, it’s a long road, through many different landscapes.”

Screen Credits
“My work on the screen resembles my work at K–limited to bit parts. Some Law and Order.  A couple of films, most notably, my turn as a waitress in the final scene in the first Sex In the City movie.”

Playwriting fellowships from the Lortel and Guggenheim Foundations, Sundance Theater Lab, the Lark Play Development Center, and the MacDowell Colony.

The Cal Arts/Alpert Award, a Helen Merrill Award, grants from the Creative Capital Foundation and New York Foundation for the Arts.

A three-year playwriting residency through the American Voices New Play Initiative at Arena Stage.

Obie, Bessie, GLAAD, L.A. Drama-logue, and Lilly Awards.

Nominations for Tony, Drama Desk, Lortel, Outer Critics Circle, and Susan Smith Blackburn Awards.

Recent Projects
Fun Home, a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, with lyrics by Lisa Kron, music by Jeanine Tesori, directed by Sam Gold. Fun Home premiered at the Public Theater October 2013.

Also appeared in the return of Foundry Theater’s acclaimed production of Good Person of Szechuan, directed by Lear de Bessonet, starring Taylor Mac, at the Public Theater, October 2013.

On Kalamazoo College
“Lowry Marshall changed my life.  I still draw on my theater studies in London. And that beautiful thrust stage at K is still one of my favorite stages.”

Theatre Mirror
Joe Hamlin ’02 is the man behind the production, making what theatre goers see on stage possible. He has worked on hundreds of plays, including Broadway-bound productions, and it’s a passion that was fostered on the stages at K. Hamlin is technical director at the Center Theatre Group in California, overseeing The Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Kirk Douglas Theatre. He is also production manager for The Ahmanson Theatre. He studied theatre with Ed Menta and Lanny Potts, and earned a master’s in technical design and production from Yale School of Drama.

Hamlin is passing it forward: Lee O’Reilly, a K grad and current student at the Yale School of Drama, worked with Hamlin last summer during a 12-week assistantship in technical directing.

Joe Hamlin '02 - Photo by Bones Malone.

Major: Theatre with a concentration in the classics.
Study Abroad:
Athens, Greece
“After Genocide: A Three Week Journey Through Croatia”
Kalamazoo College Theater Experience:
Dr. Faustus; Marat Sade; Twilight

First Job in Theatre
Assistant technical director, Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vermont

Big Break
“I did summer stock work in my first theatre job in Massachusetts, and then the previous technical director was fired. The job became mine—it was a crazy time, the hardest time of my life, but it was also wonderful.”

Production Credits
Joe has worked on hundreds of shows. He’s particularly proud of: Clybourne Park at the Mark Taper Forum; End of the Rainbow at the Ahmanson Theatre; and The Second City’s A Christmas Carol Twist Your Dickens! at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

U.S. Institute of Theatre Technology’s “The Golden Hammer Award” (

Recent Projects
Recent shows on which Hamlin worked as the production manager: The Sunshine Boys, a revival of the Neil Simon play, starring Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch; and Harmony, a musical revival by Barry Manilow.

On Kalamazoo College
“I planned to go into political science, not theatre, when I first came to K, but as time went on, I realized I was finding myself in theatre. A lot of exciting things were going on there. It was a great environment, and the people became like family. Lanny Potts was a great mentor to me.”