Retiring K Professor Celebrates Long Musical Journey

Jim Turner at work during a rehearsal

So much has changed in James Turner’s life since he traveled north from Florence, South Carolina. As Turner contemplates his retirement after 23 years as Professor of Music and Director of Vocal and Choral Activities at Kalamazoo College, and as he stares down impending minor heart surgery at the end of the summer, he takes a moment to contemplate the long road traveled.

Turner earned his bachelor of arts from Mars Hill College in North Carolina and his master’s in music from Louisiana State University.

“I was married back then, and working in my first teaching position,” Turner recalls his southern beginnings. “My wife and I both received threatening notes from the Ku Klux Klan. We were both teaching black children. I was eager to get out of that climate.”

Turner moved from Tennessee to Detroit to teach at Marygrove College. He was no longer married. Turner had realized, and accepted, that he was gay; it was time for a new beginning.

“I taught at Marygrove for 12 years and then applied for a position at a college on the west side of Michigan; I later learned I was turned down for that position because I was gay. So I took a partial appointment with the Bach Festival in Kalamazoo when there were only six people in the choir, and I met Barry Ross and Zaide Pixley there. They told me about a part-time position at Kalamazoo College. I applied, and President Jimmy Jones made me feel very welcome.”

Professor Emeritus of Music Barry Ross, who founded the Kalamazoo College and Community Orchestra in 1994, and Zaide Pixley, the now retired Dean of First Year and Advising, encouraged Turner to hang in for a full-time position. And it happened. Turner was put on the tenure track, and he also became Bach Festival music director and conductor as well as the conductor of the College Singers and the select Chamber Singers. He also frequently collaborated with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.

Turner’s teaching of and enthusiasm for music has gone far beyond the campus borders of Kalamazoo College. He has fostered the love of music in high school students, for nearly 20 years, with the annual High School Choral Festival.

“I modeled the festival after a program I started back at Marygrove,” Turner says. “K’s festival today features 10 high schools, different ones each year, with 200 to 250 students participating, and every year we have a waiting list.”

The educational event celebrates the works of Bach and his contemporaries, as well as many 19th- and 20th-century composers. Students work with a nationally recognized master clinician and rehearse together in five choirs with singers from ten schools. Each choir performs for 20 minutes, then works with the clinician to further polish their performance.

“Whether these students grow up to be choral singers or not, what we learn from making music together is how to collaborate. That can have global importance,” Turner says.

In the summer of 2016, Turner was the recipient of the Arts Leadership Educator Award from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo’s Community Arts Awards.

More important than any award—and one of the great gifts of Turner’s long career—is all that he has learned from the students he has taught. “I admit I got caught up in traditional choir music for a while,” says Turner. “But when I was teaching women’s choirs at K, with many of the women not really having any background in music, the singers brought in different perspectives, social ideas, and they got me out of that traditional mode to try something new. One of my K students said to me, ‘I’m tired of always singing about Mary and Jesus.’ So we tried some women composers, sang an Emily Brontë poem, another by Emily Dickinson. We sang choral music with a tie to social justice. Teaching music to youth has gotten me out of my paradigm, out of my box.”

Even sweeter than an award for educational leadership are the words Turner recalls hearing from a K alumna.  “A philosophy student,” Turner says, “she had a goal to live on all seven continents. At the time, she was a short-order cook living in Antarctica, and she said that I had been the most influential professor during her time at K.”

Turner says he will miss the students who broadened his horizons as much as he broadened theirs. He will miss the many great friends he’s made in the K community. He lives now an easy walk from campus, but once his last day at K is done, he and his partner, Jack, will move to Fremont, “a small town with only four stoplights,” he says, “and a great place to maybe start a garden, raise rabbits, chickens and goats.”

First and foremost, Turner adds, will be a focus on his health. A recent diagnosis of a heart ailment has increased his appreciation for all the richness that life offers. He will heal to the sound of music, and when it is time, he will reconnect with his network of friends through music.

“Music, specifically singing, can change lives, even save lives,” he says. “Music is one of those few things that can connect us all, across generations, across races and ethnicities and all the differences of being people, and bring us together.”

In fact, music brought together several of Turner’s former students on the occasion of his final Concert by the College Singers and Women’s Chorus in May. “Tim Krause ’07 sent out the music for the last song for that concert,” explained Elizabeth Wakefield-Connell ’08, “so that all alumni attending could surprise Jim by joining in for that last song. We were there on behalf of the many students who sang for Jim at K. He is a wonderful teacher, conductor, and a good friend. K College will not be the same without him.”

Retirement’s No End-of-History for This K Prof

Asked why he is so interested in history, David Barclay, professor of history and the Margaret and Roger Scholten Professor of International Studies at Kalamazoo College, replies: “I haven’t the slightest idea.”

Barclay now calls himself a “sunbird.” He is locking up the door of his home in Kalamazoo one last time and moving back to his native sunny Florida, where he plans to continue exploring the lifelong question of why history, especially German history, has so drawn him in.

Photo of David Barclay, professor of history and the Margaret and Roger Scholten Professor of International Studies at Kalamazoo College.

David Barclay

Barclay taught history at Kalamazoo College from 1974 to his recent retirement. He is a scholar of 19th- and 20th-century political, social, and cultural history of Germany. For many years he served as director of the Center for Western European Studies at Kalamazoo College. He is the author or co-editor of seven books on German history, and, since 2006, Barclay has been the executive director of the German Studies Association (GSA), an interdisciplinary association of historians, professors of German language and literature, political scientists, art historians, musicologists, and other scholars from 29 different countries, all sharing an interest in the German-speaking world.

His retirement promises to be as intellectually active as his K days. “I’ll continue my work as executive director for the GSA for at least another four years, taking care of day-to-day operations,” he says. “And I have several more book projects underway.”

Those projects include a history of West Berlin from 1945 to 1994 and a dual biography of German emperor and empress, Wilhelm I and Augusta. Outside the subject of Germany, he’s writing a biography of his grandfather’s “favorite eccentric uncle,” a Civil War veteran who lived in Tampa, Fla.

“Family would say Uncle John was funny in the head, but I suspect post-traumatic stress disorder,” Barclay says. “Being a historian, I can reconstruct the puzzle pieces of his life. I’ll be digging through war time records, pension records, a diary by the company sergeant that mentions him frequently.”

If Barclay can’t (or won’t) give a firm answer on why he is so fascinated by history, he can quickly recall its roots in his life. He flashes back to childhood.

“When I was a kid in the 50s, there were these inexpensive history books for kids, called ‘Landmark Books,’ published by Random House,” Barclay says. “I still have a few copies. They were written by famous historians, but in language appropriate for kids. I devoured those.”

Gifts of history books from his grandmother, an inspirational 1918 graduate of the University of Chicago, and a father with an interest in history combined to launch Barclay on his pathway to becoming a historian himself. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from the University of Florida, and his Ph.D. from Stanford University. He was a graduate teaching assistant at both universities, and later taught at the University of Hanover in West Germany.

“I came to Kalamazoo College because they offered me a job,” he says. “The job market was terrible in 1974. I was in my final year of graduate school, writing a dissertation, and a professor sent my C.V. to K. I didn’t hear anything for months. It was July, insanely late, when they called me for an interview and offered me the job. Turned out I was fifth in line—they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel.”

Barclay gives a hearty laugh. He would become an icon of Kalamazoo College.  Among his proudest achievements are 13 years as director of the Center for Western European Studies, and winning ongoing Title VI grants for international education.

“To this day, although the Center is now closed, we were the only undergrad college who had such a stand-alone center for more than a single grant period of three years,” he says.

He worked with local magnet schools, organized a weekly international film series, ran a local community outreach television program, and headed interdisciplinary faculty discussion groups. Barclay also sat on two Kalamazoo College presidential search committees, ultimately selecting Jimmy Jones and Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran. In 2006-07, Barclay was named the George H.W. Bush/Axel Springer Fellow of the American Academy in Berlin.

“That was academic heaven, a highlight for me as an American historian,” he says. “Americans from various fields were invited to live and work in a villa in Berlin for an extended period of time.”

Barclay continues to travel to Germany, by now something of a second home. “I can’t imagine life without those near annual trips,” he says. “In Florida, I will live near an airport with a direct flight to Frankfurt.”

Barclay travels for pleasure, but always with an eye for how he might yet expand his knowledge and understanding of humankind’s evolution through time.

“I’m not particularly hopeful, however, that people will ever learn from history,” he says. “History is more of an oracle, as the Cambridge historian Chris Clark puts it. It rarely teaches us clear-cut lessons. What it does do—it situates us on a timeline. Living without knowledge of our history would be like waking up one morning an amnesiac. It’s a compass to orient us.”

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.

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

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!

Different Drum

Rohan Krishnamurthy '08 in concert

Rohan Krishnamurthy ’08 in concert

Rohan Krishnamurthy’s future called at the age of eight.

Like most kids that age, Rohan (who would go on to graduate from K (2008) with majors in chemistry and music) spent time on the telephone. But he wasn’t chatting with friends about homework, school or sports. He was on speaker with a music professor 1,000 miles away, learning how to play the mridangam, a classical 2,000-year-old South Indian drum.

The eventual pay-off? Today Rohan is one of the most prominent musicians in Indian and world music, and a leading composer, entrepreneur and educator.

Child Prodigy

Growing up in a musical family, Krishnamurthy became intrigued with his father’s mridangam at a young age. His father had purchased the drum in India with hopes of learning to play the complex instrument.

The mridangam, Rohan explains, is typically made from a hollowed piece of jackwood whose two ends are covered with three different leathers and a special rock paste. Its rhythm system is thought to be one of the most complex of any form of classical music. To create the unique layers of pitched and unpitched sounds, percussionists tap both ends of the conga-like instrument with specific fingers.

“It’s an incredibly versatile instrument where you get an entire drum set’s worth of sounds from one drum,” Rohan says.

His parents appreciated and supported his interest in the ancient instrument but weren’t sure how far he’d end up pursuing it.

“Nobody thought I would take up the mridangam seriously,” he says. “I sometimes wonder why I took it so seriously at such a young age. It honestly was something beyond words that attracted me to it.”

His early lessons intensified his interest. After a few months, however, his teacher, Damodaran Srinivasan, was transferred and moved nearly 1,000 miles away. With no other mridangam professors within 300 miles, Srinivasan, who saw something special in his young student, suggested they learn over the telephone. The unconventional speaker phone lessons proved to be successful and continued for more than a year.

“There were lots of days when I practiced five to six hours,” Rohan says. “My first teacher really had a vision for me and I credit him for putting me on this path.”

Rohan’s unorthodox journey to mastering the mridangam continued with lessons from one of India’s most esteemed mridangam professors and performers— Guruvayur Dorai. Rohan met the mridangam maestro when he was performing in the United States. Impressed by Rohan’s talent and commitment, he offered to teach him when he and his family visited India. In the summer of 1997, Rohan traveled to Chennai to begin lessons. The relationship continues two decades later—with meetings occurring whenever Rohan travels to India and when Dorai performs in the United States.

Rohan with the president of India

Rohan with the president of India

The lessons and dedication to his craft paid off. Before beginning his studies at Kalamazoo College as a Heyl Scholar, Krishnamurthy had performed hundreds of concerts internationally, sharing the stage with Grammy Award-winning artists of Indian classical and world music, symphony orchestras and jazz bands, and racking up numerous international awards and accolades along the way.

More in Four

At K, the chem-and-music double major was able to continue his cross-continental musical endeavors while taking classes because of “the supportive mentors and faculty,” he says. “They were so accommodating. I could not have done everything that I did during those four years at almost any other school.”

For example, his academic schedule needed to be flexible enough to give a concert for the leader of the second most populous nation on the planet. Between his junior and senior years, when most of his peers were focused on Senior Individualized Projects, Rohan was preparing to play for Dr. Abdul Kalam, president of India. He traveled with his dad to New Delhi to the presidential office and estate where he gave a private performance and had a one-on-one meeting with the Indian leader.

At K, Rohan was named to USA Today’s All College Academic Second Team, a national award that profiles exceptional undergraduates from the across the United States. He was the only student selected from Michigan, the only student to be recognized for musical accomplishments and the first student ever selected from Kalamazoo College.

After graduating magna cum laude, he continued his education at the University of Rochester’s famed Eastman School of Music where he earned two master’s degrees (musicology and ethnomusicology) and his Ph.D (musicology). During his graduate school days, he founded and directed a popular percussion ensemble and continued to perform around the globe.

Rohan’s enthusiasm for the mridangam has extended beyond performing. In 2010 he designed and patented a new drumhead tuning system that won him first place in Eastman’s New Venture Challenge entrepreneurship competition. He now manufactures and distributes the RohanRhythm deluxe drums all over the world.

Since 2014 he has been sharing his passion for Indian music with others—teaching music theory and ethnomusicology as well as directing the Ohlone Hand Drumming and Indian Rhythm Ensemble at Ohlone College in the San Francisco Bay Area. His recent projects include a summer performance and lecture tour of Germany and recording a new soundtrack for Disney’s The Jungle Book live show.

Yet, just like his original teacher, Rohan also makes time to educate students outside the college classroom, with the help of modern technology.

The now antiquated speaker phone has been replaced by the award-winning RohanRhythm Percussion Studio, an online musical studio that uses state-of-the-art digital technology to teach students of all ages and skill levels around the world the art of South Indian drumming and cross-genre musicianship.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with dozens of students from four different continents, everyone from children to professional musicians and music professors ranging in age from two to 70,” Rohan says. “It’s quite remarkable to consider how far music education has come.”

He hopes that he and his students, together, can help preserve, promote, and advance the traditions of the 2,000-year-old instrument for generations to come.

Rohan continues to perform regularly in the United States, Europe, and India. Visit for upcoming concert dates and locations. And watch videos of his performances.

K’s Career Development Sees Great Numbers in Grad Destinies

Three K students (l-r), Zhi Nee Wee ’20, Tori Regan ’20 and Jasmine Kyon ’17 speak with Tom Occhipinti of Pure Michigan during the 2016 Recruiting Expo.

Rachel Wood likes the numbers from Kalamazoo College’s most recent (class of 2016) First Destination Survey, especially participation (94 percent) and jobs secured (92 percent).

“They suggest that the combination of the liberal arts and the career programs at K are a great value for life after K,” says Wood, the assistant director of the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD). Wood has coordinated the survey data on behalf of the College for many years; in 2013 she reshaped the questions (according to guidelines established by the National Association of Colleges and Employers) to yield more reliable comparisons from year to year.

Results from the seven years K has conducted the survey or its consanguine forbears suggest several interesting trends. More K students seek immediate employment after graduation (69 percent in 2016; 34 percent in 2010, the survey’s first year). Fewer seek to enroll immediately in graduate school or other forms of continuing education (17 percent in 2016 versus 32 percent in 2010).

Whichever of these two pathways new alumni choose, the upward trend of their success is impressive. Of new alumni seeking employment in 2016, 92 percent secured jobs within six months of graduation (up from 70 percent in 2010). Of those who wanted “graduate school/continuing education,” 80 percent were enrolled within in six months (up from 66 percent in 2010).

Overall participation in the survey hit its highest mark ever this year—94 percent, up from 75 percent in 2010. The reason? “We keep the survey open longer, from mid-May to December,” explains Wood. “We also rely on humor in our encouragements, take advantage of social media, and remind new alums of a very valuable quid pro quo: that CCPD services are open to them for life.

“Of course,” admits Wood with a smile, “that’s true for all alumni, regardless of age or whether they participated in the survey.”

Wood says that in 2015-16 some 71 percent of K students used one or more of the programs and services provided by the CCPD, and she believes the survey numbers reflect the growth in number and effectiveness of those programs and services.

Like basic career coaching, which starts with conversations to help students better connect their strengths and interests with potential job opportunities. “We encourage students to have those conversations with us as early as possible,” says Wood. The sooner, the better, especially for the possibility of informal job shadowing. “We help students find and reach out to alumni willing to speak with students in their workplaces, for periods of time ranging a half day to a week.” Such early career investigations give students greater insight down the road for choosing an internship that best fulfills their career education needs and expectations.

The CCPD also provides assistance with professional document creation—both online and on paper — and with mock interviews for employment or graduate school. Documents include, among others, profiles on web platforms like LinkedIn, résumés, specialized cover letters and personal statements for graduate schools.

“The standards for these materials change rapidly,” explains Wood. “We help alumni eliminate from their documents any sense of outdated-ness that might reduce their chances to get a foot in the door for an interview.”

The Center’s “mock” interviews are quite real. Whenever possible, instead of CCPD staff, outside volunteers (often alumni) agree to simulate interviews in their career fields, either in person, by phone, by Skype and even (occasionally) all of the above.

Rachel Wood (right) and her CCPD colleague Pam Sotherland at the 2016 Recruiting Expo

A “mock” so close to real requires broad preparation. Not to worry, CCPD has workshops and special events for that, and more. For example, Wood and her colleagues often arrange lunch meetings — called “Passions to Professions” — that connect students with alumni on campus for various reasons, often for various classroom presentations.

“These informal gatherings in Welles are an opportunity for students to network with alumni for advice based on their career pathways,” says Wood.

Other networking events include CCPD’s “Connection Reception” (which occurs during homecoming weekend, when hundreds of alumni are on campus) as well as Recruiting Expos and Career Fairs, at both K and Western Michigan University (CCPD provides buses for the latter).

And CCPD continues the K-Plan tradition of offering internships (progeny of what many older alums remember as the “career service” quarter). CCPD also provides stipends in order to ensure access to an internship experience for all students.

At K the internship program has expanded to include externships — shorter career explorations that involve homestays with alumni. “Those homestays,” says Wood, “make the value of our externships unique among similar programs in the country.”

Data from the three most recent graduating classes indicate that a little more than 30 percent of students complete at least one K externship or internship. And during the last four summers CCPD has dispersed an average of $102,000 for internship stipend support.

This impressive combination of programs and services contributes to the equally impressive numbers of the First Destination Survey, according to Wood, including the large percentage of students seeking work who find it within six months. Does the survey provide any insight regarding satisfaction with those jobs?

“We pose two questions to all respondents,” says Wood. That “all” includes those seeking and enrolled in grad school and the 7 percent who secure “volunteer or service programs” like the Peace Corps and Teach For America.

“We ask ‘How closely related is your major to your first destination activity?’ and ‘How satisfied are you with your first destination activity?’” Wood says.

The answers, respectively, she adds: “‘It doesn’t always connect’ and ‘I love it!’ And, together, those answers exalt the value of the liberal arts,” specifically, the ability to navigate a life (and job market) that is more nonlinear than linear and to find work that feeds the soul as well as the body.

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

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

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.

On the Soccer Sidelines Somewhere

Thirteen years after calling it a career at Kalamazoo College, former Kalamazoo College men’s soccer coach (and professor of German language literature) Hardy Fuchs ’68 is still calling shots on soccer sidelines.

Hardy Fuchs with five of his soccer players

Hardy with some of his current players, much younger than his K coaching days.

This time however, the players are a little smaller and a lot younger.

The 73-year-old former chair of the German department now volunteers his time teaching 8-year-old boys the basics of the game of soccer on a grassy, unlined field in the shadows of K’s campus—meeting Monday nights throughout the summer.

“It’s tougher than coaching college players,” laughs Fuchs, who led the Hornets to 12 MIAA championships and a record of 343-137-36 during his 32-year career. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of it. Their world view is magical and their outlook on life is beautiful. They are so eager to learn.”

At each practice, the 1988 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year works on passing, dribbling and shooting with his aspiring soccer stars. He relies on the college playbook that helped take the Hornets to six NCAA III Tournament appearances for drills and activities.

“I simplify what I used to do for decades with the college players,” he says. “You have to reduce and adjust. What you think is simple isn’t necessarily simple in the eyes of an 8-year-old. Passing with the inside of your foot, for example, isn’t natural. Feet weren’t made to shoot and pass.”

“What you think is simple isn’t necessarily simple.”

And because it’s not natural, Fuchs not only takes the time to explain but also to demonstrate—taking to the field just like he did for more than three decades—to show the kids how it’s done.

“He makes it fun for the boys because you can see that he’s truly having fun himself,” says Sarah Willey, whose son Sam attends the summer soccer sessions. “Coach Hardy’s love for soccer is infectious. My son can’t wait to come to practice.”

Tracy Hausman, mom to 8-year-old Carter, agrees.

“With Coach Hardy, it doesn’t look like work,” she says. “He shows the kids that the game should be fun—that it’s okay to just play.”

Hausman, a volunteer soccer coach for her son’s team, met Fuchs last spring when his young granddaughter was on her team. He reached out to her and offered his assistance.

“He told me he had a ‘little bit of experience coaching soccer,’” Hausman laughs.

The young coach jumped at the opportunity to work with the legendary Fuchs, and they worked together at the weekly practices and Friday night games.

“The kids weren’t the only ones learning,” Hausman recalls. “I learned so much about how to be a better coach.”

When the season ended, Fuchs agreed to hold summer training sessions for Hausman’s team and anyone else who was looking to learn more about soccer.

And more they have certainly learned.

“From week to week, you can see that they have a better understanding of the game,” Fuchs says.

He won’t, however, take all of the credit.

“You cannot coach a team or a player,” he asserts. “You know that learning goes on, and you can be a part of it, but you can’t teach them. They must teach themselves. I see my function as a coach to be their shortcut to get-ting to the next level. I’m going to help them take the next step.”

Helping the kids get to the next level isn’t the only thing Fuchs is trying accomplish. He’s also teaching them a little bit about his own culture and his native country. Each practice session ends with Fuchs leading the boys in a traditional German soccer chant: “Zicke, Zacke, Zicke, Zacke, Hoi, Hoi, Hoi!”

The lively chant reinforces Fuchs’ goals of fun, camaraderie and sportsmanship.

And as long as he’s still having fun, you can bet you’ll continue to find Fuchs on the soccer sidelines somewhere.