Moriam works as an intellectual property project manager at Cengage Learning (Farmington Hills, Mich.). She manages between 70 and 100 projects for multiple editors and vendors. She is a recipient of a Distinguished Fellows scholarship at Detroit Mercy Law School, from which she will graduate in 2018. She plans to focus her law career on intellectual property or juvenile justice. At K Moriam earned her B.A. in political science and completed a minor in economics. She studied abroad in Costa Rica and spent three months as an intern associate for America’s Promise Alliance, a network that facilitates volunteer action for children and youth. She served as an Civic Engagement Scholar for HYPE, a mentoring program that serves youth in the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home, and she received the College’s prestigious Senior Leadership Award.
Aaron became the first ordained minister to marry a same-gender couple in Dayton, Ohio. Aaron, who majored in religion at K, is pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs, and he also serves as Multifaith Campus Minister at Sinclair Community College. Aaron did his study abroad in Rome, Italy. He is earning his doctorate in Intercultural Studies at United Theological Seminary. He is pictured (left) with his brother Stephen Allison, who passed away in 2002. Stephen, too, was a K alum, a member of the class of 1995.
Meredith has been named a New Leaders Council—Detroit 2016 Fellow. NLC-D is an entrepreneurial leadership program for progressive young professionals, with a mission to recruit, train and promote the next generation of progressive leaders. Meredith is the director of development and strategic initiatives for Michigan United, a statewide organization fighting for racial, economic and gender justice in Michigan through grassroots organizing. Michigan United’s primary areas of work are fighting for comprehensive immigration reform, ending mass incarceration, promoting equitable development and fighting for an economy that works for all of us. Meredith has organized on campaigns to fight violence against women, increase affordable housing, clean up toxic waste in her local neighborhood, raise Michigan’s minimum wage and increase access to affordable, quality child care and long-term care. She lives in Detroit and loves building campaigns to advance gender equity and women’s rights. At K she earned her degree in human development and social relations and studied abroad in Dakar, Senegal. Her study abroad Intercultural Research Project was a program on HIV-prevention among at-risk Senegalese communities. Her Senior Individualized Project was a documentary on HIV-prevention in Detroit.
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.”
Keith is the president and CEO of the Amalgamated Bank – the nation’s only union-owned bank and the leading financial institution for the nation’s progressive community. Keith is a 25-year veteran of the labor movement, beginning his career as a researcher at the AFL-CIO. In that position he gained experience assisting unions on hundreds of organizing, bargaining and political campaigns. In 2002 Keith went to work for UNITE, the bank’s majority shareholder, where he served in various capacities. He first joined Amalgamated in June of 2012, initially directing the bank’s Washington Region and coordinating the bank’s operations in the nation’s capital. He has more than a quarter century of experience working with the bank’s core constituencies in the labor movement and non-profit organizations. Keith is currently on the board of directors and serves as treasurer of the Union Health Center in New York City, the Public Utility Law Project, and the DC Employment Justice Center. He is also on the board of directors of the National Consumers League and serves as an adviser to The Workers Lab. He also serves on the board of directors of the Democracy Alliance, which provides opportunities for individuals to leverage their progressive philanthropy by connecting their efforts with those of other investors/donors, organizations, political strategists and leaders. At K Keith earned his degree in political science and studied abroad in Strasbourg, France.
Arianna is an educator, organizer and healer who works for Rhizacollective.org, a women-led collective of cultural workers and facilitators that uses storytelling, healing, organizing and research to support social transformation and environmental justice. Arianna has worked in a variety of settings across the U.S., Asia and Central America ranging from urban public schools, mental health clinics, nonprofit organizations, worker’s centers and labor unions to private and public foundations. She conducts workshops on the trauma of oppression, community organizing and creative campaigning. At K Arianna majored in psychology and studied abroad in Thailand . She received her graduate certificates in urban public health and clinical social work at Hunter College.
James accepted a position as a psychologist at Columbia University (New York City). His clinical competencies include individual psychotherapy for mood and anxiety disorders, identity issues, LGBTQ mental health, and behavioral health issues. He has extensive experience in addictions treatment, and he works with clients to develop individualized substance use treatment plans. At K he majored in psychology and studied abroad in Bonn, Germany. He earned his Ph.D. at New York University.
Adam is the Jack Nelson Freedom of Information legal fellow for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit association dedicated to providing free legal assistance to journalists. He is spending his fellowship year working on freedom of information and access issues and on tutorials for the Reporters Committee’s “iFOIA” system for sending and tracking Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Adam graduated from George Washington University Law School last May. During law school, he volunteered for the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, worked as a research assistant, and served as the president of the university’s ACLU student group. He also served as an associate for the GW International Law Review. Before joining the Reporters Committee, Adam interned at the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the National Whistleblowers Center. At K he earned his bachelor’s degree (magna cum laude) in political science, and he studied abroad at the London School of Economics.
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.
“. . . we go to poetry … so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.” – Christian Wiman, poet
Amy Newday plants seeds in soil (she runs her own farm), and she plants seeds in students (she directs K’s Writing Center and teaches classes in the English department). Some seeds grow green crops. Others grow green poetry.
Newday recently completed a winter term course called “Ecopoetry,” and is currently teaching a spring term senior Capstone class called “CSA (community-supported agriculture) and Sustainability.” The two courses are an integral part of Kalamazoo College’s ongoing creation of a Center for Environmental Stewardship, teaching students about the impact of human life on their world.
“I feel a strong call to be of service to the earth and the non-human beings we share it with,” says Newday. “As I get older and get to know myself better and as our ecological crises worsen, this call becomes stronger. What I was curious to explore with my students in the ecopoetry course was—what does poetry have to do with ecological crises? Can poetry be a vehicle for transforming our relationships with the ecosystems in which we dwell?”
A farmer and a poet, Newday grew up on dairy farm in Shelbyville, Michigan. Her “Ecopoetry” course drew thirteen students, all of whom participated in a reading on campus to draw their class to a close. Each student read a poem from the textbook that had especially moved or inspired them.
Emily Sklar ’15 was one of those students, a biology major with an interest in ecological issues. “I love biology, although I’m not quite sure yet what I will do with it,” Sklar says. “I also love being outdoors, and I’m concerned about the environment, so I’ve been wondering how to combine all that. Science comes short on the ethical and moral aspect of ecological issues, so that’s why I took the poetry course. Poetry gives me another way to understand what’s around me, and the course has given me a blend of language that builds collaboration between scientists and poets.”
“Ecopoetry” is a relatively new term, if not quite a genre in its own right, Newday explains. “Writing about daffodils is no longer enough. Critics beat up poets like Mary Oliver for being what they call a ‘nature poet,’ writing about birds and trees. Writing about birds and trees is important, but ecopoetry includes the bulldozer that knocks the tree down and destroys the bird.”
Three main groupings of poetry compose the new genre, Newday says. As defined by Ann Fisher-Wirth and Laura Gray-Street, the editors Newday’s class textbook, The Ecopoetry Anthology, poetry that explores nature and the meaning of life falls into the first group. A second group includes environmental poetry with a more political slant that may address social justice issues and is often related to specific events. The third group includes poetry about ecology, often in more experimental forms.
“In this course we explored how the language of poetry has shaped and reflected changing perceptions of nature, ecology, and humanity over the past two centuries,” Newday says. “We looked at what poetry can contribute to current cultural and cross-cultural conversations about environmental justice and sustainability.”
Students at the reading in March read favorite poets they had studied, such as, yes, Mary Oliver, and also Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Ralph Black, G. E. Patterson, Deborah Miranda, Tony Hoagland, Robert Duncan, Lucille Clifton, Lola Haskins, Sandra Beasley, and Linda Hogan. Some students also read their own work.
“I’m not a big reader,” Sklar admits. “But I fell in love with this poetry. What I had hoped would happen, happened. The facts in science are great, but poetry gives us a way to connect to people who aren’t scientists.”
The ecopoetry course, Sklar adds, helped her to solidify an idea for her Senior Individualized Project that she’d been mulling over for about a year. Her interest in nature, biology, ecology, and human responses to all three came together in a plan to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Along with a K alumna, Margaux Reckard ‘13, Sklar began 2,200-mile adventure a few days after the poetry course concluded (see “Where the TinyTent AT?” in this issue of BeLight).
“Poetry can help us question,” Newday says. “We are losing all kinds of diversity in our world, and cultures and languages are being lost along with biodiversity. Languages each give us a unique way to see the world and add perspective. Poetry can help us imagine possibilities … possible solutions to ecological crises.”
In her senior Capstone course, “CSA and Sustainability,” Newday digs even deeper into building connections between students and the earth. Along with textbooks, she hands them trowels, hoes, shovels and watering cans. She takes her students to her own CSA operation, Harvest of Joy Farm, where she and partner John Edgerton practice sustainable and organic methods of farming.
The Capstone course, Newday says, offers students the opportunity to explore and experience food systems, agriculture, community building, education, economics, business, and food justice as an alternative to the mainstream food economy. If that sounds like it’s dealing with a great many topics—it is, and that’s the everyday life of a farmer.
Part of the course will take place in the traditional campus classroom, and for at least three hours each week students will work on the farm. They will help plan the CSA business, prepare the soil for planting and then plant a wide assortment of seeds and plants, maintain compost and learn about permaculture, and maintain and harvest the garden. Students will also experience the business aspects of running a CSA, the marketing and selling of vegetables to community members, and the relationships built between farmer and community members.
The course will also involve an ongoing blog of farm activities, and a student-generated on-campus collaborative project. Students will participate in discussions about their experiences and observations working on the farm.
In informational sessions held prior to the beginning of the course, Newday and Edgerton met with students interested in learning more information before making a decision to enroll.
“I was surprised how much I loved running a CSA,” Newday says to the students gathered to hear about the course. “The relationships we developed through the CSA were very rewarding. There’s an instant gratification when you give good food to people, and you see how excited they are to receive it, taste it, and share it.”
The concept of a CSA, Newday tells the students, is not the traditional business model of trading cash for product. “A CSA offers people the opportunity to invest in the kind of world they want to live in.”
The Harvest of Joy Farm is in its fourth year. At the beginning of last summer’s (2013) growing season, 45 members paid for 28 shares and half-shares in the operation, which provided the funds to cover the costs of farming. In return, shareholders receive vegetables and fruits each week during harvest.
“The course will help students to better understand the economics of farming, especially on a small scale, and to consider how small farms fit into the larger agricultural economy, in the United States and across the world,” says Newday. “Along with learning about sustainable agricultural practices, students will learn how to critically consider what it means to make environmentally, socially, and ethically sound food choices.”
To learn more about the Kalamazoo College Capstone CSA experience, read student blog entries, and view photos, visit kzoocsa.blogspot.com. To learn more about Harvest of Joy Farm, LLC, visit harvestofjoyfarm.wordpress.com.