Those Who Teach

You would think that a first-year like myself might find difficulty in writing holistically about my experiences with faculty and professors, having only been at the school for a few months. At other colleges and universities across the country, that might well be the case, but here at K, things move faster – and that includes the process of getting to know the intelligent, committed individuals who drive our education forward.

One of the first faculty members all first-year students come to know is their academic advisors. I was assigned to Dr. Sugimori, a math and Japanese professor – a stark contrast from my intended majors of English and history! But any concerns I may have had regarding potential incompatibility between the two of us were quickly squashed upon our first meeting. Despite not being a part of the fields I was looking into, Dr. Sugimori was immediately committed to helping me understand requirements and find the right classes to pursue my intended majors. She also expressed sincere interest in how my first semester at K was going, and was visibly delighted to learn I had started writing for The Index – she even vowed to start reading my articles each week!

In addition, one of the first professors I came across in a classroom setting was Dr. Sinha. Within her Classical Hollywood class, I was initially impressed by her seemingly-endless knowledge in any and all subjects relating to film, as well as her ability to articulate these topics, both in the context of the past as well as in the present. But after a few weeks in class, I found myself even more moved by her considerate nature, as she was more than willing to make an appointment with me during office hours when I was unsure about an assignment. Even a few weeks after Classical Hollywood had ended, Dr. Sinha cared enough to return my final essay at my request, and readily agreed to be a reference as I applied for on-campus work.

And of course, no blog post about faculty would be complete without mention of the incredible Dr. Boyer-Lewis, a history professor here at K. I chose to take her Women’s History class at the enthusiastic recommendation of a friend, and I am grateful every day that I did. I find myself surprised at how quickly an hour and fifteen minutes seems to pass with a professor who has so much passion for what she teaches. What’s more, Dr. Boyer-Lewis, like Dr. Sinha, was quick to recognize any potential I may have had, generously offering advice when I approached her about an externship in the field of history and eagerly offering herself up as a recommendation, giving me the confidence to pursue further experience and education, even outside of the classroom.

And in all of this reflection, I think of days in the not-so-distant past when I, too, was a prospective student. I remember searching sites like Rate My Professor religiously to see what current K students thought of the faculty members in my potential fields of study, and thought it had to be impossible that the College’s average professor rating was 4 out of 5, with a number of them earning near perfect scores in every category. But nearly two semesters in, I now understand quite clearly what it is that compelled those former students to write such glowing testimonials of the professors they have learned so much from.

Trust me when I say, when it comes to the faculty at Kalamazoo College, words – whether spoken, written on a blog, or posted on a site – can only say so much. The rest truly must be experienced for itself.

– Addie Dancer ’20

My Visit Experience

When I was applying to college, I really just wanted to get away from home and get as far away as possible. When my high school’s college counselor recommended I look at Kalamazoo College, I wanted to laugh—actually I might have. I said sure, told my parents about it, and they looked into the school with me. Suddenly, my parents were attached to the idea of me going to Kalamazoo College and set up a trip to an open house. On a chilly, Sunday morning, I hopped in my parents’ car and we made the two and half hour drive from Royal Oak to Kalamazoo. The brick buildings with the changing leaves of October seemed almost magical. It didn’t look real, it looked like a Photoshopped image of what a college should look like.

We entered the Fine Arts Building (the FAB) to listen to panels of students and faculty talk about what Kalamazoo College was all about. The more they talked about K (as they affectionately referred to the school), the more I felt like maybe I could actually go here. I sat in the auditorium all morning listening to talks about student life alongside academics and it seemed like maybe this wasn’t such a laughable option to me.

During a break in the program for lunch with current students, my parents and I had a wonderful talk with a girl who was a senior that recently returned from study abroad in China. She was double majoring in psychology and business and was very involved on campus. As she talked to me about her life at K, I had to ask, “how is it possible that you’re doing all of this stuff and studying abroad, AND getting a double major?!” She laughed and said, “That’s just how K is, because of the K-Plan, it’s so easy to do whatever you want.”

It was like my mom could read my mind because she asked, “What exactly is the K-Plan?” The student explained how Kalamazoo College doesn’t require you to take classes you don’t want to take. You really only need to complete your major, meet a language requirement, take a few P.E. courses, and complete other small requirements like a seminar and a senior project. “Because it’s so open, you end up getting double majors and minors and things almost by accident. It also makes it really easy to go abroad for two quarters.”

We finished lunch, thanked the girl for talking with us, and headed out on our tour of campus. As we were walking, I was mulling around what the girl had said about the curriculum being so open and really enjoying that. Walking around the small, beautiful campus, I was at peace. I wasn’t overwhelmed or full of anxiety. I felt calm; I felt at home.

Izzie Kerivan in Kalamazoo College sweatshirt

Before we left for the day we stopped in to the bookstore where my dad happily bought me a sweatshirt for what he started referring to that day as “K College, your new school”. On the way home I wore the sweatshirt, took a selfie in it, and posted it on Instagram. Those two hours, and really the whole day, allowed me to realize that what I was looking for in college wasn’t necessarily literally distance from my hometown, my family, and all that I knew. Rather, I was looking for a change. What I was looking for was a place that was not as strict as my Catholic high school and not as mundane as my Metro Detroit suburb. I was looking for a weird place like Kalamazoo, Michigan and a campus that was open and accepting of any and all students. I still sent out applications to other schools, but when it came down to it, I knew where I would be. Closer to home than I ever thought, but it would feel like a different world and that was exactly what I needed.

– Izzie Kerivan ’17