Lights! Camera! Filmmaking at K

Ximena Davis promotes the Filmmaking Club at K-Fest
Ximena Davis promotes the filmmaking club, the Kalamazoo College Filmmakers’ Society, at K-Fest.

One of the most exciting events as a first-year at Kalamazoo College is the K-Fest fair that happens during the second week of classes fall term. K-Fest is a student organization fair where all of the student organizations set up tables and advertise their clubs. First-years and upperclassmen alike migrate toward the lower quad to sign up for any club that interests them. I remember roaming around the tables and finding multiple clubs that attracted me such as the Kalamazoo College Democrats, the Zoology Club, and Cirque du K, the circus troupe. However, there was one particular hobby that was a true passion of mine: filmmaking. Kalamazoo College has more than 70 student organizations and I signed up for so many; however, I couldn’t find one for filmmaking. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop my curiosity, and I decided to start my own club with another passionate and interested friend of mine.

K made that process very easy and once I spoke with the Office of Student Involvement, I soon found myself the co-founder and president of the Kalamazoo College Filmmakers’ Society my junior year. Helping to run the club had many components, and the first order of business was to generate interest and gain new members. My senior year was our first chance to advertise at K-Fest and I remember excitedly making our cardboard cutout for our table to entice future members. We had more than 50 people sign up for the club and it was so invigorating and validating to find other people who were just as interested in filmmaking as I was.

Throughout the fall term, we developed a very close group of dedicated members, and as an early club, we all bounced ideas off of each other as to what we wanted the club to focus on. We decided that creating our own films was the thing that interested all of us the most, so the other experienced leaders and I taught our new members some of the basics of filmmaking. During our winter term, we collaborated with Balderdash, the creative writing club, on a script and ended up shooting and editing our first film! The script was finished in the first week, the actors had a week to memorize, and we shot everything on one Saturday! It was such an exciting experience and it was fun being in charge and making sure every shot got done. We woke up before 8a.m. and began shooting in the dorm lounge at 9 a.m.. Even though we kept having to apologize to residents for the noise, everyone in the building was supportive and intrigued by our project.

As we switched shots, we also switched roles, giving each member the opportunity to learn different jobs on set. We scrambled at the end to finish, the light beginning to change around 4 p.m., and yet watching everyone come together as actors, camera people, and sound was such a rewarding moment. Calling out that last cut just in time—it was so gratifying to see how focused and unified everyone was. Editing was completed within the next couple of weeks and before the term was over, we had a finished film! Inevitably, however, it was time to graduate, and passing the torch at the end of the year to our new first-year members was a bittersweet moment. While it was hard to say goodbye to something I’d created and grown along with, it was ultimately rewarding to see it continue on with such wonderful and passionate people.

Being a student at Kalamazoo College means being a part of an active and interconnected student body. I found many welcoming spaces and one of them was my own Hollywood oasis. Learning and finding other people with my same interests led to so many great moments, and I found that there is always the opportunity at K to create your own spaces and communities.

Ximena Davis graduated from Kalamazoo College in June after majoring in English and minoring in anthropology and sociology. She also had concentrations in media studies and American studies.

Nine Reasons Why Spring Quarter is the Best Quarter

Springtime means the academic year is almost over. The weather is warmer, flowers are blooming and at Kalamazoo College spring events are popping up all over campus. In the fall, all the student organizations are acquiring new members and making plans for the rest of the year. Then winter term hits and everyone retreats indoors to the comfort of a fireplace. But then, the frost melts, the sunshine peaks down, and students flood the quad for some much needed fresh air. Spring is an explosion of events, both on K’s campus and in the broader Kalamazoo Community. Check out some of the highlights!

  1. World Night

One of the annual spring events is hosted by the International Student Organization (ISO). World Night is an avenue for students to express their culture for the K community to celebrate. A mixture of song, dance, poetry, food, games, and much more, World Night is always a big event on campus and one that everyone looks forward to in the spring.

  1. Frelon

Frelon is a student-run dance company that is one of the largest and most popular spring events on K’s campus, and their annual show is in, you guessed it, spring quarter! Student choreographers and their selected dancers prepare for weeks during winter quarter to be able to perform for the campus community during spring quarter. There is a mixture of experience levels and anyone who wants to can be a part of a dance. Frelon is such a fun way to get involved with a student organization and try out dance in a supportive environment. As a veteran Frelon attendee, I can vouch that it is a terrific show every time!

  1. Monkapult

During winter quarter getting out of your pajamas and trudging through the cold to go to a campus event can sometimes feel like an insurmountable task (especially when the sun sets at five o’clock sharp). But in the springtime, going to late night campus events feels like a fun way to burn off some spring fever. And there’s nothing that burns spring fever (or calories) like going to Monkapult – the campus improv group. It’s always fun to see your friends (or strangers, for that matter) make fools of themselves for comedic purposes, and Monkapult always delivers on that front!

Fun fact: Steven Yeun K’05 (Actor on AMC’s horror drama television series The Walking Dead) and Jordan Klepper K’01 (correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) both got their acting start at K through Monkapult!

  1. SIP Symposiums

On a slightly more academic (but still fun!) note, the springtime means something a little different for seniors – it’s SIP Season, baby. The Senior Individualized Project (or SIP, as the kids call it) is a graduation requirement for every K student that can range from writing an original play or conducting your own lab experiment. Then, throughout spring quarter seniors present their final products at various departmental SIP Symposiums. This is an awesome way to see what kind of work your fellow students are doing and if you’re an underclassman, it’s a great way to get some inspiration for your own SIP. Plus, there are usually always snacks and who doesn’t love free food?!

  1. Burgers and Blues

Nothing says springtime like barbecued food, music, and sunshine. Every tenth week of spring quarter the Kalamazoo College Jazz Band plays some tunes out on the quad while students, faculty, and staff grab food off the grill. This event is a great place for everyone to enjoy the outdoors, some music, classic barbecue food, and of course, the quarter almost being over!

  1. Farmers Market

The Kalamazoo Farmers Market hosts dozens of farmers and local vendors at a weekly market starting in May and going through October. The market is a twenty-minute walk from campus, or a ten-minute bike ride, and boasts a lively scene with food trucks, live music, picnic tables, and of course, beautiful locally grown produce!

  1. Pride Ball

Every spring the Kaleidoscope student organization hosts Pride Ball, an event designed for attendees to dress and express themselves however they please! Kaleidoscope is one of the LGBTQIA+ groups on campus, and Pride Ball is their largest annual event. Complete with food, dancing, photo booths, contests, and performances, Pride Ball is always a fun time for all.

  1. DOGL

Every school has its traditions. Day of Gracious Living, or DOGL, is one of K’s oldest and most cherished. The night before DOGL an email is sent out by the president of the college announcing that classes will be canceled for the following day. What ensues is NOGL (Night of Gracious Living), a night of food and fun on the quad to kick off the festivities. The following day the school sends shuttles out to South Haven for K students to enjoy a day at the beach! The speculation leading up to DOGL about which day it will be is surely a pain in all professors’ necks but for students is practically half the fun.

  1. Cultural Awareness Troupe

The Black Student Organization (BSO) puts on one of its largest annual spring events, Cultural Awareness Troupe or CAT. This event gives students of color a stage (literally) to express themselves through poetry, song, dance, and even film. There’s also a dance competition and local food vendors during intermission! Some of the most stunning and powerful performances that I’ve witnessed during my time at K were during CAT performances – this is definitely a springtime favorite!

If this hasn’t convinced you that springtime at K is loaded with fun events, I don’t know what will! You can rest assured that every weekend will have at least one entertaining ongoing for you to attend. And with a few weeks left of the quarter, I’ll be sure to take advantage of all the fun!

Savannah Kinchen ‘18

More (Friends) in Four. More (Friends) in a Lifetime.

Here I am at the end of my sophomore year feeling sentimental because three of my closest friends here on campus are graduating soon. This may seem like something that is completely irrelevant to some but I think that this particular situation speaks to how the dynamics at Kalamazoo College work in terms of creating friendships and relationships, and maintaining those connections. During my first year here at K, my friend group primarily consisted of other first year students due to participating in LandSea, orientation week, First Year Seminars, and living in one of the all-First-Year dorms. This wasn’t a bad thing by any means. I was very comfortable within my group of friends and was glad I had a stable and strong group of individuals that made my transition from high school to college seem so smooth and comfortable. However, I’ve been able to connect with more people this year for various reasons.

Being a sophomore is very different from being a first year student, and I’m sure that is not a surprise to anyone reading this. When you’re a sophomore you have a year of college experience and have become familiar and more comfortable with the college environment. Yet here at K, the sophomore experience is a little different since you and the seniors essentially run the school. Due to a new wave of first year students and practically all the juniors being on study abroad, student organizations and events typically come down to the responsibility of the sophomores and seniors. This dynamic serves as a catalyst for communication and connection between the two different classes. I have been lucky enough to really get to know seniors in the student organizations and classes I am in because of this dynamic.

Specifically, I have gained three senior friends that I am so grateful to have gotten to know. The three of them have helped guide me through sophomore year (which can be overwhelming because of the responsibility you now have). Through them, I have gained more confidence in certain areas of my life (such as writing and leading) and have been reassured that I don’t have to have everything figured out. One is a Psychology major that will go to medical school, one is an English major who has actually graduated early and will pursue her MFA at a graduate school in northern Michigan in the fall, and the other is an English major who will attend a publishing program at the University of Oxford in England from September to December. The three of them through their own experiences, challenges, and triumphs have taught me that even though their post-grad plans sound so sure and concrete, it took time and effort for them to fall into place. I am beyond thankful that I have had the three of them to serve as friends, mentors, and supporters. That’s the thing about this weird dynamic here at K, it can expose you to some of the most influential people, and I hope one day I will pass on all that they have given to me.

Karina Pantoja ‘20

K Students take on the Civil Liberties & Public Policy (CLPP) Conference

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity of traveling with a group of students from K to the annual Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) Conference in Massachusetts. CLPP is a yearly event that is dedicated to creating a space for individuals to come together and discuss reproductive justice– its history, the work that has been done, the work currently being done, and what is yet to come. The conference lasted from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, and hosted a variety of workshops to attend with other events such as an opportunity to network and panels made up of activists explaining their work and organizations.

The schedule of the conference was as followed: checking in on Friday afternoon, attending a workshop, dinner, and then an abortion speak out (this is where anyone who has ever had an abortion is able to share as much or as little about their experience in a safe space). Following the speak out was the screening of the movie, Margaritas with a Straw, chosen for its representation of disabled folks and LGBTQ folks within the film. On Saturday there was an open plenary to start the day where activists from different organizations said a few words about their work or organization. This was followed by a quick lunch and then the opportunity to attend three workshops. Following the workshops was dinner with the opportunity to network with other individuals at the conference. Later that night there was an 80s themed dance party for everyone at the conference. On the last day, Sunday, we had the chance to attend one more workshop before attending the closing plenary, which was a panel consisting of four activists who talked about their work.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the closing plenary because the theme of the panel was how one can (and why one should) keep joy, liberation, and self-care at the front of their activism. All the speakers on the panel discussed how important it is to find time for self-care and to participate in the activities that make you happy. Most activists are “burnt out” by their late 20s which can mostly be attributed to the fact that many individuals keep themselves so busy and immersed in their work that they can forget to take a break, or don’t take a break for fear that it can be seen as being “weak” or “lazy” or “not as involved” compared to other activists. However, the panelists on Sunday said that self-care has only made their activism stronger and has made them feel more proud of the work they do, whether it be working to help mothers end sustenance abuse or helping women of color gain better access to education.

As someone who participates in small steps of activism and who would like to keep activism as an aspect and activity within their lives, it’s comforting to know that that doesn’t mean I should ever stop taking care of myself in order to help others. There is time and space to make sure that you are being taken care of while also improving the lives of others. No one can reach full liberation if we, as the activists, are allowing ourselves to suffer under the restraints of ourselves.

-Karina Pantoja ’20

Make Your Way to K

Here’s the thing, at this point in the college process, you are deciding where you’re going to end up for the next four years of your life. The next four years – it sounds scary and almost like a decision too big for an seventeen or eighteen year old, but let me tell you this, you’re going to end up exactly where you need to. However, while you’re calculating the distance from home or trying to figure out what school colors you’d look better in, you should read this list of 10 reasons why you should make your way to K:

1. Our entire campus lies in (barely) a mile-long radius. It will literally, at most, take you five
minutes to walk from one end of the campus to another. Do you know how great that is in the winter?

2. We have free food at every. single. event. I’m serious, we have so much food to offer you!

3. Downtown Kalamazoo is only a short walk away. There’s everything from a movie theater to restaurants to a museum and stores just a few minutes away!

4. We have the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership (also known as the best building on campus). You have the ability to get involved and attend various events with topics that range from Native American representation throughout history to resistance through art.

5. Jorge Gonzalez is the most wonderful, caring, and genuine man you might ever meet and he is also the President of the College (this is a fact). Come for Jorge, he’d love you!

6. We’re on a trimester system (three 10-week terms), which means we start school later (mid-September) and you get a six-week winter break (end of November until the second week of January) – it’s what you need, trust me.

7. The average class size at K is 13. Our small class sizes mean you get to make valuable connections with your professors, which comes in handy for recommendations and networking in the future.

8. STUDY ABROAD. I mean, let’s be real here, what schools allows you to study abroad for a full academic year and still graduate on time? (Hint: Kalamazoo College does.)

9. By the time you’re a sophomore, you have the opportunity to hold various leadership positions within student organizations. Typically, you wouldn’t serve on an executive board of a club or organization at a bigger university until your junior or senior year, but here at K, you can start as early as the end of your first year so you can go into your sophomore year holding certain positions.

10. You will literally get more in your four years here at K – from career development to study abroad to independent research, your work throughout your time here at K will put you on track to obtain more in a lifetime.

Now there you have it, ten reasons (although there are so many more) on why YOU should make your way to K. We hope to see you soon!

Karina Pantoja ’20

Making an Impact at K

Guess who’s back, back again. After a summer of work and new adventures, I’m happy to return back to the Zoo (although I do live only 30 minutes away from it) and surround myself with the people and opportunities that make me want to dive deeper into my surroundings. It has been interesting to be back on campus and not be the “baby” of the school anymore. Last year was dedicated to figuring out what I was passionate about and what I wanted to further pursue, both academically and socially. It was during last year that I was able to solidify a pretty great, empowering, and diverse friend group while getting involved in organizations on campus that made me excited about their opportunities. One organization that I absolutely fell in love with, and will be in charge of along with a few other members, is a workout group called K Team. K Team really did find a special place in my heart (I know it sounds cheesy but it’s true) and made me want to be a part of the organization’s future and impact on campus.

The student organization K Team is a newly founded self-care and workout group on campus whose goal is to create space for marginalized bodies in the gym environment while taking part in self-care practices. This organization has to be one of my favorites because we emphasize the importance of becoming comfortable in your body and connecting with your body. This year I will be holding the position of Co-Facilitator along with four other women. As excited as I am to change exercise and self-care culture at K with some wonderful women, it is intimidating to take on such a big leadership role as a Sophomore. I often feel nervous about holding this position because I feel as if I’m not qualified enough to do so. However, I have to remind myself that this entire experience is a learning one and that the organization itself is still in the stages of improvement and growth.

I think that’s one thing I really enjoy about Kalamazoo College– that you’re able to take on leadership roles early on in your college career. Typically at bigger universities, you more than likely wouldn’t take on a leadership position in an organization until your Junior or Senior year. Fortunately, K’s small size and opportunity for Juniors to Study Abroad or Study Away, open up a platform for underclassmen to step into that position. I am really thankful and excited about this new leadership role, along with a few other ones that I will hold this year, and will keep you all posted on how it goes, so stay tuned!

-Karina Pantoja ’20

Just Do It: Advice to Incoming Students

In the year leading up to leaving for college, much of your time is spent preparing for the changes to come: organizing and packing up your belongings for a dorm room, looking through course catalogs to choose what classes you want to take, and talking with others who have already been through the process of entering college or your friends with whom you are about to start a new chapter of life. As you prepare, there is no shortage of people offering you stories, warnings, and advice from their own college experiences, each to be taken into consideration, but with a grain of salt. While every person and every school is different, there are some pieces of advice that are universally valuable and applicable.

With an older brother who had just graduated from college as I was about to enter into my first year at Kalamazoo College, I had a trusted source who could answer all of my questions about living away from home, making new friends, and being successful academically. One of the most important things he told me was something I later heard echoed by a variety of people in my life, backed up with different personal experiences. That advice was to get involved.

It sounds cliche and almost too obvious, but as a freshman starting out in a new place, it is easy to latch onto the first few friends you make or to convince yourself you need some time to settle in before you start to look for clubs or organizations to get involved with. While this is true, Kalamazoo College already plans for that time and schedules its student organization fair, K-Fest, several weeks into the first quarter. Here at K, a lot of those worries that freshman may have are anticipated and the structure of Orientation Week, First Year Forums, and K-Fest are formatted to alleviate the pressure of having to figure out your whole new life at college all at once. With the first few weeks of classes and social life under your belt, K-Fest is a great opportunity to walk around and “sample” some of the many student organizations here at K. Joining a club or organization that deals with subjects and issues you are interested in is the best way to develop your campus network to include upperclassmen and other students you may otherwise not meet, to participate in fun activities or meaningful work, and to begin to create a solid resume for the other numerous opportunities you will come across at Kalamazoo College, like internships, study abroad, and on/off-campus employment.

After my first six months on campus at K, my best piece of advice to incoming students goes hand-in-hand with the advice my brother gave me last year – Just do it. Action is important. It is easy to sit in your dorm room and think “Oh, I’ll get involved with The Index next quarter” or “I’ll go to the next event the Arcus Center puts on” and then never actually
follow through. There is always an excuse at a place as academically challenging as Kalamazoo College, and while it’s important to prioritize homework, it is equally as important to get out of your room or the library and go do the things you say you want to do. Attending events and working with on-campus organizations will actually give you more context to complete your academic work within and will open doors to new friendships and opportunities. You just have to go do it.

-Emiliana Renuart ’20

Cirque du K

One of my favorite things at Kalamazoo College is its Cirque du K club; its very own circus club. Last year, when I was a first-year student, I started out my fall term attending a few “playtimes.” Playtimes take place two nights out of the week. They’re free-for-all sessions, where students can learn new skills, hone skills or just socialize with a cool group of people. “Skills” can be anything from ground skills — such as juggling, partner acrobatics, or balancing on the big ball — to aerial skills, in the Lyra or the Silks. And the best part is, you do not need any previous skills to try it out. You can come to a playtime as a very beginner and you can leave your first day, already doing a few tricks in the air.

Hanging from the ceiling in the dancer position at Cirque du K practice
Me on the Lyra in the “Dancer” position!

Circus is a very versatile sport. It’s all about knowing your limits and strengths, and working with them to find the best moves fit for you. Another really cool thing Kalamazoo College has is the circus arts gym class. Again, you can take the class with no prior experience, or with a bunch of experience, and you can also take it as many times as you want. Because of schedule conflicts, I was not able to take the gym class until the fall term of my sophomore year, but I was so happy to finally get in! I had attended a playtime at least once a week for all of my first year at Kalamazoo College, so by the time I was in the gym class, I had a bit of experience. It was still a great opportunity to harness and improve my skills. The silks is a great example. I do not, needless to say, have much core or arm strength, and unfortunately, the silks require a lot of both to climb them. Until the gym class, I had always been under the assumption that because I could not climb the silks well I would not be able to do them at all. But I learned later that was not the case. I was able to tie a foot-knot on the ground and still perform many skills without needing the ability to climb. Since taking the class, I have greatly advanced my skills in the silks!

Dejah Crystal hanging out in the Lyra at Cirque du K practice
Me hanging out in the Lyra.

Another part of the Cirque du K club is its officers. This year, my sophomore year, I was elected Toy Master — AKA manager — of the Cirque du K club. In this role, I got to learn a lot more of the technical stuff about rigging the aerial equipment and organizing rigging and un-rigging for showcases. As a club, we preform in several showcases on campus throughout the year, so it was very interesting this year to find out more about what goes into setting up a showcase. Overall, I would recommend that incoming students swing by one of our playtimes and give it a shot!

Cirque du K practice featuring two participants in Superman position
Partner Acro move called “Superman” with me as the base, and my friend Kathryn as the flyer.

Dejah Crystal, ’17