Encountering, by Littles, the Birds of Bernard

In a sense, painter Bernard Palchick makes his viewers painters as well. How? He invites them to make the symbols of his paintings into symbolism of their own. That makes his tour of the three-artist exhibition—“Suggestion: That is the Dream”—your tour. The exhibition’s title derives from a French poet’s distinction between naming and suggestion. The former suppresses joy, the latter enables discovery, little by little. In his wide-ranging discussion Bernard shares insight about the prevalence of his bird symbolism; his work in oils, acrylics, and alcohol inks; the influences of Kalamazoo College and COVID-19 on his recent work; his approach to liminal space and landscape; and the excitement of not knowing how a painting will finish itself. He also gives a virtual tour of his condo basement art studio. Bernard is professor emeritus of art and the former vice president of advancement and acting president of Kalamazoo College. An apostle of the liberal arts, Bernard gathers spirits as diverse as Giovanni Bellini, Charles Baudelaire, and Mary Oliver to illuminate his artwork. The latter wrote the line that suggests, a little, the importance of birds to Bernard: “Wild sings the bird of the heart in the forests / of our lives.”

 

For more information about Bernard’s artwork, visit his website at BernardPalchick.com.

Around the Horn of Hornet Sports

Think a pandemic adversely affects athletic recruiting? Surprisingly, not so much, given a value like K. Thirteen Hornet head coaches joined Athletic Director Becky Hall to gather with alumni for a virtual round table on the state of sports at K when the pandemic has canceled or postponed all contests and practices. Nevertheless, many of these coaches are enjoying their best recruiting efforts ever. In part that is due to the fact that all K coaches share a dedication to the entirety of the student-athlete experience at Kalamazoo College. The coaches reference several elements of that experience, including outstanding academics, study abroad, the football team’s career development workshops, playing for legends (some of whom played for previous K legends), close coach-and-athlete communication that no pandemic can weaken, new facilities, getting to know student athletes outside one’s sport, community service, and supportive advising. “I am large,” wrote the poet Walt Whitman, “I contain multitudes!” K coaches respect and encourage the “multitudes” in every student athlete. That’s the reason for Hornet athletic excellence and the source of Hornet sports’ immunity to the ill effects of a pandemic.

Couch Kahoot!

How do you teach (and learn) virtually WHILE preserving (as much as possible) the educational values that make K K? Put another way what does virtual learning feel like? Jeff Bartz, the Kurt D. Kaufman Professor and Chair of Chemistry, does more than lecture on this question. In this interactive presentation he gives you the experience of online learning by making you part of a real-time experimental group of surrogate Physical Chemistry and Introductory Chemistry undergraduate students. Feel the challenge (and ingenuity) of translating K when professors and students cannot be in the same room or lab. Hint: It takes a virtual village in Kahoot, and then some.

 

View the Chemistry handout that was used during the presentation by Professor Bartz.

Gender, Sex, and the LDS

Taylor Petrey, ThD talks (and takes some fascinating audience questions) about the beliefs, teachings, and political actions of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) relative to homosexuality, feminism, and so-called family values. The Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Assistant Professor of Religion recently published a book—Tabernacles of Clay: Gender and Sexuality in Modern Mormonism—which takes a historical approach to LDS positions on gender and sexuality, and talks more broadly on gender and sexuality in right-wing religion generally. His research brings nuance, complexity and some surprises, positing, for example, that, contrary to popular misperception, LDS believes that gender is socially constructed (as opposed to naturally fixed) with boundaries so fragile they require significant church—and societal—support. Also contrary to popular misperception, LDS teachings regarding gender and sexuality have changed over time much more than most people think.

Molecule Maker, Mind Shaper

Chemistry drives the natural world. Put another way, life is a dance of molecules. Chemists seek to understand the dance by elucidating molecular structures and making new ones. One of the five major fields of chemistry is inorganic chemistry, the study of elements exclusive of hydrocarbons and their derivatives and the field wherein Tom Smith, the D.H. Heyl Professor of Chemistry Emeritus, has spent four decades with students and fellow chemists across the planet, teaching, advising, supervising Senior Individualized Projects, conducting research and inspiring the research journeys of others. Tom specializes in transition metals, a small group within the Periodic Table of Elements. In his delightful and lay-accessible retirement lecture (“Reflections on Teaching and Research in Inorganic Chemistry: From Small Molecules to Crystals to Metalloproteins”) Tom describes the enthusiasm, clarity of thought, creativity, and collaboration that inspired him as a chemistry student and that distinguished his 40 years of pedagogy and research. Above all, all he did in the classroom and in the lab involved students, from project conception through the subsequent synthesis and purification of compounds and measurement. And he did all this in the wider context of the liberal arts.

 

“I teach, therefore I take.” The 2018 Lucasse Lecture

The only piece of advice Kalamazoo College Senior Instructor of Economics Chuck Stull received before his first teaching job in graduate school was to erase a blackboard using vertical strokes. That’s not much prep for a teacher whose faculty colleagues recently awarded K’s highest teaching honor: the 2018 Lucasse Lectureship. Professor Stull made up for that early dearth of advice by inventing his own pedagogical approaches (simple, specific, and surprising) that open insights into complicated subject matter. How does he invent? By combining ideas from different sources—art, card playing, tango dancing (“I teach, therefore I steal”)—in order to illuminate economics. Always, always experiment, he advised in his delightful acceptance lecture. Then count on some failures, which will be as important as the successes. After all, few things are as vital to sustained good teaching than putting yourself in situations that allow you to remember: 1) what it’s like to not know, and 2) the subsequent pure joy of your mind reshaping itself to learn.

Infinite Variety

Associate Professor of Music (and director of the Kalamazoo Philharmonia) Andrew Koehler shows that the countless possibilities of musical expression and mood share a common source and beautiful unity composed of a mere twelve notes. Composers, often in homage to pre-existing material (a few notes in a specific sequence, for example) build infinite variations and whole new worlds of feeling to which lifelong students like Koehler devote entire lifetimes of study and passion.Audio Button

Political Genocide

John Dugas, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership Associate Professor of Political Science, describes the attempt in Colombia, beginning in the mid-1980s, to “murder” an entire political group—the leftist, legal, legitimate and electorally successful political party, Union Patriótica (UP)—by means of the systematic targeted killing of more than 3,000 of its members. In response, UP survivors have successfully advocated for the criminalization of “political genocide,” thereby giving to the world a unique legal instrument to help prevent human rights abuses, to pursue justice and legal redress, and to hold perpetrators of the crime accountable. This little known story carries implications that stretch far beyond Colombia’s borders, because peace anywhere depends on peoples’ confidence to take part in political processes without fear of extermination.Audio Button

Scholar’s Sweet Spot

Applied anthropologist (and Professor of Anthropology) Kiran Cunningham ’83 designs and implements research that yields an immediately tangible result: people gain more control of the trajectories of their lives. Such work works best when it involves students at K and abroad. Welcome to the “scholar’s sweet spot,” those projects that lead to meaningful social change, integrate multiple strands of the scholarly self, connect to classroom teaching, allow for student involvement, and require collaboration with a diverse group of incredible colleagues. Cunningham’s work with Uganda’s Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment and with the city government of Kalamazoo has led to a collaboration of communities—as well as students—to help ensure that public policy works for people on two continents.Audio Button

War Memories

Imagine an important story videotaped in one language and simultaneously translated into another. Such an advance would more broadly open to the world the oral history of the world. Assistant Professor of Japanese Noriko Sugimori describes the scholarly collaboration that, using and adding to an archive of videotaped World War II memories of elderly Japanese, applied a new technology to create the world’s first bilingual, synchronized translation and indexing process. Oral history is now more widely open to cross-cultural academic explorations, and Sugimori and her K students played a vital role in that access.Audio Button