Kalamazoo College President Jorge G. Gonzalez reflected today on the state of the College and highlighted the contributions of its students to the Kalamazoo community and the reciprocal benefits that result from local partnerships at K’s annual Community Breakfast. In attendance were local and state officials, business and community leaders and area educators representing more than 50 organizations and institutions.
After an introduction from Kalamazoo College Board of Trustees member Kevin E. Jawahir ’92, Gonzalez spoke about the College’s diverse enrollment, including the increasing number of first-generation college students. Gonzalez said that Kalamazoo College continues to bring in exceptional classes of students from around the U.S. and the world. This year, the College welcomed 370 first-year students and 11 transfer students from 21 states and 13 countries. Of these, he noted, 38 percent are domestic students of color, 28 percent are from families of modest means (Pell Grant eligible) and 30 percent are first-generation students.
He went on to describe how, through a variety of programs and initiatives, Kalamazoo College students become integral members of the local community during their time here, creating a profound and positive impact that extends beyond the campus borders. In return, students acquire valuable skills, develop a heightened sense of civic engagement, and establish relationships that lead to future career opportunities and a deep connection to the city.
“Kalamazoo College is a talent importer,” Gonzalez said. “Wherever students come from, once they are on campus, they inevitably become part of the fabric of life in Kalamazoo. They work for local employers and nonprofits, they volunteer and work in local schools, and they spend money in local businesses. After experiencing everything that K and Kalamazoo has to offer, some of our students choose to stay and build a life in the Kalamazoo area.”
He noted that an important element of the student experience at K is the partnership between the College and local organizations. Gonzalez cited the work of the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement, the Larry J. Bell ’80 Environmental Stewardship Center, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership and the Center for Career and Professional Development—all of which provide student-led programming, service-learning opportunities, and connections to employment in the Kalamazoo area.
These opportunities would not be possible, Gonzalez said, without gifts and grants from alumni, friends, corporate donors and community foundations, which support programming and provide stipends and funding for students with financial need.
Such gifts have also advanced The Brighter Light Campaign, which the College launched publicly in 2021. The campaign has raised $181 million against its original $150 million goal. The College recently announced that it was raising the goal to at least $190 million, in honor of the institution’s 190th anniversary.
After Gonzalez’s remarks, junior biochemistry and music major Isabella Pellegrom spoke about her experiences at K, focusing on her scientific research and her involvement in K’s music ensembles.
At K, Pellegrom had the opportunity to participate in inorganic chemistry research with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniela Arias-Rotondo, synthesizing manganese and zinc crystals. She also completed a summer clinical research program at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern. As a musician, Pellegrom is a member of the Academy Street Winds, the Kalamazoo Jazz Band, the College Singers and the Limelights a cappella group.
Hailing from Minnesota and having parents who attended K, as well as relatives from Kalamazoo, Pellegrom said, “My deep roots in Kalamazoo brought me to K, and since arriving I have found opportunities to deepen my connections to this city, discovering more about myself along the way.” Of her many accomplishments, she said, “Three years ago, I wouldn’t have thought any of these feats possible. But now, I am unafraid to be ambitious because, above all that I’ve learned in my time at Kalamazoo College, the most important has been the ability to believe in myself. So, though I can’t see into my future, I know the future holds great things for me because, like my family, now I too am rooted in Kalamazoo.”