Spring term finals are over. Kalamazoo College’s faculty and staff are preparing for Commencement. And seniors, through a traditional rehearsal, have received their last instructions for Sunday’s ceremony. To help smooth the students’ transitions away from undergraduate life, we asked some faculty and staff who are K alumni themselves to share what advice they would go back and give themselves as they graduated.
Here’s what they had to say of that advice. We hope it will be valuable for the class of 2022.
Professor of History Charlene Boyer Lewis ’87
“Remember that no matter how carefully you plan for the future, something is going to come along to change your plans—and sometimes that change will be amazing!”
Enrollment Systems Manager Dan Kibby ’91
“Looking back, I cannot remember a single instance where I later wished I’d been less kind.”
Kalamazoo College Chaplain Liz Candido ’00
“Be imperfect. Some of the best things in my life have come as the result of some screw-up or mistake. Lose your fear of doing it wrong or incorrectly, and let yourself blunder into something unexpected and wonderful!”
Web Content Specialist Martin Hansknecht ’20
“Know that the skills you developed while at K are deeply transferable across industries, and be open to the curve balls life throws at you. But before that, take time to celebrate all you have accomplished during your four years at K—even though it may feel self-indulgent to celebrate anything positive during the dawn of a pandemic.”
Admission Counselor Lezlie Lull ’20
“Say yes. Visit your friends. Enjoy your weekends. As you transition into a new life stage, take your time and enjoy the small moments, and don’t forget to visit your parents!”
We’re excited for the class of 2022 to join the ranks of our alumni!
A Kalamazoo College alumnus is among the volunteers behind a non-government organization that is working to feed the impoverished people of Bangladesh as natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic have complicated the southern Asia nation’s fight against chronic hunger.
Jesse Steed ’02—a licensed real-estate broker in Northfield, Minnesota—got inspired when Faress Bhuiyan, an economics professor at nearby Carleton College and the founder of Nourish Bangladesh, asked him to get involved with the organization’s work.
“When there’s a need, and I’m personally asked, I tend to say yes,” Steed said. “I think that’s one of the main three pillars of philanthropy. It’s your own causes, the causes of your friends and the other causes that just present themselves at just the right time. This was definitely a friend’s cause, and we had been talking for a couple years about doing something along these lines. I’ve always had a global interest. I’ve never been to Bangladesh before but having lived abroad through K and then right after college, I see a lot of value in the concept of helping people who live outside my community or even outside my country.”
Steed is among the Nourish Bangladesh volunteers who seek donations and vet nonprofits in Bangladesh with the hope of helping worthy organizations provide money and food to people throughout the country. The organization seeks partners who use their funds directly in on-the-ground efforts, spending it efficiently to support under-privileged groups such as low-income households, women-headed households, transgender individuals, flood-affected households, refugees, children and victims of communal violence.
“With COVID, those of us who could work from home all of a sudden had a little more time on our hands to help because we didn’t have to drive anywhere,” Steed said. “Faress pulled together a group of people from around the world, including some students, some former students, some friends, some Bangladeshis to meet online and talk about what we could possibly do.”
World Hunger Day, observed every May 28 since 2011, was created by the Hunger Project to bring awareness to the hundreds of millions of people worldwide who face chronic hunger, making it an excellent day to focus on organizations such as Nourish Bangladesh. According to the Hunger Project, 98 percent of the world’s undernourished live in developing countries, more than 60 percent of the people affected are women, and hunger kills more than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Nourish Bangladesh is fighting to reverse those trends by, according to its website, funding nearly 900,000 meals to nearly 45,000 individuals and more than 11,000 households to date.
“I think that consistency over the course of these two years shows that this organization is providing value and that people still want to donate to it,” Steed said. “We have ongoing drives and programs. We’ve raised quite a bit of money and we make a strong impact with the groups we benefit. The thing that I love hearing is that the work we do makes a personal impact or connection. It’s nice to hear some stories from the folks who we help and see that we’ve made a difference in their lives.”
Kalamazoo College alumna, Professor Emerita and former writer-in-residence Diane Seuss ’78 is celebrating more recognition for her latest poetry collection, and this honor is the most prestigious yet.
Seuss was granted a 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry on Monday for frank: sonnets, a collection of poems that discuss topics including addiction, disease, poverty and death. The collection previously received the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry Collection, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry and the LA Times Book Prize for poetry.
The Pulitzer Prize committee described frank: sonnets as “a virtuosic collection that inventively expands the sonnet form to confront the messy contradictions of contemporary America, including the beauty and the difficulty of working-class life in the Rust Belt.”
“This is nothing that I would ever, ever, ever have expected of life,” Seuss said of the honor in an MLive interview. “It’s hard to feel these things beyond kind of shock and awe.”
In previous honors, Seuss received the John Updike Award in 2021 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The biennial award recognizes a mid-career writer who demonstrates consistent excellence. Seuss also joined a prestigious group of scholars and artists who have received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation as a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow. The fellowship helps honorees slate blocks of time during which they explore their creative freedom. The Foundation receives about 3,000 applications each year and awards about 175 fellowships.
Seuss retired from K in 2016, the year she was a Pulitzer finalist for Four-Legged Girl (Greywolf Press, 2015), a poetry collection the Pulitzer committee described as “a richly improvisational poetry collection that leads readers through a gallery of incisive and beguiling portraits and landscapes.” Her other collections include Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (Graywolf Press, 2018), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the LA Times Poetry Prize; Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open (University of Massachusetts Press, 2010), which received the Juniper Prize; and It Blows You Hollow (New Issues Press, 1999).
“For me and others like me, people in the margins for whatever reason, such recognition is an encouragement,” Seuss said of her recent success in a Kalamazoo College news story last month. “It’s saying, your work has worth. It makes all the difference to be seen and heard and acknowledged.”
Within that, Schechinger—an economics major in her time at K—explores agriculture’s impact on the environment while analyzing how government policies could reduce agricultural pollution. She leads a team of three while serving as a leading national expert on farm subsidies, nitrate pollution in tap water, toxic algae blooms, and federal policies related to agricultural conservation and how they affect the climate crisis among other topics. She regularly is a subject-matter expert for the news media, interviewing with outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, NPR, Bloomberg and the Guardian.
“At EWG, I work with a lot of smart, knowledgeable people and we’re tasked with becoming experts on new things every year,” Schechinger said. “K has helped instill that love of lifelong learning in me, which has helped my career. A liberal arts education has helped me think critically, and a big part of my job is to come up with unique solutions to problems.”
World Health Day, established by the World Health Organization (WHO), features a different focus each year. This year, it’s the growing climate crisis, making Schechinger’s expertise especially relatable.
“World Health Day is important because it brings public health to the forefront of our minds and the climate crisis should be a part of that thinking,” she said.
WHO estimates that more than 13 million deaths around the world each year are attributable to avoidable environmental causes. Plus, the climate crisis is the single biggest health threat facing humanity as more than 90 percent of all people breathe unhealthful air thanks largely to the burning of fossil fuels. Agriculture is responsible for at least 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., Schechinger said, and the federal government’s current Farm Bill isn’t doing enough to help farmers reduce their impact on the environment.
“There are agricultural conservation programs within the current Farm Bill that pay farmers to do certain things that we hope would be good for the environment and public health,” she said. “But many of them are structural practices like animal waste lagoons for concentrated animal feeding operations. We’re really focusing in this next Farm Bill on getting more funding to the conservation practices that actually help the environment and help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change.”
WHO says breaking cycles of destruction for the planet and human health requires legislative action, corporate reform and individuals to be supported and incentivized to make healthful choices. Schechinger wants to be a part of that as an agricultural expert in her career and wants you to think about how these policies affect your daily life.
“Agriculture affects everyone, even if you don’t live next to a farmer’s field,” Schechinger said. “I did a report last year about nitrates in drinking water, and with how watersheds work, you can live pretty far from agriculture and still have agricultural contaminants in your drinking water. We found that Los Angeles, San Francisco and major cities across the U.S. have nitrates in their drinking water from agriculture because it’s easy for pollution to get into a river or stream, and then flow many miles downstream into your drinking water. We need to be reminded of these issues because I think we can get bogged down in what we hear just with how much greenhouse gas emissions are growing. But at the end of the day, climate change affects people. It affects all of us. It affects our health and our lives.”
Update: Diane Seuss was announced the winner of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry on May 9, 2022, for her work frank:sonnets.
April is National Poetry Month, an especially busy time for Diane Seuss ’78, a Kalamazoo College alumna and professor emerita who taught in the English department and served as writer in residence for three decades. With accolades rolling in for her latest book and a new collection of poetry on the horizon, Seuss is marking the month with virtual readings across the country and reflecting on the successes and challenges of the past two years, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the John Updike Award and the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, Seuss joined a prestigious group of scholars and artists who have received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation to help provide fellows with blocks of time to work with creative freedom. The Foundation receives about 3,000 applications each year and awards about 175 fellowships.
In 2021, Seuss received the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The biennial award recognizes a mid-career writer who demonstrates consistent excellence.
The Guggenheim and Updike awards have helped Seuss, who grew up in rural schools and earned a master’s degree in social work rather than an M.F.A. in creative writing, feel a hard-won sense of authority as a poet.
“They’re both very prestigious,” Seuss said. “While you would hope that you could feel that you have a right to be heard without that recognition, it sure helps. It’s amazing that I was this kid with a single mom in Niles, Michigan, writing poems in typing class, and truly, through sheer persistence and a lot of luck, I have managed to be here.
“For me and others like me, people in the margins for whatever reason, such recognition is an encouragement. It’s saying, your work has worth. It makes all the difference to be seen and heard and acknowledged.”
Seuss published her fifth collection of poetry, frank: sonnets, in 2021. The book, from Graywolf Press, is currently a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry, was named a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and won both the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Prior to frank: sonnets, Seuss published four other poetry collections: Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (Graywolf Press, 2018), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Poetry Prize; Four-Legged Girl (Graywolf Press, 2015), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open (University of Massachusetts Press, 2010), recipient of the Juniper Prize; and It Blows You Hollow (New Issues Press, 1999).
frank got its start during a writing residency at Willapa Bay Artists in Residence near Oysterville, Washington.
“A lot of people had said, ‘You should write a memoir because you’ve had quite a life,’” Seuss said. “You know what is beneath the surface when folks say you should write a memoir! I took that idea with me to the residency, but I just couldn’t hear the memoir in prose.”
During the residency, Seuss took a day trip to Cape Disappointment, where visitors can hike to a lighthouse on a cliff. The drive was beautiful, but when she arrived, Seuss felt exhausted and took a nap in the backseat of her rental car before simply returning to her cottage.
“On the drive back, I started narrating what had just happened,” Seuss said. “I had this line in my mind: I drove all the way to Cape Disappointment, but didn’t have the energy to get out of the car. It’s past tense, but it’s just-happened past tense. Then it came into my head, I’m kind of like Frank O’Hara.”
A prominent poet who died in 1966, O’Hara wrote kinetic, lively poems encompassing his present thoughts and actions, which he called “I do this, I do that” poems. “By the time I got back to my little cottage, I had these lines jotted down on a pad. I saw, this could be divided into 14 lines; this could be sonnet length. Then I thought, Wow, I could write a memoir in sonnets, and they could be composed under the influence of Frank O’Hara, who was so improvisational and spontaneous.”
The poems in frank are contemporary American sonnets, Seuss said, mostly unrhymed but with some vestige of rhyme and meter and a couplet at the end. She employs the tension between the high-end poetic form of the sonnet and her working-class language and storytelling. At the same time, she draws on parallels between the working-class mentality of being economical and the economy of language inherent in the sonnet’s 14-line limit. As one of the poems says, “The sonnet, like poverty, teaches you what you can do / without.”
The title references poet Frank O’Hara as well as serving as an homage to Amy Winehouse and her first studio album, Frank. It also refers to frankness itself, a quality omnipresent in the sonnets.
“I’m not writing like I’m a role model,” Seuss said. “I talk a lot about really tough mistakes in my life. I own my stuff. I see myself pretty clearly. I hope that people who read it feel that their lives, too, have value, and that they can be honest about who they are without shame.”
frank is a memoir, but not a traditional or linear one. “It tells the story of my life and my interior, but from shifting perspectives and with a range of approaches to language,” Seuss said.
One section is in the voice of the rural town where Seuss grew up; one is transcribed from text conversations with her son. Several sonnets involve a dear friend, pictured on the cover, who died of AIDS in the ‘80s. Her father, who died when she was 7, appears in some poems, and her mother, a single mother from then on, features prominently. One poem, on the back of a center fold out, is written by her son.
“I think of the book in a lot of ways as a collaboration,” Seuss said. “The book, especially its cover photo, has received attention in countries throughout the world. Maybe especially during the pandemic, readers responded to a collection that values a single life, but also the communities and individuals that contribute to any one life.”
The COVID-19 pandemic hit shortly after Seuss received the Guggenheim fellowship, scrapping her original plans for a fellowship project involving in-person research and interviews in her hometown of Niles. Post-frank, the roots of that project have grown into her forthcoming sixth collection of poetry.
“My intention was to be able to go back to my hometown for considerable periods of time and do research, specifically around a legal case that happened in the town involving abuse at a daycare center that really cut the town in half,” Seuss said. “The roots of that project are still there, but I ended up opening the book up to larger questions about what poetry can be up against trauma, loss and our current reality.”
The original project and title, “Little Epic,” ended up as a single, longer poem in the new collection. Seuss had been interested in developing a connection to Latin poet Catullus and his longest poem, Catullus 64, an epyllion or “little epic.”
“It tells the story of a wedding among the gods by reading the images on a coverlet that is given to the bride,” Seuss said. “I loved that idea and wanted to pull it forth into the story of my town.”
K Professor of Classics Elizabeth Manwell proved a “fantastic resource” for Seuss’ efforts to learn more about Catullus and classical poetry in the process of writing “Little Epic.”
The new book is tentatively titled Modern Poetry, “which is kind of an audacious claim in itself for a book of poems,” Seuss said. The title poem is about her first poetry class at K with her mentor, Conrad Hilberry, who sought her out after giving honorable mention to a poem she wrote in high school typing class, entered into a contest for Michigan poets by Seuss’ guidance counselor. Hilberry encouraged her writing, helped her do readings in classes and eventually supported her in finding the resources to attend K.
“That class at K in 1974 also opened the pathway to what the rest of the book is, in quotes ‘about,’ if books are about, and that is poetry itself,” Seuss said. “I lived through the ongoing pandemic, aware of so much loss and suffering, of course, and for me, experienced in isolation. I’m divorced; my son is in the upper peninsula. My mom and the rest of my family are all still in Niles. My dog was my soulmate and he died during the pandemic. Through most of the pandemic, I have been in my house, right across from campus, with nobody.
“I kept asking myself this question, what can poetry be now? What is poetry now? That really is the defining question of this next book. To explore that, I went back to the roots of my education in poetry.”
Seuss also forced herself to abandon the sonnet and take a different formal approach in Modern Poetry.
“You can only do one thing so long,” Seuss said. “I’m writing the longest poems I’ve ever written, in free verse. The new work takes a certain kind of authority, a willingness to take up that much space and to think through some things about poetry itself, and to weigh in. Authority has always been an issue for me as it is for so many people who come from the margins, whether it’s race, class, gender, orientation or identity. I think some of the best teachers come from marginal realities; eventually, you may come to that place where you realize that your perspective has value.”
“In my teaching at K, in my teaching since leaving K as well as in my writing, I have wanted to communicate the value of individual realities.”
Anne Dueweke ’84 believes we cannot understand where we are unless we understand where we’ve been, especially when it comes to the racial climate of the United States and, closer to home, Kalamazoo College.
With her newly published book, Reckoning: Kalamazoo College Uncovers Its Racial and Colonial Past, Dueweke hopes to supplement existing histories of K with a racial and colonial history, sharing experiences of people of color at K and examining the role American colonialism, racial history and attitudes toward race have played in the founding and development of K through the years.
Reckoning begins with the founding of K in 1833 on land that was home to the Potawatomi people during the era of Indian Removal. It takes a close look at the events and attitudes affecting racial climate, both in the U.S. and at the College, through the Civil War, long periods of stagnation, the popularity of minstrel shows, the Civil Rights Movement and Black student activism on campus, right up to the recent activism of the changing student body and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts by recent College administrations.
“K’s story is not a unique story,” Dueweke said. “It reflects what’s happened in the country and reflects what’s happened in a lot of institutions of higher education. It all plays out here. … Sometimes the College would be ahead, sometimes it would be behind and sometimes it would be right there with the rest of the country.”
Most histories, told from the perspective of powerful white men, have felt unsatisfactory to Dueweke as a woman. “They also didn’t explain why we still have such stark racial disparities,” she said. Reading histories focused on race and colonization, such as A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi and An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, helped her understand. “I hope this book plays a similar role for the College, that it helps explain why things are the way they are, why many students of color don’t feel comfortable here.”
Myers Education Press is publishing the book and marketing it to higher education institutions for use in courses on topics such as social justice and history of higher education.
“If people here found it useful that way, I’d be really happy,” Dueweke said. “It was a hard project. I could never have done it if I hadn’t been completely engrossed in it, and I wouldn’t be completely engrossed if I wasn’t so invested in this institution. I really feel that this institution has the potential to go much further in achieving equity with how the campus is experienced and how the educational programs are delivered in terms of race and ethnicity.”
‘It Was Hard for Me at First to Understand What the Issues Were’
Dueweke graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School and chose to attend Kalamazoo College because it had a small student body, robust study abroad program, good academic reputation and beautiful campus.
She studied abroad in Madrid, performed a career internship in the publicity department at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and completed an oral history project and biography with a local artist and poet named Ben Tibbs for her Senior Integrated Project.
“I had a great education and experience here,” Dueweke said. “It was transformative, it was challenging, it was very mind expanding in so many ways, I made a lot of good friends.”
After earning her B.A. in English in 1984, Dueweke earned an M.A. in Spanish literature from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She became a mom and did some free-lance work before starting work at K as director of the Academic Resource Center in 1998. In 2000, she became director of faculty grants and institutional research at K, a job she held until 2019.
At the time, Dueweke was unaware she was joining the College staff after a period of turmoil and tension over multicultural efforts. She started in student development at a time when racial issues were a frequent topic of discussion, often framed as lack of diversity.
“I thought, ‘I wonder why this is such a difficult place for Black students and other students of color,’” Dueweke said. “As a white person, it was hard for me at first to understand what the issues were.”
Dueweke had always considered herself an advocate for students. After helping to conduct multiple student-led focus groups on students’ experiences with racial climate in 2013, she saw a need for her advocacy to involve more engagement with diversity, equity and inclusion work.
For the next two years, Dueweke incorporated leading DEI committees into her work at K. Then, in January 2015, she was participating in an anti-racism training for faculty and staff at the Arcus Center with local non-profit Eliminating Racism and Creating/Celebrating Equity (ERACCE).
The training began with the history of the United States told through the lens of race and colonization, with a timeline crossing the whole room.
“When I was looking at that timeline, I was really struck that the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830, which was right around the time Kalamazoo College was founded in 1833,” Dueweke said. “I wondered how the founders interacted with the Potawatomi and other indigenous people, what they thought about the Indian Removal Act, and what the impact was of their being here. I began to think it would be interesting to write the story of the College by focusing on issues of race and colonization as a way to better understand why the College is where it is when it comes to these issues.”
Reckoning, Celebrating, Showcasing
Dueweke applied for and was granted an Arcus Center Fellowship for 2015-2017 to support her project to examine the College’s history through a social justice lens.
“The increasing diversity of our student body … represents the future, yet the College’s structures, practices, policies, systems, norms, and values have been shaped by 180 years of serving a predominantly white, middle to upper-middle class, Midwestern population,” Dueweke wrote in the application. “This work will involve placing the College’s story within the larger context of U.S. history … paying close attention to the effects of colonization, racism, … including how the College has both perpetuated and fought against these societal forces. As a result of this work, I hope that the College can come to terms with threads of racism … and other ‘isms’ woven through our institutional history, celebrate themes of social justice that characterize the College’s past and present, and showcase the stories of people in Kalamazoo College’s history who have been marginalized and silenced.”
While Dueweke initially thought she could complete the history in three years, working on it in addition to her full-time job ended up taking more than six years. She was grateful to be able to extend her fellowship, even after she left her job at the College in 2019 and started working as a resource developer for the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi in Dowagiac.
In addition to reading many U.S. and regional histories, her research involved archival work and oral histories with alumni of color. The Arcus fellowship provided funds to hire student assistants, buy books and travel to interview alumni or visit archives.
“The oral histories were all compelling,” Dueweke said. “One thing I really struggled with, doing this as a white person, is not trying to tell the stories of people of color for them. I did want to relay their experiences, so I relied a lot on their own words from the oral history interviews, and then from people who are no longer alive, from published writings or interviews that they had done.”
Online, Dueweke found the petitions for federal recognition filed by the three local Potawatomi bands, in which the tribes tell their history. That proved vital for the beginning of her book. Fortunately, one of the first known African American students to attend K, Rufus Perry, went on to be a prominent and prolific writer so Dueweke was able to draw on his own words in sharing his story.
“It got much harder to write as it reached the point where people will have their living memory of the recent history, especially the last chapter,” Dueweke said. “There will be a lot of people who remember those years who may or may not feel the same way, people who have their own interpretation of those events.”
‘The Shape of Things’
Reckoning opens with the time of the Native American displacement and the founding of K by Baptist missionaries.
The book relates some experiences of Rufus Perry, the first known African American student at K. He escaped slavery as a young man and went on to become a well-known minister, scholar, writer, newspaper editor and advocate for Black people.
It delves into the impact of the first president, James Stone, and his wife Lucinda, who were progressive and abolitionist. As forward-thinking as they were, Lucinda Stone’s published writing still demonstrates the paternalistic and assimilationist thinking common among white progressives at the time.
The third chapter, “The Shape of Things,” covers the period of time from after the Civil War until the end of World War II.
“That was a long, long time period, and it was a period of real stagnation in how people thought about race in this country,” Dueweke said. “I think that shape is still there; that shape is still very strong. There’s been progress since then, certainly, yet there’s still white supremacy, the country is still run by white people. That really affects how white people think and operate and it has a huge effect on people who are not white.”
The book goes on to address the racial climate at K in the ‘50s, with blackface performances remaining popular on campus despite community objections, and the slow rise of some awareness as K attempted to engage with a broader world, implementing the K-Plan in the early ‘60s. The Black Student Organization formed soon after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 to advocate for the institution to make itself relevant to Black students.
The College took steps forward and back in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s as calls for diversity and action were met with opposition or were overshadowed by other challenges on campus. Progress often seemed to move at a snail’s pace.
In the conclusion, Dueweke addresses some of the positive progress in racial climate at K in the past 15 years along with some of the continuing struggles. She is aware she could face some criticism for her work from those who feel she did not get it right.
“Race is a really fraught topic,” Dueweke said. “You can’t really work in areas of race without getting into the fray.
“I see this book as a first pass. If other people find portions of the history they would want to elaborate on more, delve more into—that would be really wonderful if people got involved in expanding it.”
Support for Reckoning from K
Dueweke said she received a huge amount of support, encouragement and guidance from Mia Henry, former executive director of the Arcus Center, and Lisa Brock, former academic director of the Arcus Center, among many other people. The current leadership has also been supportive and contributed to publication.
“It’s been really wonderful that they’re willing to embrace a history like this,” Dueweke said. “There are other histories of the College and I see this as a supplement to them. It tells the story from a different perspective.”
Provost Danette Ifert Johnson said it has become apparent over the past few decades that most history is based on a subset of people’s experiences.
“It’s important for us to get that broader knowledge that includes all the perspectives and not just the perspective of the group that’s had the privilege and been in the position of being able to dominate the narrative,” Ifert Johnson said. “It’s important for us, from an institutional perspective, to understand that as much as many of us love K, it doesn’t mean that the same kinds of things that happened in a lot of other places in society over the past almost 200 years didn’t happen here. It’s important for us to be honest about that, to know where we’ve been, because it does inform where we are and where we’re going.”
Ifert Johnson said K has come a long way in terms of diversity—32 percent of the student body at K are domestic students of color—and the administration’s current focus is on inclusion.
“Numbers don’t tell the whole story,” Ifert Johnson said. “Diversity doesn’t necessarily mean that people feel fully included and like they belong in all parts of this community. How do we make sure that all of our students, all of our faculty, all of our staff, all the members of our campus community really feel like this is their place and their voices are valued, their experiences are valued? That’s something we’re working on. I don’t think it’s as fast as any of us would like, but we’re continuing to move forward.”
The College ordered 100 copies of the book, some of which will be available at the library. Plans are still in development for how best to share and distribute the rest. The book is also available at the Campus Bookstore.
“I think there are a number of different ways that it can be integrated into the College and I hope that it will be,” Ifert Johnson said. “I hope that people do read it when they get a chance. I think it’s really informative. It provides a different perspective on the history of the College and one that is important for us to know and understand and acknowledge.”
Reckoning: Kalamazoo College Uncovers Its Racial and Colonial Past
By Anne Dueweke ‘84
Book launch event
5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 7 Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership 205 Monroe Street Kalamazoo, MI 49006
Details: About 25 copies of the book will be available and dinner will be provided. Dueweke will speak about the book, do a reading, and answer questions, followed by an informal reception.
A Kalamazoo College alumna was among the most important people behind the planning of one of the most acclaimed Super Bowl halftime shows to date when the Los Angeles Rams met the Cincinnati Bengals in February.
Alix Reynolds ’11, an account manager for entertainment company ATOMIC, had a hand in transforming the field at Sofi Stadium in Los Angeles into a sparkling nightscape, duplicating a scene from Compton, California, as it set the stage for musicians Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent at the National Football League’s championship game.
The performers entertained millions of people between those watching at the game and those spread out at sites around the world, making Reynolds’ responsibilities significant.
“Something like the Super Bowl halftime show is a high-risk project, especially when it involves so much technology,” Reynolds said. “There’s going to be 100 million people watching regardless of whether it succeeds. There’s always a lot of stress and anxiety, but ultimately, a really good team with the resources and know-how can make it safer with smart decisions and a lot of redundancy built into the system, which is what we had.”
Since majoring in theatre arts at K and completing her master’s degree in technical design and production at the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale, formerly the Yale School of Drama, Reynolds has become one of the first people who organizations and their planners speak to when they contact ATOMIC. The company’s work includes set construction and project planning for displays ranging from simple trade show booths to glitzy affairs such as World Wrestling Entertainment’s signature event, WrestleMania.
“The first thing that usually happens for me is a client will call, whether it’s the Super Bowl or any other job, and sometimes they know exactly what they want,” Reynolds said. “Sometimes they just have an idea of what they want to do. I’ll ask some follow-up questions and work with a project manager to figure out how much it might cost us to build and how much we should sell it for. It’s a lot of translation of taking artistic intention, taking the client’s budget and expectations, and then figuring out how we can make the client’s dreams come true.”
For Super Bowl LVI, Reynolds’ first contact was Bruce Rodgers, a production designer through the NFL and a long-standing ATOMIC client. Rodgers has been in charge of more than a dozen Super Bowl halftime shows with celebrated performers such as Prince, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and Bruno Mars.
Despite the massive team effort that the scenery’s development required, some might be surprised to know that Rodgers didn’t need to reach out to Reynolds and ATOMIC, which served as the show’s custom fabrication shop, until September 2021. At that point, the direction from Es Devlin, a stage designer and one of Dr. Dre’s representatives, came through Rodgers. That direction was to show an aerial image of the Compton night sky with a plethora of little lights, or “nodes,” that could all be individually controlled.
Based on that, Reynolds and her teammates got to work while asking questions such as “How much will it cost to cover the entire football field with fabric?”, “When will it be necessary to buy the raw materials and receive the reference images for the final product?” and “How will all the little lights work together?” Guided by the answers to those questions and others, and while maintaining contact with Rodgers and Devlin, ATOMIC completed the set-building process at Rock Lititz, a campus that several companies in the live-event industry share in Lititz. With services ranging from design to engineering and manufacturing, professionals there collaborate across companies to plan a variety of events and experiences.
“Some locals get confused as to whether Rock Lititz is a company or a place,” Reynolds said. “I say it’s both. You’ve got ATOMIC, obviously, you’ve got Clair Global which does audio for big rock tours; TAIT, which does automation for those same tours among other things; and there are smaller companies. There’s a pyrotechnics company, there’s a video company and a virtual reality company. It’s all in this tiny town.”
When fabrication was finished, a group of semitrucks drove the stage’s parts and sections to Los Angeles, first to a practice site, and then to Sofi Stadium, where dozens assembled the pieces.
“For every performer you saw on the halftime show there were probably over 100 people working behind the scenes,” Reynolds said. “Each section of the stage buildings, which were built to look like known Compton hot spots by our fellow fabrication shop All Access, split into two parts, and every half-section was pushed onto the field by 12 to 15 people. We also had people with carts that carried our big and heavy field cover to say nothing of the people back at the shop who programmed the lighting and the video.”
All of their jobs had delicate timings to observe, not only at halftime, but throughout the Super Bowl.
“Right at kickoff is when everyone started coming down into the tunnels that run the full perimeter around the field, where all the scenery was stored with all the lighting and the huge speakers,” Reynolds said. “At the end of the first quarter, we started lining up. At halftime, we knew we had eight minutes to get on the field during the commercial break and set it up.”
As the performance began, organizers had one of their few hiccups because the first half ended about 20 minutes sooner than they had planned. With the sun higher in the sky and Sofi Stadium having a glass roof, the on-stage lights were difficult to see at first. Regardless, Reynolds and her ATOMIC colleagues were happy with the end results.
“We did that balancing act of asking, ‘What are the things that could go wrong,’ and we set ourselves up for success,” she said. “In the end, it all worked perfectly on game day and it looked awesome. By the end of the show, you could really start seeing the lights. It was really easy to forget that I was standing on a football field.”
Reynolds has about seven or eight smaller projects in the works for the rest of 2022 at sites from New York to Los Angeles including an awards ceremony for an undisclosed nonprofit organization. Yet despite not being a football fan, Reynolds hopes to attend the Super Bowl again.
“I couldn’t see the first half of the game because we were in the tunnels, and we were pulling everything off the field in the second half while trying to get away before the game ended,” she said. “We then got stuck in traffic for about four hours, but the experience was pretty incredible. The first time I walked on the field and through one of those tunnels, my mouth fell open. I consider myself to be level-headed and pretty unflappable, but when I heard the roar of the crowd, I got butterflies and chills. And that was just from the people who were at the stadium, to say nothing of the millions watching online or on TV. It was an amazing experience.”
An online art exhibit dedicated to pushing for action against climate change while there’s still hope for the planet features two artists with Kalamazoo College connections.
Jo-Ann and Robert Stewart Professor of Art Tom Rice and alumna Bethany Johnson ’07 were among the 25 international artists chosen from more than 300 entrants for “Points of Return.” The exhibit focuses on the harm humans have caused to the Earth, particularly since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, while emphasizing there are still multiple paths and approaches that can be taken to restore an environmental balance.
“Points of Return” is presented by A La Luz, which translates from Spanish as “spotlight” or “to shed light on.” The group was founded in 2015 by environmental artists David Cass and Gonzaga Gómez-Cortázar Romero to be a wide-ranging platform for sustainable and environmentally focused creative work. The exhibit unfolds across six sections, defined as viewing rooms, that describe a movement that comes full circle through planetary ecosystems, art disciplines and mediums.
“‘Points of Return’ represents artists from many different parts of the world, which is important because climate change is a global issue,” Rice said while calling his selection to the global exhibit an honor. “What we do locally or nationally impacts areas of the world that contribute much less to the climate crisis. The online format of the exhibition ensures that many more people will have the opportunity to spend time with the artwork than if it had been a physical exhibition. Accessibility to information is critical to changing people’s minds and behaviors related to climate-change issues.”
Rice used an Alberta-area oil refinery as the main visual resource for “Precarious Living.”
“I hope that my work will help people be self-reflective and ask questions about the climate crisis,” Rice said. “‘Precarious Living’ is a large-scale drawing installation that poses more questions than it answers. The subject matter is focused on an oil refinery made up of a mass of pipes, upgraders, holding tanks, chimineas and flares that amount to an absurd maze of fragile connections. What is really going on here? How can we comprehend the impact of an industry that is the very foundation of our economy, but threatens our very existence? The drawings have large sections of redacted information. For me, these redacted or negated elements represent both subterfuge by the fossil fuel industries, and our own self-imposed delusion that we can continue burning fossil fuels and that technology will save us. ‘Precarious Living’ is about being at the tipping point of global warming.”
Johnson’s artwork is represented by Moody Gallery in Houston, Texas, and she is an Assistant Professor in the School of Art and Design at Texas State University. Her work in “Points of Return,” titled “Safe Keeping,” deals with material consumption and the resulting pollution, climate change and landfill waste. She feels those are important issues for artists to face given the work they pursue and how they pursue it.
“I think there can be an attitude in the art world that one’s conceptual ideas must be realized by any means possible; that essentially, the scale, media and production methods must inherently follow from the artist’s greater conceptual idea,” Johnson said. “This can lead to an incredible amount of material consumption, energy use, and the utilization of toxic, unsustainable materials within the art world. Under the current conditions of our climate crisis, I feel that the art world is in desperate need of material and energy ethics; that we think seriously about the impacts of our work on the environment, and strive toward artmaking practices that are renewable, environmentally sensitive and even climate positive in their impacts.”
In line with the overall exhibition, Johnson’s display embodies anxiety and hope along with grief and joy as she uses layered materials that are reminiscent of geological core samples, land formations and geological processes. Her materials include paper, plastic, foil food wrappers, aluminum and foam that bring new life to discarded waste.
“I hope to offer an opportunity for discussion and reflection on the issues of human consumption and material waste, while also generating works that are entrancing and poetic, independently from their environmental themes,” Johnson said. “In this way, my goal is for them to contain ‘layers’ of meaning, which hopefully allows them to reach a wide audience in different ways.”
Johnson said she doesn’t blame artists—or any individuals for that matter—for the climate emergency as the problems that contribute to it are systemic, and intrinsic to capitalism, energy systems and powerful corporations. However, individuals must grapple with the results of it.
“This is where I think we can all recapture some power from that system by mindfully adopting ethical, responsible and sustainable models of living and working,” she said. “It can be, at its best, a hopeful, even joyful, act of resistance and psychic repair.”
Johnson feels that individuals who stay politically active can have great power against climate change and environmental problems by acting locally when they act together.
“Much environmental policy and action happens at levels beyond the individual, so voting and getting involved with local and regional politics can be hugely impactful,” she said. “For example, I live in a neighborhood in Austin, Texas, that used to house several environmentally toxic commercial facilities where oil had been leaching into the ground for years. A small group of concerned neighbors spent many years advocating for the cleanup and environmental remediation of these sites, and were eventually successful. The fact that I can live here with a sense of safety for my own health is thanks to a dedicated group of people working on a specific, concrete goal. Both in terms of the actual environmental impact as well as the sense of personal agency that it can create, I think finding a specific, actionable and realistic goal on a local level can have a great impact.”
Rice agrees that the collective actions of individuals are likely to be beneficial.
“Timothy Morton asks in his book Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World, ‘does my driving a Prius or recycling my plastic bottles really help,’” Rice said. “I think the answer is no, of course not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to do those things. I think it was Elizabeth Kolbert in The Sixth Extinction who points out it will take mass social movements to create real change related to the climate crisis. Social change happens a person at a time. Individually, we can’t initiate real change, but we are part of a larger network. What we do individually matters.”
Kalamazoo College alumna Jennifer (Heck) Greiner ’90 has a key role to play February 22 as conservationists mark National Wildlife Day.
In May 2020, Greiner assumed the position of refuge manager at Patuxent Research Refuge, a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior). There, much like those who organize National Wildlife Day, she and refuge staff encourage the public to develop a relationship with nature.
“With our location between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, we offer ‘nearby nature’ for 9 million people,” Greiner said. “This is everyone’s land and we’re working hard to help folks experience it.”
The refuge, established in 1936 by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is the nation’s only national wildlife refuge founded specifically to support wildlife research. Since that time, the refuge has grown from 2,670 acres to 12,841 acres, encompassing land formerly managed by the Departments of Agriculture and Defense.
Patuxent offers hunting, fishing, horseback riding, wildlife observation, hiking and cycling trails, interpretive and youth programs at the National Wildlife Visitor Center, in addition to study sites for a variety of researchers. Greiner manages 12 environmental professionals whose collective goal is to make their urban community more aware of the benefits of spending time in nature while building their comfort and confidence levels through outdoor skill-building.
“We’ve realized that so much of the future of conservation relies on people feeling connected to nature,” Greiner said. “Now more than ever, people appreciate that there’s more to the world than just us. During stressful times, nature provides us with a variety of ways to relax, whether through active pursuits like hunting, fishing, birdwatching and wildlife photography, or simply walking and sharing a picnic. It helps people’s physical health and mental health to realize there’s so much beauty in the world around us and it’s important to slow down and enjoy it.”
National Wildlife Day brings to the public an awareness of endangered animals while acknowledging the zoos, animal sanctuaries and wildlife preserves that protect those animals and practice conservation. It was first celebrated on September 4, 2005, before conservationists decided they needed to double their awareness efforts. A second holiday, February 22, was selected because it was the birthday of wildlife expert and environmentalist Steve Irwin. Irwin was known as TV’s Crocodile Hunter before his death in 2006.
Greiner’s own love of nature and wildlife developed growing up on the shore of Lake Huron, and evolved into a love of ecology during her years at K. In her sophomore year, Greiner completed her career development internship on Capitol Hill with the Congressional Research Service, where it was her job to research all angles of environmental issues and present them from an unbiased perspective.
In her senior year, Greiner’s senior independent project (SIP) took her to Texas A&M University, where she performed sea turtle research in a lab setting, yet she longed for her days of interacting with the public. As a result, after earning a graduate degree in natural resource policy administration from the University of Michigan, she returned to Washington, D.C.
Through her Capitol Hill work, Greiner authored briefing papers that covered issues such as the ivory trade and elephants, the reintroduction of wolves in natural areas out west and the reauthorization of the Endangered Species Act. Such experience made Greiner an ideal candidate for a role involving endangered species with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, where she has worked since 1994.
Now, as the Patuxent Research Refuge’s manager, she relishes the daily opportunity to connect people with nature. “Our focus is on making people feel welcomed and developing outdoor skills,” she said. “That could involve something as basic as providing a trail map or it could be more involved, like providing loaner fishing gear or binoculars and bird-spotting scopes for people who want to learn about birding. We also offer some introductory classes in things like camping, fishing and kayaking to give people the skills and the confidence they need to pursue those activities.”
Greiner hopes you’ll also pursue similar activities in your neck of the woods this National Wildlife Day to strengthen your ties to nature and your neighbors.
“Somehow, the great outdoors has become viewed as something of a luxury that is separate from, rather than an intrinsic part of, everyday life for many Americans,” Greiner wrote in a recent Friends of Patuxent Newsletter. “Experiencing nature, even ‘nearby’ nature, often relies on driving somewhere, often out of urban centers; knowing things like trail locations, wildlife names and outdoor skills; or possessing things such as gear, maps and entrance passes. At the same time, part of the beauty of natural systems is their interconnectedness, how the sum reflects the beauty of parts, each of which depends to some extent on another. Indigenous settlers along the Patuxent understood this. Communities thrived on familiarity with the river and landscape draining to it. Natural systems are inherently diverse. Can you imagine a forest with only one type of tree? A feeder that attracts only one type of bird? A garden with only one color? Lakes containing a single fish species? As a community, we can learn a lot from nature’s showcase, helping people feel less cut off and more connected to their outdoors and to each other.”
A Kalamazoo College alumna, who served as the chief strategic communication adviser in Kabul, Afghanistan at the end of Operation Enduring Freedom, will deliver the keynote at K’s Convocation on Thursday, September 9.
Kim Osborne ’93 will help welcome 394 first-year students to the campus as the College opens the 2021-22 academic year at 3 p.m. on the Quad. The annual event serves as the first of two bookends to the K experience with the other being Commencement. President Jorge G. Gonzalez and Provost Danette Ifert Johnson also will address attendees. Chaplain Elizabeth Candido ’00 will provide an invocation.
Osborne was the highest-ranking civilian communication adviser to the Afghan National Security Forces. She is a trusted adviser to U.S. and foreign governments, multinational corporations, international nongovernmental organizations, top-tier universities and large nonprofits. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Myanmar at the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement in 2018. In 2016, Osborne was an invited speaker at the NATO Strategic Communication Centre of Excellence in Riga, Latvia, where she addressed military and diplomatic leaders from NATO partner nations about how best practices from the commercial sector can be applied in military and diplomatic missions.
In further involvement, Osborne serves multiple professional and nonprofit organizations. She is a past board member to the National Association for Media Literacy Education, and serves as a founding strategic adviser to the Ethiopian Diaspora Fellowship. She also is a local board member and disaster services responder with the American Red Cross and has responded to several natural disasters including the recent California wildfires, Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Florence in North Carolina.
All students, families, faculty and staff are invited to attend Convocation.