Poet, Tutor, Critic: Alumna Explores ‘Musicality of Language’

National Poetry Month in April encourages a focus on the importance of poets and poetry in society. In recognition of this literary celebration, Kalamazoo College spoke with Zakia Carpenter-Hall ’06 about her roles as poet, teacher and critic, and the way each of those relationships with poetry feeds the others. 

One of the earliest memories Zakia Carpenter-Hall ’06 holds of the “musicality of language” that eventually drew her to poetry involves family, cultural heritage and growing up in Pentecostal churches. Her grandfather and uncle both served as pastors. 

“There was a musicality and cadence in the way that they presented stories,” Carpenter-Hall said. “I remember being very young and wanting to listen to sermons for those reasons and for the story within a story. I loved that there were layers to the parables they told, and that I could get something out of it, even at an early age. For me, though, that didn’t translate into storytelling; it translated into wanting to write poetry.” 

By the age of 13, Carpenter-Hall was writing her own poetry. Yet at 19, she still found it difficult to absorb the words of Diane Seuss ’78, writer in residence and a professor of English at Kalamazoo College at the time. Seuss was the first person to tell Carpenter-Hall she could pursue poetry professionally if she wanted to do so. 

“I didn’t personally know anybody who was a Black writer, a Black poet, who was actually doing that as a career,” Carpenter-Hall said. “I didn’t know if it was really possible.” 

In fact, Carpenter-Hall left K feeling like she could not continue writing or furthering her education. After a couple years with AmeriCorps, an opportunity arose to move to the United Kingdom, where she initially pursued teaching at the elementary level. When she decided that wasn’t the right fit, her family and friends encouraged her to write. She gave herself a year to pursue it full time, “and then I just never went back. I got other jobs, writing-adjacent jobs, and I just kept going.” 

“I had to change my relationship to writing and education. I learned how to have my own connection to writing, research and scholarship outside of an institution and away from the motivators of external gratification and grades. I had to learn how to enjoy writing again, like I did when I was a child.” 

With the help of Black poets she met in England who became friends and mentors, Carpenter-Hall forged a new relationship to poetry that opened the door for her to return to school. She earned a Master of Fine Arts with distinction and is a fully funded researcher seeking a Ph.D. She also is writing, teaching and reviewing poetry. 

“I really, really like having such a variety of things that I’m doing,” Carpenter-Hall said. “It all feeds into my writing.” 

She teaches classes at a variety of places, including for the Poetry School

“Teaching is like a laboratory of being able to explore whatever I’m thinking about at the time,” she said. “I’ve been able to teach classes on topics like myth, the body in poetry, and composition through a lens of collage. I love seeing how students work and develop over time, and how they interact with different texts. I will think I’m asking them to do one thing, and they will give me something I never would have expected. Students are wonderful in that way; you just cannot pinpoint, when you put an assignment together, how people are going to respond to it. As a teacher, you have to grow and continue to adapt your own perceptions, and I love the challenge in that.” 

Her poetry reviews and poems have been published in Poetry Wales, The Poetry Review, Wild Court and Magma, and she has written multiple reviews for Poetry London. 

“Reviewing poetry helps me incorporate other techniques and ways of presenting experiences and ideas,” Carpenter-Hall said. “It trickles into my own work, especially the things I find intriguing when I see other people doing them. Thinking about those things critically, and the way I have to read in order to review a collection, helps me to absorb what those different writers are doing, which then ends up coming out in my own idiosyncratic way in my work.” 

When writing poems, she gravitates toward prose poems, sequences and long poems (“I like the challenge of holding the reader’s attention and seeing how long I can keep something of interest to me hovering in the air before gravity causes it to hit the ground,” she said). 

“I am interested in whatever suits the content of what I’m writing,” Carpenter-Hall said. “I think about how I want the poem to be read, and I never think about form first. I usually write my early drafts in prose, and then I think about form in terms of what the poem wants to be, what the poem is trying to do. Once I have a sense of that, I break the lines and try different things until I hit on something that releases the poem. It’s a marriage of form and content for me.” 

Prose poetry balances the lyricism of poetry with hints of the narrative of fiction, Carpenter-Hall said, without the beginning, middle and end readers would expect from a story. “Reading one is the experience of being dropped in the middle of something strange and unexpected.”  

Her least favorite part of writing is getting words down on paper—or on the back of an envelope, typed at a computer, entered into a mobile app or whatever happens to be handy. With two young children who are both already interested in writing in their own ways, Carpenter-Hall can’t afford to be picky and will use any available medium. 

“Sometimes an idea will be resonant enough to where I need to put it down on paper or I hear lines in my head, but usually I trick myself into writing something by taking a class or agreeing to a deadline that forces me to go through that process,” she said. “Once I feel like I have something here that can be molded, like clay for a sculpture, then that’s the fun part for me. It’s like a puzzle. I get to shape things; I get to move things around; I get to say, ‘Ooh, is this the beginning or is the beginning at the end? What about this line? Can I move this over here? What does that do to the poem?’ I’m looking for that feeling when you put a puzzle together, and it’s like, ‘Ah, it’s complete’—except with poetry, I don’t know what that finished thing is going to look like when I start.”

In addition to many published poems, Carpenter-Hall’s debut poetry collection, Into the Same Sound Twice, was published in April 2023 by Seren Books.  

“My poetry is like a universe in the palm of your hand,” Carpenter-Hall said. “It’s vast, in the condensed space of a book, and it’s felt, it’s experienced through the senses. I have to ground the ideas and lived experiences in the physical world, so you have the vastness, but you also have intimacy.” 

Key motifs in Carpenter-Hall’s poems include water, hair and gold. Many of her poems explore themes including science, the environment, human relationships and interactions with each other and the natural world, intergenerational familial relationships, motherhood and mothers, music, the speculative and surreal, expansiveness, the universe and space beyond, permeable borders, and visual art.  

“What I would like people to know about my poetry is that it is both complex and accessible,” Carpenter-Hall said. “People who may not read poetry regularly might think, ‘Oh, if there’s a poem with a mother, it’s your mother, and if it seems like a story from your life, that’s it.’ I want people to know that, at least for my own poetry, it has a bit of allegory, it has myths embedded in it. I don’t see it as facts we can know; I’m not led by the specifics of what happened on a certain occasion. There’s more of an emotional truth and other meaning I’m trying to uncover. I’m always looking for the layers beneath an experience, for what I don’t understand about this thing that happened. I’m trying to explore the edge of what I know and go beyond that.”  

A collage including poetry and a picture of Zakia Carpenter-Hall at one of her poetry readings
A poet, teacher and critic, Zakia Carpenter-Hall ’06 explores science, relationships and the edge of the unknown in her poetry.
“I think one of the things people get wrong about poetry is that they tend to think it’s not for them if they don’t have an immediate connection to it or they didn’t forge a connection to it in school,” Carpenter-Hall said. “For me, it’s like music; everybody has a kind of music that they like; I think everybody can have a kind of poetry that they appreciate reading or hearing. It’s different from other genres, because it doesn’t have to be narrative and it’s not always about literal sense, so you’re using a different way of thinking and feeling, as with music. It’s about how this makes you feel—the relationship between you and the poem —and I think if people opened themselves up and tried different kinds of poetry and mediums, they can find some that they enjoy.”
A poet reading from a collection of poems
With the help of Black poets she met in England who became friends and mentors, Carpenter-Hall forged a new relationship to poetry that opened the door for her to seek advanced degrees.

The Pitch

By Zakia Carpenter-Hall ’06

Instead of words, rocaille beads pour from my mouth and all the garments I’ve presented have been held together with a glue gun applied to the seams. Ms. Fashion Exec says, How do you plan to make money?, as the carpet begins to unspool because that too was somehow made by me, flecks of paint peel off the walls and swirl around the room. I am as silent as snowfall, but I show them diamonds made of paper, shoes constructed solely in felt. One interviewer asks whether or not this is a joke. This is not a business, the panel says, as the room fills up with my attempts—like the enchanted broom in Fantasia which kept going back to bring forth buckets of water long past there being a need—drawings I drew, dance choreography. It’s too much, they say, all this longing and striving. A gale comes in of the same force that’s beating against my lungs, as if someone’s opened windows on the 100th floor of a skyscraper, this ledge of fashion, and this gust eats at the panel’s notes. The judges still try to get their questions to me by courier, their clothes billow away from their bodies. What would you do if you had the money?, they ask. I tell them there would be more of me, and I would be gesticulating like a conductor in the centre of it all. Waves of sound and light crash at my feet. Building works commence next door and it sounds as though the workers are trying to break into the room with chisels. The panel take out their Louis Vuitton hard hats and persist, like this is just another wardrobe malfunction. And the room begins to glow white-hot.

Into the Same Sound Twice (Seren, 2023)

Carpenter-Hall’s Work 

Visit Zakia Carpenter-Hall’s website for more about her life and work. 

Purchase Carpenter-Hall’s first collection of poetry, Into the Same Sound Twice

This summer, Carpenter-Hall will teach an online course titled Zig Zag Motifs: Lyric Invitation, Immersion and Criticism Masterclass through the Poetry School. Learn more and enroll

Carpenter-Hall will be one of the contributing editors for the winter 2024 issue of Poetry Wales. To submit work for consideration, watch for the submission window to open here

Zakia Carpenter-Hall portrait
Carpenter-Hall’s debut poetry collection, “Into the Same Sound Twice,” was published in April 2023 by Seren Books.

Alumna Swings for the Fences, Scores Baseball Job

After years of supporting her home state Atlanta Braves, Samantha Moss ’23 is aligning herself this Opening Day with a different team that often wears navy blue.

“I’m Team Umpire, 100%,” Moss said.

It might seem unusual for a fan to say that, but the Kalamazoo College alumna has a new job working for Major League Baseball: Moss, a timing operations administrator, is at MLB headquarters in New York, where she’s ready to assist on-the-field officials who need help interpreting the league’s new rules, especially those related to pitch clocks.

Starting last year, pitchers had 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. If a pitcher hadn’t started his delivery toward home plate before the pitch clock expired, he was charged with a ball. Plus, hitters needed to be in the batter’s box with eight seconds left on a pitch clock. If a batter delayed entering the box, he was charged with a strike.

Those rules were among several that helped drastically reduce the time it took to play a game from slightly more than three hours in 2022 to less than two and a half hours in 2023. This year, MLB has tweaked those rules in an effort to further speed up games. For example, a pitcher will have 18 seconds instead of 20 with runners on base to deliver his pitch this year. The league also is:

  • Decreasing the number of pitching mound visits a team is allowed each game to four in the first through eighth innings with an additional visit permitted in the ninth inning.
  • Adjusting when a pitch clock will reset after a dead ball situation such as a foul ball. Instead of waiting for a pitcher to retake the mound, the clock will restart as soon as the pitcher receives the ball.
  • Requiring any pitcher who warms up on the field to face at least one hitter. In the past, a manager commonly would remove his pitcher before a pitch was thrown if their opponent brought in a pinch hitter to gain an advantage in a lefty-versus-righty match-up.

The changes require trained people such as Moss, a former K softball player and economics and Spanish double major who knows baseball well, to provide administrative support when questions related to specific situations arise.

“Similar to the people in Replay, we’re watching all the games at once and waiting for pitch clock violations,” Moss said. “When they do happen, we’re acting on it, sending what we need to send to the right people to ensure the rules are followed precisely. We need to make sure we know the rules in and out and relay those rules to the umpires and the people who control the pitch clock during the games. It’s a well-oiled system for it only being in its first year. We’re there for when a problem arises during the game or if the umpires need to clarify a rule. If we’re noticing things happening on the field, we’re a different perspective to help out.”

Samantha Moss in New York City, where she has earned a baseball job
Samantha Moss ’23 is serving Major League Baseball as a timing operations administrator this season in New York.
Samantha Moss celebrates a victory with her softball teammates
Moss, a former K softball player, will provide administrative support at MLB headquarters in New York when questions related to new rules arise on the field.

Moss first connected with MLB when she asked K baseball coach Mike Ott whether he knew anyone who works in the league. As luck would have it, Ott knows Jack Clark ’17, a K trustee and former Hornets baseball team captain, who started working with MLB in Replay Operations and now is its manager of draft operations. Thanks in part to Clark and a lot of continued networking, Moss attended baseball’s Winter Meetings last year and one of its events, Take the Field, a women-led conference.

“I always had an idea that I wanted to work in baseball when I started applying for jobs last year, but I wanted to be realistic, too,” Moss said. “I thought getting a corporate job is what I was supposed to do after I graduated from college. That conference was a game-changer for me. I got advice from women who are succeeding in the industry, and it opened my eyes to some possibilities I hadn’t considered before. I mark that as a pivot point in my career goals.”

Over the past year, Moss has coached and played softball in Sweden, worked in Grand Rapids and lived in Atlanta for a time while applying to about 90 baseball jobs. MLB, though, came along just in time for the season, and just two weeks after the call, Moss moved to New York.

“This just had to be what I did,” Moss said. “It’s one of those things where you say ‘yes’ and figure out the details for making it happen later.”

The full-time job is seasonal, although Moss is thrilled to be working in the sport and can’t wait to find out where her position might lead.

“I’m excited to be in the building with a lot of important baseball executives,” Moss said. “I feel like it’s a great place to network and see what opportunities there are around the league with MLB and with the individual teams. Baseball is a very fluid environment in terms of people’s positions and people are constantly moving in and out, up and down and all over. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next year. I just know that I want to work in baseball. At the conference, somebody said, ‘Any job in baseball is a good job in baseball.’ And that’s so right. I’ll just trust my ability to make decisions this year and follow my gut in my career.”

Fulbright Chooses K Adviser to Mentor Colleagues Nationwide

Fulbright is honoring a key individual at Kalamazoo College when it comes to referring students to the federal program’s international immersion opportunities. 

Jessica Fowle ’00—K’s director of grants, fellowships and research—was selected to be part of the inaugural Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) Mentors Cohort. As an FPA mentor, Fowle is one of 20 from around the country who will provide virtual training and information sessions, presentations at the Forum for Education Abroad, and personal advice to new Fulbright program advisers who are looking to structure applicant support and recruitment at their own institutions. 

Fulbright is the federal government’s flagship for international exchange. It allows graduating seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to teach English, perform research or study abroad for one academic year. 

“The mission of the Fulbright program makes it one of the competitive postgraduate fellowships that seeks a variety of people, without a minimum GPA for applicants, while laying some foundations to make access feasible,” Fowle said. “FPAs are the liaisons between the Fulbright program and the Fulbright student applicants.” 

Fulbright grant recipients are chosen for their own merit and leadership potential, but there’s certainly data to back up the value of Fowle’s counsel to those who apply, making her insight and experiences valuable to professional counterparts who seek to do the same. For example, K has been a Fulbright U.S. Student Program Top Producer in six of the last seven years; the College had a total of 11 representatives abroad this year; 12 current applicants are semifinalists for awards that will be announced this spring and summer; and K has been the only college in Michigan to earn Top Producer distinction in the bachelor’s institution category in the past two years. 

“I’m a lover of storytelling and I get to do that with students, alumni and faculty on their applications for grants and applications for fellowships like Fulbright,” she said. “They reflect on what they want from the opportunity, and I help foster some reflection that strategically highlights what pieces of their stories are the most compelling. 

“I love the opportunity to transfer my experience working with students into a different format of the story of Fulbright. It’s really exciting to have a seat at the table and meet the folks at the Fulbright Program who are thinking about what they want to do on the national level. We’re asking, ‘What’s the story of Fulbright?’ and ‘How are we incorporating that story to keep federal funding and help FPAs understand their institution’s storytelling?’ It’s fun for me.” 

Fulbright Adviser Jessical Fowle
Kalamazoo College Director of Grants, Fellowships and Research Jessica Fowle ’00 is one of 20 professionals from around the country who will provide virtual training and information sessions, presentations at the Forum for Education Abroad, and advice to new Fulbright program advisers at other institutions.
Fulbright Adviser Mentors
Fowle (front row, fourth from right) is grateful for an opportunity to network with her fellow Fulbright Program advisers.

The fact that Fowle is an office of one at K makes connecting with colleagues in addition to Fulbright officials appealing, and she appreciates the recognition this opportunity presents, as mentors have reputations for successful program growth. 

“I like building things, so the opportunity to help other FPAs build a successful program is intriguing,” Fowle said. “I’m kind of the ‘small liberal arts college’ representative. There are folks from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and community colleges. They want Fulbright grantees to represent all of America. Historically, as with many selective fellowships, selectees primarily are white students from the coasts, so they want to expand the applicant pool to include all of the country’s identity and geographic representation.” 

Fowle has been part of K’s staff in various roles for more than 20 years—nearly five as director of grants, fellowships and research—and the advice she has to offer students is applicable to any post-college experience they wish to pursue.  

“The universal quality of each Fulbright experience is this genuine desire and curiosity about a new culture and community, so it’s important to pursue opportunities in college that build those skills of getting to know a new community and understanding cultural dynamics,” Fowle said. “For our K students, that shows up by taking full advantage of things like the Center for Civic Engagement and the interdisciplinary components of K’s curriculum. My advice would be that they dig into how the topics that come up in language classes can intersect with issues that come up in other academic departments. They should see how their peers major in a million different things while taking advantage of study abroad, study away and Senior Integrated Projects. Build that curiosity, that critical thinking and the flexibility to be uncomfortable, because those are things that not only the Fulbright program looks for, but employers, as well.” 

Kalamazoo College Trustees Elect New Board Chair

The Kalamazoo College Board of Trustees has unanimously elected Jody Clark ’80 to become chair of the Board effective July 1, 2024. She succeeds Si Johnson ’78 who has served as chair since 2019.

A retired commercial real estate executive, Clark has been a member of the Kalamazoo College Board of Trustees since 2014 and currently serves as vice chair. She has served on the Buildings and Grounds, Compensation, Finance, Investment, and Executive Committees in various leadership roles.

“Jody has a wealth of experience and a strong commitment to Kalamazoo College,” said K President Jorge G. Gonzalez. “As an alumna and a longtime trustee, she deeply understands the College’s mission and is well-positioned to help guide the institution through its next chapter.”

“I’m honored and humbled to accept the role of chair of the Board,” said Clark. “I am excited to collaborate with the Board of Trustees, President Gonzalez and the entire college community in guiding our institution toward continued success and impact for generations to come.”

Portrait of Board of Trustees Chair Jody Clark
Jody Clark ’80, a retired commercial real estate executive, has been elected chair of the Kalamazoo College Board of Trustees.
Portrait of S. Si Johnson
Si Johnson ’78, a retired Stryker executive, had served in the role since 2019.

A retired Stryker executive, Johnson has served on Kalamazoo College’s Board of Trustees since 1996. During Johnson’s tenure as Board chair, the College has executed its five-year strategic plan, Advancing Kalamazoo College, embarked on The Brighter Light Campaign, the institution’s largest fundraising campaign to date with a goal of $190 million, and navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Si has been an engaged and dedicated leader throughout his time on the Board,” said Gonzalez. “He served as Board Chair during one of the most disruptive and difficult global events in recent history, and his leadership assisted K in continuing to meet its strategic objectives, despite the challenges. I am deeply grateful for his support and service.”

Heeding the Call of the Wildlife

World Wildlife Day, observed annually on March 3, underscores the critical role of wildlife veterinarians in global conservation efforts as professionals like Maddie Chilcote ’17 work to ensure the health and survival of wild species, supporting both biodiversity and ecosystem preservation.

Many people think of household pets like cats and dogs when they think of veterinary medicine, yet it’s a whole other animal for Kalamazoo College alumna Maddie Chilcote ’17.

Chilcote is a wildlife and conservation medicine intern at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), a nonprofit teaching hospital and visitor education center in Sanibel, Florida, dedicated to saving wildlife through veterinary care, research, education and conservation medicine.

Wildlife and conservation medicine intern Maddie Chilcote at a lake
Kalamazoo College alumna Maddie Chilcote ’17 is a wildlife and conservation medicine intern at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) cares for more than 6,000 sick, injured and orphaned wildlife patients from more than 200 species a year.
Wildlife doctor Maddie Chilcote performing surgery
Chilcote performs surgery to remove dead tissue on a mottled duck.
Wildlife doctor's photo shows healing on a treated mottled duck
The mottled duck Chilcote treated at CROW began growing new feathers and healthy tissue three weeks after surgery.

Each year, CROW cares for more than 6,000 sick, injured and orphaned wildlife patients from more than 200 species—varying from tortoises to bald eagles—while offering educational fellowships and externship programs for undergraduate students and visiting veterinary students, and internship programs for veterinarian graduates like Chilcote, a Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine graduate. In addition to clinical duties, CROW interns work closely with staff from all departments in the hospital to gain a better understanding of the rehabilitation process, participate in research and conservation projects, and help teach students, staff and volunteers.

“Anthropogenic threats are the primary reason patients present to the hospital—whether they have been hit by a car, stuck in a glue trap, suffering from toxins such as rodenticides or harmful algal blooms, or reaping the consequences of habitat destruction.” Chilcote said. “If students want to be a part of the organizations that are the One Health and climate change first responders, I would encourage them to get involved in wildlife rehabilitation and medicine.”

Chilcote began to realize her potential career path in fourth grade in her hometown of Rochester Hills, Michigan, when she gave a speech in school about her dream of becoming a veterinarian.

“I don’t know what inspired me at that age, probably just love for my pet cat, hearing about the conservation work my uncle was involved in, seeing animals on TV and going to the zoo,” she said.

That dream shifted slightly when she job shadowed in high school and the appeal of clinical care lost some of its luster. Chilcote said she considered pursuing research over clinical work when she began taking classes such as animal behavior, animal development, vertebrate biology and symbiosis from influential faculty members such as Biology Lab Director Anne Engh and Associate Professor of Biology Amanda Wollenberg at K, where she also minored in German and played women’s soccer.

Her Senior Integrated Project (SIP) at Binder Park Zoo focused on the stereotypic pacing behaviors of three American black bear siblings while introducing food-based and environmental enrichment, sealing her career interest in wildlife. Soon after, she found an internship at the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, Maine, where she began embracing the idea of attending Michigan State to study veterinary medicine.

At Michigan State, Chilcote used elective opportunities to spend time at the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network in California, the Wildlife Center of Virginia, the California Wildlife Center, The Georgia Aquarium, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife before fulfilling an internship—similar to a residency for students of human medicine—at VCA South Shore Animal Hospital near Boston.

The mottled duck was brought back to health after surgery.
The mottled duck patient was released at Gator Lake at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers, Florida.

At VCA, Chilcote helped pets on an emergency room floor while also rotating through specialties such as neurology, dermatology, internal medicine and surgery. But because she still hoped for experience in wildlife medicine, she re-entered the internship match program and ended up at CROW, where one of her most satisfying experiences involved saving a mottled duck over one Thanksgiving weekend.

“A lot of my colleagues were out of town visiting family and this patient presented with a scabbed and necrotic wound that extended the length of its neck and further down its right side,” Chilcote said. “Although this is not a wound we regularly see, and it may look like an immediate euthanasia given the extent of the wound, I felt inspired to try to treat this patient. After a couple of days of supportive care that included intravenous fluids, antibiotics, pain medications, and an appropriate refeeding plan, this patient was ready for an anesthetized procedure for debridement and wound care.”

After a successful surgery, daily bandage changes, wound dressings and nurturing healthy tissue at CROW, a partnering facility finished the duck’s rehabilitation with outdoor care and conditioning.

“They collaborated with us again a couple weeks later and we released him together,” Chilcote said. “It was remarkable. He flew just above the water along the length of a small lake at a nature preserve. It was a good full-circle moment to see what saying yes and trying something new can lead to. Knowing that I had primary responsibility of that case and could see it all the way through was a big milestone for me.”

With her CROW internship winding down, Chilcote is hoping to intern again to further her veterinary skills—perhaps in Nebraska, California or Minnesota—when Match Day comes around again next week. She has applied to sites in each of those states, eyeing additional internship opportunities, perhaps at a wildlife center near you.

“I’m especially looking to further my orthopedic experience,” Chilcote said. “We’ve pinned a handful of fractures in birds this year, but our caseload and therefore surgical case load has been down since Hurricane Ian. I want to feel a little bit further along in those skills before trying to find a staff position where I may be the only veterinarian there and have to make decisions and do procedures like that primarily on my own.Because Michigan is so near and dear to me, my 20-, 30- or 40-year plan is to eventually get back to Michigan, partner with local businesses, and design and build a wildlife teaching hospital of my own.”

Alumni Honor Complex Systems Studies Professor

A longtime Kalamazoo College professor with connections around the world is being honored by five alumni from the Class of 2009 with a fund in his name that will help support a field of study for years to come.

Péter Erdi was hired as the Henry Luce Professor of Complex Systems Studies in 2002 when the College received a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. K’s efforts to attain the grant were driven by a small but vocal group of students who were mathematically skilled and interested in applying their skills to social problems through quantitative models. Ever since, Erdi has influenced many deeply curious alumni, including Brad Flaugher, Jerrod Howlett, Trevor Jones, Elliot Paquette and Griffin Drutchas, who are the five benefactors initiating the Interdisciplinary Fund for Complex Systems Studies in Erdi’s name.

Flaugher, who works in software development for startup companies, double majored in computer science and economics at K. He met Erdi in his first year on campus when he took Computational Neuroscience—a study of the mathematical models, computational algorithms and simulation methods that contribute to an understanding of neural mechanisms—before taking all the classes Erdi offered.

“There were so few of us in his classes—I think in my year we had only three or four computer science majors—that he took all of us under his wing,” Flaugher said. “He got us jobs in his lab with funding. All of us except Jerrod had gone to Hungary to work with him at his lab in Budapest. All of us were studying artificial intelligence back in 2006 and 2007, which was amazing. We were super close to him. He wrote all of us recommendation letters for graduate school. He did everything he could for us and taught us the hottest topic in the world 10 years before we needed it.”

Flaugher was attending an event in Philadelphia last March when President Jorge G. Gonzalez shared examples of how alumni were endowing funds in honor of their favorite or most influential professors. That led Flaugher to rally support from his classmates and recognize Erdi in complex systems studies.

“I talk to Dr. Erdi pretty regularly and I want to keep the interdisciplinary spirit of what he does alive,” Flaugher said. “I think it’s a great fit for a liberal arts institution, and when I was at K, I got not only job skills thanks to him, I got jobs-of-the-future skills.”

Henry Luce Professor of Complex Systems Péter Erdi presents in front of a large audience with visuals beside him and tall windows behind him
Henry Luce Professor of Complex Systems Péter Erdi presented at the Brain Bar, a technology and music conference in Budapest, while wearing a T-shirt that says “OK, Boomer” as a way to connect with a younger audience. He is being honored by five alumni from the Class of 2009 with a fund for Kalamazoo College in his name.
Erdi receives applause from Kalamazoo College President Jorge G. Gonzalez while presenting his lecture for receiving the 2018 Florence J. Lucasse Fellowship for Excellence in Scholarship.

Erdi received the 2018 Florence J. Lucasse Fellowship for Excellence in Scholarship, the highest award bestowed by K’s faculty, which honors the recipient’s contributions in creative work, research and publication. He has dozens of publications from his time at K, including two books since 2019, Ranking: The Hidden Rules of the Social Game We All Play and Repair: When and How to Improve Broken Objects, Ourselves and Our Society, which have received international acclaim. He also recently finished another book due out soon, Feedback Control: How to Destroy or Save the World and has served the University of Michigan as a visiting professor and scholar.

Complex systems studies can be described as an examination of how a system’s parts contribute to its collective behaviors, and how the system interacts and forms relationships with its environment. Erdi added that complex systems theory finds connections among seemingly very different phenomena. For example:

  • The onset of epilepsy, an earthquake eruption and a stock market crash are different occurrences, but all three are abrupt, extreme events. Complex systems theory looks at the predictability of these events, and interestingly, there are algorithms for predicting the probability of earthquakes that also can be adopted by brokers to estimate stock prices.
  • When we look at the spreading of viruses, ideas and opinions, we can examine all three through similar mathematical models.
  • Network theory offers methods that can help us understand the structure and dynamics of topics as varied as the human brain, interacting social groups, food chains in specific ecosystems, financial networks and more.

With a program such as complex systems studies being rare at a small college, it has been difficult to efficiently increase its offerings over the years; Erdi remains the program’s sole representative at K despite its interdisciplinary nature, with applications in fields such as physics, computer science and psychology. The fund in Erdi’s name, however—thanks to Flaugher, Drutchas, Jones, Howlett and Paquette getting it off the ground—will ensure the professor’s legacy lives on after his retirement.

Despite the deeply analytical nature of his field, Erdi is also known for his sense of humor. For example, in September 2022, when he spoke at the Brain Bar, a technology and music conference in Budapest, he donned a red T-shirt with the words “OK, Boomer” on it while presenting to and connecting with a young audience. Also, when he was recently asked how he would like to be remembered at K in years after his retirement, he said: “Péter was an interesting character on the campus with his terrible ‘Hunglish’ accent. It looks like he managed to motivate some students.”

In all sincerity, however, Erdi was grateful to hear from Flaugher and his fellow alumni regarding the Interdisciplinary Fund for Complex Systems Studies.

“I knew that I had influenced several students intellectually,” he said. “Maybe five per year is a good estimation, so about a hundred may positively remember my name when they reflect on their college education. Still, the mail from Brad, and then the correspondence with Elliot, Griffin, Jerrod and Trevor, and the establishment of the Fund were wonderful surprises, and I am humbled to have this Fund while I am still active.”

‘Let’s Learn!’: Moffit Scholarship Fund Honors Professor, Supports Students 

Over the past 35 years, the business and economics department at K has grown from one part-time business professor to a popular business major with several full-time faculty.  

One constant over that time has been Professor Timothy Moffit ’80. Moffit took on that part-time business professor role in 1989 as a one-year sabbatical replacement, and other than a couple short breaks in the first few years, he has been teaching students at K ever since. 

As Moffit approaches retirement this spring, a group of alumni—both classmates and students of Moffit’s—have established a scholarship in his honor. Given to students for the first time in the 2023–24 academic year, the Dr. Timothy Moffit ’80 Endowed Scholarship in Business has already raised $175,000 from a small group of donors. The goal is to increase that total to at least $300,000, which will provide $15,000 to scholarship recipients majoring in economics and business every year, forever. 

The honor speaks to Moffit’s commitment to the classroom and his students, to business within the framework of the liberal arts, and to his department and the College as a whole. 

Love of learning has kept Moffit in the classroom for 35 years. 

“That’s what brought me to K, and that’s what’s kept me at K,” Moffit said. “As a teacher, you never stop learning, and I tell my students that you never really learn a subject until you teach it. I find that enchanting because I love learning.” 

Moffit’s belief—supported by what he hears from former students—is that his classroom has been rigorous, demanding, and full of experiences and applications that bring meaning to theory. 

“Many students who go to grad school say, ‘Boy, your classes are tougher than my grad school classes.’ The rigor and the toughness are not for the sake of being tough. It’s out of excitement for the material. I want to learn—let’s learn!—so I’m fairly demanding in terms of what we learn and how we learn. I think for a lot of students, it’s incredibly rewarding. Once they’ve graduated from K, they’re like, ‘Wow, in the workplace, I really do know how to do these things. I can accept this challenge, because I was beat up by Moffit,’” Moffit said with a laugh. 

Professor Timothy Moffit teaches a class from a blackboard
As Professor Timothy Moffit approaches retirement this spring, some alumni have established a scholarship in his honor.

Donate to the Moffit Endowed Scholarship in Business 

If you would like to honor Professor Moffit and help make K accessible to students pursuing degrees in economics and business, please make a gift online to the Dr. Timothy Moffit ’80 Endowed Scholarship in Business or contact Lindsay O’Donohue at 269.337.7299 or lindsay.odonohue@kzoo.edu

Moffit’s approach to teaching and continued influence inspired Gary Lewis ’00 to help fund the business scholarship. Lewis is founder and managing partner of Aquila Equity Partners, and Moffit serves as an advisor to the company. 

“For so many of us, Dr. Moffit helped to foster an unmatched passion for business, accounting and finance,” Lewis said. “Not only did he provide us with a rigorous academic foundation, but he also taught us the tenacity, big-picture thinking and real-world pragmatism which is so critical for being successful.” 

Aaron Ries ’06, another contributor to the scholarship fund, applied lessons learned from Moffit’s classes in his first post-K job with the investment banking company Jefferies. Today, as the company’s co-head of leveraged loan sales and trading, Ries credits Moffit for having played a significant role in his life.  

“Tim had an outsized positive impact on my mindset, approach, education, and as a result, my career,” Ries said. “And he did it one lesson, one interaction, one test at a time. His energy and enthusiasm are infectious. That type of compounding at the individual level, at first daily, then over years, and now decades, is so valuable.” 

Jeremy Ardshahi ’25, a business major with a political science minor, took two accounting classes with Moffit before becoming one of the first recipients of the scholarship. 

“The classes were not easy, but I really liked Dr. Moffit as a teacher,” Ardshahi said. “When we would get stressed out about the work, he would take us off topic a bit, make us laugh, and then bring us back on topic, and that worked well to keep the class learning. The course work is definitely not easy, but it’s rewarding, and he makes it a lot more fun than it could be.” 

As a student, Moffit loved the liberal arts experience, taking many English classes in addition to religion, philosophy and history. (He met his wife, Kimberley Yull Moffit ’82, when she tutored him in French.) As a professor, he appreciates how business pulls from many disciplines, including communication, psychology, mathematics, history and philosophy.  

“I took a lot of different types of classes, and I have used them extensively, both in my business career and also in my teaching of business,” Moffit said. “I try to integrate all of these because they’re important in business. You need to bring all those skill sets into play to be effective.” 

Moffit is proud of how the business department has grown and flourished during his tenure, and he is loyal to the school itself. When he first came to K as a transfer student, Moffit “fell in love with the school immediately, and I have been in love with it ever since. That’s why I came back, because I had such great memories of learning and the community. 

“The campus is lovely, the study abroad makes this place special, and the students are unique. They have this entrepreneurial flair about them, whatever discipline they may be interested in. That is true throughout the ages.” 

Moffit felt a calling to teach when he was young, and taught Sunday School classes in high school and piano lessons in college. After graduating from K, he taught English in Japan for two years, earned an M.B.A. from Dartmouth College, and worked in investment banking for about six years before taking on his first teaching position at K. 

“Teaching is my passion, business is my profession, and I marry the two in the classroom,” Moffit said. Yet after 35 years, it’s “just time” to retire, Moffit said. “I have a lot going on and a lot of outside interests.” 

He owns three local businesses with his son—Kalamazoo Kettle Corn, Heilman’s Nuts & Confections and a medical supply company. He also sits on the board of Delta Dental as well as other boards. 

“I have a new grandson; I’m a granddad,” Moffit said. “There are just so many things I want to do. I want to go fishing and hunting and take my grandson fishing. I’ve done this for a long time, I think I’ve accomplished what I set out to accomplish, and I’m ready to move on. 

“I’ll miss the classroom for sure, but this doesn’t mean I’ll stop teaching.” 

Moffit also intends to do what he can to help make the scholarship in his name successful. 

“I was just a poor dirt farmer kid,” he said. “The school really supported me and helped me get through. I didn’t have the money to go here, but they found a way for me, and I would like to help create that same opportunity for others. I have a soft spot in my heart for those first-generation students, or the kids from these little schools that don’t have educational opportunities, let alone life opportunities like traveling abroad and seeing the bigger world. If this scholarship in any way can help students who need help to have that experience, that would be phenomenal.” 

“I would 100 percent need to have a job if I didn’t receive the scholarship,” Ardshahi said. “If I were working and playing sports and going to class, I would have a lot more stress in my life. Knowing that the fund is dedicated to someone who has taught me and is still teaching at the school makes it more personal, too.” 

In this way, Moffit’s commitment to teaching, to business and the liberal arts, to K and its students, will continue long after his upcoming retirement. 

“This scholarship is a well-deserved and fitting tribute for someone who has given so much to the K community and deeply impacted numerous K students’ lives over the last 30-plus years,” Lewis said. “I’m very grateful for his life-long mentorship and wish him and his family nothing but the best in their next chapter.” 

Moffit is excited about what the scholarship could do for students at K. 

“It’s a huge honor, of course, that students would establish this in my name,” Moffit said. “Usually, you do that when someone dies. I’m not there yet. I’m still teaching, even. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to make this a substantial scholarship for students who want to study business, and that would be great. I want it to be about students and outcomes. It’s not about me.” 

KP Cinemas to Screen Alum’s Film ‘He Went That Way’

For one week beginning Friday, Kalamazoo’s KP Cinemas will be one of 25 theaters around the country to screen He Went That Way, a thriller co-produced by alumnus Hugh Broder ’77 and based off a chapter in a book written by the late Professor Emeritus Conrad Hilberry. The film will show daily at 10 a.m.

Hilberry interviewed the imprisoned Kalamazoo-area serial killers Larry and Danny Ranes in 1976, influencing his 1987 book Luke Karamazov, which details the brothers’ lives through the pseudonyms Ralph Searl (Larry) and Tommy Searl (Danny).

In 1964, Larry Lee Ranes confessed to killing five men over a period of three months and was sentenced to prison for life. Eight years later, his older brother, Danny Ranes, in a separate case, was sentenced to prison for life for the murder of four young women. The events described in Luke Karamazov reflect real events, spotlighting the two killers, their friends, the woman who married both of them, and prison officials, while addressing the men’s lives, thoughts, reactions, brutal childhoods, and lives in prison more than their crimes.

Hilberry’s story piqued Broder’s interest when Broder discovered it years later in a Michigan authors display at a Detroit bookstore, and it inspired him to pursue a personal goal of creating an independent film. Hilberry provided Broder with the interview tapes, and after digitizing the recordings, Broder heard one of the Ranes brothers say, “You guys all ask me about the five guys I killed. Why don’t you want to hear about the one I didn’t kill?”—inspiring the story Broder decided to tell.

He Went That Way premiered last summer at the Tribeca Film Festival and reflects the real-life account of celebrity animal trainer Dave Pitts, the sole survivor of Larry’s killing spree. The film stars Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi with Quinto playing Jim Goodwin, a character based on Pitts, and Elordi portraying Bobby Falls, a character based on Larry. The two have a fateful 1964 meeting along Route 66 that pairs the 19-year-old serial killer with the celebrity trainer and his American TV darling, Spanky the chimpanzee, for three days on the road. The men and their personalities continually conflict as their shared journey becomes treacherous.

In addition to the KP Cinemas screening, the movie also will be available through video on demand starting January 12. Learn more about the film and hear from Broder in our news story from last May.

Hugh Broder with He Went That Way actors Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi
Alumnus Hugh Broder ’77 (middle), is the co-producer of “He Went That Way,” a film based on “Luke Karamazov,” a book by the late Professor Emeritus Conrad Hilberry. Zachary Quinto (left) stars as Jim Goodwin and Jacob Elordi (right) stars as Bobby Falls. The two characters meet along Route 66 in 1964, but their personalities conflict in their journey.

Alumni Distinguished Themselves Nationally, Globally in Top Stories

Kalamazoo College alumni continued to distinguish themselves locally, nationally and around the world through personal accomplishments, professional achievements and efforts that will make a difference in the educations of K students for years to come. Here are their top 10 stories of the year as determined by your clicks at our website. In case you missed them, we also have our top 10 stories about students, and faculty and staff

10. Payne Fellowship Sets Up Alumna for Foreign Service Work 

Aramide Apo-Oyin ’22 will complete graduate school through a Payne Fellowship before working on the front lines of pressing global challenges such as poverty, hunger, injustice, disease, climate change, conflict and violent extremism with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). 

Aramide Apo-Oyin at Commencement for alumni stories
Aramide Apo-Oyin ’22

9. Ringing Endorsement Pushes Alumna Toward a Presidency 

Tina Stoecklin ’87 was elected president of one of the foremost change ringing organizations in the world, the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, after her predecessor suggested that she consider running for the role. 

Change ringing President Tina Stoecklin with Scottish women in front of bell ropes for top alumni stories
Tina Stoecklin ’87, sixth from left, poses with other women at the end of a bell-training day. Stoecklin recently was named president of the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers.

8. Premier League Duties Thrill Sports Medicine Physician 

Kelly Estes ’05 worked for 10 days last summer as Fulham FC’s team physician after her employer, the Cleveland Clinic, won the bid to provide sports medicine services to the English Premier League during the soccer organization’s East Coast tour. 

Cleveland Clinic Sports Medicine Physician Kelly Estes Tending to a Premier League Athlete for top alumni stories
Kelly Estes ’05 (right) helps an injured soccer player during the Premier League’s 10-day East Coast tour.

7. Actor, Producer Return to Screen Their New Movie 

Quincy Isaiah ’17, a celebrated actor fresh off his role as Magic Johnson in an HBO series, and up-and-coming movie producer Adam Edery ’19 returned to campus in November, seeking a chance to change society’s views regarding marijuana incarceration policies through their film, Grassland

Alumni Quincy Isaiah and Adam Edery at the Festival Playhouse before screening Grassland
Quincy Isaiah ’17 (left) and Adam Edery ’19 returned to K to screen their independent film titled “Grassland.”

6. Restorative Justice Lessons Lead to Job Skills 

Steph Guyor ’22 was introduced to topics in restorative justice, a newer community-based practice that helps society do more than hold law breakers accountable in a criminal justice system, through a senior seminar at K. She now works as the restorative justice coordinator at Ministry with Community in Kalamazoo. 

Steph Guyor ’22 works as the restorative justice coordinator at Ministry with Community.

5. BIGGBY co-CEO Discusses Progressive Business Practices with Students 

Mike McFall ’93 knows a thing or two about leadership. After growing his coffee franchise from one to 370 locations across 13 states, he understands that people are the most critical ingredient to any successful enterprise, and he shared his hard-won wisdom with students. 

BIGGBY Coffee CEO Mike McFall
BIGGBY Coffee Co-Founder and Co-CEO Mike McFall ’93 visited students in November to discuss leadership and progressive practices in business and the workplace.

4. Humanitarian Promotes Social Justice Around the World 

If you need an antidote to the disappointment you may feel while watching world news, take heart that Sarah Fuhrman ’07 is doing what she can to stand up for international human rights and social justice through her work as the director of humanitarian policy at InterAction. The alliance of non-governmental organizations and partners in the U.S. mobilizes its members to serve the world’s most vulnerable citizens while making the world a more prosperous place. 

Sarah Fuhrman ’07 visits Roman ruins while performing humanitarian work in northern Jordan
Sarah Fuhrman ’07 visits the Roman ruins in northern Jordan.

3. In Black Philanthropy Month and Beyond, Alumnus Practices Love in Action 

Although he doesn’t think of himself as a philanthropist, Erran Briggs ’14 embodies the 2023 theme of Black Philanthropy Month, Love in Action, by mentoring and advising people such as high school students from his hometown of Muskegon, Michigan, who are applying to college; K students, particularly those who are considering a path like his, taking advantage of military scholarships to get to medical school; and younger medical residents, especially Black male residents. 

Portrait of Erran Briggs
Erran Briggs ’14 lives his philanthropy by mentoring and advising people in whose shoes he has been.

2. Late Professor’s Book Inspires Alum’s Tribeca Premier 

The 2023 Tribeca Film Festival included some K ties thanks to He Went That Way, a thriller co-produced by alumnus Hugh Broder ’77 and based off a chapter in a book, titled Luke Karamazov, by the late Professor Emeritus Conrad Hilberry. Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi star in the film. The book was inspired by real-life Kalamazoo-area serial killers Larry Lee Ranes and Danny Ranes, who were brothers, but didn’t participate in each other’s crimes. 

Hugh Broder with actors Zachary Quinto and Jacob Elordi await Tribeca Film Festival
Kalamazoo College alumnus Hugh Broder ’77 with Zachary Quinto (left) and Jacob Elordi.

1.  Record Number of Recent Alumni Named Fulbright Fellows 

A record number of 10 recent graduates, including six from the class of 2023, are overseas this year, serving the world as Fulbright fellows. Professor of English Amelia Katanski ’92 also is representing K through as a U.S. Scholar Program selectee in Australia. 

Natalie Call_fb
Natalie Call ’23

Alumnus Works to Prevent Suicide, Homelessness Through The Trevor Project

A Kalamazoo College alumnus is one of the people behind an international nonprofit’s efforts to prevent suicide and homelessness in youths in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning communities.

You might recognize the name Jonah DeChants ’09 from reports with media outlets such as NBC News, Time magazine, USA Today and PBS, where DeChants has spoken about his work. He is a senior research scientist for The Trevor Project, an organization important to young people who need somewhere to turn when they’re in crisis. The Trevor Project also fights for policies to protect LGBTQ youth; conducts research to improve services for at-risk youths; offers peer support through safe spaces and social networking; and promotes public awareness.

“I think our services are incredibly important, particularly for LGBTQ people, because we know that their mental health tends to be poorer,” he said. “In our research, we attribute that to what we call the minority stress framework. It’s the idea that if you’re a marginalized person experiencing anti-LGBTQ sentiments, that will impact your mental health and make you more vulnerable.”

Portrait of Jonah DeChants of the Trevor Project
Jonah DeChants ’09 says Kalamazoo College prepared him well to serve The Trevor Project and its mission.

DeChants said K prepared him well to serve the organization and its mission. The lessons he received taught him to effectively evaluate research and arguments. Plus, his study abroad experience in France—where he had to navigate boldly in a second language—increased his confidence in public speaking.

After graduating, DeChants stayed in Kalamazoo to work for AmeriCorps VISTA for two years while assisting PeaceJam, a local nonprofit that offers social justice programming for youths from kindergarten through college, as well as training for adults working to address pressing humanitarian issues. He later moved to Philadelphia to pursue a master’s degree in social policy at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on LGBTQ issues. In Philly, he worked at the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, administering a grant that focused on housing for young people who aged out of the foster care system.

Upon moving west, DeChants began a doctoral program at the University of Denver—where he examined youth homelessness with a focus on the LGBTQ community—before a postdoc at Colorado State University that emphasized social justice and social work programs.

The pandemic then left jobs in his chosen field hard to come by. However, that proved to be a blessing in disguise as his background made him a perfect fit for The Trevor Project.

“I feel very fortunate to be working with Trevor,” he said. “It was not something that I really knew was an option before I started here. I went into the doctoral program because I wanted to be a professor of social work, and I mostly wanted to be in the classroom and doing research there. But changing gears has been a good detour.”

DeChants now works remotely and concentrates his efforts on writing for peer-reviewed journals or The Trevor Project’s website. He also performs statistical work and takes great pride in what he produces, especially when someone recognizes his research as something that comes from The Trevor Project.

“I think it’s been particularly meaningful to be doing this work in the last two to three years when we’ve seen this historic rise of anti-LGBTQ, anti-trans and anti-nonbinary legislation,” he said. “Our data consistently show that young people are paying attention to politics. They know what’s being said and they know what it feels like to have their humanity debated in the media, at a school board meeting or in a state or national legislature. I think we’re giving people information about these issues at a moment when legal rights are in the balance.”

DeChants knows he makes a difference in the world because he assures and amplifies The Trevor Project’s outreach.

“I’m frequently pleasantly surprised at the number of people who attend a presentation I’m giving in a conference and then say, ‘I know someone who used your services and I just want to thank you for being there for them,’” he said. “It’s one thing to see the number of contacts we serve on a spreadsheet or in a report. It’s another thing to actually have multiple people in multiple settings and states say, ‘This was important to me’ or ‘Someone I love really needed it.’”

Help is Available

The Trevor Project has recently extended its partnership with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The Trevor Project is one of seven centers helping to ensure that LGBTQ people who contact 988 receive LGBTQ-competent and inclusive care via phone, text and chat. The organization also provides options to connect to a crisis counselor 24/7 through its website. If you or someone you know is in crisis, visit The Trevor Project to connect via phone, chat or text.