K Alumnus Earns Distinguished Teacher Honors

Kalamazoo College alumnus Sean Smith ’08, a chemistry teacher at Pritzker College Prep, is one of seven serving the network of Noble Schools in Chicago to be admitted into its Distinguished Teacher program this year. 

According to a Noble Schools news release, the program rewards network teachers who have achieved exceptional accomplishments with students in their careers. For the honor, Smith will receive an additional $10,000 on top of his base salary each year for the duration of employment as a teacher at Noble; opportunities to engage in professional development specific to Distinguished Teachers; opportunities to participate in network-wide decisions; and a chance to help select future Distinguished Teachers. 

“Being named a Distinguished Teacher was a nice way to recognize the time, energy and work that I’ve put into my craft of teaching high school chemistry, as well as the expertise I’ve gained over the last 16 years of teaching,” Smith said. “With teaching, there’s no day-to-day recognition of the extra time we put in on the weekends or after school brainstorming lessons, setting up labs, grading or the million other things on our minds, so it’s nice to have the extra recognition for the outcomes that all of these little things produce.” 

While working toward his Bachelor of Arts in biology at K, Smith worked as a YMCA summer camp counselor and waterfront director at Camp Torenta in his hometown of Cadillac, Michigan. The roles inspired him to consider a career in teaching. 

By his senior year, Smith was working in a biochemistry lab at K to conduct research on disulfide bonds. Since graduating, Smith has acquired a Master of Science Education from Lehman College in New York while working with the New York City Teaching Fellows to instruct high-need subjects to the city’s students. Smith additionally served as a science instructional coach at EPIC Academy in Chicago before starting his career at Pritzker College Prep.  

Teacher Sean Smith
Sean Smith ’08

“Many of us remember our favorite teachers far into adulthood,” Noble Schools CEO Constance Jones said. “Educators who make a difference in their classrooms make a pivotal difference in their students’ lives, and it is important that we recognize this kind of devotion. It is my honor to welcome this new cohort of outstanding educators into the program and thank them for the abundance of passion, love and dedication that they bring with them to the job each and every day.” 

Smith added, “Teaching is constantly challenging, surprising and rewarding. The things that I love about teaching vary on a daily basis because there are so many different aspects to it as a job. It is never boring, and there are always unsolved puzzles and challenges that require creative solutions. I also appreciate the unpredictability and surprises that come from teaching students who have their own unique ideas, questions and quirks. The exact same lesson or lab could produce different data, conclusions or questions based on what students are bringing into the classroom.” 

German Exchange Program Chooses K Alumnus

Kalamazoo College alumnus Peter Fitzgerald ’23 will promote global understanding and collaboration for one year in Germany through the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) for Young Professionals. 

In his time at K, Fitzgerald was a double major in history and political science. He also minored in music, had a concentration in American studies, played men’s tennis, and served in three political internships between U.S. House candidate Jon Hoadley, Michigan Rep. Darrin Camilleri ’14 and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and their campaigns. 

Now, however, Fitzgerald and 74 other American participants chosen from 500 applicants will attend a two-month intensive language course, study at a German university, and complete an internship in the field of international relations through the CBYX. 

The bilateral CBYX exchange program, established through the U.S. Congress and German Bundestag (Parliament), allows participants to stay with host families in Germany, where they will act as citizen ambassadors to promote a positive image of the U.S. abroad, and create lifelong friendships and professional connections to enhance German-American relations. 

Although each internship over the CBYX’s 40 years has been different, 93% of participants have reported gaining a new understanding of the U.S. and its role in the world, 92% said they improved their communication skills, and 91% reported gaining an appreciation for other cultures and a curiosity about the world. American host communities also benefit from the program when they welcome German participants in return to homes, schools and organizations in the U.S. 

For more information about CBYX, visit exchanges.state.gov/cbyx or contact Cultural Vistas, a nonprofit exchange organization promoting global understanding and collaboration among individuals and institutions, at cbyx@culturalvistas.org

Exchange program participant Peter Fitzgerald
Peter Fitzgerald ’23 is among 74 Americans going to Germany for one year as a part of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals. They will act as citizen ambassadors to promote a positive image of the U.S. abroad.

Recent Alumnus Receives Young Ringer Award

A recent Kalamazoo College alumnus is among this year’s recipients of a national change-ringing award named after a longtime and beloved former K professor. 

The North American Guild of Change Ringers has presented Xavier Silva ’24 with the Jeff Smith Memorial Young Ringer Award. Since 2019, the honor has recognized guild members 22 years of age or younger who have rung at least one quarter peal in the past year. 

Silva, a math and computer science double major at K, has rung three quarter peals, the first in October 2023. A quarter peal contains a series of at least 1,250 permutations rung in rapid succession according to rules that ensure no permutations are repeated. A quarter peal takes about 45 minutes of concentration and cooperation among a band of ringers, creating beautiful sounds. 

Silva arrived at K as a Heyl scholar and quickly began change ringing for several public events. During his senior year, he was the K student contact for the community ringers at Stetson Chapel and coordinated the Kalamazoo College Ringers for weekly Community Reflections gatherings and the Day of Gracious Living. 

“Change ringing has given me a meaningful experience through the challenge of ringing itself and through the people I’ve met,” Silva said. “It has combined two things I’m passionate about, music and math, in a challenging yet incredibly fun way. There is also an incredible international community that has welcomed me with open arms through a shared love and experience. If I had never started bell ringing, I would have missed out on the community that has surrounded and supported me. It has been a pleasure to ring at K.”

Young Ringer Award recipient with two others
The North American Guild of Change Ringers has presented Xavier Silva ’24 (middle) with the Jeff Smith Memorial Young Ringer Award.

The ancient art of English change ringing involves a group ringing bells in structured, unique permutations in rapid succession. The practice requires training, concentration and teamwork and leads to great satisfaction and strong interpersonal bonds. 

In addition to teaching mathematics, Jeff Smith taught hundreds of students to ring changes and inspired the College to install change ringing bells at Stetson Chapel on campus. Smith died in April 2019 at the age of 88, but spent nearly 30 years of his career at K. A scholarship in his name now supports students in financial need. 

For more information on the North American Guild of Change Ringers, visit its website

Alum’s Musical ‘Be More Chill’ Opens Thursday at Festival Playhouse

A Broadway musical written by a Kalamazoo College alumnus who is influencing the entertainment industry will run Thursday, May 16–Sunday, May 19, at K’s Festival Playhouse.

Be More Chill, which features music and lyrics by Joe Iconis and a book by Joe Tracz ’04, will spotlight Max Wright ’26 as Jeremy Heere. Jeremy is an average teenager until he discovers the Squip, a supercomputer that promises to bring him everything he desires including a date with Christine Canigula, played by Brooklyn Moore ’24, along with an invitation to the party of the year and a chance to enjoy life in his suburban New Jersey high school.

The musical concludes the academic year for the Playhouse’s 60th season, which has been themed “Systems as Old as Time.” It also has featured plays such as Playhouse Creatures and The Dutchman, which explore the harmful systems that hold back the oppressed while highlighting the ways that joy, laughter and solidarity can exist and thrive despite those systems.

Caleb Allen ’25 is serving Be More Chill as its dramaturg by assisting Director Quincy Thomas, a K assistant professor of theatre arts, in teaching the actors about the play’s characters and settings. Allen said the musical references some pop culture from the 1980s—including retro drinks such as Ecto Cooler, games such as Pac-Man and actors such as Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci—but it has themes that are relatable for all audiences.

“It’s very much a play about finding yourself in high school,” he said. “There’s obviously a lot of fun with it, but there’s also a deep, sad story that probably resonates with a lot of people. Even the characters who are portrayed as cool in the play definitely have their own issues and everyone deals with negative self-talk.”

Another K alumnus, Grinnell College Professor of Theatre and Design Justin Thomas ’01, will serve as a Be More Chill scenic designer.

Tracz is well known for being a writer and co-executive producer on the Disney+ series adaptation of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. He previously created the Netflix series Dash & Lily and served as its showrunner. He also worked on the Netflix version of A Series of Unfortunate Events as a writer and producer, and next will work as a co-showrunner for Season 2 of the live action version of One Piece on Netflix. His other theatre credits include The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, for which he was a Drama Desk award nominee for outstanding book.

Tracz “feels almost like a mythological figure to me,” Allen said. “Just being from the same school is exciting. I definitely have friends from outside of K, who are surprised to know that he went here, and he’s worked on a lot since then. It’s inspiring to see he came from roots like this to go into what he’s doing now.”

Be More Chill is presented through an arrangement with Concord Theatricals. Shows will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday–Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse, 129 Thompson St. Tickets are available online or by calling the Festival Playhouse at 269.337.7333. K students, faculty and staff are admitted free with a College ID. Adult tickets are $25, seniors are $20 and children younger than 12 are $5. Thursday’s performance will include a sign language interpreter. Please note that the play contains language and situations that may be triggering, including adult themes and the use of haze, flashing images and strobe lights.

Be More Chill photo shows Max Wright as Jeremy Heere and Zachary Ufkes '24 as the mask-wearing supercomputer, the Squip.
Max Wright ’26 portrays Jeremy Heere and Zachary Ufkes ’24 is a supercomputer called the Squip in “Be More Chill,” running Thursday-Sunday at Kalamazoo College’s Festival Playhouse. Photos by Andy Krieger of Inspired Media.
Be More Chill actors
Tickets to “Be More Chill” are available online or by calling the Festival Playhouse at 269.337.7333. Photos by by Andy Krieger of Inspired Media.

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.”