Kalamazoo College Names Jamie Zorbo ’00 Athletic Director

Jamie Zorbo ’00 has been named the next director of athletics at Kalamazoo College, effective June 15, following a national search. Zorbo is currently serving as co-interim athletic director and has been the head football coach at K since 2007.

“As a long-time member of the coaching staff and athletic administration, Jamie has demonstrated his capable leadership, consistently going above and beyond both on and off the field,” said Provost Danette Ifert Johnson. “He prioritizes the holistic development of each student-athlete, fostering an environment where academic excellence, personal growth, and athletic achievement are equally celebrated. I am confident Jamie is ready to assume this role and build upon the strong tradition of K athletics.” 

As athletic director, Zorbo will oversee all aspects of the College’s athletic program and its 18 varsity teams; about 35% of K students participate in intercollegiate athletics. Additionally, Zorbo will oversee the physical education program, athletic training and the college’s fitness and wellness programs. He will also continue his duties as head football coach.

Graphic of new athletic director includes portrait and K logo, and says "Jamie Zorbo, Director of Athletics
While serving as the athletic director, Jamie Zorbo ’00 will oversee all aspects of the College’s athletic program and its 18 varsity teams.

Zorbo earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Kalamazoo College and was a four-year letter winner for the Hornets as a defensive end, earning All-MIAA (Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association) second team honors in 1999.

Following graduation, Zorbo remained at Kalamazoo College as an assistant coach for six seasons while working on a master’s in business administration degree at Western Michigan University, which he completed in 2004. Zorbo coached the defensive line from 2000-03 and was promoted to defensive coordinator, recruiting coordinator and defensive backs coach in 2004 and 2005.

Zorbo became an assistant coach at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, in 2006. He coached the linebackers for two seasons, and served as the assistant defensive coordinator, special teams coordinator, and the strength and conditioning coach.

Since returning to K in 2007 as head football coach, Zorbo has grown the football program from a roster of 35 to more than 100 student-athletes in 2024, the largest roster in program history. He has coached and mentored 67 All-MIAA selections, four All-Region selections and 18 post-season senior bowl game participants. With a strong emphasis on academics, Zorbo’s teams have averaged over a 3.1 team GPA for the past 16 seasons and the 2021 team became the first football team in MIAA history to receive a Team GPA Award with a 3.45 team GPA.

In addition to serving as head football coach, Zorbo served as K’s interim athletic director during the 2017-18 academic year and as co-interim director in 2023-24.  He has served as an Assistant Athletic Director since 2012, overseeing external operations and working closely with the division of advancement to support athletic fundraising efforts.

“As a proud alumnus of Kalamazoo College, I am deeply honored to expand my role within this special community by serving as both the athletic director and head football coach,” said Zorbo. “This institution has a rich tradition of excellence academically and athletically, and it is a privilege to be a part of its ongoing legacy. I look forward to working with our exceptional coaches, dedicated student athletes, and supportive community to foster an environment of growth, achievement, and fellowship. Together, we will strive to elevate our athletic programs to new heights while ensuring our student athletes excel in the classroom, in competition, and in life.”

Writing Center Provides the Right Stuff for Writing Stuff

Isabela Agosa ’17 knows where Kalamazoo College students can find the right stuff when they need to write stuff.

Agosa, once a student employee at K’s Writing Center, now is its director, supervising the current student employees, with poets, Fulbright scholars, editors and more among them. She admits that she struggled in her early years as a K student, but that makes her better at her job now as she once needed to find her academic footing.

“I’m really appreciative of the struggles I had here because they have allowed me to have a different mindset that I can provide to my students,” Agosa said. “I’m sort of like the gardener who helps the students run the center. My students are gentle, welcoming people who can open up a writing bud and allow it to blossom.”

Her own a-ha moment as a student came when she found poetry at K. In fact, she teaches a Poetic of Love senior seminar each winter term, and Poetry Magazine—the oldest monthly publication to verse in the English-speaking world—will print two of Agosa’s poems in its June 1 edition.

Four students and a faculty member huddle for a photo at Stetson Chapel
Isabela Agosa ’17 (middle), the director of K’s Writing Center, joined her students May 10 for a Community Reflection titled “Destigmatizing Help: Collaboration in the Writing Center.”
Two students at the Writing Center
Writing Consultants Anum Khan ’24 and Sofia Rowland ’24 discuss their work at the Writing Center.
Three student consultants sitting at a round table
Writing Consultants Unayza Anika ’26 (from left), Noah Chun ’26 and Daniel Flores ’24 discuss their work at Kalamazoo College’s Writing Center. Schedule an appointment online.
Two students smiling on a couch at the Writing Center
Ellie Pollard ’25 and Sophia Louise ’26 are two of the writing consultants students will meet at the Writing Center.

“When I came to K, I wanted to read fiction or maybe write for TV shows,” Agosa said. “And of course, I still have so much passion for that in my heart, but this is where I fell in love with poetry. I truly had never imagined in a million years that I would be a poet.”

Now, she would like to debunk some of the myths she hears about the Writing Center and empower more students to visit and improve their own writing.

Myth No. 1: Writing collaboration is a form of cheating

“We tend to have a deficiency mindset and think that support is only for people who are doing poorly, or we can be individualistic and think collaboration on writing is plagiarism or cheating,” Agosa said. “I think the Writing Center shows collaboration is an intellectual goal on campus. Why else would we all be together if we weren’t a community of scholars? Yes, we can write by ourselves, but we can do it so much faster when we have someone who can talk us through it.”

Myth No. 2: The Writing Center only helps students with classwork

“In the spring, this is our ‘job time’ when people are coming in with cover letters for jobs, grad school or internships,” Agosa said. “One of my pitches to students would be to remember that the Writing Center isn’t just for classwork. We get to explore all types of writing, so you can expect to have someone who’s invested in hearing about you and your work.”

Myth No. 3: I can get better information during my professor’s office hours

“Office hours are a useful dynamic, but they provide something different from the Writing Center,” Agosa said. “Professors can guide you on a certain path or help you understand the class material better, whereas our writing consultants help you understand yourself better as a writer.”

Myth No. 4: Writing Center employees will judge me and my writing

“Many people have baggage with writing because we feel that writing is a reflection of our soul,” Agosa said. “When they come to us with a fragment of their soul, they can feel guarded and nervous. But students can expect that they will be greeted by someone who cares because my staff loves their work. It’s a job and I hope that I model good ways to practice that job. They’re the types who like people and want to talk about writing. You can expect a lot of passion, a lot of enthusiasm and a judgment-free zone.”

Myth No. 5: I should wait to go to the Writing Center until I need help

“I think students feel that they’re not allowed to need help unless the house is on fire,” Agosa said. “Some people view it as a punishment or think it’s remedial. But you can come to the Writing Center just to talk to someone about your work. It’s good at breaking down tasks, especially for anyone who struggles with activation. I think the joy of talking with someone about your writing is universal and useful at any stage.

“I’m always telling prospective students that this is a place run by your peers who have gone through all the things you have. I would really love for them to see the Writing Center not just in a project- or product-driven environment. I want them to get involved in a supporting, nourishing community of scholarship.”

Find the writing help you need

If this isn’t enough to convince you of what the Writing Center accomplishes, you can also hear from Agosa and her team in this recent community reflection titled “Destigmatizing Help: Collaboration in the Writing Center.” Then, schedule an appointment online.

“The Writing Center is the place where I came to maturity and adulthood because our work is so much about learning, reflection and how to ask questions,” Agosa said. “I honestly learned more about syntax and grammar structure through poetry writing, but Writing Center work is about self-understanding and understanding the right questions to ask while communicating your needs. When students struggle with writer’s block, they might not even know what to name it. We look at roadblocks and ask, ‘what is it and how can we approach it?’ You will always feel connected to this place because we form such a strong community, where we learn how to dialogue with people. We make authentic person-to-person connections here because we can’t work on someone’s writing without them.”

Suzanne Lepley Named Next Director of Alumni Engagement

Kalamazoo College is pleased to announce that Suzanne Lepley has been named the next director of alumni engagement, effective July 1. She succeeds Kim Aldrich ’80, who will be retiring in June after more than 40 years at the College, 17 of those in the Office of Alumni Engagement.

Lepley will be an integral member of the senior Advancement team responsible for planning and implementing a comprehensive engagement strategy that deepens alumni involvement, nurturing and strengthening their connection to the College. In this role, she will also lead the Office of Alumni Engagement and provide guidance, counsel and support to the College’s Alumni Association Engagement Board (AAEB) and other volunteer alumni groups.

Lepley currently serves as the dean of admission at K, where she has played a key collaborative role in shaping strategies and long-term goals for the College’s enrollment. As a member of the Admission team for 26 years, Lepley has recruited thousands of students to K, making personal connections and demonstrating a passion for student success and engagement.

“Suzanne’s deep institutional knowledge, as well as the many relationships she has built across the K community, will enable her to provide excellent support to our alumni base. Most of the students she has recruited during her time at K are now alumni, and I’m excited she’ll be able to continue cultivating relationships with them that will build lifelong connections to the College,” said Vice President for Advancement Karen Isble.

“I am incredibly excited to be able to continue to serve the K community in a meaningful and impactful position that will allow me to reconnect with so many alumni,” Lepley said. “I look forward to hearing their stories and helping them find opportunities to engage with the College and with our amazing students.”

Lepley holds a B.A. in political science from Western Michigan University and has served on numerous professional and community boards and committees, including Colleges that Change Lives, the Michigan College Access Network, Ministry with Community, Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center selection committee and the Bread and Roses Alternative Childcare Center.

A profile on Kim Aldrich celebrating her retirement will appear in the Fall issue of LuxEsto.

New Director of Alumni Engagement Suzanne Lepley
As the director of Alumni Engagement, Suzanne Lepley will plan and implement a comprehensive engagement strategy that deepens alumni involvement, nurturing and strengthening their connection to the College.

K Honors Employees, Student Ambassadors at Founders Day Event

Bruce Mills receives the Lux Esto Award of Excellence from Jorge Gonzalez
Professor of English Bruce Mills receives the Lux Esto Award of Excellence from Kalamazoo College President Jorge G. Gonzalez at the Founders Day community reflection.
Jessica Fowle receives Outstanding Advisor Award from Jorge Gonzalez at Founders Day
Director of Grants, Fellowship and Research Jessica Fowle ’00 receives Outstanding Advisor Award from Gonzalez at the Founders Day community reflection.
Alayna Lewis receives the First-Year Advocate Award from Jorge Gonzalez
Associate Director of the Center for International Programs Alayna Lewis receives the First-Year Advocate Award from Gonzalez at the Founders Day community reflection.

Professor of English Bruce Mills is this year’s recipient of the Lux Esto Award of Excellence as announced today during the College’s Founders Day celebration, marking K’s 191st year.

The award recognizes an employee who has served the institution for at least 26 years and has a record of stewardship and innovation. The recipient—chosen by a committee with student, faculty and staff representatives—is an employee who exemplifies the spirit of K through excellent leadership, selfless dedication and goodwill.

At K, Mills has taught classes on short fiction, identities, African-American literature, American literature from 1500–1790 and 1790–1865, and the life and legacy of James Baldwin. He also leads the digital humanities portion of the Humanities Integrated Locational Learning (HILL) project, a Mellon Foundation-funded effort combining classroom and in-person experiences in cities such as New Orleans, San Diego and St. Louis that seeks solutions to societal problems while promoting the critical role of the humanities in social justice work.

Mills has published creative nonfiction in The Georgia Review; New England Review; September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond; and Gravity Pulls You In: Parenting Children on the Autism Spectrum. He also co-edited the book Siblings and Autism: Stories Spanning Generations and Cultures. Further, his advocacy in relation to autism has led to presentations at numerous conferences. 

Four of the College Singers perform
Alexa Wonacott, Amelie Sack, Maxwell Goldner and Zachary Ufkes of the Lux Esto Singers perform “Stand in That River” by Moira Smiley.
Student reading from a lectern at Founders Day
President’s Student Ambassadors Gabriel Coleman (pictured) and Grey Gardner read the Kalamazoo College land acknowledgement.
Founders Day anniversary honors recipient
Kalamazoo College employees, such as Center for International Programs Executive Director Margaret Wiedenhoeft, who are celebrating milestone anniversaries were recognized at Founders Day.

Mills “has been dedicated to the campus community, with one nominator saying he has done wonders at making his classroom environment open, comprehensive and accessible to anyone, even in higher level classes,” Kalamazoo College President Jorge G. Gonzalez said in presenting the award. “He meets students where they are, making sure that course content is easy to understand and that concepts can be applied to people’s own lives and their own academic understandings. At the same time, he pushes students to think bigger and think differently while making classes engaging, appropriately challenging and fun.”

In accordance with Founders Day traditions, two other employees received additional community awards. Director of Grants, Fellowship and Research Jessica Fowle ’00 was given the Outstanding Advisor Award and Associate Director of the Center for International Programs (CIP) Alayna Lewis received the First-Year Advocate Award.

Fowle is a key individual when it comes to referring K students and faculty to Fulbright’s U.S. Student Program and Scholar Program immersion opportunities. She recently was selected to be part of the inaugural Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) Mentors Cohort. As an FPA mentor, Fowle is one of 20 experts from around the country providing 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. She has been a part of K’s staff in various roles for more than 20 years including nearly five as director of grants, fellowships and research.  

“Advisors are academic mentors who work closely with our students, pay attention to their academic progress, and help them identify and fulfill their goals while working towards completing their degrees,” Gonzalez said. “As evidenced in the nominations received, she accomplishes all of this and more.”

Through the CIP, Lewis organizes international student orientation and its activities. She also helps students with F-1 and J-1 Visa regulations, and study abroad programs in Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and Spain. Her passion for study abroad came from a trip to Spain while she was in high school and her own undergraduate experience studying abroad in Mexico.

Gonzalez noted that nominators said Lewis makes herself available to meet individually with students and listens well to help solve a variety of challenges with compassion. Beyond academics, she helps students by assisting in critical matters such as taxes and legal documentation. Plus, during winter break, many international students stay on campus with Lewis organizing grocery trips, meals and events, making being away from home much easier.

Members of the President's Student Ambassadors stand to be recognized at Founders Day
Members of the 2023–24 President’s Student Ambassadors stand to be recognized at Founders Day
Members of the 2024-25 President's Student Ambassadors stand to be recognized at Founders Day
Members of the 2024-25 President’s Student Ambassadors stand to be recognized at Founders Day.
Crowd applauds at Founders Day event
Founders Day attendees applaud Lux Esto Award recipient Bruce Mills.

Gonzalez also recognized the students who served as President’s Student Ambassadors in the 2023–24 academic year and introduced those who will serve the College beginning this fall in 2024–25. As student leaders, President’s Student Ambassadors serve as an extension of the president’s hospitality at events and gatherings, welcoming alumni and guests of the College with a spirit of inclusion. About 15 students serve as ambassadors each academic year. The students selected show strong communication skills; demonstrate leadership through academic life, student life or community service; and maintain a minimum grade-point average.

The 2023-24 ambassadors have been:

  • Madison Barch ’24
  • Gabriel Coleman ’24
  • Blake Filkins ’26
  • Grey Gardner ’26
  • Emily Haigh ’24
  • James Hauke ’26
  • Madeline Hollander ’25
  • Gavin Houtkooper ‘25
  • Renai Huang ’24
  • Lukas Hultberg ’24
  • Jessica Kaplan ’26
  • Alex Nam ’25
  • Blagoja Naskovski ’24
  • Isabella Pellegrom ‘25
  • Tyrus Parnell, Jr. ’25
  • Maxwell Rhames ‘25
  • Emmeline Wendel ’24
  • Ava Williams ‘25

The 2024-25 ambassadors succeeding this year’s seniors will be:

  • Jaylen Bowles-Swain ’26
  • Christopher Cayton ’25
  • Kyle Cooper ’25
  • Maya Hester ’25
  • Katie Kraemer ’25
  • Joaquin Martinez ’25
  • Isabelle Mason ’27
  • Addison Peter ’25
  • Emiliano Alvarado Rescala ’27
  • Amelie Sack ’27
  • Dean Turpin ’25

Counseling Center Director Elected Group’s Treasurer

The members of the world’s largest organization of campus mental health leaders have chosen Kalamazoo College Counseling Center Director Erica Pearson to serve a three-year term as their treasurer. 

The president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD) traditionally appointed the treasurer on the organization’s behalf until October 2023, making Pearson the group’s first-ever elected treasurer. 

The AUCCCD promotes college student mental health awareness through research, broad discussions of key campus mental health issues and trends, and related training and education, with special attention to issues of social justice. 

“It is very exciting to be among accomplished leaders whose expertise and experience positively shape collegiate mental health,” Pearson said. “As someone who is younger in my career, it is encouraging and uplifting to be welcomed as a valued voice and to know that my strengths and unique perspective can be utilized to effect change.” 

Pearson earned her Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision from Western Michigan University and her Master of Arts in counseling from Oakland University.

She is a licensed and board-certified professional counselor with specializations in trauma counseling and creative therapeutic approaches. She has worked with college students since 2015. 

Portrait of Kalamazoo College Counseling Center Director, AUCCCD treasurer Erica Pearson
Kalamazoo College Counseling Center Director Erica Pearson has been elected treasurer of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors.

As the treasurer of AUCCCD, Pearson will collaborate with others from the organization to prepare budgets for each fiscal year, approve expenditures, prepare financial reports for the full board at quarterly board meetings, and present financial status updates to the membership at each annual conference. The rest of the executive board consists of an executive director, president, president-elect and secretary. They meet monthly to assist in leading the organization and making decisions that represent and advance the interests and needs of members. 

“AUCCCD is an international organization comprised of more than 900 universities and colleges,” Pearson said. “It feels wonderfully fulfilling to embody my role as an advocate for college student mental health on such a large scale.” 

Denison to Lecture at Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History James Denison will conduct a public lecture from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 11, at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts titled “Hogan-Minded: Race and Place in Georgia O’Keeffe’s Southwest.” 

Denison will discuss his recently completed dissertation, which argues that past interpretations of O’Keeffe’s New Mexican paintings have obscured her engagement with Southwestern indigenous cultures. He will highlight the influence of tourist contexts and period racial thinking on her work, describing how it relied upon and perpetuated romantic stereotypes about those cultures circulating within interwar New Mexico and the Manhattan avant-garde. Ultimately, her paintings and writings show that she saw the region much as countless others had before: as both deeply informed by the presence and history of its native peoples and as open, empty and ripe for claiming. 

Denison, a native of the Washington, D.C., area and a graduate of Bowdoin College, completed his Ph.D. in art history at the University of Michigan. He joined the KIA and Kalamazoo College last summer as the postdoctoral curatorial fellow. The event is presented jointly by KIA and Kalamazoo College. 

The lecture is free to attend, but registration is encouraged through the KIA website

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts postdoctoral curatorial fellow James Denison
James Denison is a postdoctoral curatorial fellow at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts and a visiting assistant professor of art history at Kalamazoo College.

Events to Spotlight Faculty Member’s New Book

Three upcoming events will spread the word of a new book by Kalamazoo College Assistant Professor of Religion and Director of Film and Media Studies Sohini Pillai titled Krishna’s Mahabharatas: Devotional Retellings of an Epic Narrative (the American Academy of Religion’s Religion in Translation Series at Oxford University Press, March 22, 2024). 

The ancient Sanskrit Mahabharata is recognized as the longest poem ever composed and tells the tale of the five Pandava princes and the cataclysmic battle they wage with their 100 cousins, the Kauravas. The story is among the most widely-told narratives in South Asia, and many Mahabharatas were created in Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Tamil and Telugu, as well as other regional South Asian languages. 

Pillai’s book is a comprehensive study of premodern regional Mahabharata retellings, which argues that devotees of the Hindu god Vishnu and his various forms throughout South Asia turned the epic about an apocalyptic, bloody war into works of devotion focused on the Hindu deity Krishna. Krishna’s Mahabharatas examines more than 40 retellings in 11 regional South Asian languages composed over a period of 900 years while focusing on two of them: Villiputturar’s 15th-century Tamil Paratam and Sabalsingh Chauhan’s 17th-century Bhasha (Old Hindi) Mahabharat

Hear from Pillai on her book through: 

Sohini Pillai with her dog, Leia the Ewok Princess, and her new book
Kalamazoo College Assistant Professor of Religion and Director of Film and Media Studies Sohini Pillai holds her dog, Leia the Ewok Princess, and her new book, “Krishna’s Mahabharatas: Devotional Retellings of an Epic Narrative.”

“I’m very excited about the publication of Krishna’s Mahabharatas,” Pillai said. “I started the research for this book as a first-year Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley in 2015, so I have been working on this project for nine years! The final avatara or ‘incarnation’ of this book came into being when I started teaching at Kalamazoo College. I am thankful for my supportive colleagues at K and for the many curious and enthusiastic K students I have had in my courses, and I hope that I have written a book that they will enjoy reading.” 

K’s Advancement Leader Receives Visionary Award

Vice President of College Advancement Karen T. Isble has been named the 2024 recipient of the Apra Visionary Award. This distinction is the highest award bestowed by Apra, the leading organization in the prospect development field, and recognizes an individual’s exceptional contributions to the field of prospect development, including volunteer service, mentorship, innovation and inclusion. In its 38-year history, the organization has only selected six recipients, inclusive of Isble.

“Karen’s innovative vision and steadfast support for data analytics played an instrumental role in elevating prospect development work. At the same time, she paved the way for many who also went on to make important and lasting contributions to Apra and the industry as a whole,” said Rodger Devine, Apra president and assistant vice president for advancement operations at Pomona College.

Isble joined Kalamazoo College in September 2020 where she guides the college’s fundraising, alumni engagement and marketing and communications efforts.

Previously, she served as associate vice chancellor and campaign director for the University of California (UC) Irvine, leading the planning and execution of the university’s $2 billion comprehensive campaign, “Brilliant Future,” which launched in 2019.

Prior to UC Irvine, Isble served as assistant vice president for development at the University of Michigan, where she oversaw prospect development, gift administration and the fund-raising information and technology infrastructure, covering three campuses, 36 schools, colleges, and units, and the academic medical center. She played an integral role in the planning and execution of the university’s $5.3 billion “Victors for Michigan” campaign.

Portrait of Visionary Award recipient Vice President of College Advancement Karen Isble
Vice President of College Advancement Karen Isble is being honored by Apra, a prospect development field organization, with its Apra Visionary Award.

Isble began her career in arts administration in roles with the Chamber Music Society of Detroit, the Goodman Theatre and entered the field of prospect research with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She currently serves as president-elect on the board of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra.

“For me, Karen was an inspiration,” said Sharise Harrison, Apra board member and assistant vice president of advancement services and prospect management at California State University, Sacramento. “As someone who has been the only Black woman in the room or the most senior Black woman in advancement, she serves as someone I admire not only for her career trajectory but her kindness and willingness to help others.”

Isble is a former board member of Apra, having served as president in 2013-2014. Since then, she has participated in a number of working groups and committees, including the Apra Body of Knowledge Campaign Task Force from 2020-2022. She has also served on the boards of Apra Michigan and Apra Illinois.

Isble has been a speaker and author, regionally and nationally, with Apra, CASE and AFP, among others. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan.

“Apra has been a guiding presence in my career and professional development since 1995 when I first became a researcher. I’ve been happy to give my time and energy to the organization and its members for many years at the regional and international levels,” said Isble.

Apra plans to recognize Isble in person at the Apra Prospect Development Conference, Aug. 20-23, in Seattle, Washington.

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About Apra: Apra was established in 1986 and is committed to advancing the professionals and practices that enable the philanthropic success of institutions that rely on fundraising to achieve their missions. Apra serves more than 1,800 members worldwide who drive their institutions’ philanthropic missions through work in prospect development, prospect research, data analytics and data management, annual giving, advancement, special gifts and more. To learn more, visit aprahome.org.

About Kalamazoo College: Kalamazoo College, founded in 1833, is a nationally recognized residential liberal arts and sciences college located in Kalamazoo, Mich. The creator of the K-Plan, Kalamazoo College provides an individualized education that integrates rigorous academics with life-changing experiential learning opportunities. For more information, visit www.kzoo.edu.

Q-and-A with Assistant Professor of German Studies Michael Powers

We asked Assistant Professor of German Studies Michael Powers about his own academic journey, what interests him about German studies and culture, what makes his students special, and why he’s excited to be a part of the Kalamazoo College community. Here’s what he said.

Question: What sparked your interest in German studies and how has it evolved throughout your academic journey?

Answer: My path to becoming a professor of German studies began unexpectedly. I grew up in an English-Spanish bilingual household, and on a whim, I started taking German in school. I was surprised by how fun the language is, and I quickly developed a passion for it and at the same time a deep interest in German culture and history. The language became my gateway to a host of exciting new worlds and experiences. At first, my studies focused on German literature and film, then later increasingly on philosophy and the intersection of politics and aesthetics. Today my main research interests span critical theory, media studies, and the environmental humanities.

Q: As an assistant professor of German studies, what aspects of German culture or literature do you find most captivating and why?

A: German-speaking writers and thinkers have left an indelible mark on major cultural and intellectual traditions. One of the things I relish most as a professor of German studies is the opportunity to engage with great works of art and influential social movements from a variety of interlinked perspectives: language, art, philosophy and history. Learning to combine these approaches and discover the complex forms of interrelation between them is something that I value immensely.

There’s nothing quite like reading Freud’s cultural theory in the original German, and thus engaging simultaneously with questions of linguistic belonging, psychoanalysis and social theory; or with engaging with Marx’s ideas in the language in which he first expressed them, which affords one insights into the links between power, language and violence.

Q: How would you describe your students and what makes them special?

A: I tremendously enjoy working with the students at K. Their curiosity and interest to learn inspires me and I love sharing my passion for German art, literature and culture with them. In my classroom, students are constantly working actively with one another, engaging with one another in a shared learning community. Learning does not occur from reading or memorizing words or facts, but is actively generated through discussion, debate and deep engagement with texts, works and ideas.

Assistant Professor of German Studies Michael Powers and two students talking
We asked Assistant Professor of German Michael Powers about what sparked his interests in German studies, what he admires about K students and why he appreciates being a part of the College’s community.
Assistant Professor of German Studies Michael Powers at a laptop computer in his office

Q: As a newcomer to Kalamazoo College, what excites you the most about joining our K community, and what unique perspectives do you hope to bring to your students? 

A: I taught previously at K as a visiting professor for two years, and I am very excited to return this year as permanent faculty. My own undergraduate education was at a small liberal arts college, and my scholarly path has been shaped by the liberal arts mission and the dedicated professors I came to know as mentors. I cherish the opportunity to work closely with students both inside and outside the classroom, whether discussing Expressionist art in a film course, or taking students on a tour of the arboretum as part of a unit on environmentalism in Germany.

Five Faculty Earn Tenure

Five Kalamazoo College faculty members from the Spanish, religion, mathematics, computer science and East Asian studies departments have been awarded tenure along with promotion to associate professor.

The tenure milestone recognizes excellence in teaching, scholarship and service to the College, and signifies its confidence in the contributions these faculty will make throughout their careers. The Board of Trustees-approved tenure recipients are:

Assistant Professor of Spanish Ivett Lopez Malagamba

López Malagamba currently serves as a co-chair in the Department of Spanish Language and Literatures. In her time at K, she has taught beginning through intermediate language courses, and advanced courses on Latin American literature and visual culture topics including indigeneity, contemporary women writers, fiction and documentary film, visual culture practices, and representations of nature. In fall 2019, she took 27 students to the Dominican Republic as part of K’s first faculty-lead experiential study abroad program.

Lopez Malagamba’s research centers on 20th– and 21st-century Latin American literature and visual culture. Her publications explore questions around exclusionary social and political practices and discourses in contexts of armed conflict, migration, and forced displacement. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Peninsular and Latin American literatures and Latin American Studies, and her Ph.D. in Hispanic language and literatures from the University of California, Berkeley. López Malagamba’s experience extends to the non-profit sector. Before earning her Ph.D., she worked with Latinx youth in Southern California facilitating educational programs to prepare them for college. López Malagamba sees her work at K as a continuation of her commitment to help youth access and successfully navigate higher education.     

Assistant Professor of Spanish Ivett Lopez Malagamba (middle) with Spanish 101 students.

Marlene Crandall Francis Assistant Professor of Religion Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada

Maldonado-Estrada serves as the editor of the journal Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief, a co-chair of the men and masculinities unit at the American Academy of Religion, and an editorial board member of the journal American Religion.

At K, Maldonado-Estrada has taught courses on religion and masculinity, Catholics in the Americas, urban religion, and religions of Latin America. As an ethnographer, her research includes focuses on material culture, contemporary Catholicism, and gender and embodiment. In 2021, Sacred Writes—a network of religion scholars committed to helping a broad global audience understand the significance of their work—24 fellows from around the world to train in public scholarship on religion. She was also chosen as one of the Young Scholars in American Religion at IUPUI’s Center for the Study of Religion & American Culture.

Maldonado-Estrada is the author of Lifeblood of the Parish: Men and Catholic Devotion in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an ethnography about masculinity and men’s devotional lives in a gentrified neighborhood in New York City. She also is working on projects about the technological and sensory history of prayer, and Latinx art and religion in New York City. She received a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Princeton University.

Tenure recipient Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada
Marlene Crandall Francis Assistant Professor of Religion Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Stephen Oloo

Oloo served K as a visiting assistant professor from 2015-2017 before earning his current position in which he teaches a variety of pure math classes such as Calculus I, II and III, Number Theory, Real Analysis and Abstract Algebra.

Beyond teaching he has served in various roles by directing the Math and Physics Center, being in charge of the George Kitchen Memorial Lecture, and running the math club MathletiKs.

Oloo’s Ph.D. work was in topology of algebraic varieties and geometric representation theory. He is currently applying his knowledge of geometry and representation theory in a collaboration with physics professor Dave Wilson in which they are studying how viruses change shapes as they undergo maturation. He holds mathematics degrees including a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College, and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Tenure recipient Stephen Oloo
Assistant Professor of Mathematics Stephen Oloo

Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sandino Vargas-Perez

Before arriving at K, Vargas-Perez worked as an adjunct instructor at Western Michigan University, where he earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in computer science. He also holds a bachelor’s degree from Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra in the Dominican Republic.

Vargas-Perez has taught courses at K in data structures, algorithms, parallel computing, computing for environmental science, object-oriented programming, and programming in Java and web development. His research interests include high-performance computing, parallel and distributed algorithms, computational genomics, and data structures and compression.

Tenure recipient Sandino Vargas-Perez
Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sandino Vargas-Perez

Chinese Endowed Assistant Professor of Chinese Language and Literature Leihua Weng

Weng has taught first-year Chinese, advanced Chinese, Women in China, 20th Century Urban China, and Chinese Films at K. She taught at Sarah Lawrence College and Pacific Lutheran University before joining the College.

Weng holds a bachelor’s degree from Zhejiang University, a master’s degree from Peking University and a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina. Her research interests have spanned the receptions of classical texts, modern and late imperial Chinese literature, and gender studies. She is currently engaged in research on late imperial Chinese literature and is working on a book about the reception of Plato in modern China.

Chinese Endowed Assistant Professor of Chinese Language and Literature Leihua Weng
Chinese Endowed Assistant Professor of Chinese Language and Literature Leihua Weng