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.”

Indigenous Cultures Welcome English Professor for In-Person Research

Kalamazoo College Associate Professor of English Ryan Fong recently appeared on a New Zealand reality TV show titled The Casketeers, which focuses on Māori funeral directors Francis and Kaiora Tipene, who combine good humor with care and respect as they help Māori and Pasifika families cope with loss.

That appearance might surprise some. But to know Fong’s scholarship is to know why it makes perfect sense. Over the past several years, he has been awarded a series of grants that have allowed him to thoughtfully and respectfully perform in-person research regarding Indigenous cultures, including the Māori, across the British empire and French Polynesia, for a book he expects to release in 2025.

The research developed out of a growing understanding of the limits of his primary educational training in 19th century British literature.

“The sparks for this project came during my time at K and with the relationships I’ve had with people like Reid Gomez, the founding director of our Critical Ethnic Studies program,” Fong said while also mentioning current colleagues such as Professor of English Amelia Katanski ’92. “In my conversations with them, I realized that in order to understand the British empire, I needed to understand more than the colonizer’s perspective. Colonialism wasn’t completely victorious in erasing Indigenous people and their culture, as evidenced by the fact that they still survive today, so in the last seven years, I’ve essentially done another Ph.D. worth of research about the sites and communities I am studying.”

New Zealand was one stop last year and the TV show was a small part of it. Fong binged the first two seasons of The Casketeers on Netflix before traveling to partially fulfill an Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership fellowship. He had also emailed the show’s producers in advance, asking for permission to respectfully visit the outside grounds, and to his surprise, he and his husband were invited inside after stopping by.

“In addition to reading books and visiting archives, part of my research is engaging with contemporary culture like The Casketeers,” Fong said. “The show graciously shares so much about Māori culture, and I learned a ton about their tikanga, or traditions, and their language while watching it. They were very impressed that I knew and used so many Māori words in our conversation, and it was a bridge for me to share some of my family’s Chinese traditions with them.”

Also in New Zealand, Fong visited many of the sites significant to Apirina Ngata, a prominent Māori statesman and cultural advocate who served in the country’s parliament. In 1892, Ngata became the first known Māori person to publish a poem in English while he was an undergrad at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, where he was among the first of its Māori graduates.

Ngata was a member of Ngāti Porou, an iwi—or Indigenous Māori tribe—from the Eastern Cape region, or Tairāwhiti, of New Zealand, or Aotearoa. While in the country, Fong visited Maunga Hikurangi, which is the sacred mountain of Ngāti Porou. As part of an iwi-led tour that takes visitors to the highest point of the mountain at sunrise, Fong was able see one of the first places where the sun touches land on each new day.

For the new millennium, the Ngāti Porou community commissioned carvings for a site on the mountain about Māui, a prominent demigod who appears across the Pacific. One of the iwi’s creation stories involves Māui fishing up the islands of Aotearoa with Maunga Hikurangi being the first bit of land that appeared above the ocean’s surface. Indeed, the North Island actually resembles the shape of a sting ray from an aerial view. The island begins with the mouth at the bottom, proceeding to wings and the tip of a tail going north. Many Māori people will commonly identify their iwi homelands based on where it is on the fish, such as on the tail, the mouth or the eye.

“Being able to physically be on Maunga Hikurangi was more important to me than going to find documents in an archive or see objects in a museum,” Fong said. “I organized my trip to better understand where Ngata is from, which includes everything about the land and the waters that have been so important to him and his people. I was privileged to hear stories directly from Ngata’s present-day kin and to directly witness their deep relationship with their Maunga. I wanted to connect with his community and place not just my mind but in my heart, in order to fully respect their stories and traditions in my own writing and research.”

New Zealand, however, was just one of Fong’s stops around the world for his book research, which started in 2016. His final stop was French Polynesia in January, which is considered by many Māori to be their ancient homeland. Previously, he visited places such as Ontario to research the Haudenosaunee people, southwest Australia to examine the Noongar people, and South Africa to learn about the Khoe-San culture.

“As any academic will tell you, what you quickly realize in any project is how much you don’t know,” Fong said. “There’s still a lot I don’t know, but being able to write responsibly about each of these cultures has been a long process of training myself in the scholarship, doing the reading, and building conversations with community members through the travel I’ve done. All of those things were very important to me.”

In 2021, Fong was one of four scholars from around the U.S. who founded Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom, a digital humanities project that began reimagining how to teach Victorian studies with a positive, race-conscious lens. And ultimately, he hopes his book project and research will hold similar potential for his classrooms and students.

“I was intensely moved by how graciously I was received when I traveled,” he said. “I knew I was going only for a short time as a tourist and that comes with lot of baggage and issues. I went in with humble expectations, recognizing that whatever people were willing to share with me would be a gift. But people opened their hearts after seeing the intellectual and, more importantly, heart work that I had done before arriving. My efforts said, ‘I respect your history and culture.’ That work is what informs my teaching and what I wanted to bring back home, not only for my research, but for my students.”

A Q-and-A with Ryan Fong

Interview conducted with Social Media Ambassador Blagoja Naskovski ’24.

Question: What is your favorite part of being a professor at K?

Answer: There are actually very few places in the world that we set aside for people to come together to explore questions in a sustained and deliberate way. Every day I go into a classroom, I have the privilege of doing just that with students. We get to be with one another, talk about readings and learn from one another. It’s an all-too-rare and precious experience.

Q: You teach courses that address 19th century British literature, literature by East Asian emigrants around the world, literary theory, and women, gender and sexuality. Do you have a specific course that you really enjoy teaching and why?

A: This past fall, I had the incredible experience of teaching a class on Indigenous water stories from the Great Lakes and the Pacific. I was able to draw a lot on my experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand and connect them with literature by Anishinaabe writers here in Michigan and the Great Lakes region. Since this class was paired with Bela Agosa’s sophomore seminar Becoming Kin, which was all about Indigenous diplomacy and poetry, we were able to share students and link conversations between our classes in powerful ways, which culminated in a visit to the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi tribal grounds with artist and community leader Jason Wesaw. It was a transformative experience for us all.

Q: How would you describe your students?

A: I really appreciate how passionate and curious K students can be, and how willing they are to connect their classroom experiences with their bigger questions about the world.

Q: Do you see interest among K students in learning more about Indigenous communities through literature?

A: Little by little, yes. And thankfully, it’s not just in my classes.  Amelia Katanski has been teaching about these topics at K for many years, and Cyndy Weyandt-Garcia been offering some amazing new classes more recently as well. Learning more about Indigenous history, literature and activism connects with so many issues that are pressing and urgent today—including climate change, political sovereignty and addressing the violence of colonialism around the world.

Q: What would you suggest to students who would like to major in English?

Do it! My fellow professors in English and I all want to give you the tools to ask big questions about the world and to explore ways of making it better and more just. We do that by reading from an array of cultural and historical perspectives and by teaching you how to create and express yourself with your own words. We have alumni who have used this training to find meaningful work in many different arenas, from teaching to journalism to non-profit jobs to publishing to starting their own businesses.

Five people in the lobby of a New Zealand funeral home.
Associate Professor of English Ryan Fong (second from right) and his husband, Eric (second from left), visit the cast and set of the reality TV show, “The Casketeers.”
Ryan Fong stands next to a bust of Apirina Ngata
Fong stands next to a bust of Apirina Ngata, a statesman and cultural advocate.
Tall carvings at a mountain, Maunga Hikurangi, sacred to Indigenous people in New Zealand
The Indigenous Ngāti Porou community commissioned carvings for a site at the sacred mountain of Maunga Hikurangi to mark the millennium.
Sunrise in the mountains of New Zealand
This picture, taken at one of the highest points at the Maunga Hikurangi on the Eastern Cape of New Zealand, shows one of the first points where the sun rises on a new day.
A long and wide canoe used at celebrations to mark the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the Indigenous people of Northern New Zealand and the British crown
This site shows where the Te Tiriti o Waitangi, or Treaty of Waitangi, was signed between the Indigenous iwi of the North and the British crown. Each February 6, waka—or canoes—like this one are sailed on the bay to mark the treaty’s anniversary.
Tāne Mahuta, or God of the Forest, is the tallest Kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest. It measures 148 feet tall and 50 feet around. It’s between 1,500 and 2,500 years old. Toward the top left, smaller fallen trees have grown into it.

‘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

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.” 

Quantitative Economics Major Gives Students More Options

Some adjustments in Kalamazoo College’s Department of Economics and Business have created a new major that will provide additional academic options and future career opportunities for students.

Quantitative economics, which is now declarable, follows most of the curriculum for a standard economics major, but requires two additional math courses, Integral Calculus and Linear Algebra, and two new additional quantitative economics courses, Econometrics and Game Theory, without needing more time to graduate. Econometrics is a computer lab-based theory course that delves into economic questions and issues using statistical methods. Game Theory applies strategic decision making and microeconomics to solve real-world individual and business problems, using mathematical tools.

The adjustments for the new program might seem subtle to some. However, Edward and Virginia Van Dalson Professor of Economics Patrik Hultberg said quantitative economics will better prepare students who are interested in pursuing academic programs beyond K and more technical career paths, such as data analytics. Overall, it will examine economic issues, explore theories and predict future conditions using statistics and mathematical models while emphasizing analytical skills.

Patrik Hultberg working at a blackboard as quantitative economics major comes to Kalamazoo College
Edward and Virginia Van Dalson Professor of Economics Patrik Hultberg said that quantitative economics will be an excellent option for students who are interested in pursuing academic programs beyond K and technical career paths such as data analytics.

“What we have today is two groups of students,” Hultberg said. “Some are perfectly happy with an economics major as it is. Those are students who might be interested in going to law school, public policy fields or similar jobs. But we also have a subset of students—a greater number than in the past—who might double major in economics and mathematics or computer science. The new major will give students interested in quantitative economics—and not upper-level math courses, for example—a chance not to double major and thus open up their schedules so they can take other important courses, like courses that teach how to communicate effectively.”

Hultberg said that over the past few months, he has received emails from students who are thrilled about the new major option. The opportunity should be especially enticing for international students as the Department of Homeland Security defines quantitative economics as a STEM program. That means the major can help international students extend their Optional Practical Training (OPT) by up to three years and stay longer in the U.S. by pursuing practical training or temporary jobs while gaining valuable work experience through their F-1 student visas.

“I’m excited for it and we have some students who are super excited for it,” Hultberg said. “If economics is your true passion, you just want to have options that support that. And if prospective students are interested in quantitative fields and come to K, they will be well-prepared to go to graduate school, whether that’s a master’s in finance or a Ph.D. in economics, and they will be well prepared for jobs in quantitative fields.”

For more information about the quantitative economics major, contact Hultberg at

International Education Group Chooses CIP Leader as Conference Chair

A global nonprofit association of more than 10,000 members dedicated to international education and exchange recognized Kalamazoo College Center for International Programs (CIP) Executive Director Margaret Wiedenhoeft by naming her its 2023 conference chair.

Coinciding with the organization’s 75th anniversary, the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Conference and Expo—held May 30–June 2 in Washington, D.C.—united its community to reflect, celebrate, inspire and create through shared lessons, diverse perspectives and innovative approaches; explore trends in professional development and career advancement; and emphasize the need for inclusive global communities in higher education.

As the NAFSA conference chair, Wiedenhoeft worked with the annual conference committee to develop a call for proposals, recruit reviewers for those proposals, and decide who was invited to present, while crafting the conference theme, brainstorming the kinds of sessions they wanted, and reaching out to promote the gathering to prospective first-time attendees.

“I had never been a part of a conference that had 10,000 attendees,” Wiedenhoeft said. “It was exciting and an interesting behind-the-scenes look. One thing I was surprised about was that as the conference chair, I was asked to be in a lot of pictures with many delegations from outside the United States. It was a lot of fun and a great way to get to know people and hear about why they traveled. It was a great way to build relationships.”

Ultimately, much of the event focused on NAFSA’s milestone anniversary and how the world continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic through issues such as international student recruitment, VISA accessibility, and the funding available for first-generation students who want to study abroad.

“There was a lot of discussion about the kinds of advocacy work we can do at the national and state levels to help decision makers and institutions understand the impact that funding international education initiatives can have beyond our campuses,” Wiedenhoeft said. “We also discussed the political climate, especially with certain states censoring DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) initiatives and censuring students that come from certain countries, so we can be ready to respond and advocate.”

Kalamazoo College Center for International Programs Executive Director Margaret Wiedenhoeft meets Indiana University's Jenny Bowen at international education conference
Kalamazoo College Center for International Programs Executive Director Margaret Wiedenhoeft (left) meets Indiana University’s Jenny Bowen at the NAFSA: Association of International Educators Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C. Wiedenhoeft served as the conference chair in 2023. Bowen will serve in the same role in 2024.

In a separate opportunity, Wiedenhoeft also presented at a Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities (MICU) conference in October to address how institutions think about security for students when they travel off campus, particularly to environments or places not geographically connected to it. The gathering wasn’t only for international educators, but for all educators to think about safety.

“It was a great conversation,” she said. “It reminded me that there are resources on our own campus and folks who think about student safety all the time with safety being a goal for all of us. I’m always happy to share what I’ve learned and to contextualize it for folks who may be thinking about starting programs or thinking about particular risks that they’re concerned about in certain places. I always say the riskiest place is ignorance, so it’s important to help folks know what they need to understand about where students go to live and study.”

Wiedenhoeft began working for K in 2000 and has served as the CIP’s executive director since 2017. In that department, she structures and oversees its operations, policies and practices including study abroad, domestic study away and international student support while collaborating with partners overseas, students, and faculty to ensure programs are financially accessible, sustainable, and connected to life and study at K.

She applauds K administrators, students, faculty and staff for making that work possible as the College has become a standard bearer for study abroad, international education and international programs. K offers 53 study abroad opportunities that vary from one to three terms in 33 countries.

“I could not do this work without the support of the Provost and President, and from my wonderful colleagues in the CIP—Sally, Asia, Alayna, Abosede, NaShera, Colin and Lizbeth,” Wiedenhoeft said. “I will show up anywhere and everywhere to promote Kalamazoo College.”

Faculty, Staff Dedicated Themselves to Students, Achievements in Top Stories of 2023

Kalamazoo College’s faculty and staff are dedicated to developing the strengths of every student, preparing them for lifelong learning, career readiness, intercultural understanding, social responsibility and leadership. Here are their top news stories of 2023 as determined by your clicks. If you missed it, you can find our top 10 stories of students at our website. Watch in the coming days for our top 10 alumni stories and stories from the College itself. 

10. Faculty Member’s Grant to Provide Students with Intros to Accessible Design 

Associate Professor of Computer Science Pam Cutter will introduce the fundamental concepts and skills of accessible design and development to her Kalamazoo College courses thanks to the Teach Access Faculty Grants program. 

Bringing together industry, education and disability advocacy organizations, the mission of Teach Access is to address the digital accessibility skills gap by equipping learners to build toward an inclusive world.

Pam Cutter
Associate Professor of Computer Science Pam Cutter will develop assignments, discussions and activities that promote accessibility skills for students in her first-year seminar, Exploring Technology for Accessibility.

9. Admission Staffer Targets Favorite Chef Title 

Teresa Fiocchi had collected praise in the past as an award-winning chef. Yet a prospective Favorite Chef title provided her with bigger fish to fry. 

By reaching the competition’s quarterfinals, Fiocchi reached the top 1% of the thousands of nationwide entrants.

Favorite Chef Contestant Teresa Fiocchi Cooking in Her Kitchen
Office of Admission Operations Manager Teresa Fiocchi reached the quarterfinals of the Favorite Chef competition.

8. Prison Concert a ‘Quintessential Experience’ for College Singers 

As the College Singers director, Assistant Professor of Music Chris Ludwa has sought more performances in the community in recent years, and on March 2, the 30-student group had the opportunity to perform at the Ionia Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan. 

A group picture of the College Singers with faculty member Chris Ludwa
College Singers Director and Assistant Professor of Music Chris Ludwa has made it a goal to perform at more sites in the community.

7. ‘Tandem’ Tussels with Hit-and-Run Cover-Up 

Professor of English Andy Mozina just couldn’t turn his attention away from a tragedy he first heard about seven years ago. Although the inescapable images were dreadful, they also seeded the plot that grew into Mozina’s latest work of fiction, Tandem.

The book centers on Mike Kovacs, an economics professor from Kalamazoo living in the West Main Hill neighborhood, who kills two college-age tandem bicyclists in an inebriated hit-and-run at the parking lot of Saugatuck Dunes State Park.

Professor of English Andy Mozina
Kalamazoo College Professor of English Andy Mozina has authored a new book titled “Tandem,” which was released October 24.

6. Fulbright Enables English Professor to Spend Year in Australia 

Professor of English Amelia Katanski ’92 is working with faculty at the University of Wollongong to develop curriculum that will better prepare K students for study abroad there. 

Professor of English Amelia Katanski in her office with books in the background
Professor of English Amelia Katanski ’92 has earned a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award sent her to Australia during the 2023–24 academic year.

5. K Announces Lucasse, Ambrose Recipients 

One faculty member and one staff member earned two of the highest awards the College bestows on its employees in September. Rosemary K. Brown Professor of Computer Science Alyce Brady received the 2023–24 Florence J. Lucasse Lectureship for Excellence in Teaching, and Custodian Laura Weber was named the recipient of the W. Haydn Ambrose Prize for Extraordinary Service. 

Ambrose Prize Recipient Laura Weber
Laura Weber, a 10-year staff member in Facilities Management, received the Ambrose Prize, named after W. Haydn Ambrose from President Jorge G. Gonzalez.

4. Partnership Benefits K, WMU Business Students 

K embarked on an exciting new partnership with Western Michigan University that allowed students from both institutions to gain powerful experiences in leadership and business strategy this year with Amy MacMillan, K’s L. Lee Stryker Associate Professor of Business Management, playing a key role. 

Portrait of K faculty member and L. Lee Stryker Associate Professor of Business Management Amy MacMillan
L. Lee Stryker Associate Professor of Business Management Amy MacMillan helped manage a partnership allowing K and WMU students to collaborate through an immersive consulting experience at Sleeping Giant Capital’s downtown office.

3. Three Faculty Members Earn Promotion, Tenure 

Three faculty members from the music, German studies and French studies departments—Chris Ludwa, Kathryn Sederberg and Aurélie Chatton respectively—were awarded tenure along with a promotion to associate professor. 

Aurélie Chatton, a faculty member at Kalamazoo College, writes on a dry-erase board during a class
Then-Assistant Professor of French Aurélie Chatton was one of three K faculty members to earn tenure this year and a promotion to associate professor.

2. A Bippy on Their Radar Helps Scientists Find K Students 

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniela Arias-Rotondo used a K version of a Squishmallow she named Bippy as her lab’s mascot, and he helped her students gain opportunities in their field. 

Arias-Rotondo’s reach on Twitter allowed chemists from all over the world to see Bippy’s pictures and learn about her and her students’ accomplishments.

Faculty member Daniela Arias-Rotondo with five students and a Squishmallow named Bippy at an American Chemical Society conference
Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniela Arias-Rotondo, known affectionately to her students as Dr. DAR with her lab students called DARlings, uses a K version of a Squishmallow named Bippy as her lab’s mascot.

1.  Star Wars Class Fills with Hyperspace-Like Speed 

Some students learned about religion through the ways of the Force this fall in a new Star Wars-themed class offered by Assistant Professor of Religion Sohini Pillai. 

Student wearing Jedi robes and carries a lightsaber
Paige Anderson ’25 wore Jedi robes and wielded a lightsaber for an Epic Epics presentation on “Revenge of the Sith.”

Grant Supports Inclusivity, New Chemistry Lab Experiences

A National Science Foundation grant for almost $250,000 is boosting inclusivity and access to lab experiences in the Kalamazoo College Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. 

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniela Arias-Rotondo, known around campus as Dr. DAR, was awarded $249,972 under the foundation’s Launching Early-Career Academic Pathways in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (LEAPS-MPS). The LEAPS-MPS grant emphasizes helping pre-tenure faculty at institutions that do not traditionally receive significant amounts of NSF-MPS funding, including predominantly undergraduate institutions, as well as achieving excellence through diversity. 

Arias-Rotondo will use the grant funding primarily to pay her student researchers—typically eight to 10 per term, known as DARlings—and to bring more research experiences into the classroom.  

While the chemistry and biochemistry department is typically not able to pay students to work in the lab during the school year, “This grant lets me do that, so my students can work in the lab instead of having to take another job on or off campus,” Arias-Rotondo said. “That’s a great way to ensure that more people can have access to this experience, as opposed to only the people who have free time they can volunteer.” 

The grant will also pay students who work in the lab over the summer (usually four or five), freeing up departmental and College funding that would normally pay those stipends. 

“Not having to pay those four or five students through the provost’s office or the chemistry and biochemistry department means we will have money for other students to do research with us here in our department, or maybe in biology or physics, so that benefits not just my group, but the department and the College as a whole.” 

The other primary focus of the grant is a re-design of the lab portion of the inorganic chemistry course CHEM 330. 

“While we have some good lab courses here in our department where students get to learn a lot of techniques and a lot of concepts, many of those lab experiences are what we call canned experiments, meaning that they are not open ended,” Arias-Rotondo said. “You are making X compound, or you’re running Y experiment, and we know what you’re going to get in the end. We have some courses where we do more open-ended labs, which the students tend to enjoy more because there’s more of the unknown and problem solving. It’s very transformative because it shows you a different side of chemistry.” 

Inspired by the work of colleagues in the department, particularly Dorothy H. Heyl Professor of Chemistry Regina Stevens-Truss, Arias-Rotondo has been able to use the grant to revamp the lab for CHEM 330, inorganic chemistry, to more closely resemble research. 

 “That’s really good for the students,” Arias-Rotondo said. “It’s more work, but it’s also more rewarding, because now they are doing things that are new, and they are making molecules that no one made before.” 

Providing access to lab experiences for more students at K truly changes lives. 

“It gives them the opportunity to see what research is really like,” Arias-Rotondo said. “It also gives them a challenge that is theirs. I’ve seen students who were very unsure of what to do—not because they are not good, but because they’ve never had the opportunity to prove themselves—and you give them this task. You support them, you tell them, ‘This is hard, but I trust that you can do it,’ and they rise to the challenge. It’s amazing to see the transformation in them. They learn a lot about chemistry. They learn a lot of techniques. They get a better idea of what a career in research could look like. And they learn a lot about themselves, about asking for help and working independently, but also working as part of a team, about troubleshooting, and they gain a lot of confidence.” 

Working in a lab also increases students’ sense of belonging. 

“They make friends,” Arias-Rotondo said. “They meet people within our department, further ahead or behind, depending on who they are. They meet more professors and students, and they feel more a part of the department, even before they declare their major. They’re like, ‘Oh, this is my place. These are my people.’ And it helps them see themselves as scientists.” 

In addition to paying student researchers and improving lab coursework experiences, the grant is paying for supplies in Arias-Rotondo’s lab, where she and her DARlings work on making compounds that can absorb solar energy and turn it into electricity using manganese, a low-cost, low-toxicity alternative to the materials currently used in solar energy conversion, which tend to be rare, expensive and difficult to mine. 

The grant will also provide a summer salary for Arias-Rotondo’s research, help fund travel for students to attend conferences and share their results, and potentially purchase or update small instruments for the lab. 

Arias-Rotondo applied for the LEAPS-MPS grant in January 2023, with the help of Director of Grants, Fellowships and Research Jessica Fowle and colleagues in the chemistry department. 

“Jess is amazing; I don’t think I could have done this without her,” Arias-Rotondo said. “I also had a lot of support from my department with writing, reading drafts, giving feedback.” 

In August, she learned she had been awarded the grant, and it started Sept. 1. Arias-Rotondo has two years to spend the money, with an option to extend it to a third year if needed. 

“It’s just under a quarter million,” Arias-Rotondo said. “Sometimes I can’t believe that anyone would trust me with that. I say this because a lot of times, I look around and think, ‘Who thought that I could do this?’ It’s a dream come true, and this grant is amazing, but it’s also like, ‘Wow, someone thought that I could do it.’  

“A lot of times students don’t trust themselves. Imposter syndrome is a real thing, and students look at me and think, ‘Oh, she’s got it. Professors know what they’re doing.’ It’s important to me to let people know that’s not true. It’s not like one day your feelings of inadequacy just lift off, and now you feel so confident that everything is great. You keep having doubts. I care about letting them know that, so if they get to grad school, or they get their Ph.D., or whenever, and they still feel like they are faking it, they still feel like they are not good enough, they know that doesn’t mean that they are not good enough. That’s just the way our brains work. You can be great and still feel like you’re not. I keep talking about that because it’s important to normalize it.” 

Experiences like those afforded by the LEAPS-MPS grant go a long way toward building students’ confidence in themselves. 

“I’m really excited for all the things that this grant is doing for students,” Arias-Rotondo said. “It gives them a lot of opportunities. You can see how excited they are when they present posters, or when they talk about research with their friends, not just learning chemistry, but also self-confidence that they can do hard things. You can see the progression. It doesn’t matter how good they were when they started. At the end of it, they are so much tighter with each other, they have learned so much, and they are so much better.” 

Two students work with chemistry professor supporting their lab experiences
A grant from the National Science Foundation will help Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniela Arias-Rotondo pay students who work in her research lab, such as Maxwell Rhames ’25 (left) and Caelan Frazier ’23, pictured during the summer of 2022.
Chemistry students in holiday outfits surround Daniela Arias-Rotondo
Arias-Rotondo took a holiday photo before the end of term with her fall 2023 student researchers, the first group to be paid for their school-year work in her lab.
Chemistry students accompany Daniela Arias-Rotondo at the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership
Arias-Rotondo is pictured with her summer 2023 lab group, (from left) Maxwell Rhames ’25, Maddie Coffman ’24, Deepa Jha ’24, Arias-Rotondo, Sam Ewald ’24, Mirella Villani ’24 and Will Tocco ’26.
Daniela Arias-Rotondo poses for a picture with a model of a molecule
Arias-Rotondo is pictured with a 3D-printed version of one of the molecules her lab has made.
Students and faculty in graduation attire
Arias-Rotondo is pictured at Commencement 2023 are graduating DARlings (from left) Shay Brown ’23, Chloe Lucci ’23, Arias-Rotondo, Mia Tucci ’23, Zekie Mulder ’23 and Caelan Frazier ’23.

Professor’s Book Spotlights Bengal Famine Atrocities

A Kalamazoo College English professor has a personal connection to her latest book about the Bengal famine of 1943, which killed about 3 million people in the wake of World War II.

“My father, who grew up in Calcutta, was a young boy during the famine,” Professor of English Babli Sinha said. “He told me stories of destitute people in the street, begging for just the water in which the rice was cooked in my father’s household. People were starving and dying in plain sight in a major metropolis of the British Empire. That was my first introduction to the famine.”

Since hearing such first-hand narratives, Sinha has conducted her own research of the disaster through books by Bhabani Bhattacharya, a 1940s Indian Anglophone author, along with some of history’s more under-shared writers and artists, to develop The Bengal Famine and Cultural Production: Signifying Colonial Trauma (Routledge 2023).

The book’s testimonies show that World War II-era British authorities feared a Japanese attack after Burma and Singapore fell to Japan in 1942, halting rice exports from those countries. The British instituted a Scorched Earth policy, confiscating crops from Bengali farmers and destroying the boats of fishermen in the region in anticipation of an invasion of India. Shortages and hoarding then prevented many Bengalis from affording even a basic diet.

Professor of English Babli Sinha holds a copy of her latest book, “The Bengal Famine and Cultural Production: Signifying Colonial Trauma.”

Imperial officials blamed the incompetence of local Indian officials for the famine, attempting what Sinha describes as an erasure of the suffering that should be front of mind when we think about history.

“When students learn about World War II history, they don’t learn very much about the Asian front,” Sinha said. “We also have this good-guy-versus-bad-guy-narrative, whereas people in the colonized world tend to think about it as a war of competing empires—the Nazi Empire, the British Empire, the French Empire. The British and French empires were both committing atrocities that need to be reckoned with everywhere, so you get a more nuanced history of what was actually happening during the Second World War.

“So much of our approach to the UK is around a kind of nostalgia for a genteel past through shows like Downton Abbey and other kinds of narratives,” she added. “What we miss in those romanticized representations is the reality that wealth was being generated through slavery, indentured servitude and gross violations of human life. We still place people like (Prime Minister) Winston Churchill on a pedestal, despite his failed leadership during the time of the famine, and despite him referring repeatedly to Indians with racist language.”

Such perspectives help provide a different view of traumatic events like the Bengal famine through an intervention around the ethics of representation and colonial trauma’s typical exclusion in traditional trauma theory, Sinha said.

“Traditional trauma theory thinks of experiences that end, and then you have a period in which to reflect and discuss that experience,” she said. “In the case of colonial trauma, there is no end to the trauma. The violence is systemic and ongoing, not limited to a particular event. Thinking about trauma differently seems crucial to me as something that doesn’t necessarily have a closure. It’s also important to think beyond Europe in terms of trauma and collective trauma. That’s something that’s been happening, I would say, since the 1980s and 90s, in Postcolonial studies. It’s a relatively new phenomenon to think about literature from the broader Anglophone world at all and to think about the kind of psychological impact colonialism has on populations.”

Recent global events, though, have prompted an opportunity for The Bengal Famine to be included in reviews of history.

“During the period of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, there was also an examination of imperialism in the British public imaginary through movements like Rhodes Must Fall,” Sinha said.

Rhodes Must Fall was a decolonization-in-education movement originally directed against a statue at the University of Cape Town that commemorated Cecil Rhodes, who was a late 1800s prime minister of Cape Colony and an organizer of the diamond-mining company De Beers Consolidated Mines. His will established the Rhodes scholarships at Oxford University in 1902, but some historians view him as a ruthless imperialist and a white supremacist.

“Interestingly enough, in the context of this kind of public reckoning in the UK, the famine began to play a role as an example of an imperial atrocity that has to be reckoned with in the British imaginary,” Sinha said. “I think we’re at a time now where all over the world people are rethinking their received histories, and I think my book is a part of that broader conversation.”

Elsewhere in her career, Sinha has published articles to her credit that have appeared in Commonwealth Literature; South Asian History and Culture; Cultural Dynamics; Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East; Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television; South Asian Diaspora; and Journal of Popular Film and Television. She also previously released two books about South Asian history. Cinema, Transnationalism, and Colonial India: Entertaining the Raj (Routledge 2013) explores how films in the United States, Britain and India affected each other politically, culturally and ideologically; and South Asian Transnationalisms (Routledge 2012) considers cultural and political exchanges between artists and intellectuals of South Asia with their counterparts around the world to scrutinize relationships between identity and agency, language and space, race and empire, nation and ethnicity, and diaspora and nationality.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in French and English literatures from Washington and Lee University, Sinha was uncertain of her career path. She began working on the production side of the publishing industry in New York, until she pursued advanced degrees including a master’s in French literature from Indiana University, Bloomington, and a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Chicago. She later taught and participated in a post-doctoral program at the University of California, Los Angeles, titled Cultures in Transnational Perspective before arriving at K in fall 2008.

Her students have since surprised and inspired her.

“My K students are just wonderful,” Sinha said. “They are what keeps me going and what’s kept me here. I’ve taught at other large institutions and some public universities. You can have wonderful students and some not-so-wonderful students there. But K students are serious and prepared. That makes for a wonderful classroom experience where we can move beyond some of the superficial conversations in whatever texts we’re looking at and really get into intellectual inquiry.”

Biology Department Incorporates New Microscope into Research, Teaching

A microscope acquired in spring 2023 using grant funds is opening new opportunities for research and teaching in the Kalamazoo College biology department. 

The fluorescence dissecting microscope boasts several advantages over other microscopes in the department, said Michael Wollenberg, associate professor of biology and department chair, and Amanda Wollenberg, associate professor of biology. Its features include optics that allow clear views of individual cells, fluorescence to help differentiate between types of cells, space to manipulate a sample while viewing it, and a dedicated camera and software program. 

“We want to be able to look at single bacterial cells, and they’re one-millionth of a meter large, so they’re not visible to the naked eye,” Michael said. “What’s really important is that we have a microscope that has extremely good optics, and those optics resolve the sample very well—they magnify it to the point where we can see individual bacterial cells. Bacterial cells are clear and transparent, and having a set of fluorescent molecules inside the cell allows us to tag them with a glowing marker so we can say, ‘OK, that transparent cell that’s really tiny—that’s actually the bacterial cell we’re interested in, as opposed to schmutz or a eukaryotic cell or some other bacterial cell, and it’s located in X, Y or Z place, which gives us a three-dimensional resolution of the relationship that we’re looking at.’” 

While many microscopes use white light to illuminate samples, a fluorescence microscope can do more. 

“Bacteria might be too small to actually see just using white light,” Amanda said. “If you genetically manipulate those bacteria so that they glow fluorescent—and that’s a very common technique; people do it all the time, Michael can do it in his lab—if you have a microscope that can detect fluorescence, you can track those bacteria. You can see where they are because they’re glowing green.” 

The microscope also has a camera and software program that allows the user to take and analyze photos through the microscope as well as project to a computer screen—two key advantages in research and in teaching that are new to the biology department in terms of dissecting microscopes. 

“The camera and software are really important when it comes to trying to share the results of what we see with other scientists by publishing,” Amanda said. “You can’t just say, ‘Oh, trust us, we saw it.’ You must have a picture, and it’s got to be a high-quality picture. Ideally, you also try to quantify some of the information in that picture. That means you don’t just show a picture. You say, ‘We took 100 pictures, and we did this analysis of the intensity of the color, using the software program, and in 70 percent of the pictures, the intensity was higher than a certain threshold.’” 

The computer projection makes the microscope an excellent teaching tool. 

“A microscope has two eyepieces,” Michael said. “You look in the eyepieces, and you’re the only person who can see what you’re seeing. This camera is a great way to project what the microscope sees to a larger group of people, be it a small research laboratory, like our summer research with undergraduates, or a small class.” 

Biology major Allison Sokacz ’24 has worked in Michael Wollenberg’s lab for three summers. She recently started using the microscope in the summer research that will form the basis for her Senior Integrated Project. 

“The intensity that lets you see the entire fluorescence from this microscope, versus some of the other scopes we have, is really helpful,” Sokacz said. “It’s a lot easier to see what you have.” 

The camera is essential to her project, as she is working with two different forms of a bacteria and will be able to compare their locations using saved images. She also appreciates the benefits of the screen projection. 

“Microscopy is hard, because only one person can see,” Sokacz said. “I just took microbiology with Dr. [Michael] Wollenberg this spring, and I really struggled with microscopy, because it’s different for everyone. My lab partner might say, put the zoom to this, but then I might not be able to see it. With this microscope, I can say what I see, and they can also see it, instead of, ‘Well, I saw this but then it moved off the screen,’ or, ‘I can’t get it in focus.’ Being able to show a whole room what you’re seeing is definitely helpful.” 

In addition, the microscope has a wheel that allows for different filters that can detect different colors of fluorescence, which expands the future possibilities for use. 

“You could label one type of bacteria with green and one with red, and now you can look at the dynamics,” Amanda said. “Are the green ones in one place, are the red ones in another place? Another thing researchers will do sometimes is to stain the host with one color and the bacteria with a different color, and that can help resolve some of the questions of what you are seeing.”

Student looks through microscope that projects image on to a computer screen
Garrick Hohm ’25 looks into the fluorescence dissecting microscope purchased for the biology department in spring 2023 using National Science Foundation grant funds.
Student points to an image projected onto a computer screen
Biology major Allison Sokacz ’24 demonstrates how the biology department’s new, grant-purchased microscope can be connected to a computer monitor for research and teaching. 
New Biology Microscope 5
Garrick Hohm ’25 looks into the fluorescence dissecting microscope
Student looking into a microscope
Allison Sokacz ’24 checks for the presence and location of bacteria in nematodes using a grant-purchased microscope that is opening up new research and teaching opportunities in the biology department.

The microscope was purchased using funds from a $400,000 National Science Foundation grant, awarded to the Wollenbergs in June 2018 to study mechanisms of specificity and tolerance in a nematode-bacterial symbiosis. About 9 percent of that budget was for the microscope, which cost about $35,000. The rest of the total includes about 12.5 percent for other materials and small equipment, 5 percent for travel, 26 percent for indirect costs like building infrastructure, and slightly less than half for student pay, summer salary and benefits. 

“Science uses very condensed writing, where each word means so much,” Amanda said. “In the title of our research, ‘mechanisms’ tell you that we’re looking at the molecular side of things: not just that this happens, but how does it happen? ‘Specificity’ is getting at this idea that when two organisms are trying to have a relationship with each other, it’s not like just any bacteria can come in and live with any animal. ‘Tolerance’ is, even once they’ve found each other and formed that partnership, they have to keep getting along with each other. From the animal perspective, it can’t start killing off that bacteria like it does to other, more pathogenic bacteria. The specific relationship we’re looking at is a nematode-bacterial symbiosis. This is telling us that the animal is the nematode–that’s a roundworm that lives in the soil–and the partner it has is bacteria. Symbiosis is saying they’re in partnership, they both benefit each other. We’re trying to understand how they find each other and get along with each other within that system.” 

The duo is well-suited to the research, with Michael bringing a microbiology perspective while Amanda has an immunology focus.  

“The big picture is that we live in a microbial world where there’s lots and lots of microorganisms that are in and on our bodies and all animal bodies,” Michael said. “Basically, they facilitate everything that animals do; we can’t survive without them. Understanding how animals tolerate beneficial microorganisms is a big open scientific question. How do we train our immune systems, or how are our immune systems calibrated, so that the friendly bacteria get into association with organisms and maintain those associations that are beneficial?” 

That’s not very well understood, Michael notes, “especially not in really complicated organisms like humans, where there are myriad different species of microorganisms that are associated with us. If you think about our gut, it’s like its own ecosystem. We do research with simple models to try to understand detailed answers to bigger biology questions, in the hopes that other scientists can apply that research to things that are more relevant for human health or other animals that have more complicated associations in their health.” 

The new microscope is an invaluable tool in the Wollenbergs’ research, and they also look forward to the whole biology department finding ways to use it in the classroom. 

“That was part of the reason we wanted to get this piece of equipment as well, is to integrate it with teaching and use it as a teaching tool,” Michael said. “As we’re coming online with the things we’ve wanted to do with the grant, it’s giving us ideas of how we can translate this into the classroom.” 

K Announces Lucasse, Ambrose Recipients

Kalamazoo College announced today that one faculty member and one staff member have earned two of the highest awards the College bestows on its employees. Rosemary K. Brown Professor of Computer Science Alyce Brady received the 2023–24 Florence J. Lucasse Lectureship for Excellence in Teaching, and Custodian Laura Weber was named the recipient of the W. Haydn Ambrose Prize for Extraordinary Service to Kalamazoo College.

Brady, a co-chair of the computer science department, has served K for nearly 30 years. She teaches a variety of courses from introductory classes to advanced classes on programming languages, data structure, dynamic Internet apps and software development in a global context. Her research interests have included the application of computer science to social justice while serving as the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership Faculty Fellow from 2013–2015.

Over the past decade, Brady has supervised 72 Senior Integrated Projects and is currently guiding five more. She is also credited with championing student reflection through growth journals, applying a flipped-classroom format that started even before the pandemic, and receiving previous recognition through the Outstanding First-Year Advocate award.

A ceremony to confer the Lucasse Fellowship traditionally occurs in the spring term, where the honored faculty member speaks regarding their work.

Nominators credited Weber, a 10-year staff member in Facilities Management, for volunteering at student events such as Monte Carlo and Cafsgiving. She also hosts international students and refers to her former visitors as her “children,” while former students refer to her as their “mum.” One nominator wrote, “Her love language is inclusion.” Another said, “she treats everyone like family.”

The Ambrose Prize is named after W. Haydn Ambrose, who served K for more than 20 years in a variety of roles, including assistant to the president for church relations, dean of admission and financial aid, and vice president for development. Ambrose was known for being thoughtful in the projects he addressed and treating people with respect. In addition to a financial award, Weber has earned a crystal award to commemorate the achievement and an invitation to sit on the Prize’s selection committee for two years.

Congratulations to both of the honorees.

Lucasse Award - Alyce Brady 1
Rosemary K. Brown Professor of Computer Science Alyce Brady was awarded the 2023–24 Florence J. Lucasse Lectureship for Excellence in Teaching.
Ambrose Prize Recipient Laura Weber
Laura Weber, a 10-year staff member in Facilities Management, received the Ambrose Prize, named after W. Haydn Ambrose.