Our life stories make great stage plays and Rebecca Chan ’22 has a chance to share her story with us all. Her self-written coming-of-age story, Unzipped, is a part of the Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College’s Senior Performance Series.
The production, complete with monologues and Chan’s own music, explores the perception of East Asians in the United States and her experiences as a queer Chinese American. Unzipped takes aim at a common racial slur used against Asian Americans and refers to Chan’s life of unpacking and discovering her identity.
“I’d say in the past few years there has been a lot more representation of Asian Americans, and like myself, mixed Asian Americans,” Chan said. “But I find a lot of media has characters who maybe have one white parent and one Asian parent like myself, and the racial experience of that existence is brushed over. A lot of my life has been me questioning my racial identity, trying to understand it and what it means, so I wanted to write a show very specifically about that experience.”
Chan, a theatre major, has participated in Festival Playhouse productions and events since her first year on campus. In 2019, she was selected for the week-long Kennedy Center American College Theatre National Festival in Washington, D.C., where she was one of four students from around the country to participate in its Institute for Theatre Journalism Advocacy (ITJA) events; another one of her self-written plays, Record, was featured at Theatre Kalamazoo’s 10th annual New PlayFest in February 2020; and she earned the Theatre Arts First-Year Student Award at Honors Convocation in 2019.
Unzipped, however, represents her senior integrated project. She had a chance to write the play as an independent study during the spring term of her junior year while taking an advanced playwriting class taught by then-Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Dr. “C” Heaps. Since, Chan has been calculating the details of the acting process.
“It’s been tricky because I want to be emotionally invested in the show, but I don’t want to carry so much of the emotions that it weighs me down,” Chan said. “It’s a very careful balance of being in the moment of the show and knowing I’m telling the story how I need to tell it.”
The production’s storytelling process includes projected pictures of Chan’s own childhood and picks up with her in high school.
“I talk about different high school relationships and how I understood myself, and as I get into college, how those experiences changed my perception of who I am,” she said. “There are two big plot points: my relationship with my family, like with my grandmother and my dad and how those evolved over the course of my life, and my relationships in college. There’s a lot of weaving and intersecting of how my perception of my family influences how I interact with my friends, and then how things I realized for my friends influenced how I think about my family.”
Chan wrote the music for Unzipped over two years and has added new songs to fill in the gaps.
“I started writing the music before I even knew I wanted to make the show,” Chan said. “I was always interested in it, but in high school, I felt very nervous about it. I didn’t think I had a good enough voice to sing on my own or had enough knowledge of music to produce something people would want to listen to. But starting my sophomore year, I got back in touch with the piano and started picking up the ukulele. I would just write little songs as I was going through life. It was a coping mechanism that helped me process what I was going through in the big events of my life. Over the summer, I spent a lot of time recording demos of the songs so I could share them with whoever would be playing in my band. Luckily, I was able to find five musicians who were available for the show. Four of which are current students and one a recent alumna.”
Milan Levy ’23 is the director and Angela Mammel ’22 designed the set and projections for their senior integrated projects. Attendees should be aware the play contains racial violence and language. Tickets for the in-person performance of Unzipped, at 129 Thompson St. in the Nelda K. Balch Theatre, and the virtual show are available online. In-person presentations start at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. The virtual broadcast is at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is to be unapologetic in who I am,” Chan said. “I think I spent a lot of time trying to make my focus educating other people or changing the world around me. While those are important things to strive for and do, I think the core of my existence should be living for myself and not living to change others who might not be willing to change.”
Sederberg will receive the Goethe‐Institut/AATG Certificate of Merit for her achievements in furthering the teaching of German in the U.S. through creative activities, innovative curriculum, successful course design and significant contributions to the profession. Recipients each year are nominated by their peers.
“This is a great honor and I am glad to be recognized for my work,” she said. “I am grateful to the amazing community of German students here whose energy and enthusiasm motivate me as an educator. Teaching at K has enabled me to be creative, take risks, and try new things, like the ‘Babylon Berlin’ course designed around the hit TV series, or a unit on the forest with a field trip to the arboretum. It’s in part because of the culture at K that I have been able to experiment in my classes and develop interdisciplinary material with connections to gender studies, environmental studies or Jewish Studies. I really enjoy teaching in a small program where I can work with students from 101 to the advanced seminars, see their growth and even stay in touch with them as alumni.”
Sederberg teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced German as well as Contemporary German Culture and the senior seminars on varying topics. She holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, and is one of five educators between high schools and colleges from around the country to earn the honor this year.
“With their dedication to excellence in German language instruction, these award recipients promote
the transatlantic friendship between the U.S. and German‐speaking countries and foster the much-needed intercultural awareness so their students lead successful lives in a globalized world,” AATG President Doug Philipp said.
As an aspiring librarian, Nionni Permelia ’22 knows much of her job one day will involve community engagement.
“You have to know so much about literature, but you have to know so much about your community as well,” said Permelia, an English major from Battle Creek. “People might come in to a library for résumé help or to learn how to print and fax. They also might come in because they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. They might ask, ‘I don’t know where I can go to get fresh food. Can you help me?’ Being a librarian means you have to know a lot about everything around you so you can give people those resources.”
That idea made a Community Building Internship (CBI) this summer an ideal opportunity for her. Permelia was among the K students who worked at local organizations from AACORN Farms to the YWCA of Kalamazoo in CBIs through the Center for Civic Engagement and the Center for Career and Professional Development. The positions, offered each year, last about six to eight weeks, and interns are on the job for 30 to 40 hours a week while earning a stipend.
Permelia worked for Zoo City Farm and Food Network, a nonprofit organization founded and operated by Black women, that centers Black women’s voices and experiences while designing a comprehensive, responsible and sustainable food-industry ecosystem that is beneficial for everyone. In other words, they want everyone to have access to fresh, healthful food regardless of who they are and their economic status.
“Fresh food should be a human right for everyone,” Permelia said.
On a regional level, the organization nurtures food sovereignty by expanding food systems literacy in communities that have little to no education on the food ecosystem, primarily in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Outside Michigan, Zoo City wants to make its model accessible for communities across the country. While its model is designed with Kalamazoo and Battle Creek in mind, the organization welcomes partnerships with cities around the U.S. that could benefit from initiatives that champion food sovereignty.
“In the inner city of Battle Creek, there are no grocery stores. Battle Creek sits in a food desert,” Permelia said. “My work with Zoo City and their Food and Farm Network helps them create a framework for how places like Battle Creek could eliminate their droughts in food systems.”
Permelia used her writing skills to develop email templates for Zoo City that will allow the organization to approach volunteers about its initiatives and how they can help. One of those initiatives helps farmers and small businesses sell the food they make at a farmer’s market in Kalamazoo.
“Zoo City purchases the booth, and local businesses who might not be able to pay for their own booth take it over,” Permelia said. “The community gets access to fresh food that way, and hopefully, the businesses and farmers will have more people visiting them outside the booth.”
Permelia also performed research for the organization’s Zoo Syndicate, a visual editorial that will show local residents how food is connected to everything.
“I helped them do research on graffiti art and urban interventionism, which are very different to, yet very similar to Zoo City’s core values,” she said. “Graffiti art connects to their initiative of urban farming because it usually happens on vacant property. The idea is that even vacant parking lots can become safe places for neighborhood activities. Instead of figuring out how we can make money off of it by developing houses the neighborhood can’t afford, why not grow food there? It might prevent higher taxes and living costs that make the neighborhood unlivable because people can’t afford it anymore.”
As a result, in addition to the job experience relatable to her future career and the opportunity to be involved in the community, Permelia learned about the administrative roles of people such as Zoo City co-founder Remi Harrington, making the internship beneficial on multiple levels.
“I thought I might be gardening and growing food, but I got to see the admin side of things,” she said. “That inspired me. I saw how people’s ideas to help others can actually come to life. It was amazing to see people like Remi writing all of her plans on a board, before I got to go to a farmer’s market or neighborhood event to see it happen. It was amazing to see it come to fruition.”
She adds, “I’d never worked for an organization owned by Black women before, which is really sad, yet this showed that I could have an opportunity to do it. Getting to see a Black-women led organization helped me to realize that I am also able to bring my writings and ideas to life. Not only that, but it’s possible for me to lead. It’s possible for all Black women to lead and see their imagination become reality. Remi has so many beautiful ideas for Zoo City. I am so happy we all get to witness her work and continue to see her vision unfold.”
$150 million campaign will provide endowed and annual support for students, faculty and staff, curricular and co-curricular activities, athletics and campus facilities.
Kalamazoo College has launched the public phase of its comprehensive Brighter Light Campaign with the goal of raising $150 million to support its strategic plan, Advancing Kalamazoo College: A Strategic Vision for 2023. One of the four pillars of the strategic plan calls for providing a sustainable source of revenue to support the College’s objectives for years to come. As of today, $108 million has been raised from over 6,100 donors since the quiet phase of the campaign began on July 1, 2018, including 100 percent participation from the College’s Board of Trustees.
The College celebrated the public launch with a special program during homecoming weekend on October 16. At the event, President Jorge G. Gonzalez noted, “Kalamazoo College is launching this comprehensive effort to create access and opportunity for our students, transform our campus to support 21st century scholarship and leadership, and build the endowment for the future. I’m proud to support this campaign, and invite others to join me in helping K continue to develop and inspire future leaders and citizens of the world.”
The Brighter Light Campaign will focus on three priority areas:
Brighter Opportunities: Endowed scholarships and gifts to the Kalamazoo College Fund give exceptional students the opportunity to attend the College regardless of their financial means, and enable students to start life after graduation with lower student debt. Financial support also provides access for students to fully participate in the K-Plan, the College’s personalized and integrated approach to education, which includes experiences such as study abroad, internships and meaningful research.
Brighter Minds: Kalamazoo College faculty and staff are dedicated to developing the strengths of every student, preparing them for lifelong learning, intercultural understanding, social responsibility, career readiness and leadership. Investment in faculty and staff enhances the College’s ability to recruit and retain top talent, enrich academic scholarship, and increase personalized support and guidance for students.
Brighter Experiences: At the heart of a K education is the richness of students’ on-campus experiences—both in and out of the classroom. Many students choose Kalamazoo College knowing they can play the sports they love in college—in fact, nearly 25% of Kalamazoo College students are athletes. Endowed and annual funding for athletics will help support program budgets, ensure equity across all sports, and fund improvements to fields and facilities. Additionally, the College aims to ensure all areas of its beautiful and historic campus can provide welcoming and modernized spaces for students to live, learn and play—today and for years to come.
The campaign is co-chaired by Kalamazoo College Board of Trustee members Amy Upjohn and Jim Heath ’78. “The campaign’s focus on endowment will have tremendous impact on the College as a whole, as well as individually to our faculty, staff and students,” says Upjohn. “The College community and the larger Kalamazoo community benefit one another in so many ways, I truly believe that supporting the College creates a brighter future for our whole community.” Heath adds, “A Kalamazoo College education is a transformative experience. Creating access to the K-Plan and all its components to future generations is a critical pillar of our strategic plan. This campaign is a way for us to build up the endowment and other areas that are necessary to continue K’s great legacy of learning.”
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.
The Brighter Light Campaign is raising $150 million to provide endowed and annual support for students, faculty and staff, curricular and co-curricular activities, athletics and campus facilities. For more information, visit the Brighter Light Campaign page: www.kzoo.edu/brighterlight
It takes dedication, perseverance and determination for the world’s best athletes to reach the Olympics, just as it did for Uyen Trinh ’21 to be a part of the behind-the-scenes efforts at the Summer Games in Tokyo. She was there to gain global career experience while working as an accountant in the Finance Department of Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS).
OBS was established through the International Olympic Committee in 2001 to produce live television, radio and digital coverage of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Organizations such as the New York Times and NBC set up, along with OBS, at Tokyo Big Sight, an international exhibition center composed of the International Broadcast Center and the Main Press Center as the Games began.
Trinh, an international student from Vietnam majoring in business and psychology with a minor in Japanese at K, played important roles processing paperwork, receipts, documents and bills for the Olympic Games while stationed in the International Broadcasting Center. A typical six-day workweek involved a one-hour commute on the subway, a trip through security and working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day with the Olympics, lasting about a month.
Trinh gained the opportunity while studying abroad through K at Waseda University in Tokyo in 2019. At that time, a friend from the university’s Tae Kwon Do club told her about training for a position at the Olympics.
“After Tae Kwon Do practice that night, I looked up OBS right away because it sounded like a fascinating opportunity,” Trinh said. “I found out the application deadline was a day or two later, so I filled out and submitted the application right away in one sitting.”
Trinh then proceeded to interview for the accounting position.
“In the interviews, I told them I wanted to work for the Olympics because watching the Games has always given me unforgettable feelings,” she said. “And the Japanese people had been treating me really well. I thought Tokyo 2020 was a great opportunity to present Japan to the world. It was a chance for me to return the favor of their kindness and help deliver a positive image of Japan.”
Her interest in accounting made the impression she left with her interviewers even more favorable.
“I said that I wanted to do accounting because I’d been keeping track of my personal expenses and it really excited me to see numbers matching up,” Trinh said. “A week later I got a certificate saying I was qualified to work for the Olympics.”
However, in March 2020, COVID-19 began spreading, forcing Trinh to leave Japan and putting the Games in doubt.
“I still kept a close eye on the Olympics and was disheartened when they decided to postpone the Games. I questioned my chances of coming back,” Trinh said. “September 2020 was the first time I heard back from them. They asked, ‘Are you still interested in working for the Olympics?’ I thought, ‘What do you mean? This is everything I have been waiting for.’ All the logistics afterward in preparation for my departure to Japan were completed via email and the OBS portal website. I received their welcome package in February 2021 with an accreditation card, which served as my visa to enter Japan. There were a lot of requirements regarding COVID that made the week before the flight especially stressful.”
Upon her return to Japan, COVID-19 regulations required her to quarantine at a hotel for the first 14 days. She was restricted to commuting only between the hotel, OBS and a convenience store next to the hotel. After those weeks, a former host family from her time on study abroad welcomed her to stay with them.
“I learned to treasure every relationship I had with people. You never know what kind of opportunity anyone could bring to you and what your relationship could grow to be. Most of my colleagues were from countries other than Japan like Spain, Bangladesh and Greece. It’s just wonderful to think that working for the Olympics has enabled people from all over the world to meet and get to know each other regardless of the pandemic. Returning to Japan this time also made me realize how many meaningful relationships I have made during only six months of study abroad. This whole adventure was terrific and I’m so glad I was able to make it. Different from the abrupt departure last time because of COVID, I left Japan this time in peace and with more confidence in myself. This valuable experience will set the stage for my career in finance after K.”
Kalamazoo College is ready to make a splash with student-athletes and the community thanks to the completion of an $18 million project years in the making. The College will dedicate its new natatorium, at 1010 Academy Street, during Homecoming weekend at 4:30 p.m. Friday, October 15.
The completed project will begin hosting competitions at 1 p.m. Saturday, October 16, as the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams host a triangular meet against Saginaw Valley State University and Alma College.
In addition to the College’s athletics events, the natatorium will host local clubs and high school teams; open swimming for students, faculty and staff; and Swim for Success, an innovative partnership between Kalamazoo College’s Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement and the City of Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation Department. Swim for Success provides affordable swimming lessons, particularly for children from low-income families who otherwise would not have access to this life-saving skill.
“We’re excited because the new natatorium will be a tremendous asset for our campus and for the Kalamazoo community,” Kalamazoo College President Jorge G. Gonzalez said. “We are deeply grateful to the donors—many of whom are alumni of the swimming and diving program—who have made an investment that will benefit K students for decades to come. We’re also proud that a profound, impactful program like Swim for Success will again have a home here.”
The 29,600-square-foot, two-story facility will feature eight competition lanes, a separate diving area with 1-meter and 3-meter boards, on-deck seating for athletes, a dryland training room, an office suite for coaches and meet management, a high-quality timing system and large scoreboard, varsity team locker rooms for swimmers and divers, a display space of awards in the lobby and LEED sustainable features and design elements.
The previous natatorium had been home for the College’s swimming and diving teams for five decades. The student-athletes on those teams included eight national champions, three National Divers of the Year, and 32 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association conference championship teams. Swimming and Diving Coach Jay Daniels expects the new natatorium to help the Hornets continue that tradition of excellence.
“The former building was more than a pool to us,” Daniels said. “It was a space where student-athletes pursued their passion, formed long-lasting relationships and developed their fitness, drive and discipline. We know this natatorium will be that and more for us. It will help us recruit student-athletes to K, build on our competitiveness and ensure our future success.”
In August, Kalamazoo College welcomed J. Malcolm Smith as its new vice president for student development and dean of students. Smith came to K from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, where he also served as the vice president for student affairs and dean of students. Prior to Salve, Smith worked at a variety of institutions, including John Carroll University, Ohio University and University of Illinois at Chicago. He brings extensive experience to K in areas such as student conduct and advocacy; retention efforts; diversity, equity and inclusion; Title IX administration; housing management; budget oversight; and crisis management. Recently, we sat down with Malcolm to talk about his background and goals for student development at K.
Q. Malcolm, how did you become involved in student development and student life as a profession?
A. I always like to say I got into this specific line of work by telling a joke. Let me give you a bit of backstory: As an undergrad, I changed majors a few times. I ended up with an elementary education and music degree, and then after graduation I went into business. I was working for a company and within six months I’d become the number one account manager in the region—yet I was working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and I wasn’t necessarily happy. During undergrad at Ohio University, I had done a research program called STARS (Student Achievement in Research and Scholarship). For completion of that program, I had a fellowship available to me if I wanted to go to graduate school in state of Ohio. So, I’m in this job that wasn’t very fulfilling, and I went to the person who ran the Academic Advancement Center at OU—I had been a tutor for a number of subjects so we knew each other well—and she said, “Malcolm, you really liked helping students, have you thought about higher ed?” She took me down to meet with the faculty of the master’s program and I ended up going into the program.
When I left my job, my regional VP said, we’ll hold your job for you if you decide to come back. And about halfway into my grad program, I walked into the assistant dean’s office and I said, I think I’m going to leave the program and go back to work. She said, “Why don’t you stay here for the summer and work for me, and if you still want to leave in August, I’ll support it.” So, there I was, working in the dean’s office, and one day I overheard the assistant dean talking with another director about how it was the last day of applications for an assistant director of conduct, and he’d gotten great candidates but he wished he had more diversity. So, as I’m walking through the office, I say—as a joke—“I’ll get you my resume.” They call me back and the guy says, “Are you serious?” I say, “No, I’m a grad student in career development, why would I apply for an assistant director of conduct?” Long story short, requests were made and I had my resume ready by five o’clock and I ended up going through the interview process. Later, the director calls me to let me know they had hired someone else who had 15 years of experience. I said, “Outstanding, I really appreciate the opportunity, I learned a lot.” And then they offered me a different assistant director position that they created for me. And that’s how I told a joke and moved from career development to conduct…and the rest is history. As a higher ed professional, I think I’ve been able to do well in the work because I truly care about students and I care about the people I work with. Student affairs and conduct is emotionally heavy work in many instances, so I’ve always tried to support the people on my team.
Q. What attracted you to K?
When we moved to Rhode Island, my wife, Nichole, and I decided we’d stay there for three to five years. We ended up being there for eight. But we always hoped to come back to the Midwest, if the right position at the right school opened up at the right time.
I had talked to consultants about positions at other schools—some of which are as close as 15 minutes to my mother’s house. But when K popped up, I sent an email to Nichole and said, I think we should look at this one. I went through the process and I enjoyed my time with the committee from the very beginning. I liked President Gonzalez immediately. And then I came to the interview—it was during the pandemic and they brought me out to see the school and then I sat in the conference room and talked with people on the computer. But the people I got to meet were really impressive to me. And it was a very difficult decision because I was extremely happy at Salve. I called the president and it was tough telling her I was thinking of leaving. But I think that the ultimate moment when I decided to say yes was after she talked to Jorge. She said, “Malcolm, I hate to say it, but he’s a wonderful man, and if I had to lose you, it’s okay to lose you to someone like Jorge Gonzalez.”
So, we said yes. And we’re very happy we did. It’s a really good place doing a lot of really good work. In my whole career, I’ve been trying to help move institutions toward doing everything it can to prioritize building a transformational educational process. I think K has done a lot of good work in this space—we’re not perfect, but we’re truly working to engage all of our students and our alumni. I thought, well, wouldn’t it be interesting to take my skill set and see what I can do in a place that already has a really strong foundation, and see if I can help maximize that. So professionally, that was the call for me.
Q. What are your goals, short term and long term, for the Office of Student Development?
First and foremost, I think it’s important to integrate myself fully into the team and to build a team atmosphere around a shared vision. So, one of my objectives will be to develop a set of goals that the entire division can buy into and see themselves in, which ties into the strategic plan for the College.
Another goal of mine is to do program reviews of all the offices and departments that are in the division to ensure that we’re using best practices or moving toward best practices. I also want to continue to ensure that our staff in the division understands the values of diversity and inclusion, and are integrating those values into the work they do, the programs we are running and the discussions they’re having. And as we move forward, I want ensure that students are always going to be first. It does not mean we’re always going to agree with students, but student needs will always be primary for me.
The biggest long-term goal that I can see is that we have to improve our residential experience. The residence halls need either a great deal of work or need to be replaced, and probably a combination of the two.
And finally, I want to make sure that the programs that come out of Student Development are aligned with the instructional learning outcomes and the academic mission, and are value-added for the students.
Q. It’s exciting to have everyone back together on campus this year. How do you like to connect with students? What’s your approach?
My approach is to be accessible to students at all times. They’ll see me having lunch in the dining hall every day, I’ll be at events. Last night I was at the SAC picnic. I’ll be at sporting events and I’ll be at performances. I’ll be walking on campus during the day, and I want to spark conversations with people and be present. And then the approach in that presence I think is to be kind, is to lead with love and to recognize that whoever’s in front of you is what’s important at the moment.
Q. On a personal note, what are three things people may be surprised to learn about you?
I would say that to relax, my go-to is either cooking or gardening—I think because it’s one way to show love to my family and to friends.
My game of choice is chess. Although the game has not chosen me—I’ve chosen it.
Regardless of having just come from Rhode Island, I’m not a beach guy. My go-to vacation would be in cities, mostly because of the food. My favorite city is probably Chicago—amazing food, amazing architecture and great culture!
Kalamazoo College is pleased to welcome the following faculty members to campus this fall:
Assistant Professor of Spanish Tris Faulkner
Tris Faulkner, who is originally from Jamaica, lived in Chile for about two years, working as a translator and interpreter at a prominent law firm before earning a Ph.D. in Spanish linguistics from Georgetown University. She also has professional experience as a translator and interpreter at the Embassy of Venezuela, and in similar roles at a legal firm and a business school in North Carolina.
Faulkner has lived in Spain and visited various Spanish-speaking countries, experiences which have helped her to observe the diversity that characterizes the Spanish language. Her research investigates the semantics and pragmatics of variation in verbal mood, tense, and aspect, as related to the Romance language family, English, and Jamaican Creole.
In addition to her Ph.D., Faulkner has master’s degrees from Georgetown (M.Sc. in Spanish linguistics) and Wake Forest University (M.A. in interpreting and translation studies), and a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University (B.A. in Spanish language and literature and international studies). She will teach seminars in Spanish linguistics, as well as various other courses in the upcoming academic year.
Assistant Professor of Religion Sohini Pillai
Sohini Pillai will teach courses this academic year on religious traditions in South Asia. She is a comparatist of South Asian religious literature and her area of specialization is the Mahabharata and Ramayana epic narrative traditions with a focus on retellings created in Hindi and Tamil.
Pillai is the co-editor of Many Mahabharatas (State University of New York Press, 2021), an introduction to diverse retellings of the Mahabharata tradition in the forms of classical dramas, premodern vernacular poems, regional performance traditions, commentaries, graphic novels, political essays, novels, and contemporary theater productions. She’s also a member of the Steering Committee for the Hinduism Unit at the American Academy of Religion.
Pillai has a Ph.D. in South and Southeast Asian studies from the University of California, Berkeley; a master’s degree in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies from Columbia University; and a bachelor’s degree in South Asia studies and theatre studies from Wellesley College.
Assistant Professor of Theatre Quincy Thomas
Quincy Thomas earned his Ph.D. in theatre and his performance studies certification from Bowling Green State University. His research centers on subjects including counter-storytelling, Black performativity in American culture, representations of the marginalized in popular culture, comedic and solo performance and performative writing. At K, he will teach directing, theatre history and playwriting, with further prior experience teaching theatre, performance studies and film.
His courses are informed on issues of cultural marginalization and misrepresentation in the arts, specifically of racial and ethnic minorities, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. His work has been published in peer-reviewed academic journals, including the International Review of Qualitative Research and Puppetry International, and presented at national conferences, including the Mid-America Theatre Conference, the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, and the Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association (MAPACA). He currently serves as president of MAPACA. His most recent directorial offering was Robert Patrick’s Play-by-Play: A Spectacle of Ourselves: A Verse Farce in Two Acts. Thomas also has a background in acting. Some of his favorite roles played include Christopher in Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange, Albert in Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park, and most recently the role of Actor in Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit; Red Rabbit.
Assistant Professor of Economics Darshana Udayanganie
Darshana Udayanganie earned her Ph.D., with specializations in environmental economics and college teaching, and a master’s degree in economics from the University of New Hampshire. She also has a master’s degree in resource economics and policy from the University of Maine and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Before joining K in 2017 as a visiting assistant professor, she taught at Central Michigan University from 2014 to 2017, Merrimack College in 2013 and 2014, and the University of New Hampshire’s global student success program from 2011 to 2014.
Her current research focuses on urban economics and environmental economics. She also has published book chapters on economic growth in relation to military expenditure and international trade.
Assistant Professor of Japanese Brian White
Brian White will teach courses in Japanese language, literature and culture at K. He specializes in contemporary (post-1945) Japanese popular culture and media studies.
He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, where he wrote a dissertation on 1960s Japanese sci-fi literature and film, asking specifically, “What can a genre do?” He will delve into that history when he teaches a course in the winter term this year on Japanese science fiction and media history.
White earned a bachelor’s degree in East Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Across his undergraduate and graduate careers, he has spent a total of two and a half years living in Japan, primarily in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kyoto.
Assistant Professor of Chinese Yanshuo Zhang
Yanshuo Zhang’s research addresses multiethnic Chinese identities in literary and visual cultures produced in China and the U.S. Her research on multiethnic Chinese cultural productions helps diversify scholarly understanding of and teaching about modern Chinese national culture.
She was a lecturer in Stanford University’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) from 2018 through 2020, where she designed classes on cross-cultural explorations of diversity, particularly in Asia and the U.S. She also has been a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan.
She earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Catherine University and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.
Visiting Assistant Professor Vijayan Sundararaj
Vijayan Sundararaj leads a biology course this term in ecology and conservation. He has prior education experience as a lecturer, teaching assistant and topic lecturer between Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Canada, and Texas A&M University-Kingsville. His teaching interests include evolutionary ecology concepts, animal behavior, foraging behavior, predator-prey interactions, conservation biology, wildlife ecology, waterfowl ecology, mammalogy, spatial ecology, and introductory geographic information systems.
Sundararaj received a bachelor’s degree with a specialty in zoology from Gujarat University in India before earning a master’s degree in ecology from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel; a geographic information systems applications specialist graduate certificate from Sir Sandford Fleming College in Canada and a doctorate in forest sciences and wildlife ecology from Lakehead University.
Visiting Assistant Professor Eunice Uhm
Eunice Uhm specializes in modern and contemporary art, with a transnational focus on the United States and East Asia. Her work examines the conditions of migration and the diasporic aesthetic subjectivities in the works of contemporary Japanese and South Korean art from the 1960s to the present. She has previously taught courses on modern and contemporary art, East Asian art, and Asian American studies at Ohio State University. She has organized panels and presented her work on Asian American art at national conferences such as CAA. She is an active member of numerous grassroots community organizations for Asian Americans and immigrant rights, and she is involved in immigrant rights campaigns such as Love has no borders: A call for justice in our immigration system. Her essay, “Constructing Asian American Political and Aesthetic Subjectivities: Contradictions in the Works of Ruth Asawa,” is forthcoming (Verge: Studies in Global Asias, University of Minnesota Press).
Uhm received a master’s degree and a doctorate in the history of art from the Ohio State University. At K, she teaches courses on Asian and Asian American art, art and race, and transnationalism.
Visiting Assistant Professor Fungisai Musoni
Fungisai Musoni has joined the history department where she will teach courses in African civilizations, decolonization in West and Southern Africa, and U.S.-Africa relations since World War II.
Musoni has prior teaching experience in African literature, American politics and global issues, and social studies between the Ohio State University, Georgia State University, Gwinnett County Schools in Atlanta and the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education and Culture.
She fluently reads, writes and speaks the African languages of Shona and Manyika. Her education includes a bachelor’s degree in economic history and Shona from the University of Zimbabwe, Harare; master’s degrees in political science and history from Georgia State University and Mercer University respectively; and a doctorate in African American and African Studies from the Ohio State University.
Visiting Assistant Professor Badru-Deen Barry
Badru-Deen Barry teaches Introductory chemistry and biochemistry at K this fall.
His education includes a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone, master’s degrees in chemistry from Northeast Normal University in China and Michigan State University, and a doctorate in chemistry from Michigan State.
He previously served Michigan State and Northeast Normal as a graduate research assistant, Société Générale de Surveillance in Freetown, Sierra Leone, as port supervisor and chemist, and Fourah Bay College as a laboratory and teaching assistant.
Visiting Assistant Professor Mikela Zhezha-Thaumanavar
Mikela Zhezha-Thaumanavar is teaching courses in Spanish this fall as well as a course in foreign language teaching methods. In addition, she serves as the coordinator for the Spanish Teaching Assistants at K. She received her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate in Spanish linguistics from Western Michigan University.
She has previously taught courses in Spanish at Western Michigan University, Davenport University, and Kalamazoo Community College. She also served WMU as a guest professor, teaching in the institution’s Summer Translation Program. She previously has worked in translation and speaks Albanian and Italian in addition to English and Spanish.
Visiting Assistant Professor Jennifer Mills
Jennifer Mills is leading courses including seminars in psychology and health psychology this term. Mills holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, master’s degrees from Georgia College and State University and Western Michigan University, and a doctorate from WMU.
She is working on an executive master’s in public health at Emory University with an emphasis in prevention science. For the past 10 years, Mills has owned and operated MindBodyWell, a private counseling practice that focuses on science-based approaches to stress, depression and anxiety.
Mills is an active member of the Institute for Public Scholarship, a local, anti-racist organization that works on issues of place and belonging. Her research interests focus on preventing and mitigating the impact of early childhood adversity on health.
Visiting Assistant Professor Robert Mowry
Robert Mowry is teaching two sections of Introduction to Society and Culture offered by the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. His additional teaching interests include quantitative methods, disaster, the intersection of politics and the environment, and ways of seeing and knowing.
Mowry comes to Kalamazoo College from the University of Notre Dame, where he recently earned his Ph.D. in sociology. Previously, he earned master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Sheffield, and a B.A. from Earlham College.
As a teacher-scholar of disaster and politics, Mowry employs multiple methods to study the processes and outcomes of globally diverse, high-stakes political arenas—from post-disaster contentious politics in the U.S. and Japan to the gendered dynamics of protest participation in Europe. A related stream of research looks at how cultural processes of learning, memory, and thinking spur spontaneous laughter outbursts during Supreme Court oral arguments. His work has been published in Sociological Theory.
Visiting Assistant Professor Jennifer Perry
Jennifer Perry leads courses at K including General Psychology, Sensation and Perception, and Psychopharmacology in the Department of Psychology. Her credentials include a Bachelor of Arts from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Perry’s research includes studies on the ethics of laboratory animal research and the role of impulsive behavior in drug abuse.
When COVID-19 forced Kalamazoo College to pause its study abroad programs last year, many juniors feared they would lose out on a life-changing opportunity. Delaying it a year is usually not possible with academic obstacles. Plus, varied pandemic protocols continue to make it difficult for students to travel at all.
“If you think about the preparations, the considerations and the protocols that we had to implement for students to be on campus in the last year, just multiply that by 50 for study abroad,” Center for International Programs (CIP) Executive Director Margaret Wiedenhoeft said. “It’s one thing for our international partners to have an academic plan. It’s another to think about all the components and putting them together to offer a meaningful program.”
However, students still had hope and refused to give up.
“When they realized they wouldn’t be going abroad as juniors, we had quite a few determined students who said, ‘I’m going as a senior. How do I make this work?’” Wiedenhoeft said.
Combine that desire with a flexible faculty that recognizes the importance of international immersion, plus a lot of hard work from the CIP, and K had a game plan to restart study abroad, especially for this year’s seniors. Their combined efforts and the availability of international partners are allowing about 50 seniors, in addition to the regular batch of juniors, to go abroad—about 161 students in total in study abroad and study away. That’s proving to be a point of pride at K and a significant number for any Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA) school.
“When I talk to my colleagues at other colleges and I tell them how many students we have abroad, their responses are genuinely full of joy and envy for these students,” Wiedenhoeft said. “There are other schools sending students abroad right now, but we definitely have a significantly higher number of students going abroad compared to our peers.”
More than 50 study abroad programs are typically available to K students and most of them are open again by meeting local protocols and health restrictions. Programs this year include two interim opportunities in Lyon, France, and Lüneburg, Germany, which might at some point become yearly destinations. There also are more permanent options opening for the first time in London and Belfast, which are launching a year late because of the COVID-19 hiatus.
Wiedenhoeft said the united effort across campus to make these programs possible should help newer students see the importance of visiting the CIP early and often should they desire a study abroad opportunity.
“I think this underscores our willingness to be flexible and support students who want to include a study abroad component as part of their experience at K,” she said. “It may not be exactly what the student had initially planned when they first arrived. But for students who are flexible and willing to adjust some of their expectations, we can do our best to work with students and make sure that they achieve that goal of getting off campus.”
Wiedenhoeft added students largely have expressed gratitude over study abroad restarting and their experiences, especially the seniors, even when additional COVID-19 protocols are required. For example, students who are now in Thailand and South Korea had to quarantine at a hotel for two weeks for the sake of public health laws.
“That speaks to the type of students we have at K,” she said. “They’ve demonstrated a lot of adaptability and flexibility. As it got closer, they got very excited and we were giving them very specific instructions. I think those instructions made it more intimidating to think about traveling. But the students we’ve heard from, including those who had to quarantine, are just excited to be abroad.”
Pull your honey close and get ready for some facts about the super food and honey bees courtesy of Kalamazoo College Biology Professor Ann Fraser and her entomology class.
September is National Honey Month, which prompted us to ask Fraser’s students some questions about honey. As luck would have it, the students have been preparing to take an annual field trip to the Kalamazoo Nature Center, where they see an active hive of honey bees, courtesy of the Kalamazoo Bee Club. The students learn how honey is made, handle the casts where the honey is harvested from a hive, and occasionally see the queen among the thousands of bees.
“They become fascinated,” Fraser said of the experience. “Some of them are a little scared of bees at first, maybe because they had a bad experience at one point. But over time, as we’re there for the hour, they get closer to the hive. Eventually, they’re actually holding the frames from the hive. It’s surprising how heavy they can be with bare hands because each frame weighs about eight pounds.”
The number of honey bees around the world is dropping because of pesticide use, habitat loss, a drop in their food supply, and Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that occurs when a combination of these factors and varroa mites, a honey bee pest, combine to kill the worker bees. That potentially could threaten the amount of honey available in the world’s food supply, and cause problems related to pollination and agriculture.
“Every year we see at least 30 percent of hives die off over the winter,” Fraser said. “It’s kind of a new normal in the beekeeping industry.”
The good news is citizens can help protect honey bees and support the creation of honey by planting a variety of native wildflowers.
“Honey bees aren’t native to North America,” Fraser said. “They were brought over in the 1600s from Europe, not for pollination, but to make honey and beeswax products. They’ve been here ever since. By planting wildflowers, we’re providing food resources for bees and other pollinators, so that we can help beekeepers keep them healthy.”
Fraser’s students were busy bees in helping us find more answers to our questions about honey and honey bees. Here’s what they had to say.
How long have humans been harvesting honey from honey bee hives?
The earliest records of humans consuming bee honey and wax are about 10,000 years old as shown in prehistoric drawings in caves. Drawings found in Spain, about 7,000 years old, depict the practice of beekeeping. According to Queen Bee Farms, there is also a 15,000-year-old painting of a woman climbing a rope ladder to collect honey on the side of a cliff. – Joergen and Jack
Why is honey important for the bees themselves and their colonies?
Honey is a great fuel source for bees. Large amounts of it are made and stored to be consumed during the cold months. Bees use stored honey and pollen to feed their larvae. It’s an energy-rich food source that gives the bees the energy they need to vibrate and take flight. – Molly and Camilia
Why is honey vital to the world’s food supply?
If not for honey, honey bees would starve in the winter months. This would be a major issue for world food security, as 71 of the 100 crop varieties that account for 90% of the world’s food are pollinated by bees, according to the Center for Food Safety. From the human perspective, the sweet taste of honey has made it a sought-after treat and sweetener for millennia. It can also be used to make a fermented drink, mead, which is making a comeback in the brewing industry these days. – Noah and Evan
What types of bees are there in a honey bee hive?
Worker bees can account for up to 60,000 individuals in a colony. They’re reproductively-underdeveloped female honey bees, performing all the work for the colony. Young workers stay inside to perform nest cleaning and nurse duties. They move on to become receivers and storers of incoming nectar and pollen. Near the end of their six-week life they leave the hive as foragers to collect nectar and pollen. The queen is a fully-fertile female that specializes in egg production. Typically, there is only one queen per colony and it produces pheromones that regulate the colony’s behavior. Drones are male bees that account for up to 500 individuals in a colony during the spring and summer. The drones fly from the hive and mate midair with the queens from other colonies. – Lia and Penny
Do other types of bees (i.e. non-honey bees) make honey?
Honey is a general term that refers to the nectar processed by insects. Humans generally consume only honey from honey bees because they form very large colonies that store it in abundance. – Zach and Rina
What variables affect the color and flavor of different varieties of honey?
Honey varies in taste depending on the flowers the honey bees visit to collect nectar. Clover honey is light yellow and has a mild and sweet taste. Eucalyptus honey, common in Australia, has a slight menthol aftertaste. Buckwheat honey tastes like molasses and is very dark in color. Dandelion honey has a sweet floral taste and is bright golden yellow. Manuka honey, from New Zealand, is a gold color and is used as a topical ointment for MRSA, stings, infections and burns. Sourwood honey has a buttery or caramel taste. Goldenrod is dark with a sweet, licorice-like aftertaste. Wildflower honey comes from many different flowers and can taste different each time. In general, the darker the honey, the bolder the flavor. – Maci and Gabby
What threats assail honey bees and the world’s supply of honey?
Common threats to honey bees include diseases such as American and European foulbrood, chalkbrood and nosema; some varieties of beetles and mites; wax moths, which can damage a hive’s structure; global warming and droughts; forest fires; and Colony Collapse Disorder, which could be caused by pests, pesticides, habitat changes, stressors, prolonged transportation, malnutrition or a combination of these factors. – Claudia and Kyle
What is significant about the honey bees we find in Michigan?
There are about 450 different types of bees in Michigan, most of them native to this the region. The honey bee is just one type of bee and it was actually imported from Western Europe. Bees are important pollinators of plants worldwide. Honey bees are especially important in agricultural settings because they can be kept in managed hives and have such large colonies. Michigan hosts about 90,000 hives, ranking the state eighth in the U.S. for its number of hives. Honey bees are especially important for fruit crops such as cherries, apples and blueberries, and vegetable or seed production for crops such as peppers, carrots and onions. In 2015, 50% of Michigan’s $2 billion crop industry was attributed to honey bees. – Lydia and Rachel
What can we in Michigan do to ensure we’re supporting the sustainability of bees and honey?
Make your yard or garden a bee-friendly environment. Plant bee-friendly flowering plants such as bee balm, milkweed, asters and sunflowers; and herbs such as mint, oregano, garlic, chives, parsley and lavender. It’s also important to limit pesticides in your garden or yard, especially during blooming periods. – Mikayla and Bella
What is ‘raw’ honey? Do we need to be concerned about the purity or cleanliness of honey we buy?
Raw honey is unprocessed and unpasteurized honey. It might include pollen, wax and a resinous substance called propolis that bees use to seal or repair the hive. While it may contain more vitamins and nutrients than unpasteurized honey, it also might trigger or aggravate allergies in people sensitive to pollen. Some claim raw honey is more nutritious, but consuming it may increase the risk of illness that can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting and a drop in blood pressure. – Mariah and Zaydee