Money Lauds K Among Top Colleges

Money magazine released its latest appraisals of the Best Colleges in America today while again naming Kalamazoo College among the top colleges in the country. 

The publication revamped its college-ranking system last year into a star-ratings list. Of the 2,400 institutions Money analyzed this year, 745 four-year public and private institutions received at least a two-star rating based on 25 factors such as graduation rates, cost and what alumni can expect to earn.

K received four stars, making it one of about 200 private schools from around the country—regardless of size—and one of seven in Michigan with at least that ranking. 

Money’s story announcing the rankings specifically mentions K, citing it as a gem “known for its K-Plan, which augments a traditional liberal arts curriculum with experiential learning through research, study abroad, internships, and community service and civic projects.” 

The full list of Money’s Best Colleges in America and the publication’s methodologies are available at its website. 

Three biochemistry students working together in a lab at one of Money's top colleges
Money magazine says Kalamazoo College is a gem “known for its K-Plan, which augments a traditional liberal arts curriculum with experiential learning through research, study abroad, internships, and community service and civic projects.”

‘Spelling Bee’ Musical Spells Opportunity with a K

Starting Wednesday, opportunity will be spelled with a K for a local theatre company and several students at Kalamazoo College. That’s because K’s Festival Playhouse and Farmers Alley Theatre are joining forces for nine performances of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse, 129 Thompson St. 

The partnership is uniting K students with professional Actors’ Equity Association performers and stage workers who will present what Megan J. Herbst ’25 describes as a laugh-out-loud, super witty and heart-touching comedy about six socially outcast tweens.  

“The characters are trying to figure out their own personalities, they’re all competitive and they all love to spell,” said Herbst, who is working in a paid position as an associate assistant stage manager for the show. “There are a few additional supporting characters, but it’s a story of kids coming together and creating bonds between them. It’s easy to connect with so many elements of each character’s story. Even though they’re weird, you will find a soft spot for every one of them. We’ve had test audiences and every person who’s come to see it so far has loved it.” 

Herbst is a theatre and psychology double major and religion minor, who pursued acting from sixth grade through high school. When she arrived at K, she wanted to try something new within the theatre world. Since then, Herbst has served as a stage manager, assistant stage manager, scenic designer, fight captain, assistant costumer designer, performer and more for 11 shows with Festival Playhouse. Some of her favorites include Othello; Next to Normal; On the Exhale, a senior integrated project by Brooklyn Moore ‘24; and Be More Chill.

Herbst said her work—and that of several other K students—with Spelling Bee started nearly immediately after Be More Chill, the last Festival Playhouse production of the 2023–24 academic season, ended. That meant a rigorous schedule that included end-of-term academic work and preparing for finals in addition to the challenges of working on a musical, but every experience in working alongside Farmers Alley representatives has been valuable. 

“So many college students have summer jobs and I’m grateful that mine is something I’m passionate about,” Herbst said. “It’s a privilege to get to work on my craft because sometimes these opportunities can be far and few in between. I get to do what I love every day, so I’m fortunate that this is not only a paid opportunity, but an opportunity that exists at all. 

Six cast members from The 25th annual Putnam County Spelling Bee dressed as tweens for the show
“The characters are trying to figure out their own personalities, they’re all competitive and they all love to spell,” said Megan J. Herbst ’25, who is one of the students working on “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Photo by Klose2UPhotography.
Actress rehearses for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."
“Spelling Bee” is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 12–Saturday, June 15; 2 p.m. Sunday, June 16; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20–Saturday, June 22; and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 23. Tickets are available online. Photo by Klose2UPhotography.
Actors rehearse at the Festival Playhouse
The partnership between the Festival Playhouse and Farmers Alley Theatre is uniting K students with professional Actors’ Equity Association performers and stage workers who will present what Herbst describes as a laugh-out-loud, super witty and heart-touching comedy. Photo by Klose2uPhotography.
Cast members rehearse at the Festival Playhouse
With “Spelling Bee,” Farmers Alley Theatre Executive Director Robert Weiner is directing a company production for the first time since “Avenue Q” in 2019. Photo by Klose2UPhotography.
Actors rehearse for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."
Weiner says an equity theatre experience is valuable for students to learn from as it follows a set of guidelines from the union that students need to be aware of if they ever work for a professional theatre. Photo by Klose2UPhotography.
Actors rehearse for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."
“We hire talented artists from all over the country, even directors and actors who have worked on Broadway. To have the ability to watch and learn from these established veterans of the theatre scene is invaluable, not to mention the talented artists we hire locally,” Weiner said of the opportunity for K students. Photo by Klose2uPhotography.

“What people don’t understand about stage management is that there is somebody verbally making everything happen,” she added. “There’s somebody saying, ‘Lights down, go. Fog machine, go.’ Everything is controlled by multiple people. But what’s important about our job is that people don’t notice us. Stage management and all of the backstage crew are responsible for making things run as smoothly as possible, so the audience has a truly immersive and magical experience. If you see a truly great show and don’t catch any issues, then it’s either because we did our job well or caught any mistakes before you could. There’s as much talent offstage of any show as there is on stage.” 

Robert Weiner, a founder and executive director of Farmers Alley, says an equity theatre experience is valuable for students to learn from as it follows a set of guidelines from the union that students need to be aware of if they ever work for a professional theatre. 

“We hire talented artists from all over the country, even directors and actors who have worked on Broadway,” Weiner said. “To have the ability to watch and learn from these established veterans of the theatre scene is invaluable, not to mention the talented artists we hire locally.” 

With Spelling Bee, Weiner is directing a company production for the first time since Avenue Q in 2019. 

“Because of audience participation—we invite four members of the audience for each show to ‘compete’ alongside our spellers in the bee—every show has a new feeling where anything could happen,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate during the rehearsal process to have some K students volunteer their time to be guest spellers and they’ve had fun participating. Also, this is the best sounding group of singers I’ve ever heard in a production of Spelling Bee. There are a couple of numbers like Pandemonium or The I Love You Song that are very challenging, and these performers absolutely crush it every single time. The show is like a warm hug that will have you leaving the theatre in a good mood. I really hope K students take advantage of our student and rush tickets. It’s a guaranteed fun evening!” 

Weiner previously directed Farmers Alley productions such as [title of show], The Toxic Avenger, Fully Committed, All in the Timing and A Grand Night for Singing. However, he is eager for the experience of bringing productions like Spelling Bee—and School of Rock later this summer—to a larger venue. 

“We are so grateful to be performing at the Festival Playhouse all summer with Spelling Bee and School of Rock,” Weiner said. “The main draw was the added stage space and audience capacity. School of Rock features 30 performers, including 15 students aged 11–16, and our small, intimate space downtown just wouldn’t be viable for a show of that magnitude. There are lots of challenges producing a show not in our space, including set building and load-in off site and all the intricacies of this unique space to adjust to. Thankfully, Professor of Theatre Lanny Potts and the entire K staff have been so welcoming and the whole process has been a win-win. 

“One thing I’ve noticed about K students is how kind and accepting they are,” he added. “Theatre attracts individuals of all kinds. We want to make Farmers Alley Theatre a space for all, and from my purview, it looks like K does the same. They’re smart, hard-working and willing to adapt and problem solve while keeping a positive attitude.” 

If Herbst and Weiner have piqued your interest, performances of Spelling Bee are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 12–Saturday, June 15; 2 p.m. Sunday, June 16; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20–Saturday, June 22; and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 23. The performance Sunday, June 16, includes American Sign Language interpretation. Tickets are available online

“Why should you see it? This show is flat-out fun,” Weiner said. “There are catchy songs with clever lyrics, quirky characters, lots of laughs and a fair amount of heart. Plus, it’s only 90 minutes long. It really is a perfect little evening of summer entertainment.”  

Celebrate the Class of 2024 at Commencement

Congratulations to the class of 2024! This year’s Commencement is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday, June 16, on the campus Quad. Here’s what you need to know about the weekend’s events surrounding Kalamazoo College Commencement and the ceremony itself. 

Rehearsal

Seniors are required to attend Commencement rehearsal at 2 p.m. Thursday at Dalton Theatre. Faculty and staff will provide graduating seniors with pertinent information, including what to do during an intricate line-up and processional. Students who need to be excused from rehearsal should contact the Office of Alumni Engagement in advance at alumni@kzoo.edu. There will be a senior picnic on the Dewing Hall patio after the rehearsal. 

Parking This Weekend

For your convenience, most of the faculty, staff and student parking lots will be open to everyone. Guests are also invited to use street parking on campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods. See the parking information page for details related to street detours, graduate and accessible drop-off, campus parking lots, street parking, campus maps and more.

Class of 2024 Commencement
The Office of Alumni Engagement maintains a website that offers more details regarding Commencement, including a list of frequently asked questions, dining and lodging information, and ceremony accommodations for the class of 2024. For more information, visit the site at commencement.kzoo.edu.

Saturday Events

Receptions for individual departments help families meet professors and see individual projects from selected seniors. Consult the department schedules for information on the time and location for each event. The day’s remaining events—including the Senior Awards Program, the Senior Music Recital and the Baccalaureate—will take place at Stetson Chapel.

Seniors receiving awards will get an invitation from the Provost’s Office after finals to attend the Senior Awards Program, which begins at 2:30 p.m. Contact the Office of the Provost by email if you have questions about the event. The Senior Music Recital is a public concert at 4:30 p.m. featuring performances by graduating seniors who have been involved in music. All are welcome to attend. The Baccalaureate is a public non-religious service with student and faculty speakers and musical performances beginning at 8 p.m.

Livestreams for the Senior Awards Program, Senior Music Recital and Baccalaureate will be available for those unable to attend. An information desk will be staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the atrium at Hicks Student Center. The College’s bookstore will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Commencement Sunday

Seniors unable to attend the ceremony should inform the Office of the Registrar as soon as possible at regist@kzoo.edu. All participating seniors should meet at Dalton Theatre in their cap and gown no later than 9:30 a.m. Although Commencement will take place outside regardless of weather conditions, the ceremony could be delayed by up to three hours if there is heavy rain or severe weather. Communication about a delay would be sent through a K-Alert, social media and email no later than 8 a.m. Sunday. The ceremony is scheduled to last about two and a half hours.

There are no tickets or rain tickets required for the ceremony, and there is no limit to the number of guests each senior can invite to campus. Chairs will be available to accommodate family and friends on the Quad on a first-come, first-served basis. Open seating will also be available on the grass of the Upper Quad, where guests can sit in lawn chairs and blankets to view the ceremony.

Guests with a mobility challenge can find answers to frequently asked questions on our accessibility information page. An information desk will be staffed from 8 to 10:30 a.m. in the atrium at Hicks Student Center. The College’s bookstore will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Commencement Speakers

The Commencement keynote speaker will be Tamea Evans ’93, a board-certified internal medicine physician and diabetologist, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Science from the College. The class speaker will be Nghĩa (Nolan) Nguyên Trịnh.

More Information 

The Office of Alumni Engagement maintains a website for the class of 2024 that offers more details regarding Commencement, including a list of frequently asked questions, dining and lodging information, and ceremony accommodations. For more information, visit the site at commencement.kzoo.edu

Kalamazoo College Names Jamie Zorbo ’00 Athletic Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Students Earn Best Amateur Picture Honors at Kazoo 48

Kalamazoo College students celebrate winning amateur honors in Kazoo 48 film festival
Kazoo 48, a film festival that challenges entrants to make a film with several prompts in 48 hours, awarded 15 Kalamazoo College students with Best Amateur Picture in April.
K students film "Motherboard Loves You" for Kazoo 48
Motherboard Loves You” follows Ether and Nettie as they try to escape an underground dystopia ruled by the mysterious Motherboard.
Screening of "Motherboard Loves You" at Kazoo 48
Several screenings will allow audiences to see the award-winning “Motherboard Loves You.”

A group of 16 Kalamazoo College students earned the Best Amateur Picture award last month in the Kazoo 48, a film festival that challenges entrants to take an assigned genre, prop, character quirk, location and line of dialogue, and create a short film in just 48 hours.

Motherboard Loves You follows Ether and Nettie as they try to escape an underground dystopia ruled by the mysterious Motherboard. Student members of the film team included Noah Webster ‘26, Ava Fischer ’24, Celia Hannan ’26, Davis Henderson ’25, Carolyn Ingram ’24, Maddie Lawson ’25, Adèle Loubières ’24, Lorelei Moxon ’26, Theo Niemann ’26, Eli Shavit ’24, Jadon Weber ’25, Andrés Marquez-Collins ’26, Josetta Checkett ’25, Lee Zwart ’27, Maria Tripodis ’24 and Rex Jasper ’27.

“I’m incredibly proud of what our team was able to accomplish in just 48 hours,” said Henderson, a co-director. “We have created something truly special, and I look forward to what we make in the future. I hope everyone on the team can view this win as inspiration to create even bigger and cooler projects.”

The Motherboard Loves You team was one of two student groups to earn accolades at the Kazoo 48. A second team that included Grace Cancro ’25, Ian Burr ’24, Ryan Muschler ’25, Audrey Schulz ’25, James Hauke ’26, Aidan Baas ’23, Michael Robertson ’25, Abby Nelson ’24, Jakob Hubert ’25 and Mabel Bowdle ’25 competed in the professional category against film-production companies. Their film, about a man—played by Robertson—who got high and thought he was on a fantasy quest to build a stop sign, earned Best Use of Character for Hubert’s role as a character who gave advice in rhyme.

Motherboard Loves You will be screened Thursday, May 30, at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts during an event that will feature all of the Kazoo 48 award winners. It will also be screened at the Sunflower Film and Music Festival in Paw Paw from Friday, June 14 –Sunday, June 16, and can be viewed anytime on YouTube.

Fellow co-director Moxon and Henderson both noted the film only was possible thanks to their team. They also wanted to extend special thanks to contacts and K connections Christopher North, Sophie Decker ’25, Daniel Flores ’24, Helen Stoy ’26, Siona Wilson ’25, Max Wright ’26, Sedona Coleman ’23, Visiting Instructor of Art Daniel Kim, Media Producer and Studio Instructor Jaakan Page-Wood and Professor of Theatre Arts Lanny Potts for their contributions.

“I would like to say that the Kazoo 48-Hour Film Festival is a fantastic opportunity to get out there and make something,” Henderson said. “Consider registering for next year on its website, kazoo48.com. There is a huge amount of talent on this campus and I hope that our passion and efforts can allow the film and media studies department to grow and offer new classes, and maybe even become a major or minor.”

Watch “Motherboard Loves You” on YouTube
Students collect a kazoo at the Kazoo 48
Co-directors Davis Henderson ’25 and Lorelei Moxon ’26 expressed great pride in the making of the film.
Students gather to make "Motherboard Loves You" for the Kazoo 48
Co-directors Davis and Moxon credited their team of students for the film’s ultimate success.
Students film "Motherboard Loves You" for Kazoo 48
“We have created something truly special, and I look forward to what we make in the future,” Davis said of his team’s film.
Students make "Motherboard Loves You"
Kazoo 48 entrants to take an assigned genre, prop, character quirk, location and line of dialogue, and create a short film in just 48 hours.
Students make "Motherboard Loves You" for Kazoo 48
The Sunflower Film and Music Festival in Paw Paw from Friday, June 14 –Sunday, June 16,
Students film "Motherboard Loves You"
Student members of the film team included Noah Webster ’26, Ava Fischer ’24, Celia Hannan ’26, Davis Henderson ’25, Carolyn Ingram ’24, Maddie Lawson ’25, Adèle Loubières ’24, Lorelei Moxon ’26, Theo Niemann ’26, Eli Shavit ’24, Jadon Weber ’25, Andrés Marquez-Collins ’26, Josetta Checkett ’25, Lee Zwart ’27, Maria Tripodis ’24 and Rex Jasper ’27.
Students film "Motherboard Loves You"
“Motherboard Loves You” will be screened Thursday, May 30, at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts during an event that will feature all of the Kazoo 48 award winners.
Students Film "Motherboard Loves You"
The co-directors thank K connections Christopher North, Sophie Decker ’25, Daniel Flores ’24, Helen Stoy ’26, Siona Wilson ’25, Max Wright ’26, Sedona Coleman ’23, Visiting Instructor of Art Daniel Kim, Media Producer and Studio Instructor Jaakan Page-Wood and Professor of Theatre Arts Lanny Potts.
Students edit "Motherboard Loves You" for Kazoo 48
“I’m incredibly proud of what our team was able to accomplish in just 48 hours,” said Henderson, a co-director.

Ensembles Plan Spring Music Concerts

Three Kalamazoo College music ensembles are concluding their 2023–24 academic years with spring concerts in the coming days, starting tonight, May 29.

International Percussion

Tonight’s International Percussion performance, beginning at 7, will take place outside, in front of the Light Fine Arts building. There will be chairs and grass to sit on. Bring a blanket if you would like to sit on the lawn.

Carolyn Koebel is the director of both groups within International Percussion, the West African ensemble and the Japanese Taiko ensemble, which are a combination of K students and community members who learn drumming techniques and then play together as a group.

The free concert will feature marimba player Julia Holt ’24, performing two selections written by composer Keiko Abe, who collaborated with Yamaha Corp. to develop the modern five-octave concert marimba. The Taiko ensemble will present two selections dealing with the giving of gifts to the Taiko community from special sources with music shared by Sensei Esther Vandecar.

Taiko drums ensembles
Taiko drummers will be among one of two groups performing in the International Percussion ensemble at 7 tonight, May 29. Three ensembles have planned their spring concerts for this week.

College Singers

The Kalamazoo College Singers, under the direction of Associate Professor of Music Chris Ludwa, will present “Be Like Water.” The free concert—slated for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 30, in the lobby at Light Fine Arts—will present songs from a variety of sources and styles from the Renaissance, folk and popular music, each one centered on a theme of water. The concert is designed to uplift, inspire and transcend the current climate around politics, economics and war, offering a bit of hope.

Academy Street Winds

With nearly 50 years of teaching and conducting experience from elementary school through higher education, Academy Street Winds Director Tom Evans will lead the group for the last time in a concert titled, “It’s Time to Say Goodbye.”

All the music selected on this program has special meaning for him, which he will share at the concert. The compositions being performed are Festive Overture by Dmitri Shostakovich, Second Suite in F by Gustav Holst, As Summer Was Just Beginning by Larry Daehn, Canzona by Peter Mennin, Stormbreak for percussion octet and band by Jim Casella, and English Folk Song Suite by Ralph Vaughn Williams. The free performance is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Dalton Theatre at Light Fine Arts.

For more information on any of these ensembles and their performances, contact Susan Lawrence in the Department of Music at 269.337.7070 or Susan.Lawrence@kzoo.edu.

Six New Heyl Scholars to Attend K in 2024–25

Six Kalamazoo County high school students seeking to major in STEM-related fields will attend Kalamazoo College in the 2024-25 academic year as Heyl scholars.  

The Heyl Scholarship Fund was established in 1971 through the will of Dr. Frederick Heyl and Mrs. Elsie Heyl. Frederick Heyl was the first chemist at The Upjohn Company, later becoming a vice president and the company’s first director of research. When he retired in 1945, he had contributed scientifically to some 80 research papers and patents while also teaching chemistry at Kalamazoo College. He maintained a lifelong passion for science and education and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree from K in 1937.    

Since then, Heyl scholarships have enabled hundreds of high school graduates from Kalamazoo County to attend Kalamazoo College for STEM-focused majors or Western Michigan University for nursing, with renewable benefits for up to four years that cover tuition, fees, housing and a book allowance.   

This year’s K recipients of the scholarships and their high schools are:  

  • Charles Gordon, Hackett and the Kalamazoo Area Mathematics and Science Center (KAMSC)  
  • Maxwell Lloyd, Portage Central and KAMSC 
  • Nathan Gleason, Portage Northern and KAMSC 
  • Isabella Hahn, Vicksburg and KAMSC 
  • Katherine “Kate” Suarez, Loy Norrix and KAMSC 
  • David “Dominick” Fooy, Loy Norrix and KAMSC
The 2024 Heyl scholars pose for a photo during their banquet at the Hornets Suite
The 2024 Heyl scholars include (from left to right) Charles Gordon, Maxwell Lloyd, Nathan Gleason, Isabella Hahn, Grace Mohney, David “Dominick” Fooy, Sean Dhanaraj and Chaise Gould. Not pictured: Katherine “Kate” Suarez.

Three additional Heyl scholars—Grace Mohney of Schoolcraft and KAMSC, Sean Dhanaraj of Kalamazoo Central and KAMSC, and Chaise Gould of Kalamazoo Central and KAMSC—will attend the Western Michigan University Bronson School of Nursing.  

Silent Film Festival Spotlights K Student’s Creativity

Ryan Muschler '25 (from left), Audrey Schulz '25 and Josie Checkett '25 act in a scene from "A Deadly Affair."
Ryan Muschler ’25 (from left), Audrey Schulz ’25 and Josie Checkett ’25 act in a scene from “A Deadly Affair,” an award-winning film by Grace Cancro ’25. Watch the film.
The title screen for "A Deadly Affair"
Cancro’s film “A Deadly Affair” was screened at the Redford Theatre in Suburban Detroit during the International Youth Silent Film Festival.

Fade in. Night. New York City. A handsome man bearing a striking resemblance to Humphrey Bogart wears a fedora and trench coat. He wanders through a foggy Central Park, pondering the recent film successes of Kalamazoo College student Grace Cancro ’25. He realizes that she won her age group at the International Youth Silent Film Festival’s Detroit regional and received an honorable mention in the Kazoo 48 competition. He also recognizes her potential as a screenwriter, playwriter, producer and director, which could make hers a household name.

He smiles and says, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

OK, so that script was never written, and the line belongs to a movie made more than 80 years ago. But Cancro has had an interest in classic movies—starring actors like Bogart—her entire life and her recent competitive success, starting with a family influence, is undeniable.

“I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ respective houses and watched Turner Classic Movies for hours with my grandpa,” Cancro said. “I’ve also done theatre my whole life.”

With her love for the theatrical, the Redford Theatre—an art deco-decorated site in suburban Detroit that shows classic movies and plays, commonly featuring an organ that rises from the floor—is a significant place for her. Cancro notes that it’s where she saw Singin’ in the Rain for the first time. Plus, she and Audrey Schulz ’25 tried out there to be extras—by cheering during a boxing match—for a film that ultimately was shelved.

Now the Redford marks the spot where her own film, A Deadly Affair, was chosen as one of 20 finalists at the Detroit regional competition for the International Youth Silent Film Festival. It ultimately won the category for 19- to 22-year-old entrants, beating out filmmakers from most of the eastern half of the country. Cancro earned a cash prize, a plaque, a certificate, and a chance to compete June 9 in Portland, Oregon, at the festival’s next level.

“My mom and I are going to fly out to Portland together. There will be a parade and a dinner, and the contest is a really big thing for me,” Cancro said.

International Youth Silent Film Festival organizers provided entrants with three minutes of organ music across a variety of genres. Cancro—a theatre arts and English double major with a film and media studies concentration—chose film noir for her silent film. She then assembled some excited friends and shot A Deadly Affair near her residence, in downtown Kalamazoo near the walking mall, and in Bronson Park. Ian Burr ’24 served as the director of photography, also called a cinematographer. Schulz portrayed a wife betrayed by her on-screen husband, Ryan Muschler ’25. Schulz’s character meets up with her husband’s mistress, played by Josie Checkett ’25. Together, they decide to kill the husband.

After the screening, Cancro awaited word of her placement.

“They had the awards at the end and I was super nervous,” Cancro said. “I held my friends’ hands and I apologized if I squeezed so hard that I crushed a bone. Then, they called my name. It was the coolest experience, because six years after we tried out as extras, we were seeing Audrey’s name and mine while watching her face on the screen.”

Since the Detroit competition, she also has participated in the Kazoo 48, a film festival that challenges entrants to take an assigned genre, prop, character quirk, location and line of dialogue, and create a short film in just 48 hours. Her film-making team included Burr, Muschler, Schulz, James Hauke ’26, Aidan Baas ’23, Michael Robertson ’25, Abby Nelson ’24, Jakob Hubert ’25 and Mabel Bowdle ’25.

“Our genre was fantasy, so Michael Robertson’s character got super high and thought he was in a fantasy quest to build a stop sign,” Cancro said. “It was shot at Ian’s house, on the street and at Lowe’s. Michael went to Lowe’s to buy a shovel to put his stop sign in the ground. We had to go to Lowe’s with everyone in full fantasy gear. We wrote it on Friday night, shot it Saturday, edited it Saturday night and Sunday, and turned it in around 5:55 on Sunday when it was due at 6.”

The team was forced to enter the professional category because a couple of its members had earned money for film productions in the past, so in the end they couldn’t beat out film-production companies to win the contest. However, they were awarded with Best Use of Character for Hubert’s role as a character who gave advice in rhyme.

Cancro appreciates the opportunities she’s had at K that have developed her passion and skill at filmmaking. Her sophomore year, she participated in the New York Arts study away program, and she studied abroad in London her junior year. A playwriting class led by Assistant Professor of Theatre Quincy Thomas performed part of her self-written play—Sincerely, Scott—two years ago, leading her to create a 10-minute play festival for students, featuring the full play. Based partly on Cancro’s own life, the piece pondered what a man recovering from alcoholism might say in a letter to a daughter he’s never known before the two agree to meet. That festival will continue in its second year on June 1 with additional plays, comedy sketches and puppetry.

Now, armed with all these experiences, Cancro wants to return to New York, a place where she feels at home with many professional contacts, to film a mental-health themed Senior Integrated Project this summer. She plans to move there after graduation, hoping to mix in grad school while working in the film industry, perhaps with the nonprofit Women Make Movies (WMM), which distributes artistically significant films to audiences with a focus on uplifting the voices of the underrepresented.

Cancro has already worked with Women Make Movies in two internships with the first arranged through the New York Arts Program thanks in part to her software design experience in work study through K’s theater department. She then lived in a K graduate’s apartment last summer to work in a second internship with WMM. But whether it be through individual projects or a permanent job, Cancro recognizes the power of film, her talents and interests, and how they might combine to benefit society.

“Theater and film have the power to make people feel things and feel seen and that’s what it’s done for me,” Cancro said. “There’s merit in the adventure films that have CGI and explosions and all that. But I like to focus on the stuff that’s closer to the human experience, whether that be just my experience that I’m putting into a character on the screen or someone else’s experience. I want to put that into my art and have people watch it, think about it for long after, and feel it.”

Grace Cancro receives a plaque at the International Youth Silent Film Festival in Detroit
Cancro received a plaque for winning the Detroit regional of the International Youth Silent Film Festival in her age group.
Grace Cancro receives a plaque at the International Youth Silent Film Festival in Detroit
Checkett and Schulz congratulate Cancro as she receives a plaque from the International Youth Silent Film Festival.
Filmmaker Grace Cancro '25 works with Josie Checkett '25
Filmmaker Grace Cancro ’25 works with Audrey Schulz ’25 for Cancro’s award-winning film, “A Deadly Affair.”
Grace Cancro receives a plaque at the International Youth Silent Film Festival in Detroit
Cancro is announced as the winner in the category for 19- to 22-year-old filmmakers in the International Youth Silent Film Festival Detroit regional.

Holocaust Survivor to K Audience: Beware of Hate, Prejudice

Irene Miller talked to students, faculty and staff about her memoir, “Into No Man’s Land,” and her life experiences with the Holocaust at Kalamazoo College thanks in part to the Jewish studies program and the student group Hillel.
Irene Miller poses for photos with students
Miller was interviewed and recorded for Steven Spielberg’s Visual History Foundation and participated in “Shoah Ambassadors,” a 2021 PBS movie. The December 2016 PBS documentary “Irene: Child of the Holocaust” discussed her experiences with near-starvation in Siberia.
Holocaust survivor Irene Miller embraces a Kalamazoo College student
Miller took the time to stay after her presentation and meet with all of the attendees who wanted to talk with her.

Holocaust survivor Irene Miller visited Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff Thursday at the Hicks Student Center to talk about some of the grim details behind one of the darkest periods of history. 

“I am one of the 10% of Jewish children who survived the Holocaust,” she said. “Most of the survivors are gone now. Among the six million Jews who were killed were a million and a half children. Though I can tell you only about my survival journey, those of us fortunate enough to be left alive became the voices of those who didn’t live to tell their story.” 

Miller discussed her memoir, Into No Man’s Land, which was published in 2010 after she came to grips with a need to tell her family’s story. Born in Warsaw, Miller—with her sister and parents—attempted to escape to the Soviet Union after the German invasion of Poland in World War II. 

Miller remembers her family’s apartment building being repeatedly hit with bombs night after night as the Nazis entered her city. 

Holocaust survivor Irene Miller opens a book for a K student
Miller provided students with a discount on signed copies of her memoir, “Into No Man’s Land,” during her visit at K.
Holocaust survivor Irene Miller greets a K student
Born in Warsaw, Miller’s sister and parents attempted to escape to the Soviet Union after the German invasion of Poland in World War II.
Irene Miller meets Alex Nam '25
Miller’s family was deported to a Siberian labor camp during World War II, suffering severe hunger and hardships on a daily basis.

“I was too high up to see the faces of the Nazi soldiers,” she said. “They were filling the width of the street, but strangely, I could see the reflection of shiny boots pounding the pavement. You know how long ago that happened, and to you young people, that happened before your parents were born and probably before most of your grandparents were born. Yet there are still some sounds, smells and aromas to which I have emotions. One is the sound of low-flying planes. Another is a rhythmic pounding on a hard surface. I hear it and I tighten up.” 

Miller’s father crossed the border from Poland into Russia while securing their legal entry through an immigrant camp near Bialystok. Her mother was captured by Germans but managed to escape and then reunite with her family. The family later was deported to a Siberian labor camp, suffering severe hunger and hardships every day. 

“In Siberia, in wintertime, there are only about three hours of daylight,” she said. “Temperatures would drop to 50 below and lower. If a bird for some reason couldn’t fly away on time, it would freeze to a tree like a lump of ice. We didn’t have clothing for that kind of climate. If you were outside with any part of your skin exposed, it didn’t take more than a minute or two to get frost bite.” 

In 1942, after the Soviet Union’s recognition of the Polish government in exile, the Millers were released and sent to Uzbekistan, only to find no work and no food. Miller’s parents put her and her sister in an orphanage for Jewish children for a better chance of their survival. After the war, Miller returned to Poland and stayed in a Krakow orphanage until age 17, eventually immigrating to Israel and then the United States. 

Holocaust survivor Irene Miller poses for a photo with students
Miller’s parents put her and her sister in an orphanage for Jewish children for a better chance of their survival. After the war, Miller returned to Poland and stayed in a Krakow orphanage until age 17, eventually immigrating to Israel and then the United States.
Irene Miller talking in her presentation about the groups she's spoken to in the past
Miller has been a speaker at large events across the U.S. and Canada with appearances before professional conferences, military groups, NASA Space Center, labor unions, churches, schools and more.
Holocaust survivor Irene Miller talks with a student
Miller was interviewed and recorded for Steven Spielberg’s Visual History Foundation and participated in “Shoah Ambassadors”, a November 2021 PBS movie. The PBS documentary “Irene: Child of the Holocaust” premiered in December 2016 discussed her experiences with near-starvation in Siberia.

Miller now is a retired health care executive who has worked as a hospital administrator, planner and developer at Group Health Plan of Southeastern Michigan. She also was the director of mental health for Livingston County, Michigan, the director of the psychiatric division at Detroit Osteopathic Hospital, and the director of treatment centers for drug-addicted and dual-diagnosed women and their children at the Detroit Medical Center. Separately, she served in Washington, D.C., on an advisory committee for issues related to drug addiction in women and children and was a teacher in Israel. 

Currently, Miller is a docent and speaker for the Detroit Institute of Arts, a courts mediator, and she serves on the Board of Directors of the American Jewish Committee. She has been a speaker at large events across the U.S. and Canada with appearances before professional conferences, military groups, NASA Space Center, labor unions, churches, schools and more. 

Miller was interviewed and recorded for Steven Spielberg’s Visual History Foundation and participated in Shoah Ambassadors, a November 2021 PBS movie. The December 2016 PBS documentary Irene: Child of the Holocaust discussed her experiences with near-starvation in Siberia. Yet despite her experiences and reflections, Miller’s biggest cautionary message for students about the Holocaust isn’t necessarily the importance of remembering it. Instead, she implores her audiences to watch for signs that something as devastating to humanity could happen again. 

“My most important mission in life is to show what hate and prejudice did and what hate and prejudice can do again with a democracy falling from within unless we learn from it,” she said. 

Learn more about Miller at her website

Irene Miller talks with four students at Kalamazoo College
Miller served in Washington, D.C., on an advisory committee for issues related to drug addiction in women and children and was a teacher in Israel. 
Holocaust survivor Irene Miller talks with a Kalamazoo College student
“My most important mission in life is to show what hate and prejudice did and what hate and prejudice can do again with a democracy falling from within unless we learn from it,” Miller told her audience at K. 
Holocaust survivor Irene Miller talks with a Kalamazoo College student
Miller now is a retired health care executive who has worked as a hospital administrator, planner, developer and administrator at Group Health Plan of Southeastern Michigan. She also was the director of mental health for Livingston County, Michigan, the director of the psychiatric division at Detroit Osteopathic Hospital, and the director of treatment centers for drug-addicted and dual-diagnosed women and their children at the Detroit Medical Center.

Writing Center Provides the Right Stuff for Writing Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find the writing help you need

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

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