Seven from K Earn Fulbright Scholarships

Seven Kalamazoo College representatives, including six from the Class of 2021, are receiving high honors from the federal government that will provide them with international learning opportunities in the upcoming academic year.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers fellowships to graduating seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists so they may teach English, perform research or study abroad for one academic year.

In some cases, program timing remains up in the air due to lingering issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic around the world. However, recipients of Fulbright grants are selected as a result of their academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields, making the recognition an honor. Here are this year’s K-connected recipients.

Helen Pelak ’21

Only one person is chosen each year to receive a Fulbright Western Sydney University Award in the Arts, Environment and Public Health. Helen Pelak is thrilled to be that person as it will help her work toward a master’s degree in public health and develop a deeper understanding of global health care systems.

2021 Fulbright Scholar Helen Pelak
Helen Pelak ’21

Pelak double majored in biology and women, gender and sexuality studies, minored in psychology, and studied abroad in Budapest, Hungary, as a part of the College’s program in cognitive science during her years at K.

During her study abroad experience, Pelak developed an infected blister after taking a ropes course and needed to be treated at a hospital, where she was fascinated with the Hungarian health care system.

Global health care systems inspired Pelak to look for opportunities to go abroad again. While she was writing her senior integrated project (SIP) on Cesarean section rates in the United States through a feminist and intersectional lens, Pelak learned about the research of Professor Hannah Dahlen, a midwifery scholar at Western Sydney.

“As part of the application process, Professor Dahlen wrote a letter of research invitation for me,” Pelak said. “I expect to further gain a global perspective on health care and health care systems. I also expect to become a more independent and well-rounded individual who is able to incorporate the lessons and experiences from the Australia system of care and way of life to my future work as an obstetrician-gynecologist in the United States.”

Katherine Miller-Purrenhage ’21

Katherine Miller-Purrenhage, a double major in music and German with a minor in philosophy at K, will serve as an English teaching assistant in Germany at E.T.A Hoffmann-Gymnasium Bamberg and Gymnasium Höchstadt a.d. Aisch, as she splits time between the cities of Bamberg and Höchstadt.

Fulbright Scholar Katherine Miller-Purrenhage
Katherine Miller-Purrenhage ’21

Miller-Purrenhage participated in ensembles such as the Kalamazoo Philharmonia, Academy Street Winds and College Singers. She also was a member of the Delta Phi Alpha National German Honor Society, and served the German department as a teaching assistant during her time at K. Off campus, she volunteered with El Concilio, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the Latinx community in greater Kalamazoo.

Her study abroad experiences in Erlangen, Germany, piqued her interest in the Fulbright program as she interned at a German middle school where she helped teach in the German as a Second Language and English classrooms.

“I loved teaching and learning about educational spaces that ought to be uplifting, and what I as an educator could do to make them that way so every student felt included and celebrated,” Miller-Purrenhage said. “I expect this experience will be very different than when I studied abroad because I’ll be able to focus more on bonding with my community. This will benefit me as I learn to grow and better participate in cultural exchange while immersing myself in the German language again.”

Sophia Goebel ’21

Fulbright Scholar Sophia Goebel
Sophia Goebel ’21

Sophia Goebel, a critical ethnic studies and political science double major at K, will be an English teaching assistant at the University of Malaga in Spain. There, she will continue building the teaching skills she established on study abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico, where she developed and facilitated an expressive-arts workshop to explore the topic of communal territories with students from San Martín Huamelulpan, an indigenous community.

“I loved being able to connect with the participants in Oaxaca and learning alongside them,” Goebel said. “I spent some time assisting in their English lessons and it was so much fun to think about my language from the perspective of a language learner and brainstorm how best to teach them pronunciation or vocabulary. In turn, they helped teach me Spanish. That inspired me to try to spend more time in an intercultural, interlingual type of learning space through Fulbright, and I also wanted to spend more time exploring the role of teacher.

“I hope to build a lot of new relationships and figure out how to establish a life for myself without the crutch of my school community,” she added. “I’m excited to learn more about who I am outside of being a student. I aim to continue learning about pedagogy, something we explored a lot at the writing center, and developing as a teacher, facilitator and mentor. ​I’m also really trying to improve my Spanish. I’m very excited to learn more about the history and culture of Spain, especially after learning a little bit about the country’s politics this past year in a course at K. I hope to develop a more compassionate view of U.S. culture and identify elements that are meaningful and important to me, something which I anticipate will be somewhat of a challenge.”

Molly Roberts ’21

Fulbright Scholar Molly Roberts
Molly Roberts ’21

Molly Roberts, a French and psychology double major at K, had the misfortune of missing out on two opportunities to study abroad. First, she was the only applicant interested in a spring short-term experience in Strasbourg, France, during her sophomore year, forcing the trip’s cancellation. Then, COVID-19 spread across the world during her junior year.

“I still yearned to be immersed in the French language and culture,” Roberts said. “In addition, graduate school is something that I’ve been interested in pursuing for a while. When I found a master’s degree program with an adviser, Dr. Fabien D’Hondt, who shared similar passions to me and had a research project in the field of neuroscience focusing on PTSD, a Fulbright scholarship seemed like the next logical step in my career path.”

Roberts expects her education to benefit from her research opportunities in France, but she’ll also be working for the Centre Nationale de Ressources et de Résilience (CN2R), an organization that takes current PTSD-focused research and puts it into practice to hep trauma survivors.

“This groundbreaking, accessible research-to-practice approach is what I expect to bring back with me to the States,” she said.

Margaret Totten ’21

Fulbright Scholar Margaret Totten
Margaret Totten ’21

As a Fulbright honoree, Margaret Totten will serve as an English teaching assistant in Thailand, a place she knows well from her time on study abroad in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

“I had hoped to return to continue learning about Thai language, culture and the natural environment,” said Totten, who had a computer science major, a math minor and an environmental studies concentration at K. “One of my major goals is to improve my Thai speaking skills and form meaningful relationships with people in my host community.”

Nina Szalkiewicz ’21

Fulbright Scholar Nina Szalkiewicz
Nina Szalkiewicz ’21

Nina Szalkiewicz, a business major and German minor at K, will follow in the footsteps of Georgie Andrews ’20, who served this past academic year as an English teaching assistant in Austria through Fulbright.

Szalkiewicz first went abroad through K when she spent six months in Bonn, Germany, leading to what she called her wonderful and surprising experiences studying German, thereby creating her interest in Fulbright.

“By pushing my boundaries and opening myself up to new cultures and customs, I grew tremendously as an individual which has changed my perspective toward my life,” Szalkiewicz said. “I began considering Fulbright more intently after reflecting on my Intercultural Research Project (ICRP) at the Friedrich-Ebert-Gymnasium. Much to my surprise, teaching and mentoring at this German middle school was one of my most enjoyable endeavors and something I gained the most from.”

Evelyn Rosero ’13

Fulbright Scholar Evelyn Rosero
Evelyn Rosero ’13

Evelyn Rosero was a human development and social relations major at K, leading to two years of volunteer work in Detroit with Teach for America, a nonprofit organization that finds teachers for low-income schools. Now, she’s a teacher in East Los Angeles, California, who wants to gain a global perspective on education while serving Fulbright as an English teaching assistant in South Korea.

On a personal note, she’s happy South Korea is her assigned destination because she’s a big fan of the South Korean boy band BTS and hopes to see one of their concerts. However, her primary goals are professional and developed with a philanthropic heart. She wants to find connections between Korean students’ identities and English-language content; share her American identity to engage in dialogue; continue learning Korean to empathize better with her students; and grow beyond her personal comfort zones.

“I am really excited to partake in this experience, especially as an educator,” Rosero said. “Even though I have been teaching for eight years, there is still so much to learn. As a foreigner, I will educate myself on my students’ Korean background and the community in which they reside.”

About the Fulbright U.S. Student Program

Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 380,000 participants, chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential, with opportunities to exchange ideas and contribute to solutions to shared international concerns. More than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 fields of study are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach English and conduct research in more than 140 countries throughout the world each year. In addition, about 4,000 foreign Fulbright students and scholars come to the United States annually to study, lecture, conduct research and teach foreign languages.

For more information about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, visit its website.

Guide to Colleges Cheers K’s Excellence

Fiske Guide to Colleges
Sourcebooks, the publisher of the “Fiske Guide to Colleges,” says “K’s academic terms may be fast-paced and the workload demanding, but students are given the flexibility to pursue their interests through individualized projects and off-campus exploration.”

Kalamazoo College’s excellence is again featured in the annual Fiske Guide to Colleges, a selective look at about 300 higher-education institutions in the United States, Canada and the U.K.

The guide’s readers discover institutional personalities based on a broad range of subjects including the student body, academics, social life, financial aid, campus setting, housing, food and extracurricular activities. The book also includes a quiz to help students understand what they’re looking for in a college, lists of strong programs and popular majors at each institution, indexes that break down schools by state and price, and ratings regarding academics and quality of life.

In the 2022 version, available now, the publisher Sourcebooks says K students “pursue a liberal arts curriculum that includes language proficiency, a first-year writing seminar, sophomore and senior seminars, as well as a senior individualized project—directed research, a creative piece, or a traditional thesis—basically anything that caps off each student’s education in some meaningful way.”

In addition to senior integrated projects promoting independent scholarship opportunities, the guide praises other tenets of the K-Plan, the College’s four-part, integrated approach to education, including:

  • Rigorous academics. The flexibility and rigor of K’s curriculum provides students with a customized academic experience.
  • Experiential education. Students connect classroom learning with real-world experience by completing career development internships or externships, participating in civic engagement and service-learning projects, and getting involved in social justice leadership work.
  • International and intercultural experience. Students choose from 56 study abroad programs in 29 countries across six continents. A biology major interviewed by the publisher remarks on how easy it is for students to take advantage of the opportunity, noting, “Kalamazoo College does study abroad so well that it seems ridiculous not to take advantage of this opportunity. They make it financially accessible and ensure that you won’t fall behind by going abroad.”

“K’s academic terms may be fast-paced and the workload demanding, but students are given the flexibility to pursue their interests through individualized projects and off-campus exploration,” the Guide to Colleges says. “The result, says a senior, is a student body defined by open-minded, global citizens.”

Leading with Grace

cMUMMA Sarah Westfall 2838 ALT
Sarah Westfall served as Kalamazoo College’s vice president for student development and dean of students for nearly 15 years.

As Vice President and Dean of Students Sarah Westfall retires, Chief Information Officer Greg Diment ’84 reflects on her legacy at K.

Nearly 15 years ago, Kalamazoo College welcomed candidates vying for the position of vice president of student development and dean of students. On one particular afternoon, a candidate stood in the Olmsted room, ready to give her presentation at an open forum to faculty and staff. Previous candidates had arrived with elaborate PowerPoints, standing formally at the podium to present. Yet this candidate came with a simple overhead transparency and a desire to connect. She walked up and down the aisle, approaching each questioner and answering their questions in proximity and with eye contact. She didn’t have a high-tech presentation—in fact, I am pretty sure she commented that she wasn’t a “techy” person. Instead, she was engaging, full of energy, and personable. After the interview, former President Wilson-Oyelaran asked me for my impressions. I remember saying simply, “Hire her. I’ll take care of any technology she needs.” And hire her we did.

Almost 15 years later, thousands of students have come and gone from K. Sarah Westfall has had an influence on all of them. Being the dean of students is hard. A dean sees and hears from some students at their toughest times—when they have made bad choices, or had extremely difficult experiences; when they feel vulnerable, or neglected, or have been wronged; when they are still developing, learning, not always understanding the big picture or how to effectively advocate for what they need. For all of these students, and for those who experienced the joys and exciting firsts of college, Dean Westfall was there.

It’s easy to reflect on Dean Westfall’s many accomplishments as a student affairs professional. At K, she has used her accreditation experience to significantly enhance K’s capabilities in assessing student learning, and has partnered with the provost to ensure K’s continued accreditation. She has been a member of and led several search committees for the College, participated in College-wide planning efforts, led K’s crisis management team, and staffed the Risk Review committee of the Board of Trustees. K established many student advisory committees during her tenure, giving students an important voice throughout the College.

Dean Westfall has also published extensively in the field of student development, particularly in regard to small college environments. She is active in NASPA, the national association for student affairs administrators, and she was awarded their Pillar of the Profession award in 2019. She has served for several years on the Fulbright Senior Specialists Program Peer Review Committee and is currently on the Fulbright Specialist Roster. In 2018, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from her doctoral program. Since 2008, she also has served as a Peer Reviewer and Team Chair for the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). She was recognized with an award from the HLC in 2019.

Yet as we congratulate her on her well-deserved retirement, her greatest achievements are summed up by the people whose lives she touched. I reached out to several alumni from throughout Sarah’s time at K and the memories are sure: “She checked in on me and looked out for me and listened to what I wanted to do and made me feel really taken care of,” said one. “She personally invested herself in my safety and my success,” said another.

One alum noted, “For my part, I’d say that Dean Westfall is in many ways the perfect embodiment of K. She was a huge presence during my time there from orientation to graduation—I have distinct, warm memories of her from both. I know she helped me and everyone else transition smoothly into adulthood in more ways than we can ever really know or appreciate. Her job is one of the most difficult I can imagine. Lots of people have lots of ideas about how things ought to be done, so it’s naturally impossible to please everybody—especially with a very involved student body—and she still seemed to handle everything with a sense of calm and reason and grace that is an inspiration.”

Her peers are equally appreciative, describing her as a consummate professional, highly regarded in her field, dedicated, empathetic, insightful, humorous and a trusted colleague. Dean Westfall’s door was always open to anyone needing support and advice.

I have had the privilege of serving on President’s Staff for many years with Dean Westfall, and we’ve been through many situations together—perhaps none more challenging than the events of the last 18 months. As head of the crisis management team, Dean Westfall’s leadership in navigating the pandemic was invaluable to the institution and to those who worked alongside her. As she “graduates” to retirement and future endeavors as a higher education consultant and coach, I know she will bring that same calm, caring and insightful leadership to others. And if she ever needs tech support, I will always be just a phone call away from my colleague and friend.

Scholarship Helps New K Alumnus Hone Chinese Skills

Students Build Chinese Skills in Study Abroad
Daniel Mota-Villegas ’21 (back row left) was studying abroad in Beijing in January 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced students to return early. Now, though, Mota-Villegas is enhancing his language skills in Chinese through a Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) through the U.S. Department of State.

A Kalamazoo College representative is enhancing his skills in Chinese this summer through a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS).

Daniel Mota-Villegas ’21 is among about 700 scholars currently in the CLS program, which actively recruits in regions that have been historically under-represented in international education. The opportunity enables those chosen to gain critical language and cultural skills in areas vital to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

Since 2006, CLS has awarded scholarships to more than 8,000 students while building respect and positive relations between Americans and citizens of other countries. CLS normally sends scholars to countries where they fully immerse themselves in the language of their choice, but the lingering effects of COVID-19 are requiring about 30 hours a week of virtual learning and cultural activities instead.

Nonetheless, “it’s been a very rewarding experience and it’s everything that I imagined it would be,” Mota-Villegas said. “It’s an intensive Chinese program that pushes me to expand on what I already know about Chinese language and culture. We learn upwards of 70 characters each day.”

Mota-Villegas spoke Spanish in his home life growing up and never considered learning another language—and taking those opportunities to see the world—until he attended K. At that time, he enrolled in his first Mandarin Chinese class and developed a fascination with China, its society and its values. In his sophomore year, he learned about China’s complex relationship with Taiwan, fueling his desire to study abroad and gain a deeper understanding of international relations.

In his study abroad experience, Mota-Villegas was among four K students in China in January 2020 when the pandemic began spreading, forcing students to return home early. However, he hopes to return to East Asia for an international master’s program in Asia Pacific studies at National ChengChi University in Taipei, Taiwan this fall while examining the complex relationships between China, Japan and Taiwan.

“The opportunities to continue practicing Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan will be abundant,” he said of his upcoming master’s experience. “I will not have to be sitting in a classroom to study because I’ll be outside, engaging with people in the community who have firsthand experience dealing with mainland China and Japan.”

Mota-Villegas wants his experiences at K, with CLS and in his master’s program to provide a springboard to a career in the foreign service, where he would promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad.

“I’d be open to traveling anywhere,” he said. “I love learning about languages and culture. My dream job would be to work in mainland China, Taiwan or anywhere else in East Asia. I’m fascinated with East Asia, with all its history and culture, and CLS is giving me more experience with all of them.”

Toads Shape Student’s Conservation Research

Molly Ratliff with boreal toads at night
Molly Ratliff ’22 shows one of the boreal toads she’s researching this summer in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Molly Ratliff ’22 hopes to work in an environmental-studies field after she graduates from Kalamazoo College, making her senior integrated project (SIP) this summer an ideal experience. She is researching boreal toads at their known breeding grounds in Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado, as a way to engage with conservation.

“Amphibians, such as boreal toads, are really great indicators of overall ecosystem health,” Ratliff said. “Their skin is highly permeable, making them vulnerable to environmental changes and toxins. Since amphibians are typically the first species to be impacted by changes in the environment such as climate change, they can show general trends of how other species may react.”

Campsite at Rocky Mountain National Park
Molly Ratliff ’22 has views like this one to enjoy this summer as she’s conducting research on boreal toads at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

To be specific, in her research Ratliff is investigating how a skin disease that affects amphibians around the world—Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or Bd—might be affecting the sizes of the toads at various locations and how this might relate to survivability. She performs surveys at dusk around lake shores, captures toads to mark them with pit tags, takes body measurements, and swabs them to test for the disease. The toads are then released and can be identified as they’re recaptured by their unique pit tags.

“If amphibian populations are not doing well in an ecosystem, it can be an indicator that there are stressors, toxins, imbalances, etc. within the entire system,” she said. “Amphibians also typically exist as both predators and prey, making them a crucial part of the food chain within an ecosystem.”

Ratliff’s work is an excellent example of the independent scholarship critical to the K-Plan, Kalamazoo College’s integrated approach to academics in the liberal arts and sciences. As a culmination of learning at K, all students explore a subject of their own choosing, resulting in an in-depth, graduate-level research thesis, performance or creative work. Learn more about how these projects fit into the K-Plan at

Eight New Heyl Scholars to Attend K This Fall

Heyl Scholar Elizabeth 'Ellie' Grooten
Elizabeth ‘Ellie’ Grooten

Heyl Scholar Anna Buck
Anna Buck

Heyl Scholar Ava Apolo_
Ava Apolo

Eight Kalamazoo County high school students seeking to major in STEM-related fields have earned Heyl Scholarships to attend Kalamazoo College in the 2021-22 academic year.

The Heyl Scholarship Fund, marking its 50th anniversary, was established in 1971 through the will of Dr. Frederick Heyl and Mrs. Elsie Heyl.

Maggie Lekan_
Maggie Lekan

Cole Koryto
Cole Koryto

Alex Kish
Alex Kish

Frederick Heyl was the first director of research at the Upjohn Company and he taught at Kalamazoo College. The scholarships are renewable for four years and cover tuition, fees, college housing and a book allowance.

This year’s recipients of the scholarships, their high schools and their chosen majors or professional goals are:

Laurel Wolfe
Laurel Wolfe

Emerson Wesselhoff
Emerson Wesselhoff

  • Ava Apolo, Loy Norrix High School and Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC), biology.
  • Anna Buck, Loy Norrix High School and KAMSC, mathematics.
  • Elizabeth “Ellie” Grooten, Kalamazoo Central and KAMSC, biology.
  • Alex Kish, Comstock and KAMSC, mechanical engineering.
  • Cole Koryto, Portage Central and KAMSC, computer science and business.
  • Maggie Lekan, Kalamazoo Central, biology or chemistry.
  • Emerson Wesselhoff, Loy Norrix and KAMSC, biology with an environmental science concentration.
  • Laurel Wolfe, Loy Norrix, biology.

JAWS Shreds Stereotypes, Spotlights Diverse Chemists

Daniela Arias-Rotondo of JAWS Chemistry Seminars
Kalamazoo College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniela Arias-Rotondo is challenging the stereotypical image that comes to mind when we picture a scientist by inviting undergraduates and postdocs to present their science in JAWS, a series of chemistry webinars spotlighting scientists from underrepresented groups.

When you hear it’s time for JAWS, don’t fear a shark attack. Instead, get ready for a chemistry seminar featuring Kalamazoo College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniela Arias-Rotondo, who is challenging the stereotypical image that comes to mind when we picture a scientist.

JAWS, or Just Another (Chemistry) Webinar Series, gives scientists from underrepresented groups a chance to be heard, and undergrads and postdocs a chance to share their work through easy-going conversations and publicity in a production quickly gaining recognition.

The project was started by Arias-Rotondo along with post docs Craig Fraser of Northwestern University, Madison Fletcher of New York University and Monica Gill of Carleton University. Its name would’ve been Just Another Chemistry Series, but the acronym JACS is well known as the Journal of the American Chemical Society. As a result, and to show a little humor, Arias-Rotondo and her fellow organizers chose JAWS.

“One day we might get a cease-and-desist letter from Steven Spielberg or someone,” Arias-Rotondo said. “We’ll figure out what name we give it at that point. But for now, who doesn’t like sharks?”

The point of JAWS, though, is down to earth as it enables early career chemists to build foundational presentation skills.

“As scientists, we always emphasize that it’s important to be able to communicate your ideas,” Arias-Rotondo said. “And one thing that we’ve always seen is that it’s hard as a postdoc or a graduate student—and even worse as an undergrad—to get the opportunity to present your science.”

Professors commonly receive invitations to give talks and attend conferences. They might also be the people in line for a Nobel Prize. Students, however, gain experience working with faculty yet their work gets little exposure. That’s something Arias-Rotondo wants to change.

“Even with the pandemic, we’ve still been doing talks, and giving people who don’t have a name for themselves yet an opportunity,” Arias-Rotondo said. “We’re particularly looking at those who, even under normal circumstances, maybe wouldn’t be as likely to present. A scientist doesn’t have to be the old white guy with crazy hair. Being able to invite these other people who don’t necessarily fit a mold to come in and talk about their science is so important in terms of really showing a broad spectrum of people that you can be a scientist, too.”

The show has built buzz for itself through a loyal following on its Twitter feed. It’s also drawn presenters from every continent except Antarctica and viewers from all over the world, including JACS Editor-in-Chief Erick Carreira, an organic chemist and professor at ETH Zürich.

“We saw the name among our attendees and we began texting back and forth while watching,” Arias-Rotondo said. “We were wondering if that was really him or somebody impersonating him because it was huge for us. It was a sign of how far we’d made it.”

Recent JAWS guests have included post docs from University of California, Vanderbilt University and National University of Singapore who have presented on topics ranging from radiation to molecular aggregation. The time for JAWS varies to accommodate presenters from a variety of time zones, but generally it’s scheduled at 11 a.m. or 8 p.m. Eastern on Tuesdays. Presentations are posted online for about a week. Ultimately, Arias-Rotondo hopes to measure the success of the program not only by the number of viewers or its website traffic, but by successful variations of representation and its impact on students including those at K.

“I hope that my students see that they can attend the seminars, they can present at the seminars, and that there is a welcoming community that wants them to be chemists,” she said. “I also want them to see me as someone who is not just teaching or doing research with them but also working to make science more available and more accessible for people.”

K Welcomes New Vice President for Student Development

Vice President of Student Development and Dean of Students J. Malcolm Smith
J. Malcolm Smith will join Kalamazoo College as its vice president f0r student development and dean of students on August 1.

President Jorge G. Gonzalez announced today that J. Malcolm Smith will join Kalamazoo College as the institution’s new vice president for student development and dean of students. Smith, who is the vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, will begin his new role on August 1, 2021.

“Malcolm has considerable experience in student development at institutions like K,” Gonzalez said. “He brings a collaborative leadership style, dedication to the development of college students, passion for equity and inclusion work, and a commitment to student success. I am confident that he will be an excellent addition to our campus community and that he will build strong bonds with students, staff and faculty.”

Smith joined Salve Regina in 2013 as dean of students and also served as associate vice president before being named vice president in 2019. During his tenure at Salve Regina, Smith led the revision of the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, established the Student Conduct Hearing Board to give students a stronger voice in the university judicial process, developed services and programs for the LGBTQ+ student community, and developed a Review and Standards committee to give students, faculty and staff input on proposed revisions to conduct policies.

Before Salve Regina, Smith worked at a variety of institutions including John Carroll University, Ohio University and University of Illinois at Chicago. He brings extensive experience in areas such as student conduct and advocacy; retention efforts; diversity, equity and inclusion; Title IX administration; housing management; budget oversight; and crisis management.

He has presented on the national and regional level for the National Association for Student Personnel Administration, the Association of Title IX Administrators, and the Association for Student Conduct Administration. In 2006, Smith received the Annuit Coeptis Award for Emerging Professionals from the American College Personnel Association. He holds a B.A. in elementary education and a M.Ed. in college student personnel, both from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

“My family and I are excited to join the K community,” Smith said. “I am looking forward to working with such amazing students, a great team in student development, and partnering with colleagues across the campus. I’m honored and humbled by this opportunity to join K! Go Hornets!”

Smith succeeds Vice President for Student Development and Dean of Students Sarah Westfall, who will retire on July 1 after 14½ years at the College. Smith was selected after a competitive nationwide search conducted by an on-campus committee with the assistance of Storbeck Search & Associates, an executive search firm specializing in the education and non-profit sectors. Comprised of faculty, staff and students, the committee was chaired by Provost Danette Ifert Johnson.

K Professor Wants More Diversity in Victorian Studies

Ryan Fong Victorian Studies
Associate Professor of English Ryan Fong is one of four scholars from around the country who founded Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom, a digital humanities project that reimagines how to teach Victorian studies with a positive, race-conscious lens.

A Kalamazoo College English faculty member has helped develop a project that ensures his field will be inclusive and engaging with scholars from underrepresented groups.

Associate Professor of English Ryan Fong is one of four scholars from around the country who founded Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom, a digital humanities project that reimagines how to teach Victorian studies with a positive, race-conscious lens. The title was inspired by a recent essay by Ronjaunee Chatterjee, Alicia Mireles Christoff and Amy R. Wong in the Los Angeles Review of Books, titled “Undisciplining Victorian Studies,” which itself borrowed from York University Professor of English literature and Black studies Christina Sharpe’s call for scholars to “become undisciplined” as a way to undo racist theories and the limited, predominantly white scopes that scholars have inherited.

“The three other founders and I wanted to create a set of resources for how to bring this work into the classroom to infuse our teaching,” Fong said. “The website developed as a result of those conversations, and we collaborated with one another to build the site and involved other scholars from around the world to create our first batch of teaching materials.”

In addition to Fong, the founding developers are Pearl Chaozon Bauer, an associate professor of English at Notre Dame de Namur University; Sophia Hsu, an assistant professor of English at Lehman College, CUNY; and Adrian S. Wisnicki, an associate professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The K community can take pride in the team’s project because many of the lesson plans featured on the website draw on those that Fong first developed in his classroom through his own pedagogy. Take, for example, the lessons regarding the work of Mary Seacole, a British-Jamaican nurse, healer and businesswoman who set up the “British Hotel” during the Crimean War. Seacole hoped to assist with nursing the war’s wounded but was turned away when she applied to be in the nursing contingent. Instead, she traveled independently and set up her own “hotel” for tending to the wounded, making her popular with service personnel, who raised money for her as she faced extreme poverty after the war.

“A lot of what we’ve been doing in the project is creating resources to help instructors teach materials like Mary Seacole’s,” Fong said. “She wrote an important travelogue and memoir about her experiences, and the teaching materials on the site will help teachers contextualize this work and teach it alongside people that we already know and love like Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte. We’re hoping that we’re giving scholars tools to incorporate new materials into their classes or perhaps even conceive and remake whole new classes.”

In addition to lesson plans and syllabi that involve writers such as Seacole, the Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom website provides Zoom-based broadcasts with recorded conversations, featuring professors to further promote a diverse base of historical writers.

“We’re recording conversations with colleagues about what we do in our classrooms,” Fong said. “It gives us a chance to share how we teach and how we can expand the materials and approaches that we have typically used. Hosting these has given me a lot of opportunities to share what I’ve developed at K. Bringing the expertise that I’ve been able to gain into these conversations with teacher scholars around the country and around the world has been really exciting.”

In the short term, Fong said the site’s success will be evaluated through the number of people visiting the website. Yet ultimately, the hope is to get experts and scholars throughout higher education excited to collaborate with the project while empowering everyone who does the work of teaching literature in colleges and universities—from graduate students to adjunct faculty and tenured professors.

“Around the world, we’re all really working toward these goals of social justice, anti-racism, and diversity, inclusion and equity,” Fong said. “If we’re working in alignment with those principles and we’re doing it thoughtfully as scholars, then I feel like that we have the potential to make an impact not just in higher ed, but all over.”