K Student Among First AmeriFirst Interns

Kalamazoo College student Peter Rossi ’18 is among the first students to take advantage of a new internship program that teaches students about the mortgage industry.

Rossi, a computer science major and music minor from Kalamazoo, is one of nine college juniors and seniors learning career skills this summer through AmeriFirst, a mortgage banker in Kalamazoo. The students, who were chosen from more than 50 applicants, work in marketing, information technology, appraisals, human resources and legal/compliance. The program began in May and continues through August.

Peter Rossi Pictured at AmeriFirst
Peter Rossi, a computer science major and music minor from Kalamazoo, is one of nine college juniors and seniors learning career skills this summer through AmeriFirst, a mortgage banker in Kalamazoo.

“The work environment at AmeriFirst is extremely unique because my work is directly applicable to the company,” Rossi said. “They’re willing to value my opinions even at the highest level, which pushes me to work hard.”

Rossi’s job in information technology includes communicating with various departments around AmeriFirst to help the company build an intranet platform that suits employees’ needs. He also has duties involving business process modeling, which is a method of mapping processes to help make an organization’s workflow more effective and efficient.

Rossi said there are three divisions within IT at AmeriFirst including:

  • a technical-support division;
  • a network administration division, ensuring that servers are protected and company information is properly encrypted; and
  • Rossi’s division, which offers a mix of continuous improvement and project management.

“There are a lot of departments that have interns, but the IT department has a way of making every day interesting and fun,” Rossi said. “We really go out of our way to interact and have a good time.”

A weekly lunch-and-learn program encourages community and builds cohesiveness among the interns across departments. During these 60-minute sessions, members of senior management provide industry and life-skills education along with overviews of their respective areas of expertise. A recent highlight included a session with Chief Executive Officer Mark Jones, who shared his passion and business philosophy with the students, who appreciated his time.

“AmeriFirst is going out of its way to see that young talent stays here, which I think is amazing,” said Rossi, a Loy Norrix High School graduate, Heyl Scholar and a member of K’s swimming and diving team. He added he hopes he can take the experiences he has gained so far and continue to be successful moving forward.

Before launching the internship program, AmeriFirst Staff Recruiter Kelly McConnell and coworker Nicole Waterbury connected with local college career departments, including K’s Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD), and reached out to other corporations running successful internship programs. Although Rossi first heard of the internship opportunity through a friend’s dad, he said CCPD was integral in helping him prepare his résumé and learn how to network.

Rossi said he would encourage other students thinking about the AmeriFirst program in the future to “absolutely apply. If you can get in, they really take care of you. It’s a diverse workforce, and a majority of employees are women at the home office, even among the senior leadership team. For me that creates an amazing community atmosphere that also has a young, energetic vibe.”

For more information on internships at AmeriFirst, contact McConnell at 269-324-4240, ext. 12020, or recruiter@amerifirst.com.


International Chemistry Magazine Publishes K Grad’s Research

A 2017 Kalamazoo College graduate has been published in Angewandte Chemie, a German international chemistry magazine, for his senior individualized project (SIP) involving how prescription medications interact with the human body.

John Bailey presents his research published in an international chemistry magazine
John Bailey ’17 presents research related to his senior individualized project.

John Bailey, who was a chemistry major and math minor from Midland, Mich., performed research through a group at Michigan State University focusing on aromaticity. The term describes a ring-shaped molecule that exhibits more stability than other connective arrangements with the same atoms.

The research and resulting chemistry magazine article highlights how stability involving aromaticity could allow a greater range of choices in a pharmaceutical’s design, maximizing the drug’s effect in a targeted human system without harming other systems in a patient’s body.

The article, titled “High-Field NMR Spectroscopy Reveals Aromaticity-Modulated Hydrogen Bonding (AMHB) in Heterocycle,” has no immediate effect on how drugs are formulated or prescribed. Still, the results could one day have strong clinical implications for treatment courses such as chemotherapy. As a result, the research doesn’t stand to make Bailey famous, but a positive advancement in medicine one day will have been the result of many people like Bailey collaborating and building on each other’s work.

“It feels good to have work I’ve done out there that could be helpful to other humans,” he said.

Bailey is in Kalamazoo for at least an additional year, but would eventually like to attend graduate school and end up professionally as a leader in a research lab. He credits Chemistry Professor Jeffrey Bartz and Math Professor Eric Barth for giving him the guidance and encouragement he needed to succeed with his SIP.

“Hopefully, I will have enough knowledge I can be an effective member of my community professionally and nonprofessionally,” Bailey said. “I think K did a good job letting me understand how big a place the world is and how much I need to be humble. I want to keep working hard because no one is ever done growing.”


College’s CCPD Dinner Connects Students to Fortune 500 Company

CCPD Dinner Connects Students to StrykerIn early May, 28 Kalamazoo College students had the opportunity to share a meal on campus with eight professionals who have at least two things in common—the K-Plan and careers at the Stryker Corporation, a Kalamazoo-based Fortune 500 medical technologies firm.

The alumni returned to campus at the invitation of the Center for Career and Professional Development to meet with students who could learn about career paths at Stryker and the relevance of the K-Plan to those paths. At least 15 current Stryker employees got their undergraduate degrees at K, and both institutions are interested in strengthening the talent pipeline between the two.

The event began with a welcome by S. Si Johnson ’78, the retired group president of Stryker MedSurg Group and a current member of the College’s board of trustees. Johnson shared the four core values of Stryker—integrity, accountability, people, and performance—and reflected on how the critical thinking and problem solving skills inherent in a K education are great preparation for a career at Stryker.

After students and alumni enjoyed informal networking conversations over dinner, James N. Heath ’78, the retired president of Stryker Instruments and a member of K’s board of trustees, moderated an alumni panel that included Randy Rzeznik ’08, director of customer excellence, Neuro, Spine, ENT and Navigation; Bryce Pearson ’15, finance representative; Kevin Packard ’05, clinical marketing manager, Neuro, Spine, ENT and Navigation; and Michael Weslosky ’02, staff scientist.

Panelists reflected on their trajectories from K to Stryker and talked about the qualities of the company they find most attractive. The panelists’ K majors were varied—chemistry, economics, biology, and business—and each panelist cited the value of the work ethic instilled by the K-Plan and the 10-week term. They also stressed the importance of persistence in the pursuit of employment. Pearson, for example, shared the effort and time that was required before he secured a position at Stryker.

Heath also invited one of the students in attendance, junior Alex White, to describe the extensive process he’d gone through to secure an internship with Stryker for the upcoming summer.

Other alumni attending the event included Legal Counsel Christopher DiVirgilio ’04 and Senior IS Business Analyst Russ Hankey ’96.

Students and alumni agreed that the evening was a success and excellent preparation for the next step in the K/Stryker relationship: a half-day immersion K-Trek for selected students to the company’s headquarters in the fall.

Text and photo by Joan Hawxhurst

Greening On

Kalamazoo College Students Complete Green Dot Training
Twenty-four K students completed Green Dot bystander training in late April.

Twenty-four Kalamazoo College students and five K employee Green Dot-certified trainers launched the College’s first bystander training session on April 29. It’s one of several early steps toward the goal of a “greening” that will be year-round, forever.

Green Dot is a national prevention program that has proven effective in significantly reducing the likelihood of dating and domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault. Essential to the program’s effectiveness are bystanders, people trained to safely interrupt or prevent harmful precursor behaviors associated with dating violence, stalking and sexual assault. In the program’s iconography, a red dot is any person’s choice to harm another person with words or actions. In any environment, or map, enough red dots create a norm where violence is tolerated. Green dots are small actions to intervene when a red dot is occurring or to prevent the likelihood of red dots at all. Small as they may be, Green Dot words and actions draw their power from the large numbers of people who commit to speak or do them. Together, enough Green Dots can change “worlds,” small and large. And one of those worlds will be Kalamazoo College.

In late March some 30 faculty, staff and administrators completed four days of Green Dot “College Curriculum” training, which certified them to do bystander training for K students and overview training for K faculty and staff. One month—and a lot of preparation and practice—later the first bystander training took place in the Olmsted Room. It included students identified by their peers as well-respected and influential.

“The 24 students were highly engaged throughout the training,” said Ellen Lassiter Collier, Director of Gender Equity at K. “This was a day-long event in the middle of a busy spring term, yet no one left the session.” In fact, at least three students reported applying Green Dot interventions at parties or other events that very weekend.

“To establish a norm where the intolerance of violence is immediately and plainly evident—and a culture where everyone does their part to maintain that norm—will require a critical mass of K community members,” said Lassiter Collier. “Many times it will be students who are most likely to be present in settings and situations where ‘red dots’ tend to occur. Students trained as bystanders are absolutely indispensable, so we were very gratified by the participation of these 24 early adopters.”

Additional student bystander training is scheduled for the fall, and the “first” 24 will have contributed to the success of those sessions by providing the names of several score of other influential and well-respected students who will be invited to the fall training.

In concert with the effort to train a critical mass of student bystanders, employee Green Dot-certified trainers also will work with faculty and staff this spring and early and continuing into the fall.

The bystander trainers who joined Lassiter Collier on April 29 were Andrew Grayson ’10, Admission; Laura Livingstone-McNelis ’89, Department of Theatre Arts; Leslie Burke, Information Services; and Morgan Mahdavi ’14, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership.

The 24 students included Julia Plomer ¹18, Maddie Tracey ¹17, Sidney Wall ’17, Cody Colvin ’18, Douglas Robinett ’17, Leah Finelli ’18, Ashley Henne ’17, Sep’Tisha Riley ’18, Kourtney Johnson ’17, Tenley Mustonen ’17, Amber Salome ’18, Colleen Orwin ’17, Elizabeth Clevenger ’17, James Paprocki ’18, Alex Dykema ’19, Kiavanne Williams ’18, Lilia Robins ’18, Colleen Corrigan ’17, Kaiya Herman Hilker ’19, Sophie Higdon ’19, Roger Hood ’18, Rose Maylen ’19, Malak Ghazal ’19 and Lezlie Lull ’20.

Funding for Kalamazoo College’s Green Dot efforts comes from the State of Michigan Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program.

MakerBot Made Possible by Alumnus

Kalamazoo College Alumnus Harry GarlandHarry Garland ’68, Ph.D., is pictured in Upjohn Library Commons with one of the several MakerBot 3D printers Kalamazoo College was able to purchase thanks to a donation from Garland for that purpose. The picture was taken last October when Garland visited campus and discussed the various uses of the printers with Josh Moon, educational technology specialist in the Information Services division. “3D printing offers students technology that can create physical examples of their designs, art projects, models and historical artifacts,” said Josh.  “It also lets them engage with a community of digital designers who are sharing their work with others for scholarship, productivity, and fun.  As a young, experimental tool the MakerBot is available to all classes and students for exploration.” Garland’s gift combines his love of technology and his love of K. As an undergraduate here he developed superior analytical and problem-solving skills that became a foundation for a distinguished career that has included writing three books, being awarded 20 patents, serving on K’s board of trustees, teaching at Stanford University, and co-founding three businesses, including a 400-employee firm that made an immediate precursor to the first personal computers.

K’s Latest K-Trek Passes all Tests

K to the Windy City students on K-Trek
Roundtable meeting in Chicago during K to the Windy City, the newest K-Trek.

Kalamazoo College’s latest K-Trek, K to the Windy City, tested two expansions — in numbers and event type. The results are in: success above expectations!

“We wanted a K-Trek that would accommodate more students and provide more types of student-alumni and student-thought leader interaction,” said Valerie Miller, assistant director for external relations in K’s Center for Career and Professional Development. K to the Windy City is the largest K-Trek to date. Twenty-five students and 57 alumni participated in the three-day event, which featured round-table meetings (standard for K-Treks) and also offered panels, a networking event, a customized itinerary for nearly every student, and some fun and relaxation at a Second City performance.

Coordinated by the CCPD, K-Treks are multi-day immersive discussions with leaders in various industries. Previous treks (inspired by the thinking of alumnus Brad O’Neill ’93) have visited San Francisco (where the focus was on entrepreneurship) and New York City (finance and business). The Windy City trek focused on the law and nonprofit administration, with social justice as the bridge between those areas of interest.

“Our 25 students divided themselves roughly into three tracks,” says Miller. “About a third was certain they wanted to pursue a career in law. Another third were equally sure about nonprofit administration. The final group was on the fence. All were interested in social justice.”

Valerie Miller Prepares for K-Trek
Valerie Miller during the extensive K-trek prep phase.

K to the Windy City “started” the day after winter term finals, but prep work commenced long before that. Wade Thomson ’98, an attorney at Jenner & Block who also does pro bono work with persons seeking political asylum in the United States, provided the unique framework for this K-Trek that focused on the intersection between Chicago and justice.

For their part, student participants researched the alumni whom they would meet (and the organizations they worked for) and then prepared a list of questions for the interaction.

For her part, Miller relied on the cover letters and résumés of each student to customize individual itineraries that would provide the most educational impact.

The meetings provided some excellent outcomes and revelations for the students, according to Miller. “Some very practical advice,” she explained, “such as the need for solid business skills in nonprofit administration; timing for law school and how to optimize a gap year, should one choose that option; and the surprising number of law-related work opportunities that do not require a J.D.

“For those students certain about their choice (law or nonprofit administration),” she continued, “the experience may have confirmed or focused their vision. Those less certain found value in the additional information they could use to eventually decide.”

Students on a bus heading to the latest K-Trek, K to the Windy City
K to the Windy City departs Kalamazoo College, headed for the newest K-Trek experience.

Student participants represented a cross section of classes, majors and geography. Twelve seniors, six juniors and seven sophomores composed this first Windy City trek. Fourteen academic majors were represented; 11 students call Michigan home; 11 come from a variety of states; three were international students.

“I learned more in two days about what a legal career entails than I had learned in my entire life up to that point,” said Benjamin Toledo, a senior anthropology/sociology and business double major.  “Given the chance to speak with successful lawyers from K provided us with the opportunity to clarify any uncertainty that we had in regard to a career in law, all while receiving advice from individuals who were once in our shoes.  It was a truly phenomenal opportunity to meet and connect with such talented people.”

“I was surprised by how many alumni didn’t always know exactly what they wanted to do or have a clear vision of where they’d end up,” said sophomore Lauren Arquette (political science). She was grateful for the insight. “It takes away a lot of the pressure we put on ourselves of feeling like we always have to have a plan, because often times, things don’t exactly go according to plan. I realized that life doesn’t have to be stressful and meticulously planned out for you to be successful.”

After the event, students were provided a survey to prompt reflections on the value of the experience. The participants also are writing biographies of the alumni with whom they met to post on the CCPD website for future Windy City trekkers.

K-Trek on public transportation
K students riding public transportation in Chicago.

“That’s a future for which we all hope,” says Miller. “This K-Trek was so successful that we’ll continue to work hand in hand with our colleagues in the Office of Development to encourage participation from alumni and to raise the funds for this and other treks.”

2017 Student Participants included: Abby Lu ’17, Ailih Weeldreyer ’19, Andrea Beitel ’17, Anja Xheka ’17, Anne Waugh ’19, Ben Toledo ’17, Blanca Moreno ’17, Carmen Nogueron ’18, Cat Cook ’17, Cody Howrigon ’18, Emily Levy ’17, Gunyeop Lee ’17, Hannah Lehker ’17, Heather Brown ’18, Honora Stagner ’17, Jasmine Khin ’18, Lauren Arquette ’19, Lauren Perlaki ’17, Madison Triplett ’19, Matthew Ryder ’18, Monet Foster ’18, Regina Shaw ’19, Ren Ballew ’17, Sirui Chen ’19 and Sydney Brown ’18.

The following alumni participated in a panel event, met with a group of students and/or hosted students at their place of work. Many of these alumni also provided additional support through funding, space, food and/or ideas for the planning of K to the Windy City, and many attended networking events — Kelly Bauer ’10, Assistant Corporation Counsel, City of Chicago Department of Law; Marietta Bowman ’02, Senior Survey Director, NORC at the University of Chicago; Jane Burchfield ’85, Manager of Talent Acquisition, NORC at the University of Chicago; Michael Cansfield ’87, Director of Development, Lookingglass Theatre; Megan Carney ’92, Director, Gender & Sexuality Center, University of Illinois at Chicago; Jeremy Cole ’96, Partner, Jones Day; Andrea Dakin ’98, Director of Program Development, AIDS Foundation; Kant Desai ’99, Principal, Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund; Mike Doornweerd ’92, Partner, Jenner & Block; Kim Drew ’00, Senior Project Manager, Economic Security Policy, Heartland Alliance; Caitlin Finan ’11, Research Analyst, NORC at the University of Chicago; Mark Furlong ’83, Chief Operating Officer, Thresholds; Marie Halverson ’93, Associate Director, Education and Child Development Studies, NORC at the University of Chicago; Cole Hardy ’06, Staff Counsel, FTD; John Hayes ’96, Assistant Unit Supervisor, Illinois Attorney General; Kathleen Hirsman ’76, Faculty, Loyola School of Law; Will Hobart ’06, Program Officer, Youth Guidance; Peter Knight ’95, Partner, Latham & Watkins; Carla Kupe-Arion ’02, Assistant Corporation Counsel, City of Chicago Law Department; Matt Lango ’97, Deputy Commissioner, Chicago Commission on Human Relations; Hope Lassen ’02,

K-Trek to the Windy City
Some fun at Second City

Restorative Justice Specialist, Alternatives, Inc.; Jodie Lawton ’99, Major Gifts Officer, McCormick Foundation; Stephanie Leite ’01, Lead Trainer and Curriculum Designer, Global Learning Modules; Matt Longjohn ’93, Evidence-Based Health Interventions and Community Integrated Health/National Health Officer, Y-USA; Carlton Marcyan ’76, Senior Partner, Schiller DuCanto & Fleck LLP; Elizabeth Okey ’07, Senior Associate, Corporate Responsibility, Burson-Marsteller; Jeff Owen ’76, Partner, DLA Piper; Anne Renaud ’10, Community Support Specialist, Thresholds; Sam Sedaei ’06, Associate Attorney, Foran Glennon; Wade Thomson ’98, Partner, Jenner & Block; Carla Varner ’97, Chief Legal Officer, Franklin Monroe; Mary Woolever ’70, Former Architectural Archivist and Reference Librarian, Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, Art Institute of Chicago; Mike Woolever ’71, Partner, Foley and Lardner.

The following alumni provided support for K to the Windy City through donations or through support/guidance around the development of trek events. Many also attended networking events — Alexandra Altman ’97, Doug Doetsch ’79, Jay Goodwin ’85, Andrea Johnson ’15, Alex Morgan ’11, Aaron Ries ‘06, Sonya Olds Som ’94, Juli Scalf ’09 and Elizabeth Schweitzer ’09.

And the alumni listed below participated in networking opportunities with students — Margy Brill ’11, Mathew Duggan ’09, Justin Evans ’09, Christine Grodecki ’06, Kelly Koss ’04, Haley Madel ’13, Kristen Nuyen ’12, Kathleen O’Donovan ’11, Sara Reschly ’95, Christopher Rollyson ’82, Christie Schuessler ’11, Jeannette Srivastava ’00, Erin Stockall ’11, Ajka Suljevic ’10 and Rachel Zarit ’02.

K Attends the MICWIC

Kalamazoo College Computer Science Students and Professor Alyce BradySeven Kalamazoo College computer science students traveled with professors Alyce Brady and Pam Cutter to the 6th Biennial Michigan Celebration of Women in Computing (MICWIC), held at Michigan State University in late March.  Seniors Marlisa Pennington and Colleen Orwin presented posters on their Senior Individualized Projects–“JAVA Simulation Software for Handbell Change Ringing: Generating Permutations of Tones” and “Swim for Success Mobile Application,” respectively. Sivhaun Sera ’18 presented a poster on the benefits of having a Computer Science Leadership Team at Kalamazoo College. The Leadership Team is a new initiative the computer science department started this year.

At the celebration, the K students attended presentations, panel discussions and the poster session. They explored careers in computing fields by networking with computing professionals throughout Michigan and participating in a career fair featuring both regional and national companies. More than 200 participants from around the state attended the event.

The group also united with two computer science alumni. Pictured are (l-r): Courtland VanDam ’08; Azra Ahmad ’18; Marlisa Pennington ’17; Sivhaun Sera ’18; Associate Professor of Computer Science Pam Cutter; Colleen Orwin ’17; Serita Evelyn ’19; Nora Wichmann ’18; Alyce Brady, the Rosemary K. Brown Professor in Mathematics and Computer Science; Joo Young Lee ’19; and Hayley Smith ’15

K Students and Faculty Present at ASIANetwork

K Students Present at ASIANetworkThe 25th annual conference of the ASIANetwork in Chicago drew a K presence from Kalamazoo, Tokyo and Toronto. ASIANetwork is a consortium of some 160 North American colleges that strengthens the role of Asian Studies within the framework of liberal arts education. Three Kalamazoo College Freeman Foundation Student Fellows (Frank Meyer ’18, Emerson Brown ’17, Hannah Berger ’18), one former student fellow (Dalby-eol Bae ’18, who transferred from K to the University of Toronto), and Dennis Frost, the Wen Chao Chen Associate Professor of East Asian Social Sciences at Kalamazoo College, presented a poster on the role of Okinawan identity in the protests against U.S. military bases on the island. That presentation was based on a research trip the five made to Okinawa last summer. Frost flew to the Chicago conference from his sabbatical in Tokyo. Other K presenters at the conference were Bailee Lotus ’17 and Assistant Professor of Japanese Noriko Sugimori. Lotus discussed her Senior Individualized Project, “Moving Forward of Standing Still: Black Women in South Korea.” Professor Sugimori talked about the Oral History in the Liberal Arts, a project that has produced for widespread classroom use the world’s first bilingual (Japanese and English) synchronizations of interviews Sugimori conducted that focus on the World War II memories of various Japanese individuals. Pictured (holding an Okinawan newspaper “Ryukyu Shimpo”) are the K attendees (l-r)–Noriko Sugimori, Dalby-eol Bae, Hannah Berger, Bailee Lotus, Emerson Brown, Frank Meyer, and Dennis Frost.

K Professor Helps SCORE the Power of the Music Creeping in our Ears

Kalamazoo College Psychology Professor Siu-Lan Tan
Professor of Psychology Siu-Lan Tan at Tower City theaters, where the film, SCORE, played for three days in five theaters as part of the Cleveland International Film Festival.

The very same expertise (teaching and music) that made the role of Siu-Lan Tan so prominent in the documentary SCORE also prohibited her from attending any of the more than 40 public screenings of the film–she was, after all, busy teaching classes. That changed in early April, when the professor of psychology at Kalamazoo College was finally able to see a festival screening of the film at the 41st Annual Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF).

She picked a great screening, or screenings.

“The first screening at Cedar Lee Theater sold out,” says Siu-Lan. “On day two, they moved the film [full title: SCORE: A Film Music Documentary] to a theater complex at Tower City and the cinema sold out again.  So they opened a second theater, and that one filled too! On the last screening day, they filled two theaters for SCORE and had to turn more people away.”

That enthusiastic reception kept Siu-Lan busy.

“The director [Matt Schrader] asked if I could attend as a special guest from the cast, and I joined Q&A sessions at the first and third screenings. I also did 35-minute extended Q&A Chat Room by myself.”

And CIFF is no small event. This year more than 100,000 people attended. The festival featured the work of some 300 filmmakers and a total of 418 films from 71 countries. SCORE won in its category (Music Movies Competition) and was one of only 15 films recognized on closing night.

Why the great response? Because the best movie you ever saw is the best, in part, because it’s the best movie you ever heard. Siu-Lan and some 60 other people interviewed for SCORE help explain the critical role of music scores to the emotional impact of a film. In addition to Siu-Lan, others interviewed include some of the top living film composers in United States and the United Kingdom (Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Randy Newman,  Howard Shaw, Trent Reznor, Alexandre Desplat, among others), as well as film directors like James Cameron, producers like Quincy Jones and several film scholars.

An expert in the psychology of music (a course she teaches at K) Siu-Lan appears five times in the film. Kalamazoo College is mentioned every time Siu-Lan appears, and K is thanked in the end credits along with the filming location of Dalton Theater.

The popular film is on the docket for many upcoming festivals. You can also check upcoming screenings here. So if you get a chance, go see SCORE; it’s likely to be the best film you’ve ever heard, or at least reveal why your favorite movie has as much to do with your ears as your eyes.

Shakespeare was right when he had Lorenzo say (Merchant of Venice, Act 5, Scene 1) that it is music creeping in our ears that has the sweet power (like Orpheus) to change the very nature of reality and the way we perceive it. A film without its score is a body without its heart.

SCORE is scheduled for release in theaters in 20-25 major cities on June 16.

K Paths Crossed (and Shared) Down Under

Kalamazoo College Alumni Holly Gillis '09 and Jeff Palmer '76
Holly Gillis ’09 and Jeff Palmer ’76

Kalamazoo College alumni never know where their paths might cross.

In early March, Jeff Palmer ’76 and his wife, Susan Andress, were about midway through a month-long trip to Tasmania and New Zealand when they stopped to hike to the Franz Joseph Glacier on New Zealand’s “South Island.”

“It was a beautiful place on a beautiful day and we were taking our time on the roughly four-mile round trip trail,” said Jeff, who recently retired as associate director of communication in K’s Office of College Communication.

“Surrounded by green-sloped mountains, waterfalls, and a glacier bluer than we imagined it would be,” Jeff said “we expected the cast and crew from Lord of the Rings to step out of the mist at any moment.”

Instead, a flash of orange and a familiar logo in the hand of a young man darting past on the trail caught his attention.

“Hey!” Jeff called out. “Where’d you get that K College water bottle!”

The young man stopped quickly and spun around. The young woman running with him did, too.

“I gave it to him!” she said with a big smile. “Do you know K?”

Holly Gillis ’09 and her husband, Ethan Basset, were toward the end of a ten-day vacation, rushing to see the Glacier before moving on to their next stop. Both are medical doctors working in Houston and soon moving to Ohio.

Holly and Jeff talked a little about their K-Plans (“Mine doesn’t take long to tell,” said Jeff) and some of the K professors and staff they both know on campus. They also agreed to follow up via email once they were back home. [See Jeff’s brief write up below about Holly’s post K career thus far.]

They compared a few New Zealand travel notes and agreed they were “glad to see one of nature’s wonders before climate change and science denial causes it to melt away,” said Jeff.

Susan and Ethan took photos while their alumni spouses marveled at the odds of having an impromptu Hornet gathering in a mountain valley half a world away from K’s “Fair Arcadian Hill.”

“What an incredibly small world,” Holly said. “Light attracts light.”

With a little help from a K water bottle.

Holly Gillis ’09 is a Madison, Wis., native who majored in chemistry at K. She also sang the national anthem for a range of Hornet home athletics events, wrote restaurant reviews for the Index, sang soprano in the Premium Orange a capella group, served as a co-director of Frelon dance troupe, was the American Chemistry Society Student Affiliate Chair; and volunteered in the children’s ward at Kalamazoo’s Bronson Hospital. She also traveled to Perth, Australia, for her  study abroad, during which she volunteered at the Western Australian AIDS Council, working on a needle exchange program and youth risk reduction programs.

After K, Holly earned a medical degree from Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine in Western Pennsylvania and completed her residency in pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital.

She and Ethan were married in July 2016 and have been living in Houston this past year “learning and working” at Texas Children’s Hospital, she said. He is completing his pediatric otolaryngology fellowship, while she works in the emergency department and serves as assistant professor of pediatrics.

Next up for the couple is a move to Columbus, Ohio, “learning and working” at The OSU Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Ethan will join the pediatric ear-nose-throat clinical and academic faculty, while Holly starts a fellowship in pediatric critical care. She intends to focus on the disparate access to quality health care that low income children with complex medical needs have within a pediatric hospital system compared to those with middle and high incomes.

“K study abroad shaped the way I think about medical practice and empathy for low and very low income women and children,” Holly said. “The service component to my study abroad program–a health screening project in a low-income suburb of Perth with primarily aboriginal women and children–helped expose the bubble that is so convenient for many of the economically stable K students to live in, including myself.”

Study abroad also fueled Holly’s interest in travel, particularly to the lands Down Under. She traveled to Sydney, Australia, during the summer after her first year of medical school to work in a lab related to research she conducted for her K Senior Independent Project, or SIP. (Professor of Chemistry Laura Furge served as Holly’s on-campus SIP faculty mentor for the reading of her thesis.)  A recent vacation to New Zealand with Ethan was a respite from work and studies before they finish their assignments in Houston and pack for the move to Ohio.

She looks forward to being a little closer to her Wisconsin and Kalamazoo College homes, and hopes to cross paths with K alumni.