Prison Concert a ‘Quintessential Experience’ for College Singers

Kalamazoo College music ensembles are widely known for conducting performances all over the world, yet a recent appearance provided a first-of-its-kind venue for the Kalamazoo College Singers.

On March 2, the 30-student group had the opportunity to perform at the Ionia Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan, about 78 miles northeast of campus—an opportunity that College Singers Director and Assistant Professor of Music Chris Ludwa says he had been pursing for nearly 15 years.

“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to engage in music in prisons,” Ludwa said. “It’s very easy when you’re in the academy to spend all your time focused on the academy, and I feel called to bring music to this particular population. It doesn’t make sense to me that when somebody gets locked up, we take away from them the things that may in fact provide the greatest sense of peace, serenity or calm. This is a world with so many inequities. We need to balance the opportunities that we’re providing for people of means, with those who are—for whatever reason—not able to access or experience live musical performances. Everybody’s soul hungers for it.”

Plans for the event at the prison developed as the College Singers have sought more performances in the community in recent years. Ionia Correctional Facility Chaplain Casey Cheney was thrilled to welcome the group when Ludwa reached out.

When March 2 came and the bus departed, Ludwa talked with the College Singers on the ride to Ionia about their expectations for the visit and who they might see.

“I asked the students if they have ever broken the law or broken any rules and not been caught,” he said. “Every hand went up, underscoring that most of us have a lot of preconceived notions about who’s in the prison system. We assume that we know more than we do about people who are imprisoned, but in a country whose justice system favors one population over another, that is an assumption that only furthers the systemic issues we see around us.”

Upon arriving in Ionia, the group spent about an hour going through security. “The guards did everything from checking what was on our person to taking our socks off and running scans on the bottom of our feet to make sure we weren’t bringing in any contraband,” Ludwa said. “They were checking our keyboards. Some of the students had their mouths swabbed.”

As they proceeded further into the prison complex and walked across the yard, they found themselves surrounded by razor wire, and they caught a rare glimpse of life inside the facility.

“You see these guys in the library and in the lunchroom, dressed in their blue uniforms,” Ludwa said. “But when you get into the performance hall, they’re an audience like any other. In the performance hall, there are no labels. There’s no ‘them’ or ‘us.’ You’re just all experiencing music together.”

Prison officials had taped off seats in the auditorium, putting at least 50 feet between the inmates and the College Singers. The singers stayed onstage for most of the performance until they decided to come offstage to perform a gospel piece led by Tyrus Parnell ’25, followed by the spiritual Down by the Riverside as a finale.

“When we joined them, they engaged in a different way,” Ludwa said. “It’s like we tore down this wall, literally and figuratively. When Tyrus performed, one of the inmates spontaneously got up and started applauding spontaneously. He was so encouraging of what Tyrus had done.” Then came a post-performance Q-and-A that Ludwa described as amazing.

“They asked the same kinds of questions we get whenever we go on tour,” he said. “Whether we’re at a wealthy, predominantly white church in the middle of a city or a prison in a rural area like Ionia, the questions show us that music is universal.”

After the performance, Chaplain Cheney reached out to Ludwa to thank the group for coming: “Our men have experienced so much violence, so much trauma. They lack so many things we take for granted and the live musical performance reminds them what a beautiful place this world can be and is.”

A group of College Singers performers with a K flag
The College Singers have performed at a variety of sites around the country including churches and concert halls.
A group of College Singers performers with a K flag
College Singers Director and Assistant Professor of Music Chris Ludwa has made it a goal to perform at more sites in the community.
The prison guard tower at Ionia Correctional Facility
The College Singers performed March 2 at the Ionia Correctional Facility.

Help College Singers Fund Experiences Like Prison Concert

If you would like to support additional brighter experiences for K’s College Singers, please make a gift online and indicate “College Singers” in the gift instructions field.

In hindsight, College Singers representatives such as Keegan Sweeney ’24 said K professors engage in conversations around social justice, equity, the prison industrial complex and injustices in society, so it’s important that the College offers ways to engage with it.

“I appreciated the opportunity to see a part of American life that few college students our age experience,” Sweeney said.  “Walking out of the auditorium, many of us were already reflecting on our experience. As we passed the window of the prison law library—several people sat inside, their noses in textbooks. Next to the window was a classroom with a group, deep in conversation.”

“I was reminded of the injustices endemic to our system and the stark comparison of the classroom and law library to our campus dorm rooms and K classrooms—where we discuss the same system, but rarely ever see it for ourselves. At the same time, I think the classroom and library humanized incarcerated people, those who only show up in statistics to many of us.”

Jacob McKinney ’26 said, “I wish we could have talked more to the people who came and watched because I felt like we connected with them when we were offstage. I could see some of them smiling and clapping along to Down by the Riverside and it brought a great amount of emotion to me. It was a really special experience.”

Ludwa said, “For me, it was the quintessential education experience that is a part of the K-Plan, where we plan what we’re going to learn about in the classroom, and then we experience it ourselves because the firsthand learning is so much more influential. It helps take something from theoretical to practical. Once the students do that, they have a better sense of the human toll these systems of injustice cause.”

Ludwa added that the trip scratched the surface of his dream, and from an emotional standpoint, it far exceeded his expectations of what he hoped the both the inmates and the students would get from the experience.

“Perhaps we go back in and do a workshop on singing. Then eventually it becomes a regular performance venue. The key is to build relationships.” The challenge is finding funding, as the trips carry an expense with them, and it’s important to avoid that expense being something that further underscores the inequities amongst students in terms of financial means.

Sweeney said, “We came to sing, but I think we left having learned something that you cannot teach in a classroom. I cannot speak for everyone, but I know that I got a dose of reality that day. As our bus pulled out of the parking lot, leaving to come back to campus, I was reminded to live each day with more intention and not to take privileges for granted.”

Walking Alone, Gathering Together: Solitude and Community on the Camino de Sanitago

Two women at a marker along the Camino de Santiago
Struggling with sore feet and blisters, Fiona O’Rielly ’23 rented a bike to reach the Camino Finisterre. 
One female student looking at the ocean at the Camino Finisterre along the Camino de Santiago trail
O’Rielly ’23 arrives at the Camino Finisterre
O'Rielly walks during her first day at the Pyrenees mountain range along the Camino de Santiago
O’Rielly walks during her first day at the Pyrenees mountain range along the Camino de Santiago.

July 2022 was the hottest calendar month in Spain since records were first kept in 1961. It was also the month that Fiona O’Rielly ’23 set out on a 500-mile hike across Spain. O’Rielly’s sweltering passage along the ancient pilgrimage route Camino de Santiago, and the interviews she conducted with other walkers along the way, formed the basis for her Spanish Senior Integrated Project (SIP), Caminando el Camino: Una experiencia de comunidad. 

The SIP process helped O’Rielly reflect and gain perspective on community, solitude and relationships during her last year on the Kalamazoo College campus—which was also her first full year on campus, due to a college experience upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

O’Rielly wrote her SIP in Spanish and in four parts, focusing on the historical context of the Camino de Santiago, the shift toward more secular pilgrimages and increase in use, the impact of the pandemic on the Camino and on tourism in Spain, and O’Rielly’s interview findings and personal reflections. 

The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, is a network of pilgrimage routes leading to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain, where tradition holds that the remains of the Biblical apostle St. James the Great are buried. It began in the ninth century and became a major pilgrimage route of medieval Christianity by the 10th century. 

Since the 1990s, the Camino de Santiago has regained the popularity it had in the Middle Ages, with hundreds of thousands walking the route each year. Although some of those walkers continue to be religious pilgrims, many now walk for a variety of more secular reasons. 

O'Rielly walks along the final stage of the Camino de Santiago through Galicia, Spain
O’Rielly walks along the final stage of the Camino de Santiago through Galicia, Spain.
O'Rielly stops at one of the albergues, or hostels, along the route to stay the night along the Camino de Santiago
O’Rielly stops at one of the albergues, or hostels, along the route to stay the night.
O'Rielly began her journey at the St. Jean-Pied-du-Port in France
O’Rielly began her journey at the St. Jean-Pied-du-Port in France.

O’Rielly walked the Camino Francés, the most popular route, which stretches about 500 miles, or 800 kilometers, from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port in France to the cathedral in Santiago, in the heat of summer. That July, the average daily high was 85˚F, with the hottest day reaching 106˚F. August wasn’t much better, with an average daily high of 81˚F and a peak of 100˚F.  

“It was pretty unbearable some days,” O’Rielly said. “A lot of the time, the sun was very intense and there wasn’t a lot of shade.” 

She battled heat rash, sunburn, dehydration and blisters, often rising by 4 a.m. to get the day’s miles walked before the heat of the day. She carried a backpack with a change of clothes, a sleeping bag liner, a guidebook and lots of water. 

During the day, O’Rielly did a lot of solo walking, often starting off with two friends who joined her on the Camino before each settled into their own pace and thoughts. Some days she listened to the sounds of nature; other days, the rhythm of traffic; at times, she plugged into music on her phone, especially a folk band from Ohio called Caamp, which released a new album while she was walking. 

The path varies in style and surroundings, ranging from mountainous dirt trail to flat gravel path to narrow road shoulder. Well-marked with yellow arrows, the Camino passes through a range of landscapes as well as many small towns where pilgrims stop at cafes to eat or at albergues (hostels along the route) to stay the night. 

In the evenings, O’Rielly would reconnect with her friends and other pilgrims in the towns and albergues along the route. She would also conduct interviews for her SIP.  

“I wanted those conversations to happen more organically, and I did talk to people that way, but those conversations specifically for my SIP happened mainly in the albergues, which is the main community aspect of the Camino,” O’Rielly said. “A lot of people will walk the whole day alone, and then come together, gather, share a meal, play cards, and get to know other walkers in these hostels.” 

O'Rielly organizes documents from her interviews at an albergue along her route on the Camino de Santiago
O’Rielly organizes documents from her interviews at an albergue along her route.
O'Rielly stops at a cathedral in Santiago, Spain
O’Rielly stops at a cathedral in Santiago, Spain.
O'Rielly plans her journey along the Camino de Santiago
O’Rielly plans her journey along the Camino de Santiago.

Most pilgrims were open and friendly, willing to be interviewed and to share their stories. O’Rielly ended up interviewing 15 hikers from all over the world, including Spain, the U.S., New Zealand, Ireland and Argentina. She conducted about half the interviews in Spanish, and wrote her SIP in Spanish, which was challenging and important in her Spanish learning progression.  

“I wanted to hear a lot of people’s stories and I think most people were open with that and happy to talk,” she said. “They were also understanding of me as someone who’s learning Spanish. When I was having these interviews in Spanish, there were definitely grammatical errors on my part, and people were patient and also excited to share their experiences. Maybe some people saw this as a way for them to take the time and reflect and talk it out as they were having this experience. Everyone was really welcoming.” 

In her interviews, O’Rielly met pilgrims who chose to walk for religious or spiritual reasons, as part of their struggles with addiction, because they were facing a transition in life, as part of their grieving process and to spread a loved one’s ashes, because they felt lost and unsure of their direction, because they wanted to see the country in all its variety, and more. 

One big theme that emerged from O’Rielly’s interviews was the need for both solitude and community. 

“Most people I talked to started the Camino alone,” she said. “I remember one in particular who started alone, then met this group on the first day. They would hike alone, then they would all gather and pick the same hostel and cook a meal at the end of the day. Having the time to really be alone with your thoughts and then being able to come together and have that community and those friendships is really special.” 

Another big theme that resonated personally for O’Rielly was acceptance of relationships that are anchored to a particular time or place. 

A series of stamps depicting stops along the Camino de Santiago
The Pilgrim Passport or Credencial is an official accreditation that identifies people who walk across the Camino de Santiago.

“I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life recently of intense times of bonding with people for a short period of time, and then having to walk away from that relationship,” O’Rielly said. “It’s been hard for me to realize that I can’t keep in touch with everyone.” 

For example, O’Rielly came to Kalamazoo College in fall 2019, where the Ann Arbor native participated in LandSea, joined the swim team, took Spanish classes and built community on the close-knit campus. Then came March 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic closing the state down and sending O’Rielly and the rest of the campus home. Along with so many others, O’Rielly found herself abruptly removed from the community she had started to establish at K. 

Her second year at K, O’Rielly lived in a Kalamazoo apartment with friends, attending classes virtually and rarely venturing outside her COVID bubble. 

Then O’Rielly left that community to spend her entire third year of college abroad in Cáceres, Spain. In Cáceres, she first lived with a host family and took classes through the Universidad de Extremadura with about a dozen other K students from September to February. At that point, the other K students returned to Kalamazoo, while O’Rielly stayed behind in Cáceres until June, moving into an apartment with two international students from Italy and taking Universidad classes on her own.  

On the Camino, O’Rielly found herself in a similar situation yet again, meeting people in a context of openness and self-discovery, bonding quickly and intensely, then separating, possibly forever. She also found the time and space to reflect on those relationships. 

“I remember having this conversation with my friend, and she said something like, ‘The relationships I made on the Camino are meant to be left on the Camino. They’re not mine to take,’” O’Rielly said. “That was a powerful moment for me, personally, to realize that I’ve had these beautiful moments and shared these connections with people, and it’s temporary, and that’s OK. Maybe they’ll come back again, and I can be content with these relationships as they are.” 

Walking the Camino alone gave O’Rielly time to think about the interviews she had conducted, brainstorm the format for her SIP, reflect on her own experiences and what they meant to her, and let her mind wander wherever it happened to go. 

“It’s really beautiful to have an experience like the Camino and be able to take time to sit with it and reflect on what I gained,” O’Rielly said. “In a lot of my experiences, I’ve just had to move on because I’m back in school or on to the next thing. Having that time benefitted me a lot.” 

The home stretch of the Camino can bring a bit of culture shock after all that solitude and small community. Church groups and large organizations often walk the last 100 or 200 kilometers, so the quiet Camino becomes a river of people by the time a pilgrim passes through the town of Sarria, especially during the summer peak season. 

“How far to walk each day and where to stay each night was very spontaneous until about the last two weeks,” O’Rielly said. “In Sarria, you’re reaching the last 100 kilometers of the Camino, and that’s when the crowds come in. Then I was booking hostels in advance and on more of a schedule.” 

Between the increasing number of pilgrims, and the bigger size of Santiago de Compostela, the end of the Camino can be jarring for pilgrims who walk the whole route. 

“I felt a bit overwhelmed,” O’Rielly said.  

O'Rielly walks through Garcia, Spain, along the Camino de Santiago
O’Rielly walks through Garcia, Spain, along the Camino de Santiago.

After two nights in Santiago, she struck out again, on a sort of alternate ending to the Camino—about an additional 90 kilometers to Fisterra, or Finisterra, “the end of the world.”  

Struggling with sore feet and blisters, O’Rielly rented a bike for the Camino Finisterre. 

“I thought a bike would be so much easier,” O’Rielly said. “I rented panniers to put my stuff in, though, and every time I would go up a hill, the bike would just tip. It ended up being really difficult, and I think walking would have been easier.” 

Fisterra, however, was worth the extra work, and her three nights there were a satisfying end to her pilgrimage. 

“It’s this beautiful route along the coast, and you end at the ocean,” she said. “It was amazing to swim in the ocean and relax, and I felt a lot more of the community there. I reunited with some people I had met early on the Camino and it was a really special ending point for me.” 

Now O’Rielly is deep in her last and first full year on the Kalamazoo College campus, done writing her SIP, finishing a major in Spanish with a minor in English following the journalism course sequence. She is grateful for the experiences she has had and the professors, the Hough Foundation SIP Grant and funding from the Center for International Programs that made those opportunities possible.  

After graduation, she hopes to return to Spain, possibly through the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program. 

“That would be a good way for me to continue speaking Spanish and take some time to reflect on what I would like to study next,” O’Rielly said. “There’s a lot of different things I’m interested in. I would love to go to graduate school in a Spanish-speaking country, but figuring that out could take some time and I’m not rushed at all for that.” 

Just like she did on the Camino de Santiago, Fiona O’Rielly will take things one step at a time. 

O’Rielly walked the Camino Francés route of the Camino de Santiago, which stretches about 500 miles, from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port in France to the cathedral in Santiago, Spain.

Red Cross Club Delivers the Life Blood of K Drives

With hearts full of service, a student organization is pumping exceptional success into the blood drives at Kalamazoo College.

The Red Cross Club, led by Abby Barnum ’23, has earned a Premier Blood Partners Program award from the American Red Cross, designed to recognize community efforts in benefiting the local blood supply. The award honors the Red Cross’ highest contributing sponsors, starting at 50 donations collected per year, with a minimum blood-drive size of 30 units.

As many as 50 students, faculty, staff and community members have signed up for each of the blood drives at K, which are conducted once per term, amounting to three times a year. After a few cancellations and donation deferrals for low blood-iron levels, about 35 to 40 typically will donate.

“It’s a really big honor,” said Barnum, a biochemistry major and aspiring physician assistant. “The Red Cross person who arranges the blood drives told me, ‘you guys are doing so well, we’re going to give you this special recognition because you just keep knocking it out of the park.’ It was nice to hear that we’re making a difference even though we’re a smaller school.”

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented Barnum and Red Cross Club members from conducting blood drives at K until last spring. But now, a local Red Cross representative will collaborate with Health Care Center Coordinator Jennifer Combes to schedule each drive. That empowers about 10 active Red Cross Club members to volunteer both before and after the drives.

“The week before a drive we’ll have at least two people at tables at Hicks Student Center, and we encourage everybody as much as we can to donate,” Barnum said. “We let them know that donating saves up to three lives and we’ll give them free snacks afterward. On the day of, we have hour-long shifts. I usually take the day off from classes because it’s easier if at least one person is always there. One person does registration. Another works in the canteen, where we make sure everyone who donates gets a snack and is feeling OK afterward.”

Red Cross Club leader Abby Barnum with others from the Department of Chemistry registering students as majors in the department
Abby Barnum ’23 (left) joined Caelan Frazier ’24, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniela Arias-Rotondo and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Blake Tresca at Declaration of Major Day in February. Barnum is a member of the Kalamazoo College Red Cross Club, a student organization being recognized by the American Red Cross for the success of its blood drives.

How to help the Red Cross Club

  • Kalamazoo College will host its next Red Cross blood drive from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday, March 30, in the Hicks Banquet Room.
  • For an appointment, visit and enter sponsor code kzoocollege or call 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767).
  • Donors of all blood types are needed and blood can only come from volunteer blood donors.

Barnum has seen the importance of blood donations from a young age on through family members. Her grandfather has hemochromatosis, a condition in which one’s body accumulates too much iron, which forces him to donate blood regularly whenever he’s eligible. Her mom also began donating blood years ago, setting an example for Barnum.

As a result, Barnum became a blood drive officer at her high school and began donating herself. Later, her dad benefitted from blood donations when he suffered from two non-malignant brain tumors. And since, she has worked in Bronson-affiliated emergency rooms as a medical scribe in downtown Kalamazoo, Paw Paw and Battle Creek through Helix Scribe Solutions, which provides services to physician groups, healthcare systems and hospitals.

“I’ve seen the amount of help that just one blood donation can provide,” Barnum said. “Donating takes such a small portion of your day and you can really change someone’s life with it.”

If the thought of needles prevents you from donating, but you still want to help, remember that students can always join the Red Cross Club.

“We’re always looking for new people and the time commitment is once a term for maybe four hours,” Barnum said. “It’s an easy way to feel good about yourself and boost your resume with volunteer work. It’s also a good way to contribute to society and have a positive impact on the world around you.”

Future Physician Targets Tropical Diseases in Ghana

Kramer in the Centre for Research in Applied Biology
Rachel Kramer ’23 in the Centre for Research in Applied Biology (CeRAB) at UENR with Ankrah, Babae, Kramer and Rabi Baidoo from left to right.
Rachel Kramer in a classroom full of children
Kramer collecting samples from schoolchildren.
Rachel Kramer with four friends
Kramer and friends sharing a home-cooked meal by Ankrah during the “going-away party” they all threw for her at the end of the summer.

With the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on February 11, Kalamazoo College commonly celebrates the accomplishments of scientists such as Rachel Kramer ’23.

The day, first marked by the United Nations in 2015, encourages women scientists, and targets equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. Such a day is desired because U.N. statistics show that fewer than 30 percent of scientific researchers in the world are women and only about 30 percent of all female students select fields in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) to pursue in their higher education. Only about 22 percent of the professionals in cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence are women, and representation among women is especially low professionally in fields such as information and communication technology, natural science, mathematics, statistics and engineering.

Rachel Kramer comforting a child providing a blood sample
Kramer often found herself comforting community members like this child as they gave their blood samples for tropical disease research.
Rachel Kramer with NeTroDis Research team at the University of Energy and Natural Resources
Rachel Kramer ’23 stands with a NeTroDis Research team at the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR). From left to right in the bottom row are Dr. Kenneth Bentum Otabil, Kramer, Ms. Blessing Ankrah, and Theophilus Nti Babae. From left to right in the top row are Charles Addai and Emmanual Bart-Plange.
Kramer enjoying fresh Ghanaian coconut
Kramer enjoying fresh Ghanaian coconut after Sunday service.

However, Kramer—a biochemistry major with a concentration in community and global health and a minor in Spanish—is bucking that trend. She will attend the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine in July 2023. Plus, she completed 10 weeks of research last summer investigating health inequities in Ghana, Africa, while collecting data and researching Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD’s) for her Senior Integrated Project (SIP).

The lead up to her SIP opportunity began two summers ago when she decided to get into volunteer work abroad through International Volunteer Head Quarters (IVHQ). At that time, she spent two weeks in Ghana, where she performed health care outreach by providing wound care to people in remote areas under the supervision of local health professionals.

Rachel Kramer stands with four other people
Kramer, the NeTroDis Team and their study clinician, Dr. Vera Darko (far right), on the far left meet the president of the regional hospital (middle) to inform him of their research.
Ankrah and Otabil introduce Kramer to UENR’s Dean of Science at UENR, Professor SF Gyasi
Ankrah and Otabil introduce Kramer to UENR’s Dean of Science at UENR, Professor SF Gyasi.
Rachel Kramer hugging Blessing Ankrah
Kramer and her host mother, Blessing Ankrah.

While she was there, she saw people with parasitic diseases which she later found out were considered to be NTD’s. Such diseases are of special interest to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). In fact, the two organizations have a roadmap for eradicating NTD’s by 2030, which involves working with local researchers in endemic regions to collect data to inform policy to better protect and serve the people affected by NTD’s.  

“I saw children 5 years old and younger with these ulcers half an inch deep in their ankles and feet,” Kramer said. “It struck me and I knew that these things shouldn’t be happening.”

Even before returning to Michigan, Kramer knew she wanted to go back to Ghana and develop her SIP there as her way of helping to solve the health issues she witnessed. She just didn’t know what might provide that opportunity.

Rachel Kramer standing with her SIP
Kramer in front of Kalamazoo College’s Dow Science Center, holding her 101-page SIP just before turning it in.
Tropical disease researchers pack into a van
Kramer and UENR students and staff packed into vans like this with all their gear to travel to fieldwork destinations.
What tropical disease researchers see under a microscope
A microscopic view of a participant sample.

After several random conversations asking people, including K alumni, about anyone doing research there, Kramer reached out through Twitter to Blessing Ankrah, a researcher with the NeTroDis Research Group, a non-governmental agency at the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) in Sunyani, Bono Region of Ghana.

“Two weeks later, she ended up responding and said she’d be happy to collaborate,” Kramer said. “We started talking on Zoom and WhatsApp, and she decided to have me work on a project where they were updating the prevalence rates of two neglected tropical diseases called schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis.”

People walking down a flooded dirt road
Terrain such as the one pictured were roads teams had to walk several miles on in order to reach some of the communities. This contributes to why diseases are considered neglected. They are difficult for researchers and health personnel to reach.
Researchers looking at books and forms to translate documents
Multilingual UENR students are seen translating the research forms from English to Twi so the community members, who speak Twi, could participate in the research.
Four at a birthday party
Kramer celebrating Doris Berkoh’s (professor of Biochemistry at UENR) birthday with other UENR Biological Science faculty and staff.

According to the CDC, schistosomiasis parasites live in some types of freshwater snails, and humans become infected when their skin touches contaminated water. Health-care professionals diagnose schistosomiasis through urine and stool samples. Within days of becoming infected, patients typically develop a rash or itchy skin. Fever, chills, cough and muscle aches can begin within a month or two of infection. If left untreated, this disease can become fatal.

Soil-transmitted helminthiasis, the CDC says, targets human intestines as parasites’ eggs are passed in feces. If an infected person defecates outside—near bushes, in a garden or on a field, for example—parasitic eggs are deposited on soil. People can ingest the parasites when they eat fruits and vegetables that have not been carefully cooked, washed or peeled. Some infections can cause a range of health problems, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood and protein loss, rectal prolapse, and slowed or stunted physical and cognitive growth. Similar to schistosomiasis, if untreated, this disease can become fatal.

Group photo at Mole National Park
Group photo of Kramer and the junior year biological science students on the field trip to Mole National Park
Rachel Kramer surrounded by children
Kramer celebrating Cultural Day at a local Montessori.
Rachel Kramer surrounded by community members
Kramer standing with members of a community NeTroDis researchers visited after watching them construct a hand-made xylophone with wooden planks, leaves and a hole in the ground.

Ankrah became a host mom to Kramer as both worked on the project to update and investigate the relevance, intensity and risk factors of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis in selected rural and hard-to-reach communities in the Bono and Bono East regions of Ghana. The opportunity was funded by the Hough SIP Grant and the Collins Fellowship through Student Projects Abroad (SPA) funding, both of which were through Kalamazoo College. .

“This summer was an experience where I was not only a researcher, but I was also a student and a family member,” Kramer said. “Blessing was able to show me what the food was like, what the people were like, what the culture was like and it was just an amazing life experience.”

Students at Mole National Park
Kramer with UENR students in the savanna on the field trip to Mole National Park.
Rachel Kramer looking through a microscope
Kramer in the Centre for Research in Applied Biology (CeRAB) at UENR microscopically analyzing samples.
Picking out clothes from a pile
Bringing clothes for community members during fieldwork visits.

Yet research definitely remained the purpose of her visit. For the first three weeks, it was necessary for the researchers to perform paperwork during business hours to ensure the ethical approval of the project by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) committees at UENR. During the evening hours, Ankrah introduced Kramer to her family and friends including host brother Lord Owusu Ansah; the university’s president, vice president and dean of science; and regional hospital leaders.

When the five-week field work began, Kramer and her fellow researchers traveled to eight isolated communities that had as few as five and as many as 200 residents to collect socio demographic and qualitative data along with urine and stool samples.

Four researchers walking down a dirt road
NeTroDis team walking on the dirt road to get to the communities. From left to right Theophilus Nti Babae, Otabil, Divine and Kramer.
Rachel Kramer in front of a tree with large roots
Kramer at one of the community sites for field work.
Rachel Kramer hugging Blessing Ankrah
Kramer with Ankrah for their daily “pre-work selfie.”

“We would get up at 4:30 a.m. and ride in a packed van for about three hours,” Kramer said. “When we arrived to the communities, many times we would have to walk a distance with all of our gear. Some of these communities were only a few households and are located so far from public roads, and that’s why these diseases are considered neglected. It took us two hours to walk to one of the communities on foot and there was no way to get there with a car. Since there are so few people living in these remote places, there’s no way the government would fund roads to these communities.”

After traveling back to the UENR campus from the field, the researchers stored their samples in freezers before resting for a few hours and then returning to the lab around 7 p.m. in the evening when they analyzed up to hundreds of samples. The immediacy was imperative despite their long days because the urine and stool samples would go bad within 24 to 48 hours.

Rachel Kramer with Kenneth Bentum Otabil
Kramer standing with her head researcher, Dr. Kenneth Bentum Otabil.
Rachel Kramer and the vice chancellor of UENR
Rachel Kramer exchanging a gift with the vice chancellor of UENR after introducing NeTroDis’s summer research project to him.
Rachel Kramer surrounded by children
Kramer with children at local market.

After the field work, Kramer’s biggest roles were inputting data, helping with the preparation of samples, and microscopic analysis of the specimens.

“Once we got our data from all eight communities, we compiled all of it and I worked with a data analyst at the university who helped me compile it to get our overall prevalence rates and associate the risk factors to the positive cases,” Kramer said.

This work became the basis for her SIP.

Short woman pats Kramer on her head
“This was the first time I met someone in Ghana who was older than me yet shorter and we had so much fun dancing together when I visited this community,” Kramer said.
Ghanian woman wearing colorful clothes provides a blood sample
A research participant dressed in beautiful Ghanaian clothing gives her blood sample for research.
Rachel Kramer hugging Blessing Ankrah
Kramer with Ankrah for their daily “pre-work selfie.”

“Now that my written SIP has been submitted, all that’s left to do is present my SIP at the annual Chemistry and Biochemistry SIP Symposium during the spring trimester and then wait to find out whether I attain honors from the faculty for my work,” Kramer said. “So many people questioned why I decided to do something so big for my SIP since I have already been accepted to medical school. But just because I have been accepted doesn’t mean I need to take a step back, so I decided to pursue a passion instead. I did this because I have seen these diseases first hand and how disproportionately they affect people of low socio-economic status in tropical regions. I was emotionally driven to take part in the global movement to end the neglect. Additionally, I knew that this opportunity would enhance my cultural competence which can help me be a better physician to people in the future. Eventually, I’d like to be a study clinician in similar studies and even create the policies that can protect and serve these people. With this foundational-level research under my belt, I am motivated to continue my research focus on NTD’s in medical school.”

And this might not be the last of her research outside of medical school.

“I’m still in contact with my host mom,” Kramer said. “I have a number of people in Ghana I text every week just to talk about various things like the projects they’re working on. Currently, they have two new projects that are going to be funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation regarding an NTD called Onchocerciasis, which is transmitted through biting black flies. I asked Blessing if it is possible for me to work remotely while I’m in medical school on those projects, and she said I probably could, but it is also possible that I could go back to Ghana during this upcoming summer to join their new projects in projects in person. Overall, I loved being abroad and how it opened up my eyes to the world and cross-cultural differences. Being a future physician, I was introduced to the atrocities of Neglected Tropical Diseases and I saw just how invaluable being a part of the team that is working to end the neglect really is.”

Kalamazoo Promise Internship Helps K Student Look to a Higher Future  

For Natalie Gross ’24, the Kalamazoo Promise paved the way not only to Kalamazoo College, but also to a valuable internship experience. 

During summer 2022, Gross worked as an information technology intern at CSM Group through the Higher Promise program. 

The Kalamazoo Promise is a scholarship program that provides up to 100 percent of tuition and mandatory fees for post-secondary education for any student who graduates from Kalamazoo Public Schools. In the Higher Promise program, the Kalamazoo Promise facilitates job matching between regional companies and Promise scholars seeking internships.

Kalamazoo Promise scholar Natalie Gross interns at CSM Group
In her Kalamazoo Promise internship at CSM Group, Natalie Gross ’24 performed inventory and maintenance of software and updates on company devices.
Kalamazoo Promise scholar Natalie Gross interns at CSM Group
Kalamazoo Promise scholar Natalie Gross ’24 worked last summer as an information technology intern at CSM Group through the Higher Promise program. 

Gross applied to the program in fall 2021, received resumé building help from the Kalamazoo College Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD), and interviewed with a Promise representative before being sent five options of regional business partners. While Gross ranked her interest in the options, companies also ranked their interest in the internship candidates so mutually agreeable matches could be made. 

In her IT internship at CSM Group, Gross performed inventory and maintenance of software and updates on company devices. She also helped with research into intranet options for communication within the company. 

“It was different every day,” Gross said. “IT is really a job where when something comes up, you deal with it. I would go in with a list of things to do, and I would work through those, and then there were also things that would come up more immediately that I would deal with.” 

Gross liked the variety of tasks as well as meeting many people throughout the company as they came to the department for help. 

“I appreciated how everyone treated the IT department,” she said. “It didn’t feel like we were there to just help you and then you’d leave. Everyone came in and they were interested in who I was and how I got there. It was an easygoing conversation and personal relationships with every employee.” 

Focusing on the IT side of computer science complemented Gross’ classroom experiences at K, which have focused more on programming and development.  

“This internship has been a great toe in the water for what life could be like post-grad,” Gross said. “It has given me a little bit of direction on where to go and to look to. I am still open to every side of computer science, but it’s helped me narrow down a bit and be a little more focused.” 

Her experiences at CSM Group along with the structure of the Higher Promise program collaborated to also provide Gross with practice and training for being part of a workplace. Higher Promise planned professional development classes every other week for the interns, which included resumé building with the CCPD, a diversity-and-inclusion seminar, and CliftonStrengths assessment with coaching on understanding your personality in the workplace. 

“There were a lot of fun things that we did,” Gross said. “I learned about how to be professional in a more personal way. I always had this idea that professionalism was something really stiff, and you didn’t have a lot of personality in it. I learned that you can be interesting and professional at the same time; it doesn’t have to be a trade-off.” 

Gross also learned about professional communication and speaking up for herself. Through the Higher Promise program, she was assigned a mentor at her internship, and she was also encouraged to reach out to anyone in the company and network. 

As a female student in a male-dominated field, Gross chose Alyce Brady, the Rosemary K. Brown Professor of Computer Science and computer science department co-chair, as her advisor at K. She appreciated that in CSM Group’s small IT department, there was a female employee. 

“It was nice to have that representation,” Gross said. “I was told there that they wanted to hear my experiences as a woman and they wanted to know what it was like for me in the IT department. They wanted our voices to be heard and they were interested in my opinions.” 

A double major in computer science and French, Gross plays on the softball team, works in the Office of Admission as a tour guide, and spent August to December studying abroad in Rennes, France. 

She thinks all K students should study abroad, visit the CCPD, take advantage of the opportunities that are advertised in College emails, and immerse themselves in the K community. 

“K has this environment where you’re able to connect with people outside of your major and your interests, which I think is not always the case in a lot of smaller schools,” Gross said. “A lot of my friends I’ve met just randomly. I have friends from the softball team and computer science and French classes, and yet I’ve also been able to open up and find friends outside of my immediate interests. I think K really gives you an option to have a more expansive social circle and to meet people outside of your interests.” 

Humanities Courses Lead Students to New Orleans

A major grant awarded to Kalamazoo College helped 17 students begin experiencing a new dimension of hands-on learning in their humanities coursework through a visit to New Orleans over winter break.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation granted $1.297 million in January 2022 to provide new learning opportunities through the College’s Humanities Integrated Locational Learning (HILL) project. HILL builds student coursework rooted in the College’s commitment to experiential learning and social justice to address issues such as racism, economic inequities and homelessness, while examining history, how humans share land, and the dislocations that bring people to a communal space.

Within HILL, there are multiple academic departments represented with clusters of classes that emphasize collaborative learning within the humanities and humanistic social sciences:

  • The Beyond Kalamazoo course clusters focus on location or dislocation and emphasize place-based learning through an integrated travel component in New Orleans, St. Louis or San Diego.
  • The Within Kalamazoo cluster, which emphasizes a theme relevant to location or dislocation, where faculty directly collaborate on coursework that engages directly with social issues in the Kalamazoo community.
  • The digital humanities hub, which publishes, archives and assesses outcomes in relation to course work and partnerships beyond and within Kalamazoo.

New Orleans was the first site on which the Beyond Kalamazoo cluster focused. In fall, courses consisted of Lest We Forget: Memory and Identity in the African Diaspora in New Orleans, taught by Associate Professor of Anthropology Espelencia Baptiste; Public Art and its Publics led by Professor of Art and Art History Christine Hahn; NOLA Divided: Race in the Big Easy, led by Associate Professor of English Shanna Salinas; and The World Through New Orleans, led by Associate Professor of Music Beau Bothwell. Each course operated independently with discipline-specific instruction.

Students interested in doing place-based research in New Orleans applied for the Beyond Kalamazoo cluster, which included six weeks of preparation, instruction on research methodologies in the humanities, the seven-day research trip, and post-trip research and writing. Those students were put into research groups formed by research interest and a distribution of one member from each of the cluster courses, so every group had at least one representative from each of the four cluster courses.

The students’ pre-trip collaboration—based on their knowledge from their respective courses within the departments of English, art history, anthropology-sociology and music—helped them create a collaborative research project that would emphasize location or dislocation, problem solving and social justice in New Orleans.

Students and volunteers paint colorful signs
During a volunteer day, Jenna Paterob ’23 worked with her peers to create signs for Ms. Gloria’s Garden at People for Public Art in New Orleans.
Paintings and artwork on a wall
Community partners such as Lower Nine, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the long-term recovery of the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Ida and Rita, and the levee breaches of 2005; and People for Public Art, an organization of artists that funds, creates and documents works of public art for the City of New Orleans to reflect the stories of the people, were significant contributors to the experiences Kalamazoo College humanities students had.
People for Public Art facility during humanities trip to New Orleans
“Throughout the day, I discovered that we were seeing different types of public art, allowing us to feel like we were a part of the community,” said Jenna Paterob ’23 of her humanities experience at People for Public Art in New Orleans.
Colorful paintings and adornments on a building in New Orleans
Kalamazoo College students enrolled in Humanities Integrated Locational Learning classes this fall called their experience in New Orleans educational, eye-opening, fun and immersive.
Figurines of seven African powers in New Orleans
“There is a ton of history that none of us knew about before going there, even though we had all taken a class about the city,” said Josh Kuh ’23. “I thought it was valuable to have this structured opportunity that felt like doing more than observing for research.”
Students and volunteers painted signs for a garden in New Orleans
During a volunteer day, Jenna Paterob ’23 worked with her peers to create signs for Ms. Gloria’s Garden at People for Public Art in New Orleans.

Their subjects of interest for the projects included the city’s theatre scene, public transportation and historical ties to slavery with each student connecting their social justice interests with each of a variety of community partners. Students were encouraged to use onsite and digital archives at the Historical New Orleans Collection for their projects when applicable.

The community partners included Lower Nine, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the long-term recovery of the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina, Ida and Rita, and the levee breaches of 2005; and People for Public Art, an organization of artists that funds, creates and documents works of public art for the City of New Orleans to reflect the stories of the people. Students then worked with these partners during their on-site visit this winter.

Morgan Acord ’23, an English major with a passion for literature, found Salinas’ class to be fascinating because New Orleans has a literature culture all its own, she said. She appreciated that their trip also included cultural opportunities such as participating in a second-line parade, seeing the Oak Alley and Whitney plantations, and observing French and Spanish artifacts at the New Orleans Archive.

Yet for Acord, filling a need for social justice work through a nonprofit was the biggest benefit.

“We helped an 80-year-old woman and her husband who had been sleeping on an air mattress in their kitchen after Hurricane Ida,” Acord said. “They were living in a shotgun-style house and all of her belongings were in what I assumed was the living room. Overall, it showed how catastrophic those New Orleans hurricanes were. You see the footage on TV, but to see it firsthand and see how people live in houses still under repair is eye opening. It felt good on the surface to be able to help, but it was eye opening to know how privileged some of us are.”

Together, Acord and classmates including Josh Kuh ’23, an anthropology-sociology major from Seattle, tore a front wall out of the house that had been destroyed by termites, painted baseboards, and laid down flooring in what was to be the couple’s bedroom. Professor Mills along with Lower Nine representatives assisted in painting the ceiling and the dining room.

“There is a ton of history that none of us knew about before going there, even though we had all taken a class about the city,” Kuh said. “I thought it was valuable to have this structured opportunity that felt like doing more than observing for research. We provided a meaningful service to the organizations that we were working with. I think the biggest takeaways of mine involved seeing firsthand how extensive the hurricane damage was. I saw the disarray in this house and it hadn’t been fixed even though it had been almost 20 years since some of the damage happened.”

Jenna Paterob ’23, a business and psychology double major and art minor, took Professor Hahn’s class in fall because she often feels like she overlooks public art.

“Our experience in New Orleans was educational, eye-opening, fun and immersive,” she said. “It isn’t every day that we get to go into a new area of the country and interact with the community there. I feel like we were able to see bigger issues encapsulated in the city such as tourism, racism, white supremacy and classism. “I feel like when we stay in one place for a long period of time, we may become a little desensitized to the issues that surround us. Therefore, going to a new area, especially as someone who has never been out of the Midwest, was definitely an educational experience for me.”

Paterob had a social justice experience with People for Public Art in New Orleans. During the volunteer day, Paterob worked with her peers to create signs for Ms. Gloria’s Garden. The location offers opportunities for children to garden, cook, sew, make jewelry and music, and take yoga and meditation classes. The garden is managed by a nonprofit, Developing Young Entrepreneurs, which provides youths and young adults with entrepreneurial skills and a safe space for people to feel free to be themselves.

“When I first discovered that we were going to be making signs, I was confused about what that had to do with public art,” she said. “Throughout the day, I discovered that we were seeing different types of public art, allowing us to feel like we were a part of the community. Painting signs for plants in a garden may not be the first thing people think of when they think about public art, but we really did create some fun and beautiful pieces of art that communicate information and improve the garden. I liked that day because I was exposed to a whole new setting and sense of community. I also learned that the organization creates a bunch of impactful pieces, such as the memorial pieces they showed us. They took a tragic event that was minimized and silenced by certain people and allowed the community to come together to grieve. I learned a lot about New Orleans and how the residents interact with their community through learning about the public art there.”

Ally Noel ’24, an anthropology-sociology and English double major, had similar praise for her experience at People for Public Art.

“That day shifted my entire trajectory in terms of my research in New Orleans,” she said. “Going into New Orleans, I had this idea of what I thought I wanted to study but then after Monica (Kelly, representing People for Public Art) was telling the story of the lower mid-city and the inequities that exist there, I realized I wanted to do research on the closure of Charity Hospital after Hurricane Katrina hit. That was the day that everything clicked for me, and I realized, being in that space was important. A student can study a space from afar, but being there helps research in terms of learning and making meaning of the experience.”

Salinas is serving as the curriculum coordinator for integrated travel to New Orleans and a co-principal investigator for the HILL initiative as a whole.

“The primary vision of this initiative is collaboration, be that students sharing their knowledge with other members of their research group based on the cluster class they took, community partners holding space for students to learn about the work they do in New Orleans and the stakes of that work, and research groups working across disciplines in the humanities to develop a digital humanities research project that reflects both their academic knowledge and their experiences in the city,” Salinas said. “We asked students to commit to one eight-hour work day with two of our community partners. Students self-selected according to interest or research investment, frequently with research group members on different work sites. Afterward, students were able to come together and share those experiences with each other and discuss what they learned. It was these moments that enhanced their research and, ultimately, their collaborative projects. HILL’s curricular design relies on students being able to share their experiences, to talk to each other about what they learned, to root in in the type of instruction they received in their cluster classes, and to make those concrete connections back to things like community-building as a crucial element of the humanities.”

As they reflected on their experiences, the students praised the opportunity to go to New Orleans and said they would encourage their peers to seek HILL-focused, place-based learning classes as well.

Baptiste’s class, for example, set the table for students such as Maya Nathwani ’23, an anthropology-sociology and biology double major, to examine history away from campus when she missed a study abroad opportunity because of COVID-19. Lest We Forget: Memory and Identity in the African Diaspora in New Orleans provided Nathwani with a life-changing experience in her college years that she otherwise would’ve missed.

“The class emphasized understanding what history is and how it’s created and produced, along with who has the ability to share and pass on history, impacting how we remember the past,” Nathwani said. “Going to do research in a space where I’d never been was intimidating just because I’d never done it before. But I would encourage other students to try these classes, too, because the professors prepare you to be successful.”

Top News Stories of Students in 2022 Reflect Outstanding Achievements

Kalamazoo College students exemplified academic excellence in the classroom along with outstanding achievements around campus and around the world in 2022. Based on your clicks, here are the top 10 news stories featuring K students from the past year. Watch for our top news stories of faculty and staff, alumni and the College coming soon.

10. Student’s Research Signals Trouble with Climate Change for Fish

Grace Hancock ’22 and her Senior Integrated Project (SIP) are proving that something fishy is going on with climate change. She is a great example of the women celebrated by the U.N. every February 11 on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Grace Hancock Analyzing Fish
Grace Hancock ’22

9. Chemistry Student Selected as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow

The National Science Foundation has selected Ola Bartolik ’22 as a Graduate Research Fellow to support her graduate career at the University of Michigan. The fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions.

Ola Bartolik ’22

8. Phi Beta Kappa Chapter at K Welcomes Newest Inductees

The Delta of Michigan Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Kalamazoo College welcomed 42 inductees for 2022 at an induction ceremony on June 8.

The mission of the Phi Beta Kappa Society is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, foster freedom of thought and recognize academic excellence.

Phi Beta Kappa logo says, 'Dec 5, 1776'

7. Student Earns Alpha Lambda Delta Scholarship

For the first time in nearly 10 years, a Kalamazoo College student received a merit scholarship from Alpha Lambda Delta, the honor society for first-year academic success.

Shahriar Akhavan Tafti ’24 will receive one of 50 undergraduate scholarships worth $1,000 to $6,000 each, as the honor society issues a total of $105,000 nationally through the Jo Anne J. Trow Award.

Alpha Lambda Delta scholarship recipient Shahriar Akhavan Tafti ’24
Shahriar Akhavan Tafti ’24

6. Hundreds of Birds Plus Thousands of Miles Equals Student’s Big Year

Will Keller ’23 told the Audubon Society of Kalamazoo about his Big Year. For bird enthusiasts like Keller, a Big Year is a personal challenge or an informal competition to spot and identify as many bird species as possible within a calendar year in a specific geographic area.

Will Keller ’23

5. Bienstock Pushes K’s Fulbright Count to 5

Rebecca Chan ’22, Libby Burton ’22, Matthew Flotemersch ’20 and Kiernan Dean-Hall ’22 initially were chosen among about 1,900 students, artists and young professionals to represent the U.S. in about 140 countries for one academic year. Julia Bienstock ’22 later became the fifth K Fulbright recipient.

Fulbright Recipient Julia Bienstock_fb
Julia Bienstock ’22

4. Signing Day Spotlights Students Headed to Graduate School

Much like student-athletes would gather to sign letters of intent when formally selecting their collegiate destinations, six K chemistry students met to officially declare where they will attend graduate school.

Annie Tyler Signing Day_fb
Annie Tyler ’22

3. Kalamazoo Gardeners Beware: Student Unearths Jumping Worms

The Senior Integrated Project (SIP) of Katie Rock ’23, cataloging the earthworms inhabiting Lillian Anderson Arboretum, uncovered an invasive species never before officially documented within our city, the jumping worm.

Katie Rock smiling_fb
Katie Rock ’23

2. Eight Heyl Scholars Choose K

Eight Kalamazoo County high school students seeking to major in STEM-related fields have earned Heyl Scholarships to attend Kalamazoo College in the 2022-23 academic year. 

Annaliese Bol_fb
Annaliese Bol ’26

1. Woman’s Fall Tests LandSea Leaders’ Mettle, Training

Imagine being in a remote area of the Adirondack Mountains when you hear a scream. Darkness is falling and a storm is approaching. Would you know what to do? Ava Apolo ’25 and Julia Leet ’22 did.

LandSea Leaders Ava Apolo and Julia Leet_fb
Ava Apolo ’25 and Julia Leet ’22

Kalamazoo College Unveils Fall 2022 Dean’s List

Sign Says "Kalamazoo College, Founded 1833" in fall 2022
Congratulations to the students who reached the Dean’s List in fall 2022.

Congratulations to the following Kalamazoo College students, who achieved a grade point average of 3.5 or better for a full-time course load of at least three units, without failing or withdrawing from any course, during the fall 2022 academic term. Students who elect to take a letter-graded course on a credit/no credit basis (CR/NC) are not eligible for Dean’s List consideration during that term. Nor are students who receive an F, NC or W grade for that particular term. Students with incomplete (I) or in-progress (IP) grades will be considered for the Dean’s List upon receipt of their final grades. Dean’s List recognition is posted on students’ transcripts. Kudos to the entire group for fall 2022.

Fall 2022


Morgan Acord
Kayla Acosta
Khalil Adams
Beren Akpinar
Maya Alkema
Adnan Alousi
Fanny Alvarado
Zahra Amini
Paige Anderson
Eleanor Andrews
Mia Andrews
Michael Ankley
Madison Anspach
Ava Apolo
Alexandra Armin
Lora Armstrong


Aidan Baas
Lindsey Baker
Baylor Baldwin
Madison Barch
Evan Barker
Ethan Barnes
Gabriella Barry
Evelyn Bartley
Elena Basso
Jenna Beach
Daniel Beccari
Annabel Bee
Samantha Bekolay
Conner Bell
Carolyn Bennett
Cassandra Bennett
Eleanor Bernas
Willow Bigham
Thalia Bills
Ella Black
Henry Black
Daphne Bos
Mairin Boshoven
Mabel Bowdle
Adelaide Bowen
Jaylen Bowles-Swain
Holly Bowling
Ella Boyea
Yvette Boyse-Peacor
Allison Bozyk
Lukas Broadsword
Avery Brockington
Eamon Bronson
Chloe Bryant
Anna Buck
Christopher Bullard
John Bungart
Leah Bunnell
Donovan Burleigh
Drake Butcher


Amaia Cadenas
Isaiah Calderon
Eleanor Campion
Olivia Cannizzaro
Christopher Cayton
Abigail Caza
Alexandra Chafetz
Josetta Checkett
Yongwan Cho
Trustin Christopher
Noah Chukwuma
Noah Chun
Yaire Cisneros Tovar
Eva Clancy
Nathaniel Clark
Alisha Clark
Kai Clingenpeel
Mai Elise Code
Madeleine Coffman
Sedona Coleman
Quinn Collins
Zachary Connor
Jordan Cook
Josee Cooke
Kyle Cooper
Indigo Corvidae
Mia Crites
Isabella Cross
August Crothers
Lilian Crowder Smith
Gwendolyn Crowder
Smith Chase Cummins


Gabrielle Daane
James Dailey
Lillian Daniels
Talia Dave
Kylah Davis
Zachary Dean
Tali Deaner
Shruti Debburman
Lillian Deer
Ethan DeNeen
Laura DeVilbiss
Devi DeYoung
Liam Diaz
Michaela Dillbeck
Samuel Douma
Jordan Doyle


Sally Eggleston
Jairo Eguia
Rebecca Elias
Elise Elliot
Sara English
Justin Essing
Caleb Ewald
Sam Ewald
Chad Ewing


Jazmyne Fannings
Claire Farhi
Ella Faris
Madalyn Farrey
Samuel File
Blake Filkins
Julia Fitzgerald
Sofia Fleming
Ella Flourry
Stephen Flynn
Gigi Fox
Kinga Fraczkiewicz
Caroline Francis
Janna Franco
Emma Frederiksen


Alondra Gallardo
Ethan Galler
Valeria Garcia
Roberta Gatti
Lyrica Gee
Vrinda Girdhar
Lukas Graff
Westin Grinwis
Elizabeth Grooten
Cassandra Grotelueschen
Amelia Grupp
Cristian Guasgua
Kendra Guitar
Zoe Gurney
Abigail Gutierrez


Marissa Haas
Sophia Haas
Sydney Hagaman
Emily Haigh
Alison Hankins
Geneva Hannibal
Luke Hanson
Madeline Hanulcik
Sophie Hartl
James Hauke
Tanner Hawkins
Beatrice Hawkins
Jiniku Hayashi
Katherine Haywood
Jeremiah Heath
Megan Herbst
Sophia Herold
Ella Heystek
Sierra Hieshetter
Devon Hobbs
Garrick Hohm
Annika Hokanson
Madeline Hollander
Ronin Honda
Jaelyn Horn
Joseph Horsfield
Molly Horton
Charles Horvath
Tyler Houle
Gavin Houtkooper
Jakob Hubert
Ethan Huebsch
Samuel Hughes
Alek Hultberg
Lukas Hultberg
Keaton Hunt


Carson Ihrke
Daniel Isacksen


Gloria Jackson
Colton Jacobs
Tristan James
Morgan Jenkins
Hao Jiang
Anne Catherine Johnson
Cloe Johnson
Maxwell Joos


Amalia Kaerezi
Kiana Kanegawa
Jessica Kaplan
Judah Karesh
Ella Kelly
Emilia Kelly
Alyson Kemery
Roze Kerr
Mphumelelo Khaba
Hunter Kiesling
Vanita Kihuithia
Vivian Kim
Joshua Kim
Anwen King
Caleb Kipnis
Claire Kischer
Alexander Kish
Sofia Klein
Noah Kleiner
Steven Kloosterman
Rhys Koellmann
Cole Koryto
Daniel Koselka
Marissa Kovac
Emma Kovacevic
Katherine Kraemer
Jordyn Kravitz
Molly Kreibich
Laryn Kuchta
Claire Kvande


Olivia Laser
Braeden Lavis
Annmarie Lawrence
Madeleine Lawson
Grace Leahey
Ilem Leisher
Margaret Lekan
Sage Lewis
Thomas Lichtenberg
Ava Loncharte
Madeline Lovins
Caden Lowis


Gionna Magdaleno
Natalie Maki
Andrew Mallon
Arjun Manyam
Lesly Mares-Castro
William Martel
Daniel Martinez
Molly Martinez
Joaquin Martinez
Stephanie Martinez
Natalie Martinez
Gracen Martini-Zeller
Hollis Masterson
Kanase Matsuzaki
Virginia Matta
Zachary Maurice
Benjamin Maurice
Lily May
Megan McGarry
Lucas McGraw
Leo McGreevy
MacKale McGuire
Ashlynne McKee
Regan McKee
Jacob McKinney
Kira McManus
Abbey McMillian
Amy McNutt
Sophia Merchant
Maximus Mercurio
Gabriel Meyers
Brittany Miller
Elizabeth Miller
Ella Miller
Cooper Mills
Jade Milton
Ameera Mirza
Elana Mitchell
Jackson Mitchell
Lina Moghrabi
Jana Molby
Raven Montagna
Mackenzie Moore
Aiden Morgan
Emma Morrison
Wyatt Mortensen
Madeline Moss
Lorelei Moxon
Phumuzile Moyo
Mary Ellen Muenzenmaier
Elizabeth Muenzenmaier
Karis Mulcahy
Claire Mullins
Anna Murphy
Erin Murphy
Madison Murphy
Ryan Muschler


Elias Nagel-Bennett
Alex Nam
Robert Newland
Emma Newlove
Nguyen Nguyen
Anna Nguyen
Theodore Niemann
Dustin Noble
Malin Nordmoe


Jeremiah Ohren-Hoeft
Akinyi Okero
Gabriel Olivier
Alexander Olsen
Emma Olson
Fatima Ortega


Chelsea Paddock
Eleanor Parks-Church
Hannah Parsons
Eric Paternoster
Jenna Paterob
Morgan Paye
Mia Pellegrini
Isabella Pellegrom
Adriana Perez
Herrero Maya Peters
Charles Peterson
Sydney Pickell
Mia Pierce
William Plesscher
Elaine Pollard
Evan Pollens-Voigt
Grayson Pratt
Melissa Preston
Lucas Priemer
Elena Pulliam
Hailey Pullo
Bea Putman
Noah Pyle


Suha Qashou
Alex Quesada
Matthew Quirk


Leah Ramirez
Lafern Ramon
Roman Ramos
Sadye Rasmussen
Sara Reathaford
Isabel Reyes
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Eli Routt
Tabitha Rowland
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Elliot Russell


Sophia Sajan
Greta Salamun
Bobby Samples
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Leonardo Sarver
Maxwell Saxton
Fiona Schaffer
Isabel Schantz
Vivian Schmidt
Audrey Schulz
Hannah Schurman
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Isabella Shapiro
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Hannah Summerfield
Jenna Sutton
Christan Sydney
Brandon Sysol
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Claire Taylor
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Minh Thu Le
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William Xu


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First Album Spotlights K Student’s Music

Isabella Pellegrom Album Nomadic Tendencies
Isabella Pellegrom ’25 conducted a launch party
for her album, “Nomadic Tendencies,” at a sports bar
near her home in Minnesota and performed to rave
reviews in the nearby town of Pepin, Wisconsin.

It’s the time of year when Spotify and Apple Music users look forward to the apps revealing the artists, songs and genres they’ve listened to most and the statistics that surrounded them in 2022. But search for an artist less familiar, and you might find a new voice to appreciate: a Kalamazoo College student reaching new audiences and achievements with her first album.

Isabella Pellegrom ’25, from Eagan, Minnesota, has produced and released Nomadic Tendencies, a 10-track collection of her vocal talents. Spotify describes Pellegrom as a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter, who pulls inspiration from indie pop, soft rock and jazz, while embedding her own voice. As a storyteller, she hopes to find truth and unite others around her. The album reflects a journey of self-discovery and self-love to highlight the idea that everyone builds a wall and runs away only to return and appreciate the people who matter most in their lives.

That theme of running away followed by an inevitable return helped her realize the moment she finished writing the song Nomadic Tendencies that it would be the title track of her album.

“It was one of the first times I’d just written a song from front to end all in one go,” Pellegrom said. “It was cool to talk about this person who tends to go everywhere because they can’t really find their place. It worked because I realized it correlated to the story of this person throughout the album who is constantly going to new places, whether it’s for better or worse. She’s meeting new people or finding out more about herself, and so has these tendencies to always move around. I liked it because at the very end, it comes back to I’ll Come Home to You because she eventually finds out that her home is with the people who have always supported her.”

Pellegrom first discovered her love of music and singing when she was about 6 years old.

“I have an older sister and she had given me her old MP3 player,” Pellegrom said. “It had maybe 15 songs on it, and by the end of the first week I had it, I knew every lyric to every song that was on it. I sang along to them and pretended I was a little pop star. I loved it.”

Album Cover for Nomadic Tendencies
You can hear Isabella Pellegrom’s album, “Nomadic
Tendencies,” on all streaming platforms
including Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music.

Yet over the years, she became not only a vocalist, but an instrumentalist through guitar, saxophone and piano, and a songwriter whose talents and shared messages have grown with her.

“It’s funny to look back at the songs I first wrote because, when I was 10 years old, I would write and sing about things like fairy-tale princesses,” Pellegrom said. “It wasn’t anything that had to do with what was happening in my life. I would like to say I’ve improved since then. I’ve joined choirs, I’m in band (Academy Street Winds) at K now and I did jazz band in high school. I also just recently got into acapella (the student group Limelights) where I’ve learned to arrange music, which has helped me put together and break apart songs. Music is a huge part of my life and it’s nice that I’ve kept it separate from what I hope to do with my career. In that way, it’s allowed me to take off some pressure and just do it because I love it.”

While boating on the Mississippi River one day a couple of summers ago, Pellegrom’s family voted on which town they would stop in to find dinner. The decision turned out to be fateful.

“My mom and her friend, who had this little café, were just eating, when all of a sudden, the café had this live artist,” Pellegrom said. “The artist was Tim Cheesebrow, and my mom knew I wanted to get back into playing guitar. She was wondering if Tim taught lessons and he gave us his card.”

Pellegrom spent those lessons working on songwriting and collaboration.

“He helped me with my songwriting by saying that a lot of times it’s good to keep a continuous theme or have a main message,” Pellegrom said. “It was helpful because I ended up finishing a lot of my songs for those lessons. It was the first time I got to collaborate with someone in terms of songwriting. Through these lessons, I eventually had about 13 songs that I thought were great together. Tim also has his own at-home studio and he’s been producing music for a long time.”

Pellegrom recruited some fellow musicians, pared her songs to the 10 that worked best together, and produced Nomadic Tendencies at Cheesebrow’s studio.

“That’s what I spent the majority of my summer doing the year I came to K,” said Pellegrom, whose parents, Jeffrey ’88 and Mary ’88, also attended K along with a grandfather and some of her aunts and uncles. “I got help from other local musicians for the baselines and the drumming. Tim helped me out with the guitar and walked me through the whole process of what it takes to release it. It all felt like a fever dream at the time and it still kind of does. It’s now out in the world and I’m really proud of it.”

Pellegrom conducted a launch party at a sports bar near her home in Minnesota and performed to rave reviews in the nearby town of Pepin, Wisconsin. She has plans to release a second album, although when is not yet decided as she tries to balance an intended biochemistry major and music minor. Medical school is a possibility for her, too, one day. Yet in the meantime, she will enjoy the success of releasing Nomadic Tendencies.

You can hear Pellegrom’s music on all streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music; she performs covers on YouTube; and you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and TikTok. Her website is

“I love it when people listen to it,” Pellegrom said. “The best part is realizing that I released it for me. I don’t really have any expectations for it. I don’t need for something to come from it. I just felt it was time to release it. I was ready to put this project that I’m really proud of into the world and move on to other songs and other projects. In terms of my goals for it, the main goal was to release it and hope that people who listen to it can enjoy it.”