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.