School Psychologists Group Honors K Alumna

School Psychologists Group Honors Zoe Barnes
Zoe Barnes ’18 is being honored by
the National Association for School Psychologists.

A Kalamazoo College alumna, inspired by her experiences in diversity at K, has earned a special honor from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

Zoe Barnes ’18, now a graduate student at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE), has received the 2021 Student Leader Champion Award for her efforts in advancing social justice throughout her university, in the community and through her chosen profession.

“I’m very excited because it’s a wonderful honor,” Barnes said. “Social justice is a buzzword to some, but it’s a constant, ongoing process of challenging what we know and checking our own biases. In school psychology, social justice is important because if you look at a school and see who the teachers and staff are, you will often see groups dominated by white staff members. They don’t reflect the increasing diversity of students, especially in public schools. Social justice can help us challenge the status quo.”

Several students at SIUE, including Barnes, expressed their interest in social justice to faculty last summer. The professors sensed an opportunity to connect them all, leading to the formation of the Graduate Students for Social Justice, a group that talked about injustices on campus and developed ideas for addressing social justice within their respective programs.

Barnes is a member of that group and also recently served as the social justice chair of the Graduate Organization for Child and Adolescent Psychology Students (GOCAPS) at SIUE. Her service led a faculty member to nominate Barnes for the NASP honors.

Barnes said the K community helped her develop an interest in diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice after she arrived from a predominantly white community in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At that point, Barnes started seeing more peers who looked like her. Students of color provided an energizing space where she could discuss the discrimination and microaggressions she experienced on campus with others who could relate.

“Being at K, and just being surrounded by people who look like me and had similar experiences really helped me,” Barnes said. “Talking helped put a name to the discomfort.”

Barnes double majored in Spanish and psychology and minored in anthropology-sociology at K. After a gap year, Barnes looked for help in determining her career path. At that point, she talked with Suzie Gonzalez ’83, spouse of K President Jorge G. Gonzalez.

“I went down this route to school psychology because of Suzie Gonzalez,” Barnes said. “I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life when I met up with her. She was a school psychologist and she definitely inspired me.”

Barnes earned her master’s degree through SIUE in December and now is seeking a clinical child and school psychology specialist degree with an expected graduation date of May 2022. She will be honored at NASP’s 2022 annual convention in February.

“I would love to make an impact however I can as a school psychologist,” Barnes said. “When I picture my career, I want to be firmly planted in a school district. I want to walk down the halls and recognize all the students and know their educational history. Early intervention is a huge part of school psychology and I would love to support them from the very beginning.”

K Alumna, Epidemiologist Addresses Delta Variant, COVID-19 Vaccines

Natasha Bagdasarian Discusses the COVID-19 delta variant and vaccines
Natasha Bagdasarian ’99

Natasha Bagdasarian ’99 read a book while she was studying abroad as a Kalamazoo College student in Perth, Australia, that changed the trajectory of her career. The Hot Zone, a book about investigating Ebola outbreaks, captivated her and guided her all the way through medical school with a goal of one day working in outbreaks.

In December 2019, Bagdasarian was working as an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at National University Hospital in Singapore when COVID-19 began spreading in Wuhan, China. The pandemic quickly reached Singapore, partly because of the number of direct flights that arrived daily from Wuhan.

If there was good news at that time, it was that Singapore had learned much of what it needed to do for an epidemic like COVID-19 during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in the early 2000s. Armed with that knowledge, Bagdasarian and her team successfully prevented all health care workers and non-COVID-19 patients at the hospital from contracting the virus despite managing more than 1,500 beds.

Bagdasarian later returned to Michigan with her husband, Vahan Bagdasarian ’99, and their child last summer. She now works for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as a senior public health physician and consults for the World Health Organization. She also wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post published August 14 that discussed her family’s own experiences with COVID-19. We caught up with Bagdasarian to discuss COVID-19’s delta variant, K’s plan for a full return to in-person instruction this fall, and why it’s necessary to mask up when students on campus must be vaccinated.

What is the COVID-19 delta variant?

“We know that anytime a virus spreads through a community, the more it’s transmitted, the more opportunities that virus has to mutate. The delta variant is one of those mutations. It’s been classified as a variant of concern, meaning it has some properties that make it more threatening to us. Specifically, we’ve found that the delta variant is more transmissible than the original strain that we saw back in the beginning of the pandemic. It’s also more transmissible than the alpha strain, which we had been so worried about a few months ago when it caused a huge wave of infections here in Michigan and around the country.”

What are the delta variant and COVID-19 trends that should concern us most in Michigan?

“We’re seeing an uptick in cases not just in Michigan, but really around the country. The other trend we look at is our percent positivity rate. Percent positivity measures how many tests are coming back positive out of all tests conducted in a certain area. Whenever we’re heading toward a surge of cases, we start seeing that number bump up. Of the people who are being tested, more of them are testing positive for COVID.”

Why is it important to continue masking indoors if so many students, faculty and staff have been vaccinated?

“We have a variety of ways to prevent transmission of COVID, and vaccines, I would say, are the single best tool that we have available. We know vaccines are highly efficacious, even in the face of new variants, especially when it comes to severe infections, hospitalizations and deaths. We know that the vaccines are going to save lives and have already saved lives. But what we’re seeing with delta is there can be breakthrough infections, meaning an infection after someone is fully vaccinated. A person with a breakthrough case can still potentially transmit that infection on, so relying on just one of our mitigation strategies is not a good idea.

“When we’re heading toward a potential surge of cases, it really makes sense to use as many strategies as we can. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve talked about a layering of precautions. We call it the Swiss cheese model of risk mitigation. Each single mitigation measure, each single strategy has holes. No strategy is going to be 100 percent effective at stopping transmission of the virus. But if you stack up enough slices of Swiss cheese, even though there are holes, you can plug those gaps, and it’s less likely to allow a transmission to occur. If we do things like vaccinate everyone who can be vaccinated, wear masks when we’re indoors, make sure our ventilation is good, and avoid very large gatherings, that’s our best bet at preventing outbreaks.”

Should students, faculty and staff on vaccinated college campuses feel safe attending in-person classes and events this fall?

“Generally, the classroom has been a relatively safe place for people to gather. That’s for a number of reasons. In a classroom setting, people are generally following the rules. They’re generally spaced apart. They’re generally wearing their masks. We know that schools and colleges around the country have made sure their air-handling systems are up to snuff. The places that tend to be riskier are those where people are gathering for social purposes where they are removing their masks, bringing lots of people close together, and especially when those people are unvaccinated. There’s no ‘this is low risk, this is high risk.’ It’s all a spectrum. But the more strategies we can stack on top of vaccines, the safer an environment becomes.”

If the vaccine is the best tool we have available, how do we convince everyone that it’s safe?

“We know that these vaccines are incredibly safe and effective because they’ve been studied extensively. We have an adverse-symptom reporting system where adverse events are monitored very closely, and this is incredible technology. In fact, when I talk about the pandemic and whether anything good has come from it, these vaccines are the silver lining. We now are able to make vaccines using mRNA technology, which makes vaccines very quickly and effectively.”

How can we encourage those concerned about their individual liberties to get vaccinated?

“I think that’s a difficult question. Many people have strong feelings about this. My area of expertise is not really in individual liberties, but I can tell you that if I were still a student at Kalamazoo College right now, it would make me feel safer if I knew that vaccines were being required of everyone. That would make me personally feel safer, and I can tell you these vaccines are incredibly safe and effective.”

Is there any other message you’d like to share with our students, faculty and staff?

“I hope everyone has a productive and safe return to college campuses. This requires a collective approach to keeping people safe. It requires communities coming together with vaccinations and wearing masks. Doing these things individually are less effective than doing them as a community.”

Alumnus Puts Streaming Center Stage for Theatre Industry

Cody Colvin edits video for streaming
Cody Colvin ’18 (left) hopes to show the theatre industry how streaming can increase revenue.

A Kalamazoo College alumnus has a plan to ensure all the world’s a stage for the theatre industry now and in the future, despite the drama that COVID-19 has caused behind the scenes.

Cody Colvin '18
Cody Colvin ’18

Cody Colvin ’18 traveled the country in about 45 days this spring with the staff of his business, Colvin Theatrical, to film 11 of the 12 Outstanding Production nominees at this year’s American Association of Community Theatre (AACT) Festival. His travels to cities from Lexington, Massachusetts, to Spokane, Washington, helped Colvin show the industry how recorded or streaming broadcasts of theatre events have the potential to widen audiences from the few sitting in theaters to thousands more regardless of their location.

“There’s one element to the filming, which was protecting theaters during the pandemic and helping them get back some of the revenue they might have lost,” Colvin said. “But what we’re really excited about is the prospect of growing the industry. We’ve found that there are companies that are doing better with streaming than they were in person, and the reason for that is scale.”

Scale is the opportunity to increase revenue at a faster rate than costs, which is one of the ideas Colvin studied as a business major at K.

“Scale in the theatre industry is basically impossible when you have a limited number of seats that you can sell,” he added. “Theaters at every level, whether they be community colleges or Broadway companies, could only sell so many seats, and their costs continued to rise. Filming creates an interactive experience that allows companies to scale their audience and reach people all over the world.”

Colvin Theatrical Sets Up for Streaming a Play
Colvin Theatrical films an AACT Festival Outstanding Production nominee on the road.

Colvin’s filming opportunities developed when he first helped K’s Festival Playhouse rethink its plans for the 2020 productions of Kokoro and K. His streaming services gave a silver lining of optimism to what otherwise might’ve been a lost season and Colvin was grateful for the work experience.

That work was key for Colvin in attracting the attention of the AACT Festival, which affirms, supports and nurtures actors, directors and producers in community-theatre companies. The event, normally conducted every other year in person, needed to be virtual in 2021 because of the pandemic. That meant the Outstanding Festival Production nominees needed to be filmed with a presentational touch absent in the single-camera video submissions they initially provided festival judges. Colvin’s services provided the solution.

An actor participates in 'The Mountaintop'
Dominic Carter portrays Martin Luther King Jr. in the Lexington (Massachusetts) Players production of “The Mountaintop,” which earned Outstanding Festival Production honors at the AACT Festival.

“With our cameras, our broadcasting equipment and the way we shoot these productions, it’s very interactive and theatrical,” Colvin said. “You occasionally have moving shots, you have multiple cameras, and you have really good audio so you’re able to get an experience that is a mix of theatre and film to take a story to the rest of the world. Video has a place in every level of theater and there’s always going to be an expanded audience that any theater at any level can find.”

Colvin and his team used Blackmagic Design products, including video-editing tools and digital film cameras, to produce film with a cinematic quality that drew rave reviews from the theatre companies. Colvin Theatrical is also partnering with Blackmagic Design to create a website,, that will launch in September. The interactive site will help teach theaters around the world how to film and broadcast their shows. There also will be a documentary film of their work on the site to show the production process.

“When you have the trust of all those people, you want to do it as well as you possibly can and they were very happy with us,” he said. “When you’re able to look back and say, ‘Yes, we did that as well as we possibly could have and it was a success,’ that’s an amazing feeling. The reactions are just amazing.”

Colvin admitted some might still prefer an in-person theatre experience to streaming even if they have to pay a premium for tickets. However, filming and streaming can only widen opportunities for audiences and theatre companies alike.

“Anything that you once knew as live, whether it be a few years ago or a couple decades ago, is finding a home on television,” he said. “We think theatre’s going to be no different. When I watch a Lions game, I actually prefer watching on TV because I see the best angles that way. I can hear commentary, I can see pretty much every angle of the game, and I can do it from the comfort of my own home. It’s not a direct parallel, but I think it’s where the theatre industry is headed.”

Colvin often worked at the Festival Playhouse at K. That and his experiences as a business major are fueling what stands to be his success now and in the future with much of the credit going to faculty members such as Professor of Theatre Arts Lanny Potts, Edward and Virginia Van Dalson Professor of Economics Patrick Hultberg, L. Lee Stryker Associate Professor of Business Management Amy MacMillan and Associate Professor of Economics and Business Timothy Moffit.

“The College gave me an education that allows me to be an entrepreneur at 25,” Colvin said. “I use what I learned in the business department and the theatre department every day. I use the negotiation skills I learned with Patrik Hultberg, accounting with Dr. Moffit, and marketing with Professor MacMillan. So much of how I think about business is structured based on how they taught me. I couldn’t be more thankful for my time at K.”

Alumna Provides a Trusted Voice in Science, Health

Jill Weatherhead and her science mentors in a lab
Jill Weatherhead ’05, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-scientist and Director of Medical Education in the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, works in a lab with her mentors, Drs. Peter Hotez and Maria Elena Bottazzi, who are co-chairs in the Department of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Tropical Medicine. Photo credit: Baylor College of Medicine.

A Kalamazoo College alumna, key to Baylor College of Medicine’s fight against COVID-19, set a goal of communicating more effectively and regularly with the public about science and health in 2020.

“Little did I know this pandemic would come and science communication would be so critical,” said Jill Weatherhead ’05, M.D., Ph.D., a physician-scientist and Director of Medical Education in the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “Over the past year, I’ve wanted to discuss the pandemic with the public honestly and openly with transparency. I’ve wanted to share scientific knowledge with the community to make sure people are safe and have a better understanding of what’s going on.”

Weatherhead has been very successful with that goal. Even a simple glance at her Twitter handle, @JillWeather, shows evidence of that. Recently, she’s been a resource for scientific publications and Houston-area media outlets regarding subjects such as COVID-19 trends, and the vaccine’s efficacy and safety. She even details her own experience with receiving the vaccine in pictures, video and personal reports.

Jill Weatherhead women in science
Jill Weatherhead ’05 has been a resource for scientific publications and Houston-area media outlets regarding subjects such as COVID-19 trends, and the vaccine’s efficacy and safety.

“Transparency and media communication are really important to show I’m not only talking the talk, but walking the walk,” she said. “I want people to know that I’m doing the same thing and that I’m holding myself to the same standard. Seeing the positives and the negatives of those recommendations are critical to instilling trust in what you’re saying. That doesn’t mean the vaccine process is perfect or that I didn’t have some small side effects. But when the vaccine comes to you, please take it. Then, please continue to wear a mask and social distance. I’m trying to exemplify that.”

Such spotlights make Weatherhead an ideal example of someone the United Nations celebrated on February 11, the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, along its theme of “Women Scientists at the Forefront of the Fight Against COVID-19.”

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 to pursue in their higher education. Representation among women is especially low professionally in fields such as information and communication technology at 3 percent; natural science, mathematics and statistics at 5 percent; and engineering at 8 percent.

To change such numbers, the U.N. General Assembly established its international day to celebrate women scientists and build equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. Weatherhead is doing her part as an Infectious Disease expert at Baylor to encourage and support women entering into science especially those starting their educational journeys.

“I think one of the biggest lessons I learned is not to be afraid to challenge yourself and try new things,” Weatherhead said when asked about advice for women interested in scientific disciplines at K. “There are things that are going to be comfortable and things that are going to be uncomfortable at K, so challenge yourself. It’s important to grow and figure out where you see your career going.”

When Weatherhead attended K, trying new things meant a study abroad experience at the Universidad de San Francisco in Ecuador.

“That experience alone really shaped the trajectory of my whole career,” she said. “I worked at an inner-city hospital, and I wrote a thesis on the health inequities caused by poverty in Ecuador. That was the first time where I saw the impact of access to health care, health communication and community outreach. It really opened my eyes to a whole different side of the world that I didn’t know existed. I honestly feel that I came back a different person.”

That experience inspired her interest not only in infectious disease, but tropical medicine, a subspecialty within infectious disease research, focusing on afflictions that most commonly affect people living in extreme poverty within certain climates.

“In order to have these diseases, you need to be living in poverty in areas where there’s poor sanitation and waste management; areas where the diseases can flourish in warm, humid climates,” Weatherhead said. “We see a lot of these infections here in Texas, as well as in other areas along the Gulf Coast where the climate and pockets of poverty support them. My lab focuses on how these infections of poverty lead to long-term, detrimental health consequences in children and adults and aims to develop new interventions to prevent these infections.”

Weatherhead’s efforts and sacrifices clearly benefited Baylor and the Houston area last year and will continue to do so as the pandemic progresses through her direct care of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and through her community outreach and service.

K helped cement that deep commitment to service.

“I would say my K-Plan was the foundation of my current career,” Weatherhead said. “Without my K-Plan I would not be where I am.”

From Singapore to Michigan, Alumna Fights COVID-19

Alumna Natasha Bagdasarian Fights COVID-19
Natasha Bagdasarian ’99 was working as an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at National University Hospital in Singapore when the COVID-19 pandemic took shape. She now serves the World Health Organization as a consultant and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as a senior public health physician.

When a listserv between epidemiologists first mentioned a unique syndrome identified in Wuhan, China, Natasha Bagdasarian ’99 sensed trouble. It was December 31, 2019, and an atypical pneumonia outbreak had been linked to a novel coronavirus. At that time, there was still uncertainty on the transmissibility and severity of the new pathogen, and epidemiologists were put on alert.

Bagdasarian was working as an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at National University Hospital in Singapore, where her job involved outbreak response, surveilling infections and contact tracing for contagious illnesses. To Bagdasarian, Singapore seemed to be a potential hot spot for this coronavirus, which eventually spiraled into the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Singapore was right in the path of this because we had a lot of direct flights between Singapore and Wuhan, and this was happening right before Chinese New Year when a lot of Singaporeans travel,” Bagdasarian said.

The first case in Singapore was confirmed on January 23. The earliest cases were individuals who had traveled from China, until local transmission began to develop in February and March. The Kalamazoo College alumna’s role became vital in Singapore’s response to COVID-19, especially when it came to contact tracing, a key strategy in fighting the pandemic.

“For every COVID patient, we would have to find out where they’ve been in the last 14 days and give a very detailed summary to the Ministry of Health,” Bagdasarian said. “Then, the Ministry of Health would go to those people and places and look for contacts. Every patient that came into our hospital, we’d sort of track their path and make sure there were no breaches in their care and that nobody in the hospital had been exposed.”

If there was good news at this point, it was that Singapore had learned much of what it needed to do for an epidemic like COVID-19 during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in the early 2000s. The synergy Bagdasarian and her team developed with that knowledge, despite overseeing nearly 1,500 beds, led to zero cases of health care workers and non-COVID-19 patients contracting COVID-19.

“Everybody remembered the protocols,” Bagdasarian said. “When we needed additional capacity, we constructed a big outdoor tent as our emergency department overflow. Everything we did was sort of templated from SARS. It was a beautiful response to be a part of.”

Soon, her duties expanded, and she started examining cases outside hospitals in Singapore’s densely populated areas.

“Those settings in Singapore include migrant worker dormitories, and some of them house thousands of workers,” Bagdasarian said. “It was like taking the skills that we had learned in the hospital and extrapolating them to completely different settings to figure out strategies to stop transmission when you sometimes have up to 20 people living in one room.”

Obviously, social distancing was impossible and distinctive approaches were necessary.

“There are other strategies you have to use such as cohorting, where you try to put together people who all have been exposed or have all been infected. That was really interesting work and it got me thinking about health care disparities, and how vulnerable populations have been impacted by COVID.”

Bagdasarian returned to Michigan with her husband and young child this summer, when her husband’s job with General Motors was transferred back to the U.S. However, the lessons she learned in Singapore are serving the world still today. She now serves the World Health Organization as a consultant and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as a senior public health physician.

“What keeps me up at night is thinking of the unknown,” she said. “COVID is bad. In the infectious disease community, we always knew there was a potential for something like this to happen. But COVID will not be the last zoonotic infection with pandemic potential to cross over to humans, and the next one could be worse.”

A Match Made at K

Natasha met her husband, Vahan, also ’99, when they were first-year students at K. The couple met during orientation and were lab partners in their first biology course, a class on evolution.

“She seemed so genuinely happy to be at K and eager to get the year started,” Vahan said. “I was more hesitant, but her positive energy was evident on day one and we quickly became good friends.”

That lab and class experience helped steer Vahan away from the hard sciences and toward an economics major and sociology minor. Conversely, they solidified Natasha’s interest in biology. Natasha added a second major in psychology and an extended, nine-month study abroad experience in Australia to her K-Plan.

That extended experience was fateful because it put Natasha behind schedule in applying to medical school. That was all the reason she needed to first pursue a master’s degree in public health at the University of Michigan.

“While on foreign study, I read a book called, The Hot Zone,” Natasha said. “It talks about investigating Ebola outbreaks and I was absolutely captivated. That sort of propelled me through medical school with this goal in sight that I was going to be an infectious disease doctor and work in outbreaks.”

She attended medical school at Wayne State University before serving an internal medicine residency and an infectious diseases fellowship at the University of Michigan.

After Natasha’s education was complete, Vahan had an opportunity to work for General Motors in Singapore. Natasha supported Vahan and followed him by taking a leap of faith with no guarantee she would be able to work. Medical training often is specific to an individual country, and many countries don’t accept American medical training.

However, “Singapore at that time, they were still allowing some American medical trainees, and I ended up working at the most wonderful hospital,” Natasha said. “I don’t know how I got so lucky. It was five years of training for a COVID-like scenario under a boss who had years of experience working for an arm of the World Health Organization that does outreach to low- and middle-income countries when they experience outbreaks.”

To complicate the scenario, Vahan—after three years in Singapore—was offered a chance to become the CFO for General Motors in the Africa and Middle East Region, meaning a move to Dubai. Fortunately, the hospital allowed Natasha to telecommute and continue her role with occasional visits back.

“It was a seven-and-a-half-hour flight from Singapore to Dubai and I worked remotely across time zones, but we made it work,” Natasha said. “I had a team on the ground that was absolutely wonderful. We would have Zoom calls a couple times a day, and then I would fly to Singapore every month. I did that for about two years when COVID hit. Then, I went to Singapore to work on the COVID response.”

That opportunity to work remotely until COVID-19 hit benefited Singapore, and continues to benefit the World Health Organization and the State of Michigan in her current roles. In the meantime, Vahan emphatically praises Natasha and the work she’s done to fight the pandemic.

“There aren’t words really to describe how proud I am of Natasha,” Vahan said. “She has spent countless sleepless nights working on this pandemic, but this is the norm. I’ve watched Natasha dive into various other outbreaks and give the same dedication and attention. Her love for her work and desire to help people is inspirational. Now that we are home in Michigan, I think it is very fitting that she can transfer that passion to her home state and work to keep us as safe as possible.”

Founders Day Marks K’s 187th Year, Honors Three Employees

Kim Aldrich with four Alumni Engagement employees.
Kim Aldrich (middle) pictured with Alumni Engagement colleagues at Homecoming in 2018, was recognized Friday as the recipient of the Lux Esto Award of Excellence. The honor is awarded annually as Kalamazoo College marks Founders Day.

YouTube video: President Gonzalez surprises honorees with news of their awards

Kim Aldrich ’80, Kalamazoo College’s director of alumni engagement, is this year’s recipient of the Lux Esto Award of Excellence. The award, announced Friday to celebrate Founders Day marking the College’s 187th year, recognizes an employee who has served the institution for at least 26 years and has a record of stewardship and innovation.

The recipient—chosen by a committee with student, faculty and staff representatives—is an employee who exemplifies the spirit of Kalamazoo College through excellent leadership, selfless dedication and goodwill.

President Jorge G. Gonzalez credited Aldrich for her wide-reaching collaborations in the K community, her networking skills and being an embodiment of the guidelines for the award. He also noted that nominees said Aldrich “brings general brightness and passion to her work, both in her everyday interactions on campus as well as with our alumni and friends of the College.”

Founders Day Kenlana Ferguson
Counseling Center Director Kenlana Ferguson

Brittany Liu
Associate Professor of Psychology Brittany Liu

In accordance with Founders Day traditions, two other employees also received individual awards. Associate Professor of Psychology Brittany Liu was given the Outstanding Advisor Award, and Counseling Center Director Kenlana Ferguson was named the Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate Award honoree.

Gonzalez complimented Liu as an empathic listener who easily builds relationships with students while building on advisees’ successes and their opportunities for improvement.

He said Liu “takes time to learn of her advisees’ passions, interests and goals, and understands that those often evolve with the student throughout their time at K.”

In honoring Ferguson, Gonzalez recognized her work in first-year forums, the JED Set-to-Go program for students transitioning from high school to college, and the Steve Fund crisis text line that supports students of color.

“The confidential nature of her work allows some of her impact with individual students to fly under the radar,” Gonzalez said. “Even so, we have witnessed many occasions when first-year students turned the corner due to her involvement in their lives.”

Day of Gracious Giving Honors the Lasting Legacy of Mentorship

Kalamazoo College alumni near and far will have an opportunity to honor their K mentors—and have their gifts matched dollar for dollar—on the Day of Gracious Giving.

Day of Gracious Giving Card Says Celebrate Your K Mentors
Kalamazoo College alumni near and far will have an opportunity to honor their K mentors and have their gifts matched dollar for dollar on the Day of Gracious Giving.

“We are encouraging all alumni to remember those who have played formative roles in their lives and consider making a gift in their honor,” said Laurel Palmer, director of the Kalamazoo College Fund. An anonymous group of donors will challenge more than 1,000 alumni, parents and friends to make a gift to K by offering a $230,000 matching pool.

“Alumni often tell us that the relationships they forged with faculty, coaches and other mentors are among the most cherished outcomes of their K experience,” said Palmer. “This is a great way for alumni to thank their mentors and foster the same opportunities for current and future students.”

As usual, the event will coincide with the Day of Gracious Living and the date will be a surprise. The announcement for #KGraciousGiving will be made via email and on the Kalamazoo College Facebook and Twitter pages.

In 2018, while students enjoyed a gracious class-free day, 1,013 alumni from the classes of 1947-2017 gave an astonishing $226,270. This year’s goal aims to surpass that record and raise $230,000 from 1,040 donors.

All contributions make it possible for Kalamazoo College to attract, retain and support talented students regardless of economic need. All donors—including alumni, parents and friends—can choose to support scholarships, faculty resources or the K experience. To explore the opportunities and make a gift, visit the Kalamazoo College Fund online.

Alumni to Return for Homecoming This Weekend

When about 1,000 alumni return to Kalamazoo College this weekend for Homecoming, they will have a chance to root for an undefeated football team.

The Hornets are 6-0 for the first time since 1978. They will face Alma at 2 p.m. Saturday in a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association game at the Athletic Field Complex, 1600 W. Michigan Ave.

Two students with Buzz the Hornet at Homecoming 2017
About 1,000 alumni return to Kalamazoo College this weekend for Homecoming.

K’s volleyball team and men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams also have home competitions Saturday. The volleyball team faces Wheaton at 11 a.m. at Anderson Athletic Center. The swimming and diving squads face Saginaw Valley State at 2 p.m. at the natatorium.

Other Homecoming events this Friday-Sunday include:

  • the Alumni Association Awards Ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Join us in the Dalton Theatre at Light Fine Arts to honor the award recipients for 2018 including Distinguished Service Award winner Rick Gianino ’78, Distinguished Achievement Award winner Sandra Greene ’74, Weimer K. Hicks Award winner David Barclay, Young Alumni Award winner Eli Savit ’05, and the Athletic Hall of Fame Awards honorees. The athletic awards honorees include Kristyn Buhl-Lepisto ’04 (women’s golf); Meaghan Clark McGuire ’05 (women’s tennis), Eric Gerwin ’00 (football), Scott Whitbeck ’04 (men’s swimming and diving), and the 1955, 1980 and 1981 men’s tennis teams.
  • reunions of the classes of 1968, 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013.
  • receptions and gatherings for groups including the 1833 and Stetson societies, the Alumni of Color, the Emeriti Club, and alumni from specific academic departments.
  • guided campus tours of historical sites, the campus in general and the new hoop house.
  • performances by Monkapult, Cirque du K and theater seniors.
  • opportunities for alumni to tell their K stories in video through Story Zoo.
  • gatherings where alumni can offer advice and compare notes with current students.
  • fun, games, photos and treats on the Quad.

You can still join the fun and renew connections with your classmates. Visit our homecoming website for a full schedule, details and registration information. Then, watch the College website, Facebook page, Twitter account (@kcollege) and Instagram account (@kalamazoocollege) for photos and updates throughout the weekend.

Distinguished Judge Testifies to Power of K-Plan


Testifying to the enduring value of the K-Plan, renowned former U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen ’73 told Kalamazoo College students in a campus visit that “it made me who I am.”

Judge Gerald Rosen talks with students at Kalamazoo College
Students were invited to meet retired Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen ’73 on Monday, Feb. 19, and hear him talk about how his K experience helped him forge an exemplary career in public service and law. That career included engineering the “Grand Bargain,” which brought Detroit out of bankruptcy and paved the way for Motown’s rebirth.

“I’m a real product of the K-Plan,” said the recently retired judge, who presided over the Detroit-based U.S. Eastern District of Michigan and handled cases that included the city’s 2013 bankruptcy, the largest of its kind in U.S. history.

He came to the College to play tennis, he said, and had a vague idea about becoming a doctor. However, a familiar nemesis of many a would-be medical student — “two words,” Rosen said. “Organic chemistry” — dissuaded him from pursuing that field. He said his academic adviser pushed him toward political science, often a path to law school, and the K-Plan did the rest.

In a question-and-answer session with a student audience in the Olmsted Room at Mandelle Hall, Rosen recalled as particularly influential a history course that introduced him to the “roller coaster” career of Winston Churchill, the late wartime British prime minister who remains one of his heroes. He also cited philosophy courses that taught him the finer points of reasoning and writing; the challenge of participating in experiential learning opportunities that included working in the office of then-Michigan Gov. William Milliken; and study abroad in Sweden.

“I spent as many (terms) off campus as I did on campus,” he said, adding that experiences such as being a student teacher in an inner-city Philadelphia school challenged him to develop his self-reliance and fostered in him a sense of independence.

“You become confident in your ability to reason through things on your own,” he said. “I think if I had gone to a school that had a traditional program and a cookie-cutter curriculum I probably would have come out of it a different person than I am today.”

During his day at K, Rosen also spoke to a philosophy of law class led by Max Cherem ’04, the Marlene Crandell Francis assistant professor of philosophy; met with faculty; visited with the men’s tennis team as he praised K’s program as fostering “true student athletes;” and dined with President Jorge G. Gonzalez and Suzie (Martin) Gonzalez ’83.

Now beginning a new career as a high-level mediator with Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Rosen served as a judge on the U.S. District Court in Detroit from 1990 to 2017 and was chief judge from 2009 to 2015. He long provided internships in his chambers to K students and graduates and received the Kalamazoo College Alumni Association’s Distinguished Achievement Award in 2014.


Inaugural K-Talk Shows Power of Alumni Ties

[Hear more from Matt Thieleman in a TEDx Talk from Sept. 8, 2018.]

It’s an experience many Kalamazoo College alumni can relate to: spending four years working and learning with amazing and inspiring classmates, then going your separate ways, never to have the same sort of connection again.

Karman Kent and Matt Thieleman talk to the K community at the first K-Talk
Friday, Oct. 20, was the first event in a planned K-Talk series that Joan Hawxhurst, director of the College’s Center for Career and Professional Development, said will make it possible for alumni such as Karman Kent (left) and Matt Thieleman, both ’07, to share their ideas and experiences with the K community.

But for Karman Kent and Matt Thieleman, both ’07, a convergence of opportunity and expertise launched a post-college professional collaboration aimed at bringing the beneficial effects of mindfulness to stressed-out college students – an experience the two spoke about before an audience of students and fellow alumni in Dewing Hall on Homecoming Friday.

It was the first in a planned K-Talk series that Joan Hawxhurst, director of the College’s Center for Career and Professional Development, said will make it possible for alumni to share their ideas and experiences with the K community.

The project that renewed the ties between the two former classmates began after Kent joined Morehead-Cain, a foundation that provides full-ride merit scholarships at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Now the foundation’s director of scholar selection, Kent found a community of high-achieving students, not unlike those at K, who were often severely stressed by the difficulties of meeting their own high expectations and those of others.

Thieleman, meanwhile, had launched a career in social media marketing, then discovered a passion for developing future leaders through training in mindfulness, the practice of focusing one’s attention on what is happening in the current moment. He launched a Nashville-based consultancy that, as he puts it, helps people recognize that actually “being present” in a situation is key to developing the ability to see the way forward in an increasingly noisy world.

Kent – seeking a way to get students to open up about their troubles – reached out to Thieleman, who brought his expertise to UNC for a seminar. He and Kent said they saw a surprising and “profound” transformation in the Morehead-Cain students who participated, with 95 percent recommending the program to others.

Thieleman continues to counsel students. And Kent said the foundation was so impressed with the results that it has hired a full-time adviser to coach its scholarship recipients in mindfulness techniques.

Hawxhurst said Kent and Thieleman’s experience points out the potential power of the K experience during and after college. Kent concurred.

“At Morehead-Cain … the alumni network is one of the biggest benefits to being in the program,” she said. “We have so many amazing alumni here at K. If we can have that kind of openness to working together, it can be transformative.”