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.”

Reception to Spotlight Alumna’s COVID Purse Diary Exhibit

Heather Boersma standing in front of a display from COVID Purse Diary
Heather Boersma ’89 is the artist behind COVID Purse Diary, which is on display now at the Light Fine Arts Gallery.

A Kalamazoo College alumna who got her start in art as a child by making creations out of everything from McDonald’s containers to acorns, will be the guest of honor in a reception highlighting her recent work at the Light Fine Arts Gallery. 

The Department of Art and Art History is presenting COVID Purse Diary, an exhibition by alumna Heather Boersma ’89, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October 12. In the exhibit, Boersma uses recycled materials and random objects to represent a variety of subjects related to the COVID-19 quarantine. At her reception—from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, September 22—Boersma will read a few poems related to her visual art at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. 

Rather than shopping for a new spring purse in 2020, Boersma started taking longer walks, slower bike rides and collecting natural specimens and discarded artifacts that spoke to her about the shifting values of the world through the quarantine. Baking bread, walking on trails, trying to cut our own hair, hoarding toilet paper and wearing masks became global trends that fascinated her, inspiring her art for the exhibit. She hopes that in years to come people will look at the series and be able to find pieces that they can relate to and be inspired to use art to help process challenging times. 

Since studying art and English at K and earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Western Michigan University, Boersma has taught writing, reading and aesthetic education at WMU and elementary schools throughout Kalamazoo County. She has received multiple grants and awards in Western Michigan shows and at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. Since the pandemic, she has shifted to creating and she exhibits her artwork full-time in shows and competitions. 

The public is invited to the free exhibit and the free reception. No registration is necessary. For more information on her work, visit her website

Climate Change Exhibit Spotlights K Artists

Climate Change exhibit for Points of Return
Jo-Ann and Robert Stewart Professor of Art Tom Rice is among 25 artists featured
in “Points of Return,” an online exhibit dedicated to climate change.

An online art exhibit dedicated to pushing for action against climate change while there’s still hope for the planet features two artists with Kalamazoo College connections.

Jo-Ann and Robert Stewart Professor of Art Tom Rice and alumna Bethany Johnson ’07 were among the 25 international artists chosen from more than 300 entrants for “Points of Return.” The exhibit focuses on the harm humans have caused to the Earth, particularly since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, while emphasizing there are still multiple paths and approaches that can be taken to restore an environmental balance.

“Points of Return” is presented by A La Luz, which translates from Spanish as “spotlight” or “to shed light on.” The group was founded in 2015 by environmental artists David Cass and Gonzaga Gómez-Cortázar Romero to be a wide-ranging platform for sustainable and environmentally focused creative work. The exhibit unfolds across six sections, defined as viewing rooms, that describe a movement that comes full circle through planetary ecosystems, art disciplines and mediums.

'Safe Keeping' art for Climate Change Exhibit 'Points of Return'
Bethany Johnson ’07, who is featured in “Points of Return,” uses materials
such as chipboard, foam, hardboard, paper, plastic, plexiglass, particleboard,
plywood and wood in “Safe Keeping,” which deals with material consumption
and the resulting pollution, climate change and landfill waste.

Rice’s part of the exhibit shows one of his projects, “Precarious Living,” within the work he pursued for four months as a Fulbright Canada research chair in arts and humanities at the University of Alberta. There, he exhibited a climate-themed installation titled “Shifting Uncertainties: The Land We Live On.”

“‘Points of Return’ represents artists from many different parts of the world, which is important because climate change is a global issue,” Rice said while calling his selection to the global exhibit an honor. “What we do locally or nationally impacts areas of the world that contribute much less to the climate crisis. The online format of the exhibition ensures that many more people will have the opportunity to spend time with the artwork than if it had been a physical exhibition. Accessibility to information is critical to changing people’s minds and behaviors related to climate-change issues.”

Rice used an Alberta-area oil refinery as the main visual resource for “Precarious Living.”

“I hope that my work will help people be self-reflective and ask questions about the climate crisis,” Rice said. “‘Precarious Living’ is a large-scale drawing installation that poses more questions than it answers. The subject matter is focused on an oil refinery made up of a mass of pipes, upgraders, holding tanks, chimineas and flares that amount to an absurd maze of fragile connections. What is really going on here? How can we comprehend the impact of an industry that is the very foundation of our economy, but threatens our very existence? The drawings have large sections of redacted information. For me, these redacted or negated elements represent both subterfuge by the fossil fuel industries, and our own self-imposed delusion that we can continue burning fossil fuels and that technology will save us. ‘Precarious Living’ is about being at the tipping point of global warming.”

Johnson’s artwork is represented by Moody Gallery in Houston, Texas, and she is an Assistant Professor in the School of Art and Design at Texas State University. Her work in “Points of Return,” titled “Safe Keeping,” deals with material consumption and the resulting pollution, climate change and landfill waste. She feels those are important issues for artists to face given the work they pursue and how they pursue it.

“I think there can be an attitude in the art world that one’s conceptual ideas must be realized by any means possible; that essentially, the scale, media and production methods must inherently follow from the artist’s greater conceptual idea,” Johnson said. “This can lead to an incredible amount of material consumption, energy use, and the utilization of toxic, unsustainable materials within the art world. Under the current conditions of our climate crisis, I feel that the art world is in desperate need of material and energy ethics; that we think seriously about the impacts of our work on the environment, and strive toward artmaking practices that are renewable, environmentally sensitive and even climate positive in their impacts.”

In line with the overall exhibition, Johnson’s display embodies anxiety and hope along with grief and joy as she uses layered materials that are reminiscent of geological core samples, land formations and geological processes. Her materials include paper, plastic, foil food wrappers, aluminum and foam that bring new life to discarded waste.

“I hope to offer an opportunity for discussion and reflection on the issues of human consumption and material waste, while also generating works that are entrancing and poetic, independently from their environmental themes,” Johnson said. “In this way, my goal is for them to contain ‘layers’ of meaning, which hopefully allows them to reach a wide audience in different ways.”

Johnson said she doesn’t blame artists—or any individuals for that matter—for the climate emergency as the problems that contribute to it are systemic, and intrinsic to capitalism, energy systems and powerful corporations. However, individuals must grapple with the results of it.

“This is where I think we can all recapture some power from that system by mindfully adopting ethical, responsible and sustainable models of living and working,” she said. “It can be, at its best, a hopeful, even joyful, act of resistance and psychic repair.”

Johnson feels that individuals who stay politically active can have great power against climate change and environmental problems by acting locally when they act together.

“Much environmental policy and action happens at levels beyond the individual, so voting and getting involved with local and regional politics can be hugely impactful,” she said. “For example, I live in a neighborhood in Austin, Texas, that used to house several environmentally toxic commercial facilities where oil had been leaching into the ground for years. A small group of concerned neighbors spent many years advocating for the cleanup and environmental remediation of these sites, and were eventually successful. The fact that I can live here with a sense of safety for my own health is thanks to a dedicated group of people working on a specific, concrete goal. Both in terms of the actual environmental impact as well as the sense of personal agency that it can create, I think finding a specific, actionable and realistic goal on a local level can have a great impact.”

Rice agrees that the collective actions of individuals are likely to be beneficial.

“Timothy Morton asks in his book Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World, ‘does my driving a Prius or recycling my plastic bottles really help,’” Rice said. “I think the answer is no, of course not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to do those things. I think it was Elizabeth Kolbert in The Sixth Extinction who points out it will take mass social movements to create real change related to the climate crisis. Social change happens a person at a time. Individually, we can’t initiate real change, but we are part of a larger network. What we do individually matters.”

Talk Offers Flavor of Artist’s Olfactory Work

Olfactory artwork
Anicka Yi’s “Force Majeure,” 2017, is made out of Plexiglas, aluminum, agar,
bacteria, refrigeration system, LED lights, glass, epoxy resin, powder-coated
stainless steel, light bulbs, digital clocks, silicone and silk flowers. Yi has created
art containing olfactory effects.

An Asian American conceptual artist whose work includes a mix of fragrance, cuisine and science along with collaborations with biologists and chemists will be the subject of a Kalamazoo College faculty member’s presentation at noon on December 7 at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Art and Art History Eunice Uhm will discuss Anicka Yi, a Korean American artist, who has created memorable works of art that have famously contained olfactory effects. Uhm’s presentation will analyze how Yi’s work transgresses the boundaries that are established and sustained by the conventions of Western aesthetics to investigate the racialized and gendered politics of space. The presentation considers the deodorization of the museum in the context of a larger cultural and political process of deodorization in the U.S. that simultaneously excludes smell from aesthetic judgments and establishes aromatic phenomena to be “non-Western” or primitive. 

Born in 1971 in Seoul, Yi began working as an artist about 15 years ago after a career in fashion. Yi’s work has won her top honors, including the Guggenheim Museum’s $100,000 Hugo Boss Prize in 2016, which included an exhibition there the next year. Yi’s work elicits visceral sensorial responses in the visitor, demonstrating the subversive aesthetic possibilities of smell to underscore and negotiate biopolitics of race and gender. 

Uhm, who serves as a postdoctoral curatorial fellow at K and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, specializes in modern and contemporary art, with a transnational focus on the United States and East Asia. Her work examines the conditions of migration and the diasporic aesthetic subjectivities in the works of contemporary Japanese and South Korean art from the 1960s to the present. She has previously taught courses on modern and contemporary art, East Asian art, and Asian American studies at Ohio State University. She has organized panels and presented her work on Asian American art at national conferences.  

In-person and virtual tickets to Uhm’s presentation are available at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts’ website.  

K Honors 10 Faculty Members as Endowed Chairs

Kalamazoo College has appointed 10 faculty members as endowed chairs, recognizing their achievements as professors. Endowed chairs are positions funded through the annual earnings from an endowed gift or gifts to the College. The honor reflects the value donors attribute to the excellent teaching and mentorship that occurs at K and how much donors want to see that excellence continue.

The honorees are:

  • Francisco Villegas, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership junior chair;
  • Leihua Weng, the most senior faculty member in Chinese;
  • Cyndy Garcia-Weyandt, an endowed chair in critical ethnic studies;
  • Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada, the Marlene Crandall Francis Endowed Chair in the Humanities;
  • Kathryn Sederberg, the Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Endowed Chair;
  • Regina Stevens-Truss, the Dorothy H. Heyl Senior Endowed Chair in Chemistry;
  • Blakely Tresca, the Harriet G. Varney Endowed Chair in Natural Science;
  • Amy Elman, the William Weber Endowed Chair in Social Science;
  • Autumn Hostetter, the Kurt D. Kaufman Endowed Chair; and
  • Richard Koenig, the Genevieve U. Gilmore Endowed Chair in Art.
Francisco Villegas among endowed chairs

Francisco Villegas

Villegas, an assistant professor of sociology at K, was a sociology lecturer at the University of Toronto Scarborough from 2014 to 2016 before arriving in Kalamazoo.

Villegas specializes in the topics of immigration, race, citizenship, deportability and illegalization. He has a doctorate in sociology in education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, a master’s degree in Mexican American studies from San Jose University, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and social behavior from the University of California Irvine.

Kalamazoo County launched a community ID program in 2018, allowing residents to obtain it, including those otherwise unable to get a state ID, with Villegas serving as the ID advisory board chair. At this point, more than 3,000 residents have obtained one.

Leihua Weng among endowed chairs

Leihua Weng

Weng, an assistant professor of Chinese language and literature, has taught at K beginning Chinese and advanced Chinese, as well as different content courses in English, such as women in China, urban China and Chinese films. 

Weng’s research interest includes (trans-)nationalism and globalization in literature and films, traditions and modernity, and postmodern literary theories. She received her Ph.D. in comparative literature at the University of South Carolina, a Master of Arts at Peking University, and a Bachelor of Arts at Zhejiang University. She taught at Sarah Lawrence College and Pacific Lutheran University before she came to K. 

Cyndy Garcia-Weyandt among endowed chairs

Cyndy Garcia-Weyandt

García-Weyandt, an assistant professor of critical ethnic studies, has taught courses at K in environmental studies such as Body, Land and Labor; and Plant Communication Kinship, as well as courses in critical ethnic studies such as Argument with the Given, a writing seminar exploring dreams, storytelling, poetry, art activism, memoir, and personal narratives as sources of knowledge and social change. She is coordinator and co-founder of Proyecto Taniuki (“Our Language Project”), a community-based project in Zitakua, Mexico.

In the Taniuki, she collaborates with urban indigenous communities in language revitalization efforts. Her research areas include indigenous knowledge systems, land pedagogy, urban indigenous peoples of Mexico, indigenous art and performances, and ontology.  García-Weyandt’s ancestral homeland is in San Juan Sayultepec Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, México. She is a poeta, an immigrant, a first-generation college student, and former community college transfer student. She has a Ph.D. and master’s degree in culture and performance, and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, all from the University of California, Los Angeles.


Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada

Maldonado-Estrada, an assistant professor of religion, is the author of Lifeblood of the Parish: Men and Catholic Devotion in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an ethnography about masculinity and men’s devotional lives in a gentrified neighborhood in New York City. She teaches classes at K on religion and masculinity, urban religion, Catholics in the Americas and the religions of Latin America.

Outside K, Maldonado-Estrada is a co-chair of the Men and Masculinities Unit at the American Academy of Religion and is an editor of Material Religion: The Journal of Art, Objects, and Belief. She also was chosen for the 2020-2022 cohort of Young Scholars in American Religion at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis’ Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture.

Earlier this year, Sacred Writes—a network of religion scholars committed to helping a broad global audience understand the significance of their work—selected Maldonado-Estrada to be one of 24 scholars from around the world receiving a Public Scholarship on Religion for 2021. Maldonado-Estrada received her doctorate in religion from Princeton University and her bachelor’s degree in sociology and religion from Vassar College.

cMUMMA Academic Rigor GERMAN Sederberg (prof) 2018 lo 7186.JPG

Kathryn Sederberg

Sederberg, a co-chair in the Department of German Studies, will be honored in a virtual ceremony November 20 by the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) as one of five national recipients of the Goethe‐Institut/AATG Certificate of Merit. The honor recognizes her achievements in furthering the teaching of German in the U.S. through creative activities, innovative curriculum, successful course design and significant contributions to the profession.

Sederberg teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced German as well as Contemporary German Culture and the senior seminars on varying topics. She holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.


Regina Stevens-Truss

Stevens-Truss, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has taught at Kalamazoo College since 2000. She teaches Chemical Reactivity, Biochemistry, Medicinal Chemistry and Infection: Global Health and Social Justice.

Research in her lab focuses testing a variety of compounds (peptides and small molecules) for antimicrobial activity. She is also the current director of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Inclusive Excellence grant awarded to the College’s science division in 2018.

Stevens-Truss earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry from the University of Toledo. She held two fellowships at the University of Michigan between 1993 and 1999, one of which was a lectureship in medicinal chemistry.


Blakely Tresca

Tresca, an assistant professor of chemistry, has been at K since 2018. He’s a supermolecular chemist with additional research interests in organic chemistry. He co-leads the College’s annual Kalamazoo American Chemical Society networking event, allowing students to discuss chemistry careers with industry professionals.

Tresca holds a bachelor’s degree from Trinity University, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. He was a postdoctoral researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in the Molecular Foundry.

Amy Elman


Elman, a professor of political science, has taught a variety of courses within the political science, women’s studies and Jewish studies departments. During her tenure at K, she has also been a visiting professor at Haifa University in Israel, Harvard University, SUNY Potsdam, Middlebury College, Uppsala University in Sweden and New York University.

Elman has received two Fulbright grants, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a grant from the Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at Hebrew University. She has written three books: The European Union, Antisemitism and the Politics of Denial (2014); Sexual Equality in an Integrated Europe (2007); and Sexual Subordination and State Intervention: Comparing Sweden and the United States (1996). She also edited Sexual Politics and the European Union: The New Feminist Challenge (1996). She has a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from New York University.


Autumn Hostetter

Hostetter, a professor of psychology, has expertise in cognitive psychology—specifically, the psychology of language and spatial cognition. She has taught classes at K including Cognition, Experimental Research Methods, the Psychology of Language and Mind, and the first year seminar Harry Potter Goes to College.

She maintains an active research lab on campus exploring how we use our bodies to help us think and communicate. She provides many opportunities for Kalamazoo College students to participate in research, both as participants and as research assistants. Some recent publications have appeared in journals such as the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, Psychological Research, the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Teaching of Psychology, and the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. Many of her publications feature Kalamazoo College students and alumni as co-authors. Hostetter earned a bachelor’s degree from Berry College and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Richard Koenig among endowed chairs

Richard Koenig

Koenig began teaching art and photography courses such as Digital Photography, Analog Photography, Alternative Photographic Processes and several seminars at K in 1998.

His fine art work, Photographic Prevarications, was shown in six one-person exhibits in as many years (from 2007 to 2012). Koenig’s long-term documentary project Contemporary Views Along the First Transcontinental Railroad spawned four articles (between 2014 and 2019). In 2020, Koenig collaborated with four others on a multi-media exhibit, Hoosier Lifelines: Environmental and Social Change Along the Monon, 1847-2020, which was shown this year at the Grunwald Gallery of Art at Indiana University and the Carnegie Center for Art and History in New Albany, Indiana.

Koenig received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute and his Master of Fine Arts from Indiana University.

Kalamazoo College Welcomes New Faculty Members

Kalamazoo College is pleased to welcome the following faculty members to campus this fall:

Assistant Professor of Spanish Tris Faulkner

Assistant Professor of Spanish Tris Faulkner
Assistant Professor of Spanish Tris Faulkner

Tris Faulkner, who is originally from Jamaica, lived in Chile for about two years, working as a translator and interpreter at a prominent law firm before earning a Ph.D. in Spanish linguistics from Georgetown University. She also has professional experience as a translator and interpreter at the Embassy of Venezuela, and in similar roles at a legal firm and a business school in North Carolina.

Faulkner has lived in Spain and visited various Spanish-speaking countries, experiences which have helped her to observe the diversity that characterizes the Spanish language. Her research investigates the semantics and pragmatics of variation in verbal mood, tense, and aspect, as related to the Romance language family, English, and Jamaican Creole.

In addition to her Ph.D., Faulkner has master’s degrees from Georgetown (M.Sc. in Spanish linguistics) and Wake Forest University (M.A. in interpreting and translation studies), and a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University (B.A. in Spanish language and literature and international studies). She will teach seminars in Spanish linguistics, as well as various other courses in the upcoming academic year.

Assistant Professor of Religion Sohini Pillai

Assistant Professor of Religion Sohini Pillai
Assistant Professor of Religion Sohini Pillai

Sohini Pillai will teach courses this academic year on religious traditions in South Asia. She is a comparatist of South Asian religious literature and her area of specialization is the Mahabharata and Ramayana epic narrative traditions with a focus on retellings created in Hindi and Tamil.

Pillai is the co-editor of Many Mahabharatas (State University of New York Press, 2021), an introduction to diverse retellings of the Mahabharata tradition in the forms of classical dramas, premodern vernacular poems, regional performance traditions, commentaries, graphic novels, political essays, novels, and contemporary theater productions. She’s also a member of the Steering Committee for the Hinduism Unit at the American Academy of Religion.

Pillai has a Ph.D. in South and Southeast Asian studies from the University of California, Berkeley; a master’s degree in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies from Columbia University; and a bachelor’s degree in South Asia studies and theatre studies from Wellesley College.

Assistant Professor of Theatre Quincy Thomas

Assistant Professor of Theatre Quincy Thomas
Assistant Professor of Theatre Quincy Thomas

Quincy Thomas earned his Ph.D. in theatre and his performance studies certification from Bowling Green State University. His research centers on subjects including counter-storytelling, Black performativity in American culture, representations of the marginalized in popular culture, comedic and solo performance and performative writing. At K, he will teach directing, theatre history and playwriting, with further prior experience teaching theatre, performance studies and film.

His courses are informed on issues of cultural marginalization and misrepresentation in the arts, specifically of racial and ethnic minorities, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. His work has been published in peer-reviewed academic journals, including the International Review of Qualitative Research and Puppetry International, and presented at national conferences, including the Mid-America Theatre Conference, the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, and the Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association (MAPACA). He currently serves as president of MAPACA. His most recent directorial offering was Robert Patrick’s Play-by-Play: A Spectacle of Ourselves: A Verse Farce in Two Acts. Thomas also has a background in acting. Some of his favorite roles played include Christopher in Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange, Albert in Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park, and most recently the role of Actor in Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit; Red Rabbit.

Assistant Professor of Economics Darshana Udayanganie

Assistant Professor of Economics Darshana Udayanganie
Assistant Professor of Economics Darshana Udayanganie

Darshana Udayanganie earned her Ph.D., with specializations in environmental economics and college teaching, and a master’s degree in economics from the University of New Hampshire. She also has a master’s degree in resource economics and policy from the University of Maine and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Before joining K in 2017 as a visiting assistant professor, she taught at Central Michigan University from 2014 to 2017, Merrimack College in 2013 and 2014, and the University of New Hampshire’s global student success program from 2011 to 2014.

Her current research focuses on urban economics and environmental economics. She also has published book chapters on economic growth in relation to military expenditure and international trade.

Assistant Professor of Japanese Brian White

Brian White will teach courses in Japanese language, literature and culture at K.  He specializes in contemporary (post-1945) Japanese popular culture and media studies.

He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, where he wrote a dissertation on 1960s Japanese sci-fi literature and film, asking specifically, “What can a genre do?” He will delve into that history when he teaches a course in the winter term this year on Japanese science fiction and media history.

White earned a bachelor’s degree in East Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Across his undergraduate and graduate careers, he has spent a total of two and a half years living in Japan, primarily in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kyoto. 

Assistant Professor of Chinese Yanshuo Zhang

Yanshuo Zhang’s research addresses multiethnic Chinese identities in literary and visual cultures produced in China and the U.S. Her research on multiethnic Chinese cultural productions helps diversify scholarly understanding of and teaching about modern Chinese national culture.

She was a lecturer in Stanford University’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) from 2018 through 2020, where she designed classes on cross-cultural explorations of diversity, particularly in Asia and the U.S. She also has been a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Catherine University and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Visiting Assistant Professor Vijayan Sundararaj

Vijayan Sundararaj leads a biology course this term in ecology and conservation. He has prior education experience as a lecturer, teaching assistant and topic lecturer between Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Canada, and Texas A&M University-Kingsville. His teaching interests include evolutionary ecology concepts, animal behavior, foraging behavior, predator-prey interactions, conservation biology, wildlife ecology, waterfowl ecology, mammalogy, spatial ecology, and introductory geographic information systems.

Sundararaj received a bachelor’s degree with a specialty in zoology from Gujarat University in India before earning a master’s degree in ecology from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel; a geographic information systems applications specialist graduate certificate from Sir Sandford Fleming College in Canada and a doctorate in forest sciences and wildlife ecology from Lakehead University.

Visiting Assistant Professor Eunice Uhm

Eunice Uhm specializes in modern and contemporary art, with a transnational focus on the United States and East Asia. Her work examines the conditions of migration and the diasporic aesthetic subjectivities in the works of contemporary Japanese and South Korean art from the 1960s to the present. She has previously taught courses on modern and contemporary art, East Asian art, and Asian American studies at Ohio State University. She has organized panels and presented her work on Asian American art at national conferences such as CAA. She is an active member of numerous grassroots community organizations for Asian Americans and immigrant rights, and she is involved in immigrant rights campaigns such as Love has no borders: A call for justice in our immigration system. Her essay, “Constructing Asian American Political and Aesthetic Subjectivities: Contradictions in the Works of Ruth Asawa,” is forthcoming (Verge: Studies in Global Asias, University of Minnesota Press).

Uhm received a master’s degree and a doctorate in the history of art from the Ohio State University. At K, she teaches courses on Asian and Asian American art, art and race, and transnationalism.

Visiting Assistant Professor Fungisai Musoni

Fungisai Musoni has joined the history department where she will teach courses in African civilizations, decolonization in West and Southern Africa, and U.S.-Africa relations since World War II.

Musoni has prior teaching experience in African literature, American politics and global issues, and social studies between the Ohio State University, Georgia State University, Gwinnett County Schools in Atlanta and the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education and Culture.

She fluently reads, writes and speaks the African languages of Shona and Manyika. Her education includes a bachelor’s degree in economic history and Shona from the University of Zimbabwe, Harare; master’s degrees in political science and history from Georgia State University and Mercer University respectively; and a doctorate in African American and African Studies from the Ohio State University.

Visiting Assistant Professor Badru-Deen Barry

Badru-Deen Barry teaches Introductory chemistry and biochemistry at K this fall.

His education includes a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone, master’s degrees in chemistry from Northeast Normal University in China and Michigan State University, and a doctorate in chemistry from Michigan State.

He previously served Michigan State and Northeast Normal as a graduate research assistant, Société Générale de Surveillance in Freetown, Sierra Leone, as port supervisor and chemist, and Fourah Bay College as a laboratory and teaching assistant.

Visiting Assistant Professor Mikela Zhezha-Thaumanavar

Mikela Zhezha-Thaumanavar is teaching courses in Spanish this fall as well as a course in foreign language teaching methods. In addition, she serves as the coordinator for the Spanish Teaching Assistants at K. She received her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate in Spanish linguistics from Western Michigan University.

She has previously taught courses in Spanish at Western Michigan University, Davenport University, and Kalamazoo Community College. She also served WMU as a guest professor, teaching in the institution’s Summer Translation Program. She previously has worked in translation and speaks Albanian and Italian in addition to English and Spanish.

Visiting Assistant Professor Jennifer Mills

Jennifer Mills is leading courses including seminars in psychology and health psychology this term. Mills holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, master’s degrees from Georgia College and State University and Western Michigan University, and a doctorate from WMU.

She is working on an executive master’s in public health at Emory University with an emphasis in prevention science. For the past 10 years, Mills has owned and operated MindBodyWell, a private counseling practice that focuses on science-based approaches to stress, depression and anxiety. 

Mills is an active member of the Institute for Public Scholarship, a local, anti-racist organization that works on issues of place and belonging. Her research interests focus on preventing and mitigating the impact of early childhood adversity on health. 

Visiting Assistant Professor Robert Mowry

Robert Mowry is teaching two sections of Introduction to Society and Culture offered by the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. His additional teaching interests include quantitative methods, disaster, the intersection of politics and the environment, and ways of seeing and knowing.

Mowry comes to Kalamazoo College from the University of Notre Dame, where he recently earned his Ph.D. in sociology. Previously, he earned master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Sheffield, and a B.A. from Earlham College.

As a teacher-scholar of disaster and politics, Mowry employs multiple methods to study the processes and outcomes of globally diverse, high-stakes political arenas—from post-disaster contentious politics in the U.S. and Japan to the gendered dynamics of protest participation in Europe. A related stream of research looks at how cultural processes of learning, memory, and thinking spur spontaneous laughter outbursts during Supreme Court oral arguments. His work has been published in Sociological Theory.

Visiting Assistant Professor Jennifer Perry

Jennifer Perry leads courses at K including General Psychology, Sensation and Perception, and Psychopharmacology in the Department of Psychology. Her credentials include a Bachelor of Arts from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Perry’s research includes studies on the ethics of laboratory animal research and the role of impulsive behavior in drug abuse.

K Alumna’s Art to Honor K9 Salute Team

Kaiser Howls for K9 Salute Team
Until late June 2020, K9 Kaiser was one of 22 dogs on the Michigan War Dog Memorial K9 Salute Team. Suanne Martin ’84 will sculpt a statue in Kaiser’s likeness, representing all the Salute Team dogs that have passed including Kaiser. Kaiser is pictured with Julie Fentner, the dog’s handler.

The Michigan War Dog Memorial (MWDM) in South Lyon gives the canines that once served our country, troops, police and firefighters, along with therapy and service dogs, a proper sendoff. The memorial cemetery, first established in 1932 as a pet cemetery, was rediscovered and renamed in 2010 as the MWDM, and it has hosted services to honor the dogs since 2014.

The MWDM K9 Salute Team was at the memorial cemetery nearly every weekend from mid-May through October in 2019, honoring 17 fallen heroes with services that included missing-dog formations, a color guard, bagpipes, bugler, funeral flag, headstone and a personalized hand drawing of the deceased dog at no charge to the dog’s handler.

Until late June 2020, K9 Kaiser—an exceptionally large German shepherd, weighing 160 pounds—was one of 22 dogs on the MWDM K9 Salute Team. In ceremonies honoring dogs at the MWDM, Kaiser performed a howling salute, much like a 21-gun salute, that would resound and recognize the honoree being interred during a service.

Unfortunately, the MWDM K9 Salute Team has lost a few of its dogs, including Kaiser; to memorialize them, the team has hired Suanne Martin ’84 to sculpt a statue of Kaiser’s likeness, representing all the Salute Team dogs that have passed. The statue will accompany a granite wall which will bear the names of the MWDM K9 Salute Team dogs memorialized.

“I am beyond honored to be chosen as the sculptor for this important memorial project,” Martin said.

When Martin first attended K, she aspired to be a painter, until an art professor, the late Marcia Wood ’55, encouraged her to take a sculpting class.

“I was intimidated, to be honest, but she pushed me out of my comfort zone,” Martin said. “Once I got my hands in clay, I never looked back.”

After graduating, Martin desired more training in anatomy to enhance her skills in sculpting life forms. She studied for three years at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit before she earned her master’s degree at the Pratt Institute in New York.

That training led to sculpting characters and figures that were later cast and used for magazine illustrations or put into production in the toy industry. She was also contracted by a studio to be one of the people sculpting portraits of the U.S. Constitution signers for the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Black Dog Studios
Suanne Martin ’84 sculpted her French mastiff, also called a Dogue de Bordeaux. Martin will now sculpt a German shepherd to honor the K9 War Dog Memorial dogs that have passed away.

Later, as she owned dogs, they were natural subjects for new sculptures. First was a lean and muscular boxer; years later there was a French mastiff, which Martin described as a dream breed.

“Being in New York City, this huge, red, wrinkly puppy became a celebrity in his own right,” Martin said. “I made a lot of good friends through him.”

When her mastiff died unexpectedly after five and a half years, sculpting him was part of Martin’s grieving process. When she posted the end result on Facebook, friends and their acquaintances took notice. That garnered Martin attention on social media that allowed her to earn more commissions before connecting with Julie Fentner, who was Kaiser’s handler, and earning the job of sculpting Kaiser.

“It’s exciting,” Martin said. “This is the first outdoor monument sculpture that I’ve taken on all by myself. I’m not only creating the original artwork, but doing the molding and casting. This is not just me doing a piece to please one person. I want to honor all the canine officers, military dogs and service dogs under that whole umbrella. I want this to inspire a lot of people.”

The nonprofit Michigan War Dog Memorial so far has raised about $5,000 toward a $20,000 goal to fund Martin’s project. Those interested in making donations toward the sculpture are invited to do so through Facebook or GoFundMe. If all goes well, Martin hopes to start the project in October and finish it around mid-2021.

“For the last six and a half years, Kaiser has brought joy and happiness doing therapy with veterans, seniors, mentally challenged adults, fire departments, police departments, rehabilitation centers, a few human funerals and many other places, as do many of the other MWDM K9 Salute Team member dogs,” Fentner said. “His ability to bring happiness to others knew no bounds. I am so honored that my boy Kaiser is going to represent the MWDM K9 Salute Team dogs and be memorialized himself.”

Technology Empowers Art in Distance Learning

Padlet for Mold Made in Distance Learning
Padlet is a colorful online system of boards, documents and web pages, which has been convenient for art classes in distance learning.

In examining how Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff have adjusted to distance learning this spring, it’s easy to see the community’s ingenuity in shifting from in-person instruction.

For example, if it’s true that art imitates life, what is an art professor to do when distance learning forces a college’s classes online? If you’re Sarah Lindley, the Arcus Center of Social Justice Leadership Professor of Art, you paint plans that provide students with the personal interaction they expect, sculpt activities they can do at home with common household materials, and craft an environment that stimulates creativity in technology.

World Pottery in Distance Learning
Padlet has been a convenient tool in distance learning for World Pottery, a class that introduces a variety of clay-forming techniques and historical perspectives.

Lindley this term is teaching World Pottery, a sophomore seminar ceramics class, and Mold Processes, an intermediate sculpture class for juniors. The first requires student research and reflection in a class that introduces a variety of clay-forming techniques and historical perspectives. The intermediate class uses mixed media casting processes to develop the more advanced body of work expected of art majors.

The sophomore seminar’s technology is Padlet, a colorful and easy-to-populate online system of boards, documents and web pages that looks a lot like many social media platforms, especially Pinterest. The format allows an asynchronous course model where students view instructions through mediums such as video and submit their projects before meeting individually with Lindley.

Art in Distance Learning_fb
Arcus Center of Social Justice Leadership Professor of Art Sarah Lindley provided video through Padlet of how to create a pinch pot at home when a special guest made a cameo appearance.

Their first project involved creating pinch pots with paper and egg whites in an activity like papier-mâché. A second assignment asked students to stack objects from around the house, look at their curves and see how they might emulate pottery.

The juniors also utilize virtual classroom technology, including the use of Microsoft Teams, a collaborative platform that combines chat, video meetings, file storage and more to allow for regular face-to-face exchanges. Lindley wants her advanced students to build confidence for creating art under any circumstances and learn they can start a project from nothing. Lindley added creating something from nothing can feel like one of the hardest things to do and developing that skill will help her students for the rest of their lives.

“A lot of what we are doing this term is creative problem solving,” Lindley said. “Course planning is creative problem solving. This is just a more extreme version than we are used to. I’m also hearing from a lot of students that they really appreciate a curriculum that acknowledges different learning styles.”

So, given the term in distance learning, how does Lindley measure the success of her teaching methods this term?

“I look for indications of depth of learning in lots of little ways—an unanswered question someone raises in a reflection paper, a connection to contemporary pop culture in a presentation on historical objects from a distant past, or an “aha” exclamation in a one on one virtual chat,” Lindley said.

“My goal would be for everyone to participate in each activity this term,” she added. “The students still have rubrics, but students would have to persistently not respond to assignment prompts and feedback not to pass. So far the quality of work has been pretty good to great.”