When Assistant Professor of Biology Santiago Salinas learned that Kalamazoo College would be transitioning to distance learning for the spring semester, he knew how he felt. “I was bummed,” said Salinas. Without meeting face-to-face in a classroom or lab, how would his students connect? How would they grasp the hands-on skills they would traditionally experience in a face-to-face classroom, like animal dissection and model work?
“I needed to pump myself up for the quarter,” Salinas said. Internet research yielded inspiration, and soon Salinas had created a movie trailer for his vertebrate biology class — complete with atmospheric soundtrack and compelling narrative voiceover.
Salinas sent the trailer to his class. “I was honest with them, as I usually am in class anyway, and I told them I was having a hard time concentrating,” Salinas said. “I explained that I was bummed out that we wouldn’t be meeting face to face.” His students responded positively, sharing that the trailer had motivated them and made them laugh. When Salinas posted the trailer to Twitter, the outside world responded similarly. That feedback and connection re-energized Salinas as he moved forward with further classroom innovations.
“Twitter has been great for ideas,” Salinas said, describing how his search for inspiration and distance learning materials caused him to reframe his approach. He now sees himself as a curator. “There’s a lot of stuff out there — videos that are so much better than anything that I could put together, supplementing my slides and narration,” Salinas said.
Now, Salinas has high hopes for his vertebrate biology class. “This is forcing me to think about how I do things, and how I decide to prioritize content. Sometimes it’s good to be shocked because you start to reassess things,” Salinas said. “For the students, my hope is that they realize that they are not at K for the grades. I hope they recognize that they are driven intrinsically by what they are interested in, because they are, and that they do biology because they enjoy it.”
Salinas said that he has intentionally encouraged his students to provide feedback regarding biology-specific skills they would like to learn. When most of his students expressed interest in improving their grasp of scientific writing, Salinas quickly adjusted his assignments accordingly. “Maybe this wasn’t something we would cover in a normal quarter,” Salinas said, “But I think it’s going to make for a better course, and a better course for next year.”
As for Salinas’ earlier worries about dissection? “Well, I just finished packaging frogs, sharks, pigeons, and other critters. I will be mailing them out to our young biologists and we’ll do the dissections remotely!” Salinas said.
What’s black, yellow and fuzzy all over? Bumblebees. And Biology Professor Ann Fraser wants to know what it takes to preserve them in Michigan.
To that end, Fraser and her Kalamazoo College lab students are launching the Southwest Michigan Bee Watch. The program will track bumblebee diversity, measure local restoration efforts and discover whether any species might be declining or recuperating in the area.
“Bumblebees are important pollinators, particularly of our spring plants,” Fraser said, noting they’re vital to common Michigan crops, and more important to pollination than honeybees. “They’ll go out in cold weather, even when it’s rainy. They’re particularly good pollinators of fruit crops such as blueberries, apples and cherries.”
In the bee watch, citizen scientists in nine counties will volunteer as photographers nearly anywhere outdoors—including natural areas, walking trails, backyards and roadsides—and submit their photos to an online portal. Fraser, students and other scientists then will look at the photos, noting the black-and-yellow patterns on the bumblebees’ backs. Those patterns will identify each species and help determine which might be maintaining their numbers, which might be declining and which might be making a comeback.
“This year, my hope is to build a strong volunteer base so that we can start building a thorough database of bumblebee species in the area,” said Niko Nickson ’21, the student most dedicated to the effort as it will develop into his senior individualized project (SIP). “I’m also planning to analyze our data for relationships between species abundance and landscape differences. In the future, I would love to see the program continue to build, maybe inspiring more community science efforts across the state.”
Fraser said she had been hoping to start a project like the Southwest Michigan Bee Watch for a few years, but never found the right student to lead it. Then, she met Nickson.
“Community science is fascinating because I see it as an opportunity to connect academia and its surrounding community,” Nickson said. “In this way, it makes science approachable to all, regardless of educational level.”
His love of the outdoors also benefits the project.
“I think being outside is a great way to relieve stress and spend time in general,” Nickson said. “I see this program as an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of our regional environment while also encouraging more community members to spend time outdoors. In this sense, community science gives volunteers an excuse to be outside, and who doesn’t love a reason to get some sunlight?”
March 3 is World Wildlife Day. Its theme this year is “Sustaining all life on Earth,” as it recognizes all wild animal and plant species as being key components of the world’s biodiversity. Yet within the biosphere, bumblebees are struggling. In fact, according to NationalGeographic.com, we are nearly 50 percent less likely to see a bumblebee in any given area of North America than we were before 1974.
“Insects in general are in decline,” Fraser said. “That’s alarmingly well documented. Bumblebees are following this trend. At least half a dozen species of the 20 in Michigan are in decline. One of which, the rusty-patched bumblebee, was on the federal endangered species list as of 2017.”
A project like the Southwest Michigan Bee Watch could play a role in reversing those trends. Those interested in volunteering can sign up for the project’s mailing list and request more information at swmbees.kzoo.edu/.
When the world celebrates the International Day of Women and Girls in Science on Feb. 11, a Kalamazoo College student organization will be doing what it can to inspire local fourth- and fifth-graders.
Each Tuesday and Thursday, K’s Sisters in Science (SIS) visits Northglade Montessori Magnet School to encourage girls to seek an education and career in the sciences. The visits, coordinated through Kalamazoo Communities in Schools, involve hands-on lessons, experiments and field trips that nurture interest in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). This allows SIS members to serve as role models, and local youths to grow their dreams of future achievements.
“We want to provide these girls with an influential woman in their lives,” said Marjorie Wolfe ’20, a SIS member and chemistry major from Kalamazoo. “A lot of them don’t come from backgrounds where a career in science seems accessible. We’re showing these girls they can go to college, do research and become doctors, engineers and more. We serve as sisters, mentors and examples of what they can become.”
According to the United Nations, less than 30 percent of scientific researchers in the world are women and only about 30 percent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. Female representation is especially low professionally in information and communication technology at 3 percent; natural science, mathematics and statistics at 5 percent; and engineering at 8 percent.
To reverse these trends, the U.N. General Assembly established the International Day of Women and Girls in Science to celebrate women scientists and build equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. About 40 SIS members, including Karina Aguilar ’22, a biology and Spanish double major from Albuquerque, New Mexico, are doing their part to bolster that effort.
“Last year, in between two labs, I would go to Sisters in Science and do a nice, fun thing before I had to do something serious for four hours,” Aguilar said. “When you’re a student, it’s easy to be wrapped up in what’s happening on campus — we call it the K bubble. This helps us break that bubble, serve the community and be a mentor. It gives us a portal to the community.”
Aguilar hopes SIS experiments this year will include a lesson in making ice cream, although her favorite experiment to date involved a bridge-building contest that her little sister won. Such experiments, Wolfe said, help the fourth- and fifth-graders understand the scientific process and get them excited to be in school. Aguilar and Wolfe agreed the age group is critical in recruiting girls in science because they’re starting to learn what interests them most in school and they have yet to decide what classes to pursue for themselves.
“Initially, the first few times we’re at the school, we’re just trying to show we’re friendly and gain their respect,” Wolfe said. “That can go a long way for these girls. Eventually, we help them fill out worksheets that teach them what a hypothesis is. Before you know it, we’re working on an experiment and they say, ‘Oh! I know what the hypothesis will be!’”
When asked what she would do if she one day saw that one of her little sisters achieved a scientific breakthrough, Wolfe said, “The cool part would be knowing they stuck with science and believed in themselves; that they didn’t listen to someone who told them they couldn’t do it.”
Aguilar said, “I’d probably cry. Maybe it wasn’t from me specifically, but I’d love knowing that they developed that drive to be scientists. It would be amazing to see these girls who aren’t necessarily pushed to go to college make a career for themselves in science.”
“SIS was created for exactly what Aguilar and Wolfe have stated – to give young girls the knowledge that they can do science” stated Stevens-Truss, who envisioned the group in 2001.
The results show several types of the problematic plants are common and growing quickly locally with few natural predators or pests as they choke out native species. That could be causing interruptions to important ecological processes, and potentially, endangering some native plants to the point of extinction.
“In today’s climate, we need to focus on biodiversity and how we’re affecting the environment,” Talaba said. “It’s not just the gases we’re emitting into the atmosphere that present environmental issues. It’s also how invasive species have gotten here and changed our environment to a point where it’s hard to recognize it from what it used to be. We have an obligation to protect native species.”
Some of the invasive plants the four are commonly finding in Kalamazoo include:
Creeping myrtle, sometimes called periwinkle, which is a flowering plant.
Buckthorn, a hardy shrub known for its bright, glossy leaves.
Winged euonymus, a bush-like shrub that is sometimes called burning bush.
Honeysuckle, identifiable as an arching shrub or twining vine that can have a strong fragrance.
Oriental bittersweet, a vine that tends to suffocate trees and sap their nutrients, potentially creating hazards related to dead trees for arboretum visitors.
Japanese knotweed, which is a plant with bamboo-like stems and small white flowers.
Garlic mustard, a biennial flowering plant known for its medicinal and culinary uses, despite its invasive aspects in nature.
How did the invasive species get here?
It’s not always clear how these invasive species, mostly from Asia and some from Europe, arrive in Kalamazoo.
“It shows how interconnected our society has become,” Perez said. “We can transport things like invasive species over massive distances in ways that would’ve been impossible in any other age. It’s like another Pangea where continents are pressing up against each other.”
However, it generally can be said that people have been responsible for allowing them to spread. Some people might even be planting the invasive species in their own gardens and yards because the plants look pretty, or transporting seeds on their shoes as they walk through the arboretum.
“Dr. Girdler says a majority of people will just look at invasive species and see green,” Holmes-Hackerd said. “They will look at all the green plants and think how pretty they are. We want to take it a level deeper. If we look at invasive species within the ecosystem and how they affect the large preserve, it can open people’s eyes. It can be bizarre to see a tree completely covered in leaves when the tree is dead because an invasive plant killed it.”
Hope for the future
While invasive species are a formidable foe, the four K student researchers say the projects they’re completing have provided opportunities for community outreach and established baselines that one day will help other researchers measure whether their efforts have been effective.
Their own outreach has consisted of sharing their research with other students through social media, talking with neighbors of the arboretum about the problematic plants, and encouraging community involvement in planting more native species, pulling invasive plants and protecting natural spaces.
“A lot of times you think of a scientist as someone who is rigid and wears a white coat,” Summers said. “We want to be super approachable and make people enjoy learning about invasive species.”
A platform like social media, for example, “provides such an easy way for young people to feel the experience,” Summers added. “Another reason I like it is it makes it easy to communicate our science to the general public. A lot of scientists lack the ability of explaining what they do so that anyone can understand it.”
Here’s what you can do:
Ask your local nursery or gardening store about what you’re planting to ensure it’s not invasive, and plant more native species.
Volunteer to pull invasive plants at community events that target them.
Clean your shoes, hiking boots and pet’s paws after walking on nature trails to prevent the seeds of invasive plants from spreading.
Targeting invasive species “really is reliant on community involvement,” Holmes-Hackerd said. “The arboretum alone is 150 acres. It’s not something a handful of researchers can handle on their own. We’re hoping we can get the community to care and help out in any way.”
If you ever see Kalamazoo College students hanging sheets by clotheslines suspended between trees on the Quad, they’re not doing laundry. They’re rounding up moths for their entomology class collections in a practice called “blacklighting.”
The process emits a black light into the UV spectrum to attract moths, and it’s one of many ways that citizen scientists are likely to celebrate National Moth Week, which is ongoing through Friday.
According to its website, National Moth Week celebrates the beauty, lifecycles and habitats of moths as the public is encouraged to learn about, observe and document moths in backyards, parks and neighborhoods. And don’t let the word “national” fool you. Since its founding in 2012, National Moth Week has gone global by expanding to all 50 states and 80 countries worldwide.
Although the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon likely is the more celebrated science-related event this week, moths are interesting to study because they make a “giant leap” of their own through metamorphosis. The process completely changes their bodies from wormlike caterpillars into winged adults during the cocoon stage. This abrupt change in body plan during development is found in only one-third of all insect groups, Kalamazoo College Biology Professor Ann Fraser said, but these groups account for the vast majority of insect species, suggesting this life cycle innovation was a highly successful one.
Furthermore, “many caterpillars of moths are a very important food source in the food chain,” and “some scientists use moths as indicators of bigger things going on in the environment,” Fraser said. “It’s easy to see trends with declines in their numbers as indicators of climate change or habitat loss.”
Moths definitively are insects because they have six legs and, as adults, they have three body regions consisting of the head, the thorax and the abdomen, Fraser said. Plus, they’re among the most diverse living creatures on Earth with more than 150,000 species including their day-roaming brethren: butterflies.
Some of the more eye-catching varieties of moths in southwest Michigan include hawk moths, which can be mistaken for hummingbirds because they’re about the same size as hummingbirds and hover around plants and flowers, Fraser said. Others include the luna moth known for its green wings, long tails and transparent eyespots. Plainer and more problematic varieties include gypsy moths, which are known as exfoliator pests because they strip trees and plants of their leaves.
“You can actually spot their poop on the sidewalk,” Fraser said of gypsy moth caterpillars. “Frass is the technical term for it. You see it on the ground, so you know something in the tree is feeding on the tree.”
Regardless, many hobbyists find collecting moths such as these and others to be fascinating and as easy as leaving a porch light on after dark. Fraser, for example, still remembers collecting a big moth for the first time when she was about 10 years old.
“It’s an experience that always stuck with me,” said Fraser, who curates the college’s insect collection that includes cases of pinned moths raised or collected by herself and her predecessor, Professor David Evans. “It’s always exciting to find the big colorful ones.”
Congratulations to the following Kalamazoo College students who received awards during the 2019 Senior Awards Ceremony on Saturday, June 15, at Stetson Chapel. The awards include all academic divisions, prestigious scholarships and special non-departmental awards. Again, congratulations to all graduates and members of the class of 2019.
George Acker Award, awarded annually to a male athlete who in his participation gave all, never quit, with good spirit supported others unselfishly, and whose example was inspirational.
American Chemical Society Certified Degree in Chemistry
Sean Patrick Walsh
Hornet Athletic Association Award, for a graduating senior who has most successfully combined high scholarship with athletic prowess.
James Bird Balch Prize in American History, for showing academic excellence in American history.
Cecilia Catherine Ringo
Lillian Pringle Baldauf Prize in Music, awarded to an outstanding music student
Lewis Batts Prize, awarded to seniors who have done the most to support the activities of the Biology Department and to further the spirit of collegiality among students and faculty.
Bruce Baxter Memorial Award, awarded to a senior showing outstanding development in the field of political science.
Gordon Beaumont Memorial Award, awarded to students who display qualities of selflessness, humanitarian concern and willingness to help others as exemplified in the life of Gordon Beaumont.
Anthony Diep Rosas
Larry Bell Scholar
The Biology in Liberal Arts Prize
Emily Palmer Norwood
Marshall Hallock Brenner Prize, awarded to an outstanding student for excellence in the field of psychology.
Sophie Olivia Stone Higdon
Henry and Inez Brown Award, awarded in recognition of outstanding participation in the College community.
Amanda Faye Moss
Clara H. Buckley Prize for Excellence in Latin, awarded to an outstanding student of the language of the Romans.
Chelsea Leia’Louise Miller
Mary Long Burch Award, for a senior woman who has manifested interest in sports activities and excelled in scholarship.
Cydney Morgan Martell
Robert Bzdyl Prize in Marine Biology, awarded to one or more students with demonstrated interest and ability in marine biology or related fields.
Annual Undergraduate Award in Analytical Chemistry, sponsored by the American Chemical Society Division of Analytical Chemistry, to an undergraduate student planning on pursuing graduate studies in chemistry.
Annual Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry, sponsored by the American Chemical Society Division of Inorganic Chemistry, to an undergraduate student planning on pursuing graduate studies in chemistry.
Annual Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry, sponsored by the American Chemical Society Division of Organic Chemistry, to an undergraduate student planning on pursuing graduate studies in chemistry.
Minn Soo Kim
Annual Undergraduate Award in Physical Chemistry, sponsored by the American Chemical Society and subcommittee for the Division of Physical Chemistry, to an undergraduate student who displays significant aptitude for a career in organic chemistry.
Outstanding Chemistry Student from Kalamazoo College, sponsored by the Kalamazoo Section of the American Chemical Society and is given to the graduating senior who has demonstrated leadership in the chemistry department and plans to pursue graduate studies in chemistry.
Lilia Chen Award in Art, awarded to students in their junior or senior year who distinguish themselves through their work in ceramics, sculpture, or painting, and who exhibit strong progress in their understanding of art.
Qynce B. Chumley
Kaiya Noelle Herman Hilker
Ruth Scott Chenery Award, given to graduating seniors who have excelled academically in theatre and who plan to continue the study of theatre arts following graduation.
Chinese Outstanding Achievement Award, which recognizes seniors who have excelled in the study of the Chinese language and China-related subjects on campus and abroad in China.
Molly Pan-Wei Brueger
Provost’s Prize in Classics
Noura Al Sabboury Khayat
Provost’s Prize in Computer Science
C.W. “Opie” Davis Award, awarded to the outstanding senior male athlete
Diebold Scholar Award, given to one or more seniors in recognition of excellence in the oral or poster presentation of the SIP at the Diebold Symposium.
Sung Soo Park
George Eaton Errington Prize, awarded to outstanding senior art majors.
Kaiya Noelle Herman Hilker
Provost’s Prize in Economics
Zachary Mark Van Faussien
Alliance Francaise Prize in French, awarded to outstanding senior art majors.
Joe Fugate Senior German Award, awarded to a senior for excellence in German.
Departmental Prize in Greek
Mary Elizabeth Arendash
Xarifa Greenquist Memorial Psychology Department Award, given in recognition of distinctive service to students and faculty in psychology by a student assistant.
MaryClare C. Colombo
Griffin Prize, awarded to the senior English major who, like Professor Gail Griffin, demonstrates an exceptional ability to bridge his or her analytical and creative work in the English department.
The Raymond L. Hightower Award, given to a graduating senior for excellence in and commitment to the disciplines of sociology and anthropology and leadership in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology.
Yuridia Luciana Gutierrez-Garcia
Virginia Hinkelman Memorial Award, awarded to a deserving student who displays a deep concern for the well-being of children, as demonstrated through career goals in the field of child welfare.
History Department Award, given for outstanding work in the major
Hodge Prize in Philosophy, awarded to members of the graduating class who have the highest standing in the field.
John Wesley Hornbeck Prize, awarded to seniors with the highest achievement for the year’s work in advanced physics toward a major.
William G. Howard Memorial Prize, awarded to a senior for excellence in academic work in an economics or business major.
William G. Howard Memorial Prize in Political Science
Erin Shaughnessy Smith
Japanese National Honor Society, College Chapter, awarded in recognition of student achievement in their study of the Japanese language and their overall academic excellence.
Molly Pan-Wei Brueger
Amanda Marie Esler
David A. Gurrola
Kurt Kaufman Fellow, given annually to seniors who receive Honors in the Senior Individualized Project (SIP) conducted with faculty in the Chemistry Department.
Min Soo Kim
Moses Kimball Student Scholar
Richard D. Klein Senior Award in Psychology
Kai Lin Shi
Richard D. Klein Senior Impact Award in Psychology
Knoechel Family Award, awarded to a member of the swimming team in recognition of demonstrated excellence in both intercollegiate swimming and academic performance.
Irmgard Kowatzki Theatre Award, awarded to the senior who has excelled both in academic areas and in theatrical productions during the four years at the College.
LaPlante Student Scholars, for outstanding dedication to civic engagement while designing and leading community programs that promote a more just, equitable and sustainable world.
Tish Loveless Award, given by the Department of Physical Education to the outstanding senior female athlete.
Music Department Certificate of Distinction
Quintin Rykar Sproull
Department of Philosophy Prize, awarded for excellence in any year’s work in philosophy.
William E. Praeger Prize in Biology, established by the faculty in the Biology Department and awarded to the most outstanding senior majors in biology, based on academic achievement in the discipline.
Sadie Schadewald Jackson
Robert and Karen Rhoa Prize in Business
Robert and Karen Rhoa Prize for Outstanding SIP
Elwood H. and Elizabeth H. Schneider Prize in English, awarded for outstanding and creative work in English done by a student who is not an English major.
Yuridia Luciana Gutierrez-Garcia
Senior Leadership Recognition Award, awarded to students who have provided key elements of leadership in their organizations, athletic teams, academic departments, employment, and the wider Kalamazoo community. Students were nominated by faculty and staff members in January. Seniors eligible for this award also had to meet a minimum cumulative Grade Point Average requirement and be in good academic and social standing at the College.
Max Gordon Aulbach
Molly Pan-Wei Brueger
Qynce B. Chumley
Cydney Morgan Martell
Zachary Jorge Morales
Amanda Faye Moss
Marco Antonio Ponce
Cecilia Catherine Ringo
Anthony Diep Rosas
Fan E. Sherwood Memorial Prize
Catherine A. Smith Prize in Human Rights, awarded to a senior who has been active on campus in promoting human rights, furthering progressive social and cultural change, and combating violence, repression and bigotry.
Catherine A. Smith Prize in Women’s Athletics, awarded to a woman athlete who in her participation gave all, never quit, with good spirit supported others unselfishly, and whose example was inspirational.
Lemuel F. Smith Award, given to a student majoring in chemistry pursuing the American Chemical Society approved curriculum and having at the end of the junior year the highest average standing in courses taken in chemistry, physics and mathematics.
Sean Patrick Walsh
Senior Spanish Award, given by the Department of Romance Languages for outstanding achievement in Spanish.
Eugene P. Stermer Award in Public Administration
Ailih Suzanne Elizabeth Weeldreyer
Mary Clifford Stetson Prize, awarded for excellence in English essay writing by a senior.
Dwight and Leola Stocker Prize, awarded for excellence in English writing, prose or poetry.
Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Prize in Women’s Studies
David Strauss Prize in American Studies, awarded for the best paper written by a graduating senior in his or her junior or senior year in any field of American Studies.
Babette Trader Campus Citizenship and Leadership Award, awarded to members of the graduating class, who have most successfully combined campus citizenship and leadership with scholarship.
Margaret Upton Prize in Music
Donald W. VanLiere Prize Psychology in Coursework
Sophie Olivia Stone Higdon
Claire Amelia Kalina
Donald W. VanLiere Prize Psychology in Research
Chelsea Leia’Louise Miller
Michael Waskowsky Prize, awarded to outstanding junior or senior art majors.
Amanda Marie Esler
Charles Lewis Williams Jr. Award, awarded for oratory at the English SIP Symposium
Emily King Boyle
Clarke Benedict Williams Prize, awarded to that member of the graduating class who has the best record in mathematics and the allied sciences.
Maynard Owen Williams Memorial Award, for the best student entry in the form of an essay, poetry, paintings, sketches, photographs or films derived from study abroad.
Each year, up to $100 billion worth of harvested food is lost worldwide to pests and microbes. A Kalamazoo College student’s research could hold part of the solution.
Marco Ponce ’19, a biology major from San Diego, conducted his Senior Individualized Project (SIP) last summer under Rob Morrison, Ph.D., ’06, a research entomologist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Grain and Animal Health Science in Manhattan, Kansas. Their work targeted alternative methods for managing red flour and lesser grain beetles, which primarily attack stored grains.
“Prior research has found that these beetles release some pheromones that make them come together in groups, and others that trigger them to spread out,” Ponce said. As a result, “we wondered how their density affects their behavior when they look for food. We’ve found the beetles responded less to otherwise attractive food cues when they’re grouped in higher densities, so we’re trying to synthesize the signal that turns off their food-finding behavior and use it as a repellent. Our goal is to figure out how to use their biology against them.”
Ponce learned last week that he earned a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship to attend Kansas State University as a graduate student this fall, meaning he and Morrison will conduct more research beginning in July. The two will study how stored-product beetles and microbes interact to ruin harvested grains.
“Every year after harvest, we lose anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of our food commodities,” Morrison said. In addition to the U.S., “if you look at some developing countries, this means about $100 billion in commodities are lost every year. Marco’s project has global ramifications. If he can find some of the attractants useful for (pest) management, that will go a long way toward ensuring less pest damage and making agriculture more sustainable.”
“When he was selected, he was up against some students who already are in their graduate programs,” said Biology Professor Ann Fraser, Ponce’s academic adviser. “It’s always gratifying to see students take an interest in science, even if they just make a hobby out of it. But it’s especially rewarding for me to see students go into entomology. There are so many opportunities to get involved in entomology because insects affect our lives in so many ways.”
Ponce and Fraser got to know each other when Ponce was reconsidering his pre-med path. His classes helped him realize he could seek other opportunities in science, and he found the best opportunity in Fraser’s entomology lab.
“That was the transition for me,” Ponce said, admitting his first year at K was difficult, especially as English was his second language, having grown up primarily in Tijuana, Mexico. “I considered changing majors until I saw the email from Dr. Fraser inviting me into her lab. I was surprised because I wasn’t the best academically at the time. It’s one of the reasons why I’m still here: I found my passion.”
Ponce first performed research in Fraser’s lab with painted lady butterflies, a species common in all climates throughout the world. His work analyzed how their antennae responded to different odors produced by flowers compared to those produced by potential predators such as ants, and Fraser was thrilled with his work.
A college track, though, wasn’t always in Ponce’s view. At one point, Ponce expected to join the work force immediately after high school when Pablo Roncoroni, his high school teacher, took him under his wing and helped him navigate the college application process. As a result, not only did Ponce find K, but so did five other students from that high school who since have followed in his footsteps.
The support of teachers and mentors has led Ponce to a place where his research and passion can benefit others around the world including in his backyard. As co-founder of the College’s Entomology Club, he’ll soon start working with that group to inspire students at Kalamazoo’s El Sol Elementary, with a goal of introducing students to science in a different, more hands-on way.
“Marco is very creative,” Fraser said. “I invited him into my lab because he is such an original thinker and he has a great science mind. He is a real ambassador of science.”
Anthony Diep Rosas ’19 has accomplished an impressive first for a Kalamazoo College student, earning a prestigious Luce Fellowship that will enable him to live and work in Asia, furthering personal and professional aspirations to improve public health.
Launched by the Henry Luce Foundation, the nationally competitive Luce Scholars Program offers funds, language education and individualized professional placement in Asia for 15 to 18 scholars each year. The program is designed to enhance the understanding of Asia among potential leaders in American society.
This year, Diep Rosas was one of 18 students chosen from 162 applicants. The program attracts applications from college seniors, graduate students and young professionals in many fields who have had limited exposure to Asia. Diep Rosas will hear official word of where he will go as a Luce Scholar in the next couple of months and then spend a year abroad after an eight-day orientation in New York City, which is scheduled after graduation in June.
“For me, there’s beauty in not knowing what to expect,” Diep Rosas said of the uncertainty regarding his destination. “Coming from Los Angeles, especially Compton, to a place like Kalamazoo—it was such a huge shift. K taught me how to be uncomfortable and learn what it means to connect with a different environment. As a result, I appreciate and value difference as a way to catalyze change.”
The change Diep Rosas seeks involves better health outcomes for underserved communities in the U.S., especially communities of color. During his time abroad, he plans to explore how his assigned community in Asia engages its people in developing policies that serve their local needs, an experience he expects will strengthen his efforts at home. After his Luce year, he plans to study medicine and public policy in graduate school. There he hopes to holistically address health disparities by working with patients and community members to tackle the underlying systemic issues that contribute to patient health through equitable policy change.
As a Luce scholar, “I will be able to learn what it means to listen to folks in the community,” said Diep Rosas, a biology major with a concentration in community and global health. “This will teach me to know what it means to build connections. That’s special about Luce. It will do an amazing job helping me learn what it means to champion vulnerability and listen.”
Diep Rosas first came to K as a Posse Scholar, one of 10 students to attend that year from Los Angeles through the Posse Foundation, which provides scholarships and support to outstanding student leaders from diverse backgrounds. Upon learning about Kalamazoo College as a Posse nominee, Diep Rosas was enamored with its name and intrigued by its small-school environment that nurtures community and offers study abroad opportunities.
In his time at K, Diep Rosas has amassed an impressive resume. Among his accomplishments, he works as an administrative assistant with Director of Faculty Grants and Institutional Research Anne Dueweke, Assistant Professor of Sociology Francisco Villegas and Director of Intercultural Student Life Natalia Carvalho-Pinto on beginning qualitative research regarding the racial climate on campus. He received the U.S. Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in Costa Rica. In the Kalamazoo community, he worked with Cradle Kalamazoo and Eliminating Racism and Creating/Celebrating Equity (ERACCE) to reduce Black infant mortality and promote respect for families, women and their children. Diep Rosas was one of the first research fellows at the Arcus Center for Social Justice and he co-founded the Minority Association for Pre-Health Students for students of color with pre-health majors. He served English Professor Bruce Mills as a teaching assistant and Residential Life as a resident assistant. He was also awarded the Jon L. Stryker Future Leaders scholarship, and was recently recognized at the annual Senior Leadership Recognition Awards.
Diep Rosas credits people and resources including Dueweke, his recommenders and mentors, the Intercultural Center, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, and the Center for International Programs for their work in helping him receive these opportunities, the Luce Fellowship in particular. These opportunities have “inspired me to have a vision for K after I graduate,” Diep Rosas said. “I think about my own story and where I would be had I not gone to K, because K has provided me with the support and resources I’ve needed. I would love to support others, and I would encourage them to reach out to me and [Dueweke] about the Luce Fellowship program especially, because I think it speaks loudly to how K nurtures a student’s education.”
Thirty students known for their invaluable contributions to the Kalamazoo College community were honored Friday at the 15th annual Senior Leadership Recognition Awards.
The selection committee, consisting of Associate Deans of Students Karen Joshua-Wathel and Dana Jansma, asked faculty and staff through a letter in December to nominate students, while noting an exemplary nominee isn’t necessarily the “team captain” or “organization president.”
“The individual may be the person who always seems to have a positive attitude, is consistently involved in helping a group move forward, serves as a continual role model to other students, and who shows dedication, even in times of adversity,” the letter said.
The Senior Leadership Recognition Award winners represent talented athletes, outstanding academic performers, members of the President’s Student Ambassadors and student-organization standouts.
Here are the honorees along with brief statements from their nominators:
“As a third-year [resident assistant], Tapiwa’s contributions have been invaluable. … Her authentic servant leadership has been an incredible asset. … As a Civic Engagement Scholar, she brings deeply informed and compassionate perspectives.”
“Emma’s combination of quiet confidence and a genuine desire to help others has enabled her to effectively lead a diverse group of peers as president of [the Kalamazoo College Council of Student Representatives].”
Ian Freshwater, nominated by Assistant Dean of Students Brian Dietz:
“Ian has done fantastic work serving on student government since his first year and has taken on key roles throughout.”
Sarah George, nominated by Women’s Soccer Coach Bryan Goyings:
“Sarah is an extraordinary individual excelling at K in the classroom, on the soccer field and in the community.”
Sharat Kamath, nominated by Chief Information Officer Greg Diment, Kalamazoo College Fund Associate Director Sandy Dugal, and Alison Geist, Teresa Denton, Moises Hernandez and Emily Kowey of the Center for Civic Engagement:
“He works respectfully to build a more accepting, inclusive community.”
Sabrina Leddy, nominated by Chemistry Professor Regina Stevens-Truss:
“Sabrina has been a leader/mentor of the [American Chemical Society] student group since her sophomore year.”
“Nick is one of the top ambassadors for K and the [Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) ]. … He’s a two-time co-captain of the golf team and will finish his career as one of the top three Hornet golfers of all time.”
“A highly gifted scientist. … Simply the best combination possible of compassion, empathy, kindness, ability and intelligence.”
Ian McKnight, nominated by Assistant Professor of Political Science Justin Berry, Residential Life Area Coordinator Erika Perry, Assistant Dean of Students Brian Dietz and Kalamazoo College Fund Associate Director Sandy Dugal:
“What makes Ian stand out beyond being a strong student is the degree to which he commits not only to his personal growth, but also the broader community.”
“Hannah is a two-year captain of the lacrosse team and a fantastic leader…she is the first player to offer assistance to younger players on and off the field.”
Zachary Morales, nominated by Men’s Lacrosse Coach Vince Redko:
“He has been instrumental in launching lacrosse at the College and he was our first All-MIAA selection in program history.”
Amanda Moss, nominated by L. Lee Stryker Associate Professor of Business Management Amy MacMillan, Women’s Basketball Coach Katie Miller and Women’s Lacrosse Coach Jessica Smith:
“Amanda is a dedicated leader in the classroom, on the basketball court, on the lacrosse field, and in the community. … She co-founded Sports Business Club. … She is a tenacious go-getter who sets an example of excellence for other students.”
Nkatha Mwenda, nominated by Biology Assistant Professor Anne Engh and Kalamazoo College Fund Associate Director Sandy Dugal:
“She embodies the sort of inclusive, cooperative leadership that we need in the world.”
Marco Ponce, nominated by Biology Professor Ann Fraser:
“Marco demonstrates commitment, fortitude and perseverance in all that he does. … He is gifted and the longest serving research assistant I had over my 16 years at the College.”
Shivani Rana, nominated by Assistant Dean of Students Brian Dietz:
“Shivani always comes to the table with a positive disposition, a genuine care for others, and a strong desire to make things better.”
“While always acting with integrity, she found ways to encourage others to expand their thinking and learn more about themselves.”
Sharif Shaker, nominated by Computer Science Chair Alyce Brady, Computer Science Associate Professor Pam Cutter, Swimming and Diving Coach Jay Daniels and Kalamazoo College Fund Associate Director Sandy Dugal:
“Sharif sets an example of dedicated and self-motivated learning … He is bright and is among the best writers we’ve ever seen.”
“Jordan had flourished and become one of our top academic, athletic and leadership examples we have in the baseball program. … As a President’s Student Ambassador, he is gracious and possesses an outstanding attitude.”
JayLashay Young, nominated by Assistant Dean of Students Brian Dietz:
“Jay is the epitome of the type of enlightened leaders we hope all K graduates become. … She created the Kalamazoo Dance Team and is a leader in student activities. … She is a unique combination of dedication, perseverance and optimism.”
Part of her project aims to sustain more pollinators such as bees after a perceived decline in the state’s pollinator population since the 1990s. The Kalamazoo Community Foundation is providing support of $7,000 from the Love Where You Live Environment Fund toward Fraser’s project, which will help her and K students create:
a better food supply for pollinators by planting the wildflowers they desire;
an improved nesting habitat often consisting of clear ground; and
an information campaign that will encourage southwest Michigan residents to use fewer pesticides, especially in their yards and homes.
The rest of Fraser’s project, supported by Kalamazoo College, will develop protocols for bumble-bee monitoring that K students and local citizen scientists can use at nature preserves through collaborations with the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. Fraser said about 465 types of bees are native to Michigan including nearly 100 at the arboretum.
“This will help us develop some long-term monitoring so we can record populations year after year to spot declines as they’re beginning to happen,” Fraser said, noting that these studies involve wild bees, not bees maintained in hives. That means it’s important to maintain food supplies and nesting areas rather than hives.
“There have been European studies that have shown significant declines in insect populations,” she added. “But without our own measurements, we can only ask, ‘is it true?’ Empirical evidence will call us to act.”
That action would be important assuming a population decline because “bees are the most important pollinators of plants,” Fraser said. “Without bees, plants don’t reproduce. Fruit crops rely on pollinators and losing pollinators will affect our food supply.”
As a result, “this support from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation is a wonderful gift,” Fraser said. “It’s the catalyst we’ve needed to get it off the ground.”
Fraser has been a professor at K since 2003. She normally teaches introductory biology, entomology, animal behavior and chemical ecology courses, although she is taking a two-term sabbatical. With that time, she will study similar successful projects executed through schools such as the University of Wisconsin, University of Minnesota and the University of Illinois.
Fraser said other projects have also grown locally, including one last year along Drake Road in Oshtemo Township. Part of Fraser’s research will examine whether the Lillian Anderson Arboretum project benefits pollinators by continuing to survey bee populations pre- and post-habitat enrichment. Her own teams will start preparing areas at the arboretum for planting this spring and summer before planting begins in fall.
Community members and students looking to contribute to educational, awareness and research efforts should stay tuned for more information on how to volunteer as plans develop.