Travel Site Names K Michigan’s Most Beautiful Campus

Travel + Leisure Magazine  — a Time Inc. publication offering tips, news and information about destinations around the world — has named Kalamazoo College the most beautiful campus among colleges and universities in Michigan.

Most Beautiful Campus in Michigan
Travel + Leisure Magazine has named Kalamazoo College the most beautiful campus in Michigan thanks in part to its “understated but attractive red-brick buildings” such as Hodge House.

The article describes college campuses in each state as picturesque resources appreciated by nearly everyone in each college town, and not just residents, students, faculty, staff and alumni. They’re also worthwhile destinations for travelers.

“Kalamazoo College is probably best described as pleasant,” its article says of K. “Understated but attractive red-brick buildings make up the majority of campus structures: Hodge House, the president’s residence, is a good example.”

K is located about 140 miles from Chicago and Detroit. The Kalamazoo-Portage metropolitan area has 335,000 people, making Kalamazoo feel like a large city with the intimacy of a small town.

If you’d like to see our campus for yourself, find your opportunities for visiting Kalamazoo College or take a virtual tour today. You can also find directions to campus and information on lodging and dining nearby.

“Without Borders” Conference Imagines World Where All Life May Thrive

Without Borders ConferenceThe tension between what is politically possible under the world’s current political and economic systems and what is ecologically necessary exposes an urgent need for change, said journalist and activist Naomi Klein, keynote speaker for the conference, “Without Borders, Post-Oppression Imaginaries and Decolonized Futures.” The conference was sponsored by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College and attracted several hundred activists and social justice experts from across the country.

According to Klein, even though the recent Paris climate change agreement looked like the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era, the treaty is neither legally binding nor sufficient in its goals to avert ecological disaster.

“Fossil fuel frontiers have to be closed if we have any hope of a future,” said Klein. “Politicians have absolutely no plan to do this.”

Adequately addressing climate change has failed since the late 1980s, emasculated by a neoliberalist interpretation of capitalism that promotes privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, free trade and reductions in government spending to enhance the public sector. Such policies have created in people a profound sense of hopelessness about climate change, said Klein.

“We are told that selfishness and short-sightedness is part of human nature, which prevents us acting,” said Klein. “This is not true and it steers us away from an analysis of our system. In fact, the fight for survival is human nature.”

Many local, grassroots groups are advocating steps to address climate change because they see the issue’s connection to an unjust economic system that is failing for a vast majority of people all over the planet, she added.

Klein challenged the audience to work for “climate justice” by reversing the “extractivist” point of view of the Earth and promoting the “caretaking” of one another, an ethos that indigenous people advocate.

“It’s not just ‘energy democracy’ but ‘energy justice’ that we need,” said Klein. “This leads to clean energy projects and jobs.”

She also emphasized that service work like nursing, child care, public interest media should be redefined as climate work that sets out to create a “caring and repairing economy.”

“We need to embed justice in every aspect of our lives,” said Klein. “The people are hungry for transformational change, and we have to go for it on all fronts.”

The conference focused on four related themes: Afrofuturism, Decolonized Knowledge, Sustainable Futures, and Next Systems.

Text by Olga Bonfiglio; conference photo by Susan Andress

Public Lecture Explores Historic Treatment of Pueblo People

Nora Naranjo MorseNora Naranjo Morse will deliver the annual Phi Beta Kappa lecture at Kalamazoo College on Tuesday, October 11, at 8 p.m. in the Mandelle Hall Olmsted Room. The event is free and open to the public. Morse Morse is a sculptor, writer, and producer of video films that look at the continuing social changes within Pueblo Indian culture.  Her talk, “Numbe Wahgeh,” focuses on the historical treatment of the Pueblo people and history retold by indigenous peoples.

An artist best known for her work with clay and organic materials, she has been trained in the Pueblo clay work tradition of the Southwest.  Her installation exhibits and large-scale public art speak to environmental, cultural, and social practice issues.  Beyond New Mexico, her work can be seen at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.

She studied at the College of Santa Fe, where she received her B.A. degree in 1980, and is the recipient of an honorary degree from Skidmore College.  In 2014 Naranjo Morse was awarded a Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Artist fellowship.  She is the author of two books:  a poetry collection, Mud Woman: Poems from the Clay, and a children’s book, Kaa Povi.

Morse will spend two days on K’s campus. In addition to her public lecture she will visit four classes and meet with various faculty and students.

Convocation 2016

Kalamazoo College Convocation 2016Kalamazoo College kicks off the 2016-17 academic year on Wednesday September 7 at 3 p.m. with its annual opening convocation ceremony for new students ready to begin their liberal arts adventure.

The ceremony will take place on the campus Quad and be available via live streaming. In case of rain, the ceremony will move into Stetson Chapel.

President Jorge Gonzalez, Provost Michael McDonald, Dean of Students Sarah Westfall, Chaplain Elizabeth Candido ’00, faculty, staff, and student leaders will welcome new students and their families. Jeffrey D. Hsi ’83, Ph.D., J.D., will deliver the keynote address. Jeff is a shareholder at the intellectual property law firm of Wolf Greenfield, and his career both at the bench and at the bar testifies to the power and versatility of the K-Plan.

K will welcome 354 first-year students (including 27 matriculating international students), 11 transfer students, and 24 visiting international students. New students come from 24 states within the U.S., including Alaska, Maine, Florida and California, and from 22 countries including, Japan, Ecuador, Greece, Vietnam, Nepal and Senegal. Students of color from the U.S. make up more than 30 percent of the incoming class. Fifteen percent of the incoming class will be the first in their families to attend college.

The class of 2020 is outstanding in many ways. About 11 percent achieved state honors in academics, athletics or both. Forty-two percent participated in one or more sports in high school, and 28 percent of those served as team captains. Fifteen percent of the class served in student government, and 10 students were their class presidents. Thirty-two percent participated in music (seven of them garnering state honors). Ninety-one percent took college course work during high school, and 84 percent of the class did volunteer work in civic organizations and social justice causes. Welcome, Kalamazoo College class of 2020!

College Tests Football Lights

College Football LightsBe Light, indeed! After a 30-some-year absence, stadium lights once again light Angell Field, home to the Kalamazoo College Hornet football team. With help from Musco Sports Lighting and Hi-Tech Electric, K is now the first sports stadium in Michigan with LED lights designed to drastically reduce both light trespass and glare outside the College’s property lines. Musco engineers, a City of Kalamazoo inspector, K officials and several neighbors witnessed a test of the lighting system at its highest intensity Wednesday night. All pronounced the finished product a success. K and its lighting consultants will continue to tweak the lights in order to achieve maximum benefit on the field and off. Per an agreement with neighbors and the City, K will use the lights for up to 20 nights annually, almost exclusively for practices that will accommodate Hornet varsity football, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s club ultimate Frisbee and intramural teams. (Wednesday’s test counted as one of those 20 nights.) Thank you, everyone, who worked hard to bring lights back to Angell Field. Lux esto! (text by Jeff Palmer; photo by Susan Andress)

Kalamazoo College Included in Fiske Guide to Colleges 2017

Fiske2017_CVRKalamazoo College once again is included in the annual “Fiske Guide to Colleges,” a popular and useful resource for high school students and their families researching prospective colleges, compiled by former New York Times education editor Edward B. Fiske, a top independent voice in college admissions.

Fiske is a selective, subjective and systematic look at 300-plus colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and the UK. It’s available as a paperback book, as an iPad app on iTunes and a web program on

Readers will discover the real personality of a college based on a broad range of subjects, including student body, academics, social life, financial aid, campus setting, housing, food, and extracurricular activities.

According to Fiske, “Kalamazoo is a small liberal arts school that opens up the world to its students—literally. An impressive 80 percent of Kalamazoo Hornets study abroad thanks to the
ingenious K-Plan, a quarter system that allows students to study abroad one, two, or three academic terms. And if you need an extra boost to round out that résumé, there is an extensive internship program.”

Other quotes from the review of Kalamazoo College in Fiske Guide to Colleges 2017:

“Kalamazoo aims to prepare students for real life by helping them synthesize the liberal arts education they receive on campus with their experiences abroad. ’The rigor of classes makes the academic climate seem competitive at times but it is pretty collaborative,’ says a sophomore.”

“’Being a liberal arts school, people are doing very cool and exciting things in all of the departments,’ one student says.”

“K students are very passionate and determined to make a difference…”

“[Students] take a liberal arts curriculum that includes language proficiency, a first-year writing seminar, sophomore and senior seminars, as well as a senior individualized project—an internship, directed research, or a traditional thesis—basically anything that caps off each student’s education in some meaningful way.”

“Professors give students lots of individual attention and are rewarded with some of Michigan’s highest faculty salaries. “Every professor I’ve had has been passionate about what they teach and accessible outside of class,” says a senior.”

“There are always tons of things to do on campus, like movies, concerts, speakers, and events,” an economics major reports. Students look forward to a casino night called Monte Carlo, homecoming, Spring Fling, and the Day of Gracious Living, a spring day where, without prior warning, classes are canceled and students relax by taking day trips or helping beautify the campus. (One popular T-shirt: ’The end of learning is gracious living.’)”

Fiske uses data supplied by colleges and gathered by Fiske researchers. These data can sometimes be out of date by the time the book is published. For example, K’s 2016 deadline for Early Decision I and Early Action admission applications is Nov. 1, not Nov. 15, as reported by Fiske. Also, K’s six-year graduation rate is more than 80 percent, not 77 percent, as reported by Fiske. Additionally, K’s newest major, Critical Ethnic Studies is not “coming in 2016,” as reported in the book. It arrived in fall 2015.

Edward B. Fiske served for seventeen years as education editor of the New York Times, where he realized that college-bound students and their families needed better information on which to base their educational choices. He is also the coauthor of the “Fiske Guide to Getting into the Right College” and “Fiske Real College Essays That Work.”

Leaders off to Leadership Conference

Leaders off to Leadership ConferenceMalak Ghazal ’19 (left), Ian Freshwater ’19 and Jazzilyn Dubois ’17 are pictured on the plane en route to attend the annual Student Government Institute hosted by the National Association for Campus Activities.  This year’s conference will be held at the University of Oregon, and these three Hornets will join students from around the country to hone their leadership skills and learn strategies to effectively manage student government and represent student needs.  Ghazal, Freshwater, and Dubois all served on the Interim Body of Student Representatives during the 2015-16 academic year, and are involved in ongoing work to redefine student government at Kalamazoo College in an effort to best meet needs of the current student body.

Soil and Light

Rich Frishman designed this faceplate for his son, Gabe Frishman

Every graduating senior contains a multitude of stories. Commencement celebrates them. And Commencement day adds more. Like this one from proud father Rich Frishman (a Seattle-area based photographer), who cultivated a special gift for his son Gabe Frishman (class of 2016) and Gabe’s friends and academic advisor. The photo is the face plate of a card designed by Rich, and the story behind it we share below in Rich’s own words.

“From our first visit, when Gabe was selecting which college would best challenge him, we have been struck by the beauty of K’s compact quad, rolling idyllically down from Stetson, and all the energy it contained. As the heart of the campus, it seems to symbolize the nurturing environment of Kalamazoo College. The towering white oaks and lush grass transform a simple rectangle bounded by concrete and brick into a welcoming meeting place full of life. The trees became symbols, living embodiments of this special place and process; of growth and strength and transformation.

Watching my son Gabe and his friends joyfully embracing each other on the quad, then hurling themselves with complete abandon into the pillow-like piles of gathered autumn leaves, inspired this botanical experiment. Gabe, my wife Brenda and I began collecting acorns on the lower end of the quad (between Hoben, Hicks and Upton) on October 26, 2012, our inaugural Family Weekend. The acorns were most abundant that year. We eagerly gathered a couple dozen freshly fallen seeds, thinking that it would be sweet to have living tokens of Gabe’s new home at our old home. It was when planting them back on Whidbey Island that I thought they’d be a great gift to give to Gabe’s friends and classmates upon graduation. My sentimental notion was evolving.

Had I been successful that first year, I would have needed a moving truck to bring the seedlings back to Kalamazoo in 2016, but Mother Nature was wise. None of those acorns seemed to germinate. Perhaps they’d been eaten by our own squirrels, or the seeds suffocated in transit, or they needed a harder freeze to activate.

By the time of our second Family Weekend I had spent endless hours studying the horticultural requirements for successful white oak acorn germination. My hypothesis was that the weather in the Maritime Northwest was too temperate for seeds that thrived in Midwest winters. So I tried refrigerating our next harvest of Kzoo quad acorns, storing them just above freezing for two months, then planting them in the early spring.
Mother Nature got a good laugh out of that experiment. Out of another dozen acorns, none seemed to survive. Apparently that theory was not ready for publication.

With Gabe in Budapest for study abroad in 2014, we had no Kzoo acorns to plant.

Our final Family Weekend, around Halloween 2015, yielded a moderate number of healthy acorns, all gathered from the same eastern end of the quad. The squirrels seemed more corpulent and the available seed stock harder to find, but we all searched. When I got these back to Whidbey, I took a minimalist approach, planting each acorn in a one-gallon pot. Thinking perhaps my first year’s failure might have been attributable to predation, I built cages to keep them safe from squirrels, chipmunks, deer and rabbits.

Eureka! Despite our very mild winter, shoots began to break the soil in March. By the time we were finalizing our Kalamazoo Commencement plans, we had nearly a score of foot-tall white oak seedlings. I decided I would drive a dozen of them from Seattle to Kalamazoo so we could give them to Gabe’s friends as living tokens of their four years at K.

Men plan and God laughs, they say. And men plant and chipmunks grin. Nature did get one more giggle before I reached Kalamazoo. When Brenda and I stopped in Chicago, I placed our dozen seedlings in a sunny spot protected from the deer that roamed the neighborhood. Some wily chipmunks smelled a feast and eviscerated half the crop from their pots, so we were left with just six to give as gifts. Gabe carefully distributed those few to his brilliant advisor, Professor John Dugas, and five other friends.

Our garden still has six authentic Kalamazoo Quad white oak seedlings, now in two-gallon pots, awaiting final placement. One I know will grow by our house, a reminder of a time and place we hold dear. One will follow Gabe wherever he lands, a symbol of where he was launched.

The choice of tree was completely dictated by heritage. If Kalamazoo’s quad was dotted with Mountain Ash, I would have planted whatever Mountain Ash seeds I could gather. The seeds had to come from the quad because they serve as a totem of the school and the educational quest. Acorns gathered elsewhere would not suffice.

The graduation card was a last-minute creative exercise. I wanted to offer a context and explanation for why Gabe’s gift was significant. I consider the Kalamazoo experience a gift that empowers its students to grow from humble soil into the light.

Gabe is passionate about learning. His hobbies have long been thinking, reading, and questioning…along with cycling, camping and rockhounding.

When it came to selecting a school, he sought a small liberal arts college where he would be challenged academically and supported emotionally, where he could build relationships with faculty and friends. His interests in international affairs, politics, philosophy and the environment were part of what lead him to select Kalamazoo College.

Gabe’s plans for his future are still evolving. He’s considering taking some time to work in his field of study, political science, possibly through a non-profit or NGO or outreach program like the Peace Corps. Gabe anticipates eventually returning to school to get a Ph.D. or J.D., but first he wants to better understand precisely where he wants to focus his energies.”


PUI Paragon

Kalamazoo College Chemistry Professor Laura FurgeLaura Furge, the Roger F. and Harriet G. Varney Professor of Chemistry, is a feature profile in a recent ASBMB Today, the professional development magazine of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The article, titled “Working at a PUI,” focuses on the demands and rewards faculty face at “primarily undergraduate institutions.” Turns out rewards and demands may be so intertwined they’re indistinguishable.  For example, Furge’s academic wheelhouse is biochemistry, and yet she also teaches classes in organic chemistry and general chemistry and even a first-year writing seminar on cancer. The latter has become one of her favorite classes, a case in point of the demand-and-reward hybrid. Furge also notes that at PUIs the professor is the inter-generational “continuity of knowledge.” That vital function requires patience and broader skills on the part of the professor (demand) and makes a PUI professor-investigator-mentor like Furge the progenitor of generations of chemists and chemistry educators–think of Sarah in the Book of Genesis or Celeste in Edward P. Jones’ novel The Known World. That latter reference underscores another for Furge’s great strengths (one the PUI article misses): a fierce commitment to the liberal arts. The Known World was Kalamazoo College’s Summer Common Reading choice in 2007. Furge sits on the committee that selects these works. She also will begin her duties as associate provost at Kalamazoo College beginning July 1.

Distant Mirror

The Men's Dorm before a fire. Bowen Hall is in the background at left
The Men’s Dorm before the fire. Bowen Hall is in the background at left

Like its century-in-the-future counterpart, the class of ’16 (1916!) faced its share of campus crises scattered among the quotidian rhythm of challenge, disorientation, hard work, fun and growth. You can discover these similarities (and differences) from a display created by archivist Lisa Murphy ’98 and currently on exhibit in Upjohn Library.

The class of 1916 graduated 38 members (four with bachelor of science degrees, 34 with bachelor of arts degrees). The students matriculated in 1912. At that time all classes were held in Bowen Hall, located near what is today the east loading dock of the Hicks Center. Bowen housed the library as well. Male students lived in the appropriately (albeit unimaginatively) named “Men’s Dorm.” It was located near today’s Hoben Hall. Women students resided in “Ladies Hall,” located approximately in the center of a triangle whose vertices would one day be Stetson Chapel, Mandelle Hall and Dewing Hall. None of those three vertices existed then. And none of those 1916 landmarks (Bowen, Men’s Dorm, Ladies Hall) exist today.

Despite being 100 years apart, the academic calendar is roughly the same: mid-September to mid-June, though divided back then into two semesters rather than three trimesters. Fourteen faculty worked at K in 1916; three were women.

Ancestor to Day of Gracious Living?
Ancestor to Day of Gracious Living?

According to Murphy, freshmen and sophomores 100 years ago tended to do things as one group, juniors and seniors a second. As freshmen, the class of ’16 distinguished itself in the annual sophomore-versus-freshmen tug-of-war over Mirror Lake, a shallow mucky pond near Arcadia Creek and the Amtrak train tracks. According to a small Kalamazoo Gazette article (headline: FRESHMEN DRAG 15 CLASSMEN THROUGH CHILLY LAKE WATERS), the first-years made short work of the sophomores and pulled them across the entire pond.

Back then juniors and seniors enjoyed an annual picnic at West Lake. The class of ’16 had a chance to attend a senior-only picnic at Gull Lake (see photo, with President Stetson on the far right). Perhaps these events are ancestors to the Day of Gracious Living, which the class of 2016 experienced annually for four years.

Students confined to the Men's Dorm take some air
Students confined to the Men’s Dorm take some air

All classes endure challenges. The graduates of 1916 faced smallpox and a serious dorm fire during their four years. In early April of 1913 a junior named Ernest Piper was diagnosed with smallpox. The Gazette headline read: SMALLPOX APPEARS AT COLLEGE “DORM” WEDNESDAY EVENING: Dr. Stetson Orders All Students to be Vaccinated at Once: Glee Club Members Are Scared. Piper had been on a recent trip with the Glee Club. For a few days, the College was “campused,” which meant students stayed in their rooms with the exception of their vaccination appointments. A doctor’s written verification of vaccination (and antibody production) was required to resume classes and other activities. One such verification is on display in the library, with two dates (April 3 and April 30) corresponding (respectively) to vaccination and efficacy (presence of antibodies presumably).

President Stetson took some heat for not banishing Piper to an infectious diseases sanatorium. None existed in Kalamazoo, and the closest one outside the city Stetson considered deplorable. So he stood his ground. It turned out Piper’s was a mild case, as was the only other case, that of a faculty member. The incident occurred before the age of antibiotics and less than four years prior to the influenza pandemics of 1918-19, which killed an estimated 675,000 Americans. Infectious disease was fearsome.

In the class’s senior year, on March 17, 1916, the Kalamazoo College Oratorical Association of Kalamazoo sponsored a debate between K and Hope College. The topic: “That Congress should adopt a literary test as a further means of restricting European immigration.” K had to argue the affirmative; Hope the negative. The debate occurred of St. Patrick’s Day. No record of who won.

The Men's Dorm the morning after the fire
The Men’s Dorm the morning after the fire

Coincidentally, that very night, a midnight blaze destroyed the fourth floor of the Men’s Dorm. All 48 residents of the building made it out; those on the lower floors had some time to salvage belongings, but the students on the third and fourth floors were fortunate to escape with their lives. In a scene right out of Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie, the bell from the dorm’s tower fell through the floors, narrowly missing one student who had just fled his room. Wrote The Index (March 21, 1916): “A very narrow escape was experienced by Paul Butler when the old bell, which had hung in the tower for more than fifty years and is well known to every alumnus, crashed through the roof and down to the third floor.  Butler had just left his room when the mass of metal tore an opening in the floor over which he had recently passed.”  Eat your heart out, Tim Burton…though, perhaps, the proximity of place and timing were embellished in the telling.

What’s certain is that local neighbors volunteered to house the newly homeless students, providing clothing and book replacements as well. Lots of homework, even some assignments not due for months, were claimed to have been lost in the blaze.

The night of St. Patrick’s Day was bitter cold. You can see the frozen ice from the water used to douse the flames in the after-photo of the before-and-after sequence. The College declared the fourth floor a loss, and refurbished the building as a three-story structure.

No matter what it may have seemed, not all about the four years was crisis–the same as with the class of 2016. The 1916 baseball team won the conference championship, as would its future descendant 100 years later. The basketball team placed first as well. And 1916 was the year the Kalamazoo College Student Senate formed. Ironically, 100 years later, 2015-16 was the College’s first year since 1916 without a student government.