Celebrated Poet Visits, Inspires K

When an award-winning poet speaks on campus, you can bet Kalamazoo College students are eagerly listening and learning.

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
Poet Marcelo Hernandez Castillo reads to Kalamazoo College students from his book, Cenzontle, at the Intercultural Center.

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, a celebrated writer known for his early life experiences as an undocumented immigrant, was warmly welcomed last week to K. He conversed with students in classes taught by Assistant English Professor Shanna Salinas (Reading the World: Identities) and Assistant Sociology Professor Francisco Villegas (Race and Racism). He also provided a poetry reading in front of about 80 students in the Intercultural Center at Hicks Student Center.

“Intersections of language and home are on the hearts and minds of so many of our students,” said Assistant English Professor Oliver Baez Bendorf, who helped facilitate Castillo’s visit. “It’s important for them to know that they can do anything, and to see different models for that. Their stories matter and they can survive the telling of them and even make it beautiful. Reading is always a portal through which they can transport and grow. I know that Marcelo was likewise touched by the energy of our community and our students, their readiness to engage with his writing, their intellectual and creative curiosity, and all that they so impressively juggle.”

Castillo’s poetry collection, titled Cenzontle, addresses the fears he once faced of being deported. Castillo came to the United States with his family from Zacatecas, Mexico, at age 5 and was an early beneficiary of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Sacramento State University and was the first undocumented student to graduate from the Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan.

For Cenzontle, the poet received the New Writers Award this year from the Great Lakes Colleges Association — a 13-member consortium of higher-education institutions in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — which includes K. The award, founded in 1970, honors writers who are in the early stages of their literary career. Along with Cenzontle, Castillo has a 2018 chapbook titled Dulce. His memoir, Children of the Land, is scheduled for release next year.

Beyond poetry, Castillo is an essayist, translator and immigration advocate and a founding member of the Undocupoets campaign, which successfully eliminated citizenship requirements from all major first-poetry-book prizes in the country. His work has been featured in The New York Times, People Magazine, Buzzfeed and New England Review, and he teaches in the Low-Res MFA program at Ashland University.

With focused eyes and open minds, Salinas’ students listened intently to Castillo and asked a range of questions: poem- and content-specific, craft and poetic technique, themes and broader open-ended considerations. “I appreciated how generous Marcelo was in sharing his personal experiences and talking about his writing process,” Salinas said. “He was invested in their questions and insights, and I could tell the students felt that they were being seen, heard and respected.”

Opportunities to hear from renowned, in-the-field experts are celebrated occasions at K regardless of their field of expertise, although hearing from Castillo was a notable treat for students, faculty and staff, especially the aspiring writers among them.

“So many things about reading and writing happen in solitude,” Baez Bendorf said. “When you’ve read words on a page and then the human behind them arrives in your midst, it can be almost magical. I saw that happen with Marcelo’s visit. It’s thrilling to have a visitor, and even better when they’ve come with stories and generosity. Our students extended great hospitality to Marcelo and welcomed him into their spaces.”

Social Justice, International Sports Expert to Visit K

A world-renowned expert on social justice and its role in international sports will visit Stetson Chapel at Kalamazoo College on Monday, Nov. 4.

Social Justice and International Sports Expert Richard Lapchick
Social justice and international sports expert Richard Lapchick will visit Kalamazoo College on Monday, Nov. 4.

Richard Lapchick, the endowed chair and director of the DeVos Sports Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida and the president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice (ISSJ), will conduct a conversation about sports, justice and activism with Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership Director Lisa Brock. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. before the event, “Just Sport: A Conversation on Sports, Justice and Activism with Dr. Richard Lapchick,” begins at 7:30 p.m.

Lapchick founded the Center for the Study of Sport in Society in 1984 at Northeastern University. He served as its director for 17 years and is now its director emeritus. The center has attracted national attention to its efforts ensuring the education of athletes from junior high school through the professional ranks. The center’s Project TEAMWORK was called “America’s most successful violence prevention program” by public opinion analyst Lou Harris. The project won the Peter F. Drucker Foundation Award as the nation’s most innovative nonprofit program and was named by the Clinton Administration as a model for violence prevention.

Lapchick also helped form the National Consortium for Academics and Sport, which is now the ISSJ, in 1985. Nationally, ISSJ athletes have worked with nearly 19.9 million young people in the school-outreach and community-service program, which focused on teaching youths how to improve race relations, develop conflict-resolution skills, prevent gender violence and avoid drug and alcohol abuse.  They collectively donated more than 22 million hours of service while member colleges donated more than $300 million in tuition assistance.

Lapchick has authored 17 books, received 10 honorary doctorates, and is a regular columnist for ESPN.com and The Sports Business Journal. He has written more than 600 articles, has given more than 2,900 public speeches, and has appeared several times on Good Morning America, Face the Nation, The Today Show, ABC World News, NBC Nightly News, The CBS Evening News, CNN and ESPN. From the sports boycott against apartheid to exposing the connection between sports and human trafficking, he has spoken before Congress, and at the United Nations, the European Parliament and the Vatican.

For more information on the event, please call 269.337.7398 or visit the Arcus Center on Facebook.

Panel to Address School Discipline, Mass Incarceration Reform

Child with Backpack Graphic for Mass Incarceration Reform
Kalamazoo College will host a panel discussion to examine the impact of mass incarceration on communities from 4:15 to 7 p.m. Thursday, March 7.

Kalamazoo College will host a panel discussion to examine the impact of mass incarceration on communities, explore how to reduce incarceration rates and increase successful re-entry through a collaborative call to action. This event is free and open to the public.

WHEN: 4:15-7 p.m., Thursday, March 7

WHERE: Hornets Suite, Kalamazoo College Field House, 1600 W. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo

WHO: Sponsored by the community and global health concentration at K, this event aims to foster dialogue among people directly and indirectly affected by mass incarceration, including community members, non-profit and youth-serving organizations, the faith-based community, law enforcement, mental health professionals, K-12 educators, and college and university faculty and students.

WHAT: The event will examine the link between student disciplinary history and future incarceration, and how access to mentorships, counseling and other services can be more effective than traditional methods of discipline in fostering student success. It will include a presentation of the documentary Pathways to Prison and thoughtful discussion with panel participants, including the documentary’s producer. Participants will consider how to support youth, schools and local law enforcement in the building of safe communities that affirm the dignity of every individual.

Panelists include:

  • Dr. Charles Bell (Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Sciences, Illinois State University)
  • Bill Kubota, (Producer, Pathways to Prison)
  • Cindy Green (Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Services, Kalamazoo Public Schools)
  • Reuquiyah Saunders (Director of Special Education, Kalamazoo Public Schools)
  • Mitch Hawkins (Principal, Northeastern Elementary)
  • Joseph Thomas (Field Service/Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Manager, 9th Circuit Court Family Division)
  • Honorable Tiffany A. Ankley (8th District Court)
  • Michael Wilder (Returning Citizen)
  • Michael Monroe (Returning Citizen)

Make Plans for Martin Luther King Jr. Day Events

Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff will take part in events Friday, Jan. 18, and Monday, Jan. 21, to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The events are open to the public unless otherwise noted.


11 a.m., Community Reflection, Stetson Chapel

Tasleem Jamila Martin Luther King Jr Day
Tasleem Jamila, an international poet, vocalist, author, speaker, educator and holistic health advocate, will be a guest performer at the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation Monday, Jan. 21, at Dalton Theatre.

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Reflection is an opportunity for Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff to speak from their experiences and hearts on this year’s theme, “Kneeling for Justice, Then and Now.”


10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Black History 101 Mobile Museum Exhibit, Light Fine Arts lobby

This exhibit is an award-winning collection of more than 7,000 original artifacts of Black memorabilia dating from the trans-Atlantic slave trade era to hip-hop culture. The Black History 101 Mobile Museum has traveled to 32 states, visiting more than 300 institutions including colleges, K-12 schools, corporations, conferences, libraries, museums, festivals, religious institutions and cultural events. Community members are invited to stop by throughout the day to view the exhibit.

10:50 a.m., Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation at Dalton Theatre, Light Fine Arts

Speaker Khalid El-Hakim will deliver the keynote, “The Truth Hurts: Black History, Honesty and Healing the Racial Divide.”

Khalid El-Hakim is the founder and curator of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum. He has received national and international attention for his innovative work of exhibiting Black history outside of traditional museum spaces. Most recently he was named one of the 100 Men of Distinction for 2017 by the highly respected business magazine, Black Enterprise. He holds a master’s degree in socio-cultural studies of education from Western Michigan University and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Dylan Milton ’21 will be the student speaker. Tasleem Jamila, an international poet, vocalist, author, speaker, educator and holistic health advocate, will be a guest performer. She is the CEO of My Soul Speaks, a company that creates interactive workshops, presentations and performances across the world. Her work focuses on social action, community healing and revitalization through art and expression.

12:30 to 2 p.m., Coffee and Conversations with Khalid El-Hakim, Black History 101 Museum Curator, in the Light Fine Arts lobby

Khalid will be available at the museum exhibit for questions and one-on-one dialogue about the Black History 101 Museum and the exhibit at K. Tea, coffee and lemonade will be available.

12:45 to 3 p.m., MLK Day Brunch and Workshop, “Writing Your Own Freedom Song” with Tasleem Jamila, Intercultural Center at Hicks Student Center

Brunch will be served at 12:45 p.m. followed by a 70- to 80-minute workshop. Attendance is limited to 40 students. RSVP to Natalia T. Carvalho-Pinto at ncarvalh@kzoo.edu to attend. This event is open only to students from Kalamazoo College, Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

3:40 p.m., annual Commemorative Walk

Kalamazoo College participants will ride buses from Red Square to MLK Park in Kalamazoo. After the MLK Park event, participants may take buses back to K. One bus will take participants to a celebration at the State Theatre, after which a 6 p.m. bus will return participants to K.

5 to 6 p.m., Community Celebration, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick, Kalamazoo

Immediately after the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Walk, Bronson Healthcare and Ascension Borgess Hospital invite the public to a community celebration. For accommodations and further information, contact Mikka Dryer at 269.341.8323 or Sister Sue McCrery at 269.226.5937.

7 p.m., Movie Night and Discussion, Intercultural Center at Hicks Student Center.

Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff are welcome to watch the movie “Selma” with popcorn and pizza provided.

Grant Empowers Alzheimer’s Research at K

Kalamazoo College Professor of Biology Blaine Moore and Upjohn Professor of Life Sciences Jim Langeland ’86 have secured a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant worth more than $440,000 over three years to help K students research the origin and evolution of key proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease.

The research will examine the evolutionary origins of two interacting protein molecules, the beta-secretase enzyme (BACE1) and the amyloid beta (A-beta) sequence within the Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP). The findings will further the general understanding of key Alzheimer’s proteins, specifically how and when they evolved their pathogenic interaction.

Student Prepares for Alzheimer's Research
Nkatha Mwenda ’19, a biology major from Grand Rapids, Michigan, performs research in Professor of Biology Blaine Moore’s lab. Moore and Upjohn Professor of Life Sciences Jim Langeland have secured a National Science Foundation grant worth more than $440,000 that will empower students to perform Alzheimer’s research regarding the degenerative brain disease’s key proteins.

Langeland said such work will have no direct therapeutic application and won’t offer a specific cure for the degenerative brain disease. It could, however, lead to future research toward such outcomes. The immediate impact of the grant is the recruitment of underrepresented minorities and first-generation college students to work on the project.

Bright and motivated K students generally are recruited by word of mouth for such projects, which can inspire their senior individualized projects (SIPs). Such a setup provides students with hands-on experience and independent scholarship, which are two of the four key tenets to the K-Plan, Kalamazoo College’s distinctive approach to an education in the liberal arts and sciences.

The grant, worth a total of $444,941, also represents a rare opportunity for students to participate in research with, and benefit from, two professors with varied expertise. Langeland works with molecular genetics, developmental biology and evolution, and Moore is a neurobiologist who examines neurodegeneration and cell death in particular diseases.

Moore said, “This grant is unique in its interdisciplinary approach to a neurodegenerative disorder. Most scientists in the Alzheimer’s field are focused on molecular mechanisms, not evolutionary context. It’s only at a liberal arts college that you can you find professors with such disparate backgrounds working together with students on a project like this. It’s a perfect confluence of skillsets.”

Both professors said the grant represents the culmination of about 10 years of partnering to secure such funds and opportunities for students, providing a satisfaction unsurpassed in their careers. The fact that the two are friends as well as colleagues makes this research particularly satisfying. It also continues a notable year for K’s Biology Department, which has been involved with:

NSF is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 to promote the progress of science and advance national health, prosperity and welfare, making such research and developing future scientists a priority. For more information on NSF, visit its website.

Arcus Center Invites Public to With/Out-¿Borders? Events

The public is invited to join the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership for two events related to its With/Out-¿Borders? gathering, which is scheduled for Oct. 8-15.

The opening ceremony is slated for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10, at the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, 205 Monroe St. A community breakfast is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, in the Hornet Suite at K’s Athletic Fields Complex, 1600 W. Michigan Ave. Register for either event through email at acsjl@kzoo.edu.

Sunni Patterson, Denenge Akpem and Shannon Haupt participate in a ritual performance of release and healing during the 2016 With/Out – ¿Borders? Afrofuturism breakout session “Breaking the Legacy, Conjuring Futures.”

The third With/Out-¿Borders? invitational gathering will bring together land activists who approach social movement work in small grassroots organizations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, South Africa, Canada, Colombia, Mexico and the Pacific Islands. They will discuss how land is essential to indigenous sovereignty movements, contested through forced dislocation, and an asset for strength and nurturance.

“The activists coming to Kalamazoo in October are engaged in some of the most effective and forward-thinking work around land sovereignty and protection in the world,” Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership Executive Director Mia Henry said. “We are honored to have the opportunity to use our resources to uplift and strengthen the work of each of our guests, living into our mission of capacity building on a global level.”

The purpose of the With/Out-¿Borders? gathering is to:

  • unite global grassroots activists who envision a world free from oppression while actively working toward that vision;
  • create an environment where activists can learn from and support each other; and
  • develop deep and meaningful relationships between the Kalamazoo College community, these activists and their work.

The Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College develops and sustains leaders in human rights and social justice through education and capacity building. Kalamazoo College, founded in Kalamazoo, Mich., in 1833, is a nationally recognized liberal arts college and the creator of the K-Plan, which emphasizes rigorous scholarship, experiential learning, independent research and international and intercultural engagement.

For more information on the With/Out-¿Borders? gathering or either of its public events, contact Bailey Mead at 269-337-7398 or bailey.mead@kzoo.edu.

Shared Grant to Proactively Prevent Sexual Violence

Kalamazoo College is receiving nearly $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice through a shared grant to proactively prevent domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking on campus.

Kalamazoo College Quad Shared Grant
Kalamazoo College is the only Michigan institution and one of just a few small private schools among 60 colleges and universities nationwide to receive part of the $18 million being distributed through the U.S. Department of Justice in a shared grant that will proactively prevent domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking on campus.

K is the only Michigan institution and one of just a few small private schools among 60 colleges and universities nationwide to receive part of the $18 million being distributed. K’s portion, totaling $298,698, will:

  • create a Campus Coordinated Community Response Team;
  • expand training for campus safety officers and Title IX investigators;
  • expand victim services;
  • hire a full-time project coordinator who will focus on culturally relevant prevention efforts;
  • further enhance the College’s focus on student safety; and
  • support a K partnership with the Kalamazoo YWCA and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. The partnership will bring a victim advocate to campus for 20 hours a week and formalize response to incidents that involve students in the city.

“This grant is very competitive, so we’re excited to have this additional funding and support,” said Ellen Lassiter Collier, K’s Title IX coordinator and director of gender equity. She added documented endorsements of existing efforts from students, faculty and staff likely were determining factors for the Department of Justice in securing the shared grant.

“This kind of grant traditionally goes to public schools,” Lassiter Collier said. “That speaks to the work the College is already doing and the support we receive from across campus.”

K’s existing efforts include programs such as Green Dot, which offers bystander training that statistically reduces the likelihood of dating and domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault. Green Dot at K is funded through the State of Michigan Campus Sexual Assault Grant Program, which gave the College about $18,600 in 2016 and $41,800 in 2017.

The Department of Justice grant, though, will enhance such efforts and others, including the creation of targeted online training programs for students, to ensure the programs and training materials are culturally competent considering K’s diversity, and relevant to its student experiences such as study abroad.

With study abroad, for example, “We want students to know that the College is still a source of support and potential investigation should something happen abroad,” Lassiter Collier said.

For more information on the grant from the Department of Justice, visit its website.

K Student Provides Tips on What to Bring to Campus

Mattie Del Torro Grabs a Photo from a Crate for What to Bring to Campus Story
Mattie Del Toro ’20 is a student worker for Residential Life, which has updated its suggestions for students regarding what to bring to campus this fall.

When Mattie Del Toro ’20 reflects on choosing Kalamazoo College, she remembers an experience brought to her by the letter K.

As a high school senior, Del Toro attended a Colleges That Change Lives fair near her hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a good friend had been looking into Knox College. Next to the Knox table, among the Ks and in alphabetical order, was Kalamazoo College.

“I remember thinking, ‘Is (Kalamazoo) the name of a city from a Dr. Seuss book? There’s no way that’s a real place,’ ” says Del Toro, a business and art history major and studio art minor. “I thought if anything it had to be a college named after someone rather than the name of a city.”

Her intrigue led her to approach Associate Director of Admission Andrew Grayson at the fair. Their conversation was fateful as Grayson’s assistance guided her toward an intercultural fly-in program. The program lets students from under-represented backgrounds who are interested in diversity and inclusion visit Kalamazoo College.

“I fell in love with the campus,” says Del Toro, who ended up enrolling at K. “I graduated with a high school class of 50, and when I saw how small and intimate the school is, I was sold. I received a great financial aid offer that made it about the same in terms of affordability as the University of New Mexico, and it was a chance to go across the country for the whole liberal arts experience.”

Del Toro is now a student worker for Residential Life, which has updated its suggestions regarding what to bring to campus for fall. Based on her experiences, as a first-year student living in Trowbridge Hall and as a resident assistant at Harmon Hall, here’s what Del Toro suggests.

Talk with Your Roommate About What to Bring to Campus

K students living on campus this fall should already have received their room assignment with their roommate’s name and kzoo.edu email address. Del Toro suggests contacting your roommate to arrange who will bring what, especially if at least one of you is coming from a considerable distance.

Mattie Del Torro Writes Class of 2019 on her dry-erase board for what to bring to campus story
Mattie Del Toro ’20 advises that first-year students consider making their rooms as homey as possible in thinking about what to bring to campus. Items such as dry-erase boards can help students feel more at home.

Del Toro, for example, arrived in Kalamazoo for her first year by plane with her mom and then-boyfriend, now fiancé, bringing Del Toro’s belongings in a total of nine suitcases. Appliances, for example, weren’t an option for her.

“What you bring might depend on whether you’re from Michigan or someplace farther,” she said, adding that a roommate brought a microwave, curtains and mini-fridge, which she was happy to stock with food.

Shop for What You Can in Kalamazoo

Nine suitcases might not sound like much for transporting everything someone might need for an entire term. Del Toro, however, admits she packed too much and advises that less is more.

“When I left for fall, I packed stuff that I took home during winter break,” Del Toro said. Those items included several blankets and some heavy winter gear after she realized she only needed some long-sleeve shirts, jeans and jackets for the crisp weather that arrives late in the fall term.

When those items and other bulky items are necessary, shop for them in Kalamazoo or place online orders from your hometown and pick them up in Kalamazoo. Del Toro says to consider items such as mattress pads, shower caddies and “items that Mom would normally provide,” such as cleaning supplies and laundry detergent.

Preview Your Room Space

Residential Life doesn’t keep floor-plan measurements for specific rooms. Del Toro, however, advises that students look at pictures of residence hall rooms in K’s virtual tour to estimate their potential floor space. Those visuals should provide ideas as to where students can put items such as small cabinets and bins.

“You get a closet and drawers, but it’s beneficial to have bins and totes of your own as well,” Del Toro said. “I quickly realized I didn’t have the surface area I needed for certain items, and the virtual tour would’ve helped me plan better.”

Make Your Room Your Home

Del Toro says that on a residential campus such as K’s, it’s important that students make their residence hall room their home.

Items such as rugs, pictures of family and friends, twinkle lights suspended through adhesive hooks, and small pieces of furniture negotiated with roommates can ward off homesickness and make your room feel like an owned space.

“I didn’t want to get so comfortable in my space that I disrespected my roommate,” she said. “But any home goods can give you more than a brick wall, a desk and a bed,” allowing for greater comfort.

For more information on Residential Life, visit its website, or contact its offices at housing@kzoo.edu or 269.337.7210.