Indigenous Cultures Welcome English Professor for In-Person Research

Kalamazoo College Associate Professor of English Ryan Fong recently appeared on a New Zealand reality TV show titled The Casketeers, which focuses on Māori funeral directors Francis and Kaiora Tipene, who combine good humor with care and respect as they help Māori and Pasifika families cope with loss.

That appearance might surprise some. But to know Fong’s scholarship is to know why it makes perfect sense. Over the past several years, he has been awarded a series of grants that have allowed him to thoughtfully and respectfully perform in-person research regarding Indigenous cultures, including the Māori, across the British empire and French Polynesia, for a book he expects to release in 2025.

The research developed out of a growing understanding of the limits of his primary educational training in 19th century British literature.

“The sparks for this project came during my time at K and with the relationships I’ve had with people like Reid Gomez, the founding director of our Critical Ethnic Studies program,” Fong said while also mentioning current colleagues such as Professor of English Amelia Katanski ’92. “In my conversations with them, I realized that in order to understand the British empire, I needed to understand more than the colonizer’s perspective. Colonialism wasn’t completely victorious in erasing Indigenous people and their culture, as evidenced by the fact that they still survive today, so in the last seven years, I’ve essentially done another Ph.D. worth of research about the sites and communities I am studying.”

New Zealand was one stop last year and the TV show was a small part of it. Fong binged the first two seasons of The Casketeers on Netflix before traveling to partially fulfill an Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership fellowship. He had also emailed the show’s producers in advance, asking for permission to respectfully visit the outside grounds, and to his surprise, he and his husband were invited inside after stopping by.

“In addition to reading books and visiting archives, part of my research is engaging with contemporary culture like The Casketeers,” Fong said. “The show graciously shares so much about Māori culture, and I learned a ton about their tikanga, or traditions, and their language while watching it. They were very impressed that I knew and used so many Māori words in our conversation, and it was a bridge for me to share some of my family’s Chinese traditions with them.”

Also in New Zealand, Fong visited many of the sites significant to Apirina Ngata, a prominent Māori statesman and cultural advocate who served in the country’s parliament. In 1892, Ngata became the first known Māori person to publish a poem in English while he was an undergrad at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, where he was among the first of its Māori graduates.

Ngata was a member of Ngāti Porou, an iwi—or Indigenous Māori tribe—from the Eastern Cape region, or Tairāwhiti, of New Zealand, or Aotearoa. While in the country, Fong visited Maunga Hikurangi, which is the sacred mountain of Ngāti Porou. As part of an iwi-led tour that takes visitors to the highest point of the mountain at sunrise, Fong was able see one of the first places where the sun touches land on each new day.

For the new millennium, the Ngāti Porou community commissioned carvings for a site on the mountain about Māui, a prominent demigod who appears across the Pacific. One of the iwi’s creation stories involves Māui fishing up the islands of Aotearoa with Maunga Hikurangi being the first bit of land that appeared above the ocean’s surface. Indeed, the North Island actually resembles the shape of a sting ray from an aerial view. The island begins with the mouth at the bottom, proceeding to wings and the tip of a tail going north. Many Māori people will commonly identify their iwi homelands based on where it is on the fish, such as on the tail, the mouth or the eye.

“Being able to physically be on Maunga Hikurangi was more important to me than going to find documents in an archive or see objects in a museum,” Fong said. “I organized my trip to better understand where Ngata is from, which includes everything about the land and the waters that have been so important to him and his people. I was privileged to hear stories directly from Ngata’s present-day kin and to directly witness their deep relationship with their Maunga. I wanted to connect with his community and place not just my mind but in my heart, in order to fully respect their stories and traditions in my own writing and research.”

New Zealand, however, was just one of Fong’s stops around the world for his book research, which started in 2016. His final stop was French Polynesia in January, which is considered by many Māori to be their ancient homeland. Previously, he visited places such as Ontario to research the Haudenosaunee people, southwest Australia to examine the Noongar people, and South Africa to learn about the Khoe-San culture.

“As any academic will tell you, what you quickly realize in any project is how much you don’t know,” Fong said. “There’s still a lot I don’t know, but being able to write responsibly about each of these cultures has been a long process of training myself in the scholarship, doing the reading, and building conversations with community members through the travel I’ve done. All of those things were very important to me.”

In 2021, Fong was one of four scholars from around the U.S. who founded Undisciplining the Victorian Classroom, a digital humanities project that began reimagining how to teach Victorian studies with a positive, race-conscious lens. And ultimately, he hopes his book project and research will hold similar potential for his classrooms and students.

“I was intensely moved by how graciously I was received when I traveled,” he said. “I knew I was going only for a short time as a tourist and that comes with lot of baggage and issues. I went in with humble expectations, recognizing that whatever people were willing to share with me would be a gift. But people opened their hearts after seeing the intellectual and, more importantly, heart work that I had done before arriving. My efforts said, ‘I respect your history and culture.’ That work is what informs my teaching and what I wanted to bring back home, not only for my research, but for my students.”

A Q-and-A with Ryan Fong

Interview conducted with Social Media Ambassador Blagoja Naskovski ’24.

Question: What is your favorite part of being a professor at K?

Answer: There are actually very few places in the world that we set aside for people to come together to explore questions in a sustained and deliberate way. Every day I go into a classroom, I have the privilege of doing just that with students. We get to be with one another, talk about readings and learn from one another. It’s an all-too-rare and precious experience.

Q: You teach courses that address 19th century British literature, literature by East Asian emigrants around the world, literary theory, and women, gender and sexuality. Do you have a specific course that you really enjoy teaching and why?

A: This past fall, I had the incredible experience of teaching a class on Indigenous water stories from the Great Lakes and the Pacific. I was able to draw a lot on my experiences in Aotearoa New Zealand and connect them with literature by Anishinaabe writers here in Michigan and the Great Lakes region. Since this class was paired with Bela Agosa’s sophomore seminar Becoming Kin, which was all about Indigenous diplomacy and poetry, we were able to share students and link conversations between our classes in powerful ways, which culminated in a visit to the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi tribal grounds with artist and community leader Jason Wesaw. It was a transformative experience for us all.

Q: How would you describe your students?

A: I really appreciate how passionate and curious K students can be, and how willing they are to connect their classroom experiences with their bigger questions about the world.

Q: Do you see interest among K students in learning more about Indigenous communities through literature?

A: Little by little, yes. And thankfully, it’s not just in my classes.  Amelia Katanski has been teaching about these topics at K for many years, and Cyndy Weyandt-Garcia been offering some amazing new classes more recently as well. Learning more about Indigenous history, literature and activism connects with so many issues that are pressing and urgent today—including climate change, political sovereignty and addressing the violence of colonialism around the world.

Q: What would you suggest to students who would like to major in English?

Do it! My fellow professors in English and I all want to give you the tools to ask big questions about the world and to explore ways of making it better and more just. We do that by reading from an array of cultural and historical perspectives and by teaching you how to create and express yourself with your own words. We have alumni who have used this training to find meaningful work in many different arenas, from teaching to journalism to non-profit jobs to publishing to starting their own businesses.

Five people in the lobby of a New Zealand funeral home.
Associate Professor of English Ryan Fong (second from right) and his husband, Eric (second from left), visit the cast and set of the reality TV show, “The Casketeers.”
Ryan Fong stands next to a bust of Apirina Ngata
Fong stands next to a bust of Apirina Ngata, a statesman and cultural advocate.
Tall carvings at a mountain, Maunga Hikurangi, sacred to Indigenous people in New Zealand
The Indigenous Ngāti Porou community commissioned carvings for a site at the sacred mountain of Maunga Hikurangi to mark the millennium.
Sunrise in the mountains of New Zealand
This picture, taken at one of the highest points at the Maunga Hikurangi on the Eastern Cape of New Zealand, shows one of the first points where the sun rises on a new day.
A long and wide canoe used at celebrations to mark the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the Indigenous people of Northern New Zealand and the British crown
This site shows where the Te Tiriti o Waitangi, or Treaty of Waitangi, was signed between the Indigenous iwi of the North and the British crown. Each February 6, waka—or canoes—like this one are sailed on the bay to mark the treaty’s anniversary.
Tāne Mahuta, or God of the Forest, is the tallest Kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest. It measures 148 feet tall and 50 feet around. It’s between 1,500 and 2,500 years old. Toward the top left, smaller fallen trees have grown into it.

‘Cauldron’ Co-Editors Invite Artists, Writers into a K Tradition

Co-editors Lana Alvey ’24 and Greta Salamun ’25 are reminding students to submit personal creative written projects and visual artwork to this year’s Cauldron, a printed publication produced by its student organization at Kalamazoo College.

College Archives show The Cauldron has been published annually, except for a hiatus during the pandemic, since 1962. As two students who are passionate about writing, Alvey—an English and psychology double major—and Salamun—an English major—are honored to play a part in the reconstruction of The Cauldron and hope that this year’s edition will reflect K’s population of talented writers and artists.

Most of the editorial staff is composed of English and art majors along with many STEM-focused students, too. They work with Alvey and Salamun to select the content from submissions and organize each edition with support, advice and design services provided through College Marketing and Communication. Categories within the publication include poetry, nonfiction, fiction and art. Professor of English Andy Mozina, the magazine’s faculty advisor, provides guidance and advice to the co-editors; his help ensures that the official unveiling of the hard copies during spring term of ninth week’s Community Reflection at Stetson Chapel runs smoothly.

“When we hold the finished product during the reflection, there will be a moment of thinking ‘we did it,’ with all the students’ hard work toward this piece of art and literature, especially when we can flip through it,” Alvey said. “It will be powerful to see it. We’re proud to be this vessel for creative writing and art.”

In a nod to its former years, the co-editors plan to release this edition as a bound book, suitable for coffee tables, bookshelves and keepsakes.

Portrait of Cauldron Co-Editor Lana Alvey on campus
Lana Alvey ’24, an English and psychology double major, is a co-editor of the 2023-24 edition of The Cauldron.
Cover of 2022-23 Cauldron
Last year’s edition of The Cauldron was a spiral-bound book that co-editors Alvey and Salamun are upgrading to a bound book this year.
Cauldron Co-Editor Greta Salamun
Kalamazoo native Greta Salamun ’25 said she has always wanted to attend K and major in English.
Inside the 2022-23 Cauldron
Pages from past editions of The Cauldron show work of alumni such as contemporary artist Julie Mehretu ’92 and Tony Award winner Lisa Kron ’83.

“It will be a testament to how The Cauldron has returned and evolved,” Salamun said. “We had a spiral-bound book last year, which still felt great, but we’ve wanted to get back to the old format. If that much can change in a year, imagine what else might happen in 10 years’ time. You never know.”

For students uncertain whether they want to submit their personal work, Alvey and Salamun encourage everyone to participate.

“I think we’re removing the high stakes from sharing your work, considering that no one is graded for it,” Salamun said. “If we just submit something, knowing it doesn’t have to be hard, it can be light-hearted and fun because this campus is full of great students.”

In fact, students can think of participating in The Cauldron as being part of a legacy because many accomplished alumni such as the world-famous contemporary artist, Julie Mehretu ’92, and Tony Award winner, Lisa Kron ’83, contributed to The Cauldron as K students. In addition, the Stephanie Vibbert Award will honor select pieces of writing that best exemplify the intersection between creative writing and community engagement. The final award is the Divine Crow Award where recipients will be selected blindly by a member of the greater Kalamazoo community.

“I feel that seeing your name in print and in an actual bound book is a big incentive for submitting your work,” Alvey said. “We have shown that we are good writers when we were accepted into K. This is a cool way to show what you can do, especially during the Community Reflection, where some students read their work aloud and we pass it out as a physical copy.”

Students who want to see their names and work published as writers and artists should use The Cauldron’s Google Docs form to submit before 11:59 p.m. Monday, February 26. All students, regardless of their majors and minors, are encouraged to participate.

“I’m from Kalamazoo and I’ve always wanted to attend this College and major in English,” Salamun said. “What I love about The Cauldron and writing is that it gives students, like myself, a creative outlet for expression. I know we have a lot of STEM majors here, and it can be a little nerve racking for students to try taking on poetry, short stories, art, or whatever it may be. But that creative outlet is so valuable.”

“To the students who have submitted, thank you,” Alvey said. “We know submitting can seem very daunting, but we are so excited to read your work and get it out there because the student population is very talented. We hope more people will submit their work to The Cauldron, so it can return to its bound form. I think being a part of such a great historical magazine and legacy is very powerful and it’s an honor.”

Professor’s Book Spotlights Bengal Famine Atrocities

A Kalamazoo College English professor has a personal connection to her latest book about the Bengal famine of 1943, which killed about 3 million people in the wake of World War II.

“My father, who grew up in Calcutta, was a young boy during the famine,” Professor of English Babli Sinha said. “He told me stories of destitute people in the street, begging for just the water in which the rice was cooked in my father’s household. People were starving and dying in plain sight in a major metropolis of the British Empire. That was my first introduction to the famine.”

Since hearing such first-hand narratives, Sinha has conducted her own research of the disaster through books by Bhabani Bhattacharya, a 1940s Indian Anglophone author, along with some of history’s more under-shared writers and artists, to develop The Bengal Famine and Cultural Production: Signifying Colonial Trauma (Routledge 2023).

The book’s testimonies show that World War II-era British authorities feared a Japanese attack after Burma and Singapore fell to Japan in 1942, halting rice exports from those countries. The British instituted a Scorched Earth policy, confiscating crops from Bengali farmers and destroying the boats of fishermen in the region in anticipation of an invasion of India. Shortages and hoarding then prevented many Bengalis from affording even a basic diet.

Professor of English Babli Sinha holds a copy of her latest book, “The Bengal Famine and Cultural Production: Signifying Colonial Trauma.”

Imperial officials blamed the incompetence of local Indian officials for the famine, attempting what Sinha describes as an erasure of the suffering that should be front of mind when we think about history.

“When students learn about World War II history, they don’t learn very much about the Asian front,” Sinha said. “We also have this good-guy-versus-bad-guy-narrative, whereas people in the colonized world tend to think about it as a war of competing empires—the Nazi Empire, the British Empire, the French Empire. The British and French empires were both committing atrocities that need to be reckoned with everywhere, so you get a more nuanced history of what was actually happening during the Second World War.

“So much of our approach to the UK is around a kind of nostalgia for a genteel past through shows like Downton Abbey and other kinds of narratives,” she added. “What we miss in those romanticized representations is the reality that wealth was being generated through slavery, indentured servitude and gross violations of human life. We still place people like (Prime Minister) Winston Churchill on a pedestal, despite his failed leadership during the time of the famine, and despite him referring repeatedly to Indians with racist language.”

Such perspectives help provide a different view of traumatic events like the Bengal famine through an intervention around the ethics of representation and colonial trauma’s typical exclusion in traditional trauma theory, Sinha said.

“Traditional trauma theory thinks of experiences that end, and then you have a period in which to reflect and discuss that experience,” she said. “In the case of colonial trauma, there is no end to the trauma. The violence is systemic and ongoing, not limited to a particular event. Thinking about trauma differently seems crucial to me as something that doesn’t necessarily have a closure. It’s also important to think beyond Europe in terms of trauma and collective trauma. That’s something that’s been happening, I would say, since the 1980s and 90s, in Postcolonial studies. It’s a relatively new phenomenon to think about literature from the broader Anglophone world at all and to think about the kind of psychological impact colonialism has on populations.”

Recent global events, though, have prompted an opportunity for The Bengal Famine to be included in reviews of history.

“During the period of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, there was also an examination of imperialism in the British public imaginary through movements like Rhodes Must Fall,” Sinha said.

Rhodes Must Fall was a decolonization-in-education movement originally directed against a statue at the University of Cape Town that commemorated Cecil Rhodes, who was a late 1800s prime minister of Cape Colony and an organizer of the diamond-mining company De Beers Consolidated Mines. His will established the Rhodes scholarships at Oxford University in 1902, but some historians view him as a ruthless imperialist and a white supremacist.

“Interestingly enough, in the context of this kind of public reckoning in the UK, the famine began to play a role as an example of an imperial atrocity that has to be reckoned with in the British imaginary,” Sinha said. “I think we’re at a time now where all over the world people are rethinking their received histories, and I think my book is a part of that broader conversation.”

Elsewhere in her career, Sinha has published articles to her credit that have appeared in Commonwealth Literature; South Asian History and Culture; Cultural Dynamics; Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East; Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television; South Asian Diaspora; and Journal of Popular Film and Television. She also previously released two books about South Asian history. Cinema, Transnationalism, and Colonial India: Entertaining the Raj (Routledge 2013) explores how films in the United States, Britain and India affected each other politically, culturally and ideologically; and South Asian Transnationalisms (Routledge 2012) considers cultural and political exchanges between artists and intellectuals of South Asia with their counterparts around the world to scrutinize relationships between identity and agency, language and space, race and empire, nation and ethnicity, and diaspora and nationality.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in French and English literatures from Washington and Lee University, Sinha was uncertain of her career path. She began working on the production side of the publishing industry in New York, until she pursued advanced degrees including a master’s in French literature from Indiana University, Bloomington, and a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Chicago. She later taught and participated in a post-doctoral program at the University of California, Los Angeles, titled Cultures in Transnational Perspective before arriving at K in fall 2008.

Her students have since surprised and inspired her.

“My K students are just wonderful,” Sinha said. “They are what keeps me going and what’s kept me here. I’ve taught at other large institutions and some public universities. You can have wonderful students and some not-so-wonderful students there. But K students are serious and prepared. That makes for a wonderful classroom experience where we can move beyond some of the superficial conversations in whatever texts we’re looking at and really get into intellectual inquiry.”

Human-Rights Fellow, Author Slated for Lectures

Two Kalamazoo College lectures open to the public this week will feature a Nicaraguan human-rights fellow and an author who examines an artistic, literary and scientific discourse around animals that evolved in the 19th century.

First, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership will host a community reception at Arcus at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday followed by a lecture titled Resilience and Hope at 7 p.m. at Stetson Chapel featuring human-rights fellow Tamara Dávila.

Dávila has first-hand experience in the fight for fair, democratic rights and remaining resilient in the face of government-sanctioned violence and injustice. She will discuss the intersecting issues of wealth inequality in democratic societies, the fight for gender equity and human-rights infringements, while sharing her personal experience as a former political prisoner and activist. The lecture will inform attendees about the turbulent political situation in Nicaragua and its implications for human rights and democracy in the U.S.

Please RSVP in advance to attend the reception, the lecture or both. For information on a live stream option of the lecture, email

Then, at 4:10 p.m. Thursday in the Olmsted Room, the Department of English will welcome Antoine Traisnel, an associate professor of comparative literature and an associate professor of English language and literature at the University of Michigan.

Traisnel will discuss his latest book, Capture: American Pursuits and the Making of a New Animal Condition (2020, University of Minnesota Press). The publication offers a critical genealogy of the dominant representation of animals as elusive, precarious and endangered that began circulating in the 19th century. He argues that colonialism and the biocapitalist management of nonhuman and human populations demonstrate that the desire to capture animals in representation responded to and normalized the systemic disappearance of animals hurt by unprecedented changes in the land, the rise of mass slaughter, and an awareness of species extinction.

For more information on Traisnel’s lecture, call 269.337.7043.

Portrait of human-rights fellow Tamara Dávila
Human-rights fellow Tamara Dávila
Portrait of Antoine Traisnel
University of Michigan Associate Professor Antoine Traisnel

Math Meets Poetry to Form Distinctive Senior Project

A liberal arts education from Kalamazoo College gives students a chance to expand their academic interests with great opportunities to turn hobbies into academic involvement. A great instance of that practice is Lizzy Rottenberk ’24, who is double majoring in mathematics and English with a focus on poetry.

In high school, Rottenberk was sure that mathematics was her main academic focus, while she considered poetry to be her hobby. That changed after she took classes through the English department at the end of her first year at K.

“Personally, writing poems has always represented a good way to self-reflect,” Rottenberk said. “It’s a passion that allows me to see how I am feeling and learn more about myself.”

In fact, for her Senior Integrated Project (SIP), she is merging her two passions of math and poetry. Together, they form “Academic Tangents,” where Rottenberk integrates calculus theorems with poetry structures and contexts. The project consists of reflective poems related to academic struggles with five different math concepts represented: functions, limits, derivatives, sequences and series, and anti-derivatives.

All those collections of poems start with a definition of the theorems, followed by a free-verse poem that redefines the theorem in a poetic way. Finally, Rottenberk incorporates poems representing the theorem in the structure and context. The following is an excerpt from a poem titled Connected and Continuous in her SIP:

Editor’s note: This story was written by Blagoja Naskovski ’24. He serves as a social media ambassador for the College Marketing and Communications team. 

Lizzy Rottenberk Abroad
Lizzy Rottenberk ’24 is merging her two passions of math and poetry.

“Connected and Continuous” by Elizabeth Rottenberk

6:00 am
eyes widen
brain begins animation
embarking towards the serene kitchen
breakfast smells of sweet warmth and motivation
pecan almond syrup comforting slightly chewy waffles
leading to a freshly organized backpack filled with unlearned trig
to be explored when the sun peaks above tree lines through a wired window
the window that holds foreheads until listening and comprehension become equal
wielding a pencil like the sword of King Arthur as he is who you traveled to learn about
through the roughest of puddles, more ferocious of red lights but nevertheless, you arrived
to hear the educators chant the literary devices and warn us about math’s greatest complexities
and experience numerous “ah ha’s” that fuel flights into deeper TOK and AOK conversations
until exit from the essential castle known as the education system has been granted
headed home your mind becomes lured into a rooted nap as it shifts to autopilot
the time for learning discontinues as the sun hides behind the tree line
walking under the threshold to the kitchen where delicious
satisfying-smelling food needs your dining
fuel in the vessel that travels distances
to calculate and conquer problems
and write essays in MLA
eyes closed
6:00 am

Rottenberk is active not only in academics, but also in many on-campus and off-campus initiatives. She currently works as a consultant at the Math and Physics Center, where she provides academic peer support to K students for advanced math classes. Moreover, she is the captain for the softball team and president of the Hacky Sack student organization. She is also a First-Year Experience mentor, which allows her to guide students while they adapt to new academic environments.

Off-campus, Rottenberk is part of Sustainable Living Guide, an organization that provides educational support and resources for healthy and sustainable living. Her commitment to this organization includes organizing virtual classes for sustainability, writing for social media and a website, and conducting research on climate action, zero-waste lifestyle and other topics.

“Being proactive makes me feel better and more productive,” Rottenberk said. “While participating in many on-campus initiatives, I feel that that I am not only contributing to my personal and professional growth, but also to my community.”

Rottenberk said K’s liberal arts education has empowered her to push her boundaries while allowing her to apply creative thinking in her academics. Two of her most influential classes at K have been ENG210: Intermediate Poetry Workshop, where she expanded her knowledge of how to write poems, and MATH320: Real Analysis.

“I would encourage students to be independent with established critical thought,” she said. “More importantly, I strongly suggest students utilize every opportunity that K classes offer when it comes to critical thinking.”

Math and poetry expert Elizabeth Rottenberk in a Kalamazoo College softball uniform
Lizzy Rottenberk ’24 is a captain for K’s softball team.

‘Tandem’ Tussles with Hit-and-Run Cover-Up

Kalamazoo College Professor of English Andy Mozina just couldn’t turn his attention away from a tragedy he first heard about seven years ago involving a drunken driving accident and the irreparable harm it caused a community through the loss of life.

 “It was this nexus of awfulness,” Mozina said. “I couldn’t stop thinking about what that would be like for the relatives of the victims, and also for the perpetrator.”

Although the inescapable images were dreadful, they also seeded the plot that grew into Mozina’s latest work of fiction, Tandem, a novel due out this fall. It centers on Mike Kovacs, an economics professor from Kalamazoo living in the West Main Hill neighborhood, who kills two college-age tandem bicyclists in an inebriated hit-and-run at the parking lot of Saugatuck Dunes State Park.

The lead character goes to great lengths to cover up his crime while attempting to get over a bitter divorce and seeking a relationship with his estranged only child, a son at the University of Michigan.

“My mind thinks that he has given up the right to claim that he’s a good person, and he’s an economist, so he thinks in terms of debt and repayment,” Mozina said of the character. “He knows he’s in debt to humanity and that drives everything he does. He feels very guilty. Wherever he goes, whether he has any redeeming qualities, I want readers to think of him as a real person who did these things and is having these experiences. I want them to travel along with him and just imaginatively enter into the situation.”

During his internal struggles, Mike befriends a neighbor, Claire Boland, who is the mother of one of his victims. With her marriage suffering, Claire is racked with guilt over what she might have done differently as a parent to prevent her daughter’s death, while Mike deals with the shame he feels from committing his atrocity.

“I hope readers have a lot of sympathy for Claire,” Mozina said. “I wanted her to have good qualities without being a blameless victim. I think of her as a sympathetic and earnest person whose flaws are tied to how she wants to live right and learn everything she can from TED Talks, the New York Times and NPR, and apply it to her life.”

The driving force behind the book is that strange, troubled relationship between Mike and Claire, with the perpetrator hiding and thinking about surrendering. Mozina said he doesn’t expect everyone to read or appreciate Tandem given its subject matter and the moments of humor within it. However, early feedback from fellow authors has provided positive reviews.

“A glimmering masterpiece about the slippery nature of truth and redemption, Tandem is at once riveting and contemplative, moving and hilarious, devastating and tender,” said Erica Ferencik, the bestselling author of Girl in Ice, Into the Jungle and The River at Night. “It does what the best novels do: forever change how we see the world.”

Tandem, published by Tortoise Books, will be available beginning with a free launch party at 6:30 p.m. October 24 at This is a Bookstore and Bookbug, 3019 Oakland Drive in Kalamazoo. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP through the store’s Facebook event. Signed copies of Tandem may be reserved for $21. A second book-release event will be at 27th Letter Books in Detroit on October 25. Find more information at the store’s website.

About the Author of ‘Tandem’

Mozina studied economics at Northwestern University and attended Harvard Law School for a year before earning a master’s degree in creative writing from Boston University. He then completed a doctorate in English literature at Washington University in St. Louis, moving to Kalamazoo to teach literature and creative writing at K after graduation. His classes at K include an introductory course in creative writing, a first-year seminar titled Co-Authoring Your Life, and intermediate and advanced courses in fiction.

Professor of English Andy Mozina
Kalamazoo College Professor of English Andy Mozina has authored a new book titled “Tandem.”
Tandem Book Cover
“Tandem” centers on Mike Kovacs, an economics professor, who kills two bicyclists in an inebriated hit-and-run.

The author’s first novel, Contrary Motion, about a concert harpist taking a symphony audition, was published in 2016. He is also the author of a book of literary criticism titled Joseph Conrad and the Art of Sacrifice along with two short-story collections, The Women Were Leaving the Men, which won the Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writers Award; and Quality Snacks, which was a finalist for The Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, including Tin House, Ecotone, Fence, The Southern Review, and The Missouri Review, and has received special citations in Best American Short Stories, Pushcart Prize, and New Stories from the Midwest.

“I think fiction allows you to pick the struggles that show up diffusely throughout your life and be true to those problems,” Mozina said. “You can also heighten them in a way that creates interest for the reader by inventing and shaping a lot. It brings out meaning to complicate things and shine a light on them. There’s a certain soul work to reading and writing that I don’t find elsewhere, so I do it through fiction.”

Fulbright Enables Professor to Spend Year in Australia

Professor of English Amelia Katanski ’92 has earned a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award that will send her to Australia during the 2023–24 academic year.

Katanski will be working with faculty at the University of Wollongong to develop curriculum that will better prepare K students for study abroad there. She previously undertook similar work after a visit to another K study abroad site—Curtin University, in Perth, Australia—and created a sophomore seminar titled World Indigenous Literatures to help students be more aware of Indigenous issues while on study abroad. This time the goal is to develop a curriculum in partnership with the host university and centered on land-based learning that addresses what international students need to know before going to Wollongong, with an emphasis on how K students impact Wollongong’s Indigenous faculty, staff and students.

“Like most universities in Australia, Wollongong has a lot of international students from all over the world, not just the U.S., which is very important to their functioning,” Katanski said. “The university is trying to be conscious about what it means for them to welcome these students onto Indigenous land through a program that teaches curriculum reconciliation, which looks at how to keep Indigenous issues at the forefront of all university operations. The international program would like to focus on their own curriculum reconciliation process, so I would be going through it with them or learning from their experiences, depending on timing.”

Fulbright recipient and Professor of English Amelia Katanski in her office with books in the background
Professor of English Amelia Katanski ’92 has earned a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award that will send her to the University of Wollongong in Australia in the 2023–24 academic year.

Katanski will spend her fall term preparing for the Fulbright trip and working on another piece of a sabbatical project before heading to Australia in January. She is one of about 800 U.S. citizens who will teach, conduct research or provide expertise abroad through Fulbright. Those citizens are selected based on their academic and professional achievement, as well as their record of service and demonstrated leadership. The awards are funded through the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s international education-exchange program designed to build connections between U.S. citizens and people from other countries. The program is funded through an annual Congressional appropriation made to the Department of State. Participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations around the world also support the program, which operates in more than 160 countries.

“We don’t get a lot of opportunities to be somewhere long enough that we get to know the people and their land while developing relationships with them,” Katanski said. “I’m really grateful for the chance to be in a place that is far from home with a distinctive landscape, while being supported in my learning.”

Since 1946, the Fulbright Program has given more than 390,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and professionals in a variety of backgrounds and fields opportunities to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute solutions to international problems.

Thousands of Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in many fields, including 61 who have been awarded the Nobel Prize, 89 who have received Pulitzer Prizes and 76 MacArthur Fellows. For more information about the Fulbright program, visit its website.

“There’s so much for me to learn and I’m grateful for this opportunity because I can sit at my computer and do some research or read literary, cultural or historical texts, but the important piece for me is helping our students who are learning from and on Indigenous land right now,” Katanski said. “This is also an opportunity to work in partnership with and learn from the University of Wollongong, which has clearly articulated institutional goals about reconciliation, and how Indigenous people and issues are centered within its work.”

Class Inspires Day of Fewer Cars with A Better Way to K

Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff will take a step toward carbon neutrality while promoting healthier lifestyles and showing that sustainability matters to the campus community on Tuesday, May 16. The first A Better Way to K Day, planned through the Climate Action Plan Committee (CAP) and the Larry J. Bell ’80 Center for Environmental Stewardship, will invite anyone with business on campus to do anything other than drive on their own to K.

The idea for this event was initially brainstormed in the winter term as a “car-free day” in Professor of English Amelia Katanski’s Wheels of Change first-year seminar with input from City Planner and K alumna Christina Anderson ’98. The course explored how communities can build cycling infrastructure to better support residents.  

Carpooling, taking public transportation, walking, biking or running to get to the College all are encouraged for May 16, and participants who share social media posts with the hashtag #ABetterWaytoK will help spread awareness. Those with obstacles to these modes may still participate by spreading awareness of the day, reducing the number of car trips in a day or thinking critically about systems and what might need to change in our own lives, within K or within the community to make traveling without a car more accessible to everyone.  

“At the heart of the Kalamazoo College community is a commitment to sustainability, and our climate action plan is a commitment to achieving carbon neutrality,” Associate Vice President of Facilities Management and Chief Sustainability Officer Susan Lindemann said. “Finding alternative transportation to campus for A Better Way to K will impact both, while showing that a sustainable lifestyle is not only possible but valued and encouraged in our community.”  

Professor of English Amelia Katanski’s Wheels of Change first-year seminar traveled for a week to Copenhagen, Denmark, to see how the city, one of the world’s best for cycling infrastructure, can provide examples from which Kalamazoo can learn. That class, along with City Planner Christina Anderson ’98, initiated the idea for a climate-targeted “car-free day” on campus. That idea became A Better Way to K Day, scheduled for Tuesday, May 16.

Commuters who want to learn how to use public transportation may contact Associate Bookstore Director Richard Amundson at for information on routes and tokens. Anyone looking to organize group walks or runs to campus may contact Director of News and Social Media Andy Brown at Plus, students who live on campus may participate in A Better Way to K by spreading awareness and finding alternate ways to their off-campus jobs and sites around town. 

Sophomore Emerson Wesselhoff is spearheading student participation through CAP. 

“Initially, I was excited, but a bit confused by the idea of A Better Way to K,” Wesselhoff said. “I already live on campus and I don’t have a car. But I am going to participate by spreading awareness about the day and the reasons why it is so important. I will continue to walk to classes and make efforts to walk or bike to my off-campus job, the climbing gym and my other favorite Kalamazoo spots.” 

Based on recent car-count data from K’s Center for Environmental Stewardship, more than 500 cars are on campus every day. By decreasing that number even slightly, the K community can drastically decrease the carbon emitted from its passenger vehicles each year.  

One day, however, will only be the start of such community efforts that aid sustainability at K. CAP is asking those who participate in A Better Way to K Day—and those who don’t—to submit their reflections of the event along with what might have helped them or prevented them from participating to enable more efforts in the future. The short survey is available at the Sustainability at K website under Share Your Experience.  

“K can help students and our community make a difference in many global issues from across the street or around the world,” Lindemann said. “A Better Way to K will be a way to show we’re taking steps toward improving our climate and environment for everyone—now and for the future.” 

Poetry Month, K Alumna Build Optimism, Faith in Virginia

A Kalamazoo College alumna has undertaken a position noteworthy of recognition in April, which serves as National Poetry Month.

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. It has since become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers and poets celebrating poetry. And now, Dani Badra ’08 is the poet laureate of Fairfax, Virginia, a role she relishes given that she provides her fellow Fairfax residents with a way to pursue optimism and faith in life through the written word.

“Poetry helps provide a deeper meaning to both difficult and beautiful and beautifully difficult things,” Badra said. With the difficulties, for example, “I think of the poem Amanda Gorman read at President Biden’s inaugural address that people across the nation remember. She was reading a poem days after the insurrection right where it happened. At that moment, her poem provided some meaning, some deeper thought that gave people hope, and helped us reinterpret where we are as a nation.”

Badra appreciates the way that the poet laureate position speaks to her creative side. Fairfax established its poet laureate position in 2020 through ArtsFairfax, a nonprofit organization designated as the county’s local arts agency. Since then, a chosen community member has served as a literary arts ambassador, promoting poetry in the county, region and state. She was selected for the role last October and will serve until 2024.

Supported through funding from the county, Badra has established a Poetry in the Parks program. In April, as a part of Arab American Heritage Month, she is conducting a poetry reading followed by a ghazal workshop to create an awareness for the lyric poems, which are common in Middle Eastern culture. She will conduct more poetry readings in June for Pride Month, in August for a Poetry Beneath the Stars workshop outdoors, and in November for a guided poetry workshop conducted by a naturalist at a local wetland area.

Additionally, Badra is creating “poetry plaques” that she hopes will be used as a long-term resource. Plaques placed in nature often have information about flora and fauna, but these will have a poem related to the region or the area’s environment.

“They will include a poem, a bio of the poet, some writing prompts for people to engage in and a QR code where county residents can submit their own writing inspired by that location,” Badra said. “We’re creating not only some environmental engagement, but some creative products as well.”

After graduating from K, Badra earned a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from George Mason University, where she was the poetry editor of So to Speak, a feminist literary and arts journal, and an intern for Split This Rock, a national network of socially engaged poets witnessing injustice and provoking social change.

Her poems have appeared in publications such as the Cincinnati Review, Guesthouse, Mizna and Beltway Poetry Quarterly among others. She also has led writing workshops at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Split This Rock Poetry Festival, OutWrite DC and in high schools. She has been a featured reader for Split This Rock’s Sunday Kind of Love series, a judge for Brave New Voices in DC, and a participant in Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, a festival commemorating the 2007 bombing of a historic book market in Baghdad, Iraq.

Badra’s first chapbook, Dialogue with the Dead (Finishing Line Press, 2015), was largely inspired by her older sister, Rachal, who graduated from K herself in 2005, before passing from an undiagnosed genetic heart condition in 2012.

Poetry Month: Fairax County officials greet poet laureate Dani Badra at an ArtsFairfax event
Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill (left) and Chairman Jeffrey McKay congratulate Danielle Badra ’08 on being named Fairfax’s poet laureate. Photo by A.E. Landes Photography.
Poetry Month: Nicole Tong standing with Dani Badra
Nicole Tong (left), who was the first poet laureate for Fairfax, Virginia, congratulates Kalamazoo College alumna Dani Badra ’08 on succeeding her. Photo by A.E. Landes Photography.
Poetry Month: Dani Badra portrait
Fairfax Poet Laureate and Kalamazoo College alumna Dani Badra ’08. Photo by Holly Mason.

“When she died, I found a folder of poems that I didn’t know she’d been writing,” Badra said. “When I found them, I knew I wanted to publish them somehow. They weren’t really in a publishable format, so through them, I created a much-needed dialogue with her.”

Much like the chap book, Badra’s manuscript, Like We Still Speak (University of Arkansas Press, 2021), was inspired by her sister. It earned the 2021 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. It was also named a semi-finalist for the Khayrallah Prize and listed in Entropy’s Best of 2020-2021: Poetry Books and Poetry Collections list.

Like We Still Speak improves upon the ideas and polyvocal poetic forms behind Dialogue with the Dead and expands on them to include more voices, like my wife, and my mom and dad,” Badra said. K Professor Emerita “Di Seuss is in there, too.” She credits Seuss as playing a pivotal role in her development as a poet and expressed gratitude for the years at K she spent under her tutelage.

Badra works full-time as a technical writer and management analyst for Fairfax County Land Development Services, and she appreciates the opportunities that come with serving as a poet laureate.

“The poet laureate position appealed to me because it allows me the opportunity to pursue my heart’s passion,” Badra said. “In a way, I can also bring that same passion to other people in my community. I enjoy engaging with people as well as with these outdoor spaces. At the end of the day, people will take away from the programming what they do. I hope that I just inspire a group of people, however many that is, to want to walk around in nature and write about it.”

Search for Better, Safer Cycling Leads Class to Local Partners, Denmark

Students take a break from cycling to take a scenic group picture in Copenhagen
To top off the Wheels of Change class, Professor of English Amelia Katanski and her students traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark.
Students from the Wheels of Change seminar visit Copenhagen, Denmark.
Copenhagen is said to have one of the world’s best cycling infrastructures.
Students take a break from cycling in Copenhagen
Although the seminar is finished, some of the students from Wheels of Change are keeping their projects in motion after visiting Copenhagen.

Cycling is more than recreation and enjoyable exercise when it’s viewed through the lenses of social and environmental justice in a new first-year seminar course at Kalamazoo College. 

Offered for the first time in fall through Professor of English Amelia Katanski, the class Wheels of Change worked closely with community partners, including the City of Kalamazoo, the Open Roads Bike Program and K’s own Outdoor Programs, to explore how communities can build cycling infrastructure to better support residents. 

In the classroom, students examined how bicycles empowered women and people of color during the late 19th century’s so-called cycling craze. It also looked at how bicycles today are sustainable tools in limiting climate change and supporting environmental health in ways that are capable of redressing racism, and gender- and ability-based discrimination. Katanski has taught community-based first-year seminar classes for more than 15 years. But the course in fall 2020 about food and farming justice in the time of COVID was unrepeatable with the pandemic winding down. She began to brainstorm ideas for new classes. 

“Cycling has always been a passion of mine, and I came across a book called Revolutions: How Women Changed the World on Wheels, Katanski said. “I started reading it and thinking about the origins of cycling and how it was this space for women and people of color to experience freedom, mobility, independence and physicality that wasn’t easily available to them. It began to sound like this great idea for a first-year seminar.” 

Street view of Copenhagen
When students traveled to Copenhagen, they found a city with cycling infrastructure that tops what most cities typically have.
Students traveling through Copenhagen's cycling infrastructure
Thanks to Copenhagen’s cycling infrastructure and history, residents often travel by bicycle even through cold winters.
Street view of Copenhagen
The book “Revolutions: How Women Changed the World on Wheels,” inspired Katanski to create the Wheels of Change seminar.

Outside the classroom, students met every Friday to participate in guided bike rides that gave them a feel for Kalamazoo’s current cycling infrastructure and how they might help or hinder the cycling community. They also split into groups to work on projects on and off campus. Students worked alongside City Planner and K alumna Christina Anderson ’98 on a project examining the city’s infrastructure, as well as with Open Roads Executive Director Isaac Green on a project developing and implementing safe-cycling routes for Kalamazoo-area children. On campus, they joined forces with K Outdoor Programs Director Jory Horner and Assistant Director Jess Port, investigating ways to make college-owned bikes more accessible to students, while promoting and supporting cycling among students and developing a cycling culture on campus. To top off the class, Katanski and her students traveled for a week to Copenhagen, Denmark, to see how the city, one of the world’s best for cycling infrastructure, can provide examples from which Kalamazoo can learn. 

Signing up for the class was a no-brainer for Elliot Russell, a Kalamazoo native, and Lillian Deer, a student from Washington state. Russell, for example, visited Amsterdam last spring, a city he considers to be a cycling capital. 

“That trip was eye opening to me, to see there are other possibilities of what urban space can look like other than what our interface looks like in America,” he said. “Since that trip, I’ve vowed, even though I have a car and a driver’s license, that I’m going to start biking for transport because I enjoy it. It’s also more ethically sound than using a car.” 

Deer said she was already interested in environmental sustainability and social justice before the class began, but didn’t know that bicycling could combine those themes. She wasn’t an active cyclist at the time, although group rides through the class made her feel more confident, provoking her excitement to work in the group that assisted K Outdoor Programs in figuring out what the College could do to be more bike friendly. 

“We researched several schools and we realized we need to have some sort of bike share program,” Deer said. “And to do that, we need a place to put bikes because the lack of one is preventing people from bringing their bikes to campus, according to the student survey we did,” Deer said. “We would like to continue those group rides, too, perhaps with a bike club, and match that with the new infrastructure.” 

Students take a break from cycling to hear from an instructor
“We’ve all realized we could be riding more and driving less, and I hope our students think about what it means for how we continue to live in this community,” Katanski said.
Lillian Deer ’26 said she was already interested in environmental sustainability and social justice before the class began, but didn’t know that bicycling could combine those themes.
Elliot Russell ’26 said the trip to Copenhagen with his classmates was eye opening for the contrast it provided between the bike infrastructure there versus in Kalamazoo. 

Russell worked with the Open Roads group, examining biking infrastructure at Kalamazoo Public Schools. Open Roads traditionally works with youths to put bikes in their hands through bike workshops, making the organization a good partner in creating a comprehensive guide to helping the schools be more bike friendly.  

“We went to Maple Street Middle School and Linden Grove Middle School to count how many bikes are on campus,” he said. “We counted the bike racks, surveyed the neighborhood in the constituent districts to also see what the infrastructure was like there. It all gave us a better idea of what the problems are and what the solutions could be. We wanted to advocate for students to have safer routes to school.” 

Russell said the trip to Copenhagen with his classmates was eye opening for the contrast it provided between the bike infrastructure there versus in Kalamazoo.  Copenhagen has a much stronger ingrained cycling culture despite its cold winters. The city, for example, plows its bike lanes at the same time or earlier than its roads. 

While the seminar wrapped up at the end of fall term, some of the students from Wheels of Change are keeping their projects in motion this winter, putting their heads together with their community partners to see whether the City of Kalamazoo, Open Roads and Kalamazoo College can work independently or in cooperation to build better bike infrastructure. 

“We’ve all realized we could be riding more and driving less, and I hope our students think about what it means for how we continue to live in this community,” Katanski said. “This term we drew on our experiences in Copenhagen to continue to develop relationships with our community partners, support bike culture on campus, and plan for future work. We’ve met on Zoom with an alum, Dan Goodman, who is the Mid-Atlantic Planning Director for Toole Design about his career path working on bike and pedestrian transportation; and spoke with community partner and co-op consultant Chris Dilley about cooperative organizational structures. Students also presented their projects at the Midwest Outdoor Leadership Conference. We’re all looking forward to more riding and support of city bike infrastructure—and the launch of a K bike co-op—in the spring.”