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.”

K Announces Lucasse, Ambrose Recipients

Kalamazoo College announced today that one faculty member and one staff member have earned two of the highest awards the College bestows on its employees. Rosemary K. Brown Professor of Computer Science Alyce Brady received the 2023–24 Florence J. Lucasse Lectureship for Excellence in Teaching, and Custodian Laura Weber was named the recipient of the W. Haydn Ambrose Prize for Extraordinary Service to Kalamazoo College.

Brady, a co-chair of the computer science department, has served K for nearly 30 years. She teaches a variety of courses from introductory classes to advanced classes on programming languages, data structure, dynamic Internet apps and software development in a global context. Her research interests have included the application of computer science to social justice while serving as the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership Faculty Fellow from 2013–2015.

Over the past decade, Brady has supervised 72 Senior Integrated Projects and is currently guiding five more. She is also credited with championing student reflection through growth journals, applying a flipped-classroom format that started even before the pandemic, and receiving previous recognition through the Outstanding First-Year Advocate award.

A ceremony to confer the Lucasse Fellowship traditionally occurs in the spring term, where the honored faculty member speaks regarding their work.

Nominators credited Weber, a 10-year staff member in Facilities Management, for volunteering at student events such as Monte Carlo and Cafsgiving. She also hosts international students and refers to her former visitors as her “children,” while former students refer to her as their “mum.” One nominator wrote, “Her love language is inclusion.” Another said, “she treats everyone like family.”

The Ambrose Prize is named after W. Haydn Ambrose, who served K for more than 20 years in a variety of roles, including assistant to the president for church relations, dean of admission and financial aid, and vice president for development. Ambrose was known for being thoughtful in the projects he addressed and treating people with respect. In addition to a financial award, Weber has earned a crystal award to commemorate the achievement and an invitation to sit on the Prize’s selection committee for two years.

Congratulations to both of the honorees.

Lucasse Award - Alyce Brady 1
Rosemary K. Brown Professor of Computer Science Alyce Brady was awarded the 2023–24 Florence J. Lucasse Lectureship for Excellence in Teaching.
Ambrose Prize Recipient Laura Weber
Laura Weber, a 10-year staff member in Facilities Management, received the Ambrose Prize, named after W. Haydn Ambrose.

New Star Wars Religion Class Fills with Hyperspace-Like Speed

Sohini Pillai standing in her office with some Star Wars merchandise
Kalamazoo College Assistant Professor of Religion Sohini Pillai displays some of the personal Star Wars merchandise she has in her office including a painting of Grogu gifted to her by a student.
Star Wars-related pictures in Sohini Pillai's office
Pillai’s office leaves no doubt of her status as a Star Wars fan. The picture at left shows her likeness as a Jedi with her dog, Leia, dressed as Chewbacca. The picture at right is the dog’s face imposed on an image of Princess Leia’s clothing in the franchise’s first movie, “A New Hope.”
Student wearing Jedi robes and carries a lightsaber
The Force is strong with the Star Wars community at K. Paige Anderson ’25, for example, wore Jedi robes and wielded a lightsaber for an Epic Epics presentation on the Star Wars film “Revenge of the Sith.”

Some Kalamazoo College students will learn the ways of the Force this fall in a new Star Wars-themed class that examines religion’s role in the franchise.

Students in Jedi, Sith, and Mandalorians: Religion and Star Wars, taught by Assistant Professor of Religion Sohini Pillai, will watch seven of the films along with The Mandalorian Disney+ series, and read from books such as The Tao of Yoda, The Gospel According to Star Wars: Faith, Hope and the Force, and The Myth Awakens before writing a research paper in which they analyze a Star Wars film or show not discussed in class.

Their goals are to gain a better understanding of religious, cultural and historical contexts related to Star Wars while investigating key concepts in the study of religion such as canonization, myth, invented vs. traditional religions, cultural appropriation, colonization, indigenous cultures, orientalism and racism.

“There are so many themes in the Star Wars universe that are applicable to the study of religion,” Pillai said. “Just in the first week, for example, we’re going to be talking about orientalism and the exoticization of the Eastern world. The world of Tatooine was filmed in Tunisia and the whole planet is essentially based on the Middle East, the Ewoks speak in highspeed Tibetan, and many of the characters have names based on Sanskrit words. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The idea for the course developed not so long ago, in a classroom not so far away, when—in 2021—Pillai began teaching a First-Year Seminar, Epic Epics. The class used The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem, along with nine other narratives about a variety of heroic warriors and colossal battles, to examine how such stories have changed over time and influenced cultures.

Revenge of the Sith, a Star Wars prequel released in 2005, took center stage in final presentations that term with two students reflecting on the film through themes found in the epics. One of the students, Paige Anderson ’25, even offered her presentation while wearing Jedi robes and wielding a lightsaber. The conversations from those presentations and throughout the term pleased Pillai, who also is K’s director of film and media studies.

“Those students are hardcore Star Wars fans,” she said. “I was especially surprised by how much they loved the prequel trilogy. The story, if you haven’t seen the original Star Wars movies, is compelling and exciting. It’s a story about Anakin Skywalker turning to the Dark Side to become Darth Vader. But my students would have been in high school and middle school when the sequel trilogy came out. I thought they would’ve liked those more.”

Regardless of their favorite movies in the franchise, it was evident that student interest, not to mention her own fandom, could help Pillai develop Jedi, Sith, and Mandalorians: Religion and Star Wars. Pillai said she remembers first being interested in the Star Wars universe when she was in kindergarten and her parents introduced her to the first three films after she heard about the films from a classmate. When she was 9, The Phantom Menace, the original prequel, was the first Star Wars movie she saw in theaters. Today, her fandom continues with a variety of merchandise in her office, the Disney+ streaming shows, and an Instagram-famous Yorkshire terrier, Leia, named after the princess who is Pillai’s favorite character in the franchise.

“I distinctly remember growing up and seeing movies like The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty where these princesses are basically sitting there and doing nothing,” she said. “And then in kindergarten, seeing Princess Leia with a blaster and defending herself while also being a diplomat and speaking so eloquently, I was impressed by her. I think she’s one of the most incredible female characters in cinema. I liked the idea of Padmé being a queen at the age of 14, and I enjoyed Rey’s character in the new trilogy as well. And speaking of the new Ahsoka show, I love that three women including two women of color are leading it.”

If you were concerned that some in and around K would question the value of a Star Wars class in the curriculum, Darth Vader—and Pillai, for that matter—might say, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

“I remember in the faculty meeting when we were voting on new classes that about 10 people all at once seconded the motion to adopt the course,” Pillai said. “I’ve had a lot of people—like Director of Athletics Becky Hall—say, ‘Send me the syllabus! I want to sit in on the class.’ I think there’s a lot of excitement for this. K has a solid Star Wars community.”

Pillai dresses her dog, Leia, as a Jedi while she dresses as R2-D2.
Sohini Pillai wears a sweatshirt that says Yoda Akbar
Pillai wears one of her favorite sweatshirts, which combines Star Wars with the film “Jodhaa Akbar,” which she covers in her Religion, Bollywood, and Beyond class.

The broader K community, from staff to alumni and beyond, has been equally supportive. One recent Twitter/X post said, “As a @kcollege alum, I am stone cold jealous of the students taking this class.” Another said, “The fact that I graduated from @kcollege 30 years too late to take this class is a big disappointment to me as a #StarWars fanatic!”

Then there are the junior and senior K students who didn’t exactly have to be scruffy-looking nerf-herders to realize that the course would be fun, entertaining, and educational as they filled the last seats in it during the second day of fall registration.

Pillai can’t be certain that Jedi, Sith, and Mandalorians: Religion and Star Wars will be offered again. As Yoda would state, it’s “difficult to say; always in motion is the future.” She hopes, however, that first-year students, sophomores, and students on study abroad this term will have opportunities to register for it, too.

“I’ll probably want to teach it again because I imagine it’s going to be super fun for me,” Pillai said. “In the future, I think I’m going to have to reserve spots for underclassmen because I feel bad that they weren’t able to take it this time around. But it’s great we have so much interest in it. I think that Star Wars can be used as an important teaching tool, especially in the world that we live in.”

‘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.”

‘Best 389 Colleges’ Book Endorses K

The Princeton Review is placing Kalamazoo College among the top 15 percent of U.S. higher-education institutions for degree-seeking undergraduates by featuring K in the 2024 version of its annual guide, The Best 389 Colleges

In the book, the education services company recommends colleges from the nation’s 2,600 four-year institutions based on data it collects from administrators about their academic offerings, and surveys of students who rate and report on their experiences.  

Students lauded K through surveys as a place where they develop personal relationships with their peers and faculty at a campus run by and for the students. In addition, students can quickly find their niche upon arriving thanks to a small-school environment where “everyone is always engaged in some kind of work they truly care about,” the book says. 

The Best 389 Colleges doesn’t provide individual rankings for the schools featured. However, K earned an additional mention in the guide as the No. 16 school on a list of the Top 20 Private Colleges for Making an Impact. This means K students said that their student-government opportunities, the College’s sustainability efforts and K’s on-campus engagement are providing them with opportunities to make a difference in their community. 

“We salute Kalamazoo College for its outstanding academics and its many other impressive offerings,” said Rob Franek, the Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief and lead author of The Best 389 Colleges. “We’re delighted to recommend it as an ideal choice for students searching for their ‘best-fit’ college.” 

The printed publication is now available through the Penguin Random House website. K’s profile is available for free online along with the list of the 389 top schools

An art professor guides a student by pointing at her project best 389 colleges
According to the 2024 edition of “The Best 389 Colleges” from the Princeton Review, students gave Kalamazoo College high marks for its open curriculum. The open curriculum means “students have more time to explore exactly what they want to learn, rather than being required to take classes in which they have no interest,” the book says.

Forbes Ranks K Among Best Small Employers

If you’re job hunting and small employers are appealing to you, Forbes says Kalamazoo College should be on your radar.

The global media company that focuses on business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership and lifestyle released its inaugural list of America’s Best Small Employers this week. After crunching data from more than 10,000 employers nationwide that have between 200 and 1,000 workers, Forbes shows K at No. 253 of the top 300.

To assemble the list, Forbes teamed up with Statista, a market research firm, to examine anonymous surveys of employees using targeted panels and open participation from the public; job-related websites that gauge employer reputation, engagement, retention and benefits; and social listening text analysis through websites, blogs, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube.

Small colleges and private schools scored particularly well in general, comprising 20% of the list. Plus, K prepares its graduates to better understand, live successfully within, and provide enlightened leadership to a richly diverse and increasingly complex world—a mission that resonates with its dedicated faculty and staff. If you’re interested in working for K, visit our “Careers at K” web pages. 

Dedicated faculty and staff such as Kalamazoo College Fund Director Laurel Palmer have helped K reach Forbes’ first list of America’s Best Small Employers.

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.”

K’s Banner Year Elates Faculty, NSF Fellows

Kalamazoo College STEM-related academic departments are celebrating a banner year as the overall number of current students and alumni receiving National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research fellowships reaches four, the most since 2016.

The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding students who pursue research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. A five-year fellowship covers three years of financial support, including an annual stipend and a cost-of-education allowance to attend an institution along with access to professional-development opportunities.

About 2,000 applicants are offered a fellowship per NSF competition in fields such as chemistry, biology, psychology, physics and math. This is the first year since 2013 that two current K students, Claire Kvande ’23 and Mallory Dolorfino ’23, have earned awards. Two alumni also have earned fellowships, Cavan Bonner ’21 and Angel Banuelos ’21.

“The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship is a highly competitive program that is only awarded to about 16% of the applicants, who represented more than 15,000 undergraduates and graduate students across all STEM fields,” Roger F. and Harriet G. Varney Assistant Professor of Chemistry Blakely Tresca said. “Approximately 2,500 awards were offered this year across all STEM fields and the vast majority of them go to students at large research universities and Ivy League schools. It is rare to see more than one or two awards at an undergraduate-focused college, particularly at a small liberal arts school like K. It is exceptional for schools in the GLCA (Great Lakes Colleges Association) to have one award in a year, and four awards is a truly outstanding accomplishment for these students.”

Claire Kvande ’23

Kvande has been a double major in physics and chemistry with minors in math and French at K. She credits faculty members such as Dow Distinguished Professor of Natural Science Jan Tobochnik and Associate Professor of Physics David Wilson, along with a wide range of courses, for preparing her to receive an NSF fellowship.

“I like the nitty gritty of sitting down and figuring out how to approach a problem within physics even though it’s often hard,” she said. “I really like work that is grounded in real-world problems and it’s part of why I’m interested in the subfield of condensed matter. There’s a lot that stands to be applied to technologies that I think could improve our world and help a lot of people.”

Kvande will attend the University of Washington this fall, where she plans to extend her Senior Integrated Project (SIP) work, which examined how charge-density waves relate to superconductivity within condensed matter.

“Superconductivity is a tantalizing physics concept,” she said. “If we could realize superconductivity at room temperature, it would allow us to do a lot with energy saving and revolutionize how we use electricity. There are schools of thought that say charge-density waves would be helpful in achieving that and others that say it would be hurtful. Since we really don’t know how superconductivity works, this is worth investigating so we can hopefully better understand this powerful phenomenon.”

NSF fellow Claire Kvande presenting her SIP
Claire Kvande ’23 will attend graduate school at the University of Washington as a National Science Foundation fellow.

Mallory Dolorfino ’23

Dolorfino, a computer science and math double major, also will attend the University of Washington, where they will pursue a doctorate in math.

“I didn’t really like math until I came to K,” Dolorfino said. “I took calculus in high school and I was just not going to take any more in college until one of my senior friends told me when I was a first-year student to take linear algebra. I took that and Calculus 3 online during the first COVID term and I just kept doing math, so I switched my major. It’s not like other subjects because you can work for hours and not get anything done. That’s frustrating at times, but it’s fun to understand it enough to prove things logically.”

Dolorfino credits several faculty members for their growth and success at K, leading to their NSF opportunity. They include Tresca, who helped students keep track of their NSF application timelines and materials; Associate Professor of Mathematics Michele Intermont, who provided letters of recommendation and application assistance for research opportunities and graduate school; and Assistant Professor of Mathematics Stephen Oloo, who provided invaluable feedback regarding their research proposal and many conversations about math.

Dolorfino remains in contact with a professor they worked with in a math-focused study abroad program in Budapest. The two of them conducted a monthlong research project in algebraic number theory, which is a foundation in applications such as encryption and bar codes. Their NSF application proposes group theory work, which is what she based some research on last summer at Texas State University. They hope their NSF work will help them become a college professor one day. “There are a lot of math institutions on the West Coast and specifically in the Northwest, so I will have really good connections there,” said Dolorfino, who agreed the award is an honor. “I was grateful for the people at K who helped me apply.”

NSF fellow Mallory Dolorfino
Mallory Dolorfino ’23 will attend graduate school at the University of Washington as an NSF fellow.

Cavan Bonner ’21

Bonner has spent the past two years working as a research staff member in industrial and organizational psychology at Purdue University. His NSF fellowship will take him to another Big Ten school.

“My area of research involves personality development and how personality changes over the lifespan,” he said. “It’s a pretty small sub field and there are only a few doctoral programs where you can study the topic with an expert. The University of Illinois is one of them.”

Bonner further hopes the fellowship will propel his career toward a tenure-track job at a research university. He said K helped prepare him well for that trajectory through a broad range of subjects, not only in psychology, but in adjacent fields such as sociology and statistics. Bonner also credits his experience working as a research assistant for Ann V. and Donald R. Parfet Distinguished Professor of Psychology Gary Gregg, and Associate Professor of Psychology Brittany Liu for training him in skills that he frequently uses in his research work after graduation. 

“I was drawn to personality psychology because it provides an integrative framework to study many of the research questions I have about human development, aging and change over time,” Bonner said. “My SIP and research assistant experiences at K helped me realize that I could address these questions from a personality perspective, but my professors also exposed me to so many other fields and perspectives that inform my research. I primarily identify as a personality and developmental psychologist, but ultimately I hope that this fellowship helps me contribute to the broader science of aging and development.”

Portrait of Cavan Bonner
Cavan Bonner ’21 will attend the University of Illinois as an NSF fellow.

Angel Banuelos ’21

Banuelos, a biology major and anthropology/sociology minor at K, is in his second year at the University of Wisconsin, where he said he studies genetics—specifically the construction of the vertebrate brain and face—under an amazing mentor, Professor Yevgenya Grinblat.

“Live beings are built by cells that are informed by DNA,” Banuelos said. “At the beginning of embryonic development, the cells split into groups. One of those groups is called the neural crest cells. Those cells go on to contribute to a whole bunch of things such as pigment cells in the skin, and cartilage and bones in the face. My project is trying to understand how neural crest cells contribute to stabilizing the very first blood vessels of the developing eye.”

Ultimately, when his graduate work is finished, he would like to steer his career towards education.

NSF fellow Angel Banuelos in the lab
Angel Banuelos ’21, a newly-named NSF fellow, is in his second year of graduate school at the University of Wisconsin.

“I would like to bring research opportunities to people who don’t have higher education experience,” Banuelos said. “I would imagine starting with programs for middle schoolers, then high schoolers and adult learners. I want to be part of research addressing community problems and conducted by the people who live there.”

Banuelos credits inspiration for his career goals to the many mentors he had at K. Natalia Carvalho-Pinto, former director of the intercultural center, and Amy Newday, who provided guidance in food and farming justice, served as role models for applying theory to meet material needs.

“In my NSF application, I described meeting community needs as a central component of my scholarship,” he said. “Natalia and Amy are people who literally fed me while I was at K. They saw the student and the human. They handed me books, handed me plates, even welcomed my family. During a very difficult transition to grad school, they were there for me. When I’m a professor, I want to be like them. I’m grateful for the growth opportunities I had at K through the Intercultural Center and food and farming.”

‘It doesn’t happen every year’

Faculty members as a whole across STEM departments are taking great pride in these K representatives earning fellowships as it speaks to the quality of students at the College and their studies, especially as the number of recipients stands out.

“At K, it is exciting when even a single student wins a fellowship, and it certainly doesn’t happen every year,” Professor of Physics Tom Askew said. “It’s special to have four in one year.”

Restorative Justice Lessons Lead to Job Skills

Kalamazoo College is known for providing academic experiences that can lead to real-world jobs. Take the example of Steph Guyor ’22.

Guyor’s senior seminar, led by Associate Professor of English Ryan Fong, tackled the concept of restorative or transformative justice, a newer community-based practice that helps society do more than hold law breakers accountable in a criminal justice system. Instead, restorative justice also addresses the dehumanization an offender typically experiences with their punishment, offering basic services along with pathways for making amends to victims and the community, reducing the likelihood for recidivism.

“Within the U.S., justice is traditionally focused on the offender and the crime they committed,” Guyor said. “The punishments are seen as deserved. Yet by focusing on the punishment, the factors that led to the harm being committed often go unexamined, and the needs of the person who’s harmed remain unmet. Viewing punishment as the only appropriate response around accountability ends up taking the form of shame and isolation, which furthers the relational divide and deters people from changing their harmful behaviors. Restorative and transformative justice work to reorient accountability away from punishments and toward meaningful consequences that allow connections to be restored and relational dynamics to be restored.”

Guyor, who double majored in psychology and women and gender studies (WGS), was intrigued by these concepts and said Fong’s class was enjoyable because it allowed her to see justice in a different way. Then came an opportunity to connect those studies to a job, when she heard Ministry with Community in Kalamazoo was hiring a restorative justice coordinator. The nonprofit organization is a secular, daytime shelter and resource center open 365 days a year that helps local residents address homelessness, poverty, substance abuse and other crises.

“I saw the posting and thought it could be an opportunity to make change locally in Kalamazoo in a way that’s influenced by getting to know people,” Guyor said. “I knew I wanted to try to find a way to integrate the psychological understanding of why people do what they do with a socially informed understanding of how social circumstances influence it.”

And today, Guyor relishes her job, which involves learning more about the restorative justice practices in place around the country while collecting data to determine what she can do to solve problems in Kalamazoo. Hopefully, that will lead to a new yet well-rounded restorative justice program at Ministry with Community that reduces the likelihood of repeat offenses.

“It comes with a lot of responsibility that a big part of me was afraid to take on given the idea that I did just graduate,” she said. “But it’s also a unique opportunity that I’m excited to have. I think the goal will be a culture shift within the organization so there will be fewer incidents with fewer people breaking community expectations, and more trust between the members, and between members and staff.”

Guyor said a common misconception about restorative or transformative justice is that it’s soft on offenders—that it lets people off the hook and fails to follow through on a punishment. She cautions against that idea.

“In reality, facing the people who you hurt and holding the space for them to explain their hurt is a lot harder,” Guyor said. “Restorative justice is about having high expectations for people along with a lot of support. It makes sure we’re holding people accountable to the changes they work toward, but not in a way that revolves around shame. In punitive settings, you’re doing things to people. In permissive settings, you’re doing things for people. But restorative justice is more about working with people to make change.”

Fong said he’s likely to continue teaching about restorative and transformative justice at K.

“So many students, especially WGS students, are interested in social justice and activism, but don’t always know what it looks like in practice beyond demonstrations and non-profit work,” he said. “In the wake of the 2020 protests and calls to defund the police, I saw many students wondering what that demand meant. Doing a deep dive into restorative and transformative justice was one way to understand how abolitionist organizers were working in concrete ways to build new systems and structures that address and eliminate violence.”

He’s also incredibly proud of Guyor and honored that he played a role in helping her find her career path.

“I hope she keeps drawing on the skills and knowledge she gained at K and as a WGS student to continue on it for the rest of her life,” Fong said. “That’s really my hope for all our WGS students: that they find meaningful ways to put their education into action.”

Donations Fund Restorative Justice Programs

Ministry with Community, a nonprofit organization, accepts donations for the restorative justice programs being built by K alumna Stephanie Guyor ’22. To donate directly to restorative justice efforts, visit the organization’s website.

Restorative justice professional Steph Guyor '22 outside Ministry with Community in Kalamazoo
Steph Guyor ’22 took classroom experiences with restorative justice and transformed them into a career at Ministry with Community in Kalamazoo.
Guyor, who double majored in psychology and women and gender studies at K, now works as the restorative justice coordinator at Ministry with Community in Kalamazoo.

Three Faculty Members Earn Promotion, Tenure

Three Kalamazoo College faculty members from the music, German studies and French studies departments have been awarded tenure along with a promotion to associate professor.

The tenure milestone recognizes excellence in teaching, scholarship and service to the College, and signifies its confidence in the contributions these faculty will make throughout their careers. The Board of Trustees-approved tenure recipients are:

Assistant Professor of Music Chris Ludwa

Ludwa is the director of the College Singers, the Lux Esto Chamber Choir and the Kalamazoo Bach Festival at K, where he is an advocate for a variety of singing methods including contemporary a cappella, musical theatre, opera, oratorio and pop music, especially those connected with justice and equity.

In 2020, Ludwa collaborated with Everett McCorvey, a fellow voice professor from the University of Kentucky; and Rhea Olivaccé, a soprano soloist with an international career and a professor of voice at Western Michigan University; to create Awake! Arise!, a musical dialogue about the lived Black experience, in contrast to what it is perceived to be. The work was a challenge to audiences to acknowledge injustice and change the world, which featured music from Johann Sebastian Bach’s 300-year-old cantata Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, and the words of Black artists, activists and authors such as Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Amanda Gorman and Valyn Turner.

Ludwa previously worked in professional music roles for employers such as the Federated Church of Cleveland, Cuyahoga Community College, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Leonard Bernstein-inspired Artful Learning School Reform Model at the GRAMMY Foundation and the International School of Indiana. He holds a Bachelor of Music Education, a Master of Music and a DMA in Conducting and Leadership Studies from Indiana University.

College Singers Rehearse Social Justice-Themed Concert
Assistant Professor of Music Chris Ludwa, seen here directing the College Singers, is one of three faculty members to earn tenure this year.

Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Assistant Professor of German Studies Kathryn Sederberg

Sederberg teaches beginning, intermediate and advanced German as well as Contemporary German Culture and senior seminars on varying topics.

In 2021, Sederberg received a national honor, the Goethe‐Institut/American Association of Teachers of German (AATG) Certificate of Merit, for her achievements in furthering the teaching of German in the U.S. through creative activities, innovative curriculum, successful course design and significant contributions to the profession. She was just one of five educators between high schools and colleges from around the country to earn the honor.

In 2022, Sederberg spent a month at the University of London in its Institute of Modern Languages, conducting research through a Miller Fellowship in Exile Studies. In that research, she sifted through thousands of passages from the diaries of Jewish people who migrated away from Nazi territories in the 1930s and 40s. The experience led her to create a sophomore seminar offered this winter, Bearing Witness: Holocaust Literature and Testimony.

Sederberg holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Tenure recipient Kathryn Sederberg pointing at a blackboard
Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Assistant Professor of German Studies Kathryn Sederberg is one of three tenure recipients this year at K.

Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies Aurélie Chatton

Chatton pursues teaching and interests in the poetics of globalization inspired by the philosophical concepts of Martinican thinker Edouard Glissant. Her research explores 20th and 21st century theatre and performance as well as the history and aesthetic of French cinema.  

She has published articles on contemporary French and francophone artists in literature, cinema and theatre, including Wajdi Mouawad (2021), Aki Kaurismäki (2022) and Bernard-Marie Koltès. She is currently working on a book project in which she shows the shared thinking among a number of interdisciplinary and contemporary artists and the philosophy of Edouard Glissant. 

At K, Chatton also designed the first Languages Film Festival, taking place each year.  

Tenure recipient Aurélie Chatton
Assistant Professor of French and Francophone Studies Aurélie Chatton is one of three tenure recipients this year at K.

Before coming to K, Chatton taught at Columbia University and New York University, where she developed a variety of classes from elementary language courses to upper-level literature and culture courses.  

Chatton received her Ph.D. from the Department of French Literature, Thought and Culture at NYU. She received a teaching certificate from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Teaching program at NYU in 2010 and a Blended Learning Award from Columbia in 2015.