Bibliographer Honored, Shares the Story of the Vodka Plant

K Professor Emeritus Joe FugateThe Modern Language Association’s MLA Field Bibliographer Newsletter includes a profile of a Distinguished Indexer who is none other than Kalamazoo College’s own Joe Fugate, professor emeritus of German studies and director emeritus of the Center for International Programs. Indexers and bibliographers are indispensable to the art and science of scholarship in all fields. The MLA article notes that Joe has been a field indexer longer than any other contributor, enriching the coverage in the German literature section for almost fifty years, adding thousands of citations to the MLA International Bibliography. He has also served as a member of and consultant to the Bibliography Advisory Committee. He was awarded an MLA International Bibliography Fellowship for the years 2011 to 2014. Much of the article is in Joe’s own voice. He says, “My tenure as a bibliographer has differed from that of any other bibliographer I have known because for almost 30 years while maintaining my faculty status, I held an administrative post in our study abroad program, including 18 as director.

“I was fortunate because my faculty interests–German language and literature, especially of the 18th century and in particular J. G. Herder–and my administrative post complemented each other. My frequent overseas trips visiting universities on three continents enabled me to establish personal contact with a number of foreign scholars who shared my academic interests and to perfect my fluency in other languages. The fact that my name appeared in the International Bibliography helped immensely in establishing these contacts.

“Over the years I have witnessed a number of changes in the production of the bibliography. When I first became a contributor all entries were typed or hand written on three by five slips of paper (some of which I still have in my files) and sent to MLA headquarters. These slips were replaced by the color-coded sheets which likewise were completed by hand or typed and then submitted.

“Now everything is on the computer. Traditionalist that I am however, I continue to miss the printed edition. I am sure that the MLA staff was relieved when they no longer had to deal with handwritten entries. Looking back I recall with pleasure the yearly meetings of the bibliographers with the staff at the annual convention. The gathering not only gave us an opportunity to discuss bibliographical matters but also to get to know each other personally. One of our colleagues, a contract interpreter for Russian with the State Department, would enliven our meetings with stories about her experiences with visiting Russians and their habit of proposing frequent toasts of vodka. When she was asked how she handled this, she replied that she tried to stand next to a plant into which she emptied her vodka. She never did tell us what this did to the plant.

“It was my privilege to serve on the Bibliography Advisory Committee. One issue we discussed at length was the lack of recognition as a scholarly and professional activity of being a bibliographer. In this connection I was able to cite one of my colleagues, now retired but still writing and publishing, who proclaimed for all to hear that my work as a bibliographer made his and other scholars’ possible. There are many to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for making my activity as a bibliographer an interesting and enriching experience: those who originally accepted me as a bibliographer, the heads of the bibliography department at the MLA, the section heads and the MLA staff with whom I have worked together and continue to work with even today.”

Congratulations, Joe!

Problematic Art and Agonistic Space

Evergood Mural, Kalamazoo CollegeAssociate Professor of Art History Christine Hahn published an article, “Maintaining Problematic Art: A Case Study of Philip Evergood’s The Bridge of Life (1942) at Kalamazoo College.” The article was published in Public Art Dialogue (6:1, 116-130) on May 27, 2016.

The piece is particularly interesting for any alumni familiar with the mural (see above) in Old Welles Hall. It covers the history of controversy inspired by the work since it’s unveiling (1942), including specific calls (in 1966 and in 2010) for some redress for iconography deemed offensive to and by some individuals and groups. Detailing the call-and-response to the criticism voiced in 2010, Christina ultimately suggests “that problematic public art has the unique potential to produce positive social change by staying in place.”

The article reveals much about K’s history, including Evergood’s time on campus as an artist and a teacher as well as his bona fides as an ardent social radical. Christina also introduces (from Lewis Hyde, author of Common as Air) a concept of “freedom of listening.” In his book Hyde cites Benjamin Franklin’s creation of a lecture hall where “people were free to give lectures on whatever they wanted.” In that space (Christina quotes Hyde): “Individual speakers present singular views; individual listeners entertain plurality….The hall was thus built to serve the eighteenth-century idea of replacing the partial self with a plural or public self, one who is host to many voices, even those otherwise at odds with the singular being you thought you were when you first walked in the door….If we take free listening to be the true end of free speech, then freedom itself takes on a different aspect…intelligence arises in the common world, where many voices can be heard; it belongs to collectivity, not privacy, and is available especially to those who can master the difficult art of plural listening.”

Christina invokes Hyde’s notion of “agonistic listening amongst equals in conflict” (a notion that is at the heart of the academy and a direct contrast to “antagonism, where opponents try to silence or destroy the other”) to describe College and student responses to the controversy implicit and explicit in the work, particularly the responses that took place or were considered between 2010 and 2015. She writes: “The building Benjamin Franklin built that embraced such agonistic pluralism eventually became the Philadelphia Academy, which in turn became the University of Pennsylvania. This transformation of space, built to house agonistic conflict among equals, is a particularly fitting symbol of how physical space can potentially create a space for inquiry, conflict and debate. This type of site is necessary and important. Indeed, as Lewis Hyde argues, it is agonistic spaces such as these that are the foundations of democracy.”

The presence of the mural, Christina continues, has provided the intellectual and emotive space for agonistic listening, “has allowed these twenty-first-century conversations on race, class dynamics and elite educations to take place….[M]aintaining problematic public art in an agonistic space helps keep our understanding of the past and our vision of the future firmly in view.” A fascinating article, well worth the time to read it.

PUI Paragon

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

African Languages as Literary Medium

African Languages as Literary MediumKalamazoo College’s African studies program invites everyone to the public lecture, “African Languages as Literary Medium: Prospects and Challenges.” Dr. Abdou Ngom (Cheik Anta Diop University, Senegal) will deliver the address on Wednesday, May 11, at 4:30 p.m. in the Mandelle Hall Olmsted Room. The event is free and open to the public.

“The lecture addresses the distribution of indigenous languages in Africa, the negative impact of colonization on the promotion of indigenous languages, and the difficult choice made by governments regarding their official languages,” said Ngom. Ngom will discuss the controversial issue of the literary medium for African writers, especially the relationships between language and cultural identity. “The matter of authenticity and language (indigenous or non-indigenous) involves very difficult and interesting questions,” he said. For example, is literature written in European languages authentic African literature?  Should any literature written by an African scholar be considered African literature? What type of readership do African writers have in mind when writing literature and why? What are the main challenges posed by African literature written in indigenous languages? How does literature written in foreign languages affect African indigenous languages? “The lecture,” said Joseph Bangura, associate professor of history and director of the African studies program, “seeks to address these questions.”

Nights (and Days) in the Museums

Melany Simpson
Melanie Sympson

Join an evening of “Exploring Museum Careers with Kalamazoo College Alumni” on Thursday, April 21, at 7:30 p.m. in Dewing Hall Room 103. The discussion and Q&A comes from the inspiration of Professor Emerita of Art History Billie Fischer and Visiting Instructor of Art History Melanie Sympson. Sympson is teaching the spring term course “The Modern Art Museum,” and she has enlisted the three alumni panelists to visit her class in addition to sharing their stories with the general public. The alumni participants are John Cummins Steele ’83, Holly (Rarick) Witchey ’83, and Courtney Tompkins ’08. Each will speak about 10 minutes, sharing their from-there-to-here stories (where “there” is K and “here” is working in museums) and then take questions from the audience. The evening will be a true liberal arts fest, says Sympson, for museums are situated at the intersection of many disciplines. Steele is the director of conservation and conservator of sculpture and decorative arts at the Detroit Institute of Arts. He supervises conservation department staff in the examination, documentation, analysis, scientific research, conservation treatment, preservation, exhibition and interpretation of the DIA’s permanent collection. He earned his M.A. and certificate of advanced studies at Buffalo State College. At K he majored in history and earned a concentration in art history. He studied abroad in Erlangen, Germany.

Witchey is director of the Wade Project at the Western Reserve Historical Society. The Wade Project is a multi-year collaborative effort to create a model for studying individual family histories. She also teaches museum work related courses for Johns Hopkins University. Witchey earned her Ph.D. at Case Western Reserve University. At K she majored in political science and art history. She studied abroad in Muenster, Germany.

Tompkins is assistant to the program of research, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. CASVA is a research institute that fosters study of the production, use, and cultural meaning of art, artifacts, architecture, urbanism, photography, and film worldwide from prehistoric times to the present. Tompkins earned her M.A. at American University. At K she majored in art history, and she studied abroad in Rome, Italy.

Better than a “Night at the Museum” is an evening exploring museum careers with these three distinguished alums. The event is free and open to the public.

Colloquium About Blackness to Occur at Kalamazoo College

Colloquium About Blackness at KKalamazoo College will present the Physics of Blackness Colloquium on March 31 and April 1. March 31 features a lecture (7 p.m. in Dalton Theatre) by Michelle M. Wright, Professor of African American Studies and Comparative Literary Studies at Northwestern University, and author of The Physics of Blackness: Beyond the Middle Passage Epistemology. Wright’s lecture is titled “Blackness by Other Names: Beyond Linear Histories.” On the next day (April 1, 5 p.m. in the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership) will follow an interactive event developed by the Beyond the Middle Passage Organizers. That group includes Justin Berry, assistant professor of political science; Nakeya Boyles ’16; Quincy Crosby ’17; Reid Gómez, the Mellon visiting assistant professor of ethnic studies; Allia Howard ’17; Bruce Mills, professor of English; and Shanna Salinas, assistant professor of English. “Wright looks at the argument of race, particularly Blackness, and the ways that argument plays out in economic, political and physically embodied ways,” says Gómez. “Her work will help us look at differences within difference and move beyond thinking in categories.”

According to Gómez, the colloquium will stress three themes, all of which relate to one another: horizontal connections instead of vertical frameworks; the inability of temporally linear progress narratives (which often structure the notion of Blackness) alone to realize the broad and complicated truth and meaningfulness of Blackness; and a “See Me-Hear Me” approach during the colloquium that will ask participants to enter each others’ lives in meaningful ways. Wright’s book uses concepts from physics to expand thinking and discussion beyond linearity that makes “it difficult to understand or accept people, places, or event that do not easily fit inside a single narrative,” explains Gómez. Toward that end Gómez has helped facilitate “The Physics of Blackness at Kalamazoo College,” a blog in the form of a mosaic that makes approaching the subject of Blackness nonlinear and dynamic.

Nonlinearity is the true nature of the physical universe, wrote Gómez in a summary of Wright’s book. Such nonlinearity doesn’t preclude all cause and effect, but instead complicates it. Gómez writes that Wright “cautions against cause and effect laws that make history solely the consequence of oppression, where Blackness only appears in terms of resistance to, or the direct result of, that oppression.” The ability to think and discuss freed from such overly narrow restrictions allows us to “reimagine choice and agency in relationship to Blackness,” says Gómez, “the choice to ’notice and wonder’ at what is left out of linear progress narratives, and to conceive of self outside those terms.”

The Beyond the Middle Passage Organizers group invites colloquium participants to help one another prepare for the event by sharing talking points, images and points of entry into Wright’s theory via Instagram _bmp._ and Twitter @_bmpo_.

Economic Inequality and Political Power in America

Martin Gilens
Martin Gilens

Martin Gilens will deliver the 2016 William Weber Lecture in Government and Society on January 25 at 8 p.m. in the Mandelle Hall Olmsted Room on the Kalamazoo College campus. The event is free and open to the public. Gilens is professor of politics at Princeton University, and the title of his lecture is “Economic Inequality and Political Power in America.” It is based on his recent book titled Affluence and Influence. Dr. Gilen’s research examines representation, public opinion and mass media as they relate to inequality and public policy. His work has been extensively reported in the media. “While his finding that the wealthiest minority in this country are the only ones who impact policy outcomes is not novel,” said Justin Berry, assistant professor of American politics at K, “the empirical evidence he provides for this common perception is overwhelming.” Gilens has held fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford, and the Russell Sage Foundation. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he taught at Yale University and UCLA prior to joining the faculty at Princeton. He also wrote the book Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy. The William Weber Lecture in Government and Society was founded by alumnus William Weber, class of 1939. Past lecturers in the series have included David Broder, E.J. Dionne, Frances Fox Piven, Spencer Overton, Van Jones and Joan Mandelle, among others.

NINE PARTS OF DESIRE in the Dungeon Theatre

Eight students rehearse for "Nine Parts of Desire"
The cast of NINE PARTS OF DESIRE (l-r): standing — Aliera Morasch (Mullaya), Anita Ghans (The Doctor) Anya Opshinsky (Lalal), Isabela Agosa (Umm Ghada); seated — Jasmine Khin (Nanna), Grace Gilmore (Huda), Cheynne Harvey (Amal), and Abby Fraser (Iraqi Girl)

When Nine Parts of Desire premiered in New York City in the early 2000s, Gloria Steinem wrote, “The female half of Iraq has come to America.” It is with this philosophy in mind that Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College presents Heather Raffo’s play about the lives and stories of nine women, all of whom have a relationship to the physical, spiritual, and emotional spaces of modern Iraq. The play opens Thursday, April 30, at 7:30 p.m. and runs Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2, at 8 p.m. The final performance occurs Sunday, May 3, at 2 p.m. All performances occur in the Dungeon Theatre in the Light Fine Arts Building on Kalamazoo College’s campus.

The play strives to celebrate the lives and identities of these women by complicating the archetypal portrayal of their country and its citizens. Each character seems to walk on a knife’s edge between contrasts—freedom and containment, tenacity and docility, knowledge and naivety, danger and desire—and each character tells a story of how these tensions have dictated her life.

None of Raffo’s characters are oppressed in a simple, two-dimensional way. Each woman approaches the world differently, and their stories and struggles are distinctly their own. What connects the women to each other and to the audience is far deeper than a shared experience of time and place. It is love–the negotiation and exploration of its many manifestations–that makes the piece cohesive and universal. In the play, one character muses, “It is the same, anywhere you live. if you love like an Iraqi woman. If you love like you can’t breathe.”

Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College invites you to come bear witness to these stories of struggle and triumph. In post-911 America, where ignorance and discrimination, and even hatred, often stand in the way of human connection, it is essential that we open our hearts, our ears, and our to these stories. In the words of Raffo herself, “Come. Now you sign the witness book.”

Tickets are $5 for students, $10 for seniors 65 and older, and $15 for other adults. Please call 269.337.7333 or visit the Festival Playhouse website for more information.

Text by Jane Huffman ’15. Photo by Emily Salswedel ’16.

The (Busy) Life of a Writer

Kalamazoo College Writer-in-Residence Diane SeussThe New Yorker magazine has accepted for publication a poem by Kalamazoo College Writer-in-Residence Diane Seuss ’78. The poem is expected to appear in the fall. Many other good things happening relative to Di’s writing.

Her third book of poems, Four-Legged Girl, comes out in early October from Graywolf Press, arguably the best poetry press in the country

She also recently finished a draft of her fourth collection, which will likely come out from Graywolf 2018. “It’s a departure for me–titled Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl–and all based on the aesthetics of early still life painting,” wrote Di. “I’ll be revising that manuscript this summer and working on some new stuff. Poems from Two Dead Peacocks are forthcoming in The Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and (yes) the New Yorker. I also have new poems coming out in Blackbird this spring and various other magazines.”

Di had a residency last summer at Hedgebrook, a retreat space for women writers on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington State in Puget Sound. There she wrote a good portion of Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl. This summer she will be in residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire this coming summer to continue working on the fourth collection and generate new material for what she hopes “will be something like a memoir,” she wrote. “I believe MacDowell is the oldest artists residency in the country. It has hosted James Baldwin, Thornton Wilder, Leonard Bernstein, Willa Cather, Audre Lorde, and many more contemporary artists. I’m excited to be in a space where there are visual artists, musicians, and writers all in our own studios making new work.”

Di writes brief nonfiction as well as poetry. She recently learned she won Quarter After Eight magazine’s Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest, and she will have another piece of nonfiction published in Brevity in the fall.

Breathless yet? Not Di. This month she will moderate a panel at the Associated Writing Programs National Conference in Minneapolis. The panel includes Di, poet Adrian Blevins, fiction/nonfiction writer Claire Evans, and fiction writer Bonnie Jo Campbell. It’s called “Hick Lit: Women Writing from the Circumference.”

Di will read her work at Sarah Lawrence College in June, and at Colby College in the fall.

Kalamazoo College President Announces Retirement

Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran and Charlotte HallPresident Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran today announced her retirement from Kalamazoo College, effective June 30, 2016. She made the announcement at the College’s spring term all-campus gathering, a meeting of faculty and staff.

President Wilson-Oyelaran was unanimously elected the 17th president of Kalamazoo College by the board of trustees on December 11, 2004. She began her duties in July of 2005. Prior to the presidency of K she served as vice president and dean of the college of Salem Academy and College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

A native of Los Angeles, President Wilson-Oyelaran earned her undergraduate degree (sociology) from Pomona College, a liberal arts school in Claremont, California. She studied abroad in England as an undergraduate, and used a postgraduate fellowship to study in Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania) for 16 months.

Eileen B. Wilson-OyelaranShe returned to the U.S. to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in child development and early childhood education (Claremont Graduate University) and then taught in the departments of education and psychology at the University of Ife in Nigeria for 14 years. She married Olasope (Sope) Oyelaran in 1980, and they have four children—Doyin, Oyinda, Salewa, and Yinka.

The family moved to the United States in 1988. President Wilson-Oyelaran taught or served in administrative leadership positions at North Carolina Wesleyan College and Winston-Salem State University prior to joining the faculty of Salem College.

At K she led the development of a 10-year strategic plan for the college that, among other priorities, focused on the re-imagination and integration of the elements of K’s internationally renowned curriculum, the K-Plan. “We’re helping students integrate and reflect on the building blocks they use to construct their own unique K-Plans,” said President Wilson-Oyelaran: classroom explorations in the liberal arts, study abroad, career internships and networking opportunities, civic engagement, social justice leadership, and the capstone experience that is the senior individualized project. “Those elements, alone and in concert, enhance the four years that students spend at Kalamazoo College and will enhance students’ lives for years to come,” added President Wilson-Oyelaran.

Other curricular improvements during her tenure include revised graduation requirements, implementation of the Shared Passages Seminar Series (which helps students reflect upon and integrate their academic and experiential opportunities), three new academic majors (business, women and gender studies, and critical ethnic studies), two new intercollegiate sports (men’s and women’s lacrosse), the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, and new career and professional development programs such as the Guilds of Kalamazoo College.

President Wilson-Oyelaran helped envision and implement another key focus of the College’s strategic plan: building a campus community whose diversity reflects the world where K students will live and work. She acknowledged that much work remains to be done in order to create a learning environment that is equitable and inclusive for each member of K’s diverse learning community–the most diverse in its history. In this the 10th year of her tenure, 26 percent of K students identify as U.S. students of color. International students (degree-seeking and visiting) are nearly 10 percent of the student body. Fifteen percent of K students are the first in their families to attend college; and one in four comes from a family of modest income.

President Wilson-Oyelaran has reinvigorated campus spaces that students and employees use to solidify the sense of community that characterizes Kalamazoo College. Not since Presidents Hoben and Hicks has the physical campus made such extraordinary gains in beauty and utility. New spaces that have been renovated or erected during President Wilson-Oyelaran’s tenure include the Hicks Center, the athletic fields and field house, and the extraordinary work of architecture that houses the social justice center. In addition to these spaces, construction of a new fitness and wellness center will begin at the end of summer, and preliminary design of a new natatorium is complete.

Also, per the strategic plan, enrollment has grown to nearly 1,500 students (the 2017 goal specified by the plan), and the College has implemented an ambitious alumni engagement plan. President Wilson-Oyelaran also has led the most successful fund-raising campaign in the College’s history. That effort, called the Campaign for Kalamazoo College, is in its final stages, having raised $123 million of its $125 million goal.

Charlotte HallChair of the Board of Trustees Charlotte Hall ’66 said that the search for a new president would begin immediately. She noted that the search committee would include trustees, alumni, students, faculty, and staff. The 18th president of Kalamazoo College is expected to assume those duties on July 1, 2016.

That new president will have big shoes to fill. “Eileen, we are so grateful for all the ways you’ve helped prepare K for its future,” said Hall. “I know I speak for the entire K community, the Kalamazoo Community, and all the people you have touched throughout your time in higher education when I say we hope the best for you and Sope.”

President Wilson-Oyelaran cited the “singular honor” of serving at Kalamazoo College and shared her belief that, K, “the very best is yet to come.”

Her legacy here is truly a blessing for our entire community. More than a decade ago, when she was considering the decision to move from Salem Academy and College to Kalamazoo College, Eileen Wilson-Oyelaran was seeking some sort of sign to tip the scale. She found it when she learned that the great abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth had once met with kindred spirit Lucinda Hinsdale Stone (head of the female department at K, which was one of the first colleges in the country to provide higher education for women). “Ever since I was a child,” President Wilson-Oyelaran said in 2004, “Sojourner Truth has been an icon for me.”

Now, in turn, Kalamazoo College President Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran can be an icon for us.