Kalamazoo College’s excellence is again featured in the annual Fiske Guide to Colleges, a selective look at about 300 higher-education institutions in the United States, Canada and the U.K.
The guide’s readers discover institutional personalities based on a broad range of subjects including the student body, academics, social life, financial aid, campus setting, housing, food and extracurricular activities. The book also includes a quiz to help students understand what they’re looking for in a college, lists of strong programs and popular majors at each institution, indexes that break down schools by state and price, and ratings regarding academics and quality of life.
In the 2022 version, available now, the publisher Sourcebooks says K students “pursue a liberal arts curriculum that includes language proficiency, a first-year writing seminar, sophomore and senior seminars, as well as a senior individualized project—directed research, a creative piece, or a traditional thesis—basically anything that caps off each student’s education in some meaningful way.”
In addition to senior integrated projects promoting independent scholarship opportunities, the guide praises other tenets of the K-Plan, the College’s four-part, integrated approach to education, including:
Rigorous academics. The flexibility and rigor of K’s curriculum provides students with a customized academic experience.
Experiential education. Students connect classroom learning with real-world experience by completing career development internships or externships, participating in civic engagement and service-learning projects, and getting involved in social justice leadership work.
International and intercultural experience. Students choose from 56 study abroad programs in 29 countries across six continents. A biology major interviewed by the publisher remarks on how easy it is for students to take advantage of the opportunity, noting, “Kalamazoo College does study abroad so well that it seems ridiculous not to take advantage of this opportunity. They make it financially accessible and ensure that you won’t fall behind by going abroad.”
“K’s academic terms may be fast-paced and the workload demanding, but students are given the flexibility to pursue their interests through individualized projects and off-campus exploration,” the Guide to Colleges says. “The result, says a senior, is a student body defined by open-minded, global citizens.”
Molly Ratliff ’22 hopes to work in an environmental-studies field after she graduates from Kalamazoo College, making her senior integrated project (SIP) this summer an ideal experience. She is researching boreal toads at their known breeding grounds in Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado, as a way to engage with conservation.
“Amphibians, such as boreal toads, are really great indicators of overall ecosystem health,” Ratliff said. “Their skin is highly permeable, making them vulnerable to environmental changes and toxins. Since amphibians are typically the first species to be impacted by changes in the environment such as climate change, they can show general trends of how other species may react.”
To be specific, in her research Ratliff is investigating how a skin disease that affects amphibians around the world—Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or Bd—might be affecting the sizes of the toads at various locations and how this might relate to survivability. She performs surveys at dusk around lake shores, captures toads to mark them with pit tags, takes body measurements, and swabs them to test for the disease. The toads are then released and can be identified as they’re recaptured by their unique pit tags.
“If amphibian populations are not doing well in an ecosystem, it can be an indicator that there are stressors, toxins, imbalances, etc. within the entire system,” she said. “Amphibians also typically exist as both predators and prey, making them a crucial part of the food chain within an ecosystem.”
Ratliff’s work is an excellent example of the independent scholarship critical to the K-Plan, Kalamazoo College’s integrated approach to academics in the liberal arts and sciences. As a culmination of learning at K, all students explore a subject of their own choosing, resulting in an in-depth, graduate-level research thesis, performance or creative work. Learn more about how these projects fit into the K-Plan at kzoo.edu/k-plan.
Emily Cheng ’23 is continuing to develop her standout civic-leadership skills through Kalamazoo College by accepting a place in the 2021-22 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows.
The fellowship is offered through Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization that advances the public-service purposes of higher education. About 290 students from member institutions in 39 states, Washington, D.C., and Mexico will comprise the cohort this year. Recipients such as Cheng demonstrate a commitment to finding solutions for challenges facing communities locally, nationally and globally.
“When I applied, I was curious about what Newman Fellows do in general and how Campus Compact teaches students to be confident in themselves while developing leadership skills,” Cheng said. “I am interested in the nonprofit space as a career, but I’m also interested in things the fellowship teaches like advocacy, collaboration and mentoring.”
Cheng is known on campus as a member of the Sexual Peer Educators at K (SPEAK) group, for which she began and co-manages an Instagram account @kc_s.p.e.a.k. She also is the co-president of the Asian Pacific Islander Student Association, while serving as a Reproductive Justice Leadership Institute Fellow for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.
Elsewhere, she has found her interests in community organizing to create social change through working with local grassroots campaigns, where she has met and worked with inspiring mentors and friends who have catalyzed her passion to fight against institutions that constrain the people she cares about.
Cheng chose to attend K largely for the format of the K-Plan, which allows students to formulate their own curriculum, along with the College’s study abroad programs. The Intercultural Center, however, has given her the courage to seek opportunities such as the Newman Fellowship thanks to people such as Director of Intercultural Student Life Natalia Carvalho-Pinto.
“The Intercultural Center has been my home away from home,” Cheng said. “Even while we’re virtual, people like Natalia are amazing because she is still such an encouraging spirit,” Cheng said.
Each year, Newman Fellows participate in virtual training and networking to give them some of the skills and connections they will need to create change. The cornerstone of the fellowship is the annual Convening of Fellows, which offers intensive skill-building and networking over the course of two days. The fellowship also provides fellows with pathways to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.
Each recipient, including Cheng, received a recommendation letter from their institution’s president.
Cheng “is a student leader who has dedicated her time on campus and in her community to advocating for reproductive rights, access to affordable housing, and diversifying the students holding on-campus leadership positions,” Kalamazoo College President Jorge G. Gonzalez said in recommending her. “She has found community at the Intercultural Center, as a place that catalyzed and affirmed her desire to work with her community to create larger, greater change.”
The fellowship is named for the late Frank Newman, one of Campus Compact’s founders, who advocated for civic engagement in higher education. In the spirit of Newman’s leadership, Campus Compact member presidents and chancellors nominate student leaders from their campuses to be named Newman Civic Fellows.
“We are proud to recognize these extraordinary student leaders and thrilled to engage with them,” Campus Compact President Andrew Seligsohn said. “The experience of the last year has driven home to all of us that we need open-minded, innovative, public-spirited thinkers and doers. That is what Campus Compact is about, and the stories of our Newman Civic Fellows demonstrate who they are.”
There are two camps of students who come to college: those who know exactly what they want to study — or are pretty sure they know — and those who don’t. Kalamazoo College takes a different approach to helping students decide their major. Through the K-Plan, students explore and discover academic fields for a year and a half before choosing a major. Best of all, the curriculum is designed to give students this freedom while keeping them on track to graduate in four years. This past Wednesday’s Declaration of Major Day, the midpoint of their sophomore year, was a festive gathering where students formally designated their majors, minors and concentrations.
The banquet hall at Hicks Student Center was packed as each department set up a booth. Students went from table to table, committing to their fields of study and getting stickers declaring their choices. They celebrated the big moment with one another and the rest of campus with a piece of cake baked for the event by Dining Services.
“Declaration of Major Day is a 15-year tradition at Kalamazoo College,” Associate Dean of Students Dana Jansma said. “College students everywhere are required to declare a major, but here at K we make it a special event and celebration.”
Jansma also said it’s a way to celebrate students finding their academic home.
“It is a real rite-of-passage for sophomores,” she said.
K senior Emma Eisenbeis, a political science and German double major, recalled the excitement of her Declaration of Major Day. “This event gives you the opportunity to situate yourself in your academic community with your fellow peers and faculty. It really hits you that this is the start of your career path,” Eisenbeis said.
This event typically merges the two camps of students into one, where they all have a sense of where their paths are headed. And if something changes, no worries. Thanks to the flexibility of the K-Plan, the College will work with students to make a switch of major or majors as seamless as possible.
Kalamazoo College alumnus Peter Rothstein ’14 is celebrating his selection in the 2019 edition of 30 Under 30, Forbes’ annual list of 600 young visionaries from 20 industries.
Rothstein, originally from West Bloomfield, Michigan, is the director of operations for Brooklyn, New York-based Dona Chai. He and his sister, Amy, founded the company, crafting tea concentrates and sodas brewed with spices from around the world. Its products are available at independent coffee shops and Whole Foods stores, mostly on the East and West Coast.
Tea leaves couldn’t have predicted a coffee-shop-inspired success for Rothstein after he graduated from K with a business degree. Rothstein admitted he doesn’t care for coffee and the last time he had any was years ago.
“And that was when I tried a decaf cappuccino with sugar packets and more sugar packets,” he said. However, in 2014, “Amy was attending New York University when she noticed a trend toward better coffee. People wanted higher quality and better baked goods, but people were still using big brand names.”
Armed with ideas and some encouragement from their dad, who is a venture capitalist, the pair created Dona Chai. Today, the company’s masala chai and turmeric tea concentrates are mixed with milk and served hot. Its soda flavors include Juniper Lime Spice, Turmeric Honeybush and Pink Peppercorn.
“There was a lot of learning and trial and error for us at first,” Rothstein said. “It took about two years for us to realize we would be successful.”
At that point, Dona Chai products started getting sold at Whole Foods locations, and the company eclipsed $600,000 in revenue after developing trade-show popularity.
“Even then it still took a couple of months,” Rothstein said, adding that selling a new tea in a retail location requires customers to change something about their morning routine for the product to draw demand. “It took working with customers and baristas. But after that, we saw inventory turn rapidly, and we realized we would be successful.”
When Rothstein reflects on his success, he credits K, the liberal arts and the K-Plan, Kalamazoo College’s distinctive approach to the liberal arts and sciences, for teaching him to think differently and solve problems. Rothstein added a corporate finance course, led by Associate Professor of Economics and Business Tim Moffit ’80, was among his favorites at K.
Riley is “the type of guy who can put his arm around you and nurture you, or he can push you beyond what you think you can do,” said Rothstein, who competed in tennis and studied abroad in Aberdeen, Scotland, in his years at K. “Once I got to K I realized it had a lot of Mark Rileys. That included everyone from my professors to the general staff, to the trainers, to the Registrar’s Office and others. I can’t thank Kalamazoo College enough.”
Read more about Rothstein, his sister, Dona Chai and others honored in the 30 Under 30 Food and Drink category at Forbes’ website.
Two new study abroad programs in 2019 will provide Kalamazoo College students with intercultural experience opportunities in global internships and civic engagement.
The first, available in winter term 2019, will allow students to work with museums and schools in Oaxaca, Mexico, through a partnership with K’s Center for Civic Engagement. Students will facilitate arts-focused projects that explore and amplify indigenous communities’ traditions while living with local families. In addition to promoting academic learning, this format will provide students with personal growth and an awareness of their global citizenship.
The second, available in fall 2019, will allow students to study Chinese while completing internships in a variety of industries in Shanghai. The program will follow a common K study abroad theme of allowing students to better understand the cultural influences that affect global industries while gaining practical experience in a work environment.
These programs will join 45 others in 22 countries accessible to K students. Other themes within the other programs include examinations of hardships among people of color in other countries, migration and global poverty.
Margaret Wiedenhoeft, director of the Center for International Programs says intercultural immersion is a key component of K education and encourages students to plan for an intercultural experience from the moment they step on campus. Here are six things first-year students can do when they arrive this fall to prepare for an international immersion and intercultural experience as juniors.
Build an Intercultural Experience into Your Academic Plan
When students arrive, they are assigned an adviser to help them develop academic plans compatible with their interests, abilities and goals, making the most of their undergraduate education.
As partners, students and advisers should envision how their academic plans and study abroad are compatible.
“Students should think about their four-year plan, but they should think broader than, ‘What course should I take?’ ” Wiedenhoeft said. “They should think about how to integrate and complement what they learn on campus with the experience and language they could gain from being abroad.”
Know Help is Available
Some students might think they can’t afford to study abroad. Others, during their time at K, encounter complications such as family financial hardship or a change of major. Yet they should realize study abroad is possible despite such obstacles.
“There are often things students can do to meet academic goals or requirements and get off campus when majors change,” Wiedenhoeft said. Also, “thanks to generous alumni, we have funds available to help with additional costs or plane tickets, for example,” she added. “It’s important that students know if they don’t feel they have access, they can still take advantage of study abroad.”
Get to Know International Students
According to the latest student census, about 8 percent of K’s degree-seeking students are international students. They can provide excellent information regarding intercultural experience opportunities.
“Students should make connections often because each is an opportunity to hear about new pathways they can take at K,” Wiedenhoeft said. “This also helps students make the most of their transition from high school to college. Take advantage and think about the experience you want by the time you’re done because the four years go quickly. Think intentionally about others’ experiences and how they can inform you.”
Seek a Fresh Perspective
Students apprehensive over international relations or global politics should take heart that an intercultural experience can change how they see the world and lead to greater understandings.
“When they travel, students will meet local people,” Wiedenhoeft said. “Students will understand, see and live from their point of view. It can be challenging, but it’s important we think about the future of ourselves in the world.”
Seek Your Passport Sept. 21
K, in collaboration with Western Michigan University, is helping students get their passports through a passport caravan. Students will have their portraits taken, and high financial-need students could be eligible to file their applications for free. Students only need a certified U.S. birth certificate and a copy of that certificate they can submit.
Stay tuned for more information on how to sign up for the passport caravan.
Visit CIP Staff
The Center for International Programs is filled with friendly, knowledgeable staff members who help students with study abroad planning, applications, policies, calendars and details about K-sponsored and approved programs. They can help students find their best intercultural experiences and keep them on track for those opportunities.
“Come in and see us early and often,” Wiedenhoeft said.
For more information on the CIP or to schedule an appointment with a staff member, call 269.337.7133.
Kalamazoo College is among 20 colleges and universities nationwide to be named a Best Buy School in the just-published 2019 edition of the highly respected Fiske Guide to Colleges.
Fiske says it based the ratings on “outstanding educational value as determined by academic quality in relation to the net cost of attendance.” The guide says of Kalamazoo College: “Ninety-eight percent of students at this globally oriented liberal arts school receive financial aid and 70 percent study abroad for the same price that they pay for regular tuition.”
Eric Staab, K’s dean of admission and financial aid, says Fiske’s recognition comes as no surprise.
“At Kalamazoo College, the flexibility of the K-Plan, our integrated approach to an excellent education in the liberal arts and science, allows us to seek out students with a broad array of interests, achievements and experiences,” Staab says. “We work hard to ensure that cost is not a barrier for students who can contribute their distinctive ideas and talents to, and benefit from, our richly diverse campus and programs.”
Chartered in 1833, Kalamazoo College is among the nation’s 100 oldest colleges and universities. It ranks in the top 2 percent among the nation’s four-year liberal arts colleges for the percentage of graduates who go on to earn doctorate degrees.
K is the only college in the Great Lakes region named to the Best Buy Schools list, which is comprised of 10 public and 10 private universities and colleges.
Established by former New York Times education editor Edward B. Fiske, the Fiske Guide to Colleges has been among the foremost sources of information about higher education quality and affordability for more than 30 years. USA Today has deemed it “the best college guide you can buy.”
For more information about Kalamazoo College, visit www.kzoo.edu.
She says that while she was a basketball player in high school, she went to the community gym in her Detroit suburb daily during the summer to practice her jump shot. One day, however, an employee of the Detroit Pistons NBA team told her she would have to leave because the courts were reserved for a team-run youth basketball program.
“I started to pack up but then I looked around and saw they were way understaffed for the event they were going to hold,” she recalls. “So I went back up to the guy and I offered my assistance. He took me up on the offer and I helped set up chairs, run the scoreboard, that sort of thing, and helped to clean up when it was over.”
After the event, she says, the employee chatted with her and ended up offering her a summer job at the Pistons’ youth basketball camp.
Along the way, she got to meet Pistons players including Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson and people in the team’s corporate office. So when it came time to seek an internship in summer 2017, she was well-situated to apply to the Pistons. She worked in community relations and marketing for the team, conceiving a career forum for girls 9 to 16 and then running every aspect of the event, which included presenting a panel of college basketball players and women business leaders.
That, in turn, set her up for this summer’s internship. With the help of K’s Center for Career and Professional Development and with advice from her professors, the economics and business major applied for the highly competitive program and was one of 50 students chosen from a pool of 6,000. She’s working in the retail division of the NBA’s Global Partnerships Department, which manages all aspects of the league’s relationship with companies including Nike, New Era, Foot Locker and Amazon.
That relationship includes activities such as licensing the sale of NBA-branded merchandise, arranging for advertising on NBA TV, approving the use of the NBA logo in social media messages and arranging player appearances at partner businesses, she says. Her role has been mainly in research. One assignment tasked her with finding out everything she could about how the NBA could work with Target Corp., and she says she discovered a natural fit in both organizations’ emphasis on supporting community voluntarism—a synergy around which her boss now is building a partnership program.
She says her K education has given her a real advantage in her role, especially a business research methods course that prepares students for their Senior Individualized Project (SIP). Business and economics professor Timothy Moffit ’80 put a heavy emphasis on identifying information sources in research papers, so in a PowerPoint presentation to NBA professionals, she says, she included a final slide listing all of her sources—about 30, and many of them recognizable names.
She says it helped cement the credibility and validity of her proposal. “They were really impressed. It’s not something that they were expecting.”
A Chinese minor who studied abroad in China during the 2017-18 school year, Moss also has had a chance to use her language skills, aiding her boss in a conference call with the NBA office in China, she says. And content- and video-editing skills she learned in a documentary filmmaking course have turned out to be in high demand, as well.
“Every day is a new day at the league,” she says. “You have to be very multidimensional. Part of the Kalamazoo College liberal arts experience is being able to study multiple subjects because the K-Plan is so flexible.”
With the experience gained in her internships, and a planned SIP contrasting consumer perceptions of professional sports in the United States and China, she hopes to land a corporate job in international sports after graduation. Her ultimate goal—“really just a dream” at this point, she says—would be to start a nonprofit venture that uses sports to connect with and empower Chinese girls.
“I was adopted from China, and when I went to my study abroad in China, I got to volunteer coach in some of the schools, and there was a huge absence of girls in all of the basketball programs,” she says, adding that Chinese girls get little encouragement to participate in team sports in general.
In another effort to help people achieve their goals, she is teaming with fellow Kalamazoo College athletesAlex Dupree ’21 and Jordan Wiley ’19 to form a sports business club for K students that will aid them in charting their way to careers in sports-oriented businesses and link them with alumni in the field.
Her effort to create what she calls “new channels and opportunities” for her classmates echoes what she says is her goal on the lacrosse field and basketball court: “to play for my teammates and make great memories.”
Moss’ enthusiasm and cooperative yet competitive spirit wins high praise from K physical education professor and coach Jeanne Hess.
“Amanda is one of the most committed players and teammates I’ve seen come through Kalamazoo College,” Hess says. “She plays with passion and ferocity and she’s fun to watch. She’s going to do great things.”
“I think I’ve always had it in the back of my mind,” he says. “But that was when I really started to pursue it and decide it was what I wanted to do.”
The Hornet football offensive lineman’s ambition is well known to Head Coach Jamie Zorbo ’00, who mentors his players both on and off the field. In keeping with the emphasis in the K-Plan on experiential education, Zorbo nominated Bez for the NCAA Career in Sports Forum at the NCAA’s national office in Indianapolis in late May and early June 2018.
Bez was one of just 240 juniors and seniors chosen from more than 460,000 U.S. collegiate athletes to attend the all-expenses-paid forum, which the NCAA says is designed to assist them in charting their career paths as athletics professionals.
Over four days, he got to meet coaches, athletic directors and athletic staff from colleges and universities across the nation.
“It was all networking and workshops: how to make a better resume, different ways to connect with people, more information about the different careers in athletics, and particularly college athletics,” he says. “There were so many things we learned how to do and learned more about.”
The history major and political science minor says the biggest benefit may have been meeting fellow college athletes who will be among his future professional peers.
“Initially a lot of us went there with the idea that we were going to try to meet people in a position we want to be in. So a lot of us were trying to network with the people who have jobs,” he says. “And by the end, we all realized it was way more important to network with our peers, to try to get to know them. For example, I want to coach, and I met a guy who wants to be an athletic director. So we got to talking, and I was like, ‘Down the road, maybe one day, we’ll cross paths and you’ll get to hire me.’ ”
Bez, who is spending the summer as an intern in the Michigan State University athletic director’s office, says the biggest takeaway from the conference was “you have to build genuine relationships with people. If they just know your name, that’s not really enough. You have to know who people are and they have to know you in order for that to be a productive relationship. For both of you it has to be genuine.”
That’s the sort of relationship he—and, he says, his teammates—have with Zorbo.
“I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve gotten to be around Coach a lot during my time at K,” he says. “Whether it’s calling me into his office to have an extended conversation or just encountering something and him saying, ‘Hey, if you want to be a coach, this is what you need to know,’ I’ve had a pretty in-depth relationship with him.”
He says Zorbo’s off-field efforts for his players also include making sure they get to know K football alumni who can help them in their athletic and academic pursuits.
“Through Coach, I’ve been able to build my own network and have these people who share a commonality with me,” Bez says.
With Zorbo’s example, he talks about coaching not in terms of wins and losses, but as a way of making a difference in other people’s lives—and his own.
“I think the best thing about coaching is the relationships you get to build and the effect you get to have on people,” he says. “I mean, when I look back on my life, aside from my parents and family, the biggest impact on me has been my coaches. Those people shaped me to be who I am. I think that would be a spot really suited to me to have an impact on other people, but also for them to have an impact on me.”
Some students enter college knowing exactly what they want to do. Many don’t or change their minds at some point early in their academic careers. Kalamazoo College, with a liberal arts curriculum embodied in the K-Plan that is designed for exploration and discovery, gives students a year and a half to sample various academic fields before choosing a major, and makes it possible for them to do so without sacrificing their ability to graduate in four years. This week’s Declaration of Major Day, the midpoint of their sophomore year, is a festive gathering where they formally designate their majors, minors and concentrations.
The banquet hall at Hicks Student Center is packed as each department sets up a booth. Students go from table to table, committing to their fields of study and getting answers to last-minute questions. Wearing stickers declaring they made their choices, they are treated to pieces of “Declaration Cake,” courtesy of Dining Services, and share the big moment with one another and the rest of campus.
“It’s a real rite of passage for students because it’s a big decision and they’re finding their academic home,” said Associate Dean of Students Dana Jansma. “Instead of just processing paperwork, we make it a communitywide celebration.”
Jansma also said it’s also a way for the College to show that it believes every student at K is important, whether they have a record of distinguished scholarship or are newly committed to their academic path.
“We want sophomores to know we’re excited about their plans and their accomplishments,” she said.
“It was an opportunity for everyone in my class to come together and show each other what we were all passionate about,” Hopper said.
And it can be cathartic. Sometimes the act of making a decision can spur a rethinking that leads to a different path. If it does, no worries: Thanks to the flexibility of the K-Plan, the College will work with students to make a switch of major or majors as seamless as possible.