From K to Kenya: Three Unite 8,000 Miles Away at UNICEF

Three K Alumnae at in front of a UNICEF poster in Kenya
Annika Rigole ’04, visiting international program alumna Sharon Musee and Paloma Clohossey
‘11 are three with Kalamazoo College connections who all work about 8,000 miles from campus
at UNICEF in Kenya.

At Kalamazoo College, international immersion and study abroad offers students opportunities to delve deep into other cultures. Along the way, they develop knowledge and skills that parlay into future careers and often form meaningful personal relationships with others around the world.

Such is the case for Paloma Clohossey ‘11, visiting international program alumna Sharon Musee and Annika Rigole ’04. Although each of them had a distinctive road in finding their way to Kalamazoo College, all three have succeeded in journeys that have taken them professionally to UNICEF in Kenya. It might seem amazing that three alumnae from a small liberal arts and sciences institution such as K all ended up at the same employer nearly 8,000 miles away. However, it makes sense that UNICEF is a desirable destination when one considers the College’s connections with foreign study and service learning.

UNICEF, originally called the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund in full, is now the United Nations Children’s Fund, an agency of the United Nations responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide.

The organization was established in 1946 in the aftermath of World War II to help children and young people whose lives were at risk no matter what role their country had played in the war. In cooperation with governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and others, UNICEF works to advance and protect children’s rights while providing health care, immunizations, nutrition, access to safe water and sanitation services, education, protection and emergency relief.

‘You’re the Best Female Student in Your Class’

Of the three with K connections, Musee is the only one originally from Kenya. She first attended the University of Nairobi when she began her higher education pursuits, a time that revealed her limited world experience, she said. She didn’t know there was such a thing as an exchange program that would allow her to study in the United States until she got a call from the university’s Registrar’s Office, requesting an appointment.

Musee was apprehensive about the meeting, yet her fears were soon quelled.

“It was within walking distance, so I walked over and they said, ‘do you know why we called you here?’” Musee said. “I said, ‘no, what did I do?’ They said, ‘Yes, you’ve done things, but they’re why we think you’re the best female student in your class.’”

Her recognition as an accomplished student meant Musee was empowered to attend college in the U.S. through an exchange program, and as luck would have it, the program brought her to K.

“I say it was lucky because it wasn’t something I was working for,” she said. “I was working hard to get good grades, but I was not expecting to go to K.”

Today, Musee is a partnerships and resources mobilizations officer who supports UNICEF in cultivating new public partnerships and managing its existing public partnerships.

“Being at K exposed me to a lot to multicultural settings, so I was meeting people that don’t have the same background as I do,” Musee said. “When I left K, I went back to the University of Nairobi, I graduated, and almost immediately got a job in the public sector. I kept traveling in the region. It was very easy for me to fit in if I went into Somalia or into South Sudan. If I went to speak to donors who would be people of a different race or a different culture of a different color, I would say it was very natural for me to fit in as opposed to before K. It came naturally for me as a result of K.”

‘They Immediately Bought My Plane Ticket for Me to Go Visit’

Clohossey, an English and psychology double major from California, first learned of K when her parents read about it in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and encouraged her to visit as a result.

“When I say encouraged, I mean they immediately bought my plane ticket for me to go visit and I’m grateful to this day for all their support,” Clohossey said. “I thought there was no way I would go to college at a place called Kalamazoo. But as soon as I stepped foot on the campus, I remember having an intuitive feeling that it was going to be the place for me.”

Clohossey chose to study abroad in Africa and selected Kenya through a process of elimination. Her study abroad cohort’s visit at the University of Nairobi turned out to be when she would meet Musee—before Musee had ever arrived at K.

When Musee’s life path did curve toward K, the two became friends and they participated together in College Singers. In fact, Clohossey said their relationship makes them feel more like sisters and Musee agreed.

“We share a lot,” Musee said. “We go for random lunches. I know that if I need something quickly, I can reach out to Paloma offline—outside of the office or within the office—and I know that she’s got me. This is the sisterhood I feel knowing that we went to K.”

Clohossey says she splits her time between supporting regional program planning and regional knowledge management efforts for UNICEF.

“These functions involve things like supporting UNICEF’s annual work planning, monitoring and reporting, as well as ensuring that UNICEF is capturing, documenting, organizing and using knowledge to ensure we’re as effective as we can be as we pursue our goal of achieving results for children and protecting their rights,” Clohossey said.

The connections she has with colleagues like Musee is a big part of what makes the job special.

“Meeting again was like going back 10 years,” Clohossey said. “We were super happy to see each other.”

‘K Is Such a Special Place’

After her years as a mathematics and economics and business double major at K, Rigole—originally from Belgium and a Michigander since age 10—served in AmeriCorps where she helped nonprofits and government agencies in the southeastern U.S. alongside a team of about 10 people.

In starting her career, she embraced a passion for nurturing education. Through work with an international educational exchange organization, then grad school at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and subsequent work with NGOs in Malawi and Zambia, she helped improve access to quality education and skill-building opportunities, particularly for young girls.

“Education has always meant so much to me because I love learning and it has been so formative in my life,” Rigole said. “It was important to me that I could help others have similar opportunities.”

When she looked for a career shift toward the end of her time in Zambia, she found UNICEF. Rigole worked with UNICEF in New York for two years as a consultant strengthening monitoring, evaluation and research in education before applying for her position at the regional office in Kenya.

“As a regional office, we provide technical support to our country offices,” Rigole said. “In particular, I focus on strengthening data systems within education, and the use of data to inform decision making. It’s about having data and research speak to policy, for example so governments can better understand the differences between districts or provinces and how they’re doing in terms of equity and quality, or can learn from how some schools perform better than others.”

Rigole didn’t know Clohossey or Musee when she started at UNICEF, but that changed at a July 4 holiday barbecue.

“I didn’t know that many people yet, but I’d been invited by another colleague of ours,” Rigole said. “I was introduced to Paloma and she said she was from California. I said I was from Michigan. She said, ‘Oh, I went to college in Michigan.’ I said, ‘Oh, cool! Where?’ She said, ‘It’s a small liberal arts school.’ I said, ‘What’s the name?’ She said, ‘Kalamazoo College.’ I said, ‘I went to Kalamazoo College!’”

Rigole doesn’t work with Musee very often, although Clohossey has introduced them since. However, working with Clohossey has been special for Rigole since the moment they met.

“Immediately it felt good to have something in common with her,” Rigole said. “It’s not quite like family, but it gives you this bond because K is such a special place and shared experience.”

K Student Earns Alpha Lambda Delta Scholarship

Alpha Lambda Delta scholarship recipient Shahriar Akhavan Tafti ’24
Shahriar Akhavan Tafti ’24 is receiving a merit
scholarship from Alpha Lambda Delta.

For the first time in nearly 10 years, a Kalamazoo College student is receiving a merit scholarship from Alpha Lambda Delta (ALD), the honor society for first-year academic success.

Shahriar Akhavan Tafti ’24 will receive one of 50 undergraduate scholarships worth $1,000 to $6,000 each, as the honor society issues a total of $105,000 nationally through the Jo Anne J. Trow Award.

Akhavan Tafti is a computer science major and German and psychology minor from Iran who is looking to expand K’s involvement in Alpha Lambda Delta while collaborating with the chapter at Western Michigan University.

The Jo Anne J. Trow Award was instated in 1988 to honor a past national president of Alpha Lambda Delta. The scholarship requires that applicants gather at least two letters of recommendation and maintain a 3.5 grade-point average on a four-point scale.

“One of the reasons my application stood out was my proposed plan to expand Alpha Lambda Delta’s presence throughout our campus,” Akhavan Tafti said. “I hope to do this with the help of this year’s new ALD initiates. The end goal is to create a self-sustaining ALD organization to facilitate academic excellence and engagement with ALD, which will allow more students from our College to receive ALD scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and study abroad funding in return for their contributions to ALD.”

Houseless to Benefit from K Team’s Work

A Kalamazoo College faculty member and three of her students are among the people looking to help local houseless women and their young children achieve housing and health equity.

Visiting-Assistant-Professor-Jennifer-Mills-Helps-Houseless-Moms
Visiting Assistant Professor of
Psychology Jennifer Mills is the grant
writer for the Home Start Initiative, a
local project that aims to help
houseless women and their children.
Playgrown CEO Michelle Johnson
Playgrown CEO Michelle Johnson

Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Jennifer Mills—with visionary assistance from Playgrown CEO Michelle Johnson—is the grant writer for the Home Start Initiative, a Kalamazoo County-backed project that will build a development of 10 homes with a park, parking area, community courtyard and more near a former makeshift houseless encampment next to the Kalamazoo River at Ampersee Avenue.

The Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners awarded the Home Start Initiative, a collaboration between Playgrown and the Institute of Public Scholarship, more than $318,000 in April for the sake of addressing a local shortage of affordable housing. Specifically, it will help people living at or below 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI) eventually achieve ownership of the homes in the project.

Mills, an expert in the social determinants of health, said the most exciting part of the project for her is that the initiative is partnering with Western Michigan University’s Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine as well as the health department and Healthy Babies Healthy Starts in Kalamazoo County to ensure that women and their children will obtain at least five of those homes. Her students then will build a research agenda around the partnership and track health outcomes.

“We know in public health that a relationship exists between housing equity and health outcomes,” Mills said. “We’re trying to intervene early to give children some of the stability that can impact those social determinants of health. We’ll be working closely with the medical school and the public health department to identify all the measures we want to track.”

A groundbreaking is expected this fall. In the meantime, students such as Janet Fernandez ’25 and Natalie Pineda ’25 will interview the houseless community from the same area at Ampersee and Hotop avenues, where they conducted interviews in a previous first-year seminar.

Natalie-Pineda-Helps-Houseless-Women-and-Their-Children
Natalie Pineda ’25

The day they first showed up for those first-year seminar interviews, Fernandez and Pineda saw community members hurrying to pick up their belongings and worrying about where they could go next with the encampment being shut down.

“I think their stories are really important because they’re often just seen as being ‘the homeless,’” Pineda said. “If we’re acting as a community of Kalamazoo, and if we’re trying to provide better housing for people who live here, the most important place to start is with their stories and asking what their needs are because they’re the ones who are living that situation.”

Taking those stories and providing equity is an important part of sustaining the community, Fernandez said. Both Fernandez and Pineda are from communities, Chicago and Los Angeles respectively, where significant numbers of people are houseless. It’s nothing new to either of them. Yet the Home Start Initiative represents the first time Fernandez has seen a project of its kind.

“We have institutions and places in our cities where houseless people can go and sleep overnight,” she said. “But you’ll never see a program like the one we’re working on, where people get to live in a house and eventually own it. Trying to build that generational wealth is incredibly important.”

One of the first measures of success for the Home Start Initiative would be improved reading scores for the children involved over the next few years.

Skyler Rogers ’23

“Within the first few years of life, a lot of the social determinants of health begin to play a role in how a child’s brain develops and how different processes in the body take place,” said Skyler Rogers ’23, a third K student participating in the project.

“Having a stable, foundational childhood can change things drastically. It can impact a child’s cognitive abilities from a young age, and that’s where third-grade reading levels come into play. By the time a child reaches third grade, you can estimate their likelihood of graduating from high school and moving forward in life.”

As their work progresses, all of K’s representatives contributing to the Home Start Initiative are taking pride in their work. It’s a big investment that might not always represent what some in Kalamazoo believe is a top priority in addressing the issue of houselessness, but Mills and her students aren’t just assuming what the houseless community needs to provide a bare minimum of support. Instead, they’re talking to people to determine their exact needs.

“It feels amazing to see this,” Pineda said. “The amenities provide lifestyle help and can really ground a person to help them get back on their feet. Any other homeless shelter can provide you with a roof over your head for one night. But this project is helping people stay stable for a long period of time. It can help you get a job. If you have children, they provide daycare. All those aspects are important and add to these stories. It’s easy to think the homeless just need somewhere to sleep. But these are people, too, who will get a chance to start their lives again with this project.”

Chemistry Student Selected as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow

Portrait of National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow Ola Bartolik '22
Ola Bartolik ’22 has been selected by the National
Science Foundation as a Graduate Research
Fellow to support her graduate career at the
University of Michigan.

Ola Bartolik ’22 has been selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a Graduate Research Fellow to support her graduate career at the University of Michigan.

Bartolik will graduate from Kalamazoo College in June with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a biochemistry concentration and a psychology minor. In August, she will begin a Ph.D. program at the University of Michigan, where she previously participated in research in the lab of Paul Jenkins for her Senior Integrated Project.

The National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support, including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost of education allowance of $12,000 to the institution. The fellowship also provides access to opportunities for professional development.

Approximately 2,000 applicants are offered a fellowship from among more than 12,000 applicants per competition.

“I think it’s really important that students at K be aware of the fellowship,” Bartolik said. Bartolik said the application process offered experience in writing a research proposal and bolstered her grad school applications by showing she was already thinking about funding and research. While Bartolik had considered taking a gap year before entering graduate school, the combination of the fellowship offer with the community she has already found at the University of Michigan while working on her SIP proved irresistible.

“I was having a lot of doubt as to whether I could really put myself through a Ph.D. or whether I had the skills and the knowledge to do it,” Bartolik said. “If the National Science Foundation saw enough potential to invest in me, that makes me think I’m ready for grad school.

“When I posted the announcement on my academic Twitter, Paul Jenkins retweeted it, and the University of Michigan neuroscience program retweeted it, too. The head of the program emailed me that I should be really proud. I hadn’t even committed to graduate school yet and they were already celebrating with me.”

Bartolik was also quick to share the news with the chemistry department at K.

“We are very proud of Ola,” said Blakely Tresca, Roger F. and Harriet G. Varney Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “This is an amazing accomplishment for an undergraduate student before starting a Ph.D. program. Ola is the first chemistry major in 25 years to earn this honor while still a student at K.”

Bartolik will earn her Ph.D. as part of the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS) at the University of Michigan, an umbrella program that comprises a variety of research fields including neuroscience, pharmacology, biochemistry and more.

“I’m really interested in trying to combine either neuroscience and pharmacology, or neuroscience and chemistry, for designing new drugs or new molecules that could be used for research or for therapeutic purposes,” Bartolik said. “My goal has always been to combine chemistry with neuroscience because I like chemistry; I don’t want to let go of it. Neuroscience can be very bio-heavy and I feel like having a chemist’s perspective on biological systems like the brain is really valuable.”

While her graduate work in PIBS is funded, Bartolik said, research opportunities can be limited based on each lab’s available funding.

“The fellowship opens me up to more lab opportunities and makes it easier to secure a spot in a lab,” Bartolik said.

At this point, Bartolik is interested in possible careers with a pharmaceutical or biomedical company as well as the field of science communication.

“Something that’s been interesting to me more and more is science communication, and how to effectively communicate science to people who don’t have the background,” Bartolik said. “The SIP was good practice; even though it was to a chemistry major audience, I still had to explain how neurons work and why this research is important. I found that I like presenting; I don’t get as nervous as I used to. And I like to geek out about my work around neuroscience, so I think that’s something I want to explore more, opportunities in journalism or some sort of science communication.”

In addition to the professional affirmation and practical benefits, the award is personally meaningful to Bartolik.

“My father passed away in 2017 from a heart attack,” Bartolik said. “He always supported me in high school, in everything I did. And I feel like he would have been so proud of me. I felt him with me, celebrating. My parents left everything behind in Poland so my sisters and I could have a better life and more opportunities. I feel like I’m fulfilling that and trying to make the most out of the life I’ve been given.

“I feel like this is what I was meant to do.”

NSF has funded Graduate Research Fellowships since 1952. More than 70 percent of fellows complete their doctorates within 11 years, 42 fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates, and more than 450 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences. Applications are generally due in October. For more information, visit the National Science Foundation website.

K Student’s Dedication Leads to Behind-the-Scenes Work at the Olympics

Uyen Trinh Next to the Olympics Rings
Uyen Trinh ’21 stands next to the Olympic Rings in Tokyo.

It takes dedication, perseverance and determination for the world’s best athletes to reach the Olympics, just as it did for Uyen Trinh ’21 to be a part of the behind-the-scenes efforts at the Summer Games in Tokyo. She was there to gain global career experience while working as an accountant in the Finance Department of Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS). 

OBS was established through the International Olympic Committee in 2001 to produce live television, radio and digital coverage of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Organizations such as the New York Times and NBC set up, along with OBS, at Tokyo Big Sight, an international exhibition center composed of the International Broadcast Center and the Main Press Center as the Games began. 

Uyen Trinh at the Olympics
Uyen Trinh ’21 poses in front of Tokyo Big Sight, the international
exhibition center where she worked to support the Olympics behind the scenes.

Trinh, an international student from Vietnam majoring in business and psychology with a minor in Japanese at K, played important roles processing paperwork, receipts, documents and bills for the Olympic Games while stationed in the International Broadcasting Center. A typical six-day workweek involved a one-hour commute on the subway, a trip through security and working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day with the Olympics, lasting about a month. 

Trinh gained the opportunity while studying abroad through K at Waseda University in Tokyo in 2019. At that time, a friend from the university’s Tae Kwon Do club told her about training for a position at the Olympics.  

“After Tae Kwon Do practice that night, I looked up OBS right away because it sounded like a fascinating opportunity,” Trinh said. “I found out the application deadline was a day or two later, so I filled out and submitted the application right away in one sitting.”

Uyen Trinh at the Finance Department for the Olympics
Uyen Trinh ’21 poses for a photo outside the Olympic Broadcasting Services
Finance Department where she worked during the Games.

Trinh then proceeded to interview for the accounting position.

“In the interviews, I told them I wanted to work for the Olympics because watching the Games has always given me unforgettable feelings,” she said. “And the Japanese people had been treating me really well. I thought Tokyo 2020 was a great opportunity to present Japan to the world. It was a chance for me to return the favor of their kindness and help deliver a positive image of Japan.” 

Her interest in accounting made the impression she left with her interviewers even more favorable. 

“I said that I wanted to do accounting because I’d been keeping track of my personal expenses and it really excited me to see numbers matching up,” Trinh said. “A week later I got a certificate saying I was qualified to work for the Olympics.” 

However, in March 2020, COVID-19 began spreading, forcing Trinh to leave Japan and putting the Games in doubt.

“I still kept a close eye on the Olympics and was disheartened when they decided to postpone the Games. I questioned my chances of coming back,” Trinh said. “September 2020 was the first time I heard back from them. They asked, ‘Are you still interested in working for the Olympics?’ I thought, ‘What do you mean? This is everything I have been waiting for.’ All the logistics afterward in preparation for my departure to Japan were completed via email and the OBS portal website. I received their welcome package in February 2021 with an accreditation card, which served as my visa to enter Japan. There were a lot of requirements regarding COVID that made the week before the flight especially stressful.” 

Upon her return to Japan, COVID-19 regulations required her to quarantine at a hotel for the first 14 days. She was restricted to commuting only between the hotel, OBS and a convenience store next to the hotel. After those weeks, a former host family from her time on study abroad welcomed her to stay with them.  

“I learned to treasure every relationship I had with people. You never know what kind of opportunity anyone could bring to you and what your relationship could grow to be. Most of my colleagues were from countries other than Japan like Spain, Bangladesh and Greece. It’s just wonderful to think that working for the Olympics has enabled people from all over the world to meet and get to know each other regardless of the pandemic. Returning to Japan this time also made me realize how many meaningful relationships I have made during only six months of study abroad. This whole adventure was terrific and I’m so glad I was able to make it. Different from the abrupt departure last time because of COVID, I left Japan this time in peace and with more confidence in myself. This valuable experience will set the stage for my career in finance after K.”

Kalamazoo College Welcomes New Faculty Members

Kalamazoo College is pleased to welcome the following faculty members to campus this fall:

Assistant Professor of Spanish Tris Faulkner

Assistant Professor of Spanish Tris Faulkner
Assistant Professor of Spanish Tris Faulkner

Tris Faulkner, who is originally from Jamaica, lived in Chile for about two years, working as a translator and interpreter at a prominent law firm before earning a Ph.D. in Spanish linguistics from Georgetown University. She also has professional experience as a translator and interpreter at the Embassy of Venezuela, and in similar roles at a legal firm and a business school in North Carolina.

Faulkner has lived in Spain and visited various Spanish-speaking countries, experiences which have helped her to observe the diversity that characterizes the Spanish language. Her research investigates the semantics and pragmatics of variation in verbal mood, tense, and aspect, as related to the Romance language family, English, and Jamaican Creole.

In addition to her Ph.D., Faulkner has master’s degrees from Georgetown (M.Sc. in Spanish linguistics) and Wake Forest University (M.A. in interpreting and translation studies), and a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University (B.A. in Spanish language and literature and international studies). She will teach seminars in Spanish linguistics, as well as various other courses in the upcoming academic year.

Assistant Professor of Religion Sohini Pillai

Assistant Professor of Religion Sohini Pillai
Assistant Professor of Religion Sohini Pillai

Sohini Pillai will teach courses this academic year on religious traditions in South Asia. She is a comparatist of South Asian religious literature and her area of specialization is the Mahabharata and Ramayana epic narrative traditions with a focus on retellings created in Hindi and Tamil.

Pillai is the co-editor of Many Mahabharatas (State University of New York Press, 2021), an introduction to diverse retellings of the Mahabharata tradition in the forms of classical dramas, premodern vernacular poems, regional performance traditions, commentaries, graphic novels, political essays, novels, and contemporary theater productions. She’s also a member of the Steering Committee for the Hinduism Unit at the American Academy of Religion.

Pillai has a Ph.D. in South and Southeast Asian studies from the University of California, Berkeley; a master’s degree in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies from Columbia University; and a bachelor’s degree in South Asia studies and theatre studies from Wellesley College.

Assistant Professor of Theatre Quincy Thomas

Assistant Professor of Theatre Quincy Thomas
Assistant Professor of Theatre Quincy Thomas

Quincy Thomas earned his Ph.D. in theatre and his performance studies certification from Bowling Green State University. His research centers on subjects including counter-storytelling, Black performativity in American culture, representations of the marginalized in popular culture, comedic and solo performance and performative writing. At K, he will teach directing, theatre history and playwriting, with further prior experience teaching theatre, performance studies and film.

His courses are informed on issues of cultural marginalization and misrepresentation in the arts, specifically of racial and ethnic minorities, women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. His work has been published in peer-reviewed academic journals, including the International Review of Qualitative Research and Puppetry International, and presented at national conferences, including the Mid-America Theatre Conference, the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, and the Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association (MAPACA). He currently serves as president of MAPACA. His most recent directorial offering was Robert Patrick’s Play-by-Play: A Spectacle of Ourselves: A Verse Farce in Two Acts. Thomas also has a background in acting. Some of his favorite roles played include Christopher in Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange, Albert in Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park, and most recently the role of Actor in Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit; Red Rabbit.

Assistant Professor of Economics Darshana Udayanganie

Assistant Professor of Economics Darshana Udayanganie
Assistant Professor of Economics Darshana Udayanganie

Darshana Udayanganie earned her Ph.D., with specializations in environmental economics and college teaching, and a master’s degree in economics from the University of New Hampshire. She also has a master’s degree in resource economics and policy from the University of Maine and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Before joining K in 2017 as a visiting assistant professor, she taught at Central Michigan University from 2014 to 2017, Merrimack College in 2013 and 2014, and the University of New Hampshire’s global student success program from 2011 to 2014.

Her current research focuses on urban economics and environmental economics. She also has published book chapters on economic growth in relation to military expenditure and international trade.

Assistant Professor of Japanese Brian White

Brian White will teach courses in Japanese language, literature and culture at K.  He specializes in contemporary (post-1945) Japanese popular culture and media studies.

He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, where he wrote a dissertation on 1960s Japanese sci-fi literature and film, asking specifically, “What can a genre do?” He will delve into that history when he teaches a course in the winter term this year on Japanese science fiction and media history.

White earned a bachelor’s degree in East Asian languages and civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Across his undergraduate and graduate careers, he has spent a total of two and a half years living in Japan, primarily in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kyoto. 

Assistant Professor of Chinese Yanshuo Zhang

Yanshuo Zhang’s research addresses multiethnic Chinese identities in literary and visual cultures produced in China and the U.S. Her research on multiethnic Chinese cultural productions helps diversify scholarly understanding of and teaching about modern Chinese national culture.

She was a lecturer in Stanford University’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) from 2018 through 2020, where she designed classes on cross-cultural explorations of diversity, particularly in Asia and the U.S. She also has been a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Michigan.

She earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Catherine University and a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Visiting Assistant Professor Vijayan Sundararaj

Vijayan Sundararaj leads a biology course this term in ecology and conservation. He has prior education experience as a lecturer, teaching assistant and topic lecturer between Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Canada, and Texas A&M University-Kingsville. His teaching interests include evolutionary ecology concepts, animal behavior, foraging behavior, predator-prey interactions, conservation biology, wildlife ecology, waterfowl ecology, mammalogy, spatial ecology, and introductory geographic information systems.

Sundararaj received a bachelor’s degree with a specialty in zoology from Gujarat University in India before earning a master’s degree in ecology from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel; a geographic information systems applications specialist graduate certificate from Sir Sandford Fleming College in Canada and a doctorate in forest sciences and wildlife ecology from Lakehead University.

Visiting Assistant Professor Eunice Uhm

Eunice Uhm specializes in modern and contemporary art, with a transnational focus on the United States and East Asia. Her work examines the conditions of migration and the diasporic aesthetic subjectivities in the works of contemporary Japanese and South Korean art from the 1960s to the present. She has previously taught courses on modern and contemporary art, East Asian art, and Asian American studies at Ohio State University. She has organized panels and presented her work on Asian American art at national conferences such as CAA. She is an active member of numerous grassroots community organizations for Asian Americans and immigrant rights, and she is involved in immigrant rights campaigns such as Love has no borders: A call for justice in our immigration system. Her essay, “Constructing Asian American Political and Aesthetic Subjectivities: Contradictions in the Works of Ruth Asawa,” is forthcoming (Verge: Studies in Global Asias, University of Minnesota Press).

Uhm received a master’s degree and a doctorate in the history of art from the Ohio State University. At K, she teaches courses on Asian and Asian American art, art and race, and transnationalism.

Visiting Assistant Professor Fungisai Musoni

Fungisai Musoni has joined the history department where she will teach courses in African civilizations, decolonization in West and Southern Africa, and U.S.-Africa relations since World War II.

Musoni has prior teaching experience in African literature, American politics and global issues, and social studies between the Ohio State University, Georgia State University, Gwinnett County Schools in Atlanta and the Zimbabwe Ministry of Education and Culture.

She fluently reads, writes and speaks the African languages of Shona and Manyika. Her education includes a bachelor’s degree in economic history and Shona from the University of Zimbabwe, Harare; master’s degrees in political science and history from Georgia State University and Mercer University respectively; and a doctorate in African American and African Studies from the Ohio State University.

Visiting Assistant Professor Badru-Deen Barry

Badru-Deen Barry teaches Introductory chemistry and biochemistry at K this fall.

His education includes a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone, master’s degrees in chemistry from Northeast Normal University in China and Michigan State University, and a doctorate in chemistry from Michigan State.

He previously served Michigan State and Northeast Normal as a graduate research assistant, Société Générale de Surveillance in Freetown, Sierra Leone, as port supervisor and chemist, and Fourah Bay College as a laboratory and teaching assistant.

Visiting Assistant Professor Mikela Zhezha-Thaumanavar

Mikela Zhezha-Thaumanavar is teaching courses in Spanish this fall as well as a course in foreign language teaching methods. In addition, she serves as the coordinator for the Spanish Teaching Assistants at K. She received her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate in Spanish linguistics from Western Michigan University.

She has previously taught courses in Spanish at Western Michigan University, Davenport University, and Kalamazoo Community College. She also served WMU as a guest professor, teaching in the institution’s Summer Translation Program. She previously has worked in translation and speaks Albanian and Italian in addition to English and Spanish.

Visiting Assistant Professor Jennifer Mills

Jennifer Mills is leading courses including seminars in psychology and health psychology this term. Mills holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, master’s degrees from Georgia College and State University and Western Michigan University, and a doctorate from WMU.

She is working on an executive master’s in public health at Emory University with an emphasis in prevention science. For the past 10 years, Mills has owned and operated MindBodyWell, a private counseling practice that focuses on science-based approaches to stress, depression and anxiety. 

Mills is an active member of the Institute for Public Scholarship, a local, anti-racist organization that works on issues of place and belonging. Her research interests focus on preventing and mitigating the impact of early childhood adversity on health. 

Visiting Assistant Professor Robert Mowry

Robert Mowry is teaching two sections of Introduction to Society and Culture offered by the Department of Anthropology and Sociology. His additional teaching interests include quantitative methods, disaster, the intersection of politics and the environment, and ways of seeing and knowing.

Mowry comes to Kalamazoo College from the University of Notre Dame, where he recently earned his Ph.D. in sociology. Previously, he earned master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Sheffield, and a B.A. from Earlham College.

As a teacher-scholar of disaster and politics, Mowry employs multiple methods to study the processes and outcomes of globally diverse, high-stakes political arenas—from post-disaster contentious politics in the U.S. and Japan to the gendered dynamics of protest participation in Europe. A related stream of research looks at how cultural processes of learning, memory, and thinking spur spontaneous laughter outbursts during Supreme Court oral arguments. His work has been published in Sociological Theory.

Visiting Assistant Professor Jennifer Perry

Jennifer Perry leads courses at K including General Psychology, Sensation and Perception, and Psychopharmacology in the Department of Psychology. Her credentials include a Bachelor of Arts from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Perry’s research includes studies on the ethics of laboratory animal research and the role of impulsive behavior in drug abuse.

School Psychologists Group Honors K Alumna

School Psychologists Group Honors Zoe Barnes
Zoe Barnes ’18 is being honored by
the National Association for School Psychologists.

A Kalamazoo College alumna, inspired by her experiences in diversity at K, has earned a special honor from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).

Zoe Barnes ’18, now a graduate student at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE), has received the 2021 Student Leader Champion Award for her efforts in advancing social justice throughout her university, in the community and through her chosen profession.

“I’m very excited because it’s a wonderful honor,” Barnes said. “Social justice is a buzzword to some, but it’s a constant, ongoing process of challenging what we know and checking our own biases. In school psychology, social justice is important because if you look at a school and see who the teachers and staff are, you will often see groups dominated by white staff members. They don’t reflect the increasing diversity of students, especially in public schools. Social justice can help us challenge the status quo.”

Several students at SIUE, including Barnes, expressed their interest in social justice to faculty last summer. The professors sensed an opportunity to connect them all, leading to the formation of the Graduate Students for Social Justice, a group that talked about injustices on campus and developed ideas for addressing social justice within their respective programs.

Barnes is a member of that group and also recently served as the social justice chair of the Graduate Organization for Child and Adolescent Psychology Students (GOCAPS) at SIUE. Her service led a faculty member to nominate Barnes for the NASP honors.

Barnes said the K community helped her develop an interest in diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice after she arrived from a predominantly white community in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At that point, Barnes started seeing more peers who looked like her. Students of color provided an energizing space where she could discuss the discrimination and microaggressions she experienced on campus with others who could relate.

“Being at K, and just being surrounded by people who look like me and had similar experiences really helped me,” Barnes said. “Talking helped put a name to the discomfort.”

Barnes double majored in Spanish and psychology and minored in anthropology-sociology at K. After a gap year, Barnes looked for help in determining her career path. At that point, she talked with Suzie Gonzalez ’83, spouse of K President Jorge G. Gonzalez.

“I went down this route to school psychology because of Suzie Gonzalez,” Barnes said. “I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life when I met up with her. She was a school psychologist and she definitely inspired me.”

Barnes earned her master’s degree through SIUE in December and now is seeking a clinical child and school psychology specialist degree with an expected graduation date of May 2022. She will be honored at NASP’s 2022 annual convention in February.

“I would love to make an impact however I can as a school psychologist,” Barnes said. “When I picture my career, I want to be firmly planted in a school district. I want to walk down the halls and recognize all the students and know their educational history. Early intervention is a huge part of school psychology and I would love to support them from the very beginning.”

Music Advertising Starts with Wheaties, Leads to Professor’s Book

Music Advertising Book
Kalamazoo College James A. B. Stone Professor of Psychology Siu-Lan Tan explores the psychology of music advertising in a new book she co-edited titled The Oxford Handbook of Music and Advertising, published by Oxford University Press. Photo credit: Madelijn Strick 

If you know Wheaties as the breakfast of champions, that’s thanks in part to the first-ever commercial jingle, which aired through radio on Christmas Eve in 1926. Since then, advertisers have used the psychology of music, a subject appealing to Kalamazoo College’s James A. B. Stone Professor of Psychology Siu-Lan Tan, to entice you to buy their products.

Tan is a co-editor of a new, nearly 1,000-page reference book published by Oxford University Press, titled The Oxford Handbook of Music and Advertising, which explores the ties between music and advertising from their earliest connections to the present day. She said jingles grew from that first ad in 1926 beyond radio advertising to the in-person human voice and other songs that shoppers heard.

“Historically, some of the first ways people sold their wares was to use music, and people would listen out for that tune at a marketplace,” Tan said. “People would hear it and know the flowers they like are around the corner, or they might realize the pots and pans are coming up.”

That might sound like an old way of doing business until you think of all the places where you associate memorable tunes with your favorite products and technologies.

“Advertisers started off with the human voice, and just this chant or melody, and today you might listen for the familiar music of your favorite video game at the arcade,” Tan said. “The book explores fascinating research on topics like advertising jingles, music in radio and TV ads, sonic branding, sound design as part of product design, how in-store music affects shoppers, and a lot more. Even though the fads might change, there are some principles and basic foundational ideas that will continue to resonate in advertising for a long time.”

Siu-Lan Tan discusses music advertising at Kalamazoo College
James A. B. Stone Professor of Psychology Siu-Lan Tan has previously published more than 25 journal articles and chapters and two books. Her new book, however, was her first project related specifically to music advertising. Photo credit: Keith Mumma, Kalamazoo College.

Tan has published more than 25 journal articles and chapters, and two books including Psychology of Music: From Sound to Significance and The Psychology of Music in Multimedia. Her expertise was also featured in SCORE: A Film Music Documentary, and later, an associated podcast. This book, however, was Tan’s first project related to music advertising.

“I just got even more fascinated in the psychology of music and music advertising from working with this book,” she said. “I’m really constantly surprised by how many connections there are and how wide this area is. I’m excited to think of how many more ways that the psychology of music can plug into another area.”

As an editor, Tan was one of three people who invited 44 authors to collaborate on this multidisciplinary book, and made sure the book’s chapters and stories meshed well with no overlap or gaps. She also ensured the book’s themes and centralized ideas were present throughout as she and her fellow editors wrote section introductions and guided authors’ contributions on content and style. Yet ultimately, she wants the book’s success to be measured in how well readers connect with it in an engaging way for years to come.

“One of the questions that the authors brought up at the Zoom book launch party was, ‘Where else can we take this book?’ because it’s not just your standard academic book,” Tan said. “It really has a lot of applications and a wide reach. With music, multimedia and advertising, all of these sectors have a connection. I would like to see us make the book something that lives beyond just the academic sphere. I would feel the book is successful if it’s useful to many different people and is relevant for a long time.”

Environmental Internships Fill in for Study Abroad

Environmental Internships
Natalie Barber ’22 was among the 20 juniors who missed out on study abroad this fall because of the pandemic. Instead, she worked in one of the environmental internships made available at the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council. In that position, she researched fresh water mussels like these.

Without study abroad available this year, Kalamazoo College faculty and staff got creative and developed a series of internships for 20 juniors who otherwise would’ve spent a term overseas, giving them experience through campus partners such as the Center for International Programs, Center for Career and Professional Development and the Center for Civic Engagement.

An additional group of students, whose interests could be connected with environmental opportunities, worked with the Center for Environmental Stewardship and Director Sara Stockwood.

“I think it’s been a valuable experience for everyone, even if they didn’t go on study abroad,” Stockwood said of the students who worked for organizations such as the Kalamazoo Watershed Council, the Michigan Lakes and Streams Association and Sarett Nature Center.

Michigan Lakes and Streams Association
The Michigan Lakes and Streams Association was one of three local organizations that helped four Kalamazoo College students earn environmental internships this fall.

“The students I’ve talked to said they’ve wanted to get an internship before, they just weren’t sure how to make it fit in their academic plan,” she said. “But when this class came up it fit well and it matched their class schedule. It was a challenge for them to figure out how to work virtually, and some of them felt a little lost at first, yet they gained the skills they needed to figure it out. I think that will help them in their classes and future jobs, especially if they have virtual components.”

Amanda Dow, a biology major, worked with Melissa DeSimone, the executive director of the Michigan Lakes and Streams Association (MLSA), which is a statewide nonprofit that unites individuals; lake, stream and watershed associations; organizations; and corporations that share an interest the preserving inland lakes and streams for generations to come. Her work experience included writing newsletter articles highlighting the organization’s virtual convention this year, contributing to its printed articles, and reformatting and updating several brochures.

“I have a background in writing so this was a good chance for me to practice in different mediums,” Dow said. “I wrote a review of the convention sessions along with a biography of myself for the newsletter. They also come out with a newspaper and the biggest chunk of my internship went to updating and reformatting their brochures. It helped a lot that when I first got there I could choose what I wanted to do.”

Environmental Internships at Asylum Lake
Asylum Lake served as a socially-distanced meeting point for Amanda Dow ’22 and Melissa DeSimone, the executive director of the Michigan Lakes and Streams Association, as Dow served in a virtual internship.

Andrew Wright, a German and biology major, said he felt a little directionless with where he wanted to apply his majors professionally after graduation, until he interned with the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council. The organization aims to protect, preserve and promote the Kalamazoo River and its tributaries for current area residents and future generations.

“Through developing a new interactive digital dashboard with the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council members, my work will help users see the different types of chemical contaminants in the Kalamazoo area and how they affect the types of fish here,” Wright said. “Following the motto of the Watershed, we want to make that information as accessible as possible so people can learn how their communities’ ecosystems have been impacted. The Kalamazoo River has unfortunately suffered its fair share of PCB runoff from paper mills and oil spills, and we want to create ways for people to be knowledgeable and be mindful of how we affect our surrounding environments.”

Natalie Barber, a biology major and psychology minor, joined Wright in working for the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council. She researched fresh water mussels, which filter small organic particles such as bacteria and algae out of lakes and streams, naturally purifying them. Part of that environmental research involved interviewing Daelyn Woolnough, a Central Michigan University biology faculty member and freshwater mussels expert, leading to website content and social media posts for the watershed council.

Asylum Lake
Asylum Lake in Kalamazoo served as a socially-distanced meeting point for Amanda Dow ’22 and her internship supervisor this fall.

With K’s academic schedule, it was important to Barber that she could undertake the internship as a part of her term and she hopes more students at the College will have the same opportunity.

“It’s important we know the effects of global warming and climate change and how they threaten mussels,” Barber said. “We especially have those threats in Kalamazoo because we had the paper mills that put all the PCBs in the water, plus we had the 2010 oil spill. Just knowing about those bigger issues, and also the lesser-known issues like invasive species, which is a big deal to freshwater mussels. Things the general public might not realize are such a big deal like moving boats from lake to lake without cleaning them, that’s important information we should share so we can protect the organisms within our areas. I felt like I was doing something positive toward my career goals. I think these internships should be offered every term because I thought mine was that useful.”

To conclude the class and their environmental internships, each student provided a final visual presentation with screenshots and pictures from their projects. Stockwood said students each had about three minutes to present what they did, what they learned and why it matters.

“They took it very seriously and it was fun because the students didn’t fully know what everybody else was doing,” she said. “They found a lot of similarities in their experiences over time with being lost in the beginning, independently working and having some ownership by the second half of their projects. I hope something like this will continue. It’s important to recognize that it’s not study abroad, but I think the experience was valuable, and I think the students feel it was valuable, too.”