K Ranks Highly Among Top Liberal Arts Colleges

Upjohn Library Commons in Winter for Top Liberal Arts Institutions
Kalamazoo College is the only institution in Michigan ranked among the nation’s top liberal arts colleges by AcademicInfluence.com.

AcademicInfluence.com is endorsing Kalamazoo College as one of the top four-year schools in the country where students can excel in the liberal arts, according to rankings released this week.

The website is the information center for a data-analytics company that measures the influence and thought leadership of a college’s or university’s faculty and alumni, providing prospective students a place where they can draw insightful comparisons between schools.

K, at No. 45, is the only institution in Michigan to reach the list of top liberal arts colleges. The website mentions K’s thought leadership on subjects such as political science, economics, sociology, biology, literature, mathematics and philosophy as just a few of the reasons why.

“Job demands are changing,” AcademicInfluence.com Academic Director Jed Macosko said. “More is expected of today’s college graduates. This makes the liberal arts appealing and practical. Students who can demonstrate a breadth of skills and the flexibility to take on anything asked of them are finding greater success postgraduation. … If you’re a student looking for a well-rounded education, these schools should be at the top of your list.”

The K-Plan is K’s distinctive approach to the liberal arts and sciences. Its open curriculum utilizes rigorous academics, international and intercultural experiences, a hands-on education and independent scholarship to help students think critically, solve problems creatively, and collaborate across cultures and languages.

“A liberal arts model provides the most thorough college education because it teaches students how to attain not just one, but a variety of skillsets that employers desire, while engaging with the world,” Director of Admission Suzanne Lepley said. “To be named among the top 50 liberal arts institutions in the country is an honor for Kalamazoo College as it shows how well we prepare students for a global, modern workplace.”

Learn more about the list of top liberal arts colleges from AcademicInfluence.com.

K Senior Receives Venture for America Fellowship

Venture for America Fellow 1
Rosella LoChirco ’20 walks through El Retiro Park in Madrid, Spain, where she studied abroad. LoChirco has earned a Venture for America Fellowship.

In a few short months, K senior Rosella LoChirco will begin a two-year commitment as a Venture for America Fellow. The prestigious fellowship prepares recent college graduates for careers as entrepreneurs, and fellows are placed in ambitious start-up businesses across the U.S. In April, Rosella will be matched with companies that are a good fit for her interdisciplinary skills, and she’s excited to begin the process of picking her fellowship site.

Rosella began her K experience like many other students: excited and more than a little nervous for what the future might bring. As the first student in her family to attend college, Rosella said, “It was so terrifying to sit in my first class — I didn’t know if I would fit in.”

Rosella found her way. Participation on the women’s soccer team benefited her with teammates and a coach, Bryan Goyings, who she said “really believed in me, and really supported me no matter what.” Early in her first year, Rosella developed a mentorship with Professor Chris Latiolais, who supported her philosophy major without reservation. “Every day that I come to class, he tells me about a new career that I could do,” Rosella said.

Venture for America Fellow 2
Rosella LoChirco ’20 (center) poses with mentors Allyson McLean ’05 (right) and Brennan Smith during LoChirco’s Quicken Loans internship.

When it was time to select a research subject for her Senior Individualized Project, Rosella was cautious once more, yet she let her instincts guide her. “I loved this one anthropology and sociology professor, Professor Katerina Stefatos. I knew I wanted to work with her. We had so many meetings and calls to figure out my topic!” Rosella said.

Simultaneously, Rosella was completing a summer internship at Quicken Loans and the FIFA Women’s World Cup was making headlines. To the student-athlete, it seemed like fate: “I put together a pitch for Quicken Loans about why they should invest in the women’s soccer team,” Rosella said. “I started digging into the question of why women’s sports are not societally valued as much as men’s sports. That became a perfect jumping-off point for my SIP, and all the theories involved from my philosophy background helped.”

The Quicken Loans team saw Rosella’s potential; several colleagues, including a K alum, were well-connected to Venture for America. “They said, ‘if you’re up for learning things and a team environment, you should make this two-year commitment,’” Rosella remembered. “They really encouraged me to do it, because I had never heard anything about it.”

Once she learned more, Rosella knew she had to apply. “I’m a liberal arts student who didn’t study anything too technical, so I loved the idea that an organization was really valuing someone like me to make an impact in a start-up from day one.” Now, when Rosella looks to the future and her two-year fellowship, she is confident. “I see a lot of connections between K and Venture for America,” she explained. “I’m going to a small team, working closely together, and that’s very close to the K experience. I found my way at K, and I’ll bring my same energy to this commitment. I know that I have the skills and tenacity to figure it out.”

Celebrated Poet Visits, Inspires K

When an award-winning poet speaks on campus, you can bet Kalamazoo College students are eagerly listening and learning.

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
Poet Marcelo Hernandez Castillo reads to Kalamazoo College students from his book, Cenzontle, at the Intercultural Center.

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, a celebrated writer known for his early life experiences as an undocumented immigrant, was warmly welcomed last week to K. He conversed with students in classes taught by Assistant English Professor Shanna Salinas (Reading the World: Identities) and Assistant Sociology Professor Francisco Villegas (Race and Racism). He also provided a poetry reading in front of about 80 students in the Intercultural Center at Hicks Student Center.

“Intersections of language and home are on the hearts and minds of so many of our students,” said Assistant English Professor Oliver Baez Bendorf, who helped facilitate Castillo’s visit. “It’s important for them to know that they can do anything, and to see different models for that. Their stories matter and they can survive the telling of them and even make it beautiful. Reading is always a portal through which they can transport and grow. I know that Marcelo was likewise touched by the energy of our community and our students, their readiness to engage with his writing, their intellectual and creative curiosity, and all that they so impressively juggle.”

Castillo’s poetry collection, titled Cenzontle, addresses the fears he once faced of being deported. Castillo came to the United States with his family from Zacatecas, Mexico, at age 5 and was an early beneficiary of President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Sacramento State University and was the first undocumented student to graduate from the Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan.

For Cenzontle, the poet received the New Writers Award this year from the Great Lakes Colleges Association — a 13-member consortium of higher-education institutions in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — which includes K. The award, founded in 1970, honors writers who are in the early stages of their literary career. Along with Cenzontle, Castillo has a 2018 chapbook titled Dulce. His memoir, Children of the Land, is scheduled for release next year.

Beyond poetry, Castillo is an essayist, translator and immigration advocate and a founding member of the Undocupoets campaign, which successfully eliminated citizenship requirements from all major first-poetry-book prizes in the country. His work has been featured in The New York Times, People Magazine, Buzzfeed and New England Review, and he teaches in the Low-Res MFA program at Ashland University.

With focused eyes and open minds, Salinas’ students listened intently to Castillo and asked a range of questions: poem- and content-specific, craft and poetic technique, themes and broader open-ended considerations. “I appreciated how generous Marcelo was in sharing his personal experiences and talking about his writing process,” Salinas said. “He was invested in their questions and insights, and I could tell the students felt that they were being seen, heard and respected.”

Opportunities to hear from renowned, in-the-field experts are celebrated occasions at K regardless of their field of expertise, although hearing from Castillo was a notable treat for students, faculty and staff, especially the aspiring writers among them.

“So many things about reading and writing happen in solitude,” Baez Bendorf said. “When you’ve read words on a page and then the human behind them arrives in your midst, it can be almost magical. I saw that happen with Marcelo’s visit. It’s thrilling to have a visitor, and even better when they’ve come with stories and generosity. Our students extended great hospitality to Marcelo and welcomed him into their spaces.”

Kalamazoo College Faculty News

Some recent news about Kalamazoo College professors:

Carol Anderson (Religion) published “The Possibility of a Postcolonial Buddhist Ethic of Wealth,” an article in Buddhist-Christian StudiesRose Bundy (Japanese Language and Literature) published “Beneath the Moss,” a set of translations by Fujiwara Shunzei, in the new translation journal TransferenceHenry Cohen (Romance Languages) published “The Eldorado Episodes of Voltaire’s Candide as an Intertext of Augusto Roa Bastos’ Yo El Supremo: A Utopia/Dystopia Relationship” in Revista De Estudios HispanicosKiran Cunningham ’83 (Anthropology and Sociology) published “Structured Reflection for Transforming Learning: Linking Home and Away,” in the Salzburg Global Seminar’s Creating Sites of Global CitizenshipPéter Érdi (Luce Professor of Complex Systems Studies) co-authored three papers: “The Past, Present, and Future of Cybernetics and Systems Research” in the journal Systems; “An Integrated Theory of Budgetary Politics and Some Empirical Tests: The U.S. National Budget, 1791-2010” in the American Journal of Political Science; and “Anxiolytic Drugs and Altered Hippocampal Theta Rhythms: The Quantitative Systems Pharmacological Approach” in Network: Computation in Neural SystemsJim Langeland ’86 (Biology) and Blaine Moore (Biology) are co-authors of a paper accepted for publication in Molecular Biology and Evolution that contributes to the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. The project was partially funded by a GLCA New Directions Initiative and had four Kalamazoo College students or alumni as co-authors (see a recent K News & Events article about this here.)…Amy Lane (Anthropology and Sociology) published “Religion is not a Monolith: Religious Experience at a Midwestern Liberal Arts College,” an article in Journal of College and CharacterSarah Lindley (Art) exhibited her sculptures in shows at Eastern Michigan University, Alma College, and Hope College…Bruce Mills (English) published An Archaeology of Yearning, a book by the Etruscan Press…Siu-Lan Tan (Psychology) co-authored three chapters and served as primary editor for the book, The Psychology of Music in Multimedia (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Kiran Cunningham ’83
(Anthropology and Sociology) has been awarded the 2014 Dr. Winthrop S. and Lois A. Hudson Award, awarded biannually for the purpose of honoring outstanding K faculty members…John Fink (Mathematics) has been awarded the Lucasse Lectureship for Outstanding Teaching at K…Alison Geist (Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Institute for Civic Engagement) was awarded one of the first Kalamazoo County Spirit of Health Equity awards…Binney Girdler (Biology and Environmental Studies) has been awarded grants from the Michigan Botanical Foundation and from the Central Michigan University Institute for Great Lakes Research…Bruce Mills (English) has been awarded a GLCA New Directions Initiative grant for his work on building a civil rights oral history archive…Lanny Potts (Theatre Arts) was awarded the 2013 Wilde Award for “Best Lighting Designer of the Year” in the state of Michigan for his work on “The Light in the Piazza” at Farmer’s Alley Theatre…Regina Stevens-Truss (Chemistry) has received funding from the GLCA Expanding Collaboration Initiative to study digital resources for learning experimental science.

Alyce Brady
(Mathematics and Computer Science) is an Arcus Center Faculty Fellow. She will work collaboratively with universities in Sierra Leone to develop sustainable open-source academic record-keeping software…Reid Gómez is Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies, focusing on campus climate, faculty development, and curriculum development…Starting July 1, 2014, Mike Sosulski (German and Media Studies) will serve as Associate Provost and Paul Sotherland (Biology) will be the inaugural Coordinator of Teaching, Learning, and Educational Effectiveness.

The following Kalamazoo College faculty members are the recipients of newly endowed chairs: R. Amy Elman, William Weber Professor in Social Science…Laura Lowe Furge, Roger F. and Harriet G. Varney Professor of Chemistry…Gary S. Gregg, Ann V. and Donald R. Parfet Distinguished Professor of Psychology…Ahmed M. Hussen, Edward and Virginia Van Dalson Professor of Economics and Business…Richard Koenig, Genevieve U. Gilmore Professor of Art…Amy MacMillan, L. Lee Stryker Assistant Professor of Business Management…Ed Menta, James B. Stone College Professor of Theatre Arts…Taylor G. Petrey, Lucinda Hinsdale Stone Assistant Professor of Religion.

From Kalamazoo to Kyrgyzstan

Kalamazoo College alumna Britta Seifert
Britta Seifert ’12 knows she can do this, because she already has.

Britta Seifert ’12 is headed to the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan for a 27-month assignment with the Peace Corps. She has no idea where she’ll be living or what she’ll be doing, but she couldn’t be happier.

“There’s something intriguing about going to a part of the world people here know absolutely nothing about,” she recently told a Battle Creek Enquirer reporter.

Britta, from Marshall, Michigan, said her best preparation for this trip was her Kalamazoo College study abroad experience in India.

“It will be a great help knowing that if I’m completely overwhelmed, I can push through to the point where I can enjoy it. I know I can do this.”

Read more about Britta and her next big adventure in this Battle Creek Enquirer article.

Photo by John Grap, The Enquirer.