Like many small, liberal arts colleges, Kalamazoo College offers students the opportunity for close interaction with professors, mostly discussion-based classes, and an intimate campus, with just 1,400 undergraduate students.
There are, however, a few things that make Kalamazoo unique among its liberal arts peers. The college operates on a fast-paced quarter system, so K students take 3 classes a term consisting of 10 weeks of classes and 4 days of finals. First quarter begins around Labor Day and goes through Thanksgiving; students are then on break until after New Year’s. Winter and spring quarters go through June.
Also unique about Kalamzaoo is the K-Plan, which requires completion of distribution and major requirements, learning through experience (represented by either an internship or externship), international/ intercultural experience (represented by a foreign language proficiency and strongly-encouraged study abroad) and a SIP (Senior Individualized Project).
K’s externship program places current students with alumni in a chosen field for 1 to 4 weeks. About 80% of K students go abroad their junior year, most of them for the first quarter through winter break. A senior I met said that his study abroad trip was a “transformative experience” that “completely changed [his] outlook on the world.”
Academically, chemistry, biology, economics, psychology and English are the top majors, and about a third of each incoming freshman class enters pre-med. Music performance is also strong. Students can easily double major if they choose. Social justice is important at K and the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership was built a few years ago so that social justice could be interwoven into different disciplines. Students say that there’s an open dialogue about many issues on campus – even issues that are considered taboo elsewhere. I sat in on a 2-hour freshman psychology class entitled “The African-American Experience;” the 15 students and professor moved their desks into a circle so they could have an active discussion.
Kalamazoo, Michigan may seem far away, but California is the 3rd most represented state at K. There are four institutions of higher learning in town so there are a lot of college students in the area. In fact, if you walk off of one of the K playing fields, you are standing on the Western Michigan campus! My dinner companions (all California natives!) told me there is some interaction with the students at Western, and that they do venture into downtown Kalamazoo, which is a few minutes away by car or a 10-15 minute walk. Kalamazoo is about 2½ hours west of Detroit; you can fly and drive, fly into the Kalamazoo Airport, or into nearby Grand Rapids.
Suzie attended an information session with the Dean of Admissions in Los Angeles; Evelyn visited Kalamazoo in February (during a pretty heavy snowstorm, as you will see from these photos!). A member of the Colleges That Change Lives, Kalamazoo sends an Admissions representative to Los Angeles several times per year, and attends the CTCL college fair in LA each summer.
I also took a brief video of my tour guide, a senior who just loved his K College experience: