The Great Lakes Colleges Association held a Presidential Summit on Mental Health and Wellness December 11-13, 2019 in Ann Arbor.  Approximately 100 people in 12 campus-based teams attended, including presidents, chief academic officers, deans of students, directors of counseling/health/wellness, athletic directors, faculty, and students.  The purpose of the summit was to provide ideas, resources and tools to support campuses as they continue to foster a campus climate of wellness and deepen their understanding of student mental health issues on campus.

Throughout the summit, participants were encouraged to learn from outside speakers and panelists as well as from each other, share with others in similar positions both formally and informally and work together on campus-based plans of action.

Presidents Mauri Ditzler (Albion), Greg Hess (Wabash) and Jorge Gonzalez (Kalamazoo) confer during the summit.  

The summit started with a keynote from Sara Abelson of the Healthy Minds Network at the University of Michigan. She shared national data and trends gathered from the Healthy Minds Network annual survey of college and university students. The following morning, participants heard from national organizations, including Nance Roy of the JED Foundation, who gave an overview of JED’s comprehensive approach for campuses; Laura Horne of Active Minds about frameworks for engaging students in this work; and Carlton Green of the University of Maryland, representing The Steve Fund to share their Equity in Mental Health Framework. Following meetings of those in like positions across GLCA institutions, two afternoon panels focused on Innovations and Best Practices and Building Institutional Capacity for Inclusive Mental Health and Wellness with specific focus on students of color, LGBTQ+ students, and student athletes. More information and resources gathered through the summit will be added to the GLCA website soon and speakers are listed here. All panelists and presenters were accessible during the summit for consultation and networking.

Throughout the day Thursday and on Friday morning, campus teams met to share what each team member was learning and to develop specific steps for the campus action plan. At the end of the summit, teams presented their top take-aways from the summit that could impact their own campus as well as ideas for consortial collaboration.

Panelists field questions during the Summit.

As a result of the summit, seven campuses have indicated an interest in pursuing the JED Campus program in the coming years, in addition to four that have already begun this process. The GLCA will collect campus action plans and share them with leadership of all the institutions, and the GLCA will follow up with campuses to review progress made in about six months.

The rigorous schedule and impressive exchange of ideas among all participants created a rich environment and provided meaningful tools for each campus to utilize in order to help all students thrive.

This is the third presidentially led summit GLCA has hosted in the last decade, the first of these, on diversity and inclusion, took place in 2008 and a second Summit, on Title IX and sexual respect, convened in 2014.  


January 13, 2020

The Great Lakes Colleges Association is pleased to announce
the winners of the 2020 GLCA New Writers Award for Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-fiction. Now in its 51st year, the New Writers Award confers recognition on promising writers who have published a first volume in one of the three genres.  Judges of the New Writers Award are faculty members of creative writing and literature at GLCA’s member colleges.  Winning writers receive invitations to visit GLCA member colleges – where they give readings, meet with students and faculty members, and discuss technique and creativity in the
writing process. 

The 2020 winner for Poetry is Aaron Coleman, Threat Come Close,
published by Four Way Books.  Our GLCA judges note:

Aaron Coleman’s historical
imagination excavates racial history in this country, not veering from what is discovered, but inviting it, even dwelling in it personally.  The poems explore the lyric interstices of black experience in the U.S. and youth and coming of age – including a growing consciousness of sexuality and desire.  The book’s apt title, Threat Come Close, can be read as a statement of fact and also a provocation.  The poems learn by looking and loving outward, and there is much to learn by looking through the eyes of these poems.  There is superb lyricism and a fine balance between an unabashed celebration of words and a near-plain style voice of witness.  “I am made of what I am afraid to remember,”
he writes in the prologue poem, locating himself simultaneously in a cultural history inclusive of – yet never collapsed into – his own personal history.

Judges of the Poetry entries were:

Christopher Bakken, Allegheny College

Chanda Feldman, Oberlin College

Janet McAdams, Kenyon College

The 2020 winner for Fiction is Eric Schlich, Quantum Convention, published by University of
North Texas Press.  Our GLCA judges note:

Always humorous and wildly inventive, this collection is remarkable for the variety of characters and situations it portrays. In the title story, Schlich captures suburban malaise and our secret selves as the main character goes to a convention where every
possible alt self exists – and every possible alternative wife! The range of protagonists that Schlich convincingly portrays – a religious young girl, a neurotic adult loner, the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West, and more – demonstrate impressive skill.  Movement between realist and speculative modes combined with imaginative and varied story structures make the stories compelling, both individually and as a whole.  These are very teachable stories that exemplify different facets of literary imagination and craft.  They make a reader see and feel in new ways even when dealing with old themes. 

 Judges of the Fiction Award were: 

Peter Grandbois, Denison University

Mary Lacey, Earlham College

Christiana Salah, Hope College

The 2020 winner for Creative Non-fiction is Sarah Viren, MINE: Essays, Published by University of New Mexico Press.  Our judges note:

Deeply inquisitive and probing, generous and judicious, Sarah Viren’s Mine is a series of meditations, memories buoyed to the surface by love and loss and wonder. She transforms and illuminates the world as she mines it, whether it be
accepting a murderer’s futon, becoming “unmarried” to her partner after crossing state lines, or singing the ballad, “Tom Dooley,” to her daughter.  She examines her world precisely and with startling self-awareness, threading her own experiences to conversations on contemporary culture, community, politics, and the arts.  Viren’s essays are extremely well-crafted, and her prose beautiful.  The voice is mature, full of wisdom and insight. A brilliantly rendered account of what it means to be of a place, Viren’s collection also answers what it means to be of the world and what it means, ultimately, to be here today. A ruminative, absorbing book.

Judges of the 2020 award in Creative Non-fiction were:

Amy Butcher, Ohio Wesleyan

Peter Graham, DePauw University

Bruce Mills, Kalamazoo College

For more information on the New Writers Award, please
contact Gregory Wegner, Director of Program Development (, or Colleen Monahan Smith, Executive
Assistant to the President (
at the GLCA.

Additional information is available on the GLCA web site: GLCA New Writers Award

The 2020 Students of Color Leadership Conference (SOCLC) will be held at Antioch College.  Dates to be announced shortly along with other vital information.  


Liberal arts colleges observe two kinds of ceremonial
events.  One of these – commencement –
centers on students as new matriculants or graduates, commending their hopes
and achievements as they embark on a next phase of life.  The other – inauguration – involves similar
academic regalia and ritual, but its subject centers more on the college itself
– its founding, notable achievements, leaders, and events that have brought it through
the decades to the present moment, when it celebrates the installation of a new
president to lead the institution into the future. 

A recent presidential inauguration of Dr. Hilary Link at Allegheny College exemplified the ritual in grand style.  These are events in which the extended community of the college assembles; all of those who participate can see and feel themselves to be part of something larger than themselves.  There is emotional power as the procession advances across campus to the inaugural gathering place:  faculty and staff, students, alumni, trustees, members of the community, and beyond.  Delegates from other academic institutions signify that this is a celebration not just of one college, but of liberal arts education in the U.S. and abroad, with all the values and aspirations it affirms. 

Beyond these elements, the speeches of welcome to a new
president collectively tell the story of a college.  There are recountings of its humble
beginnings in the nineteenth century as an institution of learning founded at
the edge of the frontier by leaders of a protestant denomination for the
purpose of training clergy. The details include the number of students first
enrolled (less than two dozen) and of faculty (two or three), the initial cost
of tuition (less than $50), and increments of growth through time.  Sometimes there is particular notice of an
extraordinary president who served for two decades or more, as well as
transformational moments, including the decision to admit women to the student

Events of this kind in any era express hopes for the
continued vitality of a college, while also acknowledging forces that could
prove challenging in the time ahead.  Our
liberal arts colleges face heightened challenges today, ranging from financial
and enrollment concerns, to growing questions about the value and utility of a
liberal arts education. 

This balance of affirmation and apprehension was evident
from the speeches given at the Allegheny inauguration.  Three of the key speakers addressed the
relevance and importance of a liberal arts education in the current age. 

Some paraphrases of such statements affirming the liberal
arts included these:

  • Independent liberal arts colleges are a small
    segment of higher education in the U.S., but the small campus residential
    experience prepares students especially well in fostering respect and
    celebration of differences.  Inside and
    outside of class, our colleges prepare students to reflect seriously on the possibilities
    of democracy, including the development of empathy for others.
  • Puzzles can be solved by assembling pieces that
    are all readily at hand, but to solve a mystery requires a deeper process, entering
    a world of possibilities not yet foreseen and drawing on other realms of
    knowledge.  We may think we know what we
    are preparing for, but the study of liberal arts helps prepare us for futures we
    haven’t imagined. 
  • Immersion in the study of languages was a window
    into other ways of seeing and thinking.  It
    was a way of shifting the angle of the lens and seeing familiar things from an
    altered perspective.  The experience of
    otherness – whether though the study of language, study abroad, or other means
    of experiencing different cultures – is a key element of learning and
  • Liberal arts education can teach students the
    humility and openness to see things from other standpoints, to pursue avenues
    that offer different ways of understanding, and to embrace rather than reject

These paraphrases cannot express the richness of the
speakers’ statements in the context of their full remarks.  Collectively, however, the thinking delivered
at this inauguration offered compelling narratives of the power of liberal arts
education to shape and transform a life beyond what one might have imagined.

An inauguration demonstrates that
the ability to tell stories of the impact of the liberal arts on individual
lives is one of the most effective strengths our colleges possess.  Individual story-telling of this kind is an
advantage that could be applied to even greater effect in making the case for
the liberal arts beyond our own academic communities.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *           

This year three new presidents have
been appointed  by member colleges of  the GLCA – Matt Scogin at Hope College, who
was inaugurated on September 13, 2019; Hilary Link at Allegheny College, who
was inaugurated on October 18, 2019; and Anne Houtman at Earlham College, whose
inauguration is yet to be scheduled. 

By Gregory Wegner

Photo by Bill Owen

GLCA staff joined administrators from four of its member colleges in a visit to Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan on November 8, 2019.  The University was founded in 1882 and today enrolls nearly 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students.  Its mission is to educate students to make positive contributions to a changing world and contribute to the public good as global leaders. 

Among Waseda’s educational priorities is to promote global competence in students through opportunities to interact with people of other nations and cultures.  One way it does this is through a partnership with Earlham College called the Japan Study Program, which is one of the GLCA’s Recognized Study-Away programs. 

A GLCA gathering in the office of the Japan Study program at Waseda: From left: John Woell, Albion College; Simon Gray, GLCA; Mickey McDonald, GLCA; Anne Houtman, Earlham College; Michiyo Nagayama, Waseda University, Jorge Gonzalez, Kalamazoo College, Dyron Dabney, Earlham College; and Sam Pack, Kenyon College (Japan Study Faculty Director 2019-20).

Up to 35 students of GLCA or ACM colleges per year enroll in the Japan Study Program at Waseda to enhance their liberal arts studies with a deep experience of international culture.  American students take courses taught in English in addition to at least six units per semester of Japanese language study.  Students benefit also from the experience of a major university in the vibrant metropolitan setting of Tokyo. 

The recent American visitors to Waseda University included Mickey McDonald, President of the GLCA; Anne Houtman, President of Earlham College; Jorge Gonzalez, President of Kalamazoo College, and John Woell, Associate Provost at Albion College.  They were guided by Dyron Dabney, Director of the Japan Study Program at Earlham College. 

The visit culminated in a lunch with the President and senior officials of Waseda University, in which there were exchanges of gifts and expressions of good will for the strong partnership that exists between these institutions. 

GLCA President, Mickey McDonald (left), presents gifts to Aiji Tanaka (standing, center), President of Waseda University, and to Masahiko Gemma (right), Waseda’s Vice President for International Affairs.

The Earlham/GLCA/Waseda Japan Study Program now celebrates 56 years since its founding.  For information about the Japan Study Program, contact Dyron Dabney at

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo and faculty members at Kalamazoo College.  From left: Oliver Baez Bendorf, Shanna Salinas, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, and Francisco Villegas

The season’s first campus visit of the GLCA New Writers Award (NWA) took place Monday, October 28, at Kalamazoo College.  Marcelo Hernandez Castillo is the 2019-20 winner of the NWA poetry award for his collection entitled, Cenzontle (BOA Editions, 2018).  

Castillo is a poet, essayist, translator, and immigration advocate.  He was born in Zacatecas, Mexico and immigrated at the age of five with his family to the California central valley. As an AB540 student, he earned his B.A. from Sacramento State University and was the first undocumented student to graduate from the Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan. His immigration case was used by the Supreme Court to justify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) under president Obama.

His visit to Kalamazoo encompassed a series of events with students who were interested in his life as well as his writings.  In the morning he visited a sociology class on “Race and Racism,” taught by Dr. Francisco Villegas.  At lunch he met with creative writing students and faculty.  In mid-afternoon he met with an English class on “Reading the World: Identities,” taught by Dr. Shanna Salinas.  In the evening he presented a public reading and book signing at the College’s Intercultural Center. 

Kalamazoo College had structured Castillo’s visit to recognize and celebrate his achievement not just as a writer, but as one who has experienced the life of an undocumented immigrant.  His poems and comments expressed what the GLCA poetry judges called, “a story of undocumented immigrants, border crossing, transgression, and the tantalizing fictions and facts of the American dream.”  During the reading Castillo described his determination in writing to “take back the joy in life” from the state of uncertainty that has often characterized his experience.   

Over 40 people attended Marcello Castillo’s reading and book-signing at Kalamazoo College.  He has scheduled readings at several other GLCA member colleges in the winter and spring terms.