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Kalamazoo College Professor a Pulitzer Prize Finalist

Take a glimpse of Diane Seuss’ biography, and it’s no wonder she’s a favorite at Kalamazoo College.

The poetry professor describes herself as the spawn of “old school barbers, small town musicians, telephone operators and … one-eyed pool players.”

Her best advice? Learn to cook, be alone, fix a toilet with a paper clip and write poetry because “you may be living in an abandoned potato chip delivery van somewhere in South Dakota without a friend in the world, and maybe even your dog ran away, but you’ll always have the sestina.”

Now, her unique talent and vision is receiving international acclaim, being named one of two finalists this week for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

It’s a huge honor for Seuss, since the Pulitzer is the something of the equivalent of the Oscars or Grammys for the written word. It’s the latest in a series of awards for Seuss, who has taught at Kalamazoo since 1988 and is its writer in residence.

The Pulitzer committee praised her book, “Four-Legged Girl” as “a richly improvisational poetry collection that leads readers through a gallery of incisive and beguiling portraits and landscapes.”

At Kalamazoo, students praise Seuss as a muse, calling her classes a freewheeling experience that opens them to new possibilities and ways of thinking about the world.

Her secret? Seuss is passionate about what she does and her love is contagious.

“For me, life is writing,” Seuss said in 2010, at the Fetzer Writer’s Retreat.

Seuss is also something of a rarity in academia: A world-renowned expert who still teaches introduction-level classes as well as advanced ones. At most bigger schools, 100-level classes often are handled by graduate students.

That’s not the case at Kalamazoo and Michigan’s top 15 private colleges and universities.

Professors take pride in working closely with students. Class sizes are far smaller than average. That allows professors to forge lifetime bonds with students and help them forge their own paths, buck conventional wisdom and find a new way.

It’s an experience that simply isn’t available at traditional universities. And despite what you may have heard, independents are often less expensive and boast higher four-year graduation rates than four-year institutions.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.