U.S. Department of State
International Visitor Leadership Program
Reflections on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility
Located half-way between Detroit and Chicago, Kalamazoo is in the southwest region of the U.S. state of Michigan. Kalamazoo boasts many of the advantages of big city life while, at the same time, retaining the look and feel of a small town. The total population of Kalamazoo is around 76,000 residents. The people of Kalamazoo think and act as a “community” and are famous for Midwestern hospitality!
Only 45 minutes from Lake Michigan, Kalamazoo has a prime recreational and agricultural location, being home to many lakes and rivers, productive farmland, orchards, and vineyards. Kalamazoo is the home of Western Michigan University (one of only 60 universities in the U.S. with both a medical school and a law school), Kalamazoo College (a nationally-rated liberal arts school), and Kalamazoo Valley Community College (one of only two schools in America with a certified wind turbine technician program). All three institutions have a legacy of public/private partnerships and a focus on community involvement.
Kalamazoo boasts one of the highest numbers of nonprofit organizations per capita of any city in the U.S. and, over multiple years, America’s Promise Alliance has named Kalamazoo as one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People. This community also benefits from a strong philanthropic mindset. Kalamazoo is nationally recognized for the unique Kalamazoo Promise, providing free undergraduate college tuition for all graduates of Kalamazoo public high schools.
The area on which the modern city stands was once home to Native Americans of the Hopewell culture, who migrated into the area sometime before the first millennium. The first Europeans to reside in the area were itinerant fur traders in the late 18th and early 19th century. During the War of 1812, the British established a smithy and a prison camp in the area. The 1821 Treaty of Chicago ceded the territory south of the Grand River to the United States federal government. Kalamazoo was legally incorporated as a village in 1838 and as a city in 1883.
In the past, Kalamazoo was known for its production of windmills, guitars, buggies, automobiles, cigars, stoves, and paper products. Kalamazoo was once known as the "Paper City" because of the paper mills in and near the city. The Allied Paper Corporation operated several mills and employed 1,300 people in Kalamazoo during the late 1960s. As the forests of West Michigan were logged out, paper mills closed. Today, Kalamazoo is home to the corporate headquarters of Stryker (medical devices), a strong biomedical corridor, and Pfizer’s largest manufacturing plant in the world.
The city has a thriving arts community. Kalamazoo was recently recognized by smartasset.com as the # 3 city in United States for creative people! On the first Friday of each month, the council organizes the Art Hop, in which patrons circulate among downtown businesses. The Kalamazoo Animation Festival International (KAFI) encourages and educates animation artists, promotes Kalamazoo's animation industry, and provides community entertainment. Kalamazoo's theaters and performing groups include the Kalamazoo Civic Players, New Vic Theatre, Farmer's Alley Theatre, Crawlspace Theatre Productions, and the Barn Theatre in nearby Augusta. The internationally renowned Gilmore Keyboard Festival brings the world’s finest musicians to Kalamazoo.
Kalamazoo program organized by
Global Ties Kalamazoo
Social Media and Storytelling Specialist