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Kyle Prifogle '09

Name: Kyle Prifogle
Major: Mathematics
Minor: Music and Physics
High School: Jay County (IN)

How would you describe your Wabash experience to date?
I think everyone characterizes their experience here in very different ways. Nevertheless, there are a few things that people tend to gravitate towards, and I think those are the things that make Wabash great. For example, I place a great amount of emphasis on my interaction with the faculty. In the time that I have spent here I have truly digested what it means to be part of the Wabash community. I can’t say that I always agree with the collective voice of that community, after all, no place is perfect, but I truly can say that I feel like I am a part of it. The faculty members that I have spent a tremendous amount of time with have become surrogate parents for me in my time here, and I respect them and interact with them in the same way I do with my parents who genuinely care about me and want the best for me.

It sounds as though Wabash has changed your life.
I think Wabash has changed my life, but I think in many ways that change is below the surface. I have had a tremendous number of difficulties in my time here, both personally and academically. I think being at Wabash has helped me through these times in a way that is self reflective and honest. I think that my analytical capability, in conjunction with my creative drive has been heightened in a way that will allow me to tackle just about any problem I could face. Not only that, but I also have the capability of thinking outside of challenges, and questioning whether certain difficulties are even necessary to approach. I shudder to think what could have happened if I had decided to go to a technical school and lose my creative spirit and drive to question convention. In other words, I think that I have in my time here, honed a creative and analytic ability that is thorough and unassuming, rebellious and obedient, generalized and yet sensitive to personal experience. I have a world view that questions all suppositions but is still able to work within the constraints of predetermined assumptions. I believe that this is truly the function of a liberal arts education, to prepare oneself for living a good life, and not simply to prepare for a career. In short, I believe that I have developed a healthy and flexible viewpoint on life in my time here and I am eager to see where it takes me in life.

How has Wamidan, the College’s world music ensemble, enhanced your time at Wabash?
At first I worked very hard as a student of the organization and picked up a keen ability to learn by rote method on most of the instruments. As a sophomore and junior I became involved with the administrative aspects of the group. Then during the summer I was able to be a field researcher and travel the world to look in depth at one particular instrument that I enjoyed. Now as a senior, I have enjoyed my role as an assistant instructor for the group and I believe that I have had a good amount of success in each of these roles. Originally I joined Wamidan because I was very interested in world music, and I ended up learning a lot more about myself and my capabilities.

What did you learn when you traveled to Uganda?
I went to Uganda to learn about the madinda (a log xylophone of the Buganda people), but I ended up drawing a lot more from the experience than I anticipated. Uganda is a third world country in many respects; nevertheless, I saw something truly beautiful in the people that I met — something very different than what one would typically experience in the United States. I think I also learned about my shortcomings while in Uganda. Everything didn’t go smoothly in my time there, but I think that the challenges I faced were new and stretched me in a different, perhaps more practical dimension.

You move in widely different circles at Wabash.
Mathematics and music are truly my two passions. I don’t think I am the kind of person who could simply suffice with one or the other. For me that would be the equivalent to cutting off a limb. They are things that I do, not to show off, not for monetary gain, but simply because I can’t do without them. I don’t believe that I always had that passion before coming to Wabash. It’s funny because during certain times of the year, around finals or when I am finishing up a project, I will tell people that I live in Goodrich Hall, which is where I do my math work. During other times, say around a recital or something, I will tell people I live in the FAC, the Fine Arts Center, which is where I play the piano.

So it’s hard to say where I really "live." Actually that’s true in more ways than one. I have always been indecisive about whether I am an independent or a fraternity person so I spent two years as an independent and two years in the fraternity. I have been able to see Wabash from two very different student perspectives and as a result I have learned many things about the climate of student life on the campus as well.

Which faculty and staff have had a profound impact on you and why?
I believe that my interaction with the faculty is probably one of my favorite aspects of the College. Diane Norton has been my piano teacher and boss [in the library] for all four years here. She has taught a lot of music, but I think I will benefit most from having her as a friend and the life lessons she has taught me. She has a very passionate outlook on life and therefore I feel like she is a kindred spirit in a way. Another person is Dr. James Makubuya. He has taught me a lot about myself. If it weren’t for him I wouldn’t have had the chance to go to Uganda, to teach other students, and to be a part of an ensemble that has been a huge part of who I am for the past four years. Not to mention I wouldn’t have learned some really cool xylophone music if it weren’t for him. Dr. Makubuya is always looking for ways to advise me to do things in a better way, and for that I have learned about my shortcomings as well as my abilities, and I think this is extremely useful. The last are my mentors in the Math Department, Dr. Axtell, who is no longer with the College, was one of the best teachers I have ever had, and I learned so much about mathematics and about teaching mathematics to others while studying with him because he was such a natural at it. I worked with Dr. Phillips over the summer doing research, and he taught me a tremendous amount of mathematics, but also a lot of philosophy, art appreciation, and generally instilled in me a great of enthusiasm for the liberal arts. Dr. Westphal, who is helping me with my senior project, is simply a good teacher and a nice man, and I enjoy learning from him. These are all role models for me and I hope to become as successful as they have some day.

What’s your sense of the alumni philanthropic tradition at Wabash?
If it weren’t for alumni contributions I would not have been able to pursue all of the things that I have done at Wabash. The Dill Grant allowed me to travel to Japan and study Japanese, and for this I am extremely grateful. Alumni contributions also went into the renovations of the TKE house. A lot of people think that the alumni support at Wabash is strong simply because it is a tradition. While that may be true, I believe that it is much stronger than a simple tradition. I believe the alumni of the College are so generous because they believe in educating students in a way that improves their lives and leaves them with something more meaningful than a resume or a diploma.