Back to the Future: Students Learn From Artist-In-Residence Virgil Ortiz

Virgil Ortiz convergence class

By: Miriam Brown ’21

Most students never meet or interact with artists whose work they study in class. But thanks to Colorado College’s artist-in-residence program, students in the classes Human/Being Anthropological Perspectives
and Southwest Arts and Culture learned about Virgil Ortiz’s art from Ortiz himself.

Ortiz, a Pueblo artist who lives in Cochiti Pueblo, New Mexico, joined CC’s campus this fall as a Mellon Artist-in-Residence. His exhibit at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College titled “Revolution: Rise Against the Invasion” combines the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 with a sci-fi twist, imagining what the event might have looked like in the year 2180 to make it more accessible for the next generations.

For the first and second Wednesdays of Block 4, Ortiz met with Assistant Professor Scott Ingram’s anthropology class and Assistant Professor Karen Roybal’s Southwest studies class to teach them about his background, the revolt, and his art, including his FAC exhibit. In addition to these meetings, Ingram’s class met with Ortiz in Bemis School of Art on the third Wednesday of the block for an informal question and answer session, and students have had an open invitation to attend any of Ortiz’s studio hours.

“Virgil is one of the most open, kind people that I’ve ever met in my life,” said Cristina Garcia ’19, a Southwest studies and religion double major. “It’s amazing to see his enthusiasm about his work, and also the fact that he gives all the credit to his community and where he comes from. It’s amazing to see that he’s never forgotten that, [and] that he really expands people’s minds of what indigenous art looks like.”

As co-chair of the Native American Student Union, Garcia had met Ortiz twice before, at the FAC and even at Ortiz’s house for dinner. Other students reported that Ortiz gave them his personal email, invited them to his home back in New Mexico, and even sent copies of his work to a student who wanted to recreate them as drawings.

In the final meeting with Ingram’s class, students took turns thanking Ortiz for his honesty, patience, and humility in sharing his work and life with them.

“This time with you is more than just learning … [it’s] transformative,” Ingram said to Ortiz. “Rise Against the Invasion” is on view at the FAC now-Jan. 6.

Students Perform Poetry-Songwriting Collaboration

By Ritik Shrestha ’22

 Student performers at CC are pushing the boundaries of expressionism with exciting pieces.

An example of this innovation can be found in the collaboration between the Art of Songwriting course taught by Assistant Professor of Music Iddo Aharony and Contemporary Poetry taught by Professor of English Jane Hilberry. With the help of artist Reiko Yamada, CC’s innovator-in-residence, both classes have come together to create a workshop that allows students to explore the relationship between songs and poetry and how both aspects can be combined to open a whole range of possibilities in performance.

Aharony explains that “language has music in it, and music has language, so the overlapping nature of these the two fields means they really aren’t that different.”

Through four sessions, students have participated in a variety of activities such as learning how to communicate and collaborate without speaking, studying different aspects of performance, and using the poem “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbertas inspiration to create their own project. Even though these workshop topics might not be similar to each other, they were designed to show students how the dividing lines between fields can be blurred to create one unified piece. “One of the most fruitful ways is to collaborate,” explains Hilberry “it requires everyone to bring their skills together but also give up some control.”

Students in the songwriting and poetry workshop are enthusiastic about the whole experience. When asked about her experience, Maya Day ’20says, “the workshop has taught me how to collaborate and mix mediums, and it has expanded the possibilities of poetry for me.”

Now that the block is coming to an end, the students of this workshop are taking the skills they have learned and presenting them in a final performance called “Broken Songs: A Poetry and Songwriting Collaboration,” Saturday, Dec. 15, at 3 p.m. in Packard Hall.

Groups of students will finally be able to show off the pieces they have been working on for the last few weeks. When asked about the content of the show, the instructors were hesitant to give many details but stressed that audience members should come in with an open mind about what a performance is because  the poets and songwriters of the class have merged their talents to produce a show that is far from traditional. “Each performance is special and shouldn’t be missed because it will never be replicated in exactly the same way,” remarks Yamada.

CC Students Achieve Start-Up Success

By Miriam Brown ’21

 While many Colorado College students dream about starting businesses after they graduate, three CC sophomores have decided there is no reason to wait.

 They have all launched start-ups in their free time.

Milan Kordestani ’21 and NYU student Sabine Rizvi initially thought of the idea for Dormzi, a task-oriented app designed to make college life more manageable, about a year ago. They began working on it the same day they came up with the idea, starting with securing the domain name and social media handles. Since then they have worked with a designer and coder, and they are currently testing the app on NYU’s campus to fine tune the product before it makes its app store debut — all while juggling school work and responsibilities.

“Being on the Block Plan makes it incredibly easy to balance both work and school,” Kordestani says. “After class I grab lunch quickly, then I spend the next several hours of the day tending to emails, phone calls, and all other Dormzi-related tasks that need to be taken care of.”

 Lauren Weiss ’21 has an app of her own on the app store, but that’s where the similarities to Kordestani’s company end. Weiss’s app LifExpectancy uses data like the user’s body mass index number, exercise habits, and sleep schedule to calculate a realistic life expectancy, as well as to provide health-related suggestions on how to add years to it. Though the app is already available to the public, Weiss says she’s constantly thinking of ways to improve it.

“I am a computer science major, so it’s great that I am able to learn more and more in class about things that I can add to the app,” Weiss says.

The student successes aren’t just limited to apps. When Turner Black ’21 couldn’t find any feminist patches to her liking for her jacket, she started creating her own. Today, her patches are the basis for her startup company called Patches for Peace, which donates a portion of the sales to organizations like Planned Parenthood and Annie’s List, an organization which supports progressive women seeking elected office in Texas. To account for the nature of the Block Plan, Black prepares for future orders whenever she has a break from schoolwork, then fills and mails out orders at least once a day.

 “This has been such a great way to give back while getting my designs and messages out into the world,” Black says

CC Climbing Team Reaches High with Eye on Nationals

CC Climbing

Ritik Shrestha ’22

 CC students are in a prime location to explore rock climbing, with some of the best spots in the country just a short drive away: An afternoon trip to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs or a weekend drive to Hueco Tanks near El Paso, Texas, climbing is relatively easy to access from campus.

In addition, CC is fortunate to have an indoor climbing gym, where aspiring climbers can practice their skills and newbies can get an introduction to the sport.

For the more experienced climbers in the campus community who are looking for a competitive challenge, or for beginners who want to try it out, the CC climbing team offers a great chance.

After just two years in existence, the climbing team has grown in size and ability. Kate Hade ’22placed first in the women’s category of her first collegiate competition back in September in Longmont. Claire Bresnan ’19(senior) and Zach Levy ’21, Team captain and 11-year USA youth competitive climber,recently placed first in the women’s and men’s categories, respectively, at a local competition in Denver. At this same Denver competition, our teammates occupied three more of the top six spots in the women’s division. Regionals are in March and the national competition takes place in April in Tennessee.When asked about the early success of the team, Levy says, “for most of us, climbing is a passion, we do it because we love, it not because we feel obligated to contribute to the team.”

CC’s club climbing team aims to bring the sport of rock climbing to a wider range of the CC student body. While most club sports require a two-year trial period in order to become officially sponsored by the college, the enthusiastic response to the climbing team enabled the club team’s establishment after its first year.

While joining such a successful group might be intimidating to those with less experience, the team is always looking for new members. “Practices and competitions are totally optional,” explains Levy. “There’s really a place for climbers of all experiences at these events and we want to be as accommodating as possible.”

This philosophy is a big reason why the team has become so popular within the student body and has a roster that now boasts over 50 members. With a bit more practice, Levy hopes that many of the members will be able to participate in the upcoming competition at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“I think this is going to be a good year and that we can have more people go to regionals and maybe even nationals in Tennessee this year” responds Levy when asked about his goals for the team this season.

While this might sound optimistic, it’s hard to doubt a team that has accomplished so much in such a small time-frame.



CC’s First Geodesign Workshop Explores Community Impact on Creek

CC Geodesign workshop

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

For the first time ever, CC hosted its own geodesign workshop in October. The workshop was developed with Professor of Geology Christine Siddoway and Hrishi Ballal of GeoDesign Hub, and took place from Oct. 22-24.

Geodesign has been an ongoing project at CC, and a handful of faculty and staff, as well as students, worked on research in the summer of 2018. Siddoway; Matt Cooney, GIS coordinator; and Cyndy Hines, coordinator with the State of the Rockies Project; worked with three students, David Sachs ’20, Will Rundquist ’19, and Darryl Filmore ’19,to obtain and analyze GIS data for the section of Monument Creek that runs through CC’s campus. The group has also been working on adding CC as a member-institution of the International Geodesign Collaboration, which would make CC the first and only liberal arts school in the organization.

The data collected from Monument Creek is fundamental to this workshop and future meetings, as one main goal is to examine campus-creek relations using evaluation models. With this information, there can be more knowledge of how CC relates to the urban landscape and physical-geological-hydrological surface environment. During the October workshop, participants from CC and greater Colorado Springs worked in small teams to evaluate how various systems (transportation, green infrastructure, and food supply, for example) are helping or hurting the campus-creek relations. These teams, and then the whole workshop, discussed which elements need to be improved and how to do so. While the workshop was addressing CC’s relationship to Monument Creek, goals of the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County are also involved.

CC’s next geodesign workshop will be held in mid-May in Tutt Library and will address a wider geographic area, expanding to include 15- and 30-square kilometer areas from CC toward the west. Stay up-to-date via this geodesign blog.

EV Students Make a Lasting Impact in Springs Community

Environmental Science students

By Ritik Shrestha ’22

Environmental Science often ranks as one of the most popular majors at CC. For students considering this as a major, taking EV212, Energy: Environmental Thermodynamics and Energetics provides a chance to take the material learned in the classroom and apply it to real-life problems.

The class is taught by Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Lynne Gratz, with bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan, Gratz has been at CC for three-and-a-half years and has recently taken the lead on this class after the retirement of Professor of Physics Barbara Whitten. What makes EV212 so special is the project portion where students have a chance to use what they learn and apply it to houses in the Colorado Springs area in order to make them more sustainable.

In prior years, the students worked on houses that were owned by the college to hone their energy saving skills by performing tasks such as blowing loose insulation into the attic, sealing basement spaces, weather stripping the roof, replacing light bulbs, and making other changes to reduce heat loss and increase efficiency. While this was initially sufficient, Gratz soon realized that there weren’t enough college-owned houses that fit the needs of the project. This shortage was solved through an agreement with the Ivywild neighborhood south of downtown Colorado Springs.

Students are now able to go into houses in the surrounding community and apply the same skills in a way that benefit others outside of the school community. While the EV 212 students have worked on only one house so far, their work has generated a lot of interest from other residents of that neighborhood.

Following the results of the first run-through, many home-owners have requested the services of the EV212 class, so much so that a waiting list has formed. “While I wish that we could help out everyone in the neighborhood, it is a very time consuming and the entire process to upgrade one house takes an entire block” said Professor Gratz when asked about the success of the project. Because of time constraints, Gratz assesses the neighborhood ahead of time to find the perfect match so that students can make plans for improvements on the house during at the start of the block.

The results in efficiency are powerful. For example, last year the students spent about $750 to add insulation into the basement and attic of a 1,024 square-foot house. It was then calculated that the homeowner would save $160 a year as a result of these changes, with a payback time of 4.5 years. Studies show that just one LED light bulb can save more than $100 over its lifetime. Other tests by the students show that adding wall insulation can save up to 75 percent of heating costs. This all adds up over time and for members of less affluent neighborhoods, the extra money can make a huge difference.

This course requires a great deal of mental and physical work. Days spent doing complex math and calculations are often followed by hours filled with hard manual labor working on the housing project. For more information on the class and a video on the project, visit the Environmental Studies website.

Innovator-in-Residence Program Fosters Culture of Creativity

Innovator in Residence

By Miriam Brown ’21

Sound artist, performer, and composer Reiko Yamada has built her career around pushing past disciplinary boundaries. In Block 4, Yamada will bring her expertise to Colorado College as the latest innovator-in-residence.

Innovation at CC launched its Innovator-in-Residence Program two years ago to give students the opportunities to collaborate and connect with people who are particularly groundbreaking in their work. While innovators are on campus — which can range from a week to a block — they give lectures, participate in panels, collaborate with students on class projects, and provide guidance through more casual conversations.

Even though Yamada is not yet present on campus, she is already pushing students and faculty to collaborate and problem-solve in different ways. Jane Hilberry, professor of English, is teaching a class next block on contemporary poetry. Iddo Aharony, professor of music, is teaching a class on songwriting. Hilberry and Aharony have never collaborated before, but Yamada’s presence was the impetus for them to join forces in a combined class project where students will create a musical piece with lyrics. Yamada will use her experience as a sound artist and performer to help the students think critically about their sounds and how they convey meaning.

But Yamada’s presence will not just be limited to music. She will also be working with Professor Sara Hanson’s molecular biology genomics lab, where she will help students to transform genetic code into music and sound.

“I think there’s something really valuable in completely reframing the way that you look at something,” says Jessica Hunter-Larsen, associate director of Innovation at CC. “Huge creative leaps have happened because people have been able to go totally outside of a discipline or set of protocols or practices and get information from other places.”

Yamada will present her own work, specifically her latest project on fruit flies called “Small, Small Things” on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 5:15 p.m. in Cornerstone Arts Center. Immediately following her presentation, artists Virgil Ortiz and Eiko Otake will join her for a panel about their creative processes, moderated by Hunter-Larsen and Hilberry.

Hunter-Larsen says that this is still the beginning for the Innovator-in-Residence Program, and they hope to use it in even bigger ways in the future.

“Sometimes when you’re able to bring somebody from another area … it can be a catalyst and a place to focus so that we are all pushed to find new ways of doing things or to collaborate differently,” she says.

Paraprofessional Role Provides Experience and Time for Recent Grads

Ritik Shrestha ’22

While many students dream of the day they no longer have to study for exams or write another research paper, there are important decisions to be made once one’s college career comes to an end. Be it graduate school, a job, a gap year, or a slew of other possibilities, students are faced with making the determination of “what’s next” after graduation. David Trevithick ’17 and Victor Torres III ’18 are two students who chose to become paraprofessionals at CC as their first post-graduation step.

A paraprofessional is a recent college graduate who stays on with a school to work for a few years within a certain office or department. While positions can vary by college and year, CC currently has 37 paraprofessionals working in various departments, including the Office of the President, Office of Student Life, and most academic departments.

For Trevithick and Torres, the prospects of graduate school or work were never in question. Their options were countless with a degree in international political economy for Trevithick, and a double major in physics and classics for Torres, along with strong GPA’s, and diverse resumés.

“I didn’t want to rush it and get into a lot of debt doing something I hated,” responds Trevithick when asked why he didn’t take a more traditional route. Born to two alumni who were married in Shove Memorial Chapel, CC blood runs deep within his family and the paraprofessional position was always a consideration. “These were the best four years of my life so spending more time here didn’t seem bad,” he says.

For Torres, the paraprofessional position was a “great layaway to figure out what [he] wanted to do while staying connected to CC.” Growing up in Colorado Springs, CC had always been a goal of his, and when the acceptance letter arrived, Torres wanted to make the most of his opportunity. Through a four-year college career that included time as an RA; employment in the fitness center and library; volunteer work for the Butler Center; providing services as an assistant speech coach; and involvement in theatre workshops, the Student Conduct Committee, and the debate team to name a few, the end goal was a master’s degree from Columbia Engineering. While unfortunate circumstances did interfered with this goal, President Jill Tiefenthaler took note of all that Torres had done during his time at CC and during the summer after graduation, he was offered the paraprof position.

Paraprofessionals perform many vital tasks within school departments and are trusted with professional responsibilities. A typical work day goes from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

For Trevithick, who works in the Office of the Provost, the entire day is usually committed to helping Sandra Wong, dean of the faculty. Morning hours are usually spent answering emails in order to help plan out the dean’s schedule. Afternoons are often spent in organizational meetings or performing administrative tasks such as proctoring language tests for students. Any free time between these responsibilities is spent completing projects for the department such as making edits to the departmental website.

For Torres, who works in two departments (Offices of the President and Student Life), there is rarely a moment to sit down. He is currently responsible for managing the contacts and schedules of consultants who are externally reviewing racism at CC. This means planning meetings, responding to emails and messages, and making sure that his superiors have everything they need while on campus. On top of this, Torres is still responsible for completing administrative duties in the President’s Office and overseeing student events on campus such as the Winter Ball, Midnight at Rastall’s, and Halloween festivities.

While the responsibilities can get overwhelming, both Trevithick and Torres insist that they love working at CC. While both want to eventually get master’s degrees in policy and engineering respectively, and move on with other careers, their time as paraprofessionals has provided many advantages. On top of providing extra time for decision making, the networking that comes with working for high-ranking college members such as the president and department heads will be invaluable in terms of recommendations and references.



Opportunity Knocks for Annabelle O’Neill ’19 and Life Is Good

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Annabelle O’Neill ’19 has loved the Life is Good brand and message since she was quite young, which is why she was particularly excited when she got to visit their headquarters in Hudson, New Hampshire, in early October.

O’Neill’s love for Life is Good is demonstrated by the 17 t-shirts she owns, the first of which she received when she was a young child, before she could choose her own clothes. This started her lifelong passion for the clothes, as well as the brand’s message of always having a positive mindset. O’Neill’s appreciation for Life is Good was obvious when she happened to run into the company’s president and first employee at the airport in Denver while she was wearing one of their t-shirts. After chatting, the two women offered O’Neill their business cards and invited her to the Life is Good warehouse in New Hampshire, which is where she went in early October. The trip was specifically planned so O’Neill could attend LIG’s biannual all-company meeting called “Jake Jam” to learn about the company and share her own story.

O’Neill says the trip was a dream come true, and adds “it shows how being open can lead to unexpected opportunities!” She particularly enjoyed seeing the workplace culture of LIG, where everyone knows each other and has fun throughout the day, high-fiving and throwing frisbees.

The best part of the trip, O’Neill says, was talking to one of the first employees, Keith. “During the Q and A, John asked me about a special college memory, and I shared about an event at Synergy called the Grateful Feast when about 50 students sang ‘Lean on Me’ together. Keith took me to a huge mural in the warehouse that says ‘lean on me’ with Jake (one of their characters) leaning on Rocket (the company dog character). Keith and I tossed a ball around, and shared an honest, fun conversation.”

Although retail is not directly related to O’Neill’s geology studies at CC, she is currently a brand ambassador and plans to work at LIG after graduation. O’Neill says she is excited to learn about business “while giving back to a company that has supported me throughout life.” No matter where her post-graduation path takes her, O’Neill will always continue to wear LIG t-shirts and spread their message of positivity and optimism

Language Program Takes Students Around the Globe

ByLeah Veldhuisen ’19

CC’s language-focused study abroad programs are numerous and cover a wide variety of regions and languages. Available languages range from romance languages such as French, Spanish and Portuguese to less-learned ones like Russian and Mandarin. Programs also vary in length, with some lasting an entire semester and others one or two blocks during the school year or summer.

CC’s semester programs take place in France, Germany, and Latin America—an interdisciplinary program that allows students to study in two different countries, which vary year to year, offer the opportunity to spend the whole semester abroad or just two blocks. In France, students live with host families in Tours and take two blocks of French language classes at Institut de Touraine with French professors, and two blocks focusing on culture, food, politics and other topics with CC professors. Laura Santi ’19 did the France program in Spring 2017, and says “studying in France allowed me to expand my language skills through the full-immersion aspect of the program. By living with a host family and taking classes alongside international students at a French University I had to rely on my French as my sole means of communication.”

The Latin America program through the Spanish department is similar with homestays, and two language blocks and two other classes, although all four blocks are taught by CC professors. Students split their time between two countries. Previous trips have spent time in Argentina, Chile, Cuba, and Peru; the 2019 program will spend two blocks in Argentina and two in Chile. David Eik ’19 participated in the full semester in the spring of 2018, and says “I not only learned a lot about the history and culture of Argentina and Chile by living in their capital cities, but I developed an understanding for the dynamics of day-to-day life by living with host families.”

CC’s other full-semester program takes place in Luneburg, Germany, over two blocks of German language at Leuphana University and two blocks of German culture classes with CC faculty. Assistant Professor of German Christiane Steckenbiller says students’ time at the university “allows them to experience different teaching styles, learn more about German culture in an immersive setting, and get to know other students from different countries all over the world.”

For students who are unable or not interested in spending a full semester abroad, CC’s summer or short school year programs offer an alternative. Programs take place in Brazil, Japan, China, Russia, Spain, as well as other countries.

The Russia programtakes places in blocks 7 and 8 each year, and has been running since 1996. Claire Derry ’19 participated in the program in 2017 says that the program helped her to immensely improve her Russian language skills. “We attended Russian institutes where we spent up to 5 hours a day in language practice with Russian professors; our professors also helped foster lots of meaningful interactions with the Russian student so we got to we got to speak Russian with problem our age and learn about student/youth culture,” she explains.

The other two-block program during the academic year is China, while blocks in Brazil, Spain, and Japan happen during the summer. The China program occurs blocks 7 and 8 and includes one block of Mandarin language at Fudan University in Shanghai and one block covering history and culture of China.

The CC in Spain program is a popular summer option, as is provides two blocks of Spanish language and fulfills CC’s language requirement.  Students live with host families in Soria, and have the option to take 100, 200, or 300-level Spanish classes. Associate Professor of Spanish Carrie Ruiz says students “acknowledge that being in Soria forces them to implement Spanish much more than in other more touristy locations, and to learn the language at a faster pace.”

Similarly, the Brazil program is two blocks and provides Portuguese language lessons, as well as a class on Afro-Brazilian cultures. Students again stay with families, and live in Salvador. Professor Naomi Wood says “this program is uniquely focused on language and Afro-diasporic cultures and is one of very few programs that takes students to Latin America.”

Last but not least, CC offers the one block course “Studying in Japan” in Japan that will take place during Block B in the summer of 2019. There are no pre-requisites for Japanese language, but Professor Japanese Joan Ericson says students are encouraged to have some familiarity with the language for living with their host families, interacting with Japanese students and other activities. Students are based in Tokyo, Fujiyoshida, Hamamatsu, and Omi Hachiman, and the program focuses on Japanese dynamics through the lens of debates in the Asian Studies.

Check out more information on these programs, as well as CC’s other study abroad opportunities.