Get to Know CC’s New Fine Arts Center Colleagues

CC and the Fine Arts Center are already joining forces as strategic planning for the CC-FAC alliance gets underway. Both institutions gained new expertise, and four individuals from the Fine Arts Center are officially CC employees.

Joy ArmstrongJoy Armstrong has been with the Fine Arts Center for about seven years and currently serves as the curator of modern and contemporary art. Prior to joining the FAC, she was the assistant director of galleries for Kent State University and the senior exhibition technician at the Akron Art Museum. All the while, Armstrong says, she was dreaming of a return to Colorado!

She shares, “I love contemporary art for many reasons, but my favorite part of the job is the opportunity to work directly with living artists. The most rewarding experiences I have had as a curator have been the exhibitions in which my role has included collaboration in addition to interpretation of existing work, with the museum and exhibition serving as a catalyst for the creation of an entirely new experience (and often new artwork(s)!) that has never been viewed elsewhere and will not be recreated in the same way ever again. Because all art is contemporary to its own time, it is a unique occasion when a conversational relationship with a living artist is established; we are challenged to fulfill their vision and create the most authentic record of the work in that moment for future generations. My career in the arts began in performance — theatre, vocal, instrumental — and I believe that spirit of creative teamwork, collaboration, and engagement has dramatically informed my approach to the visual arts.”

Armstrong says she’s enthusiastic about engaging the entire Colorado Springs community in development of the CC-FAC partnership which, “presents tremendous possibilities for the future of the arts, locally and beyond. The arts are alive, vibrant, relevant, and critical to the way our society will be judged in the future — this opportunity to expand the conversation is essential to ensuring that the arts will continue to be increasingly valued indefinitely.”

A few fun facts: Armstrong is vegan and an animal advocate and she and her husband are proud dogparents, the guardians to four furry rescue pups. You can contact Joy Armstrong at, or stop by the museum!

Jeremiah Houck is museum preparatory and art instructor. “I install and de-install art and teach clay classes and my favorite parts are touching the art and being surrounded by ever-Jeremiah Hockchanging groups of students,” says Houck. Before joining the FAC, Houck was the assistant art teacher at St. Scholastica Academy in Canon City and he had moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado. “I am most excited about all the new (and returning) visitors to the museum galleries. Come visit us!” says Houck. Something you might be surprised to know:  Houck works in the huge working clay studio just across the street from the Honnen Ice Arena. Contact him at

We’ll meet the two other new CC staff members in next week’s newsletter. Plus, share your input on the CC-FAC alliance at upcoming listening sessions Monday, Sept. 26, or Monday, Oct. 3, or by submitting feedback online.

New FAC Museum Director Rebecca Tucker Talks Plans and Priorities with CS Indy

Rebecca Tucker, museum director at the Fine Arts Center, talks with the Colorado Springs Independent’s  about the strategic planning process.



Experts and Fellows Explore Faculty Diversity

Faculty Diversity Conference

How can a faculty member create cultural inclusiveness in the classroom? How can they best support students during uncertain times? How can they make diversity a strategic priority?

Those are just some of the questions that will be discussed this weekend at the Consortium for Faculty Diversity. CFD is a group of liberal arts institutions that supports a fellowship program with the goal of diversifying the pipeline of faculty into the liberal arts.

Every year, CFD brings together the program’s new fellows for a professional development conference featuring workshops and speakers to discuss topics to support the fellows’ professional growth. This year, CC hosts the annual conference, in various campus locations Friday, Sept. 23, and Saturday, Sept. 24.

Michael Benitez, a leading national social justice educator and activist-scholar, will lead a presentation and dialogue titled, “The Time Is Always Now: Advancing Legacies of Diversity and Social Justice Leadership in 21st Century Higher Education.” Benitez is known for his down-to-earth insightful commentary and critical perspectives on social and cultural issues. Currently, Benitez is chief diversity officer, dean of diversity and inclusion, and Title IX officer at the University of Puget Sound.

Dena Samuels, director at Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion, and assistant professor of women’s and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, provides the closing keynote address, “Transforming Ourselves to Become Culturally Inclusive Educators.” Her presentation is directed at educators of any experience level teaching any subject who are willing to engage in self-reflection and who are specifically interested in increasing their teaching effectiveness by making their classrooms more culturally inclusive.

At CC, the Riley Fellows Program is run in conjunction with the Consortium for Faculty Diversity fellows. CC was a founding member of the consortium, which aims to: serve students’ learning by bringing in emerging teacher-scholars to offer courses and to be a part of the diverse intellectual community at CC; serve the fellows by providing pre-doctoral and post-doctoral appointments where they can be immersed in an excellent liberal arts institution, helping advance their scholarship, develop their teaching, and be more successful in the academic job market; and serve the entire liberal arts community by supporting inclusive excellence by diversifying the faculty candidate pool for the liberal arts.

CC-FAC Leaders Discuss Alliance on Colorado Public Radio

CC President Jill Tiefenthaler and Fine Arts Center President and CEO David Dahlin talk with Colorado Public Radio’s Corey Jones about the CC-FAC alliance and strategic planning process.

CC-FAC Open House

CC faculty and staff visited the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center during an open house to meet FAC colleagues and explore the galleries, many getting behind-the-scenes tours.

Welcome Heather Fedesco, Mellon Pedagogy Researcher


When you’re considered an “expert,” on something, others often want to know how you do it, to pick your brain, to better understand how you became so knowledgeable about that certain something. When you do something well, often others want to emulate it, study it. Well, CC may be considered one of the “experts” when it comes to knowing and implementing the unique Block Plan format. And this year, someone’s studying us.

Heather Fedesco joined CC during the summer as the college’s first Mellon pedagogy researcher. In a position funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Fedesco’s role is to investigate the distinctive pedagogical outcomes of the Block Plan. The college will then use what is learned to refine CC’s Block Plan model, and share it with others in the sector of higher education who may want to learn from CC’s success in implementing the Block Plan.

“CC’s seen as an expert on the Block Plan and on compressed format courses, so when people outside CC ask, ‘Is it working? How do you know?’ right now we rely a lot on anecdotal evidence. There’s a need to legitimize these anecdotes with empirical evidence: Here’s why it works and here’s the evidence to support it,” Fedesco says of the purpose of her grant-funded position. “This project is really the first to chip away at the Block Plan; hopefully in a few years, we’ll have this rich body of data showing how and why the Block Plan works, and also some ways we can improve it.”

Her Ph.D. work at Purdue University focused on how interpersonal relationships, both professional and personal, influence the health and wellbeing of others, with an emphasis on how individuals can motivate one another to achieve improved outcomes. Before coming to CC, Fedesco worked at the Center for Instructional Excellence at Purdue, where she helped execute and test the effectiveness of a campus wide intervention designed to help faculty improve student motivation and academic performance. This opportunity at CC allows her to continue that research in a unique academic setting, something Fedesco found appealing.

“I’m focusing on the relational aspect of pedagogy, how relationships can foster improved motivation. We know that people who are motivated can have great outcomes, but how do we foster that motivation? Self-determination theory suggests that if students feel connected to one another, connected to their faculty, to the material, they’re motivated,” Fedesco says of her research at CC. “The culture of the Block Plan seems to really live and breathe that notion, so I’m going to explore those relational dynamics at CC.”

During the first four blocks of the year, Fedesco will be surveying students and gathering their perceptions of the courses they’re currently taking, to find out what is helping and hindering their motivation in the classroom. She will also observe seven classes throughout blocks 1-4, with multiple courses from each academic division, half of them including field study.

“I’ll sit in class and immerse myself in that space, and look for ways that are enhancing or decreasing student motivation. I’ll simultaneously interview approximately ten students from each class multiple times throughout the block, to take a temperature of their motivations and what’s working each week, as they’re reflecting on what they’re doing.”

With the opportunities the Block Plan affords for students and faculty to leave the classroom, whether to a new setting on or near campus, or to a new state or across the globe, Fedesco says the format provides a lot of freedom. “That’s really interesting to me, and my hypothesis is that those experiences really do foster closer relationships and connections, ultimately leading to improved motivation.”

Fedesco says the research is set up in a way that will bring together a wide breadth of quantitative and qualitative data concerning what motivates students on the Block Plan. During the spring semester, she’ll be analyzing and presenting her findings to the campus community, sharing what’s working well and if there are areas for improvement, also sharing evidence and recommendations.

Fedesco says she’s most excited about observing CC students in class. “Based on my preliminary observations, I can already tell these are top-notch, high-achieving students. I was getting goosebumps listening to their class discussions. That’s really inspiring,” she says of her first experiences on campus. “I’m also really enjoying seeing the mountain views everywhere we go and being in a beautiful place. I can’t get enough of it.”

Now in its third year, the Mellon Grant is supporting CC’s work in several key areas: Encouraging innovation in engaged teaching and learning by expanding upon key features of the Block Plan; intensifying collaborative learning through undergraduate research and scholarship; and investigating the distinctive pedagogical outcomes of the Block Plan, using findings to refine the model, and sharing those findings with others in higher education.

Have questions for Fedesco or want to learn more about her research? You can reach her at

CC Children’s Center, FAC Spark Preschoolers’ Imagination

Art at CC Children's Center

By Leslie Weddell

Albert Einstein once said “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

Imagination certainly is on display at the Colorado College Children’s Center, its hallways an amazing preview of the creativity and ingenuity the preschoolers are developing.

Exhibited in the front hall of the Children’s Center is a “Preschool Fine Art Museum” featuring Monets, Chihulys, Klimts, Warhols, and others – or at least a preschool interpretation of the masters. Recycled water bottles, painted with watercolors and permanent markers and fastened to a chicken wire base, make a striking Chihuly hanging sculpture. Another Chihuly rendition is created from melted plastic Solo cups, painted and glued to driftwood. And a third Chihuly sculpture – Chihuly being a favorite of the young students – is created from painted coffee filters strung together.

Credit much of the behind-the-scenes work to Gina Thompson, an early childhood educator at the Children’s Center, who did a lot of the melting, gluing, stringing, and fastening of artwork to chicken wire.

“It was a kid-driven project,” says Thompson, who works with students in the kindergarten readiness program. A recent theme in the class was artists and their art. After spending time studying and researching various artists, Thompson and others at the Children’s Center, including CC student volunteers, took the preschoolers on a field trip this summer to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, only a few blocks away. “It’s so wonderful that it’s within walking distance,” Thompson says.

“The kids were really inspired when they saw many of the artists we had studied there,” Thompson says. “It really sparked their imagination and they were incredibly enthusiastic about learning more.”

Prior to their trip, and the students examined books with pictures of the artists’ work and read children’s books about the artists’ lives. They studied Monet, noting that many of his paintings featured gardens and bridges. They studied the Klimt cats, observing the geometric shapes, how the cats sit with their tails positioned behind them, and how Klimt’s works are Preschooler Arthighlighted with gold.

They looked at Van Gogh’s works, and made their own swirling “Starry Nights.” Cubism came to life with watercolors on paper as they drew, cut, and formed eyes, nose, mouth, and eyes. They saw paintings of fields of poppies, and then painted their own versions, a series Thompson calls “Poppies in Perspective.”

Throughout the process, Thompson encouraged the students to use the entire paper, to have their artwork take up the whole page and not only a tiny portion of the paper. “That is one of the biggest challenges,” she says. “I also want them to take time and have pride in their work. Once they see what they can accomplish with the techniques, mediums, and color combinations they experiment with, the kids get so motivated to create more and take chances.”

The art and artist “block” is over now, and Thompson and her students are moving on to a rockets and space theme. “It’s providing me a chance to get to know my new students and what inspires them,” Thompson says. “Student-inspired lessons are so much more meaningful to the students and it is always fun, as a teacher, to watch the kids get excited about their learning. I can’t wait to see where their imaginations take them on this.”

Learn More About the CC-FAC Alliance at Listening Sessions

Sept. 8 listening session

The whole community is invited to find out more about the CC-Fine Arts Center alliance at upcoming listening sessions: Thursday, Sept. 8, 7:30-9 a.m., Fine Arts Center Music Room; Wednesday, Sept. 14, 4:30-6 p.m., CC’s Packard Performance Hall; or Monday, Sept. 26, 7-8:30 p.m., Fine Arts Center Music Room. Learn about the strategic planning process.

New CC Refugee Alliance Offers Support and Partnerships

A new initiative on campus aims to support and welcome refugees, often the most vulnerable members of the community, arriving from all over the world to the Colorado Springs area. The CC Refugee Alliance is a group being co-led by Nicole Tan ’17 and Heather Powell Browne, assistant director of off-campus study.

“As an international student in the U.S, I think I’ve become acutely aware of the different privileges we have when we ask to enter a country,” Tan says of her motivation to organize this group. After a semester in Central America, I realized how different my entry into the U.S. was compared to undocumented migrants, who in many cases are also refugees fleeing from severe economic hardship and violence. I think this is what prompted my interest in refugees.”

Powell Browne says a variety of different people across campus were already looking for ways to help with the influx of refugees arriving in the Colorado Springs area. She hosted several volunteer trainings independently and had significant participation from members of the CC community. She says it made clear there was a need to consolidate efforts.

CC has partnered with Lutheran Family Services, an area organization which assembles cultural mentoring teams that “adopt” incoming refugee families and individuals for their first four to six months in the country, allowing CC faculty, staff, and students to add their support in a variety of roles.

“Those teams work best when they are diverse; a mix of faculty, staff, and students,” says Powell Browne. “We all have different capabilities and times we can help mentor and serve. For example, a staff or faculty team member may wish to have the refugee family over to their home one night for a dinner, or help call an elementary school to navigate a problem the parents are having. A student may have more flexibility to tutor ESL in the afternoons, or drive a refugee to a job interview or medical appointment.”

She says there are plenty of opportunities for individuals, student groups, athletics teams, and others to work with refugee kids after school, or to organize a one-time household goods drive of items needed to furnish refugees’ apartments when they arrive in a new country, often with nothing. “Everyone has their strengths and I hope that the CC Refugee Alliance will give us a space to work together to support these vulnerable people fleeing oppression,” she says.

Tan says she also hopes the group will start to put faces to the abstract idea of refugees. “Unless we intentionally seek these interactions, it’s very unlikely that we will come across refugees in our day to day lives,” she says. “I’d like to see CC step forwards to welcome refugees into our community.”

If you would like to learn more about how you can be involved in the CC Refugee Alliance, attend an information session next Friday, Sept. 16, from noon-1:30 p.m. at Sacred Grounds in the basement of Shove Memorial Chapel. Opportunities exist for ongoing cultural mentoring teams, one-time service projects and supply drives, English as a Second Language tutoring and language translation, help setting up apartments for new arrivals, resume proofreading and interview prep, and more.

Attend CC, FAC Listening Session Tomorrow Morning

CC-FAC Alliance

Start your Thursday with coffee and a light breakfast as you learn more about the CC-FAC alliance at a listening session tomorrow, Sept. 8, 7:30-9 a.m. in the Fine Arts Center Music Room.

This is your opportunity to share input about a new future between CC and the Fine Arts Center. There are also two more listening sessions this month: Wednesday, Sept. 14, 4:30-6 p.m., CC’s Packard Performance Hall; or Monday, Sept. 26, 7-8:30 p.m., Fine Arts Center Music Room.

You’re also invited to an open house for CC faculty and staff at the Fine Arts Center tomorrow, from 3-5 p.m. Take a tour, explore the galleries, and mingle with FAC colleagues.

Find out about the strategic planning process: