CC Students Place First in Annual Japanese Speech Contest

Japanese Speaking Award

Miriam Brown ’21

Rujun Gillian Xu ’22 and Sherry Xu ’21 took the stage on Nov. 9 for the 33rd annual Colorado/Wyoming Japanese Speech Contest. They each walked away with first place in their respective divisions.

Joan Ericson, professor of Japanese, says when the two were presenting, the crowd was completely silent.

“It was pretty amazing to listen to these two students because the whole audience … everybody was just quiet and listening,” Ericson says. “Not a sound — because they were so impressed.”

This is the third year that Colorado College students have participated in the speech contest. The competition is held in Denver, with other participants hailing from the University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Northern Colorado, Colorado State University, Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and Japanese Academy of the Rockies. Students’ speeches must be about three minutes long and written by the students, with only minimal editing help from professors. At the contest, they are then scored by a panel of judges for content, language, and presentation.

In Sherry Xu’s speech, she spoke about a haiku by Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa that she studied in a Buddhism class at CC, linking its message with a personal story of dealing with death and grief. In Rujun Gillian Xu’s speech, she connected a message about competitive stress in her high school to a motto from a popular Japanese TV show.

“I’m very proud of them,” Ericson says. “I was impressed by the fact that they chose topics that were both personal but everyone could relate to.”

Hiromi Onishi, lecturer in the German, Russian and East Asian Languages Department, says when she heard the speeches, she almost cried. Onishi and Ericson hope CC students’ engagement with the foreign languages departments inside and outside of the classroom continues to grow.

“Learning a language is not just learning a skill. It transforms who you are,” Onishi says. “It transforms what you think and how you think. My hope is that we will have more students who realize the benefits of learning a foreign language.”

Sharing Perspective at ‘Food for Economic Thought’ Talks

By Emma Holinko-Brossman ’20

Food for Economic Thought talks are hosted by the Department of Economics and range in topics from the interesting lives of CC alumni to insights from visiting professors to  relevant economic news. Assistant Professor of Economics Jessica Hoel presented a recent talk titled “Who Won the Nobel Prize and Why?” This year, the Nobel Prize in Economics was won by Michael Kremer, Abhijit Banerjee, and Esther Duflo for their work in poverty alleviation. Hoel discussed the economists’ award-winning research, and how she had herself worked with Kremer in Kenya where they researched clean water and water access. There, Hoel was also able to work with many governmental, local, and international entities.

A solid turnout of students and faculty participated at Hoel’s FEET talk. She shared an interactive presentation looking at the randomized controlled experiments for deworming students to increase school attendance rates. Hoel humanized some of the highest levels of economic research into an accessible topic for the audience. The discussion turned to students asking about the ethical implications of the research along with other external factors. And, Hoel is teaching a Block 4 class — Economics of Poverty — in conjunction with Associate Professor of Economics Kristina Acri, which may extend the exploration of the topics raised.

FEET talks range in topic, but there is always an interesting discussion of current events explored through the lens of economics. Anybody at CC is invited to join these talks to bring new perspectives and learn about some of the cutting edge-research of alumni and faculty in the field of economics. The FEET talk series is one of the hidden jewels of CC; small groups are able to gather and conduct discussions that bring together people from all backgrounds and disciplines outside the classroom.


Reaching for a Sense of Community with Women Wednesdays

By Sarah Senese ’23

On Wednesdays at the Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym, you can find female-identifying students enjoying women-only climbing from 4-6 p.m. Women’s Wednesdays, which began only a couple of years ago, encourages women to get involved and excited about climbing while providing a space for those who may be new to climbing or dislike the usual crowded evenings at the gym.

Many students who are new to climbing, including Mariel Zech ’23, find Women’s Wednesdays a comfortable space to try out new routes and techniques in the gym without the pressure of those who may be more experienced. Zech shares, during Women’s Wednesday, that she finds it “really cool to have an opportunity to climb in a relaxed atmosphere, especially because Women’s Wednesday generally isn’t as crowded as some other times — not to mention that the staff are fun and helpful.”

Women’s Wednesdays origins stem from the rising popularity of recreational climbing. When climbing became a more and more popular and accessible, the staff and students who help run the Ritt Kellogg Gym decided to create a space where female-identifying students — whether they be seasoned climbers or first-timers — can try new skills and enjoy the gym in the company of other like-minded people.

The energy in the climbing gym on Wednesdays radiates community and comfort. No matter the year or the skill level, every student is willing and ready to give helpful advice and welcome new climbers into the space that belongs to them. Even the monitors, who do enjoy working during crowded gym hours to help climbers with their skills and to assist in belaying, love to work on Women’s Wednesdays. The space is calm and positive, and you can see the monitors’ love for helping new climbers and being a part of what has become such a special CC climbing tradition.

“I don’t know if I’d be able to climb so often if Women’s Wednesdays didn’t exist,” says Zech. “I’m new to climbing, and it’s sometimes hard to get into it when there are so many other skilled climbers in the gym. Women’s Wednesdays is probably my favorite activity on campus so far.” You can find Zech and other women and female-identifying students in the Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesdays.


Ben Blackmore ’23 To Represent U.S. at Panamerican Championship

By Miriam Brown ’21

 For Ben Blackmore ’23, an exhilarating climbing career started with a party.

 One of his friends was celebrating his birthday at a local climbing gym, so he attended and has been climbing ever since. From Nov. 11-17, Blackmore will be representing the United States as he competes in the Panamerican Championship for sport climbing and bouldering in Ibarra, Ecuador.

 “I really enjoyed, and still enjoy, how it isn’t a sport which is competitive against other people,” Blackmore said. “It’s really only competing against yourself. To be a good climber, you just have to work hard and achieve your own personal goals.”

 At Colorado College, Blackmore is a member of the club climbing team, and he says he appreciates how “supportive” and “friendly” the climbing community has been. He admits that climbing and school are both “huge” time commitments, but he says the flexibility of the Block Plan makes balancing the two easier.

 “The Block Plan has been amazing for climbing,” Blackmore said, “as block breaks allow me to spend time just dedicated to climbing, and having afternoons free lets me better manage my time for both academics and climbing.”

 He says he’s also grateful for the support of his professors here, such as his professor who is allowing him to miss two days of class for the Panamerican Championship. He hopes to medal at the competition, but if he doesn’t, he says he won’t be too heartbroken.

 “I’ve never competed internationally before, so I am so excited to see what it is like to represent the U.S.,” Blackmore said. “It would be very nice to medal at the comp (top 10), although I’ll be very happy if I can just have a good time experiencing the competition and seeing Ecuador.”

Latest ‘In Short’ Series Features CC Student Work 

In Short Series

The third season of “In Short,” is composed of short films that are solicited, curated, and programmed entirely by CC students. Ten half-hour episodes will air Mondays on Rocky Mountain PBS at 10:30 p.m., now through Nov. 25. It’s an ongoing partnership between CC’s Film and Media Studies Program and RMPBS. In addition to programming the shows, the students and staff edit the 10 episodes, assemble all legal and promotional materials, and deliver the completed shows to the network. Season three is executive produced by Julie Speer Jackson, Kate Perdoni, and Dylan Nelson; supervising producer is Lila Schmitz ’18; staff Claire Barber ’22, Kai Cintorino ’19, Meg DeMarsh ’19, Lily Green ’19, Ella Grossman ’20, Quin Hricik ’22, Audrey Mack-Westby ’19Story Schwantes ’19, Will Stockton ’19, Fengyi Xu ’19, Meron Afutu ’19Griffin Mansi ’19Jesse Metzger ’19. Production of “In Short,” Season 4 is actively underway, helmed by supervising producer Kai Cintorino ’19.

Día de los Muertos: Bringing the Community Alive

Dia de los Muertos
Madi Stuart

Madi Stuart ’13, MAT ’14 is a Spanish teacher at Manitou Middle School where she incorporated the life and artwork of local artist Charles Rockey to teach her students lessons on the cultural significance of Day of the Dead. Students visited Rockey’s studio and studied his art to create an afendra alter in his honor. The afendra will be set up at the Colorado Fine Arts Center along with alters created by other schools and invited artists.

By Emma Holinko-Brossman ’20

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College has created a unique interpretation of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) through a celebratory exhibit Nov. 1-2. The museum’s permanent collection includes Southwestern art from artist Jerry Vigil and prints created by José Guadalupe Posada, both of which use themes from Día de los Muertos, a holiday celebrated in the U.S. and Mexico to honor deceased loved ones and keep their memory alive.

Polly Nordstrand, curator of Southwest art at the FAC, Kris Stanec, director of museum education, and countless others collaborated to create a community celebration, working with local schools and artists. Stanec sums up the experience saying, “It’s funny how these things spiral around each other, a generation of depth from all of the inter-connections.” She points out how the FAC has connected culture, community, and the CC alumni network in a creative display highlighting these beautiful relationships.

Madi Stuart ’13, MAT ’14, who majored in Spanish and also received her Master’s in Teaching, works at Manitou Springs Middle School. She and her students are creating an ofrenda that will celebrate the life and memory of Charles Rockey, an iconic local artist who passed away over the summer. Rockey captured impressionist depictions of the unique nature of Manitou Springs, nestled at the base of Pikes Peak. He spent 25 years teaching art at local schools and sharing his talent and joy with future generations of creative minds. Stuart’s students’ ofrenda, an offering or collection of objects, will be on display during the FAC’s Día de los Muertos celebration,

Students at Wilson Elementary School in Colorado Springs are also participating through its English language learning program. The school currently has 134 students enrolled in ELL, and many are still in the early stages of learning English. The FAC, through generous donations, has been able to provide transportation for all 134 students to come to the FAC on Friday, Nov. 1, to see their art come to life.

This holiday provides the catalyst for a connection between culture and perspective, exploring how to respect the traditions of Indigenous cultures over time. Maruca Salazar, a prominent artist located in Denver, will be creating a traditional Aztec altar for the FAC as part of this special exhibit, celebrating the power of tradition, community, and art.

The free community event Nov. 1-2, features a traditional Aztec altar by Salazar, ofrendas by area school groups, free art making activities, and more. Check out the altar building at the FAC Friday, Nov. 1, beginning at 11 a.m. Learn more about festivities and performances.

Street Artist Leads Graffiti Workshop on Campus

Street Art

By Sarah Senese ’23

Eder Muniz, Brazilian street artist and co-founder of the art collective Calangos, led an all-day workshop for advanced art students and is displaying his work as an art installation on the side of the 3-D Arts building, at 117 East Cache La Poudre Street, as well as a mural at Bemis School of Art.

Known also as Calangos de Rua (street lizard), Muniz began drawing and painting the walls of his house at a young age, inspired by the graffiti tags he saw on the streets. Muniz is completely self-taught; he developed his distinct style over the years, inspired by the natural beauty of Brazil and the relationship its ecosystem shared with humans.

Muniz’s art collective Calangos, based in Salvador, Brazil, seeks to empower graffiti artists to replace the traditional, obtrusive graffiti tags in the streets of Brazil with art that conveys social messages, both improving the lives of artists and empowering the culture of favelas(slums) with beauty and deliberate, relevant messages. Muniz’s work has allowed him to travel the world, sharing his vibrant street art with cultures, cities, and artists of all ages.

During his workshop Oct. 7, Muniz worked with advanced art students to draw and create images with spray paint, giving students a chance to experience the art form of graffiti hands-on. Muniz also helped the students understand the unifying power that street art can have, allowing them to create a collaborative mural of their own, working together to form one cohesive image. Muniz says he hopes to instill the idea that art is not an individual task, but one thatmust be collective.

You can see his mural now on the 3-D Arts building east of Campus Safety, but it, along with the building, will soon to be demolished to make way for the future Robson Arena. The mural’s themes center on the human-animal relationship, incorporating a range of bright colors and symbols that reflect Muniz’s interpretation of nature. He aims to provoke both students and the greater Colorado Springs community to consider the connection between humans and nature and our place in a greater ecosystem, as well as instill an appreciation of graffiti art. The murals can be seen on the 3-D Arts building until December and also in Bemis School of Art.

Ben Wright ’01 Returns to Campus, Goes Behind the Scenes of ‘Meow Wolf’

By Sarah Senese 23

On Oct. 21, Ben Wright ’01returns to Colorado College to share his experiences working with the artistic collective Meow Wolf. Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Wright describes Meow Wolf as “an immersive, interdisciplinary collaboration between a large community of creatives and intellectuals,” connecting visual, auditory, and theatrical arts.

Working as the director for “House of Eternal Return,” Meow Wolf’s first full-scale installation, and as the senior creative lead for the sound team, Wright sees projects from the beginning to the end, aiding in the process of using sound to support new ways of storytelling through immersive arts experiences. Wright will discuss his work with Meow Wolf, various projects and exhibits, and the upcoming installation under construction in Denver.

Meow Wolf uses non-linear composition techniques for sound and interactive installations, a unique arts experience which Wright has had the privilege of working with so closely. The concept development at Meow Wolf always begins with the seed of an idea, necessitating collaboration with others to grow an artistic concept into a dynamic and immersive experience, a process for which Wright says CC has prepared him greatly. For Wright, Meow Wolf is directly “applicable to the CC culture in that it crosses all these boundaries between different areas of expertise including tech and sound, stage design, theatrical and performative elements.” The collaborative and community-based skills established at CC hit close to home for Wright, reminding him of the Department of Music and the feedback he received from professors and peers, specifically.

Wright presents on Oct. 21, in Cornerstone 130 at 7 p.m.; the event is open to the public and all students are encouraged to attend. Learn about Wright’s work with the collective, both the creative process and musically, and how he took his Colorado College experience and turned it into a career, utilizing CC’s creative community and engaging deeply with other artists. For Wright, his liberal arts education defines how he approaches problems and collaborates with others, “there’s strength in numbers here at Colorado College, and a great potential for success in every student.”

Get to Know: Kyle Cunningham, New General Manager of KRCC

By Miriam Brown ’21

Kyle Cunningham was named KRCC’s new general manager in September. But he’s not new to KRCC, or to public media, or even to the general manager position.

Cunningham says that “people kind of just fall into public media,” and he was no exception. While studying at Oklahoma State University for his bachelor’s degree in English, he started working at KOSU, the university’s public radio station. After graduation, he started working for KOSU full-time, eventually moving to KRCC to serve as membership manager in 2016, and the interim general manager in January.

“The history of our region, I think it’s very rich, and the idea that I could serve that community in a greater capacity as general manager is something that really appealed to me,” he said. “And I was just having a lot of fun being interim general manager, so I figured, well why not go for the job and see if I can do this?”

For Cunningham, Colorado Springs has been a special place to work and live. He loves being able to take his three dogs on hikes, exploring Old Colorado City with his wife, and meeting a unique mix of residents with adventurous spirits and “can-do” attitudes. He says he feels the energy and growth of Colorado Springs, and he thinks KRCC, as a public media organization, is best poised to match that growth.

“There’s plenty of awesome news outlets out there that do a good job, but I really think that public media stands alone in the sense that it is … truly nonpartisan and really strives to be that space for everyone,” he said. “We bring stories, human stories, stories of our own community, and I’ve always liked that.”

As general manager, he hopes to see KRCC grow in staff, in coverage, and in its ability to reflect the community and meet its needs. As for his goals for himself, he hopes to be at KRCC for a “very long time.”

“I’m incredibly lucky to be where I’m at right now,” Cunningham said. “I’m happy to be part of the Colorado College community, the KRCC community … I’m hoping that I can give back to this community in the same way it’s given so much to me so far.”

To support KRCC, those interested can tune in at 91.5 FM, read news at, and donate at Students interested in internships can contact Managing Editor Andrea Chalfin at

Thomas Evans’ ‘Detour’ Connects Music and Art

By Emma Holinko-Brossman ’20

Thomas “Detour” Evans, a Denver-based muralist, focuses on the connection of music and fine arts through traditional methods and technology. He  looks to break down barriers when creating his art so the viewer can become engulfed and understand his message.

“Detour” is Evans’ current installation at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. His installation at the Fine Arts Centerwill be on display now through Dec. 8. “Detour” is a duel interactive piece that allows people to create sounds through the two string installations. These sounds can be changed remotely by him. Evans says he hopes to bring something new to a space, create new conversations, and individualize experiences. The use of multimedia for him evokes different feelings. “The sound is another brushstroke.”

Around Denver, Evans creates many portrait-based murals. These colorful and moving murals capture the spirit and diversity of the city through a singular face to be seen by the masses. The color aspect is not lost in his interactive installation; the background is painted to bring the feeling of two abstract mountain ranges forming one.

Evans did not start out on the path to become an artist. He has a background in business from University of Colorado-Denver with a focus on advertising. After traveling, he moved into becoming a full-time artist. He says interactive installations are interesting to him since he is able to use technology to create new layers into his artistic pursuit.

The artist and his work have been featured by CNN, numerous digital and print publications, radio and television outlets, and most recently, on the Netflix show: “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman,” for which Evans painted two portraits, one of  Letterman and one of guest artist Jay-Z.