Posts from December, 2010

Bryan Rommel-Ruiz Publishes “American History Goes to the Movies”

Associate Professor of History Bryan Rommel-Ruiz has a new book out, titled “American History Goes to the Movies: Hollywood and the American Experience.” The research and writing for the book evolved from the film and history class that he teaches at Colorado College. Using films from many different genres, the book draws together movies that depict the Civil War, the Wild West, the assassination of JFK, and the events of 9/11, to show how viewers use movies to make sense of the past. “American History Goes to the Movies” addresses not only how we render history for popular enjoyment, but also how Hollywood’s renderings of America influence the way Americans see themselves and how they make sense of the world.

Brew Tasting Proves to be Popular — and Educational

Students attending the Brew Tasting in Gaylord Hall on Dec. 8.

Beer is the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage in the world, and few would argue that it is also the most popular alcoholic beverage on college campuses.

That’s why a group of CC students recently organized a beer tasting dinner, in which a variety of beers were paired with accompanying foods.

“Because of the relationship between alcohol abuse and sexual safety, I find it important to have events on campus that foster a safer drinking environment,” said Nathan Brand ’11, who was instrumental in organizing the Dec. 8 Brew Tasting, which was held in Gaylord Hall and attended by 60 guests. “While some campus events already do serve alcohol for students to enjoy, they do not incorporate an educational component. The purpose of events such as Brew Tasting is to teach people how to enjoy alcohol as an art form, rather than just simply as a means to an end.”

“The event was an opportunity for students over 21 to experience alcohol in a mature setting, in which they learned about beer and beer-food pairings.  Students also had the opportunity to interact with staff member in a social setting,” said Heather Horton, CC’s sexual assault response coordinator.

Brand, who was last year’s co-chair of SOSS (Student Organization for Sexual Safety) enlisted seniors Nick Hawks and Chris Shambaugh to lead the event, which featured eight craft brews.

Hawks, who writes the popular Brew-HaHa column in the Catalyst, said one of the goals of the Brew Tasting was to educate fellow students so they would know and appreciated what they were drinking.

He and Shambaugh selected craft beers in a variety of categories to complement a five-course meal that started with grapes and cheese and included a Caesar salad, red vegetarian chili, lamb chops, and tiramisu for dessert. “We wanted students to sip slowly and learn to identify the flavors they were experiencing. We asked them to describe and label what they were tasting,” Hawks said.

He labeled the evening a success, adding that students came up to him after the event, saying they had no idea beer could have so much complexity. The evening also had an inferred lesson, he said, which was that beer can be sipped and enjoyed; that drinking doesn’t have to lead to drunkenness, and that imbibing with a meal is a form of drinking that is an enjoyable way to consume alcohol.

The event was sponsored by Horton’s office, along with SOSS and Campus Activities.  Hawks said there are plans to hold another Brew Tasting in the spring semester, with a completely different line-up of beers. “There’s just so much great beer out there that I want to introduce people to,” he said.

Tiger-rific! Residential Life and Housing Wins CC Fridays Contest

The Winners: Residential Life and Housing.

Apparently, CC is a well-dressed group. Or at least, when it comes to donning CC apparel.

Alumni and Parent Relations. Photo by Alex Truax '11.

Erin Thacker, coordinator of sports services, reports broad participation in the CC Fridays Best Dressed Contest, which

Development Office.

began in Block II and concluded last week. The winner was Residential Life and Housing, which submitted five photos taken on five different Fridays. For their donning of black and gold and all

Finance and Administration.

things Tiger, they will receive a complimentary pizza and pasta party.

 Departments across campus submitted “Friday photos” to Thacker. “All in all it was a great contest and we had

President's Office.

wonderful participation across campus. It was great to see pictures come across my email each Friday.  Each picture was even more creative than the one before,” she says.

Get to Know: Dylan Nelson

Growing up in Charleston, S.C., where her mother’s side of the family had lived for generations, Dylan Nelson never heard race relations discussed. “There was inequity of the races, but it was an unspoken reality,” says Nelson, who, with her husband, Clay Haskell, are CC artists-in-residence for film studies.

Years later, she would explore that reality through her documentary filmmaking, as she interviewed the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights movement for her award-winning film, “Soundtrack for a Revolution.” Working on the film “was an amazing privilege,” she said. “For me, it was really wonderful to have an opportunity to meet these heroes. I felt like I was in the service of an incredible story.”

The story is that of the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, told through the freedom songs protesters sang on picket lines, in meetings, and in jails.

“For many, the American Civil Rights movement has been distilled to Black History Month, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks. But it is so much more than that,” Nelson said. “The film takes the Civil Rights movement out of the textbooks and makes it immediate and energetic.”

There are no experts in the film; instead, the filmmakers rely on direct participants and the music of the Civil Rights movement to tell the story. “Music has an incredible ability to speak to people emotionally,” Nelson said. “We wanted to make a film that would appeal to people of all ages.”

As a film producer, Nelson is involved in all aspects of the project, from conception to research, scouting, shooting, editing, final post-production, and distribution. “When you’re a producer, a film is your baby,” she said. “You live with it through its ups and downs, and you nurture and defend it as it goes out into the world.”

Nelson’s film appears to have been well nurtured, and it is holding its own in the world. “Soundtrack for a Revolution” premiered at the Tribeca and Cannes film festivals, had its theatrical release last year, recently came out on DVD, and will air on PBS’s “American Experience” on May 9, 2011. Among other honors, it was short-listed for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and nominated for a Producers Guild of America Award, a Writer’s Guild Award, and three International Documentary Association Awards.

The film also was selected for the U.S. State Department’s American Documentary Showcase program, which presents award-winning contemporary American documentaries to audiences around the world. As a delegate for the program, Nelson was in the Ukraine in late October, where she discussed the film and conducted master classes and outreach programs on documentary filmmaking.

Nelson describes herself as a fourth-generation “CC person,” though not an alumna. Her great-grandmother, Anne von Bibra Sutton, taught German at Colorado College in the 1930s; her grandmother, Jane Sutton Nelson, was a member of the Class of ’33; and her father, fiction writer Kent Nelson, teaches as a visitor in CC’s English department. 

Nelson, who with Haskell teaches several film courses at CC, got into filmmaking in a roundabout way. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Yale University in 1996 and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon in 2001. During the summer before her final year in the MFA program, Nelson lived in Los Angeles, turning a novella she had written into a screenplay. Upon returning to school, she took a documentary film course to expand on her interest in film storytelling.

“I took that film course and it felt as though I had struck gold. Not in a financial sense, but it was as if a lightning bolt struck me,” Nelson said. “The first time I was in the field on a shoot, I was completely engaged. You are listening as hard as you’ve ever listened while thinking about the film you need to make; thinking about so much at once – the narrative, visual, technical, and interpersonal aspects.  Filmmaking is demanding on all levels.  From then on, I wanted to learn more. You could spend a whole life learning about film.

“While I still love fiction, I never looked back. I’ve been writing, researching, producing, and directing for film ever since,” she said.

Because filmmaking is so all-encompassing, the Block Plan is well-tailored to film courses, said Nelson. “It allows students to focus intensively on one final project. The students at CC are passionate, and because of the Block Plan, they are able to – and do – throw themselves entirely into their films.  As a result, they come away with an indelible learning experience and a final product of which they’re truly proud. The intensity of the Block also mirrors the real-world intensity of film production and post-production.”

In addition to teaching basic and advanced filmmaking, documentary and screenwriting classes, and thesis advising, Nelson and Haskell also co-teach the popular off-campus Block VII class “On Location: Hollywood.” While in Hollywood, students study the history of Los Angeles filmmaking while pursuing an area of film interest: a genre, profession, or area of critical study.  The class meets with prominent film industry professionals – from directors and producers to sound mixers and editors to agents and executives – in order to understand the state of Los Angeles filmmaking today.

“I think that one reason CC students respond so positively to filmmaking courses is that filmmaking represents the best of a liberal arts education,” Nelson says. “Among the most integrative of all arts, filmmaking draws from numerous disciplines and requires students to synthesize concepts, abilities, and artistic techniques they learn elsewhere in their academic journey. Most of all, making film is about making connections – connections among ideas and connections with one’s community – and to me, that’s what an education in the liberal arts is all about.”

CC students also benefit in another, hands-on way: A number have assisted Nelson and Haskell with production on their forthcoming documentaries, one about child actors in Los Angeles, tentatively titled “The Hollywood Complex,” and another on civil rights icon James Meredith, titled “Mississippi Messiah.” For the latter, Nelson, then seven months pregnant, traveled through sweltering Mississippi during the summer, staying in ramshackle hotels as she and Haskell followed Meredith on a quixotic journey.

Nelson was also a producer for the 2007 documentary “Nanking,” about the Japanese invasion of Nanking, China, in the early days of World War II. The film, like “Soundtrack for a Revolution,” was short-listed for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. For more information on the class in Hollywood, go to

KRCC Receives $5,000 Grant for Local News, Cultural Programming

KRCC, Colorado College’s NPR-member station, has been awarded a $5,000 grant from the Inasmuch Foundation.

Delaney Utterback, KRCC’s general manager, said the grant would be used to help support KRCC’s local news and cultural programming.

“We’re thrilled and grateful for the support from the Inasmuch Foundation and look forward to making our local news and cultural programming even better.” said Utterback.

KRCC’s mission is to offer broadcast radio programming that reflects Colorado College’s commitment to the liberal arts and diverse ideas and people. In 2003, KRCC added news coverage from the state capitol, the “Capitol Coverage Project.”  On Jan. 1, 2005, KRCC began broadcasting locally in the form of a weekly news magazine entitled “Western Skies.”  Two years later, “Western Skies” evolved into KRCC local news with daily news segments broadcast during NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”  “Western Skies” recently returned as a monthly news magazine, focusing on a single topic affecting the Pikes Peak region and southern Colorado.  In the spring of 2009, KRCC expanded its coverage of local culture and history with the online program “The Big Something.”

In 2007, the station completed the installation of hybrid-digital (HD) broadcasting equipment and upgraded its signal to HD.  This included multi-casts with two additional channels of programming on HD2 and HD3, in addition to an HD simulcast of the main channel. HD2 is a mix of national news and music programs.  HD3 is a CC student-run station called the Sounds of Colorado College or SOCC.

Currently, the station is heard in Westcliffe, Gardner, Limon, Manitou Springs, Trinidad, Buena Vista, Salida, Villa Grove, Canon City, Colorado Springs, La Junta, Raton, N.M., and globally online at

CC Recognized as a Leader in Study Abroad

Colorado College is recognized in the Open Doors 2010 Report on International Educational Exchange as a school in which more than 70 percent of its students study abroad at some point during their undergraduate careers. 

The Open Doors report is published annually by the Institute of International Education with funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. For the first time in the 25 years that the data has been tracked, the total number of U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit decreased, albeit by 0.8 percent. However, the report found notable increases in the number of U.S. students studying in less traditional destinations. Fifteen of the top 25 destinations were outside of Western Europe and nineteen were countries where English is not a primary language.

While large institutions dominate in terms of total numbers of students studying abroad, many smaller institutions send a higher proportion of their students abroad. Colorado College is one of 29 such institutions.

The complete report can be viewed at: