Posts from March, 2011

2010 Colorado College Alpine Journal Now Available Online

By Erik Rieger ’12

 Unbeknownst to many, Colorado College plays host to one of the most significant climbing communities in the world. Since the early 1900’s, CC climbers have been pioneering first ascents and embarking on significant climbs throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West, as well as the rest of the world.

 In an attempt to unite and showcase the talents of this spirited community, Joe Forrester ’06 and Michael Wejchert ’08 founded The Colorado College Alpine Journal in 2006. Since its first release, the CCAJ has sustained itself as a unique compilation of stories, photos, and artwork which chronicle the significant climbs of both current CC students and CC alumni, while also displaying the creative talents of its many contributors. Now in its fourth annual publication, the CCAJ has come a long way from what Forrester calls its “rough and humble beginnings.” The 2010 edition, released in February, saw some major design improvements and all those involved in the project hope the journal will become a keynote publication among the canon of Colorado College publications as well as among the greater body of climbing literature.

 The CCAJ is a free publication and those looking to gloss through its vibrant pages can find copies in Tutt Library and the Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym. The CCAJ also is available electronically. The 2010 edition can be viewed at:
Past editions are at: 

We hope you enjoy exploring this unique publication and reading about some of the most exciting climbing trips the CC climbing community has taken over the past year!

Two CC Sociology Majors Awarded Watson Fellowships

Two Colorado College seniors have received Thomas J. Watson Foundation fellowships for their research projects, enabling them to pursue a year of independent exploration and study outside the United States.

Sophia Herscu, of Amherst, Mass., will study “Social Circus: Trust Building and Empowerment Though Circus Technique.” Her research will take her to Canada, Australia, and Brazil.

 Hannah Sohl, of Ashland, Ore., will research “Against the Current: Exploring Migratory Fish Runs and Cultures,” will travel to Canada, Bolivia, Brazil, Bangladesh, India, Mongolia, and Laos for her research.

Herscu and Sohl, both sociology majors, are two of only 40 college seniors across the country to become Watson Fellows. They were selected from a field of 148 finalists, and each will receive $25,000 for 12 months of travel and exploration.

Herscu will examine how circus pedagogy can be used in a new movement called Social Circus, which uses circus technique as a way to build self-confidence and trust in group settings. She will study the ability of the performance techniques to empower women and youth.

Sohl notes that “riverine communities throughout the world depend on migratory fish runs not only for their economic and nutritional livelihoods, but also for cultural identity and a sense of place.” She plans to explore the traditional and contemporary relationships between humans and migratory fish runs, the threats facing rivers and fish, and the various conservation efforts emerging to protect them, and will document the project through a series of podcasts.

This year’s Watson Fellows come from 21 states and four foreign countries, and exhibit a broad diversity of academic specialty, socio-economic background, and life experience. They will traverse 71 countries, exploring topics from sword dancing to pro-gaming,  gay marriage to voluntary poverty, migratory fish to nomadic societies, and fiber art to fly fishing.

Get to Know: Peter Wright

When Peter Wright’s graduate advisor received his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Harvard in the early 1980s, there were two or three tenure-track positions available in the field. When Wright graduated in 2008, there were more than 40 such positions.

There was no way Wright could have predicted the sea change that crashed over the discipline. He entered graduate school in Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in August 2001; the events of 9/11 occurred when he had been on campus less than a month.

 Wright took the long road in becoming an Islamicist – he detoured through law school. A philosophy and classical languages double major at the University of Pittsburgh, he hoped someday to become a literary critic. But a pragmatic father persuaded him to go to law school, and Wright complied, earning his J.D. from the Duquesne University School of Law, getting married, and accumulating the accompanying law school debt. He then hung out a shingle to pay for it all.

As a practicing attorney, he spent about a third of his time on criminal defense work, and in that capacity visited clients in prison, where he encountered African-American inmates who had converted to Islam. He began researching, studying, writing, and eventually presenting papers at conferences on the topic of Islam in the American prison system. Academics at the conferences were impressed, and told Wright he should pursue the topic. “That was important to me; I needed someone to say I should do this.”

Wright contacted leading scholars in the field, and received positive feedback. “I knew I had to make the move,” he said. “I was 40 years old, and had been practicing law for 10 years. It was getting comfortable. I thought, ‘If I don’t do this now, I’ll never do it.’ I didn’t want to be one of those people who gets to the end of his career and says, ‘I wish I had done what I really wanted to do.‘ ”

Wright, who by now had a toddler, told his wife that he wanted to leave the law practice to pursue graduate studies in Islam. His wife, pregnant with their second child, encouraged him to do so. The more difficult conversations, Wright says, were with his father, who said, “I thought we had you straightened out,” and with his law partner. “The first words out of his mouth were ‘You can’t do this.’ “ (The law partner has since come around and enjoys visiting Colorado on rock climbing trips. His father, who has passed away, visited Wright in North Carolina and saw how contented he was in his chosen field of study.)

Wright‘s M.A. thesis continued his work on Islam in American prisons through its focus on the rise of the Black Nationalist movement known as the “Nation of Islam.” His interest in literary criticism blossomed when he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation. A study of the Qur’an, Wright’s dissertation applies recent allusion theory to the text of the holy book in order to gain insight into the likely composition of its original audience. He is a historian of literature, and his mentor was the late Nasr Abu Zayd, a world-renowned Qur’anic scholar who held positions at Cairo University and the Universities of Utrecht and Leiden in Holland.

Wright applies literary and rhetorical theory to religious texts and is well aware of the objections raised to this approach by some who hold such texts sacred. “My position on this issue is the same as Nasr Abu Zayd’s,” he explains. “Every Holy Scripture is revealed in language that its original audience is capable of understanding; therefore, every Holy Scripture is subject to the laws by which language communicates meaning. The application of literary and rhetorical theory to sacred texts is simply one means of ascertaining how a given text has complied with (or transgressed) those laws.” He adds: “The earliest commentators on the Qur’an in the Islamic tradition were not only masters of Arabic grammar, they were steeped in the imagery and vocabulary of pre-Islamic Arab poetry. They made no apology for resorting to non-Muslim poets to explain obscure words or even passages of the Qur’an. In fact, the foundation of the Muslim exegetical tradition lies in such scholarly activities. The notion that what Nasr did or what I do somehow ‘reduces’ the Qur’an to ‘mere literature’ is a very recent one. Individuals who hold such views would do well to acquaint themselves with the history of Qur’anic interpretation.”         

Wright says that he strives to teach his students to examine the ways in which human beings imagine the divine and their relationship to it. In doing this, he likes to invoke the “metaphysics of imagination” developed by the 13th-century Muslim polymath Ibn ‘Arabi. “Ibn ‘Arabi argued that every human being worships an idol – the image of the divine that makes sense to them. Everyone gets a glimpse of the truth; the truth that is available to them.” So much of that interpretation, he says, depends on context: where a person was born, how they were raised, what language they speak, his or her life experiences, etc.

Wright joined the CC faculty in the fall of 2008, after weighing offers from several other schools. “Timing never was my strong suit,” he says, “except in the matter of Islamic Studies.” Islam, he says, “was not on the radar of most Americans before 9/11, despite 20 percent of the world’s population being Muslim.”  He chose CC over a prestigious public research university for a variety of reasons. “I believe in the importance of undergraduate education and was excited about meeting students at a critical time in their lives, where you can have a significant impact,” he said. He also liked the collegiality of CC’s religion department. “Overall, I felt that this was a better place for me,” he said.

Wright’s fields of expertise are Islamic sacred literature and its interpretation, Islam in the Americas, the history of religions, theory and method in religious studies, and religion and violence. He says that, in order to better understand the sacred texts of Islam, he spends a significant portion of his time studying the history and literature of both Judaism and Christianity.

There is no scale of justice in Wright’s office. Instead, one of the first things a visitor notices is a large, silver samovar surrounded by small Moroccan tea glasses.  Islamic Studies are not just about texts, Wright says. There is an entire civilization built around the values of Muslim culture, and one of the preeminent values of that culture is hospitality.

Wright’s two sons, a toddler and newborn when he started out on his path toward Islamic Studies, are now 10 and 12 years old. His wife, an active member of the Pittsburgh theater community who wrote and directed plays, is currently a certified Pilates instructor and teaches Pilates and yoga as physical therapy.

Dispatches From Japan

Two Colorado College professors and a former employee were in Tokyo when the 8.9 earthquake struck March 11. Here is a round-up of messages and news they have sent:

Joan Ericson, Professor of Japanese Language and Literature
I appreciate all of the messages from many others who have asked about our welfare in Japan.
Jim and I are fine here in Kyoto.  It seems strange to think that just last Saturday I was up in Sendai to give a talk (through Fulbright) at Tohoku University. I’m sooo glad that we were safe at home Friday afternoon when the terrible earthquake hit the northeastern area of Japan.  We’ve been glued to the TV watching news – tsunami waves are unbelievably forceful – they have swept cars, houses, and large ships along in their wake. The three national TV stations canceled all of the usual programming from Friday afternoon to now (Sunday afternoon) to show news and real time footage of the disaster. For those who couldn’t stand the harsh reality any longer on Friday, there were several channels of soothing music and images (Grand Canyon and the like).
Unfortunately the news seems to get worse with the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant and aftershocks.  It’s also a shock to hear the words “being exposed to radiation” (hibaku) being applied to those who’ve been affected by the released nuclear vapr – up until now this was part of the word “hibaku-sha” which was used for those who experienced the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
People in this general area told us that they felt the tremors on Friday afternoon, but we must have assumed that any tremor was just part of the process of a large building being demolished near us.  We’re far enough away from the Tohoku (northeast) area which has felt the brunt of the earthquake and tsunami, but are ever mindful of the unpredictable nature of earthquakes.

Dan Johnson, Associate Economics Professor
Just got back to my hotel again, as it was evacuated again to check for structural damage as there were some superficial cracks in the walls when I first returned.
Here’s the story as it developed here: I’m at a conference here in downtown Tokyo, due to present some research in international trade.  Midway through someone else’s presentation, the room started to rumble more than shake.  It wasn’t heavy, but was noticeable as an earthquake.  The speaker stopped to wait for it, and it kept on and on, growing stronger and stronger.  As the light fixtures started to swing, we all climbed under our desks, hoping that the worst would pass quickly.  But for several minutes that seemed like hours, it grew even stronger.  The room really vibrated, and people grew genuinely terrified.  I wasn’t scared yet, just amused, so I smiled and cracked jokes with my colleagues to keep the mood light.  After all, what are the odds against a killer quake on my first day of my first trip to Japan, right?
During a lull in the shaking, we heard the public siren outside calling for building evacuations, along with instructions to reach high ground as a precaution against a tsunami coming ashore.  That’s actually when I started to get scared.  We filed out in orderly fashion, and were thankfully already on a hilltop, so could watch as dozens of others streamed out of nearby buildings to join us in the hilltop courtyard between buildings.  The trees were swaying, the ornamental caps on one building were vibrating precipitously, sirens were blaring, and people were starting to panic.  Everyone had cell phones out, trying to call loved ones or get news.
We remained outside for the better part of an hour, with the ground still regularly trembling with aftershocks.  Slowly word trickled in about the enormity of the quake, where it was centered, how big the tsunami wave would (and wouldn’t) be, etc.  Security teams were remarkably calm and professional in checking buildings for gas leaks and fires and structural damage.
We called off the remainder of the afternoon’s conference, and I went back to my hotel, where elevators were of course not working.  So I climbed the 13 flights to my room, passing cracks in the wall that the bellhop asserted had definitely not been there that morning.  Upstairs, my room was still frequently swaying and vibrating with aftershocks, so I changed into warmer clothes and went back downstairs and outside to wait it out.
Looking around at the skyline, it would have been a major humanitarian disaster had the quake been centered here.  With millions of people in the city, skyscrapers on every block, streets clogged with cars and buses, construction cranes and industrial facilities in close proximity, it could have been horrific.  As it is, by 11 p.m. this evening, most subway and train lines have been checked and are back on limited service, stores are still stocking food and water, restaurants are open to serve meals, and the city is a little subdued but not too much the worse for wear.
So to celebrate surviving the Tokyo Quake of ’11, the conference group went out this evening for a fugu dinner (the Japanese pufferfish that must be prepared by a licensed chef because if prepared incorrectly it is fatally poisonous).  It was sublime.  And so is Tokyo.

Bob Kerwin: Former CC director of communications
Most Japanese have expected a big quake their whole lives. We do regular drills in hard hats and carrying survival kits – these came out for sure last Friday. But Tokyo is built for quakes and there was little damage in the city.
 While we had no idea if our ordeal was over, as the aftershocks lasted for hours, everyone’s attention switched to the horrific images on TV of the tsunami coming ashore. No drill could have prepared for that. Surviving the quake suddenly seemed inconsequential. Only family counted as everyone struggled for hours to contact their homes, many finally walking for hours in the absence of train service.
 Things are tense in Tokyo as the nuclear crisis has now taken center stage, but one has to admire the calm, communal approach to the danger. I can only contrast this to the alarmist foreign press that appears to live on incomplete information, hyperbole and more than a few accusations. I have yet to hear one person complain or point a finger in Tokyo. Emphasis is on the well-being of families, with coming to work entirely voluntary for most companies.
 If I had one wish out of this, other of course than for the reactors to cool down, it would be for the foreign press to find some objectivity and stop upsetting people needlessly. I get the impression that people in the US are more upset than here in Japan, where I can assure you we take the danger very seriously. It is amazing how a few well placed seeds in a paragraph of bland copy, like “desperate bid”, “catastrophic” (ahead of the fact) and, my own favorite, “apocalyptic” can stir people’s fears. We may have the radiation, but at least we don’t have such a toxic press to deal with.
All of my colleagues and I are buoyed by the many messages of support from friends over the horizon.

Christina Torres-Rouff Receives Fellowship; Steven Hayward Receives Grant

Two Colorado College professors have received recognition for their work in the form of fellowships and grants.

Associate Anthropology Professor Christina Torres-Rouff has been awarded a Summer 2011 Fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. During her fellowship, Torres-Rouff will draft two article-length manuscripts based on her National Science Foundation–supported work on the biological and cultural constituents of identity in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington, DC, is an institute of Harvard University dedicated to supporting scholarship internationally in Byzantine, Garden and Landscape and Pre-Columbian studies through fellowships, meetings, exhibitions and publications.

Assistant English Professor Steven Hayward has been awarded a $9,000 grant from the Embassy of Canada to support the further development of a course titled, “Topics in Literature: Canadian Literature as Cultural Production.” The most recent offering of the course took place in Toronto and Montreal.  This grant support will allow additional Canadian cities (Vancouver, Winnipeg and Ottawa) to be added to future versions of the course and will assist in funding student travel to and from Canada.

Six Named Professorships for 2011-12 Announced

Six named professorships were announced at the faculty meeting on Monday, March 14. The appointments range from two to three years, are not immediately renewable, and carry an annual stipend of $7,500 to be used for professional development purposes. The basis for selection was exemplary teaching and scholarship. The new appointments are:

Crown Family Endowed Professor for Innovation in the Arts:
Ofer Ben-Amots;
music. This is the first year for this professorship.

The A.E. and Ethel Irene Carlton Professor of Social Sciences:
Eve Grace;
political science. Juan Lindau held the Carlton Professorship from 2005-2007; Mario Montaño is the current holder.

The Christine S. Johnson Professorship in Music:
Victoria Levine;
music. Richard Agee held the first Christine S. Johnson Professorship from 2009-2010 and is the current holder.

The John Lord Knight Chair for the Study of Free Enterprise:
Vibha Kapuria-Foreman;
economics. Larry Stimpert held the John Lord Knight Chair from 2005-2007; Aju Fenn is the current holder.

The NEH Endowed Distinguished Teaching Professorship in the Humanities:
Joan Ericson
, East Asian Languages. Barry Sarchett held the NEH Professorship from 2005-2007; Tom Lindblade is the current holder.

 The Nancy Bryson Schlosser and C. William Schlosser Professorship in the Arts:
Kate Leonard
; art. Gale Murray held the Schlosser Professorship from 2006-2008; Peggy Berg is the current holder.

John Simons Publishes ‘Peckinpah’s Tragic Westerns’

English Professor John Simons has published a new book, “Peckinpah’s Tragic Westerns: A Critical Study,” examining the work of filmmaker Sam Peckinpah and placing it within the 2,000-year-old tradition of Western tragedy. The tradition, enfolding the Greeks, Shakespeare, and modern tragedians, is represented in Peckinpah’s art in numerous ways, and the fact that he worked in the mode throughout his career distinguishes him from most American film directors. Films covered include “Ride the High Country,” “Noon Wine,” “The Wild Bunch,” “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” and “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.” Comments on the book jacket by renowned writer, producer, and director Garner Simmons note that the book “provides fresh and, at times, profound insights into how and why Peckinpah’s work touches us in such a deep and visceral way.” The book is co-authored with Robert Merrill, a colleague of Simons’ while in graduate school at the University of Chicago.