Posts from December, 2011

Ron Rubin Wins Inaugural Pie-Off

The gauntlet has been thrown down by pie-maker extraordinaire Ron Rubin, development officer for major gifts.

Rubin’s Brown Bottom Rum Pecan Pie was the grand prize winner in Colorado College’s inaugural Pie-Off.  The event, which drew 16 entries, was held Dec. 14 in Armstrong Hall as a benefit for CC’s Community Kitchen. CC community members literally put their money where their mouth was as they voted for their favorite pie with pocket change, dollar bills, and in some cases, five-dollar bills, and in the process raised a total of $175 for the Community Kitchen.

The event, organized by the athletic department and business office, featured three categories. In addition to be the overall winner, Rubin’s pie also took first place in the holiday category. Carolyn Madsen, office coordinator for the president’s office, took first place in the cream pie category, with her Black Bottom Pie.  Rubin’s Raspbarb Pie was the top winner in the fruit pie category. A very close contender in the cream pie category was the Buttermilk Pie, an anonymous submission, which lost by 39 cents.

Rubin entered four pies in the competition. He baked two fruit pies (bluebarb and raspbarb) on Tuesday night, then went to the grocery store at 5 a.m. Wednesday, returned home, and baked two more pies (the grand prize winner and a peppermint eggnog pie) by 7:30 a.m. Although he often bakes pies for friends and family, Rubin said it was the first time he has baked four pies in 24 hours – and vows to enter five pies next year. “Next year is really going to be a doozie!” he said. “I’m bringing my special, famous pie recipes. No one will be able to touch them. Next year will be twice as big with much more money raised, I’m confident.”

Prizes were provided by the athletic department, with the winner of each category receiving a CC shirt and the grand prize winner receiving four tickets to a CC hockey game.

The pies and participants in the competition included:
Jack Daniels Peach – Carolyn Madsen
Raspbarb – Ron Rubin
Bluebarb – Ron Rubin
Apple – Cheri Gamble
Apple Cranberry Current with French Topping – Jim and Jannette Swanson
Black Bottom – Carolyn Madsen
Buttermilk – Anonymous
Mile-High Coconut Cream –Angela Hines
Coconut Cream  – Camilla Vogt ’13
Peanut Butter Honeycomb – Melissa Beyers
Nesselrode – Carolyn Madsen
Mincemeat – Joan Taylor
Georgia Pumpkin – Joan Taylor
Brown Bottom Run Pecan – Ron Rubin
Peppermint Eggnog Cheesecake – Ron Rubin
Chocolate Pecan – Leslie Weddell

Here is Ron’s recipe:

Rum Pecan Pie with a Chocolate Bottom

2 heaping cups of pecans that have been toasted 5 to 10 minutes at 300 to become fragrant, then cooled. Do not allow them to burn. You have to watch the pecans closely so they don’t overcook.
3/4 cup dark brown sugar (packed and pressed)
3/4 cup light or dark Karo syrup (I use dark)
3 large eggs plus 2 yolks
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons rum (I use Myers’s dark Jamaican rum. Cap’t Morgan would also be good, I bet!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

To make filling:
Heat brown sugar and Karo syrup in a heavy medium size saucepan at low/medium heat, stirring occasionally with rubber spatula. When sugar is dissolved into the syrup, set aside.
In another medium size saucepan, whisk eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, rum, and salt together. Slowly whisk warm (not hot) sugar mixture into egg mixture. Return saucepan to stove on low and mix with rubber spatula.
Whisk in melted butter slowly.

Meanwhile, after pie crust is pressed into pie plate, put into 300 degree oven for 3 or 4 minutes for crust to get flaky. While in the oven, during the last minute, pour in the 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Leave in oven until starting to melt. Remove crust and chocolate and spread the chocolate around the crust bottom to form a nice layer of chocolate. Let cool before adding pecans and other ingredients so chocolate doesn’t melt when adding pecan mixture.

In a small pan over low heat, stir together cornstarch and water until pasty thick. Whisk into sugar mixture. Heat in sugar mixture saucepan on medium, stirring frequently about 3 minutes so it is warm to hot.

Sprinkle pecans into chocolate pie shell, then pour filling mixture on top of pecans.

Place pie plate with ingredients in 300 to 325 degree oven (depending on oven accuracy) on cookie sheet to prevent spillage from dripping onto oven, if it should bubble over. Bake until pie puffs and the mixture is a little bubbly and firm  throughout – about 35 to 40 minutes. You don’t want the mixture to be runny when taking it out of the oven. You can “shake” it a little to be sure it is firm in the middle. If need be, cook a little longer if not firm.

Place on rack and let cool for 45 minutes. Serve either warm or cool. Will keep for a week or two in the refrigerator.

Get to know: Kevin Rask

Kevin Rask was probably destined to be an economist: His father, two sisters, and his wife, CC President Jill Tiefenthaler, all are economists. If that’s not enough, he was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a country of vast economic opportunity, where his father was working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) while completing his dissertation in economics.

The Rask family later moved to Columbus, Ohio, where his father taught agricultural economics at Ohio State University and his mother was a special education teacher in the Columbus public schools.

Rask received a B.A. in economics from Haverford College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Duke University. After considering and then discarding two or three dissertation topics, he wrote his dissertation on “The Social Costs of Production and the Structure of Technology in the Brazilian Ethanol Industry: A Cost-Benefit Analysis and an Infant Industry Evaluation, 1978-1987.” Rask has taught at Colgate University and Wake Forest University.

The first decade of Rask’s research centered on renewal fuels; primarily ethanol development, production, markets, and policy in the United States and Brazil. He also looked at the impact of ethanol on the U.S. highway trust funds and emission characteristics of ethanol. Over time, with the system so entrenched with political and agricultural interests, Rask moved on to an area that had always been a student-research focus of his: higher education.

“Since the late 90s, my primary area has been higher ed,” he said. “I’ve always found it the best way to teach econometrics and statistics.” He teaches econometrics, defined as “the application of mathematics and statistical methods to economic data,” by using higher ed models as examples. “College students understand the econometric concepts and methodology more clearly when you use examples such as college choice and major choice,” he said. “Difficult analytical concepts are easier to grasp when the context is something the student has experienced first-hand.” In fact, a major focus of his research is the modeling of choice. It’s an area that fascinates him: why people do what they do in different environments or facing different constraints.

Some of Rask’s more recent research in the field of higher education has focused on issues such as the role of grade sensitivity in explaining the gender imbalance in undergraduate economics, the SAT as a predictor of success at a liberal arts college, and the influence of various components of U.S. News & World Report’s ranking categories on a school’s final score.  The last issue is gaining increased attention, as many schools, Colorado College included, no longer tout U.S. News & World Report rankings in publications or on their websites. Rask said the formula and weight given to various components of the USNWR rankings are not independent, but rather, are linked.  As an example, he cites the component identifying how many students graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class. Although that component has a predetermined weight, if a school changes its top 10 percent profile it will also change other components, such as average SAT scores and projected graduation rates.  Therefore, Rask says, the effective influence of some components is greater than their published weights.

Rask also is interested in the long-term returns to a selective liberal arts education, not only as a way of justifying the sticker shock of the cost, but also its lasting benefits. “Most economists tend to focus on earnings,” he said. “But research also shows that college graduates tend to vote at a higher rate, divorce at a lower rate, are healthier, and are more civically engaged. Graduates also are more flexible in their careers and have a greater ability to be productive in the workforce.  New research is beginning to find differences between types of institutions and certain outcomes, and the contributions of liberal arts colleges are a primary interest of mine,” he said.

Rask taught Econometrics in Block 2 and will co-teach, with Tiefenthaler, Economics of Higher Education in Block 5. As part of that course the class will look at various educational models and institutions, including planned visits to Pikes Peak Community College, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Regis University, and the Air Force Academy.

In addition to teaching, Rask oversees five senior thesis projects and has a part-time appointment conducting institutional research at CC. That position is still evolving, but in the past Rask developed models of alumni giving and participation for Colgate University, and models of admission yields and financial aid for Colgate, Wake Forest University, many undergraduate institutions, and several law schools.

Rask is impressed by the CC students’ level of engagement in their classes, noting that, “As a group, they are far more engaged than other students I have taught.” He also finds there are fewer barriers between students and professors at Colorado College than at other institutions and wonders whether that is attributable to the type of students attracted to CC, the type of faculty the college attracts, or if it’s part of the culture of the Block Plan.

As much as he enjoys research, Rask really enjoys teaching. “My research isn’t going to change the world in a huge way,” he said. “But with teaching, you can have a lasting influence.” His goal? “To turn out majors who are capable of good, independent reasoning. They should have the intellectual confidence and skills to come up with their own answers to inquiries and projects.”

 Part of his dedication to teaching is evident in his left knee, which remains swollen despite surgery in the middle of Block 2. Rask, an avid basketball fan, tore his ACL playing a pick-up basketball game in late September. Feeling better after the surgery, he spent too much time on his feet in class and his knee subsequently swelled up.  An infection followed, and after a second surgery he is back on his feet without crutches (or an ACL) and looking forward to getting the knee done again after teaching Block 5. Despite his love for sports, Rask says it will be a while before he plays as hard as he used to.

Annual Chili Cook-Off Draws Large Crowd

Approximately 75 people attended facilities services annual chili cook-off, held on Friday, Dec. 2. There were a total of 18 entries: eight in the green chili division, seven in the red chili division, and three vegetarian entries.

Aaron Strong, a landscape contractor who works with CC, won in the red chili category; Darrold Hughes, athletic field specialist with facilities services won in the green chili division, and Jeff Carlson, lead painter in facilities services, took the prize for the vegetarian chili.

A taster at the chili cook-off. Photo by Cecelia Gonzales.

The winners in each category receive a handcrafted trophy spoon made by carpenters Karl Greis and Ken Wilson.

CC Senior Honored at White House for Work on Tribal Lands

Tiffany Calabaza ’12 is one of 11 Native American youth leaders who was honored at the White House Tribal Nations Conference on Thursday, Dec. 1, as a “Champion of Change.” Calabaza was recognized for her efforts to bring renewable energy to her hometown of Kewa (formerly Santo Domingo Pueblo), N.M.

Calabaza, an environmental chemistry major, worked with Chemistry Professor Sally Meyer and Kewa tribal members to convert a community windmill into a solar water pumping station. The station will pump ground water more efficiently, allowing livestock and other small wildlife to have a source of drinking water.

The project continues to involve both Colorado College students as well as Kewa tribal members. Calabaza’s goal is to educate her community on renewable energy technologies that will allow cattle to spread evenly throughout the rangelands and avoid overgrazing, thus preventing further damage to the land.

The “Champions of Change” program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different issue is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community activists, are recognized for the work they are doing to better their communities.