Posts from February, 2012

First Block Class Launches The Ninth Block

It’s not often that a class assignment becomes a tangible enterprise, but CC’s new on-campus bar is the direct result of an economics course. A first block economics course, “Entrepreneurship,” was instrumental in launching The Ninth Block, the on-campus bar.

The Ninth Block founders, from left to right, are Lee Carter, Ryan Patterson, Luke Urban and Bryce Daniels. Not shown is Tyler Thorne.

At the start of the school year, seniors Lee Carter, Ryan Patterson, and Luke Urban, and juniors Bryce Daniels and Tyler Thorne took Economics and Business Professor Larry Stimpert’s class in which the assignment was to write a business plan. Their first idea was a combination barbershop and bar, but they quickly dropped the barbershop side of the business and focused instead on creating a social space on campus in which students could gather and talk over a drink.

The result is The Ninth Block, currently located in La’au’s Taco Shop behind the Spencer Building. Daniels, a golfer, came up with the name, which is derived from the 19th hole in golf, commonly meaning the bar or clubhouse. CC’s Block Plan originally had nine blocks, and Patterson liked the historical significance and double connotation of the name.

“I strongly believe in the importance of students having a place to meet and socialize that doesn’t require an invitation. This gives students an option who might like to have a drink with a friend or group,” said CC President Jill Tiefenthaler.

Students under 21 can enter the bar but are not served alcohol. Entrants’ IDs are checked, and different wrist bands are worn by students over and under 21 years of age.

“We wanted a constructive place where kids could gather. There was a lot of support from the administration and the students,” said Urban. “What we were hoping to do was create an alternative to the house party scene.”

The group was encouraged by Stimpert, who liked the plan but kept challenging the students to make it better. ”He not only pushed our group, he pushed the whole class. He challenged everyone to do cool things with their project. He expected a lot out of everyone,” Urban said. “If it wasn’t for Larry, none of this would have happened.”

The on-campus bar, which serves CC students of age, faculty, and staff, is a pilot program, but Patterson said the goal is to find it a permanent, on-campus location. Colorado College previously had a campus bar, Benjamin’s Basement (also known as Benny’s) in the Rastall Center, which opened in 1975 and served 3.2 beer, soft drinks, and snacks. It ceased to exist when the building was enlarged, remodeled, and renamed the Worner Campus Center in 1987.

The students’ project fits in with an administrative goal to provide a location on or near campus where students 21 years can meet, socialize, and drink responsibly. Once the idea began to take shape, the students got in touch with Mike Edmonds, dean of students, and President Tiefenthaler, to discuss the possibilities of operating an on-campus bar. Both were open to the proposal, and Edmonds put the group in touch with Joseph Coleman, a local businessman who owns several restaurants. The students formed a partnership (PDUCT Management, derived from the initials of the five students’ last names) with Coleman, and Coleman agreed to house The Ninth Block in La’au’s, where it operates after the restaurant closes.

“It is an exciting opportunity, particularly for the students who came up with the idea,” said John Lauer, senior associate dean of students and director of residential life. 

The bar, which is open from 9:15 p.m. to 1:45 a.m., Thursdays through Saturdays, serves nachos, chips and salsa, six different beers, and has a “limited but adequate” bar; it does not, however, serve shots. The students said that was a deliberate decision, designed to help promote responsible drinking and to distance the bar from the house party atmosphere. “It should be a place where a professor and student would be comfortable going after dinner at the professor’s house to talk about the issues of the day,” Carter said.

An on-campus bar helps minimize the risks of drinking, Patterson said. “This pilot program gives kids the opportunity to show they can be responsible. No one wants to mess it up.”

“The Ninth Block presents so many possibilities for learning,” Lauer said. “It is truly a unique pilot that offers hands-on business experience, another gathering place for the campus community, and a chance for the administration to see how all involved respond to the project.”

Although the entrepreneurship class was only a block long (and all five got an A in the class), they continued to work on the project the entire semester, even spending their winter break getting their bartender certifications. The group would spend long hours discussing, developing, and discarding plans. They would take over a classroom, writing ideas on the chalkboard and fine-tuning them. Stimpert can vouch for that: “They developed a high level of commitment to their idea, and long after Block One was over, I’d see them meeting together in a Palmer classroom late in the afternoon or at night hashing out details,” he said.

The students found they were constantly thinking about the challenges of getting the bar up and running– and knew the others in the group were too, based on the flurry of late-night texts and emails.  “It was the perfect opportunity to learn what it is like to be a business owner and to operate a business on a small scale, said Carter. “It was a great experience.”

 The bar’s founders said that the Block Plan definitely contributed to their commitment to the project, and that it would have been challenging to maintain their momentum under a semester plan. “It definitely was one of the top five educational experiences of my life,” Daniels said.

“The entrepreneurship course represents the best aspects of teaching and learning in Colorado College’s Block Plan,” said Stimpert. “The students immersed themselves in the creative task of developing a complete business plan in three and one-half weeks.  They benefitted from the opportunity to work with nine successful entrepreneurs – most of them Colorado College alumni – who participated in the course. But most of the credit for the launch of The Ninth Block must go to these students. Their individual personalities quickly jelled into a hardworking and effective group.”

Student reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. “People are telling us that it’s fantastic, that it’s just what the campus needs,” said Urban. “Even people we don’t know are coming up and saying they were sick of the party scene, and it’s so great to be able to go someplace close by and have a real conversation. It makes all the work worthwhile.”

Patterson said the endeavor has been the defining project of his senior year; a “capstone experience.”

“I think it will be very rewarding in the end. We want to show everyone that this is a viable, sustainable concept,” Patterson said. “It definitely improves campus life.”

Andrew Manley: Words and Phrases coined by Shakespeare

By Sylvie Scowcroft ’14

Upon entering the Cornerstone Arts Center, one is confronted with a nearly 20-foot high chalkboard wall filled words and phrases commonly used today. The hand-written chalk installation features many of the more than 1,700 words and phrases coined by Shakespeare. Many of the words on the board were already in existence; Shakespeare just used them in a new way. CC Associate Drama Professor Andrew Manley, who is responsible for this installation, has a theory that since Shakespeare wrote purely in iambic pentameter, he often had to get creative with his phrasing.

Manley has filled smaller chalkboards with Shakespeare before and was looking for an opportunity to do it again because in his eyes the words of Shakespeare are the perfect thing to fill the space. “It is a big board and therefore needs something big to fill it. The sheer size of the chalkboards reflects Shakespeare’s monumental contribution to the English language. His words are such a strong foundation to drama and language that it seems only fitting to place them in the front of our performing arts center,” Manley said.

Cornerstone is largely a drama building, so Manley likes the image of Shakespeare’s words going right up the core into the building. Toward the end of last year there seemed to be a lull in the use of the boards, so he decided the time was ripe. One side of the wall features words; the other side features phrases.

The process of installing this project was a pleasant one for Manley. The most difficult part of using the chalkboards is always cleaning off whatever was there beforehand. It him took a good deal of time and at least two washes to completely erase any trace of previous chalk. Once that was completed he got up on his big orange scissor lift and just started writing. It took three hours, but once he got going he entered into a meditative state. According to Manley, there was a peacefulness and state of Zen that came from all of that writing. It “took [him] into a world of words,” which he rather enjoyed.

Before starting the actual writing process, Manley did very little prep work. He found a list of words and phrases on the Internet and edited out the more obscure, less interesting ones. He didn’t do anything special to ensure that the lines were straight or count how many words/phrases were going to fit on the wall. As soon as the wall was ready, he just stared writing. Luckily, he got all the way through the alphabet by the end.

Manley loves what this project does for the people entering the building. Whether they see it everyday or just once, there is always some sort of reaction. For those who come in everyday, they often like to look for a new word or phrase. There is no way to grasp the entire wall without standing still and meticulously reading
. This is a perfect exhibit for a variety of people engaging the building in a variety of ways.  

Mike Edmonds Cited as Major Force in Forensics

Colorado College Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Life Mike Edmonds has been elected by the KEY Society, one of the nation’s most prestigious forensics educators honor societies, as an honorary KEY coach. Edmonds accepted the honor at Emory University, where the society is housed, on Jan. 27.

Edmonds was cited as a major force in forensics when selected for the recognition. Said Melissa Maxcy Wade, executive of director of forensics at Emory University, “Mike is, simply, one of the nation’s forensics treasures.”

Forensics helps people think critically, speak publically, and persuade others, Edmonds said. “You have to weigh the material, analyze it, and articulate a point of view. Sometimes the analysis shows you that there are multiple truths; that everything isn’t always a solvable problem with a single answer. If there are multiple approaches, you find what the best approach is at a given time.

“Isn’t it better,” the dean of students and vice president for student life adds, “to have something settled after being questioned from all points of view? To solve differences with the spoken word and have real resolution?”

Edmonds began his forensics career as a seventh-grader in Clarksville, Tenn., and majored in theater and speech at the University of Mississippi. He says he joined the debate team while in junior high school for a variety of reasons: it allowed him to banter in a constructive manner, enabled him to travel, was an activity applicable to life – and because he had friends on the team. He has maintained his love of the discipline ever since, and the skills he began cultivating as a teenager have stood him in good stead throughout his career.

Qualities such as tolerance, patience, openness, and critical thinking are central to good debaters, and they also help facilitate dialogue and discussion in a classroom – and in life, Edmonds said.

Having good debating skills “gives you the opportunity to be comfortable having discussions in which you are passionate, but also willing to listen to opposing views. Good debaters are only credible if they know how to give the opposing view a credible and graceful exit strategy,” he said.

Edmonds is especially humbled by this award as he has not been an active coach since the early 1990s. However, he judges at least three high school tournaments a year, one of which is always the national high school tournament. Edmonds was selected for the award by his peers, and the fact that the award is peer-chosen means a lot to him. “These people are my friends and mentors, and I respect them so much,” he said.

The role of a good coach, Edmonds said, is to develop talent. “You need to know how to spot potential and understand how to use it.” A good coach knows a debater’s style, knows what topics work, what piece of literature to use to back up an argument, and what chemistry works best on a team. “A good coach brings out the best in both the individual and the team,” he said.

“I fundamentally believe that the sustainability and evolution of forensics is inherent to constructive dialogue,” Edmonds said. “It’s not one’s win/loss record, it’s the ability to solve differences and see another’s point of view.”