Posts in: Around Campus
Leah Veldhuisen ’19
Until this year, Colorado College has not had a spoken word poetry group. Now, thanks to the inspiration of Eliza Mott ’16 and Hollis Schmidt ’17, CC has its own troupe for spoken word. In its inaugural year, SpeakEasy was recently awarded “Excellence in Poetry Programming” by the Pikes Peak Arts Council, granting the group an honorary membership within the council and official recognition within the Colorado Springs art community, an accolade featured recently by the Catalyst.
Mott and Schmidt began the group in Fall 2016, but both had been thinking about it long before then. As Schmidt, the vice president of the group, SpeakEasy, says, the community of spoken word “just didn’t exist at CC. There were a few workshops for poetry, but nothing like slam poetry or spoken word.” For Mott, SpeakEasy’s president, her inspiration to start the group came last year, when Yolany Gonell, director of residential life and campus activities, began the “I am” poetry performance. Mott says that “the impact of that performance on myself, the other performers, and the students who watched, was incredible.” Mott says she wanted to continue to share the experience of spoken word with others and, while performing at other open mic events, noticed that there were other talented poets at CC. Schmidt and Mott recognized the lack of “space for these poets to gather” on CC’s campus.
With these ideas in mind, Mott began collaborating with Gonell and Schmidt, and SpeakEasy began to come together. Both students had their own visions for the group, but at the core, their goal was to create a place for students to come together to write and perform poetry that explores interesting and sometimes difficult topics. As a creative writing major with an emphasis on poetry, Schmidt says she hopes to provide a community “outside of the academic classroom where students can be creative and also be held accountable for continuing to write.” Mott says her goal for the group is to “create spoken word poetry and art that addresses issues of identity and personhood” and to “put on performances with our troupe that create conversation regarding these issues.” Mott also emphasizes her goal to explore powerful issues and allow people to share their own story though poetry.
SpeakEasy’s purpose has resonated with many CC students; after holding tryouts on campus, the troupe already has 18 members. Their first official performance is this Sunday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. in the screening room at Cornerstone Arts Center.
By Leah Veldhuisen ’19
History students are making strides to educate the large community of southern Colorado about mass incarceration, and why Colorado is an essential part of this discussion through a digital project called “Past, Present, Prison.”
Starting with the Social Issues and Historical Context Initiative in 2014, the “Past, Present, Prison” project was created by students in the Colorado College Department of History. The initiative is funded by a grant from an anonymous donor that provides $200,000 over three years. The initiative’s goal is to inform people on how history shapes current issues and focuses on creating courses on the history of prisons in Colorado, as well as inviting visiting speakers on the topic. This fall, the initiative is also putting on an exhibit at the I.D.E.A. Space called “Incarceration Nation.”
As a whole, the SIHC initiative’s goal is to engage CC students, faculty, and staff with the Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Canon City communities in conversations about the impact of prisons in southern Colorado. The “Past, Present, Prison” digital project is one of the main ways the grant is attempting to do so.
The project began, with help from the SIHC grant, in the history department with the goal of raising awareness of mass incarceration in the United States, and specifically how Colorado prisons play a role. Mass incarceration is a modern concept based on how quickly the prison industry is growing, the racial disparities within it, and the sheer numbers of incarcerated people. According to Carol Neel, professor of history, mass incarceration is a problem because “of a systematic racism and classism, and because the American people have let politicians blind them to the imprisonment of over two million of us.”
Helping young people learn about the past by demonstrating the connections between history and current issues is also an important aspect of the project. The digital project is a collaboration between students, faculty, and staff. On the “Past, Present, Prison” webpage, CC students have posted their extensive research pulled from archives of the Museum of Colorado Prisons and the Royal Gorge Museum and History Center, both in Canon City, Colorado. The two sets of archives cover many aspects of prison in a local and historical context.
The posted articles originated as papers written by students in the course Encountering the Past – The Long History of the Colorado State Penitentiary at Canon City, taught by Neel. The articles include topics such as the beginning of incarceration and criminalization, the economics of incarceration, and social dynamics in and around prisons. Right now, the webpage only contains the articles profiling the history of Colorado prisons, but the students hope to expand its reach. Neel explains that adding a blog to the project would aim to better engage the Colorado Department of Corrections in the conversation about mass incarceration and to explore the impact of the many prisons on the state of Colorado.
By Alana Aamodt ’18
From climbing fourteeners in the Collegiate Peaks, to rafting in Moab canyons, to hiking up to lakes and hot springs in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, dozens of first-year students spent their first block break experiencing some of the most beautiful parts of the Southwest’s wilderness. Each year, more than 150 students participate in trips like these, free of cost, thanks to the Outdoor Recreation Committee’s First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trips program.
The program, affectionately called FOOT trips, has been bringing together first-year students and upper-class student leaders during every Block 1 block break since 1984. The student-led trips are open to all experience levels with 15-20 FOOT trips taking place every year.
Student leaders plan out FOOT trips at the end of each school year for the next year’s first block break. In September, leaders are randomly assigned a group of about nine first-year students. Right after class on Wednesday of fourth week of Block 1, groups depart in vans for the FOOT trips.
Over the course of an extended weekend, first-year students are introduced to outdoor skills like backcountry cooking, reading topographic maps, and “Leave No Trace” principles. While often challenging, FOOT trips largely focus on bonding within the group and taking in the beauty of the outdoors.
Eliza Guion ’20 participated in a FOOT trip this year and spent four days camping in the San Isabel National Forest outside Leadville, Colorado. Trip highlights included swimming in North Halfmoon Lake, summiting Mount Massive at 14,428 feet, and enjoying campfires under clear starry skies.
“One memorable moment on our FOOT trip happened when we were on our way up to the summit of Mount Massive,” Guion recounts of her trip. “We were pretty cold, the wind was blowing hail into our faces, the trail was steep, and the visibility was super low. We were just trudging up the gray rocks in the gray mist. Then out of nowhere a big gust of wind came and cleared the whole valley of the fog and the hail. Suddenly there was sun on our faces, and we turned around and watched as the whole view was unveiled before us. As the fog was swept away, we could see the red bushes and the yellow aspens, and miles and miles into the blue hills. It was magical!”
After completing a FOOT trip, students can continue to participate through ORC trips and may eventually choose to become trip leaders themselves. Through inclusive programs like FOOT, the ORC hopes to inspire new generations of outdoor leaders within the CC student community.
Photo by Orren Fox ’20.
Michael Howell, Manitou Springs resident and registrar and collections manager at the Fine Arts Center, talks about the CC-FAC alliance with the Pikes Peak Bulletin. (click image to see PDF)
How can a faculty member create cultural inclusiveness in the classroom? How can they best support students during uncertain times? How can they make diversity a strategic priority?
Those are just some of the questions that will be discussed this weekend at the Consortium for Faculty Diversity. CFD is a group of liberal arts institutions that supports a fellowship program with the goal of diversifying the pipeline of faculty into the liberal arts.
Every year, CFD brings together the program’s new fellows for a professional development conference featuring workshops and speakers to discuss topics to support the fellows’ professional growth. This year, CC hosts the annual conference, in various campus locations Friday, Sept. 23, and Saturday, Sept. 24.
Michael Benitez, a leading national social justice educator and activist-scholar, will lead a presentation and dialogue titled, “The Time Is Always Now: Advancing Legacies of Diversity and Social Justice Leadership in 21st Century Higher Education.” Benitez is known for his down-to-earth insightful commentary and critical perspectives on social and cultural issues. Currently, Benitez is chief diversity officer, dean of diversity and inclusion, and Title IX officer at the University of Puget Sound.
Dena Samuels, director at Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion, and assistant professor of women’s and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, provides the closing keynote address, “Transforming Ourselves to Become Culturally Inclusive Educators.” Her presentation is directed at educators of any experience level teaching any subject who are willing to engage in self-reflection and who are specifically interested in increasing their teaching effectiveness by making their classrooms more culturally inclusive.
At CC, the Riley Fellows Program is run in conjunction with the Consortium for Faculty Diversity fellows. CC was a founding member of the consortium, which aims to: serve students’ learning by bringing in emerging teacher-scholars to offer courses and to be a part of the diverse intellectual community at CC; serve the fellows by providing pre-doctoral and post-doctoral appointments where they can be immersed in an excellent liberal arts institution, helping advance their scholarship, develop their teaching, and be more successful in the academic job market; and serve the entire liberal arts community by supporting inclusive excellence by diversifying the faculty candidate pool for the liberal arts.
CC President Jill Tiefenthaler and Fine Arts Center President and CEO David Dahlin talk with Colorado Public Radio’s Corey Jones about the CC-FAC alliance and strategic planning process.
CC faculty and staff visited the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center during an open house to meet FAC colleagues and explore the galleries, many getting behind-the-scenes tours.
By Leslie Weddell
Albert Einstein once said “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
Imagination certainly is on display at the Colorado College Children’s Center, its hallways an amazing preview of the creativity and ingenuity the preschoolers are developing.
Exhibited in the front hall of the Children’s Center is a “Preschool Fine Art Museum” featuring Monets, Chihulys, Klimts, Warhols, and others – or at least a preschool interpretation of the masters. Recycled water bottles, painted with watercolors and permanent markers and fastened to a chicken wire base, make a striking Chihuly hanging sculpture. Another Chihuly rendition is created from melted plastic Solo cups, painted and glued to driftwood. And a third Chihuly sculpture – Chihuly being a favorite of the young students – is created from painted coffee filters strung together.
Credit much of the behind-the-scenes work to Gina Thompson, an early childhood educator at the Children’s Center, who did a lot of the melting, gluing, stringing, and fastening of artwork to chicken wire.
“It was a kid-driven project,” says Thompson, who works with students in the kindergarten readiness program. A recent theme in the class was artists and their art. After spending time studying and researching various artists, Thompson and others at the Children’s Center, including CC student volunteers, took the preschoolers on a field trip this summer to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, only a few blocks away. “It’s so wonderful that it’s within walking distance,” Thompson says.
“The kids were really inspired when they saw many of the artists we had studied there,” Thompson says. “It really sparked their imagination and they were incredibly enthusiastic about learning more.”
Prior to their trip, and the students examined books with pictures of the artists’ work and read children’s books about the artists’ lives. They studied Monet, noting that many of his paintings featured gardens and bridges. They studied the Klimt cats, observing the geometric shapes, how the cats sit with their tails positioned behind them, and how Klimt’s works are highlighted with gold.
They looked at Van Gogh’s works, and made their own swirling “Starry Nights.” Cubism came to life with watercolors on paper as they drew, cut, and formed eyes, nose, mouth, and eyes. They saw paintings of fields of poppies, and then painted their own versions, a series Thompson calls “Poppies in Perspective.”
Throughout the process, Thompson encouraged the students to use the entire paper, to have their artwork take up the whole page and not only a tiny portion of the paper. “That is one of the biggest challenges,” she says. “I also want them to take time and have pride in their work. Once they see what they can accomplish with the techniques, mediums, and color combinations they experiment with, the kids get so motivated to create more and take chances.”
The art and artist “block” is over now, and Thompson and her students are moving on to a rockets and space theme. “It’s providing me a chance to get to know my new students and what inspires them,” Thompson says. “Student-inspired lessons are so much more meaningful to the students and it is always fun, as a teacher, to watch the kids get excited about their learning. I can’t wait to see where their imaginations take them on this.”
The whole community is invited to find out more about the CC-Fine Arts Center alliance at upcoming listening sessions: Thursday, Sept. 8, 7:30-9 a.m., Fine Arts Center Music Room; Wednesday, Sept. 14, 4:30-6 p.m., CC’s Packard Performance Hall; or Monday, Sept. 26, 7-8:30 p.m., Fine Arts Center Music Room. Learn about the strategic planning process.
A new initiative on campus aims to support and welcome refugees, often the most vulnerable members of the community, arriving from all over the world to the Colorado Springs area. The CC Refugee Alliance is a group being co-led by Nicole Tan ’17 and Heather Powell Browne, assistant director of off-campus study.
“As an international student in the U.S, I think I’ve become acutely aware of the different privileges we have when we ask to enter a country,” Tan says of her motivation to organize this group. After a semester in Central America, I realized how different my entry into the U.S. was compared to undocumented migrants, who in many cases are also refugees fleeing from severe economic hardship and violence. I think this is what prompted my interest in refugees.”
Powell Browne says a variety of different people across campus were already looking for ways to help with the influx of refugees arriving in the Colorado Springs area. She hosted several volunteer trainings independently and had significant participation from members of the CC community. She says it made clear there was a need to consolidate efforts.
CC has partnered with Lutheran Family Services, an area organization which assembles cultural mentoring teams that “adopt” incoming refugee families and individuals for their first four to six months in the country, allowing CC faculty, staff, and students to add their support in a variety of roles.
“Those teams work best when they are diverse; a mix of faculty, staff, and students,” says Powell Browne. “We all have different capabilities and times we can help mentor and serve. For example, a staff or faculty team member may wish to have the refugee family over to their home one night for a dinner, or help call an elementary school to navigate a problem the parents are having. A student may have more flexibility to tutor ESL in the afternoons, or drive a refugee to a job interview or medical appointment.”
She says there are plenty of opportunities for individuals, student groups, athletics teams, and others to work with refugee kids after school, or to organize a one-time household goods drive of items needed to furnish refugees’ apartments when they arrive in a new country, often with nothing. “Everyone has their strengths and I hope that the CC Refugee Alliance will give us a space to work together to support these vulnerable people fleeing oppression,” she says.
Tan says she also hopes the group will start to put faces to the abstract idea of refugees. “Unless we intentionally seek these interactions, it’s very unlikely that we will come across refugees in our day to day lives,” she says. “I’d like to see CC step forwards to welcome refugees into our community.”
If you would like to learn more about how you can be involved in the CC Refugee Alliance, attend an information session next Friday, Sept. 16, from noon-1:30 p.m. at Sacred Grounds in the basement of Shove Memorial Chapel. Opportunities exist for ongoing cultural mentoring teams, one-time service projects and supply drives, English as a Second Language tutoring and language translation, help setting up apartments for new arrivals, resume proofreading and interview prep, and more.