Posts in: Around Campus

Bridge Scholars Talk Finance on Alternative Block Break

By Montana Bass ’18

Retirement, investing, and budgeting were topics of discussion for about 40 students during the break between Blocks 5 and 6. The Bridge Scholars Program provided an alternative break program focused on financial literacy titled “Work Hard to Play Hard: A Unique Spin on Financial Literacy” consisting of an on-campus session and a daytrip to Denver.

Prentiss Dantzler, current Riley Scholar and sociology professor who helped lead the workshop, says it was a great success. “The most important point for students to take away is that actions performed today have an impact on their lives long-term. Whether it’s attending CC or swiping their credit card to pay for miscellaneous items, what we do today has an effect on our position tomorrow.”

Atiya Harvey ’18 attended the workshop and says she was pleasantly surprised by the amount she learned. “It was much more beneficial than I thought it was going to be,” she admits. “We discussed what financial literacy means to us and talked about our own financial goals.” Students traveled to Denver for a career-focused component of the workshop, visiting with professionals, including CC graduates, from a variety of companies to talk about career choice and opportunities.

Ultimately, Harvey says she came away with encouragement to pursue her dreams, and with practical information like how to choose a credit card and how to deal with debt. “I also talked with with an environmental education paraprof who talked to me about my options after CC, which I really appreciate,” she adds.

Dantzler says this type of programming addresses a disconnect between the financial burden often placed on students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and their education regarding financial topics.

Emily Chan, associate dean of academic programs and strategic initiatives, says programming like this is critical to students’ success at CC and beyond. “These are not students of great means, so for them to be responsible for their own finances can be very stressful,” Chan says. “They suddenly have a lot more goals and a lot more financial independence. We know that we need to offer them tools and give them places to learn.

Breaking Down Barriers at Story Slam




By Monica Black ’19

With chatter on campus about tough issues growing to a dull roar, a student-led forum for sharing stories allows individuals to share their experiences in a way that cuts through all the noise. At Story Slam, students and faculty tell their stories in front of a microphone in Sacred Grounds, where a crowd gathers to listen and support.

Students, faculty members, and staff audition stories, then the directors of Story Slam, Lena Engelstein ’16, Abby Portman ’16, and Madi Howard ’16, select their favorites and curate the show accordingly. Each block has a theme and the stories must fit, more or less, within that theme. Past examples include “Lost and Found” and “Borderline.”

“I’m attached to the stories being on the theme,” said Engelstein. “But we also look for a story with an arc.”

Portman added, “I look for what you would come away with after the story.” The stories, beyond these criteria, range hugely: some are funny, some are moving.

Engelstein, Portman, and Howard started Story Slam during Block 3 as the continuation of a prototype version last academic year. The Slam is modeled after the popular storytelling radio show “The Moth,” which is a recorded version of a live story slam.

Listeners love “The Moth” for its unique format, funny and moving stories, and celebrity appearances, but Story Slam emphasizes that this type of platform on a college campus has a particular role. “People that you see around campus, but who you don’t necessarily know, are telling really relatable stories,” said Engelstein. “Your image of that person changes [when you hear their story].”

One such example of breaking down those day-to-day barriers is when Kathy Giuffre, an associate professor and chair of the Sociology Department, told a love story at one Story Slam. “She was just as nervous as the students to tell her story,” said Portman. “She was hugging everyone who was about to tell a story too, and there was this nervous excitement. She’s just like another human who has a story. It’s not really about her position at CC, or how distinguished she is.”

The Slam can also air difficult topics, right out of the mouths of those who experience them. “We had two stories last slam about sexual assault,” said Portman. “There are lots of voices on campus talking about those issues through other media, but I thought it was really interesting that they could tell their own story.”

Story Slam happens the third Sunday of each block in Sacred Grounds, so for Block 6 you can catch Story Slam this Sunday, Feb. 28, at 8 p.m. The theme is “Stranger.” Auditions are the first week of every block, and Block 7’s theme is “Crush.”

“Black Faces, White Spaces” with Carolyn Finney

Carolyn FinneyBy Montana Bass ’18

Carolyn Finney, author of “Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors,” will bring her expertise to the Colorado College campus March 3. Finney is currently a geography faculty member at the University of Kentucky.

In a time when racial tension has exploded on college campuses across the country, including CC, and environmental discussion is at the forefront of political and social debate, Finney facilitates conversations regarding the intersectionality of these topics. “We have a long history of marginalizing people, and the environment is included in that,” Finney says. “It doesn’t mean that black or brown people haven’t had a relationship with the environment, but that relationship differs depending on their unique experience and history. We have developed a culture that pushes a universal way of looking at things, and that classic narrative isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not truly universal.”

It’s thanks to Drew Cavin, director of the Office of Field Study, that students will have the opportunity to discuss such topics with Finney. “I had a strong hunch that a large portion of the missing sense of inclusivity at CC was due to the ethos around nature, outdoor adventure, and the environment. I know from my research that these things do not resonate equally with all people for a variety of different reasons, but largely, I think, because of our country’s past and present of systemic racism, and the cultural paths that have emerged in different communities because of those systems,” says Cavin of his push to bring Finney to CC.

Both Cavin and Finney are excited about her visit to campus, and hope students will be, too. “As soon as I start talking about it I’m pacing back and forth,” she exclaims. “I love hearing about what people are experiencing.”

Find full event information at: “Black Faces, White Spaces.”

Cornerstone Arts Week Presents: “Where is Hollywood?”

By Montana Bass ’18

Part of the Cornerstone Arts Initiative, a 13-year-old program that emphasizes collaborative, interdisciplinary arts teaching linked by current and developing technologies, Cornerstone Arts Week is a series of talks, screenings, performances, and exhibits that celebrates artistic collaboration around an annual theme. The theme for 2016 is “Where Is Hollywood?” The week provides a broad spectrum of interdisciplinary events that address conceptions of Hollywood as a “cultural factory,” as a metaphor/mythology, and as a physical space.

Cornerstone Arts Week is sponsored by the Film and Media Studies Program, the Cultural Attractions Fund, the NEH Professorship, Innovation@CC, the IDEA Space, the History Department, the Economics Department, the English Department, Student Life, The Butler Center, the Office of Residential Life and Campus Activities, the Career Center, and the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute.

MONDAY, Feb. 22

4:30 p.m. Coburn Gallery: Reception and Artist Talks. “Staged: Constructed Realities, Altered Worlds.”
Exhibit runs January 29-March 5, 2016
“Staged” explores the ways in which photographers — like filmmakers or authors — can create new worlds, construct different realities, or narrate alternative histories. Building carefully imagined scenes, the photographers featured in the exhibition variously take on the roles of director, stage and costume designer, make-up artist, and occasionally, of performer. Featured artists: Bill Adams, Carol Dass, Carol Golemboski, Heather Oelklaus, Emma Powell, and Sally Stockhold.

6:30 p.m. Cornerstone Screening Room: Screening and discussion: “The Last Picture Show” (1971), dir. Peter Bogdanovich. This classic of the “New Hollywood,” the second golden age of Hollywood cinema, won two Academy Awards and is preserved in the Library of Congress. Post-film discussion will be led by CC faculty.

TUESDAY, Feb. 23

4 p.m. Cornerstone Screening Room: “Directed by John Ford” (1971-2006), dir. Peter Bogdanovich. This documentary examines the life and work of Hollywood Golden Age artist John Ford.

6:30 p.m. Celeste Theatre: Keynote Address with Peter Bogdanovich – “Where is Hollywood?”
This event will be live-streamed.
The keynote speaker for 2016 is director, actor, and film historian Peter Bogdanovich. As the Oscar-nominated director of celebrated films including “The Last Picture Show” (1971), “What’s Up, Doc?” (1972), and “Paper Moon” (1973), Bogdanovich was a key figure in the 1970s American cinema renaissance known as the New Hollywood. His most recent film, “She’s Funny That Way” (2015), stars Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson and premiered at the Venice International Film Festival. Bogdanovich has written more than 12 books on film and filmmaking, among them “Who the Devil Made It” (1997), which features interviews with 16 legendary directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, Fritz Lang, George Cukor, and Howard Hawks; with Orson Welles, “This is Orson Welles” (1998), and his classic interview book “John Ford,” which has been continuously in print since its first edition in 1967. He is a frequent commentator for the Criterion Collection and other DVD releases. As an actor, Bogdanovich is perhaps best known for his recurring role as the “shrink” for Lorraine Bracco’s psychiatrist character, Dr. Melfi, on HBO’s groundbreaking series “The Sopranos.”

Bogdanovich’s talk will draw on his close relationships with many classical Hollywood auteurs, including John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and Orson Welles, whose legendary unfinished film, “The Other Side of the Wind,” Bogdanovich is currently completing. He will also discuss his thoughts about the current state of Hollywood cinema.


3:30 p.m. Cornerstone Screening Room: Faculty Panel. “Fault Lines: Social History, Culture, and Geography of Hollywood”
In this presentation, an interdisciplinary panel of CC faculty examines the landscape, culture, and social history of Hollywood/Los Angeles.

6:30 p.m. Celeste Theatre: Cari Beauchamp and Sone Quartet – “Without Lying Down: The Powerful Women of Early Hollywood”
Film historian Cari Beauchamp is the author of numerous books about Hollywood, including “Without Lying Down: Frances Marion; The Powerful Women of Early Hollywood;” and “Joseph P. Kennedy Presents: His Hollywood Years.” Her books have been selected for “Best of the Year” lists by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Beauchamp was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for the documentary film “Without Lying Down: The Power of Women in Early Hollywood,” which she wrote and co-produced for Turner Classic Movies. She has twice been named the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Scholar and is resident scholar of the Mary Pickford Foundation. Beauchamp’s talk will include screenings of several early Hollywood short silent films directed by, written by, and starring women. Acclaimed Denver quartet Sone will improvise live musical scores to accompany the films.


5 p.m. Cornerstone Screening Room: F.W. Gooding and Faculty Panel – “Diversity and Representation in Hollywood”
One “space,” broadly speaking, rare in Hollywood is one that includes diverse roles for and positive representation of people of color and members of marginalized communities – not to mention jobs for same. This presentation by scholar F.W. Gooding, assistant professor of ethnic studies at Northern Arizona University and author of “You Mean There’s Race in My Movie?: The Complete Guide to Understanding Race in Mainstream Hollywood,” critiques matters of diversity and representation in Hollywood cinema and will include a panel discussion with CC faculty.

7:30 p.m. Cornerstone Screening Room: Ted Miller – “Economics of Hollywood Television”
Ted Miller ’86 is a partner and co-head of television at Creative Artists Agency (CAA), a worldwide talent and literary agency based in Los Angeles. Miller represents many of the world’s leading television producers, writers, directors, and showrunners, including Noah Hawley (“Fargo”), Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek,” “Hawaii 5-0,” “Scorpion,” “Limitless”) Damon Lindelof (creator of “Lost” and “The Leftovers”), Clyde Phillips (executive producer of “Dexter” and “Nurse Jackie”), Matthew Weiner (creator of “Mad Men”), and Marc Webb (director and executive producer of “Limitless” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”). Prior to CAA, Miller was an investment banker in New York. Miller will discuss the evolution of television, the creative renaissance in television series and argue that the “where” of Hollywood has moved to the small-ish screen.

FRIDAY, Feb. 26

1 p.m. Cornerstone Screening Room: Andrew Goldstein and Robyn Tong Gray – “Empathy, Entrepreneurship, and Virtual Worldmaking”
Andrew Goldstein ’09 and Robyn Tong Gray are co-founders of Otherworld Interactive, one of the most highly sought virtual reality development studios in the growing industry. Their projects, such as “Spacewalk” and “Café Âme,” have been featured at festivals and conferences throughout the country, from the Game Developers Conference to the Interactive Playground at the Tribeca Film Festival’s Innovation Week. Their project “Sisters” was accepted to the New Frontiers section of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Goldstein will discuss virtual worldmaking – specifically, the emergence of virtual and alternate reality technologies and their potential impact on the Hollywood entertainment industry – and Gray will discuss the role of empathy in designing interactive stories.

After the talk, participants will be able to view Otherworld’s mobile virtual reality apps and experience their Sundance-selected project, “Sisters,” in Cornerstone Studio B.

Student Turns Challenges into Campus Discussion on Eating Disorders

Vanessa Voller' 16 hiking the Na’Pali coast in Kaua’i

Vanessa Voller’ 16 hiking the Na’Pali coast in Kaua’i

Montana Bass ’18

When I walk in to Sacred Grounds, a student-run tea house inside Shove Memorial Chapel, Vanessa Voller ’16 immediately shows me to an assortment of teas, puts on water, and makes sure I’m comfortable. In less than a minute, she has already impressed me with her obvious kindness and the comforting sense of calm she carries with her.

She is a sociology major and an avid hiker from St. Paul, Minnesota. Next block, she will facilitate an inaugural three-day event series during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week to raise awareness about disordered eating and eating disorders on college campuses. Events will include keynote lectures and book signings by Jenni Schaefer and Anita Johnston, two prominent scholars and activists in the field; a documentary screening and discussion about eating disorders in diverse communities; trainings and workshops for Athletics Department and residential life staff; and free assessments and referrals by specialists from the Eating Disorder Center of Colorado Springs.

“I was diagnosed with an eating disorder in 2005, when I was just 11 years old,” says Voller. “I was physically and mentally ill for nearly a decade, losing my early and late adolescence to my mental illness.” We are sitting on colorful, plush cushions when I ask what motivated her to dedicate so much time and effort to this cause. She began her answer very simply.

“I was fortunate enough to have access to help at the Emily Program in St. Paul, one of the best centers for eating disorders in the country. There, I attended intensive out-patient therapy, group therapy, and family therapy sessions.”

Though at a more stable weight, Voller admits that her mental health continued to suffer throughout her first three years at CC. Now during her last semester, she is determined to spread awareness about this deadly mental illness. “The most important thing for me for people to know is that healing and recovery is possible. I think if someone had said that to me when I was 11 or even a first-year at CC it wouldn’t have taken a decade to ultimately be freed from my own mental illness,” she pauses, waiting for me to look up, “make sure you get that down,” she adds taking a long sip of her chamomile tea.

The three-day NEDA week event series, says Voller, is the culmination of her own recovery process. It is also her senior capstone project for the Community Engaged Leadership Certificate program, supervised by David Harker, director of the Collaborative for Community Engagement and an extension of her recent Venture Grant supervised by Associate Professor of Sociology Kathy Giuffre. Voller received a Venture Grant to spend her winter break hiking the Na’Pali coast in Kaua’i and interviewing Hawaiian cultural experts and medical staff at Hawaii’s only residential eating disorder clinic, Ai’Pono.

The Kalalau Trail she hiked is one of the “Top Ten Most Dangerous in the U.S.” according to National Geographic. Despite various setbacks, including a flash flood, Voller ultimately completed the 22-mile trek, during which she said she was reminded of her own recovery journey. “At mile two on the hike, at the Hanakap’ai Stream, I faced incredibly dangerous, chest deep waters. A local park ranger told me that I had to turn around and wait out the flash flood because crossing could be deadly. I immediately thought of my childhood therapist, holding my 11-year-old hand saying, ‘Vanessa, if you continue with this behavior you could die.’”

“I began the hike alone,” she says, “thinking that I didn’t need anyone or any help. But honestly, it was quite bold to think I didn’t need anyone.” She sets her mug down, “After the flash floods I befriended three other hikers and we traversed the rest of the coastline together.” She adds, “You know, almost everyone I met during my travels was healing from something: a failed marriage, an addiction, the loss of a loved one.”

After her hike, Voller traveled to the Ai’Pono clinic in Maui. “I read ‘Eating by the Light of the Moon’ by Anita Johnston when I was in treatment and it profoundly impacted me,” she says. Voller speaks of Johnston with intense admiration. “Anita is a remarkable woman; a true healer. An inspiration. She will do wonders for our community and I am honored that she is taking time to visit us.”

This block, Voller is in an independent study with Giuffre focused on writing an auto-ethnographic memoir chronicling her recovery journey through the lens of her backpacking trip. “I’m not sure what will happen with the manuscript when the block is over,” she says, “but for right now, I’m just focused on exploring my own creative writing process and crafting a new narrative of hope and of healing.”

More information on NEDA week, which will be Tuesday, Feb. 23, to Thursday, Feb. 25, is coming soon.

Apply Now for PIFP Program

Monica Black ’19

CC students looking to gain meaningful work experience and to deepen their understanding of a certain career field should consider applying for a PIFP fellowship. Colorado College’s Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) matches CC students with non-profits around Colorado for summer and yearlong paid fellowships. PIFP partners with non-profits ranging from the health sector to law, to the environment, and beyond. Some of these organizations include the ACLU of Colorado, ARC of the Pikes Peak Region, Bell Policy Center, Catamount Institute, Palmer Land Trust, TESSA, Colorado Health Institute, and many, many others.

Fellows participate in a full-time summer-long or yearlong fellowship, earning, respectively, stipends of $3,500 and $26,500. They also gain valuable experience, the kind that’s usually unavailable to students and recent graduates. It’s an opportunity that leads many fellows to careers both within and outside of the non-profit sector. “I’ve realized that I want to be part of an organization that is committed to helping people,” says Duy Pham ’15 of his current PIFP experience at Bell Policy Center.

Alex Drew ’15, who is currently carrying out her fellowship at the arts-driven community advocacy group Concrete Couch, describes herself as one of two full-time employees. “I wear many hats,” she says. “Some days I write grants, teach fifth graders, work with at-risk high school students at welding, fundraise, coordinate volunteers, send emails, represent Couch at events, fundraisers, and even on TV.”

Even at the larger, national PIFP partner organizations, fellows experience similar amounts of responsibility. ACLU of Colorado summer fellow Jane Finocharo ’16 revamped the curriculum of the ACLU’s Bill of Rights for an educational program at a Denver elementary school. It also afforded her opportunities to become proximate to issues she had only previously read about, like attending the closing arguments on a case in which a bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple on the basis of their sexual orientation. “I learned that even seemingly small violations of an individual’s civil liberties are significant and should be challenged,” says Finocharo. “I learned how many of our rights only exist because of the tireless work of organizations like the ACLU.”

The success stories are not one-sided. The organizations’ trust in Colorado College students grows, based on numerous positive experiences. The Catamount Institute, an outdoor education organization, has accepted PIFP applicants since 2009, and say they appreciate CC students because they are qualified and tend to stay connected to the organization for years. “Physics majors can become teachers. The experience is career-changing for many students,” says Tracy Jackson, the education director at Catamount.

Applications for the 2016-2017 cycle of fellowships are due Wednesday, Jan. 27. PIFP’s partner organizations look for smart, passionate people who are good communicators and want to make the world a better place. Beyond that, specific qualifications (like an ability to conduct quantitative research) for certain fellowships are listed on the PIFP website. That being said, most organizations are looking for an interest and/or background in related fields, as well as an aptitude for learning quickly. All years are encouraged to apply.

Open Dialogue: Continuing the Conversation

Montana Bass ’17

In order to continue the conversation regarding racial tension on campus sparked by painful, inappropriate YikYak comments and started officially at the all-campus meeting on the first Monday of this block, The Butler Center has held multiple open-dialogue circles. These dialogues were meant to give CC community members a place to reflect, heal, and reimagine an inclusive campus community.

Pearl Leonard-Rock, The Butler Center’s new assistant director, said these dialogues were truly helpful to the campus community, and exhibited the willingness of students to connect over these issues when given the opportunity. “Being new to CC, I really didn’t expect that students would heed the call. I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of faculty, staff, and students who have been present. There have been white-identifying students as well as students of color who have come to share this space with us. Many of the attendees have been unknown to me and they have been very open and vulnerable while in the circle. It has been very affirming to know that all students are seeing our genuine outreach to all community members.”

So that they could fully focus on this clearly pressing topic, The Butler Center cancelled all other Block 4 programming. “The Butler Center staff agreed that suspending regular programming in Block 4 would be a great idea to make time for individual and group support of community members,” said Leonard-Rock. “It became apparent that taking intentional and focused time for reflection, healing, and re-imagining a truly inclusive community could benefit us all greatly.”

The dialogues were unstructured except for a theme — newly created and presented each week — that was meant to drive discussion. Leonard-Rock noted that discussion leaders had to be flexible with themes in order to meet the needs of students.

Students joined together to discuss their own experiences with race, often focusing on their bewilderment about what defined “community,” in general and on campus. “Most students have talked about this time being the first time in their college experience they have felt compelled to have a dialogue about race,” Leonard-Rock said.

Students who have not had the opportunity to join one of these dialogue sessions are encouraged to do so, as they will continue next semester. Additionally, a two-day social justice training event, as well as other learning opportunities will be offered beginning in January.

The Butler Center will host Becky Martinez from the Social Justice Training Institute the weekend before the start of Block 5. Leonard-Rock described these trainings as is a unique and exciting opportunity to engage deeply in social justice education and a chance to dig deeper on topics of race and other salient identities for a full day and a half.

Please save the dates: Thursday, Jan. 14, Friday, Jan. 15, and Saturday, Jan. 16, 2016.

A session for faculty and staff will take place Thursday, Jan. 14, 9 a.m.-noon.
Sessions for students run Thursday, Jan. 14-Saturday, Jan. 16

Please email Pearl Leonard-Rock ( to secure your spot in this on-campus experience.

Space is limited. There is a cap on the number of students who can attend and The Butler Center will work to create visible diversity in the session in an effort to enrich the dialogues.

Learn more about the Social Justice Institute.
Learn more about Becky Martinez.

Behind the Scenes of “American Falls”

Angie Bardsley, ITS: administrative assistant

American Falls - preproduction The time and effort needed to produce and exhibit a piece of art can be deceptive. Take “American Falls,” for instance. Filmmaker Phil Solomon spent nearly a decade fulfilling his vision of creating an all-encompassing experience in American history. In addition, Jessica Hunter-Larsen, I.D.E.A. Space curator, worked with Solomon for two years arranging the exhibit at CC, and ITS: staff spent six months researching and preparing to assist with the film’s installation.

In the spring of 2015, Sean Roberts, smart spaces and AV manager, was asked to assist with the film’s autumn installation. Roberts prepared by studying triptych film — in which different images are projected on three surfaces simultaneously. He contacted other venues that previously exhibited the film, reached out to LVW Electronics for crucial advice, communicated with Solomon about his preferences, and pre-staged three projectors to do a trial run. In addition, Roberts enlisted the expertise of fellow ITS: team members Joe Hinson, Gerald Mondragon, Tulio Wolford, Joseph Sharman, Matt Gottfried, Linda Petro, and Vish Paradkar. “This was the largest, cross-department project I’ve worked on outside of events. It took all of us,” Roberts said.

When it was time to finally install the “American Falls” exhibit, Roberts worked closely with Briget Heidmous, I.D.E.A. Space’s assistant to the curator. Heidmous and Roberts spent three days adjusting the film’s resolution and manually positioning three projectors so the film had no visible edges. In order to give viewers the most meaningful experience, the film had to be projected with precision. Heidmous explained, “Phil Solomon is an important person in the experimental film world. Having his film in Colorado Springs, displaying it this way, is unique.”

At one point, Heidmous and Roberts contacted Solomon via Skype, so he could see and hear the exhibit. “Having access to technology makes situations like these so much easier. At Colorado College, we really have experts in their fields; we don’t have to look far for someone to help,” Heidmous said. Without know-how from the ITS: team, the project could have cost three to four times more. The equipment purchased for the exhibit will be repurposed for other projects, saving campus resources.

Technology is not only becoming increasingly prevalent in modern art, it also continues to evolve and permeate all areas of the academic world. As these changes occur, the ITS: division looks forward to collaborating with other departments to create a rich learning experience for CC’s students and a stimulating environment for its faculty and staff.

SolarWinds and Raspberry Pi are Improving Your Online Experience

By Linda Petro

What do solar winds, raspberry pie, and network access have in common? A creative ITS: solution uses the first two to determine an online user’s experience with the third, providing crucial data to improve the overall experience. Better online access through pie  — who doesn’t like the sound of that?

The ultra-low cost Raspberry Pi computer, no bigger than a standard computer mouse (center).

ITS: has employed innovative problem solving using the ultra-low cost Raspberry Pi computer, no bigger than a standard computer mouse (center).

Here’s how it all comes together: The ITS: Division’s Enterprise Technology Team uses software called SolarWinds to record and report statistics about network access across campus and provide alerts for buildings that are offline. Unfortunately, it does not provide data about a user’s actual experience. Access may be available, but a user could be upset because a website is taking more than a minute to load. This user might express that frustration to friends about their network experience, but ITS: wouldn’t always hear about it to be able to fix it.

Those days will soon be history. A small group of ITS: Enterprise Technology teammates, including David Ziemba, Keith Conger, Dan Raney, and Manuel Rendon, got together to brainstorm and find a system to help identify these “slow spots.” One of them suggested they use a computer to monitor the network in each building. As it was cost-prohibitive to place standard machines everywhere, they focused on using the ultra-low cost Raspberry Pi computer, no bigger than a standard computer mouse, instead (pictured center). The idea was to take the tiny computer and program it to access websites as the average user would do when surfing the internet, then attach it to the SolarWinds software to record how long it was taking, making the information viewable and actionable through reports and alerts.

After some trial and error, the team started to receive data from the test Pis and was able to see how the network was performing. When a website took longer than a fraction of a second to load, the team researched why and implemented a fix. The idea was working.

Because the preliminary information was helpful, the idea expanded further. Pis were placed in nearly every campus building, with additional Pis positioned in high-need spots. Each Pi was programmed to access a list of websites every minute and send back data to SolarWinds and the team.  When the team cannot monitor the software face-to-face, alerts are sent to their email addresses so they can respond quickly.

“This system is the only one I have seen anywhere that attempts to recreate the user experience, and we are all about a better experience for everyone,” said David Ziemba, senior network engineer.  “We still need to come up with a cool name for it,” Ziemba expressed with a smile.

As the network upgrade continues into phase two, ITS: continues to look for ways to make a better network experience for all who live, study, and work here. And a better experience is worth celebrating. Raspberry Pi, anyone?

CC Students Report from International COP21 Climate Change Conference

This week, Paris welcomes 196 states and the European Union for one of the biggest international summits on climate change, COP21. Four CC students are there, too, attending daily workshops and meetings concurrent with the conference, reporting back via a daily blog of events and commentary. COP21 is the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, taking place in Paris from Nov. 30-Dec. 11. It’s is described as a crucial conference, targeting creation of a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. “We have been learning about the UN climate conferences throughout our college careers,” said Lily Biggar ’16, one of the students in attendance. “We feel like being here has given us a real-life application of our academic studies.”

Students at COP21

Gabriella Palko ’16 and Lily Biggar ’16 take in lectures and workshops at COP21 Summit in Paris.

Biggar and the other three bloggers, Gabriella Palko ’16, Elliot Hillar ’17, and Zach Pawa ’17, are a self-described “group of driven Colorado College students optimistic about the opportunity to create positive systematic change in the world,” according to the blog. For two weeks, they will spend time at the Climate Generations portion of the summit, along with thousands of participants from around the globe, to convene and discuss global environmental issues. Every day, students have the opportunity to attend dozens of lectures, workshops, debates, and presentations on all aspects of climate change given by NGOs, scientists, artists, UN leaders, and government officials. Follow the group’s daily updates via the AnthropoScene blog.

Ian Johnson, director of CC’s Office of Sustainability, says it’s an incredibly powerful way for students to be actively involved in the real-time issues that are developing in Paris, engage with other students and organizations, represent CC’s sustainability initiative.

“To have students in Paris during the fervor and excitement of the event is a completely different experience from reading the daily recaps in the media; they’re a part of this history, and so are we as a college community by virtue of their participation,” said Johnson, who worked with Biggar and Palko when they served as interns in the Office of Sustainability.

Lily Biggar ’16, an environmental policy major and global health minor, co-authored the college’s first State of Sustainability Report last year and works as the sustainability intern for Residential Life. Biggar’s blog bio states that she deepened her interest in environmental issues while spending a semester studying in Copenhagen, a city often regarded as the “green capital of Europe.” She is pursuing a career in environmental consulting and corporate sustainability.

Gabriella Palko ’16, also an environmental policy major, served as CC’s greenhouse gas inventory intern and is now the intern manager at the Office of Sustainability. In her blog bio, Palko says she’s passionate about climate change, and is particularly interested in the role of industrial agriculture in the current environmental crisis, hoping to play a major role in bridging the detrimental gap between science and politics.

Elliot Hillar ’17, an environmental policy major, and Zach Pawa ’17, an environmental science major, are also participating in the summit and contributing to the blog.

In addition to keeping a blog, the students have scheduled Skype sessions with both Mark Smith’s Environmental Economics class and Corina McKendry’s Global Environmental Policy class. They will also give a presentation about the experience when they return.