Posts in: General News

Do Mountains Matter to Millennials?

Mountains Matter to Millennials event

By James Rajasingh ’17, student summer researcher for Innovation at CC, and Walt Hecox, professor emeritus of economics and environmental program

Why even ask this question of CC students? Consistently, more than 75 percent say they are super-oriented toward the outdoors, which is part of what attracted them to choose CC in the first place, and it’s where they spend much of their spare time and block breaks.

But widening the view, “millennials” are sometimes categorized in ways that question their orientation to the outdoors. Take, for instance, this statement made by Jonathan Jarvis, director of the U.S. National Park Service: “Young people are more separated from the natural world than perhaps any generation before them.” Or consider this comment from Bozeman-based writer Todd Wilkinson: “Sentiment persists that younger recreationists, who tend to like things faster and steeper than their elders do, don’t care about the land the way their backpacking forebears did.”

So what do millennials in the Pikes Peak region have to say on the issue? Over the summer, Innovation at CC partnered with El Pomar Foundation’s Pikes Peak Recreation and Tourism Heritage Series to carry out a survey of outdoor leisure and recreation engagement. Survey results were then used to inform and guide a brainstorming session.

About 150 people, mostly young professionals, attended the “Mountains Matter to Millennials,” public session held this fall by the Pikes Peak Recreation and Tourism Heritage Series. Attendees participated in an energetic question-and-answer portion of the program, moving from table to table, tackling a variety of questions pertaining to outdoor recreation.

Information from the survey and public listening session indicates that millennials, at least in the Pikes Peak region, value the outdoors for leisure and recreation, and they are engaged in volunteering to help manage and protect the region’s valuable mountain backdrop and open spaces.

Millennials who filled out the survey ranked Colorado Springs top among Front Range cities for desirability of living, ranking the Springs higher than Fort Collins, Boulder, Denver, and Pueblo, indicating that young professionals who live here seem to be enjoying their lifestyle.

What are the Pikes Peak region’s greatest strengths? According to the survey, participants touted the natural surroundings. For example, one millennial wrote that the region serves as “the gateway to all outdoor recreation.” The 18-33 year olds made up a quarter of survey respondents and they were quite vocal about how nature enriches life in Colorado Springs. Millennials, along with all age groups, rated accessibility to the outdoors as the number one feature of the region. Ironically, young people also ranked accessibility as the region’s greatest challenge, summarized by one respondent as ‘difficulty accessing Pikes Peak.’  Older survey respondents identified growth management and infrastructure as more critical.

What would help millennials become more involved in the outdoors? A more coordinated avenue of information surfaced as the top answer, or perhaps a centralized website or database with regularly updated information to serve both locals and visitors. Other ideas included an annual community festival focusing on leisure and recreation; using digital apps, such as Virtual Storytelling and Google Earth Backpack, to generate interest; and employing social media, like Snapchat and Instagram to engage millennials with a sense of ownership.

The need for sustainable funding sources is a concern that crosses generational lines, as does the importance of coordinating outdoor and leisure interests. As for what would bring more millennials to the region, the dialogue focused on creating a fun, sustainable youth culture, that encourages living downtown by adding amenities such as grocery stores and more diverse night life. Participants also suggested providing incentives for businesses that support a millennial workforce, and shifting the narrative from “no opportunities” to “many opportunities,” for young professionals.

This information about the millennial demographic in the Pikes Peak region and their engagement with the outdoors will advance plans to identify how Colorado’s natural assets can be leveraged to make this a region for young leaders to work, play, and stay. Continued CC student involvement can bring energy and innovative ideas to a region made special across generations and decades. If you are interested in opportunities to help our Pikes Peak “backyard,” contact the authors.

Joy Armstrong, FAC Curator, Featured in the Catalyst

Joy Armstrong

The Catalyst sat down with Joy Armstrong, curator at the Fine Arts Center, for a feature article in the latest issue.

Theater Colorado Talks with FAC’s Scott Levy

Scott Levy

Check out an interview with Scott Levy, producing artistic director at the Fine Arts Center. He talks with “Theater Colorado Springs” about the CC-FAC Alliance.

First-Year Students Explore Wilderness on FOOT


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.

New FAC Museum Director Rebecca Tucker Talks Plans and Priorities with CS Indy

Rebecca Tucker, museum director at the Fine Arts Center, talks with the Colorado Springs Independent’s  about the strategic planning process.



Two Colorado College Alumni Advocate for Utah Wilderness

Red Rock Stories

By Devon Burnham ’16

Coming from a love for the red rock wilderness in southern Utah, Colorado College alumni Brooke Larsen ’14 and Stephen Trimble ’72 are pursuing a project they call “art as advocacy.” “Red Rock Stories,” a collection of works that includes a variety of stories, photographs, art, video, and audio concerning Utah’s public lands, is just one of the ways Larsen and Trimble hope to make a difference.

The project’s goal is to use “Red Rock Stories” to influence decision-makers to protect Bear Ears National Monument and other wilderness areas in southern Utah. “We believe in the power of story to move decision-makers and build empathy,” says Larsen. “By sharing the stories of three generations of writers, we hope to inspire the action needed to protect the red rock wilderness.”

The project came about in October 2015 following five southwestern Native nations’ proposal to establish a Bear Ears National Monument in southern Utah. Threats to the western wildlands have steadily increased over time, and as a result, a group of writers from Salt Lake City began to meet and discuss how they could advocate for the proposal. Taking inspiration from “Testimony: Writers of the West Speak on Behalf of Utah Wilderness,” which convinced legislators to defeat an anti-wilderness bill in 1995, members of the Red Rocks Project hope to make a difference through similar means.

“Red Rock Testimony,” the first part of the project, is a chapbook that was sent to the Obama administration to promote the idea of protecting public lands. “Red Rock Stories’ is an 88-page book that conveys the spiritual, cultural, and scientific values of Utah’s canyon country and includes the work of 34 writers. The stories are written by a variety of authors, and all advocate for the protection of the proposed Bear Ears National Monument. The group plans to publish a second trade book in 2017.

“We hope to build and support a community of folks who love the red rock wilderness and want to speak on its behalf,” says Larsen.

Larsen, who worked with CC’s State of the Rockies Project, now works for the Torrey House Press in Salt Lake City. Trimble is an award-winning writer who co-compiled “Testimony,” and is an editor for “Red Rock Stories.”

Currently, the project is focusing on sharing “Red Rock Stories” digitally, and is inviting members of the CC community to contribute their stories. Anyone can submit their stories about the red rocks following a series of creative prompts that are currently on their website.

Others who are interested in helping the project financially can contribute through their Kickstarter campaign.

A Summer Connecting with Our Sense of Place

Sense of Place Trip

By Devon Burnham ’16

This summer, Colorado College is hosting an array of free Sense of Place trips for its faculty and staff. They give participants the chance to be involved with activities that they normally would not have the opportunity to take part in, such as fly-fishing, climbing, and local hikes.

Led by Outdoor Education Director Ryan Hammes, the most recent Sense of Place trip took place over the course of two days. During the two-hour session on Wednesday, June 22, participants learned the fundamentals of fly-fishing, how fishing fits into Colorado’s tourism and local economy, and practiced some basics on campus. Those who signed up for part two, on Friday, drove up to the Catamount Center, in Woodland Park. There, they took a tour of the center, then put their newly acquired skills to the test in one of Catamount’s fishing ponds.

Hammes believes that the Sense of Place trips provide an opportunity to build a community. “It’s neat when you can bring all of these different backgrounds together,” says Hammes. “We don’t really talk about our work—we just talk about why it’s special to be here, and really enjoy each other’s company and connect.”

Molly Moran, visiting assistant professor and one of the nine faculty members who went on both trips, says she enjoyed learning more about the opportunities available to CC students, faculty, and staff at the Catamount Center. “The campus has so many wonderful opportunities, and these kinds of events help me to see what some of them are!”

The faculty and staff who went to the fly-fishing classes were excited to participate, saying that it was something they’ve wanted to do for some time. The trip itself was enough to inspire a future hobby for Karen West, academic records assistant in the Office of the Registrar. “I’d like to rent equipment, bring a friend, and try my luck fishing [at the Catamount Center],” West says. “He [Hammes] also mentioned I could find a local fly-fishing group at one of the fly-fishing shops, and I may try that too.”

No experience is necessary to sign up for Summer Sense of Place trips on Outdoor Education’s Summit page. Trips are free and gear is provided!

Upcoming trips:

– July 26, 2016 – Hike Red Rock Canyon Open Space
A 1-2 hour day hike to become more familiar with this wonderful open space park. 3 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

You can sign up for these trips via the Outdoor Education Summit page:

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.

EnAct and Palmer Land Trust: Collaborative Fundraising

By Montana Bass ’18

Through a partnership between EnAct and the Palmer Land Trust, CC collectively raised over $2,900 to support land conservation as part of Colorado Springs Independent’s annual Give Campaign.

Sierra Melton ’18 and Laurel Sebastian ’16 spearheaded fundraising efforts on behalf of EnAct, CC’s club dedicated to environmental activism. Melton, a new co-chair this year, had heard of PIFP fellows working on fundraising for the Palmer Land Trust in past years, and reached out to expand efforts. “It was really driven by her,” Erica Oakley-Courage, development director for Palmer Land Trust, says of Melton. “It was really cool to see her and Laurel come to us with ideas and follow through. I could see their excitement and desire to push this issue.”

Together, the three came up with different methods to gain participation from CC students. As a club, EnAct conducted multiple outreach events, asking for donations from students. “We set up informational tables to collect donations almost every day during third and fourth block,” Melton says. They also threw a festival in November, complete with student bands and plenty of food. The State of the Rockies Project joined the fundraising push as well, providing posters featuring photography by the Geology Department’s Steve Weaver for any students who donated more than $10 Additionally, students who donated more than $20 received a hat from Palmer Land Trust.

The funds raised by the campus community surpass the $2,000 needed to steward a property through Palmer Land Trust for a year. Because of CC students’ participation, Palmer Land Trust came in fifth place out of 88 nonprofits in the Youth Involvement competition. “It was totally a shock to us,” Oakley-Courage admitted. “We generally don’t have a lot of young donors. I was sitting at the fundraiser when we found out we won and a couple of trustees were behind me. I could hear them saying, ‘What? We really won?!’”

Going forward, this campaign can continue to be a source of environmental education and collaboration for the CC community. “I really enjoyed engaging CC students in the local nonprofit sector,” says Sebastian. “I got to explain a lot of these issues and how they relate to land spaces students here use so frequently, like Bear Creek Park and Red Rocks Open Space.”

“I think we could use this idea to collaborate with even more groups on campus,” Melton says. “Land conservation is related to environmental recreation, food, cultural heritage, and so many other issues.

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.