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Norberto Orellana ’20 Inspires with TEDx Talk

Norberto Orellana gives TEDx Talk

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Norberto Orellana ’20 wants people to know that success is always imminent.  The CC sophomore has overcome a lot in his 19 years; he’s been extremely successful and continues to have big aspirations.

Orellana was born with right spastic semihemiplegia cerebral palsy and has been through many surgeries to limit its effects. While often moving between states, Orellana also experienced homelessness in high school. Despite all of this, he was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He graduated with honors, as well as an associate’s degree, and now is a chemistry major at Colorado College. He hopes to attend medical school to become a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

Orellana drew from many of these experiences for his talk titled “Success is Just Around the Corner” at the TEDx Colorado Springs event earlier this month.

After spending this summer on campus for research, Orellana wanted to find a way to become more involved in the Colorado Springs community. Through his searches, he discovered TEDx Colorado Springs. Orellana had already spoken at TEDx Youth Miami in February, so he knew right away he would be interested in speaking again. Orellana explains, “I enjoy being able to speak to [groups]. It makes me extraordinarily happy that my message can have such an effect on someone. I often don’t think much of this journey that I’ve been on, but I know that my journey is one of trials and struggles — and thus one that I feel the need to share.”

At the TEDx event, Orellana was the second speaker of the day, so he had the opportunity to watch the other eight talks. One particularly struck a chord with him;  a talk about mental health and suicide. Orellana says he hopes to incorporate these tough but crucial topics into his own speeches in the future.

TEDx reaffirmed Orellana’s love for public speaking; inspiring even one person makes it worth it for him. He also hopes to influence the way people think about life. “If we move forward in a loving and righteous direction we will find success and fulfillment,” he says. “We are not a fluke, our existence is not unsubstantial, we are not here on some sort of probation — our existence is absolutely fundamental. Success is always just around the corner.”

Recent Grad Published in Philosophy Journal

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Recent CC grad Lykkefry Bonde ’17 put her CC education to good use over the summer; she had an article published in the September issue of the journal Kierkegaard in Process. Kierkegaard in Process is an academic journal based out of the University of Copenhagen that allows undergraduate and graduate students a place to publish their own research and writing on Soren Kierkegaard.

Bonde is an international student from Denmark, and majored in Philosophy at CC. She wrote this article while doing an independent study with Professor Rick Furtak during her junior year. She drew from her knowledge of the Danish language to analyze Kierkegaard’s concept of love. In the article, she compares his two pieces Works of Love and Stages on Life’s Way, as well as the roots of the Danish words for “to live,” at leve, and “to love,” at elske. Through her analysis, Bonde explains the similarities between growing plants and loving other human beings. Bonde did not write this piece with the specific goal of being published, but did submit it to a number of journals so Professor Furtak could cite it in his own work. This is Bonde’s first published article, and she says it makes her happy that “someone finds my work interesting enough to publish.”

Currently, Bonde is working as a philosophy teacher at an international school in Armenia. She explains, though, that she misses being a student, and is looking to start a master’s degree at some point in the future.  This publication is a step in the right direction, she says.

Diverse Learners Week Becoming New Tradition at CC

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Colorado College is celebrating Diverse Learners Week.

Diverse Learners Week was initiated in 2016 with the goal of “celebrating and embracing the diverse ways that members of our campus community learn and contribute to learning environments at CC,” says Sara Rotunno, assistant director of Accessibility Resources. This year, Accessibility Resources collaborated with other partners to expand the events. Rotunno says she thinks the week will become an important tradition for CC “as it truly highlights CC’s commitment to value all persons and to learn from their diverse experiences and perspectives.”

Events throughout the week were sponsored by a variety of campus organizations and offices, including Accessibility Resources, the Butler Center, and the Colket Center for Academic Excellence, among others.

There were a variety of events aimed at engaging the broader CC community on the topic of diverse learners. The main event was Eli Claire’s speech titled “Defective, Deficient, and Burdensome: Thinking about ‘Bad’ Bodies.” The presentation included poetry, stories, history, and politics to explain why some bodies are considered defective.

Another interesting event to celebrate diverse learners was a volunteer opportunity at the Cheryl Schlessman Bennett Children’s Center. Organized by the Collaborative for Community Engagement, the event invited students, faculty, and staff to volunteer one or multiple days this week with children at the center. Niki Sosa, community partnership development coordinator at the CCE, says volunteers worked with children on outdoor and reading activities and had the “opportunity to adapt their methods of engaging with the children as they work through activities together.”

Other events this week included a workshop for faculty on working with students with learning disabilities and a tutor training for ESL students put on by CC Refugee Alliance. Upcoming events include a local hike this afternoon at 3 p.m., sponsored by Outdoor Education, and a faculty luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 31, titled “Practices Towards Accessible and Inclusive Classrooms.”

For more information, see https://www.coloradocollege.edu/offices/accessibilityresources/get-involved/diverse-learners-week.html

Hayley Bates ’18 Heads to Mountain Bike Nationals

Senior Hayley Bates is representing Colorado College on the national stage, heading to Missoula, Montana, this weekend to compete in her final Collegiate Mountain Biking National Championships. Bates says regular season racing this year has helped prepare her for the stacked field at nationals.

“It was the biggest and fastest field we’ve ever had in Colorado; we’re the most competitive collegiate state for mountain biking. And, with heading to Missoula, we have had the opportunity to train at altitude and in the cold.”

The races, Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21, include a cross-country course that lasts about 90 minutes, and a short-track course, which is a 20-minute race plus three laps on a short course. Missoula is home to professional mountain biking races, too, and Bates says it should be a fun place to ride. She hones her skills training in Colorado Springs’ Ute Valley and Palmer Parks.

It’s her third time toeing the line at the mountain biking nationals, though this season, she’s had an extra challenge to tackle.

“The idea of hitting my face again really affected me,” says Bates. Bates had a serious crash at the end of the 2017 road cycling season. She crashed two weeks before nationals and while she sustained a broken nose, broken teeth, and severe facial trauma, she was cleared to get back on the bike within a week of that crash. “My first ride outside was the day before nationals; it was great to have the support from everyone at that race, and people were so happy to see me there. It was a good comeback,” she says. “And it was intense.” Just days after that crash, Bates won a sprint to the finish and placed fifth in the nation in collegiate club road cycling.

While she is CC’s only representative at the collegiate mountain biking national competition (this is her third year as the team’s sole qualifier), her leadership has helped grow CC’s presence during the regular season. “The team at CC got huge this year, with an average of 20 cyclists going to races. I remember my freshman year six people going to races was huge; now, I think we’ve had a max of 24 which has been a significant increase.”

Bates says the growing cycling community at CC helps in her own training, with more riders on group rides. “It’s really nice that we can train together, even if we are doing our own efforts,” she says.

Wrapping up this final mountain biking season is bittersweet for Bates. “Collegiate cycling has done so much for me at CC. Initially, I had to convince my parents to let me bring my bikes out here (when she moved to CC from her home in California).  From there, I’ve built myself up to get my pro card and be considered for professional cycling teams; and so many of my friends are from cycling; it’s such a supportive community.”

Now, while Bates considers her next steps — likely law school eventually, and internships in the political science field — she’s also talking with teams in the competitive world of professional cycling. She says her strong suit is road cycling, which is what she plans to pursue post-collegiately. “I love mountain biking; it’s 100 percent your own effort when you’re out there. In road cycling, I like having the group dynamic, reading the field and that analysis element of it.”

Bates will get her chance to be a part of that group dynamic when road cycling season starts up in the spring. “I’ll take a break after nationals this month and will continue training year round. Then we’ll start road racing in March,” she says. Her family will be supporting her in Missoula this weekend and the campus community wishes her the best of luck!

Sense of Place: Water Tour

Students, faculty, and staff learned about the complex system of infrastructure that feed water to Colorado Springs from over mountains on a Sense of Place water tour this fall. They visited Catamount Reservoir, Princeton Hot Springs, and local farms on the Lower Arkansas River.  The water tour is one of several trips in the Sense of Place program put on by the Offices of Sustainability and Field Study. View a full gallery of the trip. Photos by Jennifer Coombes.

 

Students Explore Ecotourism on Summer Trip to Iceland

Iceland Trip

From waterfalls to greenhouses to a glacial lagoon, students explored the far reaches of the Icelandic landscape, immersing themselves in the country’s culture and thriving ecotourism industry. This summer, two guides and 10 students embarked on the second-ever international trip with the Office of Outdoor Education, a partnership with the Office of Sustainability.

“Iceland has been on the top of my bucket list as a travel location for years because of the untouched wilderness,” says Matt Cole ’18 of why he wanted to participate. “This trip was the perfect opportunity to travel to Iceland and see a wide variety of all that the Icelandic wilderness and culture had to offer.”

Students completed an application process and attended pre-trip seminars before being accepted into this summer’s nine-day Iceland summer program. The trip itinerary was based on outdoor activities, with educational elements delving into sustainability and aspects of Iceland’s growing ecotourism industry.

“When we put a trip like this together, we want it to be thematic and intentional,” says Ryan Hammes, director of the Office of Outdoor Education and one of the trip’s two guides. “This one combined sustainability and the timely ecotourism topic with outdoor experiences in the natural environment.”

The group tackled hut-to-hut backpacking treks, as well as numerous day hikes. They visited a farm using greenhouses heated by geothermal to grow tomatoes, an exceptional feat, the group learned, for a country where growing such produce wouldn’t otherwise be possible because of the climate. They traveled to a horse farm and learned about the Icelandic horse, a significant part of the country’s culture. And they took a boat tour into a glacial lagoon. “In 60 years, that glacier will be completely melted, so it was a special part of our trip to get to see it,” says Ian Johnson, director of the Office of Sustainability, who co-led the trip with Hammes.

“Traveling and having the opportunity to explore the world is a wonderful experience we should all do at least once in our life, especially when it’s with a purpose,” says Jubilee Hernandez ’20 of why she wanted to be a part of the trip.

Hernandez and the rest of the group experienced all four season during their visit — from blue sky to snow. “What really makes a trip memorable is taking the time to truly explore the area, by going on walks, hikes, car rides, taking a ferry, as well as getting to know the others on the trip and making friends with strangers,” she says.

When talking about first impressions, Johnson says many students were surprised at how clean the country is, especially in the big cities and urban areas. Another theme students discussed was the environmental impact of tourism and how Iceland is working to balance tourism and preservation.

“We saw how all of these natural resources can be an asset and something to be protected; it’s very different than how we have our national park system set up,” Hammes says. “The students were doing personal reflection on how this place is different from what they call home.”

“I learned a lot about the geothermal process and what makes Iceland such a sustainable country, and that this geothermal energy potential could be possible in theoretically every country on Earth,” says Cole.

One-hundred-percent of Iceland’s energy comes from renewable resources — primarily geothermal and hydroelectric; a small percentage also comes from wind power. It’s also historically been a self-sufficient country, with many sustainable farming and fishing villages.

“Since 2010, tourism has been picking up, due to the nature, waterfall, geysers, hiking, black sand beaches, glaciers, puffins, whale watching; all of the things we experienced here,” says Johnson. “As a country, they’re struggling with it and how to [support tourism] responsibly.”

The group got a behind-the-scenes tour of a geothermal energy plant and saw how the “wastewater” from the plant spills into Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon.

“The thing that stands out to me weeks after the trip is the connections with the group of students as well as the leaders. I knew no one on the trip and would have never crossed paths with any of them at school, however we all became very close,” Cole says.

Building relationships with one another also empowered students to embrace opportunities to venture outside their comfort zones.

“Every day brought a new adventure spent outside,” Hernandez says of her experience. “Most challenging was the trekking. I absolutely hated my life when we were hiking, but I wouldn’t have changed any part of it. It was the slips, falls, and challenging paths that I remember the most.”

Hammes and Johnson say there was certainly enough student interest in the trip to offer a similar program in the future.

Bridge Scholars Expand Leadership Skillset on Colombia Trek

Colombia Bridge Scholars Trip

This spring, ten Bridge Scholars embarked on a trek through the steamy tropical jungles of Colombia in search of a lost ancient city. It was the first trip of its kind: Taking the outdoor education experience to an international location. When they returned, they brought back much more than the physical mettle they earned on miles and miles of mountain hiking (though the physical aspect was certainly grueling).

“I didn’t realize how much more we’d get than a hiking trip,” says Dylan Compton ’19, after returning from the eight-day trip to the jungles of Colombia. “We had the cultural aspect and learning from our local guides, supporting and encouraging one another, and the physical aspect. I do think everyone underestimated how much we should physically prepare for this,” Compton says.

The trip took place over Spring Break 2017 and was a collaboration between the Office of Outdoor Education, the Butler Center, the Office of International Programs, and the Academic Dean’s Office. The participants were first-year and sophomore students in the Bridge Scholars program, which serves as a gateway into college life for first-generation students, who applied for the opportunity to travel to Colombia over Spring Break.

Throughout the trip, students got to explore and experience the local culture, learn about its rich history, and develop their own leadership style and skillset. All participants completed CC’s Ahlberg Leadership Institute Backcountry Level I Training curriculum throughout Blocks 5 and 6. Now, they’re qualified to lead fellow students on Outdoor Recreation Committee and New Student Orientation Priddy Experience trips.

“Our goal is to help these students develop as leaders,” says David Crye, assistant director of the Office of Outdoor Education and one of the trip guides. The trip was the culmination of a two-year process initiated by the Office of Outdoor Education to make CC’s outdoor experiences more inclusive.

“The college has had several conversations about the outdoor culture at CC, outdoor education, how to continue to engage a spectrum of people with different levels of experience, and with different ideas about outdoor culture,” says Paul Buckley, director of the Butler Center and assistant vice president, who led the trip along with Crye. “This is an ongoing collaboration; we are always in pursuit of ways to make these (outdoor education) opportunities more inclusive.”

Compton says he experienced the trip both as a participant and also through the lens of being a future trip leader. “It’s interesting to recognize how much the group dynamic can affect what people get out of a trip, and learning how to foster that positive dynamic.”

It’s a positive dynamic that can make a difference for students as soon as they arrive at CC. NSO trips are important in developing students’ initial connection to the campus community. “The investment to develop this more diverse group of leaders, who also have a keen interest and ability to help nurture an inclusive experience for those new students, the importance of that can’t be overstated,” Buckley says.

For many of the participants, it was their first time traveling out of the country; for students like Karina Grande ’20, the success of the jungle trek has empowered her to explore other travel opportunities.

“After going to Colombia, I feel like I could travel anywhere,” she says. “I’m starting to make a list of where I want to go; it made it possible to think that I can actually go outside the US and travel. I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity to travel abroad and experience the outdoors abroad.” Next up for Grande is this summer’s trip to Iceland with the Office of Outdoor Education. She says trips like the one to Colombia not only built her confidence, but also strengthen relationships with other students.

“You get a different connection with people in the outdoors. You’re not tied to the internet, or your phones. My favorite part was connecting with one another, the talks we had over dinner. In the span of a week we became a little family together,” Grande says.

Buckley says experiencing a trip like this creates strong bonds among participants. “It helped me to understand firsthand how meaningful it can be to develop relationships with people on these trips. Having the shared experience creates a unique connection. That’s special.”

They also got a taste of the local culture, with guides preparing locally sourced meals for them at the camps where they stopped each night along the trail.

“It was better than what I cook at home, and this was out in the jungle,” Crye says. “Fish, fresh juice, plantains; it was very local, we ate whatever what the locals would eat. And everyone would try things. The group was awesome – they were very open to experience it all.”

Grande says she embraced local meals at the end of each long day of hiking. “After the six hours on the trail, we got to have coconut rice and plantains and fresh fruit, the food was really great,” she says.

The long hours of hiking were often followed by group discussions about the region’s culture and history; Buckley says it was also a chance to think intentionally about the definition of “the outdoors” and how we engage with it. “It doesn’t have to be extreme, it doesn’t have to be expensive. It is about the relationship between the environment and people. We were thinking about how to nurture this interest in the outdoors for a range of students, students with a range of experience in relation to the outdoors; these student leaders will now help their peers to engage with their environment differently while they’re here at CC,” he says.

“We’re excited to see how this ties in to the greater goal of the college to make sure our experiences are welcoming and open to all,” Crye says. “Making sure we have knowledgeable, experienced leaders that reflect the diversity of our student body will help ensure there are different perspectives on every trip.”

Buckley says he will continue to foster support for this new program, and would gladly lead another trip. “I’m all in with this partnership. I strive to facilitate the cultural exchange and to help the leaders think about how they themselves will help facilitate a more inclusive experience for other students. That’s my passion point, that’s why I do what I do.”

For those who haven’t experienced a trip like this, or an opportunity to get outside their comfort zone and test physical and mental limits, Grande says, don’t be discouraged. She learned she’s stronger than she thought she was.

“A lot of it is not just physical strength, it’s mental strength. If anyone’s hesitant about not being able to do it, don’t worry about your physical abilities. It’s all mental strength, and you’ll acquire that on the trip. It will make you a stronger person. For us, it was a shared intensity; and we were in it together.”

Photos courtesy of Padah Vang ’19.

The Trip of a Lifetime: Biking Across the USA

Biking across Arizona

By Stephanie Wurtz

The hints of summer that are finally in the air on the CC campus might cue a flashback for Cari Hanrahan, senior assistant director in the Office of Admission, to the end of the 2015-16 academic year, when she was preparing to embark on the trip of a lifetime with Dan Morris ’16, paraprofessional in the Department of Music. It was last summer when she headed out on a six-week-long trek that began two hours south of Charleston, South Carolina, in Huntington Island State Park. As the two group co-leaders for the organization Overland Summers, Hanrahan and Morris were taking a group of high school students on the “American Challenge,” a bike trip all the way across the United States.

The trip took the group of 16- and 17-year-olds and their guides across the country, through small towns (and larger ones) experiencing “some of the best hospitality imaginable,” according to Hanrahan. “People were constantly asking if we needed anything. Strangers at campgrounds lent us their cars to get groceries; we had a state park ranger give us five pounds of pasta for one of our dinners when our group forgot to buy it.” It was a sense of generosity they experienced across the varied terrain and communities that make up the US.

The crew met up and assembled their bikes right in the Charleston airport. From there, the route took them through the deep south: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, as they made their way west. 13 riders: 11 high school students, Hanrahan and Morris.

Accommodations were modest, with the group camping part of the time and staying in community centers and churches the rest. “We stayed in a lot of churches,” says Hanrahan, “in the south there was nowhere to camp, and churches were the hub of these small towns; some even threw us potlucks. Or we cooked on camp stoves outside and took showers under spigots.”

The cyclists gained a new respect for the Great Plains when crossing into Kansas. Think it’s flat? Well, it’s actually a 3,000-foot climb. The route through Colorado meant climbing La Veta Pass and 10,800 feet of Wolf Creek Pass. “The kids crushed it!” Hanrahan says. Then they hit the four corners, the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and headed into the Mojave Desert.

To beat the scorching summer heat, the group crossed the desert in two days, 110 miles the first day and 111 miles the second, and woke up at 2:30 a.m. with temperatures already in the triple digits. Those were the only two days they rode directly with a support vehicle; it followed the riders with headlights to light the route before the sun came up.  “It was like we were biking through the moon,” says Morris, “as the sun started coming up, the desert was a weird grey color.”

Each region of the country had its own challenges and beauty to share. “Every day was a new landscape and incredible scene,” says Hanrahan. “Every state is different and has a different culture. Every day, we met new people and were blessed to learn their cultures.”

One might think covering an average of 90 miles a day for 44 days would be the hardest part. Or crossing the San Gabriel Mountains, covering 50 miles of climbing. Or maybe it would be the biggest mileage day: 121 miles from Cortez, Colorado to Kayenta, Arizona. Actually, for the high school students, the two leaders say it was about learning efficiency and teamwork.

“For such a long trip, it’s about getting into a routine and these kids hadn’t done it before,” says Morris. “We got up at 4 a.m. until they could prove they could get camp packed up faster; the hardest thing to teach them was to pack their panniers (the bags on the sides of the bikes for carrying gear) to get things onto their bikes effectively and efficiently.” Fortunately, the high schoolers were given a three-month training plan to get them ready. Hanrahan says that helped. “Our kids were quick, strong, and athletic. And fun — they were so much fun!”

The cumulative effect of 39 full days of cycling, added to the stress of being responsible for the high school riders, left an impression on Morris and Hanrahan.

“It was terrifying — this is the ultimate trip that Overland Summers offers; there’s a lot of trust involved in that,” Hanrahan says. “We had to focus on things day by day. It forces staying present in the moment, relying on your co-leader and trusting each other. That’s how you shoulder it.” Plus, to participate as a leader, she took a leave of absence from her work in the Office of Admission, which added stress.

“I would do it again, but I will never be able to do it again. How many jobs give you two months off? The trip itself was amazing, but the prep was crazy,” she says. “I worked and worked to get things done in the office so that things were still running when I got back. It was tough to prep two months of work in advance. But it was worth every extra hour.”

Wrapping up the end of the academic year and preparing for a multi-month bike trip took a toll, leaving Morris little time to train. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done — that or graduating from CC,” Morris says. “I was a double major, so wrote two theses, had graduation, then biked across the country. On the last day of the trip, during breakfast I was signing a lease for a place to live, it was a little chaotic.”

The chaos was a distant memory as the group pulled in to their final stop, ending at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles. “They had blocked off the pier for us!” Hanrahan remembers. “There were hundreds of people there with signs, cheering for our group: Parents, grandparents, friends, and a number of cheering tourists all there for the team.”

While she may never be able to recreate this cross country trip, Hanrahan says she’s inspired to do parts of it again, in the company of another very special rider. “My dad had stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; he’s in remission and doing incredibly well. He’s creating a bucket list now, and riding across the country is on it. I plan to do part of that with him.”

Heading into a new summer provides the opportunity to get back to the basics, Morris says, reflecting back on the forced simplicity of the trip. “Cari and I miss it. When we came back to this routine it was so much more complicated. Car, house, job, benefits. On the trip, it’s just ‘what are we going to eat today? ‘which pair of socks are the cleanest,’ it’s so simple.”

What did you do last summer? Or better yet, what will you do this summer? Wisdom from last year’s two CC riders still resonates: not thinking about the end or the destination, but thinking of every day as its own adventure.

Biking through Colorado

The finish at Santa Monica Pier

 

Celebrating Physics and Professor Barbara Whitten at Physics Homecoming

By Alana Aamodt ’18

Faculty, students, and alumni of the Physics Department came together last block for a weekend of talks, reconnections, and celebration in honor of a Physics Homecoming and the retirement of longtime professor Barbara Whitten.

The festivities began with two talks by world-renowned physicist Kip Thorne, who spoke on his personal role in the discovery of gravitational waves in a more intimate physics talk and prior to his broader lecture to campus and community members. One of the most influential living physicists, Thorne also served as the graduate advisor to Patricia Purdue, associate professor of physics and department chair, who introduced each of his talks. The evening concluded with an opening reception and time for alumni, faculty, and students to socialize with one another and with Thorne.

The following day was full of various alumni speakers and current professors giving talks such as “The Secret Life of Stellar Interactions” by Natalie Gosnell ’08, a new tenure-track CC professor, and “Household Energy and Health in Developing Countries” by Michael Johnson ’99.  The day’s festivities concluded with a dinner in celebration of Whitten’s retirement, where friends, colleagues, and students spoke about her character and career.

Whitten received her B.A. from Carleton College in 1968 and went on to receive her Ph.D. in Computational Atomic Physics from University of Rochester. She was the first female faculty member in the Physics Department at Colorado College, where she explored her passion for diversifying physics and played a major role in shaping the department to become what it is today. Over the course of the last few decades, she has expanded beyond the realm of physics, exploring environmental science, feminist and gender studies, history, and sociology in conjunction with her love of physics. She’s played a pioneering role in encouraging inclusivity in the physics community, publishing papers covering topics like “What Works for Women in Undergraduate Physics? What We Can Learn from Women’s Colleges,” and she is part of a team to receive over $700,000 in grant money to develop a mentoring network for isolated female physicists.

After many years working as a professor, leaving CC is not easy for Whitten. When asked what she’ll miss the most about working at the college, she replied, the “sense I have of a community where we support each other. With all the things I’ve done here, I’ve had a sense that you were all behind me.” Even more so, she goes on to say she’ll miss “teaching and working with students. I love working with undergraduates, when you have something exciting you want to do, helping you figure out how best to do it. Helping you figure out the next step in your lives. And of course, helping you learn physics.”

Of her favorite part of the event, Whitten says “the most wonderful and memorable moment was when [the] women physics majors stood up together. [They] were behind me, so I turned around and saw them all standing there together—I still can’t talk about it without getting choked up.” She goes on to explain, “When I was an undergraduate many years ago, I was the only woman, not only in my class but in the five years around me,” accentuating the pride she has in her students.

In honor of Whitten and her contributions to CC, the college created the Barbara Whitten Prize for Women in the Natural Sciences this year; it will be given to “a woman student in the natural sciences who exemplifies Whitten’s model of achieving personal scientific excellence while helping others do the same. Personal scientific excellence is a combination of an excellent academic record in the natural sciences, and/or exceptional research in a scientific field. The recipient should also demonstrate a significant commitment to the advancement of women or underrepresented groups in the sciences through scholarly, community, pedagogical, or other work.”

This year’s recipient is Zoe Pierrat ’17, an environmental physics major and chemistry minor. A crowdfunding campaign is also underway to increase the dollar amount of the award.

Pierrat shares, “Barbara taught my first ‘real’ physics class, Modern Physics, and she didn’t hold back in terms of making the course difficult, but every step of the way she was encouraging and helpful with anything we needed as students. She has the ability to see people’s potential and always pushes them there.” After receiving the award at the Honors Convocation, Pierrat says, “I can’t even begin to say what it means to receive the Whitten Award, but overall I’m just incredibly grateful to have gotten so much support from fellow students and faculty.”

Whitten says after she retires, she’s planning plenty of travel, including trips to Iceland, Hawaii, and L’Anse aux Meadows (a Viking settlement in Newfoundland). She also has several in-progress research projects that she intends to complete in the next couple of years, and will spend more time with her children and take some time to relax.

Whitten also says that she’ll continue to study physics. “Even after 50 years as a physicist, there is so much I don’t know and would like to: Astrophysics, cosmology, and general relativity are at the top of my list.” While Whitten moves on from teaching at CC, her impact on the CC community will remain.

 

Students Launch START Team to Increase Sexual Assault Support

By Montana Bass ’18

Students go to their friends when they’re dealing with a problem, and knowing how to best support a friend in need is the premise behind START, the Student Title IX Assistance and Resource Team. This program provides a new resource for students seeking Title IX-related support, including sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, or any form of gender-based discrimination. It was founded by McKenna Becker ‘17, Jamie Baum ’18, and Leah Ciffilillo ’18, with support from Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Maria Mendez.

It’s a program started by students, for students, and it depends on students offering to participate on the START team. The application period is open now through April 26. Once selected, the START team will complete 40 hours of training with TESSA, an organization that works to support victims and end sexual and family violence.

The team will learn about sexual assault and domestic violence confidential victim advocacy as well as participate in multiple sessions with Mendez and CC’s Title IX office. The result will be a group of student-experts on both sexual assault response and Title IX proceedings, equipped with all the resources necessary to be effective first responders to students who experience sexual assault and explain the options they have for further resources.

The cofounders are launching the program in an effort to make resources and support more accessible to students. “This started from going to parties or talking to friends and seeing how often, students would like help and support, but they don’t take advantage or are not comfortable accessing them,” says Becker.

“Hopefully this will provide a lower risk entry point for students,” says Mendez. “We know the majority of the time students feel most comfortable reaching out to a peer or friend and so we want to make sure we have a trained group of their peers who can help them access the resources available to them. Often, students see coming to my office as a really big step, and so having a resource comprised of peers may lower any barriers that might prevent students from getting the information they need.”

“Our team will meet students where they want, when they want to meet, and they’ll be able to both sign up for these meetings and ask questions to our team anonymously,” explains Becker.

A main goal of the cofounders is to develop the START team so that it is representative of all students on campus. “It’s really important that the students using this resource identify with it, so they don’t hesitate to use it,” says Baum. Adds Becker, “We really want to make sure that our members understand how sexual assault and intimate partner violence affect different communities differently.”

Based on the acknowledgment that students will talk to friends about their sexual experiences, the START team will attempt to bring preparedness to the role of confidante. “There have been many studies that have shown that the first response is the most impactful on the way that the survivor views their experience and moves forward with recovery and healing,” says Baum. For this reason, well-meaning, uninformed friends can actually do more harm than good. “We find that even the acknowledgement of needing a resource is huge. Even if somebody doesn’t want to go through the process, that’s fine; at least they’re aware of what’s available” she says.

In the eyes of START founders, an arena for open dialogue and support between students will not only fill a need, it will counter the normalization of rape culture and destigmatize talking about the issue. “We aren’t considered advocates,” Becker clarifies. “We aren’t counselors. We aren’t there to give advice or tell people what to do. We are providing options so they can make the most informed decision and regain agency that can feel lost when you’re going through something like this.”

Mendez notes that Title IX related services are available through several offices including, but are not limited to, confidential consultation with access to information about what the Title IX complaint process looks like, who to reach out to should they want to pursue a formal complaint, access to accommodations in class, housing, or referrals to counseling. The Chaplain’s Office and Tre Wentling, gender and identity development specialist in the Butler Center, also offer these confidential resources.

Interested in becoming a member of the START team? Email START@coloradocollege.edu today and submit your application by Wednesday, April 26.