Posts in: Kudos

Student Research Provides Value to Students and Professors

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

One benefit of attending a small liberal arts school is the research opportunities available to undergraduate students. At CC, the Department of Psychology is particularly invested in student research, as three professors have recently published papers on the importance of undergraduate research, and took students to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Portland, Oregon, February 7-9.

Professors Tomi-Ann Roberts, Emily Chan, and Kevin Holmes all published articles in a special issue of Frontiers in Psychologytitled “Engaging Undergraduates in Publishable Research: Best Practices.” Roberts’ and Holmes’ article, “Mentor as Sculptor, Makeover Artist, Coach, or CEO: Evaluating Contrasting Models for Mentoring Undergraduates’ Research toward Publishable Research,” discusses how faculty can help students form research ideas that are beneficial to both the student and the professor. Chan’s article, “Student Research and Publication: Strategic Planning for Inclusion Using a Systems Mapping Approach,” is about how to make undergraduate research inclusive to first-generation students, those from historically underrepresented groups, and those from low-income backgrounds.

This student-focused approach is clear from the fact that many CC faculty, in the Psychology Department and elsewhere, publish with student co-authors and frequently take students to conferences. Quinn Husney ’18, the paraprofessional in the Department of Psychology this year, says her experience doing undergraduate research at CC helped her “conceptualize and study abstract concepts (like social trust, metaphorical thinking, or ambivalence) concretely,” and gain technical research skills. “As paraprof, I have the privilege of watching the transformation [from student to student researcher] in vivo, and it has both solidified and amplified my appreciation for research in undergrad,” she adds.

From the professor perspective, Chan says, “being able to be a part of the research team gives one insight into how knowledge is created, defined, critiqued, and shared. It changes one’s perspective from being a consumer of information to a co-generator in the world of ideas and action.”

In addition to mentored student research, first-year students in the QuestBridge program have the opportunity for paid research assistant positions in science labs through the First SCoRe program, a collaboration between CC’s Bridge Scholars program for first-generation students and Summer Collaborative Research program. Chan, who is also the director of the Bridge Scholars program, says this new program “provides an opportunity for interested students to be able to combine their interest in learning more about research along with the ability to do it as student employment.”

CC Students Achieve Start-Up Success

By Miriam Brown ’21

 While many Colorado College students dream about starting businesses after they graduate, three CC sophomores have decided there is no reason to wait.

 They have all launched start-ups in their free time.

Milan Kordestani ’21 and NYU student Sabine Rizvi initially thought of the idea for Dormzi, a task-oriented app designed to make college life more manageable, about a year ago. They began working on it the same day they came up with the idea, starting with securing the domain name and social media handles. Since then they have worked with a designer and coder, and they are currently testing the app on NYU’s campus to fine tune the product before it makes its app store debut — all while juggling school work and responsibilities.

“Being on the Block Plan makes it incredibly easy to balance both work and school,” Kordestani says. “After class I grab lunch quickly, then I spend the next several hours of the day tending to emails, phone calls, and all other Dormzi-related tasks that need to be taken care of.”

 Lauren Weiss ’21 has an app of her own on the app store, but that’s where the similarities to Kordestani’s company end. Weiss’s app LifExpectancy uses data like the user’s body mass index number, exercise habits, and sleep schedule to calculate a realistic life expectancy, as well as to provide health-related suggestions on how to add years to it. Though the app is already available to the public, Weiss says she’s constantly thinking of ways to improve it.

“I am a computer science major, so it’s great that I am able to learn more and more in class about things that I can add to the app,” Weiss says.

The student successes aren’t just limited to apps. When Turner Black ’21 couldn’t find any feminist patches to her liking for her jacket, she started creating her own. Today, her patches are the basis for her startup company called Patches for Peace, which donates a portion of the sales to organizations like Planned Parenthood and Annie’s List, an organization which supports progressive women seeking elected office in Texas. To account for the nature of the Block Plan, Black prepares for future orders whenever she has a break from schoolwork, then fills and mails out orders at least once a day.

 “This has been such a great way to give back while getting my designs and messages out into the world,” Black says

CC Climbing Team Reaches High with Eye on Nationals

CC Climbing

Ritik Shrestha ’22

 CC students are in a prime location to explore rock climbing, with some of the best spots in the country just a short drive away: An afternoon trip to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs or a weekend drive to Hueco Tanks near El Paso, Texas, climbing is relatively easy to access from campus.

In addition, CC is fortunate to have an indoor climbing gym, where aspiring climbers can practice their skills and newbies can get an introduction to the sport.

For the more experienced climbers in the campus community who are looking for a competitive challenge, or for beginners who want to try it out, the CC climbing team offers a great chance.

After just two years in existence, the climbing team has grown in size and ability. Kate Hade ’22placed first in the women’s category of her first collegiate competition back in September in Longmont. Claire Bresnan ’19(senior) and Zach Levy ’21, Team captain and 11-year USA youth competitive climber,recently placed first in the women’s and men’s categories, respectively, at a local competition in Denver. At this same Denver competition, our teammates occupied three more of the top six spots in the women’s division. Regionals are in March and the national competition takes place in April in Tennessee.When asked about the early success of the team, Levy says, “for most of us, climbing is a passion, we do it because we love, it not because we feel obligated to contribute to the team.”

CC’s club climbing team aims to bring the sport of rock climbing to a wider range of the CC student body. While most club sports require a two-year trial period in order to become officially sponsored by the college, the enthusiastic response to the climbing team enabled the club team’s establishment after its first year.

While joining such a successful group might be intimidating to those with less experience, the team is always looking for new members. “Practices and competitions are totally optional,” explains Levy. “There’s really a place for climbers of all experiences at these events and we want to be as accommodating as possible.”

This philosophy is a big reason why the team has become so popular within the student body and has a roster that now boasts over 50 members. With a bit more practice, Levy hopes that many of the members will be able to participate in the upcoming competition at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“I think this is going to be a good year and that we can have more people go to regionals and maybe even nationals in Tennessee this year” responds Levy when asked about his goals for the team this season.

While this might sound optimistic, it’s hard to doubt a team that has accomplished so much in such a small time-frame.



CC’s First Geodesign Workshop Explores Community Impact on Creek

CC Geodesign workshop

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

For the first time ever, CC hosted its own geodesign workshop in October. The workshop was developed with Professor of Geology Christine Siddoway and Hrishi Ballal of GeoDesign Hub, and took place from Oct. 22-24.

Geodesign has been an ongoing project at CC, and a handful of faculty and staff, as well as students, worked on research in the summer of 2018. Siddoway; Matt Cooney, GIS coordinator; and Cyndy Hines, coordinator with the State of the Rockies Project; worked with three students, David Sachs ’20, Will Rundquist ’19, and Darryl Filmore ’19,to obtain and analyze GIS data for the section of Monument Creek that runs through CC’s campus. The group has also been working on adding CC as a member-institution of the International Geodesign Collaboration, which would make CC the first and only liberal arts school in the organization.

The data collected from Monument Creek is fundamental to this workshop and future meetings, as one main goal is to examine campus-creek relations using evaluation models. With this information, there can be more knowledge of how CC relates to the urban landscape and physical-geological-hydrological surface environment. During the October workshop, participants from CC and greater Colorado Springs worked in small teams to evaluate how various systems (transportation, green infrastructure, and food supply, for example) are helping or hurting the campus-creek relations. These teams, and then the whole workshop, discussed which elements need to be improved and how to do so. While the workshop was addressing CC’s relationship to Monument Creek, goals of the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County are also involved.

CC’s next geodesign workshop will be held in mid-May in Tutt Library and will address a wider geographic area, expanding to include 15- and 30-square kilometer areas from CC toward the west. Stay up-to-date via this geodesign blog.

EV Students Make a Lasting Impact in Springs Community

Environmental Science students

By Ritik Shrestha ’22

Environmental Science often ranks as one of the most popular majors at CC. For students considering this as a major, taking EV212, Energy: Environmental Thermodynamics and Energetics provides a chance to take the material learned in the classroom and apply it to real-life problems.

The class is taught by Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Lynne Gratz, with bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD degrees from the University of Michigan, Gratz has been at CC for three-and-a-half years and has recently taken the lead on this class after the retirement of Professor of Physics Barbara Whitten. What makes EV212 so special is the project portion where students have a chance to use what they learn and apply it to houses in the Colorado Springs area in order to make them more sustainable.

In prior years, the students worked on houses that were owned by the college to hone their energy saving skills by performing tasks such as blowing loose insulation into the attic, sealing basement spaces, weather stripping the roof, replacing light bulbs, and making other changes to reduce heat loss and increase efficiency. While this was initially sufficient, Gratz soon realized that there weren’t enough college-owned houses that fit the needs of the project. This shortage was solved through an agreement with the Ivywild neighborhood south of downtown Colorado Springs.

Students are now able to go into houses in the surrounding community and apply the same skills in a way that benefit others outside of the school community. While the EV 212 students have worked on only one house so far, their work has generated a lot of interest from other residents of that neighborhood.

Following the results of the first run-through, many home-owners have requested the services of the EV212 class, so much so that a waiting list has formed. “While I wish that we could help out everyone in the neighborhood, it is a very time consuming and the entire process to upgrade one house takes an entire block” said Professor Gratz when asked about the success of the project. Because of time constraints, Gratz assesses the neighborhood ahead of time to find the perfect match so that students can make plans for improvements on the house during at the start of the block.

The results in efficiency are powerful. For example, last year the students spent about $750 to add insulation into the basement and attic of a 1,024 square-foot house. It was then calculated that the homeowner would save $160 a year as a result of these changes, with a payback time of 4.5 years. Studies show that just one LED light bulb can save more than $100 over its lifetime. Other tests by the students show that adding wall insulation can save up to 75 percent of heating costs. This all adds up over time and for members of less affluent neighborhoods, the extra money can make a huge difference.

This course requires a great deal of mental and physical work. Days spent doing complex math and calculations are often followed by hours filled with hard manual labor working on the housing project. For more information on the class and a video on the project, visit the Environmental Studies website.

Paraprofessional Role Provides Experience and Time for Recent Grads

Ritik Shrestha ’22

While many students dream of the day they no longer have to study for exams or write another research paper, there are important decisions to be made once one’s college career comes to an end. Be it graduate school, a job, a gap year, or a slew of other possibilities, students are faced with making the determination of “what’s next” after graduation. David Trevithick ’17 and Victor Torres III ’18 are two students who chose to become paraprofessionals at CC as their first post-graduation step.

A paraprofessional is a recent college graduate who stays on with a school to work for a few years within a certain office or department. While positions can vary by college and year, CC currently has 37 paraprofessionals working in various departments, including the Office of the President, Office of Student Life, and most academic departments.

For Trevithick and Torres, the prospects of graduate school or work were never in question. Their options were countless with a degree in international political economy for Trevithick, and a double major in physics and classics for Torres, along with strong GPA’s, and diverse resumés.

“I didn’t want to rush it and get into a lot of debt doing something I hated,” responds Trevithick when asked why he didn’t take a more traditional route. Born to two alumni who were married in Shove Memorial Chapel, CC blood runs deep within his family and the paraprofessional position was always a consideration. “These were the best four years of my life so spending more time here didn’t seem bad,” he says.

For Torres, the paraprofessional position was a “great layaway to figure out what [he] wanted to do while staying connected to CC.” Growing up in Colorado Springs, CC had always been a goal of his, and when the acceptance letter arrived, Torres wanted to make the most of his opportunity. Through a four-year college career that included time as an RA; employment in the fitness center and library; volunteer work for the Butler Center; providing services as an assistant speech coach; and involvement in theatre workshops, the Student Conduct Committee, and the debate team to name a few, the end goal was a master’s degree from Columbia Engineering. While unfortunate circumstances did interfered with this goal, President Jill Tiefenthaler took note of all that Torres had done during his time at CC and during the summer after graduation, he was offered the paraprof position.

Paraprofessionals perform many vital tasks within school departments and are trusted with professional responsibilities. A typical work day goes from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

For Trevithick, who works in the Office of the Provost, the entire day is usually committed to helping Sandra Wong, dean of the faculty. Morning hours are usually spent answering emails in order to help plan out the dean’s schedule. Afternoons are often spent in organizational meetings or performing administrative tasks such as proctoring language tests for students. Any free time between these responsibilities is spent completing projects for the department such as making edits to the departmental website.

For Torres, who works in two departments (Offices of the President and Student Life), there is rarely a moment to sit down. He is currently responsible for managing the contacts and schedules of consultants who are externally reviewing racism at CC. This means planning meetings, responding to emails and messages, and making sure that his superiors have everything they need while on campus. On top of this, Torres is still responsible for completing administrative duties in the President’s Office and overseeing student events on campus such as the Winter Ball, Midnight at Rastall’s, and Halloween festivities.

While the responsibilities can get overwhelming, both Trevithick and Torres insist that they love working at CC. While both want to eventually get master’s degrees in policy and engineering respectively, and move on with other careers, their time as paraprofessionals has provided many advantages. On top of providing extra time for decision making, the networking that comes with working for high-ranking college members such as the president and department heads will be invaluable in terms of recommendations and references.



Opportunity Knocks for Annabelle O’Neill ’19 and Life Is Good

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Annabelle O’Neill ’19 has loved the Life is Good brand and message since she was quite young, which is why she was particularly excited when she got to visit their headquarters in Hudson, New Hampshire, in early October.

O’Neill’s love for Life is Good is demonstrated by the 17 t-shirts she owns, the first of which she received when she was a young child, before she could choose her own clothes. This started her lifelong passion for the clothes, as well as the brand’s message of always having a positive mindset. O’Neill’s appreciation for Life is Good was obvious when she happened to run into the company’s president and first employee at the airport in Denver while she was wearing one of their t-shirts. After chatting, the two women offered O’Neill their business cards and invited her to the Life is Good warehouse in New Hampshire, which is where she went in early October. The trip was specifically planned so O’Neill could attend LIG’s biannual all-company meeting called “Jake Jam” to learn about the company and share her own story.

O’Neill says the trip was a dream come true, and adds “it shows how being open can lead to unexpected opportunities!” She particularly enjoyed seeing the workplace culture of LIG, where everyone knows each other and has fun throughout the day, high-fiving and throwing frisbees.

The best part of the trip, O’Neill says, was talking to one of the first employees, Keith. “During the Q and A, John asked me about a special college memory, and I shared about an event at Synergy called the Grateful Feast when about 50 students sang ‘Lean on Me’ together. Keith took me to a huge mural in the warehouse that says ‘lean on me’ with Jake (one of their characters) leaning on Rocket (the company dog character). Keith and I tossed a ball around, and shared an honest, fun conversation.”

Although retail is not directly related to O’Neill’s geology studies at CC, she is currently a brand ambassador and plans to work at LIG after graduation. O’Neill says she is excited to learn about business “while giving back to a company that has supported me throughout life.” No matter where her post-graduation path takes her, O’Neill will always continue to wear LIG t-shirts and spread their message of positivity and optimism

Brendan Young ’14 Releases Film

By Leah Veldhuisen’19

CC graduate Brendan Young ’14 recently finished his film “Junction,” which focuses on basketball on the Navajo reservation. The inspiration for the film came when Young visited Chinle, Arizona, at the suggestion of a CC friend, Isaac Salay ’16, who was born there. Salay mentioned that Young should check out a basketball game in Chinle, and Young says he indeed was blown away by the love and passion for basketball he found there.

After the first visit, Young made five two-week trips to work on the film, which he finished editing last December. “Junction” has since been an official selection at five film festivals, including the Portland Film Festival and the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. In Santa Fe, the main character, Baa, and her family were fortunately able to attend the showing.

Young credits CC with his understanding the importance of acknowledging coexisting perspectives, which he explains “is crucial to telling empathetic stories.” He adds that Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies Clay Haskell emphasized the importance of trusting the process.

“Filmmaking takes total commitment, and projects or visions can work out really well or they can tank, but if you stay true to your purpose, the process leads to great filmmaking,” Young explains. The film will be playing at Doc NYC from Nov. 8-15, and Young hopes it will be at more film festivals this winter. You can watch it on Vimeo. Although he works on commercial filmmaking as well, Young has a future project in the works with another CC alumnus.


Student-athletes Start Academic Year at Wildlife Refuge

Baca Wildlife Refuge

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Every student who comes to CC participates in a Priddy Trip and individual trips engage in a wide variety of service work, ranging from trail construction to working with animals. This year, the early athlete Priddy Trip worked with the Baca National Wildlife Refuge to lower and remove barbed wire fences. Our group, which included incoming freshmen on the volleyball, men’s soccer, and men’s and women’s cross-country teams, camped at the North Crestone campground and worked at the wildlife refuge for three days.

Although working on the fences was tiring, it was also quite rewarding for everyone on the trip. On the first day of work, Ron Garcia, who works at the wildlife refuge, explained that the fences are too high for deer and other animals to jump over. The top wire of the fence ensnares their legs, and the animals go into shock and usually die before anyone can free them. Because of this, Garcia instructed us on how to lower the top wire and attach it to the lower wires to make the fences passable for wildlife. We spent most of one day walking along a fence and leap-frogging from post to post while lowering the wires. The second day, while also working with fences, was slightly different work.

Lots of the fence in the refuge is considered historical, so we were instructed to leave the wooden posts intact while removing and rolling the barbed wire to allow wildlife to pass through. Cross-country athlete and first-year Ben Gellman says, “I really enjoyed getting to work with the Baca Wildlife Refuge because I believed in the importance of the service work we were doing. When we drove down the road and saw the quantity of fencing that was now safer for antelopes and other animals it hit home how important the work was.” Many first-year students echoed this sentiment as we drove by the fences we worked on. Gellman adds that he appreciates the connections made during NSO, and feels like he is now more likely to cheer on other athletes he got to know while fixing fences.


Max Pil ’20 Climbs eSports Top 500 Leaderboards

Max Pil, eSports

By Miriam Brown ’21

 In the virtual world, Max Pil ’20 is a world-class hamster. In Overwatch, a video game in which heroes must come together to control global conflict, Pil regularly plays as Hammond, a hamster nicknamed “Wrecking Ball” for his ability to crush people with his mechanical ball.

Pil plays Hammond so well that he ranks in the top 30 in the world for the position and in the top 500 players overall in North America.

Pil is a member of Colorado College’s eSports team, which was founded last year. The team has around 18 students who play video games, specifically League of Legends and Overwatch, competitively against other collegiate eSports teams.

Despite being new to the team this year, Pil is already teaching the team’s private coach how to play his position.

“He’s doing things that people have never even thought of before,” eSports manager and co-founder Lilly Chen ’19 said. “For the team, there’s a noticeable difference when he’s in the game.”

After Pil posted to a Reddit forum about his play, so many people had questions that he started streaming to explain while he played. Now, in addition to Pil’s regular games and practices with CC’s team, he plays in matches alongside Overwatch paid professionals.

“I think it’s really fun, having grown up playing video games, to finally reach a point where you’re really good,” Pil said. “It’s really cool to get into matches and be at a very high level of competition for something that I always thought was kind of a stupid hobby.”

Chen says that in CC’s future matches, the team just needs to keep starting Pil. “It’s like [in basketball], he’s dunking on kids, and you just have to give him the ball,” Chen said.

TheCC eSports Overwatch team plays its first official games in the collegiate gaming organization Tespa Fall season this Sunday, Sept. 30. Game 1 vs. Purdue University Indianapolis, is at 6 p.m., Game 2 vs. University of South Carolina is at 7:30 p.m. Tune in at, or view the broadcast directly on the CC eSports homepage