Posts in: Kudos

Lizzy Stephan ’11 Puts Her Passion to Work as New Era’s New Director

By Monica Black ’19

CC’s prestigious Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) has produced scores of young leaders who go on to develop the nonprofit sector in Colorado and beyond. One such impressive fellow is Lizzy Stephan ’11, who was recently named director of New Era Colorado, an organization dedicated to increasing political participation among youth in Colorado.

“I work at New Era because I believe in the power of democracy to create change, and I believe in the power of young people to accelerate that change,” says Stephan. “I’ve long believed that young people deserve a real seat at the table.”

New Era’s work includes developing innovative solutions to voter registration problems and advocacy work to bring preregistration and online registration to the state of Colorado. The organization made headlines in 2013 when it spearheaded an effort in Boulder to engage youth in a movement to divest from coal and switch to renewable energy sources, pushing back against the energy monopoly in the city.

“New Era is celebrating our 10th anniversary this year, and we’re now one of the largest young voter mobilization programs in the country,” said Stephan. Stephan was named director this March, and she’ll be taking over as the nation heads into the election season. “We’re poised to run our largest statewide voter registration, education, and turnout efforts to date.”

Stephan was a sociology major at CC, co-chaired EnAct for a year, and interned in the Office of Sustainability. She was also always involved in politics, participating in the 2010 midterm election campaign efforts and pushing the school to make responsible investments.

These activities also inspired her career. “Studying sociology at Colorado College made me impatient with and unaccepting of ‘the way things are,’” says Stephan. “At New Era, we’re more driven by ‘the way things could be.’”

Stephan was a two-time fellow through PIFP. “My first PIFP placement showed me that it was possible to make a career out of the full-time pursuit of social change.” Stephan later worked at the Bell Policy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing opportunity for all in the state of Colorado. Through these fellowships, she developed a passion for politics as the vehicle for change.

To this day, Stephan loves her job: “I feel more like I’m obsessively pursuing a hobby than anything else.”

Gretchen Hammer ’94 Honored with 2016 Livesay Award

By Monica Black ’19

Gretchen Hammer ’94, currently Colorado’s Medicaid director, has been spearheading change for a healthier Colorado via the nonprofit sector for decades.

The board of the Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) recently selected Hammer as the recipient of the 2016 Livesay Award for Social Change. The award is given to alumni who have contributed significantly to the nonprofit sector in their dedication to social change and mentorship.

“Colorado College graduates do so many amazing things in the world,” says Hammer upon receiving notice of the award. “I am humbled to be considered a contributing member of this community.”

Hammer, upon graduating with a master’s in public health from the University of Washington, worked as a consultant for nonprofit and other public-serving organizations for 10 years, where she first got acquainted with the world of public interest. During this time, she also worked on a number of boards for nonprofits. Then she took on the role of director for the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, fulfilling a goal to direct a nonprofit that she says was inspired during her time at CC.

Lani Hinkle ’83, director of PIFP, says Hammer’s strong advocacy role was one reason she was selected as recipient of the award. “Her work has included a strong commitment to mobilizing coalitions, a vital role as a thought leader and advocate for health equity, and a passion for mentoring younger members of the nonprofit sector,” says Hinkle.

Hammer has now moved into the realm of state government with her work in Colorado Medicaid. She remains focused nonetheless on programs and social services that will help the most vulnerable members of the state. “People with injuries who can’t access needed medical services can’t work, can’t attend school, and can’t take care of their families,” says Hammer. “These are challenges we can solve if we are willing to collaborate across all sectors of society and keep the needs of those we serve at the center of what we do.” Hammer will be honored at the annual PIFP dinner in May.

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.

Esther Chan ’16 Tells the Story of Lives Changed By Meadows Park Community Center

Subjects of Esther Chan '16 thesis projectBy Montana Bass ’18

Esther Chan ’16 is sharing an inspiring message of struggle and empowerment. For her thesis project, she spent months gathering video footage and conducting interviews. Now, through a multimedia presentation, she will highlight the lives of three young people in Colorado Springs who overcame adversity to incite change in their community.

Chan’s thesis project is a culmination of an innovative, independently designed major – visual media, and social change. It follows Miguel Roacho, David Atencio, and Danielle Atencio in their daily lives, focusing on their work at Meadows Park Community Center. The thesis event will take place Friday, March 4, from 4-8 p.m. at Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 East Colorado Ave., in Colorado Springs.

The three individuals featured in Chan’s film all grew up with MPCC as a major influence in their lives. “It has always been their safe space and home and where they’ve found comfort,” says Chan. “Their story is of growing up in low-income Colorado Springs. It has a lot of violence, struggle, and drug use. It’s defined by the strength to break the cycle and make Colorado Springs better.” MPCC’s main goal is to empower youth to overcome the adversity they face, and have a successful and functional adult life. “Brian Kates ’93, the MPCC director, calls it organized chaos,” adds Chan, laughing. “Kids just get to run around and play.”

Chan volunteered at MPCC during her sophomore year as part of a youth empowerment class. Later, as she thought about her thesis, the lasting impression MCPP left on her sparked an idea. “I wanted to use a sociological research method called ‘photovoice,’ where you give cameras to kids in the community, then base the research on the videos,” she explains.

Filming began in September and Chan has continued once or twice a week ever since, gaining over four months of footage for her final documentary. “I just told them, ‘whenever you’re doing something, let me know,’ [so I could document it]. Mostly, I’m at MPCC where they work and hang with the kids,” says Chan. “They’ve totally let me into their lives and shared special moments with me.”

Shuttles to Cottonwood Center for the Arts will leave from the south side of Worner Campus Center continuously between 4-8 p.m. on Friday, March 4. There, attendees can watch the short documentary, view a gallery of photos from MPCC children, catch live music from student band Ominous Animals, and enjoy food provided by Mobile Meals.

Balancing Two Careers – Acclaimed Musician and Professor – with (Susan) Grace

Susan GraceBy Monica Black ’19

From the rooms of Packard Performance Hall, Susan Grace, artist-in-residence and lecturer in music, is making waves. At CC, she’s known as Susan, director of the Summer Music Festival and talented professor of piano. Recently, though, she’s been receiving recognition for her work outside of the school as well. The London Sunday Times recently named her as a contributor to one of the top ten contemporary recordings of 2016 for her recording “Stefan Wolpe – Music for Violin and Piano,” and that’s just one in a long line of acknowledgments. To name a few formidable awards, she was nominated for a Grammy in 2005 and received the Spirit of the Springs award in 2014.

Grace, a pianist, has led a diverse career: she performs collaborative music, chamber music, in duos, and concertos. “I’m not stuck to one thing,” says Grace. While she loves the variety her career offers her, she acknowledges that it can be overwhelming. “I do a lot of recording,” she says. “It can be challenging to balance [my career and my teaching], but most of my students are pretty advanced and work hard.”

Grace is a mainstay in the CC Music Department. Beyond teaching classes, she directs the Summer Music Festival, an annual event that attracts advanced music students and faculty from all across the nation to participate in a month-long workshop. “I feel really fortunate to be a part of the community here,” Grace says. “The faculty development and possibilities are great.”

Her most recent accolade for the Stefan Wolpe was the fruit of a recording done in Packard Hall for Bridge Records. Her co-musicians on the recording were renowned violinists Movses Pogossian and Varty Manouelian. Her recording company had asked her to record Wolpe. “I had never even heard of Wolpe,” said Grace, “but I found the music really interesting.”

In addition to another Wolpe piece, she continues work with her piano duo, Quattro Mani. Grace is also preparing for an August recording of “Poul Ruders for Harpsichord and Piano,” a performance at famous venue National Sawdust in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a Quattro Mani performance at Bargemusic, also in Brooklyn.

Scott Bryan ’01 Named “Modern Day Pioneer” for Water Innovations

Scott BryanMontana Bass ’18

Whether or not you’re in need of a new pair of jeans, take a look at the Levi Strauss and Company “Modern-Day Pioneers” webpage, which last month featured CC graduate Scott Bryan. Bryan, who graduated from CC as an economics major in 2001, is now the president of Imagine H20, a company that supports startups with promising solutions to current water challenges.

As he mentions in the article, Bryan’s interest in water was sparked during his years at CC. He cites professors Mark Smith and Walt Hecox as especially influential on his education. During Smith’s environmental economics class, Bryan visited the Glen Canyon Dam, where he studied the system of water delivery to farms in Colorado and New Mexico. In his classes with Hecox, Bryan says, “I spent a lot of time in the San Luis Valley learning about the conflict between ranchers and water developers.”

Taking advantage of the opportunity for interdisciplinary study that CC offers, Bryan took an environmental sociology course, which he remembers as pivotal in developing his later dedication to address the strain on water resources. That class also spent time in the San Luis Valley. Bryan explains, “that is where we learned about the acequia [or communal irrigation] systems and the potential threat from logging headwaters.”

Today, Bryan recognizes the great impact his CC education has had on his life. “At CC, thanks to the block program, I really learned the value of diving into an issue or topic. This has been critical in my professional career,” he says. “It’s been fun to work in the water innovation space and connect with other Tigers. Andrew Fahlund ’91 is a deputy director at the California Water Foundation, which supports Imagine H2O. Jim McDermott ’91 founded a very successful water tech business called NanoH2O.”

In his interview with Levi Strauss, Bryan delves into the mission behind Imagine H20, his personal involvement, and what he sees for the future. Check it out.

Kendall Rock ’15 Screens “God’s in the Garage” at Big Sky Film Fest

Rock conducts interviews for "God's in the Garage" inside Shove Memorial Chapel

Rock conducts interviews for “God’s in the Garage” inside Shove Memorial Chapel.

“I really want people to be able to see the power of music and of art, and the way it works in so many different people’s lives,” says Kendall Rock ’15 of her film “God’s in the Garage.”  She’s sharing her work with the world, on the big screen at the 2016 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Montana Feb. 19-28.

The documentary short explores the interactions and conflicts between faith and music. Featuring Seattle artists Allen Stone, Zach Fleury, Noah Gundersen, and Galen Disston (Pickwick), the film also follows Colorado musician Brian Wight as he chooses between his artistry and the prospects of a comfortable lifestyle guaranteed by a church job.

“I was raised in the church in Seattle, but had a lot of issues with it as I got older and went to college. I started paying attention to the type of music I was listening to and realized that a lot of the artists I liked had a similar Christian background,” Rock says of her inspiration for the film. “Struggles with faith was a theme in their music, and I wanted to know more about how they processed that struggle through their art. For a lot of these musicians, music was their religion or their higher power, and I was really interested in learning about that.”

“God’s in the Garage” was Rock’s thesis film as a film and new media studies major at CC. After debuting the film on campus last May, Rock was contacted by Doug Hawes-Davis, who was on campus as a visiting professor. He invited her to show the film at the Big Sky Festival in Missoula, Montana. Since then, she’s had to keep the film under wraps until the screening at Big Sky in February.

While Rock says it’s scary to share such a personal and sensitive project with the masses, she’s thrilled to be included in such a major festival. “I’ll get to go to see films and attend the filmmaker parties. I’ll be mingling with real filmmakers; I’m excited. Then I can finally put it online, and move on.”

Rock has several other projects already in the works, including a film she shot over the summer while working with a conservation group in Alaska. That will be released soon on Rock’s blog. And, she has plenty of ideas to pursue. “I want to do more with music, the best part of this film was working with other creative people and talking with them about the way they process their lives through their art.  At the same time I was making my art, going through my own process, so I want to do more of that.”

Thaddeus Phillips ‘94 Transforms Space and Time Onstage

Monica Black ’19

In his most recent play, “17 Border Crossings,” which debuted in Manitou Springs, Colorado a few years ago and is now playing at the Blue Room Theatre in Perth, Thaddeus Phillips ’94 fills up the stage, and plays everyone, everywhere in 17 true stories of migration and separation. Backed by his own narration, Phillips transforms himself from a Hungarian border control agent – with shirttail protruding from his fly – into a smuggler. The standing microphone, table, chair, and a light bar are flipped and repurposed 17 times to become a trans-Euro train, a beach, a customs check, a motorcycle.

Eileen Blumenthal, professor of theatre at Rutgers University and a critic of the arts in New York City, recently featured Phillips’ work in American Theatre. He has developed, Blumenthal writes, his “own brand of theatre,” evidenced by his unique use of space and repurposing of common objects to create different universes. His diverse body of work ranges from one-man Shakespeare (“King Lear;” “Hamlet”) to more traditional plays that take on contemporary issues, from “Narcos” to onstage telenovela¡El Conquistador!” about Colombian soap operas.

His unique and formidable career in the arts began with his studies in the Theatre Department at Colorado College, where he encountered, via theatre professors at CC, cutting-edge ideas about onstage space adapted from Peter Brooks. He also worked with puppetmaster Encho Avramov (who has continued to teach and direct at CC as a visitor) and saw the renowned work of Robert LePage during the course of his studies.

Phillips now runs theatre company Lucidity Suitcase International, which produces much of his work. Read the full story.

Breton Schwarzenbach ’15 Captures a Disappearing Nomadic Culture with Photo Exhibit

“It’s a global story about a people who are cutting away from their roots and moving away from a traditional livelihood, and I’m trying to convey some of that emotion of loss, and force people to think about that process as it applies to other cultures,” says Breton Schwarzenbach ’15 his photography exhibit “The Generation of Uncertainty.” The solo exhibit is currently on display at Naropa University’s Lounge Gallery in Boulder, Colorado.

The Generation of UncertaintyThe show of large-scale photographs is the product of Schwarzenbach’s extensive time spent living with the Changpa nomads along the Indo-Tibetan border. His work presents the contemporary story of nomads confronting climate change, economics, and geo-politics in the Himalayas.

“In this new body of work, I was really diligent in selecting the images, and portraits specifically, that convey emotion to help people try and grasp that something is happening in this area that doesn’t fit with an expectation of what you might think,” he says.

For centuries, the Changpa have herded yak and Pashmina goats in the Changthang, a pristine high grassland spanning the border between Tibet and Ladakh, India. Today, the younger generation is leaving and pastoralism is dying out. “The Generation of Uncertainty” pays homage to the traditional livelihood in transition.

It raises questions about how all cultures experience and embrace change. Portraits are juxtaposed against landscape and images of human impact. The work is powerful, urging reflection about humanity’s role in a time of immense global transformation.

Now 23, Schwarzenbach began working with the Changpa six years ago. With support from a Keller Venture Grant, the Edith Gaylord Prize in Asian studies, and CC Career Center funding, he lived in the nomad camps and was able to bear witness with pen and camera. Naropa is housing the first scheduled exhibition of this work.

The show is on display from January 14 through February 26. The Lounge Gallery is located inside Naropa’s Nalanda Campus at 6287 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder and the opening reception runs 5:30- 7:30 pm., Friday, Jan. 22. Regular gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Schwarzenbach lives and works between Putney, Vermont and Colorado. In September, Schwarzenbach spoke and showed work as part of the Tibetan Children Education Foundation’s 25th Anniversary events at the Holter Museum in Helena, Montana. Last month he was featured in a solo exhibit for TOCA SHOES on New York City’s Lower East Side. Schwarzenbach received a BA from Colorado College. More at: www.bretonschwarzenbach.com

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.