Posts in: Kudos

CC Takes Strides in Sustainability

Students install solar panels at the Baca Campus.

By Montana Bass ’18

In the past months, Colorado College has made significant progress toward reaching its sustainability goals. The college has achieved the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education STARS Gold Status, it moved up to 59th on the Sierra Cool Schools list, and received the WateReuse CO customer of the year award.

These achievements represent efforts by CC’s Office of Sustainability, which completed the AASHE STARS questionnaire for the first time last year. STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System) is a widely respect self-reporting framework used by colleges across the country to track sustainability progress. Colleges can earn credit based on criteria across four categories: academics, engagement, operations, and planning and administration. Depending on the results, they earn a rating as bronze, silver, gold, or platinum.

In only its second year participating, CC has already moved from the silver to the gold ranking with a current score is 66.89 (85 will earn CC platinum status). Ian Johnson, director of sustainability, said, “energy and greenhouse gas emissions are key players in all regards. Continuing to focus on parallel goals and commitments, such as our carbon neutrality goals, will continue to move us up.”

While students and faculty may already consider CC a “cool school,” now it’s official. The Sierra Club recently recognized the college as 59th out of 135 schools on its Cool Schools of 2015 list. The Sierra Club uses a survey called the Campus Sustainability Data Collector, which draws from the data collected by Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Sustainable Endowments Institute, and the Princeton Review.

Schools can receive a total of 1000 points spread across 11 categories. CC earned a score of 641.93, while the highest-ranking school, University of California Irvine, earned a score of 867.29. In the categories of food, energy, and waste, CC ranked in the top 25 out of all 135 schools, and also earned all possible points in the planning category.

According to Johnson, this recognition is especially important in terms of continuing to increase CC’s rankings in other higher education standings and gaining the respect of peer institutions, prospective students, and alumni. “Sierra Magazine is widely respected and reviewed,” he said. “Our improvement this year is a direct result of the college’s strategic plan goals and focus on sustainability, largely guided by the annual STARS survey that informs our State of Sustainability report.”

Additionally, CC received the Customer of the Year Award from WateReuse Colorado. “This award recognizes projects and people within Colorado that have made significant contributions to water reuse,” said Tara Kelley, Regulatory Services Section Supervisor for Colorado Springs, who nominated CC for the award. CC has been using reclaimed water for over 45 years. The award states that the college has “demonstrated superb compliance with Colorado Springs Utilities standards and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regulations throughout this time.”

Student-Faculty Collaboration Fuels Summer Research

Want to understand how language influences the interworkings of the mind? Ask Jake Brodsky ’15, a CC psychology major, who is preparing to present research findings on the topic at an international conference this summer.

“His presentation will be viewed by some of the actual researchers he’s cited in his research. Our students can really make an impact on the way people think beyond the CC environment,” said Kevin Holmes, psychology professor, who is working with Brodsky as part of the 10-week Summer Collaborative Research Program.

Kevin Holmes, professor of psychology, meets with his team of summer student researchers at a weekly collaborative meeting.

Kevin Holmes, professor of psychology, meets with his team of summer student researchers at a weekly collaborative meeting.

This summer, 26 students received funding through the Centennial Fund Faculty Student Collaboration Grant and the Mellon-funded Faculty Student Collaboration Grant. About 65 more, like Brodsky, received funding through other college research awards. The summer program supports faculty members in their research activities and provides students with first-hand research experience as undergraduates. The intent is to expose students to the diverse goals, research methods, and skills faculty use to conduct advanced research in their fields of study, prepare research reports of their findings, and present their conclusions to their peers in classes, at professional meetings, or in Brodsky’s case, to experts in his field.

Holmes says participating in this kind of intensive, collaborative research enhances the learning environment for every student.  “Doing research teaches you how to think in ways you don’t get in regular classes; just to be able to think through a problem, coming up with a question and determining how to test it,” said Holmes of working with students. Students in the program learn to solve problems, draw conclusions that can be defended, and tell the story of the research, which is what Brodsky is doing now as he prepares to present the significant findings of his research.

“You don’t have the pressures that you do during the school year; in the summer, the time is yours, you can sit down and think about the ideas, focus on the theories and the methods, and not worry about the deadlines,” Holmes said.

The collaborative nature of the program is at the core of why Holmes says it’s so valuable – both to faculty and to students.  “For a student to be able to make such a big contribution, it’s great. It’s not just the faculty member deciding ‘here are my research projects and here’s what you’ll do,’ but they bring in their ideas, often related to thesis work. We meet daily in the summer, to check in, to figure out the next step; each of us makes a contribution to the work.”

Brodsky’s research and resulting findings grew from his senior thesis project exploring how monolingual and bilingual adults differ in their views of gender. After graduation, he continued his work through funding provided by the collaborative research program. Holmes helped him apply for additional funds, once Brodsky was selected as a presenter at the Cognitive Science Society Conference in Pasadena in July.

Holmes is working with six students during the summer and while he says it’s a demanding load, the group dynamic helps the scientific, and learning, process. “Each individual student is outstanding, and bringing them together they learn from and help each other, and challenge each other,” he said.

“What the students in my lab are doing this summer are projects very similar to the graduate school experience,” said Holmes. “It’s so much more about the research than taking classes; they have to think carefully about their project and have the time to execute from start to finish. I’d like students to get involved earlier, so by the time they’re seniors, they can really take on more advanced research and extend it in new directions.”

Brodsky also encourages students to get involved in research earlier in their CC careers, and specifically through the summer program. “It’s probably been my favorite part of being at CC. It’s the opportunity to do research with a professor, independently, and the summer offers all of the fun parts of learning without the pressures of turning things in; you get to really learn for learning’s sake.”

Ultimately, Brodsky will work with Holmes to write up his findings for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. While he hasn’t made plans about his next steps yet, Brodsky said his experience this summer “makes me excited to continue in academics or to go on to grad school.”

Find out what subject matter other Summer Collaborative Research Program participants explored when they present their work at the second annual Undergraduate Research Symposium held on campus in the fall.

Green Labs Project Saves Energy and Resources

Anna Kelly ’16

CC science labs are becoming more environmentally friendly thanks to the work of several faculty members and the launch of the Green Labs project.

Over the past year, Barbara Whitten, professor of physics, and Emilie Gray, assistant professor of organismal biology and ecology, have led an effort to change CC science departments’ use of materials and equipment to encourage efficiencies in energy and resource use. Improvements in battery and paper recycling, as well as reducing energy used by refrigerators and ventilation equipment, are also part of the CC Green Labs project. Green Labs is also an active movement at colleges and universities across the country.

Whitten first brought up the concept during a brainstorming session at the end of the 2013-14 school year, and later presented the idea at a Sustainability Council meeting where Gray and several other faculty expressed interest in the project.

“I got interested in this project because if you look at energy density, or energy per square foot, all of the science buildings are at the very top of the list,” said Whitten.

She was particularly curious about why Tutt Science Center, a building constructed to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, was also using large amounts of energy. After some research, she found that science buildings are universally energy inefficient. She discovered the national Green Labs movement, working to make science labs more efficient.  Much of the energy use in science labs comes from equipment like the ultralow freezers and ventilation hoods.

Gray said CC had several projects already underway to increase sustainability in the science departments, but they weren’t coordinating with one another or collaborating to broaden their reach across campus. “We made a bunch of discoveries,” said Gray. “For example, in chemistry they are already using a lot of green chemicals and people don’t know about it.”

To further the program, Whitten, Gray and several other faculty members and students visited the University of Colorado-Boulder to learn about the Green Labs program in place there. “We got to see their labs and meet their program manager, who has tons of ideas on sustainability,” said Gray. “She had a lot of information that was incredibly valuable for us.”

Kathy Ramirez, Green Labs manager at CU, has since visited CC and given her input on how to improve the school’s labs. Whitten says she hopes the Green Labs initiative will reach beyond energy conservation.

“Mostly we’ve talked about energy, but really what green science means is a reduction in all forms of resource abuse,” said Whitten. “It involves water conservation and reducing the use of toxic chemicals without interfering with the teaching and research mission of the science departments.”

Whitten and Gray have collaborated with Ian Johnson, CC’s sustainability manager, and together they have set up a fund to assist in purchasing sustainable equipment. This fund has already been used to buy a high-efficiency freezer. Whitten, Gray, and other members of the Green Labs project will continue to make changes to the labs that will reduce energy and resource use. They also aim to be involved in plans for constructing new science buildings on campus in the future.

Peggy Daugherty, associate professor of chemistry, with a new high-efficiency freezer.

Peggy Daugherty, associate professor of chemistry, with a new high-efficiency freezer.

Congrats to 2015 PIFP Fellows!

Thirty-nine students will serve in fellowships this summer as part of the Public Interest Fellowship Program. The program acts as a matchmaker between CC students with an interest in the social sector and nonprofit organizations doing innovative work in the public interest. Often, this work involves policy, research, and advocacy. This year, CC has 20 summer fellows and 19 yearlong fellows.

Thanks to all faculty and staff members who submitted letters of recommendation on behalf of these students, and to the CC community who will support them in these endeavors.

Congratulations to all of the PIFP fellows!

Fellow term: Fellow name: Host organization:
Summer fellow Jane Finocharo ’16 ACLU of Colorado
Summer fellow Stefani Messick ’17 ARC of the Pikes Peak Region
Summer fellow Taylor Wright ’17 Atlas Preparatory School
Summer fellow Vanessa Voller ’16 The Bell Policy Center
Summer fellow Patricia Weicht ’16 Catamount Institute
Summer fellow Victoria Johnson ’17 City of Colorado Springs
Summer fellow Jessica Worley ’15 ClinicNet
Summer fellow Isaac Radner ’17 CO League of Charter Schools
Summer fellow Kimiko Tanabe ’16 Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Reg (COPPeR)
Summer fellow Megan Gillespie ’16 The Gill Foundation
Summer fellow Niyanta Khatri ’17 The Gill Foundation
Summer fellow Zita Toth ’16 National Conference of State Legislatures: Communications Division
Summer fellow Zoe Gibson ’17 *NCSL Education Program
Summer fellow Terrell Blei  ‘17 *NCSL Health Program
Summer fellow David Trevithick ’17 *NCSL Health Program
Summer fellow Julian McGinn ’15 One Colorado
Summer fellow Olivia Chandrasekhar ’17 Palmer Land Trust
Summer fellow Eliza Mott ’17 ProgressNow Colorado Education
Summer fellow Alta Viscomi ’16 TESSA
Summer fellow Celia Palmer ’16 Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado
Yearlong fellow Duy Pham ’15 The Bell Policy Center
Yearlong fellow Beza Taddess ’15 Colorado Children’s Campaign
Yearlong fellow Jordan Savold ’15 CO Children’s Immunization Coalition
Yearlong fellow Emily Michels ’15 CO Consumer Health Initiative
Yearlong fellow Zachary Stone ’15 CO Consumer Health Initiative
Yearlong fellow Alexander Meyer ’15 Colorado Fiscal Institute
Yearlong fellow Maggie Bailey ’15 Colorado Health Institute
Yearlong fellow Andrew Randall ’15 Colorado Public Radio
Yearlong fellow Fiona Horner ’15 Colorado Youth Matter
Yearlong fellow Alexandra Drew ’15 Concrete Couch
Yearlong fellow Audrey Wheeler ’15 Conservation Colorado
Yearlong fellow James Terhune ’15 Denver Scholarship Foundation
Yearlong fellow Cameron Johnson ’15 DSST Public Schools
Yearlong fellow Emma Shiestl ’15 Innovations in Aging Collaborative
Yearlong fellow Jeremy Flood ’15 New Era Colorado
Yearlong fellow Evalyn Grant ’15 OMNI Institute
Yearlong fellow Melissa Chizmar ’15 Pikes Peak United Way
Yearlong fellow Wan Hung (Harry) Yao ’15 Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains
Yearlong fellow Sarah Ross ’15 TESSA


Jacob Kirksey ’15 Selected as All-American in Forensics

The Pi Kappa Delta National Honor Society for competitive forensics hosts one of the largest speech and debate competitions in the country. It draws hundreds of competitors from colleges and universities across the United States, including CC’s own speech and debate team.

JacobKirksey_118 3.36.43 PMAt this year’s competition, the society inducted ten students as All-Americans including Jacob Kirksey ’15, the captain of the speech and debate team at CC. Selection as an All-American is the highest honor awarded at the national tournament, recognizing outstanding seniors with successful careers in forensics, and strong academic and service backgrounds.

“I have never witnessed a dual discipline and motivation for the arts and communication like I’ve seen in this young man over his four years at CC. Jacob’s ruthless determination to present only the best product is evidenced by scrapping a speech the night before competition and re-writing an entire persuasive just because the former ‘wasn’t good enough,’” said Sarah Hinkle, CC speech and debate coach.

He participated at the national level in speech and debate in each of his four years at CC, competing in a variety of events from team debates, limited preparation speaking on current event topics, prepared platform speeches, and acting. Kirksey says his strongest event is impromptu speaking, in which participants have two minutes to prepare a five-minute speech that interprets a given quotation, asserts a thesis, and gives examples on how to apply the quotation to daily life. He focused also on the after-dinner speaking event, preparing a ten-minute speech that incorporates humor into a serious topic and is persuasive in nature. He chose color-blindness and the Black Lives Matter movement for his topic this year.

“Winning and traveling across the country is wonderful, but the best part of competing is discovering your own personal growth,” Kirksey said of his experience on the team. “Every tournament you are pushed to do even better than you did before, and this creates a very important routine for always bettering yourself.”

Earlier this year, Kirksey and his partner reached the quarterfinals of the Pan American Universities Debate Championship tournament. They competed against hundreds of schools competing from across the Western Hemisphere, the equivalent of reaching a medaling heat of the Pan American Games.

“What has impressed me about Jacob is not his competitive success, as CC has a long history of successful speech and debate students, but his willingness to extend his expertise to the community and enrich the lives of young people in Colorado Springs,” said Julian Plaza, one of CC’s speech and debate coaches.

Kirksey also used the skillset he developed through forensics competitions to inspire and start his own company. Kids Are Dramatic is a social justice theatre company that works with Title I public schools, which include higher numbers of at-risk students, and with nonprofits and after-school programs, to create process-oriented drama classes for students to express themselves. He also serves as advocacy director at the local nonprofit group Imagination Celebration where he networks with professionals in the Pikes Peak Region to develop and evaluate educational programs.

Kirksey, a double major in economics and education, began his debate career as a high schooler in Lubbock, Texas, where he initially found his passion for the event. “Speech and debate created a space for me to succeed in high school and see my potential. It forced me to be confident and enhances nearly ever aspect of my academic and professional life.”

After graduation in May, Kirksey will begin the education policy doctorate program at the University of California-Santa Barbara. “If I didn’t have the skillset I developed and enhanced through speech and debate, I wouldn’t be as established and confident in my work. Hopefully I’ll be a professor at age 26.”



From Pro Hockey to Fundraising at CC, Preston Briggs Keeps His Perspective

Preston Briggs ATBBy Stephanie Wurtz

Congratulations to Preston Briggs, who was recently selected as major gift officer for Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Region. He currently serves as leadership giving officer in the advancement division and started at CC in April 2013.

Briggs said characteristics he developed as a professional hockey player, most recently with the Bloomington Prairie Thunder, enhance his work in both his current and new role in advancement.

“In professional sports, every day could be your last day, and that’s still a good perspective to have; it taught me to celebrate the highs and acknowledge the lows, but to keep an even keel and focus.”

Briggs was traded four times in his first two years playing professional hockey, then had hip surgery after his second season and spent the off-season in intensive rehabilitation to be ready to play. It’s that persistence and work ethic he said carried into his career after hockey.

“It’s about building the relationship between the donor and the college and finding where they want to make their impact, then connecting with those opportunities.”

Born in Colorado Springs, Briggs said he was inspired by CC hockey, attending every home game.

“I don’t think I would’ve ever played hockey at all, let alone professionally, had I not been growing up here watching the CC Tigers play every season.”

As a Colorado Springs native, Briggs said he feels personally invested in the city. He wants to see the community grow and thrive, and sees potential in CC collaborations with the greater community. “We have a lot here [in Colorado Springs] to offer, if we use it. CC is one of those things. Not many 500,000 cities can boast one of the best liberal arts schools in the country.”

His new position focuses on major gifts to support scholarships, research opportunities, internships, specific departments, and other areas.

“What’s really exciting is I’ll be in a place to talk with our alumni, parents, and friends about what they dream Colorado College could be, asking the question,  ‘What does the best CC look like?’ ”

Briggs will officially move into his new role this spring. He will finish out the year by retaining his focus on leadership in annual giving. A search for his replacement will begin soon.

“Preston is a polished and articulate representative of the college. He was selected among a pool of very strong candidates to take the role vacated by Ron Rubin last year,” said Mark Hille, associate vice president for development.

Briggs and his wife, Amanda, met in college and now have a 13-month-old son, Davis.

Steve Getty Named an Award Recipient by NARST

Steve GettySteve Getty, director of the Quantitative Reasoning Center, part of the Colket Center for Academic Excellence, has been named an award recipient by NARST, an international organization that improves science teaching and learning through research.

Getty was part of a team that authored a research paper titled “Conducting Causal Effects Studies in Science Education: Considering Methodological Trade-Offs in the Contexts of Policies Affecting Research in Schools.” The paper was selected for the 2014 Journal of Research in Science Teaching Award, as the most significant research article published in the journal in 2013.

“Our team is honored,” Getty said. “Often there’s a tension between education policies and the need for educational research. From a large trial we’ve just completed, we compiled data on how that policy-research tension leads to trade-offs and compromises that have very real impacts on research methods. Our hope is that this compilation is a useful resource for other education researchers.”

Getty, who worked as a visiting assistant professor in the Geology Department from 1999-2002, returned to Colorado College in August 2014, as director of the Quantitative Reasoning Center (QRC). His position at the QRC involves academic support across math and the sciences, education research, and collaborative work with college faculty in support of quantitative reasoning in the CC curriculum.

Winning a Gold CASE Award: ‘That’s So CC’


An interdepartmental  Colorado College annual giving campaign featuring CC students and faculty has received the Gold level award for fundraising programs from the CASE District VI. And that, as the college community would say, “Is so CC.”

In fact, “Giving Back:That’s so CC,” was the title of the campaign, which consisted of print materials, videos, and emails.

Created between the summer and fall of 2012 by Naomi Trujillo, advancement design manager; Arielle Mari ’12, video and digital media specialist; Andrea Pacheco, former director of annual giving; and Ash Mercer ’08, former associate director of annual giving; the campaign was aimed at developing a culture of philanthropy. The four-part series consisted of:

  • Service: That’s so CC, featuring drama major Kasi Carter ’11
  • Student Support: That’s so CC, featuring French and Francophone Studies major Johnny Reed ’13
  • Interdisciplinarity: That’s so CC, featuring psychology major Nora Alami ’13
  • Study Abroad: That’s so CC, featuring English Professor Barry Sarchett, Adjunct Associate Comparative Literature Professor Lisa B. Hughes, and economics major Jesse Marble ’08

What made the project particularly fun to work on was the fact that there was so much collaboration, Trujillo said. “I loved the way the pieces came together – the print, emails, and video. Each told a great story and there was awesome video to support the project. I loved seeing the faces of the people we featured, and the video really captured their character, who they are,” she said.

The video was provided by Mari, who said she enjoyed working on the fairly long-term project. “It gives you time to develop a look, a feel. There is a sense of continuity about it. I imagined the people receiving the materials, and I felt I could establish a rapport with them. The project builds on itself and offers a new sense of unity,” she said.

Working with students was a highlight for Trujillo. “It reminded me what I’m at CC for. It’s an amazing place with amazing people,” she said.

Justin Weis’s Work Recognized by AIMHO

JustinWeisJustin Weis, associate director of residential life and housing, has been awarded the Outstanding Mid-Level Professional for the region by the Association of Intermountain Housing Officers (AIMHO).

The award is presented every year to a housing professional who currently is working in an associate director, assistant director, area manager/coordinator, or equivalent level at an AIMHO-member school. The award recognizes outstanding efforts and work taking place between the organization’s annually scheduled conferences. Weis was presented the award earlier this month at the annual AIMHO conference in Las Vegas.

The nomination on behalf of Weis notes that his job during the last year entailed a variety of additional duties, such as:

  • Being the key point person for the $14 million Slocum Hall renovation project
  • Providing leadership for revamping the off-campus application and education process
  • Supporting on-campus housing efforts for those affected by the area wildfires
  • Helping to manage residential facilities during highly unusual levels of flooding in the region
  • Providing guidance to fraternities
  • Opening a second Synergy sustainability living house
  • Completing renovations of several student apartments

Weis’s regular workload did not diminish while he took on the other responsibilities. The nomination notes that he continues to be second in charge for his department, working with residential life, conferences, operations, room assignments, and facilities. In submitting his nomination, the residential life staff wrote that “Justin works hard to make sure our department functions at a high level and is innovative year round. We are lucky and thankful to have him as part of our team.  He is genuine, seeks to help people, and sees the important role that facilities and relationships play in the learning for students.” This year marks Weis’s 10th year at Colorado College.

Chris Coulter inducted into CS Sports Hall of Fame

Chris Coulter webChris Coulter, director of facilities services, recently was inducted into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame. Just over a quarter of a century ago, Coulter played on the 1986-87 State Champion Rampart High School basketball team that went undefeated, 24-0, to win the state title.

The team achieved the impossible: perfection. The Rampart boy’s team chalked up a remarkable 24-0 record, beating Thompson Valley, 42-38 in the state 3A championship game. The Rampart team won their games by an average of 17 points and earned a team grade point average of 3.14, showing their prowess on and off the court.  In Coulter’s two years playing with the state champion team, the team posted a 46-2 record.

Coulter is currently a varsity coach in the Pine Creek High School boy’s football program. They have a 10-2 record and are playing in the 4A state semifinals against Monarch High School this weekend.

Coulter enjoys coaching youth sports, especially football and basketball, and has been coaching the same group of eighth-graders since they were in the third grade.