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Get to Know Two New Faces at The Butler Center

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

This semester, the Butler Center welcomed new members to its staff: Tre Wentling, gender and identity development specialist, and Michelle Stallings, administrative assistant. Both Wentling and Stallings took the time to answer a few questions to help you get to know them and why they’re excited to be a part of the campus community.

Michelle Ann StallingsMichelle Ann Stallings

What were you doing before arriving at CC?I earned a BA in history and an MA in educational leadership with an emphasis in student affairs in higher education from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. During my undergraduate studies, I was heavily involved with various multicultural student organizations including the Asian Pacific Islander Student Union, Native American Student Union, Spectrum: The Gay-Straight Alliance, and Student Diversity Council.


What are some personal or professional experiences you’ve had either at CC or outside of it that play into your current role?
Personally, being a student leader, specifically within multicultural student organizations, has helped me to realize the significance of actively participating in the campus community. Professionally, each of the positions I held in higher education helped me learn to work with a variety of students, each with their own story and background.


What was the biggest influence on your career path?
Strangely enough, working at a for-profit institution inspired me to work in higher education. I was immersed in a culture that viewed each student as a dollar amount rather than respecting each person as an individual with their own background and journey into college life. Rather than trying to keep the status quo, I was inspired to make each conversation meaningful and focused on the student’s needs.

What have you noticed about CC?
I have noticed that CC is extremely friendly. Titles have less meaning because each and every professional staff and faculty member I have meet really cares about each student they meet.

When she’s not working, you might find Stallings watching movies with her husband and dogs, reading, and traveling. Stop by the Butler Center on the second floor of Worner Campus Center, or email

Tre WentlingTre Wentling

What is your position and how do you think it will impact CC?
The gender and identity development specialist position supports students’ identity development with an emphasis on gender and sexuality. My position also contributes to the campus community in ways that promote learning, discovery, scholarship, and social justice. The transformative possibilities of this position include the opportunity to join the work already underway at CC as well as expand practices that honor the complex lives of CC students, staff, and faculty who diversely embody trans, gender nonconforming, queer, bisexual, lesbian, gay, and asexual identities and experiences.


What were you doing before you arrived at CC?
I am a first-generation college graduate, with a military-dependent history. I was born on a U.S. Air Force installation in Germany and by my 18th birthday had lived in three German states and three American states. Growing up, I attended different school systems: U.S. Department of Defense schools, public schools in the U.S., and a private international school, which made evident how uneven educational systems are, including the dominant values and organizing practices within them. So much moving also taught me about community, culture, and belonging and was likely the impetus of my intellectual journey in sociology. I earned both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in sociology. I completed my Ph. D in sociology and a certificate of advanced studies in women’s and gender studies at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. My research concerns how individuals with diverse, transgender embodied identities navigate incoherent U.S. policies that regulate identification documents produced at different governing scales.

What are some personal or professional experiences you’ve had either at CC or outside of it that play into your current role?
My journey to becoming more of my authentic self – a white queer transman with intentional commitments to social justice — involved multiple, transformative experiences; much of that assemblage manifested during my undergraduate study. My connections to campus, community, and curriculum, or the three C’s as I call them, necessarily included university staff, faculty, and community members. Uniquely positioned on- and off-campus, a diverse constellation of mentors supported my identity development. They acknowledged my personhood; gave me space to wrestle with tensions and contradictions in my own life as well as our socio-political worlds; listened carefully and offered constructive insights; presented leadership opportunities that were productive and empowering; advocated on my behalf; and over time, some became allied-comrades and friends. The three C’s inform my commitment to students and efforts to offer support, advocate when invited, recommend and discuss critical scholarship, encourage self-reflection, and propose empowering leadership opportunities.

 Something you might be surprised to know? Wentling used to compete in country-and-western partner dancing. Stop by the Butler Center to meet Wentling in person, or email

Dana Cronin ’17 Racks Up Miles, Experience at 91.5 KRCC

By Alana Aamodt ’18

Dana Cronin ’17, has spent a large portion of her CC career interning with 91.5 KRCC , Colorado College’s NPR-member station. From pitching stories to interviewing sources, Cronin’s internship has introduced her to all aspects of radio, giving her the opportunity to write, record, and produce her stories.

“Throughout my two and a half years at 91.5 KRCC, I’ve learned so much about how to be a good journalist,” Cronin says of her internship, “I’ve learned how to write meaningful and thorough stories about a huge variety of topics. I’ve also developed my radio voice, which is a lot harder than it sounds!” She also says she’s learned a lot about the community and broader listening area through “interviewing people, attending local meetings, and reaching out to the general community 91.5 KRCC serves,” in order to create relevant pieces.

One of her latest stories even took her to the top of some of Colorado’s highest peaks, where she learned about the labor-intensive maintenance of the trails up the state’s 14,000-foot mountains and the hardworking people who work at such high altitudes. Cronin says many people, herself included at first, “don’t realize the amount of time, energy, and money that goes into maintaining Colorado’s high peaks,” making this an important story to tell.

Besides the actual labor of hiking the mountain, Cronin says the hardest part about writing the story was editing down the information, interviews, and sound bites. “I started with about five hours of interviews and recordings, and the story ended up being five minutes long,” describes Cronin. Finding herself personally attached to many of the sources, this was no easy task.

91.5 KRCC “Morning Edition” host and managing editor, and Cronin’s supervisor, Andrea Chalfin, describes the hard work Cronin’s put in. “I’ve worked with Dana in the 91.5 KRCC newsroom for the majority of her college career, and I’m really proud of the work she’s done for us. Aside from literally climbing a couple of mountains for this piece, she was able to pull the story together fairly easily. It’s a testament to her work ethic and experience at Colorado College and in the newsroom.”

Cronin hopes to continue in radio and will be applying for radio internships for next year. Read or listen to Cronin’s fourteener piece or take a look at some of her other work on the 91.5 KRCC website.

Get to Know Dwanna Robertson, Assistant Professor of Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies

Dwanna Robertson

Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Dwanna Robertson joined CC this year as an assistant professor in the Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies Program. Robertson has a Ph. D. in sociology from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and a graduate certificate in Native American Indian Studies. It’s an exciting time to join the department, as CC implemented a new Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies major for the 2016-17 academic year. Robertson took time to share some of her insights on CC, the REMS program, and the addition of a REMS major.

What made you choose to come to CC?

I was appointed to my previous position as the secretary of education for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation by Principal Chief George Tiger. A new principal chief took office in January 2016, and when another principal chief is elected, they appoint their own choices. It works the same way as on the national level. I was incredibly humbled and honored to serve my tribe within the areas of education and research. I had promised my mother that I would someday come back and work for my people, so working for the tribe was a fulfillment of my promise to her. But I am so happy to return to academia. I’ve always known that I was meant to teach, research, and write.

I decided to come to CC because of the intellectual vibrancy and commitment I saw modeled by the students, faculty, and administration during my first campus visit to CC, and that still holds true. In my classes, CC students think critically and creatively about complex social issues and engage in robust dialogue to find innovative ways to resist social injustice. The distinguished faculty at CC support one another intellectually, professionally, and personally – I’ve been on the receiving end of this dynamic so many times already. No place is perfect, obviously, but CC offers me the opportunity to work with committed, brilliant people toward the common goal of making the world a better place. What’s better than that?

What do you bring to CC?

I bring a fresh perspective and embodied understanding about indigenous knowledges and critical race scholarship. I also bring a passion for student-centered teaching and my classrooms are dynamic spaces of critical inquiry and challenging the status quo. I’m a multi-methods researcher, so students can feel comfortable working with me on their projects no matter what method they want to use. Most importantly, my presence at CC disrupts stereotypes and dispels myths about indigenous peoples. My success symbolizes what people from marginalized groups and impoverished communities can achieve; what teenaged mothers, first generation and/or nontraditional college students can do with the necessary support. The people who encouraged me and listened to me when I wanted to quit were always teachers. Teachers saved my life every single time with unconditional understanding, forthright correction, continuous forgiveness, and never-ending belief in me and my abilities. Finally, my presence on campus symbolizes the depth of CC’s commitment to diversity and equity.

What do you think starting the REMS major means for CC and its curriculum?
Everything we do in life, every social interaction, has raced and gendered undertones. A lack of diversity on college campuses speaks loudly about the sociohistorical foundations of this country, particularly in educational achievement, economic wellbeing, and media representation. The REMS major prepares students to engage critically with issues of race, ethnicity, and migration through interdisciplinary approaches that encourage robust dialogue and collaboration. This prepares students for their roles in creating equity in the multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural world we live in.

What are you most excited about with the new major?
I am most excited about working with students who pursue the REMS major. Together, we will explore the social, historical, cultural, political, and economic consequences of social difference through respectful and rigorous intellectual inquiry and debate that produces serious and substantive change. Students will gain the knowledge, tools, and skills to deal with critical social issues that are intrinsically linked with social injustice, and specifically, with categories of race, ethnicity, and migration here in the United States and across the globe. Our students are key to making the world a better place and I get to be a part of that!


Get to Know Michael Howell

Michael Howell

As CC and the Fine Arts Center begin to join forces, planning for the CC-FAC alliance to get underway, both institutions gained new expertise, and four individuals from the Fine Arts Center are officially CC employees. A few weeks ago, we introduced you to two of them; this week get to know Michael Howell, registrar and collections manager at the Fine Arts Center.

Before his work at the FAC, Howell was director of the Freedman Gallery at Albright College in Pennsylvania where he also taught the modern and contemporary component of the art history program.

Howell says his role as FAC registrar and collections manager is challenging and stimulating as, “I get to work with all of the art and the legal component involved with art contracts.  My favorite part is being back in an academic environment and working with students.”

As he recently told the Pikes Peak Bulletin, Howell is looking forward to expanding the FAC intern program he started five years ago, comprised mainly of CC students who will study contemporary museum theory. He will also continue a project he started with CC student Abby Stein ’15 to return Native American sacred and cultural objects to appropriate entities.

Howell is trained as a studio artist and holds a master’s degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art. He says he’s learned that his strengths are in facilitating the production and dissemination of art within a broader cultural context.

As for what he’s looking forward to as the CC-FAC alliance moves forward: “I am extremely excited to be involved with expanding the museum to incorporate a stronger and broader educational role.”

You can reach Howell at or by visiting him at the Fine Arts Center.


Get to Know CC’s New Fine Arts Center Colleagues

CC and the Fine Arts Center are already joining forces as strategic planning for the CC-FAC alliance gets underway. Both institutions gained new expertise, and four individuals from the Fine Arts Center are officially CC employees.

Joy ArmstrongJoy Armstrong has been with the Fine Arts Center for about seven years and currently serves as the curator of modern and contemporary art. Prior to joining the FAC, she was the assistant director of galleries for Kent State University and the senior exhibition technician at the Akron Art Museum. All the while, Armstrong says, she was dreaming of a return to Colorado!

She shares, “I love contemporary art for many reasons, but my favorite part of the job is the opportunity to work directly with living artists. The most rewarding experiences I have had as a curator have been the exhibitions in which my role has included collaboration in addition to interpretation of existing work, with the museum and exhibition serving as a catalyst for the creation of an entirely new experience (and often new artwork(s)!) that has never been viewed elsewhere and will not be recreated in the same way ever again. Because all art is contemporary to its own time, it is a unique occasion when a conversational relationship with a living artist is established; we are challenged to fulfill their vision and create the most authentic record of the work in that moment for future generations. My career in the arts began in performance — theatre, vocal, instrumental — and I believe that spirit of creative teamwork, collaboration, and engagement has dramatically informed my approach to the visual arts.”

Armstrong says she’s enthusiastic about engaging the entire Colorado Springs community in development of the CC-FAC partnership, which “presents tremendous possibilities for the future of the arts, locally and beyond. The arts are alive, vibrant, relevant, and critical to the way our society will be judged in the future — this opportunity to expand the conversation is essential to ensuring that the arts will continue to be increasingly valued indefinitely.”

A few fun facts: Armstrong is vegan and an animal advocate and she and her husband are proud dogparents, the guardians to four furry rescue pups. You can contact Joy Armstrong at, or stop by the museum!

Jeremiah Houck is museum preparator and art instructor. “I install and de-install art and teach clay classes and my favorite parts are touching the art and being surrounded by ever-Jeremiah Hockchanging groups of students,” says Houck. Before joining the FAC, Houck was the assistant art teacher at St. Scholastica Academy in Canon City and he had moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado. “I am most excited about all the new (and returning) visitors to the museum galleries. Come visit us!” says Houck. Something you might be surprised to know:  Houck works in the huge working clay studio just across the street from the Honnen Ice Arena. Contact him at

We’ll meet the two other new CC staff members in next week’s newsletter. Plus, share your input on the CC-FAC alliance at upcoming listening sessions Monday, Sept. 26, or Monday, Oct. 3, or by submitting feedback online.

Welcome Heather Fedesco, Mellon Pedagogy Researcher


When you’re considered an “expert,” on something, others often want to know how you do it, to pick your brain, to better understand how you became so knowledgeable about that certain something. When you do something well, often others want to emulate it, study it. Well, CC may be considered one of the “experts” when it comes to knowing and implementing the unique Block Plan format. And this year, someone’s studying us.

Heather Fedesco joined CC during the summer as the college’s first Mellon pedagogy researcher. In a position funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Fedesco’s role is to investigate the distinctive pedagogical outcomes of the Block Plan. The college will then use what is learned to refine CC’s Block Plan model, and share it with others in the sector of higher education who may want to learn from CC’s success in implementing the Block Plan.

“CC’s seen as an expert on the Block Plan and on compressed format courses, so when people outside CC ask, ‘Is it working? How do you know?’ right now we rely a lot on anecdotal evidence. There’s a need to legitimize these anecdotes with empirical evidence: Here’s why it works and here’s the evidence to support it,” Fedesco says of the purpose of her grant-funded position. “This project is really the first to chip away at the Block Plan; hopefully in a few years, we’ll have this rich body of data showing how and why the Block Plan works, and also some ways we can improve it.”

Her Ph.D. work at Purdue University focused on how interpersonal relationships, both professional and personal, influence the health and wellbeing of others, with an emphasis on how individuals can motivate one another to achieve improved outcomes. Before coming to CC, Fedesco worked at the Center for Instructional Excellence at Purdue, where she helped execute and test the effectiveness of a campus wide intervention designed to help faculty improve student motivation and academic performance. This opportunity at CC allows her to continue that research in a unique academic setting, something Fedesco found appealing.

“I’m focusing on the relational aspect of pedagogy, how relationships can foster improved motivation. We know that people who are motivated can have great outcomes, but how do we foster that motivation? Self-determination theory suggests that if students feel connected to one another, connected to their faculty, to the material, they’re motivated,” Fedesco says of her research at CC. “The culture of the Block Plan seems to really live and breathe that notion, so I’m going to explore those relational dynamics at CC.”

During the first four blocks of the year, Fedesco will be surveying students and gathering their perceptions of the courses they’re currently taking, to find out what is helping and hindering their motivation in the classroom. She will also observe seven classes throughout blocks 1-4, with multiple courses from each academic division, half of them including field study.

“I’ll sit in class and immerse myself in that space, and look for ways that are enhancing or decreasing student motivation. I’ll simultaneously interview approximately ten students from each class multiple times throughout the block, to take a temperature of their motivations and what’s working each week, as they’re reflecting on what they’re doing.”

With the opportunities the Block Plan affords for students and faculty to leave the classroom, whether to a new setting on or near campus, or to a new state or across the globe, Fedesco says the format provides a lot of freedom. “That’s really interesting to me, and my hypothesis is that those experiences really do foster closer relationships and connections, ultimately leading to improved motivation.”

Fedesco says the research is set up in a way that will bring together a wide breadth of quantitative and qualitative data concerning what motivates students on the Block Plan. During the spring semester, she’ll be analyzing and presenting her findings to the campus community, sharing what’s working well and if there are areas for improvement, also sharing evidence and recommendations.

Fedesco says she’s most excited about observing CC students in class. “Based on my preliminary observations, I can already tell these are top-notch, high-achieving students. I was getting goosebumps listening to their class discussions. That’s really inspiring,” she says of her first experiences on campus. “I’m also really enjoying seeing the mountain views everywhere we go and being in a beautiful place. I can’t get enough of it.”

Now in its third year, the Mellon Grant is supporting CC’s work in several key areas: Encouraging innovation in engaged teaching and learning by expanding upon key features of the Block Plan; intensifying collaborative learning through undergraduate research and scholarship; and investigating the distinctive pedagogical outcomes of the Block Plan, using findings to refine the model, and sharing those findings with others in higher education.

Have questions for Fedesco or want to learn more about her research? You can reach her at

Get to Know Jeff Montoya, CC’s New Information Security Engineer

Jeff Montoya

Jeff Montoya brings his years of expertise in information security to CC, helping to protect the institution’s data and technology infrastructure. He joined the ITS division this summer and shares some of the ways he helps keep your information safe, plus where you might find him when he’s not as his desk.

What does your job entail?

I provide risk analysis of the institution’s vulnerability to data or security breaches. This involves assessing CC’s security event logging and monitoring analyzers, the intrusion detection/prevention system (IDS/IPS) and firewall logs, and anti-virus products. I also oversee management and administration to protect the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of information assets and technology

Infrastructures by conducting security audits, developing security awareness instructional material, and coordinating and resolving any incidents of security breach.

How do you think your position will impact CC?

Data is the most valuable asset of any organization and it is important to maintain the integrity of that information. I hope to provide methods for ensuring the integrity of that data and protect the overall infrastructure from malicious attacks.

Where did you work before CC and what where you doing?

Prior to working at CC, I was the network and security officer for the Administrative Office of the District Attorney for the State of New Mexico. I spent 14 years with that organization, starting at a help desk position and advancing to a senior staff member overseeing the entire state’s prosecution infrastructure.

What do you bring to this job?

Security is an ever-evolving landscape. It has become a specialized role that requires a person who easily adapts to change. Taking the time to research these new trends along with a passion for IT are where my strengths reside.

What are some personal or professional experiences you’ve had either at CC or outside of it that play into your current role?

I think most people have had their credit cards or bank accounts compromised at one point in their life. I am no exception and I think those kinds of things make you feel vulnerable once it happens. It becomes more important to be aware of the risks around you, professionally and personally. I would like to share my knowledge about that type of risk with those at CC to help protect themselves.

Who/what was the biggest influence on you?

My former IT director taught me not to fear new challenges and be open to others’ ideas. He is a strong individual who isn’t intimidated by the agendas others might try to impose. He taught me about believing in the simplicity and practicality of the business process.

What have you noticed about CC?

Coming from a government background, it’s quite a different environment. In terms of infrastructure, I see that it’s important to share ideas with other schools and other students. It’s a much more inviting atmosphere.

Tell us a little about your background.

I was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was a great town with a lot of similarities to Colorado Springs. I spent four years living in Denver before returning to New Mexico in 2001. I have a wonderful wife who will be teaching at CC in the Southwest Studies Program. We have a 2-year-old daughter who lights up our life.

What do you like to do when not working?

Mountain biking and playing music (drums and guitar).

Have questions about information security? Or just want to say hello? Contact Jeff:


Get to Know Jim Burke: Director of Summer Session

Director of Summer Session

Jim Burke joined CC this summer as the new director of Summer Session, where he collaborates with faculty and staff to advance the college’s strategic goal of building a nationally recognized summer program. He’s jumped right in, creating the summer course offerings for CC undergraduates and visiting undergraduates, as well as for high school students in the pre-college program. We asked Burke a few questions, to help introduce him to the campus community:

How do you think your position will impact CC?

I look forward to working with our Summer Session team to assemble course offerings that will drive students to consider continuing their dynamic study over the summer, maintaining the vibrant campus experience throughout the year. For faculty, our hope is to support the development of new courses or create an opportunity to offer in-demand courses that fill up during the semester. For students, I think summer will provide a chance to catch up on degree requirements or pursue a new academic interest they may not have had the time to focus on during the traditional academic year.

Where did you work before CC and what where you doing?

I worked at my alma mater, The Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C., as assistant director of admissions, developing recruitment plans and reviewing applications from the Mid-Atlantic region. Next, I moved across Washington, D.C. to Georgetown University’s Office of International Programs as the information manager to assess study abroad programs. And finally, before joining CC, I worked at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, the Office of Global Strategy, where I developed summer academic programs for the institution’s international partner universities and managed the opening and development of the university’s branch campus in Songdo, South Korea.

What do you bring to this job?

My experience across different institutions allows me to bring the best processes and strategies to the many stakeholders of the Office of Summer Session. Whether developing a new pre-college program that attracts students from underrepresented regions of the U.S., or proposing course offerings that support the interests of our faculty and students, my experience has given me the tools to actualize these and much more.

What are some personal or professional experiences you’ve had either at CC or outside of it that play into your current role?

Student and faculty support is a cornerstone of my experience and one I’ve already been pleased to see firsthand at CC. The entire Summer Session team has immense dedication to ensuring the highest quality academic programming for our students and faculty, and I’m excited to implement even more streamlined processes that further this support.

Who/what was the biggest influence on you?

Between my roles at Georgetown University and George Mason University, I worked for a start-up international education company based in Beijing, which was the most challenging work I’ve ever been a part of. This influenced me significantly because I experienced how consuming but rewarding it is to develop something from scratch. Since that experience, I’ve been fortunate to use the lessons learned from that start-up when I created international programs at GMU and worked with stakeholders across campus to implement new initiatives.

What have you noticed about CC?

The sense of community is such a central element at CC and I love how it infuses so much of the work. It’s energizing to work with people who are inclusive, collaborative, and invested in making positive strides for the college in hopes of bettering everyone’s experience.

Tell us a little about your background.

I almost always say I’m from Washington, D.C., which is true, since I grew up in the city and the surrounding suburbs, but I was born in County Waterford, Ireland, and am very close with my family that still live there and across the U.S. Growing up in a large family (six kids) that had to work through cultural transitions and developing an identity infused with elements of two distinct cultures, has provided me with what I feel is a unique perspective that allows me to consider multiple angles of a situation.

What do you like to do when not working?

I’m still in an “exploring Colorado phase” since I only moved here about a month ago. Aside from trying out all the local coffee shops and restaurants, many faculty and staff have given me great advice on the best running and hiking trails, favorite local breweries, and upcoming events to check out.

Wild card: What is something people don’t know about you?

When I was in college I studied abroad for two semesters, in Dublin, Ireland, and Fremantle, Australia. My time in Ireland was the study abroad experience all universities want their students to have, and I still have an annual reunion with the friends I made there. I think about this group every time I create a new program, because they remind me just how much impact a well-developed academic experience can have on a student’s life. Our 15-year reunion is next year, and I’m excited that the beautiful Colorado Springs will be the host city!

Have a favorite coffee spot or hiking spot to share? Or have a question about Summer Session? Contact Jim Burke on the second floor of Armstrong Hall or, (719) 389-6656.

Get to Know: Roy Jo Sartin, Fellowship Coordinator and Writing Center Specialist

Roy Jo Sartin

She’s a listener, a matchmaker, and a former magazine writer. There are a few things that will likely surprise you as you get to know Roy Jo Sartin, who most recently added fellowships coordinator to her previous role as Writing Center specialist.

What do your positions entail?
Half-time, I am the Writing Center specialist, and I work with students on high-stakes writing projects like theses and applications; I also teach writing-related workshops and adjuncts, such as a grant writing adjunct this fall. This past year, I became the half-time fellowships coordinator. My goal in that position is to help connect students with advisors and resources related to the different fellowships, scholarships, and grants that are available to them. I also offer feedback to the students on their applications for fellowships and grants. To get started, I took inspiration from President Tiefenthaler and did a year of listening: I tried to understand what the current process looked like, what advisors are doing, what they want to be able to do, what students’ experiences look like, and how it could work better for them. This summer I’m developing some robust outreach and support programs for next year.

How do you think your new position as fellowships coordinator will impact CC?
I think my position is going to provide a 35,000-foot view of the process. There are amazing advisors for all of these opportunities, and there are terrific students that fit these opportunities. But if they don’t connect with each other, students might graduate not knowing they could’ve pursued certain opportunities. So I’m hoping that I, in this position, can help connect and support those advisors and students. I’ve done a little bit of that in the first year, so I’m hoping to step it up next year and develop some specific processes to make those connections easier.

What do you bring to this job?
I think that my background as a consultant in writing centers and as a magazine writer is very useful in two ways: writing and listening. A major component of any fellowship application is the essay, so I can provide support and feedback to the writer. The other thing is that journalists and writing center consultants are trained as listeners and interviewers. Because of that, I can listen to the goals and needs of students and advisors, and then think about how to get there.

Where and what was your work before CC?
I worked in magazines as a writer and editor for several years. Then I taught history in K-12 and at the university level. I have also worked in writing centers at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

What are some personal or professional experiences you’ve had, either at CC or outside of CC, that play into your current role?
Let me tell you a story. At the first magazine I worked for, the editor wanted to create a new section of the magazine with short stories told in a whimsical way. This was not a humorous magazine at all. It was a western lifestyle magazine with event coverage, personality profiles, and how-to articles. It was very helpful, but not funny. My editor wanted to add this whimsical section to reach a younger demographic of readers. What was interesting was that it was a huge hit, but not just with younger readers. Other readers, especially retirees, started sending in story ideas for the section. It showed us that, in communication, it is very important to think both about your goals and about the desires of all members of your audience. This applies to fellowships and grant writing, to make a connection between desires and expectations from the sending and receiving ends.

Who/what has had the biggest influence on you?
First, my mother has the ability to talk to anyone whether she knows them or not. I try to emulate that. She has a way of putting people at ease and to meeting people where they are and having a conversation. Second, my first editor taught me that there’s more than one way to tell the same story. She read the first article I wrote for her, called me into her office, and circled two paragraphs of the article. She said, “This is awesome. Get rid of everything else and retell the story from the perspective of these two paragraphs.” It blew my mind that changing the perspective could change the takeaway message of a story. The last one would be my supervisor at the Writing Center at UCCS, who taught to me ask questions to help others work their way to their own realizations. This is really key to supporting fellowship applicants, because the process can be so transformative for students in discovering connections between their education, motivations, and desires for the future.

What have you noticed about CC?
It feels like people have genuine connections with each other in this community, connections that go beyond the classroom or just one meeting. Every connection that is made here is real and gets strengthened over time. That’s something really interesting about CC because I’ve witnessed that at other schools but only in much smaller contexts within the school. Here at CC, the whole community feels like a cohesive unit, where you keep making connections with different people and the connections strengthen the whole community.

Tell us a little it about your background?
I grew up in Texas and am named after my grandfather. I received a bachelor of arts in history from Texas Tech University, then worked for several years as a magazine journalist and as a wedding photographer. I started in writing center work during graduate studies for my master’s degree in history at UCCS.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I like to read, watch movies, ride bikes, and travel.

Wild Card: What is something people don’t know about you?
I got married at a 14th century castle in Scotland. Scotland is one of the few places in Europe where you can get married without a residence permit. Its most famous wedding location is Gretna Green, which has attracted couples from England, like Lydia Bennet and the despicable Wickham in Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice,” for centuries.

Alec Sarche ’17 Pushes the Limits of Experiential Art with Audio Dramas

By Montana Bass ’18

In a mix of creativity and innovation, Alec Sarche ’17 has reinvented the theatre experience with his audio dramas. Inspired by post-modern designers who weight their work more to the audience’s experience than actors’ performances, Sarche created a situation in which the audience becomes the actor, participating in his theatre themselves, all without their sense of sight.

Sarche says he was inspired to create an environment where the audience could witness and interact with art. “Art is becoming more and more ‘make of it what you will,’ or ‘it’s your thing not ours;’ I wanted to take that as far as I could and make something completely designed by my audience,” Sarche says of his original idea to create the audio drama. He decided to take away sight and designed a soundscape that would guide witnesses, a term he ironically coined to describe the participants in his theatre. While witnesses listen to the soundscape, blindfolded, Sarche and his facilitators move physical objects with which the witnesses interact at specific moments dictated by Sarche and his soundscape.

His first audio theatre, “Shore and Woods,” led witnesses towards a fan with the sound of ocean waves playing in their ears. As they moved through the room, Sarche brushed them with branches. The branches acted as an axis prop, the object Sarche uses as the center of his drama. “I tend to write these based around the tactile experience,” he says. “I think about what would be interesting to touch without seeing. If you touch a tree and feel bark and branches, can you picture it?”

The answer turned out to be a resounding “yes,” as witnesses reported seeing vivid scenes in their mind’s eye. “They came up with this incredible rich environment in their heads,” Sarche explains. Even more interesting: the vast difference in the scenes witnesses described, exemplifying the variety of ways their minds interacted with Sarche’s invented world. “Even though you know the script,” says Tinka Avramova ’17, who worked as a facilitator on Sarche’s set, “it changes every time because each new person relates to the directions differently. There is such a rush when something goes right, when someone lets out a laugh or smile. There is this whole world that I get to see as the operator, but somehow I can’t help but feel that the blindfolded audience is actually seeing even more in their imagination.”

During Block 7, Sarche’s final audio drama of the year, “New Season,” pushed the possibilities of this new approach to theatre even further by including two witnesses who move their way through two different, intertwined audiotracks simultaneously. “One track was more optimistic, the other more pessimistic,” says Sarche. “They thought they had the same experience while they listen to the soundscape, but then when talking together, they realized they had this completely different idea of what they thought was the same thing.”

The differing impressions of the two witnesses highlight the powerful psychological results of Sarche’s work. Just as these witnesses were awakened to the misguidedness of their assumption that the other participant would finish with the same perceptions, so future audio dramas can be used to awaken witnesses’ abilities to recognize others’ viewpoints. “I think it could be a really effective tool in social justice,” says Sarche. He plans to gear his next work towards experimenting with that concept. Look out for his thesis, coming out Block 1 next fall.