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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.
1.) This is a new position at CC. What will the job entail?
The focus on developing an intentional internal communications position is a key element of our strategic plan. The goal of this position is to strengthen our culture and improve workplace excellence, build strong internal communication, vibrant collaboration, and organizational transparency. We all want CC to be the best place in the world to work, and strategic internal communications will advance that priority and make us a more effective organization. This will involve working across all divisions, bringing together varying perspectives, and facilitating meaningful dialogue. First off, I’m taking an inventory of all our internal communications efforts to establish where we are, assess what is working, what is not and why, and then develop a plan to get us where we want to go. I’m excited to dive right in and start getting to know our outstanding faculty, staff, and students; the most important part of my job is building those relationships.
2.) What qualities do you bring to Colorado College?
That quality of connecting with people is something I hope to bring to CC. We all have stories and experiences – the things that make us unique and the things that unify us as the CC community. Being able to look at those things in a strategic way, to find effective, intentional ways to grow our internal community, will be part of what my experience adds to our team. I’ll also bring my enthusiasm and drive to be continually learning and growing, both personally and professionally.
3.) How do you think your position will impact CC?
We have great potential to strengthen our culture and facilitate collaboration and transparency throughout CC. Many individuals I have talked with already have expressed a similar sentiment: They’re craving some kind of consistency in connecting with one another, receiving information, and having dialogue internally. We can build and support meaningful, cross-organization relationships, which will improve our effectiveness and strengthen the CC community. This impacts our entire organization and ripples out to the broader community.
4.) Where did you work before CC and what were you doing?
Prior to starting at Colorado College, I served as the public information officer for Falcon School District 49, one of the fastest growing K-12 public school districts in the state. I managed the organization’s communications program, including media relations, marketing, internal communications, strategic planning, and crisis response, among many other roles throughout my four and a half years in that position. I began in District 49 after five years as a news reporter, working for the ABC affiliate in Colorado Springs and Pueblo and CBS affiliate in Topeka, Kan.
5.) Tell us about being a news reporter.
My days started at 4 a.m. as a morning show reporter, covering everything from blizzards and floods to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and state politics. The best part of being a news reporter is the people you meet. As a journalist, you have the opportunity to tell a person’s story and give them a voice. You get to really get to know an area, its people, and its culture. Every day brings a new day with a new story and new adventure. Those stories were fueled by the individuals I was able to interview and talk with about their experiences.
6.) What do you do with your personal time?
I am a runner. I’ll be out running, in all weather, typically training for one race or another and often volunteer in the running community. My interests are varied, so I’m always looking for new ways to connect with our community: I co-direct a trail race in the fall at Venetucci Farm and recently I enrolled in a painting class. Over the past several years, mountain biking has become another challenge. It is a perfect way to get out and explore and experience the natural beauty we have here in Colorado, and across the globe. I also enjoy traveling, reading (send me your book recommendations!), and picking up cooking tips from my fiancé (we’re planning a small June wedding in the mountains).
7.) What’s next on your race calendar?
The Catalina Marathon is coming up in March. That’s a beautiful and agonizingly hilly trail race, 26.2 miles across Catalina Island off the coast of southern California. I ran it last year and wild bison were actually out on the course with us – a great motivator to pick up the pace. Also, I’ve started training for my first Ironman triathlon, so that will be a significant training challenge. I’ve never done a triathlon, but I thought I’d jump right in with a big one. I have until Aug. 3 to get ready for that.
8.) What is your most memorable run?
It’s tough to come up with one; there have been so many amazing runs! Running is truly the most ideal way to explore a new city or locale. I’d have to say the Rim to Rim to Rim run across the Grand Canyon. 44 miles in one day from the south rim of the Grand Canyon, to the north rim and back again. We started well before sunrise, found snow on the north side, and ran through 105+ degree temperatures in the bottom of the canyon. The views were phenomenal!
9.) Tell us about your background.
I am originally from Kansas, in a suburb southwest of Kansas City. It was a wonderful place to establish roots and values as an individual. I received my Bachelor of Journalism and Master of Strategic Communications degrees from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia and actually began my career as a reporter there in college. In my experience, Midwesterners are people who value hard work and support one another. As I’ve lived and traveled to other parts of the country, I realize those people are actually everywhere! (though more often than not, they’re actually Midwestern transplants.)
10.) Wild card: What’s your indulgence/guilty pleasure?
Relaxation can feel like a guilty pleasure to me, with a glass of good red wine and a good book out on our front deck (after a long trail run or bike ride). Or, reading through an issue of Bon Appetit or Runner’s World cover to cover (I initially planned to become a magazine writer before catching the television bug). I sometimes feel like it’s indulgent to sit down and just unwind, but it helps me recharge. I also teach yoga, so squeezing in some time to take a class also is a bonus!
Where did you work before CC and what were you doing?
Before I came on board at CC, I was knee deep in a freelance photography career. I produced a lot of work for the Independent, The Denver Post, the Associated Press, Reuters, and several other local and national publications and agencies. Before I entered the world of freelance I was a staff photographer at The Gazette for several years.
Tell us the highlights of your professional career. What are your proudest achievements?
There have been too many for me to count! I was entrusted to cover Hurricane Katrina, the devastating floods and forest fires in Colorado, the Democratic National Convention in Denver, and several presidential visits. It’s been quite a ride. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Honestly, one of my favorite assignments as a newspaper photojournalist was covering CC’s Frozen Four run in 2005. I was given the task of following the team around the country when they made that incredible run. It was tough to watch the Tigers lose to DU in Columbus, Ohio, but what a season that was! It culminated with Marty Sertich winning the Hobey Baker Award the next day. I was right there in the front row when he held up the trophy and looked right into his mother’s eyes. That was an incredible moment to witness and capture with the camera. My proudest achievement in the last year was seeing some of my photographs being picked up by The New York Times and Time magazine. That was a huge honor for me.
What do you bring to this job?
I bring passion. Lots of passion. You’re only as good as your last photograph and there is always room to improve. That’s something someone told me a long time ago and it has stuck with me throughout my career. Every time I snap a photograph I imagine I am trying to catch a big fish. I truly love taking photographs as much as a fisherman loves catching the big one.
Who/what was the biggest influence on your career?
Without a doubt, CC alum Dave Burnett. I saw his work for the first time in my high school photography class and was instantly hooked. At The Gazette I was able to call Bob Jackson a co-worker. Bob took the photograph of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald after President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Many consider that image to be the most important photograph of the 20th century. And I got to work every day with Bob! His presence in our photography department was a huge influence on my career.
What have you noticed about CC?
Everyone seems happy and I see so many smiling faces every day. And you cannot help but notice how hard the students, staff, and faculty work. This has already been reflected in the work I have produced so far.
Tell us a little about your background.
I’m an Air Force brat. My father met my mother here in Colorado Springs in 1966. We trotted around the country and parts of the world throughout my youth. We moved to Colorado Springs in 1982 and my parents swore they would never move again. I went to high school here and then went on to college at CU-Boulder. I met my wife, classically, in the newsroom. We have two kids, a boy and girl. Colorado Springs is my home. We have family roots in Colorado and parts of Northern New Mexico that can be traced back to the original Spanish colonists and Native American tribes. So it’s safe to say I’m rooted here.
What do you like to do when not photographing?
I hardly ever go anywhere without a camera. But naturally, I like to get into the mountains as much as possible. We’re always trying to figure out our next trip to Taos.
Do you have a favorite photo or photographer?
If I had to name a favorite photograph, it would be the image I took after my daughter was born and my wife and son are lying in the bed at the hospital. My son is seen in the photo holding his baby sister for the first time. That image tugs at my heart every time I look at it.
What is your passion?
I am passionate about my family and my children. But when it comes to photography, I am passionate about how powerful a medium it really is. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else other than working with a camera. It’s a major part of my life.
How do you think your photography will benefit CC?
CC now has a staff photographer. This means many, many opportunities to capture the uniqueness of the campus, the students, faculty, and staff, and the overall vibe that makes CC such an amazing place. Everyday something historic to the college takes place. And I have a chance to be right there to document things as they happen. It is such an honor to be a part of it! Colorado College is amazing and there is something beautiful happening every day. I am looking forward to capturing as much of it as I can with my camera and all the passion I bring to the craft.
Wildcard question: Tell us a little about the photo of you above.
I’m in Haiti standing in front of the UN headquarters building, now a pile of rubble after the earthquake. It’s a newsworthy photo because I was following Bill Hybl around Port-Au-Prince when he was there as a diplomat trying to help establish
election systems following the Aristide coup. So it’s got a nice CC tie. And it was a very dangerous time over there. We were always under threat.
Andy Tirado, the 3D arts supervisor for the Colorado College art department, has sculptured a series of massive hands using a very appropriate CC material – reclaimed redwood from the deck outside the studios at Packard Hall, which houses the art department.
Tirado provides tech support for the art department, supervises the sculpture shop, and teaches a spring woodworking adjunct class. He also will be teaching sculpture at the Anderson Ranch in Snowmass this summer.
The four sculptures, all of which depict right hands (Tirado is left-handed; he uses his right hand as a model) are enormous – one is 13 feet long and weighs more than 300 pounds – and take up nearly all the space in Coburn Gallery, where they have been on exhibit. However, the huge hands, constructed from redwood, alder, and steel, all materials Tirado scrounged for, will soon be moved to make way for a new exhibit.
A Palmer High School graduate and an art major at University of Colorado—Colorado Springs, he started out building wood strip canoes. Later, he designed and built custom marketing-related props for clients such as Burton and Frito-Lay, before joining Colorado College in October 2005. The move allowed him to transition from building custom pieces and to enjoying the freedom that comes with making one’s own art. Taking the job at CC, he says, “was like walking into the perfect position. Like it was handcrafted – no pun intended.”
When Tirado embarked on the first piece in the hand series two years ago, he envisioned a large hand contoured as a chair. However, it evolved into something else entirely. “It’s fun not knowing where it will end up. With client work, you know exactly how it will end up. There’s not the same creativity and sense of freedom I have now,” he says.
Sections of the hands are little paintings and abstractions in themselves, coming together to form the much bigger piece. Each finger is individually carved from a larger piece of wood with various sizes of forstner bits, he says. One satisfying element of his work: “Responding to how the work is responding to your touch,” he says. Occasionally a piece will fall or a part will break off. “I don’t try to put it back; I leave some clues rather than hide all the evidence of a break – I think it’s important to allow the work to talk back to you rather than be dictated to.”
His two-car garage has been turned into a studio, and is where he will store the hands for the time being, while also working on another series of hands crafted from steel bands. See more photos of Tirado’s work.
Libby Rittenberg, former CC economics professor, faculty assistant to the president, and dean of summer programs, is now wearing a new CC hat – ombudsperson, a position she will hold for a minimum of two years.
Rittenberg, who retired in 2010, started in her new position on July 1, taking over from Jane Cauvel. “It’s a good opportunity to continue to be part of the CC community,” Rittenberg said. “The position came at the right time. It’s part-time, and it allows me to make what I hope will be a valuable contribution. Plus, it’s an opportunity to learn something new, in an entirely different field.”
Rittenberg was nominated by both staff and faculty members, and is appreciative of that implicit vote of confidence. She attended “ombuds training school” in Orlando, Fla., this summer, and was surprised at the variety of organizations that employ an ombudsperson – everything from the F.B.I. to Coca-Cola to colleges and universities. The four major principles of the ombuds office are confidentiality, informality, independence, and neutrality, and the CC ombudsperson reports to the audit committee of the Board of Trustees and to the college president.
Rittenberg says she will be dealing mainly with “issues” rather than “disputes,” as many matters that come to the ombudsperson are not full—blown arguments but rather concerns that can fester if not addressed. She will identify trends, rather than report on individual cases, and in that way help to bring about change, if necessary. She plans to visit as many departments as possible during the next few months in order to explain what the office is about and how it can help CC employees.
Originally from Charleston, S.C., Rittenberg came to Colorado College in 1989 as an associate economics professor interested in international economic development. She applied for a position at the college – the only school she looked at that was not on the Eastern Seaboard – after seeing an ad that specifically mentioned international experience as a plus. Besides the opportunity to become part of such a fine liberal arts college, she selected Colorado College because of the value it places on an international perspective, and because it was the only school she interviewed at in which people from a variety of departments came to the presentation interview. “At all the other schools, it was only the people in the department who came to the ‘job talk,’ as we call it. At CC, I was struck by how many people from various departments attended. I thought, ‘Wow, people from different departments talk to each other here.’ That made an impression,“ she said.
Rittenberg earned a B.A. in economics-mathematics and Spanish from Simmons College in Boston, and master’s degree and Ph.D. in economics from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. She initially was drawn to economics because of the way economists look at issues, rather than by the issues themselves. “Economists look at so many different kinds of issues beyond what people think,” she said. “That framework becomes a useful device, and has been useful in so many things I have done at CC.”
Her research areas include international trade, sources of economic growth, stabilization/liberalization policies, the transition of centrally planned economies, Third World debt, productivity analysis, and the Turkish economy. Rittenberg has visited Turkey more than 30 times, in large part because her husband, Nasit Ari, a research engineer whom she met while folk dancing when she was an economist at Mathematica, Inc., in Princeton, N.J., is from Istanbul.
Rittenberg keeps her hand in economics by working on the third edition of her book, “Principles of Economics,” co-authored with Timothy Tregarthen and published by Flat World Knowledge. In an effort to keep the cost of textbooks down, the book is an open-source textbook, based on the iTunes model, in which consumers can purchase and download as much or as little of the book as they want. “We’ll see how it goes,” she said. “It’s still a test model.”
Rittenberg enjoys hiking below tree line and riding her electric bike, and makes it a point to spend time outdoors every day. In recent years she started taking piano lessons, something she hasn’t pursued since junior high school. She also enjoys the arts, especially concerts, plays, and opera. Her passion for the arts meshed well with her six-year tenure as dean of summer programs, as she enjoyed spending summers in Colorado Springs attending as many of the arts and cultural events as she could. She has served on the boards of the Colorado College Summer Music Festival, the Colorado Springs Conservatory, the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, and the Foundation for School District 11.
Rittenberg can be reached at 330-0410 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A self-described email and phone junkie, Rittenberg will return an email or call as soon as possible. Her September office hours at Tutt Library, Room 212 are 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. Tuesdays and 4-6 p.m. Wednesdays. Office hours for subsequent months will be posted outside the ombuds office and on the ombuds website: http://www.coloradocollege.edu/offices/ombuds/. She also is more than willing to meet people off-campus; call or email her to make arrangements.
Joycelin Randle, Colorado College’s new associate director of employer relations, doesn’t get jobs for CC students. Instead, she cultivates relationships with alumni, parents, and employers regarding internships and entry-level positions, passes information along to students, and helps position them as front-runners for potential employment. Randle searches out job prospects, but when opportunity knocks, it’s the students who get up and open the door.
The career center position was revamped when the former associate director of the career center retired last summer. Randle, who started in August 2011, says the job is less that of a counselor; indeed, the position’s new name reflects the emphasis on building employer relations, with a large part of the job being outreach and networking in order to better assist CC students in identifying and securing jobs and internships. Randle is developing relationships through email, telephone calls, and in-person visits, working closely with the development office and the office of alumni and parent relations.
She also accompanied President Jill Tiefenthaler on several trips to visit alumni and parents as part of the new president’s “year of listening” tour. Recently, Randle traveled to the Bay Area where she met with alumni in diverse fields – marketing/advertising, health care, and financial investing – to explore internships and employment opportunities for CC students. She also encourages parents, alumni, and employers to visit campus for job fairs and recruiting lunches. “My job is to meet people and talk to them, and get them excited about CC and CC students,” Randle said. “It’s great.”
Originally from North Little Rock, Ark., Randle comes to Colorado College by way of Vanderbilt University’s law school – where she was both a student and an employee. She graduated cum laude from Arkansas State University with a major in speech communication and a minor in political science. During her sophomore year in college, she decided she wanted to go to law school, so she printed a list of the top 20 law schools in the country and stuck it above her bed. “I told myself, ‘this is what I’m going to do’,” she said.
At Vanderbilt Law School she received several awards, including being honored as Outstanding Graduate/Professional Student. During the summer of 2005 she interned at Fredrikson and Byron, a law firm in Minneapolis that specializes in civil and commercial real estate litigation. Upon graduation the following year, she went to work for them as an associate.
However, she soon discovered that working in a high-powered law firm was not what she wanted. “It was eye-opening,” she said. “It was not what I expected.” She left the law firm after two years, and went to clerk for a judge in Hennepin County, Minn. “There I was in the courtroom every day,” she said.
In the meantime, her mentor at the law firm continued to work with her, pointing out that Randle was outgoing and good with people, and Randle eventually realized that she wanted to be in higher education. She had stayed in touch with friends and administrators at Vanderbilt, and knowing the importance of networking, she put the word out that she was eager to get into career services. It wasn’t long before Vanderbilt called, offering her a position as a career advisor at the law school.
“It was the perfect job,” Randle said. She developed relationships between Vanderbilt and state courts, contacted judges throughout the U.S. about job opportunities for students, and built awareness of state court clerkship positions. There was only one drawback: Her husband, Casell, who she met in Minneapolis 48 hours before she started her job at the law firm, worked for Cargill. He and Randle, who were married in March 2010, hoped he would be transferred to Nashville; instead, Casell was transferred to Colorado.
“I’m living proof that informational interviews and networking pay off,” Randle says. She networked purposefully, seeking to get a position in Colorado. Randle was primarily interested in the University of Denver and spoke with potential employers at both the graduate school and law school. However, nothing happened for months, and in the meantime, she interviewed at Colorado College. Randle eventually was interviewed by DU, but it was too late: CC offered her the job the day after her DU interview.
Randle’s educational experience has been at universities, not a small liberal arts college. “I’m having fun learning the many areas students can go into,” she says. “I enjoy meeting alumni who have done so many things with their education – first they study English, then they travel, then they start a business, for example. It says a lot about the flexibility of a liberal arts education.” She also touts the Block Plan to potential employers, telling them if they want a task completed well and quickly, to hire students who have studied on the Block Plan. “These students know how to get it done,” she said.
Randle has put her time as an attorney to good use. She just completed the first draft of a book titled “What You Should Know Before You go to Law School” and is getting ready to send it to her twin sister, a Ph.D. candidate in urban education policy at Rutgers University, for a first reading. She also has a younger sister, who is studying to be a nurse in Arkansas.
While living in Minnesota, Randle was active with Hands on Twin Cities, a nonprofit that promotes volunteerism in a wide variety of areas, and with Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, designed to increase diversity in the legal community. Both she and her husband also were active with Big Brothers, Big Sisters (Randle started with the organization while still in law school), and they hope to continue volunteering with the organization in Colorado Springs.
Kevin Rask was probably destined to be an economist: His father, two sisters, and his wife, CC President Jill Tiefenthaler, all are economists. If that’s not enough, he was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a country of vast economic opportunity, where his father was working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) while completing his dissertation in economics.
The Rask family later moved to Columbus, Ohio, where his father taught agricultural economics at Ohio State University and his mother was a special education teacher in the Columbus public schools.
Rask received a B.A. in economics from Haverford College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Duke University. After considering and then discarding two or three dissertation topics, he wrote his dissertation on “The Social Costs of Production and the Structure of Technology in the Brazilian Ethanol Industry: A Cost-Benefit Analysis and an Infant Industry Evaluation, 1978-1987.” Rask has taught at Colgate University and Wake Forest University.
The first decade of Rask’s research centered on renewal fuels; primarily ethanol development, production, markets, and policy in the United States and Brazil. He also looked at the impact of ethanol on the U.S. highway trust funds and emission characteristics of ethanol. Over time, with the system so entrenched with political and agricultural interests, Rask moved on to an area that had always been a student-research focus of his: higher education.
“Since the late 90s, my primary area has been higher ed,” he said. “I’ve always found it the best way to teach econometrics and statistics.” He teaches econometrics, defined as “the application of mathematics and statistical methods to economic data,” by using higher ed models as examples. “College students understand the econometric concepts and methodology more clearly when you use examples such as college choice and major choice,” he said. “Difficult analytical concepts are easier to grasp when the context is something the student has experienced first-hand.” In fact, a major focus of his research is the modeling of choice. It’s an area that fascinates him: why people do what they do in different environments or facing different constraints.
Some of Rask’s more recent research in the field of higher education has focused on issues such as the role of grade sensitivity in explaining the gender imbalance in undergraduate economics, the SAT as a predictor of success at a liberal arts college, and the influence of various components of U.S. News & World Report’s ranking categories on a school’s final score. The last issue is gaining increased attention, as many schools, Colorado College included, no longer tout U.S. News & World Report rankings in publications or on their websites. Rask said the formula and weight given to various components of the USNWR rankings are not independent, but rather, are linked. As an example, he cites the component identifying how many students graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class. Although that component has a predetermined weight, if a school changes its top 10 percent profile it will also change other components, such as average SAT scores and projected graduation rates. Therefore, Rask says, the effective influence of some components is greater than their published weights.
Rask also is interested in the long-term returns to a selective liberal arts education, not only as a way of justifying the sticker shock of the cost, but also its lasting benefits. “Most economists tend to focus on earnings,” he said. “But research also shows that college graduates tend to vote at a higher rate, divorce at a lower rate, are healthier, and are more civically engaged. Graduates also are more flexible in their careers and have a greater ability to be productive in the workforce. New research is beginning to find differences between types of institutions and certain outcomes, and the contributions of liberal arts colleges are a primary interest of mine,” he said.
Rask taught Econometrics in Block 2 and will co-teach, with Tiefenthaler, Economics of Higher Education in Block 5. As part of that course the class will look at various educational models and institutions, including planned visits to Pikes Peak Community College, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Regis University, and the Air Force Academy.
In addition to teaching, Rask oversees five senior thesis projects and has a part-time appointment conducting institutional research at CC. That position is still evolving, but in the past Rask developed models of alumni giving and participation for Colgate University, and models of admission yields and financial aid for Colgate, Wake Forest University, many undergraduate institutions, and several law schools.
Rask is impressed by the CC students’ level of engagement in their classes, noting that, “As a group, they are far more engaged than other students I have taught.” He also finds there are fewer barriers between students and professors at Colorado College than at other institutions and wonders whether that is attributable to the type of students attracted to CC, the type of faculty the college attracts, or if it’s part of the culture of the Block Plan.
As much as he enjoys research, Rask really enjoys teaching. “My research isn’t going to change the world in a huge way,” he said. “But with teaching, you can have a lasting influence.” His goal? “To turn out majors who are capable of good, independent reasoning. They should have the intellectual confidence and skills to come up with their own answers to inquiries and projects.”
Part of his dedication to teaching is evident in his left knee, which remains swollen despite surgery in the middle of Block 2. Rask, an avid basketball fan, tore his ACL playing a pick-up basketball game in late September. Feeling better after the surgery, he spent too much time on his feet in class and his knee subsequently swelled up. An infection followed, and after a second surgery he is back on his feet without crutches (or an ACL) and looking forward to getting the knee done again after teaching Block 5. Despite his love for sports, Rask says it will be a while before he plays as hard as he used to.
Inger Bull was in her senior year of college before she figured out what she wanted to do, and, unfortunately, it had nothing to do with her major. She had nearly completed her major in math and actuarial science at Kearney State College in Nebraska before discovering her passions lay in literature and foreign travel.
“But in those days, no one asked you what your passion was,” said Bull, CC’s new director of international programs. “I was good in math and statistics, and they were pushing females to go into those fields. That was where the demand, job security, and salary were. People were trying to help, but really, it was a disservice.”
After graduation, she took off for the University of Plymouth in England, where she studied – and traveled, and met people, and experienced new food and new languages and new cultures. “It was my year of self-discovery,” she said, especially for someone born and raised in Gretna, Neb. “It was the best liberal arts education I could have received – very interdisciplinary.”
While traveling, she visited Heidelberg, Germany, and wandered through the famous university. “I loved the atmosphere there. I would walk by classrooms and students talking with professors, and I felt completely at home, even though I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. I felt so comfortable there. That’s when I knew I wanted to work at a college or university.”
She returned to Nebraska and earned an MBA at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, then went on to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln get a Ph.D. in higher education administration with a specialty in international education. Along the way, she spent a year at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. The time in Australia helped shape her thesis, titled “Faculty Exchanges and the Internationalization of the Undergraduate Curriculum in Australia and the United States.”
Bull wanted other students to have the same transformative experiences abroad as she had, so she went into international higher education administration. She worked about 18 months at the University of Nebraska’s international affairs office before becoming the director of international education at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.
“I can’t imagine being liberally educated without traveling, even if it is within the United States. It is vital to the understanding of differences, and not being threatened by those differences,” she said. “Experiential learning is a key player in critical thinking.
“I love to watch students and see the gradual transformation in them. And it is gradual; it doesn’t happen all in one year. Sometimes the process is ongoing for years and years afterward.”
At Nebraska Wesleyan, Bull developed and co-taught two adjunct courses, one titled “Preparing for Education Abroad” and the other, “Processing the Experience Abroad.” The first one dealt with pre-departure preparations and cross-cultural communication; the second was Bull’s favorite, a writing-intensive class in which students dissected their experience abroad. “The course went way beyond asking the students to evaluate the program,” Bull said. “We asked students what their experiences meant given their host culture in comparison to their home culture. A lot of them had to relearn how to be back on campus and in our own culture. Over and over again, we saw convictions that the students had held since childhood dissolve when faced with other cultures.”
Traveling, she says, gives one a better understanding of reality. She would use one of her favorite quotes from Aldous Huxley’s “Jesting Pilate” to begin the Processing class:
So the journey is over and I am back again where I started, richer by much experience and poorer by many exploded convictions, many perished certainties. For convictions and certainties are too often the concomitants of ignorance…When one is traveling, convictions are mislaid as easily as spectacles; but unlike spectacles, they are not easily replaced.
Bull sees a major difference between the students at Nebraska Wesleyan and CC. At the former, 92 percent of the students were from Nebraska, few had been abroad before, and parents often needed to be convinced that study abroad was safe and beneficial. “At Nebraska Wesleyan, we were working on building that ethos in, cultivating an expectation that students go abroad. At CC, that’s a given expectation,” she said. “Most of the students here have been abroad before, and fully expect study abroad to be part of their college experience.”
Bull started at CC in May, but spent June in Scandinavia with her husband, Anthony, an exercise physiologist at Creighton University, who leads a class there every other year. This year they went to Finland, Denmark, and Sweden, with Sweden being one of Bull’s favorite places: her mother was born and raised there before moving as an adult to Nebraska. In 2009 they spent the fall semester in Stockholm, where her husband was on sabbatical.
Bull’s husband is still at Creighton, and so far it’s been mostly a one-way commute: He comes to Colorado. “I love the climate here,” she said. Colorado is conducive to so much that Bull enjoys doing. A certified Pilates instructor, former college volleyball player, and lifelong fitness advocate, she especially enjoys jogging and biking (in fact, she and her husband own a tandem). Her other passion is reading; Bull just finished “Ludlow” because she felt she was part of the incoming class also. “I can’t finish a book without having the next one lined up,” she said. One of her favorite genres is historical fiction – especially when set in foreign countries.
In a moment of serendipity, Bull read Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” while living in Stockholm on the island of Södermalm, where the main characters live and much of the action takes place. At the end of the semester she took the Stockholm City Museum’s “Millennium Tour” and traced the geographic locations of the books’ setting. “I was in book geek heaven.”
Davis, who started when Tiefenthaler took the helm on July 1, previously worked in the president’s office at Wake Forest University, so he knows how hectic the job can be. “I lived three minutes from campus, and in those three minutes, my life could drastically change,” he said.
It’s a good thing he’s used to having his day turn on a dime. Davis oversees the daily functions of the office of the president, a job that entails a wide variety of responsibilities. Among them: helping the president develop and implement strategic initiatives, coordinating senior staff meetings, serving as a liaison between senior administrators and other campus and external constituents, overseeing the presidential staff and budget, working with the board of trustees, coordinating special projects, and representing the president on various college committees. In between, he commutes back and forth from Denver. (The commuting will end in early September, when the apartment he has rented in Colorado Springs becomes available.)
“Some people may see the chief of staff as the person behind the throne, but that is not the case,” Davis said. “I love working with Jill because that is what you do – work with her. She’s that way with everyone, very collaborative. Of course, I know she is in charge, but it is great to be able to see her as more of a partner, colleague, and mentor.”
One of the things he most likes about his job is that it allows him to help people solve problems. “If there’s a problem, my reaction is ‘let’s deal with it; let’s fix it.’ I know I can’t solve everything on my own, but we can get a lot done through collaboration and teamwork,” he said.
Davis worked with Tiefenthaler on a variety of projects at Wake Forest, including an effort to start a childcare center on campus, initiatives to increase faculty-student engagement, an assessment of student life policies, and the creation of new spaces on campus.
He’s looking forward to having students back on campus and having the academic year begin. “What we do is for the students. If you lose that part of the vision, you’re not doing your job,” he said. “Right now I have the opportunity to be in a place to help Jill and CC succeed.
“I want people to see me as someone they can go to for answers, and not get the runaround,” he said. “I want people to know they can say anything; they don’t have to filter it when talking with me. I will be accessible, and I believe in an open-door policy.”
Born and raised in Atlanta, Davis graduated from Wake Forest with a double major in Chinese and political science. He didn’t intend to major in Chinese, but since he had studied the language at the International Baccalaureate high school he attended, he decided to take Chinese to fulfill his language requirement. “I fell in love with it,” he said. “I had amazing professors, and I also had the opportunity to spend a summer in Beijing.”
As for political science, Davis said he always loved politics. “I like the data collection and the numerical aspect of it. I like studying what makes people do what they do; what gives them power and how they manipulate that power. It’s interesting to look at different events, such as the recent uprisings in Libya and Egypt and ask ‘Why there, and not somewhere else?’ ” Another area of interest is public policy and its influence on various aspects of life. He recently traveled to Liberia, a country with minimal infrastructure and devastated by decades of civil war, as part of a five-person team from Wake Forest. The group was there to assess the possibility of a partnership between Wake Forest and the University of Liberia. “I know it is cliché, but it is interesting to see how much we take for granted: the ability to have constant electricity, running water, opening and closing windows, “ he said. “We saw that we have the capacity to do a lot for their institution by doing, relatively, so little.
Although Davis is enthusiastic about Chinese and political science, he almost didn’t major in either subject. He spent his first year of college at the Juilliard School, where he planned to study the bass. He left after a year, realizing it wasn’t for him. “I wanted a more well-rounded education; I didn’t want to be tied to one discipline. I wanted to study something that could relate to other areas, and not be one dimensional. I wanted to lead a life in which I could think critically; I wanted to get to know my professors.” He paused, then added, “I sound so CC. But it’s just what CC does so well.”
He recently attended the Aspen Music Festival and heard Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, “Resurrection.” After the concert, he thought to himself, “Why did I give this up? That could be me.” But on the drive back, he realized he would not have the same appreciation for the concert if he were a professional bass player. “I realized I love my life now,” he said.
It wasn’t a difficult decision to move to Colorado, said Davis, a movie buff who also enjoys the arts and theater. He said there is a young feeling to Colorado Springs, and a warm and friendly feeling at the college. “The college has so many strengths,” he said. “The faculty members are so engaged. You can tell they love teaching and care for the students. The CC staff is extremely supportive, and the students are amazingly creative and talented. And then, of course, there’s Pikes Peak.”
On his initial trip to the campus, he visited Garden of the Gods. “It was beautiful. I took a photo and texted it to Jill, saying ‘Now I know why you and Kevin decided to come here.’ “
One thing Davis is very much looking forward to is skiing. “I am dying to ski,” he said. “I can’t wait to learn how.”
It goes throughout the region via the Southern Colorado Aids Project. It goes to towns in Tanzania and Kenya. It goes to K-12 schools in Colorado. Any student interested in science outreach can participate in the biosciences club, which goes to a local elementary school and teaches scientific methodology. High school students and teachers learn about RNA research in her laboratory.
Grover, chair of the chemistry and biochemistry department, wants to make science fun and accessible. She uses real-life problems in teaching biochemistry, an approach called problem-based service learning. Students learn nucleic acid biochemistry by reading current literature on AIDS-causing HIV virus and present the science of virus multiplication and drug action to the local community. “These students have enough knowledge to make a difference,” Grover says. “They may not be experts, but they have learned enough to be useful to society. One does not need a Ph.D. to make a difference in the world.”
She also wants her students to know that science is a puzzle and never a finished project; that there are always new directions to pursue. And she practices what she preaches: Eight to 10 students each year conduct RNA-related research in her lab. The students get a lot of one-on-one mentoring in her lab, but they also learn independently, with every student getting his or her own research project. “That way, each student gets ownership of the work,” Grover says.
Although each student has a project, they all deal in some way with how local structures form in RNA. They examine the affect of ions on RNA stability. “We want to determine the rules for forming RNA structures. We study small regions of RNA that are functionally important. We want to improve the accuracy with which we get RNA-based information from genomic databases,” Grover says. The research results are impressive, and every year Grover takes four or five students to national conferences where they present their work. Students also get a chance to publish their work in nationally renowned journals.
When she was in her early 20s, Grover, the daughter of an Indian Air Force officer and a teacher, came to the United States, where she earned a master’s degree in biophysical chemistry from the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. in bioinorganic/biochemistry from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. While there she worked with Dr. Holden Thorp to study drugs that cut DNA for such uses as in chemotherapy.
During her postdoctoral work in the laboratory of renowned RNA researcher Dr. Olke Uhlenbeck at the University of Colorado, Boulder, she began delving into catalytic RNA, one of the hottest fields in biochemistry. “RNA controls everything in the cell. You have ribosomes acting as enzymes, and RNA cutting itself out of a larger RNA, perhaps telling us that RNA is the original molecule of life,” Grover says. Boulder was the center of the “RNA world” during the 1990s. While at Boulder, Grover taught an organic chemistry and biochemistry course to CU nursing students. She found she enjoyed it, and that students responded well to her teaching. She realized then that she wanted to improve science education for all students.
Grover joined the Colorado College faculty in 1999. She teaches organic chemistry and biochemistry, as well as gender and science, and ecofeminism. “I’m not here to open their brains and dump information in,” she says. When she tells her students that what they are learning now may be obsolete in 10 years, they groan and ask, “So why are we learning this?”
“Ah,” she replies, “you should be thinking of the principles, and not memorizing.”
“The liberal arts philosophy fits me,” she says. “I want students to see science from multiple angles; to see science broadly. I want them to think for themselves, think logically and build a foundation.”
Grover is married to Gerald Miller, a professional cellist who plays with the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and with symphonies in Calfornia. They travel to India every few years to visit her two siblings, mother and their nephews and nieces.