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Student Turns Challenges into Campus Discussion on Eating Disorders

Vanessa Voller' 16 hiking the Na’Pali coast in Kaua’i

Vanessa Voller’ 16 hiking the Na’Pali coast in Kaua’i

Montana Bass ’18

When I walk in to Sacred Grounds, a student-run tea house inside Shove Memorial Chapel, Vanessa Voller ’16 immediately shows me to an assortment of teas, puts on water, and makes sure I’m comfortable. In less than a minute, she has already impressed me with her obvious kindness and the comforting sense of calm she carries with her.

She is a sociology major and an avid hiker from St. Paul, Minnesota. Next block, she will facilitate an inaugural three-day event series during National Eating Disorder Awareness Week to raise awareness about disordered eating and eating disorders on college campuses. Events will include keynote lectures and book signings by Jenni Schaefer and Anita Johnston, two prominent scholars and activists in the field; a documentary screening and discussion about eating disorders in diverse communities; trainings and workshops for Athletics Department and residential life staff; and free assessments and referrals by specialists from the Eating Disorder Center of Colorado Springs.

“I was diagnosed with an eating disorder in 2005, when I was just 11 years old,” says Voller. “I was physically and mentally ill for nearly a decade, losing my early and late adolescence to my mental illness.” We are sitting on colorful, plush cushions when I ask what motivated her to dedicate so much time and effort to this cause. She began her answer very simply.

“I was fortunate enough to have access to help at the Emily Program in St. Paul, one of the best centers for eating disorders in the country. There, I attended intensive out-patient therapy, group therapy, and family therapy sessions.”

Though at a more stable weight, Voller admits that her mental health continued to suffer throughout her first three years at CC. Now during her last semester, she is determined to spread awareness about this deadly mental illness. “The most important thing for me for people to know is that healing and recovery is possible. I think if someone had said that to me when I was 11 or even a first-year at CC it wouldn’t have taken a decade to ultimately be freed from my own mental illness,” she pauses, waiting for me to look up, “make sure you get that down,” she adds taking a long sip of her chamomile tea.

The three-day NEDA week event series, says Voller, is the culmination of her own recovery process. It is also her senior capstone project for the Community Engaged Leadership Certificate program, supervised by David Harker, director of the Collaborative for Community Engagement and an extension of her recent Venture Grant supervised by Associate Professor of Sociology Kathy Giuffre. Voller received a Venture Grant to spend her winter break hiking the Na’Pali coast in Kaua’i and interviewing Hawaiian cultural experts and medical staff at Hawaii’s only residential eating disorder clinic, Ai’Pono.

The Kalalau Trail she hiked is one of the “Top Ten Most Dangerous in the U.S.” according to National Geographic. Despite various setbacks, including a flash flood, Voller ultimately completed the 22-mile trek, during which she said she was reminded of her own recovery journey. “At mile two on the hike, at the Hanakap’ai Stream, I faced incredibly dangerous, chest deep waters. A local park ranger told me that I had to turn around and wait out the flash flood because crossing could be deadly. I immediately thought of my childhood therapist, holding my 11-year-old hand saying, ‘Vanessa, if you continue with this behavior you could die.’”

“I began the hike alone,” she says, “thinking that I didn’t need anyone or any help. But honestly, it was quite bold to think I didn’t need anyone.” She sets her mug down, “After the flash floods I befriended three other hikers and we traversed the rest of the coastline together.” She adds, “You know, almost everyone I met during my travels was healing from something: a failed marriage, an addiction, the loss of a loved one.”

After her hike, Voller traveled to the Ai’Pono clinic in Maui. “I read ‘Eating by the Light of the Moon’ by Anita Johnston when I was in treatment and it profoundly impacted me,” she says. Voller speaks of Johnston with intense admiration. “Anita is a remarkable woman; a true healer. An inspiration. She will do wonders for our community and I am honored that she is taking time to visit us.”

This block, Voller is in an independent study with Giuffre focused on writing an auto-ethnographic memoir chronicling her recovery journey through the lens of her backpacking trip. “I’m not sure what will happen with the manuscript when the block is over,” she says, “but for right now, I’m just focused on exploring my own creative writing process and crafting a new narrative of hope and of healing.”

More information on NEDA week, which will be Tuesday, Feb. 23, to Thursday, Feb. 25, is coming soon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thaddeus Phillips ‘94 Transforms Space and Time Onstage

Monica Black ’19

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

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

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

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

Apply Now for PIFP Program

Monica Black ’19

CC students looking to gain meaningful work experience and to deepen their understanding of a certain career field should consider applying for a PIFP fellowship. Colorado College’s Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) matches CC students with non-profits around Colorado for summer and yearlong paid fellowships. PIFP partners with non-profits ranging from the health sector to law, to the environment, and beyond. Some of these organizations include the ACLU of Colorado, ARC of the Pikes Peak Region, Bell Policy Center, Catamount Institute, Palmer Land Trust, TESSA, Colorado Health Institute, and many, many others.

Fellows participate in a full-time summer-long or yearlong fellowship, earning, respectively, stipends of $3,500 and $26,500. They also gain valuable experience, the kind that’s usually unavailable to students and recent graduates. It’s an opportunity that leads many fellows to careers both within and outside of the non-profit sector. “I’ve realized that I want to be part of an organization that is committed to helping people,” says Duy Pham ’15 of his current PIFP experience at Bell Policy Center.

Alex Drew ’15, who is currently carrying out her fellowship at the arts-driven community advocacy group Concrete Couch, describes herself as one of two full-time employees. “I wear many hats,” she says. “Some days I write grants, teach fifth graders, work with at-risk high school students at welding, fundraise, coordinate volunteers, send emails, represent Couch at events, fundraisers, and even on TV.”

Even at the larger, national PIFP partner organizations, fellows experience similar amounts of responsibility. ACLU of Colorado summer fellow Jane Finocharo ’16 revamped the curriculum of the ACLU’s Bill of Rights for an educational program at a Denver elementary school. It also afforded her opportunities to become proximate to issues she had only previously read about, like attending the closing arguments on a case in which a bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple on the basis of their sexual orientation. “I learned that even seemingly small violations of an individual’s civil liberties are significant and should be challenged,” says Finocharo. “I learned how many of our rights only exist because of the tireless work of organizations like the ACLU.”

The success stories are not one-sided. The organizations’ trust in Colorado College students grows, based on numerous positive experiences. The Catamount Institute, an outdoor education organization, has accepted PIFP applicants since 2009, and say they appreciate CC students because they are qualified and tend to stay connected to the organization for years. “Physics majors can become teachers. The experience is career-changing for many students,” says Tracy Jackson, the education director at Catamount.

Applications for the 2016-2017 cycle of fellowships are due Wednesday, Jan. 27. PIFP’s partner organizations look for smart, passionate people who are good communicators and want to make the world a better place. Beyond that, specific qualifications (like an ability to conduct quantitative research) for certain fellowships are listed on the PIFP website. That being said, most organizations are looking for an interest and/or background in related fields, as well as an aptitude for learning quickly. All years are encouraged to apply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get to Know… Charles Wilemon, sushi chef with Bon Appetit

Sushi at Benji's

Sushi at Benji’s

Montana Bass’ 18

 How did you first learn to make sushi?
I taught myself. I was down at The Preserve when we used to have a really big exposition station down there. They wanted to do a sushi station so I had to learn to make sushi last minute from youtube and books and stuff. It didn’t take me long to learn to roll but it took like two years to learn to make good sushi. Sometimes I do it for parties or friends.

What is your favorite type of sushi roll to make?
I like doing the tempura shrimp. That’s a lot of fun, figuring out how to get the shrimp right so it doesn’t curl up. Because it’s tempura, you get the fried flavor without frying the whole roll. After that it’s probably the dragon roll. That’s the California roll layered with unagi (we don’t make that here because we can’t use eel).

What is your favorite sushi restaurant in Colorado Springs?
Ai. It’s at Centennial Road and Garden of the Gods Road. The staff is really friendly and the sushi’s always really good, very fresh.

What do you like to do when you aren’t at work?
I like to put together miniatures and play tabletop war games. A couple of my friends were into it and I got bored watching it and decided to try it out; I got hooked. That was probably ten years ago. Either that or I’m reading. I don’t watch television.

How did you start working for Bon Appetit?
I used to be an executive chef at McCabe’s Tavern. Then, a friend of mine told me to check out Bon Appetit. I started out at the grill and then I did the expo at The Preserve for a while. I’ve worked every station here. I like sushi best. It’s a lot of creativity; I get to choose my own specials, order my own fish, the station’s mine.

What is your favorite part about working at CC?
Interacting with the students, honestly. If you come here enough I’ll be able to match your order to your face.

What’s the weirdest dish someone has asked you to make?
When I was at The Preserve doing pasta night, a girl wanted me to put gummy worms and M&Ms in with her marinara and Italian sausage pasta. I told her no. At the sushi station I’ve had people want me to put like teriyaki chicken or something in their sushi, but nothing really bizarre. I might do a make-your-own sushi one day so people can put whatever they want in it.

Who’s your favorite person to hang out with at work and why?
While I’m at work? That’d be Josh Speckles. He’s the tall skinny guy with the beard over at the grill. If I’m having breakfast or something, it’s usually with him.

Wild Card: What’s something students would never guess about you?
My daughter is the same age as you guys. She goes to the University of Maryland. I’m 37; people always think I’m in my 20s.

10 Things About: Drew Cavin, Director of the Office of Field Study

Drew Cavin
This is a new position at CC. What does the job entail?

My job and the new Office of Field Study were created to support faculty to teach off-campus field study courses.  I plan to do this through logistical and administrative means, as well as connecting faculty to pedagogical support and in-the-field resources. 

How do you think your position will impact CC?
I hope that my position will lead to an enhanced conversation about field study and all the amazing possibilities of the Block Plan. I hope to get more students out of the classroom into memorable, transformative academic experiences where they see the world in new ways and connect deeply to the material they are studying.

What are some of your goals?
I hope to get more courses involved in innovative off-campus experiences, and I want to showcase the amazing courses being taught at CC to the world. I plan to support off-campus experience by holding workshops, easing the way for faculty to do field trips from an administrative standpoint, and also finding funds for faculty to do trips.

You started here in August; what have you noticed about CC?
People here, from students to faculty to staff, believe that anything is possible. It’s amazing to have tremendous resources, but it’s all for naught if people don’t have vision.  There are plenty of amazing people at CC with no shortage of vision.

Tell us a bit about your background before CC.
I grew up in Irving, Texas. I went to Texas A&M University, fell in love with the outdoors and my future wife. We married as undergrads and then went on to grad school together at Clemson University, and then back to Texas A&M to do Ph.D.s. She put school off when we had our first child and I finished my degree in outdoor recreation and adventure education and went into the job market. I landed my first job at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and later moved to Young Harris College in Young Harris, Georgia. All of my degrees are in recreation and parks, and my dissertation research was on the intersection of race and outdoor recreation. I’ve led
numerous off-campus trips, focused on all aspects of outdoor recreation in society, and led immersive courses in outdoor leadership, teaching group and personal development through adventure activities.

What are some personal or professional experiences you’ve had that play into your current role?
Personally, I remember having amazing learning experiences off campus when I was a student. The camaraderie with the other students and faculty, along with mind-opening learning experiences are the things that I try to consider when thinking about field study. Professionally, I am still in touch with students I took on field trips almost 8 years ago, and the experiences those students had still resonate with them personally and professionally. It is tremendously rewarding to be a part of something like that.

Who/what was the biggest influence on you?
My wife Jenny was actually a huge catalyst for me to pursue graduate school. She inspired a C+ student to go ahead and apply and after the first week of graduate studies, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in higher ed. It should also be noted that the departments we applied to really wanted her to come, and I pretty much rode in on her coattails.  I also read a lot of Edward Abbey, and his perspective on nature and preservation really influenced my desire to experience and protect and learn from our wild places.

What do you do with your personal time?
I spend time with my wonderful wife and our three rambunctious kids, Sam, 8; Lucy, 5; and Violet, 2½. We ride bikes, hike and camp, and try to get into adventures.  When I get a moment for myself, I spend it riding my bike on back roads or rock climbing.

What is your passion?
My passion is for the transformational experiences that young people can have in college. These can happen in class or at campus events or on block breaks with friends. College is one of the only rites of passage in our society, and I am passionate about students going off into the world as responsible, empathetic citizens. Students who get to see and experience the world firsthand, I believe, have a more conscious, open-minded demeanor, and tend to contribute to the common good with their lives. I am passionate about helping students realize these experiences.

Wild card: Can you tell us something about yourself that might be surprising?
My wife and I attempted a cross-country trip on a tandem bike (before kids) from Maine to Seattle.  Unfortunately we crashed about two weeks in and could not continue. We had gone about 1,000 miles and experienced a tremendous amount of kindness from the people we met and appreciation for nature from the sights we saw.

10 Things About: Don Bricker, Associate Director of the Career Center

Don BrickerWhat does your job entail?
I work with the Career Center team to ensure that we provide services to our students that enhance their professional development skills and tools to take advantage of opportunities. One of my primary responsibilities is the coordination of daily Career Center operations. Along with the director and other members of the staff, my job involves executing the components of the Strategic Plan involving the Career Center, working to help build relationships across campus and expanding opportunities in the business community. I’m also responsible for working to improve business processes, manage various projects and work with our student interns.

How do you think your position will impact CC?
I come to CC from the business community and, hopefully, provide the perspective of someone with a good understanding of what employers are looking for from our students. I hope that over time a significant amount of what I’ve learned throughout my career prior to coming to CC can be useful to students and colleagues.

Where did you work before CC and what were you doing?
Prior to CC, I was vice president for suburban publishing at Shaw Media in Illinois. Before that I worked as a newspaper publisher, and in executive leadership roles in media sales and operations. My background includes four years in Colorado Springs between 2000 and 2004 at The Gazette as vice president and associate publisher.

What do you bring to this job?
I bring extensive experience building my own career and working with numerous people to develop their skills and advance their careers. I get significant satisfaction from helping people tell their stories in ways that successfully connect them to opportunities.  

What are some personal or professional experiences you’ve had either at CC or outside of it that play into your current role?
With more than 30 years of management experience, nearly all in positions which required recruiting and hiring, I believe I am able to help students and staff navigate the expectations and hiring process of prospective employers.

Who/what was the biggest influence on you?
My wife, Karen, has been the greatest influence in my life. She is always interested in making the most of life, having new experiences, and has a phenomenal work ethic. Since we met, she has consistently inspired me to work to become a better version of myself. I can honestly say that her contributions have helped me become much more successful in all phases of life.

What have you noticed about CC?
CC is a real community, much more so than I’ve experienced in private industry. Everyone I’ve encountered has a sincere interest in the best interests of our students and is proud of Colorado College and what it stands for. I really enjoy the Career Center team; they have been incredibly helpful, kind, and caring as I work to navigate a significant career transition.

Tell us a little about your background.
I am a native of the south side of Chicago (a lifelong White Sox fan) and have a degree in management. My wife Karen and I have three grown children and a 16-month old grandson, Caleb. I’ve previously worked in California (twice), Chicago (twice), Ohio, and Colorado. We decided long ago that we wanted to return to Colorado Springs permanently and we’re excited to home.

What do you like to do when not working?
I play softball as often as possible, and I enjoy golfing and spending time with family and friends.

Wild card: What is something people don’t know about you?
I’ve enjoyed comic books since childhood and am especially partial to Batman.

10 Things About: Dave Harker, Director of the Collaborative for Community Engagement

Dave Harker ATBWhat does your job entail?
As the director of the Collaborative for Community Engagement (CCE), I work together with academic and student life areas of the college to integrate curricular and co-curricular learning with community-based work. I work with constituencies on campus and in the community to build relationships and develop new initiatives and partnerships that connect students and faculty to impactful community-based learning, research, and volunteer opportunities. I work with faculty to develop and support community-based learning and community-based research projects. I also oversee the Community Engaged Leadership (CEL) Certificate program.
There has been a lot of transition in the CCE in recent years, but we will be back up to full staffing soon, and there is a lot of energy around civic engagement and community partnerships on this campus. I hope to expand and build upon the things that we’re doing well, and work to improve in areas where we have room to grow. My goal is to position Colorado College as a leader in the field of civic/community engagement.

You mention the Community Engaged Leadership (CEL) Certificate program. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
I’m incredibly excited to work with the CEL students. This cohort-based program, supported by an endowment from the Boettcher Foundation, is designed to assist students in developing their interests and skills in areas related to service, social justice, leadership, and public engagement. The group of roughly 12 students meets twice a block for lunch and discussion about collaborative projects involving staff, faculty, and community partners. At each meeting a different student is responsible for leading the discussion. This year we have an ongoing theme of incarceration and the criminal justice system. Seniors complete a CEL capstone project, which requires them to identify an issue of community concern, then design and organize a project geared toward solving the problem. Students are expected to develop critical reflection, creative problem solving, and multiple perspective-taking skills. CEL projects also should demonstrate responsible, sustained commitment to reciprocity and generate results that are accessible and useful to community partners.

Where did you work before CC and what were you doing?
I arrived at Colorado College in mid-November, a little more than one week after defending my Ph.D. dissertation in sociology at Boston College. My research looked at long-term service-learning volunteers, and the meaning these students attached to their work. I was particularly interested in whether these volunteers saw their work as connected to a sense of politics or larger social change efforts.  I taught a number of courses at BC, including Diversity, Community, and Service, Inequality in America, Poverty in America, and Introductory Sociology. For the last two years, I also taught Education for Active Citizenship at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University.

What do you bring to this job?
I plan to bring my passion and excitement for community engagement work to this position. I also believe my deep knowledge of civic engagement/service learning and a variety of experiences within higher education will inform my work. I truly enjoy working collaboratively with others, and I am looking forward to working with the many other great people and offices at CC. I also hope my training as a sociologist adds an understanding of the relationships between personal experiences and social structures that can contribute to meaningful community-based opportunities.

What are some personal or professional experiences you’ve had either at CC or outside of it that play into your current role?
I’ve had a number of experiences over the years that inform my role as director of the Collaborative for Community Engagement. Before I began my graduate studies, I worked in the Office of Community-University Partnerships and Service-Learning at the University of Vermont. While I was at Boston College, I led a number of international service-immersion trips for students (to Bolivia and Nicaragua) and for faculty and staff (to Jamaica). I also organized and led workshops for students returning from other service-immersion trips to integrate their experiences into their academic and personal lives. A number of the courses I have taught have included a community-based learning component, and my research has given me tremendous insight into creating and maintaining opportunities for impactful community engagement. Overall, I’ve had many meaningful experiences in community-based work as a student, teacher, and professional, and I hope to provide these types of experiences, pathways, outlets, resources, and opportunities for students at CC to get involved in the community.

Who/what was the biggest influence on you?
I have been incredibly lucky to have many great people influence me during my academic and professional career. Diane Bates, one of my first sociology professors as an undergraduate, has been a constant mentor, role model, and friend. My advisors at Boston College – Lisa Dodson and Deb Piatelli – had a tremendous positive impact on my academic work and growth. I have worked with a number of wonderful colleagues at BC, The College of New Jersey, and Tufts University who have all shaped my work as well. And of course, the biggest influence on me, and my greatest source of strength, has been my incredibly supportive wife, Kelly.

What have you noticed about CC?
I have been struck by how supportive and welcoming everyone has been at CC. I have been able to jump right into exciting projects and conversations in my position, alongside wonderful, knowledgeable, understanding colleagues who have been willing to catch me up on what I need to know. I get the feeling that CC is an incredibly close-knit community, where I have already begun to feel at home.

Tell us a little about your background.
I grew up in Ewing, N.J., as the youngest of three children (two older sisters), to two wonderfully supportive parents who have always encouraged me to follow my passions and interests – even if those interests didn’t always makes sense to them). I am a first-generation college student, and attended undergrad at The College of New Jersey. I bounced around several different majors until I found my calling in sociology, which I pursued through graduate school. My academic path has been a bit winding, but always came back to the broad idea of individuals engaging in their communities around matters about which they care deeply. I am also passionate about issues of poverty and inequality – particularly around education, housing, and hunger.     

What do you like to do when not working?
My wife and I, along with our dog Ginny, a 10-month-old black lab mix, have enjoyed exploring the trails around our house and our new neighborhood in Manitou Springs. I like to stay active outdoors and look forward to all of the adventure and opportunities that Colorado has to offer. I enjoy reading, although I never seem to have enough time as I’d like to read for fun. I also love movies, particularly comedies or interesting documentaries, and can easily get sucked into a Netflix marathon.

Wild card: What is something people don’t know about you?
I had a LOT of part-time jobs through high school and college. My first job, when I was 15, was at Sesame Place – a Sesame Street theme park outside Philadelphia. I also worked at Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the Philadelphia Zoo, a driving range, state senator’s office, several restaurants, a church, retail clothing store, as a groundskeeper, an office assistant in the President’s office at my college, a tutor, a major-events coordinator, and a resident assistant  – and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.  

10 Things About: Debra Zarecky, Director of Parent and Family Relations

Zarecky Debra  1.) Your position as director of parent and family relations is new to CC. What does the job entail?
This new role is designed to provide a central point of contact at the college who will enhance communication, facilitate a sense of connection, and develop and maintain positive relationships with the parents and families of current, new, and prospective CC students. Research shows that appropriate parent involvement in student learning is positively related to achievement; this involvement continues to be important during the college years. As an institution, we can make parents and families our allies in augmenting student success if we treat them as partners in their students’ education and provide them with the resources and information they need to help their students flourish. One of my primary objectives is to work collaboratively with staff and faculty across campus to gather timely information about services, programs, and opportunities and then communicate that to parents and families so that they are able to support their students throughout their college experience.

2.) When and how did you arrive at CC?
My family moved to Colorado Springs from Pittsburgh in 2005 when my husband accepted a job transfer. Although I had various part-time jobs while my kids were small, I was looking to get back into full-time work outside the home. I started at CC in September 2005 and worked in the Student Life office for 7 years as the office coordinator until I became the office’s communication and enrollment coordinator. Subsequently, I moved over to Shove Chapel, where I served as the chaplain’s office manager before taking this position.

3.) How do you think your position will impact CC?
As a small liberal arts college, our close-knit campus community is one of our greatest assets. I hope that this role will enhance and expand that aspect of CC so that parents and families will feel as engaged with and connected to our community as their students do.

4.) Can you tell us a bit about your background before CC?
I am a graduate of a liberal arts college, Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania, where I completed an English major and music/theatre double minor. I loved the wide-ranging education I received and the nurturing environment of the community. So when I moved here and saw the CC campus, I was reminded of my college experience and thought immediately “that would be a great place to work…”

After receiving my undergraduate degree at Allegheny, I went on to receive my MAT in elementary education from the University of Pittsburgh. Since then, I’ve had various job experiences, including running my own desktop publishing company for a while and teaching in the HeadStart program in Pittsburgh, a federally funded program for at-risk preschool children.

5.) Tell us about your experience teaching in the HeadStart program.
At that time, the program was structured so that each area that was served had a preschool center with two dedicated teachers, usually located in a church or other community building, that the children would attend on a regular basis during the week. In addition, each area was assigned a “home-based visitor,” who visited the children and parents weekly in their homes to provide developmentally appropriate activities that the children and parents could do together outside the classroom. I was a home-based visitor. Having grown up in a relatively privileged environment, it was an eye-opening experience for me.

6.) What do you like to do with your personal time?
Most of my personal time is spent with my husband and two daughters and our furry family, including our rambunctious Bassett hound and our chirpy Chihuahua. I like to read, memoirs and fiction mostly. I also enjoy going to the movies and attending musical and cultural events around the region, especially productions of old Broadway shows.

7.) What are your goals in your career?
I love working in higher education, especially at CC. I have a unique opportunity to develop our parent and family relations program into a stellar example for other liberal arts colleges, so my immediate goal is to do the best I can with that.

8.) Who/what would you consider to be your biggest influence in life?
My paternal grandfather, who lived a full and vigorous life well into his 90s, was always an inspiration to me. “Keep the mind active” was his mantra. Good advice for those of us working in education, right?

9.) What are some personal or professional experiences you’ve had either at CC or outside of it that play into your current role?
I have a daughter who is starting her sophomore year in college. Considering this, I have some understanding of the excitement and challenge experienced by parents and families of college students. I also have a fairly comprehensive perspective on various student experiences at CC from my previous roles here. I think that I can help parents access the resources that will assist them in guiding their students if and when they run into challenges.

 10.) Wild card: Can you tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know?
Brussels sprouts are my least favorite vegetable.