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Get to Know: Peter Wright

When Peter Wright’s graduate advisor received his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Harvard in the early 1980s, there were two or three tenure-track positions available in the field. When Wright graduated in 2008, there were more than 40 such positions.

There was no way Wright could have predicted the sea change that crashed over the discipline. He entered graduate school in Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in August 2001; the events of 9/11 occurred when he had been on campus less than a month.

 Wright took the long road in becoming an Islamicist – he detoured through law school. A philosophy and classical languages double major at the University of Pittsburgh, he hoped someday to become a literary critic. But a pragmatic father persuaded him to go to law school, and Wright complied, earning his J.D. from the Duquesne University School of Law, getting married, and accumulating the accompanying law school debt. He then hung out a shingle to pay for it all.

As a practicing attorney, he spent about a third of his time on criminal defense work, and in that capacity visited clients in prison, where he encountered African-American inmates who had converted to Islam. He began researching, studying, writing, and eventually presenting papers at conferences on the topic of Islam in the American prison system. Academics at the conferences were impressed, and told Wright he should pursue the topic. “That was important to me; I needed someone to say I should do this.”

Wright contacted leading scholars in the field, and received positive feedback. “I knew I had to make the move,” he said. “I was 40 years old, and had been practicing law for 10 years. It was getting comfortable. I thought, ‘If I don’t do this now, I’ll never do it.’ I didn’t want to be one of those people who gets to the end of his career and says, ‘I wish I had done what I really wanted to do.‘ ”

Wright, who by now had a toddler, told his wife that he wanted to leave the law practice to pursue graduate studies in Islam. His wife, pregnant with their second child, encouraged him to do so. The more difficult conversations, Wright says, were with his father, who said, “I thought we had you straightened out,” and with his law partner. “The first words out of his mouth were ‘You can’t do this.’ “ (The law partner has since come around and enjoys visiting Colorado on rock climbing trips. His father, who has passed away, visited Wright in North Carolina and saw how contented he was in his chosen field of study.)

Wright‘s M.A. thesis continued his work on Islam in American prisons through its focus on the rise of the Black Nationalist movement known as the “Nation of Islam.” His interest in literary criticism blossomed when he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation. A study of the Qur’an, Wright’s dissertation applies recent allusion theory to the text of the holy book in order to gain insight into the likely composition of its original audience. He is a historian of literature, and his mentor was the late Nasr Abu Zayd, a world-renowned Qur’anic scholar who held positions at Cairo University and the Universities of Utrecht and Leiden in Holland.

Wright applies literary and rhetorical theory to religious texts and is well aware of the objections raised to this approach by some who hold such texts sacred. “My position on this issue is the same as Nasr Abu Zayd’s,” he explains. “Every Holy Scripture is revealed in language that its original audience is capable of understanding; therefore, every Holy Scripture is subject to the laws by which language communicates meaning. The application of literary and rhetorical theory to sacred texts is simply one means of ascertaining how a given text has complied with (or transgressed) those laws.” He adds: “The earliest commentators on the Qur’an in the Islamic tradition were not only masters of Arabic grammar, they were steeped in the imagery and vocabulary of pre-Islamic Arab poetry. They made no apology for resorting to non-Muslim poets to explain obscure words or even passages of the Qur’an. In fact, the foundation of the Muslim exegetical tradition lies in such scholarly activities. The notion that what Nasr did or what I do somehow ‘reduces’ the Qur’an to ‘mere literature’ is a very recent one. Individuals who hold such views would do well to acquaint themselves with the history of Qur’anic interpretation.”         

Wright says that he strives to teach his students to examine the ways in which human beings imagine the divine and their relationship to it. In doing this, he likes to invoke the “metaphysics of imagination” developed by the 13th-century Muslim polymath Ibn ‘Arabi. “Ibn ‘Arabi argued that every human being worships an idol – the image of the divine that makes sense to them. Everyone gets a glimpse of the truth; the truth that is available to them.” So much of that interpretation, he says, depends on context: where a person was born, how they were raised, what language they speak, his or her life experiences, etc.

Wright joined the CC faculty in the fall of 2008, after weighing offers from several other schools. “Timing never was my strong suit,” he says, “except in the matter of Islamic Studies.” Islam, he says, “was not on the radar of most Americans before 9/11, despite 20 percent of the world’s population being Muslim.”  He chose CC over a prestigious public research university for a variety of reasons. “I believe in the importance of undergraduate education and was excited about meeting students at a critical time in their lives, where you can have a significant impact,” he said. He also liked the collegiality of CC’s religion department. “Overall, I felt that this was a better place for me,” he said.

Wright’s fields of expertise are Islamic sacred literature and its interpretation, Islam in the Americas, the history of religions, theory and method in religious studies, and religion and violence. He says that, in order to better understand the sacred texts of Islam, he spends a significant portion of his time studying the history and literature of both Judaism and Christianity.

There is no scale of justice in Wright’s office. Instead, one of the first things a visitor notices is a large, silver samovar surrounded by small Moroccan tea glasses.  Islamic Studies are not just about texts, Wright says. There is an entire civilization built around the values of Muslim culture, and one of the preeminent values of that culture is hospitality.

Wright’s two sons, a toddler and newborn when he started out on his path toward Islamic Studies, are now 10 and 12 years old. His wife, an active member of the Pittsburgh theater community who wrote and directed plays, is currently a certified Pilates instructor and teaches Pilates and yoga as physical therapy.

Get to Know: Pam Shipp

Pam Shipp ’69 has come home. Although in some ways, she never really left.

Shipp joined the Boettcher Counseling Center in January, where she works in the same office she had in 1985, when she had just completed her Ph.D. in counseling psychology.  She currently is a part-time counselor at the center, as well as the founder of a leadership consulting business, PL Shipp & Associates. The tagline on her website, “Leadership and Service,” is indicative of the direction Shipp’s life has taken.

“You can’t separate the two. Part of my job is to serve,” she says.

Shipp has a legacy of leadership and service. After graduating from CC with a degree in political science, Shipp earned a master’s degree in counseling from George Washington University, then served as a counselor and administrator in Colorado Springs School District 11 for 15 years. “I found I wanted to spend more time with the kids, and I couldn’t do that. I was restricted by time and the calendar.” So she returned to school to earn her Ph.D. from the University of Denver. Upon completing her doctorate, she served as a counselor at CC, opened a private practice, and started working at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). “Juggling three jobs became too wild, so I left CC to concentrate on my practice and CCL,” she said.

Her private practice focused on adolescents and their families, while at the Center for Creative Leadership she led executive training and development courses and managed their nonprofit programs. The two positions were not as disparate as they might seem. “I’m a cognitive behaviorist; I believe thoughts drive behavior,” Shipp said. “In both cases, I worked at getting at the root cause of who you are, in order to help that person on their journey, to be the best they could be.”

Shipp ran her private practice for 15 years, in some cases seeing former District 11 students who came to her with their own children.

In 2007 she started PL Shipp & Associates, an executive coaching and leadership consulting business, based in Colorado Springs.

Working with students was a primary reason she was eager to return to CC, and in many ways, her life has come full circle. She was a student at CC in the ‘60s, dealing with questions of identity, relationships, and adjustment issues. Today, she counsels CC students with the same concerns. “It is rewarding to connect with them. I just want them to recognize who they are and maximize their potential. These students have so much to offer.

Get to Know: Chris Coulter

One might almost think that Chris Coulter, the new director of facilities services, was destined to work at Colorado College.

Coulter comes to CC from Academy School District 20, where he served as the former executive director for construction management and sustainability. On Coulter’s first day at the D-20 job, architect Antoine Predock was selected to design one of the district’s premiere schools, the Discovery Canyon Campus. Predock is the same architect who designed CC’s Edith Kinney Gaylord Cornerstone Arts Center. “It’s ironic that I should work at the two places in town that have Predock buildings,” Coulter says.

One of the first things Coulter plans to do at CC is both very easy and very difficult. He plans to do a lot of listening. “I want to hear what is being said. And I want to be sure that what I’m hearing is being integrated into what we are doing.

“I want to get to know people, the facilities staff, and the culture of the campus,” he said.

Working together is a theme that comes up often when talking with Coulter. He’s eager to work with the various departments on campus involved in CC’s sustainability initiatives. He also is eager to get started on the new Worner Center renovation, which begins the day students leave campus in May, and must be completed before their return in August.

During Coulter’s seven and a half year tenure at D-20, he oversaw construction management and sustainability at the district’s 19 elementary schools, six middle schools, and six high schools. While there, he supervised the completion of a $163 million bond issue and a construction program that finished early and $10 million under budget.  In addition, Coulter led the on-time and under-budget completion of The Classical Academy’s (TCA) new 80,000-square-foot-campus.  The project, which was completed a year and a half ago at a cost of $120 per square foot,  features a full-size soccer and football competitive synthetic turf playing field, parking lot, elementary school for nearly 650 children, space for a home-school program, and 10 classrooms for their on-site partner Pikes Peak Community College.  The campus is the first of its kind in the state and currently is viewed as a model for how partnerships can benefit all participants.

While Coulter may be new to CC, he is not new to Colorado Springs. His father currently is a District 20 Board of Education member and spent the majority of his Air Force career as a biology instructor at the Air Force Academy. Coulter is a graduate of Rampart High School and played on the school’s 1987 undefeated basketball state champion team.  While in college, Coulter was an ROTC cadet and commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the Air Force in May 1993. He earned a B.A. in pre-engineering from DePauw University and a B.S. in engineering from Purdue University, and went on to earn a master’s in civil engineering from the University of Colorado—Boulder while in the Air Force.

He spent eight years in the Air Force as a civil engineering officer in places such as Florida, Nevada, Korea, and Central America.  The Air Force was great training, as “you had to be the engineer, tradesman, equipment agent, everything. We were self-sustained, and you had to figure it out.” That training, he says, serves him well in his current position.

He admits, however, that he is poor at home construction projects. “I have to make 12-14 trips to Home Depot,” he says. “But I’ll do it as many times as I have to in order to get it right.” He admires his staff; in fact, he says he “is humbled” by their skills. “They get it right, quickly, and on budget.”

Coulter is the father of an 11-year-old son, J.C., and an 8-year-old daughter, Peyton. His wife, Sandi, is a second-grade teacher at Antelope Trails Elementary School in District 20. Coulter enjoys coaching youth sports, especially football and basketball, and has been coaching the same group of fifth-graders since they were in preschool.

He also is very active in the Knights of Heroes Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to sons who have lost their fathers in combat. The organization runs a summer camp just outside of Ward, Colo.  Coulter, who recently was named chief operating officer of the foundation, plans all the camp activities and, for the last five years, has served as a mentor to two boys.

Additionally, for the past two years, Coulter has run (and finished) the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., a fundraiser for the camp. Both times, the boys he mentors and their mothers were at the finish line, cheering him on.

Get to Know: Dylan Nelson

Growing up in Charleston, S.C., where her mother’s side of the family had lived for generations, Dylan Nelson never heard race relations discussed. “There was inequity of the races, but it was an unspoken reality,” says Nelson, who, with her husband, Clay Haskell, are CC artists-in-residence for film studies.

Years later, she would explore that reality through her documentary filmmaking, as she interviewed the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights movement for her award-winning film, “Soundtrack for a Revolution.” Working on the film “was an amazing privilege,” she said. “For me, it was really wonderful to have an opportunity to meet these heroes. I felt like I was in the service of an incredible story.”

The story is that of the American Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, told through the freedom songs protesters sang on picket lines, in meetings, and in jails.

“For many, the American Civil Rights movement has been distilled to Black History Month, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks. But it is so much more than that,” Nelson said. “The film takes the Civil Rights movement out of the textbooks and makes it immediate and energetic.”

There are no experts in the film; instead, the filmmakers rely on direct participants and the music of the Civil Rights movement to tell the story. “Music has an incredible ability to speak to people emotionally,” Nelson said. “We wanted to make a film that would appeal to people of all ages.”

As a film producer, Nelson is involved in all aspects of the project, from conception to research, scouting, shooting, editing, final post-production, and distribution. “When you’re a producer, a film is your baby,” she said. “You live with it through its ups and downs, and you nurture and defend it as it goes out into the world.”

Nelson’s film appears to have been well nurtured, and it is holding its own in the world. “Soundtrack for a Revolution” premiered at the Tribeca and Cannes film festivals, had its theatrical release last year, recently came out on DVD, and will air on PBS’s “American Experience” on May 9, 2011. Among other honors, it was short-listed for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and nominated for a Producers Guild of America Award, a Writer’s Guild Award, and three International Documentary Association Awards.

The film also was selected for the U.S. State Department’s American Documentary Showcase program, which presents award-winning contemporary American documentaries to audiences around the world. As a delegate for the program, Nelson was in the Ukraine in late October, where she discussed the film and conducted master classes and outreach programs on documentary filmmaking.

Nelson describes herself as a fourth-generation “CC person,” though not an alumna. Her great-grandmother, Anne von Bibra Sutton, taught German at Colorado College in the 1930s; her grandmother, Jane Sutton Nelson, was a member of the Class of ’33; and her father, fiction writer Kent Nelson, teaches as a visitor in CC’s English department. 

Nelson, who with Haskell teaches several film courses at CC, got into filmmaking in a roundabout way. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Yale University in 1996 and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon in 2001. During the summer before her final year in the MFA program, Nelson lived in Los Angeles, turning a novella she had written into a screenplay. Upon returning to school, she took a documentary film course to expand on her interest in film storytelling.

“I took that film course and it felt as though I had struck gold. Not in a financial sense, but it was as if a lightning bolt struck me,” Nelson said. “The first time I was in the field on a shoot, I was completely engaged. You are listening as hard as you’ve ever listened while thinking about the film you need to make; thinking about so much at once – the narrative, visual, technical, and interpersonal aspects.  Filmmaking is demanding on all levels.  From then on, I wanted to learn more. You could spend a whole life learning about film.

“While I still love fiction, I never looked back. I’ve been writing, researching, producing, and directing for film ever since,” she said.

Because filmmaking is so all-encompassing, the Block Plan is well-tailored to film courses, said Nelson. “It allows students to focus intensively on one final project. The students at CC are passionate, and because of the Block Plan, they are able to – and do – throw themselves entirely into their films.  As a result, they come away with an indelible learning experience and a final product of which they’re truly proud. The intensity of the Block also mirrors the real-world intensity of film production and post-production.”

In addition to teaching basic and advanced filmmaking, documentary and screenwriting classes, and thesis advising, Nelson and Haskell also co-teach the popular off-campus Block VII class “On Location: Hollywood.” While in Hollywood, students study the history of Los Angeles filmmaking while pursuing an area of film interest: a genre, profession, or area of critical study.  The class meets with prominent film industry professionals – from directors and producers to sound mixers and editors to agents and executives – in order to understand the state of Los Angeles filmmaking today.

“I think that one reason CC students respond so positively to filmmaking courses is that filmmaking represents the best of a liberal arts education,” Nelson says. “Among the most integrative of all arts, filmmaking draws from numerous disciplines and requires students to synthesize concepts, abilities, and artistic techniques they learn elsewhere in their academic journey. Most of all, making film is about making connections – connections among ideas and connections with one’s community – and to me, that’s what an education in the liberal arts is all about.”

CC students also benefit in another, hands-on way: A number have assisted Nelson and Haskell with production on their forthcoming documentaries, one about child actors in Los Angeles, tentatively titled “The Hollywood Complex,” and another on civil rights icon James Meredith, titled “Mississippi Messiah.” For the latter, Nelson, then seven months pregnant, traveled through sweltering Mississippi during the summer, staying in ramshackle hotels as she and Haskell followed Meredith on a quixotic journey.

Nelson was also a producer for the 2007 documentary “Nanking,” about the Japanese invasion of Nanking, China, in the early days of World War II. The film, like “Soundtrack for a Revolution,” was short-listed for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. For more information on the class in Hollywood, go to http://blog.coloradocollege.edu/hollywood/

Get to Know: Mona El-Sherif

Mona El-Sherif can’t wait to teach CC students Arabic.

She admits that learning Arabic may appear to be daunting, but says that by the end of two blocks, most students will be able to conduct a 10-minute presentation in Arabic.

El-Sherif, the newest member of CC’s Francophone and Mediterranean Studies department, says teaching Arabic, her native language, is challenging, but rewarding. “You can see the rewards – they are immediately visible. In class, you can see the difference between yesterday and today. It gives me happiness to know I am sharing my knowledge,” she says.

Born in Cairo but raised in Alexandria, Egypt, she grew up speaking an Egyptian dialect of Arabic. Here she will teach modern, standard Arabic, the form of Arabic that is used by media throughout the Near East and for all intellectual debate. Various countries throughout the region, from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, have their own Arabic dialects, which have varying degrees of dissimilarity among them.

El-Sherif knows what it is like to learn a new language. A native Arabic speaker, she learned English starting at age 4 when she entered a British school. She began learning French when she was 9, and later added Farsi. In California, where she earned her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley, she realized she would need to add Spanish as well.

CC’s nascent Francophone and Mediterranean Studies program drew El-Sherif, the daughter of a lawyer and an accountant, to the college. “I’m very excited about the Mediterranean component, and how it looks at geography and its influence on culture. It’s a good fit with my research,” she says. Other programs she looked at were focused exclusively on Near Eastern studies or on the language component. “What CC is trying to establish is very unique. I feel I can contribute ideas here.”

El-Sherif took the long route to Colorado College. After graduating with a B.A. in English and American literatures from Alexandria University, she went on to earn an M.A. in Islamic, Jewish, and Near Eastern Studies from Washington University in St. Louis, and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies from UC Berkeley.

How did she get from Alexandria, Egypt, to St. Louis, Missouri? “A lot of people ask me that,” she says. She was friends with several British students at Alexandria University, and with their mentor, who had done his Ph.D. at Washington University. He recommended Washington University’s program, and she applied, only to find herself presented with an acceptance letter. She took the opportunity, which culminated with her getting her Ph.D. from Berkeley.

In addition to beginning and intermediate Arabic, El-Sherif also will teach Arabic literature, and culture. “Artistic Expressions of the Experience of Modernity in Various Arabic Cities,” which she will teach in Block 8, focuses on representations of urban modernity in different Arab cities.

El-Sherif believes it is important for everyone to learn more about the Arab world. “It takes a bit of effort on the part of students and educated people,” she says, noting that it especially takes effort for Americans, who are so far removed geographically from Arabic-speaking countries. “Here you are across the Atlantic – it’s not like in Europe,” she says. “You don’t get a rounded picture of what the Arab world is like. But it is huge, and very diverse and economically developing. There are so many reasons why people might want to learn about it.”

When El-Sherif is not teaching Arab language, culture, and literature look for her out running – jogging and athletic conditioning are some of her favorite pastimes.

Get to Know: Jason Newton

In November 2007 Jason Newton pulled three college girls from a burning car in Sherwood, Ore., after a drunk driver, going 65 mph down the wrong side of the street, crashed head-on into their vehicle. Arriving at the scene as the students were trapped in the car by flames, Newton yelled to them to get down, then struck the left rear window until it shattered. He broke out the glass pieces, told the closest woman to wrap her arms around him, and dragged her out.

The flames grew so hot Newton and another officer could approach the car for only a few seconds at a time. The tires popped from the heat and the seams on Newton’s trousers melted. Three of the George Fox University students were saved. It was later learned that the fourth student, whom the officers were unable to rescue, had been killed on impact.

Newton, CC’s new campus resource officer, sat through an hour-long interview for an Around the Block profile and never mentioned the incident – or the fact that he and another officer were named as national Hero Cops in 2008 for their actions.

“I’m not big into awards, but I have passion for what I do,” he said later.

Newton is a Colorado Springs police officer who is serving as a liaison between the college and the police department. He’s been with the CSPD for three years, where he has focused on narcotic investigations; prior to that he served as a cop for four years in Oregon. A native of Wisconsin, he is a 2003 graduate of Western Oregon University, where he studied criminal justice, minored in psychology, and ran track.

Newton will be patrolling CC and the neighborhood by foot, bike, and car. His goal is to build trust and relationships on the college campus and nearby neighborhoods.

“This is an experimental position for the fall semester,” says Ron Smith, director of campus safety, noting there is no cost to the college for the pilot program. Newton is the CSPD’s officer dedicated to CC, and serves as a liaison between the college, the surrounding neighborhood, and the police department. “This provides supplemental campus patrol and more coverage in the neighborhoods. It’s helping the city by reducing calls for service from this area,” Smith says.

Newton and John Lauer, director of residential life and housing, currently are visiting with representatives from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where a similar program is in place. UW-Madison has a community police officer assigned to the campus, as well as a campus security staff. Newton and Lauer are learning how the relationships work between residential life, campus security, and the community police officer.  UW-Madison has been fine-tuning their program for 12 years, and their experience should prove instructive for CC, Lauer says. 

“This goes back to the community policing model,” Newton says. “I hope to serve as a resource for students, faculty, and staff, as well as the CC neighbors. I want to build trust and communication, and have people feel free to come to me.

“I want them to be able to ask me about anything – if they have a problem at home, or questions about the community. I want to be a mentor and a friend,” he says.

Newton is no stranger to the CC: His fiancée, Andrea Weatherford, is a 2002 Colorado College graduate who introduced him to CC hockey, and he’s been a dedicated fan ever since. (They plan to get married in mid-September.)  He’s also familiar with the college – and its neighbors. During the last several years Student Life and Residential Life have asked the CSPD to send an officer meet with students and discuss such things as the importance of being good neighbors on- and off-campus, how to host safe parties, and personal safety.

“Whenever they needed a volunteer to talk at CC, I would jump on it. I’d go whenever there was an opportunity to talk with the students,” Newton says. The collaborative effort between CC and the local police department paid off: Last year a student who felt comfortable with Newton called him saying “We need help with this party – it’s gotten out of control.” Later, when an irate neighbor also called Newton, he was able to say, “Yes, we know about the party – the students have already called and asked for our assistance.” The neighbor, says Newton, was very surprised.

“When this job came up, I saw it as a tremendous opportunity. I’m really excited about it and I want to put myself in the community. I want to be a part of as many things as I can,” Newton says.

Apparently that won’t be a problem. Newton went to each of the first-year residence halls during orientation, introducing himself and getting to know the students. He happened to visit Slocum Hall when some students were baking banana bread, and was promptly invited to have some. He ended up spending about 30 minutes in the kitchenette there, surrounded by students. “It was great,” he says. “And the banana bread was great, too.”

Get to Know: Marina Eckler

Marina Eckler may be the new assistant to the curator at the I.D.E.A. Space, but she’s not new to Colorado College.

Eckler was the print shop technician for CC’s art department from 2006-08, where she managed studio space for classes and open work sessions, provided technical assistance to students, and helped to develop workshops for visiting and resident artists.

She later volunteered as an installer for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and worked as an art handler for special collections for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, where she created unique housing for hundreds of drawings and prints for the Whitney’s Works on Paper Collection.

Now Eckler, who holds a degree in painting and printmaking from San Francisco State University, is combining her skills and interests in curatorial work. “There is a thin line between creating art and curating,” she says. “Curating is its own art form.”

Eckler is excited about the ways in which the I.D.E.A. Space and Curator Jessica Hunter Larsen use the community at large as a medium. “It’s an open-door art center, and I like that,” Eckler says. As an example, she cites an upcoming multidisciplinary event titled “Hair-esies” that explores the connection between hair, personal and cultural identity, and feminism. “It’s a fascinating event that draws together a visiting established artist, faculty members, and a local artist,” she says. “Hair-esies,” which takes place on Sept. 14, was inspired by an I.D.E.A. Space exhibition that runs from Sept. 7 to Oct.  26 and features May Stevens, who was involved in benchmark social justice movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. “It all ties in so well together,” Eckler says. “While art centers are trying to figure out how to stay open and be resourceful, it happens naturally here.”

Eckler, an artist interested in bookbinding, painting, and drawing, has a studio in downtown Colorado Springs. She describes her paintings as “landscapes of my own imagination. They combine mountains and cities and impossible horizons, and are loosely based on folk art.”

Other interests include gardening, although she calls herself a failed gardener, and baking, especially cakes and French pastry. “This can be an all-day or all-weekend project for me. It’s what I turn to. I’m always thinking ‘What should be baked for this occasion?’ ”

Eckler also has strong ties to KRCC: She has been a volunteer DJ at the station for many years, and was the inaugural DJ for the Monday night radio show “Brick House,” a dance/soul/electronic music show still in production but with different DJs. Eckler, who still fills in as a guest DJ for “Brick House” and other shows, is married to Noel Black, producer of KRCC’s “The Big Something,” and they have a 9-year-old son, Ursen.

Get to Know: Aaron Cohick

Aaron Cohick, proprietor of NewLights Press, an independent publisher of experimental literature and artists’ books, has been named the new printer at The Press at Colorado College.

He received a BFA in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2002, and an MFA in printmaking from Arizona State University in 2007. For the past few years he has worked as a commercial letterpress printer in San Francisco and taught at the San Francisco Center for the Book.

Cohick, a native of Pennsylvania, says he has always had a dual interest in writing and the visual arts, but never knew how to put them together until he took a bookbinding class. “We worked with type-setting, binding, letter press printing, and screen printing, and I realized that was it – that was what I wanted to do,” he says.

Cohick hopes to make the experience, knowledge, and equipment at The Press at CC more broadly accessible to students. “I’d like them to discover The Press early on, and not just their senior year,” he says. “A year is not enough time to learn this.” He also hopes to increase the number of publications produced by The Press, and to increase its visibility, both nationally and internationally.

Cohick enjoys the slow, repetitive, careful – almost meditative – process of printmaking. “All aspects of it are very appealing,” he says.

Cohick takes over from Colin Frazer ’02, who ran The Press from 2006 until his departure this summer for the Rhode Island School of Design, where he will pursue an MFA in design. Frazer, a physics major, became interested in The Press during his senior year when he took a printmaking class with Professor Kate Leonard.

Founded in 1977, Colorado College’s fine letterpress has produced many superb works of art that are now features in collections at Yale University, Harvard University, Chicago’s Newberry Library,  the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Rijksmuseum, to name a few.

The Press at Colorado College, now housed in Taylor Hall, got its start when Jim Trissel, a former CC professor of studio art and art history, was enlisted to help transport an old press to the campus in the mid-1970s. Trissel, whose father and grandfather had both worked as printers, took a sabbatical from 1977-78 to learn the technology, design, and history of printmaking, and later began to collect classic typefaces.

Over the years, The Press at Colorado College has published notable books including a book produced on commission from the Arts for Nature Trust of England as a 75th birthday gift for Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh; several books collected by the Newberry Library in Chicago; and three publications included in the New York Public Library exhibits “Seventy from the Seventies,” “Eighty from the Eighties,” and “Ninety from the Nineties.”

Get to Know: Pamela Train Leutz, Assistant to the Dean of the College/Faculty

Pam_L_013Walk into the dean’s office, and you’ll immediately recognize Pamela Leutz’s desk: It’s the one with the miniature bookbinding press and plough. Leutz, who relocated to Colorado Springs from Dallas almost three years ago, started as the staff assistant in the CC sociology department in 2008, and became assistant to the dean of the college and faculty in June 2009.

Following college, Leutz found her passion for bookbinding when she moved to Dallas in 1977 and for more than 30 years, she has studied, taught, and trained under experts throughout the world.

Living in Dallas and raising a family, Leutz’s passion for bookbinding began with a class at the Craft Guild of Dallas in 1979. She later served as chairman and co-chairman of the bookbinding department and then as an instructor for many years. Leutz has studied with master bookbinders in Switzerland and the Czech Republic. She studied bookbinding techniques such as design bindings, decorative paper making, box binding and conservation, and continued teaching the craft to others.

In 1985, Leutz embraced her craft and began binding books for friends and clients. In 1990, she became inspired by other talented artists upon joining the Guild of Book Workers. For the past 18 years, Leutz taught bookbinding classes at places such as The Craft Guild of Dallas, The Dallas Museum of Art, Imagination Celebration, Southern Methodist University’s informal courses, The Press of Colorado College, and her own private studio.

Leutz’s passion for the craft grew into the love of the artisans who keep bookbinding alive. She recently published a book, “The Thread that Binds: Interviews with Private Practice Bookbinders,” a result of interviews she conducted between 2004-08 with bookbinders across the country, as well as overseas. In the book, 21 independent bookbinders tell their stories. “I believe stories to be more valuable than any material possession. It is my passion to preserve them in well-crafted, hand-bound books that last through generations,” Leutz says.

Bookbinders and book artists will use unbound editions of her book, “The Thread That Binds,” and bind them into innovative and stunning one-of-a-kind bindings for two upcoming exhibitions. The first, an online exhibit in the fall of 2010, is “The Bindorama,” available through the Books Arts web site: http://www.philobiblon.com/gallery.shtml. The second, sponsored by the Lone Star Chapter of the Guild of Book Workers, opens in Dallas in the spring of 2011. In addition, Leutz has her own bookbinding business, also called The Thread That Binds (formerly called The Gilded Edge in Dallas).

A native of Chicago, Leutz was born in Oak Park, Ill., and grew up in Barrington, Ill., where she lived for more than 14 years. She attended Denison University and Northern Illinois University, where she graduated with a teaching degree. When she is not bookbinding, she enjoys long walks with her yellow lab, Sadie, and spending time with family and friends. She is most proud of her three grown children, JoAnn, Julie, and Jack.