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“Black Faces, White Spaces” with Carolyn Finney

Carolyn FinneyBy Montana Bass ’18

Carolyn Finney, author of “Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors,” will bring her expertise to the Colorado College campus March 3. Finney is currently a geography faculty member at the University of Kentucky.

In a time when racial tension has exploded on college campuses across the country, including CC, and environmental discussion is at the forefront of political and social debate, Finney facilitates conversations regarding the intersectionality of these topics. “We have a long history of marginalizing people, and the environment is included in that,” Finney says. “It doesn’t mean that black or brown people haven’t had a relationship with the environment, but that relationship differs depending on their unique experience and history. We have developed a culture that pushes a universal way of looking at things, and that classic narrative isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not truly universal.”

It’s thanks to Drew Cavin, director of the Office of Field Study, that students will have the opportunity to discuss such topics with Finney. “I had a strong hunch that a large portion of the missing sense of inclusivity at CC was due to the ethos around nature, outdoor adventure, and the environment. I know from my research that these things do not resonate equally with all people for a variety of different reasons, but largely, I think, because of our country’s past and present of systemic racism, and the cultural paths that have emerged in different communities because of those systems,” says Cavin of his push to bring Finney to CC.

Both Cavin and Finney are excited about her visit to campus, and hope students will be, too. “As soon as I start talking about it I’m pacing back and forth,” she exclaims. “I love hearing about what people are experiencing.”

Find full event information at: “Black Faces, White Spaces.”

Esther Chan ’16 Tells the Story of Lives Changed By Meadows Park Community Center

Subjects of Esther Chan '16 thesis projectBy Montana Bass ’18

Esther Chan ’16 is sharing an inspiring message of struggle and empowerment. For her thesis project, she spent months gathering video footage and conducting interviews. Now, through a multimedia presentation, she will highlight the lives of three young people in Colorado Springs who overcame adversity to incite change in their community.

Chan’s thesis project is a culmination of an innovative, independently designed major – visual media, and social change. It follows Miguel Roacho, David Atencio, and Danielle Atencio in their daily lives, focusing on their work at Meadows Park Community Center. The thesis event will take place Friday, March 4, from 4-8 p.m. at Cottonwood Center for the Arts, 427 East Colorado Ave., in Colorado Springs.

The three individuals featured in Chan’s film all grew up with MPCC as a major influence in their lives. “It has always been their safe space and home and where they’ve found comfort,” says Chan. “Their story is of growing up in low-income Colorado Springs. It has a lot of violence, struggle, and drug use. It’s defined by the strength to break the cycle and make Colorado Springs better.” MPCC’s main goal is to empower youth to overcome the adversity they face, and have a successful and functional adult life. “Brian Kates ’93, the MPCC director, calls it organized chaos,” adds Chan, laughing. “Kids just get to run around and play.”

Chan volunteered at MPCC during her sophomore year as part of a youth empowerment class. Later, as she thought about her thesis, the lasting impression MCPP left on her sparked an idea. “I wanted to use a sociological research method called ‘photovoice,’ where you give cameras to kids in the community, then base the research on the videos,” she explains.

Filming began in September and Chan has continued once or twice a week ever since, gaining over four months of footage for her final documentary. “I just told them, ‘whenever you’re doing something, let me know,’ [so I could document it]. Mostly, I’m at MPCC where they work and hang with the kids,” says Chan. “They’ve totally let me into their lives and shared special moments with me.”

Shuttles to Cottonwood Center for the Arts will leave from the south side of Worner Campus Center continuously between 4-8 p.m. on Friday, March 4. There, attendees can watch the short documentary, view a gallery of photos from MPCC children, catch live music from student band Ominous Animals, and enjoy food provided by Mobile Meals.

Balancing Two Careers – Acclaimed Musician and Professor – with (Susan) Grace

Susan GraceBy Monica Black ’19

From the rooms of Packard Performance Hall, Susan Grace, artist-in-residence and lecturer in music, is making waves. At CC, she’s known as Susan, director of the Summer Music Festival and talented professor of piano. Recently, though, she’s been receiving recognition for her work outside of the school as well. The London Sunday Times recently named her as a contributor to one of the top ten contemporary recordings of 2016 for her recording “Stefan Wolpe – Music for Violin and Piano,” and that’s just one in a long line of acknowledgments. To name a few formidable awards, she was nominated for a Grammy in 2005 and received the Spirit of the Springs award in 2014.

Grace, a pianist, has led a diverse career: she performs collaborative music, chamber music, in duos, and concertos. “I’m not stuck to one thing,” says Grace. While she loves the variety her career offers her, she acknowledges that it can be overwhelming. “I do a lot of recording,” she says. “It can be challenging to balance [my career and my teaching], but most of my students are pretty advanced and work hard.”

Grace is a mainstay in the CC Music Department. Beyond teaching classes, she directs the Summer Music Festival, an annual event that attracts advanced music students and faculty from all across the nation to participate in a month-long workshop. “I feel really fortunate to be a part of the community here,” Grace says. “The faculty development and possibilities are great.”

Her most recent accolade for the Stefan Wolpe was the fruit of a recording done in Packard Hall for Bridge Records. Her co-musicians on the recording were renowned violinists Movses Pogossian and Varty Manouelian. Her recording company had asked her to record Wolpe. “I had never even heard of Wolpe,” said Grace, “but I found the music really interesting.”

In addition to another Wolpe piece, she continues work with her piano duo, Quattro Mani. Grace is also preparing for an August recording of “Poul Ruders for Harpsichord and Piano,” a performance at famous venue National Sawdust in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a Quattro Mani performance at Bargemusic, also in Brooklyn.

Scott Bryan ’01 Named “Modern Day Pioneer” for Water Innovations

Scott BryanMontana Bass ’18

Whether or not you’re in need of a new pair of jeans, take a look at the Levi Strauss and Company “Modern-Day Pioneers” webpage, which last month featured CC graduate Scott Bryan. Bryan, who graduated from CC as an economics major in 2001, is now the president of Imagine H20, a company that supports startups with promising solutions to current water challenges.

As he mentions in the article, Bryan’s interest in water was sparked during his years at CC. He cites professors Mark Smith and Walt Hecox as especially influential on his education. During Smith’s environmental economics class, Bryan visited the Glen Canyon Dam, where he studied the system of water delivery to farms in Colorado and New Mexico. In his classes with Hecox, Bryan says, “I spent a lot of time in the San Luis Valley learning about the conflict between ranchers and water developers.”

Taking advantage of the opportunity for interdisciplinary study that CC offers, Bryan took an environmental sociology course, which he remembers as pivotal in developing his later dedication to address the strain on water resources. That class also spent time in the San Luis Valley. Bryan explains, “that is where we learned about the acequia [or communal irrigation] systems and the potential threat from logging headwaters.”

Today, Bryan recognizes the great impact his CC education has had on his life. “At CC, thanks to the block program, I really learned the value of diving into an issue or topic. This has been critical in my professional career,” he says. “It’s been fun to work in the water innovation space and connect with other Tigers. Andrew Fahlund ’91 is a deputy director at the California Water Foundation, which supports Imagine H2O. Jim McDermott ’91 founded a very successful water tech business called NanoH2O.”

In his interview with Levi Strauss, Bryan delves into the mission behind Imagine H20, his personal involvement, and what he sees for the future. Check it out.

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.