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Student-Faculty Collaboration Fuels Summer Research

Want to understand how language influences the interworkings of the mind? Ask Jake Brodsky ’15, a CC psychology major, who is preparing to present research findings on the topic at an international conference this summer.

“His presentation will be viewed by some of the actual researchers he’s cited in his research. Our students can really make an impact on the way people think beyond the CC environment,” said Kevin Holmes, psychology professor, who is working with Brodsky as part of the 10-week Summer Collaborative Research Program.

Kevin Holmes, professor of psychology, meets with his team of summer student researchers at a weekly collaborative meeting.

Kevin Holmes, professor of psychology, meets with his team of summer student researchers at a weekly collaborative meeting.

This summer, 26 students received funding through the Centennial Fund Faculty Student Collaboration Grant and the Mellon-funded Faculty Student Collaboration Grant. About 65 more, like Brodsky, received funding through other college research awards. The summer program supports faculty members in their research activities and provides students with first-hand research experience as undergraduates. The intent is to expose students to the diverse goals, research methods, and skills faculty use to conduct advanced research in their fields of study, prepare research reports of their findings, and present their conclusions to their peers in classes, at professional meetings, or in Brodsky’s case, to experts in his field.

Holmes says participating in this kind of intensive, collaborative research enhances the learning environment for every student.  “Doing research teaches you how to think in ways you don’t get in regular classes; just to be able to think through a problem, coming up with a question and determining how to test it,” said Holmes of working with students. Students in the program learn to solve problems, draw conclusions that can be defended, and tell the story of the research, which is what Brodsky is doing now as he prepares to present the significant findings of his research.

“You don’t have the pressures that you do during the school year; in the summer, the time is yours, you can sit down and think about the ideas, focus on the theories and the methods, and not worry about the deadlines,” Holmes said.

The collaborative nature of the program is at the core of why Holmes says it’s so valuable – both to faculty and to students.  “For a student to be able to make such a big contribution, it’s great. It’s not just the faculty member deciding ‘here are my research projects and here’s what you’ll do,’ but they bring in their ideas, often related to thesis work. We meet daily in the summer, to check in, to figure out the next step; each of us makes a contribution to the work.”

Brodsky’s research and resulting findings grew from his senior thesis project exploring how monolingual and bilingual adults differ in their views of gender. After graduation, he continued his work through funding provided by the collaborative research program. Holmes helped him apply for additional funds, once Brodsky was selected as a presenter at the Cognitive Science Society Conference in Pasadena in July.

Holmes is working with six students during the summer and while he says it’s a demanding load, the group dynamic helps the scientific, and learning, process. “Each individual student is outstanding, and bringing them together they learn from and help each other, and challenge each other,” he said.

“What the students in my lab are doing this summer are projects very similar to the graduate school experience,” said Holmes. “It’s so much more about the research than taking classes; they have to think carefully about their project and have the time to execute from start to finish. I’d like students to get involved earlier, so by the time they’re seniors, they can really take on more advanced research and extend it in new directions.”

Brodsky also encourages students to get involved in research earlier in their CC careers, and specifically through the summer program. “It’s probably been my favorite part of being at CC. It’s the opportunity to do research with a professor, independently, and the summer offers all of the fun parts of learning without the pressures of turning things in; you get to really learn for learning’s sake.”

Ultimately, Brodsky will work with Holmes to write up his findings for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. While he hasn’t made plans about his next steps yet, Brodsky said his experience this summer “makes me excited to continue in academics or to go on to grad school.”

Find out what subject matter other Summer Collaborative Research Program participants explored when they present their work at the second annual Undergraduate Research Symposium held on campus in the fall.

Green Labs Project Saves Energy and Resources

Anna Kelly ’16

CC science labs are becoming more environmentally friendly thanks to the work of several faculty members and the launch of the Green Labs project.

Over the past year, Barbara Whitten, professor of physics, and Emilie Gray, assistant professor of organismal biology and ecology, have led an effort to change CC science departments’ use of materials and equipment to encourage efficiencies in energy and resource use. Improvements in battery and paper recycling, as well as reducing energy used by refrigerators and ventilation equipment, are also part of the CC Green Labs project. Green Labs is also an active movement at colleges and universities across the country.

Whitten first brought up the concept during a brainstorming session at the end of the 2013-14 school year, and later presented the idea at a Sustainability Council meeting where Gray and several other faculty expressed interest in the project.

“I got interested in this project because if you look at energy density, or energy per square foot, all of the science buildings are at the very top of the list,” said Whitten.

She was particularly curious about why Tutt Science Center, a building constructed to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, was also using large amounts of energy. After some research, she found that science buildings are universally energy inefficient. She discovered the national Green Labs movement, working to make science labs more efficient.  Much of the energy use in science labs comes from equipment like the ultralow freezers and ventilation hoods.

Gray said CC had several projects already underway to increase sustainability in the science departments, but they weren’t coordinating with one another or collaborating to broaden their reach across campus. “We made a bunch of discoveries,” said Gray. “For example, in chemistry they are already using a lot of green chemicals and people don’t know about it.”

To further the program, Whitten, Gray and several other faculty members and students visited the University of Colorado-Boulder to learn about the Green Labs program in place there. “We got to see their labs and meet their program manager, who has tons of ideas on sustainability,” said Gray. “She had a lot of information that was incredibly valuable for us.”

Kathy Ramirez, Green Labs manager at CU, has since visited CC and given her input on how to improve the school’s labs. Whitten says she hopes the Green Labs initiative will reach beyond energy conservation.

“Mostly we’ve talked about energy, but really what green science means is a reduction in all forms of resource abuse,” said Whitten. “It involves water conservation and reducing the use of toxic chemicals without interfering with the teaching and research mission of the science departments.”

Whitten and Gray have collaborated with Ian Johnson, CC’s sustainability manager, and together they have set up a fund to assist in purchasing sustainable equipment. This fund has already been used to buy a high-efficiency freezer. Whitten, Gray, and other members of the Green Labs project will continue to make changes to the labs that will reduce energy and resource use. They also aim to be involved in plans for constructing new science buildings on campus in the future.

Peggy Daugherty, associate professor of chemistry, with a new high-efficiency freezer.

Peggy Daugherty, associate professor of chemistry, with a new high-efficiency freezer.

Jacob Kirksey ’15 Selected as All-American in Forensics

The Pi Kappa Delta National Honor Society for competitive forensics hosts one of the largest speech and debate competitions in the country. It draws hundreds of competitors from colleges and universities across the United States, including CC’s own speech and debate team.

JacobKirksey_118 3.36.43 PMAt this year’s competition, the society inducted ten students as All-Americans including Jacob Kirksey ’15, the captain of the speech and debate team at CC. Selection as an All-American is the highest honor awarded at the national tournament, recognizing outstanding seniors with successful careers in forensics, and strong academic and service backgrounds.

“I have never witnessed a dual discipline and motivation for the arts and communication like I’ve seen in this young man over his four years at CC. Jacob’s ruthless determination to present only the best product is evidenced by scrapping a speech the night before competition and re-writing an entire persuasive just because the former ‘wasn’t good enough,’” said Sarah Hinkle, CC speech and debate coach.

He participated at the national level in speech and debate in each of his four years at CC, competing in a variety of events from team debates, limited preparation speaking on current event topics, prepared platform speeches, and acting. Kirksey says his strongest event is impromptu speaking, in which participants have two minutes to prepare a five-minute speech that interprets a given quotation, asserts a thesis, and gives examples on how to apply the quotation to daily life. He focused also on the after-dinner speaking event, preparing a ten-minute speech that incorporates humor into a serious topic and is persuasive in nature. He chose color-blindness and the Black Lives Matter movement for his topic this year.

“Winning and traveling across the country is wonderful, but the best part of competing is discovering your own personal growth,” Kirksey said of his experience on the team. “Every tournament you are pushed to do even better than you did before, and this creates a very important routine for always bettering yourself.”

Earlier this year, Kirksey and his partner reached the quarterfinals of the Pan American Universities Debate Championship tournament. They competed against hundreds of schools competing from across the Western Hemisphere, the equivalent of reaching a medaling heat of the Pan American Games.

“What has impressed me about Jacob is not his competitive success, as CC has a long history of successful speech and debate students, but his willingness to extend his expertise to the community and enrich the lives of young people in Colorado Springs,” said Julian Plaza, one of CC’s speech and debate coaches.

Kirksey also used the skillset he developed through forensics competitions to inspire and start his own company. Kids Are Dramatic is a social justice theatre company that works with Title I public schools, which include higher numbers of at-risk students, and with nonprofits and after-school programs, to create process-oriented drama classes for students to express themselves. He also serves as advocacy director at the local nonprofit group Imagination Celebration where he networks with professionals in the Pikes Peak Region to develop and evaluate educational programs.

Kirksey, a double major in economics and education, began his debate career as a high schooler in Lubbock, Texas, where he initially found his passion for the event. “Speech and debate created a space for me to succeed in high school and see my potential. It forced me to be confident and enhances nearly ever aspect of my academic and professional life.”

After graduation in May, Kirksey will begin the education policy doctorate program at the University of California-Santa Barbara. “If I didn’t have the skillset I developed and enhanced through speech and debate, I wouldn’t be as established and confident in my work. Hopefully I’ll be a professor at age 26.”

 

 

Students Share at CC Internship Experience Forum

IntershipExperience2More than 100 students traveled across the country and around the globe, from the Uganda Village Project to Venetucci Farm, gaining real-world experience, knowledge, and inspiration for the impact they’ll have now, and after leaving CC.

Megan Gillespie ’16, sociology major, spent her summer at an unpaid internship in Denver with the Lutheran Family Services refugee program. She spent more than an hour at the CC Internship Experience Forum explaining her work to fellow students and other members of the CC community, before rotating out and allowing other students their opportunity to share. The organization Gillespie worked with assists families and individuals fleeing the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, and many other countries, arriving in the United States without access to resources, embarking on a very uncertain journey. Gillespie helped pair families with cultural mentors, connected them with social services, and assisted them in developing job skills. She said the internship is also relevant to her thesis work on refugees and the implications and concept of residential segregation, which is relocating families from the same cultural backgrounds in the same neighborhoods. “Throughout the summer, I was asking the question, ‘are we perpetuating the issue, and is it necessary?’” she said of placing refugee families in the United States. Gillespie continues the work on campus, leading the Refugee Assistance Program service group at CC.

Funding provided by the college enabled students to accept internships, regardless of any financial barriers or impacts. “The CC community at large contributed resources to help fill students’ financial gaps, allowing them the opportunity to participate in unpaid or underpaid internship opportunities over the summer,” said Megan Nicklaus, director of the Career Center. The CC Internship Experience Forum provided an opportunity for those students to share their experiences with the campus community.

Board of Trustees Meeting Actions

The Board of Trustees was on campus Feb. 20-22 for its annual February meeting. There was much enthusiasm about the progress we are making as a college community. The board approved several items including:

  • The 2014-15 budget, setting tuition and fees at $46,410. For students living on the campus, the comprehensive fee will be $57,162, with a standard double room rate of $6,176 and the meal plan C rate of $4,576.
  • Tenure and promotion for four faculty members. Congratulations!
    • Pedro de Araujo, assistant professor of economics and business
    • Peggy Daugherty, assistant professor of chemistry
    • Stefan Erickson, assistant professor of mathematics
    • Peter Wright, assistant professor of religion
  • Tenure for one faculty member: Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance Shawn Womack. Congratulations Shawn!
  • Emeritus status for retired Professor of Political Science Curtis Cook.
  • The installation of solar panels on top of Cornerstone and El Pomar Sports Center.

In addition to the work done on the four standing committees of Audit; Governance; Investment; and Budget, Buildings and Grounds, the trustees worked with campus leaders on strategic projects. As a reminder, this year’s strategic project teams are Campaign Planning; Library Renovation; Campus Master Plan/Communication Plan; and Environmental Stewardship and Innovation.

The board heard presentations on campus safety, our newly-revised Half Block, and faculty-student research collaboration and enjoyed dinner with members of the Faculty Executive Committee. Thanks to all who helped make the board meeting a success.

Chris Coulter inducted into CS Sports Hall of Fame

Chris Coulter webChris Coulter, director of facilities services, recently was inducted into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame. Just over a quarter of a century ago, Coulter played on the 1986-87 State Champion Rampart High School basketball team that went undefeated, 24-0, to win the state title.

The team achieved the impossible: perfection. The Rampart boy’s team chalked up a remarkable 24-0 record, beating Thompson Valley, 42-38 in the state 3A championship game. The Rampart team won their games by an average of 17 points and earned a team grade point average of 3.14, showing their prowess on and off the court.  In Coulter’s two years playing with the state champion team, the team posted a 46-2 record.

Coulter is currently a varsity coach in the Pine Creek High School boy’s football program. They have a 10-2 record and are playing in the 4A state semifinals against Monarch High School this weekend.

Coulter enjoys coaching youth sports, especially football and basketball, and has been coaching the same group of eighth-graders since they were in the third grade.

Halloween? Register That!

Members of the CC’s Registrar’s Office celebrate Halloween in style! Shown here are, front row, Candace Santa Maria; second row,  Karen Britton, Donna Engle, Christine Brett, and Cecelia Vigil; and back row, Phil Apodaca. They received third place in the Halloween costume contest held in Bemis Hall. Photo courtesy Rita Zook.Registrar Halloween