Kevin Rask was probably destined to be an economist: His father, two sisters, and his wife, CC President Jill Tiefenthaler, all are economists. If that’s not enough, he was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a country of vast economic opportunity, where his father was working for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) while completing his dissertation in economics.
The Rask family later moved to Columbus, Ohio, where his father taught agricultural economics at Ohio State University and his mother was a special education teacher in the Columbus public schools.
Rask received a B.A. in economics from Haverford College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Duke University. After considering and then discarding two or three dissertation topics, he wrote his dissertation on “The Social Costs of Production and the Structure of Technology in the Brazilian Ethanol Industry: A Cost-Benefit Analysis and an Infant Industry Evaluation, 1978-1987.” Rask has taught at Colgate University and Wake Forest University.
The first decade of Rask’s research centered on renewal fuels; primarily ethanol development, production, markets, and policy in the United States and Brazil. He also looked at the impact of ethanol on the U.S. highway trust funds and emission characteristics of ethanol. Over time, with the system so entrenched with political and agricultural interests, Rask moved on to an area that had always been a student-research focus of his: higher education.
“Since the late 90s, my primary area has been higher ed,” he said. “I’ve always found it the best way to teach econometrics and statistics.” He teaches econometrics, defined as “the application of mathematics and statistical methods to economic data,” by using higher ed models as examples. “College students understand the econometric concepts and methodology more clearly when you use examples such as college choice and major choice,” he said. “Difficult analytical concepts are easier to grasp when the context is something the student has experienced first-hand.” In fact, a major focus of his research is the modeling of choice. It’s an area that fascinates him: why people do what they do in different environments or facing different constraints.
Some of Rask’s more recent research in the field of higher education has focused on issues such as the role of grade sensitivity in explaining the gender imbalance in undergraduate economics, the SAT as a predictor of success at a liberal arts college, and the influence of various components of U.S. News & World Report’s ranking categories on a school’s final score. The last issue is gaining increased attention, as many schools, Colorado College included, no longer tout U.S. News & World Report rankings in publications or on their websites. Rask said the formula and weight given to various components of the USNWR rankings are not independent, but rather, are linked. As an example, he cites the component identifying how many students graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class. Although that component has a predetermined weight, if a school changes its top 10 percent profile it will also change other components, such as average SAT scores and projected graduation rates. Therefore, Rask says, the effective influence of some components is greater than their published weights.
Rask also is interested in the long-term returns to a selective liberal arts education, not only as a way of justifying the sticker shock of the cost, but also its lasting benefits. “Most economists tend to focus on earnings,” he said. “But research also shows that college graduates tend to vote at a higher rate, divorce at a lower rate, are healthier, and are more civically engaged. Graduates also are more flexible in their careers and have a greater ability to be productive in the workforce. New research is beginning to find differences between types of institutions and certain outcomes, and the contributions of liberal arts colleges are a primary interest of mine,” he said.
Rask taught Econometrics in Block 2 and will co-teach, with Tiefenthaler, Economics of Higher Education in Block 5. As part of that course the class will look at various educational models and institutions, including planned visits to Pikes Peak Community College, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, Regis University, and the Air Force Academy.
In addition to teaching, Rask oversees five senior thesis projects and has a part-time appointment conducting institutional research at CC. That position is still evolving, but in the past Rask developed models of alumni giving and participation for Colgate University, and models of admission yields and financial aid for Colgate, Wake Forest University, many undergraduate institutions, and several law schools.
Rask is impressed by the CC students’ level of engagement in their classes, noting that, “As a group, they are far more engaged than other students I have taught.” He also finds there are fewer barriers between students and professors at Colorado College than at other institutions and wonders whether that is attributable to the type of students attracted to CC, the type of faculty the college attracts, or if it’s part of the culture of the Block Plan.
As much as he enjoys research, Rask really enjoys teaching. “My research isn’t going to change the world in a huge way,” he said. “But with teaching, you can have a lasting influence.” His goal? “To turn out majors who are capable of good, independent reasoning. They should have the intellectual confidence and skills to come up with their own answers to inquiries and projects.”
Part of his dedication to teaching is evident in his left knee, which remains swollen despite surgery in the middle of Block 2. Rask, an avid basketball fan, tore his ACL playing a pick-up basketball game in late September. Feeling better after the surgery, he spent too much time on his feet in class and his knee subsequently swelled up. An infection followed, and after a second surgery he is back on his feet without crutches (or an ACL) and looking forward to getting the knee done again after teaching Block 5. Despite his love for sports, Rask says it will be a while before he plays as hard as he used to.
Approximately 75 people attended facilities services annual chili cook-off, held on Friday, Dec. 2. There were a total of 18 entries: eight in the green chili division, seven in the red chili division, and three vegetarian entries.
Aaron Strong, a landscape contractor who works with CC, won in the red chili category; Darrold Hughes, athletic field specialist with facilities services won in the green chili division, and Jeff Carlson, lead painter in facilities services, took the prize for the vegetarian chili.
The winners in each category receive a handcrafted trophy spoon made by carpenters Karl Greis and Ken Wilson.
Tiffany Calabaza ’12 is one of 11 Native American youth leaders who was honored at the White House Tribal Nations Conference on Thursday, Dec. 1, as a “Champion of Change.” Calabaza was recognized for her efforts to bring renewable energy to her hometown of Kewa (formerly Santo Domingo Pueblo), N.M.
Calabaza, an environmental chemistry major, worked with Chemistry Professor Sally Meyer and Kewa tribal members to convert a community windmill into a solar water pumping station. The station will pump ground water more efficiently, allowing livestock and other small wildlife to have a source of drinking water.
The project continues to involve both Colorado College students as well as Kewa tribal members. Calabaza’s goal is to educate her community on renewable energy technologies that will allow cattle to spread evenly throughout the rangelands and avoid overgrazing, thus preventing further damage to the land.
The “Champions of Change” program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different issue is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community activists, are recognized for the work they are doing to better their communities.
Colorado College sponsored a 12-hour Cardboard City from noon to midnight, Sunday, Nov. 13 to kick off Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
The event, aimed at increasing awareness of hunger and homelessness, featured numerous community members, including Steve Handen, founder of the Marian House Soup Kitchen. It also included live bluegrass music, several short film clips followed by facilitated discussions, and the opportunity to have a meal at the CC Community Kitchen, one of the oldest student-run community kitchens in the country. The kitchen, which serves a hot meal 52 Sundays a year, including summer, winter, and all block breaks, will celebrate its 20th anniversary in April.
“It was a very successful first-time event, and we are eager to see it become tradition in coming years,” said Colin McCarey ’12, one of the event organizers. Student groups constructed cardboard structures outdoors on the quad, and one of the most creative was a lean-to built by the Integrative Design Club.
Because statistics indicate that nearly 40 percent of the homeless are families, there were also several events for children, including a magician and free arts and crafts activities.
Additionally, several films dealing with hunger and homelessness have been scheduled to air on campus after the event, including “Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County,” “Colfax Avenue,” featuring the individuals who live, work and survive on the longest commercial boulevard in the nation, and “Growing Hope Against Hunger.”
The strongest feature of the event was the great amount of collaboration that went into making it happen. We are a community kitchen, and Sunday I felt that to truly be the case,” McCarey said.
Colorado Springs hosts two nationally-ranked undergraduate institutions, Colorado College and the Air Force Academy— separated from one another by a short 15-minute drive and wide cultural, scheduling and administrative differences.
However, a recently awarded $6,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation will allow the schools to break down barriers to cooperation through a series of monthly forums that can range from dinners to receptions before or after an event to interdepartmental research seminars. Colorado College and the Air Force Academy have since further expanded the program to include University of Colorado-Colorado Springs students and faculty in program activities, said John Gould, associate professor of political science and lead CC contact for the grant.
The initial efforts will focus on building communication and collaboration in three areas: social sciences, humanities and natural sciences, with each division receiving $2,000 for inter-institutional community building. Although the political science departments of CC and USAFA have a long history of informal collaboration due to their mutual interest in global studies and international relations, their interaction has been irregular due to a lack of resources. Within the humanities and natural sciences, the USAFA and CC faculty have had less contact. The grant money is aimed at creating new opportunities for network development in all three divisions.
Although the program was approved only a month ago, the institutions already have made arrangements for a number of collaborative programs. These include:
- A USAFA/CC student discussion group that will attend major speakers events this year at the two colleges
- A joint student outing of biology students to local fossil beds, with a common reading and group discussion relating to evolutionary biology
- A joint dinner of the political science faculties before a lecture from military analyst Andrew Bacevich
- A possible “Super Tuesday” primary event for students and faculty
- Group student/faculty trips to the theater
- A group discussion of Machiavelli’s “Prince”
- A program of activities relating to the theme of “freedom riding and writing”
It is hoped that as the year progresses, the newly found inter-institutional community will develop a forum in which members share information about research interests, areas of potential collaboration, visiting speakers, talented one-year visiting faculty members and academic resources and strategies. The goal is to create a communal identity—rather than an institutional one; an identity that will produce leaders willing to work on behalf of a community that extends beyond departments and institutions.
The Mellon grant provides an unprecedented opportunity to overcome the initial costs and barriers to community building and realize inter-institutional opportunities.
When the Nobel Prize in physics was announced Tuesday, Shane Burns, Colorado College physics professor, shared the special elation of knowing a great deal about the work that went into the award.
Burns is one of a small group of people, including Nobel winner Saul Perlmutter, who began the work that resulted in the 1998 discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe. Burns has continued to work with the group, now known as the Supernova Cosmology Project, since its inception in 1989.
Burns and Perlmutter searched for supernovae, which are massive exploding stars, when they were graduate students in the 1980s at the University of California at Berkeley. Burns fell in love with teaching and eventually came to Colorado College, while Perlmutter remained at Berkeley, where he is a professor of physics.
With Perlmutter the “undisputed leader” of the group that became the Supernova Cosmology Project, Burns worked with as many as 30 other scientists to observe supernovae. He is a co-author of the team’s most recent paper, published in June 2010 in the Astrophysical Journal. They were in intense competition with another supernova research team, whose two leaders shared the Nobel with Perlmutter.
Using time on the Hubble space telescope, Burns worked on the project by studying the infrared brightness of supernovae during the summers and blocks off from Colorado College. Some of his calculations were done on a high-powered Mac workstation on his office desk in Barnes Science Center, in contrast to his work two decades earlier on the largest computer at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the PDP1144, a behemoth the size of a washer-dryer combination with a fraction of the capacity of his current desktop computer.
One summer in Berkeley, Burns brought in a Colorado College physics student, Katy-Robin Garton ‘01, who did measurements for the project. Garton and Burns are co-authors, with several others in the Supernova Cosmology Project, of a 2003 paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. Garton lives in Missoula, Montana, and is a documentary filmmaker.
“It was beautiful science,” said Garton, who remembers the project for its elegance and accessibility.
Brian P. Schmidt and Adam G. Riess, leader of a competing supernova research team, shared the Nobel Prize with Perlmutter.
The Colorado House of Representatives recently awarded Burns a commendation for his part in the Nobel Prize.
Burns lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Stormy, an office coordinator in the music department. They have two children.
Colorado College’s Community Kitchen, one of the oldest student-run community kitchens in the nation, will have additional volunteers when it serves its weekly meal on Sunday, Oct. 9. Joining the regular volunteers will be CC alumni living in Colorado Springs and members of the Student Alumni Association.
The Community Kitchen, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in April, provides a hot meal to the city’s hungry and homeless every Sunday afternoon at Shove Memorial Chapel. It averages about 200 guests each Sunday, said Colin McCarey ’12, one of the three kitchen managers. The kitchen also will host an Open House from 3-4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15 during Homecoming and Parents Weekend to show off its many renovations.
This year the kitchen was selected by The Independent newspaper as a recipient of its Indy GIVE! campaign, which guarantees the kitchen at least $2,500. The goal of the campaign is teach organizations how to become self-sufficient fundraisers and how to best deliver their message to the public. There are several requirements involved with being a recipient, and it is suggested that the organization host an event that engages the community. To that end, those involved with the Community Kitchen plan to construct a “tent city” on campus on Nov. 13 to raise awareness surrounding the issues of hunger and homelessness. In keeping with the situation, the construction material will be cardboard, which participants will assemble into shelters.
McCarey, an anthropology major from Oak Park, Ill., said there has been a consistent rise in the number of guests since he started working at the Community Kitchen, where he became a kitchen manager his sophomore year. “Since 2008, there have definitely been more families and more children coming in for meals,” McCarey said.
The Community Kitchen began on Easter Sunday in 1992, when a group of concerned students began serving a free weekly meal to the hungry and homeless of Colorado Springs. The students recognized a need for a hot meal on Sunday afternoons, when the Marian House was closed. The community greeted the new meal with enthusiasm, and what began as a small operation dependent upon donations from the college’s cafeteria excesses grew into a community-supported organization that this summer served an all-time high of 300 meals.
The kitchen runs on donations: Bon Appétit, the food-management company at Colorado College, Whole Foods, La Baguette and, in the summer, Miller Farms, are the primary food donors. Once a week, volunteers pick up donations from several locations around the city with which to create a meal on Sunday. Because donations fluctuate week to week, the kitchen does purchase some staples from Care and Share. Meat, rice, beans, butter, cleaning supplies, spices, and maintenance fees make for an annual operating cost of approximately $8,000. The Colorado College Student Government Association gives the kitchen an annual allotment (this year, $3,000), and last year the Empty Bowls benefit raised $3,500. Private donations help, but student managers and their staff supervisor are responsible for raising the balance every year.
Last year’s renovations to the Community Kitchen were a huge improvement, McCarey said, highlighting how apparently minor changes can make a major difference. Just ask him about the new potato slicer: “That is the coolest thing for me. What used to take us two hours, we can now do in 20 minutes.” And a mop: “That was an astronomical leap forward from using rags on the floor.” And don’t get him started on the new steel pots, which replaced some of the aluminum ones: “We can cook things three to four times as fast. Before, we could boil potatoes from 10 a.m. to 2, and they still wouldn’t be done. They were rock hard, and it was a struggle to mash them.”
Another major improvement was establishing a back storage room for the Community Kitchen to use.”This allows for a much higher level of organization,” McCarey said. “We can have long-term organization and be much more efficient.”
Since its beginning, the CC Community Kitchen has fostered a welcoming atmosphere for its guests. The kitchen managers, all students, have emphasized a unique element at the CC Community Kitchen: They insist those served are treated as guests, not clients. The kitchen strives to eliminate boundaries and stigmas that commonly alienate the homeless. Although the meal is served at 1:30 p.m., all guests are welcome for coffee and pastries beginning at 9 a.m. Many of the volunteers eat with the guests, and many of the guests volunteer with food preparation, serving, and clean-up.
The staff currently searching for a consistent source of meat donations. The kitchen always is in need of candles, matches, socks, shoes, boots, toiletry and sanitary items, clothing (especially warm coats), sleeping bags and other items to distribute to homeless guests. Also needed are donations of canned and dry goods, paper products, desserts and salad greens, plastic ware, and containers to fill with food and send home with guests. Also needed are other non-food donations that support operations such as aprons, cleaning cloths, and cutting boards. The kitchen could benefit from more storage space, an additional oven, and a new warming oven.
On Saturday, Oct. 8 a group of Colorado College students laden with free CFL light bulbs and information about weatherization services, rebates and tax credits, will participate in an energy education outreach effort called “Take Charge.”
Callie Puntenney ’14, Mallory LeeWong ’12, and Hannah Wear ’13, co-chairs of EnAct, CC’s environmental action organization, are spearheading the effort on campus. The community outreach is a collaborative effort between several groups, including Colorado Springs Utilities, Groundwork Colorado, Meadows Park Community Center, and Colorado College.
The CC volunteers will team up with area high school students and fan out across the Stratmoor area, meeting residents, offering to switch out incandescent porch bulbs with CFLs for free, connecting income-qualifying households with free weatherization services, and providing information to all residents about energy-reducing programs, rebates, and practices. Each two- to three-person team is assigned a route, and there are about 40 houses per route.
EnAct’s goal is to educate the campus about sustainability issues and opportunities for improvement, Puntenney said, and the organizers are hoping to get as many students as possible involved in Saturday’s outreach event. “EnAct is excited about interacting with the local community through this collaboration effort. It’s important for CC students to give back to the community and get to know CC’s neighbors,” she said.
“As soon as school started we began reaching out to student groups and other members of the CC community. We teamed with the Center for Service and Learning to maximize our outreach efforts. We hope that this will be a successful event and that students will be inspired to continue to give back,” Puntenney said.
The “Take Charge” program has several goals. The college students can mentor those in high school, serving as role models and answering questions about the path to college and college life. The program also helps educate students about energy efficiency and renewable energy, and introduces them to “green” job resources. “There is a new energy economy, and the labor industry is changing,” says Stephanie Fry, program manager with Groundwork Colorado. “This can help excite students about green jobs and educate them about the industry. It helps them realize there are costs, benefits, and consequences of exploration, development, and consumption of renewable and nonrenewable resources,” she said.
Usually Groundwork Colorado organizes the volunteer day, however, Fry said that the EnAct organizers have taken a “strong leadership position” and this is the first time that students have run the event. “It’s great to see,” she said.
Mike Taber, Colorado College associate professor of science education and chair of the education department, is a member of the team that won the Science Prize for Online Resources in Education, presented by the journal Science. The team won for the development of the Earth Exploration Toolbook an educational website that allows students to use real data to see a connection between science and the world. Each chapter of the toolbook focuses on a different earth science topic, with Taber publishing chapters on “Climate History from Deep Sea Sediments,” “Protecting Wetlands from Exurban Development,” and “Tsunami Run-up Prediction for Seaside Oregon using MyWorld GIS.”
Additionally, Taber coauthored an essay in the September 30 issue of Science journal titled “Making Earth Science Data Accessible and Usable in Education” that discusses the objectives of EET. The online resource came about when science educators realized that, in general, a large gap existed between the scientific and educational communities, and that little productive communication occurred between the two.
The Earth Exploration Toolbook seeks to ensure the development of the next generation of scientists by helping students develop the skills that enable them to explore scientific questions, assess the results of scientific research, and draw and communicate conclusions to others. One way to help students develop these skills is to involve them in exploring scientific questions using the same data and data analysis tools that scientists use. Like a key to the kingdom, the toolbook provides students with all they need to enter the world of real scientific data. (See more at http://serc.carleton.edu/eet/index.html)
The Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE) award reflects seven years of National Science Foundation effort. The journal Science developed the award to promote the best online materials in science education. The acronym SPORE suggests a reproductive element adapted to develop, often in less-than-ideal conditions, into something new. In a similar way, the winning project can be seen as the seed of progress in science education, despite considerable challenges to educational innovation. Science is published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society.
Six members of Colorado College’s geology department will present their research at the2011 annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, to be held Oct. 9-12 in Minneapolis. Those presenting are Ashley Contreras ’12, Eleanor Emery ‘12, and Benjamin Mackall ‘11, as well as Associate Geology Professor Henry Fricke, Geology Professor Christine Siddoway, and Geology Technical Director Stephen Weaver.
Contreras, who worked with Siddoway, will present a paper titled “New Insights on the Timing and Extent of Cretaceous Exhumation in the West Antarctic Rift System, from U-PB and (U-TH)/HE Zircon Analysis. Emery, who also collaborated with Siddoway, will present a paper titled “Use of Stereoscopic Satellite Imagery for 3D Mapping of Bedrock Structure in West Antarctica: Example from the Ford Ranges and Neogene Volcanoes of Marie Byrd Land.” Mackall, who collaborated with Geology Professor Eric Leonard, will present a paper titled “Estimates of Last Glacial Maximum Climate of the Snowy Range, Southern Wyoming, using Numerically Modeled Paleoglacier Reconstructions.”
Fricke’s research is titled “Stable and Clumped Isotope Study of Authigenic Carbonates from the Kootznahoo Formation, Alaska, and Implications for Study of Paleogene Climate and Hydrology.” Siddoway will present research titled “Potential Sources of Crustal Anisotropy in the Wyoming Province: Insights from Basement Structures of the Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming.” Weaver, who shoots the cover photos for Colorado College’s annual State of the Rockies Report and subsequent poster, will present “Beyond the Snapshot: Making the Excellent Geo-Photograph in the Field.”