CC Students Report from International COP21 Climate Change Conference

This week, Paris welcomes 196 states and the European Union for one of the biggest international summits on climate change, COP21. Four CC students are there, too, attending daily workshops and meetings concurrent with the conference, reporting back via a daily blog of events and commentary. COP21 is the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, taking place in Paris from Nov. 30-Dec. 11. It’s is described as a crucial conference, targeting creation of a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. “We have been learning about the UN climate conferences throughout our college careers,” said Lily Biggar ’16, one of the students in attendance. “We feel like being here has given us a real-life application of our academic studies.”

Students at COP21

Gabriella Palko ’16 and Lily Biggar ’16 take in lectures and workshops at COP21 Summit in Paris.

Biggar and the other three bloggers, Gabriella Palko ’16, Elliot Hillar ’17, and Zach Pawa ’17, are a self-described “group of driven Colorado College students optimistic about the opportunity to create positive systematic change in the world,” according to the blog. For two weeks, they will spend time at the Climate Generations portion of the summit, along with thousands of participants from around the globe, to convene and discuss global environmental issues. Every day, students have the opportunity to attend dozens of lectures, workshops, debates, and presentations on all aspects of climate change given by NGOs, scientists, artists, UN leaders, and government officials. Follow the group’s daily updates via the AnthropoScene blog.

Ian Johnson, director of CC’s Office of Sustainability, says it’s an incredibly powerful way for students to be actively involved in the real-time issues that are developing in Paris, engage with other students and organizations, represent CC’s sustainability initiative.

“To have students in Paris during the fervor and excitement of the event is a completely different experience from reading the daily recaps in the media; they’re a part of this history, and so are we as a college community by virtue of their participation,” said Johnson, who worked with Biggar and Palko when they served as interns in the Office of Sustainability.

Lily Biggar ’16, an environmental policy major and global health minor, co-authored the college’s first State of Sustainability Report last year and works as the sustainability intern for Residential Life. Biggar’s blog bio states that she deepened her interest in environmental issues while spending a semester studying in Copenhagen, a city often regarded as the “green capital of Europe.” She is pursuing a career in environmental consulting and corporate sustainability.

Gabriella Palko ’16, also an environmental policy major, served as CC’s greenhouse gas inventory intern and is now the intern manager at the Office of Sustainability. In her blog bio, Palko says she’s passionate about climate change, and is particularly interested in the role of industrial agriculture in the current environmental crisis, hoping to play a major role in bridging the detrimental gap between science and politics.

Elliot Hillar ’17, an environmental policy major, and Zach Pawa ’17, an environmental science major, are also participating in the summit and contributing to the blog.

In addition to keeping a blog, the students have scheduled Skype sessions with both Mark Smith’s Environmental Economics class and Corina McKendry’s Global Environmental Policy class. They will also give a presentation about the experience when they return.

CC Special Collections to Grow with $10,000 WES Gift

CC's Special Collections curator and archivist Jessy Randall accepts a $10,000 gift from the Woman's Educational Society.

CC’s Special Collections curator and archivist Jessy Randall accepts a $10,000 gift from the Woman’s Educational Society.

The Woman’s Educational Society of Colorado College Co-President Ann Burek presented $10,000 this fall to CC Special Collections curator and archivist Jessy Randall. The gift is for the purpose of enhancing the college curriculum by acquiring significant books and documents that focus on women’s history and contributions to society.

WES has a long history of support for Special Collections (also known as the Colorado College Room) at Tutt Library, including purchasing a case for rare documents in Tutt Library in 1969 and providing the Colorado College Room with furnishings in 1974.

Special Collections includes: documents, papers, publications, and photographs chronicling CC history; books by CC professors and alumni; important book collections; rare books and other valuable items (such as a page from a Gutenberg Bible or the contents of CC’s time capsule opened in the year 2000); electronic files; and access to some of the above via the internet (yearbooks, student newspapers, and time capsule contents).

CC Special Collections is open to everyone. Its main purpose is to serve CC students, but people visit from all over the world to use the rare and unique materials preserved there, including medieval manuscripts, printed books from the Gutenberg era, and the papers of 19th century writer and Indian rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson.

In the past decade, Special Collections has become much more focused on students. In 2001, it saw about 600 visitors. Since 2009, Special Collections has had about 1,600 visitors each year. The majority of these researchers are CC students, though visitors come from all over the world. Special Collections used to get a dozen class visits a year, and now it sees about 50. This means CC classes are visiting almost once a week. Many of these classes do block-long projects using the historic materials. Some examples from the last academic year include a medieval history class looking at manuscripts and early printed books; a Southwest studies class using primary sources of diaries and letters; and an architecture class studying the development of the CC campus using photographs and files.

Part of the library’s mission is to capture CC’s history, and to provide students with access to books and documents of the sort maintained by Special Collections. The Woman’s Educational Society said this gift allows the organization to make a proud contribution to this mission.

CC Dubbed “Bike-Friendly” and Striving to be Even Friendlier

Monica Black ‘19

Many CC students, faculty, and staff know that campus is a great place to be a bike enthusiast, but now CC has finally received formal recognition: Colorado College has been named a “Bicycle Friendly University” by the League of American Bicyclists. Factors such as CC’s 1:1 bike rack to student ratio, a student-run bike co-op, and the bike rental program all played into the decision. The ranking also included a space for testimonials from students on the friendliness of the campus bike culture.

Although CC received praise for its current biking culture, unique challenges remain for those who get around on two wheels. Most of the throughways around campus are city streets, so CC’s ability to make an impact on crossings and bike lanes is minimal. Additionally, the campus is isolated from many of the business centers in sprawling Colorado Springs because many busy municipal roads lack bike lanes.

But, Ian Johnson, director of thBikes in the snowe Office of Sustainability, who submitted CC for bike-friendly campus recognition, said he’s looking eagerly toward the future. “As CC is a major part of the downtown biking culture, we’ve embarked on a feasibility study with [the city of Colorado Springs] and other key stakeholders to develop a bike share program that suits both the city and our campus, to help tie us more closely to the community,” said Johnson. This program aims to help connect the college to Old Colorado City, Manitou Springs, and University Village, and encourages the culture of biking among a student body, which sometimes claims “you need a car in the Springs.”

Students, staff, and faculty will play the biggest role in further adopting bike culture into campus life. “The biggest thing that people can do is to bike to work and class regularly, and let us know what sorts of challenges they’re facing,” said Johnson. “It’s not for the sake of a designation, but for the benefit of the real users on our campus.”

Women’s XC Head to Nationals, Castaneda Named Coach of the Year

Montana Bass ’18

The CC women’s cross country team took fourth in regional championships last weekend, qualifying three runners (Allysa Warling ’19, Leah Wessler ’17, and Katie Sandfort ’17) for the NCAA National Meet Nov. 21. This comes after wrapping up October with an exciting win and another Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship in October. Additionally, in exclusive voting by the head coaches of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, CC’s Ted Castaneda was selected SCAC Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season.

As part of the team’s conference win, six of the Tiger’s runners finished in the top 10 and junior Leah Wessler captured her second consecutive individual title at Stone Creek Golf Club in Sherman, Texas. She also repeated as SCAC Women’s Runner of the Year.

Wessler said much of the team’s success this season is owed to the addition of “awesome new runners, who pushed returning athletes to work even harder.” The team also lost only one senior from the previous season. “We were able to build on the momentum of last year, when we finally beat our rival, Trinity,” said Wessler.

But the team has overcome some challenges en route to the championship. Last year, tendonitis flared up in Wessler’s ankle during track season, so this year she maintained a regimen of consistent icing and massages. The addition of new recruits and different racing styles required team-wide adjustments. “Members of a good team need to know and predict the movements of other teammates around them during a race, so people know when to step in for a member who is having a bad race, when to make a move on runners of another team, and so on,” said Wessler. “I think one of the reasons we were so successful at the conference meet was that we have fully adjusted to the new team dynamics, and we were running for each other as well as for ourselves.”

About two weeks leading up to a big race, the team “eases up” their workouts. “I usually stop doing two-a-days to rest my legs,” said Wessler. The day before the race, they run the course to make sure everyone knows route. “I’m very good at getting lost,” Wessler admitted.

Though they felt fairly confident entering the conference meet, Wessler called the course one of the most difficult the team had experienced this season. “Usually my mind wanders a lot during races, but there were so many ups and downs, swamps, mud puddles, and sharp turns, that there was always something to pay attention to,” she explained. “I was pretty stressed by how fast my energy and adrenaline were subsiding because of all the hills and mud.”Women's Cross Country team celebrates the conference win.

Dan Levitt ’16 and Professor Clay Haskell Tell Story of Syrian Refugee Camp

Montana Bass ’19

Senior Dan Levitt and Clay Haskell, assistant professor of film and media studies, are in the midst of pulling together the finished product after a moving independent study experience. They spent Block 2 filming a documentary focused on former Syrian wrestling star Mohammed al Krad in Za’atari, a Syrian refugee camp on the border of Syria and Jordan.

Dan Levitt '16 and Clay Haskell, assistant professor, work on a documentary film project at the Jordan-Syria border. Levitt became interested in filmmaking the summer after his sophomore year, when he took a class with Haskell. “I realized this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” Levitt said. When his close family friend Linda Mason wrote an article on al Krad and the wrestling program he had built in Za’atari for The Huffington Post, Levitt was inspired and immediately saw the possibility the story held for film.

He reached out Haskell to see if he would collaborate on the project. “It was an easy choice for me,” Haskell said of working with Levitt. “He is really top quality.” To which Levitt added, “I felt an immense honor to be working with a master of the medium.”

As the retired chairwoman of Mercy Corps Leadership Council, one of the organizations providing aid for refugees in Za’atari, Mason was able to help orchestrate time for Levitt and Haskell in Za’atari. Levitt started fundraising for the trip at the beginning of this academic year. Eventually, he raised enough money to cover all costs with a combination of grants from the CC Political Science Department, the President’s Fund, a Venture Grant matched by Dean of Students Mike Edmonds, and his own Kickstarter campaign.

Conditions in Za’atari saddened both Haskell and Levitt. “We were astounded by the destitution of the situation,” said Levitt. “There’s a feeling of deep sadness because people are without the means to advance their lives. Here at CC, we have so many opportunities to pursue our passions. They’ve had everything taken from them. A lot of these people were educated professionals in Syria.”

“The border situation is a mess,” added Haskell. “People are stuck because they don’t have the financial resources to get out. Many escape across the nearest border they can find. They’re trying to get to Germany or they’re drowning in Greece. This is probably the biggest humanitarian crisis of our age.”

Amid this destitution, Mohammed al Krad stands as a symbol of community and hope. After he escaped Syria and the government’s attempts to use his celebrity to influence Syrian youth on their behalf, al Krad found himself in Za’atari and, with the help of Mercy Corps, started a wrestling program to give the boys of the camp a positive focus. “To say he was only a coach would be reductive. He was really a therapist and a community builder,” explained Levitt. “He knew the ins and outs of all their lives and was there for them, and that was reflected in their love for him.”

Now, Levitt is in the process of editing his film, which he plans to finish in about a month. Along with bringing awareness to the situation, Levitt hopes the finished product will carry the message that “even in the darkest of times, life goes on,” as he said. “People were getting married, having kids, life goes on.”

“It was an extraordinary experience all around,” said Haskell of their project. Both Levitt and Haskell express thanks for the support they received from Colorado College and Mercy Corps, which made their endeavor possible. The CC community should keep an eye out for Levitt’s documentary screening, which will probably take place later during Block 4.

New Resource Tracks CC Speakers, Scholars, Events

Message on behalf of CC’s first Tiger Pen team:

Wondering what major speakers are coming to campus next semester? Looking for more information about a presentation you saw last year? Searching for ideas while planning for a major speaker?

We are proud to present “Speakers, Scholars, and Events,” a new web resource that aims to meet those needs. With the Block Plan’s rapid pace, sometimes you don’t hear about an outstanding speaker until she’s already gone. The new web resource aims to keep the campus community better informed, and features a selection of the many amazing visitors who interact with the campus community each block.

Speakers, Scholars, and Events” is the result of CC’s first Tiger Pen, which convened this summer to solve a problem selected by campus community vote: With so many events happening and the pace of the Block Plan, we often miss some of our amazing visitors entirely, or aren’t able to connect with them as much as we’d like.

The web resource aims to solve this problem by providing a new lens through which to view CC speakers. The web resource:

  • Enables the CC community to better anticipate upcoming academic events and prevents scheduling conflicts
  • Presents information well in advance of speakers’ visits
  • Keeps a record of past events including additional information after the event is complete
  • Enhances the new CC Events Management system by providing more depth and breadth of information and highlighting major events appearing on the campus calendar
  • Showcases how endowed funds are used

The Tiger Pen is a focused way to solve problems and/or implement new ideas directly related to CC’s academic mission and the format means a different team of experts is selected for each project.

The Tiger Pen concept was 1 of 10 innovative pilot projects funded by the Center for Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching Action team.

First Tiger Pen Team Members:

Caitlin Apigian

Bethany Grubbs

Mark Lee

Tomi-Ann Roberts

Chad Schonewill

Jenn Sides

Christine Smith-Siddoway

Brenda Soto

Kris Stanec

Stephanie Wurtz

 

Jessica Hunter-Larsen ’90 Honored for Pushing the Envelope

Montana Bass ’18

Jessica Hunter-Larsen ’90, curator of CC’s InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts or IDEA Space, has received the award for “Pushing the Envelope” from the Pikes Peak Arts Council. She was recognized for three exhibitions: “Re-Orientations,” “Transmission/Frequency: Tesla and His Legacy,” and “Extending the Line.”

Hunter-Larsen said the projects developed out of her own persistent questions including, “What are Tesla’s scientific and cultural legacies?” “How do contemporary artists respond to 19th Century Orientalist images?” and “What are the myriad meanings and expressions of a simple concept, such as a line?” Through the IDEA Space, which is founded on the premise that participation in the arts engenders creative thinking in all endeavors, she was able to collaborate with artists, CC faculty and students, and the greater Colorado Springs community to explore these questions. Together, they attended and participated in research, public lectures, discussions, classes, and performances.

“I feel like this award signifies that IDEA is living up to its full title: InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts,” said Hunter-Larsen. She noted that the purpose of the program is “to create a community of seekers, rather than to present information.” This atmosphere of creative exploration allows Hunter-Larsen and members of the CC and Colorado Springs community to pursue intriguing questions in a much different manner than a formal academic setting would allow.

Looking toward the future, Hunter-Larsen continues to plan exhibitions of art exploration at IDEA Space. Over the next year, she said she hopes to “explore topics such as water conservation, the legacy of the nuclear age in the Southwest, and contemporary Native American art based on traditional crafts.” Hunter-Larsen expressed gratitude to CC for the philosophical and financial support of this program, which she said has truly created a “fertile environment for challenging perceived boundaries and taking artistic risks.”

With these exciting upcoming projects in mind and a new award under her belt, it’s no surprise she feels so satisfied with her job, which she describes as “just plain fun, because I am always learning.”

Young Poet Brings Personal Connection to Syrian Civil War

Monica Black ’19

Poet Amal Kassir, 19, is not one to skirt around issues. Upon entering CC’s Slocum Hall Oct. 26, wearing a black hijab, the University of Colorado-Boulder student stated the obvious with a small smile: “I’m the only scarved girl here.” Her audience, seated around her at tables, laughed nervously. “I get this question all the time: ‘Who cuts your hair?’” And with that prompt, she launched into one of her award-winning spoken word poems. Her poems fiercely defend the dignity of her Syrian-American identity and the importance of family and connection to place.

With constant fearlessness, she attacked and confronted issues of her identity. Born of a Syrian father and an American mother, Kassir grew up in Aurora, Colorado, but spent much of her childhood in Syria. “America,” she recited, “taught me spangling my scarves with stars.” She described a road trip through Colorado, Austin, the Grand Canyon, and San Diego that left her with impressions that her spine was like the American Aspen, that her Iowan mother had drunk the same water as every American to nurture her in the womb, that she was constructed of the very land that now marginalized immigrant families like hers. Elements of the poem were accusatory as well: “My immigrant father is your dream!” she recited. It was a triumphant reclaiming of her identity, the hope that those contradictions not be so offensive or problematic after all.

The Race, Ethnicity and Migration Studies Department invited Kassir, who works with refugees and is an education advocate for marginalized and displaced American youth, to lend perspective to the traditional narrative of the Syrian civil war. The discussion was the first of a series of “roundtable discussions” that REMS plans to put on this year. Claire Garcia, professor and chair of the REMS department, stated the group’s intention for this roundtable discussion was to promote comprehension of the global response to the crisis caused by the Syrian civil war.

Kassir, who still has connections to her father’s homeland, offered both a human perspective as a Syrian-American affected by the conflict, and an informed position on the global response. But her personal connection to the region did not prevent her from seeing it in terms of foreign policy; in fact, it lends to that analysis. During the discussion led by student and faculty panel members, Kassir offered her opinions on the response of the U.S., calling for a no-fly zone above the region to stem the outflow of refugees to neighboring countries, the outflow which has in recent months provoked a crisis, most notably in the European Union.

However, Kassir did not want attendees to discount the relevance of personal experience in the understanding of current issues; her poem “My Grandmother’s Farm” was a deeply moving tribute to the way that civilians, in particular farmers, view the regime of dictator Bashar Al-Assad.

They cut down the plum trees in my grandmother’s farm,

Ripped the pomegranate bushes from the earth,

The lemons don’t grow anymore.

And we wonder

If the tyrant even remembers who fed him.

Even thousands of miles away, Kassir feels the impact of the civil war and feels her ties to the land, just like she feels ties to America. “Syria redefined happy for us,” she told the group, “and redefined sadness. I have learned a lot better to love since the civil war.”

Sacred Grounds Renovation Keeps Student Space in Hands of Students

Monica Black ’19

The beloved Sacred Grounds space on the lower level of Shove Memorial Chapel recently received a dramatic makeover. Gone are the narrow side stairs, metal railings and black-box feel of the old Sacred Grounds, replaced with almost unrecognizable but equally warm and welcoming architecture. The new space — replete with light, warm colors — features multiple levels, a small meeting area, a shiny new kitchen, and various benches and sitting spaces scattered throughout. A new audio-visual system is also in place for late-night screenings, music performances, and other events. Student manager Vanessa Voller ’16 added, “in light of the larger ‘Sense of Place’ initiative on campus we are very excited to revamp the fair-trade focus of Sacred Grounds this year: sourcing direct trade and locally grown (when possible) teas and coffee.”

Sacred Grounds is an integral part of spiritual life at CC: programs over meals, such as Shove Council and Spiritual Journeys, are held there; Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and GROW meet in the space; and it serves as a quiet study area when no groups are in session.

Sacred Grounds is perhaps best known among the student body, however, for the Sacred Grounds Tea House. The Tea House is a student-run, late-night (9 p.m. – 1 a.m.) coffee and teahouse, sometimes hosting open mics, screenings, and other events (like Stitch ‘n’ Bitch, the crafting-and-complaining club). Sacred Grounds was conceived with the idea that students should be in charge of a space on campus, and in fact, the managers of the space are students, like Voller and Jesús Loayza ’16. “We’re looking forward to collaborating with student groups in the space,” said Loayza. “Many don’t know that they can use Sacred Grounds for late-night events. That’s going to be one of our marketing department’s priorities here on out.”

Chaplain Bruce Coriell and Jera Wooden, Chaplains’ Office manager, wanted to respect the student-led nature of the space and encouraged student input during the planning process. “There aren’t many places on campus where students can direct the space without much restriction,” said Coriell. They received all kinds of responses and worked in close harmony with several students, including Ben Kimura ’16 and Jacey Stewart ’17, during the planning sessions of the renovation. Students expressed the desire for a “homier, less institutionalized” space, according to Wooden. “Conceptually, the idea for the space was to emulate a river, the eddies and the flows,” commented Coriell. This idea of “flow” was inserted into the plans for the stairs and levels; it does in fact mimic a river tumbling down a hill. “If you’re tuned in, you can feel it,” said Coriell.

Upon completion of the renovation, reception has been overwhelmingly positive. “Walking through here in the morning,” said Coriell, whose office is nestled in the back of Sacred Grounds, “the space feels twice as big. I’m thrilled.” Loayza was excited about some of the architectural features. “The levels are also more conducive to hosting events. I think the high-top bars will be a hit amongst students as well.”

The bulk of the renovation was completed over the summer and Sacred Grounds celebrated with a re-dedication ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 4. Check out the teahouse, now open every night from 9 p.m. – 1 a.m.

Students Venture to Venable Lakes

Students travel to Venable Lakes. Photo by Emilio Rodríguez Cáceres ’17.

Students travel to Venable Lakes. Photo by Emilio Rodríguez Cáceres ’17.

Montana Bass ’18

Emilio Rodríguez Cáceres ’17 knows how to explore the mountains and back county via the outdoor opportunities at CC; this past block break he ventured out on a backpacking trip around the Venable Lakes-Comanche area in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado.

This block break was actually Cáceres’s ninth trip with the CC Outdoor Recreation Committee. His trips have included other backpacking expeditions and cross country ski trips. Through these opportunities, he has traveled throughout Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. Cáceres says the outdoor expeditions available through the ORC were a large contributor to his interest in CC. “Back in New Mexico, in my high school I got to do a lot of these things for the first time. Where I’m from, Paraguay, there isn’t a culture of going outside. I wanted to keep doing these things and ORC trips are the perfect way of doing that,” he explained.

Andrew Allison-Godfrey ’18 and Jack Buettner ’18 headed the Venable Lakes trip. It spanned four days during the block break between Blocks 2 and 3 and took participants on a 13-mile loop through the Venable Lakes-Comanche area. They started hiking Thursday morning and, after four miles, reached camp in a picturesque valley. On Friday, they hiked out of the valley, stopped at the Venable Lakes, and continued hiking up a ridge. “From the ridge, we hiked to the top of Comanche Peak at about 13,000 feet where we had an incredible view of the lakes, other peaks, and even Pikes Peak on the distant horizon,” Cáceres said. “That night we had a bonfire and sang under the stars.”

Cáceres stresses how accessible these trips are for all students; this one required no previous backpacking experience to participate. Additionally, ORC trips are meant to be an affordable option for students looking to venture outdoors. “There’s no better option for being outside, meeting new people, and spending little money while doing so than ORC trips,” Cáceres said.