Better Understand Your Irrational Behavior with Professor Thaler

Monica Black ’19

Humans are attached to their stuff.

This is the idea behind behavioral economics, a blossoming field in finance. The typical neoclassical, traditional economic vision of the human psyche is that it is rational and wants to maximize profits, but behavioral economics, which only came into vogue in the 1970s, takes into consideration the innate irrationality of humans when it comes to economic decision-making. The psychology of the consumer can affect the market.

On Wednesday, April 27, Richard Thaler , professor of economics at the University of Chicago will be giving a talk titled “Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics.”

Thaler is considered one of the fathers of behavioral economics, a young field.

Mark Smith, CC professor of economics, was instrumental in bringing Thaler to campus. Smith says, “I wanted to bring him to campus because behavioral economics is one of the most exciting trends in economics today.”

Two of Thaler’s books, “Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics” (2015) and “Nudge: Improving Decisions about Wealth, Health, and Happiness” (2009), lay out his theory and practical applications for the thinking consumer. “I have used both books as required supplemental readings in my microeconomics courses to expose my students to behavioral economics,” says Smith.

Though many students may be put off by the seemingly niche title, behavioral economics’ daily applications are manifold. In “Nudge,” Thaler and co-author Cass Sunstein detail ways that an understanding of behavioral economics can help people save money, encourage contributions to charity, and take care of their health. It also allows us to understand why we are so shortsighted when it comes to impactful economic decisions, and how to rewire that tendency.

“[Thaler] should be interesting to anyone who is interested in economics, public policy, psychology, judgment and decision-making, and simply how people think,” says Smith, who specializes in environmental economy and is interested in the policy implications of Thaler’s work. “He will be a provocative speaker. I think people will enjoy his stories.”

Hear from Thaler Wednesday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Celeste Theatre.

CC Grad Receives National Attention for Investigative Feature

By Montana Bass ’18

Tay Wiles ’08 recently got her big break in a journalism career, sparked here at CC, with a feature-length story in High Country News, where she is an editor.

“I was a winter start,” Wiles says of her introduction to both CC and the start of her journalistic career came during her first year at CC when, “I saw a copy of the Cipher. I remember thinking immediately, ‘I want to work for that.’” And that’s exactly what she did. Wiles went on to become editor-in-chief of the Cipher during her senior year, preparation for her later success. That year, the team received a grant and Wiles was able to help transform the magazine from an extremely radical publication to the more balanced, literary reportage it provides today. “I love that in college publications, there’s a lot of turn over. It makes it difficult, but it also makes for a huge range of alumni who feel invested in it,” says Wiles.

She also worked in both the news and music departments at KRCC during her time as a student. Jeff Bieri, KRCC program manager, hired Wiles as his assistant when he worked as music director. He says she “was absolutely eating up the experience of learning here at CC, getting involved in every opportunity that came her way to gain experience.”

A recent feature for HCN, “Sugar Pine Mine: The Other Standoff,” was Wiles’ first feature since her years at CC, the first in her professional career, and it has received national recognition. The publication of the story aligned fortuitously with national media attention to developments in the conflict. HCN capitalized on the spike in national interest, posting new updates and teasers from Wiles’ feature on the website in the days leading up to its release. “It sort of dovetailed,” says Wiles. “It was really exciting to me because I felt that all the work I’d been doing over the previous year really came to fruition.”

Prior to HCN, she earned a degree in religion with a journalism minor from CC. “A lot of why I was interested in religion was that I really like to try to understand how people perceive their world, how they understand the forces that put them where they are, and how they fit into society,” she explains. Her intense curiosity translated well into her work in investigative environmental journalism with HCN.

The year after she graduated, Wiles completed a fellowship with Mother Jones magazine in San Francisco, which she credits for her precise editing skills. “They really go after environmental justice — hard. I was always fact-checking, meeting with editors, making sure that stories were air-tight so we wouldn’t come under fire.”

The “Sugar Pine Mine” story was a part of the “Sagebrush Rebellion” issue, and drew on those skills. Wiles expertly reports the story of a mining dispute between the radical Oath Keepers and federal government in Josephine County, Oregon, which caused a standoff that threatened to erupt into an armed battle.

Wiles continues to prove herself as an excellent journalist by landing the editing position at HCN, a publication she cares for deeply, just over five years after completing her fellowship. “I love that it’s a small, tight-knit team,” she says of working at HCN, “We really try to pick ideas that mean something to people. We get people calling who say ‘Hey I’m calling from Idaho. This is what’s going on for me,’ and if it’s good we’ll write it.”

The Bulletin, PrintReLeaf, and Reforestation

By Montana Bass ’18

The next time you pick up a copy of CC’s alumni magazine, the Bulletin, realize that not only are you learning about the awesome lives of CC graduates, you’re also holding a publication that is truly environmentally responsible.

The Bulletin has a long history of being green. Sappi Opus, the paper used for printing, is made from 30 percent post-consumer recycled fiber. It is certified by both the Forestry Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which means it is approved by two of the most influential forest management and sustainability foundations. It’s also green-e certified, meaning that renewable energy is used in the paper production.

How could it get any greener? Enter PrintReLeaf. Tracking the amount of paper that clients order and consume, PrintReLeaf equates that data to the amount of trees used, and then plants the same amount of trees in areas where forests have been degraded or depleted. Felix Sanchez, CC’s creative director, says a representative from Triangle Printing in Denver where the Bulletin is printed, introduced him to PrintReLeaf.

“It was fairly easy to join the PrintReleaf program,” says Sanchez. “We have been a part of PrintReleaf for the past two issues of the Bulletin. An online account and a customized dashboard show how much paper we have used for each issue and how many trees have been planted based on our consumption. It’s a fun, interactive, and transparent way to understand our impact, not only in paper usage, but in global sustainability efforts, too.”

This system makes responsible paper usage and reforestation efforts highly tangible. The PrintReLeaf certificates and dashboards actually allow CC to follow the growth of trees planted in honor of paper used for the Bulletin.

“Right now, we are helping to replant trees in Brazil through the We Forest project, which is working to combat the progressive loss of biodiversity in the Upper Paraná Atlantic Rainforest Ecoregion. This helps contribute towards the restoration of some of the best and most extensive examples of the Atlantic Forest in Brazil,” explains Sanchez. “PrintReLeaf’s goal is to replant 700,000 to 1 million trees every year. It makes me feel good to know that we are contributing to this honorable endeavor.” From paper consumption of the past two editions of the Bulletin, CC has helped We Forest replant 431 trees.

CC’s partnership with PrintReLeaf doesn’t have to be limited to the Bulletin. Sanchez promises efforts are being made to work with other print vendors to enroll in PrintReleaf to monitor paper consumption for most printed publications in the Office of Communications.

Sanchez encourages students interested in seeing their everyday paper usage equated to reforestation efforts to push for PrintReleaf’s expansion. He adds, “students have a strong voice in the college’s sustainable efforts — in fact, most of the sustainable efforts at the college would not exist if it were not for the demands or activism of students.”

Lizzy Stephan ’11 Puts Her Passion to Work as New Era’s New Director

By Monica Black ’19

CC’s prestigious Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) has produced scores of young leaders who go on to develop the nonprofit sector in Colorado and beyond. One such impressive fellow is Lizzy Stephan ’11, who was recently named director of New Era Colorado, an organization dedicated to increasing political participation among youth in Colorado.

“I work at New Era because I believe in the power of democracy to create change, and I believe in the power of young people to accelerate that change,” says Stephan. “I’ve long believed that young people deserve a real seat at the table.”

New Era’s work includes developing innovative solutions to voter registration problems and advocacy work to bring preregistration and online registration to the state of Colorado. The organization made headlines in 2013 when it spearheaded an effort in Boulder to engage youth in a movement to divest from coal and switch to renewable energy sources, pushing back against the energy monopoly in the city.

“New Era is celebrating our 10th anniversary this year, and we’re now one of the largest young voter mobilization programs in the country,” said Stephan. Stephan was named director this March, and she’ll be taking over as the nation heads into the election season. “We’re poised to run our largest statewide voter registration, education, and turnout efforts to date.”

Stephan was a sociology major at CC, co-chaired EnAct for a year, and interned in the Office of Sustainability. She was also always involved in politics, participating in the 2010 midterm election campaign efforts and pushing the school to make responsible investments.

These activities also inspired her career. “Studying sociology at Colorado College made me impatient with and unaccepting of ‘the way things are,’” says Stephan. “At New Era, we’re more driven by ‘the way things could be.’”

Stephan was a two-time fellow through PIFP. “My first PIFP placement showed me that it was possible to make a career out of the full-time pursuit of social change.” Stephan later worked at the Bell Policy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing opportunity for all in the state of Colorado. Through these fellowships, she developed a passion for politics as the vehicle for change.

To this day, Stephan loves her job: “I feel more like I’m obsessively pursuing a hobby than anything else.”

Celebrating Shakespeare with CC’s ‘Sonnet-A-Thon’

By Montana Bass ’18

“Shakespeare was an extraordinary genius and there’s no better way to begin to discover [Shakespeare], than by actually speaking him,” says Andrew Manley, associate professor of theatre. Students, faculty, and staff will have the opportunity to do just that this Friday from 6-9 p.m. in Cornerstone Main Space. Manley says he created CC’s first “Sonnet-A-Thon”sonnetathonposter in the spirit of community celebration, with participants reciting all of Shakespeare’s sonnets in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The sonnets are short, 14 lines each, so are accessible for those inexperienced in theatre and literature. “I think they’re cool,” says Abigayle Cosinuke ’16, who will be performing. “They’re very concise, but cover such a range of feelings. Everyone knows Shakespeare but not that many people have read a lot of the sonnets and also don’t realize how relevant and accessible they are.”

With 154 to choose from, it’s not hard to find one with a personal ring to it. Tinka Avramova ’16 connected with “Sonnet 47,” which she explains is about longing and the way that feelings of love are intensified when looking at one’s loved one. “I think I was struggling with not being with the person I love and wanting to see them,” she explains.

Cosinuke chose “Sonnet 142” for its uniqueness. “It’s the only sonnet written in octets,” she says. “It’s also about hate, which is unusual and fun because it’s so dramatic. They think it’s about his wife, Anne Hathaway. I actually already have it memorized because I recited it in high school when I went on a theatre trip and we visited Anne Hathaway’s house.”

The reciting of all of these works will give audience members and performers a chance to connect personally with one of the greatest literary geniuses of all time. Manley adds, “This is a reminder that we are still performing Shakespeare after all this time. His poems are still relevant – they speak to us across 400 years. That’s amazing!” And, according to Cosinuke, “Shakespeare is bae,” so don’t miss out.

Gretchen Hammer ’94 Honored with 2016 Livesay Award

By Monica Black ’19

Gretchen Hammer ’94, currently Colorado’s Medicaid director, has been spearheading change for a healthier Colorado via the nonprofit sector for decades.

The board of the Public Interest Fellowship Program (PIFP) recently selected Hammer as the recipient of the 2016 Livesay Award for Social Change. The award is given to alumni who have contributed significantly to the nonprofit sector in their dedication to social change and mentorship.

“Colorado College graduates do so many amazing things in the world,” says Hammer upon receiving notice of the award. “I am humbled to be considered a contributing member of this community.”

Hammer, upon graduating with a master’s in public health from the University of Washington, worked as a consultant for nonprofit and other public-serving organizations for 10 years, where she first got acquainted with the world of public interest. During this time, she also worked on a number of boards for nonprofits. Then she took on the role of director for the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, fulfilling a goal to direct a nonprofit that she says was inspired during her time at CC.

Lani Hinkle ’83, director of PIFP, says Hammer’s strong advocacy role was one reason she was selected as recipient of the award. “Her work has included a strong commitment to mobilizing coalitions, a vital role as a thought leader and advocate for health equity, and a passion for mentoring younger members of the nonprofit sector,” says Hinkle.

Hammer has now moved into the realm of state government with her work in Colorado Medicaid. She remains focused nonetheless on programs and social services that will help the most vulnerable members of the state. “People with injuries who can’t access needed medical services can’t work, can’t attend school, and can’t take care of their families,” says Hammer. “These are challenges we can solve if we are willing to collaborate across all sectors of society and keep the needs of those we serve at the center of what we do.” Hammer will be honored at the annual PIFP dinner in May.

Battle is on for the Big Idea 2016

Five student teams are preparing to battle it out at CC’s annual Big Idea pitch competition Tuesday, April 5. Teams will present compelling pitches for their ideas to a distinguished panel of judges and at the end of the event, the judges award a monetary prize, $50,000, to the winning team(s), providing seed money for launching the students’ ideas. The competition supports CC’s strategic initiative to provide resources, structure, and encouragement to students and faculty as they investigate social and environmental challenges, understand the context in which they exist, identify sustainable solutions, and put them into action. Presented by Innovation@CC and Mountain Chalet, the competition takes place 4-6 p.m. in Celeste Theatre. Come out and see who wins, plus CC students in attendance can win prize drawings. Learn about this year’s competitors: I-Vest Colorado, Lion of the Sea, Neonic, Pick Up, and Spindle.

The five teams competing at the event are:

I-Vest Colorado: I-Vest Colorado is an online crowdfunding platform that serves as an intermediary between local non-accredited investors and local startup companies.

King of the Sea: Lion of the Sea seeks to grow a regular market for consumption of a tasty, exotic seafood: Lionfish.   Lion of the Sea will connect with fishing operations in the Caribbean and West Atlantic to harvest Lionfish and thereby reduce the negative impact Lionfish have on aquatic ecosystems.

Neonic: By creating an interactive way in which concert-goers can become part of the performance, Neonic uses people’s smartphones to create a unique crowd-sized canvas of art.

Pick Up: Pick Up is a cloud platform that helps colleges and their students improve the intramural sports experience.

Spindle: Using neurotechnology, Spindle is creating a ‘smart mask’ to improve memory retention and enhance the function of the brain.

 

 

Distinguished Psychologist to Speak at CC

By Montana Bass ’18

Poster for Jamison's lectureKathryn Mohrman Theatre will be completely packed with students Wednesday evening, predicts Kristi Erdal, psychology professor, as they anxious await Kay Redfield Jamison’s delivery of the annual Sabine Distinguished Lecture in Psychology.

Jamison is the author of the bestselling memoir “An Unquiet Mind,” which details her personal struggle with bipolar disorder. She is also Dalio Family Professor in Mood Disorders, Professor of Psychiatry at John Hopkins School of Medicine, and a “Hero of Medicine” according to TIME magazine, Her lecture Wednesday, March 30, at 7 p.m., “Touched With Fire: Mood Disorders, The Arts, and Creativity,” should be especially interesting to CC’s creatively charged campus.

Mood disorders, which Jamison describes as “devastating illness with high suicide rates,” are particularly relevant to college students as onset typically occurs at college age. It is for this reason, Jamison says, that she made a commitment relatively early in her career to spend as much time as possible on college campuses and at medical schools talking to students. “When ‘An Unquiet Mind’ came out, I asked my publisher if I could gear my appearances more toward students,” she says, “I really enjoy talking to them. They tend to be very interested in subjects related to mood disorders and creativity.”

It was not until she began teaching at UCLA that Jamison herself was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “Before I became ill, my interests ranged all over the place,” she says, “I studied animal behavior, pain, and a host of subjects before I turned my focus to mania.” Despite her disorder, Jamison’s passion led her to make incredible contributions to both science and literature.

“She was a professor at a time when not many women were accepted into the field of psychiatry and has done it all while struggling with a severe mental illness,” says Erdal. “For years, students have been talking to me about their interest in her research and her ability to communicate. Once I read her work, I could see why they were so moved by it. She doesn’t hold back or paint mental illness in any sort of broad strokes.”

Despite the fact that Jamison’s works have received a multitude of praise and provided profound hope and insight for many readers, she admits that English was never part of her academic studies. “I always read a lot. At some point, I just started writing more,” she explains. “It’s more about loving literature. Writing is just so intrinsically fascinating and rewarding.”

According to Erdal, in Jamison’s case, beautiful writing translates to beautiful speaking. “I know that she is a tremendous speaker, very straightforward,” Erdal says “I think she can peel away a lot in just an hour because of the legitimacy of what she’s saying. Students will gain a deeper understanding not just of the connection between mood disorders and creativity, but of the nature of these diseases.”

Meet Maria Mendez: CC’s New SARC

Maria MendezBy Monica Black ’19

With the start of 2016, the Sexual Assault Response Program welcomed a new leader: Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC), Maria Mendez.

Mendez has been working since January 4, the beginning of Half-Block. “Aready, I have come to admire and be inspired by students on campus and the drive and passion they have in all facets of life,” says Mendez.

The SARC’s two main roles are support and prevention. She is a confidential resource that survivors, no matter the perceived severity of the violence, can use to work through all forms of dating and sexual violence in whatever capacity they choose.

Mendez’s previous work is mainly in prevention. Before coming to CC, she worked for a domestic violence and rape crisis center in her home state, California. There she worked in grant writing and eventually transitioned to working to develop programming intended to educate on and prevent sexual violence.

In recent years, Mendez says, media coverage of and White House focus on the high rate of sexual assault of women on campuses shifted the focus in sexual assault work to college communities. At the crisis center, Mendez became more involved with the local college. “It sparked interest for me to work on a college campus,” says Mendez. “When the opportunity here at CC came up, I jumped on it.”

CC in particular appealed to Mendez because of the history of the SARC program. “I loved how CC was talking about the issue and how the program had been around since 2004,” she says. “It was very encouraging for me.”

The program has seen transitions recently. When Tara Misra, SARC from 2013-2015, left the position, it created a temporary vacancy. Last semester Gail Murphy-Geiss, the Title IX coordinator, and Heather Horton, director of the Wellness Resource Center, acted as interim SARCs in the absence of a full-time employee.

The White House Sexual Misconduct Climate Survey that Murphy-Geiss conducted last April indicated that sexual assault is an ongoing problem at CC, in line with the national average on campuses, and that many survivors do not file complaints. Murphy-Geiss wrote in the conclusion of the study that “creative programs and ongoing dialogues must continue to be at the center of prevention and response efforts.”

In fact, reduction of sexual assault on campus is one of Mendez’s goals. “Moving forward, I hope that because of the prevention efforts from several offices around campus, including the SARC, and the community,” she says, “my support role will no longer have to be my primary function.”

Bridge Scholars Talk Finance on Alternative Block Break

By Montana Bass ’18

Retirement, investing, and budgeting were topics of discussion for about 40 students during the break between Blocks 5 and 6. The Bridge Scholars Program provided an alternative break program focused on financial literacy titled “Work Hard to Play Hard: A Unique Spin on Financial Literacy” consisting of an on-campus session and a daytrip to Denver.

Prentiss Dantzler, current Riley Scholar and sociology professor who helped lead the workshop, says it was a great success. “The most important point for students to take away is that actions performed today have an impact on their lives long-term. Whether it’s attending CC or swiping their credit card to pay for miscellaneous items, what we do today has an effect on our position tomorrow.”

Atiya Harvey ’18 attended the workshop and says she was pleasantly surprised by the amount she learned. “It was much more beneficial than I thought it was going to be,” she admits. “We discussed what financial literacy means to us and talked about our own financial goals.” Students traveled to Denver for a career-focused component of the workshop, visiting with professionals, including CC graduates, from a variety of companies to talk about career choice and opportunities.

Ultimately, Harvey says she came away with encouragement to pursue her dreams, and with practical information like how to choose a credit card and how to deal with debt. “I also talked with with an environmental education paraprof who talked to me about my options after CC, which I really appreciate,” she adds.

Dantzler says this type of programming addresses a disconnect between the financial burden often placed on students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and their education regarding financial topics.

Emily Chan, associate dean of academic programs and strategic initiatives, says programming like this is critical to students’ success at CC and beyond. “These are not students of great means, so for them to be responsible for their own finances can be very stressful,” Chan says. “They suddenly have a lot more goals and a lot more financial independence. We know that we need to offer them tools and give them places to learn.