One on One with Sharon Dodua Otoo


 By Joy Li ’18

 This month, 2016 Ingeborg Bachmann Prize-winner Sharon Dodua Otoo came to CC for a reading of her novellas, “the things I am thinking while smiling politely,” “Synchronicity,” and her prize-winning short story “Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin” (Mr. Gröttrup sits down). She was invited by the German Program, in conjunction with the English Department’s Visiting Writers Series. During her visit to campus, Otoo took time to talk with CC student and German major Joy Li ’18 about her path to becoming an award-winning writer.

Born in Brighton, England, into a Ghanaian family with two other siblings, Sharon Dodua Otoo began her journey to Germany as an au pair in Hannover in 1992. Since then, she’s moved to Berlin, where she’s lived for 11 years with her four sons as a full-time writer. Otoo describes herself as a “Black British mother, activist, author, and editor,” and it’s exactly these intertwined identities that lend her work a perspective that, as the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper puts it, “you have to go searching for . . . because it hardly knows how sought after it is.”

Even though Otoo says she had always been interested in writing, until recently she never thought of writing as a serious career option. Before she became a full-time writer, she worked as a race and equality consultant for local authorities in London and organized anti-racism forums with people from different sectors like education or law enforcement. In Berlin, her activist work mostly involved working with local NGOs that promote racial equality and the ISD (Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland), an organization that represents the interests of black people in Germany. In 2012, she took a break from her work to spend more time writing (her two novellas were published in 2012 and 2014). In 2016, she was invited to participate in the Festival of German Language Literature in Klagenfurth, Austria, where she won with her brilliant and witty short story “Mr. Gröttrup Sits Down.” Earlier this year in January, she finally decided to make the transition to writing full-time, and she continues to engage in activism.

Interestingly, as a mother of four, Otoo claims that being a mother is also a form of activism. As she says: “Activism is very optimistic, you’re hoping something will work and you don’t know if it will in your lifetime; motherhood is a bit like that.” Defying societal expectations and pressures imposed on motherhood, Otoo has created a “fluid structure” for child-rearing with support from her network of friends and family. She also beckons for the recognition of the underappreciated work as a mother. According to Otoo, “I would like to encourage a culture where we integrate being parents or carers into everything we do. Nobody should do this alone.”

Her focus on creative empowerment is also visible in her literary texts that focus on the experiences of people of color. Both of Otoo’s published works, “Synchronicity” and “the things i am thinking while smiling politely,” feature strong, resilient black women and their perspectives on what it’s like to live in Germany, or specifically in Berlin. She was the first black writer to win the prestigious Ingeborg Bachman Prize for “Mr. Gröttrup Sits Down,” the first story she ever wrote in German. “Mr. Gröttrup” is about a white German pensioner (Helmut Gröttrup is a stereotypical white German male name), a former rocket scientist who first worked with the Nazis, then with the Soviet Union, and the repetitive breakfast routine he shares everyday with his wife. The story includes a section that is narrated from the perspective of an unboiled egg.

In an attempt to share her access to publishing houses with other people of color, Otoo has also edited a book series called “Witnessed” (published in English). The series of five books provides a platform where people of African descent living in Germany can share their work.

Otoo’s success is a story of resistance. By continuing to engage in activism and stressing the element of resistance in her work, she will continue to challenge the field of literature in the English- and German-speaking world. Her next project will be a novel expanding upon “Mr. Gröttrup setzt sich hin,” to be published by Fischer Verlag, one of the largest German publishing houses and a leading address for literary publications.

Sense of Place: Water Tour

Students, faculty, and staff learned about the complex system of infrastructure that feed water to Colorado Springs from over mountains on a Sense of Place water tour this fall. They visited Catamount Reservoir, Princeton Hot Springs, and local farms on the Lower Arkansas River.  The water tour is one of several trips in the Sense of Place program put on by the Offices of Sustainability and Field Study. View a full gallery of the trip. Photos by Jennifer Coombes.


FlyPhone Named ‘Company to Watch’

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Last year’s Big Idea competition highlighted the work of many talented CC students. FlyPhone won the competition, and the six then-seniors are still pursuing their startup idea here in Colorado Springs. The company designed technology to pair cell phone cameras with drones as a hands-free mode of adventure filming, and was recently featured in Denver’s 5280 magazine, in an article titled “Where to Find Colorado’s Next Tech Hubs.”

But things don’t always go exactly as planned when it comes to starting a tech business. Dan Keogh ’17, one of the six FlyPhone creators, says the company is having to make adjustments and must be nimble to succeed. Keogh explains that FlyPhone is currently focusing on two things: integrating their software into hardware other than drones; and fundraising. “Over the summer we did a lot of great work both developing our software as well as implementing it onto drones,” he says, “and were able to capture some pretty awesome shots.” Despite these positive developments, “murky” conditions around patenting and high barriers to entry for the drone industry have necessitated a change for FlyPhone. Keogh explains that the group is now targeting markets that are more accessible than the drone industry, and they have modified the FlyPhone software so that it’s applicable to a broader a wider range of organizations.

With all these changes, the FlyPhone creators are now hoping to make their first sale to an organization. Keogh says they hope to make the initial sale to a group in Colorado Springs that could use the FlyPhone software as a training tool. “In many ways, a lot of our software development is done,” Keogh explains, “and we’re looking for the right match between the value FlyPhone can bring to an organization, and what that organization is willing to pay for that value.” Despite all the changes FlyPhone has undergone since its start in 2015, the group has made itself into part of the burgeoning Colorado Springs tech community, and hopes to continue the develop of their company and software.

Join in CC’s Day of Service

Creek clean up in 2016

Collaborative for Community Engagement Hosts Event Oct. 4

By Alana Aamodt ’18

On Wednesday, Oct. 4, members of the Colorado College community and the greater Colorado Springs community have the opportunity to come together to help clean up the area around Monument Creek as part of the second-annual Colorado College Day of Service.

The event, organized by the Collaborative for Community Engagement and the Office of Sustainability, will contribute to Fountain Creek Watershed’s “Creek Week,” which organizes over 70 similar clean-ups. This is an effort to “improve water quality, wildlife habitat, and health of our local waterways while fostering community and environmental stewardship,” according to Jonah Seifer with CC’s State of the Rockies Project.

The CCE is partnering with the Office of Sustainability and the State of the Rockies Project to mobilize the CC community. Grits and the Ponderosa Project, two CC clubs focused on homelessness in Colorado Springs, will also play a role in this year’s event, helping to organize information sessions on ways to engage with the homeless community.

Radke shares, “the broad goal of the CC Day of Service is to support a culture of community engagement on our campus by raising awareness around stewardship of our local watershed, as well as the numbers of individuals experiencing homelessness in our city.  We hope this event will serve as an educational space and way to inspire the CC community to engage in these issues in ongoing ways.”

So far, groups like the Community Engaged Scholars program, EnAct, Office of Sustainability interns, Greek organizations, and athletics teams have committed to help out.

If you’d like to be part of improving and engaging in the community surrounding CC, form a clean-up team or sign up solo: register today! The event will consist of small groups spread over three two-hour shifts: 9-11 a.m.; 1-3 p.m.; and 3:30-5:30 p.m. All groups will meet at the Van Briggle Building, 1125 Glen Avenue, at the start of their shift to collect materials and proceed to their site. CC will provide gloves and trash bags; remember to bring your own water bottle. Sign up by Friday, Sept. 29.

Staff members: Check with your supervisor for approval before registering for a shift at this CC-sponsored event. Read more about the College Sponsored Community Service Policy.

Campus Visit and Performance by Abigail Washburn ’99 and Béla Fleck

Colorado College alumna and accomplished musician Abigail Washburn and her husband, musician Béla Fleck, perform a piece for an informal gathering of students, faculty and staff in Packard Hall. The performance was part of a workshop Washburn and Fleck hosted with Keith Reed’s bluegrass ensembles. Photos by Andy Colwell.




Students Gain Special Museum Experience During Internship

Students examine artifacts as part of internship.

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Learning to preserve historic artifacts, traveling the Southwest to explore contemporary art, and discovering a new understanding of Southwest culture were a few highlights of an internship this summer at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College.

Matthew Harris ’18 and Anna Doctor ’18 spent the summer interning at the FAC with the Museum Internship Program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The internship, led by Michael Howell, museum internship director and registrar and collections manager, is designed to help students to learn about museums, with a focus on care, handling, documentation, and research of objects, artifacts, and fine art from the American Southwest.

Interns learn about the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act, Southwestern cultural diversity, and art conservation, as well exhibit and copyright practices relevant to working in a museum. “Interns get as close to a real-world museum experience as possible with access to learning experiences generally not found in an undergraduate program,” says Howell.

Both Harris and Doctor were looking to learn more about museum work, which is why they decided to spend their summers at the FAC. Doctor is a senior art history major who is exploring her post-college options, while Harris was inspired by his own work as a potter. He heard that the FAC has a large pottery collection, and was interested in studying it. “Looking through the collection of Southwestern pottery gave me many ideas and will likely shape how I make pots,” he says.

Harris and Doctor also had the opportunity to travel to New Mexico to visit the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Harris says the trip supplemented his knowledge of contemporary Native American art. During this trip, he was introduced to the art of Crow artist Kevin Starr, about whom he wrote a profile for the FAC website.

During the same trip, Doctor was inspired to research female Native American artists, and wrote a short piece on Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and her world-renowned art.

Harris and Doctor both credit Howell for giving them a thorough museum experience, and say that they learned lots about the wide variety of roles necessary to run a museum. Harris says this summer inspired a possible interest in installations or exhibit design, while Doctor hopes to interact with visitors in a smaller museum. Both interns say their time at the FAC deepened their understanding of the people and art of the Southwest, and anticipate using their deepened knowledge in the future.

During the field trip to New Mexico, Doctor and Harris had the opportunity to spend time with:

Rachel Moore, Curator at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Albuquerque;

Amy Baskette, Registrar at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History;

Joseph Diaz, Curator, and Deborah King, Registrar, at the Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe;

Tom Leech, Director of the Palace Press, Palace of the Governors;

Della Warrior, Director, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe;

Jonathan Batkin, Director, and Cheri Falkenstien-Doyle, Curator, at the Wheelwright Museum, Santa Fe

Want to Play?

Chess and the FAC

By Leah Veldhuisen

Hone your chess skills and take a quiet break from the hustle and bustle of the Block Plan by visiting Bruce Munro’s “Thank You for a Very Enjoyable Game,” exhibit, currently on display at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. The exhibit invites museum-goers to interact with the chess-themed concept of the installation, which features 30 chess boards inlaid with colored Formica. They are positioned in a linear formation, tracking the moves made in the chess game.

Munro’s inspiration came from Stanley Kubrick’s film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” as well as his interest in the ever-increasing presence of technology in our world, according to the FAC website.

In addition to Munro’s art, usable chess boards are set up around the gallery. The boards are meant to provide viewers another way to interact with the art and the artist’s intentions, as well as to diversify patrons visiting the museum. Joy Armstrong, curator of contemporary and modern art at the FAC, says it’s been wonderful to see many levels of chess being played by all ages throughout the summer, and she hopes visitors will continue to enjoy the boards for the duration of the exhibit though Jan. 7, 2018.

Armstrong says she is excited about this exhibit, as it is the first time the FAC has collaborated with the Green Box Art Festival, in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, where Munro’s “Field of Light” installations are on display until Sept. 17.

CC’s new partnership with the FAC allows members of the campus community free access to the museum’s galleries.


Bridge Scholars Dance, Climb, and Connect During First Days at CC

From ropes courses to hip-hop dancing to re-enacting art, Bridge Scholars immerse themselves in a multi-disicplinary introduction that brings the CC liberal arts experience to life. See how they engaged with CC’s vibrant community of scholars.


Resistance and Resilience: Navigating Patriarchy and Colonialism in Higher Education

Professor Dwanna Robertson and Judy Fisher ’20 are working together on research that is not only academically relevant, but also meaningful to them both on a personal level.

“Our research is so relevant, not just to Judy or me, but to all Native scholars,” says Robertson, assistant professor of race, ethnicity, and migration studies. As part of the Summer Collaborative Research program, they are examining the low rates of recruitment, retention, and tenure granted to Native women faculty in predominantly white higher ed institutions.

“There is scarce research available about Native women faculty and the stagnancy of their integration into academia,” Robertson says. “I plan to expand that to Native men faculty in the future. Judy’s also looking at retention rates for Native students in college and the tactics they employ to succeed in spaces that, originally, weren’t meant for them.”

“This research has allowed me to work on something that will directly benefit other Native scholars navigating higher education institutions,” says Fisher. “This is significant to me personally because, as a Native person, I pursued higher education to fight for marginalized people at an institutional level, particularly Native people. I want to give back to my people for all the love and support I receive through my tribe.”

Fisher says the summer research opportunity has helped grow confidence in her ability to do research, while working directly with afaculty member and expert in the field. Robertson says it’s easily a two-year project and she and Fisher will continue their work together.

Gifted and Talented+ Program Engages Students of All Ages

GT+ Program

Middle schooler Sydney Murphy took the phrase “embracing the concepts” to a whole new level during her summer course. Holding a baby goat, she got up close with the farm animal, which was brought to her Caring for Critters class for a petting and milking demonstration.

Throughout the class, co-taught by Scott Purdy ’18 MAT, CC Master of Arts in Teaching student, and Brittni Darras as part of CC Gifted and Talented+ summer program, middle schoolers explored a wide range of research and got to apply their knowledge on visits to local animal shelters and rescues. Students also learned about local and global impacts of animal conservation and treatment, and developed their own action plan to address problems locally with our animal population.

Caring for Critters was just one of dozens of courses in the GT+ program that brought elementary, middle, and high school students to campus for three weeks this summer. Now in its 42nd year, the program is designed for students entering first through tenth grades with offerings to challenge their intellectual and creative abilities.

The program also brings to campus teachers who are experienced and skilled in working with gifted children and who are well educated in their fields. Plus, it provides an opportunity for CC’s Master of Teaching students to work directly with students and expert teachers in the classroom; each teacher has a CC graduate teaching assistant to help provide the individualized attention that gifted children need.

“I love to share these tools and then model for the MAT students those same strategies with the summer program students. It’s my goal to send them off as a new teacher with as many items in their toolkit as possible,” says Tiffany Hawk, teacher in the GT+ program of working with the master’s students. Hawk co-taught a course titled Farm to Fork for ninth and tenth graders with CC MAT student Savannah Teeple ’18 MAT.

 Throughout the class, students explored local and global issues surrounding food scarcity, waste, and ethical practices of sustainability of food sources around the world. Students also studied real-life struggles of various cultures and developed plans to address issues that affect international citizens.

The students spent three days working directly with seven Habitat for Humanity families building and planting backyard raised garden beds in the Crestone Peak Trail neighborhood in Colorado Springs. Students also provided seeds, student-created recipes using crops from the gardens, and care instructions with the beds so that homeowners could put their new gardens to good use.

“When we are able to open our minds and explore the connections between global and local issues, we begin to see that there are so many experiences that bond us throughout the world,” Hawk says of developing the concept for the Farm to Fork class. “The beauty of this program is that students are able to experience the impact of their action. They are making community partnerships and experiencing the power of collaboration. They learn that they can make a difference.”

Hawk says she hopes the MAT students also gain practical knowledge throughout the program. “It is my hope that they take ownership and embrace the power of reflection and taking risks. My emphasis is to remain flexible with instruction and allow students to take you, as the teacher, in different paths to explore what they want to learn within our course objectives.”

Farm to Fork ClassCaring for Critters Class Farm to Fork Class