JoAnn Jacoby will join CC in August as the new library director.
Most recently, Jacoby served as associate dean for user services in the University of Illinois Library, the largest publicly funded academic library in the U.S. She has spent most of her professional career at Illinois in a number of roles over the last 18 years, including head of research and information services, coordinator of the New Service Model Program, anthropology and sociology subject specialist, and visiting assistant university archivist. Jacoby has published her research on evolving scholarly practices and library service evaluation processes in major journals in the field. She has served as chair of both the American Library Association’s Library Research Roundtable and of the Anthropology and Sociology Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries.
Jacoby has a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Southern Illinois University and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois.
Jacoby will begin leading the newly renovated Tutt Library on Tuesday, Aug. 1.
In just a few weeks, the shelves will be stocked and garage door will be open wide to Autrey Field, as the Outdoor Education Center Annex makes its home on campus as a resource for all things related to outdoor recreation.
“We’re striving to decrease the barriers to participate in the outdoors, and encouraging everyone to get outside,” says Rachael Abler, outdoor education specialist.
The 1,500-square foot space looks much like a well-outfitted garage, with lots of thoughtful storage, a check-in desk, and comfy seating; the annex will help to equip students as they embark on personal or CC-organized trips. But it’s a resource that’s open to the entire Colorado College community, including faculty and staff. From renting a daypack, kayak, or snowshoes, to advice on following trail maps or winter weather layering, the new space will bring together all outdoor resources in one place. Currently gear and rentals are stored in various locations across campus.
Outdoor education staff will be available to not only handle checkout and return of equipment, but also to help educate members of the campus community in doing their own bike or ski repairs.
“We’re offering the four R’s: Rentals, resources, repairs, and retail,” Abler says. “The annex can also sell consumable items at discounted rates, things you can’t rent, like camping utensils and water bottles.”
There’s also outdoor furniture, extending the center’s connection to the east side of campus and Autrey Field. Plus, solar panels on the roof offset energy usage of both the new annex and the current Outdoor Education facility.
Check out the new space: It will be open for business by the start of Block 1.
The Student Life Division is thrilled to announce Alex Hernandez-Siegel will join CC in August as the new chaplain and associate dean of students.
In his role, Hernandez-Siegel will provide leadership in in the ethical, religious, and spiritual dimensions of community life at CC, serving the entire campus community including students, faculty, and staff.
Hernandez-Siegel comes to CC from Harvard University, where he has served as university chaplain since 2012. He also advised graduate students in the organismic and evolutional biology Ph.D. program and worked for two years as a community associate director with the Pluralism Project at Harvard.
He also brings experience overseeing student academic progress and diversity recruitment in Harvard’s OEB program and leading national efforts to attract underrepresented students to the genomic sciences at the undergraduate and postdoctoral levels.
As chaplain at CC, Hernandez-Siegel will bring his own experience to guide programming, activities, and conversations that foster a welcoming and supportive environment where religious and spiritual exploration can occur.
Hernandez-Siegel will begin on campus Tuesday, Aug. 1.
This spring, ten Bridge Scholars embarked on a trek through the steamy tropical jungles of Colombia in search of a lost ancient city. It was the first trip of its kind: Taking the outdoor education experience to an international location. When they returned, they brought back much more than the physical mettle they earned on miles and miles of mountain hiking (though the physical aspect was certainly grueling).
“I didn’t realize how much more we’d get than a hiking trip,” says Dylan Compton ’19, after returning from the eight-day trip to the jungles of Colombia. “We had the cultural aspect and learning from our local guides, supporting and encouraging one another, and the physical aspect. I do think everyone underestimated how much we should physically prepare for this,” Compton says.
The trip took place over Spring Break 2017 and was a collaboration between the Office of Outdoor Education, the Butler Center, the Office of International Programs, and the Academic Dean’s Office. The participants were first-year and sophomore students in the Bridge Scholars program, which serves as a gateway into college life for first-generation students, who applied for the opportunity to travel to Colombia over Spring Break.
Throughout the trip, students got to explore and experience the local culture, learn about its rich history, and develop their own leadership style and skillset. All participants completed CC’s Ahlberg Leadership Institute Backcountry Level I Training curriculum throughout Blocks 5 and 6. Now, they’re qualified to lead fellow students on Outdoor Recreation Committee and New Student Orientation Priddy Experience trips.
“Our goal is to help these students develop as leaders,” says David Crye, assistant director of the Office of Outdoor Education and one of the trip guides. The trip was the culmination of a two-year process initiated by the Office of Outdoor Education to make CC’s outdoor experiences more inclusive.
“The college has had several conversations about the outdoor culture at CC, outdoor education, how to continue to engage a spectrum of people with different levels of experience, and with different ideas about outdoor culture,” says Paul Buckley, director of the Butler Center and assistant vice president, who led the trip along with Crye. “This is an ongoing collaboration; we are always in pursuit of ways to make these (outdoor education) opportunities more inclusive.”
Compton says he experienced the trip both as a participant and also through the lens of being a future trip leader. “It’s interesting to recognize how much the group dynamic can affect what people get out of a trip, and learning how to foster that positive dynamic.”
It’s a positive dynamic that can make a difference for students as soon as they arrive at CC. NSO trips are important in developing students’ initial connection to the campus community. “The investment to develop this more diverse group of leaders, who also have a keen interest and ability to help nurture an inclusive experience for those new students, the importance of that can’t be overstated,” Buckley says.
For many of the participants, it was their first time traveling out of the country; for students like Karina Grande ’20, the success of the jungle trek has empowered her to explore other travel opportunities.
“After going to Colombia, I feel like I could travel anywhere,” she says. “I’m starting to make a list of where I want to go; it made it possible to think that I can actually go outside the US and travel. I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity to travel abroad and experience the outdoors abroad.” Next up for Grande is this summer’s trip to Iceland with the Office of Outdoor Education. She says trips like the one to Colombia not only built her confidence, but also strengthen relationships with other students.
“You get a different connection with people in the outdoors. You’re not tied to the internet, or your phones. My favorite part was connecting with one another, the talks we had over dinner. In the span of a week we became a little family together,” Grande says.
Buckley says experiencing a trip like this creates strong bonds among participants. “It helped me to understand firsthand how meaningful it can be to develop relationships with people on these trips. Having the shared experience creates a unique connection. That’s special.”
They also got a taste of the local culture, with guides preparing locally sourced meals for them at the camps where they stopped each night along the trail.
“It was better than what I cook at home, and this was out in the jungle,” Crye says. “Fish, fresh juice, plantains; it was very local, we ate whatever what the locals would eat. And everyone would try things. The group was awesome – they were very open to experience it all.”
Grande says she embraced local meals at the end of each long day of hiking. “After the six hours on the trail, we got to have coconut rice and plantains and fresh fruit, the food was really great,” she says.
The long hours of hiking were often followed by group discussions about the region’s culture and history; Buckley says it was also a chance to think intentionally about the definition of “the outdoors” and how we engage with it. “It doesn’t have to be extreme, it doesn’t have to be expensive. It is about the relationship between the environment and people. We were thinking about how to nurture this interest in the outdoors for a range of students, students with a range of experience in relation to the outdoors; these student leaders will now help their peers to engage with their environment differently while they’re here at CC,” he says.
“We’re excited to see how this ties in to the greater goal of the college to make sure our experiences are welcoming and open to all,” Crye says. “Making sure we have knowledgeable, experienced leaders that reflect the diversity of our student body will help ensure there are different perspectives on every trip.”
Buckley says he will continue to foster support for this new program, and would gladly lead another trip. “I’m all in with this partnership. I strive to facilitate the cultural exchange and to help the leaders think about how they themselves will help facilitate a more inclusive experience for other students. That’s my passion point, that’s why I do what I do.”
For those who haven’t experienced a trip like this, or an opportunity to get outside their comfort zone and test physical and mental limits, Grande says, don’t be discouraged. She learned she’s stronger than she thought she was.
“A lot of it is not just physical strength, it’s mental strength. If anyone’s hesitant about not being able to do it, don’t worry about your physical abilities. It’s all mental strength, and you’ll acquire that on the trip. It will make you a stronger person. For us, it was a shared intensity; and we were in it together.”
Photos courtesy of Padah Vang ’19.
Courses and field trips don’t end with the conclusion of Block 8. Summer Session 2017 is underway with 225 CC students, along with 12 visiting undergraduates from around the country enrolled in 28 courses combined over Blocks A and B. This week marks the start of three months of programming and academic study.
“We’re thrilled to see such a rich variety of academic and extracurricular programming this summer,” says Jim Burke, director of Summer Session, “we’re continuing the vibrancy of the academic year into the beautiful summer months.”
This year, Burke and his team also expanded the pre-college program to five courses, and have enrolled 50 students so far for the block beginning July 10.
And, CC’s graduate programs in the Department of Education have two tracks of students, 35 Masters in Education students and 29 students enrolled in the Literacy Intervention Specialist Certification Program (LISCP).
CC students are traveling all over the world, with 158 undergraduates enrolled in 13 summer off-campus courses. Course offerings range from language and culture courses in Brazil, Senegal, and Spain to studies of archaeology in Israel and the arts in Bali.
Additionally, 118 students are conducting research with over 40 faculty members on- and off-campus this summer.
CC expects to enroll more than 30 international students in the next academic year, and is expanding its Global Scholars Program course offerings to include three tailored courses designed to provide students with the opportunity to adjust to U.S. classroom culture in a higher education context, as well as gain a valuable introduction to the intense academic pace of the Block Plan.
Throughout the summer months, prepare to welcome plenty of visitors: CC Summer Conferences will host 17 conferences bringing more than 1,800 participants to campus June 3-July 29. This year’s participants hail from all over the United States along with Germany, Russia, Canada, and Japan.
Plus, this year marks the 33rd season for the Summer Music Festival. The program will feature 27 concerts on campus and around the Colorado Springs community June 4-24. The festival also hosts 54 pre-professional fellows working with 27 top classical performers and educators.
Follow along with @ccsummersession on Instagram for a look at CC life all summer long.
By Stephanie Wurtz
The hints of summer that are finally in the air on the CC campus might cue a flashback for Cari Hanrahan, senior assistant director in the Office of Admission, to the end of the 2015-16 academic year, when she was preparing to embark on the trip of a lifetime with Dan Morris ’16, paraprofessional in the Department of Music. It was last summer when she headed out on a six-week-long trek that began two hours south of Charleston, South Carolina, in Huntington Island State Park. As the two group co-leaders for the organization Overland Summers, Hanrahan and Morris were taking a group of high school students on the “American Challenge,” a bike trip all the way across the United States.
The trip took the group of 16- and 17-year-olds and their guides across the country, through small towns (and larger ones) experiencing “some of the best hospitality imaginable,” according to Hanrahan. “People were constantly asking if we needed anything. Strangers at campgrounds lent us their cars to get groceries; we had a state park ranger give us five pounds of pasta for one of our dinners when our group forgot to buy it.” It was a sense of generosity they experienced across the varied terrain and communities that make up the US.
The crew met up and assembled their bikes right in the Charleston airport. From there, the route took them through the deep south: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, as they made their way west. 13 riders: 11 high school students, Hanrahan and Morris.
Accommodations were modest, with the group camping part of the time and staying in community centers and churches the rest. “We stayed in a lot of churches,” says Hanrahan, “in the south there was nowhere to camp, and churches were the hub of these small towns; some even threw us potlucks. Or we cooked on camp stoves outside and took showers under spigots.”
The cyclists gained a new respect for the Great Plains when crossing into Kansas. Think it’s flat? Well, it’s actually a 3,000-foot climb. The route through Colorado meant climbing La Veta Pass and 10,800 feet of Wolf Creek Pass. “The kids crushed it!” Hanrahan says. Then they hit the four corners, the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and headed into the Mojave Desert.
To beat the scorching summer heat, the group crossed the desert in two days, 110 miles the first day and 111 miles the second, and woke up at 2:30 a.m. with temperatures already in the triple digits. Those were the only two days they rode directly with a support vehicle; it followed the riders with headlights to light the route before the sun came up. “It was like we were biking through the moon,” says Morris, “as the sun started coming up, the desert was a weird grey color.”
Each region of the country had its own challenges and beauty to share. “Every day was a new landscape and incredible scene,” says Hanrahan. “Every state is different and has a different culture. Every day, we met new people and were blessed to learn their cultures.”
One might think covering an average of 90 miles a day for 44 days would be the hardest part. Or crossing the San Gabriel Mountains, covering 50 miles of climbing. Or maybe it would be the biggest mileage day: 121 miles from Cortez, Colorado to Kayenta, Arizona. Actually, for the high school students, the two leaders say it was about learning efficiency and teamwork.
“For such a long trip, it’s about getting into a routine and these kids hadn’t done it before,” says Morris. “We got up at 4 a.m. until they could prove they could get camp packed up faster; the hardest thing to teach them was to pack their panniers (the bags on the sides of the bikes for carrying gear) to get things onto their bikes effectively and efficiently.” Fortunately, the high schoolers were given a three-month training plan to get them ready. Hanrahan says that helped. “Our kids were quick, strong, and athletic. And fun — they were so much fun!”
The cumulative effect of 39 full days of cycling, added to the stress of being responsible for the high school riders, left an impression on Morris and Hanrahan.
“It was terrifying — this is the ultimate trip that Overland Summers offers; there’s a lot of trust involved in that,” Hanrahan says. “We had to focus on things day by day. It forces staying present in the moment, relying on your co-leader and trusting each other. That’s how you shoulder it.” Plus, to participate as a leader, she took a leave of absence from her work in the Office of Admission, which added stress.
“I would do it again, but I will never be able to do it again. How many jobs give you two months off? The trip itself was amazing, but the prep was crazy,” she says. “I worked and worked to get things done in the office so that things were still running when I got back. It was tough to prep two months of work in advance. But it was worth every extra hour.”
Wrapping up the end of the academic year and preparing for a multi-month bike trip took a toll, leaving Morris little time to train. “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done — that or graduating from CC,” Morris says. “I was a double major, so wrote two theses, had graduation, then biked across the country. On the last day of the trip, during breakfast I was signing a lease for a place to live, it was a little chaotic.”
The chaos was a distant memory as the group pulled in to their final stop, ending at the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles. “They had blocked off the pier for us!” Hanrahan remembers. “There were hundreds of people there with signs, cheering for our group: Parents, grandparents, friends, and a number of cheering tourists all there for the team.”
While she may never be able to recreate this cross country trip, Hanrahan says she’s inspired to do parts of it again, in the company of another very special rider. “My dad had stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; he’s in remission and doing incredibly well. He’s creating a bucket list now, and riding across the country is on it. I plan to do part of that with him.”
Heading into a new summer provides the opportunity to get back to the basics, Morris says, reflecting back on the forced simplicity of the trip. “Cari and I miss it. When we came back to this routine it was so much more complicated. Car, house, job, benefits. On the trip, it’s just ‘what are we going to eat today? ‘which pair of socks are the cleanest,’ it’s so simple.”
What did you do last summer? Or better yet, what will you do this summer? Wisdom from last year’s two CC riders still resonates: not thinking about the end or the destination, but thinking of every day as its own adventure.
The Public Interest Fellowship Program acts as a “matchmaker” between Colorado College students who have an interest in the social sector and nonprofit organizations that are doing innovative work in the public interest.
PIFP offers paid summer and yearlong fellowships, which give CC students and graduates meaningful opportunities to explore possible career directions, gain practical work experience, and have an impact on the social issues of their state and communities. At the same time, PIFP partner organizations gain access to bright, highly competent, and energetic CC students, who enable the organizations to increase their capacity to improve the lives of others.
PIFP sponsored its first cohort of fellows in 2004, and over the years has placed 346 fellows with 76 organizations. Through its yearlong program alone, PIFP has employed close to 5 percent of CC’s graduating class during the past several years. Approximately 23 percent of the PIFP fellows are hired to stay on with their organizations after their fellowship terms are complete. Congratulations to the latest class of PIFP fellows!
2017-18 Yearlong Fellowships
Emilia Delgado Heinz, ACLU of Colorado
Samantha Saccomanno, Bell Policy Center
Katasha Nail Dasilva, Caring for Colorado
Terrell Blei, CO Consumer Health Initiative
Zoe Gibson, CO Education Initiative
Zijing (Michael) Wu, CO Fiscal Institute
Emelie Frojen, Conservation Colorado
Emma Kepes, Denver Scholarship Foundation
Livia Abuls, DSST Public Schools
Natasha Riveron, Innovations in Aging Collaborative
Robin Berk, ICAST
Cassandra Cohen, Mental Health Colorado
Karolina Szymanska, OMNI Institute
2017 Summer Fellowships
Morgen Seim, ACLU of Colorado
Mary Rose Donahue, The Arc Pikes Peak Region
Lindsey Salhus, Atlas Preparatory School
Julia Gledhill , Bayaud Enterprises
Siqi Wei, Catamount Institute
Marcela Onate-Trules, Chinook Fund
Elena Perez, City of Colorado Springs (Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services)
Carina Rodriguez Jaimes, CO Dept of Health Care Policy and Financing
Elianna Clayton, CO Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
Jared Russell, CO Department of Health Care Policy and Financing
Manuel Meraz, CO League of Charter Schools
Catherine Braza, Greenway Fund/Fountain Creek Watershed District
Emma Kerr, The Gill Foundation
Olivia Berlin, *NCSL Communications Division
Ethan Greenberg, *NCSL Education Program
Jack Gurr, OMNI Institute
Willa Rentel, One Colorado Education Fund
Lily Weissgold, Palmer Land Trust
Valeria Peralta, ProgressNow Colorado Education
Marlee Akerson, Volunteers for Outdoor CO
*National Conference of State Legislators
By Montana Bass ’18
This season has been a spectacular one for CC’s Speech and Debate team, with Russel Skorina ’18 and Victor Torres ’18 competing in the national competition, and CC’s Mock Trial teams, which had both the A and B teams (similar to the varsity and junior varsity team structure) make it to the regional competition. This is the first year that the B team has made it past the regional competition the national qualifier Opening Round Championship Series, along with the A team, a season made sweeter by Cole Simon ’20 winning an “Outstanding Attorney Award,” and the “Outstanding Witness Award,” a major achievement at this level of competition as only a small number are awarded.
Speech Coach Sarah Hinkle, who also works as the head acting coach for the Mock Trial teams, says students’ dedication paid off this year. “It takes a lot of time to get to this level of competitive success,” Hinkle says of her students. “We can’t openly recruit top-notch, competitive high school speakers because we can’t offer scholarships like publicly funded universities do. This is a club setting, but we are asking for scholarship-level commitment. It’s just your word saying ‘I’m not going to let my peers down.’”
CC’s Mock Trial teams are coached by alumna and 4th Judicial District Court Judge Regina Walter ’80, who founded the program four years ago. CC has sent a team to the national qualifying round every year since, and this year sent two teams to the national qualifying round for the first time.
Even with the end of the season, Torres says he’s not planning on slowing down. This past season was his first with the speech and debate team and he went straight to nationals in the Prose and Program Oral Interpretation events with Hinkle’s help. Once he decided to commit to speech this year, says Torres, “I gave as much dedication as possible, especially to my interpretation events. We worked on it together. Sarah was the big player in finding the pieces and I was the actor.”
Making it to nationals was a shock and though Torres did not place there, it only fueled his ambition for next year. “I witnessed some fantastic things at nationals. I’m reading a lot of books to figure out what I want to do next year. I’ll meet with Sarah over the summer so I can start out the year and hit it hard. I hope to make it to nationals with more events, but even if I just qualify, at least I’ll get to go.”
For the students who have seen such success under Hinkle’s tutelage, however, the commitment is immensely rewarding. Wynter Haley Scott ’18 has worked closely with Hinkle throughout her three years in mock trial, developing her already-solid acting skills and preparing for a career in law. “I wanted to incorporate skills I learned in acting into something that’s more of a career and that I would enjoy,” says Scott. “It’s really easy to see how acting skills translate into being a witness, since you’re taking on a persona. But it’s so important for attorneys, too. What wins trials isn’t the evidence, it’s how well you come across as believable and unbiased.”
For Simon, winner of the Outstanding Witness Award, the acting skills he developed with Hinkle and their incorporation into strategy he developed with new B team coach Ansel Carpenter ’16, his first season was already a stand out. “It was a total dream,” says Carpenter of watching students who had no previous mock trial experience excel so quickly. They had a depth of talent that not only gave them a solid A team (or varsity level squad), but also to have strong performance with the B team. “I feel really lucky that we had such a great group with good interpersonal dynamics. That, the team’s skill and their hard work are the main reasons that this B Team, which isn’t necessarily our most experienced students, became the most successful we have seen at CC.”
By Montana Bass ’18
During the final weeks of Block 8, Naomi Van der Land ’17 and Alejandro Perez ’17 have been spending time at the Fine Arts Center. They’re working with five high school students and a local graffiti artist who goes by FUSE, collaborating on an art project that will soon be on display in the halls of Bemis School of Art.
It’s the extension of a long-time collaboration between Bemis and Colorado Springs School District 11’s program for at-risk high school students, students who have not succeeded in a traditional school environment. “This project gets them interested, gets them engaged,” says Tony Acosta, a special education teacher with District 11. “We’re able to get them out of their comfort zones, out of the classroom. It develops their coping skills.”
The impact for the high school participants goes far beyond developing their artistic talents. “I hope it involves all of the kids and that they feel like they’ve really accomplished something in creating a piece of art,” says Perez, a CC studio art major who had met FUSE a few years ago at a previous FAC exhibit opening. “It’s important to give younger kids different ways they can express themselves. It’s been super relaxed and positive.”
Social worker Devra Allen adds that it helps build confidence, “if they can venture into the unknown here as part of the art project, do something that makes them scared and succeed, it builds their confidence to think, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’ And for kids who have attendance issues in school, this gives them something to show up for and to be a part of.”
The team is spray-painting the mural onto a piece of wood salvaged from a former FAC theatre set. This means they’re working outside, in open air, and have been battling the elements of spring Colorado Springs weather in order to get the project done. Despite challenges, after just three painting sessions over the course of a few weeks, the students are nearly done with the project, which will be a mural with the word “BEMIS” in graffiti-style lettering. Each student submitted sketches of their personal ideas to FUSE, and the artist incorporated different elements into one plan.
High schooler Amy VonSeht says being part of the mural’s creation helped her embrace the unknown. “I’ve never done graffiti before; it’s a good experience. It’s something new to try. It’s very expressive,” she says, “I’ve done other classes and projects at Bemis, but this is the biggest.”
Some of the students feel hesitant to paint, nervous they’ll make a mistake. “I don’t want to mess it up. I’ve never done graffiti before, but I draw,” says Dominic Makinano, another high school participant. But the students are supportive, encouraging one another, “Just do it!” he adds as VonSeht considers picking up a paint can after Makinano is done with his portion, “I’m still afraid, but I just do it!”
FUSE does not just show the kids how to paint in the context of the project, he also teaches them about the history of graffiti as an art form, one he has been involved in for over 30 years. “I started when I was young, and I didn’t have a mentor then. The best way to learn is to get with someone who’s been doing it a long time,” he says. Now at the FAC, “Everyone gets painting time. I let them decide – with graffiti, the decision making is on the fly, it’s spontaneous.”
“It’s about giving them choices,” says Tara Thomas, executive director of education at the FAC. “Because of various issues, they don’t have a lot of choice. This gives them that freedom.”
The project provides students a freedom to express their own creativity in ways they may not otherwise have an opportunity, to thrive using art to build relationships and self-confidence.
The completed mural is scheduled to be unveiled Monday, May 22, and will remain on display in the Bemis School of Art stairway.
By Alana Aamodt ’18
Faculty, students, and alumni of the Physics Department came together last block for a weekend of talks, reconnections, and celebration in honor of a Physics Homecoming and the retirement of longtime professor Barbara Whitten.
The festivities began with two talks by world-renowned physicist Kip Thorne, who spoke on his personal role in the discovery of gravitational waves in a more intimate physics talk and prior to his broader lecture to campus and community members. One of the most influential living physicists, Thorne also served as the graduate advisor to Patricia Purdue, associate professor of physics and department chair, who introduced each of his talks. The evening concluded with an opening reception and time for alumni, faculty, and students to socialize with one another and with Thorne.
The following day was full of various alumni speakers and current professors giving talks such as “The Secret Life of Stellar Interactions” by Natalie Gosnell ’08, a new tenure-track CC professor, and “Household Energy and Health in Developing Countries” by Michael Johnson ’99. The day’s festivities concluded with a dinner in celebration of Whitten’s retirement, where friends, colleagues, and students spoke about her character and career.
Whitten received her B.A. from Carleton College in 1968 and went on to receive her Ph.D. in Computational Atomic Physics from University of Rochester. She was the first female faculty member in the Physics Department at Colorado College, where she explored her passion for diversifying physics and played a major role in shaping the department to become what it is today. Over the course of the last few decades, she has expanded beyond the realm of physics, exploring environmental science, feminist and gender studies, history, and sociology in conjunction with her love of physics. She’s played a pioneering role in encouraging inclusivity in the physics community, publishing papers covering topics like “What Works for Women in Undergraduate Physics? What We Can Learn from Women’s Colleges,” and she is part of a team to receive over $700,000 in grant money to develop a mentoring network for isolated female physicists.
After many years working as a professor, leaving CC is not easy for Whitten. When asked what she’ll miss the most about working at the college, she replied, the “sense I have of a community where we support each other. With all the things I’ve done here, I’ve had a sense that you were all behind me.” Even more so, she goes on to say she’ll miss “teaching and working with students. I love working with undergraduates, when you have something exciting you want to do, helping you figure out how best to do it. Helping you figure out the next step in your lives. And of course, helping you learn physics.”
Of her favorite part of the event, Whitten says “the most wonderful and memorable moment was when [the] women physics majors stood up together. [They] were behind me, so I turned around and saw them all standing there together—I still can’t talk about it without getting choked up.” She goes on to explain, “When I was an undergraduate many years ago, I was the only woman, not only in my class but in the five years around me,” accentuating the pride she has in her students.
In honor of Whitten and her contributions to CC, the college created the Barbara Whitten Prize for Women in the Natural Sciences this year; it will be given to “a woman student in the natural sciences who exemplifies Whitten’s model of achieving personal scientific excellence while helping others do the same. Personal scientific excellence is a combination of an excellent academic record in the natural sciences, and/or exceptional research in a scientific field. The recipient should also demonstrate a significant commitment to the advancement of women or underrepresented groups in the sciences through scholarly, community, pedagogical, or other work.”
This year’s recipient is Zoe Pierrat ’17, an environmental physics major and chemistry minor. A crowdfunding campaign is also underway to increase the dollar amount of the award.
Pierrat shares, “Barbara taught my first ‘real’ physics class, Modern Physics, and she didn’t hold back in terms of making the course difficult, but every step of the way she was encouraging and helpful with anything we needed as students. She has the ability to see people’s potential and always pushes them there.” After receiving the award at the Honors Convocation, Pierrat says, “I can’t even begin to say what it means to receive the Whitten Award, but overall I’m just incredibly grateful to have gotten so much support from fellow students and faculty.”
Whitten says after she retires, she’s planning plenty of travel, including trips to Iceland, Hawaii, and L’Anse aux Meadows (a Viking settlement in Newfoundland). She also has several in-progress research projects that she intends to complete in the next couple of years, and will spend more time with her children and take some time to relax.
Whitten also says that she’ll continue to study physics. “Even after 50 years as a physicist, there is so much I don’t know and would like to: Astrophysics, cosmology, and general relativity are at the top of my list.” While Whitten moves on from teaching at CC, her impact on the CC community will remain.