By Alana Aamodt ’18
From climbing fourteeners in the Collegiate Peaks, to rafting in Moab canyons, to hiking up to lakes and hot springs in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, dozens of first-year students spent their first block break experiencing some of the most beautiful parts of the Southwest’s wilderness. Each year, more than 150 students participate in trips like these, free of cost, thanks to the Outdoor Recreation Committee’s First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trips program.
The program, affectionately called FOOT trips, has been bringing together first-year students and upper-class student leaders during every Block 1 block break since 1984. The student-led trips are open to all experience levels with 15-20 FOOT trips taking place every year.
Student leaders plan out FOOT trips at the end of each school year for the next year’s first block break. In September, leaders are randomly assigned a group of about nine first-year students. Right after class on Wednesday of fourth week of Block 1, groups depart in vans for the FOOT trips.
Over the course of an extended weekend, first-year students are introduced to outdoor skills like backcountry cooking, reading topographic maps, and “Leave No Trace” principles. While often challenging, FOOT trips largely focus on bonding within the group and taking in the beauty of the outdoors.
Eliza Guion ’20 participated in a FOOT trip this year and spent four days camping in the San Isabel National Forest outside Leadville, Colorado. Trip highlights included swimming in North Halfmoon Lake, summiting Mount Massive at 14,428 feet, and enjoying campfires under clear starry skies.
“One memorable moment on our FOOT trip happened when we were on our way up to the summit of Mount Massive,” Guion recounts of her trip. “We were pretty cold, the wind was blowing hail into our faces, the trail was steep, and the visibility was super low. We were just trudging up the gray rocks in the gray mist. Then out of nowhere a big gust of wind came and cleared the whole valley of the fog and the hail. Suddenly there was sun on our faces, and we turned around and watched as the whole view was unveiled before us. As the fog was swept away, we could see the red bushes and the yellow aspens, and miles and miles into the blue hills. It was magical!”
After completing a FOOT trip, students can continue to participate through ORC trips and may eventually choose to become trip leaders themselves. Through inclusive programs like FOOT, the ORC hopes to inspire new generations of outdoor leaders within the CC student community.
Photo by Orren Fox ’20.
Colorado College and the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center have received grants from the John E. and Margaret L. Lane Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation to support arts in the community and new educational initiatives. The gifts, which total $3.5 million, come from local as well as national philanthropic foundations, and follow on the heels of the recent announcement about the historic alliance between CC and the FAC.
“These incredible investments in the Fine Arts Center and Colorado College are a resounding endorsement of our new partnership and our bright future together,” says Colorado College President Jill Tiefenthaler. “The support from these three foundations, as well as the enthusiasm we’ve heard from the community in the listening sessions, is creating great momentum as we develop a new vision that supports the missions of both the FAC and the college. We are imagining ways that the alliance will create new learning opportunities and enrich arts programming for the entire region. These gifts will help make this exciting future possible.”
The $2 million grant from the John E. and Margaret L. Lane Foundation is committed to a permanent endowment held by Colorado College for the exclusive support of the Fine Arts Center. This newly established endowment will provide funding in perpetuity for the FAC’s diverse, ongoing mission to inspire community vitality through performing arts, visual arts, and arts education. The addition of these endowed funds enhances the ability of the Fine Arts Center to build on its decades-long tradition of producing art exhibitions in its museum, theatre, and performing arts experiences on its stages, and classes and workshops in the Bemis School of Art.
“We believe the mission of the Fine Arts Center is vital to the city of Colorado Springs,” says Phil Lane, trustee of the Lane Foundation. “We hope the Lane Foundation’s support will inspire others in our community to redouble their investment in this vital institution, now stewarded by Colorado College.”
Tony Rosendo, executive director of the Lane Foundation and a Colorado College trustee, says “Leveraging new partnerships that now exist as a result of the alliance will benefit both the Fine Arts Center and the college — and ultimately the Colorado Springs community and CC students. These grants represent the beginning of truly exciting possibilities for the arts in our region and for our region from a national perspective.”
The potential of the recent alliance also has aligned with the priorities of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a leading international foundation making grants in higher education, humanities, and the arts, which awarded a $1.2 million grant to forge deeper academic connections between Colorado College and the interdisciplinary arts. The grant will allow Colorado College to expand existing teaching strategies and introduce a more diverse set of individuals on campus and within the community to the arts, with particular focus on programs related to the American Southwest.
“The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is pleased to support Colorado College in this important initiative,” says Cristle Collins Judd, senior program officer of the Mellon Foundation. “The college’s historic dedication to innovative teaching and its commitment to diversity and inclusion now promise to integrate the arts and material culture within the liberal arts curriculum at Colorado College in ways that will benefit both students and, more broadly, the Colorado Springs community.”
A major gift to the Fine Arts Center from the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation also supports educational initiatives by providing a scholarship fund for youth who show interest, initiative, and talent in visual arts and who don’t have the financial resources to undertake serious arts education. The $330,000 gift was made to the Fine Arts Center Foundation, which continues alongside the alliance with the college. The Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation has funded arts education and aspiring visual artists for many years, and this year, their board made the decision to close the foundation and disperse its assets to like-minded arts programs. This carries on the legacy of their founder, Marie Walsh Sharpe, and is being made in honor of the foundation’s late executive director, Joyce Robinson, who had deep ties to the Fine Arts Center and served as the FAC’s director of education for many years.
“We are pleased to continue an important tradition of supporting youth in our community who aspire to achieve success in the visual arts through the Fine Arts Center’s excellent programming,” says Steve Mulliken, board president of the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation. “Marie and Joyce would be happy to know that financial barriers will not keep young people in our community from receiving quality visual arts education, thanks to this scholarship fund at the FAC Foundation.”
“These new commitments provide validation of the synergy that is possible between these important institutions,” says David Dahlin, CEO of the Fine Arts Center. “We expect that this is only the beginning of exciting new developments as we begin planning for our combined future.”
CC and the Fine Arts Center are already joining forces as strategic planning for the CC-FAC alliance gets underway. Both institutions gained new expertise, and four individuals from the Fine Arts Center are officially CC employees.
Joy Armstrong has been with the Fine Arts Center for about seven years and currently serves as the curator of modern and contemporary art. Prior to joining the FAC, she was the assistant director of galleries for Kent State University and the senior exhibition technician at the Akron Art Museum. All the while, Armstrong says, she was dreaming of a return to Colorado!
She shares, “I love contemporary art for many reasons, but my favorite part of the job is the opportunity to work directly with living artists. The most rewarding experiences I have had as a curator have been the exhibitions in which my role has included collaboration in addition to interpretation of existing work, with the museum and exhibition serving as a catalyst for the creation of an entirely new experience (and often new artwork(s)!) that has never been viewed elsewhere and will not be recreated in the same way ever again. Because all art is contemporary to its own time, it is a unique occasion when a conversational relationship with a living artist is established; we are challenged to fulfill their vision and create the most authentic record of the work in that moment for future generations. My career in the arts began in performance — theatre, vocal, instrumental — and I believe that spirit of creative teamwork, collaboration, and engagement has dramatically informed my approach to the visual arts.”
Armstrong says she’s enthusiastic about engaging the entire Colorado Springs community in development of the CC-FAC partnership, which “presents tremendous possibilities for the future of the arts, locally and beyond. The arts are alive, vibrant, relevant, and critical to the way our society will be judged in the future — this opportunity to expand the conversation is essential to ensuring that the arts will continue to be increasingly valued indefinitely.”
A few fun facts: Armstrong is vegan and an animal advocate and she and her husband are proud dogparents, the guardians to four furry rescue pups. You can contact Joy Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by the museum!
Jeremiah Houck is museum preparator and art instructor. “I install and de-install art and teach clay classes and my favorite parts are touching the art and being surrounded by ever-changing groups of students,” says Houck. Before joining the FAC, Houck was the assistant art teacher at St. Scholastica Academy in Canon City and he had moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado. “I am most excited about all the new (and returning) visitors to the museum galleries. Come visit us!” says Houck. Something you might be surprised to know: Houck works in the huge working clay studio just across the street from the Honnen Ice Arena. Contact him at email@example.com.
We’ll meet the two other new CC staff members in next week’s newsletter. Plus, share your input on the CC-FAC alliance at upcoming listening sessions Monday, Sept. 26, or Monday, Oct. 3, or by submitting feedback online.
Michael Howell, Manitou Springs resident and registrar and collections manager at the Fine Arts Center, talks about the CC-FAC alliance with the Pikes Peak Bulletin. (click image to see PDF)
How can a faculty member create cultural inclusiveness in the classroom? How can they best support students during uncertain times? How can they make diversity a strategic priority?
Those are just some of the questions that will be discussed this weekend at the Consortium for Faculty Diversity. CFD is a group of liberal arts institutions that supports a fellowship program with the goal of diversifying the pipeline of faculty into the liberal arts.
Every year, CFD brings together the program’s new fellows for a professional development conference featuring workshops and speakers to discuss topics to support the fellows’ professional growth. This year, CC hosts the annual conference, in various campus locations Friday, Sept. 23, and Saturday, Sept. 24.
Michael Benitez, a leading national social justice educator and activist-scholar, will lead a presentation and dialogue titled, “The Time Is Always Now: Advancing Legacies of Diversity and Social Justice Leadership in 21st Century Higher Education.” Benitez is known for his down-to-earth insightful commentary and critical perspectives on social and cultural issues. Currently, Benitez is chief diversity officer, dean of diversity and inclusion, and Title IX officer at the University of Puget Sound.
Dena Samuels, director at Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion, and assistant professor of women’s and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, provides the closing keynote address, “Transforming Ourselves to Become Culturally Inclusive Educators.” Her presentation is directed at educators of any experience level teaching any subject who are willing to engage in self-reflection and who are specifically interested in increasing their teaching effectiveness by making their classrooms more culturally inclusive.
At CC, the Riley Fellows Program is run in conjunction with the Consortium for Faculty Diversity fellows. CC was a founding member of the consortium, which aims to: serve students’ learning by bringing in emerging teacher-scholars to offer courses and to be a part of the diverse intellectual community at CC; serve the fellows by providing pre-doctoral and post-doctoral appointments where they can be immersed in an excellent liberal arts institution, helping advance their scholarship, develop their teaching, and be more successful in the academic job market; and serve the entire liberal arts community by supporting inclusive excellence by diversifying the faculty candidate pool for the liberal arts.
CC President Jill Tiefenthaler and Fine Arts Center President and CEO David Dahlin talk with Colorado Public Radio’s Corey Jones about the CC-FAC alliance and strategic planning process.
CC faculty and staff visited the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center during an open house to meet FAC colleagues and explore the galleries, many getting behind-the-scenes tours.
When you’re considered an “expert,” on something, others often want to know how you do it, to pick your brain, to better understand how you became so knowledgeable about that certain something. When you do something well, often others want to emulate it, study it. Well, CC may be considered one of the “experts” when it comes to knowing and implementing the unique Block Plan format. And this year, someone’s studying us.
Heather Fedesco joined CC during the summer as the college’s first Mellon pedagogy researcher. In a position funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Fedesco’s role is to investigate the distinctive pedagogical outcomes of the Block Plan. The college will then use what is learned to refine CC’s Block Plan model, and share it with others in the sector of higher education who may want to learn from CC’s success in implementing the Block Plan.
“CC’s seen as an expert on the Block Plan and on compressed format courses, so when people outside CC ask, ‘Is it working? How do you know?’ right now we rely a lot on anecdotal evidence. There’s a need to legitimize these anecdotes with empirical evidence: Here’s why it works and here’s the evidence to support it,” Fedesco says of the purpose of her grant-funded position. “This project is really the first to chip away at the Block Plan; hopefully in a few years, we’ll have this rich body of data showing how and why the Block Plan works, and also some ways we can improve it.”
Her Ph.D. work at Purdue University focused on how interpersonal relationships, both professional and personal, influence the health and wellbeing of others, with an emphasis on how individuals can motivate one another to achieve improved outcomes. Before coming to CC, Fedesco worked at the Center for Instructional Excellence at Purdue, where she helped execute and test the effectiveness of a campus wide intervention designed to help faculty improve student motivation and academic performance. This opportunity at CC allows her to continue that research in a unique academic setting, something Fedesco found appealing.
“I’m focusing on the relational aspect of pedagogy, how relationships can foster improved motivation. We know that people who are motivated can have great outcomes, but how do we foster that motivation? Self-determination theory suggests that if students feel connected to one another, connected to their faculty, to the material, they’re motivated,” Fedesco says of her research at CC. “The culture of the Block Plan seems to really live and breathe that notion, so I’m going to explore those relational dynamics at CC.”
During the first four blocks of the year, Fedesco will be surveying students and gathering their perceptions of the courses they’re currently taking, to find out what is helping and hindering their motivation in the classroom. She will also observe seven classes throughout blocks 1-4, with multiple courses from each academic division, half of them including field study.
“I’ll sit in class and immerse myself in that space, and look for ways that are enhancing or decreasing student motivation. I’ll simultaneously interview approximately ten students from each class multiple times throughout the block, to take a temperature of their motivations and what’s working each week, as they’re reflecting on what they’re doing.”
With the opportunities the Block Plan affords for students and faculty to leave the classroom, whether to a new setting on or near campus, or to a new state or across the globe, Fedesco says the format provides a lot of freedom. “That’s really interesting to me, and my hypothesis is that those experiences really do foster closer relationships and connections, ultimately leading to improved motivation.”
Fedesco says the research is set up in a way that will bring together a wide breadth of quantitative and qualitative data concerning what motivates students on the Block Plan. During the spring semester, she’ll be analyzing and presenting her findings to the campus community, sharing what’s working well and if there are areas for improvement, also sharing evidence and recommendations.
Fedesco says she’s most excited about observing CC students in class. “Based on my preliminary observations, I can already tell these are top-notch, high-achieving students. I was getting goosebumps listening to their class discussions. That’s really inspiring,” she says of her first experiences on campus. “I’m also really enjoying seeing the mountain views everywhere we go and being in a beautiful place. I can’t get enough of it.”
Now in its third year, the Mellon Grant is supporting CC’s work in several key areas: Encouraging innovation in engaged teaching and learning by expanding upon key features of the Block Plan; intensifying collaborative learning through undergraduate research and scholarship; and investigating the distinctive pedagogical outcomes of the Block Plan, using findings to refine the model, and sharing those findings with others in higher education.
Have questions for Fedesco or want to learn more about her research? You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Leslie Weddell
Albert Einstein once said “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
Imagination certainly is on display at the Colorado College Children’s Center, its hallways an amazing preview of the creativity and ingenuity the preschoolers are developing.
Exhibited in the front hall of the Children’s Center is a “Preschool Fine Art Museum” featuring Monets, Chihulys, Klimts, Warhols, and others – or at least a preschool interpretation of the masters. Recycled water bottles, painted with watercolors and permanent markers and fastened to a chicken wire base, make a striking Chihuly hanging sculpture. Another Chihuly rendition is created from melted plastic Solo cups, painted and glued to driftwood. And a third Chihuly sculpture – Chihuly being a favorite of the young students – is created from painted coffee filters strung together.
Credit much of the behind-the-scenes work to Gina Thompson, an early childhood educator at the Children’s Center, who did a lot of the melting, gluing, stringing, and fastening of artwork to chicken wire.
“It was a kid-driven project,” says Thompson, who works with students in the kindergarten readiness program. A recent theme in the class was artists and their art. After spending time studying and researching various artists, Thompson and others at the Children’s Center, including CC student volunteers, took the preschoolers on a field trip this summer to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, only a few blocks away. “It’s so wonderful that it’s within walking distance,” Thompson says.
“The kids were really inspired when they saw many of the artists we had studied there,” Thompson says. “It really sparked their imagination and they were incredibly enthusiastic about learning more.”
Prior to their trip, and the students examined books with pictures of the artists’ work and read children’s books about the artists’ lives. They studied Monet, noting that many of his paintings featured gardens and bridges. They studied the Klimt cats, observing the geometric shapes, how the cats sit with their tails positioned behind them, and how Klimt’s works are highlighted with gold.
They looked at Van Gogh’s works, and made their own swirling “Starry Nights.” Cubism came to life with watercolors on paper as they drew, cut, and formed eyes, nose, mouth, and eyes. They saw paintings of fields of poppies, and then painted their own versions, a series Thompson calls “Poppies in Perspective.”
Throughout the process, Thompson encouraged the students to use the entire paper, to have their artwork take up the whole page and not only a tiny portion of the paper. “That is one of the biggest challenges,” she says. “I also want them to take time and have pride in their work. Once they see what they can accomplish with the techniques, mediums, and color combinations they experiment with, the kids get so motivated to create more and take chances.”
The art and artist “block” is over now, and Thompson and her students are moving on to a rockets and space theme. “It’s providing me a chance to get to know my new students and what inspires them,” Thompson says. “Student-inspired lessons are so much more meaningful to the students and it is always fun, as a teacher, to watch the kids get excited about their learning. I can’t wait to see where their imaginations take them on this.”