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.
By Leah Veldhuisen ’19
When motivated students are paired with knowledgeable faculty, great projects and research often are produced. This is certainly the case for Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Rebecca Barnes and Colleen Orr ’17. The duo has published two articles this year in Sustainability: The Journal of Record as part of the publication’s “Campus Nitrogen Footprints” issue. As one of the articles explains, the release of reactive nitrogen into the environment has consequences beyond climate change – it also directly impairs water quality, air quality, and the health of the biosphere. Barnes co-authored “Calculating Institution Nitrogen Footprints Creates Connections across Campus;” Barnes and Orr co-authored “Leveraging the Nitrogen Footprint to Increase Campus Sustainability,” both of which appeared in Sustainability.
Barnes has been working with the Colorado College Office of Sustainability for the past two years on her own nitrogen research, and also works with students doing theses on similar topics. Barnes’ research began in 2015 during her first year at CC, when a colleague at Brown University suggested she and CC join a group of schools already researching their nitrogen footprints. The next year, 2016, Barnes taught a course called Human Impacts of Biogeochemical Cycles and had her students create a preliminary nitrogen footprint for the college.
Orr and Barnes first met during that course and discovered their research interests coincided. The class’s nitrogen footprint information came from food data from Bon Appetit, which provides food service on campus, and Orr was interested in continuing the work. She ended up working as Barnes’ research assistant, using the data in her thesis, and in their article titled “Leveraging the Nitrogen Footprint to Increase Campus Sustainability.”
This work on developing a nitrogen footprint for CC is part of a larger research project, called the Nitrogen Footprint Cohort. It’s a group of 18 schools that are working to incorporate nitrogen footprint data into their sustainability initiatives; CC currently is working on establishing initial information about the school’s nitrogen footprint. Although Orr says she doesn’t plan to continue nitrogen footprint research post-CC, working with Barnes taught her a lot. “Besides everything I’ve learned from her about nitrogen and using research tools like Excel, Becca has been an amazing professor, mentor, and friend to me for the past three years. I gained research and field work experience, as well as had incredible opportunities to attend conferences and publish an article because of her guidance and influence,” Orr explains. About Orr, Barnes says her “knowledge of campus and the student body was extremely helpful in thinking through the various sustainability scenarios.”
Although Orr will be graduating, Barnes will continue her work on Colorado College’s nitrogen footprint. She hopes that her research will “illustrate to CC that many of the sustainability efforts already happening on campus decrease both our nitrogen and carbon footprints,” and “will help move us toward more complete accounting of our ecological impacts.”
J Street U is a national organization that works towards a two state solution between Israel and Palestine. This year, it has a presence on the CC campus, an effort led by several students, including Elam Klein ’20, who says he wanted to bring conversations, activism, and education about what can often be a heated topic. “We felt there was a lack of discourse about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on campus, even though people were interested in the topic; J Street U fills this void.”
The primary focus of the J Street U organization is that it is Pro-Israel, Pro-Palestine, and Pro-Peace, and is generally seen as in-between the polarized right and left of the political spectrum. Klein along with Rachel Powers ’20 and Kalie Hirt ’20 started a chapter on campus this semester. “We hope to open up a dialogue and lead some activism on this issue on campus,” Klein says. So far, the group has hosted weekly meetings to discuss current events and the response from the campus community has been a positive one.
“We provide a space for a more nuanced understanding of the conflict, which has appealed to many students who simply wish to learn more about the issues at play, and our open, candid discussions bring in people from a range of ideological backgrounds,” Klein says. “Even people who know little about the conflict have come to our meetings simply to listen and ask questions.”
Wednesday, May 10, 7-9 p.m., J Street U hosts its first big event: A screening of the film “Bridge Over the Wadi,” which gives an overview of the trials and tribulations of starting a school for Arabs and Israelis in Israel. Lee Gordon, a co-founder of this series of schools, called Hand in Hand, will both introduce the film and lead a question and answer session afterwards, both in Cornerstone Screening Room. With this event, “we hope to present a more nuanced look of the conflict on the ground, which will provide a strong foundation for both having important conversations and affecting concrete social change in the future,” says Klein. In addition, J Street U is working to expand outreach and influence on campus as a new student organization.
“We hope that people realize that the whole conflict is more complicated than it is often described,” Klein says of the purpose for the screening and discussion.” In the United States, we tend to oversimplify complex issues and are generally disconnected from the reality on the ground in Israel, so this event will provide a much-needed human look at the situation,” he says.
Klein says he hopes, at the very least, the event helps us all learn a little bit more.
By Montana Bass ’18
Students go to their friends when they’re dealing with a problem, and knowing how to best support a friend in need is the premise behind START, the Student Title IX Assistance and Resource Team. This program provides a new resource for students seeking Title IX-related support, including sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, sexual violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, or any form of gender-based discrimination. It was founded by McKenna Becker ‘17, Jamie Baum ’18, and Leah Ciffilillo ’18, with support from Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Maria Mendez.
It’s a program started by students, for students, and it depends on students offering to participate on the START team. The application period is open now through April 26. Once selected, the START team will complete 40 hours of training with TESSA, an organization that works to support victims and end sexual and family violence.
The team will learn about sexual assault and domestic violence confidential victim advocacy as well as participate in multiple sessions with Mendez and CC’s Title IX office. The result will be a group of student-experts on both sexual assault response and Title IX proceedings, equipped with all the resources necessary to be effective first responders to students who experience sexual assault and explain the options they have for further resources.
The cofounders are launching the program in an effort to make resources and support more accessible to students. “This started from going to parties or talking to friends and seeing how often, students would like help and support, but they don’t take advantage or are not comfortable accessing them,” says Becker.
“Hopefully this will provide a lower risk entry point for students,” says Mendez. “We know the majority of the time students feel most comfortable reaching out to a peer or friend and so we want to make sure we have a trained group of their peers who can help them access the resources available to them. Often, students see coming to my office as a really big step, and so having a resource comprised of peers may lower any barriers that might prevent students from getting the information they need.”
“Our team will meet students where they want, when they want to meet, and they’ll be able to both sign up for these meetings and ask questions to our team anonymously,” explains Becker.
A main goal of the cofounders is to develop the START team so that it is representative of all students on campus. “It’s really important that the students using this resource identify with it, so they don’t hesitate to use it,” says Baum. Adds Becker, “We really want to make sure that our members understand how sexual assault and intimate partner violence affect different communities differently.”
Based on the acknowledgment that students will talk to friends about their sexual experiences, the START team will attempt to bring preparedness to the role of confidante. “There have been many studies that have shown that the first response is the most impactful on the way that the survivor views their experience and moves forward with recovery and healing,” says Baum. For this reason, well-meaning, uninformed friends can actually do more harm than good. “We find that even the acknowledgement of needing a resource is huge. Even if somebody doesn’t want to go through the process, that’s fine; at least they’re aware of what’s available” she says.
In the eyes of START founders, an arena for open dialogue and support between students will not only fill a need, it will counter the normalization of rape culture and destigmatize talking about the issue. “We aren’t considered advocates,” Becker clarifies. “We aren’t counselors. We aren’t there to give advice or tell people what to do. We are providing options so they can make the most informed decision and regain agency that can feel lost when you’re going through something like this.”
Mendez notes that Title IX related services are available through several offices including, but are not limited to, confidential consultation with access to information about what the Title IX complaint process looks like, who to reach out to should they want to pursue a formal complaint, access to accommodations in class, housing, or referrals to counseling. The Chaplain’s Office and Tre Wentling, gender and identity development specialist in the Butler Center, also offer these confidential resources.
Interested in becoming a member of the START team? Email START@coloradocollege.edu today and submit your application by Wednesday, April 26.
By Montana Bass ’18
A special collaboration is on display in Block 8: CC student art work will be featured at the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center. Jenny Welden ’17 and Jake Paron ’17 were chosen in a campus-wide call for student art installation proposals. Nelson Kies ’18 originally envisioned the project, which is indicative of a growing partnership between Colorado College and the FAC. In celebration of the new alliance, a committee composed of FAC staff and CC faculty selected the students’ proposals to create site-specific installations for the FAC courtyard.
Kies approached curator Jessica Hunter-Larsen last year with a wish for more space for students to display their artwork. Coincidentally, the development of the CC-FAC alliance provided an opportunity for Kies and Hunter-Larsen to focus on a venue for students, which presented an exciting new opportunity for student artists to showcase their work in a prestigious space. “Proposing installations in the FAC was initially intimidating because of the caliber of artwork that is featured in the museum,” Kies admits, “but I was completely overcome by all the support that was provided to this project.”
Hunter-Larsen says this installation encourages students to challenge themselves to connect their art to the community. “I think this kind of program offers wonderful opportunities for students to think through some of the issues surrounding art in public spaces, and affords our community an equally wonderful opportunity to experience our students’ creativity,” she says. Kies adds, “This art project provides an avenue for community members to engage with student thought. Additionally, the insular nature of the CC community can benefit from sharing with the community they belong to.”
Chosen for their attention to the specific site where their works will be displayed — the FAC courtyard — seniors Welden and Paron, both studio art majors, will be the first to creatively initiate this connection. Welden’s “Heart of the Mountain” installation represents the foundations of textile art through the use of non-fibrous materials. These materials create a network of interlocking fragments, demonstrating the dual contributions of the natural and the sacred in a textile image. “I hope that viewers may understand new connections between the forces of the sacred and of the natural in the art of textile through these non-fibrous forms,” Welden says of her piece.
Paron constructed his piece, “Alterne,” out of a non-native grass species that covers much of the landscape surrounding institutions in the Colorado Springs area. The piece explores how the lawn is used to represent nature. However, in an attempt to represent nature, the lawn substitutes the natural composition native to a specific site. “Making art is something I have always done instinctually,” Paron says, “But recently I have been fascinated with studying ideas and philosophies through form. Making art has become an important way for me to communicate ideas to myself and others.”
The installations will be on view in the FAC courtyard Friday, April 28-Tuesday, May 23. You’re invited to the CC Student Artist Exhibition Opening Friday, April 28, 4:30-6:30 p.m., to honor these student artists and further celebrate the FAC CC alliance.
By Leah Veldhuisen ’19
The CC’s men’s ultimate Frisbee team is made up of a strong group of talented athletes, and this season they have big goals. The team is currently ranked in the top five teams nationally, and they hope to cement this status at the national tournament in May.
Last year, the team made it to the national competition and this season, they hope to place higher, making it to the national semi-final round. Grant Mitchell ’17 says they came into the season with “higher expectations than we have in a while.” This is principally due to the “large and talented” senior class, individuals who Mitchell describes as “important on the field and as emotional leaders for our team.” Despite these expectations and prior successes, Mitchell says the team reamains pleasantly surprised by how well they’ve been doing. He explains, “getting first place in a tournament and taking down our regional rival Air Force really showed us that we have a chance to make a run in the series this year.”
Even though the team is currently ranked third in Division III by the Ultiworld Ultimate Frisbee rankings, they have yet to qualify for the national tournament in Lexington, Kentucky, coming up May 20 and 21. Mitchell explains that “everything leading up to the series helps to earn bids for the region you are in.” Now the team has to play through sectionals, then regionals, and place top three in the region to move to nationals. Once there, the team is hoping for the accomplishment of making the semi-finals, and possibly going onto the finals.
Although this year’s senior class is strong, Mitchell expects the 2018 season to continue current successes. “We have a ton of super committed, motivated players who have begun to step into roles on the field that we hadn’t seen from them before,” Mitchell says. It won’t be a rebuilding year, and Mitchell sees no reason the team can’t compete on the national scale again.
They head to a competition in Tulsa, Oklahoma this weekend and then on to Kansas City the following weekend. Good luck!