Montana Bass ’19
Senior Dan Levitt and Clay Haskell, assistant professor of film and media studies, are in the midst of pulling together the finished product after a moving independent study experience. They spent Block 2 filming a documentary focused on former Syrian wrestling star Mohammed al Krad in Za’atari, a Syrian refugee camp on the border of Syria and Jordan.
Levitt became interested in filmmaking the summer after his sophomore year, when he took a class with Haskell. “I realized this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” Levitt said. When his close family friend Linda Mason wrote an article on al Krad and the wrestling program he had built in Za’atari for The Huffington Post, Levitt was inspired and immediately saw the possibility the story held for film.
He reached out Haskell to see if he would collaborate on the project. “It was an easy choice for me,” Haskell said of working with Levitt. “He is really top quality.” To which Levitt added, “I felt an immense honor to be working with a master of the medium.”
As the retired chairwoman of Mercy Corps Leadership Council, one of the organizations providing aid for refugees in Za’atari, Mason was able to help orchestrate time for Levitt and Haskell in Za’atari. Levitt started fundraising for the trip at the beginning of this academic year. Eventually, he raised enough money to cover all costs with a combination of grants from the CC Political Science Department, the President’s Fund, a Venture Grant matched by Dean of Students Mike Edmonds, and his own Kickstarter campaign.
Conditions in Za’atari saddened both Haskell and Levitt. “We were astounded by the destitution of the situation,” said Levitt. “There’s a feeling of deep sadness because people are without the means to advance their lives. Here at CC, we have so many opportunities to pursue our passions. They’ve had everything taken from them. A lot of these people were educated professionals in Syria.”
“The border situation is a mess,” added Haskell. “People are stuck because they don’t have the financial resources to get out. Many escape across the nearest border they can find. They’re trying to get to Germany or they’re drowning in Greece. This is probably the biggest humanitarian crisis of our age.”
Amid this destitution, Mohammed al Krad stands as a symbol of community and hope. After he escaped Syria and the government’s attempts to use his celebrity to influence Syrian youth on their behalf, al Krad found himself in Za’atari and, with the help of Mercy Corps, started a wrestling program to give the boys of the camp a positive focus. “To say he was only a coach would be reductive. He was really a therapist and a community builder,” explained Levitt. “He knew the ins and outs of all their lives and was there for them, and that was reflected in their love for him.”
Now, Levitt is in the process of editing his film, which he plans to finish in about a month. Along with bringing awareness to the situation, Levitt hopes the finished product will carry the message that “even in the darkest of times, life goes on,” as he said. “People were getting married, having kids, life goes on.”
“It was an extraordinary experience all around,” said Haskell of their project. Both Levitt and Haskell express thanks for the support they received from Colorado College and Mercy Corps, which made their endeavor possible. The CC community should keep an eye out for Levitt’s documentary screening, which will probably take place later during Block 4.
Message on behalf of CC’s first Tiger Pen team:
Wondering what major speakers are coming to campus next semester? Looking for more information about a presentation you saw last year? Searching for ideas while planning for a major speaker?
We are proud to present “Speakers, Scholars, and Events,” a new web resource that aims to meet those needs. With the Block Plan’s rapid pace, sometimes you don’t hear about an outstanding speaker until she’s already gone. The new web resource aims to keep the campus community better informed, and features a selection of the many amazing visitors who interact with the campus community each block.
“Speakers, Scholars, and Events” is the result of CC’s first Tiger Pen, which convened this summer to solve a problem selected by campus community vote: With so many events happening and the pace of the Block Plan, we often miss some of our amazing visitors entirely, or aren’t able to connect with them as much as we’d like.
The web resource aims to solve this problem by providing a new lens through which to view CC speakers. The web resource:
- Enables the CC community to better anticipate upcoming academic events and prevents scheduling conflicts
- Presents information well in advance of speakers’ visits
- Keeps a record of past events including additional information after the event is complete
- Enhances the new CC Events Management system by providing more depth and breadth of information and highlighting major events appearing on the campus calendar
- Showcases how endowed funds are used
The Tiger Pen is a focused way to solve problems and/or implement new ideas directly related to CC’s academic mission and the format means a different team of experts is selected for each project.
The Tiger Pen concept was 1 of 10 innovative pilot projects funded by the Center for Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching Action team.
First Tiger Pen Team Members:
Montana Bass ’18
Jessica Hunter-Larsen ’90, curator of CC’s InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts or IDEA Space, has received the award for “Pushing the Envelope” from the Pikes Peak Arts Council. She was recognized for three exhibitions: “Re-Orientations,” “Transmission/Frequency: Tesla and His Legacy,” and “Extending the Line.”
Hunter-Larsen said the projects developed out of her own persistent questions including, “What are Tesla’s scientific and cultural legacies?” “How do contemporary artists respond to 19th Century Orientalist images?” and “What are the myriad meanings and expressions of a simple concept, such as a line?” Through the IDEA Space, which is founded on the premise that participation in the arts engenders creative thinking in all endeavors, she was able to collaborate with artists, CC faculty and students, and the greater Colorado Springs community to explore these questions. Together, they attended and participated in research, public lectures, discussions, classes, and performances.
“I feel like this award signifies that IDEA is living up to its full title: InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts,” said Hunter-Larsen. She noted that the purpose of the program is “to create a community of seekers, rather than to present information.” This atmosphere of creative exploration allows Hunter-Larsen and members of the CC and Colorado Springs community to pursue intriguing questions in a much different manner than a formal academic setting would allow.
Looking toward the future, Hunter-Larsen continues to plan exhibitions of art exploration at IDEA Space. Over the next year, she said she hopes to “explore topics such as water conservation, the legacy of the nuclear age in the Southwest, and contemporary Native American art based on traditional crafts.” Hunter-Larsen expressed gratitude to CC for the philosophical and financial support of this program, which she said has truly created a “fertile environment for challenging perceived boundaries and taking artistic risks.”
With these exciting upcoming projects in mind and a new award under her belt, it’s no surprise she feels so satisfied with her job, which she describes as “just plain fun, because I am always learning.”
Monica Black ’19
Poet Amal Kassir, 19, is not one to skirt around issues. Upon entering CC’s Slocum Hall Oct. 26, wearing a black hijab, the University of Colorado-Boulder student stated the obvious with a small smile: “I’m the only scarved girl here.” Her audience, seated around her at tables, laughed nervously. “I get this question all the time: ‘Who cuts your hair?’” And with that prompt, she launched into one of her award-winning spoken word poems. Her poems fiercely defend the dignity of her Syrian-American identity and the importance of family and connection to place.
With constant fearlessness, she attacked and confronted issues of her identity. Born of a Syrian father and an American mother, Kassir grew up in Aurora, Colorado, but spent much of her childhood in Syria. “America,” she recited, “taught me spangling my scarves with stars.” She described a road trip through Colorado, Austin, the Grand Canyon, and San Diego that left her with impressions that her spine was like the American Aspen, that her Iowan mother had drunk the same water as every American to nurture her in the womb, that she was constructed of the very land that now marginalized immigrant families like hers. Elements of the poem were accusatory as well: “My immigrant father is your dream!” she recited. It was a triumphant reclaiming of her identity, the hope that those contradictions not be so offensive or problematic after all.
The Race, Ethnicity and Migration Studies Department invited Kassir, who works with refugees and is an education advocate for marginalized and displaced American youth, to lend perspective to the traditional narrative of the Syrian civil war. The discussion was the first of a series of “roundtable discussions” that REMS plans to put on this year. Claire Garcia, professor and chair of the REMS department, stated the group’s intention for this roundtable discussion was to promote comprehension of the global response to the crisis caused by the Syrian civil war.
Kassir, who still has connections to her father’s homeland, offered both a human perspective as a Syrian-American affected by the conflict, and an informed position on the global response. But her personal connection to the region did not prevent her from seeing it in terms of foreign policy; in fact, it lends to that analysis. During the discussion led by student and faculty panel members, Kassir offered her opinions on the response of the U.S., calling for a no-fly zone above the region to stem the outflow of refugees to neighboring countries, the outflow which has in recent months provoked a crisis, most notably in the European Union.
However, Kassir did not want attendees to discount the relevance of personal experience in the understanding of current issues; her poem “My Grandmother’s Farm” was a deeply moving tribute to the way that civilians, in particular farmers, view the regime of dictator Bashar Al-Assad.
They cut down the plum trees in my grandmother’s farm,
Ripped the pomegranate bushes from the earth,
The lemons don’t grow anymore.
And we wonder
If the tyrant even remembers who fed him.
Even thousands of miles away, Kassir feels the impact of the civil war and feels her ties to the land, just like she feels ties to America. “Syria redefined happy for us,” she told the group, “and redefined sadness. I have learned a lot better to love since the civil war.”
Monica Black ’19
The beloved Sacred Grounds space on the lower level of Shove Memorial Chapel recently received a dramatic makeover. Gone are the narrow side stairs, metal railings and black-box feel of the old Sacred Grounds, replaced with almost unrecognizable but equally warm and welcoming architecture. The new space — replete with light, warm colors — features multiple levels, a small meeting area, a shiny new kitchen, and various benches and sitting spaces scattered throughout. A new audio-visual system is also in place for late-night screenings, music performances, and other events. Student manager Vanessa Voller ’16 added, “in light of the larger ‘Sense of Place’ initiative on campus we are very excited to revamp the fair-trade focus of Sacred Grounds this year: sourcing direct trade and locally grown (when possible) teas and coffee.”
Sacred Grounds is an integral part of spiritual life at CC: programs over meals, such as Shove Council and Spiritual Journeys, are held there; Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and GROW meet in the space; and it serves as a quiet study area when no groups are in session.
Sacred Grounds is perhaps best known among the student body, however, for the Sacred Grounds Tea House. The Tea House is a student-run, late-night (9 p.m. – 1 a.m.) coffee and teahouse, sometimes hosting open mics, screenings, and other events (like Stitch ‘n’ Bitch, the crafting-and-complaining club). Sacred Grounds was conceived with the idea that students should be in charge of a space on campus, and in fact, the managers of the space are students, like Voller and Jesús Loayza ’16. “We’re looking forward to collaborating with student groups in the space,” said Loayza. “Many don’t know that they can use Sacred Grounds for late-night events. That’s going to be one of our marketing department’s priorities here on out.”
Chaplain Bruce Coriell and Jera Wooden, Chaplains’ Office manager, wanted to respect the student-led nature of the space and encouraged student input during the planning process. “There aren’t many places on campus where students can direct the space without much restriction,” said Coriell. They received all kinds of responses and worked in close harmony with several students, including Ben Kimura ’16 and Jacey Stewart ’17, during the planning sessions of the renovation. Students expressed the desire for a “homier, less institutionalized” space, according to Wooden. “Conceptually, the idea for the space was to emulate a river, the eddies and the flows,” commented Coriell. This idea of “flow” was inserted into the plans for the stairs and levels; it does in fact mimic a river tumbling down a hill. “If you’re tuned in, you can feel it,” said Coriell.
Upon completion of the renovation, reception has been overwhelmingly positive. “Walking through here in the morning,” said Coriell, whose office is nestled in the back of Sacred Grounds, “the space feels twice as big. I’m thrilled.” Loayza was excited about some of the architectural features. “The levels are also more conducive to hosting events. I think the high-top bars will be a hit amongst students as well.”
The bulk of the renovation was completed over the summer and Sacred Grounds celebrated with a re-dedication ceremony Wednesday, Nov. 4. Check out the teahouse, now open every night from 9 p.m. – 1 a.m.
Montana Bass ’18
Emilio Rodríguez Cáceres ’17 knows how to explore the mountains and back county via the outdoor opportunities at CC; this past block break he ventured out on a backpacking trip around the Venable Lakes-Comanche area in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado.
This block break was actually Cáceres’s ninth trip with the CC Outdoor Recreation Committee. His trips have included other backpacking expeditions and cross country ski trips. Through these opportunities, he has traveled throughout Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. Cáceres says the outdoor expeditions available through the ORC were a large contributor to his interest in CC. “Back in New Mexico, in my high school I got to do a lot of these things for the first time. Where I’m from, Paraguay, there isn’t a culture of going outside. I wanted to keep doing these things and ORC trips are the perfect way of doing that,” he explained.
Andrew Allison-Godfrey ’18 and Jack Buettner ’18 headed the Venable Lakes trip. It spanned four days during the block break between Blocks 2 and 3 and took participants on a 13-mile loop through the Venable Lakes-Comanche area. They started hiking Thursday morning and, after four miles, reached camp in a picturesque valley. On Friday, they hiked out of the valley, stopped at the Venable Lakes, and continued hiking up a ridge. “From the ridge, we hiked to the top of Comanche Peak at about 13,000 feet where we had an incredible view of the lakes, other peaks, and even Pikes Peak on the distant horizon,” Cáceres said. “That night we had a bonfire and sang under the stars.”
Cáceres stresses how accessible these trips are for all students; this one required no previous backpacking experience to participate. Additionally, ORC trips are meant to be an affordable option for students looking to venture outdoors. “There’s no better option for being outside, meeting new people, and spending little money while doing so than ORC trips,” Cáceres said.
Montana Bass ’18
Hours of collaboration, choreography, and rehearsal culminate next week with 2015’s Dance Workshop performances. This year’s show entitled “Still Standing,” takes place Friday, Nov. 6, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, Nov. 7, at 2:30 and 9 p.m. in Armstrong Theatre.
The show features 14 pieces, exhibiting a wide range of dance styles from modern, to swing, to hip-hop. The dancers, led by co-chairs, Alison Rowe ’16 and Evans Levy ’18, had to pull things together more quickly this year, with performances taking place during Block 3, as opposed to the middle of Block 4 as in years past. “Still Standing” came together an entire month earlier, so for Rowe and Levy, show planning began before the start of the academic year, as they worked to choreograph a try-out dance for auditioning performers. In the first week of Block 1, they held choreographer auditions, where students looking to choreograph numbers for the show presented their ideas. “We ask you to present everything you have,” Levy said of the audition process. “Show us the song, if you have choreography, share what you’re inspired by, how many dancers you want, anything and everything you can tell us about the piece. We try to make sure it’s a well-rounded show. We want to know you have the drive to put the piece together.”
Then, more than 100 student dancers auditioned for Rowe, Levy, and the selected choreographers; dancers may be chosen to perform in up to three numbers. This is the most stressful part of the process, according to Levy. “It can be hard to get choreographers to cast people they don’t know and step out of their comfort zone.” Over the next two months, choreographers and dancers go to work practicing individual pieces once or twice a week, while the co-chairs continue work to set the schedule for tech rehearsals, finalize the order of the numbers for the show, develop publicity materials for the event, and, Levy notes, send “about a billion emails.”
The week before the show may be both the most hectic and the most exciting according to Levy. “The pieces evolve so much during that week. When you put the pieces on stage, people realize there’s actually going to be a performance and that’s when it really starts to look like a show,” said Levy. “I’m really excited to see the first run through and see how the pieces have come together.” For everyone involved, the shows are a source of pride. Dancers experience the high of performing on stage, choreographers see a once-vague vision play out, and the co-chairs reap the satisfaction of seeing the show go on, despite a multitude of challenges and problems that may have arisen along the way.
“Overall it’s really cool to be a part of something so big,” Levy said. “This is the biggest student-run performance event and I didn’t realize how much work went into it, but I appreciate it all the more because of that. There’s such a community that’s built around it and so many friendships that are made.”
Montana Bass ’18
Student recipients in two different grant programs will showcase their experiences and you’ll have the opportunity to talk with them about how the grants support learning at CC.
Promoting CC students’ imagination, challenge, and personal growth in their own responsible and conscientious pursuit of wilderness expeditions and education — that’s the purpose of the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund. Each year, the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund gives grants to a selection of student applicants. This summer, the fund sponsored 10 expeditions in which 27 students participated. Talk with grant recipients in person at the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund Expedition Grant slideshow on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 7-8:30 p.m. in the Cornerstone Arts Center Screening Room. Student groups will share their incredible backcountry expeditions throughout North America.
Since its inauguration in 1995, the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund has provided 320 students with expedition funding, resulting in 134 successful expeditions and countless life-changing experiences for Colorado College students.
Keller Venture Grants provide another unique opportunity for CC students, sending them out into the world with the resources to explore a specific interest. This year marks 10 years for the Keller Family Venture Grant program. Last year, the program provided $121,750 to 134 CC students for research and experiential projects.
Students’ projects ranged in focus from art to health care to environmental studies. The grants took students to five continents and 13 countries. The students who receive them exhibit noteworthy innovation, creativity, and passion in their ability to pursue their interests and take advantage of a unique and vital resource at CC.
Anna Cain ’17 traveled to Dublin to continue delving into a book that she did not want to put down at the end of the block. “Ulysses is a book that just destroys your mind,” Cain explained. “After one block, I knew I hadn’t gotten all I could out of it, so I continued to read it over the course of one semester.” Cain meticulously traced the travels of Ulysses during her semester of reading and applied for a grant that would take her to Dublin in the summer to trace his path herself. She researched the commercialism that has grown from Ulysses’s legacy in Dublin and paid specific attention to this in her travels. “It began as just seeing how Ireland was honoring its legacy, then I was finding lots of industries whose entire business model was based on their connection to Ulysses,” she said.
Morgan Mulhern ’17 began her CC semester in a Latin America study abroad program with a grant to study the food of southern Peru over winter break before the spring semester started. “Culinary culture can be thought of as a form of unwritten communication and identification. I traveled from Lima down the coast to Arequipa, Puno, and Cusco. I visited restaurants of Acurio Gaston along the way. His restaurants serve to integrate, celebrate, and explore various fields surrounding the culture and creation of food,” said Mulhern.
To make even more memorable his travel with the CC men’s soccer team, Soren Frykholm ’17 applied for and received a grant to create a documentary exploring the effect of travel on team companionship. “I had the camera rolling as much as I could,” said Frykholm. “I really wanted to get at, ‘What is the importance of world travel’ and ‘What is the purpose of this trip?’” Frykholm dedicated the project to his coach, Horst Richardson, and his wife, Helen, for their 50 years of service to the team.
All three students stressed heavily the accessibility of the grant application process and the academic and personal growth they experienced as a result of their adventures. View an interactive map of all grants from the past two years.
Or, hear their stories in person and learn about how the Keller Venture Grants have transformed the student experience at CC. The Keller Family Venture Grant Forum happens Thursday, Nov. 5, beginning with a reception at 4:45 p.m. in the Cornerstone Arts Center’s main space and a student improv performance by TWIT (CC’s Theatre Workshop Improv Troupe) at 5:20 p.m. Featured student IGNITE-style presentations begin in the Celeste Theatre at 5:30 p.m.
By Montana Bass ’18
Head Coach of Strength and Conditioning Kevin Cronin was featured in an article for Training and Conditioning magazine’s September issue. The piece by Joel Bergeron titled “On the Fast Track” discusses recent progress in the integration of technology into sports training, specifically focusing on the use of individual GPS devices to track athletes’ training and recovery.
In the article, Cronin explains that CC’s soccer and lacrosse teams have been using the GPS technology for two full seasons as a reference point to alert coaches when time should be taken off for recovery. He also comments on the challenge of using the data productively and efficiently, and working with coaches to explain the connection between data results and athlete performance.
He cites the competitive nature of collegiate athletics as an inherent challenge in reporting on this topic. Cronin, who’s interviewed in the piece alongside coaches from the University of Kentucky, Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Notre Dame, explained, “one of the downfalls of the article is that there is a lot of money on the line for the other coaches interviewed. NCAA tournament appearances bring money into athletic departments and revealing their ‘secrets’ to their competitors is unlikely.”
Cronin said that Training and Conditioning reported on an important topic, commenting that, “technology is a big deal in the world of sport performance these days, and this article was one of the more revealing articles about technology and its use.”
Each year, CC conducts a survey with graduating seniors asking about their experience at CC. A question on the survey invites students to identify staff members who have made a difference in their lives. Alejandro Salazar ’15, past president of the CCSGA, spoke on behalf of the student body at the Block 1 In The Loop all-staff meeting and shared that graduating seniors acknowledged over 130 staff members in the survey. He expressed gratitude for the support provided by all of the staff at CC. For a complete list of staff identified in the senior survey, go to Quick Links on the HR webpage and read Salazar’s full comments.