From Home, On Air with Abigail Beckman

By Shannon Zander

While for many of us working from home means sitting down anywhere with a laptop and an internet connection, not all jobs are as easy to transport home. Take Abigail Beckman’s job as Morning Edition host/reporter at 91.5 KRCC. Beckman was kind enough to let us in on what her transition to working from home has been like. She noted that the transition was initially overwhelming due to the lack of the usual technology and resources she is used to, but she commended the engineers and 91. 5 KRCC staff members for banding together to make the transition “as seamless as possible.”

A particularly challenging aspect of Beckman’s shift to working from home was finding a place in her home to do interviews and file stories without too much background noise and interference. Beckman mentioned that many reporters resort to “weird places in an effort to absorb sound—closets, under blankets, etc.” She was able to repurpose her guest-bedroom closet by hanging a blanket to absorb noise and placing a towel under her laptop, commenting, “it is not glamorous, but it works.”

But Abigail has found perks to working from home. She mentioned her appreciation for being able to eat breakfast together with her husband for the first time in two years — hosting a morning radio show means that Beckman usually departs long before he wakes up. She has also enjoyed watching her cat, Tikka, fall asleep on her laptop and spending time with her dog, Moose. Her two, furry “co-hosts” have mostly been well-behaved: “There have only been a few occasions where I’ve had to kick them out of the room for making too much noise. I think they are taking their new roles as radio hosts very seriously!”

91.5 KRCC has several new exciting projects underway in response to the pandemic. “Shortening the Distance” is a project that focuses on how individuals are keeping connected despite isolation. She commented that she believes these stories “will serve as great records of the historical moments we’re living through.”

Beckman even mentioned how she’s been coping with the isolation. Though she views herself as an introvert, the pandemic has opened her eyes to how much she needs the human interaction. Although she’s been able to participate in Zoom calls with her family and see them from a distance, Beckman expressed a sentiment that many of us are feeling: “I wish I could hug them. I wish I could meet my mom for coffee and just chat. I won’t ever take time with loved ones for granted again.

Pet Kitty Tikka

Bring Your Family To Class Day

By Shannon Zander

Kathleen Greene, visiting faculty member in the Education Department, discovered a unique perk to distance learning: she was able to host “Bring Your Family to Class Day.” Most of her students were able to coax at least one family member into joining the Zoom call for the special topics class, Immigration Stories in Education.

Kyle Zinkula’s ’22 younger brother, a senior in high school, was able to attend and view a Colorado College class for himself. Colleen Campbell ’23 was able to bring her two sisters, mother, father, and even her dog, an experience she noted was “delightful, albeit a little bizarre.” The oddity of the moment was due to the fact that, according to Campbell, “it definitely felt like a worlds colliding kind of moment where people I never thought would all be in the same room (kind of) were all together and able to talk,” and it “had a sort of alternate universe feel.” Pardes Lyons-Warren ’22 was unable to bring anyone because her parents were working. But she found a humorous way to feel included in the Zoom photo by holding up a photo of her sister.

This unusual perk, however, does not override the challenges that arose in adapting the course to distance learning. Much of the course that Greene initially designed was involved with local organizations in the Colorado Springs community. Initially, Greene planned to have the students work with Brittney Carroll Hatcher at Lutheran Family Services and to volunteer with Chris Hawkinson’s “newcomers” class in the ESL program at Palmer High School.

Although COVID-19 interfered with certain portions, Greene was able to make the best of the situation and redesigned the course to involve students in their own local communities. Zinkula mentioned that the class was tasked “to research our local area for immigrant resources as well as our local libraries for books that can be useful and informative for immigrants. I was not aware of what resources my home state, Iowa, had. There are far more immigrant resources available for family development, English learning, and legal help” than he initially thought. Lyons-Warren remarked that she “was pleased by how many resources there were, though, and especially by the programs targeted at specific languages or nationalities because that can be good for community building.” Because of distance learning, students were able to relate the course to their hometowns in a way that would not have otherwise occurred.

Additionally, the class was able to adapt some of the planned engagement with Lutheran Family Services and the ESL program at Palmer to an online medium. Representatives from both groups attended Zoom classes as guest speakers. The list of guests also included Eric Pavri, a Colorado Springs immigration lawyer. Zinkula mentioned that he was a particularly moving speaker because he “was open enough to delve into the emotional side of being a person in his position… He does very hard, challenging, draining, and necessary work. Knowing that people like him are fighting for immigrant families gives me hope that the immigration issues in the United States can improve.”

Adapting to distance learning has been challenging, but Greene commended the way the students have met the challenge, especially with synchronous three-hour classes, and morphed into such a dedicated community of learners. Students have stepped into leadership roles such as a two-person “continuity committee,” tasked with finding a Zoom alternative should there be technological issues, and a two-person “communication committee,” tasked with keeping the class apprised of necessary updates. All students have risen to the challenge of selecting images and news articles on education to share, volunteering to review the daily video, and volunteering to act as scribe for the questions that the class develops to send to class guests.

Greene addressed the family members at Bring Your Family To Class Day to thank them for sharing the students with her for this block, and “applauded the impressive resiliency, agency, and flexibility of their students.” Greene has glowing praise for how her students have adapted: “I am beside myself with gratitude for this group of students.

CC Seniors Sew Masks to Support Fight Against COVID-19

By: Miriam Brown ’21

When Georgie Nahass ’20 learned how a friend from home was making masks to help fill a gap in the Coronavirus pandemic, he and his housemates Max Pil ’20, Hugh Alessi ’20, and Cat Gill ’20 joined the efforts by learning how to sew. The four have since made and given away around 90 masks, and they’re not done yet.

Nahass’s friend from home is a professional seamstress, so after they expressed interest in starting a small mask-making operation at their house in Colorado Springs, she sent them instructional sewing videos, along with a box of elastic and 400 pre-cut pieces of fabric. They then borrowed one sewing machine from their landlord and bought another online, borrowed an ironing board from their neighbor, and borrowed fabric-cutting equipment from Cathy Buckley, assistant director for community connections at Colorado College. In a day or two, they were in business.

“That was kind of the impetus behind it,” Nahass says. “You have so much time on your hands, you can learn to sew, which is a cool life skill, and you also get to make a difference in the community.”

With 90 masks, they were able to outfit the whole CC Sodexo custodial staff, some members of Campus Safety, a couple residential life coordinators, and some CC professors and alumni. The rest of the masks they plan to donate to a local hospital.

Now, the group is waiting for a new shipment of elastic to begin making more. Other CC students still living in Colorado Springs have since expressed interest in also making masks, so for the next round, the group hopes to sanitize and distribute materials to expand operations.

“We’re just going to keep making them until we leave I think,” Nahass says. “It’s a pretty low time commitment, and it’s a pretty easy way to help others.”

If you would like to donate elastic material, a sewing machine, or an ironing board to the group’s mask-making efforts, contact


Storytelling During the Time of the Plague: New Block 8 Course Added in Response to Coronavirus Pandemic

By Miriam Brown ’21

Assistant Professor Amanda Minervini originally planned to teach a gastronomy class in Italy during Block 8. When the coronavirus pandemic forced her to make new plans, she created a course specifically with the pandemic and online format in mind — Storytelling During the Time of the Plague: Boccaccio and ‘The Decameron.’

“I wanted to teach a topic as relevant as possible to the current situation, and I wanted to tailor the new course to online teaching, instead of adapting an existing one,” Minervini says.

Set in 1348, “The Decameron” by 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio is a collection of 100 stories told by a group of young adults sheltered in the Tuscan countryside after leaving Florence to escape the plague. For the group, listening to and telling stories is more than just a way to pass time.

“The first line of “The Decameron” says: ‘It is human to have compassion on the afflicted,’” Minervini says. “So first of all, this is a course about compassion.”

The course is inspired by the digital humanities, and much of the course material is already online through The Decameron Web, a project curated by a group from Brown University. Students will have a flexible online schedule and will have multiple options for assignments and ways to explore The Decameron Web, which Minervini hopes will give them room to be creative and tie content to their own personal interests.

Minervini says the Block Plan is one-of-a-kind in being able to adapt courses to changing circumstances.

“There is no other system that would allow me to develop and teach a whole course in response to a rapidly changing situation like this,” Minervini says.

Students can still choose to sign up for the course online. It satisfies one unit toward the English major, and no knowledge of Italian is necessary.


Narration of Decameron

Students Deal with Distance Through Weekly Gaming Meet-Ups

By Miriam Brown ’21

As Colorado College settles into its first block of distance learning, some students are using online gaming as a way to stay connected.

Every Tuesday from 2-4 p.m., Esports Coordinator Josh Lauer ’19 hosts a virtual meet-up on Jackbox, a platform of multi-player party games that people can play together from anywhere with internet. Lauer will start a game and share his screen, and students can join his game remotely through voice chat. A lot of the games can be done in 10-20 minutes, Lauer says, so some students will jump in for one game, while others will stick around for the full two hours.

Lauer himself has been using Jackbox for a while to keep in touch with busy or out-of-state friends, so when CC students moved off campus, he knew it could be a way to keep people together. For his session during CC’s scheduled Spring Break, about 15 people joined in, and though the number went down once the block started, it’s accomplishing his goal just the same.

“I think it is accomplishing at least getting people back together and getting people talking,” Lauer says. “Even though it was only a couple students last time, it was just nice to join a voice chat, and they could talk with me or vent.”

And Lauer’s not the only one noticing the current benefits of remote gaming. Other members of CC’s community have since contacted Lauer asking for assistance on how to set Jackbox up, and CC’s board game club has also been hosting virtual meet-ups of their own. Some CC students even teamed up to build a virtual version of Tutt Library in Minecraft.

“It’s just nice knowing that the word has spread,” Lauer says. “Then if Tuesdays don’t work for people, there are still other options for more student engagement.”

It’s not too late to join CC’s broader gaming community. Interested students can contact Lauer for information on how to join the CC Esports Discord Server, which currently has about 300 students.


CC Journalism Students Hit the Ground as Reporters in Local Communities

By Sarah Senese ’23

Throughout the Fall 2019 semester, Colorado College’s journalism program was publishing with full force. Professor Corey Hutchins’ Block 4 class Advanced Reporting in the Digital Age produced three fully published pieces in Colorado news sources, such as PULP (Pueblo), The Colorado Independent (Denver), and The Colorado Sun (Denver). These students worked in groups to interview, explore, and dig deeply into an issue directly impacting Colorado.

Attesting to the hard work of the students in his class, Hutchins commented on the dedication and hard work of Journalism Institute students: “They took the reporting seriously, and put in many, many hours of outside-the-classroom effort to conduct interviews, report in the field, attend public meetings, dig through documents, and put the news-gathering skills they learned in class into real-life action.”

Don’t just take Hutchins’ word for it, though. Ask John Rodriguez, publisher of PULP, who accepted a group of students’ pitches that would end up filling 16 pages of the January 2020 edition. He boasted about the quality of the CC Journalism students’ work.

“For us and the region, nothing like this has been pulled off, so we were pleasantly surprised that the students went above and beyond what we asked of them,” says Rodriguez. 

Original, on-the-ground reporting in local communities is a staple of higher-level CC Journalism Institute classes. It allows students the vital opportunity to explore the areas of this region on a deeper level and to better understand the communities and cultures of which they are a part. The stories they produce not only help them grasp the reality of a journalism profession and begin to resume build, but help local news outlets publish young stories at a time when the local news industry is struggling. “They wowed me with their dedication and their diligence,” says Colorado Independent Managing Editor Tina Griego of the students who reported a story about the local affordable housing debate.

Ale Tejeda ’20 published a piece in the Colorado Independent about a 2020 ballot question asking whether voters should re-introduce wolves to Colorado. The article was one of the top five most-read stories in the publication for three months. Tejeda’s work is another testament to the success of the Journalism Institute and the dedication its students have to getting their work out to readers in the local and regional area, as well as their in focus on community-based, Colorado issues.

Though the journalism students bring a variety of experiences and backgrounds to class, when you go to CC, you live in Colorado Springs. Hutchins, along with institute director and professor of English Steve Hayward, make sure that students in CC’s journalism program understand the importance of staying up to date on local events, and how their voices can help the community know just what’s going on a little better.

Students’ Published Work:

High Hopes in PULP

ADUs in The Colorado Independent 

Witches of Manitou in The Colorado Sun

Wolves in The Colorado Independent

Steeped in Community — Connecting Coffee and Change in Guatemala

As Told by Emma Holinko-Brossman ’20

The Block Plan is notorious for classes that are in-depth, creative, and challenging. The “Coffee Marketing Challenge” is a great example of that. Selling artisan coffee presents its own challenges, but the students’ trip to Guatemala opened their eyes to the fuller picture of the story. That story is shared here by author Emma Holinko-Brossman ’20, who took the challenge in Block 5.

The “Coffee Marketing Challenge,” with Visiting Faculty Member-in-Residence John Mann, is a farm-to-market marketing project connecting local artisanal coffee growers in Guatemala to craft coffee consumers in Colorado Springs.

Students work in teams to apply core marketing principles to define a target market, create and refine marketing concepts, and then produce and sell packaged coffee sourced from growers. Mary Jenkins ’21, one of the students, describes her experience: “It was amazing to connect with a place, build a team. This was not an easy task, but we took each mistake in stride: and celebrated each win together.” The student teams work with a craft coffee roaster in the Colorado Springs area for production and packaging.

The towns in Guatemala were all on Lake Atitlan, nestled between active volcanos, the streets were vibrant with colorful buildings, the smell of fresh tortillas, and warm smiles.

Being there for a week only made it clear that a student could spend a lifetime learning about Mayan heritage, traditions, and how coffee was ingrained in the Guatemalans’ lives. One of the many people who became part of our story of Guatemala was Petrona.

Petrona invited us and other groups involved with The Organization for the Development of Indigenous Maya, into her home. Her family, spanning several generations would be around to greet us as Petrona fed us food that was delicious and heartwarming. She became the namesake of our coffee, Petrona Coffee, because her story exemplified what it meant to be a powerful community member. She has grown her own business, she is a gracious host, and she cares for everyone as her own. She used her business to help her family with education, healthcare, housing, and nutrition. These values are the missions of ODIM, who she now proudly supports, and with whom we proudly partnered.

The coffee challenge itself created two teams, equal in coffee and experience. We both created brands, channels for selling, and crafted a story to shed light on our experiences in Guatemala. The coffee itself is amazing, a medium roasted breakfast blend, it is not too acidic, and a little sweet. Creating a business for a week is something that provides a taste of what so many small-business people do: It is thrilling and stressful wrapped in one.

Professor Mann, has spent many years working in consumer goods, beer mostly, crafting stories on a large scale. The partnership in Guatemala was started through relationships he and his wife developed working with church groups to travel there over the last decade.

He looks to this program and sees a catalyst for a much broader program, one where it isn’t about just selling coffee, but many other specialties. Imagine this program expanding into cultural heritage, environmental impacts, religion, Spanish language, and many more Colorado College programs. He says he loves the towns we have had the chance to visit and loved seeing the increased vitality in especially San Juan La Laguna. “It is cleaner and the people seem happier,” he says.

Students Co-author Paper on Large Mammal Brain Activity

By Sarah Senese ’23

Professor of Psychology Bob Jacobs and two of his students, Vivian Nguyen ’20 and Lili Uchida ’20, published the most recent in a series of 14 ongoing studies that compare the neuronal morphology (shape and types of nerve cells) in the cerebral cortex of a variety of larger mammals that are seldom, if ever, examined. The project focused on the presence of large neurons in the motor cortex of big cats—such as the African lion, African leopard, and cheetah.

The involvement of Nguyen and Uchida is not understated; the work they did was analogous to work graduate students complete. It is incredibly rare for undergraduates to complete projects that end up in peer-reviewed scientific publications. With projects like this, students are collecting the data through hours in front of the microscope (in this case, tracing the animal neurons). For this paper specifically, there were over 34,000 lines of data for students to sift through. Nguyen and Uchida did the background research, learned the relevant literature on this topic, analyzed the data, and finally wrote it up in the form of a senior thesis. Though Jacobs’ lab has been doing this type of research for nearly three decades, they’ve only ever had only four students complete work like Nguyen and Uchida’s.

Additionally, Nguyen and Uchida were also first authors on the paper, so they had to write the manuscript for publishing, a whole other realm of professional work experience for undergraduate students to gain. Undergraduate students being first authors on such publications is, in fact, even rarer than their being involved in peer-reviewed publications.

“It has only happened a few times in my time here at CC, and it reflects a dedicated effort (and ability) on behalf of the rare student who does this,” Jacobs says.

Professor Jacobs expressed just how impressed he was with his students: “I am proud of them for the hard work and huge amount of time they devote to such projects.” Jacobs noted the time and energy that he personally knows goes into completing a paper such as this and was filled with pride regarding his students’ accomplishments.

Get Ready for Big Idea 2020

CC’s Big Idea competition, put on by Creativity & Innovation at Colorado College, invites groups of students to develop new, innovative ideas and pitch their ideas in front of local investors for seed funding in a traditional business-pitch format.

Now in its eighth year, the Big Idea competition seeks to give students an opportunity to develop their business ideas through mentorship and collaboration, supporting students with a wide range of interests and backgrounds to access the program. The format for the competition has changed slightly for 2020. Students teams competed in front of a panel of judges in the semifinal round for four spots in The Big Idea final event. Rather than selecting ranked winners at the final round, the four teams will each receive $7,500 in seed funding to continue to develop their ideas. This new format ensures that the four finalist teams are guaranteed seed funding, and also provides an opportunity for the teams to gain professional experience pitching their ventures in front of an audience.

Some of the student teams are getting involved for the first time in their CC career. But no matter if they are seasoned Big Idea veterans or newcomers, every student has a chance to participate in the Big Idea Changemaker workshops, attend a Half-Block course helping them refine their presentations and critique one another’s projects, and be part of a community of individuals who are excited to change the world with new, innovative ideas.

Infinite Chemistry was one of four finalist teams in 2019 and did not receive funding. They returned this year to compete again and were chosen as the top team by the majority of the judges. “What they accomplished over the last year was astounding and their increased confidence as presenters was remarkable,” says Dez Stone Menendez ’00, director of Creativity and Innovation at CC. They’ve been awarded $7,500 in seed funding this year and will present in the finals.

 Lauren Weiss ’21, a computer science major, has competed in the Big Idea for the last three years. She made it to the finals her first year with a fitness app and she competed last year and didn’t make it to the finals with her company Geek Girl that seeks to empower more young women to pursue computer science. She returned to the semi-finals with Geek Girl this year and was chosen as a finalist. Her team will also receive $7,500 in seed funding.

“When I first started learning computer science, I was fortunate enough to have a female figure in my life to provide guidance and motivate me when I was feeling intimidated in such a male-dominated industry,” Weiss says of the inspiration for Geek Girl. “I know that most young women do not have the same opportunity for mentorship, so I made it a goal of mine when I got to CC to figure out a way to help high school-aged girls realize their potential when pursuing computer science.”

With innovation, creativity, and a community of like-minded students who are excited to help one another, the Big Idea competition is helping create the business owners of tomorrow.

“I hope to gain a greater sense of the difficulties an entrepreneur faces,” says Weiss of why she’s looking to gain from the big Idea competition. “These days, it seems like entrepreneurship is really glorified, and I think this perspective causes people to ignore the challenges that accompany starting a business. If I could get even a taste of what it means to be an entrepreneur from the Big Idea, I would really benefit by being more self-aware as I make my way into the professional world.”

Come celebrate this year’s Big Idea 2020 finalists as they present their venture ideas on Thursday, Feb. 27, from 3 to 5 p.m. in Celeste Theatre. Four teams will present their ideas: Journalista, Geek Girl, MemorMe, and Infinite Chemistry.

Journalista is a community marketplace connecting journalists directly with readers in order to promote the ideals of robust local reporting and ethical journalism.
Noah Weeks ’20
Benedict Wright ’20
Kobi Bhattacharyya ’20

Geek Girl works to close the gender gap in technology by identifying young girls who have taken an interest in computer science and providing them with mentorship opportunities to maintain their enthusiasm for technology.
Lauren Weiss ’21
Melissa LaFehr ’20
Sara Hanahan ’21
Maddi Schink ’23

MemorMe is an app based upon the premise that objects are often homes for our memories and feelings; this app uses psychological association to ensure that memories outlive their physical shells by providing them with a new digital home.
Tony Mastromarino ’23
Saigopal Rangaraj ’23
James Dollard ’22

Infinite Chemistry is a software that allows users to import molecules from any online chemical database and manipulate them in virtual reality, providing an opportunity to get data on the molecules’ symmetry and observe molecules interacting and reacting in real time.
Prakhar Gautam ’20
Paul Price ’20
Cameron MacDonald ’20
Tian Lee ’20
Pietro Giacomin ’20

Congratulations to the four finalist teams!

Music Department Faculty Stars in ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ at FAC  

Jennifer DeDominici, CC’s principal voice instructor and a block visitor in the Department of Music, plays the female lead in what she calls “an absolute dream role — an artistic endeavor that will require all of my singing and acting skills.” DeDominici  is starring in the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company’s production of “The Bridges of Madison County,” Feb. 13-March 1, 2020.

DeDominici teaches a group voice class as well as private voice lessons. Prior to teaching, she worked with many at CC as a professional singer, performing with the Summer Music Festival, Vocal Arts Festival, and with many of the theatre and music actors in professional productions outside of CC. Later this year, DeDominiciwill be playing Bea in “Something Rotten!” at the Arvada Center and Carrie Pipperidge in “Carousel” at Central City Opera, as well as singing the alto solos in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Denver Philharmonic.

This Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College production is the regional premiere of the musical version of “Bridges of Madison County.”  The story is based on the novel of the same name by Robert James Waller, which was also made into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. It’s a story about an Italian wartime bride, Francesca, who comes to America to make a life. After years of feeling content if unappreciated, she meets a person who reminds her of the dreams and feelings she forgot she could have. It’s a story of choices, of love, and of being seen. This production of the musical is directed and choreographed by Nathan Halvorson.

The score and orchestration of this musical won the Tony Award when the piece was on Broadway in 2014. “The music is gorgeous, with thematic material that intertwines beautifully to more eloquently tell the story than can be done with words alone,” says DeDominici.

“Francesca is a dream role for me,” she says. “It’s one of those rare opportunities to perform a piece that requires almost everything I have to offer artistically, and at a time in my life where the character is perfectly suited to me. Not every performer gets an opportunity to do a role like this. And, it’s pretty special that I am performing this in a theatre that is also part of the college where I teach!”

“The Bridges of Madison County” is running now at the FAC. CC students: You can attend for free!  Just show up with your Gold Card within an hour before the show begins. If there are seats available, you will get one at no charge.