Dear Class of 2015:

In roughly two weeks (give or take a couple days), you will step foot on Colorado College. Some of you have visited, while some have not. Regardless, that first glimpse of Colorado College will be something magical for this will be your home for the next four years.

This is the place where a ‘unique, intellectual adventure’ is about to take place. You’ll have the opportunity to be a biologist, an historian, or a philosopher for 3.5 weeks. You have the opportunity to share your thoughts and ideas in a classroom with students from across the world. Professors become your friend, and really do care about your well-being and your many existential crises.

This is the place where you get a Block Break after that mind-blowing and exhausting FYE course. You then decide to go camping, visit some friends in Boulder, or stay on campus to catch up on sleep.

This is the place where you will meet incredible friends. You lived on the same hall, went on your NSO trip together, or bonded over your FYE.  You sometimes can’t get over how special your fellow classmates are, but more importantly, you can’t get over that they share your passions.

This is where you belong: the most magical institution of higher learning.

I will hopefully see some of you during NSO week!



I have had the good fortune to cross paths recently with journeymen and women of all sorts. Whether in pursuit of knowledge or for sheer adventure, CC students and their friends scatter to all corners of the globe.

Two frisbee teammates, Sophie Herscu (’11) and Hannah Sohl (’11), were both awarded Watson Fellowships to undertake twelve-month-long research projects outside of the US. As outlined on the Watson website (The Watson Fellowship: Our Fellows), Sophie will be traveling to Montreal, Nunavik, Australia, and Brazil to study the empowering effects of social circus groups. Hannah is headed for Canada, Bolivia, Brazil, Bangladesh, India, Mongolia, and Laos, where she’ll be studying the relationship between local communities and their riverine ecosystems.

Somewhere in Russia, three more 2011 grads are making their way steadily around the world on a transcontinental roadtrip. After brainstorming about the trip for years, Jack Naito, Ezra Siegel, and Richard Swift successfully arranged to purchase a car in Japan and start on a journey they’re calling “The Road is West: Japan to Alaska, the Long Way.” If all is going well, they should be on their way into Mongolia to start work with the Tributary Fund before continuing across to Europe.

Closer to home, the State of the Rockies summer researchers embarked a few days ago on a survey of the Colorado River Basin (State of the Rockies Blog). Along the way, they’re taking every opportunity to interview policymakers, hydrologists, farmers, naturalists, and recreational river users in order to better understand the dynamic life of the river that sustains human life in the arid West. In conjunction with that research, a few recent CC grads will be documenting their aquatic traverse of the Green and Colorado Rivers:



Another river system far to the north drew in two more intrepid travelers. Through a CC friend, I met two St. Olaf graduates who are attempting to become the first women to paddle from Minneapolis to the Hudson Bay. They’ve been on the water since the beginning of June and are documenting their progress on their blog (Hudson Bay Bound | Home). Keep up the great work, Ann and Natalie!

Being surrounded by such adventurous folk, it’s hard to escape the contagious spirit. So, with the help of the Ritt Kellogg Fund, Lauren Foster (’11), Lucy Holtsnider (’11), McKenzie Wooley (’12) and I are headed to the Gallatin Range in Montana for a two-week horsepacking trip in August. After renting horses from Montana Horses at the Mantle Ranch in Three Forks, we will be making our way through the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, northwest of Yellowstone. Aside from getting to explore a beautiful stretch of backcountry, the four of us Hardy Horsewomen are looking forward to spending time together before we scatter to new homes and jobs in the next year.

So pretty soon I’ll be packing up my cowboy boots, bear spray, and Big Sky by A.B. Guthrie (a gift from my mother) to breathe for a moment between busy summer and hectic school year. In the meantime, I’ll be scheming about how to next get back in the saddle, launch from the shore, or put wheels to the pavement. Best of luck to my fellow wanderers – we’ll trade stories at the crossroads.



Fourth of July Celebration!

Rather, I should say third of July.

I spent the weekend in Denver with my parents who drove all the way from Oklahoma to Denver.  It was great to see my parents considering that when I went home in May, I was only home for 36 hours before I headed back to Colorado.

The Sunday before July 4th, I went to the Denver Civic Center to see a masterful fireworks show that was timed to the performance of the Colorado Symphony.



Credit to Denver Post

Fireworks Galore

4th of July fireworks in Colorado Springs are awesome because of all the military presence in the area. Firework shows started on Saturday, with random ones going off all through the night and more on Sunday night. Unfortunately for my friends and I, we missed the show at the Fort Carson Military Base on Sunday…who would have though that they would start earlier than the time posted..? We managed to get to the Air Force Academy’s show at the Falcon stadium on time though, andthat was a beautiful show to see. It was a great night to have a picnicc while enjoying great company and good music. The fireworks show started off with a 21-gun-salute, and then went on for half-an-hour accompanied by music.

Sundays: The Melissa Experience

Every Sunday (more or less) for the past couple of years, has been spent downtown at one of two coffee shops: Little Rico’s or Pikes Perk.

This summer I’ve found myself more and more at Little Rico’s drinking their delicious herbal iced teas (summer is alll about the iced tea for me. I’m from Oklahoma, what can I say?). It doesn’t hurt that Little Rico’s is connected to the cutest toy store, an amazing used bookstore, and a delicious restaurant (they even serve gluten-free pizza and yummy veggie burgers). I love interacting with the baristas and the local crowd–great fun. For example, last month I chatted with a local radio DJ for hours. We talked about food, tattoos, Colorado College, and music. Little Rico’s is a quirky fun place that I highly, highly, recommend if you need to get away or get that quick caffeine fix.

Last weekend, however, I found myself at Pikes Perk. What I didn’t know was that there was a Bike Fest! Crowds and crowds of people in leather, showing off their motorcycles, going to different booths, and eating street food. I felt a little out of place walking through the crowds to get to Pikes Perk, but it was great fun.  As soon as I ordered my iced yerba mate, I went up to the patio at Pikes Perk and had to take pictures.

My Sunday ritual takes me out of the ‘CC Bubble’ and allows me the opportunity to pretend to be a quirky local. (I’ve also noticed that coffee shops, particularly Pikes Perk, are one of the most common places for that awkward first date. *this is a hint, future CC students!) I may be doing research or doing homework, but not being on campus really brings light to the dimension of space.  It reminds me that so many other things happen in Colorado Springs. It’s like exploring the infinite abyss that is neither infinite nor an abyss.

Summer Cooking

I love good eating good food, and since I’ve moved out of the big dorms, have gotten into cooking. Nothing too gourmet or anything fancy, but just really trying my hand at all the different cuisines out there. My favorite recipe website is and I salivate every time I look at all the pictures. The site has all types of recipes and its nice when I can see what my food it supposed to look like. This site also opens up a whole new world of food bloggers, and you would not believe the number of foodies out there. The summer is the best time to experiment because there’s all this fresh produce left and right and I have a lot more free time then I do during the school year.
This is one of my most recent recreations:
Spicy Chicken Wings
500 gms chicken wings (skin on)
2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp ginger paste
2 tbs vinegar
1 tbs chili sauce
1 tbs ketchup
1 tsp red chili powder
salt to taste
For the sauce:
1 tbs oil
2 green chilies, chopped finely
2 tbs tomato paste
salt to taste
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp paprika powder
2 tsp cayenne powder
2 tbs hot sauce
chopped coriander to garnish
Marinade the wings in the ingredients listed for at least half an hour or more. Broil in the oven on high heat until cooked and just beginning to char.

In the meantime, prepare the sauce by heating the oil. Add to it the chopped green chilies and stir fry for 30 seconds. Add all the rest of the ingredients and stir fry for 2-4 minutes until cooked through. You can add up to 1/4 cup of water at this stage if you want a thinner sauce. Add the grilled chicken wings and toss to coat. Garnish with coriander.

Enjoy eating!

A New System of Jim Crow?

“Jarvious Cotton cannot vote. Like his father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great grandfather, he has been denied the right to participate in our electoral democracy. Cotton’s family tree tells the story of several generations of black men who were born in the United States but who were denied the most basic freedom that democracy promises-the freedom to vote for those who will make the rules and laws that govern one’s life. Cotton’s great-great grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Ku Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation. His father was barred from voting by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Jarvious Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.” (The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander)

The story of Jarvious Cotton’s family tells more then simply generations of black men being unable to vote in the United States. It tells the history of a group of people in the United States of America who have been legally discriminated against for over 300 years. From slavery to Jim Crow to now mass incarceration, the United States has maintained a system of social. Today, the criminal justice system in this country has come to operate as a system of social control analogous to Jim Crow.

Today our criminal justice system has come to operate as a system of laws, policies, and customs that operate to create and maintain a second-class status of a group defined largely by race. However, for many people this idea is hard to swallow. It seems impossible that there could be a system in place today that operates in the same way that slavery or Jim Crow did during their respective times. Furthermore, it is hard for people to take to the idea that today’s system was created and maintained under the guise of a War on Drugs, a war that was promoted and supported under the false premise of a drug epidemic in this country. However, in order to truly understand the comparison between slavery, Jim Crow, and mass incarceration, it is important to understand the reality of our criminal justice system, and the political culture that allowed it to come about.

When President Nixon came into office, he brought with him an ideology and strategy, which later came to be known as the Southern Strategy.

However, this “War” came truly into being with President Reagan. Reagan announced his administration’s own “War on Drugs” in October 1982. At the time he declared this new war, less then 2 percent of the American public viewed drugs as the most important issue facing the nation. (Alexander) However, that was not a deterrent for Reagan, who was more concerned with public opinion surrounding race. Due to this new focus there were immediate policy changes that Reagan began to implement.

It is important to note that this declaration of war was made not only in direct conflict with how the public felt, but also the reality of drug use in the United States. In 1982, when the drug war began, the recreational use of illegal drugs was in decline. Surveys conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed significant drops in drug usage over long periods for a wide range of age groups.

Almost immediately after the War on Drugs was declared, there were clear impacts on employment as well as incarceration rates among black men in the United States. When it came to unemployment, it was clear that the combination of previous inequality, partnered with the War on Drugs led to dramatic consequences. In 1970, more than 70 percent of all blacks working in metropolitan areas held blue-collar jobs. Yet by 1987, when the drug war hit high gear, the industrial employment of black men had plummeted to 28 percent. (Alexander)

The other impact of the Drug War was an increase in incarceration rates in this country in a way that had never been seen before. The incarceration rates have exploded in the United States, to the point, where as of 2009, 1 in every 31 adults in under some form of correction control. This explosion in the prison population is directly linked to the war on drugs. Drug convictions account for nearly two-thirds of the rise in the federal prison population, and more then half of the state population since 1982. Today, a half million people are in prison or jail for a drug offense, compared to an estimated 41,000 in 1980—an increase of 1,100 percent.

It is also important to note, that these drug arrests are not for trafficking or large distribution. In 2005, for example, four out of five drug arrests were for possession…and furthermore marijuana possession accounted for nearly 80 percent of the growth in drug arrests in the 1990’s. When it comes to the racial makeup of the prison population today, and specifically when talking about drug arrests, the numbers are even more astounding.

The Sentencing Project has done a lot of studies that have exposed the true racial disparity within our prison system. More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. Today, 1 in every 8 black men is in prison or jail every year. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which three-fourths of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color. The Sentencing Project also points out how today the national ratio of black to white in the prison system is 5.6 to 1. These statistics are astounding when you look at the population demographic statistics as identified by the U.S. Census Bureau. In the 2010 Census, they found that the US population is 12.6 percent black, while it is 72.4 percent white. Given this percentage, one would expect the ratio of white to black imprisoned in the United States to be more like 6 to 1 white, the exact opposite of what it is.

This once again, while thought to be true by a lot of Americans, couldn’t be further from the truth. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that illicit drug use by blacks as compared to whites was pretty much equal. They identified how 9.2 percent of blacks above the age of 12 having used illicit drugs, while 8.1 percent of whites have. Other studies have shown, that particularly among youth, actual drug use happens earlier and with a wider variety with white youth as opposed to black youth.  Another study done by the University of Michigan suggested that at all three grade levels (10,11,12), African-American students have substantially lower rates of drug use then do whites.  So given these statistics, if the incarceration rates were reflective of drug use as well as the population, then African-Americans would make up less then 15% of drug arrests and inmates. However, since African-Americans in some states make up 80-90% of drug arrests, it is clear that the system in instead motivated by racial prejudice.

The final portion to the creation of a system of social control is the policies in place that allow for the legalized discrimination of people who posses criminal records. Across the country, people with criminal records are discriminated against when it comes to housing, employment, voting, job licenses as well as preventing them in some cases from utilizing federal benefits. By forcing a certain group of people out of the job market, and discriminating against them in all aspects of life, it is creating a system of control very similar to Jim Crow Laws. Furthermore, it is forcing poor, urban black men and women into the drug market, because in many cases it is the only way to make a real living.


In honor of the hot weather and recent solstice, I decided to take a closer (but not direct) look at summer’s most conspicuous player: the sun.

NPR’s Science Friday show had a video feature a few weeks ago about sunspots. These bursts of plasma and flaring magnetic fields signal solar storms that can radiate all the way to Earth’s surface:

Scifri Videos: Solar Spotting.

With all that ultraviolet light piercing the atmosphere, it’s important to protect yourself. The FDA’s new rules shed a little light on the sunscreen market:

Explaining Sunscreen and the New F.D.A. Rules –

On my list of movies to see this summer is Queen of the Sun, the recent documentary directed and produced by Taggart Siegel. Colony collapse disorder, the unexplained mass disappearance of honeybees, threatens to spark a global ecological crisis. Check out the trailer here:

Queen of the Sun: What Are the Bees Telling Us? | Trailer.

And thanks to diligent archaeologists, news about the Middle East and North Africa isn’t just about political unrest:

Pictures: Ancient “Solar Boat” Unearthed at Pyramids.

Now to screen up, get out there, and enjoy the sunshine.

The People’s Republic of Boulder

Summer in the Springs is great, but there’s something to be said about venturing outside of Colorado Springs. Yesterday, in preparation for my study abroad experience this fall with Semester at Sea, I went to two events in order to meet some other fellow students. Interestingly, these two events were in different places: Boulder and Denver. Now, most everyone knows about Denver, so I don’t think I need to talk about it. Boulder, on the other hand, is a bit more out there. To say it’s a very crunchy granola city is not far from the truth. This is their downtown:



The extremely liberal nature of the town has lent itself to the nickname “The People’s Republic of Boulder.” I often wonder what CC, a liberal and progressive school in the middle of a conservative city, would be like if it were in Boulder…it would probably seem less liberal by comparison to the town!

Summer in a nutshell

I was sitting here trying to come up with a deep, thougtful topic to write about. I was debating whether to write about politics, about the legal system, about the impact of diversity on college campuses, etc. I know I will end up writing about all of these different topics throughout the summer, because I am passionate about all of them, but while thinking about what to write about I came to another conclusion as well. It summer time. Summer is a time to relax, enjoy the Colorado weather, play tennis or soccer, basically just unwind.

There is plenty of time throughout the rest of the summer to get back to talking about controversial and interesting issues, but this week I am going to talk about how I have been able to relax this summer.

One of the main contributing factors to this summer being so relaxing is the fact that so many of my friends/co-seniors are around. Since we all just started our leases on our senior off-campus houses, a lot of us sought out jobs in the springs, or for CC, as opposed to going back home. We have been barbecuing, playing basketball, playing tennis, going to the movies, etc. We have been doing things that we don’t often get a chance to do during the year, because of all of our different involvenments in different activities, so getting a chance to all come together and play basketball has been really awesome and refreshing.

We have just recently decided to start a summer tennis league, which while sounding official, is really just a bunch of us wanting to hit around, and occasionally playing a serious game or two.

Another thing that I have noticed about the summer is that it gives you a chance to get to know people outside of the craziness of the block plan. I have started to make a lot of new friends both in my grade and outside of it based on the fact that we have gotten the opportunity to hang out and actually spend time together. The reality is that a lot of run in different circles throughout the year, so to have the opportunity to actually get to know them has been really great.

Because I don’t want to start rambling any more then I already have I will wrap it up by saying that this summer has already gotten off to an amazing start, and I know it is going to be a summer to remember in a lot of different ways. Colorado summers are amazing…

Next week I will be taking a stab at the criminal justice system in the United States, and how it has become a system riddled with racial prejudice, injustice, and disparity.