By Miriam Brown ’21
Twice a week for two hours, Andre Dufresne ’21, Caroline James ’20, Mia Altenau ’21, and Associate Professor of Psychology Tricia Waters can be found in the basement below Loyal Coffee in downtown Colorado Springs.
There, they met seven other students from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Pikes Peak Community College, and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The group is brought together by the Quad Innovation Partnership, which connects students and faculty from the four institutions to work on strategic projects with real clients, aiming for hands-on solutions. QIP is the only higher education partnership in the United States that combines a community college, private liberal arts college, state university, and a service academy.
QIP has several project groups assigned to work for different clients. The group including Dufresne, James, and Altenau has spent the semester working for Partners for Children’s Mental Health, a new center developed by Children’s Hospital Colorado and the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado. Their assignment? To create a portfolio of suicide prevention programs to implement in Colorado elementary and middle schools, James says, as well as a feasibility index of how to implement them.
As a senior psychology major interested in child development, the project with QIP has helped James think about what kind of work she wants to do after graduating.
“I’m applying for jobs and I can advocate for myself more because I’ve done important work and here’s what I have to show for it,” James said. “So I think it’s helping me going into that to be more confident in my skills.”
Together, the students have given a few presentations on their work to PCMH and presented at a “demonstration day” for the broader Colorado Springs community. A typical week required six to eight hours of work outside of the biweekly meetings, Dufresne says, and right now, they’re working on a end-of-semester report for PCMH that he expects to be about 60 pages.
But for Dufresne, the work was never stressful.
“You’re doing something important that has real implications, so it doesn’t always feel like work,” Dufresne says. “It’s exciting work, and you can always find the energy to do it. … I think it’s definitely worth it if any student is considering doing it.”