Quad Continues to Build Community Partnerships Amid Pandemic

By Valerie Hanna’18

For student analysts at the Quad Innovation Partnership, the Coronavirus pandemic brought new urgency to community projects. Quad is a joint initiative that provides consulting services to local for-profit, nonprofit, and municipal partners. Teams are comprised of students and faculty advisors from Colorado College, University of Colorado College at Colorado Springs, the United States Air Force Academy, and Pikes Peak Community College. Student analysts are paid for their work, and partners receive quality, interdisciplinary consulting from students who are connected to the local community. Currently in its fifth year, Quad has received local and statewide recognition and now sustains paid research and work opportunities for more than 100 students each year.

Throughout the 2020 Spring Semester, Quad teams worked for five clients in Colorado Springs. Of these, two projects were extended from previous assignments that clients chose to pursue further. “Quad provides invaluable experience for students in a professional workplace setting where their work leads to real results you can see in the community,” shares Executive Director Jake Eichengreen. “It’s been equally rewarding to see how these students have built real relationships with the community, and we’re seeing this through contracts with repeat clients.”

In 2019, a team of Quad students working with Innovations in Aging developed recommendations for how developers can build affordable, community-minded housing for seniors. That research informed the development of a new, 280-unit affordable housing complex near downtown. This spring, the developer re-hired Quad to come up with specific recommendations for how the development can offer the best quality of life for its residents. Colorado Springs Utilities continued its partnership with Quad, working with student analysts to strategize avenues to increase engagement with Colorado Springs youth, who are future rate-payers. The City of Colorado Springs is also a repeat client, and rehired Quad to consult on how Colorado Springs can maximize partnerships between institutions of higher learning and the private sector around smart technology development, both to improve services and to build the local and regional economy.

Colorado College is a first-time client, and partnered with the Quad during the Spring 2020 semester to develop a peer mentorship program for female-identifying staff. Finally, two Quad teams worked with Partners for Children’s Mental Health, an organization of Children’s Hospital, Colorado, to research best practices for schoolwide suicide prevention education and personal student safety plans, respectively. Results from the research Quad collected informed staff hires, and will be published with the behavioral health strategic plan to better guide suicide prevention and mental health efforts across Colorado.

In March, Quad teams shifted to remote consulting to mitigate the Coronavirus’ spread. Project groups, which usually met twice a week at a local coffee shop, switched to virtual check-ins.

“While virtual meetings were new to us, remote work is consistent with a traditional consulting model,” Eichengreen says, adding that larger films rely heavily on teleconferencing, serving clients across the nation and the globe. “Student analysts working at Quad are likely going to have to work remotely at some point in their career, regardless of the field they choose,” says Eichengreen.

All Quad projects continued via teleconferencing and phone calls, and teams successfully wrapped up their projects on schedule in mid-May. But for the two teams working with Partners for Children’s Mental Health, the pandemic’s challenges were more than just communication logistics. Colorado has one of the 10 highest rates of youth suicide nationwide, and El Paso County has the highest rate in the state. Quad’s focus group, middle- and high-school students, is a particularly vulnerable age group. Young people rely on strong social networks and face-to-face contact, and with schools closed, physical distancing can feel even more isolating. Quad analysts had been working in the schools, consulting with administrators and school counselors across districts in the region to better understand community needs and develop a strategy to implement best practices, so with the schools closed, communication became difficult.

Quad was working on developing a peer-to-peer mentorship model wherein participants write letters to one another to combat feelings of isolation. These efforts have been particularly effective in veteran communities, and Quad proposed implementing a similar model in middle- and high-school school settings, in addition to in-person student support groups. In consideration of the possibility of long-term social distancing, the students also developed recommendations for texting services similar to a 24/7 crisis hotline, and other virtual support structures to serve at-risk students.

“This pandemic has made it very clear that mental health access is essential,” says Settie Harrison ’20, who worked with Partners for Children’s Mental Health alongside Caroline James ’20, Andre Dufresne ’21, and several other students from CC, UCCS, USAFA, and PPCC. “But we need to be proactive, not just reactive in our approach. This project aims to do just that; we provided a scalable program to Children’s Hospital, which they will then be able to help local schools implement.”

Quad analysts felt the emotional challenges of physical distancing themselves, both in their professional and personal lives. Quad shifted to remote consulting around the same time that Colorado College switched to remote learning, and “all of a sudden I was cooking in the same space where I was sleeping, where I was studying, where I was consulting,” says Dufresne. “It was tough, but also good to be able to call friends, to know we were in this together.”

In-person meetings provided a welcome opportunity to share and learn with students from different backgrounds. “I joined Quad because I wanted to give back to the Colorado Springs community and work with new people. Almost all of my peers at CC came from high school, or maybe a gap year program. Working with other college students from across Colorado Springs was an important space for me to connect and collaborate outside the CC bubble,” adds Dufresne.

Several graduating seniors have moved on from Quad, but they left with valuable hard and soft skills. “Quad taught me to work as part of a team to meet tight deadlines. Consulting was a lot like working on the Block Plan: small project teams, highly collaborative, and really interdisciplinary.”

Harrison shares that while her educational path was somewhat circuitous, Quad gave her direction and opened up new options she didn’t know existed. “My experience working with the Children’s Hospital showed me how expansive the medical field is,” she says. “Now I’m planning to pursue a master’s in public health, because of Quad.”

Over the summer, Quad analysts shifted their focus to two community-scale research projects. These assignments are intended for a broad audience to support intentional, informed and data-driven community decision-making in the wake of COVID-19. One study is exploring public trust and public safety in today’s Colorado Springs. The second project is an examination of organizational resilience, exploring how to position nonprofits and small businesses to be able to respond to changing circumstances effectively and rapidly, especially in these uncertain times.

Welcome New Associate Vice President of Facilities Services

Please help to welcome Amber Brannigan, who recently accepted the associate vice president, Facilities Services position! She will join the college in early August. Brannigan brings a wealth of leadership and facilities management experience having served as the building division administrator for the State of Nebraska, where she oversaw most state-owned buildings on all aspects of facilities operations, planning, and construction. Brannigan says one of her greatest accomplishments was her oversight and publication of the state’s first campus facilities strategic master plan.

Prior to joining the state, she worked for six years at the University of Nebraska Lincoln in progressively senior roles that included working with facilities services and staff, and overseeing procurement and sourcing. She has experience building strong community partnerships, and brings leadership and collaborative skills to this new role with CC.

Brannigan has a master’s of arts in management with an emphasis in international business, and two bachelors of arts degrees — economics and sociology, and in theatre and public speaking.

Commemorating Juneteenth

By Shannon Zander

A Brief History of Juneteenth

 Juneteenth, a portmanteau of “June” and “nineteenth,” is today! Juneteenth

commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, Texas, that all previously enslaved people in Texas were free. Although President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had been signed two and a half years prior, there was no one to ensure that the proclamation was known and upheld in the absence of federal troops.

Manya Whitaker, associate professor of education and interim director of the Butler Center, likened Juneteenth to the Fourth of July: “for many Black descendants of enslaved people, Juneteenth — or Jubilee — is our independence day. Just as July 4th is celebrated in memory of the colonies gaining independence from England, Juneteenth is when the last enslaved people, 2 ½ years after slavery was supposed to have ended, were finally set free in Texas.”

Whitaker noted that the marginalization and oppression of Black individuals certainly did not cease on June 19, 1865, as many of the previous enslaved individuals “had no choice but to remain on the plantation where they’d lived their entire lives and continue working as they’d always worked as ‘paid’ labor, never earning enough to be able to leave.”

“Nevertheless, this day is historic and is celebrated in Black communities nationwide as a moment to remind ourselves that we’ve overcome the unimaginable and we will continue to fight for our humanity.”

Why Awareness of Juneteenth Has Been On the Rise:
Awareness of Juneteenth is on the rise in the United States. In June 2018, the number of Google searches for the term “Juneteenth” nearly tripled. Currently, the interest in Juneteenth is the highest Google Trends has ever recorded.

Whitaker attributes the increased interest in Juneteenth to two reasons: “the Black community is re-grounding itself in its roots” and “we are telling our history beyond the borders of our own homes.” She notes that oral tradition has been a core way that Black individuals have passed stories and history down through generations, “but in recent years with the support of social media and technology we have many more options for documenting our stories and Juneteenth is one story that clearly needs to be told. That people are googling it tells me that at least some people want to listen.”

Here’s how you can commemorate Juneteenth
While many in-person, local events to celebrate Juneteenth have been canceled, you can still participate from anywhere in the world through these virtual events:

View more events and read more about the history of Juneteenth here.

Congratulations to the Winners of the Inaugural Esports Awards

By Shannon Zander

The inaugural esports awards — the Alaska award and the MysticMonk3y award — were given to Caroline Li ’20 and Andrew Choy ’23, respectively. These two awards, with a prize of $500 each, were generously created by an anonymous donor in the summer of 2019. The donor established the criteria for each award, and the Colorado College esports team chose to name the awards after influential CC students who helped to grow the esports community. Candidates were nominated by their peers and the final selection was made by a judge outside of the program selected by the anonymous donor.

The first ever Alaska award, named after Lilly Chen’s ’19 gamer tag, “Alaska,” was awarded to Li. A criterion of winning this award is that the recipient must be “a member of the esports community who significantly contributes to a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment,” according to the nomination form. Li, who has been a member of the esports community since her junior year, won the award due to her “immense passion for esports” and commitment “to growing the esports community in a meaningful and diverse way.” Li’s nominator also mentioned that she especially embodies the qualities of this award “in her extended commitment to Fem Friday, a program that works to grow the esports community in a meaningful and diverse way.”

The MysticMonk3y award, named after Henry Hinds’ ’19 gamer tag, emphasizes passion and leadership in esports while maintaining academic excellence. The recipient must be a player on the roster of an esports team, maintain a minimum of a 3.5 GPA, and demonstrate good sportsmanship, teamwork, professional behavior, and a passion for esports. Andrew Choy ’23, a first-year student, is this year’s recipient. Choy was commended in his nomination form for his efforts in welcoming others into the esports community, his dedication to helping with esports events, and his desire to see esports thrive at Colorado College. He even started a new unofficial team, all while striving for and maintaining academic excellence.

Congratulations to both Caroline Li and Andrew Choy!

“Thorne Miniatures” Thesis Piano Composition Dedicated to Two Music Faculty

By Grace Hale ’20

“Thorne Miniatures” is a collection of six miniature piano compositions each inspired by one of Narcissa Thorne’s miniature rooms found in the basement of the Art Institute of Chicago. Thorne’s miniature rooms are best described as model rooms of mostly European and American interiors built during the 1930s and 1940s. One of the most peculiar characteristics of Thorne’s miniature rooms is the absence of any human figures. Instead, she hints at human existence with small inanimate objects like a soccer ball or books. This is the role of the “Thorne Miniatures” to supply the musical scenes in such a way that fills this lifeless void. The “Thorne Miniatures” is an ode to childhood and imagination as explored in the museum collection.

During my four years at Colorado College, I had the privilege of studying composition very closely under Professor Ofer Ben-Amots and piano performance under Sue Grace. It was only appropriate that I would construct my thesis as a culmination of the two disciplines and the time spent with these mentors. I thank them both for giving me a new love of music and a drive to always create more. It is to them that I dedicate my “Thorne Miniatures.”

When CC moved to digital learning for the rest of the 2020 Spring Semester, I found myself in need of a piano for practice. With the help of Ofer and Sue, I was connected with a man named Phil Erklen who offered his studio as a place for me to practice near where I was living this spring. Little did I know that much more would come of this connection. In my time there, I signed a contract with Phil to publish my “Thorne Miniatures”through the CCC Music Company. With the publication, we created this video as a reference tool for those who purchase the music.


Career Center Adapts to Support Students Virtually

By: Miriam Brown ’21

The Career Center’s virtual doors didn’t close after the transition to distance-learning, and they won’t close when the school year ends.

In addition to scheduling calls for students to talk with career coaches, the Career Center has developed a guide to frequently asked “Career Questions & Concerns Amidst COVID-19,” recorded on-demand videos to watch from home, and planned several alumni panels and “Get-Started” sessions. The Career Center is also collaborating with the Wellness Resource Center to host sessions centered around “Wellness & Career Strategies for Moving Forward,” with the next one on May 11 to be targeted toward graduating seniors.

“Our entire goal as the Career Center right now is just that students know we’re available to them or here for them whenever they’re ready to engage with the Career Services aspect of their career at CC,” says Communications Fellow Amelia Atencio ’18.

Some students will participate in virtual internships this summer, and some seniors still have job offers. Atencio says they received over 60 responses to the annual #hired and #gradschool social media campaigns designed to celebrate CC students and their newly landed jobs or plans for graduate school. And for those still searching, the Career Center is here to help and “meet students where they are” with their current needs and priorities.

“We just want students to know that there are jobs,” Atencio says. “And if they don’t find an internship, that’s okay — we’re going to equip them with other ways to use the time. And the best thing they can do if they’re feeling really stuck is just start having conversations with us.”

To schedule an appointment with a coach or RSVP for upcoming events, students can find the Career Center on Handshake.

CC’s Hidden Caretakers

By Leslie Weddell

Colorado College continues to operate smoothly, thanks in large part to the important, behind the scenes work that so many do. Here is a quick look at seven of CC’s “hidden caretakers.”

Justin PorterJustin Porter, Central Plant supervisor

Porter has been working at Colorado College for 19 months with a team of four plant operators — Edward Wojakowski, Doug Campbell, Jonathan Bernhard, and Steven Pattillo — who help maintain the infrastructure of the college. The team’s job includes monitoring and adjusting the heating and cooling for Colorado College buildings as well as the ice rink chiller for Honnen Ice Arena. “A large part of that is maintaining a strong and resilient Central Plant which ensures everyone is comfortable and important projects and artifacts are at the proper temperature,” he says. That includes monitoring the entire campus, from gallery temperatures in the Fine Arts Center to the rat lab in Barnes.

Porter and his team are working to conserve energy by finding spaces with no occupancy such as theatres, pools, gyms, etc., and putting the campus on a holiday setting (lower temperature set points). However, when the campus first went to distance working and learning in March, the weather was still cold, and they couldn’t lower the temperatures too much for fear of freezing water lines. Currently Porter and his team are conducting all cooling through a plate and frame heater exchanger run in reverse, that is, a swamp cooler, and thus not using any mechanical cooling in an effort to save money.
How is working on campus different now?
“The largest difference working on campus right now is the missing presence and energy of the students, faculty, and colleagues.”
Random fact: “Most people don’t realize that we’re staffed 365 days a year, 24/7.”


April Scriven, Mail Services supervisorApril Scrivens

Scriven has been at CC for two years. Her job entails supervising and supporting the Mail Services staff, which includes Rick Hessek, Kelly (Steven) Wilcox and Sarah Mascotti, and partnering with other departments on campus with regard to mail, packages, and shipping.

“A typical day in Mail Services starts with one or two members picking up mail and packages from the downtown Post Office. We then sort the student mail into their Worner boxes. Right now, most of the student mail gets forwarded with the help of Banner. Faculty/staff mail is sorted by department. While this is happening, we also receive package deliveries from UPS, FedEx, DHL, OnTrac, and Amazon. All packages are routed to students or departments. Around noon, two members of Mail Services deliver mail and packages to departments on campus and we open the Mail Center counter. At the Mail Center, we release packages to students, sell stamps, and process shipments. We helped a lot of students mail their personal belongings home in the beginning of March. The students seem to really appreciate that the Mail Center staff offers a friendly face on campus. Initially, we were here five days a week, because we were still receiving so many packages and had so much mail to forward. Students were contacting us every day for assistance. Recently, we reduced our schedule to every other day and now we are on campus.”
How is working on campus different now?
“It feels so strange to walk into empty buildings and across an empty campus Working on campus now feels almost post-apocalyptic. I keep waiting for a zombie attack.”
Random fact: Last semester, Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019, Campus Mail Services received 38,261 packages. This semester Jan. 1to April 30, 2020, they received about 17,578 packages. Scriven says mail numbers have stayed consistent but rather than sorting it into Worner boxes, they process it via computer to generate a forwarding label and resend it.


Fred GatlingFrederick Gatling, Campus Safety officer

Gatling, who works the 2 to 10 p.m. swing shift, started working at CC in October 2018.

His job includes patrolling the campus and surrounding areas and properties, both on foot and by vehicle. “I keep the safety and security of every person on campus, visitors included, first and foremost and as my highest priority. I ensure building doors and windows are secured, especially ground level. I conduct medical transports and recreational transports for CC visiting staff and mostly students. I conduct preventive measures for safety by remaining highly alert and maintaining expectations and enforcing violations of posted campus and student standards. The most important aspect of my job is consistency, availability and approachability.”
How is working on campus different now?
“It’s peaceful. There is a law enforcement adage which doesn’t allow officers to say ‘quiet’ (the Q word!) That would be considered jinxing the remainder of the shift for all shift members. But it is peaceful, and time moves slowly. Swing shift is the usually the busiest shift because of traffic in and around campus. This normally lasts from 3 to 8 p.m. Students are walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, and zooming across campus. We would conduct transports in conjunction with conducting perimeter checks and service calls, which include contacting citizens who are knowingly/unknowingly trespassing campus, drivers who are stranded on and near campus and who may not be CC affiliated. We would normally assist with unlocking and locking buildings and classrooms for evening or weekend events, scheduled or unscheduled. First responders to traffic accidents on or near campus, medical emergencies and any other form of activities that may arise. So, with that as compared to now, it is very peaceful.”
What’s the most unusual thing you see at CC now?
“The most unusual thing I see is a lot of people walking dogs and exercising. Also, vehicle traffic is almost nonexistent after 7 p.m. And it is a bit unusual for students to try and sneak back on to campus after being dismissed, but it does happen. We caught unauthorized students climbing through a residence hall window during this ‘Stay at Home’ time. Finally, it is very unusual for the Fitness Center and gym to be completely empty.”
Random fact: Gatling regularly walks through Shove Chapel as part of his security rounds, and when he’s in there, he sings.


Marcos Patino, Sodexo custodianMarcos Patino

Patino has worked at Colorado College for 40 years. “A lot of people don’t believe it, but it’s true,” he says. “I have been here 40 years. I am dedicated to my job. You guys are like my family. You have to like your job. Forty years later I am still here.” Throughout his time at CC Patino has worked all over campus, but mostly recently in Armstrong Hall and Spencer Center, where he is a familiar figure. His job entails vacuuming, dusting, emptying trash and recycle bins, and general custodial maintenance, among other duties.
How is working on campus different now?
“There are not as many people. I used to see a lot of people, sometimes parents, asking me directions, where is this, where is the President’s Office?”


Allison Pacheco, Campus Safety officer

Allison Pacheco
Allison Pacheco

Pacheco has been working at CC for two and a half years as a full-time employee, and three additional years as a student.In addition to her Campus Safety duties that include checking buildings, patrolling campus, and working with students, Pacheco also is in charge of the Safe Ride Program and student workers. She coordinates the Parking Office and coordinates scheduling for our office and staffing officers for events as well as event planning.
How is working on campus different now?
“It’s definitely strange! Being in a role that is very responsive to students, it is interesting to be doing all of our interactions from afar. My role has definitely changed, but it has just morphed into being responsive to students in different ways. We have a group of students on or near campus that we check in with. We also have been running a food pantry, so we have some interactions with students that we might not have during the year.”
What’s the most unusual thing you see at CC now?
“Facilitating the buying and delivery of food, medication, and clothing for students remaining on and near campus and making sure their needs are also being met.”
Random fact: She graduated in 2017 with a degree in education.


Eddie SiowEddie Siow, Bon Appetit, assistant general manager

Siow has been working at CC for almost a year. His job entails overseeing the day-to-day operations of all food service locations on campus, and he’s involved in financial planning, implementation of marketing and special events, safety and well-being, client relations, facility maintenance, and product procurement.
How is working on campus different now?
Life was never a dull moment prior to COVID In January, we upgraded our food program at Rastall and elevated standards across campus. We were gearing up for a robust marketing campaign after spring break. Although the work pace has slowed a little, there is plenty to keep me busy. The slightly slower work pace allows me to connect with the students to learn how they are coping with the COVID crisis. Through the conversations, I am able to find out their needs and custom tailor our operations to better serve them.
What’s the most unusual thing you see at CC now?
Since many people are not able to get a haircut, I am seeing some interesting hair styles and some creative ways to keep their hair in check.
Random fact: “Before the shutdown, we served about 3,500 meals a day. Now we serve less than 100 meals.”


Jennifer Golightly, academic applications specialistJennifer Golightly

Come September, Golightly will have been working at CC for six years. She works to help lead and support the Digital Liberal Arts initiative at CC, and administers Canvas, which is the software where online classes are held. Her job entails the back-end management of Canvas, in addition to providing support for faculty using Canvas. This has been vital during the transition to distance learning as faculty have adapted their courses to an online format.
How is working on campus different now? I’m not working on campus right now but working from home for me has included working with more faculty and seeing the really cool things that they’re doing in their online classes, even under the immense pressure to get online for Block 7.
The most unusual thing you’ve encountered working at CC right now: “Between March 10 and the start of Block 7 on March 30, I hosted two to three workshops a week focusing on online pedagogy and Canvas functionality in addition to working with faculty individually, and by my rough count, I worked with close to 100 faculty in about 20 days.”

I think this moment at CC has highlighted for me how good we are as a campus at working together and supporting one another, particularly when there are challenges that we’re facing. That may not be unusual, but I think the degree to which it happens at CC is unique.
Random fact: Golightly has a Ph.D. in eighteenth-century British literature, has published a book and a chapter in an edited collection on the radical novels in Britain written during the 1790s, and researches and publishes in that field as often as she can.

Acknowledging and Supporting Those Observing Ramadan

By Jen Kulier

The holy month of Ramadan began at sundown on Friday, April 23, over block break, and runs throughout Block 8, ending around May 23 in North America. Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, extra prayer, reflection, and increased charity and generosity. It is also a time of community, celebration, and joy. A commemoration of Muhammad’s first revelation, the annual observance of Ramadan is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and lasts for a month, from one sighting of the cresent moon to the next.

During Ramadan, some Muslim students, staff, and faculty will be fasting from sunrise to sundown. According to Chaplain Kate Holbrook, this can be a very spiritually centering, rewarding, and also demanding time for students, as well as for staff and faculty.

The Chaplain’s Office at Colorado College offers support and resources for members of the campus community who are observing Ramadan, just as they do for those who celebrate and follow other faith traditions.

“In partnership with faculty within the CC Muslim community, we will be hosting a dessert gathering late one night, post Iftar meal; students are in all different time zones now, which means they are breaking fast at all different times,” says Holbrook. Contact Chaplain Holbrook for more information (kholbrook@coloradocollege.edu).

The CC Muslim community is invited to join the Yale Muslim community for “Friday Reflections” (a virtual Jumma reflection) at 12:30 p.m. EST. and “Ramadan Reflections” which will happen on Mondays and Wednesdays. Email Holbrook (kholbrook@coloradocollege.edu) if you are interested and she will send you the links.

Eid al Fitr, which celebrates the end of Ramadan, will occur at sunset around May 23.

Ramadan Resources:


What is Mindfulness: Molly Seaman ’21

In this series we ask people around campus what mindfulness means to them and how they are surviving and thriving in the new circumstances we find ourselves in. Here, we talk to Molly Seaman ’21.

What does mindfulness mean to you?
Mindfulness may evoke meditation, yoga, art therapy, and other anxiety-reducing therapeutic techniques, but to me mindfulness means awareness of the present moment and consciousness of that awareness. Meditation, yoga, and art therapy may help some people achieve this state of mind, but every person must search for the unique activity that works for them. Mindfulness must be worked toward; mindfulness is a reward. I achieve mindfulness through making sculptures, writing poetry, and hiking, though every person I know who focuses on mindfulness has their own methods.

How is mindfulness different from calmness or relaxation?
Practicing mindfulness means facing the reality of the present, which does not necessarily yield relaxation. I don’t think I need to be calm nor relaxed while practicing mindfulness. In fact, I think it can be better to be the opposite. In order to be aware of the present moment, I must face the negativity in the present. Mindfulness does not require me to fight that negativity, but it does require me to be aware of it, to feel it. Mindfulness can be a wake-up call for me if I haven’t been facing my demons. Sometimes I’ve found it important to be conscious of the present before making decisions.


How does mindfulness help at a time like this of uncertainty and worry?
It is easy to chronically worry about the future in the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak; I know I’ve been worrying. That is why it is more important than ever to practice mindfulness, to experience the present moment instead of worrying about the future, even if just for a short while. The COVID-19 outbreak is largely out of our control, and the most we can do is continue to practice social distancing and to wait. In the meantime, it is important to reflect on the joys of the present as well as the negatives. I take time to appreciate the amount of time I have to spend with my roommates and to start projects I’ve been putting off for weeks, months, and even years in some cases. The free time that social distancing has allotted all of us gives us a chance to strengthen our relationships with our housemates and/or families and to engage with hobbies. However, this free time can only be taken advantage of if we are able to appreciate the present instead of worrying about the future.

What are some of your favorite practices that you’re leaning on at this time?
Art has become extremely important to me during the pandemic. Art projects give me purpose, an outlet for creativity and energy, and, when I finish them, a sense of accomplishment. I’ve never seriously studied studio art, but I’ve realized recently that, of course, no one has to see any product of which I’m not proud. This realization gave me full creative release, and I’ve been creating many pieces of art since, both bad and good.


What suggestions can you offer to someone who might be struggling to be mindful now?
Everyone achieves mindfulness differently. Any activity that can help you escape worries about the future has the potential to help you to achieve mindfulness. Don’t worry about relaxing; trying to relax can be anxiety-inducing in and of itself. Engage with activities that focus your attention onto the present.

What resources does CC offer that can help those right now who want to cultivate mindfulness?
Aside from reaching out to the Counseling Center, the chaplain, the Employee Assistance Plan, the Butler Center, the Advising Hub, and/or the Wellness Resource Center, it is important to remember that professors are also a resource that CC students can reach out to with concerns/anxieties about the virus and with questions about mindfulness. One of my favorite aspects of CC is the strong relationships between students and professors, and it is important to remember that those relationships exist both on and off campus.

What is Mindfulness with Kara Thomas ’21

In this series we ask people around campus what mindfulness means to them and how they are surviving and thriving in the new circumstances we find ourselves in. Here, we talk to Kara Thomas ’21.

What does mindfulness mean to you?
To me, mindfulness means being present, which includes being aware of changes in your emotions. This also means each task you do is with a purpose. This can mean something as simple as being aware when you sit down, or stand up. It can also mean acknowledging when you feel sad, or angry — not trying to shove the emotion away, just recognizing that it is there.

How is mindfulness different from calmness or relaxation?

Calmness and relaxation are an aspect of mindfulness for sure, but I would put them more in category of meditation. Meditating, which typically puts one in a state of relaxation, can help you be more mindful through the day while completing simple daily tasks.

How does mindfulness help at a time like this of uncertainty and worry?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious during this unpredictable time. Being mindful can help you not let these emotions completely wear you down. Mindfulness helps us realize that some things are out of our control, and we just need to stay present, active, cognizant of how our reactions and emotions may be affecting those around us. Additionally, being mindful may help us find new outlets for our frustrations, anxiety, or worry that we may be feeling during this time.

What are some of your favorite practices that you’re leaning on at this time?
I got really into yoga and meditation a couple years back, but find it hard to keep to a consistent schedule at school. So I’m really trying to meditate at least 15 minutes a day, and do yoga at least every other day. Both are great activities to do during this time because for yoga, all you need is access to YouTube, where there are plenty of free videos, and meditating you just need yourself and a quiet space. I also find coloring and doing puzzles to be very therapeutic, as your mind gets completely distracted and focused on the task at hand.

What suggestions can you offer to someone who might be struggling to be mindful now?
Being mindful does not come easily — I’ve been struggling for years to implement mindfulness into my daily life. Just as any hobby takes time to learn, so does being mindful. I would suggest starting with meditating for five minutes a day, then slowly work your way up to 10 minutes, 15, etc. But no rush! We have plenty of time right now, and practice will make mindfulness pay off in the end. It also may be hard to see “progress.” Sometimes we are so focused on seeing results, we lose sight of the goal. Being mindful is about being OK, and accepting, not “seeing” anything change in you. Over time, you will realize you listen more to your emotions and recognize when strong emotions overtake you. But the process is not the same for everyone, and may not be linear. Try not to stress too much about being mindful in the “right” way. If you miss a day of meditation, or yoga, that’s OK. Pick it back up tomorrow.


What resources does CC offer that can help those right now who want to cultivate mindfulness?
There is a great new adjunct course being offered for Block 8, Mindfulness and Social Action in the Context of COVID-19, which I think is a great class for anyone who wishes to be more mindful during this pandemic. I also believe the Bemis School of Art is offering online (Zoom) art classes, which could be helpful for certain students, if art is how they embrace being mindful. Additionally, the Wellness Resource Center is always coming up with new creative ideas that they are taking online, such as their journaling series. I also believe “Morning Meditation and Muffins” (Thursday mornings when school is in session) is still going on via Zoom. Creativity & Innovation and the WRC I would say are the two go-to places for mindful resources for students, but I would honestly also check the Daily Digest, because the school comes out with different creative activities every week!