I loved CC from my first breath there, and then having had one glorious year of standard classes.
Toward the end of that year, we began hearing about a new way of learning, culminating in our voices being heard (even though we could not vote on the outcome) when it was time for the faculty to approve the new Master Plan. Everyone knew it would be hard at first for some majors. I was an English major, so it was not nearly as difficult for me as it was for my friends with majors like math or physics.
My very first class was on Dada (taught by Art and English profs), and we all– profs and students– were totally immersed in the waters of the endless 3 1/2 week possibilities, creating outrageous ‘happenings’ around campus and culminating in a moveable feast of epic proportion.
I still remember most of what I learned and experienced; this is the rich treasure of immersive learning. It was the perfect introduction to the Block Plan. I took courses I never would have even imagined, since I could easily manage just one block’s worth, and they all were wonderfully worth my having been part of them. My sciences (gulp!) were Psychology, Underwater Geology, and Cosmology and Evolution, and I ended up even understanding them!
Classes with my esteemed and lofty mentor Dr. Neale Reinitz (eg: Themes and Types: the Voyage) were always in-depth, engaging, intellectually demanding and mind-boggling. The class that best exemplifies the essence and challenges of these earliest attempts at condensing a full semester into one Block was the “Greek History and Philosophy: Plato and Aristotle” course (taught by Classics and Philosophy profs). We covered 17 deeply intense volumes in the course. One day, I just withered in the midst of class.
I clearly remember Owen Cramer saying, “Cherie: just close the books, stand up, and go take a rest.” “No!” I protested. “I’ll be losing a month’s worth of learning!!” Then I reluctantly left for the rest of the day, coming back revived and ready to dive back in the next morning.
And there were unique CC adventures outside of class: I helped create the first Passover seder on the CC campus, I camped in the mountains and came down in time the next morning to shower and get to class, I delved into so many cultures and experiences, and I camped halfway up Pike’s Peak and got stuck for 3 days in a sudden Spring snowstorm.
My very last class was “Literature and Painting of the American Frontier”. My friend Peter and I dreamed up the class. We were to be on campus for 3 days, reading and discussing the topic. Then, we would take off to camp all the way from the Tetons to Yellowstone and beyond, learning and laughing all the way, from our books and from the magnificent scenery.
Back then, if there were 10 students who wanted a class and a professor to teach it, CC made room for the class. Our two Art and Literature profs were somewhat reluctant to go, yet we all had the most magnificent journey and adventure. It was perfect, right down to the ‘immersive principle’ of being together in hot springs in the middle of the night, listening to the bugling of the elk and sounds of the moose!
I am still in contact with some of my CC fellow-travelers. And, every time I meet a CC graduate, there is a knowing kinship. And, I have told people for all these decades since graduating, that I can think of no other place on the planet that was so perfectly fitting for me and my style of encompassing immersive study. I needed, I thirsted for, I yearned for a learning experience of this caliber to emerge for me. And magically it did, in the form of the CC Block Plan. How fortunate, how blessed I have been. I am a better learner, educator, partner, friend, writer, innovator and human being because of Colorado College’s nascent Block Plan.
To the CC classes of today and in the future: Relish this amazing, astoundingly beauteous opportunity to learn for learning’s sake. Take chances, take in teachings deeply, try new approaches and subjects, question more, experiment, let yourselves go further in learning and experiencing than you ever thought possible… and then go even further. May your Colorado College years be as profoundly life-affirming a time for you as it was for me.
Cherie Anne Karo, Class of 1973
Now Cherie Karo Schwartz
Storyteller, Author and Educator