Dear Alumni, Parents, and Friends,

Five years ago, when I first taught a class at CC, I discovered that what happens in the classroom here is different from anything I had encountered in more than 25 years in higher education.

The Block Plan and the adventurous spirit of our students make it seem that anything is possible, each and every block. You can take the time to do something over, you can assign group work, you can get out into the field, you can hold class at your home, or you can bring in an expert on a specific topic.

One of the key goals of our strategic plan, “Building on the Block,” is to find ways to support all the possibilities that the faculty are imagining to enhance their blocks. One of our initiatives is the Distinguished Visitors in Residence Program, which is featured in this issue. It’s an exciting program, and one we hope to continue to enhance.

Distinguished visitors make short but pivotal visits, like those of Nobel Prize-winning chemist Tom Cech, or attorney Cate Stetson; or they teach for an entire block, like journalist Peter Breslow of NPR or award-winning author Percival Everett.

Very few scholars, artists, filmmakers, and writers can take time out of their busy schedules to teach for an entire semester. However, they often can join us at CC for a 3 ½-week block. And the flexibility of the Block Plan also allows us to make the most of the visitors who come to campus for a more traditional one- or two-day visit. They usually spend chunks of their time here in classes with small groups of students.

CC has always drawn very special people, and when you combine our distinguished visitors in residence with faculty like Physics Professor Shane Burns and Theatre Professor Idris Goodwin, and students like Madeline Pillari ’17, whose stories are all featured in this issue, great things happen.

As a scholar, I am eager to understand more about the impact of our unique schedule on student learning. With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we are beginning to conduct scholarly research on the Block Plan. Our inaugural Mellon Pedagogy Scholar, Heather Fedesco, is interested in how compressed-format courses (the block!) affect student motivation, engagement, and performance. She spent the fall observing classes, conducting in-depth interviews with students, and surveying the student body. Her research will be featured in a future issue.

Which leads me back to where I started. Bringing experts to the CC campus, getting students out into the field, helping students create new knowledge with faculty advisors, or starting new businesses with guidance from visionary mentors — these are opportunities that are possible for a liberal arts college on the Block Plan. It is the right education for this generation.

Best regards,

Jill Tiefenthaler