Dear Alumni, Parents, and Friends,
The fall is an exhilarating time at Colorado College. At the celebration of his 50 years at CC, Professor of Philosophy John Riker noted that, on a college campus, fall is the beginning rather than the end. Each fall, we welcome new students and their families and embark together on a fresh academic year. The class of 2022 arrived in August, and I am excited to watch these students grow and challenge themselves over the next four years.
At Opening Convocation, Dr. EllaMaria Ray ’85 inspired our new students with her keynote address, “Sculpt Your Own Experience.” She shared how her CC experience shaped her life and how today she “stands on the shoulders” of her many CC mentors and classmates. EllaMaria encouraged students to build meaningful connections with a variety of people and to honor the importance of these relationships.
Alumni who spoke at Homecoming shared a similar message. From the Tiger Talks given by members of the Class of 1968 to the panel of award recipients, alumni emphasized how being open to a diversity of people and ideas has positively impacted their lives. The Spirit of Adventure Award winner, Lee Sessions ’86, stressed the importance of listening and noted that his liberal arts education taught him that it was better to try to “learn it all” than to be a “know-it-all.”
This wisdom alumni shared with our students is as timeless as it is counter-cultural. As Assistant Professor of Political Science Elizabeth Coggins explores in her piece “Polarization & Pushing Back,” we live in an era when more often than not, there is a “tendency to categorize the world into ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ ” She advises us all to “… engage the people around you. Especially engage those people who don’t look like you, who aren’t in your social circle, who grew up in a different neighborhood than you, who you believe think differently than you.”
As always, our faculty are doing so much to create learning environments where students listen, engage, and explore. Professors like John Riker are known for their caring facilitation of class discussions. Lauren Robinson ’18 fondly remembers taking classes with Riker, who “creates an atmosphere in the classroom that is beyond welcoming for anyone who is curious, and eager to ask questions and delve deeper into concepts. He holds space for students to question our worldviews together.”
Coggins’ pedagogical approach also encourages students to consider alternative views. In addition to organizing the Midterm Election Symposium, she leads, with Gregory Laski of the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Democratic Dialogue Project — a forum for CC students and cadets to discuss hot-button issues. These professors believe that mutual listening and understanding between the military and civilians is critical in developing the nation’s future leaders. Helen Griffiths ’18 describes Coggins’ classroom as “powerful, challenging, and life-changing,” noting how “at a divisive time in our collective governance, Professor Coggins affirms the power of dialogue. Rather than push aside the other, we must engage until that serendipitous moment of understanding.”
This semester has been especially rewarding because I have witnessed significant connection and growth in our community. I am inspired by those who push us to engage, especially when it makes us uncomfortable, rarely are the most important conversations the easiest.