Community Engagement and the Fine Arts with Idris Goodwin

Idris Goodwin photo

Photo from CC News, February 5, 2020

Idris Goodwin, who previously taught for six years in the Department of Theatre and Dance at CC, returned to become director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College in May of 2020. Because of his focus on using the arts to build more equitable, inclusive and inspirational spaces for everyone, the CCE staff was thrilled to reach out and get his thoughts on the intersection between community engagement and the fine arts!

Q: Most people don’t necessarily think about inclusion or community engagement when they think of art, particularly the fine arts. How do you see the interaction between community engagement and art?

A: “Some of it has to do with the with the culture created around the presentation, preservation and financing of the work. Museums can be seen as these large, intimidating, white-walled palaces where folks can’t make noise, can’t take pictures and can’t touch anything. Now obviously we want to keep the objects safe but if there is no demand, hunger, curiosity, or interest in those objects then what are we doing? If the community doesn’t feel comfortable, welcomed and connected to our building and with our objects, what’s our purpose?

“The FAC at its best has been able build and sustain bridges between our building and the world outside. This is where creative and intentional learning and engagement come into play in our programming, and we’re able to take full advantage of our interdisciplinary nature. Arts education through the FAC’s Bemis School of Art and the FAC Theatre School both invite and provide opportunities for all to explore their own artistic voice. Beyond the classroom, we nurture a community of artists by offering spaces of inclusion, collaboration, and inspiration on our stages, in the galleries, and more recently in community conversations happening online.

“The word vitality is in our mission and that’s a key– fomenting a demand and hunger for art as a lifestyle, a culture – not just a collection of objects.”

Q: Why do you think access to the arts is so important for all people?

A: “Our art is our story. And we have to know our story, or else, who are we? So it’s a form of history keeping and sharing. Moreover, the arts can be the galvanizing tool to bring different walks together in the same space and spark necessary conversations. I think the area where most arts organizations need to improve is ensuring that we have a wide range of opportunities for people to see themselves somehow reflected in what they’re experiencing. We can’t presume to know everything about everyone; it’s crucial that we seek to represent diversity in all the ways humanity presents it.”

Q: How will the incorporation of the Fine Arts Center by CC benefit the diverse communities in Colorado Springs? How would you like to see CC students become a part of that experience?

A: “This union is why I came back. I believe the marriage of these two entities is a unique and powerful beginning to a new chapter.

“The students, faculty and staff of CC will be key players in writing that chapter. It’s about being in conversation, a regular transference of ideas and needs. The diversity of each individual contributor bringing value to our work and the programming we build for the broader community. It’s our goal that every single student, faculty member and staff have at least one transformative experience with the FAC every year. Though obviously we think we can provide more than that.”

Q: Particularly regarding the engagement with all local communities, where would you like to see the Fine Arts Center in 5 years? 10 years?

A: “In the near term, 2021, we intend to bust out of the COVID confines and bring arts experiences outside—socially distanced and safe of course through an initiative we’re calling City As A Venue, designed to fill the existing stages and platforms in our city. Exciting stuff, more on this soon. In addition to this, we’ll continue to grow the digital programs and interactions introduced through 2020 to supplement these in-person experiences and further our efforts in reaching new audiences, creating access and experimenting with our creative output. 

“By seizing on these opportunities to evolve the way we present the arts, I truly believe the Fine Arts Center can be a unique and innovative institution that truly reflects the college, the region and the world in the years to come.”

We’d like to thank Idris for his participation and on-going efforts to transform the role of the FAC and the arts. You can read more about him here!

Building Community During a Pandemic

This past fall, Theatre Dance Professor Shawn Womack worked with CC students and residents from two participating care facilities – MacKenzie Place and Life Care Colorado Springs, on the “Of a Time” project, to attempt to counter the restrictions on social interaction and alleviate isolation that has come about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Her project has had both extra-curricular and co-curricular components. Professor Womack noted that “This project was a direct result of the pandemic. How to build connection across different communities? Zoom was our means, of course. It felt all the more urgent when care facilities went to lockdown and students have become more isolated from one another.”

It is with this in mind, and amid a great amount of uncertainty, quarantines, shuttered campuses, and limited options to engage with others, a group of students attended one of two workshops titled “Of A Time: A workshop in Sharing Stories across Communities and Generations” in mid-September. The workshops, organized in collaboration with the CCE and BreakOut leaders, were designed to prepare and guide Professor Womack’s student how to meet with local elders over Zoom to create meaningful connections, grapple together on how to bond with others, and to share their experiences during isolation.

In her adjunct course, GS 222: “Of A Time: Sharing Stories and Creative Expression during COVID-19”, students took their Zoom meetings a step further and used them as inspiration for a creative project. Over the course of 3 blocks, students were instructed to meet with elders and then manifest their encounter using an artistic medium such as music, dance, writing, theatre, drawing, sculpture, photography, film, or digital media.

When asked about her inspiration and goals for the project, Professor Womack said “as both a CC professor and as someone who cares for a family member in a care facility, I was struck by how the pandemic was isolating yet that different generations experienced the sense of isolation differently. I witnessed both the first-year students being immediately quarantined for two weeks at the beginning of the semester after elders in my sister’s care facility had been quarantined for over five months. It occurred to me that it would be beneficial to both students and the elders to engage in conversation, to connect and share their stories across generational and institutional divides…I hoped that these conversations would, for a moment, alleviate the sense of isolation for all.”

The students who did artistic works met again after the Thanksgiving break to work out how to share their creative work back with those who had, in Womack’s words, “generously shared of themselves and their stories.”

Video or notes from the interviews are planned to be archived in CC’s Special Collections. Many thanks to Professor Womack for sharing about this much-needed work!

Summer Internships Enhance Bonner Student Experiences

Despite complications surrounding Covid-19, the CCE was pleased to be able to support some Bonner student internships this past summer.  Two of the students were Filip Carnogursky ’23 and Angelina Chen ’22. In the U.S., Chen had an internship with Justice is Global (JIG), which is based in Chicago, through which she worked to promote narratives around global cooperation to counter growing nationalism and xenophobia via phone-banking and individual meetings with political organizers in the Asian diaspora in the U.S. Meanwhile, Carnogursky worked with Incien, an environmental protection advocacy organization in Slovakia in addition to additional work with marginalized Roma communities. We asked Chen and Carnogursky to share some reflections on their experience, how it shaped their ideas, and the skills they developed because of their internships.

Chen started by admitting that “I wasn’t too sure what I was going into at the beginning because, with Covid-19, the organization itself was undergoing some changes in its agenda and programs.” She went to add that “eventually my internship experience exceeded my expectation…I got a glimpse into the experiences, aspirations, and struggles of seasoned organizers and activists, especially those rooted in the Asian American communities, as I helped to build a coalition of Asian American organizations” When asked about the effect Covid-19 had on her internship, she added that “surprisingly, Covid-19 became central to my work at JIG. As part of my internship, I participated in a deep canvassing project that aims to address anti-Asian sentiments and shift public opinion towards global cooperation during the pandemic. We called democrat and independent voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania and tried to start a conversation about the pandemic, checked in on their well-being, and built rapport over the phone.”

Carnogursky had a similar experience of quickly becoming part of something greater: “As I started my work, Incien was enveloped in projects from all sides. The first day I came to the beautiful office with a lush garden filled with hard working bees, I found myself at the spearhead of an exciting project ‐ designing an ecological product for the third biggest energy producer in Slovakia. After days of research, looking at examples from other electric utilities all around the world, with the supervision of my boss…we gave a presentation to the leading people of the company. They liked it! It was only two weeks into my internship and I felt like a significant part of the NGO.”

He added that part of what Incien was working on was establishing the path trash takes after being disposed of: “We visited landfills releasing toxic methane, which were covered by green healthy grass from the side of the road, and with an open trash dump on the side that is overlooking fertile fields. We visited polystyrene producers who were trying to include recycled polystyrene in their products. We visited an electronics recycling company where often fully functional speakers, toys, and devices were recycled.” Reflecting on his work, he added “I saw what recycling means…It comes down to our need for endless consumption in our daily lives and to the system that not only allows us to do so but cannot function without it.

Fortunately, many important people realize this conundrum and are trying to change our addiction to waste.” Carnogursky worked with Incien to do a waste analysis and presentation for Slovak President Zuzana Caputova: “I realized how relatively easy it is to get far when one is passionate and in the right place at the right time. Or I was just lucky. But it felt great to elevate the issue to the president’s attention.”

The impact of their internships was not small. Chen said “since coming to the U.S. for college two years ago, I’ve always felt like an outsider. At college, even as I’m speaking out on transnational solidarity and such, I’m always the foreigner…I’m constantly on the fence about conversing with new people because so many conversations ended up in something like ‘oh so is it true that you eat dogs in China?’ But the conversations I had through this project went beyond my imagination. Over the phone, I finally got to talk with ordinary people without the presumption of my identities and worldviews. It was just so heartening to see how this exchange of ideas and stories can break down cultural barriers and build emotional connections at difficult times like this. What’s ironic is that while the relations between my home country and the US are deteriorating every second, I finally see the possibility to grow peace and solidarity. And that’s through mutual care and understanding.” She continued, “I have definitely developed my skills in communication and building relationships…I’ve grown to find my voice and relate to different people’s experiences and backgrounds in my own way. On one hand, this learning experience is invaluable for me to reconcile with my identities in my work in the future. On the other hand, it also gives me leverage in future advocacy and fundraising efforts.”

And Carnogursky noted that the internship helped him not only feel more comfortable with public speaking, but made him “very happy that so many more people are interested in these issues because interest streams to action and action to a real change.” Filip now sees environmental advocacy work as not only a passion and interest of his, but also a paying, financially supportive future career. His boss at INCIEN has already offered him a job if he is interested.

An Interview With Star Student and Community Engaged Fellow Filip Carnogursky

Originally from the town of Tesáre, Slovakia, Filip Carnogursky (’23) is making huge waves in Colorado College as part of the Community Engaged Fellowship program. I sat down with him to hear about his thoughts on the program, his work within, and how he is able to accomplish so much.

I want to start of this interview by asking you in your own words, what exactly is the Community Engaged Fellowship?

This is something that is always so hard to define for me. I’d say it is a fellowship for students that have been socially engaged before coming to college, and for students who come from lower backgrounds economically that are not necessarily represented in schools today in higher education. This fellowship works in a way that we get paid for doing social engagement work so that we can keep going to college and doing this work instead of working in the cafeteria or in other places, enabling us to continue working for our communities. It’s also a holistic program, we talk about everything, spiritual life, the current year, and how we can further engage our community.

That was quite a long answer, I’m sorry

No that’s great, long answers are awesome

What exactly do you think it means for you specifically, being a Community Engaged Fellow?

For me, it is a responsibility. I feel responsible for using this opportunity as much as I can to its fullest potential. Since somebody trusts me in such a way, it’s a big privilege I would say for me and for all the other community engaged fellows, but speaking for me it’s a huge privilege to be paid for something that you like to do, and something that has added value to the whole community, it feels very nice, when you do this work it’s fulfilling and at the same time you get money from that. I feel like it’s a great match, and from this opportunity I feel like it comes with a lot of responsibility as well, somebody trusts us in such a way that they give us money for social engagement work. I feel like we, and myself included, should try to be engaged as much as possible and as effectively as possible. Not just to get those hours in, but to actually be able to see something behind me when I’m finished. I feel like it comes from that, that I have this privilege.

What are some of your current projects?

Since the beginning, I really like that [this] Fellowship allows you to explore, especially in the first semester, you can go to different sites, different community partners, whether on campus or beyond campus, and you can just go there, try it out, and come back. I have been working with homeless people at the shelter. I was mostly cleaning there and helping them with the food, but mostly what I do is work with sustainability oriented initiatives, so since the beginning of the last semester, since I came here I participated in various groups such as the Sunrise Movement, Environment Colorado, EnAct and others, mostly I was working with Environment Colorado, helping to organize the protest against Senator Gardner’s inaction on climate change. So we collected five hundred petitions, bringing it over to the Colorado Springs town hall with around sixty some people, it was a lot of fun, we were dancing all the way to his office, running the petitions to him.

It was a great experience, as I was organizing this I realized that there is so much to be done on campus in terms of sustainability still, so I’m trying now with some other people in our group, we try to coordinate sustainability efforts on campus, we are going to put all of the groups together so let’s say there are people in EnAct, in Sunrise, in the Office of Sustainability and many others. Many times what happens is that there are sustainability events that happen at the same time, and these two events are competing for the same students basically. So what we are trying to do is to make a list serve for all of the students who are interested in sustainability, then we will make a calendar, and in the end we will put in each of the areas the option of where you would like to focus your efforts, this is an idea to collectivize the whole effort. 

Beyond Campus I’m working with the Sierra Club, since the Martin Drake power plant is still here in front of us, and it’s still burning coal almost every single day, and so I’m trying to do everything I can to stop it, because it’s going to be retired, but it’s up to us how soon that day will come. So we’ve been to many city council meetings, to the utility board meetings and advocated for closing it earlier. 

Do you feel that all of these things that you have been doing have gotten you closer with the community, both with CC and with Colorado Springs?

Oh for sure, I think that if I wasn’t a Community Engaged fellow, I would have still been active in the local community and beyond, but it would be much less sustained and continuous, so I would maybe go to the homeless shelter once in a month, and try to help somewhere else, but I feel like thanks to this I have been part of the community now much more, especially because I have had so much time to explore the different groups and I know many people in these different groups, so I feel like this fellowship was enhancement definitely for my social life and my sense of belonging to Colorado College, and to Colorado Springs.

How does your being a Fellow interact with the block program?

I feel like it really depends on the block, sometimes they are harder, sometimes it is easier, but overall it is true that it is one more thing to do. However, it’s something that is extremely fulfilling, so I always try and find time for community engaged work, and what is good about [this] Fellowship is that it is up to me, so let’s say we need to work twenty one hours in one block, it’s incredibly doable, and even if we can’t finish our twenty one hour requirement, we can always communicate with the CCE and the other staff, and they are very understandable, so I must say, that even though it adds to my task list, and sometimes puts me off track academically, because I find it so much more fun to do community work to be honest. I feel like it is up to you, but since my work is more continuous and needs more committee meetings and more planning sessions it’s kind of nicely balanced out throughout the days.

So you feel as if your first semester is going well thanks to these programs?

In many ways. I would absolutely agree with that.

Are there any last thoughts you would like to share about the Community Engaged Fellowship?

I just wish there were more spaces in this program for people like me. I feel that there would be so many more kids that would be thriving with this opportunity, and I’m really glad that for some reason they gave this opportunity to me. I won’t let them down.

Farewell to Dr. Anthony Siracusa

It is with mixed emotions that we announce Dr. Anthony Siracusa will be leaving Colorado College in mid-March for a new position as the inaugural Director of Community Engagement in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi. I personally, along with the rest of the CCE team, am incredibly grateful for Anthony’s contributions to the CCE.  Anthony consistently went above and beyond in his role as assistant director to enhance the capacity of the CCE and leaves us in a better place than when he began.  Since joining our team in the fall of 2017 after receiving his PhD in History from Vanderbilt, Anthony has led the student-facing work of the CCE – passionately, thoughtfully, and strategically deepening civic learning and development both inside and outside of the classroom. He played an integral role in shaping the direction of the office through our strategic planning process and has provided skillful leadership to CCE staff.  He has been a strong representative and advocate for the CCE throughout the institution, and shared his experience and insights in talks and presentations at CC and beyond.

One of Anthony’s greatest legacies for Colorado College and the CCE has been advocating for, institutionalizing, and developing our Community Engaged Fellowship program.  In its pilot year when Anthony joined our staff, the program is now a robust, intentionally-designed 4-year fellowship with 25 students.  He has laid out a 4-year, developmental civic co-curriculum for fellows, founded a student leadership team, and helped establish a High Impact Partnership Initiative to identify core partners to lay a foundation for meaningful student work.  He has strategically and collaboratively worked with Advancement to fundraise for the program, with Admissions to coordinate the application process with that of the college, with Financial Aid to integrate the fellowship into the aid process, with Global Education to adapt to regulations for international students, and with Student Employment to brainstorm the best ways to support students financially and uphold accountability in the program.

Anthony has helped transform the CCE into a bustling hub of student activity, building strong relationships with students and taking seriously the value of “co-creation” – working to cultivate student leadership in all CCE programs.  Our Public Achievement, BreakOut, and CoOp programs, as well as Community Engaged Scholars and Leaders pathways all engage more students and are more developed, intentional, impactful programs at the end of Anthony’s tenure.  He has also individually advised countless community-engaged students with care and skill, helping them to discern their passions and pathways, and supported numerous Watson Fellowship applicants to find their voice and dreams.

Anthony has been a true educator, seeking to integrate community engagement with teaching and learning, building on and extending the educational mission of the college.  His scholarship engages with and contributes to our understanding of social change and civic leadership.  His book, tentatively titled The World as it Should Be: Religion and Nonviolence before King, is under contract at the University Of North Carolina Press.   He co-taught an “Engaged Journalism” class with me in the spring of 2019, taught a community organizing adjunct this fall, and is teaching an Introduction to Community Engagement course to our Fellows.  He has also worked to integrate his expertise and skills as a historian into his student work, and has co-written a chapter for Discussing Democracy with a student, was active in the Digital Liberal Arts consortium, and has worked to build his skills around public knowledge-making and identifying untold narratives and areas of knowledge that have been excluded from platforms such as Wikipedia.  And finally, Anthony has worked to establish a robust curriculum for our Public Achievement program, and provided rigorous programming for Community Engaged Fellows.  These examples show how seriously he takes learning alongside the classroom, and the way that he has sought to elevate the expectations and learning outcomes for our students within these programs.

After March 13th, Anthony will pursue new opportunities to enable him the chance to grow professionally.  The CCE is deeply grateful for Anthony’s 2.5 years of service, and wish him the best in all future endeavors! Please join me in congratulating him, and wishing him luck on this next step in his professional journey.

Dr. Jordan Travis-Radke
CCE Director

Amping Up Our Community: Professor Lynne Gratz’s Environmental Thermodynamics Energy Audits

Colorado College recently announced that the college is officially carbon neutral! A logical next step is to improve the energy efficiency of the surrounding community. During Block 2, Professor Lynne Gratz’s Environmental Thermodynamics course worked with a home from the Colorado Springs community, and technicians from the Energy Resource Center, conducting a preliminary audit of the house and carrying out a retrofit of the home. I spoke with Mataan Peer ’21, a junior from Los Gatos, California, who informed me about what exactly the energy audit entailed. “The preliminary audit was an audit of the homes energy efficiency. Just checking where we could improve the house’s efficiency. I went into the attic and measured the depth of the insulation as well as checking the efficiency of the insulation. Our house had an odd ceiling configuration that forced us to blow a lot more insulation than expected. We also went into the basement and did some square footage measurements to see how much batt insulation we needed for the foundation walls.”

Along with making sure the house was well insulated, the class was also responsible for measuring the current energy output of the house itself. ”Another team put energy meters on the appliances to measure their energy usage. Then as a group we used a blower door test to find infiltration points. The blower door creates a pressure differential between the inside (negative pressure) and the outside (normal pressure). With the differential we could physically feel the places where air was leaking into the house,” remarked Peer .

By implementing these simple and cost-effective methods, students were able to apply the knowledge they gained in the course toward community benefit increasing the energy efficiency of homes in the surrounding community. This sustained partnership with the ERC began years ago, and is a great way for students to develop more knowledge surrounding the environment. For Peer, who is not an environmental major, felt that the hands-on community element of the class added a lot of value to the course. “It taught me a lot about how we can apply physics and chemistry concepts to environmental concerns like energy production and energy efficiency” explained Peer. For any interested in not only developing knowledge on energy efficiency, but also aiding in their community this course will be offered again in Block 7.

If you want to watch a video from last year, click here!

By Ben Greenly, CCE Storyteller

Inside Out Youth Services – High Impact Partner Spotlight

Recent findings by the Human Rights Campaign show that only 26% of LGBTQ+ youth report always feeling safe in the classroom. 70% have been bullied for their sexual orientation. 11% have been sexually attacked or raped because of their sexual orientation. One in three LGBTQ+ adults experience mental illness. They are twice as likely as heterosexual adults to have an alcohol or drug use disorder. LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth. These and more stats can be found at the links at the bottom of this article.

In a culture that can be uncaring, if not outright hostile, Inside Out is an organization dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ youth. Their main focus is providing a safe place to be for local LGBTQ+ youth age 13 to 22. A place to make friends, do work, and never worry about judgment. A place to be yourself. Four days a week, after school, they welcome youth into their space, creating a community of acceptance and togetherness. The organization will be 30 years old next year and is the only drop-in LGBTQ+ youth center in Colorado Springs. 

Located in downtown Colorado Springs, Inside Out aims to empower, educate, and advocate for LGBTQ+ youth from southern Colorado. Their education work includes peer support groups, education for youth and parents about transgender experience, education about healthy relationships, and more. They work to educate outside of their own youth community: they teach ‘LGBTQ+ 101’ and ‘Trusted Adults’ classes (pronouns, how to build trust, how to have hard conversations) to parents, teachers, therapists, the Colorado Springs Police Department, and more. Their advocacy work tries to build a better community for LGBTQ+ youth. One current project works with schools to learn about and develop spaces in the school where youth feel safe.

Inside Out Youth Services is also one of the CCE’s High Impact Partners, part of an initiative to develop deep, multifaceted, mutually-beneficial relationships between CC and the Colorado Springs Community. Several Public Interest Fellows and Community Engaged Fellows from CC have worked with Inside Out. Most recently, a sociology class collaborated with Inside Out to perform research and data analysis. 

The Inside Out staff have deep ties back to Colorado College: both the Executive Director and Youth Program Manager are CC graduates. The Development Director was a curator at the Fine Arts Center, and two CC students work as Peer Program Assistants right now. Angelina Chen ’22, a CC sophomore and Community Engaged Fellow from Guangzhou, China, is one of those students. In her first year at CC she explored several local nonprofits in the Colorado Springs area. Inside Out struck her as being a remarkably connected organization. Angelina has worked behind-the-scenes helping with their advocacy to government work, and this year began working with youth, teaching them how to be active community members. She says working with the youth energizes her, she’s always impressed by their social awareness and the level of discourse they’re able to have. 

Inside Out is looking to expand the opportunities volunteers from CC have to help the organization. They always need volunteers for behind-the-scenes work like communication and events like the Queer Prom they organize every year. Help with advocacy in government is also a potential goal. For more information or to discuss a partnership, contact the CCE, or the Youth Program Manager Candace Woods ’13 at  

Specifically to the LGBTQ+ students at Colorado College, Inside Out wants you to know that you are welcome. This is not an opportunity restricted to some other group, this is a place for you. Learn more at Marve Aguinaga ’21 from Escondido, California, is a second CC student working at Inside Out this year. When describing why the work was important, they said, “There are a lot of challenges that come with being queer in this country, and there are certainly challenges here in the Springs, but it can be easier when there are people that can share some of your burden with you.”

Thank you to Candace Woods ’13, Marve Aguinaga ’21, and Angelina Chen ’22 for their help with this story.

– Eric Ingram 



The CC Science Outreach: “Inking” about Science!

When the CC Science Outreach are involved in a dissection, you know they aren’t squidding around!

For the most part.

For the past four years the CC Science Outreach program has collaborated with the 4th graders of Audubon Elementary School, teaching them about the ethics of working with animals through a squid dissection laboratory. Hearing this I immediately wanted to know as much as possible, so I asked the student leaders of the lab about their approach, speaking with senior leader Leo Brasuel he explained that “We like to introduce the lab with a brief discussion of bioethics and the scientific and academic value of the dissection process. Additionally, we provide some fun background facts on squid and talk about their basic anatomy,” he elaborated further, stating that “the students are always very enthusiastic and we generally partner each student or pair of students with one of our CC volunteers so that they can be guided through the dissection process and have the best learning experience possible.” The students, with their CC volunteers explore the anatomy of the squid, attempting to locate some of its harder to find body parts. “Some of the kids get a little squeamish at first, but they quickly get into learning about squid anatomy and dissection techniques,” however, as the lab continues the kids eventually are able to get the hang of everything, as senior leader Madeline M. Smith explains “one of their favorite things to find is the beak, which is the only hard thing in their body. They learn that a squid can fit through any hole as long as its beak can fit through it. Another cool squid fact is that their brain is donut shaped, and their digestive tract runs through the middle of it. The kids always get a kick out of that one!”

The lab is not only valuable for the kids, but also for the student leaders, as junior Kim Faith recounts, “I originally did not know a lot about squids, so it was great to learn about their anatomy in a hands-on/interactive way. My favorite part was trying to find the ink sac and using it to draw. The two girls I was working with really enjoyed that part, and I thought it was fun too.” While this dissection seems incredibly entertaining it’s important to remind the children to not take dissections like these for granted, as Madeline M. Smith elaborates, “we remind the kids that these squid used to be living animals, and so we should respect them and not just chop them up for fun. Everything we dissect is for a reason.”

Hopefully the CC Science Outreach will continue this incredibly important program, teaching kids not only on ethical values regarding animals, but also the common practices performed through scientific dissections. Knowledge that I wish I had developed in fourth grade.

High Impact Partner Spotlight : Rocky Mountain Field Institute

Colorado College is blessed by its location: Colorado has more than 23 million acres of public land, and the City of Colorado Springs itself has more than 9,000 acres of parkland. One of the largest draws to Colorado College is the easy access to so much wilderness. But this gift is no secret, and the sheer number of people who enjoy the landscape are a threat to its existence. What keeps our public lands from deteriorating under such heavy use?

Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) envisions a world where volunteer work creates vibrant and healthy natural systems that are respected and cared for by the public. They are a Colorado Springs-based non-profit whose mission is to conserve and protect the public lands of Southern Colorado, with the help of the public. Rather than just employing people to do work on public lands, RMFI focuses on volunteerism. Their philosophy is that by involving the public in the preservation of nature, they can foster a better connection to the outdoors and help people take personal responsibility for protecting the environment.

CC students Madeline Ng ’21 and Mikaela Burns ’19 on a BreakOut trip.

RMFI hosts hundreds of volunteer work-days each year, including nearly every weekend day from April through November. Because the population of the Pikes Peak Region is growing fast, the risk of damage that can be done to local ecosystems is growing. RMFI enlists the help of thousands of volunteers to help preserve our public lands against this risk. In addition, to help maintain this spirit of environmental responsibility, RMFI incorporates environmental education into every project. Teaching volunteers about erosion, ecology, botany, or whatever else is relevant during volunteer workdays helps cement and spread the ethos that will keep our environment alive and well. To ensure the work they do is really worth doing, RMFI also facilitates research about environmental stewardship. They monitor the effectiveness of their trail and restoration techniques after they are completed, to ensure the projects are working as intended, and to help tailor their treatments and techniques to each new project location.

This year, RMFI was selected to be one of the first local non-profits designated as High Impact Partners with the CCE, meaning they have a deep, multifaceted relationship with CC that both parties hope to be mutually beneficial and more powerful than is possible with a shallower partnership. RMFI hosts an NSO Priddy Trip and a Spring Break Program in Utah every year. They also employ work-study interns and Community Engaged Fellows from CC, host non-work study internships, and partner with CC professors to run education class workdays in the field.

Madeline Tucker ‘19 is one such student. As an intern at RMFI, she works primarily as a marketing assistant, designing promotional and outreach materials and supporting the messaging of RMFI. She describes the RMFI team as a “kind, driven, passionate group of people,” but the fact that this is her third year interning with RMFI is the best endorsement of the organization.

Guffey Gorge. (Photo By Jguff330 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,

BreakOut, a CCE program that partners to run student trips on Saturdays, block breaks, and spring break, routinely works with RMFI. During the first block break of this school year, CC-student Patricia Pi ‘21 helped lead a trip to Paradise Cove (Guffey Gorge), a Bureau of Land Management recreation area commonly used as a cliff jumping spot. Along with 10 other students, she helped rebuild the trail that leads down to the cove. According to Patricia it was hard work involving moving and breaking rocks to build steps, but it was also extremely rewarding and satisfying.

RMFI’s 2019 field season is winding down, but will resume in full force next April, providing CC students more opportunities to support our local parks and open spaces without requiring any previous experience with outdoor stewardship. Find out about these opportunities and sign up at their online calendar at Or, for a more robust experience, check out their Earth Corps program, a 21-day summer backcountry field course which allows environmentally-minded undergraduate students to live and learn in the classroom of the Colorado wilderness by clicking here.

Thanks to Molly Mazel, Madeleine Tucker, and Patricia Pi for their help with this story.

– Eric Ingram

Looking Back: The 2019 National Bonner Conference

Colorado College has now had a Community Engaged Fellow (CEF) program for 3 years.  The students selected for the program are building increasingly complex, reciprocal, and beneficial bonds with community members in the Pikes Peak Region, but they are also working to build a national community. Over the weekend of October 4th, Colorado College sent two of our Community Engaged Fellows, Sunderland Baker ’23 from Thornton, CO, and Daniel Cortes ’22 from Albuquerque, NM, to attend the National Bonner Conference held at Centre College in Danfield, Kentucky. The Community Engaged Fellows at CC follow the nationally-recognized Bonner Program Model. The conference was, as Cortes recounted “A weekend during which members of the Bonner Fellowship across the country coalesce to discuss the mission of Bonner at the national level, the plans for Bonner to continue expanding, and really solidify the value systems of the Bonner Program.” The conference was not only designed to unite the Bonner Fellowships together, but to also promote themes of social justice, allowing individuals to work on developing their communities in order to further social change.

I was curious about the details regarding the conference, so I spoke to the two Fellows who attended. While speaking with first-year Sunderland Baker, I was informed about the large community of participating schools, he explained that “All of these schools have varying levels of engagement with the Bonner Fellowship; some schools have had the program for 20 years, others like CC only 3 years.” Sophomore Daniel Cortes further elaborated on Colorado College’s relative new relationship with the Bonner Fellowship, “It’s exciting, I think my favorite part of the program was really getting a sense of the depth and breadth of the program, recognizing that CC has 25 members in total in our membership, and we’re going to max out at 40, we won’t even reach that number for 2 years, but recognizing that we’re part of a much larger organization with almost 20,000 fellows was a really mind-opening experience.”

Sunderland Baker ’23 with Bonner Foundation President Bobby Hacket.

The conference itself contained a multitude of workshops and panels for the participating fellows. “Its central theme was social justice and action, where there was an emphasis on introspection of our own beliefs, areas of privilege, social inequality, etc. to enact change in areas we are truly passionate about” recounts Baker. “There were also individual sessions, where I tended to focus on more personal and institutional aspects of social justice and leadership. I attended sessions on how educational inequality and lack of inclusion shapes student attitudes and success.  However, the majority of my sessions focused on self-actualization, ways to create a healthy leadership/fellow ship climate, and how to positively negotiate with a group to get all opinions heard but work towards a common goal.”

Daniel Cortes ’22 with Bonner Foundation President Bobby Hackett.

While Baker focused on developing his leadership qualities Cortes meanwhile decided to focus on developing his financial skills. “I focused mainly on career related seminars. I wanted to develop my skills on how to engage meaningfully in this kind of work beyond college and learn how to be financially compensated for doing so. I gained a lot of resources in that regard learned about a lot of fellowship opportunities and graduate school scholarships available to help. I also learned about people doing engaged work. I really enjoyed learning about budgeting and how to approach financial planning engaged in this field of work. This one was specifically how to make ends meet which I felt was very valuable.”

Baker went on to explain, “I strongly feel that this experience was very valuable; I am accustomed to CC’s perspective on the Bonner program; it is new and emerging and we are still figuring a lot of things out. However, other schools are very well-invested and have established ways, and it was so insightful to see how they do things. I have gained a more holistic view of how various institutions view community engagement and social justice across the United States, and how nearby resources and access shape what each school can and cannot do. It begs a conversation on equity between resources that students should be afforded in college. It helped me ponder questions about educational equity and extracurricular involvement I never thought of.” To me, as it is for the CEF students, the inherent value of the National Bonner Conference is clear.

– Ben Greenly