Colorado College faculty and administration has enhanced the 2014 Summer Session by creating three “Institutes” focused on blending academics with real-life career and professional experience.
The revisions to the Summer Session emerged from Jill Tiefenthaler’s Strategic Plan in an effort to incorporate more opportunities for community and professional experience for students. CC students graduate with an exceptional education but without much interaction with the professional world. While the ideal solution would be to have each department on campus require job experience or an internship as part of the major, such an approach would be much too intense and demanding. By reformatting the structure of summer courses, it is possible to offer those opportunities without directly imposing them.
This summer, CC is offering three different Institutes in journalism, film, and outdoor leadership. Each program is unique in its content, but they are all “linked-block” courses that offer quality CC instruction in conjunction with an internship opportunity. Students will receive CC credit in the appropriate discipline along with professional connections. Also, the wildcard block can be used for one of the blocks.
After announcing the decision to revise summer courses, professors were encouraged to make proposals that fused academics and professional experience. In addition to the professors, Director of Summer Session Ann Van Horn and Summer Session Precollege Advisor Teresa Taylor have been instrumental in the development of these Institutes.
“There is a very liberal arts approach to the academics and the internship components,” Van Horn said. “What it’s about is what kind of skills you need to do good research, and part of that might be imbedding yourself in one of these organizations. Its about learning how to do research beyond CC, in the work environment, and how to bring that back into your own studies.”
Professor Diane Alters proposed the Journalism Institute in part due to a long-standing vision to offer a “journalism boot camp” for CC students, after being inspired by a NY Times student institute at Arizona State University.
“That was my dream,” Alters said. “To have something like that at CC.”
The CC Journalism Institute not only utilizes Block A for an active learning component, or “boot camp,” but will also bring in professionals from the field and allow more qualified students the chance to intern with journalism organizations in the area during Block B. Alters has been in contact with four or five organizations to place CC students, including The Gazette and Rocky Mountain PBS.
Alters recruited the potential companies to intern with, but the students will have to undergo the standard application process to earn the position with the desired company. For students that do not attain an internship position, they will spend Block B practicing investigative journalism, most likely about the environment, and finish the course with a media clip and a good explanatory study.
Similarly, the CC Film Institute, taught by Professors Dylan Nelson and Clay Haskell, begins with an intense investigation of the intricacies of documentary filmmaking. This portion includes film history, theory, forms, techniques, and research methods. During this portion of the course, the students will take a retreat to the Baca campus for an even deeper immersion in filmmaking and technique.
The second component of the Institute is the externship. Students will be imbedded into various organizations in Colorado Springs and the surrounding area to determine the topic for their own documentaries on either a historic or social issue. The supporting organization will act as a conduit or inspiration for the documentaries, but the films themselves are not for advertising purposes.
However, the films can be returned to the organizations, and some documentaries will even be considered for public broadcasting through Rocky Mountain PBS.
“Documentary filmmaking at CC is something that hasn’t been offered enough,” Nelson said. “There is an untapped desire for CC students, and it’s a particularly valuable perspective of basic filmmaking and for a liberal arts perspective.”
The format for The CC Outdoor Leadership Institute is much different than the other two Institutes. The administration was especially interested in creating an outdoor summer program and contacted Professor and President of Catamount Center, Howard Drossman and Professor Mike Taber to construct a program that incorporates environmental education, academics, and an outdoor experience.
Shortly thereafter, Director of the ORC, Ryan Hammes, became involved along with Zion Klos, Van Horn, and board members from the Catamount Center. This Institute in particular has a lot more logistics than the others in terms of travel, transportation, lodging, and food, and thus required a wider breadth of involvement throughout the planning stages, despite numerous revisions of the proposal,
Drossman and Taber were adamant about the involvement of Outward Bound, and involving Hammes in the planning made the Outward Bound component definitive.
The Outdoor Leadership Institute begins with a Wilderness First Responder certification course at the Catamount Mountain Campus, provided by Colorado Outward Bound (COD). Students enrolled in the Institute that already have their WFR do not have to redo the class, and other students not enrolled in the Institute are allowed to complete just the WFR portion of the course.
Following the WFR class, students begin ED 208: Intro to Environmental Education with Drossman and Taber. After the first five days of class, students will leave for the outdoor experience or NS 103: Finding the Green River Basin. This is entirely off campus, and will entail six days of backpacking in the Uintah Mountains then 18 days of whitewater paddling through the canyons in Utah.
Throughout the excursion, students will learn about hydrology, geology, ecology, and climatology with some infusion of the social sciences. Afterwards, students return to Catamount to finish ED 208 and intern as outdoor educators for Catamount Institute’s middle school program, and even lead a rafting trip and a backpacking trip. Upon completion of the Institute, students will have their WFR certification, ORC leadership certification, and an Environmental Education certification through the state of Colorado.
The intent of these Institutes is to go beyond the typical academic experience and utilize the time in the summer in a manner most beneficial for students. “The career building element is new,” Van Horn said. “Right now the pressure is to get a job, so why not also add on something that is in the same mindset of a student? The summertime is the time to think about what is next, what is beyond.”