By Isobel Steenrod
The Colorado College lineup of staff is made up, in part, of students who have only recently graduated. They work in nearly every academic department, from environmental science to film and media studies, as well as in non-academic departments such as the Office of the President, Communications, and the Office of Student Life. Known as paraprofessionals, they’re the people who clean up after field trips, help with labs, check equipment out to students, and perform some of the administrative work for their respective department.
The day-to-day life of a paraprofessional can be more demanding than that of a student, involving working the entire year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday with no Block Breaks, no spring break, and only two days off for Thanksgiving.
“The schedule really does not pay any attention to the Block Plan,” said Ben Lloyd ’19.
He and fellow paraprofessional Michael Hasson ’19 share an office in the Geology department, filled with a bizarre assortment of objects, including a preserved octopus, a decades-old can of squid, a radioactive Geiger counter, a mini McDonald’s license plate, and a stuffed penguin.
They also share a house, along with Organismal Biology and Ecology paraprof John Feigelson ’19, where their social scene mainly consists of going to Tony’s on Tuesdays, as the paraprof trivia team.
“We’ve been getting, like, third or fourth,” Lloyd said of the team’s success. “But we’re just getting started. We haven’t found our rhythm yet.”
Lloyd became a paraprofessional for several reasons. First and foremost, he said, “It’s fun.” Secondly, he acknowledged that it’s a good way to get experience in teaching geology. In the future, Lloyd is hoping to go to graduate school, so retaining his knowledge of geology is essential.
Lloyd said he has enjoyed gaining experience in logistics and is starting to feel confident in helping “keep the department afloat.”
Planning for field trips, however, is still the hardest part of his job. To prepare meals for field trips while keeping dietary restrictions in mind is always difficult, and Lloyd said he’s never gone on a field trip without forgetting something. But at least he hasn’t lost a whole cart of groceries yet, which he said was probably the biggest slip up of last year.
While planning for field trips may be difficult, a perk of the paraprof job for Lloyd is that he actually gets to accompany geology classes on some of their field trips. Most of the adventures, he said, come from “gnarly dirt roads, bad weather, or Claire Brandhorst chucking a rock hammer into a crowd full of people.” (Luckily, no one was injured).
One such mishap happened earlier this year, on the final section of the final day of field work. The students were working independently in the field while the professors were back at camp. When a storm blew in, Lloyd immediately took shelter in the warm, dry van, watching “grape-size hail and serious rain come down for half an hour until the students came back completely soaked and kind of pissed off.”
When not on field trips, Lloyd said his day follows a fairly predictable order. Some mornings, he wakes up and makes breakfast, but on others, he skips the meal and relies on candy from Mandy Sulfrian, the lead academic administrative assistant, to get him through the morning.
“A lot of my day is basically walking from place to place and having other professors walk by me, and as they’re walking, yell, like, four tasks at me,” Lloyd said of his typical responsibilities.
After begging for lunch swipes at Rastall, he helps professors with their afternoon labs. Lloyd then “sticks around until 5 p.m. to make sure everything is running smoothly, so all the classes can do what they need to do.” “And then I go home and play Smash Bros,” he said.
Overall, Lloyd is enjoying his job as one of the geology paraprofessionals. He said the most rewarding part is “when people in the intro classes are genuinely interested in geology and figure something out and have an ‘OMG! This is sick!’ moment. It gives me a little bit of justification for why I do this.”