September 16, 2022 | NEWS | By Leigh Walden | Illustration by Xixi Qin
In two years, Colorado College will celebrate a significant milestone in its existence: 2024 will mark 150 years since the founding of the college and over 50 years since the inception and adoption of the Block Plan. The celebrations and coordination for this milestone are already well under way. One component of these celebrations includes Project 2024.
According to the CC website, Project 2024 is focused on “addressing the questions ‘How can we do what we do better?’ and ‘What challenges facing higher education most affect CC?’” Groups responsible for answering these questions formally started their work last year. As part of the steering committee, students, faculty, and staff met multiple times asking big questions. At the end of their work from all of last year, they published a four-page report. This report found that the largest theme from their meetings was “connection.”
This year the work of Project 2024 continues, and students were privy to one of their initial steps at the end of last week. Last Friday, students received an email with the subject line “Bye-bye block plan as we know it?”, invoking alarm for some students who were unaware of the scope and power of Project 2024 or altogether unaware of the project’s existence. The contents of this email included a survey for students to fill out with questions about the efficacy of the Block Plan and areas in which they would like to see improvement. This email made some students anxious as to the intentions and goals of the project.
Paige Kahle ’25 expressed support for the Block Plan. “The block plan is a big reason I came to CC. I like the immersion it provides!” However, the merits of the Block Plan measure alongside some of the struggles students encounter frequently on the demanding schedule of the block.
“I think the Block Plan defeats the purpose of the liberal arts,” said Royce Hinojosa ’26. “It becomes difficult to make interdisciplinary connections when you’re only doing one thing at a time.” Project 2024 during its first year of work encountered several similar reactions from students and faculty. In fact, one of the main goals of the project is to allow courses to more smoothly connect and build off one another.
Susan Ashley, the coordinator for Project 2024 and a professor of history says the likely outcome of Project 2024 will not be completely disposing of the Block Plan, but instead making some major changes to better serve the CC community.
“People have said we should ask ourselves the question as to whether the block is the best approach to learning for students in 2023,” Ashley said. “I doubt we will get rid of the block plan, I doubt that is the option we will pursue. Changing the block plan, I’m pretty confident that will be on the table.”
Right now, there are not any set plans as to what these changes may look like, but there are a variety of ideas that are currently being considered. “It ranges from creating a hybrid system which would have trimesters. Blocks and trimesters,” Ashley said. “Another would be a synergy semester, which would be a constellation of courses which were gathered around a major question or theme…that would be an integrating of learning across the curriculum. You would have cross pollination from course to course.”
There are currently all sorts of ideas and rough outlines as to what a major change to the block plan might look like, and this year, project 2024 aims to put some of last year’s talk to action.
Pamela Reaves, a member of the Project 2024 steering committee and a religion professor at CC, said the primary job of the committee this year will be to “work on developing steps forward based on last year’s work.” Ashley agrees that this year is about “turning talk into action.” However, some of that “talk” still needs to be settled, which is part of why the survey and email were sent out last week. With so many major conversations, students are highly encouraged to get involved and share their reactions to this process.
As the work of Project 2024 continues and becomes more concrete, students are able to join some of the listening sessions, respond to surveys, or join thinking groups. Below is a QR code to the survey sent out last week.