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Mountains For Breakfast

Skyhawks eat mountains for breakfast

History reveals that when crisis hits, opportunities arise. Thanks to these trying times, FLC uncovers newfound Skyhawk strength.

When the Spanish Flu hit Southwest Colorado, the Fort Lewis School closed campus from October 1918 through April 1919, according to FLC archives. During a second outbreak in January 1920, School Superintendent George F. Snyder and several faculty came down with the virus, and several students departed campus, but the school remained open. After his recovery, Snyder got to work elevating Fort Lewis’ academic standards, including the hiring of ten faculty with master’s degrees and one with a doctorate by 1928.

One hundred years later, Fort Lewis College is once again striving to emerge from a pandemic healthier, tougher, and wiser than ever. As faculty and staff worked tirelessly to move 700 classes and student services in the span of just one week during the Spring 2020 term, the COVID-19 crisis revealed weaknesses in systems, inequities in access, and unprecedented challenges to address. But now that we’re a couple months into the new normal, the silver linings are rising to the surface, offering a dawn of hope on the next horizon of higher learning.

This section of FLC Voices celebrates the refining process we’ve undergone since the crisis hit. With our students at the center of everything we do, we’ve heard their voices amplify and watched their adaptability bloom into creativity. We’ve been amazed by the agility and openness of our faculty and staff as they’ve improvised ways for students to continue learning, while simultaneously tackling greater community needs.
And we can’t get enough of the stories flooding in from alumni who are making positive impacts across Colorado and beyond.

We know many of our Skyhawk family have lost jobs, loved ones, and a sense of security, and we believe that healing can be aided by innovation, a strong support system, and cultivating the next generation of healthcare workers, decision makers, and game changers. We see these possibilities realized when we choose to work in sync.

Thanks to these trying times, we’ve uncovered the next level of Skyhawk strength, one forged by a historic event that’s called us to be brave, to keep climbing, to keep seeking, and to keep learning. It’s not easy but it’s easier together.

Here’s to what happens when you eat mountains for breakfast…

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Next Big Idea

What's your next BIG idea?

by JUSTIN MCBRAYER, CHAIR OF PHILOSOPHY & POLITICAL SCIENCE DEPARTMENT, PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY

Like college students across the globe, Fort Lewis College students find themselves in a brave new world. The coronavirus pandemic has forced us into isolation on a massive scale. With campus closed and courses online, our students are elsewhere. The social side of college life has ground to a halt. Does that mean the learning stops, too?

No way. In November of 1619, an early winter storm cut philosopher Rene Descartes off from all civilization. Alone in a room with nothing more than a wood stove, pen, and ink, he decided to make the best of it. He thought long and hard about what he knew and how he knew it. On the one hand, he had spent much time as a student in school. On the other, he knew that students in ancient times relied on their teachers, too, but ended up with fantastically mistaken views of the world. Maybe—unbeknownst to him—he was just as confused as they were. What could he know for certain?

Descartes thought his way out of that puzzle and penned what would become the most famous dictum in Western philosophy: “I think, therefore, I am.” His work set the stage for the intellectual revolution of the Enlightenment, and it likely wouldn’t have happened without the time for intellectual meditation provided by his isolation.

Like Descartes, there are things we can do and things we can learn even in our isolation—maybe even because of our isolation. And FLC students are doing them. With classes from anthropology to accounting and chemistry to ethics, FLC students are wrestling with tough ideas, working diligently on essays, and crafting final projects to cap a term’s worth of learning. Professors routinely share stories of “aha” moments and ingenious insights students develop in class. Those stories continue even in times of social disruption.

In the end, Descartes’ isolation passed. He wrote up his findings and circulated them among many of the learned thinkers of his day. He eventually published his work complete with a set of objections and replies from those objectors. It was the first example of peer review in the West, now considered the gold standard for scholarly publications.

FLC students will emerge in the same way: in communication with their professors and peers about ideas, experiments, projects, and opportunities. As iron sharpens iron, the members of our academic community will rise above the current challenge and be ready to tackle the challenges of the future.

Thinking Man statue wearing virtual reality goggles
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Quarantine Diaries

Quarantine Diaries

During the chaotic end of the semester, FLC's History Department offered extra credit to students who kept journals about their quarantine time. From painting rooms to sewing masks, showering too much to showering too little, reconnecting with family to missing friends, their pages filled with not only thoughtful observations and bored ramblings, but also with a poignant creativity worthy of celebration.

Senior Deanna Trujillo (English, ’20) took the assignment one step further and created a drawing with sections of her journal written in the empty spaces. The 30”x15” piece is inspired by the 19th century short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. She taped it to her bedroom floor for weeks, sometimes bedecked with twinkly lights and a fort built around it.

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Quarantine Art Diaries

Quarantine Art Diaries

When classes moved online, ART 300 Sketchbook Habit students didn’t stop exploring the outer limits of their imaginations, inspiring their professor, Susan Moss, to create the Quarantine Diaries Exhibition, which she describes as “a hopeful tribute to the creativity, persistence, and resilience of these young adults, and the power and importance of their art.”

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Student Clubs

Student Clubs

With more than 60 student-led organizations on campus, social distancing measures didn't discourage the most determined clubs from finding a way to stay connected through the wild end of the Spring 2020 term. While nothing can replace real-world interactions, an all-virtual landscape provided some unexpected resources for students and the FLC community. Two of our favorite efforts were weeklong events hosted by WellPAC and the Environmental Center. Take a look!

 
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FLC In Action

FLC In Action

 
FLC plays critical role in civil action
FLC plays critical role in civil action

FLC plays critical role in civil action

FLC plays critical role in civil action

FLC plays critical role in civil action

When the need for extra medical supplies seized the Four Corners, Erin Lehmer and Steven Fenster, co-chairs of FLC’s Biology Department, organized a campus-wide collection of personal protection equipment, which were delivered to local healthcare facilities.
The People v. Todd Smith
The People v. Todd Smith

The People v. Todd Smith

The People v. Todd Smith

The People v. Todd Smith

Psychology Professor Brian Burke treats his PSYC 302 class, Forensic Psychology, like a complex adventure. From day one, he and the students delve into the interaction between psychological science and the legal system by unpacking the details of a trial.
Geology field camps find groove online
Geology field camps find groove online

Geology field camps find groove online

Geology field camps find groove online

Geology field camps find groove online

As colleges were shutting down around the country, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers met over Zoom to grapple with the disruption. 
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Skyhawk Strong

Skyhawk Strong

Across Colorado, FLC alumni, donors, and community members have been rolling up their sleeves, finding ways to use their talents, time, and resources for the greater good of their communities. We’re proud to share a snapshot of these efforts here:

microphone on a shield illustration

Four Corners Performing Artist Relief

As concerts, events, gigs, and festivals continue to be postponed, rescheduled, and cancelled in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, professional musicians and performing artists have plenty of reasons to stress about the state of their bank accounts. Marketing director for local nonprofit iAM MUSIC Institute Sam Kelly Music Business, ’13) understands well the challenges presented to the regional arts community, so he jumped to action to launch the Four Corners Performing Artist Relief Fund. The GoFundMe page has so far raised more than $5,000 to help musicians navigate the inancial woes brought about by the pandemic.

Kelly not only works as an instructor for iAM MUSIC but also puts his saxophone savvy to work performing and touring with local bands J-Calvin, Elder Grown, Afrobeatniks, The Funk Express, Snazzy Licks, and other bands passing through the region. He looks forward to getting back to the stage but until then is proud to help create something that contributes to the health of the community.

“Dwelling on things you can’t change is wasted energy,” says Kelly. “Just start small, focus on what you can control, and build from there.”

 
illustration of hands on a shield

4 The Children

One of the most devastating consequences of COVID-19 is the spike in domestic violence and child abuse cases around the world. For many children who typically find refuge at school or after-school programs, the shelterin-place orders provide anything but protection. As executive director of 4 the Children, a nonprofit serving abused and neglected childrenin Southwest Colorado, Ashley Hein (Theatre, ’04) is aware these kids need support now more than ever.

With April as Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month, Hein transitioned 4TC’s fundraising efforts from in-person soirees to Planting Hope, a virtual campaign focused on protecting “childhood today for stronger families tomorrow.” She believes that helping even one child break the cycle of violence and become a better parent, stronger leader, and more productive member of society makes the program worth the effort and resources.

“These are trying times for everyone and perhaps the hardest thing to accept is that we truly have no control over what happens,” says Hein. “The key is to just keep going, keep your head up, and know that things will get better.”

 
stethoscope on a shield illustration

Healthcare Hero

As a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Kristi Newbold (Exercise Science, ’10) sees caring for her community throughout the pandemic as simply part of her job. At the onset of the virus outbreak in Colorado, all therapists on staff at St. Anthony North Health Campus, a 93-bed hospital in Westminster, Colorado, were trained and certified to become nursing assistants to help care providers on the COVID floor.

Newbold was no exception, juggling her supervisor duties in the rehabilitation department while also working as a patient care aid, screener at the hospital entrance, as well as front office and incident command center support staff. She’s proud of how her hospital community shifted so quickly to address these unprecedented times while working hard to keep each other’s spirits lifted.

“Patients are my biggest inspiration,” says Newbold. “In the face of adversity, they just keep going and we just give them the nudge they need to recover. It is an amazing feeling to help someone who has been on a ventilator sit up for the first time, eventually take their first steps, and hopefully walk out the front doors. It’s like Dory says, ‘just keep swimming.’”

 
hand sanitizer bottle on a shield illustration

Hand Sanitizer Superman

While singing the Happy Birthday song helps hand washers stay on the hygienic high road, hand sanitizer is still a vital player in helping communities stay healthy. When bottles became scarce across the state, one business model was supremely set up to sweep in with a little succor.

“We can’t do anything about the toilet paper shortage, but distillers are uniquely able to address the shortage of hand sanitizer,” says P.T. Wood (Business Administration, ’90).

The Salida mayor and cofounder of Wood’s High Mountain Distillery joined three other Chaffee County businesses to put their industrial resources to work. While Wood contributed 150 gallons of grain spirits, Pure Greens cannabis facility donated part of their isopropyl alcoholinventory, and Elevation Beer Company provided hydrogen peroxide. Poncha Springs’ Pursell Manufacturing Corp., the largest manufacturer of Christmas tree supplies in the world, provided glycerin as well as eight-ounce bottles and an automated bottling line to speed up the packaging process for the sanitizer.

The collaboration produced and distributed more than 4,000 bottles across the region. All four companies are looking forward to once again generating their respective indulgences and getting excited for Christmas.

 
drama masks on a shield illustration

Theatre to the Rescue

When live performances started dropping like flies, Bradley Abeyta (ATT ’11 - ‘14) jumped to action, corralling his fellow creatives to form the COVID-19 Theatrical Response Team, a Denver and Zoom-based theatre company.

The first show hit the free, virtual stage on March 26 and the volunteer group of more than 60 actors, writers, and directors has since live-streamed a play a week, not including a collaborative, nation-wide, three-day theatre festival they created with Dramatic Distancing.

“We’ve just reinforced the idea that social distancing does not mean that we’re isolated,” Abeyta said in a recent Denverite interview.

Instead of sitting around a table reading a script, the actors appear in their Zoom tiles, enduring poor internet connections, computers overheating, and the inevitable distractions buzzing in the background (we’re looking at you, kids). The team relishes the similarities of virtual theatre to live theatre, where problems must be addressed on the fly and improv is sometimes required.

Abeyta and the COVID-19 Theatrical Response Team have shown that it’s not only possible but paramount to build community in the face of these wild times. Because no matter what the future holds, the show must go on.

Illustration of Skyhawk mascot wearing a cape

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