Tag Archives: Student Success Stories

The Composition Program and First Year Composition leadership is proud to announce the winners of the FOOD Writing Contest. Students of CO150 in 2016-17, who finished the course in good standing, were invited to submit their final researched essay or visual essay for the writing contest sponsored by Fountainhead Press.  Many essays were submitted, all of which demonstrated the superb instruction of the students’ instructors and the strong writing skills being developed in our CO150 students. A committee of reviewers selected 1st, 2nd and 3rd place essays, and those essays will appear in the Fall 2018 Food-Energy-Water (FEW) Reader. Winners also received cash prizes.

Raven Pinto: 1st Place 

Raven’s essay seeks to compel state policy-makers to adopt organic food waste bans. Raven says it best when she concludes, “the United States will reap the advantages of state-required food waste bans by way of increased food donations to hunger relief organizations; reducing the United States hunger rate as well as the waste rate. Additionally, environments will thrive in the increasing absence of the methane that is produced when large amounts of organic compost are dumped in landfills. Research and analytical observation has also concluded that food waste policies can lead to successful waste-diversion industries, increasing job availability for the American people.” Raven’s well-organized essay effectively discusses all of the above pieces of evidence with consistent sophisticated and professional voice.

Savanah Cheatham: 2nd Place

Savanah’s essay seeks to convince those who have considered adopting a plant-based diet to finally take the plunge. In her essay, she appeals to those readers who may be on the fence about plant-based diets by highlighting several ways in which a plant-based diet has been statistically tested and proven effective.. Savanah closes by saying that a plant-based diet will be “a huge step in contributing to a happier and healthier version of yourself.” Although using second person appeals and personal experience can be incredibly risky in our writing, Savanah is able to effectively use these strategies to communicate her purpose.

Jacob Brueckman: 3rd Place

Jacob tackles the “Havoc of High Sugar Diets” in his essay, focusing, especially, on the damage a high-sugar diet can have on America’s children. With this focus, he appeals directly to parents, seeking to convince them of not only the necessity to help kids today stay away from sugar, but also to seek education on food labeling in order to become more educated on how refined sugar is “hiding in not so obvious products.” Jacob addresses the exigency of the issue by synthesizing sources focused on childhood obesity before turning his attention to the importance of reading food labels in order to keep our future generations, America’s children, healthy and thriving. Jacob’s essay handles multiple layers of an issue, which is, itself, risky, but he does so effectively by keeping focused on his overall purpose.

 

 

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Kaitlyn Phillips, an English major with a concentration in education and one of the Communications Interns for the English Department this past spring, has been involved with an organization in northern Uganda called Far Away Friends. She has been working with them as the Director for Development for about a year and has also been involved in one of their newest initiatives, Operation Teach. Below, she shares some of her experiences working with teachers and students in Namasale, Uganda this summer.


 

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On the other side of the world in a rural district of Northern Uganda, there’s a pink building with a blue roof. Its rooms are lined with desks and handmade posters; there’s chalk dust on the blackboards and textbooks on the benches and bins full of cars and jump ropes and soccer balls. Early in the morning, students will show up in brown and white uniforms; they’ll walk down a red dirt path, smiling and joking with one another, and — at the sound of Madame Judith’s bell — they’ll begin class for the day.

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This is Global Leaders Primary School in Namasale, Uganda. It is a project of Far Away Friends, a nonprofit focused on ending global education poverty by fostering global empathy in the next generation of leaders. I’ve had the great privilege of working with this organization for the past year, and the honor of traveling with a team to Uganda this summer to see the school and meet the students and teachers that make it the amazing place that it has become.

And it truly is an amazing place. When people care so much about a place and the people in it, the result is tremendous joy; I’ve never seen a place so tremendously joyful as Global Leaders. The students come to school early with smiles, and stay until our principal and co-founder, Collines Angwech, has to march them off the grounds. After lunch they skip rope and play soccer and are just genuinely and joyfully kids; during class they study under some of the most compassionate and determined teachers I’ve ever met.

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One of my favorite moments of the trip was meeting and talking with one of these teachers, Teacher Joshua, a P2 (or second grade) teacher at Global Leaders. Joshua has lived in Northern Uganda his whole life; when he was only twelve, he was removed from his home and relocated to a displacement camp due to the violence caused by the LRA, a rebel group that terrorized communities in Northern Uganda for nearly 30 years. Despite this, he is genuinely joyful and welcoming and kind, and teaches his students with as much love and friendship that he extended to our team during our entire visit.

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These are the moments of the trip I will never forget — the moments of genuine friendship. Like trying on glasses with Sara and Michella, or laughing with Apio Janella because we were taking way too many pictures, or dancing outside the school with all the kids, Jonathan and Smiri shuffling their feet and smiling at each other in their borrowed sunglasses.

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And in the middle of it all realizing that this school exists not just for these kids, but because of them; without their fierce commitment to their own educations and the teachers’ genuine belief in Global Leaders and all its promises, none of this would be possible. None of these moments could ever have happened.

The people I have met here and the places I have been have changed my life. They welcomed me with open arms and let me learn and love and live with them.

I owe this place and these people everything that I am right now. I’m honored to call Namasale a home and the people I’ve lived with there a family.

I am working on paying them back for that.

Far Away Friends’ newest initiative is called Operation Teach. By providing a full or partial sponsorship for one of our teachers, you are ensuring that not only do our teachers receive a fair wage, but that Global Leaders continues to be the tremendously joyful place it is now, and that these kids continue with the education that will equip them to one day change the world.

To learn more about Operation Teach and become a part of the Global Leaders community, go to farawayfriendsglobal.com/operationteach.

 

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Five CSU students – the most in recent memory – will be headed to four different continents to study during the 2016-17 academic year, thanks to grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. One of those students is Teal Vickrey, a recent alumna from the English Department. Teal will be serving as an English Teaching Assistant in Prague, Czech Republic.

These Colorado State students were selected as recipients of the 2016 Fulbright Scholarship.

Fulbright Scholars from Colorado State for 2016-17 are (from left) Erin Boyd, Rina Hauptfeld, Tomas Pickering, Suzanna Shugert and Teal Vickrey. Photo by Cisco Mora, CSU Photography.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program of the United States, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The CSU recipients are among the more than 1,900 U.S. citizens selected this year on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as their record of service and demonstrated leadership in their fields.

Recipients represent the U.S. as a cultural ambassador while overseas, helping to enhance mutual understanding between Americans and the people in their host country. More than 100,000 Fulbright U.S. Student Program alumni have undertaken grants since the program began in 1948, including four from CSU last year.

Teal Vickrey graduated with a B.A. in Communication Studies and English in May of 2016. Her passion to work with youth began while she was growing up Louisville, Colo., where she loved playing with her little brothers and volunteering at her local library reading with youth in her community. In college she has spent her time volunteering as a Reading Buddy at Cache la Poudre Middle School in Fort Collins and last fall she acted as a mentor for CSU’s very own Campus Connections. She will be returning for her second year as counselor at Rocky Mountain Day Camp  before she embarks on her journey to the Czech Republic in August.

Teal became enamored with Czech culture last spring when she studied abroad in Prague at Charles University. While she was abroad she had the opportunity to teach English at Londýsnká Elementary School. Teal plans to pursue a career in educational leadership upon her return to the United States.

These CSU students were selected as recipients of the Fulbright Scholarship.

The following is an interview with Teal:

You were recently named a recipient of the Fulbright Scholarship and will be traveling to teach in Prague. What inspired you to choose Prague?   

I will be teaching an hour outside of Prague in a town called Vimperk. I first went to Prague in 2014 as a part of the AIFS study abroad program at Charles University. I took a number of literature classes and an even more interesting surrealist film class that I will never forget. I fell in love with the people, the culture, the food, the beer, and the moment I got home I began researching a way I could get back!

What are you most excited about for your time abroad? What are you most nervous about? 

I am excited to become fully immersed in the small town of Vimperk, its people, and its culture. To the point where I will become a regular at the local coffee shop, grocery, and make friends and connections with my students that will make saying goodbye hard.  But what I am most nervous about are the initial introductions and “firsts” that I will endure when I arrive: the limbo between leaving home and becoming a stranger to somewhere new. I guess that is the necessary discomfort and growth that will allow me to transition as a local and have the experience that I am hoping for.

Do you have any plans (career or otherwise) after your time in Prague?

At this time, no. I have a goal to receive my Masters in the next 10 years and get published at least once in the next year, but that is the limit of my “plans” so to speak. I have entertained the idea of becoming a principal and I have also entertained the idea of becoming a screen writer- so no I haven’t decided on anything concrete.

How do you think your degree in English has prepared you for teaching abroad? 

What I found the first time I was abroad was that connecting with the literature allowed me to connect with the culture. Reading “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka in high school was a wildly different experience than when I read it again in Prague- this time sitting in the same school Kafka attended. Suddenly the culture, the motivation and the setting was tangible and the story was one I could share with those around me.  I plan to connect with my students through common stories such as popular Czech lore, pop culture, news, and as an educator, I  hope to discover the common stories that bond youth around the world.

 What did you like about the English program at CSU? Why did you choose to study here?

To say I took a lot of time picking a college would be a lie. I grew up in Boulder and wanted a change in scenery so I picked the next best thing, CSU. I majored in the Communications Department before finding my way to the English Department to finish up my second major senior year. I was already extremely impressed with the professors and education I had encountered in the Liberal Arts Department, and the English Department was no exception. I felt comfortable connecting with professors on a personal level which allowed me to feel comfortable when stretching my creative boundaries-because I did not fear being criticized or discouraged by professors. Their over all focus wasn’t to teach us one way of learning, or one school of thought but to expand out horizons and allow us to discover the terrain on our own. So no, I didn’t put much thought into coming here but I believe it was where I was meant to be.

Was there a specific class, professor, advisor, or fellow student who made an impression on you, helped you, or inspired you when you were at CSU in the English Department?

I spent only a year in the English department itself, but the teacher who challenged me the most was Mathew Cooperman. He had such an inspiring outlook on education and he designed our capstone in such a way that if we wanted to succeed, we needed to rely on ourselves not the complex system set up by higher education- based on passing a certain number of tests and writing enough convincing essays to get a decent grade. We had to put ourselves in the field and force ourselves to discover the world around us. There was no right or wrong answer; our class was just based on the mere speculation about place and where we came from and it’s where I discovered the most about myself and my values.

What advice do you have for current CSU English Department students?

In the words of Cheryl Strayed and the words I live by…

“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”

You can read more about Teal and the other Fulbright scholars here.

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The CSU Zambia Trip Members on Safari in Chobe Park (Botswana)


Dr. Ellen Brinks recently returned from Livingstone, Zambia where she led a group of CSU students on a study abroad program that focused on contributing to community education and health initiatives for the local people. For three weeks, they took part in experiential learning and internships through our Colorado State University Study Abroad program (and African Impact). The following field report is written by Madeline Kasic, who will be remaining in Zambia to continue working with African Impact for the next 9 weeks. Make sure to check out Madeline’s pre-departure post too!


William Carlos Williams states in his poem Paterson, “No ideas but in things” in regards to descriptive writing meaning that a writer should focus on physical objects instead of abstract concepts. This wisdom has been passed on to me many times in creative and academic writing classes during my time at Colorado State University. However, I have never understood how important the understanding things was until I began interacting with the people of Zambia.

Things are different here than in the United States; here everyday items that Americans have in abundance or consider to be disposable carry value. For example, most of my friends can go weeks without repeating an outfit and have no qualms about recycling water bottles or throwing away unwanted personal items. Zambians on the other hand may only have a few sets of clothes and it is not uncommon for them to wear the same clothes day after day. Furthermore, if a Zambian were to lose something that we might consider to be of little value, like a Nalgene water bottle, they would feel more of a sentimental loss because it was something that travelled with them daily for a significant amount of time. So when I say that things are different here in Zambia I mean that the people here interact with their personal items in a completely different way than we do in the U.S.

It may seem natural for a more impoverished group of people to have a different approach to personal items in terms of use and maintenance than an affluent group that can replace items at will, but the differences between how the Zambians see personal items goes farther than simply having less.

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Madeline Kasic teaching at Linda School in the afternoon (Photo credit: Isabell Brown)

Every morning after I walk into my fifth grade classroom at Zambezi Sawmill Community School at least four students ask me if they can borrow a pen. They ask for many different reasons. Some do not have a pen to begin with because their family can hardly afford school supplies and others ask because the pen they brought has stopped working. I carry extra pens with me just for this reason. The first day I gave one of my students a pen I thought they would keep it, which was fine with me because I figured they needed it. However, when I was packing up after class the student came up to me and returned the pen with a practiced diligence that is rare in American fifth graders.

Over the next few weeks I lent pens to many different students, carrying six or seven with me at all times just to be prepared. Each time I have lent a pen to a student they have returned it to me without fail at the end of class. And although I now expect for them to be returned to me, I still marvel at the respect my students have for such a simple item.

In the US, a pen is a disposable item. I lend pens to my classmates and usually don’t expect to get them back. I figure that any pen I lose in this exchange replaces a pen I have “borrowed” and accidently taken with me when the class ends. But here in Zambia pens are valuable.

teachingI have spent a lot of time thinking about why the Zambian children I teach are so much more respectful of my property than I expected them to be. I have come up with two reasons. The first is that as stated earlier, here, even the smallest item is valuable. The other reason is a result of the first. Because of the level of poverty and the value of simple items, there is a lot of theft in poor communities like the one my school is located in. My students, therefore go to great lengths to protect their reputation as someone who does not steal. There is no such thing as forgetting to return something at Zambezi Sawmill Community School, and the students are very aware of this fact.


The difference in the approach to personal items between Zambia and the U.S. is an unforeseen cultural difference that has begun to fascinate me. As I continue my time here I plan on learning not only the intricate details of the Zambian approach to things, but also the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach.  


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On Monday, April 25, the English department held its 25th annual awards reception. Faculty, staff, family, and friends gathered to celebrate undergraduate and graduate recipients of scholarships, fellowships, and awards. The event began with snacks and socializing.

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Department Chair Louann Reid started the ceremony with some opening remarks. She shared that English undergraduates and graduates hold a total of 156 University and departmental scholarships and 7 literary awards for the 2016-2017 academic year. She also thanked the scholarship committee: Tony Becker, Beth Hasbrouck, SueEllen Campbell and Paul Trembath, as well as Sheila Dargon, who provided substantial support to that committee. Then Ellen Brinks took the podium to start presenting awards.

To start, 11 English graduate students earned distinction on their Final Project, Portfolio or Thesis.

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From left to right: Alhassane Ali Drouhamane, Anique Renee Sottile, Kathleen M. Hamel, Brian L. Doebbeling, Krista Boddy, Meagan K. Wilson, Joni Kay Hayward, Paul Binkley.

For Distinction in English Education on the Final Project:
Paul Binkley
Ian James McCreary

For Distinction in Literature on Project:
Joni Kay Hayward
Courtney Pollard
Meagan K. Wilson

For Distinction on Thesis- Creative Nonfiction:
Natalya Stanko

For Distinction in TESL/TEFL on Portfolio:
Krista Boddy
Brian L. Doebbeling
Kathleen M. Hamel
Anique Renee Sottile

For Distinction in TESL/TEFL on Thesis:
Alhassane Ali Drouhamane

 

The next scholarship awarded was new this year, the Zambia Community Education and Health Scholarship. This scholarship helps lessen the financial burden for a CSU English student accepted into the Zambia Education Abroad Program. Students in this service-learning program spend part of their summer in Livingstone, Zambia focus on Community Education and Public Health projects; they teach subjects like English, Math and Science or work supporting public health project in clinics & neighborhoods in the surrounding communities. This award is given to a full or part-time, sophomore, junior or senior undergraduate in the College of Liberal Arts majoring in English accepted into the Zambia Education Abroad Program with an overall 2.5 GPA and a 3.0 GPA in their major.

Antero Garcia presented the Zambia Community Education and Health Scholarship to Madeline Kasic.

Antero and Madeline

Antero and Madeline

Dan Beachy-Quick presented the next several awards. He started by sharing the good news that English has two winners and one honorable mention across all three genres in the 2016 Intro Journals Project. We’re the only school in the nation to manage such a distinction, and have been granted, in the past 3 years, 5 such selections (which may well be unique as well). The Intro Journals Project is a literary competition for the discovery and publication of the best new works by students currently enrolled in AWP member programs.

Poetry: Cedar Brant won for her poem, “Make Blood.”
Fiction:  Nathaniel Barron won for the first chapter from his novel-in-progress, From the Watchtower.
Creative Nonfiction: Emily Ziffer received an honorable mention for her nonfiction essay, “Moving Forward, In Russian.”

 

Next were certificates for Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society members. Members must be English majors with an overall GPA of 3.0 as well as a 3.0 in English courses. They must have completed at least 3 semesters of college coursework and at least 2 – 300 level English courses. Membership includes access to numerous scholarships, fellowships, publications, and job opportunities, in addition to university involvement. Recipients were Kelsey Easton, Patrick Eyre, Kelsey Shroyer, Krystal Tubbs, Davis Webster, Geneva McCarthy, David Grivette, and Kaylee Wieczorek.

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From left to right: Krystal Tubbs, Geneva McCarthy, Davis Webster, David Grivette, and Dan Beachy-Quick.

Next Dan presented Undergraduate Awards for the Creative & Performing Arts Scholarship Awards in Creative Writing.

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From left to right: Dan Beachy-Quick, Joelle Hamilton, Geneva McCarthy, Courtney Ellison, Noah Kaplan, David Grivette, Davis Webster, Gabriel Martinez, Scott E. Miller, Lindsey Whittington, Alyssa Meier.

FICTIONAlyssa Meier, 1st prize for her story “Blood Thicker than Water”
Lindsey Whittington, 2nd prize (3-way tie) for her story “A World of Turnips”
Scott E. Miller, 2nd prize (3-way tie) for his story “The Least We Can Do for Each Other Is Nothing”
Gabriel Martinez, 2nd prize (3-way tie) for his story “Rescued”

CREATIVE NONFICTIONDavis Webster, 1st prize for his essay “A Playlist for Steven’s Wake (Annotated)”
Noah Kaplan, 2nd prize for his essay “Ramah”
Courtney Ellison, 3rd prize (tie) for her essay “Luke 8:17”
Geneva McCarthy, 3rd prize (tie) for her essay “BBQ Ribs”

POETRYJoelle Hamilton, 1st prize: “Trail Poems”
Davis Webster, 2nd prize: “Simulacra and Simulation,” “Notre Dame,” “The Bluebird Theater on Colfax Ave.,” and “Oneiric”
Caleb McFadden, 3rd prize: “To Hers, a He, and Me,” “Do Not Cross This Line,” “Wildfriend,” and “Whatever Happens in the Clouds”
Rich Sanchez, Honorable Mention: “The Last Seconds Before,” “Day Poem 1,” and “Night Poem 1”
David Grivette, Honorable Mention: “As I,” “To Ophelia,” “Mirrors,” “Sudden Strangers,” and “Consideration on Nature’s Third Act”
Kelsey Easton, Honorable Mention: “Storm, Come Wash Away My Aches,” “From the Morning,” “As Cool Night Is Beautiful,” and “Sponges”

 

Dan Beachy-Quick then presented the Academy of American Poets Prize to Denise Jarrott.

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Dan and Denise

 

Dan announced the next section of the program in which we recognized 18 students winning department awards in 13 categories for the 2016-2017 academic year. He began with the first award by announcing the recipients of the Tremblay-Crow Creative Writing Fellowships, which alternate between MFA students in fiction and poetry.

The fiction recipient for Fall 2015 is Emily A. Harnden.
The poetry recipient for Fall 2016 is Kristin Macintyre and she will receive her award in Spring 2017. 

And finally, Dan announced the John Clark Pratt Award, which goes to a graduating MFA student for citizenship – the top MFAer of the year in terms of both writing and service to the Creative Writing community. The recipient this year is Abby Kerstetter.

Louann Reid then introduced the The Ann Osborn Zimdahl Memorial Scholarship, awarded in memory of Ann Osborn Zimdahl, a 1981 graduate of the CSU M.A. TESL/TEFL program.  Ann taught in the Intensive English Program and contributed to the international community of the University and Fort Collins.  Her career also extended overseas where she held several different teaching appointments.  Ann was strongly committed to cross-cultural understanding and enthusiastically shared her love of new cultures with her students both here and abroad. There are two recipients.

Tatiana Nekrasova-Beker introduced the first recipient, Kiley K. Miller.

Tatiana and Kiley.

Tatiana and Kiley

Camille Dungy introduced the second recipient, Samantha Killmeyer.

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Camille and Samantha

Hanna Cahow received the Zimdahl scholarship given to an outstanding graduate student in any program in English but was unable to be here last year, so Pam Coke introduced her.

Pam and Hanna.

Pam and Hanna

The Karyn L. Evans Scholarship is awarded to undergraduate students in memory of Karyn L. Evans and created through a gift from her estate. Three of the four recipients are here today. Daniel DeHerrera was unable to attend. Pam Coke introduced the first recipient, Miriam Miranda Gueck.

Pam and Miriam.

Pam and Miriam

Deb Dimon introduced the second recipient, Scott E. Miller.

Deb and Scott.

Deb and Scott

Nancy Henke introduced the third recipient, Ashle’ Shante’ Tate.

Nancy and Ashle’.

Nancy and Ashle’

The Community Engagement Scholarship is awarded to full-time undergraduate or graduate students who are majoring in English with a demonstrated interest in Community Service Activities. It was established by Pattie Cowell, former chair of the English department and of the Women’s Studies Interdisciplinary Program, and her partner Sheryl Pomering, whose career included education and counseling for children and women in Fort Collins and Larimer County. There are two recipients of this scholarship. Jarion Hamm, an incoming student, will receive his award at next spring’s reception, and Sarah Sloane presented the award to the other recipient, Morgan Riedl. 

Sarah and Morgan

Sarah and Morgan

The Cross-Cultural Understanding Scholarship is awarded to an outstanding graduate student who has demonstrated a commitment to international/cross-cultural issues and education. This year’s recipient is Joel Grove. He was unable to attend.

The Donna Weyrick Memorial Scholarship honors the memory of Donna Weyrick, a 1962 graduate of the Department of English.  These endowed scholarships for undergraduates are made possible by contributions from the Weyrick family and friends. There are two recipients. Sharon Grindle introduced the first, Anna LaForge.

Sharon and Anna

Sharon and Anna

SueEllen Campbell introduced the second recipient of this scholarship, Laurel Bergsten.

SueEllen and Laurel

SueEllen and Laurel

We have another new scholarship this year: The Diane Keating Woodcox and Larry G. Woodcox Scholarship. Endowed by an alumna of the English department, this scholarship is awarded to a full-time junior or senior undergraduate major with an overall minimum 2.5 GPA. The student must have held gainful employment or have participated in a paid or unpaid internship an exhibit exceptional focus and determination as a student. Preference is given to a graduate of a Colorado high school. Tim Amidon introduced the recipient, Mackenzie Owens.

Tim and Mackenzie

Tim and Mackenzie

The TESL/TEFL Scholarship is funded by the INTO CSU English Language Program. It is awarded to an outstanding student in the TESL/TEFL graduate program. Tony Becker introduced this year’s recipient, Adele Vestal Lonas.

Tony and Adele

Tony and Adele

The James J. Garvey Graduate English Language Scholarship, given in memory of Professor James Garvey, is presented annually to a graduate student who is enrolled in the second semester or beyond of the TESL/TEFL graduate program or is a student in the Rhetoric and Composition or English Education graduate programs, and who has shown a strong interest in advanced language study. Recipients of this award may be first-generation students. Tatiana Nekrasova-Beker introduced the recipients, Azahara África García Fariña and Anabela Vanesa Valerioti.

Tatiana and África

Tatiana and África

 

Tatiana and Anabela

Tatiana and Anabela

The James J. Garvey Undergraduate English Language Scholarship, also given in memory of Professor James Garvey, is presented annually to an undergraduate student who has a documented interest and coursework in the study of the English language. Recipients of this award also demonstrate a commitment to diversity in education, and may be first-generation students. William Marvin introduced this year’s recipient, Madison Van Doren.

William and Madison

William and Madison

The Judith A. Dean Memorial Scholarship was created in memory of Judith A. Dean, a graduate in the master’s program in the Department of English, and prominent professional in the English teaching field and the organizations that support it. Judith Dean earned an MAT at Colorado State in 1978 and taught at high schools in Colorado, Idaho, and New Mexico. She served two terms as President of the Colorado Language Arts Society, and several years on the Society’s executive committee—strong measures of her prominence in public education in Colorado. Zach Hutchins presented the award to this year’s recipient, Kaari von Bernuth.

Zach and Kaari

Zach and Kaari

The Smith-Schamberger Literature Fellowship is given to a new or returning full or part-time graduate student in the MA literature program. The recipient is incoming student Ivana Loskanich, who will receive her award next year.

The last set of awards were for outstanding writing in two categories at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The Outstanding Writing Award in Composition, Rhetoric, and Literacy recognizes outstanding writing and research in composition, rhetoric, and/or literacy studies. This award is intended to recognize innovative ideas, critical thinking, and stellar communication in the broad area of writing studies. Multimodal and print submissions are welcomed. Awards of $100 for first place and $50 for second place are given at both the graduate and undergraduate level. Doug Cloud presented the awards.

1st Place: Undergraduate: Lilly Halboth
Project Title: Your Genre Toolbox: A Comprehensive Analysis of Residence Hall Posters

Doug and Lilly

Doug and Lilly

1st Place: Graduate: Laura Price Hall
Project Title: Maps as Story: Digital, Participatory Map-Making with StoryMaps

Doug and Laura

Doug and Laura

2nd Place: Graduate: John Koban
Project Title: “Guard Your Tongue:” The Chafetz Chaim and the Jewish Rhetoric of Lashon Hara

Doug and John

Doug and John

The second category is the Outstanding Literary Essays Awards at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Debby Thompson presented the awards to six students.

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From left to right: Debby Thompson, Davis Webster, Larissa Willkomm, Amanda Nickless, Caitlin Johnson, and Timmi Baldwin

Graduate
1st Place:  Timmi Baldwin, Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day: A Beyond human Cyborg”  
2nd Place: Caitlin Johnson “Dominance, Submission, and Satisfaction: Margery Kempe…”

Undergraduate

1st Place: Davis Webster, Appendix D: Interview with the Author”
2nd Place: Larissa Willkomm, Red Volcanoes, Laughing Monster: Autobiography in Ecriture Feminine”
3rd place: Amanda Nickless, “Olivier’s Hamlet:  The Transformation of Women onto the Big Screen”

 

Louann Reid wrapped up the event by thanking all the participants, faculty, scholarship committee, donors, and office staff. “I want to recognize especially three people: Sheila Dargon who supported the scholarship committee and arranged this reception, Jill Salahub for taking pictures, and Marnie Leonard for the creative centerpieces.”

Congratulations to all the recipients!

 

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Congratulations to this year’s winners of the Undergraduate Creative Writing and Performing Arts Scholarship Contest!

In the category of Poetry:

Joelle Hamilton, 1st prize
Davis Webster, 2nd prize
Caleb McFadden, 3rd prize
Rich Sanchez, Honorable Mention
David Grivette, Honorable Mention
Kelsey Easton, Honorable Mention

In the category of Fiction:

Alyssa Meier, 1st prize for her story “Blood Thicker than Water”
Lindsey Whittington, 2nd prize (3-way tie) for her story “A World of Turnips”
Scott E. Miller, 2nd prize (3-way tie) for his story “The Least We Can Do for Each Other Is Nothing”
Gabriel Martinez, 2nd prize (3-way tie) for his story “Rescued”

In the category of Creative Nonfiction:

Davis Webster, 1st prize for his essay “A Playlist for Steven’s Wake (Annotated)”
Noah Kaplan, 2nd prize for his essay “Ramah”
Courtney Ellison, 3rd prize (tie) for her essay “Luke 8:17”
Geneva McCarthy, 3rd prize (tie) for her essay “BBQ Ribs”

 

Congratulations to those who participated and won prizes in the Graduate Student Showcase!

Participants/Project Title:

Alhassane Ali Drouhamane: “Going Beyond Concordance Lines in ESP Instruction Using Corpora Exploration.”
Paul Binkley: “Science Fiction and the STEM Fields.”
Cedar Brant: “A Life Chart: Border Inventories.”
Lindsay Brookshier: “Medieval Women Writers: Unknown Authorship as Female.”
Leslie Davis: “Corpora and Semantic Change of French Loanwords in English.”
Darcy Gabriel: “Multimodal Literacy for Multiple Literacies: Monsignor Oscar Romero’s Successful Rhetoric.”
Kathleen Hamel: “Students Strategies for Dealing with Misunderstandings in the Classroom.”
Kelsey Hatley: “The Reading and Writing Transition from High School to College.”
Melissa Hohl: “The Other in Mother: A Poetics of Excavation.”
Abby Kerstetter: “The Part of the Blood that Troubles.”
Samantha Killmeyer: “Growing out of the Rust Belt.”
Kaitlyn Mainhart: “Fostering International Mindedness and Education in the International Baccalaureate Program.”
John McDonough: ” Good Friday: The Outsider in a Contemporary Urban Landscape.”
Kristen Mullen: “Intertextuality and Modern Chinese Science Fiction.”
Kathleen Naughton: “Poetry by Katie Naughton.”
Courtney Pollard: “Playing with Pastoral: Socio-Economic and Geographic Relations in Herrick’s Hesperides.”
Sarahbeth Stoneburner: “Confessions of a Jew-ish Skeptic.”
John Whalen: “Which Reporting Verbs Characterize Successful Academic Writing? A Teacher’s Tool.”
Michelle Wilk: “They Talk to Others About Us: APA Discourse and Agency.”
Meaghan Wilson: “Mere Imagination: Mind and Material.”

Prizewinners/Award:

Melissa Hohl, MFA: College of Liberal Arts Award
Abby Kerstetter, MFA: Distinction in Creativity Award
John Whalen, TEFL/TESL: Great Minds in Research

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Five CSU graduate students went to central China this summer to teach English as a second language at Xi’an Jiaotong University. For four weeks, they taught six hours a day five days a week. Their primary duty was teaching language skills to Chinese college students, including reading, writing and verbal communication in English. The program flyer describes the school and its location this way:

Xi’an Jiaotong University (XJTU), one of the country’s oldest higher education institutions, is a national key university under the direct jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education. Currently, XJTU has 26 schools offering undergraduate and postgraduate programs in science, engineering, medicine, economics, management, art, law and education, with an enrollment of about 30,000 full-time students, including over 14,697 masters and doctoral candidates.

Xi’an is located in the central China. As a city with over 3000 years of history, Xi’an is proud of its historic sites and relics including the Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Emperor, one of the eight wonders of the world, the City Wall, the Bell Tower and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

In the weeks before they went, we’ll profiled some of these students on the blog as part of our Student Success Stories series, and a few of them agreed to send us updates and pictures while they are there. One of these students is Joni Hayward, 1st year MA English: Literature. We asked her some questions about her experience and here’s what she had to say, along with some great pictures she took.

Joni says, "2.These classrooms had chalkboards, not whiteboards for the most part, and I had lots of colorful chalk and plenty of dust. I tried to capture the stillness of the end of a school day, taking a photo of the tools I’d been using."

Joni says, “These classrooms had chalkboards, not whiteboards for the most part, and I had lots of colorful chalk and plenty of dust. I tried to capture the stillness of the end of a school day, taking a photo of the tools I’d been using.”

How was the experience?

The experience of travelling to Xi’an, living there for five weeks, and teaching there was intense. I hadn’t thought so much about culture shock because I was too busy preparing to teach. The first few days of being there, especially as delirious as I was from a very layover heavy trip there, felt surreal. However, the experience was also confidence building— I had to get myself in the mindset of teaching for 6 hours a day quickly, and teaching a group of close to forty students—there was no time for self doubt, which was a good thing. The richest part of my experience in China was spending time with, and talking to the students outside of the classroom. Some of the students were delightful; smart, inquisitive, and hilarious, too! One of my favorite memories is eating watermelons with about twelve of my students one evening. I was exhausted, but their animation energized me. I had a student assistant for one class the first two weeks who made me a recording of her playing the Guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument that is as big as she is. The genuine kindness of some of the interactions I had with students was the best part.

Joni says, "5.This is me pictured with one of my small, but very lively classes from the first term, my TA for the class, Sophie (from Birmingham, England) is on my right."

Joni says, “This is me pictured with one of my small, but very lively classes from the first term, my TA for the class, Sophie (from Birmingham, England) is on my right.”

 

What did you learn?

What a question! I think I am still figuring out what I learned. Being back in the classroom this fall teaching in Colorado, I think I have learned, as mentioned before, confidence. I also learned a lot about Chinese culture, though, which was the wonderful thing to learn while actually being there. Whether it was from going on various cultural tours and listening to tour guides, or figuring out for myself that something in the spices on the street food makes your mouth go numb… there were a lot of different types of learning going on. It was interesting to learn about perceptions that Chinese students have of American students, and also how similar we all are in so many ways, even though the University setting felt a lot different. For example, I learned that at XJTU students park their bicycles outside and don’t lock them up, and they don’t get stolen. How great is that? Maybe CSU could take a page out of that book!

Joni says, "A typical dish available for lunch in one of the canteens on campus, where we often ate. This dish was spicy and salty and probably my favorite thing I had in the canteen!"

Joni says, “A typical dish available for lunch in one of the canteens on campus, where we often ate. This dish was spicy and salty and probably my favorite thing I had in the canteen!”

Joni says, "Students wash their clothes by hand and hang them out to dry outside (it was extremely hot so I’m sure they dried quickly!)"

Joni says, “Students wash their clothes by hand and hang them out to dry outside (it was extremely hot so I’m sure they dried quickly!)”

Joni says, "This is one of my favorite photos from the park down the street from the hotel where we stayed. At night the buildings would be lit up and all around there people were socializing and dancing—every night!  I’ve never seen a park in the United States so full of activity, not even central park in New York."

Joni says, “This is one of my favorite photos from the park down the street from the hotel where we stayed. At night the buildings would be lit up and all around there people were socializing and dancing—every night! I’ve never seen a park in the United States so full of activity, not even central park in New York.”

How have you changed?

Maybe for now it’s a subtle change, but I’m sure it’s there. Probably what has changed the most is my approach to teaching. I want more than ever to engage with students in a meaningful way.

What advice do you have for students doing something similar?

Perhaps this is a bit stereotypical, but my advice is to say yes. Try to say yes to everything (within reason). There will be times when you are so exhausted and you will have to say no, but try to say yes. Say yes to this type of opportunity, and once you are there, say yes to chances to spend time with students and learn from them, too. This program was considered a cultural exchange between XJTU and United States visiting scholars, and I feel like it’s important to remember that. I would advise, if you’re going to Xi’an… try and learn a little Chinese.  Just a little!  Survival Chinese. I wish I had done that. I picked up a little while I was there, but some things were just downright difficult without a Chinese speaker present.

Joni says, "From left to right: Terran Carver, Joni Hayward, Jenna Franklin, and Kathleen Hamel. We are standing on the old city wall in this photo, which is 8 miles around."

Joni says, “From left to right: Terran Carver, Joni Hayward, Jenna Franklin, and Kathleen Hamel. We are standing on the old city wall in this photo, which is 8 miles around.”

What will you be doing this fall?

This fall I am taking two graduate courses, Media Theory and Docupoetics, and teaching two composition courses at CSU, in addition to TA-ing for a class. I’m thinking a lot about my MA project, and I’m in the early stages of applying to PhD programs for the fall of 2016. It’s a stressful time; there are (hopefully) big things on the horizon, and I’m excited to see what happens.

Joni says, "I drank fresh-squeezed juice almost every day, and there was a rainbow-colored selection. This is me standing on one of the main thoroughfares on XJTU campus with a fresh mango juice. Mango and watermelon were my favorites!"

Joni says, “I drank fresh-squeezed juice almost every day, and there was a rainbow-colored selection. This is me standing on one of the main thoroughfares on XJTU campus with a fresh mango juice. Mango and watermelon were my favorites!”

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The Bell Tower, Central Xi'an

The Bell Tower, Central Xi’an

Five CSU graduate students went to central China this summer to teach English as a second language at Xi’an Jiaotong University. For four weeks, they taught six hours a day five days a week. Their primary duty was teaching language skills to Chinese college students, including reading, writing and verbal communication in English. The program flyer describes the school and its location this way:

Xi’an Jiaotong University (XJTU), one of the country’s oldest higher education institutions, is a national key university under the direct jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education. Currently, XJTU has 26 schools offering undergraduate and postgraduate programs in science, engineering, medicine, economics, management, art, law and education, with an enrollment of about 30,000 full-time students, including over 14,697 masters and doctoral candidates.

Xi’an is located in the central China. As a city with over 3000 years of history, Xi’an is proud of its historic sites and relics including the Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Emperor, one of the eight wonders of the world, the City Wall, the Bell Tower and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

In the weeks before they went, we’ll profiled some of these students on the blog as part of our Student Success Stories series, and a few of them agreed to send us updates and pictures while they are there. One of these students is Kathleen Hamel, 1st year MA English: Teaching English as a Second/Foreign Language (TEFL/TESL). We asked her some questions about her experience and here’s what she had to say.


The Great Mosque, Muslim Quarter

The Great Mosque, Muslim Quarter

How was the experience?

If I had to sum it up in one word: interesting. This is a word that I frequented day-to-day about how much days usually ended up going. Most of the time, I found it interesting due to my lack of my communication capabilities in Chinese, which then forced some hand motions and other nonverbal communication. But overall, it was interesting because every day was different, from my experiences teaching in the classroom to everyday encounters and all of those interesting moments are what made this trip so exciting and memorable.

The Huaqing Hot Springs

The Huaqing Hot Springs

What did you learn?

Throughout the whole experience while teaching, the students and I were constantly learning about our cultural differences and similarities. Through this, I was able to have insight into Chinese culture like education, values and most importantly (to me), food.

In the classroom, I learned that it’s incredibly important to be flexible. This was the first year of this program, so changes were constantly being made and it was important that you were able to adapt to the changes that were being implemented. But in order to truly experience another culture, it’s important to be flexible as well because you don’t know whether something is cultural or not until the situation presents itself.

How have you changed?

The most change that I experienced was within the classroom as a teacher. I felt as though I learned important skills like classroom management, facilitating conversation within a fairly large classroom and various ways to maintain student motivation. These skills are something that, in my opinion, cannot but taught but rather learned within the environment. So having 25 hours of per week of classroom instruction allowed for me to develop and finesse my teaching skills.

The Old City, behind Xi'an's Ancient City Wall

The Old City, behind Xi’an’s Ancient City Wall

What advice do you have for students doing something similar?

My biggest advice for doing something similar is to have an open mind. In my opinion, having an open mind is essential in doing anything different or maybe something you’re unsure of. If you have a closed mind, then you aren’t really experiencing what is going on around you and might be more apt to say ‘no’ to opportunities you may never have again. This isn’t to say that having an open mind means you need to say ‘yes’ all of the time but rather that you give opportunities a chance. In addition to this, having an open mind allows one to not judge others because they do something different than you or in a manor that you may or may not care for but that is completely OK. People are different, cultures are different and having an open mind allows oneself to learn about these differences, and possible similarities, freely.

Kathleen Hamel, Kristen Mullen and company after a punk rock show on XJTU's campus

Kathleen Hamel, Kristen Mullen and company after a punk rock show on XJTU’s campus

Kathleen Hamel, my student Emily Wang, a fellow teacher, and Kristen Mullen after the exhausting climb up Mount Hua Shan

Kathleen Hamel, Kristen Mullen’s student Emily Wang, a fellow teacher, and Kristen Mullen after the exhausting climb up Mount Hua Shan

What will you be doing this fall?

This fall I will not only be taking a full course load but I’m also a Consultant for the Writing Center and a Writing Tutor at INTO CSU, the intensive English program for international students. In addition to this, I will be interning. Through this, I will be observing and assisting in a CO150-ESL class. And finally, I will begin my research project that I aim to present at COTESOL (Colorado’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) in November in Denver.

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Five CSU graduate students went to central China this summer to teach English as a second language at Xi’an Jiaotong University. For four weeks, they taught six hours a day five days a week. Their primary duty was teaching language skills to Chinese college students, including reading, writing and verbal communication in English. The program flyer describes the school and its location this way:

Xi’an Jiaotong University (XJTU), one of the country’s oldest higher education institutions, is a national key university under the direct jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education. Currently, XJTU has 26 schools offering undergraduate and postgraduate programs in science, engineering, medicine, economics, management, art, law and education, with an enrollment of about 30,000 full-time students, including over 14,697 masters and doctoral candidates.

Xi’an is located in the central China. As a city with over 3000 years of history, Xi’an is proud of its historic sites and relics including the Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Emperor, one of the eight wonders of the world, the City Wall, the Bell Tower and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

In the weeks before they went, we’ll profiled some of these students on the blog as part of our Student Success Stories series, and a few of them agreed to send us updates and pictures while they are there. One of these students is Kristen Mullen, MA English: Literature, graduating Spring 2016. She wrote an essay about her experience and took some great pictures we’d like to share with you here.


How Traveling to China Taught Me How to Stop Being a Control Freak

by Kristen Mullen

kristen

When I got word that I would be traveling to Xi’an, China to teach English for the summer, I was preparing to write my final essays and figuring out where I was going to live when my lease ended in July. Where were all of my belongings going to go for the summer? How can I pull off making the claim that Chaucer wrote early science fiction? I had very little time to learn Mandarin and the lesson plans I received as a XJTU summer instructor had a very minimalist feel. Each class had a general theme (sports, campus life, art, etc.), but coming up with three hours worth of content was up to me and my teaching team. Joni Hayward, Jenna Franklin, and I were building lessons with no background on our students’ English abilities or classroom capabilities. Joni and I booked our flights to Xi’an together; however, in the last minute of confirming our flights something went wrong and we ended up on a different flights from Shanghai to Xi’an. For the next month when I wasn’t reading, writing, or doing research, I was playing on the Pleco Chinese Dictionary app on my phone attempting to hear and repeat words in Chinese and imagining an airport full of  signs with foreign characters. The audible pronunciations on the app were so fast and said so softly that I had to listen to each about ten times before I could catch on to the first few syllables. This lead to me leaving the States with only “nǐ hǎo”(hello), “yùshì”(bathroom), and “zǔzhòu”(damn).

In what we now call “The Checked Bag Limbo”,  Joni and I spent fifteen hours sleeping/watching Netflix in Seattle International Airport’s baggage claim after a trip to claim my checked bag left us unable to reenter the airport. We were stuck on the outskirts with no extra money to waste on a pricy airport hotel. We became floor people, laying on top of our possessions so that they would not be stolen while we slept. I listened to a payphone ring out in the night, debating for a half hour whether I should answer it. When I got up in the cold morning air and left my makeshift bed, it stopped its ringing.

Our thirteen hour flight to Shanghai went by with naps, movies, and in-flight meals, which was an experience that gave off the feeling our luck was turning around, a feeling of imagined control over our travel. With Joni’s flight to Xi’an at 7:00p.m and mine at 9:00p.m, we parted ways in Shanghai and hoped for the best. My terminal was in the basement of the airport and I got my first taste of being in an overcrowded area with hundreds of people who don’t speak the same language as me. A shuttle took us out to the plane, but when we reached the area where the plane should have been, there was nothing there. They shuttled us back to the airport and herded us to a small square space between the ticket counter and the terminal. The other passengers spilled over into restricted areas arguing loudly and demanding answers from the airport employees. I found a teacher from Colorado and another from Australia, so we stood together in the corner trying to catch a bilingual passenger who might know what was happening. A woman from Germany explained to us that our flight was either cancelled or delayed because of bad weather, in which case the airline is not responsible and we would have to make due. Temperatures and noise levels reached absurd levels as three hours passed without answers. My calling cards and my bank card didn’t work in the airport machines, leaving me with no way to contact my family or exchange money to yuan for food and drinks. Unable to sleep, my new friend Tahlia got out her coloring book and despite our exhaustion we filled in and shaded garden scenes with her fifty Crayola colored pencils. This quickly attracted the children around us and once their parents saw that we were friendly they allowed them to join in on our coloring, a welcomed break from futile attempts to collect and calm all the hot, tired, hungry babies. The infernal situation transcended language barriers as we all laughed together at the absurdity of our shared situation. Our flight eventually came and after two hours of sitting on the plane, we headed off to Xi’an for our last three hour flight.

The statue of Yang Guifei and Emperor Xuanzong

The statue of Yang Guifei and Emperor Xuanzong

 

An apartment in downtown Xi'an

An apartment in downtown Xi’an

A building located in the Celebration Palace Park

A building located in the Celebration Palace Park

We arrived at 5:00a.m, eight hours later than planned and three hours before our first meeting on the Xi’an Jiaotong University campus. On our way to the hotel I lay my head against the window of our bus and watched the sun rise above the solid grey skyscrapers, hoping Joni and my other fellow teachers had made it safe. After a long overdue shower and a short nap I found Joni in our meeting and learned that she too had been stuck in the airport two floors above me for quite a while before a shuttle took her and the other passengers to a nearby hotel, the kind of hotel that had pictures of naked woman and phone numbers stapled to the door. Despite an earlier initial flight time, she’d arrived to the hotel later than I had. After our warm welcome to XJTU, we all went back to the hotel that afternoon with full bellies and slept through till morning.

Our favorite street food vendor near our hotel

Our favorite street food vendor near our hotel

Vendors in the Muslim Quarter

Vendors in the Muslim Quarter

To eat, I learned to point to my desired dish, smile, and then say “xièxie”(thank you). The canteen staff got used to my bad pronunciations and miming then once I got to know my students, they would join me for lunch and order their favorite foods for me to try. Within the first few weeks, we all picked up on useful life lessons such as never navigate around the city without someone who spoke Chinese and always grab a pack of tissues before we left the house. I learned to say yes to things even when I felt like saying no. Going out of my comfort zone often lead to the most unforgettable experiences.

Hot Pot - a popular dinner

Hot Pot – a popular dinner

 

For example, after a long day of teaching and still wrestling with the fourteen hour time change, I wanted to climb into my bed but reluctantly I accompanied a group of teachers to campus knowing only that I was headed to “a show” that night. The show ended up being a rock concert led by one of Kathleen Hamel’s female students emblazoned in black platform heels and a Gwen Stefani-esque voice. We danced and joined in on a mosh pit while she growled to Nirvana, Foo Fighters, and Led Zeppelin, and some Chinese punk songs.

Kathleen Hamel, Kristen Mullen and company after a punk rock show on XJTU's campus

Kristen Mullen, Kathleen Hamel, and company after a punk rock show on XJTU’s campus

 

Another time an urge to escape the city resulted in Kathleen, my student Emily Wang, another teacher, and I taking a two hour train ride and multiple taxis out to Mount Huashan for a sunrise hike. We arrived at 10:00 p.m and were welcomed with a massive storm that soaked our clothes and shoes, making us seriously rethink our climb. We decided to wait it out in a small restaurant near the base and at 11:00p.m the lightening stopped and we began our ascent to the top of the four peaks of Huashan, the biggest physical challenge of my life. We ignored the gossip about the clouds causing low visibility and after more than seven thousand steps and five hours of hiking and climbing, we watched the sunrise together. The moisture of the clouds ended up giving the sky a tie-dye hue of orange, pink, and purple and the rain had cleared away the smog. We laughed together and drank victory beers as our cable car descended the mountain and oxygen filled our lungs again.

The entrance of Mount Hua

The entrance of Mount Hua

Kathleen Hamel, my student Emily Wang, a fellow teacher, and Kristen Mullen after the exhausting climb up Mount Hua Shan

A fellow teacher, Kristen’s student Emily Wang, Kathleen Hamel, and Kristen Mullen after the exhausting climb up Mount Hua Shan

The sunrise from the top of Hua Shan

The sunrise from the top of Hua Shan

As someone who is reluctant to eat a well-marbled U.S.A steak, I learned to embrace street meat without hesitation, even the pink one (I gained roughly ten pounds from this new bravery and large amounts of green tea desserts). I worked in a classroom with a computer from the Li Xiannian Era, where the air conditioning and the projector only worked about two days out of the week. I learned to haggle for lower prices in the markets and I survived an incident where a mistranslation lead to a masseuse asking me for “three legs” and possessing little to no vocabulary to work my way through the conversation. I had no cellphone in Xi’an, so meeting up with friends was reliant on keeping our word and showing up on time. We watched beautiful women dance in the park at night and elderly people do Tai Chi in the mornings. We watched Chinese MTV daily and loudly sang songs at karaoke, something I would never do back in the States.

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The Wild Goose Pagoda

The ceiling of one of the temples near the Wild Goose Pagoda

The ceiling of one of the temples near the Wild Goose Pagoda

In the five weeks I spent in Xi’an, I rarely had any idea what the next hour had in store for me and relied all too often on the kindness of strangers. My incredibly talented students taught me as much about Chinese culture we could squeeze in to our time together and I left with new friends and ideas on how to run my classroom for the upcoming school year at CSU. Joni, Kathleen, Jenna, Kevin Ngo, and I headed back toward Fort Collins together without any extreme hangups and I found myself standing in line for coffee in Seattle quite bored with the fact that I could understand the thousands of conversations going on around me and a little disappointed that we didn’t get one more chance to flail wildly together like uncaged míng qín.

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Professor Ellen Brinks took a group of students to Livingstone, Zambia this summer. For three weeks, they took part in experiential learning and internships through our Colorado State University Study Abroad program (and African Impact). We asked a few of them to send us pictures and let us know how it’s going, tell us more about what they are doing and experiencing. Here’s the final report from Morgan Bennett, Amira Noshi, and Alexandra Pinion.


~from Morgan Bennett

During our time in Zambia, all of us on the community education projects assumed we were the teachers. That was even the idea that sold me on the idea to travel to Livingstone: teaching and impacting children in a country across the world. Little did I know that going to Zambia would transform me from a teacher into a student.

I entered the 7th grade class at Libuyu Primary School confident in my teaching ability; I have had fantastic education teachers at CSU who have prepared me for anything. On top of that, I have aspirations of teaching middle school students in the U.S. But when you hear a 7th grade class, a group of 11 year olds is probably what comes to mind. That is not the case at Libuyu: the students go to school when their family can afford it. This means that the age range in the class can be from 11 to 19. This can be difficult because students are at developmentally different places in their life, but are all still learning the same curriculum.

Halfway through my duration at Libuyu Primary School, my host teacher, Coastah, told me that 13 of his students could not read. At this point, I was cursing myself for not packing my E402 Teaching Reading Interactive Notebook, Teaching Grammar Through Writing by Keith Polette, and Kylene Beers, When Kids Can’t Read. It was a real frustration for me to have only three weeks with these students who needed help past what my time could give. This was my next lesson as the student. To me, teaching students digraphs seemed a small feat; I felt disheartened that I only had time to teach them so much. But that’s not the point: teaching students what noise “th” makes may be small, but it’s leaps and bounds away from where they were before they learned that. And sometimes life is about the connections and experiences you have, not the amount of information that is learned.

In Zambia, 7th grade is the testing year. This means that at the end of the three terms, students must take a test to see if they can continue their education in secondary school. If the students don’t pass, it will be the end of the road for many of them; schools and families both cannot afford to support that high volume of students in the class for a second year. I learned a disheartening statistic that 77% of students in the Zambian school system will not graduate from secondary school. It hurts my heart, because like the students in America, these children have high aspirations. Many of them want to be doctors, engineers, and teachers: all jobs that are desperately needed, but also require a high level of education. Although it’s hard to know that all of the students in my class may not make it to secondary school, I have the hope that all the knowledge they have learned from their great teachers throughout the years can take them into the future to accomplish any dreams they put their minds to.

The 7th grade class at Libuyu Primary School with soccer balls donated by the CSU English Department

The 7th grade class at Libuyu Primary School with soccer balls donated by the CSU English Department


~from Amira Noshi

We’ve been back for nearly two weeks now and I think I can speak for all of us when I say, no words can describe our individual experiences. Overwhelmed by the seemingly harmless question of “how was it?” I find it hard to even write about now, having defeated my jet lag and adjusted back into my daily life.

Spending three weeks working in the Cheshire Home, a school for children with disabilities, has changed my perspective completely, being immersed in the daily lives of the inspiring students and teachers of Cheshire homes reminds me to challenge myself in all aspects of life.

The Cheshire Home was conveniently located just around the corner from the hostel, so Katie (my partner in crime) and I could enjoy a nice stroll every morning before starting a unique day. Cheshire Home had two classrooms, separated by grade levels with Charity teaching the older kids and Evelyn braving the younger class. Charity and Evelyn were not only responsible for the everyday lesson plans, but also for administrative duties, and often they were called away from class leaving Katie and I to either continue the lesson or completely improvise the rest of the day.

Playing a game where the object was to hit the newspaper with a rock, whoever hit the most wins!

Playing a game where the object was to hit the newspaper with a rock, whoever hit the most wins!

During these times we really got to know the kids, we learned that Mildred has some pretty sweet dance moves, Mushabati is a math wiz, and Veronica can command a classroom better than Katie and I combined. I experienced a spectrum of emotion while working in Cheshire, with days that were difficult – hair was pulled, faces were kicked, and tears were shed – and I had days where there was no place or group of people that I would’ve rather been or been with, reiterating my changed perspective and reminding me constantly of why I opted to go to Zambia in the first place. We were forced to make due time and time again, and each time Charity, Evelyn, Katie, and I managed to make it work.

Lifah! One of our brightest and smiley-est students!

Lifah! One of our brightest and smiley-est students!

Evelyn and Charity were nothing short of inspirations. Both of them demanded authenticity from everyone inside and outside of Cheshire, encouraging the kids and community to face adversity as a team. We witnessed that time and time again, with the donation of food by the religious community of Zambia, allowing Evelyn and Charity to host the braii (barbeque) that provided the funds for a school trip to Lusaka for a nationwide sports competition and again at the braii itself, when Evelyn and Charity (and some of our group members) let loose and fully embraced the ideals that they instill in the wonderful kids of Cheshire.

Student Andrew shows off his amazing football skills to fellow volunteer Fiona during sports

Student Andrew shows off his amazing football skills to fellow volunteer Fiona during sports

No words can describe my trip to Zambia. I’ve tried over and over again to find adjectives that manage to condense all the memories created. Replaying them in my head leaves me with a warm sentiment, all the friends we made, all the truly amazing experiences we had, all within a span of three weeks. I think we all as individuals went on this trip for a vast array of different reasons; in the end we all gained so much from the community we both built and dove into in Zambia. No regrets, none at all.


~from Alexandra Pinion

Leaving Livingstone can only be summed up in one word: bittersweet. For the most part, I think we all made Livingstone Backpackers our home away from home. We settled right in, made fast friends with the other volunteers as well as the staff, and shared memories that can’t be easily transposed through writing or simple images that we had taken from our time here. It is something that we share, but we must all be prepared to condense this three-week experience, and to tell our family and friends back home in as much (or as little) detail as we can how we fared in Africa.

What I had gathered from talking with the friends that I’d made was that yes, we were probably ready to go home now, to sleep in our own beds, cuddle our pets and significant others, and relax in the sweet Colorado summer sun, but we were also incredibly sad to leave. There were tears and enough hugs to last a lifetime on that last day, yet I think we all realized that these feelings extended from the strong bonds that we all made during our short time in Livingstone. If only we had a little more time…

I remember the last few days as trying to soak up every bit of my surroundings. During the bumpy van rides, I took mental photographs of the big mango trees (unfortunately for us not yet in bloom), and the clear blue sky, the red dust that got all over everything and that was permanently underneath all of our fingernails, the loveable children that knew no boundaries, the pastel sunsets that somehow merged two opposing colors into something that could ever be captured except by the eye itself. I hugged the kids tightly, feeling a type of warmth and love that I hadn’t felt before with children that were so openly affectionate. I waved joyfully at the locals who seemed so happy to see us. I tried to pinpoint all of the personalities that were so wonderfully welcoming to us.

5th grade girls at Mwandi Community School

5th grade girls at Mwandi Community School

I think that three weeks was a perfect taste of what it would be like to live on the other side of the world. I know that I can adapt to another place, another climate, another way of life. Those three weeks in Africa affirmed for me that I can and should chase my dreams around the world of teaching and learning from other cultures that I may have had no idea about. My biggest hope is that in the short time I was there I was able to transfer some of my knowledge and culture as well, in order to offer a learning experience to those that so graciously welcomed me and took care of me during my stay.

I’m especially thankful now for social media, because even though I’m a half a world away from the projects and the people I was invested in during my time in Zambia, I can still see how they progress, change, and develop. I can still see the smiling faces of the kids I cuddled and the friends I made and their journeys. It was definitely difficult to leave this temporary home behind, but it was also such a joy to step outside of the airport upon arriving and have my sights filled with beautiful Colorado rolling hills and misty mountains, the green grass contrasting with the dark blue sky. It was difficult to leave behind the short life I’d made in Zambia, but when I saw that landscape I had been away from for so long, I knew that I was home.

The students at Mwandi always brought a smile to my face

The students at Mwandi always brought a smile to my face

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