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Remarks to New Students and Parents

Remarks to New Students and Parents
By Jill Tiefenthaler, President

Colorado College, August 27, 2011

Greetings to my faculty and staff colleagues, returning students, and guests, and a very warm welcome to the Colorado College Class of 2015 and their families!

First, to the parents and other family members that have accompanied our new students to campus – thank you.  Thank you for entrusting us with the education of your sons and daughters and thank you for the investment that you are making in their futures.  We are delighted that you could be here and hope that you enjoy your visit to this beautiful campus and place. I look forward to talking with you later today at the parents’ reception.  I trust that you understand if I will focus my remarks on our new students as if my only chance to address the entire first year class.

As you might know, I am also new to Colorado College.  I arrived as the 13th President (13 is now my lucky number) in July – just a few months ago.   Like you, I came to Colorado College because of its commitment to the liberal arts, its excellent faculty and staff, its amazing student body, its innovative block plan, and its truly inspiring location. Also, like you, I traveled quite a journey to get here.

Many years ago, back in 19XX, I was a first-year student at a small liberal arts college just like you. I moved into my dorm room, unpacked my bags, participated in all of the orientation activities, and listened to a welcoming speech. And like some of you, I worried that I didn’t belong and felt dreadfully homesick. 

I was a farm girl from rural Iowa.  The small town that was my home was made up of about 500 people and I swear that over 100 of those folks were Tiefenthalers.  My maternal grandparents lived across the road and my paternal grandparents about a mile away.  I was surrounded by extended family and lots of love.  I was part of a very tight community and leaving it was very hard.

Perhaps you also feel a bit homesick today.  Maybe you feel that you don’t quite belong in this new place where everyone seems to be from somewhere more glamorous than your home town, went to better schools, and seems to know more about college than you do.  Maybe you really miss someone far away.  I expect that all of you have left a community of love and support.

What I didn’t understand during my first year orientation was that although I was far away from the community that had always been my home, I was part of a new community.  

You will come to realize the same things as we today welcome you to several new communities - the Colorado College community, the Colorado Springs community, and our academic community. The CC Community is united by, of course, a connection to Colorado College.  It includes more than 28,000 alumni scattered around the world as well as those who work and learn on campus.  Geography is the bond that unites the Colorado Springs Community.  And the academic community is united around the common devotion to learning and scholarship.

You are now a member of all of these communities – you will forever have a tie to Colorado College, you are a resident of Colorado Springs, and your main focus for the next four years is learning. 

It wasn’t easy to get here though, was it?  There were about 5000 applications for the 500 spots in your entering class!  To get here you had to prove to the Admissions Office that you could succeed – they looked at those impressive grades, challenging curricula, test scores, lists of extracurricular activities, and special talents. You all worked long hours to achieve in high school, and some of you worked long hours at a job, sport, art or extracurricular as well. You have all earned the right to be here and you belong.  So take advantage of it!  Don’t just show up!  Be an engaged member of your new communities! 

I am sure that you didn’t get here alone.  There is someone (or more likely, many people) from your hometown community that was critical to your success - your parents, another relative, a teacher, a coach, a pastor or a rabbi. You thrived because of your community, the people around you. Don’t forget to thank these people!  The fact that your success depended on the support of your hometown community makes it clear that groups and the individuals that belong to them thrive when each member gives something back.  I believe that all of us are obligated to contribute in some way – to enrich the communities to which we belong. 

So, in a nutshell, my advice to you today is to fully engage in each of your new communities – to take advantage of the opportunities that each offers you, but to also give something back.  Make each community a better place because of you.

Colorado College Community

The Colorado College Community has so much to offer you!

  • The liberal arts.
  • A faculty of more than 150 talented and committed teacher/scholars. 
  • A staff and administration committed to supporting you inside and outside the classroom
  • Your peers - 2,000 of the brightest, most talented -and fun- young people in the country.
  • We also offer you an incredible array of extracurriculars that you can join or even lead – from the CC Farm to the Sewing Club to the Debate Society to “Schlank” – the disc golf group.
  • Another offering of the CC Community is a network of those 28,917 CC alumni who are ready to help you with advice on career and life.

Take advantage of these opportunities that are open to you as a member of the Colorado College community! 

CC is a great place with much to offer but we depend on the members of our community – alumni, faculty, administrators, staff, and students – to give back, to support each other and to push for change that will keep CC fresh.  Only if we continually question the way that we do things, continue to change Colorado College, and continue to keep up with the changing world around us will CC continue to be a great place.

Students give so much and do a lot to improve the CC Community!  They mentor younger students – for example, by serving as First Year Experience Mentors, New Student Orientation trip leaders. RAs, and Writing Center and Quantitative Reasoning peer tutors. 

Students support each other through groups like: First Generation group, MOSAIC (for international students and students interested in global issues), Black Student Union, Asian American Student Union, SOMOS, Native American Student Union, Disability Awareness Group (DAWG), EQUAL (confidential group for LGBTQ students), Students Organized for Sexual Safety, and Mind Body and Soul (Women of Color support group, recently opened to general women’s support).

Some students have gone a step further than joining an existing group and become true campus entrepreneurs.  They see something that needs to be done and they figure out how to do it. These students demonstrate that one person can make a difference at CC. A great example is, Cris Landa,  a student who graduated last year.  Cris volunteered as a tutor/mentor for North Boys Enrichment Program.  After visiting a program in Chicago where she learned a LOT about at risk youth and saw youth empowerment theory in practice, she concluded that CC students like herself were in great need of more formal learning/education about at risk youth and hands on preparation about how to make a difference.  Her capstone project involved proposing a new “student taught” course on youth empowerment theory targeted specifically for students interested in volunteering or teaching at risk youth.  After her hard work in developing this plan, the Education Department provided an instructor of record to oversee the course, but the course design remained largely student run.  That program and course will continue at the college following Cris’ graduation; it is designed to develop the next student “mentors” for the course and be self-perpetuating.

I look forward to seeing what the Class of 2015 contributes to the CC community.

The Colorado Springs Community

The Colorado Springs Community and this region also offer you so much!  This area is so physically beautiful and invites you to enjoy the outdoors – in all seasons. My family and I love the Monument Park Trail right next to campus for biking. You will be awed by gazing at the Garden of the Gods and inspired to get moving by the countless hikes in the Pikes Peak region.

One of the best things that I have found in the past few months about the Colorado Springs Community is that it is such a friendly place.  If you embrace the Springs as your community, you will reap many benefits.  But I hope that you will also give something back.

How can you and your fellow CC students do your part?  Buy locally.  Shopping in the Spring and eating downtown not only supports our hometown businesses but also enhances community vitality – that is, it makes Colorado Springs a more fun and happening place. 

Get involved with a community organization through The Center for Service and Learning or Partnership for Civic Engagement. There are many inspiring examples of CC students not only giving back but truly making a difference in the local community. For example, Amy Fleig began tutoring with the Childrens' Literacy Center (CLC) in the fall of her sophomore year.  One of her first students, a fifth grader who was reading at the primary level, was able to test out of the program after one semester.  That summer she worked as an intern for the CLC, recruiting new tutors, planning the CLC reading summer camp, and other conducting fundraisers.  She has since become the site coordinator at Helen Hunt Elementary, organizing the twice weekly tutoring sessions for 12 CC student volunteers whom she recruits and trains as well.  As a Liberal Arts and Science Major (LAS) in the Psychology of Education, she has integrated her community endeavors with her LAS thesis:  studying the psychological research on students who have a fixed view of intelligence which leads to a lack persistence in the face of challenges and difficulty during school transitions.  Now a senior, she has developed a reading program, that she will soon analyze in a study with the hope that her program will contribute to  students' agency, so they feel in control of their learning.  Her program, while grounded in research, also takes into account the current context of today's schools, which are limited in time and money.

Most importantly, respect your neighbors who live around our campus and their property and privacy.

Scholarly Community

Above all else, I urge you to fully engage as a member of our academic community while you are here at Colorado College.  Doing so during your four years at CC will open doors to so many opportunities, like entrance to the best graduate schools and top jobs in an array of fields. 

Still, the most important benefits are not these outcomes but the process.  Learning and loving it for its own sake is an amazing opportunity that you have over the next four years!  While the outcomes of living as a scholar at CC will help you to achieve personal success—something we wish for all of our students—embracing the process of learning will help you to achieve personal fulfillment.

Over the years, I have talked with many liberal arts college graduates – doctors, teachers, lawyers, those in business careers and finance - and the things that they often say confirm my own personal experience that engaging in an intellectual community, living the life of the mind while in college, is life changing.  Many alumni’s fondest memories of CC are academic – a close relationship with a faculty member, a study group, a summer research experience, a seminar.  Many other alumni express regret that they didn’t appreciate the academic options available to them – they wish that they had sampled more broadly from the liberal arts curriculum and taken the process of learning more seriously.  They wish that they had appreciated the only opportunity in their lives to be fully absorbed in learning.

I hope that all of you will have fond memories rather than regrets!  So take advantage of the academic opportunities – go on a study abroad trip, take a class that is a stretch, invite a faculty member (or a President) to have coffee, apply for a Venture Grant, initiate those late night debates with your roommates. Do it all and enjoy it! 

Take advantage of all that CC offers in the classroom – take a class in Art History, German, Southwest Studies, Astronomy, Math, Geology, Classics, and Film. Try it all!

  Colorado College has some of the finest teacher-scholars – extremely talented faculty members who are truly dedicated to your learning.  They are one of the reasons that we came to CC so take advantage of what they offer you.  Go to their office hours, ask for their advice, get to know them as people.

And, don’t forget about one of the best things about attending a highly selective residential liberal arts college like CC – your peers.  You are surrounded by some of the most talented and interesting young people anywhere. Collectively, you speak 30 languages, have visited 75 different countries, and have committed thousands of hours to service organizations.  Your class includes: 180 presidents or community leaders, 46 student publication editors, 195 varsity team captains, numerous published authors, 2 nationally ranked rock climbers, 2 professionally recorded musicians, a second place finisher at the World Series of Birding and a music blogger who gets over 250,000 hits a month. The list goes on and on.   Because of what each of you brings to CC, these next four years will be more enriching for all of us.

You will likely easily form friendships with those with whom you have lots in common – you are from the same state or country, you share a sport or music interest, you have the same racial or socioeconomic background – and that’s ok it’s human nature to search for those connections (especially when confronting a new environment).  But I challenge you to also form friendships with those whom you don’t seem to have so much in common.  We can learn so much from those with diverse backgrounds and experiences who might see things differently.  For me, the Iowa farm girl, it was a friendship with a young woman from Chicago – not the suburbs, the city.  Truthfully, I remember being kind of scared of her at first.  I expect that her visit to the farm was as eye-opening as my trip to her neighborhood.  However, I also remember thinking over this magnificent Italian meal with lots of relatives that it wasn’t so different from the dinner of meat and potatoes that all those Tiefenthalers had treated her to at my home.  What we shared was more important than how we differed. 

These four years of learning offer so many opportunities.  But, remember, that being a member of our scholarly community also comes with significant responsibilities – you will need to contribute a lot.  You will need to work hard --read, write, to reread and to rewrite.  You will also need to engage with your faculty and your peers.  Be a part of discussions and the debates both inside and outside the classroom but do it civilly.  Finally, and very importantly, you will need to be an honorable student.  Give credit to the work of others and only take credit for your own work.

Closing

While I was pretty homesick those first days (I have to admit that there were tears in the privacy of my small single room), I also remember the excitement of starting college and I know that you all feel it today.  You sense the opportunity. Grab the ones ahead of you but also give back, invest in your new communities.  If you do, I expect that in four years – when I talk to you at Commencement - you will start to feel a little homesick.  You will move on to a job or graduate school and you will be homesick again but this time for CC, those mountains, and the enjoyable freedom of the life of the mind. 

However, just as you moved away from home this past week but remain a part of your hometown community, you will always be a part of our communities. You will have a lifelong attraction to and affection for this place and the relationships you’ve cultivated with faculty, students and staff, and you will equate CC and this time in your life with a warm embrace.  In addition, your time here and the knowledge and skills that you learn, and what you learn about yourself, will help you to take advantage of the many opportunities ahead of you and to build new communities – to make a difference - wherever life takes you.

Thank you! And, again, welcome to Colorado College!