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What’s a Block?

By Tess Gattuso '15

Tess Gattuso '15

Any sort of affiliation with Colorado College comes with many questions. You only take one class at a time? Really? Do you have no free time? Do you have a lot of free time? Then, there’s the most pressing question of them all: What’s a block? You will ask yourself this question when you discover the CC community. Your second-cousin’s fiance will ask at your uncle’s wedding. The project manager at your dream workplace will inquire during an interview. For the most part, anyone unfamiliar with the block plan will ask. As a senior, I have over three years of on‑the‑ground experience answering this question. Here’s what I know.

To take one class at a time is one thing, but a single “block” is another thing entirely. Why is it that we at CC use the term “block?” What is block-y, block-ish, or block-esque about our academic schedule? In technical terms, a block meets every weekday from 9am to 12pm, for 3.5 weeks, eight times a year. During that time, many blocks have different frequencies of afternoon sessions, such as lab time or conversations with visiting speakers. Outside class hours, many students pursue a smorgasbord of extracurricular engagements. When the 3.5 weeks is up, students have a rejuvenating 5 day break from all campus-related responsibilities—affectionately termed a “block break.” Now, this brief outline might capture the rigorous rhythm of a block, but it’s what goes on from block-to-block, 8 times a year, for four or so years of our lives, that takes a course from a “class” to a “block.”

Let’s consider two blocks from my junior year. For 6th block of that year, I took “Democracy and Markets” with Professor John Gould in the Political Science department. We read classic economic texts, wrote papers on comparative political economics and discussed the influence of International Organizations on developing countries. It was immersive but fairly standard fare for life on the block plan. However, 7th block was a little different. I was in Los Angeles studying the film industry and its history in “On Location: Hollywood” with Professors Clay Haskell and Dylan Nelson. During this course, we met with inspiring professionals from all fields of entertainment, watched and critiqued one film a day and explored our own individual areas of interest through a research paper, interviews with individuals working in our desired career fields and a final creative project. My area of interest was Comedy Writing and Performance, and I did a 15-minute stand-up set as my final. Within two months, I went from being an economist, to being a Comedian. But, these are just two blocks. Imagine what you can do with the other six. Over the course of a year, you get to see how blocks provide rare in-depth experiences into different disciplines, careers and forms of thought.

At Colorado College, we’re given the tools to build a strong, multifaceted foundation for our futures. Blocks are the tools with which we build this foundation. In the spirit of the Liberal Arts, we are able to understand how seemingly unrelated experiences are actually quite connected. We can draw unique insight from different situations because we see how our courses in multiple departments feed into the context, theory and practice of one another. Each block is not an isolated experience, rather an additional lens and tool to strengthen our ability to pursue our goals. Like kids, we’re playing with blocks, constructing a unique path toward what lays ahead.