The Charge: Our students affirm the value of a liberal arts experience that broadens their horizons, deepens their insights, and develops their capacity to identify and pursue their passions. In fact, they want us to go further and find new ways to help them integrate the various parts of their CC experience and connect their college experience to their lives after graduation. By leveraging the CC network and experience, we can help students transition to careers and their post-CC lives.
What’s Happening: In January 2014, the college launched the Dynamic Half Block, which introduced non-credit courses aimed at better preparing students with the academic, professional, and practical skills needed to transition to life after college. These new courses, coordinated by the Career Center, were in addition to the credit-bearing courses that have been offered since 1992. But Half Block has not been just for students. Alumni, CC parents, staff, and other external experts have taught courses along with CC faculty.
In January 2020, two CC parents came to campus to teach two different classes that would benefit students now and in their lives after graduation. In one of the classes, students learned design thinking, the human-centered design methodology pioneered by IDEO and Stanford d.school founder David Kelley. Toddi Gutner, parent to a CC junior, and design thinking strategist, spent five days with the students tackling the challenge question, “How might we transform students’ relationships with food to radically reduce food waste at Colorado College?” At the conclusion of the class, the students presented their prototypes to members of the CC administration for possible pilot projects. “Life is about learning and that means learning skills that are beyond the books. I believe giving students these lifelong skills in a setting where they aren't graded or credited gives them useful capabilities that will make them more adaptable and marketable in the real world” says Gutner.
“I have been teaching at the graduate school level for the past 15 years, but this time was special, not only because I engaged with college students for the first time, but more importantly, I got an inside view into the college where my son attends,” Gutner says. “As parents, we get a very superficial view of what our children are experiencing and of the feel of the community and mission of the school. While immersed in the Half-Block experience, I received an ‘insider's view’ of the uniqueness of the CC curriculum, community, and faculty. I know my son has changed tremendously during his time at CC but now I better understand why and how those changes have come about.”
The other class taught by a CC parent was Brand New You: Personal Branding, taught by Meryl Holland, personal branding expert. In this course, students created a personal brand profile that helped them define who they are and why they matter in an increasingly competitive and specialized world. Students developed a variety of tools to tell their story. They built a backstory that became their LinkedIn summary and personal “elevator” pitch. They created their own personality profile and brand essence, a summary of their unique personal values and experiences. Lastly, they translated this work into resume and cover-letter content, and a LinkedIn profile. Students also came away with networking skills, interview practices and other aspects of personal communication in business to ensure their success in the marketplace of opportunity.
“I believe they were able to do the work because of the daily rigor they ALL employed, and because they genuinely loved it. I’ve gathered their individual quotes from some of the surveys and from their emails and my time spent with them, of course — and I know it was as profound and rewarding for them to dig deeply inside of themselves, as my passion to help them to get there.” Holland says.
These were only two of the 21 non-credit Half Block courses taught in January. The course offerings change each year and provide students with free opportunities to capitalize on their Winter Break. During the nine-day period, students can explore unique courses and offerings that will challenge them to grow valuable habits of intellect, imagination, and professionalism. Half Block is also an opportunity for alumni, parents, and other experts to engage with students in a meaningful way that is a win-win for everyone involved. The Career Center continues to seek out these unique opportunities to create lasting connections.