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    Reimagined Block Breaks and Festivals

    Charge: The CC experience is richer for each student when surrounded by talented and curious students from different backgrounds, cultures, and places — and with different talents and gifts.

    What’s Happening: CC has renewed the focus of block breaks and festivals to provide students with an opportunity to attend fully funded trips that blend the curricular with the co-curricular, and to support events that are inclusive, providing a sense of place and purpose to the entire campus community.

    There is no denying that the Block Plan can be intense. So, when Wednesday at noon of the fourth week of the block rolls around and block break begins, students are excited for a well-deserved four-and-a-half day break. Historically block breaks have been about students leaving campus for a mini-vacation and go afield for adventure. 

    The Block Break Planning Committee works to offer events and programs over block breaks that encourage students to be intentional with their time and more centered, grounded, and well. The aim is for students to rest, relax, reconnect, reflect, and rejuvenate in advance of the next block for at least a few of the block breaks.

    The Block Break Planning Committee is made up of representatives from Campus Activities, the Butler Center (#ImStaying), the Wellness Resource Center, the Student Opportunities and Advising Hub, and the Bemis School of Art. This group of staff uses student feedback, local attractions, and current events to offer a schedule of free, low-key, and local opportunities to our students. These opportunities supplement the many other extended-format block-break trips offered by other campus departments. They allow students the opportunity to meet other students and explore with others.

    SP_ProvostBlockBreak_500New Provost Block Break Trips were added at the start of the 2019-20 academic year. During Block 2, 16 students visited Toronto for a Canadian cultural experience. Led by Professors Steven Hayward (a Toronto native) and Nate Marshall, the group visited the Hockey Hall of Fame, the Art Gallery of Ontario, saw two plays, went to a Maple Leafs hockey game, learned about Canadian government and law, and gained an understanding and overview of the world’s most culturally diverse city.

    Cody Leong ’20 says that in his previous experiences, block break trips have focused on the outdoors. The trip to Toronto was different. “It’s distinct from other trips that CC makes available to students, as it is aimed more at a cultural experience than a specifically academic one.”

    The purpose of the Provost Block Break Trips is to provide students with an opportunity to attend fully funded trips that blend the curricular with the co-curricular. The trips are also meant to serve students who may not have the interest or resources to take part in “typical” CC student block break activities, which have traditionally included skiing, backpacking, etc.

    “I wanted to participate in the trip to Toronto because it seemed like a very unique opportunity to explore a new place with a diverse group that provided opportunities for fun and relaxation but also learning and cultural exploration,” says Oliver Jones ’20. “The most impactful aspect of the trip was the connection I formed with other students who I otherwise would likely never had met. The trip drew students from all parts of campus, and this made it a very special experience.”

    “I believe strongly in the necessity of programming over block breaks to create a more inclusive campus. While it's true that economic inequality is an issue on campuses across the country; here at CC we have an interval every month where disparities in disposable income are on full display,” says Hayward. “For me personally, it was also an opportunity to take students to Canada, my home and native land, on the eve of the federal election there. As an educator, I felt it was an opportunity to offer an experience to students that would educate them about Canada in a way that was both fun and informative, and that would inform their understanding of North America as a whole.”

    SP_ProvostBlockBreak2_500“Hearing Professor Hayward’s insight and information about the city was especially interesting at each of the places that we visited. In addition, one morning we had the opportunity to speak with a former CC guest professor about housing issues in Toronto, something that I thought was especially interesting,” says Leong.

    “There's a kind of connection that emerges from spending empty time with each other that is almost impossible to program and absolutely necessary. You really get to know each other. You eat together, laugh together, and that forms the basis for an academic engagement that can be profound,” Hayward says. “This is the liberal arts in motion.”

    In its second year, LoCCalFest 2019 featured a local and diverse array of musicians, food, and vendors for the afternoon music festival. It kicks off the school year and the beginning of Block 1, welcoming new students to the Colorado Springs community and encourage returning students to engage with the local arts and music scene. LoCCal Fest replaced Blues & Shoes in the hopes of providing a more inclusive tradition for students.

    “In redesigning Blues & Shoes into LoCCal, Olivia Dawn-Martinez ’20 and I wanted to expand what this CC tradition was and who it was for,” says Cameron Mongoven ’21, who at the time was CCSGA’s first vice president for inclusion. CCSGA took over the planning and organization of the event at the start of the 2018-19 academic year. “The biggest immediate changes were the type of food and music being played. There was a lot of feedback that Blues & Shoes did not offer inclusive food options and the music could represent more genres and people.”

    An event like LoCCal, timed at the start of the academic year, exposes students — many from outside of Colorado — to some of the things the state has to offer. “We can establish a sense of place and purpose within the CC community at the beginning of the year; symbolically, LoCCal represents the expansion of who and what interests are recognized on campus,” Mongoven says.