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President's Address

May 2018

Jill Tiefenthaler

Good morning! I am Jill Tiefenthaler and I have the honor of serving as Colorado College’s 13th president. On behalf of our dedicated faculty, staff, and trustees, I welcome you to our 144th Commencement ceremony.

Welcome proud parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends of our graduates. You have come from across the state, across the country, and across the globe — from Pueblo to Durango to Boulder, New Jersey to California to Alaska, Colombia to Turkey to China. Our graduates would not be where they’re standing today without your ongoing commitment and support. Graduates can you give them a big thank you round of applause?

Welcome and congratulations to our commencement speaker and honorary degree recipients. And — most importantly — welcome and congratulations to the Colorado College Class of 2018!

Can you believe it? It’s finally here — your Commencement Day! It seems like just yesterday I welcomed you to CC on an August afternoon in Shove Chapel nearly four years ago. I vividly remember your sense of excitement — a palpable energy, much like you feel today. In my remarks, I encouraged you to push yourselves, to take risks, to capitalize on the wealth of opportunities that CC had to offer you. I also challenged you to do your part to make this great place even better.

Class of 2018, you rose to the challenge! You have embraced the opportunity of CC and made the most of your time here.  You have rafted down rivers and stargazed at Baca, you have studied literature, art, rocks, culture, and energy across the country and around the globe. You have formed lasting bonds with faculty members and taken classes that made you question your beliefs. You’ve embarked on awe-inspiring adventures, as 97 of you received Keller Venture Grants, 19 of you completed summer fellowships through the Public Interest Fellowship Program, and 30 of you were awarded Ritt Kellogg Expedition Grants.  You explored your professional interests, launched startups, and, joined, led, and founded clubs and organizations.

And you worked hard! You powered through final papers, presentations, and exams during 32 intense fourth weeks. Through the Block Plan, you have learned to focus, to immerse yourselves in a single subject, instilling within yourselves the importance of being present as a means of solving complicated problems. You tried new things, took on disciplines and projects outside your comfort zones. Sometimes you were wildly successful and sometimes you failed. And in failing, you became resilient, gaining the creative confidence to try again.

You were the first class to complete your senior theses in the nation’s largest carbon-neutral, net-zero energy academic library. Over 250 of you holed yourselves up in Tutt Library’s luxurious new carrels, fueled by late-night coffee from Susie B’s. You brought data to life in the GIS Lab and lost track of time brainstorming in group study rooms.

Your hard work and engagement have paid off. You are ready for your next adventure.

At CC, we are fortunate to attract remarkable young people like you from around the world: students who are creative, independent, thoughtful, and tenacious. Then, over your four years here, we provide you with opportunities, inside and outside the classroom, to build the knowledge, skills, and character to help you become lifelong learners, imaginative thinkers, and inspired leaders.

The liberal arts education that you received at CC will equip you for both meaningful work and a meaningful life. The world in which you will live and lead requires flexibility in navigating diverse environments, multicultural understanding, and the ability to see things from various perspectives. In an age when AI is replacing people, the future of the job market is uncertain. Yet, what is certain is that the skills you’ve gained through your CC education — a nimble mind, comfort with ambiguity, clear writing, persuasive speaking —will be invaluable 5, 10, and even 50 years from now.

Your CC education has also helped you to develop valuable qualities that you will rely on throughout your lives — resilience, focus, humility, tenacity, and creativity. Through co-curricular activities and Half-Block classes, you have embraced opportunities to build skills that complement your liberal education and will help you transition to the next chapter of your life.

Class of 2018, you took full advantage of your time here, but you also gave so much back to the college and the community. You elevated the campus conversation about mental health by bringing speakers like Hakeem Rahim, engaging peers in telling their own stories of mental health struggle in order to break stigma, participating in the JED Campus Project, and re-invigorating our student-run mental health supports.

You committed to community engagement, with a record number of seniors participating in the Community Engaged Scholars Program. You expanded the CC Prison Project by creating Justice Watch, a club with the goal of holding judges and attorneys accountable for fair treatment in courthouses. And you collaborated with the local nonprofit Dream Outside the Box to propel at-risk youth onto a higher education trajectory.

You were the first class to experience the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, as our alliance with the FAC became official last July. You found new ways to engage in art and the community, including curating exhibits in the UnBlocked Gallery, learning from the first Mellon Artist-in-Residence Raven Chacon, and dancing your hearts out at the Silent Disco.

The Southwest became your lab as you embarked on rigorous field study. You learned about water in the West. You explored the geology of Garden of the Gods. You studied the art and artifacts of the indigenous peoples who were here thousands of years before the first European stepped foot in Colorado. You examined immigration policy along the U.S.-Mexico border. You explored international climate policy at the UN Conference of the Parties in Germany.

And you dived more deeply into subjects than you had ever thought possible, through summers spent doing collaborative research with faculty mentors, some of you even co-authoring articles in academic journals.

You advocated for sustainability and food justice, as members of your class led the Real Food Challenge. You offered your input on dining policy and helped the college take a critical look at issues of food anxiety and food insecurity on our campus.

And, you gave back financially, with almost 80 percent of you participating in your senior class gift.

But, most importantly, you have impacted each other’s lives and built supportive, inclusive communities. You were the first cohort to fully engage with the Butler Center, which was formed when you arrived on campus four years ago. Your class played a critical role in elevating the dialogue on diversity and inclusion at CC. You helped found the Queer People of Color Collective and Conversations on Whiteness.  You promoted multicultural understanding as you hosted annual celebrations of Diwali, Dia de los Muertos, Chinese New Year, and the NASU Powwow.

You advocated for respectful intimate relationships, as members of your class worked with our Title IX team to incorporate peer support through START or the Student Title IX Assistance and Resource Team. Several of you completed the required 30-hour training program to be the first certified on our campus for this important group.

You rooted for the Tigers, who won six conference championships and 28 individual conference titles during your four years, and you sent 12 teams to NCAA tournament play. Your class includes two All-Americans. Your intramural teams sported flair as you competed in everything from ice broomball to inner-tube water polo.  You were national contenders in Nordic skiing, climbing, rugby, and road cycling, and regional qualifiers in men’s and women’s ultimate Frisbee. 

You garnered awards in debate and mock trial and helped to host over 80 colleges for the American Forensics Association National Tournament. You fine-tuned your startup pitches through the Big Idea Half-Block course in the newly transformed Innovation space.

You were proud of your classmates who won national recognition, including Fulbrights, a Goldwater Scholarship, and awards from Watson, The Authors Guild, the National Science Foundation, Urban Fellows, the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program, the Davis Projects for Peace, and Princeton in Asia.

You were impressed by each other’s thesis presentations, senior recitals, and senior art shows. You saw some of these works installed at the Fine Arts Center. You applauded your friends who performed in “Circus Beckett,” “Top Girls,” “Emerge,” “Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” and “Relations.”

 And, you laughed away the stress of Fourth Monday watching TWIT’s improv comedy. You showed off your talents at The Fashion Show and Dance Workshop. You danced together at the first Battle of the Bands hosted on the East Campus Housing Community quad and again, at Llamapalooza.

You bonded around music of all kinds. Members of your class envisioned a new band practice and performance space on Tejon, and inaugurated it this year. You were avid participants in the CC Orchestra and Concert Band, and you played bluegrass alongside Grammy winners Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck. With your voices, Back Row, Ellement, and Room 46 continued to wow audiences. And you curated your favorite tunes as DJ’s with the Sounds of CC.

Class of 2018 – you have been amazing!

While Shove Chapel was filled with excitement when you first assembled as a class back in 2014, there was also some trepidation. You felt a little lonely in that sea of other first-year students. You missed the comfort of your hometown relationships. You wondered who would be your friends, and if you were ready for this new challenge.

Today, you may feel some similar emotions. While it is clear that you are bubbling with excitement and anticipation for your futures, it is still hard to go. You are sad to leave your friends. College friendships are unique. It’s unlikely that you will ever again form such strong bonds because only in college do you live, learn, work, and play with the same group of people. You are sad to leave your mentors. They challenged you in the classroom; on the playing field; and in your campus leadership roles, and they also guided you and cared for you.

I imagine that it is hard to leave this special place — with the beauty and opportunity of Colorado and our beloved peak — but also this special place of learning, where you were immersed in the life of the mind with limited distraction. It’s OK that it will be difficult to pack the car and drive away, because that means that good things happened for you at Colorado College.

Your class motto is a quote from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  I hope that this inspires you to continue demanding change and advocating for justice and equity throughout your lives.

When I look out at you, Class of 2018, I am optimistic about the future. The world needs changemakers like you — people who choose unity over divisiveness, love over hate and hope over defeat. I am eager to see how each of you leverages your CC education to make a difference. You are a talented, kind, and courageous bunch, and I am confident that you will make us proud.

You will reminisce on this day, and the memories of your time here for the rest of your life. As CC’s president, I hope that the pride you feel as you walk across the stage today is rivaled only by the appreciation you feel for the education you received and the relationships you forged.

As you continue to learn and to grow, reflect on the times when you stumbled and even failed. Recall how caring faculty and staff and your classmates pushed you in the right direction and stretched your imagination and spirit.  Keep in touch with each other and your mentors, and remember that CC will always welcome you home.

Congratulations Class of 2018! I look forward to celebrating with you and your families and friends following this ceremony! It is now my pleasure to invite Susie Burghart, aka Susie B, chair of the Colorado College Board of Trustees and alumna of the Class of 1977, to extend congratulations on behalf of the Board.