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Diversity and Inclusion at Colorado College

The college, in partnership with the Colorado College Alumni and Students of Color Association (CCASCA), recently completed a series of events during Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 9-12, 2014.

These events served as a basis for conversations about diversity and inclusion at the college and the dialogue can continue when you share your own story -- and photos if you have them -- by submitting your entry through the "Share Your Story" link below. These submissions will appear within this page under the “Our Stories” heading.

Share Your CC Story

Our Stories

Rachael Cassidy

Class year: 2004
Major: L.A.S. Native American History and Law
Current Profession: Business Owner

This story celebrates a staff member who made an enormous difference to students over the years. Roberto Garcia is the reason I attended CC, hands down. I met him several times before I applied at programs designed to help Native American students go on to college. He made me excited about the possibilities at CC and sold me on my major before I ever arrived. As a Native student, I wanted to major in Native American studies, a major not offered by most schools. I created my own major (a ...

unique and wonderful CC opportunity) in Liberal Arts and Science with an emphasis on Native American History and Law. This degree led to a job with the City of Colorado Springs and later, a position with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Not only did Roberto recruit me, he helped me stay at the college during some financial turbulence that could have easily ended my college career. Thank you Roberto. My story isn't unusual. He helped so many students during my time at CC. Unfortunately Roberto Garcia is no longer with Colorado College. What breaks my heart the most is the fact that other students like me won't have someone in their corner when the going gets tough. Many people aren't fortunate enough to have the financial and family resources that ensure a good education. At CC, I was one of these exceptions. Roberto was always there for guidance, to talk with me through tough times as a friend and as a mentor. I didn’t feel alone even though I was far from home. After attending my 10-year class reunion, many of the classmates told me how grateful they were to have known me at CC. They said it made a big difference in the way they see the world today. Roberto changed my life and in turn broadened the perspectives of many of my classmates. He was part of a great ripple effect that made the college great. You will be deeply missed along with Suzi Nishida. These two people helped me consistently over the years. I want to extend my deepest gratitude. Without your support I would not be where I am today. 

Sonlatsa Sunshine Jim-Martin

Class year: 1994
Major: Anthropology SW Studies
Current Profession: Public Administration

Sonlatsa Sunshine Jim-Martin

Ya'at'eeh'....the picture I am using is from my days back at CC and as a Native American activist on campus. We shared some good times with the students from Black Student Union and MECHA and the Asian American Student Association. We printed a campus newletter called, "Fight The Power," which I have copies of and have saved over the years. We started the first Powwow on campus organized by the NASA club. I played for the CC Lady Tigers with the Women's Basketball team and had the best ...

Ya'at'eeh'....the picture I am using is from my days back at CC and as a Native American activist on campus. We shared some good times with the students from Black Student Union and MECHA and the Asian American Student Association. We printed a campus newletter called, "Fight The Power," which I have copies of and have saved over the years. We started the first Powwow on campus organized by the NASA club. I played for the CC Lady Tigers with the Women's Basketball team and had the best experience playing NCAA Division III hoops. Today, I use all of my college experience to help educate and empower the younger generation at home on the Navajo Nation Reservation. I currently work for the Navajo Nation government and advocate for our indigenous communities. I want to thank the Faculty, Staff and Students of Color who inspired and empowered me during my years at CC. Ahe'hee'

Chaurice Ransom Lartigue

Class year: 1972
Major: Sociology
Current Profession: Retired Teacher

Our CC Experience 1968-1972 

My friend, Seretha Manor Carter and I, Chaurice Ransom Lartigue came to The Colorado College in the fall of 1968. It was a time of social and political upheaval in our country. The Vietnam War was raging, as were the protests against it. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy had both been assassinated in the spring of that year. The Women’s movement was gearing up, the Civil Rights Movement was changing from non-violence ...

to a more radical “by any means necessary” attitude as advocated by Black Panther Party members Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale; H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, and Angela Davis. Four students were slain by National Guard members at Kent State University our sophomore year.

 

When Seretha, William Duvall, and I got on the plane in Austin, Texas to come to CC, we might as well have been going to a foreign country. We lived in segregated Austin, where we graduated from an all black high school, lived in an all black community, attended all black churches. It was our first time on a plane, our first time leaving Texas, our first time being around white people. We were in culture shock on so many levels! Seretha and I were preacher’s kids who had never even had a drink.

 

When we were freshmen at CC, we started under the conventional system of several classes at once, and changed to the block system the next year. There were dorm mothers and curfews one semester, and coed dorms with no rules the next. There were eight black students in our freshman class, fifteen in the entire school. The next year, there were several more, and we were a very cohesive group. We organized ourselves and marched over to President Worner’s office to make certain demands. We started the campus’s first Black Student Union, and secured the former PACC house as our house. We had BSU meetings there, cooked Thanksgiving meals there, and of course we partied and played cards there.  Later, it became the Minority Student House, which we shared with Hispanic students. We lobbied for more Black Studies, and more cultural awareness in booking speakers and entertainment. The administration was responsive to our requests and during our time there, brought in poets: Gwendolyn Brooks, Sonia Sanchez, and Nikki Giovanni; actor/activist Dick Gregory; Cleo Parker-Robinson’s Dance Company; and the group Friends of Distinction.

 

 

We learned so much at CC inside the classroom, but more importantly outside the classroom. We met people from many diverse communities all over the country and the world. We learned to think for ourselves, make our own decisions, and accept the consequences of those decisions. We found our voices and grew up at CC. We are grateful for the experience. 

Lynda Duran (Aguado)

Class year: 2008
Major: Psychology
Current Profession: Assistant Director of Student Life

Lynda  Duran (Aguado)

I still have the yellow folder that I received in the mail that read, "Congratulations," on the front.  I couldn't believe I was actually accepted into my dream school, and thanks to the El Pomar Scholarship, I could actually afford to go!  I remember orientation, and the mixed feelings of excitement and embarrassment I had.  While I couldn't wait to be a Tiger, I quickly learned that I was different in both ethnicity and social class.  While other parents were staying at ...

the Broadmoor, my mother was staying with me, in my tiny dorm room in Bemis.  I showed up to my first day of class proudly carrying the laptop that I had saved for all summer.  I did everything I could to make sure that the other students did not discover just how broke and unsure of myself I was.  

I did a lot of hiding during my time at CC.  I had a routine habit of class, lunch, nap, and work.  If it wasn't for my work study job at the library, and the first-generation student meetings, I might never have left my dorm room!  During breaks and weekends, I was constantly on the first bus back to Denver to be home.  

It was not until I forced myself to apply to study abroad in Spain the summer before my senior year that I actually broke out of my introverted shell and took a risk.  This is where I met Hannah, Maria, Lexi, Rachel, Brian, and Andrew.  And who could forget Kathy Bizzaro and Pamela Tala Ruiz!  My summer in Spain showed me the importance of connecting authentically with peers and faculty, and I am so very thankful for that.

Looking back at my time at CC, I feel grateful for the opportunities that my experience has granted me, as I was able to complete a master's program in counseling psychology (thanks to Darlene Garcia for her career guidance) and land a wonderful job working in higher education.  I also feel a bit of regret for the times that I hid.  Why didn't I ask for help when I didn't know how to work the microscope in neuro?  Why didn't I admit that calculus was completely foreign to me?  

If I could encourage today's CC students to do anything differently than I, I would encourage them to take just one step outside of their comfort zone, and to have the courage to ask for help and support when needed.  

Students:  Remember that alumni are also a resource for you!  Alumni of color have recently formed the group, "Colorado College Alumni and Student of Color Association," (CCASCA), and we strive to support CC's communities of color both past and present!

Bill Murray

Class year: 1950
Major: Political Science
Current Profession: Retired

What a difference 60+ years make.

It is encouraging to realize the changes in campus culture now compared to Colorado College when I was at the school post-WW II in the class of 1950.

There were no "students of color" back then. The number of Jewish students on campus was 2l according to my Jewish roommate Ted Green. Today I understand there are some 200 of Jewish faith, 100 practicing, by unofficial word from one of the current CC students.

An editorial in The ...

What a difference 60+ years make.

It is encouraging to realize the changes in campus culture now compared to Colorado College when I was at the school post-WW II in the class of 1950.

There were no "students of color" back then. The number of Jewish students on campus was 2l according to my Jewish roommate Ted Green. Today I understand there are some 200 of Jewish faith, 100 practicing, by unofficial word from one of the current CC students.

An editorial in The Tiger, student newspaper of that past era, challenged the administration that no student of color had ever lived in a dorm on campus. The dean of men responded, privately with the editor, that no one of color had ever wanted to live in a CC dorm.

The drive-in on Cache La Poudre made certain if one came with a minority member, it was obvious you were not wanted. Service, if given, included excessive salt. Downtown Colorado Springs movie houses had
a "whites" only policy for main floor seating. This saw that all people of color, including the few Asian students on campus, were sent to the balcony. Motels signs went to "No Vacancy" if one drove in with people of color. The same was true in Denver.

It is remembered that Colorado is one of four states to have a Klansman as governor and one of the few to have a Klan dominated legislature. Yes, this was in the '20s, but at the beginning of WW II, Colorado
refused to re-elect Governor Carr based on his welcoming of American citizens of Japanese ancestry to a relocation camp in southeast Colorado.

Colorado has a way to go in acceptance and appreciation of diversity. Colorado College can help lead the state toward inclusivity.

Yours on the upward trail,

Bill Murray '50, P '77, P '80

Kimberly Cawthorn

Class year: 1997
Major: Sociology
Current Profession: Affialiate Faculty, Regis University

Normally, when looking to go to college you think of getting an education, but when I look back at my experience at CC, I like to call it becoming educated. At the end of our four years there, I remember my closest friends and I talking about our degrees, Sociology, ...

Psychology, Anthropology, and Philosophy and thinking, “Ok, now what are we going to do?” Are these exactly marketable degrees? As first generation college students when the dream is that you get an education and get a career, you’re supposed to begin moving up the ladder of success. What I didn’t understand was that becoming educatedat CC was much more than a degree.

My CC experience was a bittersweet wake up call to rest of the world. Coming from a small, largely homogenous, Latino, centennial town in Southern Colorado, prided as the Oldest Town in Colorado, I just knew that CC would be my beginning to conquering the world. I was Salutatorian of my ‘large’ class of 14, Class Vice President, member of Student Council, and yearbook editor. I was a cheerleader and played volleyball and the flute. It wasn’t only until I was asked whether or not I believed I got there because of Affirmative Action did I doubt my abilities, well-roundness and right to be there. I was intimidated from the get-go. I remember sitting in my freshmen orientation seminar and watching a film about the Tragedy of the Commons. In the discussion afterwards, as we sat in our typical CC circle, I remember hearing a ton of 12-letter words in the comments from the students around me and thinking, ‘Wow! Sounds like they have said a lot, but they don’t know Commons lands like I know Commons lands.’ They were talking about them like they could never work because of greed and that they were something of the past. But, I knew better. One continues to exist and thrive in my home town. I struggled whether or not to say anything. One of the other students there had been in Indonesia throughout her senior year.  I had only been to Tijuana and Juarez once each on family trips. I didn’t realize you could actually live in another country for an extended period of time like that. Whatever the case, because my strong will overrode any insecurity I guess, I still told them that a Commons did exist and it existed in my home town. Little did I know that the student who studied in Indonesia was just as unsure as I was, thinking that she had missed out on her American education for a whole year and thought she might be behind. At the orientation luncheon, I was sitting with classmates and their parents and overheard one of the parents from back East comment that it was sad that this area didn’t have much history. Once again, I knew better. I just didn’t know how to explain to them that this area, particularly south in New Mexico had been explored and settled almost one hundred years before Plymouth Rock, and prior to that there flourished many nations with much history and culture.

I got asked about my identity from just about everyone from every race and ethnicity, including professors. My identity as Spanish raised a brow by many. One professor even asked if I thought Spain would claim me. Another Latino student a couple of years older than me asked me what I was and when I said Spanish, she said, “Is that why my hair and skin are lighter than yours? You people from New Mexico just want to act like you’re more European and better than everyone else.” As a freshman having been at CC for no more than a couple of months, my jaw dropped to the ground and I was dumbfounded. What was she talking about? I wasn’t even from New Mexico! I knew who I was…I lived and breathed my identity every day. I just didn’t know how to explain it to anyone. Up to that point, I never had the need to. In a class a white student stared at me through my entire response to a professor’s question and waited until I was finished to ask, “Where are you from?” I said, “Colorado. Why?” He continued, “Where are your parents or grandparents from?” “Colorado.” I responded. “Well, your accent is so exotic!” Outside of class, no one understood my English peppered with Spanish.  What? Not everyone speaks this way? And Latinos from other countries couldn’t understand certain words that I used in Spanish either.  At this point, I was starting to feel like I was on another planet and I was only 2 hours away from home! I was ready to leave CC and seriously considering a transfer to UCCS. So many people told me not to do it, but I just didn’t feel like I belonged. Then, I met Johanna Leyba, a senior who took me under her wing. She said she recognized the look in my eyes and knew she had to step in to make sure I stayed – that it would be worth it in the end. Soon after, I met Colette from Walsenburg who talked just like me and I was introduced to MEChA  (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) and found my niche.

 

We proudly marched on the streets of Washington, D.C. in solidarity with Latinos from every country across the U.S. I co-chaired MEChA the following year and the Gorman Minority Scholars Program, a big brother/big sister partnership program with one of the local middle schools. I became a work study for Rochelle Mason in the Office of Minority Student Life and stayed with her for 2 ½ of my 4 years at CC. I owe her much gratitude for the opportunity and support she provided for me, especially during my senior thesis time when I pulled all-nighters writing in her office! I wrote my first play in a Native American theater class and studied abroad for a semester in Spain my Junior year – something I suggest everyone do if they can. My semester in Spain was a priceless experience that opened my eyes and heart to the world in ways that no book or video can. I was part of committees striving to increase diversity on campus and helped organized many educational symposia sharing with others at CC the art, academics, music and heart of the various minority cultures represented on campus. I enjoyed the Baca campus and the CC cabin. I learned to salsa dance. I was introduced to interpreting my dreams. I went to my first hockey game and was hooked as we rallied for CC against DU.

 

In the end, CC opened up a new world for me, showing me the beauty of other cultures and the value of serving the community. I learned to be a better writer and a better listener. I learned perseverance and to always make decisions from an educated standpoint, taking in all sides before I make a decision. I also learned not to discount what you know and never to be intimidated by what you perceive others to be. I learned to ask questions. It took me a while to realize that that’s how you learn. No matter whether you think your question might be dumb or whether everyone will think your question isn’t valid. Again, it’s how you learn. I overheard many questions in class coming from students in which I thought the answer was obvious, but my thoughts didn’t matter. They weren’t afraid to ask and that was what was important. They were learning despite my thoughts. I realized I had cheated myself out of learning many a time for fear of what others might think about my questions.

 

 

 

 

 

In addition, the seemingly endless questions, comments and assumptions about my identity also led to my quest and passion for genealogy and the identity of the people from my hometown, San Luis, CO. I have found the history of the people of San Luis so fascinating that I continue to work on this research fervently. Since graduating, I have also worked in nonprofits in every aspect from Program Coordinator to Grant Writer and consultant. I received my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from DU in 2006. I taught secondary Spanish for about 10 years for several school districts and through the Pre-Collegiate Program at CU Boulder. I worked for Regis University as their Program Coordinator and taught courses like Multicultural Perspectives and Foundations for Teaching the Culturally and Linguistically Diverse in their Master of Arts in Education Program. Most recently, about 6 years ago, I took on my toughest, yet most fulfilling job yet – mom of Darien, 5 and Kyara, 2.

 

Through it all, my “education,” from academic to social at CC has given me the tools to problem solve and the courage to envision the impossible and set forth to make it happen. They say that what you go through makes you stronger. I know it’s cliché, but I think back to my work with kids and teachers, and my current visions and dreams and the purpose in all of it is to help others find their purpose faster and easier than I did. So that when they pursue their dreams and others doubt them or they face similar challenges, their foundation is strong and they can answer the questions that I couldn’t. To me, this is how becoming educated has become much more than a degree. Help others to succeed. Leave things easier for the next generation to help them achieve even greater things. Know that learning is a process, always in progress. Overall, my CC experience was filled with great memories and learning experiences and opportunities. I will be forever grateful for the imprint that CC has left on my life.  

 

Alexis R Knox-Miller

Class year: 2004
Major: Political Science
Current Profession: Elementary Teacher

I was an accidental Colorado College student.  I always thought I would find myself enrolled in Spelman or Howard...not this small liberal arts college smack in the middle of my home city.  For a girl with ambitions of attending a Historically Black College, Colorado College was different than what I imagined my college experience would be.  Well, sometimes life happens and when I graduated high school, I was eight months pregnant.  CC offered me an opportunity to pursue ...

I was an accidental Colorado College student.  I always thought I would find myself enrolled in Spelman or Howard...not this small liberal arts college smack in the middle of my home city.  For a girl with ambitions of attending a Historically Black College, Colorado College was different than what I imagined my college experience would be.  Well, sometimes life happens and when I graduated high school, I was eight months pregnant.  CC offered me an opportunity to pursue an education because they had a top-notch daycare on campus and a grant for single parents that paid my daycare expenses and provided a big chunk of assistance for my tuition.  I was a non-traditional student on a very traditional campus and did I mention I was also black?

Right away, I involved myself in the Black Student Union.  I was able to make friends and bring my daughter along to meetings.  I didn't feel so isolated when with this group of students.  They were so sure of who they were and what it meant to be a black face on campus.  My first year, I found it more difficult to be on campus with a child than I did with a black face.  I chugged along going to classes, receiving good grades, attending BSU meetings, and daring to prove the naysayers wrong--I would graduate with my baby in tow.  

All of that changed one April in 2002.  After class, I came across many of my friends on campus who were upset and shaken.  Our school newspaper published a racist "paradoy" article.  Any racist stereoytype you can imagine was in that article.  My world was shattered.  I had lived most of my life untouched by major incidents of racism.  I attended a liberal college that should have known better.  My feelings were beyond hurt.  Did the students on campus really think of black students, gay students, any students that were white, straight, and Christian this way?  It is in this moment that I was able to see what all the "fringe" groups on campus were made of.  We instituted a plan of action that involved press conferences, radio appearances, the NAACP, etc.  As a result of our swift and immediate action and outcry, the editiors resigned, programs were implemented, and apologies were issued.  My perception of Colorado College also changed.  It's easy to hide behind the notion of being liberal and the idea that all of the students on campus were holding hands and singing "we are the world."  The reality was that there were (and dare I say it, still are) some undercurrents of racism that have long been institutionalized into the system of the college.  If something as ugly as the parody paper could be produced at our school, then there was some major work to be done and some attitudes that needed to be shifted.  More hurtful than the idea of the paper were those who rallied around the editors and defended their choices and told us that we were being to sensitive.  More hurtful than the idea of the paper is the idea that some people actually thought that the garbage they printed was funny.  More hurtful than the idea of the paper was the fact that my black face would never truly be a part of Colorado College.  

Ten years after graduating, I am able to be extremely clear about how I feel about my college experience.  I learned a lot.  I learned about myself and my world.  I learned about race and how it is truly a real issue in this country.  I learned how to lean on people who have like experiences.  I received a top-notch education from a respected institution.  Most importantly, Colorado College has a lot of work to do around the issue of diversity and the work must begin now.

David "Slimdog" Bell Jr.

Class year: 1986
Major: Economics
Current Profession: Flight Attendant

Me and fellow Kappa Sigma (Beta Omega Chapter) brothers past and present at The Colorado College house in Oct. 2011. Our chapter is the first Kappa Sigma house to initiate an African American, Native American, Special ...

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David "Slimdog" Bell Jr.

Class year: 1986
Major: Economics
Current Profession: Flight Attendant

David

My comments come after reading the article "Race And Racism At Colorado College" from Cipher Magazine (May 6, 2014):

 Very good article. It's a little disheartening as well. Being almuni from the class of 86, I saw many of the things that many of the students speak of ...

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Angela Cobian

Class year: 2011
Major: Political Science
Current Profession: Fulbright Fellow, Mexico City, Mexico

Angela  Cobian

This picture shows sophomore year (2008-2009) Homecoming. This group of wonderful women of color continued to be my closest friends until we graduated in 2011. Most of us are woman of color from the Denver-Metro area, but also included international students from Ethiopia, India, and Ecuador. Our group converged with the ladies of 1W in Loomis from New England. We learned a lot from each other; at CC we empowered each other to be successful, kickass women. We continue to do so today!

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Jason Clark

Class year: 2007
Major: Romance Languages & Literature
Current Profession: Higher Education Administrator

Jason  Clark

My time at CC was filled with paradoxes for which I am ultimately grateful. The rich educational experiences inside and outside of the classroom were both academically and personally challenging. At times I felt voiceless at CC, yet I learned to advocate for myself. I felt physically separated from my family, rejected by my hometown community for my choice to pursue education, and unwelcomed by my peers for not having the right kind of social, intellectual, and monetary capital. But ...

ultimately, I am who I am because of CC and I would make no changes.

When I first arrived on campus, the idea of being surrounded by other students who were excited about education was invigorating.  I grew up in Spanish Harlem in NYC in government housing and spent most of my childhood in foster care -- the odds were certainly against me. Education was the only variable I had to take control of my future and success.  However, while I was overcoming odds it seemed that every other CC student was taking advanced placement courses, visiting other countries, starting nonprofit organizations and way ahead of the game. I felt underprepared, broke, and unworthy to contribute my perspective in the classroom. 

I am Puerto Rican and Dominican and apparently no one in Colorado, at the time, knew what that meant.  Leaving NYC for Colorado Springs in some ways made matters worse but it also gave me better sense of self. I knew I was in trouble when I could not find anyone to cut my thick black curly fro and when I couldn’t find rice and beans at Rastall. It may seem funny, but I felt like I didn’t exist because the foods I grew up with were not available and I couldn’t get my hair cut the way it had looked for years.  Even going home for the summer was draining. Because I had some college education, left NYC, lived in Colorado, etc. I was looked at differently by some of my friends, family members and people in my community in general.  People assumed I was too good and that I had abandoned them. I was so confused.

However, the distance from my family only drew me closer to my Afro-Latino heritage and also to my community. I had to be more adamant and intentional about preserving and sharing my culture. I lost so many of my CDs at Salsa Nights to get the chance to dance merengue, bachatat and salsa. Yet I remember being frustrated by questions like, Do you speak Spanish? Are you Mexican?  There were also some painful experiences associated with not ever being black enough for BSU or Latino enough for Somos. Nevertheless, I became more passionate about advancing urban and diverse communities; and grew excited to integrate my social and intellectual perspective. Most of the work I do now is associated with empowering communities of color and making sure higher educational institutions do not implement policies and procedures that marginalize and create barriers.

I struggled at CC because I was different, I was not the norm and my culture, perspective, and beliefs were rarely reflected in the student body, campus policies, or in the campus artwork/architecture. When you are called out in class to represent your race in the discussion, or people think that you must be at CC because you play a sport, or assume that you must have a scholarship, its begins to slowly tear you down. Sometime you start to believe in those comments. These feelings are rekindled every time I step foot on campus. But there is hope. The education I received at CC changed my life. 

Sure, maybe I became a critical thinker, but I also clawed myself out of poverty and gained a sense of pride in myself that can never be taken away. I used to walk around campus believing the lies of my peers that the only reason I got into CC was because of the color of my skin and compelling story.  However, I am proud of the fact that I got into to CC without special test preparation courses or any esteemed public or private high school – heck my high school has been shut down for years due to underperforming scores.  I worked extremely hard – while others partied - and earned my degree by myself.  I made the dean lists a few times and did this all while working two jobs, volunteering and being super active at my church. I felt exceptionally prepared for graduate school and for navigating the workplace. Every time I mention CC, doors literally open. Even the hard experiences taught me much about myself and empowered me to advocate for myself and others. My current life would be so incredibly different had I not chosen to go to Colorado College and I would not change anything about my experiences. As a CC alumnus of color, I am excited to reconnect with my alma mater, not because those were the best years of my life but because my presence is needed. There is hope after CC for alumni and students of color.

Homecoming 2014 Photos
Check out photos on RebelMouse and Facebook to relive Homecoming Weekend 2014!


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Reunion and Homecoming Weekend Contacts

Kristie Damgaard, Assistant Director for On-Campus Programs 
Jayne Blewitt, Coordinator for On-Campus Programs

Reunion Giving
Laura Rosendo ’06, Reunion Gift Officer