Scholar Profiles

Boettcher Foundation Press Release

13 Sep Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 2003 scholar Jose Martinez III

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Jose Martinez III Scholar Year: 2003 Hometown: Lakewood College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): University of Northern Colorado, B.A. Social Science Secondary Education and an endorsement in ESL, 2007 Grand Canyon University, M.A. Educational Administration, 2010 Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? I am currently getting into my 10th year of teaching high school social studies at Bear Creek High School in Jefferson County Public Schools. I teach economics, government, geography and broadcasting, and I think the most amazing part of my job is the fact that I get to help kids create pathways to their dreams. I feel like I have the ultimate privilege to have a direct hand in influencing the future. Every day I get to have fun at my job. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? As a Boettcher Scholar I remember how amazing it felt to have the social and financial support of such an incredible organization as I began my own college career. Now that I teach in a Colorado high school, the topic of higher education is constantly addressed, and I feel like it is an honor and duty to help my students prepare for their future. I always feel an overwhelming sense of pride in being an alumni and talking about the foundation. I think this enthusiasm leaves a significant impact on my students and encourages them in their own journey. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work. In terms of formal organizations, I’m a proud member of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board. Outside of that, my favorite activity involves spending time with my wife, Victoria, and my daughter, Penelope, but I also have a fairly wide range of hobbies. I began home-brewing a few years ago, and I love learning more each time a make a new batch. I DJ events from time to time and between gigs and my students, I am always getting a continual education in music. On top of that, I’m a huge tech nerd; I do graphic design and web design work on the side, and sometimes in the late evenings, I can get down on some Xbox with my buddies. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? I think the most amazing advice that I received at some point is best paraphrased by Conan O’Brien. He said, “If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.” I believe that success comes from doing more than the minimum even if no one ever recognizes it, and I always leave this sentiment with my students on the last day of class each semester. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? Easy. I’d choose Ron Swanson, Tim Cook and the Loch Ness Monster. I’d pick Ron Swanson because it guarantees that our meal would be meaty, manly and would come with a side of scotch. I’d pick Tim Cook because I’d love to know what it’s like to try and innovate in the tech sector in 2016; plus I’m a huge fan of Apple products and Tim seems like a relatable guy. Lastly, I’d pick the Loch Ness Monster because then I’d have proof to go along with what I’ve always known....
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

16 Aug Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 2014 scholar Jared Russell

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Angelique Diaz. Name: Jared Russell Scholar Year: 2014 Hometown: Pueblo College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): Colorado College, majoring in political science and philosophy; minoring music What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? Upon graduating from Colorado College, I plan on attending law school. Once I receive my J.D., I hope to work in a position that allows me to make a positive impact within my community. I would love to be a district attorney, and after some time, I wish to be appointed as a judge. My most ambitious of goals is to be appointed as a judge for the 10th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. The 10th Circuit includes the State of Colorado, and I would love to serve my state in such a capacity. Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. Due to my interest in law, I compete on CC’s Mock Trial team. Additionally, I co-founded a chapter of the Roosevelt Institute at CC, a policy-writing group that seeks to engage young people in politics while making a positive difference. I am also a member of the Honor Council at CC, as I believe that academic integrity plays a key role on every college campus. I wanted to be more active in student life, so I joined Student Government (CCSGA) as the Parliamentarian. In addition, I also serve as a Writing Center tutor and a member of the President’s Council. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. The first professor that I had at CC, and my current academic advisor, is a political scientist named Tom Cronin. The transition into college is always subject to a steep learning curve, and going from an underfunded public high school to a private university, I was quite overwhelmed. Tom, in addition to being a great professor, legitimately cares about his students. He remembers every detail that you tell him about your life. He has pushed me to be a better student and a better person, and I can attribute many of my collegiate successes to his guidance What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I interned at the District Attorney's Office in Pueblo over the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. In that time, I spent several weeks assisting two deputy D.A.'s who were assigned to a murder case. As I helped them prepare for the case, I remember speaking with one of these individuals at length one night about why he became a D.A. He passed me a photo of the victim’s mother during the conversation, and said that no amount of money was worth the feeling he received for upholding justice in the community in which he was raised. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? The legal nerd in me will continue to shine through in this question, as I would love to have dinner with Chief Justice Earl Warren who sat on the Supreme Court from 1953 to 1969. He served as the Chief Justice during cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona (the foundation of Miranda Rights), Gideon v. Wainwright (the right to an attorney if you cannot afford one), and many other landmark cases in the history of the United States. I cannot even imagine where I would want to begin the conversation with this man....
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

16 Aug Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 1998 scholar Susan Nicholson-Dykstra

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Angelique Diaz. Name: Susan Nicholson-Dykstra Scholar Year: 1998 Scholar (and 2008 Boettcher Teacher) Hometown: Aurora College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): University of Denver, BS, molecular biology (with minors in leadership and chemistry), 2002 Dartmouth College, Ph.D., biochemistry, 2008 University of Denver, MA, curriculum instruction, 2010 Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? My current role is director of teacher education accreditation for the University of Maine at Farmington. I collect and analyze data about our teacher candidates and programs, then assemble that data into a story to demonstrate how our programs meet the national standards for teacher preparation--my work truly combines my experience as an educator, an educational researcher and a scientist. Having had the opportunity to complete such a fantastic teacher prep program (Boettcher Teacher Residency), it’s really invigorating to help innovate and improve another teacher preparation program that has a similar focus on community, relationships and serving diverse students. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? The Boettcher Scholarship opened opportunities I never could have imagined! As a scholar, I attended DU where I joined the Pioneer Leadership Program, conducted research and made amazing and brilliant lifelong friends. DU prepared me to enter a doctoral program where I conducted research and mentored students. The Boettcher Teacher Residency provided both a route back to Colorado and a transition from the lab to the classroom where I could share my passion for science. As a Boettcher Teacher Resident, I again joined an amazing cohort of leaders, and spent six years teaching science and conducting research with CU’s Streamline to Mastery Program. All of these experiences coalesced to provide the preparation for my current position. Truly, all roads lead back to Boettcher! Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work. While in Colorado, I helped to start an annual Girls Engineering Day experience for girls at our school to partner and learn with female STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) leaders and students in the Denver/Boulder community. I also cosponsored our school’s MESA (Math Engineering Science Achievement) club. As a STEM teacher in Colorado, one of my favorite places to shop was RAFT (Resource Area for Teachers)--I was there so frequently that I got to serve on their Teacher Advisory Board! Now in Maine, my partner and I have started a small hobby farm (with goats, chickens and alpaca, oh my!), we play ice hockey, and we volunteer with MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association). What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? I still reflect back on the words of one of my middle school teachers, who recruited me in high school as an AVID tutor and helped me to discover my passion for teaching (she is also the teacher I got to recognize as a Boettcher Scholar!) Heather Ahrenkiel told me that, no matter where I was, regardless of the situation, environment or economic status, there would always be kids who needed a great teacher, who needed me. I have carried those words with me for nearly two decades--they inspire me to understand my students and peers, to know their stories and to find ways to help them shape their own paths for the future. For current graduates in education, I would reiterate her words. Our students need you--they need amazing leaders who care about them, who will be their advocates and who will teach them to advocate for themselves. Teaching is unquestionably the most challenging thing I've ever done, but it is also absolutely fulfilling. You might not see the impact immediately, or ever, but you WILL change the world through your work each and every day. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? I would love to sit down for dinner with Wangari Maathi--I had the opportunity to hear her speak about 12 years ago and have always been inspired by her advocacy for women and the environment. I would truly enjoy a good conversation with Temple Grandin, as I've appreciated her impact on research and advocacy for humane treatment and her role as liaison for individuals with Asperger's. And, I am confident that dinner with Michelle Obama would be a hoot--she's got such an amazing attitude and sense of humor--and I truly appreciate her work advocating for girls....
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

26 Jul Boettcher Scholar launches second act as Boettcher Teacher

A fortuitous speaker lineup helped Boettcher Scholar Leigh Gillette reconnect with the Boettcher Foundation and launch a second career as a teacher in Durango. Leigh, a 1989 Boettcher Scholar from Colorado Springs, spent her career as an environmental educator, helping people to understand and appreciate the world around them. While it was a rewarding role that had taken her around the state, she wanted to engage more directly with students and spend more time in Durango, where she had been working as an educator for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “I’ve always been curious and a bit jealous of teachers and the relationships they can build with students,” Leigh said. “They have the luxury of time to work with students for a whole year.” Leigh began to seriously consider a career change when was speaking at a conference of superintendents in the San Luis Valley. She was listed on the agenda immediately after a presentation by the Boettcher Teacher Residency. “I heard their presentation, and I just knew that was the direction I would be taking,” The Boettcher Teacher Residency, funded by the Boettcher Foundation and operated by PEBC, the Public Education and Business Coalition, prepares people to have exceptional teaching careers through a hands-on master’s degree program. Boettcher Teachers are placed in classrooms with mentor teachers, allowing them to develop classroom experience from the start. Leigh explored the possibility of pursuing an alternative teacher licensure but wanted the professional support provided by a residency model. “The Boettcher Teacher Residency just seemed to be everything I needed,” she said, adding that her prior experience as a Boettcher Scholar offered an extra level of confidence. “Seeing the Boettcher name attached to the program sealed the deal for me. I knew it was going to be great.” While the Boettcher Teacher Residency is still relatively new compared to the scholarship program, Leigh is the second Boettcher Scholar who has entered the program and gone on to become a classroom teacher. She said that being a Boettcher Scholar enabled her to attend Colorado College without the burden of figuring out how to pay for it or graduating with debt. That freedom allowed her to accept her first environmental educator role at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Center in Northern Minnesota, even though the position only paid for her room and board. She went on to hold a variety of environmental educator roles, eventually taking her to Aspen and then to Durango, where she worked at the nonprofit Durango Nature Studies before joining the Colorado Division of Wildlife. After entering the Boettcher Teacher Residency, Leigh spent the year teaching sixth-grade science at Miller Middle School in Durango, a position she will return to next school year. As a newly minted-teacher, Leigh is eager to give back to Colorado by educating the next generation of students. “Personally I feel like I’m maintaining that Boettcher mentality of giving back to the state that has supported me so much,” she said.  ...
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

18 Jul Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with current scholar Tabitha Kalin

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Angelique Diaz. Name: Tabitha Kalin Scholar Year: 2014 Hometown: Colorado Springs College, Major(s)  and Graduation Year(s): Colorado School of Mines, B.S. Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, May 2018; M.S. Engineering and Technology Management, December 2018 What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? I am still not sure what the future holds for me as I approach graduation. I hope to complete my master's in engineering and technology management after I complete my engineering degree. The future after that is very open. As I have continued to explore the world and had internship opportunities, the list of things I would like to do and careers I am interested in pursuing continues to grow. Currently I am very interested in energy and genetic engineering. I would love to work in disease and vaccine development. I am also interested in working in alternative fuels and energy sources.  Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. I am involved in biochemical research on campus, working with developing optical nanosensors for the use of medical diagnosis and improved efficiency. Outside of the classroom and lab, I have been fortunate enough to join several organizations across the campus. I have joined the Sigma Kappa Sorority, Kappa Kappa Psi service fraternity and Tau Beta Pi engineering honor fraternity. I have also joined the Society of Woman Engineers and the Colorado School of Mines Marching Band. I have been very fortunate enough to continue my passion for service and music in my extracurricular activities as I pursue a degree in STEM. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. My most important mentor and influence in my life has been my father. My father has always been my go-to when I needed advice or guidance on a direction, especially as I have started college and moved for internships. He has been very supportive and even ventured to Alaska to help me move. When you lose an exhaust pipe in the middle of the Yukon Territory, the real engineer comes out  and, somehow, we made it to Anchorage. My father has also helped me get involved in groups and activities that challenge me and help me grow, and I would not be the person I am today without him. What's the best advice you've ever received? The best advice I ever received was to “Say yes more than no, because no experience can hurt you; it can only teach you.” Because of this, I can now say I have climbed a mountain in a blizzard and moved 3,000 miles away for an internship. As a very busy person, it is easy to fall into the trap of not trying new things or not rearranging your schedule because you think you have too much to do. However, the best moments are spontaneous and the moments that push you out of your comfort zone. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, who would you choose and why? If I could have dinner with someone from history, I would want to have dinner with the Gene Kranz, the mission control director the Apollo XIII mission, which was the the infamous “Houston, we have a problem” mission. As the director, Kranz, made it very clear that “Failure was not an option.” I would want to talk to Kranz and get a sense of what character he had and the determination that brought the Apollo XIII crew back to Earth safely....
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

15 Jul Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 1984 scholar Noel Lenski

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Angelique Diaz. Name: Noel Lenski Scholar Year: 1984 Hometown: Littleton College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): Colorado College, B.A. in Classics 1989; Princeton, M.A. 1992, Ph.D. 1995 Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? I have been in classics and ancient history since I was an undergraduate at Colorado College. I went immediately to graduate school and then got my first teaching job at the University of Colorado Boulder in 1995. After 20 great years at CU, I joined the faculty of Yale in 2015. My profession is wonderful. I get to work with motivated and clever young people and to teach them that they are not so different from the very old people I study. Our technologies allow us to realize more of our ambitions, but we humans are fundamentally the same across time and cultures. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? Being a Boettcher Scholar has been very important to my identity. Once I learned I had received this honor, I parked my ambitions to study out of state and am glad I did. Colorado is an outstanding state in which to study, and Colorado College offered me a first-rate education. Having lived in many places in America and abroad, I can say from experience that Coloradans are special people. Our environment, with its beauties and challenges, invites us to achieve amazing things and to grow and develop as whole, free people. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work. My first ambition is to be a good father and husband. I love the time I have with my family. I’m an avid cyclist (road, mountain, cyclocross), going back to my youth. I ski when I can, especially cross-country, and love all sports. I’m also a carpenter, everything from furniture to home renovation. In addition, there are many aspects of my profession not directly attached to my job that keep me busy – I edit the Journal of Late Antiquity and work on a number of local, national and international organizations for the promotion of classics and the ancient world. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? Follow your dreams, and work hard. A career in the humanities is not easy to manage in today’s environment. Parents, friends, the whole world are pushing you to think “practically,” but if you love humanities, there is room for you, provided you are dedicated and have passion. Treat your studies like a profession. Already as you get to your junior year, begin devoting your time and energy to the humanities like your engineering friends do to their degrees. Work outside the curriculum, learn new languages, travel, read broadly. Classics (or English, or Japanese) is every bit as demanding as engineering if you take it seriously. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? I’d love to have dinner with Constantine the Great – the first Roman emperor publicly to convert to Christianity, and a big part of the reason why the West took many of the directions it did. He was a bundle of contradictions: a brilliant military strategist who by the end of his life wanted to be a priest; a convert to Christianity who filled his new capital with images of himself as a pagan sun god; a preacher of Christly virtues who managed to have his wife and son executed. How would he explain all that? I’d come armed....
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

01 Jul Boettcher Scholar Dee Bradley Baker gives voice to risk taking

Though you may have never seen Dee Bradley Baker, a 1981 Boettcher Scholar from Greeley, you’ve likely heard his voice. As a voice actor, Dee has brought literally thousands of characters to life, including animals in Disney’s latest The Jungle Book, Perch Perkins in Spongebob Squarepants, Klaus the German fish in American Dad, Fish in the Boxtrolls and even Daffy Duck and Tasmanian Devil in the 1996 movie Space Jam. Dee’s voice acting career has now spanned three decades, but as a Boettcher Scholar at Colorado College, he never planned on being an actor. In June, Dee visited the Boettcher Foundation office, where he talked about the impact of receiving the Boettcher Scholarship. He also treated the staff to a variety of his most famous character voices and entertaining sound effects. (Check out the video below for Dee's voice acting tips and creature noises that actually scared our office neighbors). “The reason I can do what I do now is from the education that I was allowed,” said Dee. “I always liked animals, monsters, biology and arts. I’m a liberal arts poster child.” Attending college as a Boettcher Scholar, Dee was able to take classes in a variety of areas and explore all of his passions. His majors reflected his top interests: philosophy, biology and German. Now, he’s able to apply all of those degrees daily in his career. His knowledge of biology gives him insight into how non-humans communicate, and his German shines through in Klaus, a character that was originally intended to be French until Dee auditioned as German. “Happily with a Boettcher scholarship I emerged into the real world debt-free, which allowed me to not freak out, and not enter the world with a sense of fearfulness or dread like many students unfortunately do,” said Dee. After college, Dee began doing musical theater and singing telegrams in Colorado Springs. He also did amateur stand-up, finding inspiration in Monty Python and Steve Martin. He discovered his comedic niche in making “weird sounds.” “I had no acting goals and didn’t think about it as a career. I just liked it,” said Dee, slipping into his best Beetlejuice voice. A few years later, Dee performed in Disney World Shows, including Beetlejuice, and finally made his way to L.A. to perform in his first show, Legends of the Hidden Temple, an action-adventure game show for children on Nickelodeon. From there, he continued honing his craft, becoming a go-to-guy for character voices in movies, animated shows and even video games. Though he has tried on-screen acting, Dee has always preferred voice-acting, which he thinks is in-part due to his Colorado roots. “Voice acting has more anonymity and fewer liabilities. As an actor, you can end up with a somewhat insane life,” explained Dee, “And that’s what I like about coming back to Colorado. It’s nice to reset yourself to your roots and your ‘normal.’” Dee appreciates the focus on community, quality of life, rationality and sense of health that is present in Colorado. “Plus, it feels like home to me,” said Dee, even though he’s now lived in L.A. for half of his life. While in Colorado, Dee also has the opportunity to spend time with his family and practice his hobbies—insect and flower photography, learning to play bass so that he can combine 70’s funk with the music of Bach and his most recent pursuit of studying American history to better understand the current political climate. “I love taking pictures of bugs and flowers. I am amateur but I love the feeling that I am walking past a poem,” Dee said while buzzing like a bee. During his time in Hollywood, Dee has seen many actors give-in to Hollywood pressures, which is why he operates a free informational website where he shares his experience and tips for young people interested in voice acting. “You don’t solve your life by gaining fame or money. Ultimately it’s what you stand for and how you treat people.” Dee said. And for Boettcher Scholars, his advice is to take risks and to trust yourself. “The Boettcher Foundation gave me the gift of freedom of mind space. I was able to graduate college with those tools to try things and to not be afraid of failure. I always say: Find your career at an intersection of what you love and what you’re good at (so good that people will actually pay you money to do it). You may not yet know what that is and finding it may take years of trial and error. Trust yourself. I was an amateur actor until my late 20s.” ...
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

15 Jun Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with current scholar Francis Commercon

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Francis Commercon Scholar Year: 2014 Hometown: Highlands Ranch College, Major(s)  and Graduation Year(s): Colorado State University, double majoring: Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology (College of Natural Resources) and Biological Sciences (College of Natural Sciences), minoring in Chinese; graduating December 2018 What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? Our society must find a balance between development and ecological sustainability. Around the world, especially in developing countries, animals’ ranges are shrinking at alarming rates due to habitat destruction and over-hunting. I aspire to work as a conservation biologist in a tropical developing country, researching appropriate tools for conservation of biodiversity, educating other biologists and reaching out to local communities. The approach must involve a major role as an activist and community organizer, as peer-reviewed papers cannot solve problems alone. I aspire to make conservation projects community-centered and locally driven for the benefit of the local people.  Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. I have been passionate about birds for many years. During my freshman year a friend and I founded CSU Field Ornithologists, a birdwatching club that shares a passion for birding and avian ecology at Colorado State University. We organize at least two birding trips a month to a variety of local and distant destinations and we invite researchers to give talks about new developments in ornithology and bird conservation at our monthly meetings. Being co-president of this club gives me many opportunities to pursue my passion for birds as well as learn skills in leadership. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. One of my most important mentors is Meredith McBurney, the bird bander for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. Since I was 13, Meredith helped me develop a more scientific interest in birds. She taught me how to handle birds caught in mist nets and, recently, how to band and measure the birds. And through this, she helped me learn the confidence, patience and persistence so essential for success. Bird banders assume responsibility for the safety of birds caught for scientific and educational purposes. Meredith carefully invested trust in me in a way that forced me to learn responsibility. What's the best advice you've ever received? A friend and classmate on my semester abroad in China last fall told me, “do not fear failure but rather envision success.” At the time I put incredible pressure on myself to succeed in a particularly daunting project. My fear of failure made me anxious and unhappy. When, at my friend’s advice, I tried to think only about what success might look like, I found myself moving toward a goal in a positive way rather than fleeing from monstrous consequences. I was better able to enjoy the process itself. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, who would you choose and why? I would like to meet John James Audubon, the young Frenchman who immigrated to America to become one of this nation’s greatest early naturalists and painters. Audubon hiked through the nineteenth century American wilderness for weeks on end, observing and collecting birds and other wildlife. He was one of the first people to call for the conservation of America’s wilderness and wildlife. I want to know his thoughts on where we are today in America. What would he have to say about our prairies without bison or the fragmentation of eastern forests? And what advice might he give?...
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

05 Jun Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 1994 scholar Kara Penn

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Kara Penn Scholar Year: 1994 Hometown: Lakewood College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s): M.B.A., Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management, M.P.P., University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy B.A., Colorado College (1998) Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? I own a small consulting company, Mission Spark, which partners with philanthropy, nonprofit and social enterprise leaders to achieve transformative social change and to strengthen the social sector. Mission Spark is celebrating five years this fall. I am a very mission-driven person, and every day I get to support passionate leaders and organizations striving to make the world a better place. It is such a privilege and gift to do this work, and there is so much variety in what I do on a day-to-day basis. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? I get a little choked up when I think about the difference Boettcher has made in my life. I've always cared deeply about social and environmental causes and am driven by using my time and abilities to contribute in some way to the social good. Boettcher provided such a vote of confidence in my choices -- and it also gave me the financial freedom to pursue my passions. Being selected as a scholar snowballed into so many other wonderful opportunities and experiences in my life.  My gratitude to the foundation is immense, and I am always looking for ways to pay it forward. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work. I recently trained as a Co-Active Coach through the Coach's Training Institute, and am very much enjoying both being coached and serving as a coach through the Boettcher Coaching Program. I am the immediate past chair of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board and have been involved with so many talented and committed scholar alumni over the years in creating and implementing a vision for growing an active alumni community. Board service is really important to me, and I serve on nonprofit boards whenever I can. I also had an incredible experience as a member of the Leadership Denver class of 2015, and co-chaired Ready, Set, College! -- an initiative of the class to provide a day of support, networking, skill-building, celebration and financial support to first generation college students setting off on their college journey. My two girls -- Ava (6) and Kayla (2) -- dogs Curry and Caper, and my husband are my heart. I love my time with my family -- especially when we are traveling together. We are always in search of a good adventure. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? The best lesson I've learned, both through advice and through experience, is to live each moment -- to not rush through the hard times, ignore grief, or gloss over disappointments, to not underplay joy, rites of passage, or moments of triumph, or even the day-to-day mundane. Finding ways to truly experience and be present to whatever comes, to ride whatever wave emerges. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? Oh, there are so many people-- artists, activists, poets-- I'd need a pretty big table, and there would be plenty of people that history never recognized but that have made immense contributions in their own ways. I would choose change-makers and creators, people who live or lived with conviction and in service of others, who fought or fight for justice -- people who inspire through their actions and can lift up the world with what they create, the vision they hold and their ability to lead others to see the promise of what's possible....
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Boettcher Foundation Press Release

02 Jun Boettcher Scholar connects communities through public radio

The vote of confidence inherent in being named a Boettcher Scholar allowed Tracy Wahl to feed her curiosity, search for her “inner spark” and eventually find her place as executive producer for editorial franchises at NPR. Tracy, a 1986 Boettcher Scholar, has worked at NPR in Washington, D.C. for twenty years, but still feels a strong connection to her Colorado roots. “My job is incredible, but my heart will always be in Colorado,” said Tracy. The daughter of a federal hydrologist, Tracy spent much of her childhood moving around the country, but her parents always wanted to settle in Colorado to be close to Tracy’s grandparents. By the time she entered high school, Tracy’s family permanently relocated to Arvada. From there, Tracy attended the University of Colorado and majored in communication, forming a tight network with her fellow Boettcher Scholars. “When I was at CU, Boettcher Scholars seemed to gravitate toward each other,” said Tracy. “When I met someone who was a Boettcher Scholar, I knew there was something special about them. I knew we’d share a common bond—openness and curiosity.” Tracy’s unique view of the world and desire to explore prompted her to move to Tokyo—without a job—after graduating college. She attributes part of that fearlessness to the confidence that came from being named a scholar as an eighteen-year-old. While in Japan, Tracy helped to open a library that catered to local English teachers. She contributed to the procurement of books and partnerships, and to designing the store, which later turned into a multi-million dollar company. When she returned to the U.S. to attend graduate school, Tracy volunteered at a radio station and learned to cut tape. “At the time, that was the type of skill you needed to get in the door at media companies,” Tracy remembered. It was because of that skill that NPR hired Tracy as a temp. She worked the overnight edition—a shift that had less-than-glamorous hours. Soon after, she began working for the Morning Edition. While her then-boss was receiving chemotherapy treatments, Tracy acted as interim executive producer. “I was definitely punching above my weight, but I knew I needed to keep the show going at the highest-quality and give my boss time to recover,” Tracy said. As a result of her hard work and ability to handle stress, Tracy was later hired as the permanent executive producer of the Morning Edition. In her current role, Tracy supports the various public radio member stations across the country by helping to connect them both with their local and national communities. Just like in college, Tracy is ever-motivated by curiosity—a value she tries to infuse into her work at NPR every day. Similarly, she encourages others to pursue opportunities that “light your inner spark.” In her spare time, Tracy enjoys researching outlets for storytelling. Her favorites: Instagram and Netflix. “Part of my job is to see how storytelling is done on different platforms,” Tracy said. She especially enjoys social photography and the value of a community of people who come together to share their passion in a creative way. Even from outside Colorado, Tracy feels tied to her Boettcher community. “I still love forming relationships with scholars and I think we can all have an increased impact on our world if we’re connected,” she said. Currently, Tracy helps the Boettcher community build these relationships by serving on the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board....
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