Thursday, September 06, 2007

Beyond FRESHMAN YEAR: Images and Identity Class at CU-Denver

Not that they’re all freshman. The Images and Identity class in the College of Arts and Media at the University of Colorado at Denver is attended fall and spring by students of various ages and areas of study. Taught by Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute director and CU professor Elizabeth Braden, the class is designed to “demonstrate inter-relatedness and diversity of the arts” and involves presentations by current RMWI associates (like yours truly). In my first of two full-class presentations today, we had plenty to discuss after the viewing of the film Bird by Bird with Annie on Tuesday, as well as two free-writing exercises to tackle. I’ve never presented to a college-level class before; I’ve never given in-class writing assignments. And I have to admit I found it fun to see more than 30 students bent over pen and paper to free-write, first about a memory of a past job or other role of responsibility, and then about a moment of wonder they’d experienced.

They wasted no time, got right to work, and kept writing (and writing!), surprising me as well as themselves. That they surprised themselves became apparent not because they all lined up to share their work, but because so many appeared pleased after each ten-minute free-writing session; some seemed simply satisfied that they’d fulfilled yet another requirement of yet another day at school, but most appeared proud of what they’d written. When one girl’s eyes became reddened and teary during one session, I suspected she’d hit upon something that rang so true for her it hurt. Another offered to read, wondering aloud if she’d “done it right.” Then she read her short piece about diabetes, her perspective on her father’s management of this disease in his life, and her “moment of wonder” one day after leaving a class that had discussed diabetes in a very matter-of-fact, clinical manner. Her moment of wonder centered on her awareness of her own healthy self, her own healthy pancreas, and how that wave of appreciation resulted in a sudden elation which impacted dramatically the way she viewed the every-day scene in which she found herself. Not only had she “done it right” by writing about that moment, but she wowed everyone in the room with the depth of emotion she’d invoked through her writing—and her willingness to share it.

When you’re entrenched in the day-to-day demands of your routines, it’s something to be transplanted into someone else’s drastically different reality and asked to participate in it. And it’s amazing when your reason for being there translates into experiences of discovery for yourself and others, especially when creativity and identity are among the topics at hand. Today’s experience was truly memorable. I’m looking forward to next week’s class and am grateful to Elizabeth Braden and the Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute for making all this possible for myself and other RMWI associates, past and present. What a gift!


Blogger Lisa said...

What a great experience! After you told me that there was a Bird by Bird with Annie DVD, I ordered it and -- it came today, so as soon as I finish up online, I'm going to watch it. Looking forward to talking about it!

9:44 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

You're going to love it, Lisa!

7:51 AM  
Blogger Carleen Brice said...

I saw it on TV in San Fran late at night when I was there for AGE. Couldn't sleep in my hotel room and came across it flipping channels. Lucky me--really enjoyed it!

6:46 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Elizabeth Braden asked to borrow the copy to use in another class. Glad to be able to help spread the word!

8:52 PM  

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