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2014 Seminar

Contested Spaces in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado

On-site seminar: June 20-30, 2014

The Contested Spaces seminar brought faculty together in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado to engage in multidisciplinary exploration of environmental and land stewardship issues by exploring geographical and ideological "contested spaces," with a focus on contemplation and mindfulness. Faculty used this on-site experience to develop curricular innovations that foster multidisciplinary learning by advanced undergraduates.

On-site Seminar Overview

In the on-site portion of the Contested Spaces seminar, faculty examined environmental and land stewardship issues while exploring its application to reflective judgment, i.e. the ability to commit to decisions in the face of uncertainty.

The on-site seminar was structured around a variety of regional learning expeditions — in-depth investigations of actual contested spaces through applied fieldwork and service. These expeditions served as models for participants to develop their own case study expeditions during the on-site seminar and afterwards for advanced undergraduates on their home campus.

The focus on developing reflective judgment through contemplative activities was a key feature of the seminar. In a July 2013 article in The Chronicle Review, William Eaton argues that immersion in nature — fostering modes of contemplative experience free of interpretation and theory — is essential to nurturing innovation in theoretical and interpretive endeavors. Contemplative activities enriched the seminar's multidisciplinary investigations and deepened participants' connections with nature.

During the on-site seminar, participants were based at the 9500 ft. Catamount Mountain Campus, an independent field station in Woodland Park, CO, just 20 miles from downtown Colorado Springs. The 177-acre site, surrounded by more than 200,000 acres of protected land, offers an exceptional setting for contemplative work and a central location for gaining access to numerous learning expedition sites.

  • For more information about the context and theory behind this seminar, read an excerpt from the seminar proposal (pdf).

Learning Expeditions and Curricular Projects

A key goal of the Contested Spaces seminar was to help participants develop a holistic conception of stewardship and explore its application to promoting students' skills in multidisciplinary analysis and reflective judgment.

In academic year 2014-15, following the on-site portion of the Contested Spaces seminar, participants used the seminar content and structure to develop innovative curricular projects geared towards upper-level students on their home campuses.

 The seminar leaders, along with local experts, modeled this conception via a Contested Waters expedition to the Arkansas River and Mt. Princeton Hot Springs. There, participants paddled a protected stretch of river, met with resource managers, soaked in the hot springs, and engaged in contemplative activities in order to explore water issues and land stewardship.

Participants from each campus team then had several days to explore, design, and lead regional learning expeditions of their choosing, thus allowing participants to experience leadership and creative roles in engaging the seminar topic.