A Scientist in Limbo

Enjoy the second place winning story for our annual short story Halloween contest.

Written by Anna Lee

The chatter stirred the cortex of my memories, the existence of the conversation seemed far too bizarre, and I began to wonder if a lobotomy was a rational solution to this unmethodical problem.

Bizarre did not even touch the surface—every tone, every hair, every wrinkle in my forehead stared back at me.

Perhaps this experiment is wrong. Perhaps altering reality is immoral—even despicable. Perhaps I have a phobia of myself. Perhaps insanity has consumed me.

“As I was saying doc, I highly doubt that I’m your doppelganger. No, I think you’ve opened a portal between our dimensions.”

Getting Ready

Enjoy this third place submission for our annual Halloween Short Story contest, written by Luke Mott.

“Why are you dressed like that?” My little brother asks. 

“It’s how you’re supposed to dress for these things,” I answer, tightening my tie. 

“That’s stupid. I want to go outside and play,” he whines. 

“We will later.” I straighten my collar. 

A knock comes from the door. 

“Come in,” I say. 

It’s my Dad, dressed in black, hair tousled, eyes puffy, stinking of booze. “Who are you talking to?” He asks, looking around the room. 

“No one, Dad.” 

“We better get going,” he swivels his jaw, “It’s best we don’t keep your mother waiting.”

A Feature on Dr. Tricia Johnson, VP at Westminster/North Metro

In the spring of 2021, FRCC Westminster had a change in leadership. Dr. Tricia Johnson, who had formerly worked as the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Community College of Aurora, took over as Vice President of Westminster/North Metro at FRCC. Dr. Johnson was gracious enough to answer a few questions so that we can all learn more about her.

What led you to make the transition to FRCC Westminster from Community College of Aurora?

I loved my position at the Community College of Aurora and making the decision to leave was a difficult one for me. The vast majority of my career has been within the instructional realm, in and around classroom instructional delivery, and I have loved that. However, in the future, I would like to be a college president. As I thought about my career aspirations, I recognized areas where I needed professional growth. The Campus Vice President position at FRCC Westminster and Brighton enabled me to not only apply skills from my previous positions but, more importantly, to learn more about student affairs and facilities operations. All of these pieces together are what make a successful college!

What changes are you hoping to make at FRCC Westminster in your role as VP?

First, I have to say how impressed I am with the faculty, instructors, staff, and students at FRCC Westminster and Brighton. There are countless great things happening here. I do have a few areas where I am excited to see growth. First, my biggest priority is to enhance student voice and student perspective. Decisions we make should be based on how you all are experiencing our college. This includes everything from ways that we can enhance our physical spaces to how you experience belonging at FRCC to what classes and programs we offer. Next, we will be digging into our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Several years ago, FRCC drafted our Philosophy of Inclusion. We need to engage in meaningful dialogue on how this philosophy shows up, or not, within our campus/center community. I envision working alongside you all to learn where we are hitting the mark and where we need to work harder, so that everyone feels their identity is reflected when it comes to being an FRCC student.

What advice do you have for someone hoping to have a similar career path?

My biggest recommendation is to say, “Yes.” Take on challenges that present themselves to you. If you are given an opportunity to help out or take on additional responsibilities, do it! I am a big believer in the criticality of being a life-long learner. I can honestly say that the past 18 months are more challenging that I ever could have imagined. I believe that, because I have stepped up throughout my career to help out when a colleague was on leave or when a position was vacant, I was that much more prepared to deal with the constant uncertainty due to COVID. Also, keep getting back up, especially when you are exhausted or you are not especially confident in yourself. I am a first-generation college student, and I cannot tell you how many times I second-guessed myself or experienced “imposter syndrome.” You will face adversity; you will have setbacks. I definitely have seen those throughout my life. Dust yourself off, reflect on what you have learned about yourself, and go back at it. It will get just a little easier every time.

What are you most excited for in your new role?

Determining what I am most excited for in this role is a challenging question. There are so many great things I look forward to. High on the list, however, is connecting with our community. Between work with local businesses and the chambers of commerce to partnership with the Adams County Workforce & Business Center to collaboration with nonprofits serving the community, there is so much opportunity to connect our amazing student body with the community. I am a big believer in the fact that you all, our students, bring immense assets and inherent value to FRCC and our community the moment to step onto the campus/center. I really am looking forward to ways that we can enhance partnerships in the community to maximize leadership opportunities for you all and build bridges for connections to help you in your future careers.

What are you most excited for this semester?

For this semester, I am most excited to see you back! I worked a bunch of welcome tables during the first week of classes, which was such a phenomenal opportunity. I got a chance to help lots of folks find classrooms and help some folks who were just a little anxious about starting college. The best part, though, is seeing you all in the hallways, getting to say hello, and offering some help. Since I started in January, most days on campus I only had the chance encounter with one, maybe two students. For a person who has committed 20 years of her life to education and teaching, that was really weird. Seeing you back on campus has rejuvenated me. I am excited for us to be together, to watch out for the health and well-being of one another, and to commit to our FRCC community.

What do you like to do outside of work?

When I am not sitting on the sidelines cheering on my daughter while she plays soccer, I am spending time with my husband of 21 years. One thing about me is that I absolutely love live music. That is something that has been difficult for me during COVID – not being able to enjoy and support the artists in a live environment. One of the things that drew my husband and me together was our love of music. If it is a date night, chances are we are at the Ogden, The Gothic Theatre, Mission Ballroom, Larimer Lounge, among others. I cannot tell you how excited I am that live music is back. My calendar is lined up with at least one show a month for the foreseeable future. Hey, you might have even come across me at the Underground Music Showcase (aka UMS), if you are a music lover, too.

Spring Poetry Contest First place winner, Who’s Missing?

Written By Mary Corro

Seated around the table

We are

Each with a place setting

Who’s Missing?

People who look like me

Experience life

Like me

Who’s Missing?

What’s on your plate

Who dished it out

Will you savor it or choke

Sometime we are fed

What we are

Supposed to swallow

Who’s Missing?

At times it’s delicious

Other times revolting

But we taste it, nonetheless

It doesn’t taste like

Any home cooking

I would recognize

Who’s Missing? 

Where are the foods

Of my childhood

Of my family gatherings

What do I answer when my son

Asks what to take to a White Thanksgiving

My reply is tamales and chile

Who’s Missing?

He takes my recommendation

But also prepares a salad, vegetable tray

And pumpkin pie

He returns with

A salad, a vegetable tray

And half a pumpkin pie

Who’s Missing?

Where are the tamales

And chile

I ask

They loved it

I felt included, he replies

We ate our family food

Who’s Missing? 

My son has found

His seat at the table

He plate contains 

His home cuisine and society’s dishes

His family has grown

He is allowed to be welcomed

He is no longer missing!

Spring Poetry Contest Second place winner, The Hope of Spring—

Written By Leni Checkas

Sometimes it’s hard to see the signs of spring,

because they’re hidden

in the buds of the apple tree

and the tingle of warmth on the breeze.

The surprise of spring can bursts through

with the first instance of a single pastel tulip

the soft buzz of a bumblebee over a dandelion

and the sudden burst of sun on your face.

The signs get hidden by darkness and chill

but soon, the renewal will be all around.

Spring Poetry Contest Third place winner, Overwhelm.

Written By Melia Henrichsen

The great unknown 

What does the future hold for me? 

Unfamiliarity 

Uncertainty 

Am I capable of being 

Thrown into the real world 

Will I drown? 

Or 

Will I learn to swim 

Amongst the rest of society 

Engulfed in the ocean 

Waves crushing me 

burying me 

pushing me further and further 

down 

until I’m 

Buried neck deep 

Drowning 

My breath gone, 

dissipating 

into 

thin air 

Floating away like a balloon 

Immense stress that is 

Humongous 

Gigantic 

Enormous 

Becomes its own person 

Takes over my body 

Debilitating 

No room for me 

I am powerless 

I am broken 

I am no longer me 

I am no longer in control

Why? 

Overwhelm. 

My brain transformed 

Sponge 

to rock 

Can’t think 

Hit on the head with a boulder 

Blank 

Blackout 

Block 

I tell myself 

Ignore the stress 

Push through 

But it doesn’t work 

How will I succeed in life? 

What is success? 

Is it the American dream? 

Is it a good career? 

Is it power? 

Is it money? 

I think 

True success 

Is happiness 

Is joy 

Is love 

Success is surrounding yourself with people 

People who can support you through your overwhelm People who watch with you as your overwhelm dissipates Like water evaporating 

Finally the sun reappears 

After a stormy night 

Left with a rainbow 

Stronger than before

Great British Baking Show Review

Written by Rhiana Bilderaya

Photo by Andy Tucker

If you’re in need of a wholesome reality cooking show to watch, look no further than Netflix’s Great British Baking Show. You can either start from the beginning, or start with the most recent season, which was filmed last year during the COVID pandemic.

All of the bakers had to quarantine before participating, and they couldn’t see their families during filming unless it was over video or on the phone. Despite that, all of the bakers have great attitudes. They are funny and kind to one another and will often stop what they’re doing to help someone else out. In the context of a competition, this comes across as especially touching. You get the sense that they’re genuinely happy for one another when someone gets “Star Baker” (the award given to the best baker of the week) and sad when someone gets sent home.

As far as the baked creations go, because all of the participants live in the U.K., there are some desserts and dishes you probably won’t have heard of if you grew up in America. Each week has a different theme, like “Bread Week,” with three different challenges/recipes for the judges to try. The first challenge is a “Signature” dish, where bakers can practice their recipe for the judges. The next challenge is the “Technical” challenge, where bakers have a vague recipe for a sign unseen dish that they haven’t gotten to practice. The third dish is an elaborate “Showstopper,” where the contestants should wow the judges with a dish that looks and tastes amazing. The contestants are able to practice their showstopper challenges, but it often goes much differently during the competition. There are also a lot of new words to keep track of, like “stodgy,” which is a word the judges use when they think a bread is too thick or heavy.

Now that I’ve watched more than just the most recent season, I can see that the talent varies a lot from season to season. Everyone on the show is an experienced home baker, but in the non-COVID seasons, the participants seem to come up with more complex and intricate dishes to show the judges. It’s possible that in the most recent pandemic season, there were fewer people willing to leave their families.

There’s no shortage of humor, with two hosts who are actors/comedians in the U.K. Matt Lucas, the newest host, has been on Dr. Who and Bridesmaids, among other works. Noel Fielding is a comedian who’s been on IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh. They talk to the bakers during filming, sometimes distracting them, which is amusing to viewers and probably less to the competition participants. Viewers also get to know the bakers over the course of the show, with snippets of their lives shown.

With a few more months to go until widespread vaccination, there’s still plenty of time to watch a new show. Who knows, it may even inspire you to make a new dish like scones or pasties.

A review of Desire to Learn’s new app

Written by Rhiana Bilderaya

Photo by Andy Tucker

FRCC students who are tired of checking D2L for their grades on their phone’s web browser have a good alternative. D2L now offers an app called Pulse, that students can download and start using on both iPhone and Android. 

The app is straightforward to use, with a simple user interface. After downloading and logging in, you will see a list of your courses. Clicking a course will display the different weeks, and within each week, your course content for that week displays. There isn’t nearly as much navigation to get to “course content” using the app as there is using a web browser on phone or computer.

Students can also use the calendar view by clicking on “Upcoming” on the bottom of the screen. This view will have a week at a time with a graph feature, indicating which days have assignments due and what those assignments are. I found this feature particularly useful for the straightforward display and integration of all courses, instead of just one course. 

Clicking on the “Notifications” tab will let students know when their grades have updated. I found this feature to lack the information that logging into D2L on a web browser provides. On the web browser, it’s much easier to see individual assignment grades. On the Pulse app, there are fewer notifications and clicking on a grade update will redirect to the website within an app, which can be frustrating to interact with.

Overall, Pulse is useful for a snapshot of your weekly work using the “Upcoming” feature and a quick reminder of your weekly work. The app isn’t as useful for doing any assignments, but the web browser on the phone isn’t either. Students still need a laptop to successfully use D2L, but the app is a good complement.

What to do in Westminster and Denver during a COVID winter

Written by Rhiana Bilderaya

Photo by Joe Fisk

As we enter into the second year of the pandemic with a few months of winter left, we are all looking for activities to get us safely out of the house. Here are a few ideas that will keep us and others safe while also avoiding some stir craziness. 

  1. You can check out the Denver Botanic Gardens on a nicer day. Everyone wears masks throughout the Gardens, and it can be a nice place to walk around.
  2. We’ve been having an unseasonably mild winter, so if you want to do an outside but lower cost activity, you and some friends can have a picnic at a park. Wash Park in Denver or Westminster Center Park are both great options to have a picnic on a 50-degree or warmer day.
  3. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can try snowshoeing or hiking 20 minutes outside of Westminster or Denver. There are a lot of trail options for this, available at All Trails.
  4. If you want to support local businesses, you can find a local coffee shop, grab coffee and pastries to go, and sit outside while you enjoy your treats. Navah Coffee House  or Zoe’s Coffee Shop  in Westminster both have great reviews. Coffee For The People in Denver is a nonprofit, and proceeds go to their owner Pangaea World Foundation, which works to help accelerate the rescue of people, animals, and natural ecosystems around the world.
  5. You can head to the 16th Street Mall or Broadway in Denver and walk around window shopping. Westminster also has a small downtown area worth checking out. If you like anything you see, it’s probably available, as long as you wear a mask!

Even though a COVID-19 winter can be challenging at times, there are safe ways to get out of the house and support some local businesses while we wait for widespread vaccination.