Steamboat Springs For a woman who endured the obstacles of returning to college as a single mother after 20 years and who implemented new programs at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus, Pam Burwell is well deserving of her recent 2001 Adjunct Faculty of the Year award.
"During each class I try to make a personal connection with each individual student. Making that extra effort really pays off," Burwell said.
Burwell is the accounts manager of the Alpine Campus, as well as an adviser, mentor and teacher, among her other outside interests.
After graduating from CMC with an associate's degree in art, she pursued her worldly interest in other cultures through a distance-degree program from Regis University, attaining a degree in comparative religions/Asian studies in 1995.
"The incredible mentoring, caring faculty, staff and administration convinced me that it was possible to follow my dreams 'and help my work become my bliss,'" Burwell said, quoting Joseph Campbell.
Burwell's most recent interest lies in the Native American tribes that lived in the Yampa Valley centuries ago. As the adviser for the International Student Club and Students for a Free Tibet at CMC, Burwell has an undying passion for the resurrection and preservation of cultures around the globe.
A Northern Ute descendant traveled from Utah to Steamboat to witness a revolutionary connection between a tribe whose roots are in this community and the foreigners who live on the land now. The Northern Utes are a Native American tribe that lived in the Yampa Valley centuries ago.
"Working with the Utes was very interesting, but very difficult work," Burwell said of the tribe that questions the intentions of white people. "But the work is very rewarding."
Burwell, project manager for the Ute Indian Yampa Valley Project, helped organize the initiative of a memorial of the Northern Ute Tribe at Dr. Rich Weiss Park in Steamboat in 1999.
Currently, Burwell is working with the CMC Foundation to develop a Native American scholarship at the Alpine Campus.
Olive Morton, director of community education at CMC, said Burwell's connection with the tribe "clicked" and another community project became another part of her soul. Her attributes to the college have been remarkable, Morton said.
Burwell teaches comparative religions, religion, philosophy, Tai Chi and meditation at CMC. She is working closely with Prof. George Bagwell on designing a Web course in American Studies, which will be available online in spring 2002.
"I think she's a real special person," Morton said. "I like to think I mentored her to keep going in her education."
It's been six years since her graduation from Regis, and she has since obtained a master of arts in Asian studies from the University of California, Dominguez Hills, through a second distance-learning program.
"Learning at 38 years old that you can make your dreams come true is a truly remarkable experience," Burwell said.