CMC program to offer forums for discussion

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— From llamas to taxes, a new educational program offered by Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus has a wide range of topics it is hoping will spark community interest.

Conceived this summer, the Alpine Enrichment Program provides a combination of seminars and book discussions mostly free of charge to the community and campus.

The new program, the idea of Dean Robert Ritschel, is part of CMC's effort to bring the campus closer to the community.

"Looking here in Steamboat, I see that there's a kind of separation between college and community. We want to reach out to the community, for them to learn more," he said.

Ritschel, who has been at CMC for 18 months, based the program off the relationship liberal arts universities in the East have with their communities. Many of their programs he learned about through Web sites.

"It's the idea of lifelong learning," he said. "That learning never stops after we graduate."

Throughout the fall semester, CMC has taken a two-prong approach to the Alpine Enrichment Program. Nine seminars will be held from Wednesday to Dec. 12 and book discussions will be held monthly from Sept. 26 to Dec. 5.

With seminars on woodcarving, llamas, taxes and entrepreneurial moms, Ritschel said the college tried to offer a wide variety of topics.

"(The seminars) are for a lot of different groups, literature and humanities, science and mathematics, performing arts," Ritschel said. "We are trying to get as many bases as we can establish."

The program's first seminar is Wednesday on strategies for writing local history with Sureva Towler, a former director of publications for the National Endowment for the Arts.

In the program's Novel Idea Series, the community is welcome to participate in a monthly group book discussion.

Alpine Enrichment Program coordinator Janie Swartz said a community book club allows people to join but not worry about being a group facilitator or hosting the club. Local restaurants will also provide refreshments for all the discussions.

"I am really excited about the Novel Idea Series," Swartz said. "There'll be dessert, it's really casual and it should be a good intellectual discussion.

The series' first meeting is Sept. 26 and it will be discussing "Stop Spitting at Your Brother" by Diane White-Crane. The book, which is a tale of a Rocky Mountain llama, can be read from ages 8 and up.

Ranging from White-Crane's children's book to an academic work on philosophy by Jonathan Lear, Swartz said that as the discussion progresses throughout the semester, the books become more challenging for readers.

"(The books) go from any easy read to very intellectually challenging," she said. "We work our way up."

Most of the seminars and all of the book discussions will be held in the Bryan King Room in Bogue Hall at CMC at 7 p.m. Six of the nine seminars are free.

Those interested in seminars with fees most preregister.

Even before its first seminar, Ritschel and Swartz said the program has strong community backing.

"When we started talking to people about this, they all felt that this is something the community would respond well to," Ritschel said.

CMC is making plans for the spring semester to hold seminars on agriculture and political topics and for authors to participate in book discussions.

To learn more about the events offered by the Alpine Enrichment Program, log on to http://faculty.coloradomtn.edu/aep, call Swartz at 870-4432 or e-mail aep@coloradomtn.edu.

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