Keller Venture Grants, made possible by the Keller Family Foundation, allow hundreds of Colorado College students to create and implement their own research projects by providing students up to $1,000. Last year, the program provided nearly $150,000 in student research funds and saw 146 CC students pursue their own individual research projects on campus, across the United States, and around the world.
Last Spring Break, Celia O’Brien ’18 pursued her project titled “Teachers at Busesa Mixed Day and Boarding Primary School, Uganda.” O’Brien spent three months teaching fifth grade students at this same school back in 2014 as part of her gap year, which served as inspiration for her project.
“I was really affected by my time there,” she elaborates, “I knew I needed to somehow find my way back. I took Professor Charlotte Mendoza’s Globalization of Education course my first year, and that sparked the idea to apply for a Venture Grant to return to the school and dig a little deeper.”
O’Brien formulate her idea into a plan to investigate the teachers at a particular school and the growing role of English in their classrooms. Particularly, she wanted to study what factors shape teachers’ lives, the daily and long-term challenges they face, and the experiences that shape and motivate them as teachers.
O’Brien’s research involved a series of interviews with teachers as well as classroom observations to learn “how the teachers interacted with the students, how they organized the class, and especially how they used English versus their local language,” she says.
“I was surprised to learn how much of themselves they invest in their students in unseen, or at least subtler ways,” O’Brien says of her results. “They spend so much time and energy and thought on the kids. This quality, I learned, isn’t very common in Ugandan schools; at this one (Busesa), the high quality and dedication of the teachers attracted new students every day I was there.” This popularity, O’Brien learned, brought new challenges to the school, leading her to explore not only the successes of the school but also the consequences of a success, all thanks to her Venture Grant.
Soren Frykholm ’17 also received Venture Grant funding, on two separate occasions, to enact his own projects. He pursued his first Venture Grant, “Going the Distance: The Effects of Travel on Team,” in the summer of 2015. Frykholm, a member of CC’s varsity men’s soccer team, traveled to England, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany with the team to play soccer, and with the aid of a Venture Grant, he was able to create a documentary film of their experiences.
“During our travels, I used my camera and some audio gear that I borrowed from CC’s film department to conduct interviews with all my teammates and many of the people we encountered on our trip,” describes Frykholm. “Over the course of 18 days, we played ten soccer games in four countries, toured many historic cities, volunteered at several local schools, and much more. I captured many of our best moments on camera.” The result was a ten-minute documentary, with a 25-minute extended edition, that examined the travel’s effect on the team and helped Frykholm grow his filmmaking skills.
“It slowly evolved to feature more of the people we were meeting instead of just the guys on our team,” he says of the progression of his project, “it became increasingly about not only the camaraderie forming between us, but also about the international connections we were making and the implications of the fact that we were acting as ambassadors for our school and our country. I ended up interviewing many of our hosts, some of whom were CC alumni, and others we met.”
Frykholm says he hopes that his work and the conversations it created inspired his team to do some deeper thinking “about the opportunities we have as CC students to expand our intellectual, cultural, and humanistic horizons,” like it did for him.