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Friday, February 6, 2015

Redefining Grace

Unfortunately, some things we carry with us from our experiences growing up, whether they were personally experienced, or a belief we were conditioned to over time. There’s this stereotype, one that until last semester I agreed with. That was; groups of girls kinda suck. They’re cliquey, manipulative, overly emotional, and catty together, has anyone still not seen Mean Girls? Well it’s safe to say that enrolling in the Women’s Topics in Wilderness Leadership and the Women’s climbing course for last Fall was mildly terrifying. Two field courses and about 80 percent of my time spent with ALL women. How would I survive multiple weekend trips and three full days a week with a group of 10 women. Would we not kill one another? I mean, we’re talking six-seven hour car rides with ALL WOMEN.

Grand Canyon Nov2014
Well it’s January now, the class is over and I made it. Not that that phrase does any justice to my last semester with those 10 beautiful humans. Honestly, I think we all walked into class the first day with these ideas in our head. We were a little standoffish towards each other, not sure of our place in an Adventure Ed class which many of us were used to taking with mostly men, but that was so much of the beauty of this class. As women we all got to redefine ourselves and our place in the AE field. 

6 days before Thanksgiving, me and four of my fellow lady classmates dropped into the Grand Canyon on Tanner Trail. We saw it as sort of a final. We’d made it 3 months together, could we complete a successful expedition now? We had our backpacks, no instructor, a sat phone, and hiking boots, or for some of us, hiking sandals and sad toes. We had 4 days to make it 29 miles down Tanner Trail, “along” the mighty Colorado River and up Red Canyon, on the hardest trail on the South Rim, but luckily McKenzie had enough chocolate to supply us all. This trip was the cherry on top of a life-changing semester. We were five badass women, doing a badass trip and we were going to do it our way. Our instructor left us with a few words on the rim, she asked that we consider “grace” on our trip. We laughed about it a lot on the way. We felt strong but grace didn’t seem to fit us as we tripped over rocks, slipped down scree fields, dripped sweat, sat in our sleeping bags and stuffed our faces when we got to camp, screamed, worried, and got attacked by supersized mice, laughed till we cried when Erin panicked as she looked down and saw one sitting next to us and proceeded to “fling” it into the bushes. We howled at the top of our lungs when we reached an epic spot, supported our friends as the pain of old and new injuries arose. We laid under the stars every night in a row of five, pointing out the constant stars seemingly falling out of the sky. Sometimes the conversations were deep and we all shared bits of ourselves, sometimes they were silly, and sometimes they were nonsense. The Canyon became this place for us where we all showed up in our truest form.

Hiking out the last day, after about 5 miles of going straight up I began to feel it. Looking behind me the smiles had faded from everyone's face. We were making amazing time but I know the cold air, constant need to chug water, aching joints and the want to just be there already was starting to sink in. This trip finally felt challenging but none of us waned, the more monotonous the steps became the more of a silent rhythm we fell into, keeping great time because believe it or not we were doing this trip as women, with a touch of grace.
Not a bad view for lunch

My roommate and best friend stopped us about a half mile from the top, she wanted to read a poem, for a split second I hated her for it. I was ready to be at the top, sit my butt in the van, drink real coffee and elevate my knee. But as the sun hit us for the first time that day we all put our packs down, drank water and listened intently as less than a mile from the Rim of one of the greatest tourist attractions in the world, it was totally silent,  except for the ravens scouting above.

She read:

OUT HERE by Carolyn Highland

Joshua Tree Oct2014
“The thing about the wilderness is that it equalizes us, it sets us all on flat, even ground. We are all small in the face of mountains, all vulnerable before swelling seas, all dwarfed by the limitless sky. Facing the elements we are our raw, basic selves. All else falls away. In that rawness there is clarity, all the wind on the water going still so we can see straight into the depth.
We are no longer defined by the years we have lived, or what we have been called, or the things we can do. We are all equally young and alive, swaying in the arms of the ancient earth. We are all equally young next to the rocks and the waves.
With us we have only the parts of ourselves we can carry, only what travels with us always. We may find things that have been hidden, we may remember what we had allowed ourselves to forget. We may stretch ourselves taller and wider to mimic towering trees, taller and wider than we might ever have imagined.

Where we’re from we’re kings and queens of concrete, we cradle the power in our hands. Returning to the wild we are reminded that all we have created are constructs, all our control conjured up in our minds. Out here we do not have to go to churches and temples to pray to the idea of something greater, we can simply stand before mountains and see it.

Being out in the wild reminds us of all the smallness and largeness of ourselves because this earth, this sea and sky and rock and tree and mountain, this is where we are from. Not a town with a name and a sign, but the ancient, persisting, elemental earth. We are not names and birthdates, but hearts and souls reflecting the browns the blues, the greens.”

have to love a good 5.9 at JTree
In that moment it all made sense. These ladies felt like my sisters, though all of us standing next to one another, we look far from it, not to mention we've known each other about three months, but that’s the beauty of it. We’re all women and we’re all so different but being out in that place together brought us together, being out in all the places over the semester brought us together. From the initial awkward river trip on the San Juan, to three day a week climbs at the Dells, Sully’s, the Promise Lands, the Butte and a few epics on the Mountain, along with an inspiring trip to Joshua Tree, we formed our own group and we all navigated our own place within it. We tested our strength, our support, our skills and our leadership. Through all of it everyone emanated grace. It was no longer this word that brought up visions of tall skinny women gliding across the floor in long dresses but instead I began to see it as this strength that comes with each of our own touches of femininity. Through the giggles, roaring laughs, tears, rough downhills and asskicking uphills we climbed out of that canyon as one (in 6 hours!) , crusty and graceful.  

Saying goodbye to that class in December was weird. To be honest, I’m not an emotional person but getting up and walking away from those ten ladies who had become some of my best friends, inspirations, and mentors was hard. What was I going to do with my time now?

Well I walked into a friends house that night, made my way outside and sat down to find myself surrounded by four familiar graceful badasses, who went from four random ladies to some of my best friends. Congrats, Ya did it again Prescott College.

~Dani Skane

*all photos property of McKenzie Maddigan


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sharing is Caring

"The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish.  Only the bicycle remains pure at heart. 
~Iris Murdoch

       Prescott is a beautiful place... full of sunlight, serene and diverse ecology, motivated communistic residents, and the best outdoor classrooms that one can dream of.  Prescott College, nestled in the heart of this sprawling town, invokes the inner desire to dream big while attending to the physical and emotional safety of it's patrons. I returned to PC after a 3 year hiatus, after working for Outward Bound in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and found the transition from a busy, bustling city to "Everybody's Hometown" as a welcomed one.  I originally arrived in 2009, attending 3 semesters at the college before deciding to work in the field I was studying (to reaffirm my studious focus... because why not?), with a backpack and a pair of walking shoes.  Slowly over time, I attained a place to live after orientation, a work study job, and bicycle to transport myself around town, making it my sole mode of transportation for the next several years, including my shift to Philadelphia and Baltimore. 
       Upon my return in 2013, I had decided to buy a vehicle... for many reasons.  I was a seasoned instructor at that point, and having a truck would prove helpful if I decided to pick up some outdoor ed work that was outside the Prescott area.  Being independent, I also had to work while I was in school, and was able to find a fruitful Americorps position at Yavapai Big Brothers Big Sisters, located about 10 miles out of town. After not having a vehicle for about 10 years, it was like getting a new toy, and it helped me explore areas around Yavapai County, and beyond, that I hadn't be able to previously do during my previous experience in the area. 
       That being said, I had mixed feelings of whether to bike to work or drive my vehicle.  I had become used to the rigors of cycle commuting in the city... making sure my bike was in prime working condition, wearing a helmet, having reflectors and lights, and most importantly in my opinion, always being a defensive cyclist. During the winters back east, when I had the season off as an instructor, I would find various jobs throughout the city which would have me traveling from one end to the other, often having to taking roads that lacked bicycle lanes, clearly invoking local motorists to honk at me, throw trash, and driving uncomfortably close.  The cultural contrast between Prescott and Philadelphia seemed like the well known idiom, comparing apples to oranges. In many ways, this is true... but standards for the cyclist did not vary as much as I had initially thought. 
       Most students who attend the On Campus Undergraduate program at PC don't have vehicles and therefore the majority of attendants walk or bicycle, especially if their residence is in the college dorms or nearby, which most are.  In congruence with the Prescott College motto, "For the Liberal Arts, the Environment, and Social Justice", this 'alternative' view of transportation coincides with the mission of the school, even arguably to the point where I would experience an intrinsic hypocritical struggle with having to drive my vehicle to class after leaving work.  
       Prescott is a very active, outdoors-focused society, and is regarded as an esteemed place for competitions including mountain biking, road biking and trail running... just to name a few.  The presence of these alongside the limited official bike lanes throughout Prescott has raised more than a few concerns, prompting the Non Profit NGO PAT, also known as Prescott Alternative Transportation, to begin working towards a more bicycle friendly community in 1997.  PAT has several programs that dial in on much needed focal points within the area, including Safe Route to Schools, sponsoring the Skull Valley Loop Challenge alongside Bike Prescott (all proceeds go towards PAT), and information packed symposiums, like this weekend's Get Off the Couch Event at Prescott College. 
       In my opinion, cycle commuting is an amazing way to explore, exercise, and connect with a community that could otherwise prove difficult from the driver's seat of a car.  Similar to getting a drivers, motorcycle, boating, or any other kind of motorized license, having knowledge of local cycling laws, rights and freedoms are imperative to being a safe and conscientious cyclist.  Along the same vein, it is the stark and imperative responsibility of everyone who moves to operate any type of transportation to implement safe and considerate practices while doing so.  Knowing the Local Bicycling Laws, alongside the general Highway Safety Laws, can help build accountability and trust among communities while ideally encourage harmonious roadside travel. 
Ghandi once said,
"Be the change you wish to see in the world." 

Get on out there and Roll Model.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Identity and Culture in Film watches “Selma”

Identity and Culture in Film watches “Selma”
By: Kelly Celeste Ramirez

Poster for "Selma"
There have been many media outbreaks this past year regarding freedom of speech ranging from “The Interview” to “Charlie Hebdo.” However, there is a very clear systemic issue when the voices of one group are held to a higher regard than the oppressed. Through the “Identity and Culture in Film” course, we critically analyze contemporary films and break down our synthesis into three major categories: the political economy, critical textual analysis, and audience reception.
In light of the recent controversy among the lack of diversity in a predominantly White nomination list for this year’s Academy Awards, our class headed out to the Picture Show to watch “Selma” for ourselves. It was our third day of class, yet we managed to carpool to the movie theater. With snacks and a notebook on hand, we slipped into the reclining leather seats and braced ourselves for a powerful 127 minutes.
Ava Duvernay
Oh, powerful it was. With an intelligent Black cast, empowering speeches, and raw police brutality scenes, how could it not be? The parallels to the activists in Ferguson, Missouri is uncanny. The tear gas, the senseless beating, and the murders by the police with no repercussions. It’s unsettling and it made me highly emotional to the point where I was speechless for a long while after the film ended.
Yet, this type of material was never covered in high school. We weren’t taught about Selma, Alabama. We weren’t taught that the Civil Rights Movement took 13 years. We were told it was ugly, but we never knew how ugly. In fact, one of my classmates commented that her high school history teacher had called Lyndon B. Johnson a Civil Rights hero. Really? I’m ready to tackle this paper. I’m ready to research for myself all that wasn’t taught in an education system that sweeps under the rug White privilege and systemic violence.
If you haven’t watched “Selma” yet, then take a moment to go out and buy yourself a ticket to the movie theater. Ava Duvernay deserves every view she can get in an industry that doesn’t value the voices of Black female directors.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Prescott: "Arizona's Christmas City"

In 1989, Prescott, Arizona was dubbed by Governor Rose Mofford to be Arizona's Christmas City. This year marks 60 years of the annual tradition of donning the trees of Courthouse Square with incredible lights, making a spectacularly colorful show every night they are illuminated. This year's show is rumored to be nicknamed the "Super Bowl of Christmas Lights."

A lit up Courthouse Square from 2013!

Since "tis the season," here are some winter happenings going on in our festive town:

32nd Annual Christmas Parade
Saturday, December 6th, 1PM-3PM, around downtown Prescott. The theme this year is "150 Years of Christmas Memories."

60th Annual Courthouse Lighting Celebration
Saturday, December 6th, Courthouse Square, 4PM for musical groups singing, 6PM for lighting ceremony.

Christmas City Charity Ball
Saturday, December 13th, 7PM-11PM at the Prescott Gateway Mall. $25 for adults, $10 for teens. 
For adults, there will be food, live music from the Steve Annibale band, a dance competition, carolers, and a silent auction, as well as a catered event for teenagers, with a performance by the Cross Eyed Possum band. The six charities being supported are:
Prescott Meals on Wheels, United Animal Friends, Prescott Area Habitat, Prescott Area Shelter Services, Prevent Child Abuse Arizona, and West Yavapai Guidance Clinic

Wildlights and Animal Sights
Every Friday and Saturday night of December, 6PM-9PM, at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary. A holiday lights display at the zoo! $3 for members of the zoo, $5 for nonmembers.

Home for the Holidays
This ongoing event, running through December 28th, is through the Yavapai Humane Society, and is reducing dog adoption fees to $30 and cat adoption fees to $25 to encourage the community to "give the gift of life to a deserving pet." They also are encouraging people who cannot adopt to donate items for their shelter!

Ice Skating at Tim's Toyota Center
Here is their schedule of open skating for the month of December:

Photos with Santa at the Prescott Gateway Mall
Here is the schedule of photos with Santa for the month of December:

And finally, to ring in 2015 in true Wild, Wild West fashion....

The boot last year!
The 4th Annual New Year's Eve Boot Drop
Wednesday, December 31st, 10PM and midnight on historic Whiskey Row in Downtown Prescott.
A 6 foot tall illuminated cowboy boot will be lowered from the Palace Building's flagpole at both 10PM and midnight. Fireworks occur at midnight. There will be live music, a carnival with a ferris wheel, giveaways, and food!

--Steph Doss

Monday, October 20, 2014

50 Years of Wilderness

Recently I took a PC block course entitled Topics in ADV: 50 Years of Wilderness: Place, Process, and Protection. When the course began I wasn't entirely sure of what Wilderness or wilderness meant (and I'm still working on it). And I have to tell you, it's not a fluffy topic, Wilderness. It's political. It's philosophical. It's closer to home than most people realize. 

Atop Escudilla Mountain

So before I go on, I'm going to cue you in on the brief history of the Wilderness Act.

The act was signed into federal law on September 3rd, 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and written by Howard Zahniser of the Wilderness Society. It went through nearly 60 different drafts over a period of 8 years and was a direct response to the visible loss of our American Beauty. At the moment of its signing, 9.1 million acres of land became federally protected. Today there are 109.5 million acres of Wilderness from coast to coast in our country. It's uniquely American...and I'm not one to be patriotic, but I am proud of the thinkers who endowed our future with the federal designation of wild places. 

...but what is Wilderness?
by the Wilderness Act's definition:
"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."

Escalante, Utah

Pretty poetic stuff, right? In more simple words, a place that might be considered for Wilderness designation must be free of human impact. The word "untrammeled" should receive particular poetic attention, I think. Something that is untrammeled is something free to act and express its truest form. The writer (Zahniser) wanted us to understand that Wilderness should be as free as we feel when we enter it. Because of this language in the act, agencies now question,  "Well, do we manage it for a changing climate...or do we leave it? Is Wilderness still free from man? Can it be?"  ...And that is where Wilderness gets political and philosophical. Do we manage Wilderness to protect it from human impact? Or do we let it do its thing? There's no right or wrong. I for one don't have the answers (yet), I'm still discovering where I fall on the spectrum of wilderness management.  

Instructor Doug Hulmes at 12,000 ft.
Aside from the politics which reign over Wilderness issues, our instructors wanted us to understand what sense of place we felt in these wild places, to understand why we felt it, and in the context of wilderness"Where is the nearest wilderness to you? Why do you seek out wilderness? What do you connect to? Landscape? What about the landscape?" They wanted us to understand that wilderness is a people's thing. It's for us (and more than often created by us). It should be protected by us. It's our future. It's our personal piggy bank of natural splendor,  it's our wealth. 

 I encourage readers to explore their Wilderness areas. Realize the beauty in an untrammeled land! Ask yourself the questions our instructors asked us and participate in the designation of new Wilderness Areas! You can get involved with groups like the Arizona Wilderness Coalition and the Sierra Club!

Please, watch our final class project! 50 Years of Wilderness (a movie)

by Audria Dennen
All photos belong to Audria Dennen

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rock & Yoga

“Jumping from boulder to boulder and never falling... is easier than it sounds; you just can't fall when you get into the rhythm of the dance.” --Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums  
(Just want to give out a shoutout to good ol' knick-knack Kerouac, who has been quoted in what seems like almost all of my blog posts... He's just got the right words!)
View from the top of the
Thumb Butte Scramble,
Prescott, AZ. 
Rock climbing became a part of my life earlier this year, around May, and I've never taken to something so quickly and wholly. Something about my naivety around it, because as many know the world of rock climbing is incredibly comprehensive, allowed me to feel like a child in this new context, unleashed and excited and wanting to, simply put, just go up. 

My first day climbing was in an area called Jack's Canyon, a bit outside Flagstaff, Arizona. I knew virtually nothing going into it, not understanding this grading system of 5.8's being lesser than 5.11's, or the jargon of "bomber crimps" and hand jams. I was clueless, and I think it worked to my advantage. Truthfully, I felt like a cat, moving from one hold to the next with grace, but the bruises and scars on my body tell different stories about my first day finesse. Regardless, I fell in love with it. It felt natural, and real, and like my body was supposed to do it. Unlike other sports where there were rules and balls and essentially social constructs of how things were "supposed" to be done, this was more primal, more about each individual's body and how that body can get up this specific rock, and it made much more sense to me. It felt like it was exactly what I was meant to do. 

(As a side note, this BY NO MEANS makes me some kind of climbing prodigy. I fall, and bruise, and have less than 5 months of experience under my belt. I'm absolutely learning, for sure, but it still feels right for me to do.)

I spent the summer climbing here and there, but primarily anticipating what would be my Fall Block course at Prescott College: a four week introductory intensive on, as you may have guessed, rock climbing.... and yoga. 

Now, contrary to my magical eye-opening experience with rock climbing, prior to block, I had tried yoga approximately twice in my life and absolutely hated it. In high school, I was a mid and long distance track/cross country runner, and any flexibility I had once felt in my body had disappeared after that. When I tried yoga, all I felt was hurt and impatience, and little bit of anger towards my parents for not forcing me into ballet or gymnastics as a toddler. In my eyes, it was the perfect practice for someone who just was not me: calm, steady, and bendable. 

But, despite all that, I gained an utmost respect for yogis and their practice, and so when I saw that this was a class, I decided to bite the bullet and do it. Yoga is something that is even more expansive than the climbing world. It is an incredible and beautiful philosophical system, which some may argue to be a religion in itself, of which the poses (asanas), comprise only a very very small part of. 

Climbing with friends in Tuolumne Meadows,
Yosemite National Park, CA.
So from August 26th to September 19th, my classmates and I spent three days a week rock climbing in Prescott and the nearby areas, and two days a week in "The Chapel" classroom of Prescott College practicing hatha yoga, and learning about the history and philosophies of the whole realm of yoga. In all honesty, this is one of the best classes I have taken in all of college. 

Some of my gear, featuring a cameo
appearance of my kitten, Alaska.

Despite what many think, this class wasn't only about the tactical skills of climbing, including anchor building, belaying, and knot tying, or the physical posture requirements of the yoga asanas. In truth, my biggest takeaway from this course was about the mental aspect of both. Through readings such as Arno Ilgner's The Rock Warrior's Way, or a section of Bill Garrett's master's thesis on yoga, I learned so much about how the mind plays a role in not just my performance in these activities, but in life in general. I learned to slow down, breathe, appreciate the moment, and bring my awareness to the present, which has been helpful in an uncountable amount of occasions. I learned about being more present with my relationship with myself and others, and listening to an inner voice, more commonly known as a "gut feeling."

(I even started to like yoga...)

I just learned and even when I didn't know I was learning, I was. It was awesome, especially when we were learning in places like the Granite Dells, Thumb Butte, Granite Mountain, and Sullivan's Canyon. I gained so much from this class that has improved my climbing, not even so much in technique but really a lot in my self talk and breathing during a climb. 

In summary, if you're a Prescott College student, or will be, you really should take this course. In short, it will change your thinking and will make you a better person for yourself and the world you're in, and you'll pick up two pretty popular activities around here. 

Loosely put, some "yoga" overlooking Half Dome in Yosemite Valley,
Yosemite National Park, CA. 
To end the way I began, another on-point Kerouac quote, this one from On the Road:
"What difference does it make after all? --Anonymity in the world of men is better than fame in heaven, for what's heaven? What's earth? All in the mind."
--Steph Doss, all photos are mine 

Monday, September 29, 2014

What the River Taught Me

“The river looked at him with a thousand eyes--green, white, crystal, sky blue. How he loved this river, how it enchanted him, how grateful he was to it! In his heart he heard the newly awakened voice speak, and it said to him: “Love this river, stay by it, learn from it.” -Siddhartha

I sat by the river on the last morning before departing, and found that this river had carried me through other trips I’ve been on in subtle and not so subtle ways. Looking out over the edges of the water, the word resiliency flowed into my head. I continued to admire the waters that fed me in various ways. Resiliency is the ability to overcome challenges, and if able, transform them into opportunities. Many humans face such difficulties as adversity, personal crises, and even larger systemic issues. I sat and thanked the river for supporting me, understanding that not many people get the opportunity to learn about resiliency through paddling part of the Colorado river.
I had a feeling that I may not like canoeing, as some have told me that those who enjoy kayaking may not like canoeing and vice versa. I was surprised to find that I now have another outdoor activity that I like to do to add to my list! I had a fantastic experience learning how to canoe on this trip, and I think the stretch of the Colorado River we did was the perfect teacher for me. I loved being on the water and the canoe being the mode of travel.
A cohort member and I taught a lesson on role modeling and stereotypes. It was the first time I had taught with her, and I appreciated facilitating with someone new. We complimented each other’s teaching styles well. We had a discussion on how role modeling relates to being a leader, and since we are all teachers in some capacity, we are essentially all role models. What we do, say, and how we act will affect the students we serve. In order for us to best serve students, we must take a look into ourselves, and understand our identity. Our personal experiences make up the myriad of ways we teach. Our assumptions often guide our reality and perception, which can be challenging to be aware of while teaching in a classroom. After the discussion, we separated into skits, and we did mini-plays of both positive and negative situations about stereotypes and role modeling.
I felt fortunate to be part of this really amazing group of people and to learn from one another this past week. It was a joy to see how others teach and put together more ideas and activities in my mental teaching portfolio.


Friday, August 15, 2014


"How did you learn to be a woman?" "What does it mean to be a "good" girl?" These questions are framed from the understanding that the ways in which women have been socially conditioned to act in a patriarchal society are oppressive. I walked around the space pondering this question posed by the facilitator, exploring intellectually as well as with movement the ways in which I have been told what being a woman is and looks like. 

This summer I made my way into New York City to experience a theatre workshop known as Madalena, facilitated by Barbara Santos. The workshop was done through Theatre of the Oppressed New York City, which,

 creates theatre troupes with community members who face pressing social, economic, health, and human rights issues. The troupes create and perform plays based on real-life struggles, which engage diverse audiences in theatrical brainstorming - or Forum Theatre - to activate communities and creatively challenge systems of oppression. 

I walked in knowing no one, but understanding that we had all arrived here for a specific reason that had brought us together. Though that feeling doesn't readily elicit trust, it is a beginning point to be able to remind myself that we are here to explore these questions together. The focus was directed towards women in order to create a space where women can discuss and interact with the specific oppressions they face in different situations. 
This is meant to be a space where mutual trust can be upheld and re-valued; where women find ways to overcome feelings of guilt, shame, and competition; and where women can confront the silence that has historically hid fundamental topics. Therefore, Madalena groups seek to build up an environment of recognition, visibility and empowerment so that women can reflect about their own oppressions, exchange ideas and support each other in the struggle for new quests.
 Women's bodies and intellect have been historically hidden for centuries, yet they are the "marketing window for mass media," which represents only certain types of women- arguably unhealthy and unrealistic. This type of media representation in the United States is hurting young girls and women. 

Themes that continually came up throughout the workshop when we would engage in short improvisational sharings were, covering our mouth and faces with our hands,  shutting our legs tightly, the act of shaving our bodies, and lastly working out while also having to look pretty. These are pressures that these women experienced in their lives which came through during the theatre activities. What these themes tell me is that there are double standards, unrealistic pressure to look and act a certain way (for who?) on a daily basis. Also, with the theme of covering our mouths and faces, which can mean many things for different women, one that I personally identify with is not being able to speak up (especially in the presence of men) because we are told that our voices don't matter. This reflects incredibly visibly within politics as men are predominately deciding the rights of women. 

This exploration into what women's experiences are sheds light on how to engage in dialogue with women, as we all come with our own experiences, socially, culturally, personally and otherwise.  Using theatre is a powerful method to interact with and honor women's stories and feelings.  

We began this workshop with pinning up a canvas of the hand prints of all women who have done the workshop before us and  pinned this up in the room so that the women would be with us. We ended the workshop by adding our hand prints.

Barbara Santos
 "Madalena laboratory is an innovative theatrical and research experience that uses aesthetic elements, and it is directed to women only to create effective strategies that help overcome their oppressions and that promote gender equity. The beginning point is the female body, which was kept out of sight for centuries and is the marketing window for mass media nowadays. Madalena Laboratory explores taboos and highly sensitive social topics, using art to visualize concrete pathways to outdo injustice and to transform reality."

For my Master's thesis, I will be facilitating an intergenerational, interdisciplinary theatre workshop early this Fall for women. If you are interested in being a research participant, please contact me @ Our first informational meeting will be in September. 

Quotes used from:  Public Workshops   &   Theatre of the Oppressed NYC

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Long Story

With my job as a student admissions counselor at Prescott College, one of the questions I frequently ask people is "How did you find out about Prescott College?"

More often than not, the answer involves a chuckle and, "It's a long story."

I get it. I soooo get it. My long story involves three colleges, three majors, a high school job at a fast food place, near exile by my family, and an ex-boyfriend. Believe me, I epitomize the long story of "How does one find herself at Prescott College?"

I'm not alone, either. Ask anyone here how they got here. What were those teeny, tiny seemingly insignificant steps that led you to move your entire life and world to Prescott, Arizona? What happened in your 3-year gap year that brought you back to school? Who did you meet on that NOLS course, or Outward Bound expedition, that knew you would love this place so much? When did you realize that Business School wasn't anything that you'd imagined it to be, and you actually wanted to study Social Advocacy and Justice in a program where you're actually doing activist work?

It's not a matter of why you're here, but how you got here-- and what are you going to study, who are you going to meet that will enable you to grow, where are you going to go with your education?

Why? Everyone knows why you're here. You're here because you've realized that Prescott College is exactly where you need to be to accomplish your goals, and you know that it's the right place for you to do so. Why are you at Prescott College? Because you were meant to be here. That's what your long story boils down to, your answer to "How did you find out about Prescott College?"-- Somehow, a million factors led you to exactly where you needed to be.

Call it fate, call it the reason everything happens, whatever you would like-- it's why PC goes by "Education is a journey, not a destination," and it's why we believe that Life is a River.

Your long story doesn't stop when you get here-- it's likely not even the middle of your long story when you do. You have so much more that will happen during your time here and after that will define another long story of how you got to another place-- whether it be your dream job, your graduate school, or your life's work commemoration. But Prescott College will be a big part in any and all of those things, and the subsequent steps.

One of the most beautiful things about Prescott College is that I have met so many incredible people from all places in life with stories to tell, and that I feel like I am considered as one of those people, as well. I write this as there are just over two weeks before the new incoming students for this fall arrive to begin their educational journey at PC, and I'm very excited to meet them and hear their long stories.

"But really, how did you get here?"

-Steph Doss

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Weekend in Prescott, Arizona

This past week, my mom and brother came to Arizona for the first time ever, and spent the weekend with me in good ol' Prescott. I figured that a two-three day time frame is what many people visiting the area face, and so I created a quick weekend guide that (I think) hits some of the best places in Prescott! Of course, check out to see if we have any special events going on in town, as well as deals with accommodations, but I have heard great things from people who stay at the Motor Lodge or Heritage House, and there is a hostel in town for a lower cost option!

And please remember, that this is entirely based off of my opinions and experiences, so take it with a grain of salt, and pave your own path! 


8:00 AM -- Breakfast at Cupper's Coffee House on Cortez Street! If you're a coffee person like me, try out their cold brew, but if you like tea I highly recommend the Tibetan Chai.

8:45 AM -- Drove out to Thumb Butte (approx. 5-10 minutes from downtown) for the quintessential hike of Prescott. It's about an hour round trip I would say, and when you come up to the trail head you'll notice that there is a fork in the road. Truthfully, these are both ends of the trail, and the left one up is much steeper (i.e. initially difficult) than the right one, so it's really a pick your poison kind of thing! It's gorgeous from the top regardless though.

10:30 AM -- Headed to Prescott College (approx. 5 minutes from Thumb Butte) for a tour of the school. My family really hadn't seen it until my mom and brother came here, and I can honestly say they were head over heels for our campus, from the incredible amount of sustainable features to the level of activity going on, even in the summer time. (This part is especially important if you're a prospective student looking at this, because you can get a $250 Visit Grant for taking a tour, with the added bonus of falling in love with the school like I did.)

12:00 PM -- Lunch at the Crossroads Cafe! It's the dining option located on campus, and so it was an easy, convenient and yummy decision for us. 

1:00 PM -- Drove out to the Granite Dells (approx. 10-15 minutes from downtown), for the hike nicknamed "Below the Dam," that begins off of Granite Dells Road.   
I think doing this hike is the easiest way to convince anyone that Prescott is really, really rad. For whatever reason, I always kind of feel like a dinosaur there, just because there are these HUGE granite boulders towering everywhere and these little spurts of vegetation that grow between them. I don't know, it's just very Jurassic Park/Land Before Time to me, and I love it. As any 8 year old would be, my little brother was running ahead of us because of all his excitement. Both him and my mother said it was their favorite part of the trip.

As a fair warning, it is a longer hike, and so make sure you bring plenty of water, sunscreen and maybe a snack! It's not necessarily super strenuous, but it can be dexterously challenging at some parts, so just mind your footing. There are also tons and tons of bolted rock climbing routes set up in the area (many by the Prescott College instructor Kevin Keith), and so a stop at The Hike Shack or Manzanita Outfitters in town would be able to supply you with a guide to the routes, as well as trad climbing and bouldering in the area.

4:00 PM -- So after this massive hike, I dropped my family off at their hotel, and I went home, for all of us to take a quick shower and nap before dinner.

7:00 PM -- All refreshed, we walked to Taj Mahal on Montezuma Street for some exotic cuisine with a couple of my closest friends. The food there is some of the most delicious in town, and even my super picky brother couldn't resist trying some rice and chicken in sauce. I recommend the shrimp or fish masala with naan!

8:30 PM -- Walked back to my house for some evening tea and to recap the day we had. First day success, they loved it here!


7:30 AM -- Breakfast at Sweet Potato Cafe (approx. 5 minute drive from downtown), which if you don't try out their amazing sweet potato pancakes or sweet potato bread served with cinnamon butter, what's the point of going? This breakfast is quite filling, too!

8:30 AM -- We then parked in downtown, and did a morning walkabout the square, learning a little bit about the history and looking at the different shops. Most weekends in the summer there are art and craft vendors in the square, or some sort of special event! This summer, we celebrated the sesquicentennial of Prescott (150 year birthday), commemorated the anniversary of the 19 firefighters lost in the tragic Yarnell fire, and had several 4th of July parades during the same weekend as the World's Oldest Rodeo. We're a very proud and spirited town!

9:30 AM -- Next, we headed to the Yavapai College campus for the weekly farmer's market. During the winter, it is actually on the Prescott College campus. There are tons of local, organic produce sold by farmers, as well as many homemade jams and jelly, and for whatever reason, people love bringing their dogs to these kinds of things, so I was in heaven just petting everyone's pup. My mom got me this phenomenal pomegranate jelly made in Snowflake, AZ, which is really delicious with almond butter on a rice cake.

10:15 AM -- Drove to the Lynx Lake Ruins Trailhead (approx 15-20 minute drive from downtown). The entire Lynx Lake Recreation Area is gorgeous and has an incredible amount of trails for hiking, mountain biking, or horse riding, but I decided on this one for the educational aspect of the ruins. While to most it will look like a pile of rocks, it's actually just authentically the ruins of a nomadic tribe long ago that have never been touched. Another really awesome reason this short/easy hike (only 1.5 miles round trip) is worth it, is because at the top you get a beautiful view of the different water sheds coming together, as well as the various mountains and valleys that surround Prescott. We also did the neighboring trail, another short, beautiful hike through the riparian area.

(From a different time hiking the ruins trail, with friends. Pretty sure it was in February--check out the gorgeous weather!)
12:30 PM -- Since this was the last World Cup weekend and my mom and I are both futbol nuts, we had to find somewhere to watch the third place game, especially since my team (Netherlands) was in it. Cue Liquor Deli on Goodwin Street, which, despite its name, is a very family friendly place, where my little brother ate "the best chicken nuggets ever," and we spent a couple hours staring at a soccer screen and chatting with the employees about the upcoming final.

3:00 PM -- After a satisfying win by the Dutch, and lunch to boot, we decided to go on a nice mountain drive to the awesome town of Jerome (approx. 1 hour from Prescott). It's such a rad, artsy kind of place rich in mining history, and my mom loved it all. We spent some time just walking around and poking about the different shops, saw an old sliding jail and other historical elements left outside, and just enjoyed the afternoon there.

5:00 PM -- Then, I made an executive decision that they simply just had to SEE Sedona, because, well, it's Sedona and I had never seen anything so beautiful. But, it was getting late and by the time we would get there it would be close to 6, and then by the time we got back to Prescott it would be getting close to 8, and so we decided to just drive through. It was so worth it. The actual town of Sedona, Arizona is incredibly touristy and has capitalized on the hippie vibe deal too much, but even that cannot take away from the gorgeous-beyond-belief red rocks and spires that just surround and engulf you.

In my opinion, the best way to enjoy Sedona (or anywhere, really) is by hiking it, but we just didn't have time. We did stop at a trail head though, just to get some shots of the sunshine poking through the ominous thunder clouds rolling in.

7:30 PM -- Back in Prescott, we headed to The Raven (on Cortez Street) for dinner, where my exhausted brother ate a cheeseburger the size of his head, and my mom and I enjoyed some live music. Somehow The Raven always manages to have live music every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night without fail. We then parted ways for the last time, because they had a flight very early the next morning and needed to get down to Phoenix. They said they loved their time here, and were sure to come back.

And they have to because...


...they still haven't seen the Grand Canyon!

It's about a 3.5-4 hour drive from Prescott to the South Rim, and if you're feeling extra ambitious you can drive a bonus 4-5 hours to the North Rim, which will have less people but there and back you'll be in a car for basically an entire day. Either way, it's worth it.

With my best friend, almost a year ago, on the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon (South Rim). No editing done to this photo, it's really this beautiful.

So there ya go! If you ever pop into Prescott, Arizona for a weekend, I hope that you'll check out some of the places I mentioned on here! Every day I spend in this town, and state, I find new places and things to love, and I hope you will find that, too. 

--Steph Doss
(All pictures are mine.)