Colgate Celebrates Second Annual Arts, Creativity, and Innovation Weekend 

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Before a standing-room-only crowd in Colgate Memorial Chapel on Friday, April 5, National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman invited the audience to “become part of the performance,” demonstrating how spectators at poetry readings often snap their fingers when they hear something that particularly resonates. 

“I want to hear you, Colgate,” she explained. “You are part of this, so please feel free to make some noise for me.” 

Her visit was the keynote event during the second annual celebration of arts, creativity, and innovation at Colgate, which once again brought hundreds of alumni, parents, and friends to campus for performances, workshops, presentations, and panel discussions. Gorman’s talk was sponsored by the Kerschner Family Series Global Leaders at Colgate. 

Poet Amanda Gorman in conversation with Professor Kezia Page

Gorman, who graduated with a B.A. in sociology from Harvard, began her talk with three poems from her 2021 bestselling book, Call Us What We Carry. She then joined Professor of English and Africana & Latin American Studies Kezia Page for a lively conversation that ranged in topics from sociology and Black history to her “speech impediment turned superpower" and texting with Oprah. (It was Oprah, Gorman explained, who gifted the young poet with the now-iconic yellow Prada coat for her reading at the 2021 presidential inauguration, along with her “caged bird” ring and earrings — a nod to the late Maya Angelou, she said.)

Much of Call Us What We Carry, including the titular work, was inspired by Gorman’s observations during COVID-19 — and the pandemic’s “lasting impact on social trust and human connection,” she said. In her poem “Fugue,” Gorman writes about “the importance of small moments of being in a room or being connected or interacting with people that actually create the fabric of social trust that a nation depends on.”

The youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, Gorman also shared how dramatically her life changed after delivering her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” before millions as part of President Biden’s inauguration in January 2021.

“I remember stepping off the podium. I was like, ‘Oh, that went better than I expected,’ and I remember … looking at my phone, and it was basically on fire. I literally couldn't even hold it,” she said. “And I think I'm still processing that change, what that is, what that did to me, what that did to my relationships, and what that did to my craft. I'm just trying to handle that growth with as much intentionality and grace as I can.” 

Prior to the Gorman keynote, the weekend’s events began in the chapel on Thursday, when former University president Rebecca Chopp joined Douglas Johnson, dean of academic and curricular affairs and William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Ellen Kraly, professor of geography and environmental studies, for a discussion on Alzheimer's disease. Chopp, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s five years ago, shared how she has coped mentally and physically in her book, Still Me: Accepting Alzheimer’s Without Losing Yourself.

On Friday afternoon, campus guests participated in a series of faculty-led, ACI-focused workshops. Hosted by faculty in music, computer science, art and art history, earth and environmental geosciences, peace and conflict studies, museum studies, and theater, students, alumni, and guests experienced Colgate’s innovative arts curriculum firsthand through experiments and improvisation. 

Other Friday events included a talk with Ann Pancake, author of the award-winning novel Strange as the Weather Has Been, part of the Dark Skies in Appalachia symposium.

The Future of Middle Campus

Saturday’s program began with a panel discussion featuring arts and innovation faculty members and alumni: Aaron Gember-Jacobson, associate professor of computer science, chair of the department of computer science; Jeffrey Sharp ’89, executive director, The Gotham Film and Media Institute; Ashleigh Cassemere-Stanfield, assistant professor of film and media studies; Ryan Chase, assistant professor of music; Christian DuComb, associate dean of the faculty for faculty recruitment and development and associate professor of theater; and Julian Farrior ’93, CEO and founder, Sunblink Entertainment. 

Mary Simonson, the Daniel C. Benton ’80 Endowed Chair in arts, creativity, and innovation, professor of film & media studies and women's, gender, and sexuality studies, served as moderator. 

The panelists shared their thoughts on how the new Bernstein Hall — the former Benton Center, at the heart of a new Middle Campus — will help foster collaboration and innovation across disciplines and inspire student and faculty creativity. 

“We're thinking really carefully about arts and technology and the fact that these two things are increasingly impossible to separate out,” said Simonson. “That's something that many of us in our work think about all the time — how we can help our students understand that those two worlds are increasingly one world.”

Student entrepreneurs presented their ventures during the TIA Showcase.
Student entrepreneurs, including Chayce Canty ’27, presented their ventures during the TIA Showcase.

Exploring Innovative Student Ventures

At Saturday’s Thought Into Action Entrepreneur Showcase, presented by the Office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, student and alumni entrepreneurs presented their ventures at booth displays. They competed for investment certificates (called “iggies”) given to attendees, with the instructions to award their dollars to the start-ups most worthy of their investment. 

The informal showcase was followed by the presentation of the Colgate Entrepreneur of the Year Award to Craig Hatkoff ’76, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival and the Disruptor Awards. In his acceptance remarks, Hatkoff shared his insight into the rise of AI and how budding entrepreneurs should think about tools like ChatGPT.

“The winners in this coming chaos and tumult will be the people who can tell the stories the best,” said Hatkoff. “Storytelling is humanity’s killer app.”

In the “Shark Tank” portion of the event, five groups of student and alumni entrepreneurs presented their ventures, which included a line of farm-grown lavender products, a collectible sports card resale business, and a soy-free soy sauce. The winner and the recipient of a $5,000 prize as chosen by the panel of entrepreneur judges: Pair + Care, a student-run childcare service founded by Chayce Canty ’27, Maddie Theveny ’27, and Henry Galicich ’27. Judges praised the students for their “confident pitch with elements of humility, which is exactly what we see in founders,” noted judge Don De Laria. Pair + Care was also the first-place winner of the “iggie” investment game, taking home an additional $605 to grow their venture. 

The TIA Showcase also featured the first live performance by the student-led Colgate Symphonic Band.

Other events on Saturday included the annual spring a cappella concert with the Mantiphondrakes, the Swinging ’Gates, and the Colgate Thirteen. On Sunday, guests took in a lesson in the Japanese Way of Tea in the newly renovated tea room in Lawrence Hall led by Ruriko Yamakawa, a certified instructor of the Omote-senke Japanese Tea Tradition.

The weekend’s final event was a performance from the Colgate Chamber Players, directed by Professor of Music and Africana & Latin American Studies Laura Klugherz.

In his remarks before the TIA Showcase, President Brian Casey shared his vision for the future of arts, creativity and innovation at Colgate — and its burgeoning Middle Campus.

“We are just a couple hundred yards away from what will be Bernstein Hall, which is the physical manifestation of an institution embracing creativity in all its expressions,” he said. “From my vantage point, this is a weekend filled with energy, excitement, intelligence, and a sense of the future.”