CCPA in Taos

Six students from Corporate Communications and Public Affairs in will serve as communications interns at nonprofit organizations in Taos, NM this summer. By day, students will work with national and regional organizations, including Habitat for Humanity and The Harwood Museum; addressing issues from at-risk youth and the environment to housing and the arts. By night, they will attend classes at the SMU-in-Taos campus. Additionally, students will serve as marketing and event volunteers for the annual Taos Solar Music Festival.

All good things must come to an end

An update from Elyse, a CCPA major:

It’s my last day here in Taos, and I can’t help but wonder where this month has gone! Taos is a magical place, and I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to come study here.

Aside from working at an amazing nonprofit, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, I have had amazing experiences and made some great friends. Taos is so different from Dallas; instead of going to bars we go camping or to bonfires.

One of my favorite things has been night hiking up to Williams Lake, camping there for the night, and then hiking up Wheelers Peak, the highest peak in New Mexico. Even though it was one of the hardest hikes I have ever been on in my life, once I reached the top all that hard work was worth it. The view was beautiful and the cool breeze felt amazing.

Another one of my favorite things was attending the Taos Solar Festival. Our CCPA class volunteered and helped set up for the festival, and got to hear some great music. Getting the chance to see Pat Green and Los Lonely Boys amid the Taos locals is an experience I will never forget.

I also loved going on all the fun field trips my professor planned. We went to famous places like the Taos Art Museum, Chimayo, Santa Fe and the Taos Pueblo to see the Native Americans do a corn dance.

I am really going to miss Taos. I’m spoiled by the 360-degree view of mountains. I am also going to miss the people in Taos. Everyone here is so passionate about what they are doing that it’s hard not to get inspired. SMU-in- Taos is such an amazing program. I would highly recommend it to anyone. I can’t wait to come back!

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Counting blessings

An update from Rilee, a senior CCPA major:

I have been in Taos, NM for 24 days, and I think it would be irresponsible of me not to document what I have gained from this experience.

If I were to give advice to someone who only knows their immediate surroundings and never leaves what they know, please break that cycle. Do not live in fear of the unknown or unfamiliar – there is too much that the world has to offer you.

As far as Dallas goes, do not get sucked into the money and the industrial society; though I know it is easy to do. Coming from suburbs, lights, and cars, it is so easy to make that your world. It is not bad to live in the city, actually, it is quite helpful when striving to induce change. You have resources, money, and attention in the cities, more attention than the attention given here. Use that to make a change for humanity.

I may sound like a dream chaser, but I believe it is better to chase dreams than nothing at all. Find your passion, whether it be art, the ocean, the land, people, or animals; make it better. Use the talent and the gifts God has given you; impact a life.

Do not forget that there is a world outside of your own. Not everyone has it easy; in fact, most people have it hard. I have seen such struggle here, but all the while, I have seen beautiful spirits and lights that shine from within, much brighter than the city lights of Dallas.

As far as leaving loved ones behind, what can I say – this was the hardest thing I have done in my entire life. However, I am alive and I am writing this. I am stronger in my faith, and I have a deeper appreciation for love, friends, and family. This time apart is quite remarkable. It made me realize what is important and to not take people, things, and situations for granted.

I see a struggle for so many things here, and for most, it is a lifelong struggle. For me, my personal struggle is only temporary. I have a set of warm arms to go home to – a job, friends, and a roof over my head. I suppose what I am getting at is be thankful. Be thankful for everything you have in your life and count your blessings. However, in the same token, do not underestimate how strong you are inside and how you can make a difference. Also, do what makes you happy and follow your dreams.

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Diving into environmental work

An update from Louis, an environmental studies, finance and economics major:

My experience with Amigos Bravos this summer has been an extremely valuable one that has really helped to shape and explore my desired focus for the future. I planned to come to Taos and work with a conservation group to get a taste for a career in the environmental sector, and wow, did I get more out of the experience than I could have imagined.

The work I did with Amigos Bravos allowed me to see the processes of a nonprofit group “guided by social justice principles and dedicated to preserving and restoring the ecological and cultural integrity of New Mexico’s waters,” and just how much passion and dedication goes into that goal.

Prior to beginning the internship, I ignorantly envisioned Amigos Bravos as an organization that picks up trash along the Rio Grande; I was very wrong! Not only does it address current issues concerning water quality in the Rio Grande and all water bodies in the state, it also works to remedy problems in the past that today affect water quality and to prevent possible future complications.

Through the internship, I met many extremely interesting people and saw much of New Mexico that I would not have seen otherwise. I learned not only about the different avenues, countless variables and extremely layered processes of protecting and restoring water-bodies, but also came to develop an appreciation and fascination for northern New Mexico.

In just seven weeks with Amigos Bravos I have developed a new appreciation for the fundamental necessity of water. I have learned more about nonprofits, water quality protection and restoration, made more contacts and friendships, and grown to love the landscape and rivers of New Mexico. This truly is the Land of Enchantment.

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Busy work pays off

An update from Whitney, a CCPA and marketing major, with a minor in art history:

These past two weeks have by far been the busiest I’ve had in a summer. If I’m not at work, I’m dashing around town or on an adventure with my class. So far, work is very exciting and is keeping me very busy. The three exhibits are opening this weekend, so a lot of our energy has been focused on those.

The Taos Pueblo photographs exhibit looks amazing. It’s so cool to see these pictures from the early 20th century of the Pueblo because it shows the Pueblo in a more natural state before it became a tourist attraction. Yesterday, the man who donated these photographs came to the museum and gave the docents a tour. I came along for the tour as well; it was so interesting to listen to him talk about the different methods the photographers used and how he acquired the different photographs.

The Gene Kloss exhibit is also opening this weekend. All of her prints are wonderful depictions of Native American art. The best part is seeing work that you’ve spent weeks doing finally coming to fruition.

One of my primary tasks at work is creating brochures and catalogs for the museum patrons to take with them. Seeing someone browsing over something you’ve created is so rewarding…you actually see your work in use.

The Harwood has also recently announced a call for entries for an upcoming exhibit, New Mexorado, celebrating artists living and working in the Albuquerque-Denver corridor. I’ve spent a lot of my time at work getting the word out. Last week I wrote out a PSA (public service announcement) and sent it to local public radio stations in the “New Mexorado” area, I created a Facebook event and invited local artists, gallery owners, and college art departments, and I wrote a press release that will eventually be sent out to local media.

Whitney%20Williamson%20.jpg Onto the fun stuff…last weekend was a complete whirlwind! On Friday, our class went on a field trip to Santa Fe. We walked around the plaza and explored the city before we stopped at a rooftop pizzeria for lunch.

After we left Santa Fe we went to the church at Chimayo. The church is an extremely spiritual site; every year people make a pilgrimage to Chimayo, and the dirt at Chimayo is said to be healing. People bring containers to scoop dirt into to heal their ailments. It was very moving to see where people have left crutches, braces, photographs, etc. as a testament to being healed.

Next, we headed off to Angel Fire for a relaxing weekend. We cooked steaks and stayed up all night talking. The next day we drove up to the lake at Eagle’s Nest and relaxed in the sun, and were all completely sunburned afterward! We made a quick dinner stop at a local pizza restaurant before heading back home.

This week I returned full speed ahead to work. I can’t believe that this is my last full week in Taos! It’s been so much fun, but I am ready to get back to Dallas to see my friends and family just in time for July 4!

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Good for the soul

An update from Rebecca, who graduated in May with CCPA and sociology degrees:

I am sad that the Taos June term is coming to an end; I don’t want to leave. I guess it probably has something to do with the fact that I am leaving college in addition to Taos – that in a few weeks, I will be home in my apartment in Dallas applying for PR jobs and “settling down.”

But most of my hesitation to re-enter the real world has to do with my appreciation for the culture and lifestyle of New Mexico and Taos specifically. I like the slow pace here. I like that there is a melting pot of culture and idealism; everyone here is unique, and most are forced to be inclusive and open-minded as a result. I like the lack of pretention and materialism – attitudes which are inescapable in Dallas. I love the landscape. The beauty here makes me want to make art and explore nature, and it inspires me to live well and enjoy the better things.

I strongly encourage every SMU student to apply to the Taos program. To be cliche, Taos is good for your soul.

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Good vibrations

An update from Elyse, a CCPA major:

Elyse%20mudding%20.jpg The rumors are true; there is a different vibration in Taos, New Mexico. I’ve only been in Taos for a week, and I’ve already gone white-water rafting through the Rio Grand River Gorge, swam in the natural hot springs in Ojo Caliente, hiked along nature trails, helped re-mud the famous San Francisco de Asis church, and shopped in Arroyo Seco and the Taos Plaza.

In between all of these adventures I have met some great people, and whether hanging out in town, in our casitas, eating at the dining hall, or going to the bonfire, there has never been a dull moment.

In addition to all of these activities, I’ve enjoyed my classes. I am taking CCPA 3385: Civil Society, Advocacy, and Campaigns. Plus, I’m doing a nonprofit internship at Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.

The classes in Taos are very different from the classes in Dallas. They are much smaller and more intimate. In fact, one of my favorite things has been bonding with the people in my class and my teacher, Professor Flournoy.

She placed me with a wonderful nonprofit. The people at RMYC are great – very welcoming and helpful. I’m excited about the rest of my time here in Taos. I know I will gain a wealth of knowledge about nonprofits, myself and the culture of New Mexico.

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Learning through action

An update from Rebecca, who graduated in May with CCPA and sociology degrees:

The Taos summer program has been a great experience thus far, because it has allowed me to interact with school, work, professors, peers and my surrounding culture in manners which are both unique and beneficial.

I just graduated from SMU (working on my last college credit – a nonprofit, communications internship at Habitat for Humanity of Taos), and in my week here I have bonded more with classmates and professors than in my entire previous four years. I attribute the change to good leadership in an environment where professors favor real knowledge and hands-on learning through experience to busy work and tight regulations.

Here biology students trap the animals they dissect; art students hike the locations they wish to capture; anthropology students conduct actual digs outside their tents. The result is that students are given more freedom, learn better through action and bond more with classmates through a shared experience beyond the classroom.

My CCPA program has definitely been practical and hands-on in this manner. My classes have investigated how I can better the corporate communications and public relations within my nonprofit. This has also allowed me to build a portfolio of work to take to potential employers. So far I have created Facebook and Twitter accounts for Habitat for Humanity of Taos in addition to working on their website and written documents.

As our internships are individual, CCPA students do not have as many opportunities as other students to bond as a group. I am grateful to Professor Nina Flournoy for organizing outside activities that are not internship-related and that help us better understand Taos and its unique history and culture.

She already has taken us through the local shopping and arts in Taos and nearby areas, showed us natural sights like the gorge, helped us “mud” the San Francisco de Asis Church (much fun!), taken us to a corn celebration and the casino in the Pueblo, and gone out to dinner with us. Our plans for next weekend involve Angel Fire, fly fishing, steak, and Santa Fe – can’t wait!

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The great outdoors

Louis%20and%20fish%20.jpg An update from Louis, an environmental studies, finance and economics major:

For those who enjoy the outdoors and want to take in some fresh air, Taos is the place to be. I’ve been here since May, interning with Amigos Bravos, Inc., a statewide river protection and restoration organization.

The daily activities with the group have really added to my Taos experience. I spend most days outside, researching in the field and enjoying the landscape of the Rio Grande and the Rio Pueblo de Taos.

Last week was our annual fund-raising event – a great success. I’ve even been on the local radio and TV stations to announce the progress with Amigos Bravos and give updates on some current projects.

Outside of the internship, Professor Flournoy has taken us on some excellent field trips. Over the weekend we went to the Corn Dance at the Pueblo – an authentic spiritual ritual to encourage a productive crop season and harvest come fall. We also helped to restore the adobe San Francisco de Asis Church.

I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the term. The next two weekends will be awesome; a stay in Angel Fire and then helping with and enjoying the Taos Solar Music Festival. Loving the Land of Enchantment!

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Making an impact

An update from Rilee, a senior CCPA major:

This place is brilliant, absolutely the best experience of my college career thus far.

I had no intention earlier this year of coming to Taos, NM for summer school, but I am so happy that I decided to follow through with the idea.

I am currently interning for the Taos Center for the Arts (TCA), one of the oldest nonprofit organizations in New Mexico. Located across from the downtown Taos plaza, my nonprofit is in the heart of the historical arts district of this culturally diverse community. My job includes writing press releases, contacting editors of the region and improving their social networking sites.

My main project is to promote the TCA’s upcoming Quick Draw event. This event includes artists from around the region, and it is highly important that the community participates in this event for it to be successful. Each artist will produce a piece of art during Quick Draw; at the end of the event, each piece will be placed in an auction. The proceeds will go directly to the TCA and will be used to improve its role in the community.

I am so honored to be a part of something so special and impactful. I have made so many friends in just one week, and I have learned to appreciate other cultures. Coming to Taos has been an eye-opening experience and has allowed me to put classroom knowledge into action. I encourage anyone who has an interest in this program to take the opportunity.

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The Taos way of life

An update from Lauren, a CCPA major:

Lauren.jpg Campus life in Taos is amazing. It is a very relaxed environment; however, there is always something to do.

Last Sunday, a group of us joined the Wellness class on their rafting trip down the Rio Grande. Rafting is a must if you plan on coming out here!

My CCPA class has also gone to many interesting places around Taos. Last Friday our class got the opportunity to work on re-mudding the San Francisco de Asis Church. Working on the church was not as easy as I thought it would be, but it’s cool to say we were a part of helping maintain such a historic site.

Sunday our class traveled to the Taos Pueblo and witnessed another historic event, Corn Dance Feast Day. After studying the Corn Dance in another class, it was interesting to watch the dance live, and see where and how the culture lives. However, I think the best part of that day was stopping at the Casino on the way back to campus!

I am also working for the nonprofit DreamTree Project for my CCPA internship while here in Taos. The cause is helping homeless and at-risk youth develop life skills for a better future. I like working with the nonprofit; however, sometimes I feel like there is so much needing to be done and no idea where to begin. It takes some adjusting to get used to the Taos way of communication, which is a lot different from the constant up-to-date, social media that is so popular in most cities.

I can respect their way of doing things, though, because it matches with the culture here. People in Taos love the town, and you can see it in everyone, which is really amazing to encounter on a daily basis. I love it here!

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