An alternative approach
By all accounts, the last few years of Deming Haines’s CA experience were challenging ones. In 2014, he had transferred into CA as a junior—a tricky transition in and of itself—made all the more difficult by a serious medical condition. He was grappling with post-concussive syndrome which left him with debilitating daily headaches. The headaches would prove so disruptive as to necessitate repeating his junior year.
“It was one of the hardest times of my life,” recalls Haines. “Here it was my junior year, when I’m supposed to be applying to college, when I want to be able to present the best version of myself. My headaches knocked all that down.”
When it came time to apply to colleges, he found himself in uncharted waters. “I was a first for CA; no one had ever repeated their junior year. We weren’t sure how colleges would respond or what my realistic options were.” He also still had severe headaches to contend with and uncertainty around what would be feasible for him, physically and cognitively.
Despite the looming question marks, guided by college counselor Leya Jones, Haines threw himself into the process. His essays, a cathartic opportunity for self-reflection, focused on his challenges and the personal growth he’d achieved as a result.
“My headaches are a hardship, but, in many ways, I think it strengthened my applications,” he explains. “Colleges could see my perseverance. They could see everything that I had gone through and that, despite it all, I was still doing well academically, and I was still excited to go to college.”
At CA, Haines had loved physics, but an independent study mentored by media arts teacher Steven O’Neill strengthened his passion for photography. He knew he wanted a school where he could explore both, preferably in small classes with ample opportunities for faculty connection, a dimension of his CA experience he had always appreciated.
It was ultimately Colorado College—a small liberal arts college in Colorado Springs that offers a nontraditional block curriculum—that captured his interest. Jones had initially hoped the alternative approach might help to ease Haines’s transition to college.
Colorado College’s block curriculum offers an intensive, experiential deep dive into one subject at a time. Students complete the equivalent number of credit hours as a typical semester-long course in just 3.5 short weeks thanks to daily classes ranging from three to six hours long. When one block ends, students enjoy a brief four-day break before jumping into the next.
“It’s really rigorous, perhaps even more so than traditional classes,” says Haines. “There is a constant grind, but the structure lends itself to rewarding and immersive learning opportunities, like field trips and collaborative projects, that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.”
Challenging? Yes, but Haines enjoys it. He’s now settled in as a studio arts major and is taking full advantage of the wide-ranging interdisciplinary offerings that will round out his requirements for graduation.
“The liberal arts requirements are designed to push you out of your comfort zone, to encourage exploration and discovery. I love that aspect of CC,” explains Haines. “You are exposed to subjects you might never have otherwise considered. For my social inequality credit, I took a block on nonviolence; it was the most eye-opening class I’ve ever taken.”
Another highlight has been collaborating with a team to invent and pitch an event-finding app—a concept he originated in an earlier design-thinking block—at CC’s Big Idea Competition, an entrepreneurial pitch competition that awards $50,000 to the top three teams (Haines’s team was among the top five).
Next fall, when he returns to campus, he will launch his first on-campus photography exhibition thanks to being awarded a $1,000 Venture Grant. “I’ve been so blown away by all the resources Colorado College has, all the many ways that it can help me do what I love.”
As for what comes next, Haines is certain that it will involve photography— a series of Haines’s nature photographs completed as part of his senior CA capstone project are on exhibit in the Center and Math and Science—but beyond that he’s not sure. “Right now, I am interested in aligning product photography with fine art photography, but, who knows, as I continue to learn I might go in a whole new direction.” He adds confidently, “I’m open to possibilities.”