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What’s a Block?

By Heather Ezell ’14

Heather Ezell '14

As a CC student, the most frequent question I’m asked by non-CC individuals is, “What is a block?” I’m often overly excited and prone to ramble at this inquiry, as how can one truly portray the essence of a block to someone who has never experienced a block?

After two years of responding to the question, I now recognize that my answer’s depth depends on the given situation. Below are my most common scenarios.

My response while at the dentist.

“One course,” I gag, “in 3 ½ weeks.”

“Fascinating,” he scrapes a back molar. “But how?”

“One at a time.”

He pauses his work. “What is it like?”

“Epic.” Drill. “Ouch.”

My exchange with a seatmate on an airplane when I wanted to read but was nonetheless eager to explain.

“Colorado College? That’s the place with the weird schedule, right?”

“Yeah, the Block Plan. It’s fantastic.”

“But what is a block?”

“It’s a single course that covers a semester’s worth of material in 3 ½ weeks.”

My seatmate was still perplexed. “Does that actually work?”

“Absolutely. Classes meet daily, usually from nine to noon,” I said. “We take one block eight times a year—completing the same amount of credits as any other college, just moving at a different speed.”

“But do you like it?”

“I transferred to CC for the Block Plan.” I said. “Not only do I tangibly feel like I’m growing through what I learn, but I’m active in my own education. Last summer I studied Shakespeare in London, where I mastered the literature and experienced the culture. The learning didn’t stop when I closed my books.”

“But that was just a special summer program, right?”

I shook my head. “Blocks abroad are offered year round and extended domestic field trips are frequent. We observe and participate in our studies, gaining far more than we could from a lecture.”

“But what about the normal classes—the ones on campus—what makes those special?”

“I’d say the engagement. Discussions are the core of classes and a first-name basis with professors and classmates is the norm. And, ultimately, no matter where your class takes place, at the end of each block you feel as if you’ve accomplished something huge.”

“Wow.”

The plane reached its cruising altitude. “It’s epic, yet I still have time for pleasure reading.”

My seatmate was left in awe as I turned my attention to my book.  

What I write when a prospective student emails me, knowledgeable about the Block Plan but unsure if it’s the right fit.

Dear You,

I transferred to CC after several years at various schools that all ran on the semester system, years in which I was restless and craved full immersion. I ached for a fast paced environment where my stamina could maintain a high speed and my focus would remain steady. I found this at CC on the Block Plan. For me, a semester was an exhaustive yawn, while a block is an invigorating sprint.

The Block Plan insists on engagement. I’m spoiled by the kinship and invigoration that CC’s small classes offer. It’s our blocks that manifest our close-knit community—we all run on the same schedule and dance to the same odd beat. After discussion breaks for the day, I have the freedom to pursue my other passions. I work two jobs. I participate in clubs. I practice ballet through one of the many afternoon adjuncts. It can be overwhelming when I have a paper to write or a book to read in a single night, but the Block Plan has taught me how to balance. It works.

You may work harder than you ever have before on the Block Plan. Sometimes you might wish you could pause and walk but—if you’re passionate and willing to give each class your all—the run is rewarding. You recognize that education, work, friendship, and personal growth have no boundaries. You realize just how much you can accomplish in 3 ½ weeks.

Sincerely,

Me

And, ultimately, the most important response of them of them all—what I’d tell my younger self who initially hesitated to give the Block Plan a try:

“Make the jump. You will fly.”