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Campus Life

Block Party 2019: a real BREAKTHROUGH

Identity, self-care and virtual learning take center stage

Author Guest Contributor | Publish Date September 19, 2019

This year’s Anschutz Block Party will be remembered for the This is BREAKTHROUGH buzz. The longest lines of the day formed at the Communications booth, where the This is BREAKTHROUGH-branded T-shirts, water bottles, tote bags and power chargers flew off the table.

The Comms tent, combined with an interactive strike-a-pose photo booth, unveiled the CU Anschutz Medical Campus’s first-ever marketing campaign and TV commercials. A new “This is BREAKTHROUGH” website also launched Wednesday to showcase how CU Anschutz – along with Children’s Hospital Colorado and UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital – stands at the intersection of leading-edge education, research and patient care.

‘Promotion is important’

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Block Party attendees check out the photos taken of them at the This is BREAKTHROUGH photo booth.

While many booth visitors didn’t initially know much about the campaign, all agreed that increased visibility is overdue for the campus. A bioengineering grad student said, “People outside campus should know about us. It helps bring in more talented people and more funding.” His friend added, “Promotion is important.” A College of Nursing student said, “There’s a lot of public misconception about research. This is a chance to show what we actually do.”

More than 3,500 people attended the seventh-annual event, enjoying lunch from 18 food trucks and sampling the wares and information at 140 booths. Several bands kept the beat going in Bonfils Circle, while sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-80s encouraged everyone to soak up the good vibes.

Some campus organizations help build identity on a personal level. PFLAG Denver helps LGBTQ+ people and their family members and caregivers navigate the confusion that frequently accompanies someone coming out as LGBTQ+. PFLAG, partnering with the Prism Gay Straight Alliance group on campus, provides education, guidance and help connecting to support groups for LGBTQ+ people and their families.

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The Jeopardy!-style mental health game was a popular booth at the Block Party.

Others on campus build identity by becoming part of a larger effort. The 9th Annual Food Fight Food Drive during the month of March involves departments and groups across campus competing to raise donations of non-perishable food and hygiene products, which are delivered to organizations including Food Bank of the Rockies, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and the Denver Rescue Mission. Coordinator Sue Mountain-Morgan said, “Most people have been in a hard place. It doesn’t take much to make a difference, and it makes everyone feel good.”

Defining who you’re not

Equally important to knowing who you are, is knowing who you’re not. Several campus groups advocated for acknowledging our inner selves, including difficult personal histories and mental health concerns, without being defined by them.

The Phoenix Center provides free confidential support, education, and referrals for those dealing with interpersonal violence, including a 24/7 helpline. Michaela Calhoun, victim services program manager, said the center’s goals are two-fold: “First, we act through prevention to combat victim blaming. Second, we act through response, providing advocacy and support to victims.” Calhoun said the center has trained five confidential victim advocates in the last month.

For those battling depression, Brittany Pittman with the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center, whose booth featured Jeopardy!-style sections about mental health, said, “The goal is to end the stigma about being afraid to say you have depression.”

Defining who you want to be

The journey toward building an identity is ongoing, and the Block Party provided several opportunities for both professional and personal growth.

BlockPartyINS3The Center for Advancing Professional Excellence (CAPE) through the CU School of Medicine uses virtual and hands-on learning opportunities to improve patient safety and outcomes. CAPE staff said videos of procedures, such as brain surgery, filmed with 360 cameras can help allay patient worries before the person undergoes a procedure; i.e., someone who has dental exam anxiety.

Making the case for campus employees to interact with the Aurora community, Sherryl Harrington, program manager for the Community-Campus Partnership, said, “If we want people to have healthy lives or be a part of what’s happening at CU Anschutz, we need to remove the feeling of having a wall between campus and the community.” She added, “The single most important thing the campus can do is engage with the community.”

Guest Contributor: Shawna Matthews, a CU Anschutz postdoc