Nizhooni Hurd ’20 is a Colorado native passionate about music, the outdoors, and history. This week, The Catalyst sat down with Hurd to discuss her extracurricular involvements, her time at CC, and her experiences outdoors.
The Catalyst: What are some of your extracurricular interests?
Nizhooni Hurd: Outside of the CC community, I’m involved in an organization called Environmental Learning for Kids based in Denver. I’ve been working with them since October of 2015. I first started as an assistant educator, then I did their summer youth employment opportunity called the Urban Rangers Program. I am no longer working for them because I am committed to my time here at CC, but I still support them and advocate for them heavily. Outside of CC, I’m also involved with my family; I enjoy visiting my family when I can, when I want to. I like hanging out with my nephews, my niece, and my grandparents. Things that I’m involved in at CC outside of class … I’m involved in the Native American Student Union — I’m currently the secretary — and I’m also a regular participant of BSU. And then I also participate in the Outdoor Education Center’s Outdoor Recreation Committee, better known as the ORC. I like leading trips for the ORC when I have the chance. I also really like to do puzzles in my free time. I love listening to a nice calm beat and doing puzzles. You could say I love doing 500 to a thousand piece puzzles — actually, it’s more like 500 to 750 piece puzzles. I love going around the Springs and finding different coffee shops to sit at that are away from the CC community. And I love listening to music and searching for samples of songs, especially in hip-hop and R&B.
TC: You have been to many concerts; who is your favorite performer?
NH: My favorite performer would probably be Smino because Smino is super underrated. He’s my favorite performer because when I’ve seen him, he had two DJs and a full band with three backup singers and a bassist and keys; he had a full entourage on stage with him, and it wasn’t just playing backtracks with him singing on top of them, but it was like a live R&B musical performance, and I love live R&B music.
TC: What motivates you to be an environmental issues/studies major?
NH: I like environmental studies because I like learning about the environment. I really enjoy the classes that are offered in that major where you can take environmental ethics or history. It just helps me to better understand the environment and how it’s connected to people. History is so important because it helps to put a lot of things in context. Even though it sounds like a really boring topic to study, like spend time in class doing because it’s so reading-heavy, I would say that’s kind of like a Westernized way of thinking about history. There are a lot of cultures that rely heavily on oral histories, and oral histories should be equally as important as what’s written down. So stories like that can help you understand your family better and understand like why things are the way that they are in the environment, too.
TC: What is your favorite national monument?
NH: My favorite national monument would be Canyon de Chelly. I love Canyon de Chelly because it’s beautiful and the canyons are gorgeous. And there’s a lot of indigenous history there, and it is a national monument that is close to home.
TC: Suppose you’re stranded in the wilderness but have one music album to listen to, one book to read, and one TV show to watch. What would you choose?
NH: I think I would probably go with like The Greatest Hits of Earth, Wind & Fire. Yeah, I’d pick that Earth, Wind & Fire album because I grew up listening to [them]. It was one of the albums that my mom would consistently play as she dropped me off to school. And I just think they’re so deeply talented and make some legendary music. I would say that they are one of the greatest music groups of all time. One book? Darn. I was going say the Bible at first but … I think, actually, yeah, I probably would take the Bible because it has a lot of different stories in there, you know? And so if you get bored you can get more of a constructive reading, a little bit of poetry in there, some great metaphorical stories; it has a lot of different compilations of types of literature within one text. TV show? Can I take a Netflix series? I’d take all of Black-ish — all seasons, ever. So when the new season drops, I get that too when I’m in the wilderness.
TC: What is something you wish you could change about CC?
NH: Something I wish I could change about CC — what isn’t there to change? I would say that they should add the crosswalk back from behind Shove on Nevada. Then people could cross safely in the middle of Nevada, rather than jay-walking.
TC: What challenges do you face as a woman of color in the outdoors?
NH: I would say some of my challenges as a woman of color in the outdoors would be that, historically, the white view of nature and outdoor recreation and anything that pertains to the environment has not been suited for me. You know, there’s a lot of history about genocide and other horrible, traumatic events that have happened that have kept us from these spaces. There’s also a big culture issue, I think, with the way that people engage with the outdoors. It can lead to a white, bro-y engagement with the outdoors, and that’s not what it’s supposed to be.
TC: Who inspires you and why?
NH: I would say that my sisters inspire me because they’re both very different people. My older sister inspires me to be strong in moments where you could just fall apart. And my little sister really inspires me to be more loving and kind towards people.
TC: What is the most hilarious thing you’ve experienced while in the outdoors?
NH: Oh, well, I mean, there was this time while at TREE [Teaching and Research for Environmental Education] Semester; we were living in a place at a time where a bear had gotten into the trash dumpster at TREE. So there was a bear hanging around, very close to our vicinity at TREE Semester, and it was spotted a couple of times, but I never saw it so I didn’t feel that scared. Well, one of our teaching fellows had left dog food in her room and the bear got into her room, ate the dog food, and left, and then preceded to scratch around other peoples’ windows and broke in on somebody else’s window. Luckily, my room was untouched, unscratched.
TC: What has been your favorite class at CC and why?
NH: My favorite class at CC has been American Environmental History taught by Amy Kohout. I liked it a lot because it didn’t necessarily focus on a very White view of history. Well, actually, I liked it because we had the opportunity to critique and to really question history and what histories have been dictated in the environment and which ones have not. I really enjoyed the reading material for that class because my professor really picked a lot of great readings that didn’t necessarily focus all on John Muir or like any of the other great names of environmentalism. We read a lot about the history of Yosemite, the first national park, and we questioned the construction of wilderness and how nature is constructed and all of that — got into some really deep class discussions about that. It just brought up a lot of great questions about how and why we think about the environment the way we do today. And that class really helped me put a lot of things in context.