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What Taiwan Taught Me About the U.S. July 4, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 11:08 pm

It was an interesting time to be the only American on a media delegation to Taiwan–especially considering I had no idea why I was there.

I’m still trying to figure out how a freelance journalist from Colorado who primarily writes about skiing and travel in my home state, ended up in Asia with my “serious journalist” hat on during the continent’s most anticipated political summit in decades.

I sure as hell didn’t fly in with Trump on his plane. The fact that I can’t bring myself to say Air Force One in connection with Donald Trump tells you that I still can’t believe the crooked businessman turned TV-ratings-hungry huckster is somehow our … p-p-p can’t do it.

I’m so far removed from the political science minor I paired with my journalism major at the University of Colorado, that it wasn’t even on my radar that Trump and Kim Jong-un would being having their historic luncheon-length summit while I was spending a week in Taiwan complements of the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s Digital Media Group on Taiwan’s Political and Economic Development.”  Long title  right? I thought so when I read the program for my trip for the first time on my flight from Denver to LA.

My June 10 flight was the first chance I’d had to really think about the trip after the end-of-school-year busyness that comes from being the mother of 11 and 13-year-old daughters. Shirley from Taiwan’s Denver office (they have 20 around the States) had sent me the itinerary a month before my departure, but I had only glanced at it (and considering 95 percent of it was in Chinese, it was a pretty useless glance at that).

Shirley and I met for lunch a week before my departure at P.F. Changs in a northern Colorado shopping center near my house. It was her choice, and the fact that her last name is also Chang wasn’t lost on me. As we settled into a booth she confided in me that she, “Loves American Chinese food,” signaling to me that there is actually another kind.

Apparently the “pointed questions” in my journalistic quiver have dulled from misuse, because we were considering desert and I still didn’t know why this lovely soft-spoken woman and the government she represents were sending me around the world.

Finally I told her that I couldn’t guarantee my usual outlets,  The Denver Post, Colorado Life magazine etc. would publish an article on Taiwan–and in fact I doubted they would. Then I finally asked the big question, “Shirley, why is Taiwan interested in me?”

Without a blink she responded, “Taiwan needs friends.”







Why I Teach Journalism February 7, 2018

Filed under: Are You Ok? — chrysscada @ 9:45 pm


By Chryss Cada

In the past I’ve considered my annual teaching assessment as an unnecessary hoop to jump through to prove my worth to the journalism department at Colorado State University. This year I’m going to take it as an opportunity to explain my teaching methods, so get comfortable.

I inherited my first 210 (newswriting) class three days into the fall 2000 semester. I had applied a year prior when I saw an ad in the classified section of the Fort Collins Coloradoan (younger readers please Google “classified ads”), but an opening had not been available until a scheduling snafu came up that fall. I jumped at the opportunity even though I had no prior experience teaching, much less holding the lofty title of “adjunct professor” at a university.

Lee Peck, who was an editor at the Coloradoan during the eight years I worked there as a reporter, had been teaching 210 for years and was kind enough to share many of her teaching materials. I still use some of them and pass the originals around so my students can feel what the imprint of actual typewriter keys feels like.

She also shared the advice that I could be a friend to my students, but should be wary of getting too entangled in their personal lives. I’m pretty sure I’ve broken this rule a couple of times.

Armed with Lee’s advice, handouts and AP style quiz reviews, I headed into C255 for my first 6 p.m. Newswriting Course (the same section that I have taught for the past 19 years). I stood at the front of the class, looked up at 18 sets of eyes fixed on mine and froze like a deer in headlights.

It was only minutes into that first class that my teaching style began to develop. I was in my late 20s, only a few years older than the many non-traditional students in my class and no more than 10 years older than my youngest freshman/woman. There would be no “Ms. Cada,” nor would I call them by their last names—they were my peers, interested in uncovering the truth and telling the world about it or representing public relations clients in an honest way or just telling fans the way the game really went down.

The truth and how to tell it in the real world has always been at the core of my teaching. That’s why I still write for the Denver Post and other newspapers and magazines—and continually strive for new outlets for my work.

My approach is continually validated in my student course evaluations and most recently by a letter to Journalism and Technical Communication faculty from Rocky Mountain Collegian editor Erin Douglas.

“Courses tend to lack a “real world” perspective, with a few exceptions,” she writes of her concerns with the education the Department is providing its students.

Having the press come under attack since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, has provided an increased challenge for journalism instructors and students alike.

Sen. John McCain wrote of this challenge in a Jan. 16, 2018 op-ed piece in The Washington Post.

“President Ronald Reagan recognized that as leader of the free world, his words carried enormous weight, and he used them to inspire the unprecedented spread of democracy around the world,” McCain wrote. “President Trump does not seem to understand that his rhetoric and actions reverberate in the same way.

“He has threatened to continue his attempt to discredit the free press by bestowing “fake news awards” upon reporters and news outlets whose coverage he disagrees with. “

As evidence of the power of Trump’s anti-press rhetoric, McCain refers to the Committee to Protect Journalists finding that 2017 was one of the most dangerous years to be a journalist. Last year, the organization documented 262 cases of journalists being imprisoned for their work.

“Reporters around the world face intimidation, threats of violence, harassment, persecution and sometimes even death as governments resort to brutal censorship to silence the truth,” McCain continues. “Whether Trump knows it or not, these efforts are being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.”

While some students are inspired by this new challenge, others doubt their decision to join such a vilified profession. At the very least, it’s scaring the hell out of a lot of them.

During the past three semesters I’ve spent a lot of time dealing with this strain on my students not only because they are young journalists, but also because many of them her themselves being identified as “different” or “others.” Some are Latinex students who feel the effects of our crude public discourse on immigration. Some have a sexual identity that suddenly feels scary to talk about.

But the overwhelming issue with my students now is mental illness and/or emotional issues. In my 210 class last semester, four of my students wrote, “I have depression” under “Anything else you’d like to tell me?” section of my class entry form.

During the course of the semester I had a different student unable to attend class due to “overwhelming anxiety” (a condition that she backed up with a doctor’s note). One student was the victim (although I hate to use that word) of sexual assault and unable to get out of bed and come to class most days (she also had documentation).

Because of my own background in suicide (Since my brother took his own life at age 15 I’ve been through extensive training in suicide prevention), I believe I have intervened in several suicides during the years.

I unapologetically care for my students first as people, and secondly as developing journalists. In 19 years that hasn’t affected the quality of what my students learn in my class.

With a handful of exceptions (there are some students who discover they aren’t really interested in journalism after 210, their first writing course), my students go on to do impressive things in this field. I know this because they keep in touch.

Through the years literally hundreds of students have written to let me know the difference my class made in their careers. Nothing personal, but I treasure these notes more than any review or accolade from the University. Many times it’s not the writing skills I taught them that student attribute with their success.

“I keep thinking how I would have never had this opportunity to intern here (Rooster magazine) and have my work published if you hadn’t encouraged us to take a risk and reach out,” wrote a female student from my magazine writing class last year. “Your lessons will truly be ones that I will remember forever. I owe a lot of this success to you!!
In a nutshell (or as we say in the biz “a nut graph”), my teaching philosophy is: I’m in front of a class to give the students in it all the knowledge I have—as a journalist and a human being.


The Last Goodbye December 22, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 6:42 pm

In the three days since a childhood friend of mine died, I’ve been trying to understand why I feel such a great sense of loss for someone I haven’t had a real conversation with in decades.

I think it’s because I didn’t ever tell him goodbye properly—and now I’ll never have the chance.

While the loss of his family and close friends is immeasurably greater, those of us who had Kevin in our life for a shorter time are also grappling for footing after his sudden exit from this world. He was skiing at Breckenridge with his family Monday (something they’ve surely done countless times before), when he hit a tree and died. Just like that his time came to an end.

Kevin Pitts and I met in middle school. He lived in the same neighborhood as several of my other close friends at the time and we shared interests like drama, debate, newspaper and French at school. It’s a friendship I don’t remember starting, it’s just feels like the comfort and love between us were always there.

Handsome and kind, he had his share of young women in his life, but they weren’t there for the same reason I was. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, Kevin played a very important role in my adolescence: he was a brother to me when I needed one the most.

My brother, Mark, was a sensitive boy who looked out for his little sister as best he could in a world that wasn’t kind to him. He took his own life when he was 15 and I was 12.

At a time when my own family felt so empty, the Pitts home was full to the brim. His parents, Tom and Ena, were gregarious and full of Southern Charm. Erin, a year younger than Kevin, always had a welcome smile on her face and listened to me long after even the most gracious person would be expected to.

I loved them all, but Kevin was special.

I didn’t realize it at the time, and I still don’t know exactly how he did it, but Kevin always made me feel better.

Maybe it was his silly sense of humor (he had a t-shirt printed up that said “My Parents are the Pitts”).

Maybe it was the lightness of his being (he even seemed to walk on tip toes).

Maybe it was the way you could tell him anything and he was always on your side.

Maybe it was that fabulous hair.

Whatever it was about him, Kevin always made me feel that with people like him in it, the world was indeed a good place.

I never thanked him for that, and now I’ll never be able to. The problem is you rarely know when you are saying goodbye to someone for the last time. If you did know it was the last time you would talk, you would tell them things. You would tell him you are glad you met each other in the first place. You would tell her that you are thankful for the time you spent together. If it was the last time you were seeing your friend, you would say “I Love You.” That’s what you would do if you knew—but you don’t.

So I’m telling his wife and his children and his Mom and his sister and anyone else who cares to read this. But in my deepest heart I still really, really wish I could tell him myself.


The Worth of an Adjunct September 6, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 4:10 am



Labor Day, 2016



Tony Frank, President, Colorado State University

Benjamin C. Withers, Dean, College of Liberal Arts

Greg Luft, Chair, Department of Journalism and Media Communication

Rick Miranda, Provost and Executive Vice President

Dan Bush, Vice Provost

Grant Polzer, Business and Financial Services


Dear Gentlemen,


As a journalist of 30 years and an instructor in Colorado State’s Department of Journalism for 17, I thought I knew better than anyone the power of words. But I hadn’t experienced their full force until I received my offer letter for this academic year. It began:


We are pleased to offer you a part-time special 9-month appointment at the academic rank of special Instructor at Colorado State University at a starting 9-month salary of $40,120, plus benefits, and a start date of August 16, 2016.


That one sentence literally changed my life—as it would for any adjunct professor. It said the work I do with students has real value. It said that sharing three decades of excellence in my profession with people aspiring to join that profession meant as much to society as getting the toppings right on a person’s sandwich. That one sentence meant I could spend more time with my students and researching the many changes in my field and less time on projects to bring in much-needed supplemental income.


I spent last month living that new life, in a world where University officials recognized the contributions of adjuncts. And then payday arrived and that new life ended. My salary is half what the letter stated; roughly $5,000 per semester per class or $20,000 for the academic year. This was a shock considering that my offer letter nowhere mentioned the stated number was a full-time salary. I’m part-time and have been my entire tenure at the University.


As a freelance writer I’ve signed hundreds of contracts for my work. I have gotten paid by the hour, by the article, by the inch and even by the word. I understand contracts, but I’ve never seen one where I would be getting paid half the amount appearing in the contract. My last 32 offer letters were for the semester and have stated the amount I would make per class. That amount was roughly $4,000 when I started in 2000 and was $4,750 per class in the spring semester of this year.

Typically I would be thrilled with $60-a-month raise. After all, I’ve gotten used to teaching at the college level for compensation hovering near minimum wage. I’ve accepted this unacceptable wage because, like other adjuncts, I teach not for money, but because I love what I do.



I love the moment when a student who has struggled with a concept finally gets it. I cherish the letters from past students saying that my class set them on the road to the success they are now enjoying. And honestly I care for my students as individuals. Many of my students are freshman, away from home for the first time, and need to know that someone on this teeming campus sees them, hears them and cares if they are OK.


I’ve gotten used to teaching as an act of charity, but then I got this year’s offer letter and believed it could be something more. After a glimpse into that world, I’m finding it difficult to go back into a system that thrives on the unjust subservience of others. I find it difficult to explain why I work with such dedication for such little compensation. I find it difficult to explain to my students and my own daughters, because I would never want any of them to be exploited this way.


Perhaps most importantly, after finding out I won’t be receiving an equitable salary, I can no longer explain this exploitation to myself.


You most likely expect me to end this letter with my resignation. I’ve already met my students for the semester and will not put them in the position of losing an instructor once class has begun. Maybe I need to take a stand and quit before next semester starts. Maybe after I voice my opinions in this letter I won’t be asked back next academic year. Both of those options sadden me because I’m good at what I do, I love what I do and there are so many students out there yet to meet and usher into the noble profession of journalism.


Thank you for reading this letter and giving consideration to its contents.





Chryss Cada

Instructor, Department of Journalism and Media Communication



CC: Amparo Jeffrey, HR Liaison

Jennifer Aberle, Adjunct Committee

Newsdesk, Rocky Mountain Collegian

Newsdesk, Fort Collins Coloradoan

Newsdesk, The Denver Post


Paris, Je t’aime November 29, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 2:05 am

Not, Paris.

That was my first thought when I heard the DJ on my car radio say that her thoughts and prayers were with the people of the French capital.

“Why, what happened in Paris?” I asked out loud as my mind began a panicked race through the possibilities.

I only had time to type “Par” into my iPhone before the light turned green. Those three letters were enough to bring up headlines with the words “gunman,” “hostages” and “explosions.”

I know I should have focused more on the first two words, the human lives in danger, but the one that made me gasp was “explosions” — what had the cowards blown up now?

For me, the Eiffel Tower reduced to a pile of steel beams, flames coming out of Le Musee du Louvre or L’Arc du Triomphe reduced to rubble would signal the end of civilization.

Of course, our thoughts and condolences go first to the families who lost a loved one in a terrorist attack, but after the dust has settled there is another sense of loss to grapple with.

When cowardly terrorists attack we asses not only how much of our security we have lost and how much fear we have gained, but also what symbols have been taken from us.

On 9/11 it was two towering beacons of business and commerce.

At the Boston marathon it was the sense of accomplishment that a finish line banner represents.

By attacking Paris they tried to rob us of the beauty man can create.

How many of us went to the City of Lights to be exposed to great art, architecture and history on a large scale for the first time? And how many still dream of taking that trip someday?

Those who let was happened Nov. 13 stop them from pursuing that dream, make our loss all the greater.

My middle school French Teacher (J’taime Mme. Theisen) required all the 9th graders on her trip to Paris to take the stairs up the great monuments we visited. To experience them fully, we climbed up, down and all around L’Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, La Musee de Orsay, Le Musee du Louvre–and of course La Tour Eiffel (It’s 1,665 stairs to the top, but only the 719 to the second level are open to the public).

I love that tower because it doesn’t serve any purpose but to be a beautiful, fanciful attraction.

When it was built for the 1889 World’s Fair it was meant to be temporary (lasting 20 years tops). Yet here we are 126 years later with about 7 million people from around the world walking beneath it’s wrought iron arches and toasting champagne at the top.

To me it’s our most magnificent symbol of art for art’s sake–and I just can’t bear the thought of it being taken from us.

Before building the tower that bears his name, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel leant his engineering expertise to La Lady Liberty. The Statue of Liberty (As we call her here at home) is another work of art that exists only to symbolize one of our treasured values: freedom.

Perhaps it too soon to look for a positive from the attacks in Paris. Perhaps not. I know it couldn’t be any worse for 130 families, but for those of us who treasure our symbols of art, culture and freedom–it could have been absolutely devastating.

And the cowards didn’t stop Paris from being Paris. Residents and visitors to the city filled cafes and restaurants four days after the attacks in act of defiance. We should do the same and keep plans to visit Paris, or even make plans were there weren’t any before the attack.

I know I can’t wait to get there and visit Paris’ symbols of art, culture and freedom from fear.








Through the Mini Van Window September 18, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 8:14 pm

They are there chatting through mini-van windows long after the second bell has rung and their children have begun the day’s lessons.

They linger, heads together in a close-knit circle post-PTA meeting.

They are early for pick-up because they volunteered to do some filing for the teacher.

They are the “Full-Time Moms.”

Well that isn’t really the right term, all Moms are on the clock 24/7.

Maybe I should say “Stay-at-Home Moms”? Or “Don’t Work Outside the Home Moms”? Or just plain “Lucky Moms”?

I’m not making judgements about these women, many of them are my friends–in fact many of them think I’m one of them.

Early this week I was sitting at a meeting of “Class Moms” (We plan the parties) discussing the best times to use the copier in the front office (well, I was sitting and thinking of the next opportunity to make a wisecrack–which is my primary function at meetings).

“There are a lot of politics about the copier at CSU too,” I whispered to the woman next to me.

YOU work at CSU!” she whispered back, not even trying to conceal her surprise. “I had NO idea!”

It was then I realized that I’m living a double life of sorts. I’m a journalist teaching two journalism courses at Colorado State University and freelancing for a variety of magazines and newspapers. But they only see “Mommy Me”: fussing over my daughter’s hair on picture day, weeding the flower bed in front of the school and discussing curriculum during parent meetings at school.

Maybe now they won’t think me quite so rude. They will forgive me for breaking into their conversations just to find out a needed bit of information or skipping out early from the planning meetings for “Teacher Appreciation Week” or (gasp) not getting involved with the “Fall Fun Festival” at all.

When juggling a career and family you always have to be light on your feet, ready to dash off to fulfill the other responsibilities in your life before a ball drops.

The thing is with the great juggling act, not all the balls actually hit the ground.

It’s not like I’ve forgotten a ballet rehearsal, I just got caught on the phone with my editor one time and arrived late to find her face stained with tears as she struggled through the performance. A lot of times I have to get my CSU students talking about the latest celebrity news the first five minutes of class so I can figure out a lesson plan for the rest of it. And I’ve blown more than a couple of deadlines because my daughters needed help with their homework, fell down or just generally needed their Mama.

In the “Mommy Wars” between those who work and those who stay home the ammunition is guilt. Guilt that we aren’t directing at each other, but at ourselves.

I see those Moms huddling after the kids are dropped off and I wonder if I shouldn’t be with them. On Wednesday I heard them discussing their middle schoolers math homework; problem by problem. I didn’t even realize my middle schooler had math homework the night before.

Does that mean I’m dropping the “Mom Ball?” Some would say so. There are also those who would say the problem-by-problem moms are overly involved. Whose right? My best guess is all of us–and none of us.

The main thing is that the vast majority of moms out there are doing their best and we should all pat them on the back for it–right after we get done patting our own.


At the Middle School Door February 27, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — chrysscada @ 6:02 pm
Tags: ,

A collective gasp sucked the air out of the elementary school library when the middle school counselor said “2022.”

It was the first time that many of us had associated our 5th graders with those numbers–as in the graduating class of.

The mom on my right put her head on the table, the dad on my left shook his head in disbelief, I took the “too shocked to respond” approach and sat in stunned silence.

You mean to tell me that my daughter is going to graduate high school and leave home?! That the 10-year-old at home in her butterfly bedroom playing with dolls is going to be GROWN UP?!  Didn’t the little stump from her umbilical cord just fall out to reveal her belly button?!? (BTW: If you think revealing one’s belly button for the first time should only be mentioned in conjunction with the name “Taylor Swift,” you should probably be reading a different post–pass this one along to your mother)

Sure, they tell you your kids are going to grow up, but a lot of moms (myself included) don’t really believe it.

Out of the 100 or so families of 5th graders at my daughters’ elementary school, less than a dozen were represented at the PTA program on “Transitioning to Middle School.”  We are the parents who are accused of hovering over our child like a helicopter as they make their way through life. We hang out before and/or after school to talk to our child’s teacher, in fact we know their coffee order because we meet with them so often.

Maybe it’s because our child is different (#stayweird), maybe they struggle with being organized or being social or just being. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the parent that has an issue. Most likely it’s a combination of both.

Every year since my now-5th grader entered preschool, I’ve gotten a call or e-mail from her teacher a week or two after classes commenced.  They all begin, “Hi, I’m Mrs./Ms./Miss/Mr. XYZ and I need to talk to you about Chloe….”.

Chloe is brilliant, she wants to do things in her own way, she’s off in her own little world and rest of us, teachers included, are just visiting. This makes her equal parts awesome and a real “challenge” (although a variety of other more colorful words have been used to describe her) to deal with. Therefore, I have had a close, personal relationship with all of her homeroom teachers. These relationships involve not only early morning coffee meetings, but many late night e-mail exchanges.

Next year she won’t have a homeroom teacher. Next year she’ll take the bus, so I won’t be peeking my head in the classroom door before of after school. Next year will be awesome for her and traumatic for me and parents like me.

It doesn’t help that “middle school” starts a year earlier than it did when I was a near-teen going off to 7th grade in “junior high.” Chloe’s birthday is in August, so she’ll turn 11 about a week before her first day of middle school. I’ll still do her hair in the morning, cut the apples in her lunch and include a note about how proud I am of her.

I know it’s time to let go, to see what she’s learned about being responsible for her own schoolwork and social life. I know, I know–but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

I’ll try my best to let go, because that’s best for my daughter–but odds are I’ll still know a couple of teacher’s coffee orders by the end of next school year.  But, how about this: I won’t cut her apples.