How did alum Chris Parker ’11 secure a job at Rock and Ice Magazine? It all started with a Fort Lewis College class in English…

Alumnus climbs into a journalism career

Chris Parker is still climbing. The only difference is now he gets paid for it.

As a reporter, writer, columnist, and online editor at the venerable sport-climbing magazine Rock & Ice, Parker (English, ’11) is busy. “As editor, there are two sections of the magazine that I have to make happen every issue,” he says. “I conduct interviews with well-known climbers, and the other can be anything from a destination piece or a journal from a road trip-type piece. And online, that’s kind of my baby. I am in charge of much of the content on the site.”

Yet, busy as he his, Parker still gets out climbing. A lot. On trips ranging from quick hits to long jaunts, and both nearby and far away. He has to: It’s his job.

That’s a good kind of busy. But it took some climbing for Parker to get to where he is, where lifestyle and making a living have managed to merge. And Fort Lewis College played a central role in that journey.

“I didn’t know about FLC until I was 21,” Parker says. By that point, he had already spent some time at a large university in his home state of Mississippi, and had moved to Colorado. Parker landed in the historic mining town of Ouray, in the San Juan Mountains, where he first learned about climbing. Then, seeking a bigger town, he moved to Durango for its lively arts and music scene.

Once settled in downtown Durango, he found out about Fort Lewis College, situated on a mesa 600 feet above his neighborhood. “My roommates would walk up to campus for class. And I was kind of jealous that they were just walking up to class,” Parker laughs. “It seemed so cool. Eventually I went up there and talked to the admissions people.”

Soon, Parker himself started climbing the Nature Trail connecting town and campus every day. And he loved it. Because at FLC he kept climbing, both literally and figuratively. As a student, Parker was working at Outdoor Pursuits and using the Student Life Center‘s climbing wall most days between classes. Other times, he was hitting the many bouldering spots around town as often as he could.

And in class, as an English major focusing on communications, he found climbing to be the key to his post-college career.

“The communications courses were cool at FLC because you learned how to tell a story in a lot of different ways. I was a climber and was into shooting videos, so I was able to make a climbing documentary and tell that story in my way.”

It was a course in magazine writing, though, that showed Parker the route to a career after college. In this class, the instructor required students to go through all the steps of submitting one of their class assignments to a magazine.

“I took it really seriously,” Parker says. “And the end result was, I actually did end up getting a piece published with Rock & Ice. And that was the start to everything for my career.”

Actually, Parker’s story didn’t sell on his first try. But he worked on it with his professor until the magazine wanted it. And that spirit of craft led to his becoming an intern at Rock & Ice upon graduating, after which he was hired onto the staff — where he now makes a living by doing what he loves.

“I owe my professor everything for that. She was so helpful, believing in me and encouraging me,” Parker says. He adds, “I had some pretty cool professors there. I think that’s because they’re people who are very like-minded with their students. I had a connection with this place, and I think that the professors are there for the same reason.”

Fort Lewis College Skyhawks Upset #2 Colorado State-Pueblo, 23-22

Highlights from Fort Lewis College/Pueblo CSU game Oct 11, 2014

DURANGO, Colo. – October 11, 2014 – Quarterback Jordan Doyle tossed the ball back to wide receiver Jordan Gillen on a reverse play who found Juquelle Thompson in the endzone with 3:46 left in the fourth quarter to give the Skyahwks a 23-22 lead and the eventual win over No. 2 Colorado State University-Pueblo Saturday afternoon at Ray Dennison Memorial Field.

The Skyhawks win ended the Pack’s 42-game regular season winning streak.

Despite missing the two-point conversion that would have put the Skyhawks up by three points with 3:39 left in the game, FLC’s defense held the ThunderWolves on their own half of the field to close out the Pack’s second to final drive.  On first-and-10 from their own 34-yard line, the Pack’s Chris Bonner threw a pass to Cameron McDondle for a four yard loss, thanks to Ryan Ross‘ tackle.  A holding penalty by CSUP was tacked onto the play to push the Pack back to their 24-yard line.  On first-and-20, Bonner completed a pass to Jarred Radebaugh for an 11-yard gain, but an offensive pass interference penalty pushed the Pack to their own 12-yard line.  Bonner then completed an 18-yard pass to Daniel Wise to place the Pack on their 30-yard line.  After two incomplete passes and back-to-back timeouts by CSUP, the Pack threw another incomplete pass to turn the ball over on downs with 2:20 left in regulation.

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Fort Lewis College Alumna, Alexandria Bombach ’08, turns her camera on Afghan photographers in upcoming film

bombach-header“Film is so powerful a tool,” says filmmaker and FLC graduate, Alexandria Bombach, “because storytelling is so human and can make a big difference in people’s lives.”

Bombach (Business Administration, ’08) has proven that theory herself. After her first film, a travelogue of her journey in an Airstream trailer to meet people living with few possessions, she was surprised to find she had touched viewers.

“After 23 Feetwas released, people would talk to me and email me, pouring their hearts out about their own experiences,” says Bombach. “It’s those kind of letters from people and those one-on-one conversations that I think about when I need inspiration.”

Inspiration is now leading Bombach to use that powerful tool of film to make a difference in other lives, this time photographers in Afghanistan experimenting with their new-found freedom of the press.

In her upcoming documentary Frame by Frame, Bombach explores the challenges and risks faced by Afghan photographers engaging in a practice that was outlawed under Taliban rule. Today these photographers worry about their futures as American forces pull out of the country.

“I was editing a short video for a non-profit, and they handed me a hard drive of footage with a bunch of reels from Afghanistan,” Bombach says, describing the moment of inspiration that led to Frame by Frame. “Getting to see unedited footage of people walking down the street really shook me and made me question my own perception of Afghanistan.”

Bombach visited Afghanistan shortly after that experience, where she met the photographers to be featured in the film. After returning home, a Kickstarter campaign secured the funds needed for her and a videographer partner to return to shoot the rest of the film. Frame by Frame will be released by Bombach’s own production company, Red Reel, in 2015.

While Bombach finds inspiration for her films in the world around her, she credits her FLC experience with inspiring her success at forging her own career her own way.

“I think Fort Lewis College and the professors that I had there had a big impact on my taking a chance with doing film at all,” she says. “I’d always loved filming as a little kid, but I didn’t think about that going into college. I thought that was something I’d never do, just a dream.”

Then, a hands-on and creative class assignment let her try her hand at applying her dream.

“One of my business professors [Chuck Yoos] challenged us to a project where we could explain something any way we wanted. Once I got into the editing room and starting putting it together, I was really, really proud of what I did. It truly felt like mine more than anything else I’d done, more than a paper or any other assignment,” she says.

“Everyone was just so supportive,” Bombach adds. “I made a video for the assignment, then the professor showed it to the Dean and other professors. After that, other professors started encouraging me to make films for their projects, and that really kind of started it for me. That was massive. It gave me the confidence I needed to give this career a chance.”

And it was a choice that has led Bombach to make a living while also making a meaningful life.

“I don’t know if I do this work to live this life, or if I live this life to do this work,” she laughs. “But I really love it, and it’s given me a great purpose in life. I am thankful for it everyday.”

From KDUR to NPR, Fort Lewis College alumnus Eric Whitney is still in our ears


For 40 years, KDUR radio has been helping students have fun sharing their voices over the air, while also training them as broadcasting professionals. And Eric Whitney is a testament to how far that sense of fun and the KDUR experience can take you.

As the news director for Montana Public Radio, Whitney’s award-winning reporting has been featured onNational Public Radio‘s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.” He has also done three reporting excursions to Africa, including living in Cape Town for a year.

“I was attracted to public radio because I think it’s a great product,” says Whitney (English, ’99). “I think some of the journalism on public radio is some of the best out there, and I wanted to be a part of that. I have stuck with it because it’s something I love and it gives me opportunities to do amazing things.”

Eric WhitneyWhitney has reported for Colorado Public Radio, the High Plains News Service, and on health topics in the United States and Africa thanks to fellowships from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Knight Foundation. His reporting has also won awards from the Colorado Broadcasters Association, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and the Scripps Howard Foundation.

“Radio is fun,” Whitney says, summing up his career. “And it keeps on being fun.”

Whitney first found the fun of radio at KDUR, FLC’s on-campus student-run radio station. Launched in 1974 broadcasting through speakers hardwired into the Student Union, today KDUR’s 6,000-watt signal can be heard all over Durango and southwestern Colorado at 91.9 FM and at 93.9 FM, and worldwide online at

“In college I discovered that journalism was right for me,” Whitney says. “The professors really helped kindle that fire within me once I had discovered it. But the stuff I really remember are the hands on experiences. Being a part of KDUR, I had a chance to try out and see if this really was what I wanted to do.”

As much fun as being on the air as a DJ can be, Whitney is quick to point out that there’s much more to radio journalism than just playing music.

“I remember doing my first DJ shift up there. It was simultaneously really terrifying and really fun,” says Whitney. “But to be a good journalist, you have to have a whole set of skills. You have to know how to use the equipment, but you also need a suite of skills, from basic interviewing and writing to using the audio editing software.”

“You also have to develop a sense for what a good story is,” he adds. “You have to be in tune with your audience and be able to deliver good, compelling stories on the types of things they’re curious about.”

For Whitney, who had no previous radio experience before arriving at Fort Lewis College, KDUR was where he not only found the fun of radio, but where he also started developing that “suite of skills” he needed to make that fun his career.

“There was no question the campus radio station was the coolest place to be,” Whitney laughs. “It was the soundtrack for my college, but it also helped me discover journalism.”

Fort Lewis College Men’s Soccer Charts Seventh Win of the Season

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