Navigating Borders

From water to dance, science to film, clay to gender, the liberal arts helps us navigate the borders in our lives that are physical, metaphorical, or cultural.

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Country Road in Harrison Co. KY with Blue Sky

Letter from the Dean: Invisible Lines

College of Liberal Arts

A border can be so many different things and have so many different implications once it is drawn. Borders define culture, opportunity, and identity. Some borders are visible and tangible while others are conceptual and symbolic.

US border fence to Mexico at El Paso

Navigating borders: Could water be a bridge between U.S. and Mexico?

Political Science

Because both the Rio Grande and Colorado rivers’ headwaters begin in the U.S. and flow across the border, both sides depend on the other for the water. Since the 1990s, getting enough of that water has been a problem compounded by a booming population and climate change. The common problem has forced the two countries to find common ground, says Stephen Mumme. 

border marker between China and Myanmar from 1960

Shifting Boundaries in the Frontier Zones of South China and Southeast Asia


How do borders get defined, and who defines them?   As recently as the 1960s, China’s Yunnan province has been a transnational crossroads; in one case in Ruili County a village was sliced right in half with one part in China and the other in Myanmar. Eli Alberts explores a unified nation composed of 55 ethnic minorities, specifically the Yao people and how they have been identified and grouped since the 12th century. 

Crossing National Borders to Bolster Democratic Engagement through Film and Media

Communication Studies

Professors Hye Seung Chung and Scott Diffrient are spending time in South Korea exploring film and its use in government, human rights, and policy as Fulbright Scholars. Their goal is to bolster understanding of and appreciation for democratic principles such as free speech and human rights by critically engaging historical and contemporary Korean films. 

Mural of sister cities in El Paso, Texas

Navigating Border Economies


The border cities of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico – both big industrial hubs – exist specifically because the border exists, characterized by a tension that fuels economic activity. Professor Anita Pena and PhD student Adam Walke explore the complexities of interconnected economies and the economics of immigration, which is inevitably about people. 

Clay pots created with moss green material

Clay is a Border of Nature, Time, and Space

Art and Art History

Sanam Emami and students have been digging in the dirt along the Poudre River, exploring the possibilities of local clay. Local clays differ from commercialized, highly processed clays that are sourced from manufacturers. Using local clay to make functional objects ties its utility to place and provides a richer understanding of the connection between humans, place, and Earth.  

Aylesworth hall exterior during demolition

Archeo-phonics: Music, Memory, & Preserving What We’ve Lost


Part poem, part sound-art, part architectural experiment, part foray into literary theory – The Aylesworth Suite, a collection of three pieces of music, each seeking to preserve not simply the memory but the sonic imprint of the now destroyed Aylesworth Hall, is a work that unexpectedly always adds up to more than the sum of its parts. 

Abby Allison, Maddy Kling, and Jame Fuerte

The Thing Itself: Navigating the borders of concept to performance

School of Music, Theatre, and Dance

Choreography translates the border between the emotional concept and the physical moves themselves, and allows an audience to hold their own perceptions and their own story. Three CSU Dance majors produce their senior capstonetaking  their initial idea or concept and translating it into a performance, moving the idea from an internal realm to an external one.  

Black Elk’s Peak

Bridging Two Worlds


Inspired by author Gloria Anzaldua’s  advocacy of coalitions and the nurturing of allyship, because “we need to know the history of [others’] struggle and they need to know ours,” philosophy student Maeve interviews philosophy student Weston about Native American life, different ways of knowing, and the interconnections that bind us together. 

Climate Impact on People, Place, and Policy

Anthropology and Geography

Growing up in Guatemala, Diego Pons, climatologist and assistant professor of geography, couldn’t help but recognize that climate had a remarkable impact on local environments, farms and people. Pons wants to make large-scale climate science work for local farms and communities facing tough decisions. 

Planting a Vision


Emeritus professor and former VP Lou Swanson receives the Yellow Mountain Foreign Advisor Award – a high recognition for work done in China. The award recognizes Swanson’s and other sociology professors’ work to improve food systems and rural development in China, an effort decades in the making. 

María Inés Canto

Latin American women writers’ voices crossed borders, platforms

Languages, Literatures and Cultures

María Inés Canto Carrillo,  Assistant Professor of Spanish, has focused on how the pandemic has encouraged Latin American female writers to use social media to amplify their voices, bringing forth taboo topics, feminist concerns, and their stories to the forefront.

“Being Okinawan” – An examination of Okinawa’s history and resiliency

International Studies

International Studies student Caroline Dunphy reflects on her study abroad trip to Okinawa and the history that has informed the culture today, including its culinary specialty, taco rice. 

Joe Champ standing in Glenwood Canyon, overlooking the mountains

Navigating Science and Public Boundaries and Broadening Student Horizons

Journalism and Media Communication

Joe Champ, journalism associate professor of science communication, works tirelessly to connect excellent students with amazing opportunities in the Forest Service, National Park Service, and beyond. The students’ experience with CSU’s Center for Science Communication (and a network assisted by Champ) lead to internships, jobs, and unimagined careers. 

Grunge Non-binary pride flag

Finding Home Beyond the Binary

Ethnic Studies | Women's Studies

Both the terms non binary and transgender work for this Women and Gender Studies student who has confirmed their social and gender identity while studying at CSU. Gender theory provided the words and the support they needed for this transformation

The pond at Quitobaquito is the only place in the United States where the endangered Sonoyta mud turtle, the caper butterfly and the Quitobaquito pupfish can be found naturally. Photo courtesy of Jared Orsi

The legacy of Quitobaquito Springs, a tiny place with a long history


On the border between Mexico and Arizona is the postage stamp-sized oasis of Quitobaquito. But while the pond itself is tiny, what it holds is immense.

Rio Grande River marking the border between Texas (left) and Mexico (right)

Rivers Across Borders: Environmental Justice in the Rio Grande Basin

Center for Environmental Justice

The Rio Grande River Basin is a non-renewable resource that supports millions of human beings and tens of millions of species. The Center for Environmental Justice at CSU studies the lives and systems that the river impacts.   

Jim and Sue with a Buddhist Monk in China

An International Perspective: Faculty Donors Support Students Becoming Global Citizens

College of Liberal Arts

Emeriti faculty Jim Boyd and Sue Ellen Markey embody the term “global citizen.” Having lived, worked, and studied in countries around the world, these two embrace and advocate for students to enter another worldview through the establishment of a new scholarship. 

CSU Clark Building with yellow leaves of fall framing the building

College of Liberal Arts 2021 News

College of Liberal Arts

From our faculty securing prestigious grants to our alumni making a significant impact on local communities, the College of Liberal Arts has great news to share. 

Laying out photography for an exhibit at the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art

Art museums make connections across borders

The Gregory Allicar Museum of Art

By prompting dialogue about what museums do, who they are for, and how they teach us, the Gregory Allicar’s exhibitions and programming illustrate how borders are never as clearly defined as they might seem. Art museums bridge divides – catalyzing visual literacy by sparking conversation between differing ideas.