Alumni Spotlight: Oliver Brainerd

ACC Alumnus Oliver Brainerd – From the ACC Faculty and Staff Perspective

by Monica Fuglei, Debra Goldberg, Juliet Hubbell, and Josie Mills


ACC Alumnus Oliver Brainerd

ACC Alumnus Oliver Brainerd

It’s been nearly two years since Oliver Brainerd graduated from ACC, but many of his instructors can still remember him fondly. I think my first encounter with Oliver was in a summer Introduction to Creative Writing class, and he quickly became an active presence on campus, taking a wide variety of ACC classes, working with Phi Theta Kappa, and serving in the Student Success Center as a peer tutor. Oliver may have graduated, but in some ways he’s still around: I assign an article he wrote about writing for my Introduction to Composition students to read. He jokes he’s creating a career in reverse: not famous, yet, but being taught in schools. He is currently shopping his novel and continues to write short fiction as well. Recently, he has begun working on a project called Sobremesa. This will be a multimedia publishing engine that includes writing, podcasts, and even videos. Sobremesa is a Spanish word that, roughly translated, means conversation after dinner, and Oliver envisions this project as a curated space that would allow people to take part in larger conversations about academics, culture, or the world at large as well as sharing new creative writing and essays.

Any instructor or student interested in contributing to Sobremesa is welcome to contact Oliver via email or visit the Sobremesa page.


A couple weeks before the semester began in the summer of 2012, I got a call from one Oliver Brainerd very politely introducing himself and telling me he would be a student in my English 121 class. Only a few times in the 25 years I’ve been teaching have I received a call of introduction prior to the semester. I pictured Oliver Brainerd as an older man with little round glasses and a bow tie, an upstanding traditionalist who had a special penchant for writing. Only the last part turned out to be the case. Instead, day one of my class in walked Oliver, a friendly young man with hair down to his waist, in no way a conventional guy except in his love of standard English grammar and good writing. Oliver knew his way around a comma like no one else—we would together debate the merits of a parenthetical comma before certain restrictive and non-restrictive phrases. Oliver had great ideas including a plan to bring poetry to local coffee houses. He was a strong writer, an engaging presenter, and a great student. The following semester, Oliver started tutoring English in our Student Success Center, and I was so glad I could refer students to him by name when they needed a little extra help on a paper. Oliver went on to become a professional writer, and I’m so excited for his success.


For three years, Oliver Brainerd served as one of my most talented Peer Tutors here in ACC’s Student Success Center. He specialized in composition, literature, communication, philosophy, and business. Oliver was an incredible asset to students as he provided a variety of learning strategies, study techniques, and other resources they needed to be successful in their courses. He is an enthusiastic learner who relishes the challenge of understanding difficult material in order to help others. Oliver made sure students did not just memorize facts, but more importantly, understood the concepts. His incentive to work as a tutor comes from a strong desire to help others see their potential and give them insight into new ways to approach problems in learning and life. His compassionate nature, remarkable creativity, and insightful sense of humor made him an outstanding student and role model to everyone he encountered.


Oliver was in my Brit Lit course, and he always had tremendously fresh and insightful remarks to make about works that were over 200 and 300 years old. His writing reflected this distinct and almost quirky view of classic works, and it made the entire class sit up and take notice of what might otherwise have been a dry or flat text. Even more importantly, Oliver always listened carefully to his classmates’ remarks and would take a few moments to reflect on them and later respond with a thoughtful and expansive comment. A young man with long hair (at least back then) disguising a totally plugged-in intellectual.

Cross-departmental Collaboration Builds Job Skills at ACC

Are you looking for a college that will give you real world, unique experiences working not only cross-departmentally, but also with other colleges? ACC takes pride in giving our students the opportunity to learn in a multitude of ways, thus increasing their job skills and their confidence in those skills.

One recent project allowed biology students to work with the University of Denver and our own multimedia, graphic design and illustration students to create work that was both scientifically and visually compelling.

Dr. Nia Bauer, ACC Biology Faculty:

To increase scientific literacy, problem solving skills, student interest and success in STEM courses, ACC Biology students are being exposed to a real-world hands-on research experience. Engaging students in a meaningful research experience early in their academic careers can have lasting implications for both initial student success and long-term development of a community of innovative, problem solving citizens.

Through a partnership with Randall Cohrs, Ph.D., Department of Neurology at the University of Denver, ACC BIO 111 students are working on a research project to map possible promoter regions in the Varicella Zoster Virus DNA, responsible for Chickenpox and Shingles.  These regions will help researchers understand how the virus become activated and latent (deactivated). Ultimately, this information could lead to the design of treatment for chickenpox and shingles.

I believe that this is where education is going, away from canned labs to more open-ended projects that allow students to understand how science is really done.  Since we did things a bit ‘differently’ this year in BIO 111 labs, I was looking for a way to visually represent the project that was more engaging than just words in a lab.  This is why I asked Tom to help fulfill this vision and his class did an outstanding job!

Tom DeMoulin, ACC Multimedia, Graphic Design and Illustration Department Chair:

A cross-department faculty collaboration between the Biology and Multimedia/Graphic Design departments provided advanced opportunities for students in both departments last semester.

In the fall of 2015, Biology 111 students were to embark on an undergraduate research project in collaboration with a University of Denver researcher.  This ongoing work allows ACC students to map the Varicella Zoster Virus DNA, responsible for Chickenpox and Shingles, looking specifically for regions that activate and de-activate the virus. Dr. Bauer wanted a visually dynamic tool to engage BIO 111 students from the outset. Nia reached out to me and my students to create a unique, animated introduction to the process. 

My Motion Graphics class, MGD 143, took up the challenge as I incorporated this project into the course’s curriculum for a month of the term. Acting as both the client and technical advisor, Dr. Bauer was interviewed on multiple occasions by the Motion Graphics class to ensure both technical accuracy and her satisfaction with the project’s direction. The five-minute animation was delivered on time in a relatively short turnaround of five weeks and has subsequently been used in multiple sections of General Biology 111.

View the video of this project on ACC’s YouTube Channel.

Bicycle safety tips from ACC Campus Police

Participating ACC staff for Bike to Work Day 2015

Participating ACC staff for Bike to Work Day 2015

  • Remember that you are sharing the road – or pathway – with other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.  Use caution and respect their rights.
  • Ride defensively.  You should always assume that others don’t see you.  Wear light-colored or reflective clothing and accessories such as a vest, arm band and leg bands.
  • Ride in designated bike lanes or designated bike paths, or as close to the edge of the road as possible (and in the same direction as the traffic flow).
  • Stop at stop signs and traffic signals; slow down and look both ways at intersections.
  • Use the approved hand signals for turning and stopping.  Observe and yield the right of way.
  • Never ride with headphones or earbuds – they tend to mask the sounds of traffic and emergency vehicles (and the wires can tangle in moving parts of the bicycle).
  • Never carry items that obstruct your vision, and don’t weave through traffic or make sudden moves.
  • Never ride a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Guest Blog: Top 6 Tips to Stay Focused During Finals Week

ACC student studying in the student lounge.

During finals week, the tension on campus is palpable. It’s like each student’s mind is somewhere else – reviewing lessons, memorizing vocabulary, problem solving – and most people are locked down at the library or in their rooms squeezing the most out of their study time.

With so much weighing on exam results, it’s easy to get lost studying and become overwhelmed by how much needs to be done. Too much stress, however, can affect memory recall and make it harder to learn. High levels of anxiety can cause you to “freeze” and make you unable to concentrate. To stay focused during finals week, follow these six tips that cover your mind, body, environment, and studying.

Tip 1: Take care of your mind with a three-minute meditation

Find a few minutes to shut off your mind and meditate. Need a reason why? Here are several: meditating can increase your focus by ten times and help lead to 75% less depression, 30% less anxiety, and 65% more well-being. Meditation increases your mental strength and focus and increases memory retention and recall.

If you’ve never meditated before, all you have to do is sit in a comfortable position with no distractions. Slowly breathe in and out of your nose to oxygenate your body’s tissues and relieve tension. Focus on being present and each time your mind follows a thought, notice it, breathe, and release. Try this for a few minutes and don’t worry about getting it “right.” It’s like a mini-vacation for your mind and body.

Tip 2: Refuel yourself with exercise, nutrition, and sleep

Exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep may seem like obvious tips, but many of us don’t follow this advice. If you don’t have time for the recommended twenty to thirty minutes of exercise a day, find at least ten minutes to stretch, walk, and get your heart rate up. Eat protein-rich meals with lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, and water. Avoid carbohydrates that will give you a sugar high then leave you feeling exhausted. Unwind before bed with a few minutes of meditation or by listening to calming music to release lingering thoughts. Get enough sleep, which varies depending on what you need to function.

ACC Law LibraryTip 3: Map out your study zones

If your room becomes a party zone, as is often the case if your roommates finish their exams before you, you need a backup plan that includes alternative places to study. Create a short list that includes addresses, phone numbers, opening and closing hours, and Wi-Fi availability. Ideal places include the school library, public library, and local cafes.

Tip 4: Create a study schedule

Estimate how much time you need to prepare for each final and work backward to find the dates for when you need to begin studying, writing, and preparing. Prioritize which is most important and take it one piece at a time. This helps you avoid last-minute cramming sessions that do little to raise your grade and a lot to make you exhausted.

Tip 5: Follow a study strategy

Study strategically by studying in short increments. Break up your study sessions according to task, such as read, write, memorize, review, and then repeat. This will help you to avoid study burnout.

Tip 6: Take breaks to recharge

Every fifteen to twenty minutes, take a break by walking around, getting some fresh air, or talking to a friend. Taking a “microbreak,” which is from thirty seconds to five minutes, can improve your mental acuity by an average of 13%. If you’re spending a lot of time in front of the computer, taking a fifteen-second break every ten minutes can reduce fatigue by 50%. Treat your breaks as a time to unplug, step away from your computer, and give your mind (and eyes) a rest. You’ll extend the length of time you’ll be able to study and will be more productive.

Taking a comprehensive approach to staying focused during finals week will help you reap the benefits of being calm, cool, and collected during your exams. As your friends are cramming and stressing out, you’ll be the epitome of Zen with a sharply focused mind and a calm outlook. Finals week is approaching, so apply these tips and see how they can help you.


Eric Hung is the Co-Founder of, which helps high school and college students reach their potential through video lessons from awesome teachers. He started the company after studying biomedical engineering at Duke (BSE) and USC (MS) as a way for students struggling with math and science to get help without the expense of private tutors. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Start Now! Enrollment Expo on June 4

ACC Student Life Assistant Director Jennifer Husum assisting a student

ACC Student Life Assistant Director Jennifer Husum assisting a student

Will you be starting at Arapahoe Community College in Fall 2016? We have a great opportunity for you to begin the process of enrolling in Fall 2016 classes with our Start Now! student services and enrollment session on June 4 at the Littleton and Castle Rock campuses.

If you are a prospective and currently-applied – but not enrolled – student, Start Now! will give you the opportunity to complete new student orientation and testing while receiving assistance with advising, financial aid and registration during this one-day session. If you sign up to take the college placement test during the Start! Now June 4 event prior to June 1, your test will be FREE!

Start Now! will run from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., will include regular tours of the College, and staff will be on hand to help answer any questions you may have about ACC’s programs, beginning your college career, financial aid or payment plans. Please bring your 2015 tax forms if you are interested in free assistance with completing the FAFSA. Refreshments will be available.

At ACC, we offer both quality and value.  ACC has nearly 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as guaranteed transfer programs into many of Colorado’s four-year public institutions. Our instructors are experts in their field, and classes are available both online and at our campuses in Littleton, Parker and Castle Rock.

For more information and to register for new student orientation and/or testing, please visit our Start Now! page or contact the Student Recruitment and Outreach Office at / 303.797.5637.

by ACC Marketing