Faculty member Norma Hafenstein, Ph.D., has been named the Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education. The Chair reflects the University of Denver’s—and the Morgridge College of Education’s (MCE)—long history of commitment to gifted education through service to gifted children, training of teachers to serve children’s needs, and support of doctoral research around giftedness.

Dr. Hafenstein’s award-winning professional career spans numerous positions in leadership and scholarship. She is a Full Clinical Professor—and former Ricks Endowed Chair for Gifted Education—in the Teaching and Learning Sciences (TLS) department at MCE. She founded the Ricks Center for Gifted Children, a PS-8 school on the DU campus, in 1984. In addition, she founded the Institute for the Development of Gifted Education in 1997, which has moved to a dormant phase. The work of the Institute will be subsumed by the Ritchie Endowed Chair, and the widely respected annual conference on gifted education will continue to be offered.  The cast bronze bell at the entrance of the Ricks Center carrying the inscription, “Dr. Norma Hafenstein, Our Founder”, was a gift from former Chancellor Ritchie, and is tuned with the carillon at the Ritchie Center.

The impact of the gifted programming in MCE extends beyond the DU campus. In 2013, MCE launched an Ed.D. with a Specialization in Gifted Education in the TLS department. Led by Dr. Hafenstein, students work on research and impact projects such as training preschool teachers to understand giftedness, working with principals to implement school gifted programs, and examining social and emotional curricula for gifted learners.

Dr. Hafenstein’s accolades include the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented Lifetime Achievement Award and DU’s Outstanding Service to the University Award. She is the Co-Principal Investigator on a federally-funded Jacob K. Javits state grant for Right 4 Rural (R4R), a project developed in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education. R4R focuses on the identification of and service to underrepresented gifted children in rural Colorado. Additional research work includes E-RiDGE, a Bradley Foundation-funded project to measure the impact of doctoral training at the student-service level.

Dr. Hafenstein presents extensively on giftedness at national and international conferences. Upcoming engagements include the National Association for Gifted Children, where she will give three presentations at the 2016 conference titled, Evaluation and Replicability in Doctoral Gifted Education: Impact and Implications; Radical Acceleration: When is it Time to Imagine Early College Attendance; and Giftedness in Rural Poverty: What do we Know? Furthermore, Dr. Hafenstein has presented at the International Dabrowski Congress, Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted Annual Conference (SENG), World Council on Gifted and Talented Children Biennial World Conference (WCGTC), and the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting (AERA).

The Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair of Gifted Education was established in October 2016 by the Considine Family Foundation, making it the fourth endowed chair in the Morgridge College of Education. The College expresses its gratitude to the foundation for this generous gift.

Cecilia Orphan, Ph.D., a Higher Education Assistant Professor at the Morgridge College of Education, has partnered with the Campus Compact of the Mountain West (CCMW) in a yearlong Collective Impact initiative. Dr. Orphan will lead the project—a collaboration with Colorado State University-Pueblo, the University of Colorado Denver, and the University of Northern Colorado—which is focused on assessing the institutions’ contributions to civic health and equity in their regions. The initiative is phase one of a higher education civic health and equity initiative.

The project was made possible through a Public Good grant provided by The University of Denver’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. The Collective Impact project builds on the work of the Colorado Civic Health Network—an initiative founded after the 2014 publication of the Colorado Civic Health Index—which includes increasing volunteerism, voter engagement, civic health in minority communities, and student engagement. Dr. Orphan has focused her career on institutional civic engagement, and has previously served as the National Manager at the American Democracy Project.

With the Collective Impact Project, Dr. Orphan says that institutions are working to foster reciprocal partnerships with organizations in their communities, and that the information collected will be leveraged to create matrices as a framework for additional institutions—on a local, regional, and national scale—to participate in similar projects in the future. In the long term, participant institutions have the goal of translating the data collected from assessment and research into policy briefs for the state legislature, helping policymakers better understand the public impact of higher education and to drive future policy in higher education.

October 21, 2016 – I’ve been thinking about the question of what makes for a great teacher because one of my students recently commented: “The greatest teacher is the one who is present at the moment of your greatest need, not the one with the most golden apples”.  Her observation, offered in the midst of a spontaneous class discussion, captures much of the essence of good teaching.  Greatness is not really something that can be planned or trained for using a rigid series of instructional protocols.  It is not even a quality that can be mastered through the acquisition of external accolades, although it is important for good teaching to be rewarded and lifted up. Greatness, emerges amidst the unpredictable alchemy of a teacher who is “listening” deeply to the needs (intellectual, emotional and spiritual) of her students and a learner who is willing to be vulnerable and open to a teacher/student relationship that goes beyond content and technique.  Parker Palmer, who is a noted author on education, calls this the distinction between teachers who fully show up and are “authentic” and teachers who are just “phoning it in” and playing at the role of educator.

What makes for a great teacher?  How do you know one when you see one?  When you think back across your educational experiences who stands out and why?  Is the greatest teacher the one who knew the most content knowledge?  How about the teacher who spent extra time with you because you were struggling with an assignment?  Maybe it was the teacher who created a classroom climate that allowed you to explore some aspect of your personal life that you always wanted to know more about.  And it might have even been the teacher who pushed you hard because you were capable of more, praised you for your hard work and ability to rise to the challenge, and still gave you the only “B” in your educational career.

My greatest teachers come in many forms and represent several competing ways of understanding the craft of teaching.  I only remember two or three teachers across my K-12 experience, which is often surprising to me given my interest in education.  My high school Chemistry teacher was noteworthy for his daily ritual of walking into class, opening a jar of instant coffee, dumping a good amount into a stained mug and heating it up with hot water from the tap.  I learned or at least retained little knowledge of chemistry but he did teach me, through negative example, the importance of passion, interest and authenticity for the work of teaching.  While in college I had a mentor who took me aside one day and talked to me about the importance of communication and following through on commitments.  Without his thoughtful and challenging feedback I would have continued to perform below my potential as an educator.  His greatness as a teacher was his authenticity and ability to call out my gifts and hold me to standard commensurate with my native skills.  I’m deeply indebted to all my great teachers.  Thanks.

The Morgridge College of Education extends its heartfelt congratulations to Higher Education Ph.D. student Meseret Hailu, who received the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Award. Hailu will use the award to conduct a study examining gender inequality within science and technology in Ethiopia.

Prior to enrolling in the Ph.D. program, Hailu attended the University of Denver and Regis University for her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in biological and biomedical sciences. She has served as an affiliate faculty member at Regis University and as an Academic Fellow at College Track, and currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant to supplement her doctoral studies. Hailu’s research interests revolve around international education and gender equality in STEM fields, particularly for Black women.

Congratulations, Meseret!

The Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department in the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver has been selected to participate in The Wallace Foundation’s $47-million initiative to develop models over the next four years for improving university principal preparation programs and to examine state policy to see if it could be strengthened to encourage higher-quality training statewide.

The University Principal Preparation Initiative builds on 15 years of Wallace-supported research and experience about what makes for effective principals and their “pre-service” training at universities. The initiative seeks to explore how university programs can improve their training so it reflects the evidence on how best to prepare effective principals, and then to share these insights to benefit the broader field.

After a selection process that included site visits and assistance from experts in state policy and education, the foundation selected seven universities to redesign their principal preparation programs:  Albany State University (Georgia), Florida Atlantic University, North Carolina State University, San Diego State University, the University of Connecticut, Virginia State University and Western Kentucky University. In addition to working with local schools districts and their states, each university selected a partner program that was known for high-quality training to serve as mentor and support the redesign process.

Florida Atlantic University and North Carolina State University selected the University of Denver’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Department in the Morgridge College of Education to serve as their exemplary program partner.

­­The Wallace Foundation hopes the initiative can contribute over the long term to the development of a new national approach to preparing effective principals, one focusing on evidence-based policies and practices in three areas:

  • Developing and implementing high-quality courses of study with practical, on-the-job experiences.
  • Putting in place strong university-district partnerships.
  • Developing state policies about program accreditation, principal licensure or certification, and other matters (funded internships, for example) to promote more effective training statewide.

“We know from research that school principals require excellent training with high-quality, practical  experiences to become effective leaders—but most are simply not getting this,” said Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation. “Because many school districts don’t have the capacity to train as many principals as they need or to train future principals at all, the best way to reach more aspiring school leaders is through the university programs that typically provide needed certification. We are confident that the selected universities want to raise the bar for their programs, work in partnership with their local school districts and serve as models for other universities.”

The seven states in which the universities are located will receive funding to review their policies pertaining to university-based principal training and determine if changes—such as program accreditation and principal licensure or certification requirements—would encourage the development of more effective preparation programs statewide.

“The more we talk with education leaders no matter at what level of the education system, from state to university to district, the more we hear it is the right time to conduct a university-focused initiative like this,” said Jody Spiro, director of education leadership at Wallace. “We are seeking to learn how these seven universities accomplish their program redesign as an important first step in improving how principals are prepared for the demanding job of leading school improvement across the country.”

RAND Corporation will conduct an independent evaluation of the initiative over four years, with a final report in year five. The study will assess how the participating universities go about trying to implement high-quality courses of study and to form strong partnerships with local, high-needs school districts. A series of public reports will share lessons and insights and describe whatever credible models emerge so that other universities, districts and states can adopt or adapt the initiative work.

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The Wallace Foundation seeks to improve education and enrichment for disadvantaged children and foster the vitality of arts for everyone. The foundation has an unusual approach: funding efforts to test innovative ideas for solving important public problems, conducting research to find out what works and what doesn’t and to fill key knowledge gaps – and then communicating the results to help others. Wallace, which works nationally, has five major initiatives under way:

  • School leadership: Strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement.
  • Afterschool: Helping selected cities make good afterschool programs available to many more children.
  • Building audiences for the arts: Enabling arts organizations to bring the arts to a broader and more diverse group of people.
  • Arts education: Expanding arts learning opportunities for children and teens.
  • Summer and expanded learning: Better understanding the impact of high-quality summer learning programs on disadvantaged children, and enriching and expanding the school day in ways that benefit students.

Find out more at www.wallacefoundation.org.

Curriculum and Instruction alumna Juli Kramer, Ph.D. (‘10), has begun working with the Multicultural Division of the Soong Ching Ling School (SLCS) in Shanghai, China, where she will serve as the Director of Curriculum for grades 6-8 and develop curricula for the new high school, which will open in 2017. Her role supports the middle school as it strives for higher levels of academic excellence and care, and works to facilitate consistency in teacher flow. Furthermore, the high school will allow students to continue their education in the multicultural environment.

SCLS opened in 2008, and devotes its mission to “providing children the opportunity to explore and gain valuable opportunities and experiences in education and life.” The school incorporates Western educational principles into the curriculum, and has an International Division for students from outside of China and a Multicultural Division for Shanghai residents. The school utilizes care theory, or creating a learning environment that adapts to needs and interests. Working at SCLS appealed to Dr. Kramer because she identifies with the mission and its commitment to providing an environment of care.

Dr. Kramer has worked in a wide range of roles supporting curriculum design and implementation. Her most recent positions include supporting the design and implementation of an online educational resource for teachers at the Denver Art Museum; developing a citizen awareness program to give individuals ownership over their security at The Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab; and founding the high-achieving Denver Academy of Torah’s high school, raising it to academic excellence at a national level. Dr. Kramer attributes her professional achievements in part to a strong working relationship with “tremendous mentor” and Morgridge College of Education faculty member Bruce Uhrmacher, Ph.D.

Robin Filipczak (MLIS ’11), a reference librarian at Denver Public Library (DPL), has produced a local installation of the Race Card Project. The Race Card Project is an initiative created in 2010 by Michele Norris—a former host at NPR—who describes it as “a place for people to talk about race and cultural identity in only six words.” In a recent Colorado Public Radio (CPR) broadcast with “Colorado Matters” host Nathan Heffel, Filipczak spoke about the library’s installation, a poster board where library visitors can share their six-word stories on postcards.

The installation began in July 2016 and has since collected hundreds of responses. In the CPR broadcast, Filipczak said she was empowered to do more to deepen the conversation around race and support her community after attending the 2016 Public Library Association national conference in Denver. The installation has been met with enthusiasm from other librarians, and will expand into additional DPL branches this fall. Furthermore, the project is expanding the view of libraries beyond a repository for books; rather, libraries are true public forums that promote community connections, freedom of ideas, and civil discourse, and are environments well-suited to host what Filipczak calls “thornier” conversations.

Filipczak also credits the Morgridge College of Education’s Library and Information Science program with her professional success, citing her specialization in reference and user services and faculty support in networking and hands-on experiences. She enjoys working in reference services—landing her dream job at DPL right out of school—in order to be on the front line of working with customers and helping to share information and resources.


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