The Educational Leadership Policy Studies (ELPS) Program at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) is a nationally-recognized leader in the field, and is ranked in this year’s Top 20 programs for Educational Administration and Supervision by U.S. News and World Report.

According to Susan Korach, Ed.D.—ELPS department chair—“Our systems of support and coursework embedded in school and district contexts prepares transformative leaders who positively impact the educational outcomes for all students. Institutions of higher education across the country have consulted with ELPS to redesign their programs and to build partnerships with schools and districts.” The infusion of turnaround leadership into coursework and the drive of students, faculty, and alumni to innovate propel program success.

One leading example of the program’s innovative impact lies in Denver Public Schools, which has approved the creation of an Innovation Zone called the Luminary Learning Network where educators have more autonomy to influence student success. Three of the schools in the Network—Denver Green School, Ashley Elementary School, and Cole Arts & Science Academy—have been founded by, or are currently run by, ELPS alumni. Denver Green School, founded by alumni Mimi Diaz (2008), Craig Harrer (2008, current Ed.D. candidate), and Andy Post (2008) and currently co-led by alumni Prudence Daniels (2007), is unique in this group for infusing project-based learning and environmental sustainability into its curriculum.

This story is featured in our 2016 Dean’s Report, which you can read in its entirety here.

December 14th, 2016 – Just about every time I’m in K-12 schools I witness broken-hearted teaching in one form or another from some the best teachers I know. They regularly engage in a form of teaching where their teacher’s heart is broken open at the interface between ideal conceptions of teaching and the real conditions of 21st century education. For instance, a teacher is valiantly trying to connect her passion for subject matter with curriculum that is flat and uninviting. Another teacher is dealing with the tragic death of a student while teaching as if everything is okay so as to reassure her students. A third teacher brings an extra breakfast every day for a student who is homeless and living out of a car. This is broken-hearted teaching as Parker Palmer, educator and social activists calls it, where the teacher teaches knowing that her heart is breaking in two. Teaching in the midst of needs that can never be fixed, only attend to with compassion and empathy that opens the teacher’s heart to imagination instead of closing it to despair or complacency.

In moments of personal or professional despair I’m often drawn to the poem “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver for meaning making. I’m not looking for sure or quick answers but rather a place of purchase from which my broken-heartedness can become a place of understanding and growth.  In her poem she writes:

“Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.”

I’m drawn to the transition between the two sentences, a mere tiny space between a period and capital letter. Yet at the same time a universe of potential that frames a productive space between the real and tangible moments of suffering I experience and the equally real sense that larger more life-giving energies are ever moving forward. And what might this space of imagination be pointing toward in the midst of broken-heartedness? Her poem continues:
“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

Even in the midst of despair teachers keep on teaching, it is in their DNA. Mary Oliver’s poem doesn’t attempt to diminish or wave away the heart breaking demands of teaching which would be inappropriate and unwarranted. Instead she invites all educators to remember the wild geese of their teaching (passions, students, colleagues, or content) are always heading home and calling all educators back to the heart of what they do best, teach.

Students from the Child, Family, and School Psychology (CFSP) program—under the mentorship of faculty member Gloria Miller, Ph.D.—have been working with the Colorado African Organization (CAO) to connect with refugee families who have settled in Colorado.

The students and CAO Community Navigators assist refugee families in adapting to and succeeding in the American education system. School-based issues that the families have encountered include religious dietary restrictions conflicting with school lunch menus, expectations about parental involvement, trauma and mental health, language barriers, and education gaps due to prior unstable living situations.

The partnership enables students to obtain experience working with diverse communities and helps them become more well-rounded practitioners while providing newcomer families with tools and resources to thrive. Due to a rising population of refugees and asylum-seekers in the United States and Colorado, services such as those that CAO provide and the involvement of students who are training to serve these populations are becoming increasingly important.

This story is featured in our 2016 Dean’s Report, which you can read in its entirety here.

Counseling Psychology alumna, Khara Croswaite, M.A,, LPC, has been busy since graduating in 2012. She is a business owner and a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in the Lowry neighborhood of Denver, Colorado.  In addition to supporting students, adults and Medicaid clients with anxiety, depression, trauma and life transitions, she also offers clinical supervision as an Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) to Masters-level clinicians seeking licensure in Colorado as an LPC.  She even teaches as an Adjunct Faculty at Red Rocks Community College in the Psychology Department!

We had a chance to catch up with Khara to talk a little bit about her work, and how she feels the Counseling Psychology Master’s program here at Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver, prepared her to enter the counseling field. “DU was vital in contributing to my success in the Denver professional community today. It was thanks to DU that I received a competitive, valued degree that allowed me to find the right jobs based on hands-on experience in the program.  DU contributed to my ability to build a solid network of professionals and resources in the metro area to be successful in private practice. I am a proud alum and hope to give back to the University in the future as an educator!”

In addition to her professional work, Khara is currently presenting workshops on self-harm, suicide and safety planning, including the Mental Health Professionals conference at DU, hosted by the Colorado Counseling Association, scheduled for next April. If you would like to see Khara, and other counseling professionals, present at the conference, make sure to register here.

So what are Khara’s future plans? The next item on her to-do list is to get into a Ph.D. program in Counseling Education and Supervision in order to continue teaching, which she loves. She also hopes to write a collaborative book next year with colleagues to support clinicians working in Community-based programs.

As we enter into 2017, it is a good time for a reminder of the values of the Counseling Psychology Department at the Morgridge College of Education. Said concisely, our faculty, staff, and students work to promote social justice and stand against hateful, discriminatory, and divisive language and actions. Although this statement may appear to be an affirmation of common sense, in 2016 we witnessed an alarming increase in hate speech and discriminatory rhetoric, including encouraging for violence towards women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and generally other underrepresented populations in our country. Sitting down, remaining silient, and accepting this behavior as the new normal is not an option, at least not for us. For instance, our faculty and students continue to be active in promoting our values (Click here for an example of Dr. Garriott’s examination of power and privilege dynamics in society).

Our department’s recognition of the primacy of social justice translated this year into five students awarded fellowships from the SAMSA and NAADAC’s Minority Fellowship Program. The Fellowship Program’s stated goal is to reduce health disparities and improve behavioral health care outcomes for racially diverse populations including minority and LGBT populations, and transition age youth. Additionally, another student was awarded APA’s Minority Fellowship.

During these times we must try to remind ourselves that ultimately the convictions and dedication of the community to justice and respect for all people, has, and will continue to prevail. Our students, faculty and staff have committed themselves to justice and equity through tangible actions. We have participated in on-campus rallies in support of Native Americans at Standing Rock, advocating for a sanctuary campus, and additional political protests around the city. Our on-going forum, called Campus Conversations, provided a great space to organize our efforts and voice our opinions and feelings about happenings on-campus and around the world, especially as they relate to discrimination and equal rights. Evolving from this group, the Counseling Psychology Department created a CP specific Social Justice Committee. We also started a social justice listserv to provide community members a platform to share events and stories, and to organize grassroots efforts to continue the fight against hate. Our faculty are also engaged with several initiatives focused on promoting social justice locally in our Denver-metro area as well as around the nation (check out their profiles to learn more). Perhaps our most important effort is the one we give to each other every day in seeking to learn and understand concepts and people that are unfamiliar to us, and to honor each other’s unique identities.

We will continue the to combat against hate, and to promote a more loving world, and we hope that you will too. We leave you with the powerful words of Margaret Mead that ring true, now more than ever: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


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