Khara Croswaite Brindle graduated  from Morgridge College of Education Counseling Psychology master’s program in 2012 with a passion for helping and a keen ear for listening – and understanding – others. Today, she is a private practice licensed professional therapist with a focus on clients using Medicaid. At nights and on the weekends, she runs her own business developing an app to assess and prevent suicide.

“I saw a need for this assessment tool,” she said, as if this were the simplest thing in the world. “I want people who want to go ‘there’ to be able to have that tough conversation and be able to access resources to get help.”

By people who want to go “there,” she means teachers, coaches, case managers, anyone who may be in a professional position to see another person struggling but not be a clinical mental health professional. Her goal is to make the conversation about suicide easier to approach, easier to have, and easier to know what to do. Her app works like this. Said person (let’s call them the professional) sees another person struggling. Maybe they have every day contact, maybe they see them once a week, but they believe this person is having a hard time. They decide to broach THE question, the tough question, the one they know the answer to but maybe do not know what to do with the response.

“Do you want to kill yourself?”

“Are you suicidal?”

“Do you have thoughts of harming yourself?”

They bring up the app. The app is loaded with the suicide risk assessment, and the professional begins the heart-to-heart. Together, they talk, the professional listens, and they have the conversation. Once complete the app populates next steps, organizations to contact for additional help, where to find online and face-to-face support, and who to call for emergency assistance. It also goes one step further and populates resources based on factors such as age and geographical location. Currently its resources are for the entire state of Colorado.

Croswaite Brindle stresses that this app is not meant to be a total assessment. This is also not a one and done conversation. This app is meant to help on the spot and give the professional and the person hurting a beginning roadmap to intervention and recovery.

In her practice, Croswaite Brindle regularly works with at-risk populations. This is a conscious decision to provide the best possible care to patients with Medicaid. She works with teenagers, single parents, individuals struggling with gender identity, veterans; she works with regular, everyday people who are struggling and each and every day her goal is to provide them with the best possible care.

“I think my cohort at Morgridge helped to frame my career now,” she said. “My class graduated and we were so excited to get out and be agents of change.”

An agent of change she is. Already her app is in use and under development. She has started to work with the Mental Health Center of Denver and run workshops with other professionals to continue to build resources and continue to assess risk factors. She considers Colorado to be her pilot state, but her long-term goal is to have the application be used nationwide and endorsed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Through it all, she stays in contact with her professors at Morgridge. Now colleagues in the field, she finds their support and encouragement invaluable.

“My connections are wonderful to have,” she said. “It’s been great to continue to collaborate and exciting for me to see the cohorts grow. I definitely am a proud Morgridge alum, and someday I hope to be back in some capacity.”

Back as in, getting a PhD, teaching the next generation of mental health professionals?

“I can see all of that,” she smiles. “Someday.”

More information about the app can be found at Cacs-co.com.

While much of the country is eagerly headed back to school this week, the Morgridge College of Education has one last event before we can move into the fall – and it’s a big event. The summer quarter graduation ceremonies kicked off today, Friday, August 18 with the annual Hooding Ceremony in the Katherine A. Ruffatto Hall Commons. Candidates received the honorary doctoral hood from their faculty advisor. The Hooding Ceremony is a symbolic passing of the torch from one generation of academic doctors to the next.

After the hooding, graduates and their families stuck around for a reception in the commons area. Tomorrow, our 28 doctoral candidates and 59 masters or certificate students will receive their degrees in the annual commencement ceremonies at 8:30 a.m. on the Carnegie Green. Congratulations to all of our graduates, and please visit Flickr to see the entire event photo album.

Earlier this year, masters and doctoral students in the Morgridge College of Education Counseling Psychology (CP) program saw a rising need in their community for social justice and advocacy for underrepresented people. Instead of sitting idly by, the students decided to take action through the creation of the Social Justice Committee with help from faculty members Pat Garriott and Ruth Chao.

Many students attend the CP program here at Morgridge specifically for its focus on issues of diversity and multiculturalism, and while much of our course content currently reflects that focus, many students and faculty feel we could still be doing more, hence the formation of the committee. Since the committee’s inception, they have kept busy with lots of activities and efforts to promote inclusive excellence and create a more equitable and welcoming space for all community members, both on campus and in the greater Denver area. Here are just a few ways they are making an impact:

  • Revamping Curricula: The Social Justice Committee is currently collaborating with faculty to find ways to incorporate issues of power, privilege, and inequity into all of the Counseling Psychology curriculum through possible instructor trainings, and reflective surveys for students where they can provide feedback on their in-class experience, particularly related to socio-political and multicultural climate in the classroom. Their hope is that in the future, curricula across University of Denver (DU) programs will reflect those themes, and provide a space where all students and faculty feel safe.
  • Workshops: They are working with the Center for Multicultural Excellence in hopes of providing training opportunities and workshops for all community members that address these issues. In the fall, several students in conjunction with the Social Justice Committee plan to host one such workshop on “Responding to Microaggressions” (stay tuned for further details).
  • Bias Incidence Reporting: The committee has also taken steps across campus to address issues of social justice, particularly in the reporting of bias-related incidents, and the way in which individuals are described and identified in reports of crime or other incidents. Committee members noticed that bias-related incidents were not consistently reported to the whole university community, and that many reports only identified individuals’ racial and ethnic identity if they were a person of color, and in turn joined the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) to address these issues with Campus Safety (who was very responsive to the committee’s concerns). Using counseling skills they’ve learned in the classroom and in practice, the team was able to effectively work with Campus Safety to change the way incidents are reported and improve the relationship between campus law enforcement and students. While this change is a step in the right direction, the committee thinks we can still do more. First year PhD student, Ellen Shupe, who led this effort, had this to say about the process: “Anytime you try to change a system you experience barriers. Hopefully through continued work with the Campus Safety department, we can continue to move in the direction of minimizing racial profiling and the criminalization of people of color on campus. Additionally, we want to make sure that violent acts against people of color are reported and investigated with as much urgency as those against white people.”

The Social Justice Committee currently meets twice a quarter, and they are always looking for new members who are committed to social change. For more information on joining the committee or their current efforts, you can contact PhD student, J. Galluzzo at Joseph.Galluzzo@du.edu, or subscribe to the Social Justice listserv here.

Three hundred forty-five miles from the University of Denver is the West End School District RE-2. Tucked into the southwest region of Colorado, West End Serves the communities of Bedrock, Naturita, Nucla, and Paradox, covers over 1,000 square miles, and serves approximately 250 total students. Providing education to the rural farming communities, the district faces challenges like any other school district; yet its isolated location brings with it a different set of obstacles when providing the best possible education for students and teachers alike.

Mike Epright, West End’s Superintendent, has made a push and a commitment to maintain quality education. According to West End’s website, the district does so “by providing elevated academic classes, vocational and technical training, and special education programs… Students throughout the district also have the advantage of excellent technology and the opportunity to obtain multiple college credits prior to graduation.”

The district also made a commitment to build capacity through the development of its educators by participating in the Colorado Department of Education Turnaround Leadership Grant Program. The Turnaround Leadership grant, as described by the Colorado Department of Education, “establishes and promotes leadership training specifically for the turnaround environment and is an integral part of Colorado’s state-wide strategy to improve the performance of students in the lowest-performing schools and districts in the state.”

The grant works in two ways: one grant is for the participant (e.g., West End School District RE-2), and one grant is for the provider (e.g., Morgridge College of Education). Together, the entities are able to provide training to educators who can then return to their districts with the tools they need to implement lasting, positive change.

In 2015 two worlds became one as the West End School District partnered with the Morgridge College of Education’s Education Leadership Policy Studies (ELPS) Mountain Cohort. Through this unique partnership, two educators from West End were able to engage in Morgridge College’s ELPS classes in order to expand their personal breadth of knowledge and enrich their district. This fall, another West End educator will join the 2017 Mountain Cohort.

Suddenly, 345 miles was not too far.

“Having the opportunity to develop and implement current research in school improvement, the West End School District has been able to benefit from having two ‘grow your own’ educators take part in the University of Denver’s Aspiring Leaders/ELPS MA Program,” said Epright. “Over the two-year commitment, these two leaders helped shape the instruction and assessment in the district and provided current professional development to staff which shaped a new program change to Project Based Learning.”

Hank Nelson, Morgridge graduate and Instructional Leader at Nucla Elementary School, agrees with Epright. “Participating in the ELPS MA Program was the most beneficial, fulfilling, and impactful experience of my professional career,” he said. “Not one experience failed to be valuable, developing my growth as a leader while indirectly providing a service to the needs of our district. This program made me into an equitable, adaptable, data-driven, innovative, inquiring, and action-research oriented leader.”

An action-oriented leader is exactly the type of leader Epright wants in his schools.

“…through hard work and cooperation, they set a vision of educating each student to the best of their ability,” he added. “I strongly recommend all rural districts reach out to the programming offered!”

The Morgridge College of Education is committed to addressing the needs of both rural and turnaround schools. With its constant adaptation to meet the needs of its students, Morgridge hopes to bridge the divide between distance and hands-on learning. Its Mountain Cohort specifically strives to create an opportunity for rural communities to invest in school leaders who were already part of those communities. In this way, turnaround leadership can organically occur.

The ELPS program, which earned a top 20 ranking in Best Education Administration and Supervision by the U.S. News and World Report in 2016, is now accepting applications for its Mountain Cohort for fall 2017.


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