Morgridge Blog

Morgridge Blog

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.


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

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.

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.

The Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Program (ELPS) offers a Mountain cohort option in its Executive Leadership for Successful Schools (ELSS) Certificate program. The cohort expands opportunities for educators and administrators to benefit from the program’s expertise and earn Certification for Colorado Principal Licensure. ELPS—which earned a top 20 ranking in Best Education Administration and Supervision by the U.S. News and World Report in 2016—launched the Mountain cohort in the 2014-15 academic year due to increasing interest from the region’s district superintendents.

Because the communities are far from higher education institutions on the Front Range and Western Slope, options for educators looking to expand their skills can be scarce. The cohort was created to address the unique needs of growing mountain communities and their schools, and to enable them to invest in school leaders who were already part of those communities. According to Assistant Professor of the Practice, Ellen Miller-Brown, Ph.D., the cohort provides a “high-quality, hybrid face-to-face and online program without the need for extensive travelling.” Face-to-face classes are held at locations in the high mountain region where the majority of the students reside.

Members of the 2015-16 cohort had great success; three graduates—Kendra Carpenter, Laura Rupert, and Robin Sutherland of Summit School District—applied for, and were accepted to, principal positions in their districts after completing the ELSS Certificate. Additionally, cohort members Hank Nelson and Clint Wytulka served as interim principals at their Nucla, CO schools during the program and were promoted to full principals after completion, and cohort member Will Harris was appointed the Education Technology Specialist in his Eagle County district school after completing the program.

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) Ph.D. student Isaac Solano was selected by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) as a 2016-2018 Jackson Scholar. The Jackson Scholars Network provides students of color with opportunities for professional development, mentorship, and networking in order to elevate their careers in educational leadership.

Solano is thrilled to become a Jackson Scholar, saying that “various scholarship organizations have made it possible for me to continue my education up to a PhD. I am just so grateful for the unwavering and constant support I have from my DU family.” Solano’s mentor for the program is Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig of California State University, Sacramento.

Solano will participate in professional development and networking opportunities designed to enhance his doctoral experience. He will represent the Morgridge College of Education (MCE)—along with fellow MCE student Rana Razzaque, 2015-2017 UCEA Jackson Scholar—at the UCEA Convention in November.

About the Jackson Scholars Program

The UCEA Barbara L. Jackson Scholars Network began in November 2003 after a vote of the members of the UCEA Plenum. The two-year program provides formal networking, mentoring, and professional development for graduate students of color intending to become professors of educational leadership.

UCEA facilitates the development of a robust pipeline of faculty and graduate students of color in the field of educational leadership. As a result, Barbara Jackson Scholars and Alumni enhance the field of educational leadership and UCEA with their scholarship and expertise.

Several years ago, I was leading a professional development session for a group of experienced educators. During a conversation—around the tensions in teaching that tend to separate out the inner life of educators from the outer technical domain—one teacher commented: “The joy of teaching has been tested and legislated away. All that is left is sand and dust.” I find this statement devastating in the way it describes the real impact of focusing the purpose of education too narrowly on elements such as testing, accountability and technique. And at the same time, it points the way forward to a time in education when conversations about best-practice are equally matched with questions about deep-practice; the rich, joyful life of educators.

The title of this blog captures the dual-tension that exists in education around conversations about effective instruction. There is an outer-technical aspect of teaching present in the day to day actions or inactions of teachers—the walking around tasks that anyone can witness who is an observer of teaching.  In short, this is the “sight” that teachers exercise to act on and in the world of the classroom. “Sight” can be thought of as best-practices and there are many books, articles and teaching standards that define its essence. Yet, “sight” can also take on a prophet or activist orientation in terms of provoking action toward change. It is this second aspect of “sight” that I’m particularly interested in while acknowledging the existing of the outer-technical.

The “in” of the blog title speaks to another facet of teaching which is often acknowledged but rarely examined with integrity. This is the inner-life of a teacher that corresponds to elements such as calling, passion, affective knowledge, courage, or vulnerability. “In” points to the importance of organizing conversations and discussions of effective teaching around the affective and social-emotional aspects of teaching. Education takes, in part, its root meaning from the Latin word educere, which means to “lead, draw or take out…” I often ask myself, my students, and other educators to consider what is worth drawing out of learners. For me, whether the learner is a student in K-12 schools or higher education, or a teacher, the answer is essentially the same. It is my purpose to create an instructional space where the inner wisdom of the learner is invited to come forth and engage the question at hand.

Cynthia Hazel, Ph.D.—Department Chair of Teaching and Learning Sciences and Professor of Child, Family, and School Psychology at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE)—was selected to participate in the American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2016-2017 Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology (LIWP). LIWP prepares, supports, and empowers women psychologists as leaders to promote positive change in the field and in APA governance.

Dr. Hazel’s outstanding career achievements and leadership potential contributed to her invitation to participate in LIWP. Dr. Hazel’s career accomplishments include coordinating arts-based after-school programs for urban youth, serving as the Behavior Evaluation and Support Teams Coordinator for the Colorado Department of Education, and practicing as a school psychologist in impoverished communities.

About Dr. Hazel

As the chair of MCE’s Department of Teaching and Learning Sciences, Dr. Hazel oversees faculty, administration, and student outcomes for the Child, Family, and School Psychology program, the Curriculum and Instruction Program, the Early Childhood Special Education Program, and the Teacher Preparation Program. Furthermore, she was recently promoted to Full Professor at MCE.

Dr. Hazel’s recent contributions to the field include a presentation titled “Supporting the School Success of Students with Emotional Disturbance” at the International Association of School Psychologists conference in Summer 2016, held in The Netherlands, and the completion of her book titled Empowered Learning in Secondary Schools Promoting Positive Youth Development Through a Multitiered System of Supports, published by APA.

MCE extends its heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Hazel!

Jeffrey Selingo Comes to MCE

Jeffrey J. Selingo is a best-selling author and award-winning columnist who helps parents and higher-education leaders imagine the college and university of the future and teaches them how to succeed in a rapidly changing economy. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Slate, and his work has been honored with awards from the Education Writers Association, Society of Professional Journalists, and the Associated Press.

Selingo will be at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) on October 4 to hold a series of discussions on his latest book, There is Life After College.

There Is Life After College offers students, parents, and even recent graduates the practical advice and insight they need to jumpstart their careers. Education expert Jeffrey Selingo answers key questions—Why is the transition to post-college life so difficult for many recent graduates? How can graduates market themselves to employers that are reluctant to provide on-the-job training? What can institutions and individuals do to end the current educational and economic stalemate?—and offers a practical step-by-step plan every young professional can follow. From the end of high school through college graduation, he lays out exactly what students need to do to acquire the skills companies want.

How can I Get involved?

Selingo will be in residence at MCE October 4 for a series of events focusing on his new book.

  • MCE Faculty are invited to a luncheon and discussion on October 4 from 12:00 AM -1:30 PM.
  • MCE Students are invited to a special student forum from 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM.
  • MCE Students, faculty, and staff can participate in a college-wide book talk from 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM. *

*Students can apply to participate in the student forum by sending a one-page response to the question, “Why do you want to participate in the forum, and how does it align with your educational interests?” to their department’s ASA by 5:00 PM on September 23. Space is limited, and students accepted into the forum will receive a complimentary copy of the book which they are expected to read before the event. Students can contact their ASA for more information.

The New Business Analytics Specialization in RMS

The Business Analytics specialization is an exciting new addition to the Institutional Research track in the Research Methods and Statistics Ph.D. Program. This specialization provides you with an opportunity to gain a multidisciplinary education that opens up several future career paths.

Taking courses in Business Analytics will be challenge you to view research design and analyses from a different perspective. You will collaborate and network with students from various career backgrounds and  will learn about cutting-edge programs and programming languages.

Why Business Analytics?

Heather Blizzard“In today’s world, businesses are looking for people who have skills in research design and have the ability to implement research analyses. That’s why I was extremely excited to learn that my program was adding a specialization in Business Analytics.” – Heather Blizzard, RMS Ph.D. Student
iNTRODUCING bOSTON Pre-K Students to Math

“Early math is cognitively fundamental” said  Doug Clements, Ph.D, during PBS News Hour’s  feature on early math education in Boston Public Schools. The Building Blocks curriculum developed by Dr Clements and his Co-Researcher Julie Sarama, Ph.D, was heavily featured in the piece which showcased how critical math is to Pre-K students.

Through early introduction to math, Pre-K students using the Building Blocks Curriculum not only learn to count, and identify shapes, but also learn why we talk about shapes and numbers the way we do. They are taught to think critically about math as they move forward with their education.

The Faculty and Staff of the Morgridge College of Education would like to congratulate the summer graduates of our 2015-16 class. We join your families, friends, peers, and co-workers in expressing how proud we are of you all. It is our pleasure to watch as you go forth into the next chapter of your lives where you will undoubtedly make a positive and lasting impact.

The Honorees of MCE’s 2016 Summer Graduation

Morgan Mickle
Jessie Wright
Anna Hanson
Eliya Hanna
Cynthia Smith
Patrick Thompson
Christina Cook
Saleh Aljalahmah
Gloria Treesh
Julie Lay
June Ashley
Galana Chookolingo
Sarah Cleary

Briana Hedman
Elizabeth Johnson
Brinda Prabhakar-Gippert
Sarie Ates-Patterson
Tricia Johnson
Katrina Mann-Boykin
Michelle Steinberger
Kristin Deal
Priyalatha Govindasamy
Turker Toker
Maria Vukovich
Kimberly Mahovsky
Carrie A. Olson

As the United States continues to struggle with issues of race and diversity, DU professor Frank Tuitt has released a new book designed to help faculty better connect with the changing demographics of higher education. Tuitt serves as senior advisor to the chancellor and provost on diversity and inclusion and is also a professor of higher education in the Morgridge College of Education.

Frank Tuitt“Race, Equity and the Learning Environment: The Global Relevance of Critical and Inclusive Pedagogies in Higher Education” (Stylus Publishing, 2016) examines the importance of creating an educational environment that reflects the changing diversity in higher education. The book also provides specific tools for achieving that goal. “Historically, we’ve created these fine institutions that had a certain set of students in mind when they were created,” Tuitt says. “Our students today are very different from the original set of students that these institutions were created for. And the assumption is that what works for one group will work for all groups. So the book is an attempt to help faculty who are interested in having students be the best that they can be.”

Tuitt believes the choices faculty members make on which authors to include and not include on course reading lists is just one example of how unintended bias can impact a student’s learning experience.

“Race and equity continue to be important as we see disparities between different racial groups even in places where we wouldn’t expect to,” Tuitt says. “We think part of it is because we haven’t been able to adjust our approach to teaching in ways that adjust to the different backgrounds and experiences that come to our classrooms.”

* Original story produced by Tamara Banks. Read it at:

Fostering STEM Trajectories, an event funded by the National Science Foundation and hosted at New America, was a two-day affair featuring informative talks from celebrated experts and leaders in early STEM learning. The focus of the event was on teacher development, the continuous improvement path in early childhood education, and learning progression and trajectory.

Douglas H. Clements, Ph.D. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning, Executive Director for the Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy, and Professor of Curriculum Studies and Teaching at the Morgridge College of Education, participated in the panel “Fostering STEM Trajectories: Bridging ECE Research, Practice, & Policy Part 2” alongside experts Mike Marshal Smith and Vivien Stewart. Dr. Clements presented his shared research with Julie Sarama, Ph.D. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Innovative Learning Technologies and Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the Morgridge College of Education. Their research focuses heavily on learning trajectories in early childhood mathematics instruction, a key component of early STEM learning.

Participants were called upon to generate ideas to assist New America and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center in crafting a plan of action and offering recommendations to researchers and policymakers. The proposed plans are hoped to be released fall 2016.

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