Dr. Julie Sarama, the Morgridge College of Education’s Kennedy Endowed Chair and Curriculum and Instruction professor, will be joining the Design for Impact in Early Childhood Education Initiative, funded by New Profit and its Early Learning Fund. Led by Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, former director of the Office of Head Start, this project brings together a network of scholars, program and policy leaders, communities, and support organizations to develop, implement, and evaluate variants of a comprehensive design for an early education program for three to four year olds. The goal of this initiative is to develop and test effective, adaptable, and holistic support models for early education programs that are based on contemporary evidence. The pilot program is scheduled to launch in 2016.

Dr. Sarama is a leading curriculum designer for early childhood education, particularly for mathematics instruction. She is the co-creator of the pre-K math curriculum, Building Blocks, Building Blocks Learning Trajectories (BBLT)—a teaching tool for early math educators—and the forthcoming Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2), a web application that updates BBLT to reach an even wider audience.

nick cutforthDr. Nick Cutforth, Department Chair and Professor of Research Methods and Statistics, is helping to improve physical education practices in underserved, rural, and low-income Colorado schools through a community-engaged research project, Healthy Eaters, Lifelong Movers (HELM). Obesity has been identified as the biggest health threat to U.S. children according to the Institute of Medicine. Alongside Dr. Elaine Belansky from the University of Colorado’s School of Public Health, Dr. Cutforth aims to turn this around with HELM, partnering with K-12 schools to implement evidence-based, school-level environment and policy changes. HELM has two proven approaches: AIM (Assess, Investigate, Make it Happen), which promotes healthy eating and physical activity in students; and the Physical Education Academy, a professional development program for teachers that increases the quality of physical education. Initially funded by the Colorado Health Foundation in 2010, HELM provides participating schools with the training, equipment, and monetary resources needed to implement healthy changes.

While AIM encourages healthy behavior for the entire day, the Physical Education Academy focuses on P.E. class and introduces teachers to the SPARK program, an evidenced-based P.E. curriculum, which involves teaching traditional games and sports in innovative ways, and more small-sized games and activities that cater to the individualized abilities of students. “We’ve introduced a new kind of P.E.,” says Dr. Cutforth, “which engages all the children, not just the athletes.” As a result P.E. classes provide more opportunities to increase moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among students.

Currently in his fifth year with the project, Dr. Cutforth’s work has shown significant improvements in the quality of physical education programs and teachers’ instructional practices. For example, in the 17 San Luis Valley elementary schools that participated in the P.E. Academy, the quantity of MVPA in P.E. class increased from 51.1% to 67.3% over a two-year intervention period, resulting in approximately 14.6 additional hours of physical activity over a school year. He says, “PE teachers are disguising fitness in the form of fun activities, so the kids are much more engaged, and the teachers are spending less time on classroom management.”

In 2013, HELM was refunded by the Colorado Health Foundation and has expanded to schools in southeast Colorado. HELM’s reach now extends to more than 15,000 kids in some of the poorest counties in the state.

Kitchen-150x150Dr. Richard Kitchen, Kennedy Endowed Chair and Professor in the Curriculum & Instruction program at Morgridge College of Education (MCE), aims to advance equity and diversity in education through Access in Mathematics for All (AMA), a project funded by the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. “The goal of the program,” says Dr. Kitchen, “is to recruit talented students of color and low-income students to come to DU to study mathematics, to encourage them to become mathematics teachers and return to their communities to serve as educators.”

Dr. Kitchen and his fellow researchers—Dr. Nicole Joseph and Dr. Alvaro Arias, also from DU, and James Gray from the Community College of Aurora (CCA)—are developing an infrastructure that will provide academic and social support for future students in AMA. The team has built relationships with CCA and Aurora Public Schools to recruit potential students through a pilot tutoring program, host math talks focused on the importance of mathematics and mathematics education, and integrate existing services at DU to better serve future AMA students.

To augment the impact of AMA, Dr. Kitchen and his team have submitted a second proposal to the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program for $1.45 million to fully fund five students in MCE’s Teacher Education Program each year for five years.

AMA addresses a critical need for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers, as identified in the National Science Foundation Authorization Act and the America COMPETES Act. The program also supports the National Science Foundation goal to “Prepare and engage a diverse STEM workforce motivated to participate at the frontiers.”

Doctors Julie Sarama and Doug Clements, the Morgridge College of Education’s Kennedy Endowed Chairs and Curriculum and Instruction professors, as well as Dr. Heather Ryan, Library and Information Science assistant professor, will present at the University of Denver’s Pioneer Symposium on September 25-26. During this two-day event, DU accomplished alumni and distinguished professors will present lectures and host panels and keynote speakers who will discuss a range of critical issues.

Doctors Sarama and Clements will lead a session entitled “The Surprising Importance of Early Math,” where they will discuss five research findings about early mathematics: its predictive power, children’s math potential, educators’ understanding of that potential, the need for interventions, and what we know about effective interventions.

Dr. Ryan’s session, “Preserving Our Digital Cultural Heritage” will address new challenges in maintaining access to our digital cultural heritage over the long term, and the “digital dark age.”

The Pioneer Symposium features a wide array of topics, including “The Right to Health in Practice: Lessons and Challenges,” “Film as Religion,” “Mental Illness and the Courts: Myths, Challenges, and… Hope?” among many others. DU’s Chancellor Rebecca Chopp will kick off the event during a welcome luncheon and panel discussion on September 25. View the full event schedule here.

The Pioneer Symposium is in its eighth year and open to everyone–alumni, parents, friends, and students of the University.


Date: Friday, September 25 through Saturday, September 26, 2015
Time: 10 am to 6pm on Friday and 8 am to 2 pm on Saturday
The University of Denver
2199 S. University Boulevard
Denver, CO 80208
Cost: $40 fee covers all sessions and lunches on Friday and Saturday

Inside this Issue

Upcoming Events

  • MCE New Student Orientation; Fri. 9/11
  • HED Welcome Reception, co-sponsored with HESA; 9/15
  • HED Lunch & Learn; 10/7
  • ASHE in Denver, 11/5-7
HED on Social Media

Are you following @DUHigherEd ? We’re on twitter!
Follow us. Tag us.
Share your achievements, and promote your HED related programs and activities.


It’s an honor and a privilege to introduce two new members of the HED Faculty and one new staff member in the Higher Education Department.

  • Dr. Cecilia Orphan joins HED as a tenure-track assistant professor. Dr. Orphan earned her PhD in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania; her dissertation was titled, “Democracy’s Colleges” Under Threat: Examining the Effect of Public Policy on the Open-Access and Community Engagement Missions of Regionally-Focused Public Universities.”
  • Dr. Laura Sponsler joins HED as a clinical assistant professor. Dr. Sponsler earned her PhD in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania. More recently, she served as Director, Civic Learning Initiatives with NASPA in Washing-ton, DC.
  • Anna Millies (re)joins HED as our dedicated Academic Services Associate. Anna has worked at DU for 17 years and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge about the College. With record support from grants, partnerships, and MCE, we are proud to offer students the opportunity to work within the Higher Education Department. These students play an integral role in ensuring HED Programs and research run smoothly, and offer faculty collaborative support in a variety of ways.

There are some new and familiar faces up on the third floor. We welcome new Graduate Assistants, MA student Paige Mills and Sam Anderson-Lehman, and PhD students Brenda Sifuentez and Sabrina Sidaris into the fold. We also welcome back MA student Ben Clark, CME Fellow, and Graduate Assistants, PhD students Delma Ramos and Molly Sarubbi.

A very special congratulations to Dr. Judy Marquez Kiyama, who earned tenure and was promoted to Associate Professor of Higher Education. The University of Denver is proud to count Dr. Kiyama as one of its best and brightest, and HED is proud to be her academic home.

Last, but certainly not least, we welcome our new MA, EdD, and PhD students. There will be over 40 new faces in classrooms, hallways, offices, and inevitably the library this Fall. We are thrilled to bring yet another season of outstanding new and experienced leaders in higher education to study alongside our returning students and to embark on new adventures in their lives as change-agents in postsecondary education. This year’s classes continue our historical tradition of being the most diverse within the Morgridge College of Education and share our Department’s commitment to equity, diversity, and social justice in – and through – postsecondary educational opportunity.

The HED Calendar

A calendar of significant events in the Higher Education Department has been developed so that students, campus and community partners, alumni, and the public can plan ahead and build expectations for HED’s involvement in MCE, DU, and the broader field of higher education. You’ll find out about quarterly lunch-and-learns, our regular community events like the Winter Town Hall, as well as special events like the annual HED Leadership and Policy Speaker. View HED 2015-2016 Calendar of Events.


This year, the HED Seminars (HED 4294) are each designed around a common theme, “Higher Education Leadership for the 21st Century.” While each seminar will be qualitatively different with unique focus and diverse emphases, they will link together thematically in their shared objective to explore how the challenges and opportunities for leadership in American higher education are shaping and being shaped by conditions of inequality and an imperative for social justice and democracy. This year’s seminar series includes:

Fall Quarter

Higher Education & Leadership for the Public Good
Taught by Dr. Judy Marquez Kiyama

Winter Quarter

Leadership During Uncertain Times: Examining Open Access Universities
Taught by Dr. Cecilia Orphan

Spring Quarter

Higher Education Leadership in the Global Economy
Taught by Dr. Evely Gildersleeve

The HED Seminars (HED 4294) are unique opportunities to explore special topics related to faculty members’ research agendas and the most pressing issues facing postsecondary education today. They tend to focus on depth rather than breadth and often include dynamic guest speakers, innovative teaching methods and student assignments, as well as opportunities to explore new interests in the study of higher education.
Note: all EdD and PhD students are required to take 9 credit hours of HED 4294 as part of the coursework plan; MA students may count HED 4294 as elective credit hours toward any of the HED emphasis areas.


On behalf of the HESA Board, Welcome to the 2015-2016 Academic year! We are excited to see what this year brings and have been working to develop even more engagement and professional development opportunities for our Higher Education students. There are many ways to get involved and capitalize on all the resources the Morgridge College of Education has to offer! Some new HESA initiatives will be quarterly writing retreats, student alumni speaker series, and CV/resume workshops. For a deeper level of engagement, consider running for one of our open board leadership positions:

  • Professional Development Chair
  • Social Networking Chair
  • Masters Student Representative (2)
  • Doctoral Student Representative (2)

Nominations and Elections will be held week 2 of the quarter– stay tuned for more information and be sure to stay up to date on HESA information through our various communication outlets:
Like us on Facebook; @ DU Higher Ed, and DU Higher Education Student Association (HESA), and the HESA highlights and portfolio page.

HESA Mission: The Higher Education Student Association (HESA) provides an educational, professional, and social base for students interested in the field of higher education. We aim to deliver services and programming that supports our colleagues and peers in their development as change agents, focusing on inclusive excellence and InContext learning.

We wish you all the best for the start of a year full of community and learning. As always, please contact your HESA Board if there is anything we can do to help you in the next year!

~ Current HESA Officers,
Molly Sarubbi, President
Marlene Romero, Vice President
Meseret Hailu, Communications Chair


At the end of their first year, most MA students find themselves in a mix of emotions. Exhausted yet exhilarated from the intellectual demands of the quarter system. Proud yet weary of having completed 50% of their coursework for the degree. In order to address these strangely complementary experiences, many MA students jump right into intensive practical experiences doing the work of theory-to-practice and practice-to –theory through summer internships. These experiences provide students with unique opportunities to indulge in hands-on, real-world conditions in diverse higher education settings. This past summer has been no different! HED students were all over the country and here in Denver, sharing and learning about the demands of higher education for meeting the needs of 21st century democracy. Here is a sample list of placements our students held this summer:

  • The Arts & Communication Pre-College Studio Program, Department of Professional Studies & Special Programs at Emerson College
  • Colorado School of Mines International Student and Scholar Services office
  • ACUHO-I Intern at Oregon State
  • Office of Outreach and Recruitment, and Office of Student Life at the Community College of Aurora
  • Student Success and New Student Orientation at Mountain View College
  •  Education is Freedom program with the Dallas Mayor Interns Fellow Program
  •  University of California, Santa Cruz at the Summer Session program at Merrill Residential College

University of Denver:

  • Office of Academic Advising and Discoveries Orientation
  •  Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Health Promotion with the Health and Counseling Center
  •  Housing and Residential Education

Note: all HED MA students are required to complete 2 credit hours of internship, which equates to 100 hours of actual work for each credit hour earned, plus assignments as directed by the student’s advisor (e.g., a reflection paper). EdD and PhD students can pursue internships that can count toward HED elective coursework, with permission of advisor.

Spotlight interview with Marlene Romero, Summer Intern at California State University, Chico:

  • Can you tell us a bit about your summer placement?
    MR: The mission of the California State University, Chico Orientation program is to help facilitate the transition of new students to our campus and provide them with the tools and knowledge needed for a successful college experience. We strive to demonstrate a clear communication of our campus policies and expectations while encouraging campus involvement, diversity, inclusiveness, and integrity. Additionally, we wish to welcome and introduce new student’s families to Chico State and provide them with information and resources they can utilize to help their students succeed.
  • What were your primary responsibilities while working there?
    MR: I worked as the Assistant Orientation Coordinator at California State University, Chico. My primary responsibility was to assist with the parent/guest program. I co facilitated the academic talk for all freshman sessions and coordinated the student life presentations during our six transfer sessions. Another big responsibility was to coordinate our Spanish parent and guest program. We had about 189 Spanish speaking parents and loved ones supporting about 112 students.
  • Please share the best things about the experience?
    MR: The best thing about my experience was taking lead on Spanish Orientation. It was inspiring to interact with Latino families who want their loved ones to succeed in academia.
  • How do you see this experience influencing your current studies at MCE?
    MR: Chico State is an aspiring Hispanic Serving Institution therefore, culturally relevant programs, such as Spanish Orientation, are being implemented to serve the increasing Latino population. My experience at Chico State this summer will directly inform my Capstone project focusing on orientations for Spanish speaking families at an aspiring Hispanic Serving Institution.

Follow the personal journeys of a group of high school students in Los Angeles who have been identified as “twice exceptional”–gifted or highly gifted individuals with learning disabilities or differences. The Institute for the Development of Gifted Children at the Morgridge College of Education will screen the film, “2e: Twice Exceptional” on Thursday, October 1st. The event is co-sponsored by Jeffco Public Schools, Denver Public Schools, and the Ricks Center for Gifted Children.

“2e: Twice Exceptional” features illuminating and thought-provoking interviews with students, parents, teachers, psychologists, and therapists to present an honest, up-close look at what it’s like to be—or to be the parent or teacher of—a young person who’s both gifted and coming to terms with a learning difference. According to filmmaker, Thomas Ropelewski, these children vex their parents. “They are often considered ‘at risk,’” he says, “but they may very well grow up to change the world if they are given the chance to demonstrate and develop their abilities.” Among them may be the next Einstein, Mozart, or Steve Jobs… if they can survive the American school system and their own eccentricities.

“2e: Twice Exceptional” was a 2015 Official Selection at the Richmond International Film Festival, the Portland Film Festival, the Silver Springs International Film Festival, and Dances With Films.


Date: Thursday, October 1, 2015
Time: 6:30 p.m. (one hour) – Discussion panel to follow
Morgridge College of Education
1999 E. Evans Ave.
Denver, CO 80208

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