The Ricks Center for Gifted Children, a preschool through grade 8 model school on the University of Denver campus and part of the Morgridge College of Education (MCE), is gearing up for the new school year and excited to capitalize on its model Innovation Space.

The Ricks Innovation Space, originally developed over the summer of 2017, came to life in response to overwhelming support from the Ricks community. Engaged parents in the Ricks Community Association (RCA) headed up a fundraising drive through the annual Gala. The MCE technology team saw the Daniels College of Business Innovation Center and decided to assist in additional funding toward the creation of an innovation space for a younger audience at Ricks.

Alexandra Struzziero was hired as the Innovation and Technology specialist at Ricks, and in collaboration with Josh Davies, MCE Technology Specialist and Website Administrator, developed blueprints for the space.

“We had a specific challenge because we needed to make a space where creativity and innovation is encouraged, but also make it specifically applicable to be used in an elementary school setting,” said Davies.

Anne Sweet, Director of Ricks, reached out to contacts at other independent schools, and Struzziero, and Davies toured several in order to gather ideas.

The final Innovation Space was designed specifically for Ricks, specifically for gifted students, and specifically with their unique needs in mind. Over the course of the last academic year, Struzziero and teachers facilitated the use of the space, and children used their creativity to launch it to the next level.

One student in particular, Quinn London, took to the space and expanded her thirst for education outside the traditional classroom setting. She asked for a 3-D printer for Christmas, and once her dad taught her how to solder, she took her tools to school and taught her class in the Innovation Space.

According to Quinn’s father, Brian, “the Innovation Space has really allowed her to grow and embrace this side of her education.”

Struzziero continues to build the capacity of the Innovation Space, integrating it with the curriculum while leaving room for students and teachers to explore through collaboration and origianlity.  She is ready to start this fall with a better idea of how to tap into students’ passions in innovation and technology.

“Seeing students, like Quinn, who really pushed the envelope and grew each time they used the Innovation Space gave us confidence and reassurance that we are on the right path toward collaborative, innovative exploration,” said Sweet.

Struzziero continues to build off students’ and teachers’ use of the green screen for audio visual technology, 3-D printing, and coding technology. Students are engaged in the “maker movement,” tinkering without limits as they design new ways to engage technology. The RCA and teacher communities at Ricks supported this year’s initiative to implement LEGO robotics across the K – 8 learning spectrum. Ricks is hosting a 2-day LEGO robotics training on August 8 and 10, and has opened the training to MCE faculty and staff, along with local independent schools.

Ricks begins is 2018-2019 school year on August 13 for educator professional development and opens its doors to students August 20. For more information about Ricks, visit their site.

Morgridge College of Education graduate Dr. Jennie Mizrahi (EdD ’18) has been awarded the John Laska Dissertation Award in Curriculum from the American Association of Teaching and Curriculum (AATC). According to the AATC, each year it recognizes two outstanding dissertations in teaching and curriculum that best represent its mission and founder, Dr. John Laska. Laska earned his doctoral degree from Teachers College and was a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Texas at Austin from 1967 until his death in 1995.

Mizrahi’s award-winning dissertation, Underachievement of Creatively Gifted High School Students, tackles why under achievement is a common issue with gifted students, specifically creatively gifted students who may be at greater risk because of personality traits, lack of challenge in strength areas, a mismatch between school environment and student needs, low status associated with creative achievements and behaviors in the school system, and other factors.

“I am humbled by the honor,” Mizrahi said, “and hope that this will give me an opportunity to help raise awareness of the issues faced by creative underachievers so that we as educators may better meet their needs.”

Her research focused on “…six creatively gifted, underachieving high school students from an urban-cluster area in the western United States. A hermeneutic phenomenological approach was used to gather data in the form of interviews with underachieving, creatively gifted students, their parents, and teachers; observation of classrooms; and creative artifacts to uncover the essence of the experience of underachievement for these stakeholders. These data groups were then compared to each other and existing literature to help generate recommendations for changes in school programming and practice for helping this student population.”

According to Dr. Norma Hafenstein, Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education at the University of Denver and Mizrahi’s academic advisor, Mizrahi’s conclusions “focus and elaborate on the themes of emotionality, learning versus achievement, shaping the student self, motivation and power, and student creativity in crises.”

Mizrahi’s results saw creative high school students, their parents, and their teachers experience underachievement in many ways. According to her, several major themes emerged; the first was the interaction of creativity and underachievement, which included differences in priorities and contradictory goals for various participants in various contexts. The second was motivation. Participants tended to discount or undervalue intrinsic motivation for creative tasks and experienced lack of motivation for school tasks (often seen as “hoop jumping”) as a character flaw on the part of the student, who was often viewed as having a poor work ethic. Participants had little understanding and no tools for increasing motivation. The third theme was the student self. All three sets of participants had similar perceptions of the student self, but the conflict between student needs and student perceived self, and the values and expectations at school and at home placed students sense of self under threat. The fourth theme was power. While a sense of student autonomy is key for creativity and academic success, when students underachieved, parents and teachers tended to exert types of power which undermined student autonomy, sometimes triggering reactance (rebellion against the attempted power influence) in an attempt to protect student autonomy and sense of self.

Mizrahi recommended separate support groups be formed for parents and students, a review of grading policy and goals at the school site, and the formation of a gifted and talented program at the site to help advocate for students and train teachers in differentiated curriculum and the needs of gifted students. The gifted and talented program would also provide extension and exploration opportunities for students.

“Dr. Mizrahi was an exceptional graduate student, a leader in her cohort and a meticulous and thorough researcher,” Hafenstein added. “Simultaneously, her passion for the arts and for a special population of gifted students created the context in which this extraordinary project occurred.”

Part of her award includes a one-year membership to AATC, a conference fee waiver to the annual AATC meeting where the award will be presented, and an invitation to present the dissertation at an AATC conference session. Mizrahi will accept her award and present in person at the 25th AATC annual meeting in Dallas, Texas in October 2018.

On Thursday, May 31, the Morgridge College of Education community came together to honor students in the inaugural Student Awards Celebration. Held in Katherine Ruffatto Hall commons, the awards ceremony was an opportunity for faculty from each program to honor students for their outstanding work and also an opportunity for the College of Education Student Association (COESA) to present four awards of their own.

List of awards and awardees:

Child, Family, & School Psychology
Emerging Scholar Award: Talia Thompson
Emerging Practitioner Award: LeAnn Risten
Outstanding Contribution to CFSP: Aaron Bagley

Counseling Psychology
Outstanding MA Student: Lisa Fuentes
Outstanding PhD Student: Eve Faris

Curriculum & Instruction
Outstanding Student in Curriculum & Instruction: Jodie Wilson
Outstanding Student in Curriculum & Instruction: Brianna Mestas

Early Childhood Special Education
Emerging Leader Award: Jaclyn Bauer

Educational Leadership & Policy Studies
Leading Change: Educational Funding Policy: Kendall Reiley
Leading Change: ELPS Department & COESA: Lorna Beckett
Leading Change: School & Community Partnerships: Kara Blanchard

Higher Education
Outstanding Achievement in Higher Education Praxis: Jillian Martinez
Outstanding Achievement in Higher Education Praxis: Liliana Diaz
Outstanding Achievement in Higher Education Praxis: Katherine Robert

Library & Information Science
Student Mentorship Award: Micah Saxton
Pacesetter Award: Jennie Stevens
Leadership Award: Hannah Craven

Research Methods & Statistics
Star of the Year Award: Lilian Chimuma
Outstanding Scholarship Award: Myntha Cuffy
Program Service Award: Peiyan Liu

Teacher Education
Outstanding Student in the Teacher Education Program: Carolyn Heaney

COESA Awards
COESA Inclusive Excellence Award: Syah Taylor
COESA Leadership Award: Perri Moreno
COESA Service Impact Award: Jessica Bishop
COESA Research Impact Award: Katrina Vandeven

When Library Information Sciences alumna Janet Lee (MLS, ’78) decided to apply for a Fulbright to return to Ethiopia, where she had spent her most recent sabbatical and previous time in the Peace Corps, she didn’t expect the process to move so quickly. But that it did, and within months of applying she was packing her bags (and lots of books, Chromebooks, and a server) for Axum, Ethiopia, a Denver Sister City, to spend 10 months engaging in research in open access publishing at the University of Aksum. In a country where there are only 35 open access journals, Lee is seeking to make access to academic articles much easier for University faculty and students.

She graciously made time to talk with us in June 2017, in the midst of the chaos of leaving.

Lee said at the time that she planned “…to explore avenues of scholarly publishing in Ethiopia that ensure that faculty are provided an opportunity to share their knowledge, perspectives and values and that students and colleagues have unfettered access to their collective scholarship.”

Her arrival in late August 2017 was met with a few hiccups, but eventually she arrived at what came to be her permanent residence in Axum, the Sebean Hotel. The hotel is within walking distance of her assignment at the Foundation Library and the staff is welcoming.

To her surprise, she passes Denver Street every day on her walk to the Foundation Library. Denver and Axum have been sister Cities for 21 years and this was one of the reasons Lee choose Axum as her Fulbright destination. With the help of some current Peace Corps volunteers and friendly residents, she learns the ropes and begins to study Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia. Her greatest challenge is the Aksum University Library, which is under construction and will be moving to a new building in the next year. More than once the lack of technology has given her pause and caused her to question her assignment.

“The library is grossly underfunded and understaffed,” she writes in her blog. “The infrastructure campus-wide is very weak and the Internet has extremely low bandwidth. I celebrate the small things, such as being picked up by campus service every morning and not having to negotiate with a Bajaj [three-wheeled taxi] driver.”

Lee approaches her trials with positivity and an open heart. She truly loves Ethiopia, its culture, and the rich heritage of its people. She treasures building relationships and learning from her experiences, so even though she may experience a setback, she takes it as part of her journey.

“I am grateful to be living in Axum, where every day is a gift,” she writes.

In October, her shipping container arrived from the United States, filled with donations and items Lee was able to secure before her trip. She was able to celebrate the arrival of a set of World Book Encyclopedias, heavy metal bookshelves, her Chromebooks, server, and lots of donated books.

“In one box, I found a near complete run of Journal of Ethiopian Studies. Who but a librarian or a researcher could be excited about this find?”

One morning in December, a colleague mentioned over tea that there were football protests and something about student protests on campus. After another confusing meeting, Lee received a call from the Embassy. She had been inadvertently left off of an important email.

“A student had been killed in nearby Adigrat,” she writes.  “I learned later that it might have been after two rival football teams met and the student killed was not from this region. This sparked protests nationwide causing many college campuses to be closed, Aksum University where I am working not being one of them.”

She assured the Embassy that she is safe. The next day a student from Axum was killed, and his funeral called for increased military presence around campus and the town. In response, and to prevent more rumors and violence, the government shut down access to all social media, internet, and data plans. Lee grew concerned – her mission in Ethiopia is to provide open access via the internet and the unforeseen shut down is stressful. The last access shutdown, before her arrival, lasted for months. Without access to their texts, students were forced to stop their studies and make up for lost time when the ban was lifted.

Luckily, it did not last long and she was able to load the Koha software to the library’s server and implement a new catalog system. Just in time, as the library will be moving to a new building and her next challenge is how to transfer the collection. She only needs to wait on some additional help to implement the Koha system across the library.

By early February, she is able to make a planned trip to Haramaya (formerly known as Alemaya) University to co-teach a class on Digital Libraries. A much older university than Axum, Haramaya is full of culture and history, and an interactive library. Haramaya had been closed during the December protests, and students were frantically trying to complete their missed work and keep up with their new semester course load. Still her lecture was well attended and the students delighted in hearing her American accent.

Lee enjoyed her time there so much she entertained thoughts of trying to move her location, but on her trip back to Axum her colleague called her. He had taken the same route as her, hours later, and been caught in a deadly protest. This was the beginning of a series of protests that resulted in the resignation of the Prime Minster, Hailemariam Deselegn, and a State of Emergency. She decided to stay in Axum, where it is peaceful and safe.

By this time, her work implementing the Koha system has stalled. Still waiting on additional help, she moves on to other initiatives. Two significant personal collections (Gebru Tareke and Zewde Gabre-Sellasie) have been classified, labeled, and placed in glass cases in the Ethiopian Collections room and cables have been laid on the new building to provide it with a network.  All they are waiting on is the ‘go’ to move into the new building.

In March, Lee is able to circle back to a project she began before her trip. In June 2017, she collaborated with a fellow Peace Corps alum to bring his technology with her to Ethiopia. Bill Graf is the founder of ET Learns and implements the RACHEL server with Chromebook operating systems to allow access to a wide array of databases. Once the server is loaded, students will have access to the Ethiopian curriculum, accompanying plasma videos, open access textbooks, power typing, and many science, technology, and mathematics resources. Because these resources are housed on a server, there is no dependence on access to the internet. In a country where internet access and shutdowns are common, the new technology allows students to continue their studies despite outside unrest. With the help of some volunteers and the new building complete, she is able to set up the new Chromebook lab, nearly a year after her initial meeting with Graf.

The library is slated to open in early May and Lee’s sons are expected to join her for its opening.

“Perhaps,” she writes, “they will come to understand what makes their mother tick and why she keeps coming back to this incredible country so often.”

You can keep up with Lee by following her monthly blog https://ilceig.wordpress.com/papers-presentations/

On May 30, the Fisher Early Learning Center completed another successful school year, which saw 42 children graduate on to kindergarten programs in the Denver-metro area. For the first year, the entire staff of teachers and administrators attended the graduation, making it a truly inclusive celebration. Early childhood is a critical time in a child’s life and we are very fortunate to have such dedicated professionals working on behalf of these children and families. Fisher’s exemplary program and ongoing commitment to serve as the model for high quality care and inclusive education are observed as the teachers and staff bring out the best in these littlest Pioneers each day.

See all of our pictures from the event on our Flickr Album (linked below)!

Netflix has officially announced a release date for its highly controversial “13 Reasons Why” – May 18 the show will hit Netflix queues and be available to watch. We want to take this opportunity to share resources if you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide. These resources are recommended by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) as well as our own Counseling Psychology Department and Child, Family, and School Psychology Department.

Additionally, NASP has crafted a statement and guidance for the upcoming season. Its general recommendations include:

  • Provide the guidance developed by NASP for 13 Reasons Why, Season 1 to parents and educators.
  • Encourage parents to watch the series with their child; children and youth who view this series may need supportive adults to help process it. Help students articulate their perceptions when viewing controversial content. The difficult issues portrayed do occur in schools and communities, and it is important for adults to listen, take adolescents’ concerns seriously, and be willing to offer to help.
  • Caution against binge watching, as doing so with intense content, particularly in isolation, can be associated with increased mental health concerns.
  • Reinforce that school-employed mental health professionals such as school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers are available to help.
  • Make sure parents, teachers, and students are aware of suicide risk warning signsAlways take warning signs seriously, and never promise to keep them secret. Establish a confidential reporting mechanism for students.
  • Reinforcing resiliency and protective factors can lessen the potential of risk factors that lead to suicidal ideation and behaviors. Once a child or adolescent is considered at risk, schools, families, and friends should work to build these factors in and around the youth.

If you are an educator and want more information about our alumna-designed suicide risk assessment app, click here.

On Saturday, March 31, graduates and faculty members of the University of Denver (DU) Morgridge College of Education (MCE) teamed with the Denver Public Library (DPL) on an extracurricular activity at the Leon Gallery – hosting an Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon. The group is part of ArtHyve, a Colorado collective of activists, artists, and archivists. The goal of the Art + Feminism campaign is to improve coverage of cis and transgender women, feminism, and the arts on Wikipedia. Since 2014, Art + Feminism has coordinated over 500 events to edit, create, and improve thousands of Wikipedia pages. For ArtHyve, hosting a Wikipedia-Edit-a-Thon is an example of its their commitment to document creative communities.

Co-founded by MCE Library and Information Sciences alumna, Jessie De la Cruz (MLIS’ 11), and her best friend, noted Colorado Creative Sigri Strand, ArtHyve’s mission is to “transcend and challenge mainstream art representation and to celebrate, preserve, and document the creative communities and practices throughout our state.” As a nonprofit organization, it fulfills its mission through developing public programming, workshops, and archival exhibitions to inspire creative engagement.

“It’s not an accident that there are multiple DU alumni and faculty involved,” said Kate Crowe, MCE affiliate faculty member of Library and Information Sciences (LIS) and DU Curator of Special Collections and Archives. “ArtHyve’s mission, to create a community-based arts archive that documents the creative history of this city and state, dovetails well with DU’s tagline ‘a great private university dedicated to the public good.’”

Crowe continues, “The Art + Feminism wikithons, which have been around for the last five years, are also run by grassroots groups of volunteers who want to make the history of women in the arts more visible. Participating in these kinds of programs is just one of the many ways that ArtHyve, DPL, and the LIS program can use the research skills we learn in school to make a positive community impact.”

According to Jane Thaler (MA ’16), marketing director of ArtHyve,  “[hosting an] Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon is a natural fit for our organization because not only were we founded by two creative women, but also because part of our mission is to preserve and document Colorado’s creative community. And what better way to get the word out about our creatives than to add them to the most used reference tool in the world?”

Only ten percent of Wikipedia editors are women, and Saturday’s event worked to change that. At the end of the day, the group saw 519,000 words added, 40 total edits, 16 articles edited, and 4 new articles added. The group included, in addition to De la Cruz, Strand, Crowe, and Thaler, alumna Hana Zittel (MA’ 14).

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies EdD student Geraldine “Gerie” Grimes was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. Grimes is the President and CEO of Denver-based nonprofit, The Hope Center, a community-based agency dedicated to meeting the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities, developmental delays, and persons in need of specialized educational or vocational services. She was nominated to the CWHOF because of her life’s work and dedication to the needs of others, especially women and women of color of all ages, building community and using her voice to be a strong advocate for the voiceless.

The stars were aligned when University of Denver (DU) Morgridge College of Education (MCE) hosted its 8th annual Gifted Education Conference and Policy Symposium earlier this year. The conference brought together leaders in the field of gifted education, most notable, Palmarium Award winner Dr. Marcia Gentry from Purdue University. Gentry gifted MCE with a scholarship for a K-12 student to attend Purdue’s renowned Gifted Education Resource Institute (GERI) Summer Residential Program. On March 14, Denver Public Schools (DPS) high school senior Emma Staples accepted Gentry’s scholarship and finalized her summer plans. Staples was chosen as the scholarship recipient by stakeholders from DU, DPS, and Purdue because of her outstanding track record advocating for the nature and needs of gifted people in multiple settings.

“We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Gentry for awarding this scholarship and for entrusting Morgridge with choosing its recipient,” said University of Denver Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education, Dr. Norma Hafenstein. “It is our mission to create a future where giftedness will be understood, embraced, and systemically nurtured. Dr. Gentry is not only exemplifying that mission through her work, but also working to make access to gifted education available with this scholarship.”

Staples is grateful for this opportunity. “I wouldn’t have had this option to go to [Purdue] and experience these classes without this scholarship,” she said. “I am also grateful to be meeting new people and talking to professors … working hands on with new experiences and people from around the world.”

Staples attends Denver East High School and is a proud participant of her gifted and talented program, led by MCE adjunct professor Brian Weaver. She is currently making college decisions and hopes to pursue academics related to her medical career goals in pediatrics (ER or Family Health). Staples advocates for equity and inclusion and has bravely spoken out about educational policy and philosophy on mediated student panels at the University of Denver (where she was directly observed by stakeholders of the scholarship gift), on camera on DPStv22’s Mile High Discussions, and with her school community at large. She shows extraordinary prowess not only as an academic, professional, and future doctor, but also as a kind and loving citizen of planet earth.

Morgridge College of Education second year Higher Education PhD student Liliana Diaz-Solodukhin has been awarded the Newman Civic Fellowship from Campus Compact, a national coalition of 1,000+ colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education. The fellowship, named for Campus Compact founder Frank Newman, recognizes and supports community-committed students who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. The fellowship is a one-year experience for students in which fellows have access to in-person and virtual learning opportunities, networking events, and mentoring. Diaz-Solodukhin was nominated by University of Denver Chancellor, Rebecca Chopp.

According to Dr. Cecilia Orphan, professor of Higher Education at Morgridge, this award is one of the highest honors a student can receive in the civic engagement movement.

“It has been those few but critical individuals that helped me achieve my educational and professional goals,” said Diaz-Solodukhin.  “Today, I am privileged with the skillset necessary to continue on this journey and recognize the individuals who took time to mentor and guide me.”

Diaz-Solodukhin has experiential expertise about the nexus between college access and civic engagement as an activist, researcher, and student. For Diaz-Solodukhin, a doctorate is an expanded platform to create social change. She is a collaborative leader who draws on her network of policymakers, community, nonprofit and postsecondary leaders to effect change. In educating herself about civic engagement scholarship, Diaz-Solodukhin was dismayed to discover that much of the research about Latinx individuals paints a deficit-based picture about these communities that fails to capture the civic contributions they make that does not match her own experience of her communities. As a result, Diaz-Solodukhin is planning to examine the civic behaviors of Latinx communities in her dissertation so that she can educate the civic engagement field about the important contributions of these individuals. She is excited to continue this work as a way to say thank you to those who made her goals a reality.

University of Denver Morgridge College of Education curriculum and instruction alumni and adjunct professor, Dr. Floyd Cobb was the February featured author for the Office of Development and Inclusion book chat. Cobb’s recent publication, Leading While Black, is a reflection of his experiences as an educator and inspired by his relationship with his father-in-law, the late Colorado State Rep. John Buckner, who had also been principal of Overland High School. Using the era of the Obama presidency as the backdrop for this work, Cobb illuminates the challenges and complexities of advocating for marginalized children who come from a shared racial heritage in a society that far too often are reluctant to accept such efforts.

In addition to teaching at Morgridge, Cobb is the Executive Director of the Teaching and Learning Unit for the Colorado Department of Education. His background as an educator gives him a solid foundation to support current leaders in education.

Kaleen Barnett is not your average PhD student. In 2016 she was selected to run the Colorado High School Charter, a school for students who thrive in an alternative academic environment. In a previous life, she was a catering sales manager for the Hyatt. In 2018, she was named a Fellow by the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). And somewhere along the way, she earned a welding certification.

Barnett knows that a traditional approach to academia is not for everyone. She knows that success is defined by your goals. And she wants more academic institutions to recognize that technical certificates, community colleges, and other post-secondary options are excellent paths to a successful career. Her 2018 Fellowship from the ACTE fits into her long-term goals to tackle systemic challenges in education. The fellowship is specifically designed to develop leadership skills for careers in technical education (CTE) educators. In this way, CTE schools can develop organic leaders to meet their specific needs. The fellowship program is a one-year calendar commitment to network, learn, and represent the ACTE as an advocate for career and technical education.

“I am incredibly honored to receive this particular fellowship,” Barnett said. “There is so much opportunity to change the narrative of education.”

Barnett is on track to graduate from Morgridge College in August 2019. Currently, her doctoral dissertation focuses on the impact of climate change on U.S. school children.

“Right now, national data shows that less than 30 percent of school buildings have access to air conditioning in classrooms,” she elaborates.  “The issue is not just a matter of student or teacher comfort, recent research shows that students score lower on tests taken on very hot days and have a harder time learning overall during school years with higher-than-average temperatures. Climate is having a major impact on education and we need to start taking note.”

Once finished, she would like to take her research further and explore how students with a technical education can be the answer to an aging academic infrastructure. What if technical students can install the air conditioning in the schools? It is a way to mobilize education and allow both traditional and technical students to thrive. Barnet plans to use the mentorship and connections made through her fellowship to advance her research and practice.

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies PhD student Pat Mills is excited about expanding his dissertation research, focused on leadership in the classroom and developing a pipeline of leaders to better serve students. Mills, a retired Naval Flight Officer and former aerospace program manager, is well suited for the project. He’s on this third career, and focused on ways to build the next generation of leaders so the next generation of students have the tools to succeed.

Mills landed at Morgridge College of Education after he found out he could still use the funds allocated to him through the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly known as the G.I. Bill. Mills’ wife spent her career as a teacher, and he knew the struggles and challenges she faced. He also knew that creating leaders requires creating a leadership culture. He was accepted to both the University of Denver and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and decided to make the drive to Denver.

As he explains, “I already knew the political bent of Colorado Springs and wanted to better understand attitudes in Denver. Not surprisingly, I am a different generation than most people attending DU. I wanted to do something to challenge myself. I tell my kids to always lean into life by taking risks, so I needed to set the example.”

At Morgridge College, we could not be happier he choose us. Mills’ long history in the military allows him to have a different perspective on educational leadership than more traditional students. As part of his dissertation research, he is studying teachers who came through the Troops for Teachers program, a program established in 1993 to help military veterans begin new careers as K-12 educators. So far he has observed veterans in both public and private classrooms and they have the same thing in common: they address each student as sir or ma’am, they acknowledge each student and engage them in the classroom discussion, and when class is over, they shake their students’ hands on the way out the door. These interactions, Mills believes, empowers the students to rise to the expectation of the teacher, making the students successful and the teachers leaders of tomorrow. His is excited to continue his research and see where it leads him in the next year.

In the meantime, Mills was recently awarded a Governor’s Executive Internship in Policy and Research and spends his days balancing college, policy, and family. His three children, two in their late 20s and one in high school, as well as his wife, are his support system. Between his studies and time at the Colorado state capitol, Mills is one busy retiree and that is exactly how he likes it.

To Dr. Judy Marquez Kiyama, bringing cultural background to work is second nature. Her new book, co-authored with her long-time collaborator Dr. Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, “Funds of Knowledge in Higher Education,” explores and makes a case for honoring students’ cultural experiences and resources as strengths.

Kiyama explains, “This is something of a K-12 construct. We know that within individual cultures, knowledge is shared and passed on and in a K-12 environment it is part of the instruction.”

For example, if you live within a Latinx community and your neighbor knows how to work on cars and your mom knows how to cook, you trade cultural and practical knowledge to build a knowledge base. Children from these communities arrive to school with knowledge of their culture and it becomes a vital part of their education. But what about applying the same construct to higher education research and teaching?

Refining and building on the concept in a sophisticated and multidisciplinary way, Kiyama’s book uses a funds of knowledge approach and connects it to other key conceptual frameworks in education to examine issues related to the access and transition to college, college persistence and success, and pedagogies in higher education.

Research on funds of knowledge has become a standard reference to signal a sociocultural orientation in education that seeks to build strategically on the experiences, resources, and knowledge of families and children, especially those from low-income communities of color. Challenging existing deficit thinking in the field, the book applies this concept to and maps future work on funds of knowledge in higher education.

Kiyama’s research is organized in three interconnected areas: the role of parents and families; equity and power in educational research; and underserved groups as collective networks of change. As an Associate Professor of Higher Education, she is in a unique position to put her research into practice in her classroom.

“I see the classroom environment as an opportunity to converge research, teaching, and service and draw on frameworks like funds of knowledge used in my research, to construct inclusive pedagogical spaces,” she said. “As such, the goals of learning process are created alongside students, with home, cultural, and experiential knowledge steering the direction of our scholarship.”

Kiyama’s book is published by Routledge Press and available in print and digital editions.

What comes to mind when you want to pass on a smile? At Morgridge College of Education, we thought coffee was a good way to make people smile. And then we thought some more and thought helping rural education could make children and educators across Colorado smile. And then connected the two ideas.

From August until November, Morgridge College admissions team members traveled across Colorado and parts of the Western United States to attend graduate recruitment fairs and conferences. At each conference our recruiters had one goal, to attract potential students to learn more about Morgridge. Learn about our programs, learn about our history, learn about our commitment to social good. After their chat, the potential student received a coffee card with a catch.

The coffee card was a gift card to a local coffee shop in that town. It included a gift so the potential student could go get a cup of coffee on us and digest their options for higher education; and it included an extra voucher so the individual could give away a cup of coffee to someone else to make them smile. Give the card to anyone, we said. Give it to your mentor, your friend, someone you met on the street, the person who held the door for you, just make someone’s day. Then, please tag us on social media using #MCEgiveahand and let us know why you gave away your coffee.

Now, we make the connection.  For each coffee card redeemed, Morgridge committed to making a donation to the Colorado Rural Schools Alliance to fund advocacy. Rural schools have unique challenges in education and we want to give them a voice and the tools to advocate for their students and educators.

We had some success on social media. We had some phone calls from small coffee shops who thanked us for supporting their small business. We had some individuals who loved getting their coffee. And at the end of it all, we got to donate $2,500 to rural schools in Colorado. Because if we don’t invest in leaders today, we can’t expect leaders of tomorrow.


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