The Morgridge College of Education (MCE) hosted DU alumnus Professor Njabulo Ndebele as part of the MCE Changemaker Series. Ndbele is Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg and serves as the chairman of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. As a key figure in South African higher education, Ndbele has served as Chair of the South African Universities Vice-Chancellors Association, the Executive Board of the Association of African Universities, and chair of a government commission on the development and use of African languages as media of instruction in South African higher education.

While at MCE, Ndbele participated in a fireside chat moderated by Dean Karen Riley, in which he discussed the critical role that education plays in the rebuilding of South Africa. He also participated in a Dinner and Dialogue event with doctoral students from the Organization and Governance of Higher Education class. Ndbele provided his international perspective as a postsecondary leader, and interacted with students around a number of higher ed topics.

The Goal: To learn how to replicate DU’s successful university-school district partnership.

The Morgridge College of Education (MCE) and Denver Public School (DPS) District played host to university educators from across the nation who were on campus to learn about the unique 16-year partnership developed by MCE’s Educational Leadership & Policy Studies (ELPS) department.

The study visit was sponsored by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) and featured a three-day experience that included panel discussions with DPS leaders, ELPS faculty, alumni, and current students. The program is identified as one of the most successful university-school district partnerships in the nation. According to Dr. Susan Korach, ELPS dept. chair, there are several things that sets the ELPS program apart from other principal and leadership development programs.

“From the beginning of the program, we’ve been committed to leading differently. That means we’re not a program that focuses on static readings and classroom assignments. We believe in the power of experiential learning. That puts our students into very challenging, courageous spaces where they can bring about real, disruptive change.”

A hallmark of the ELPS program is the DU Ritchie Program for School Leaders. This cohort was originally created to address the need for highly competent and socially responsible school leaders; namely principals and superintendents. Today, graduates of the program refer to themselves simply as “Ritchies,” but their mission is anything but simple.

“Being a Ritchie was transformational to me. We are a cohort of souls that are serious about changing kid’s lives,” says Anthony Smith, graduate of the 4th Ritchie cohort and DPS Instructional Superintendent. “What Ritchie has helped us do is, first off, identify who you are authentically and how you lead from that. . . . How are you leading for change and what is the status quo for these kids you say your care so much about?”

Susana Cordova, DPS Deputy Superintendent, explains how the ELPS value-based leadership model impacts her daily work.

“I’m not going budge in this school or in any other school because I know what is important to me now and I know how to lead for what’s important to me. I know how to, in tough times, go back to what motivates me to take a stand. To say, ‘It’s not OK to lower standards’ . . . or whatever it is, because I know my values as a leader say the most important thing that I can be doing is to level the playing field for kids who only get that at school.”

Phrases like “leveling the playing field,” “challenging the status quo,” and “leading for change” are not just words for ELPS graduates, but rather commitments they are taught to embody while still students. So it’s not surprising that one of the highlights of the study visit included a trip to the Denver Green School (DGS), a DPS innovation school that started as a class project in ELPS.

Mimi Diaz and Craig Harrer, original founders of the school, were challenged to create their dream school as part of their ELPS course work. What exists today is a K-8th grade, high-achieving school in southeast Denver with a student population from 33 countries, speaking more than 25 different languages. A core value of the Denver Green School is sustainability – evident, not only in the on-campus community garden, but also through its shared leadership model.

Now nine years old, the Green School, has been identified as a “high performance,” “high growth” school, and a National Green Ribbon School award winner for the last seven years.

For graduates of the ELPS/Ritchie program, the results of such innovative leadership is not the exception, but rather the expectation of those who “lead differently” – and one of the key reasons the program was selected as a study site for the UCEA visiting professor team.

If feedback from the study participants is any indication, the ELPS leadership model will continue to drive educational change on a national level.

“What I learned at DU will inform how we prepare school leaders at the University of Texas at Austin,” said Dr. Terrence Green, assistant professor from the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy at UT.

Dr. Jada Phelps-Moultrie from Michigan State agreed, “I absolutely learned so much and was intrigued by this esteemed partnership . . . I too am excited how we can make so much of what was shared applicable to our own institution.”

Dr. Susan Korach, ELPS Dept. Chair, explains what makes the educational leadership program so unique.
Craig Harrer, ELPS PhD student, (R) leads visiting professors on a tour of the Denver Green School he helped create.
Culture Fest at the Denver Green School celebrates some of the 33 different countries represented in the study body.

Morgridge College of Education recognized summer doctoral candidates with a Doctoral Hooding Ceremony, Friday, Aug. 17, in the Katherine Ruffatto Hall Commons. Thirty-three candidates received their official doctoral hoods which signify the completion of their studies. The following reception celebrated the achievements of all summer graduates of the college.

Dean Karen Riley provided opening remarks, reminding the candidates to provide a “ladder down” to those that would come behind them.

Closing remarks form Associate Dean Mark Engberg emphasized the role that each newly minted graduate will play in providing critical hope to the educational communities they will impact.

View the complete Flickr album of the ceremony and following reception here.

Diana Estrada is passionate about higher education. So much so, that she has spent the last six years pursuing both her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Denver. When she walks across the stage this time, she will be graduating with a masters in Higher Education and plans to use her degree to improve financial aid opportunities and reduce the likelihood of college debt for other students.

Morgridge College of Education (MCE) alumni serve in every school district in the greater Denver area. MCE grads are in approximately 300 leadership positions in the Denver Public School District (DPS) alone. Those positions include 82 principals, 107 assistant principals, and 4 instructional superintendents from the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program (ELPS). That number doesn’t even include the hundreds of MCE alumni who have graduated from the Teacher Education Preparation program (TEP) and now serve in high-needs and high-achieving schools across the front range and beyond.

With such a long list of educators, it became something of a challenge to determine the best way to recognize them during the annual Teacher Appreciation Week. That’s when University of Denver’s (DU) Vice Chancellor for Advancement, Armin Afsahi, MCE’s Director of Alumni Engagement, Megan Stribling, and TEP Field Coordinator, Betsy Leonard, joined forces to create an extended two-week long Educator Appreciation Event in conjunction with DU’s Alumni Weekend activities.

According to Stribling, “At MCE, we love our teachers so much, we couldn’t show our appreciation in just one week – we had to do two! With Teacher Appreciation Week and DU’s Alumni Weekend back to back, combining them just made sense.”

The Appreciation Blitz kicked off during the traditional Teacher Appreciation Week and culminated with a visit by MCE Dean Karen Riley and Vice Chancellor Armin Afsahi to Carson Elementary School. At each school, recipients were presented with a basket of DU appreciation items, along with a Distinguished Partner certificate.

“Morgridge College is intentionally community-focused. We place upwards of 600 students in schools, mental health clinics and non-profits throughout the Denver area. We created the MCE Distinguished Partner designation this year, as a way to recognize those key organizations with whom we work. It’s a very symbiotic relationship,” said Dean Karen Riley.

Principal, Anne Larkin, seemed to agree with that description, “We love getting DU students and hiring them as teachers. They are so prepared when they come to us!”

Carson Elementary was selected as the final stop on the Appreciation Blitz due to the high number of MCE alumni that currently serve there, including Assistant Principal Valecia Von Weiss and School Lead for Teacher Mentoring Natalie Jacobsen.

Like many schools, Carson is not just home to MCE alumni, but also to current TEP student teachers. While touring the school, Riley and Afsahi made stops at each classroom where a mentor teacher was providing leadership to an MCE student educator. Mentor teachers, most of whom are MCE alumni, included Corey Broker, Natalie Jacobsen, Cynthia Smith, and Whitney Adams.

At one stop, Dean Riley was invited to participate in an impromptu sign language conversation with students in Ms. Diniro’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program (DHH) classroom.

This visit was the highlight of my day. It reminds us all of why we do what we do, and the profound impact our teachers make every single day,” said Riley.

 Armin Afsahi seemed to agree with that sentiment, as upon returning to the DU campus, he asked, “So, can we do that again tomorrow?!”

Although the senior leadership will probably not be making daily school visits, they will be hard at work raising awareness around the critical advances that DU alumni and all teachers are making to create more possibilities through access to quality education.

Dr. Peter Organisciak and Dr. Krystyna Matusiak, faculty in MCE’s Library and Information Science program, have been awarded a $277,000 grant from the Institute for Museums and Library Services (IMLS). The two-year grant will support a content-based study of text duplication and similarity in massive digital library collections.

Dr. Peter Organisciak and Dr. Krystyna Matusiak

The emergence of massive digital collections presents an opportunity to pose novel, collection-wide questions of published history, offering new ways to access and use library materials.

As Organisciak explains, access in libraries is usually driven by information describing materials, such as time, location, and subject matter. Digital libraries allow a new form of access: by peering inside the books. At large scales, such information can yield fascinating insights such as what types of books were being published in different parts of the country, how were issues of the day being addressed, and even what were the most popular terms being used at key points in time.

The problem with searching and analyzing these huge libraries is that, at present, these digital archives contain an unknown number of duplicate copies of publications. In a physical library, that’s a good thing. Multiple users can check out and read multiple copies of the same book. When you’re looking for trends across culture or history, however, duplicated or repeating text can lead to a misleading understanding of reality.

Organisciak explains, “Massive digitalization projects are perhaps best exemplified by the HathiTrust Digital Library, which contains roughly 16 million books collected from a broad consortium of university collaborations. There is much potential to learn from so much of the published record, and the purpose of this project deduplication efforts is to make those insights easier to observe. Eventually, we hope to extend our methods to better make content recommendations.”

Such a similarity algorithm could be used by libraries to make book recommendations to readers based on their themes, complementing existing approaches such as reader advisories. If a reader is interested in books like The Da Vinci Code, the algorithm could suggest books that share contextual similarities.

“Think of it like Spotify for books,” says Organisciak.

Could this new study mean the end of the aimlessness readers often experience upon finishing the last book by their favorite author?

In time, perhaps. But, for now, it means that Organisciak, Matusiak, and Benjamin Schmidt, their research partner from Northeastern University, will be hard at work, digitally combing through more than 16 million books, to help researchers analyze publications with increased accuracy, and help readers find the next book they’re most likely to fall in love with.

Morgridge College recognized the innovative service of community partners at this year’s Appreciation Breakfast held in the MCE Commons. This annual event seeks to honor this group that inspires, mentors, and partners with MCE to provide enriching opportunities for students while bringing about social impact in a variety of community and educational settings.

Learn more about the 2018 Honorees:

Department of Counseling Psychology: Denver Jails Correctional Psychology Program

The Denver Jails support opportunities for our students to provide individual and group therapy to incarcerated men and women. In addition to this unique clinical placement, with a myriad of diagnoses, presenting problems and intersecting traumas, the Denver Jails correctional psychology team is dedicated to providing outstanding individual and group supervision. Our students have opportunities not only to learn about the intricacies of counseling with an underserved population, but also to learn about the dynamics of intersecting a system of criminal justice and health care that impacts the mental health and well-being of their clients. We appreciate and acknowledge the efforts of the psychology team in their support of the professional development of these emerging clinicians.

Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies: Amy Keltner, Deputy Chief of Schools, Denver Public Schools

The goal of the Tiered School Supports team is to accelerate improvement in the highest needs schools in order to increase the number of students with access to high performing schools in Denver Public Schools. The team does this through alignment of supports, resources, and interventions to a school’s unique needs, and through partnering with the community to design new or innovative high performing district schools. They partner with schools, district departments, network teams, communities, and other partners to develop and implement improvement strategies that will result in dramatic gains for all students.

Department of Higher Education: Campus Compact of the Mountain West

Campus Compact of the Mountain West is a membership organization of college and university presidents devoted to promoting civic learning. They have served as an invaluable resource to Higher Education students by acting as an important link to the national Campus Compact and the Colorado Civic Health Network, as well as providing opportunities, such as AmeriCorps leadership jobs. The initiatives of the Compact align well with Morgridge’s overall goal to investigate how institutions embed civic and democratic commitments.

Department of Research Methods and Information Science: Museo de las Americas

Museo de las Americas is a fine arts museum in Denver, Colorado. It is dedicated to educating the community through collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting the diverse arts and cultures of the Americas, from ancient to contemporary. The Museo offers cultural workshops, professional development for educators, and summer camps for children. The Museo was selected as one of the honorees this year because of their close alliance with Dr. Bruce Uhrmacher’s work in the arts and aesthetics. Since 2005, the Museo provided Bruce’s classes with special tours of the museum, offered space for seminars, and hosted Morgridge internships.

Department of Teaching and Learning Sciences: Colorado African Organization

The Colorado African Organization is a nonprofit agency located in Denver whose mission is to “support Colorado’s migrant – refugee, immigrant, and asylum-seeking – populations in their pursuit of integration, self-sufficiency, and freedom.” From its inception, CAO has been at the forefront in promoting the role of Community Navigators – who are former refugees with a deep appreciation of the resiliency displayed and the challenges faced by newcomer families and students, as they adjust to new systems in our country, including our public education policies, practices, and expectations. This award reflects our sincere gratitude and appreciation of the insights willingly provided by the Community Navigators at CAO over the last nine years and their help arranging meaningful preservice, social-bridging experiences between our students and newcomer families.

Morgridge College of Education (MCE) had a robust presence at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in New York City, April 13-17. More than 50 faculty and students presented papers, and four were recognized for Division and Special Interest Group (SIG) awards. AERA is a national community of education researchers, comprised of 12 divisions and over 155 special interest groups (SIGs).  The Annual Meeting serves as a forum for academic institutions, departments, non-university-based research institutions, and professional associations to share information about federal education research, and engage in shaping policy with regard to significant research issues. This year’s conference theme was “The Dreams, Possibilities, and Necessity of Public Education.”

MCE Award Recipients

  • 2018 AERA Division K Innovations in Research on Equity and Social Justice in Teacher Education Award: Maria Salazar, PhD, Higher Education Faculty
  • 2018 Shelby Wolf Literature SIG Outstanding Dissertation Award: Kimberly McDavid Schmidt, PhD, Assistant Clinical Professor
  • 2018 Leadership for Social Justice SIG Dissertation of the Year Award: Angelina Walker, EdD, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Graduate
  • 2018 Family, School, and Community Partnerships SIG Dissertation of the Year Award: Kayon Morgan, PhD, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Graduate

MCE Presenters

Alumna Bayonne Holmes, M.A (’68), returned to the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) to participate in a dine and dialogue event in celebration of Black History Month. MCE Dean, Karen Riley, moderated the event which was attended by faculty, alumni and students of education.

The event honored Holmes’ legacy and work in encouraging diversity in schools in Colorado and California as early as the 1950s to present day. As a professional educator and community volunteer, Holmes has inspired many youths to look beyond their circumstances and establish future goals. In all of her classrooms, as early as 4th grade, she required her students to make journey maps which would include their future in education.

Holmes is quick to credit her mother with instilling the value of education in her family tree – a seed that took root in Holmes’ siblings and beyond. Holmes’ older brother William Smith also earned two degrees in education from DU and went on become the first black principal in Denver. Thirty years later, his son, Robert Smith, gave the 2017 commencement address at DU.

During Holmes’ decades-long career, she provided curriculum and diversity leadership to the Denver Public School System, UC Berkley, the Colorado Coalition for Domestic Violence, and the Community College of Denver. Her work allowed her to play a pivotal role in civil rights issues, including desegregation and school bussing.

In addition to reflecting on her life’s journey in education, Holmes described her experience being one of only a handful of black students at DU in the 50s. A time in which she transcended expected roles to become the first black cheerleader and one of the founders of the Black Alumni Affinity Group on campus.

“I graduated from East High School (in Denver) so I knew what it was like to be among a lot of white students,” Holmes said. “Everyone has to find out for themselves what they have to do to feel comfortable. The way you carry yourself can project respect. I felt good about myself so I didn’t allow anything negative to have an impact on me. I just did it!”

Holmes continues to bring that diehard enthusiasm to the current projects with which she is involved; tutoring at an afterschool program and creating a mural of her family tree for the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library in Denver’s Five-Points neighborhood.  As Holmes is quick to point out, the family tree will be a visual representation of the power of education. Referring to her nephew Robert Smith, Holmes recalls, “When his dad came home with his PhD it didn’t just change the family. It changed the community.”

View more photos from the event on our Flickr album.

The MCE Educational Leadership and Policy Studies department hosted a Transformation Leadership Roundtable which featured Dr. Carolyn Shields, former Dean of Education at Wayne State University and expert on inclusive excellence and equitable learning. Shields discussed her most recent book Transformative Leadership in Education: Equitable and Socially Just Change in an Uncertain and Complex World.

Dr. Kristina Hesbol, ELPS assistant professor, served as the moderator for the event. Roundtable participants included:

  • Sarah Bridich, ELPS PhD graduation & adjunct
  • Doris Candelarie, PhD, ELPS clinical assistant professor
  • Mohsen Alzahrani, ELPS PhD student

After the roundtable discussion, Shields fielded questions from the audience, followed by a book signing.

The University of Denver’s (DU) Morgridge College of Education (MCE) and Denver Public School (DPS) System celebrated 15 years of one of the most successful private college–public school partnerships in the nation with a reunion held at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, November 14th. The DU Ritchie Program for School Leaders, was originally created to address the need for highly competent and socially responsible school leaders; namely principals and superintendents.

In its 15-year history the innovative partnership has been credited with producing the majority of Denver’s public school leaders, including:

  • 82 principals
  • 107 assistant principals
  • 4 instructional superintendents

In the current 2017-18 academic year 38 principals and 71 assistant principals in DPS are graduates of the DU Ritchie program. Many of whom have the longest tenure in DPS, have successfully led turnaround efforts, and were the first to achieve innovation status in their school leadership.

In addition to recognizing such milestones, the commemorative event reunited program graduates, professors and mentors from across its 15-year history. Individuals instrumental with founding and sustaining the leadership program were presented with a custom piece of artwork created by West Leadership Academy 11thgrader Julian Urbina-Herrera, and his assistant principal Cris Sandoval, a 2005 Ritchie Program graduate.

Among those individuals recognized for their leadership and support:

Program founders:

  • Ginger Maloney, former dean, MCE at DU
  • Jerry Wartgow, former DPS Superintendent
  • Tony Lewis, Exec Director Donnell-Kay Foundation

Program Namesake:

  • Dan Ritchie, former DU Chancellor

Co-creators of the program:

  • Maureen Sanders, former director of leadership development, DPS
  • Dick Werpy, former DU professor
  • Susan Korach, dept. chair, MCE at DU

More information about the DU Ritchie Program for School Leaders is available here.

More photos from the event can be found on our Flickr album.

The 9th annual Students of Color Diversity Celebration was held November 7th in Morgridge College of Education’s (MCE) Katherine Ruffatto Hall. The event showcased the College’s commitment to producing a new generation of change agents passionate about working together to create an inclusive and diverse community for all students.

After opening remarks by Dean Karen Riley, Dr. Lolita Tabron, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, facilitated the panel discussion.

The panelists described their experiences as first-generation and underrepresented students, as well as the unique challenges that their individual culture has on their educational career. Several panelists stressed the value of the cohort model used at MCE and described how faculty members embrace all students into the academic community. During the Q&A session, panelists discussed scholarship opportunities for students and the funding of graduate degrees, work life balance, and the need for commitment to your degree.

The Students of Color event was created by Dr. Frank Tuitt, MCE Higher Education faculty and current Sr. Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost on Diversity and Inclusion.

This year’s student panelist included:

See photos from the event here or view the entire panel discussion here.

The Higher Education Department and the MCE Alumni Office hosted a panel discussion that explored the impact of the U.S. Department of Education’s recent announcement on Title IX enforcement. The panel, moderated by Dr. Michelle Tyson, Clinical Assistant Professor of Higher Education, discussed the challenges associated with implementing the Title IX directive.

Panelists Included:
Dr. Becky Broghammer, Conflict Mediator and Title IX Investigator, University of Northern Colorado
Dr. Elena Sandoval-Lucero, Vice President, Boulder County Campus, Front Range Community College
David Anderson, Title IX Investigator, University of Denver

Photos from the event may be viewed on our Flickr album.

Morgridge College of Education (MCE) faculty member William E. Cross, Jr., PhD was selected as the University Lecturer by the University of Denver (DU). The University Lecturer award was first given in 1955 and is one of the University’s most distinguished honors, based solely upon creative contributions and scholarly work. “Dr. Cross honors MCE and DU every day and we could not be more proud to have him as our colleague,” Dean Karen Riley said.

Professor Cross is a leading theorist and researcher in the psychology and identity development of minorities. His book, Shades of Black: Diversity in African American Identityis considered a classic in the field of racial identity. He is the President-Elect of American Psychological Association’s Division 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues), an Elder of 2013 National Multicultural Conference, a CUNY Professor Emeritus and a Distinguished Lecturer at Georgia Southern University.

As part of the University Lecturer designation, Cross recently presented a spring lecture entitled, “Black Psychology: Normal People Negotiating Faustian Dilemmas.” The presentation explored the notion that historically, many African Americans have minimized their own prestige to fit the expectations of white society. Cross used the example of the seminal jazz artist, Louis Armstrong, who “pretended” to be unable to read music, so racist white patrons could go on believing that music, jazz and rhythm are instinctual to black people. For many scholars, the discourse on the psychology of black people begins with damage and self-hatred. Cross’s lecture, however, offered a corrective by arguing that most social scientific research show black people to be normal people ensnarled in “Faustian” predicaments.

Professor Cross is a passionate member of the DU community and exemplifies the high standard of excellence found among MCE and DU faculty. His positive impact extends beyond the classroom and into the communities he engages with as he strives to make the world a more inclusive place.

Library Information Science Program Alumna (MLS ’78), Janet Lee has been named a Fulbright Scholar and will use the opportunity to take her expertise in open access publishing to the University of Aksum in Ethiopia.

“I plan 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,” Lee said.

In a country where there are only 35 open access journals, the cost of academic publishing and databases make robust research challenging for many university faculty. Lee’s work seeks to change that, and in doing, enhance the economic development opportunities that accompany such scholarly publishing.

Lee is no stranger to the country of Ethiopia, nor to developing innovative solutions.

Her original introduction to the country was as a Peace Corp volunteer from 1974-76, during which time she helped create a small school library. Follow up trips solidified her commitment to the region and led to her establishing a library in northern Ethiopia during her sabbatical there in 2010.

Lee currently serves as Dean of the Regis University Dayton Memorial Library and works closely with DU librarians on a variety of initiatives. She serves as editor of Colorado Libraries, is on the founding board of Collaborative Librarianship Journal at the Anderson Academic Commons, and is co-edits the Jesuit Education Journal at Regis University.

Lee credits her University of Denver education with providing the foundation for a successful career and offers words of advice to current MCE students, “Take advantage of opportunities and stretch beyond your conventional limits. Explore, take chances, what is the worst that could happen?”


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