March 6, 2020

Dear Morgridge College of Education Community, 

I am pleased to announce that Craig Harrer has been named Director of the Ricks Center for Gifted Children. Since last summer, he has been serving as the Interim Director at Ricks. Craig will now serve as the permanent Director.

As our Interim Director at Ricks, Craig has been focused on community building, gifted learning, and creating internal and external organizational trust at Ricks and the University of Denver (DU). This work has been vital to Ricks and its continued success as a national leader in gifted education. Under Craig’s leadership, we will continue to provide our community – Ricks parents, students and families – an unprecedented educational experience. Something that I have appreciated about Craig and his approach to gifted education is his physical presence in the classroom specifically leading project-based initiatives.

With over 25 years of educational experience in Denver, we are lucky to have Craig as the Director of Ricks. As a native, he grew up blocks away from the DU campus and graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School. Since then, he has taught Kindergarten and grades 2 through 8 in a variety of subjects. As an Administrator, he was Principal of Rishel Middle School before helping to open the Denver Green School, a Pre-K through 8 innovation school in Denver Public Schools. Read more about Craig’s success at the Denver Green School.

Before coming back to Ricks in February 2019, he worked as a high school Assistant Principal and as a School Leadership Consultant. During his doctoral coursework, he worked part-time at Ricks from 2016-2018 and was excited about the opportunity to rejoin the Ricks community. Craig is also a proud Pio and values his deep ties with DU, including being a member of the doctoral cohort in our nationally recognized Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program with a dissertation in shared leadership.

Personally I am so thrilled to have Craig leading the school and look forward to working with him long into the future.

Please join us at a celebratory reception to congratulate Craig on Tuesday, March 10 at 3 p.m., Ricks (2040 South York Street, Denver, CO 80208).

Dean Karen Riley

Congratulations to Laurier Cress who was recently selected as one of only three DU students to participate in the fireside chat with Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, who’s a distinguished keynote speaker at DU’s upcoming Diversity Summit.

Laurier Cress is a first-year graduate student at the University of Denver in the Morgridge College of Education’s Library and Information Science program, specializing in Archives. Prior to moving to Denver in September of 2019, she lived in Baltimore City her entire life. She was raised in Northeast Baltimore in the 1990s and early 2000s in a supportive home but an underprivileged community. Her family was determined for her to excel in spite of her environment and the lackluster educational institution in Baltimore. Laurier attended Baltimore City’s only all-girl public high school, Western High School. Upon her completion at Western High School, she immediately entered Towson University to study Art and Design and graduated in 2010. During that time, she not only honed her skills as an oil painter and sculptor but she also gained a better understanding of the world outside of her own community.

After obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Art and Design from Towson University, she returned to school to pursue an entirely different path. In 2017 she attended the University of Maryland University College to study History. While conducting research as an undergraduate student, she realized the underrepresentation of ethnic groups in how history is recorded, preserved, managed and taught. This impacted her decision to pursue a graduate degree specializing in Archives. Her hope is to have a positive impact on the biases found in archives and recorded history by providing the perspective of a woman of color.

Her past and present work is closely connected to helping people and empowering communities, be it through contributions to a healthy and equitable work environment in her position as a move coordinator for a large international moving company; as a volunteer assistant librarian at Guilford Elementary Middle School for underprivileged children in Baltimore, as a volunteer at the Colorado State Archives and Public Records; or as a volunteer at the non-profit art gallery and community art center Baltimore Clayworks, which introduced ceramic arts to underprivileged children.

Laurier brings her interdisciplinary vision, acute sense of social justice, rich life experience, and artistic talent to our continuously evolving and contentious field. For Laurier, an emerging leader with outstanding potential, diversity, equity, and inclusion constitute a major drive of her scholarly, professional, and volunteer activities. They also serve as a lens through which Laurier sees the world and analyzes the human condition. Some of Laurier’s professional aspirations are anti-oppression in archival practices, community archives, and social justice in archival representation and memory preservation. She is an incredible scholar and an outspoken advocate for equity and social justice.

A member of our MCE community, Dr. Elaine Belansky, executive director for the Center for Rural Health and Education (CRSHE), was featured on The Denver Channel over the holiday break. Before the holiday, two rural school districts in Colorado had to shut down due to a fast-spreading norovirus. Dr. Belanksy told Channel 7 why this norovirus can have a larger impact on rural schools in comparison to their urban counterparts. Read the full story on Channel 7.

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Andi Pusavat, PhD was joined by Trisha Raque-Bogdan, PhD for a livestream with 9Health. The livestream focused on the affect cancer diagnosis and treatment have on the mental wellbeing of patients and survivors.

Watch the recorded livestream video below or on Facebook.

Additionally, Dr. Andi Pusavat was invited to the 9News station on Thursday morning to share more information about mental health/stress screenings that will be available at upcoming 9Health Fair events. Along with the mental health screenings people can do in person at 9Health Fairs, free online, anonymous mental health screenings are available at

You can watch Dr. Pusavat’s full interview with 9Health here.

Dr. Pusavat recently became a board member on 9Health’s Medical Advisory Committee (MAC), which is comprised of Colorado’s top healthcare providers and allied healthcare professionals. These notable and experienced individuals provide high-quality and evidence-based health screenings to our Greater Colorado community. The MAC is responsible for creating, reviewing and approving all medical screening protocols and interactive educational center requests. Through quarterly evaluation and follow-up of statistical data and screenings results, the MAC ensures all health screenings meet 9Health’s strict criteria.

Congratulations to Dr. Lolita Tabron who was named the 2019 recipient of the Jack A. Culbertson Award, presented by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), a leading professional organization of higher education institutions focused on advancing the preparation of educational leaders. Dr. Tabron is an assistant professor in the Morgridge College of Education’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program.

The Culbertson Award is given to a professor in the first six years of his or her career. As the UCEA noted in a press release announcing the award, Tabron is “a scholar, teacher and mentor whose early career contributions are already having a multiplier effect by impacting the lives of educational leadership scholars. Her passion and actions for social justice and equity contribute greatly to her ability to ignite confidence and learning from her students.”

The award will be presented at the UCEA Annual Conference Luncheon in New Orleans on Thursday, Nov. 21.

To read the full announcement, please visit the UCEA site.

PUEBLO, CO – On Monday, September 9, experts from the University of Denver (DU) Morgridge College of Education (MCE) Center for Rural School Health & Education (CRSHE) went to Pueblo to work with rural wellness coordinators to shared district-level comprehensive health and wellness plans and prepared for the implementation process. The event, held at Pueblo Community College, signified a milestone in CRSHE’s commitment to rural communities.

CRSHE is a research and education institute housed within MCE. Its vision is happy, healthy children and families living in vibrant rural communities. CRSHE partners with rural schools and communities to improve health and education outcomes through four focus areas: comprehensive health and wellness planning and implementation in schools; social-emotional health for students, teachers, and service providers; workforce development for professionals working with children and families; and economic development.

“This event brought together wellness coordinators from 21 districts across southeastern Colorado and the San Luis Valley to celebrate their completion of 5-year comprehensive health and wellness plans,” said Shannon Allen, PhD, Director of Community Services and Resources with CRSHE. Allen is the project manager for the project, designed to help coordinators identify areas of need in their district and work to create evidence-based solutions.

“The top student health problems that districts are focusing on include poor mental health; alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; physical inactivity; bullying and violence; nutrition; and sexual health and healthy relationships,” she said. “Over the next 5-years, districts in these regions will be working on strategically improving student health by implementing evidence-based policies and programs in their districts.”

Last week, we were joined by Amitabh Shah, who shared his inspiring story with our students. When he was just 23 years old, Amitabh founded the non-governmental organization (NGO), Yuva Unstoppable. Today, Yuva Unstoppable has worked in 950 schools and transformed the lives of 500,000 kids, providing improved drinking water, sanitation and women’s hygiene among other efforts across India. Amitabh was in the United States receiving the Ellis Island Award in New York alongside Eric Schmidt of Google and His Majesty Mohammad the 6th King of Morocco, and made a special visit to Morgridge. Thank you to the Morgridge Family Foundation for both supporting his efforts and coordinating his time with us.

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