Our Faculty & Staff

Additions, Moves & Promotions

New Additions

Welcome to HED:
  • D-L Stewart
  • Sarah Hurtado


Congratulations on your new role:
  • Laura Sponsler — Clinical Associate Professor
  • Cecilia Orphan — Associate Professor
  • Chris Nelson — Associate Professor
  • Sarah Hurtado — Assistant Professor

Faculty Moves

Wishing the best on your next venture:
  • Mark Engberg — Chief of Staff, Office of the President, at La Salle University
  • Judy Marquez Kiyama — Associate Provost at University of Arizona
  • Ryan Gildersleeve — Dean at Eastern Michigan University, College of Education
  • Mike Hoa Nguyen — Assistant Professor, New York University
  • Frank Tuitt — Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at University of Connecticut

Grant Funding & Research Projects

Grant Funding Totals


Academic Year:

2019-20 2020-21 2021-22
Total External Grant Funding: $195,672 $140,060 $282,098

Faculty Research Projects Since 2020

Dr. Orphan: Ending Data Invisibility: Identifying and Defining Regional Public Universities

Dr. Tyson: "Harnessing the power of the Learning League to address learning inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic"

Dr. Nelson: New Mexico Learning & Education Consortium (NMLEC)

Dr. Orphan: Federal Support for Broadly Accessible Rural-Serving Institutions in Response to COVID-19

Dr. Orphan: What It Means To Be A Rural-Serving Postsecondary Institution

Faculty Profiles

Sarah S. Hurtado

Sarah S. Hurtado: Assistant Professor

Dr. Hurtado identifies two main strands in her research related to eliminating sexual violence. First, she takes an organizational approach to investigate how institutions replicate rape culture through policies, procedures, structures, curriculum, etc. Second, she looks at responsibility, including who has power within institutions and how it is leveraged to eliminate sexual violence. Currently, this second strand focuses on the role and responsibility of faculty members.

Dr. Hurtado works closely with the DU community to address campus sexual violence, including being a member of the Culture of Respect Team, which conducted an assessment of the DU culture as it relates to the existence of sexual violence. She is also a member of the DU Campus Climate Workgroup, which is collecting more information about the prevalence of sexual violence at DU and the various factors within the DU culture that lead to its perpetration. In supporting these two groups on campus, Dr. Hurtado hopes to help address this issue at DU and foster a safer and more equitable learning environment.

Chris A. Nelson

Chris A. Nelson: Associate Professor

Dr. Chris Nelson (K’awika and Diné) utilizes a blend of critical theory and Indigenous relationality theory to explore the purpose of higher education. Her scholarship addresses the collective and political factors influencing higher education access for Indigenous communities and students, which ranges from student experiences to policy.

Chris’s scholarship strives to uphold and celebrate the educational aspirations held by Indigenous communities. She recently collaborated with other Indigenous educators to steward CO RISES (CO Reclaiming Indigenous Spaces for Educational Sovereignty) during the COVID-19 pandemic. This virtual working group created a space where Indigenous educators, parents, students, and allies could share resources and events to keep our close-knit community connected during a time when physical distancing was necessary for safety. Her contributions received recognition from the City of Denver’s 2020 Mayor's Diversity and Inclusion Award and the 2020 Indigenous Peoples Day proclamation reading.


Cecilia M. Orphan

Cecilia M. Orphan: Associate Professor

My research is informed by my experiences as a working class, first-generation student who received maximum Pell grants. I am personally familiar with the transformative nature of colleges designed to expand access and have devoted my career to expanding understanding of and appreciation for Regional Public Universities and Rural-Serving Institutions.

The RSI project has received significant practitioner and policymaker attention. We have met with a number of state legislators, institutional leaders, policy think tank researchers, and others who are interested in adapting this work to support their missions and advance better policy and funding for RSIs.

Laura E. Sponsler

Laura E. Sponsler: Clinical Associate Professor

Laura E. Sponsler, PhD, has expertise in organizational change, civic learning, and democratic engagement; inclusive teaching, learning, and assessment; and faculty development. In addition to her role at MCE, Dr. Sponsler currently serves as the faculty scholar for teaching and professional faculty in the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs and the 4D Faculty Co-Director. Previously, Laura worked at NASPA — Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education — where she was the founding director of civic learning initiatives. She holds a master’s and a PhD in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania.

As part of Dr. Sponsler's work to support Teaching and Professional Faculty, DU was recognized by the Pullias Center and AAC&U with the Delphi Project Award.

D-L Stewart

D-L Stewart: Professor and Department Chair

I study the ways US historically white, non-Native institutions (dis)engage with diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice; the philosophical and historical origins of these institutions; and the experiences of Indigenous and racially minoritized students within them.

I am currently part of a group of scholars funded by the Spencer Foundation who are developing policy fact sheets to guide discussions with federal legislators and writing more academic-style manuscripts alongside them for eventual journal publication. This activity is intended to show the relevance of critical race theory to legislative policy and the ability of scholars to translate CRT to policy work.

Michele Tyson

Michele Tyson: Clinical Associate Professor

My interests in higher education fall primarily to understanding institutions as organizations and environments in which students make humanizing decisions about engagement with identity and becoming. This is evidenced through the teaching, service, and research connections that I make with both undergraduate- and graduate-level students and programs.

Along with a team of teaching assistants, I adapted HED coursework into a First Year Seminar (FSEM) course offered to incoming undergraduates. The course touched on the economic, political, historical, and social contexts of higher education and information specific to the DU campus environment. The teaching assistants helped develop the course and then taught with me, sharing what they had learned in the program. The class connected our aspiring higher education professionals to this population in a unique way, and allowed me to provide a service to the university that brought together my love for teaching and my prior experiences in academic advising and student support.

HED Engaged Report 2023: Learn More

sun icon


  • Welcome Letter
  • Land Use Acknowledgement
  • Statement of Commitment
View Introduction
graduation cap icon

Our Students

  • Community Engagement & Praxis Projects
  • Student & Alumni Profiles
  • Partnership with Colorado Mountain College
  • Student Testimonials
  • Internships & Graduate Assistantships
  • Fall 2021 Student Demographics
Meet Our Students