Students from the Child, Family, and School Psychology (CFSP) program—under the mentorship of faculty member Gloria Miller, Ph.D.—have been working with the Colorado African Organization (CAO) to connect with refugee families who have settled in Colorado.

The students and CAO Community Navigators assist refugee families in adapting to and succeeding in the American education system. School-based issues that the families have encountered include religious dietary restrictions conflicting with school lunch menus, expectations about parental involvement, trauma and mental health, language barriers, and education gaps due to prior unstable living situations.

The partnership enables students to obtain experience working with diverse communities and helps them become more well-rounded practitioners while providing newcomer families with tools and resources to thrive. Due to a rising population of refugees and asylum-seekers in the United States and Colorado, services such as those that CAO provide and the involvement of students who are training to serve these populations are becoming increasingly important.

This story is featured in our 2016 Dean’s Report, which you can read in its entirety here.

Recent Child, Family, and School Psychology program graduate Brittany Greiert focused her academic research and dissertation on sex and relationship education for individuals with autism, a topic that has seen little research or development of guidelines until recently.

Prior to enrolling at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE), Greiert worked with a nonprofit reproductive health organization and noticed the lack of resources available for individuals with disabilities. This inspired Greiert to continue her education in order to address the resource gap, and she chose MCE because of the college’s support of her research interests. Greiert says that historically there have been extremely limited resources for comprehensive sexual education for those with autism, and that while there has been progress in the past few years, there are few guidelines on the topic.

Her work has led to a variety of opportunities for collaboration and sharing in the community and on a national level; in 2015, she collaborated with a colleague at Emerge: Professionals in Autism, Behavior, and Personal Growth to present a workshop at the Autism Society of Colorado titled “What happens in Vegas…Autism Style! Sex, dating, and intimacy.” Nationally, Greiert presented her findings on data, resources, and gaps in research at the 2016 National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) annual conference.

Greiert’s dissertation research resulted in the development of the Guidelines for the Development of Sexuality Education Curricula for High Functioning Adolescent Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The guidelines are intended to be used as a tool to guide future sex education curriculum development, address the unique needs of students with autism, and provide suggestions to modify existing curricula so that their needs are met. Furthermore, the guidelines function as an advocacy tool to increase awareness of the unique needs of high-functioning students with autism.  Greiert says that being proactive in creating a structured approach and presentation of information would be of huge benefit to individuals with autism as well as to school psychologists and parents of children with autism.

Students Sarah Laffin and Aleksandra Matysek completed a six-week school-based mental health practicum this past fall in Beijing, China as part of an international exchange program between Beijing Normal University (BNU) and the CFSP program. The program – now in its fourth year – was developed to broaden students’ multicultural competence and to promote the field of school psychology.

Laffin and Matysek completed their practicum with graduate students from BNU at Jingyuan School, a public middle and high school located in Beijing’s fifth ring. They worked with an on-site supervisor to plan and deliver weekly classroom mental health lessons, group counseling, and career development services. Laffin and Matysek also engaged in a cross-cultural comparison of school-based approaches to identify and manage student anxiety and gave a joint teleconference presentation to graduate students and faculty at both BNU and the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) on the topic.

One important finding discussed was that while levels of general anxiety are about the same in both cultures, social anxiety is more prominent in China due in part to the cultural focus on harmonious relationships and social restraint. Laffin and Matysek learned that students in the United States are more likely to seek help managing anxiety, possibly due to a greater awareness and acceptance of the role mental health plays in academic and life success. Two graduate students from BNU will reciprocate the exchange this spring, coming to MCE to attend selected classes and accompany current CFSP graduate students to their local practicum sites. They will also give a cross-cultural, joint teleconference presentation.

Laffin and Matysek say that their increased global understanding has had a positive influence on their practice and has increased their confidence in communicating with bi-lingual students and families in the United States. The international exchange program has been of mutual benefit as peers and faculty at BNU have been able to employ the counseling tools and methods introduced by CFSP students. The exchange has fostered an increased international appreciation of school-based mental health, helping BNU to establish a graduate program supporting China’s emerging field of school psychology.

Dr. Sharolyn Pollard-Durodola embodies Inclusive Excellence through her scholarly work, attending to the prevention and intervention of language and literacy difficulties (Spanish and English). Central to her scholarship is an interest in developing intervention curricula that build on validated instructional design principles, evaluating their impact on the language and reading development of struggling readers, and investigating ways to improve the quality of language and literacy practices of teachers and parents of young English language learners (ELLs) and non-ELLs who are at risk for reading difficulties. Dr. Pollard-Durodola is an Associate Professor in the Child, Family, and School Psychology (CFSP) program.

For the past ten years, her work has focused on accelerating oral language and content knowledge (science and social studies) through intensified shared book reading practices with young language learners (English language learners, native speakers of English) in school and home settings. As co-principal investigator in an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant-funded research project, Project Words of Oral Reading and Language Development (WORLD), she has collaborated with faculty from Texas A & M (Dr. Jorge Gonzalez, PI; Dr. Deborah Simmons, Co-PI) and the University of Texas – Pan American (Dr. Laura Saenz, Co-PI) to design and implement the WORLD interactive book reading approach in high poverty school and home settings.

In 2014, Dr. Pollard-Durodola received a grant from the University of Denver Internationalization Council for her project: International Perspectives on Bilingual Education. This grant allowed her to provide a keynote speech in Hanoi, Vietnam (August, 2014) at the Consortium to Advance School Psychology- International (CASP-I) Conference. The title and topic of her keynote speech was An Examination of Language, Literacy, and Socio-emotional Needs of Young Emerging Bilinguals: A Responsive and Proactive School Approach. This international experience and collaboration presented Dr. Pollard-Durodola the opportunity to form networks with other researchers whose scholarship attend to the oral language, literacy, and socio-emotional needs of children from high poverty settings who are also acquiring literacy in two or more languages. We look forward to her continued dedication to inclusive excellence.

Child, Family, and School Psychology alumna, Rachel Wonner Kersteins, is 1 of 15 national semi-finalists for the Health Mart Champions of Care Challenge. Kerstiens volunteers with the organization Girls on the Run, which is an after school running program that engages girls from Grade 3-8.  The program focuses on  teaching girls to embrace difference and celebrate their individual voices through healthy and active practices.

Kerstiens work has earned her a nomination as an unsung community hero. Associated with this nomination was a $1,000 grant that was donated to her Charity of choice; Girls on the Run. There is a $50,000 grant to be donated by Health Mart to the organization, however the winner will be chosen by a vote.

Support CFSP alumna, Rachel Kersteins and “Girls on the Run” by voting: www.healthmartcommunity.com.

The original story was covered on Channel 9 news: http://www.9news.com/story/sports/2014/03/20/denver-nonprofit-grant/6646465/ 

In addition to the success of The 2014 Graduate Research and Performance Summit, graduate students from various programs at the Morgridge College of Education stood out due to their engaging research. The event occurred February 7th 2014, as an initiative of the Graduate Student Government (GSG) to engage in interdisciplinary research and dialogue across DU. The theme for the summit was Breaking Down the Silos.

Research Summit - C&I

Curriculum & Instruction doctoral student Katherine Newburgh presenting at the summit

MCE students’ research at the summit showcased their InContext applications of theories or cross-cultural immersions, which were linked to some classes pursued over the course of the year. Here is a list of presenters and projects:

Aiding or Abating: Electoral Fraud Through a Lens of Social Justice
Tara Rhodes, Research Methods and Statistics

Cross-Cultural Collaboration on Mental Health Issues in School Settings
Ariel Haytas, Child, Family, and School Psychology
Libby Malone, Child, Family, and School Psychology
Lizzy Savage, Child, Family, and School Psychology

Common Core State Standards(CCSS) in Higher Education Primer Project
Kate Burns, Higher Education

Teachers Who Become Professors: Running to or Running From Teaching
Eron Reed, Curriculum & Instruction

Coping Strategies of Students of Color in Student Affairs and Higher Education Preparation Programs
Evette Allen, Higher Education

Who says racism is dead? A Creative Representation of the Racialized Experiences of Students of Color in Student Affairs Graduate Preparation Programs
Bryan Hubain, Higher Education

Mapping the Ineffable: An Exploration of Teacher Growth in Unscripted Moments
Katherine Newburgh, Curriculum and Instruction

CLICK HERE  To learn more about what students presented on. Each program was centered around Inclusive Excellence and Social Justice.

Natalia BlogHaving been invited to interview only a few weeks earlier, I arrived in Denver feeling very anxious.  This was my first in-person graduate school interview and I was feeling apprehensive about having to distinguish myself from the other applicants in a single day.  I was staying with a friend close to campus and we walked over to Ruffatto Hall the evening before so I would know where to go the next morning.  I was blown away by the beauty of the building and could imagine spending hours reading and writing papers in the many study nooks around the building.  I went to bed early that night, hoping to get a good night’s sleep.

After a breakfast buffet and time to mingle with current and prospective students, the day’s program started.  My two interviews were both scheduled for the afternoon, so I spent the morning learning about financial aid and inclusive excellence.  My thoughts were preoccupied by the interviews and this made it difficult to focus on the presenters.  During lunch, we were able to ask a panel of current students questions about the program.  Hearing their firsthand perspectives was one of the most helpful parts of the day.
After lunch, I had some free time before my interviews.  I found a beautiful porch on the fourth floor to review my notes and enjoy some vitamin D.  After a long winter in North Dakota, the 50 degree weather and view of the mountains was welcome.

I had two half-hour interviews with two different faculty members and both asked the same questions,  “Why do you want to be a school psychologist?” and, “Why do you want to attend DU?”  The first gave me the opportunity to expand on my prior experiences that had led me to the field and to expand on my specific interests.  To the second I was able to say unquestionably, “I want the best education I possibly can.”  Both interviews turned out to be more of a comfortable dialog with faculty than the interrogation I was worried about.

The interview day finished with a reception with good food, wine, beer, and conversation with current students and faculty.  The other prospective students shared feelings of relief that the day was finished.  The head of the program gushed about her summers spent white water kayaking with her family.  I left campus that evening feeling 100% sure DU was the school for me and with my fingers crossed that, come next fall, I would be able to experience the 300 annual days of sunshine, hike the beautiful mountains, and maybe even try out white water kayaking, while preparing for my dream career.

Natalia Lynch
MCE Student Ambassador
Child, Family, and School Psychology

Visit the Student Ambassador Webpage: http://morgridge.du.edu/community/student-ambassadors/

This quarter, the Morgridge College of Education welcomed Dr. Diana Howard as the new Interim Director for the Ricks Center for Gifted Children. Dr. Howard is a nationally recognized leader in the field of gifted education and brings a wealth of experience to this new position.

Diana Howard photo

The Ricks Center is a pre-eminent program that provides gifted education to about 250 advanced learners ranging from three years of age to eighth grade and serves as a model demonstration site for graduate students. Its mission is, “to provide a dynamic and challenging educational environment that anticipates and responds to the individual, intellectual, social, emotional, physical, aesthetic, and cognitive needs of gifted children.” Dr. Howard’s commitment to gifted education and strategic vision will move the school forward in furthering this mission throughout the remainder of the academic year.

As a University of Denver alum, Dr. Howard graduated with a Ph.D. in Gifted Education and Administration in 1994. Her 24 year career includes studying in Ghana as a Fulbright scholar, a Peace Corps volunteer in Uruguay, and serving as a librarian and facilitator for advanced learners in both private and public schools thought Denver. She has also aided in opening and/or leading schools such as Challenge K-8 in Cherry Creek, Douglass Elementary in Boulder, Polaris at Ebert in Denver and Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy K-12 in Denver. In addition, Dr. Howard has been honored as outstanding Elementary Principal for the State of Colorado with the Wright Way Award in 2004, Colorado Art Education Association’s Award for Distinguished Leadership in the Arts in 2009 and the Gully Stanford Award for Arts Leadership in 2011.

In addition to her current position, Dr. Howard teaches college courses in Arts in Education, Young Gifted Children, Girls and Mathematics, Children’s Literature and Curriculum Integration. Her community involvement includes serving on the boards of VSA/Access Gallery, which serves youth with disabilities, and The Globeville Community Center, which provides education to people in need in the local community. She has also worked with the Denver Art Museum’s Creativity Resource website for teachers, and assisted with launching El Sistema Colorado at Garden Place Academy, which transforms the lives of children living in poverty through music.

This month, the University of Denver will launch a national search for a permanent director for the Ricks Center, with the goal of instating the new director by June 1, 2014.

Nestled in Katherine A. Ruffatto Hall, the Counseling and Educational Services Clinic is the home to in-house clinical training and research for students in the Counseling Psychology and Child, Family and School Psychology programs. For 17 years, the clinic has been providing counseling, assessments and consultations to members of the community on a sliding scale basis, giving the opportunity for a variety of counseling and educational support services to underprivileged individuals and families who may not be able to afford them otherwise. Counseling services offered at the clinic range from depression to anxiety, parenting to career counseling and are given in a variety of settings: individual, group, couples, and family counseling. Educational services offered at the clinic range from learning disabilities to behavioral issues to gifted learning.

Learning InContext

For every hour in class, a Morgridge student spends 4 hours a week in the clinic. With state-of-the-art live observation rooms, MCE students are learning InContext with a real client, supervisor and student team. The students have the benefit of getting team feedback during their client’s session, giving them the opportunity to make immediate adjustments in their practice. The clients of the in-house training clinic have the benefit of the collective intelligence of 4-6 people working on their case at the same time. This type of live supervision and feedback is unique to Morgridge College of Education’s School and Counseling Psychology Department.
The Counseling branch of the clinic at Morgridge College of Education is the largest provider of treatment services for problem gambling in the state of Colorado. Director of the Problem Gambling Treatment and Research Center and MCE adjunct professor, Michael Faragher, is one of only two psychologists certified to treat problem gambling in Colorado. Faragher’s work has provided a unique opportunity in behavioral psychology specialization for MCE students and to the Denver community, as well as leading research that continues to develop and change the field of Addiction Counseling.

The clinic’s other supervisors and their students are continuing research on treatment preference and treatment effectiveness. The research on treatment preference involves the client in the process of selecting treatment methods, resulting in a more invested client and more desirable treatment outcomes. The clinic’s research helps maintain an active role in giving presentations and publishing work contributing to the advancement of counseling services. Within the clinic, there are also several other research opportunities that support dissertations of CP and CFSP doctoral students.

CP InContext

 The Educational Services branch of the clinic serves children and young adults, up to age 21, with achievement, learning and behavioral disabilities. Through state-of-the art, research-based services, MCE students and licensed clinic supervisors provide psycho-educational assessments, consultations and recommendations for the youth, their families and their school.

New to the clinic is a Parenting Group that unifies the clinic’s two focuses – Counseling Psychology and School Psychology. By offering a Parenting Group, the clinic is able to provide support, skills and techniques for parents who have children with learning disabilities.

The clinic is expanding by adding more operating hours each year. Contact 303-871-2528 for questions or to schedule an appointment, or come by the clinic at:

University of Denver
Morgridge College of Education
Katherine A. Ruffatto Hall, First Floor
1999 East Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208-1700


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