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 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.

Educational leadership and policy studies PhD student Natalie Lewis has been selected by the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA) as part of the 2017-2019 Jackson Scholars Program. The Jackson Scholars Program develops future faculty of color for the field of educational leadership and policy.

Lewis is the current Assistant Principal at McAuliffe Manual Middle School, part of the Denver Public School (DPS) system. A graduate of DPS Manual High School, Lewis is began her career as a substitute teacher in Philadelphia. Her experience led her to pursue an advanced degree in education in order to be a leader to underserved populations.

“I am excited, honored, and extremely privileged to receive this award,” Lewis said. “This sets me on a path to my ultimate goal to blend educational theory and practice.”

Lewis plans to utilize this program to create more equitable opportunities where educators can integrate research into their schools and classrooms.

The UCEA Barbara L. Jackson Scholars Network began in November 2003 after a vote of the members of the UCEA Plenum. The two-year program provides formal networking, mentoring, and professional development for graduate students of color intending to become professors of educational leadership.

UCEA facilitates the development of a robust pipeline of faculty and graduate students of color in the field of educational leadership. As a result, Barbara Jackson Scholars and Alumni enhance the field of educational leadership and UCEA with their scholarship and expertise.

Dr. Patricia M. McDonough, an internationally recognized college access scholar and professor at UCLA, delivered two days of lectures and engagement opportunities during the annual HED Speakers Series, Jan. 29 and 30. McDonough is the author of the book Choosing Colleges: How Social Class and Schools Structure Opportunity. Originally published in 1997, the book continues to be an influential text.

McDonough’s public presentation, “20 Years of College Choice: Where we’ve been, where we are, and where we need to go,” can be viewed in its entirety here.

Her luncheon interview, delivered to students and alumni, is available here.

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.

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.

Higher Education Ph.D. candidate Varaxy Yi Borromeo has been recognized as the Asian Pacific American Network’s Outstanding Graduate Student of 2017. The award is presented by the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Coalition for Multicultural Affairs (CMA). The CMA works to promote diversity within ACPA and addresses the changing cultural dynamics within higher education.

Yi joined the the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) community in 2013 and has had an “overwhelmingly positive experience.” She attributes her academic success to strong faculty support, opportunities to contribute to impactful projects, and a close-knit doctoral cohort. Yi is passionate about inclusive excellence, equity, inclusion, diversity, culturally engaging campus environments, and critical race theory, all of which are topics she has infused into coursework, research, and impact projects. Her research connects her to programs, organizations, and individuals whose experiences help to inform transformations in campus environments. One such organization is the Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) Project, where she currently serves as a Research Associate.

In addition to her studies, Yi participated in and led a number of research projects that contributed to a greater impact in her community. Most notably, as a Graduate Fellow for the University of Denver’s (DU) Interdisciplinary Research Incubator for the Study of (In)Equality (IRISE), Yi developed the Roger Salters Writing Institute in partnership with Anthea Johnson Rooen, Director of Graduate Student Success at the Center for Multicultural Excellence, and with support from the Writing Center and English department faculty to create a writing program for doctoral students from historically underrepresented communities. According to Yi, the Institute creates a cohort-based learning community in a collaborative, supportive environment to not only provide tips and strategies for productive writing but to address the vulnerabilities inherent in the writing process and to combat feelings of isolation in students’ programs. She considers the project to be one of her most significant accomplishments at DU.

Yi is expected to complete her studies in the Fall of 2017. She is honored to receive the award, and credits her success to her research team and community at MCE, saying that “similar to many other doctoral students of color, I face daily feelings of inadequacy and anxiety about the relevance and quality of my work…this recognition tells me that I am seen, my contributions are important, and I must continue my work to ensure that academia is a more equitable and inclusive space.”

December 20th, 2016 – I frequently start my higher education classes with a poem, typically a poem that has little direct connection to teaching, my primary area of expertise and interest. Why and toward what end? What if anything does poetry contribute to an understanding of history, philosophy, or social context of schooling?

The poet Emily Dickinson in her poem Tell all the truth but tell it slant opens with the line “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” and she ends with the explanation “The truth must dazzle gradually or every man be blind”. T.S. Eliot, when asked about the value of poetry replied, “The chief use of the “meaning” of a poem, in the ordinary sense, may be to satisfy one habit of the reader, to keep his mind diverted and quiet, while the poem does its work upon him: much as the imaginary burglar is always provided with a bit of nice meat for the house-dog”. I find that poetry is an effective way to introduce core ideas and concepts about teaching and schooling but in a way that is less direct, thus increasing the chance that students will incorporate or at least strongly consider the main points of the class. Poetry allows for the introduction of controversial or strong ideas but at a “slant” or like the burglar who brings a “bit of nice meat for the house-dog”. The poem opens up the learning heart of my students while temporarily distracting their academic mind. By starting class this way I find that my students are more likely to express their understanding of the text through fresh critical eyes instead of the voice of well-trained students trying to impress the professor.

How do I introduce poetry to my students? I initially tell them that poems are like a Rorschach test where the psychiatrist asks a patient to interpret an ink blot on a piece of folded paper. In my case, the poem invites their inner teacher to see or hear what they most need to understand about the poem as it connects with the text for the day. I make it clear that like a Rorschach test each student will likely hear or see something different in the poem. In a subtle but direct way this conveys the message that intellectual diversity is valued in our community of scholars. I pass out the poem and read it out loud (there is something about hearing a poem read by someone else that goes deeper into the space of meaning than reading a poem in silence). I hold a few minutes of silence for the deep meaning of the poem to sink into the deep learning spaces of my students. I break the silence with an invitation to share a word, image, or phrase that speaks to them about the link between the poem and the essence of the texts we read for the class.

For the next 10-15 minutes at least three things happen. One, I get a real time sense of how my students understood, in a truly personal and intellectual sense, the readings for the class session. Two, students get a chance, in a non-threatening way, to hear the different ways that their classmates connected to or made sense of the readings. Three, all of us (teacher and students) slow down and settle into the class period. In no way does poetry provide an escape from the rigor of engaging critical ideas but as Emily Dickinson argues: “The truth must dazzle gradually or every man be blind”.

November 25th, 2016 – This picture of a blackbird perched on a branch singing over a marsh of cattail reeds in the early morning hours of a new day is one my favorite images of teaching.  I invite you to take some time and look closely.  What are the signs of good teaching evident in this image?  What are the conditions of the environment that allow for the presence of good teaching to present itself for examination?  How would you begin to compare this male blackbird and his song to all the other males singing that day?  How might we use this image of a singing bird to talk about the ineffable or hidden qualities of good teaching?

First let me make an argument for the ineffable, that which we know exists but frequently can’t see; courage, passion and grit for instance.  One way bird lovers make distinctions between birds are their songs, each species has a signature melody.  But a song, like many aspects of good teaching can be heard but not seen, except when the right conditions bring the ineffable forward for examination.  In this image we can actually see the song of the blackbird in the exhaled breath.  Each curl, curve and break makes the unseen elements of the song present for inspection.

An important lesson in this image for anyone interested in the unseen aspects of teaching is the importance of the right conditions for the ineffable to materialize.  Externally, there must be a rising sun that back lights the scene, the temperature must be cold enough for the breath to condense into visible droplets, and the wind must be perfectly still or the notes will be distorted.  Internally, the bird must exhibit a certain confidence in his song, head back and throat full of commitment.  Additionally, without a compelling urge to sing the marsh will be quiet and the song of the blackbird will remain invisible.

What are some of the essential learnings that might help with ways of making the unseen or ineffable elements of teaching more evident and available for examination?  The first learning is that the right conditions, externally and internally, must be present. Only a teacher who is encouraged or supported by colleagues or school leaders will take the risk of singing while perched on an exposed branch.  Only a teacher with strong internal sense of calling to teach will throw her head back and in a full-throated way announce with authenticity her particular teaching style.

What might be at stake if we stop paying attention to the ineffable qualities of teaching?  The  graphic novel “Watchman” by DC Comics (2014) warns of the dangers of becoming too analytic in our studies of nature or teaching.  The narrator, whose superhero persona is an owl, muses on the danger of narrowing the investigative eye to only technical qualities when describing what makes a bird a bird:

“Looking at a hawk, we see the minute differences in width of the shaft lines on the under-feathers where the Egyptians once saw Horus and the burning eye of holy vengeance incarnate. Until we transform our mere sightings into genuine visions; until our ear is mature enough to order a symphony from the shrill pandemonium of the aviary; until then we may have a hobby, but we shall not have a passion.  When I was a boy, my passion was for owls. Somewhere over the years; some-place along the line my passion got lost, unwittingly refined from the original gleaming ore down to a banal and lusterless filing system.”

When it comes to describing good teaching we must look past the external qualities of “best practices” as defined by standards and accountability rubrics.  We must learn to un-see the world of teaching as solely a technical process that has the potential of de-evolving into “a banal and lusterless filing system”.  We must regain the passion and vision to see the mystery and magic of teaching that is only visible, although always present, on certain cold mornings in the face of a rising sun.

Cecilia Orphan, Ph.D., a Higher Education Assistant Professor at the Morgridge College of Education, has partnered with the Campus Compact of the Mountain West (CCMW) in a yearlong Collective Impact initiative. Dr. Orphan will lead the project—a collaboration with Colorado State University-Pueblo, the University of Colorado Denver, and the University of Northern Colorado—which is focused on assessing the institutions’ contributions to civic health and equity in their regions. The initiative is phase one of a higher education civic health and equity initiative.

The project was made possible through a Public Good grant provided by The University of Denver’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning. The Collective Impact project builds on the work of the Colorado Civic Health Network—an initiative founded after the 2014 publication of the Colorado Civic Health Index—which includes increasing volunteerism, voter engagement, civic health in minority communities, and student engagement. Dr. Orphan has focused her career on institutional civic engagement, and has previously served as the National Manager at the American Democracy Project.

With the Collective Impact Project, Dr. Orphan says that institutions are working to foster reciprocal partnerships with organizations in their communities, and that the information collected will be leveraged to create matrices as a framework for additional institutions—on a local, regional, and national scale—to participate in similar projects in the future. In the long term, participant institutions have the goal of translating the data collected from assessment and research into policy briefs for the state legislature, helping policymakers better understand the public impact of higher education and to drive future policy in higher education.

The Morgridge College of Education extends its heartfelt congratulations to Higher Education Ph.D. student Meseret Hailu, who received the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Award. Hailu will use the award to conduct a study examining gender inequality within science and technology in Ethiopia.

Prior to enrolling in the Ph.D. program, Hailu attended the University of Denver and Regis University for her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in biological and biomedical sciences. She has served as an affiliate faculty member at Regis University and as an Academic Fellow at College Track, and currently works as a Graduate Research Assistant to supplement her doctoral studies. Hailu’s research interests revolve around international education and gender equality in STEM fields, particularly for Black women.

Congratulations, Meseret!

Jeffrey Selingo Comes to MCE

Jeffrey J. Selingo is a best-selling author and award-winning columnist who helps parents and higher-education leaders imagine the college and university of the future and teaches them how to succeed in a rapidly changing economy. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Slate, and his work has been honored with awards from the Education Writers Association, Society of Professional Journalists, and the Associated Press.

Selingo will be at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) on October 4 to hold a series of discussions on his latest book, There is Life After College.

There Is Life After College offers students, parents, and even recent graduates the practical advice and insight they need to jumpstart their careers. Education expert Jeffrey Selingo answers key questions—Why is the transition to post-college life so difficult for many recent graduates? How can graduates market themselves to employers that are reluctant to provide on-the-job training? What can institutions and individuals do to end the current educational and economic stalemate?—and offers a practical step-by-step plan every young professional can follow. From the end of high school through college graduation, he lays out exactly what students need to do to acquire the skills companies want.

How can I Get involved?

Selingo will be in residence at MCE October 4 for a series of events focusing on his new book.

  • MCE Faculty are invited to a luncheon and discussion on October 4 from 12:00 AM -1:30 PM.
  • MCE Students are invited to a special student forum from 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM.
  • MCE Students, faculty, and staff can participate in a college-wide book talk from 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM. *

*Students can apply to participate in the student forum by sending a one-page response to the question, “Why do you want to participate in the forum, and how does it align with your educational interests?” to their department’s ASA by 5:00 PM on September 23. Space is limited, and students accepted into the forum will receive a complimentary copy of the book which they are expected to read before the event. Students can contact their ASA for more information.

The Higher Education (HED) Department at the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) engages in teaching, research, and service that draws from and contributes to the resources of Denver, Colorado, and national communities. The University of Denver Center for Community Engagement & Service Learning (CCESL) recently recognized these efforts by awarding HED the Community Engaged Department of the Year award. This award honors an academic department that has developed a concentration of faculty members who engage in high quality community-based partnerships; carry out rigorous public good scholarship; and teach innovative service-learning courses that improve students’ academic knowledge.

HED’s bond with the community is exemplified by its connections with the many organizations throughout Denver that collaborate with them. One such collaboration, with the Denver Scholarship Foundation, places graduate students in Denver high schools to support the work of DSF’s future centers – places designed to support underrepresented students’ postsecondary opportunities. Also, each of the tenure-line faculty members in HED have pursued community-based research projects. For example, Dr. Cecilia Orphan received a grant from the CCESSL Public Good Fund for her research on higher education and the public good in collaboration with the Campus Compact of the Mountain West, an inter-institutional organization that focuses on civic engagement in higher education.

HED students actively engage with these community partners during their time at MCE. In addition to service-learning opportunities across the HED curriculum, students engage in independent and small group “praxis projects” wherein they design and deliver evaluation, assessment, and research-based recommendations in collaboration with student affairs, academic affairs, and business affairs offices at college and university campuses across the Denver metropolitan area. Through these connections HED students experience hands-on the ways in which they can challenge and inform change in the real world.

The Higher Education Department and our students are proud to have formed such strong bonds with these communities and to have the opportunity to work alongside them supporting the public good.

We are excited to highlight Morgridge College of Education Higher Education PhD student Delma Ramos. Delma focuses on social justice in higher education and explores systems of access and opportunity for underserved populations that stem, in part, from her experience as a first generation student. Her inspiring scholarship has led to a variety of opportunities including a summer associate position at the American Council on Education Center for Policy, Research, and Strategy! Below Delma shares her professional experience and advice:

Current research

I have been involved in collaborative projects guided by both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Currently, I am participating in a study that explores the transition to college of low-income and first generation families and the systems institutions have in place to determine their involvement in their children’s college experience. Another project examines the academic trajectories of low-income, first generation women of color in racialized and sexualized academic settings.

Most recently I was invited to collaborate in two studies one which seeks to understand the role that low-income and families of color play in cultivating their children’s educational aspirations and ideologies, and one that involves the construction of a series of measures of Funds of Knowledge. I am also currently working with the Colorado Department of Higher Education on projects related to developmental education and performance metrics.  This summer, I look forward to joining the American Council on Education Center for Policy, Research, and Strategy in DC as a graduate summer associate exploring federal policies impacting higher education. Findings from at least two of the projects have been widely disseminated at forums including ASHE, NASPA, and AERA. Several publications that have emerged from this work are currently in the pipeline.

Collaborators

Most of the research inquiries I have participate(d) in are collaborations with various researchers.  In these settings, I play different roles as part of the research process from proposal development to finding dissemination and the creation of recommendations. These partnerships have taken place within the University of Denver, primarily with my academic advisor Dr. Judy Marquez Kiyama and with colleagues from outside organizations including the University of Missouri, the University of California-Los Angeles, Teachers College, the Denver Scholarship Foundation, RAND Corporation, and the Education Commission of the States.

Initial Inspiration

My research interests include access, retention, and graduation from higher education institutions, with an emphasis on underserved populations. Additionally, I focus on the assessment of programs with similar foci and on issues pertaining to educational quality and inclusive pedagogies in higher education, with a special interest in measure development. Philosophically, my research agenda is driven by my passionate commitment to social justice and my vision for a more inclusive and accessible higher education system. My research interests are further strengthened by my background as a first generation student and my exposure to scholars who study inequities in higher education as influenced by economic, social, and political contexts.

Biggest Challenge

As a woman of color, my biggest challenge has been to identify support systems that strengthen my ability to persist and succeed in my program at DU. My support network is composed of colleagues within and outside of DU as well as family and friends outside of Higher Ed.

Research Advice: Make Connections

I have found networking to be a very effective tool to access a wide array of research and other professional development opportunities.  Reach out to those people you would like to work with, you’ve got nothing to lose!

NOTE: This blog post is being featured from the official blog of the University of Denver’s Office of Graduate Studies.


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