The University of Denver recently announced its 2018 professor awards and four Morgridge professors were honored, with two taking home the top award of Distinguished University Professor.

Drs. Douglas Clements and Julie Sarama, from Morgridge College of Education Marsico Institute, are the inaugural recipients of the Distinguished University Professor award at the University of Denver. This new award is the highest award that the University bestows on its faculty members. Selection for this honor is based on scholarly productivity, national and international distinction in a field of research/scholarship, and work that makes a positive impact on society. Their title will remain in effect until resignation or retirement from the University of Denver, at which time they will be named Emeritus Distinguished University Professor.

Clements is a professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the Teaching and Learning Sciences department as well as the Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning, Kennedy Institute for Educational Success, and the Director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning. He received his PhD from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Previously a preschool and kindergarten teacher, he has conducted funded research and published over 500 articles and books in the areas of the learning and teaching of early mathematics and computer applications in mathematics education. Clements was a member of President Bush’s National Math Advisory Panel, the National Research Council’s Committee on Early Mathematics the Common Core State Standards committee and a coauthor of their reports.  His research interests include creating, using and evaluating research-based curricula, taking successful curricula to scale using technologies, and learning trajectories in standards, assessment, curriculum and professional development.

Sarama is a professor of Curriculum and Instruction in the Teaching and Learning Sciences department as well as the Kennedy Endowed Chair in Innovative Learning Technologies, Kennedy Institute for Educational Success, and Co-Director of the Marsico Institute for Early Learning. She received her PhD from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. She designed and programmed over 50 published computer programs, including her version of Logo and Logo-based software activities (Turtle Math™, which was awarded Technology & Learning Software of the Year award, 1995, in the category “Math”). Sarama has taught secondary mathematics and computer science, gifted math at the middle school level, preschool and kindergarten mathematics enrichment classes, and mathematics methods and content courses for elementary to secondary teachers.  Her research interests include developing and evaluating research-based educational software and other technologies, using learning trajectories in standards, assessment, educational technology, curriculum and professional development, developing and evaluating research-based curricula, and asking successful curricula to scale using technologies.

Clements and Sarama will be able to share their expertise with the University faculty, staff, friends and DU community at large through the University of Denver Distinguished University Professor Lecture and Performance Series, which will showcase their work.

Dr. Kathy Green was honored as the 2017-2018 Distinguished Teaching Award, as recommended by the Faculty Senate Awards Subcommittee. This award is presented in recognition of excellence in teaching. Green is a professor of Research Methods and Statistics in the Research Methods and Information Sciences Department. She received her PhD from the University of Washington-Seattle.  She was named University of Denver United Methodist Teacher/Researcher of the Year in 1999 and honored with a Fulbright Scholarship to the Slovak Republic in 2002. Her research interests are in applied measurement, specifically applications of the Rasch model, survey research, and teaching statistics.

Dr. William E. Cross, Jr. has been awarded the rank of Emeritus Professor. Cross retired from Morgridge College in June 2018 after serving as a Professor of Higher Education and Counseling Psychology. Cross received his PhD from Princeton University. He holds professor emeritus status from another university but remains active, and he is President-Elect for Div. 45 (APA). His recent publications interrogate the structure of the self-concept; the range of identity profiles found among African American adults; cultural epiphanies; the identity implications of cultural miseducation and false consciousness; and the multiple ways racial identity is enacted in everyday life.

In anticipation of the upcoming academic year, Morgridge College of Education is pleased to announce four faculty promotions within the College.

Dr. Patton Garriott, formerly Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology, had been promoted to Associate Professor with Tenure in the Counseling Psychology Department. Garriott received his PhD from the University of Missouri. He is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), Division 17 (Counseling Psychology) of the APA, and the Society for Vocational Psychology. His work has been recognized by Division 17 of the APA and the National Career Development Association. He is currently a Co-Investigator on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, which focuses on the career development of women and Latinas/os in engineering. Garriott’s primary areas of research include the academic and career development of students underrepresented in higher education, multicultural issues in vocational psychology, as well as race and racism.

Dr. Ryan Evely Gildersleeve, formerly Associate Professor Higher Education, has been promoted to full Professor. Gildersleeve recently completed his term as Chair of the Higher Education Department and will continue as a professor when he returns from a fall 2018 sabbatical. Gildersleeve received his PhD from the University of California-Los Angeles.  He was a 2012 National Academy of Education / Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow. Dr. Gildersleeve received the 2011 Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association’s Division D – Research Methodology. His practical experience ranges across P-20 education in primarily out-of-classroom learning contexts with non-dominant youth. Dr. Gildersleeve’s research agenda investigates the social and political contexts of educational opportunity for historically marginalized communities, focusing on college access and success for Latina/o (im)migrant families, critical higher education policy, and critical qualitative inquiry. He was recently appointed Executive Editor of About Campus: Learning in the College Environment, a flagship journal for ACPA: College Educators International. His editorship is a five-year term and begins this summer.

Dr. Jesse Owen, formerly Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology, has been promoted to full Professor. Dr. Owen recently completed his term as Chair of the Counseling Psychology Department. Owen earned his BS from Ball State University, his master’s degree from U of Miami, and his doctorate from DU. He has worked at Gannon University and University of Louisville prior to joining the faculty at DU. He is a licensed psychologist and has had a private practice at times over the last decade. His research focuses on psychotherapy processes and outcomes as well as romantic relationships. Owen is currently an Associate Editor for two APA journals (Psychotherapy and Journal of Counseling Psychology) and another top tier journal (Archives of Sexual Behavior).

Dr. Andi Pusavat, formerly Clinical Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology, has been promoted to Clinical Associate Professor. She will continue as Counseling Services Clinic Director. Pusavat received her PhD from the University of Denver. She was formerly with the Iliff Counseling Center where she served as the Director for six years. Other career highlights include President of the Colorado Society of Psychologists in Private Practice for two years; founding member of the Colorado Psychological Association Society for the Advancement of Multiculturalism and Diversity; and presenter at the American Psychological Association and National Summit on Interpersonal Violence and Abuse Across the Lifespan.  Pusavat’s research interests include multicultural counseling, social justice, trauma, interpersonal partner violence, and training and supervision.

On Thursday, May 31, the Morgridge College of Education community came together to honor students in the inaugural Student Awards Celebration. Held in Katherine Ruffatto Hall commons, the awards ceremony was an opportunity for faculty from each program to honor students for their outstanding work and also an opportunity for the College of Education Student Association (COESA) to present four awards of their own.

List of awards and awardees:

Child, Family, & School Psychology
Emerging Scholar Award: Talia Thompson
Emerging Practitioner Award: LeAnn Risten
Outstanding Contribution to CFSP: Aaron Bagley

Counseling Psychology
Outstanding MA Student: Lisa Fuentes
Outstanding PhD Student: Eve Faris

Curriculum & Instruction
Outstanding Student in Curriculum & Instruction: Jodie Wilson
Outstanding Student in Curriculum & Instruction: Brianna Mestas

Early Childhood Special Education
Emerging Leader Award: Jaclyn Bauer

Educational Leadership & Policy Studies
Leading Change: Educational Funding Policy: Kendall Reiley
Leading Change: ELPS Department & COESA: Lorna Beckett
Leading Change: School & Community Partnerships: Kara Blanchard

Higher Education
Outstanding Achievement in Higher Education Praxis: Jillian Martinez
Outstanding Achievement in Higher Education Praxis: Liliana Diaz
Outstanding Achievement in Higher Education Praxis: Katherine Robert

Library & Information Science
Student Mentorship Award: Micah Saxton
Pacesetter Award: Jennie Stevens
Leadership Award: Hannah Craven

Research Methods & Statistics
Star of the Year Award: Lilian Chimuma
Outstanding Scholarship Award: Myntha Cuffy
Program Service Award: Peiyan Liu

Teacher Education
Outstanding Student in the Teacher Education Program: Carolyn Heaney

COESA Awards
COESA Inclusive Excellence Award: Syah Taylor
COESA Leadership Award: Perri Moreno
COESA Service Impact Award: Jessica Bishop
COESA Research Impact Award: Katrina Vandeven

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.

Children in rural America face a unique set of health and education disparities.  In comparison to urban students, rural youth demonstrate higher levels of mortality; suicide; obesity; tobacco, alcohol, and illegal substance use; drinking and driving; teen births; and carrying weapons. They also have lower rates of school readiness, proficiency on standardized tests, and math performance.

Tailored solutions are needed to address these challenges particularly since more than half of US school districts are located in rural settings. These and other challenges fueled MCE’s decision to launch the Center for Rural School Health & Education to be led by rural expert, Elaine Belansky, PhD.

Belansky is a community-based participatory researcher who has been working in rural, low-income schools for 19 years.  She studies how universities and communities can work together to make schools healthy places. Her team developed a strategic planning process called “Assess. Identify. Make it Happen.” (AIM) which helps schools implement school-based environment and policy changes that support physical activity, healthy eating, mental health, and school engagement and decrease bullying, high risk sexual behavior, and drug use. Currently, her team is partnering with rural schools in Colorado to create comprehensive health and wellness plans that ensure students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.

Belansky has received over $13 million in grants from the CDC, NIH, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and The Colorado Health Foundation. She will begin her duties at Morgridge College May 1. Her six-person team will join her June 1. The research team includes:

  • Shannon Allen – Research Faculty
  • Ben Ingman – Research Faculty
  • Shirley Berg – Business Manager and AIM Facilitator
  • Jerry Jones – AIM Facilitator and Community Coordinator
  • Carla Loecke – Director of Curriculum and Training
  • Susan Portner – AIM Facilitator

The team of rural experts will engage rural school and community partners in Colorado and beyond to identify and address the most pressing issues facing rural education. The goal of the Center for Rural School Health & Education is to be the catalyst for achieving health and academic equity in rural communities across the nation.

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

On Saturday, March 31, graduates and faculty members of the University of Denver (DU) Morgridge College of Education (MCE) teamed with the Denver Public Library (DPL) on an extracurricular activity at the Leon Gallery – hosting an Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon. The group is part of ArtHyve, a Colorado collective of activists, artists, and archivists. The goal of the Art + Feminism campaign is to improve coverage of cis and transgender women, feminism, and the arts on Wikipedia. Since 2014, Art + Feminism has coordinated over 500 events to edit, create, and improve thousands of Wikipedia pages. For ArtHyve, hosting a Wikipedia-Edit-a-Thon is an example of its their commitment to document creative communities.

Co-founded by MCE Library and Information Sciences alumna, Jessie De la Cruz (MLIS’ 11), and her best friend, noted Colorado Creative Sigri Strand, ArtHyve’s mission is to “transcend and challenge mainstream art representation and to celebrate, preserve, and document the creative communities and practices throughout our state.” As a nonprofit organization, it fulfills its mission through developing public programming, workshops, and archival exhibitions to inspire creative engagement.

“It’s not an accident that there are multiple DU alumni and faculty involved,” said Kate Crowe, MCE affiliate faculty member of Library and Information Sciences (LIS) and DU Curator of Special Collections and Archives. “ArtHyve’s mission, to create a community-based arts archive that documents the creative history of this city and state, dovetails well with DU’s tagline ‘a great private university dedicated to the public good.’”

Crowe continues, “The Art + Feminism wikithons, which have been around for the last five years, are also run by grassroots groups of volunteers who want to make the history of women in the arts more visible. Participating in these kinds of programs is just one of the many ways that ArtHyve, DPL, and the LIS program can use the research skills we learn in school to make a positive community impact.”

According to Jane Thaler (MA ’16), marketing director of ArtHyve,  “[hosting an] Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon is a natural fit for our organization because not only were we founded by two creative women, but also because part of our mission is to preserve and document Colorado’s creative community. And what better way to get the word out about our creatives than to add them to the most used reference tool in the world?”

Only ten percent of Wikipedia editors are women, and Saturday’s event worked to change that. At the end of the day, the group saw 519,000 words added, 40 total edits, 16 articles edited, and 4 new articles added. The group included, in addition to De la Cruz, Strand, Crowe, and Thaler, alumna Hana Zittel (MA’ 14).

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies EdD student Geraldine “Gerie” Grimes was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. Grimes is the President and CEO of Denver-based nonprofit, The Hope Center, a community-based agency dedicated to meeting the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities, developmental delays, and persons in need of specialized educational or vocational services. She was nominated to the CWHOF because of her life’s work and dedication to the needs of others, especially women and women of color of all ages, building community and using her voice to be a strong advocate for the voiceless.

The stars were aligned when University of Denver (DU) Morgridge College of Education (MCE) hosted its 8th annual Gifted Education Conference and Policy Symposium earlier this year. The conference brought together leaders in the field of gifted education, most notable, Palmarium Award winner Dr. Marcia Gentry from Purdue University. Gentry gifted MCE with a scholarship for a K-12 student to attend Purdue’s renowned Gifted Education Resource Institute (GERI) Summer Residential Program. On March 14, Denver Public Schools (DPS) high school senior Emma Staples accepted Gentry’s scholarship and finalized her summer plans. Staples was chosen as the scholarship recipient by stakeholders from DU, DPS, and Purdue because of her outstanding track record advocating for the nature and needs of gifted people in multiple settings.

“We are incredibly grateful to Dr. Gentry for awarding this scholarship and for entrusting Morgridge with choosing its recipient,” said University of Denver Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education, Dr. Norma Hafenstein. “It is our mission to create a future where giftedness will be understood, embraced, and systemically nurtured. Dr. Gentry is not only exemplifying that mission through her work, but also working to make access to gifted education available with this scholarship.”

Staples is grateful for this opportunity. “I wouldn’t have had this option to go to [Purdue] and experience these classes without this scholarship,” she said. “I am also grateful to be meeting new people and talking to professors … working hands on with new experiences and people from around the world.”

Staples attends Denver East High School and is a proud participant of her gifted and talented program, led by MCE adjunct professor Brian Weaver. She is currently making college decisions and hopes to pursue academics related to her medical career goals in pediatrics (ER or Family Health). Staples advocates for equity and inclusion and has bravely spoken out about educational policy and philosophy on mediated student panels at the University of Denver (where she was directly observed by stakeholders of the scholarship gift), on camera on DPStv22’s Mile High Discussions, and with her school community at large. She shows extraordinary prowess not only as an academic, professional, and future doctor, but also as a kind and loving citizen of planet earth.

University of Denver Morgridge College of Education curriculum and instruction alumni and adjunct professor, Dr. Floyd Cobb was the February featured author for the Office of Development and Inclusion book chat. Cobb’s recent publication, Leading While Black, is a reflection of his experiences as an educator and inspired by his relationship with his father-in-law, the late Colorado State Rep. John Buckner, who had also been principal of Overland High School. Using the era of the Obama presidency as the backdrop for this work, Cobb illuminates the challenges and complexities of advocating for marginalized children who come from a shared racial heritage in a society that far too often are reluctant to accept such efforts.

In addition to teaching at Morgridge, Cobb is the Executive Director of the Teaching and Learning Unit for the Colorado Department of Education. His background as an educator gives him a solid foundation to support current leaders in education.

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.

Kaleen Barnett is not your average PhD student. In 2016 she was selected to run the Colorado High School Charter, a school for students who thrive in an alternative academic environment. In a previous life, she was a catering sales manager for the Hyatt. In 2018, she was named a Fellow by the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE). And somewhere along the way, she earned a welding certification.

Barnett knows that a traditional approach to academia is not for everyone. She knows that success is defined by your goals. And she wants more academic institutions to recognize that technical certificates, community colleges, and other post-secondary options are excellent paths to a successful career. Her 2018 Fellowship from the ACTE fits into her long-term goals to tackle systemic challenges in education. The fellowship is specifically designed to develop leadership skills for careers in technical education (CTE) educators. In this way, CTE schools can develop organic leaders to meet their specific needs. The fellowship program is a one-year calendar commitment to network, learn, and represent the ACTE as an advocate for career and technical education.

“I am incredibly honored to receive this particular fellowship,” Barnett said. “There is so much opportunity to change the narrative of education.”

Barnett is on track to graduate from Morgridge College in August 2019. Currently, her doctoral dissertation focuses on the impact of climate change on U.S. school children.

“Right now, national data shows that less than 30 percent of school buildings have access to air conditioning in classrooms,” she elaborates.  “The issue is not just a matter of student or teacher comfort, recent research shows that students score lower on tests taken on very hot days and have a harder time learning overall during school years with higher-than-average temperatures. Climate is having a major impact on education and we need to start taking note.”

Once finished, she would like to take her research further and explore how students with a technical education can be the answer to an aging academic infrastructure. What if technical students can install the air conditioning in the schools? It is a way to mobilize education and allow both traditional and technical students to thrive. Barnet plans to use the mentorship and connections made through her fellowship to advance her research and practice.


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