At Morgridge College, social justice is at the core of our community, academics and student life. Our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion goes beyond theory. It is woven into the fabric of the College with a commitment to underserved populations in tangible, real-world ways. Whether it’s opening doors of opportunity, students blazing new trails of inclusive research, or faculty leading the nation-wide diversity conversation, Morgridge’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion makes an impact.
17 Jul 2020
July, 17 2020 — I would like to state that we are living in sacred time. I acknowledge that this claim may feel out of synch with the compelling and urgent needs of the climate crisis, coronavirus, economic decline, and calls for social justice. Any one of these challenges of modern life on earth will require significant amounts of time, talent, and treasure. Taken as a constellation of tests they can fell overwhelming and paralyzing. I know because it is easier for me, these days, to slide into darker emotions and a sense of oppression then to act. I wonder how one person can embody enough agency to change the world in these times. Yet, we are living in a sacred time. A time of unusual opportunity to release the fullness of human flourishing. Sacred time provides a way of integrating the competing impulses of paralysis and action.
Sacred has religious connotations but according to Mariam-Webster it can mean anything or anyone “entitled to reverence and respect.” I think that our collected human experience is worthy of reverence and respect. The challenges are serious. They deserve intentionality and attentiveness not irreverence and disrespect. And the opportunities for meaningful, just, and inclusive changes in healthcare, education, economics, and policy as equally compelling. The possibilities are too rich to pass over, no matter how hard or frightening they may be. To be in sacred relationship, for me, means to act in new ways that build rather than break down connections with self and others. Social distancing does not require isolation from the needs of the earth, people, and institutions in this moment. They require reverence and respect.
I love teaching because it is my students who often show me ways of turning challenge into sacred action; darkness into light. Their words and deeds invite me to see the world with new eyes. To see agency when none seemed present before. For instance, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic I was talking to students about taking care of each other and how the university was approaching instructional changes. It was abundantly clear that something unusual was happening in our collected lives. Fear and anxiety were rising. One of my students made the observation: “All it takes is switching one letter to go from scared to sacred”. I was brought up short in my thinking and emotional response. Her comment offered a way to reframe my lived-experience. To be “scared” but also open to elements of the “sacred” as well. To give reverence and respect to the paradox of scared and sacred inhabiting the same space in my mind and heart.
I can follow my student’s advice and move from a state of scared isolation by looking for and engaging in experiences worthy of reverence and respect. Treating the lives of Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples as sacred. Empowering students to fully engage their heart, mind, and hands in the sacred process of learning. Calling for justice when the sacred qualities of humanness are threatened by systems of power and oppression.
The psychiatrist, Dr. Sue Varma, who studies the impact of trauma and loneliness on mental health offers a practical framework for finding the sacred, the things that bring me alive, in the midst of being scared. She calls her structured response to isolation and suffering the four-M’s. They include: mindfulness, mastery (not perfection) of anything creative, movement of any degree, and meaningful connection—particularly helping others. In this time of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter I can practice the four-M’s while following the guidelines of sheltering in place. Which M has the greatest appeal for you right now? Which M can help move your feelings of being scared to the possibility of seeing the sacred—worthy of reverence and respect—in your day? I’m particularly drawn to creative activities and movement. I’m sketching more images of nature and riding my bicycle to build resilience to the traumatic impacts of coronavirus. I’m questioning the ways my points of power and privilege are unconsciously supporting whiteness and the oppression of others, limiting their sacred potential.
What are the activities in your life that bring you alive right now? Maybe it is spending time with a child, watching them grow and change by the minute. Maybe it is the soft breathing of a pet resting by your chair or on your lap as you write. Maybe it is the opportunity to just rest, to slow down, to live into the fecund dormancy of social inaction. Maybe it is marching and calling for social justice. Perhaps what is worthy of your reverence and respect is the dismantling of power and privilege that favors the few over the diminishment of many. The poet David Whyte advises that: “sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet / confinement of your aloneness / to learn / anything or anyone / that does not bring you alive / is too small for you.” As an extrovert who relies heavily on action and social connection, I need “the sweet confinement of my aloneness” to know what is sacred, what is truly worthy of my reverence and respect. I trust that by living this moment, even in its darkness, as sacred time I will emerge into the light with a clearer sense of how education and the ways I structure learning can become sacred time to all my students.
17 Jun 2020
June 17, 2020 — “Normal” is a word I hear often these days. It carries with it the allure, of well, normal. I sense that it is often used with good intention. A longing for stability and certainty about the world and our place in it. And as a leader and teacher I think there is a good reason to express a certain degree of skepticism about its meaning. Especially in the current context of a global pandemic, world-wide economic decline, and the calls for justice by Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples. A return to “normal” feels to me inadequate for the deep work that I need to do and that the institutions that I’m part of and love also need to do. In my head I hear the lyrics to a Bruce Cockburn song: “the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.” And by worse he means the divide between the haves and have nots, the rich and poor, and the empowered and disempowered. His song from 1983 is a prophetic warning to question normal as an operating principle, then and now.
This moment, now, compels me as educator and leader to address the realities of structural racism in every institution, especially schools, that support and perpetuate the pandemic of whiteness as normal. I don’t know how you are doing with this moment. Perhaps you carry sadness with you or fear. Rapid change and loss may well have brought weariness, bone weariness and a sense that you don’t know how to keep moving forward. Or even what forward looks like right now. You may be welcoming the change that is sweeping the world and the possibility found in chaos. You might sense that disruption is clearing away old habits and offering new ways to grow and heal. Regardless, I invite you to be fully present to your emotions. To feel them in your body. To know that they are real and contain the energy of transformation for self, others, and the field of education.
The questions I’m holding today are many and varied. Where should I look for wisdom, sense making, or something tangible to anchor to in hard times? What can I do when it feels like everything around me is in turmoil? Faculty, staff, students, and administrators are preparing for the fall quarter. I wonder how anyone can really plan amidst all the changes we are going through individually and collectively? I wonder how can we pick up the shattered pieces of social structures that empower some and disempower others—without recreating systems of oppression? I feel simultaneously charged and disoriented. I don’t really know what the best course of action is. I find myself searching for the generative space between deconstruction of power and privilege; and the construction of newness grounded in liberation and freedom for all. What can I do, is a daily question for me?
Two sources of wisdom have helped center me lately while keeping me open to personal and social change. The first dates to 1948 and the eve of the atomic revolution and potential world destruction. Four elders were appointed by the Hopi Nation to share ancient wisdom and prophecy. One story tells that now, a world in crisis, is like a mighty river. The eleventh-hour is here and so is the time to act.
“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate.”
I hear in the prophecy of the Hopi elder that fear plays an important role in the way I and others choose to respond to this moment. The pain and loss associated with climate change, COVID-19, economic collapse, and the death of so many Black, Brown, and indigenous people feels like a mighty river. It is sweeping normal away and flushing out the no longer useful ways of being.
What can I do? I can let go and join the river as it flows to its destination, not my hoped for normal, but the river’s natural end point. What is of most use to me is the truth that once I let go and stop hanging on to my white-male-heterosexual privilege, for instance, I will find myself in the company of many others. In community we can celebrate and rejoice together as power is reconfigured in service of everyone, and every learner. Now is the time for me to give up privilege in order to give it back to all.
The second wisdom story comes from a June 5, 2020 National Public Radio StoryCorp conversation between a Black father (Albert Sykes) and his 9 year old son (Aiden).
Aiden: So, Dad, what are your dreams for me?
Mr. Sykes: My dream is for you to live out your dreams. There’s an old proverb that talks about when children are born, children come out with their fists closed because that’s where they keep all their gifts. And as you grow, your hands learn to unfold because you’re learning to release your gifts to the world. And so for the rest of your life, I want to see you live with your hands unfolding.
I like thinking in metaphors. They help me get beyond my rational mind to the living heart of truth. Albert Sykes offers me an understanding of change that combines the destructive and constructive image of a fist. What can I do? Now is a time, as many social justice educators argue, to raise a fist and break apart the power structures that oppress and kill (emotionally, socially, spiritually, and physically) so many. At some point, the closed fist will open, in its own time, to reveal gifts. New ways of knowing and being that the wounded world and broken schools need for healing.
Neither wisdom story offers a systematic and structured plan for change. They can’t be condensed into an email of next steps and phases or written as a five-year strategic plan. I find the wisdom that speaks to my heart takes its own time to settle in and create the conditions for growth and change. I need to sit with this wisdom and let it work me, rather than me applying my expectations and timeline to it.
Now is the eleventh-hour, a time to act. For some that means jumping into the river and swimming with fellow radical educators and protestors. For some that means sewing masks, painting slogans of empowerment, or pursuing other ways to disrupt and deconstruct the system. For others it means writing scholarly articles or leading professional development grounded in social justice practices and principles.
What can I do? I can look for companions with closed fists waiting for them to open and reveal gifts of insight, change, and the way forward to a more humane, compassionate, and just world. What can you do? What is in your fist today? What gifts do you carry? What is your unique wisdom to share with all of us?
04 Jan 2019
To veteran Denver real estate attorney Ed Barad, his retirement is important, but his legacy is more so. Barad had been considering how he would approach retirement when he accompanied his friend and client, Robert Metzler, on a tour of the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education. Metzler recently gave a historic legacy gift to students at Morgridge, and he was touring the education college to see firsthand how the students would benefit. During the tour, Morgridge Dean Dr. Karen Riley talked with Barad about their initiative for inclusion, social justice, and change. Riley made sure he had a copy of Evicted, the book faculty and staff were reading to discuss at an upcoming retreat.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond, follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Barad was touched by the book, and around the time he finished it The Denver Post published a series on local families also facing eviction. In the middle of Colorado’s housing shortage, an eviction is devastating to low-income renters. Once on their record, tenants have a nearly impossible time finding a new home.
One of the Top Real Estate lawyers in Colorado, Barad had an idea. He approached his firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck , about creating a pro-bono team dedicated to fighting evictions for low-income families. The firm has always been dedicated to pro-bono service and has built-in pro-bono hours for all areas of law and according to Barad, not every hour has to be billable. Creating this team focused on evictions was a natural move for the firm, and something the firm considered consistent with its mission. The team launched in the spring of 2018 with 20 lawyers on board, and by the fall they had taken on 16 cases.
Clients first contact the Colorado Poverty Law Project, a nonprofit partner in fighting eviction in Colorado that refers cases from Colorado Legal Services. The project filters requests for help through various lawyers and firms, referring clients to Brownstein when there is availability and need. All partners have the same goal: to keep people from having an eviction, something Barad calls “a death warrant,” on their record and becoming homeless
“In 2016, there were more than eight thousand eviction complaints filed against residents of Denver, in addition to nearly 37,000 evictions filed in other Colorado counties. The stakes of these eviction proceedings are high, as a loss in court not only results in a tenant’s dispossession of their home, but also produces an ‘eviction record’ that limits future housing prospects. Further, the loss of shelter, even for brief periods, often causes unemployment, educational disruptions, and food insecurity for families.”
Further, the study concluded
- Tenants are virtually never represented by counsel in eviction cases. While landlords had legal representation in every case reviewed, tenants were only represented by an attorney in 1 to 3 percent of the cases reviewed.
- The assistance of an attorney significantly improved tenants’ chances of remaining in their homes. In the few instances in which a renter had legal counsel, they usually prevailed in the eviction proceeding. Without representation, the dispossession rate was 43 percent in DHA cases and 68 percent in the sample of private housing cases.
- Many tenants lost possession of their homes due to “stipulated” agreements. This suggests that, without the assistance of counsel, many renters are unable to protect their interests in court.
- Landlords filed many evictions due to only a few dollars of unpaid rent. For example, Denver Housing Authority filed one eviction over an alleged $4 of unpaid rent, and the median amount in dispute was only a bit higher than $200.
- Physical addresses of defendants suggest that evictions disproportionately affect neighborhoods with more people of color and areas of rapid growth and gentrification.
So far, people are paying attention to this social problem – something Barad considers to have national dimensions. Locally, the City of Denver created a pilot legal defense team to fight evictions, which launched in June. The fund was initially created through Denver City Council Members who pooled their leftover office budgets.
For Barad, this is not a bad start for what he wants to achieve. As he continues to move toward retirement, he has no plans to slow down. Rather, he wants to make sure his firm creates a larger platform for young attorneys to help people in need. His visit to Morgridge turned out to be an inspiration and perfect timing.
30 Oct 2018
The Morgridge College of Education (MCE) hosted DU alumnus Professor Njabulo Ndebele as part of the MCE Changemaker Series. Ndbele is Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg and serves as the chairman of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. As a key figure in South African higher education, Ndbele has served as Chair of the South African Universities Vice-Chancellors Association, the Executive Board of the Association of African Universities, and chair of a government commission on the development and use of African languages as media of instruction in South African higher education.
While at MCE, Ndbele participated in a fireside chat moderated by Dean Karen Riley, in which he discussed the critical role that education plays in the rebuilding of South Africa. He also participated in a Dinner and Dialogue event with doctoral students from the Organization and Governance of Higher Education class. Ndbele provided his international perspective as a postsecondary leader, and interacted with students around a number of higher ed topics.
13 Jun 2018
When Library Information Sciences alumna Janet Lee (MLS, ’78) decided to apply for a Fulbright to return to Ethiopia, where she had spent her most recent sabbatical and previous time in the Peace Corps, she didn’t expect the process to move so quickly. But that it did, and within months of applying she was packing her bags (and lots of books, Chromebooks, and a server) for Axum, Ethiopia, a Denver Sister City, to spend 10 months engaging in research in open access publishing at the University of Aksum. In a country where there are only 35 open access journals, Lee is seeking to make access to academic articles much easier for University faculty and students.
She graciously made time to talk with us in June 2017, in the midst of the chaos of leaving.
Lee said at the time that she planned “…to explore avenues of scholarly publishing in Ethiopia that ensure that faculty are provided an opportunity to share their knowledge, perspectives and values and that students and colleagues have unfettered access to their collective scholarship.”
Her arrival in late August 2017 was met with a few hiccups, but eventually she arrived at what came to be her permanent residence in Axum, the Sebean Hotel. The hotel is within walking distance of her assignment at the Foundation Library and the staff is welcoming.
To her surprise, she passes Denver Street every day on her walk to the Foundation Library. Denver and Axum have been sister Cities for 21 years and this was one of the reasons Lee choose Axum as her Fulbright destination. With the help of some current Peace Corps volunteers and friendly residents, she learns the ropes and begins to study Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia. Her greatest challenge is the Aksum University Library, which is under construction and will be moving to a new building in the next year. More than once the lack of technology has given her pause and caused her to question her assignment.
“The library is grossly underfunded and understaffed,” she writes in her blog. “The infrastructure campus-wide is very weak and the Internet has extremely low bandwidth. I celebrate the small things, such as being picked up by campus service every morning and not having to negotiate with a Bajaj [three-wheeled taxi] driver.”
Lee approaches her trials with positivity and an open heart. She truly loves Ethiopia, its culture, and the rich heritage of its people. She treasures building relationships and learning from her experiences, so even though she may experience a setback, she takes it as part of her journey.
“I am grateful to be living in Axum, where every day is a gift,” she writes.
In October, her shipping container arrived from the United States, filled with donations and items Lee was able to secure before her trip. She was able to celebrate the arrival of a set of World Book Encyclopedias, heavy metal bookshelves, her Chromebooks, server, and lots of donated books.
“In one box, I found a near complete run of Journal of Ethiopian Studies. Who but a librarian or a researcher could be excited about this find?”
One morning in December, a colleague mentioned over tea that there were football protests and something about student protests on campus. After another confusing meeting, Lee received a call from the Embassy. She had been inadvertently left off of an important email.
“A student had been killed in nearby Adigrat,” she writes. “I learned later that it might have been after two rival football teams met and the student killed was not from this region. This sparked protests nationwide causing many college campuses to be closed, Aksum University where I am working not being one of them.”
She assured the Embassy that she is safe. The next day a student from Axum was killed, and his funeral called for increased military presence around campus and the town. In response, and to prevent more rumors and violence, the government shut down access to all social media, internet, and data plans. Lee grew concerned – her mission in Ethiopia is to provide open access via the internet and the unforeseen shut down is stressful. The last access shutdown, before her arrival, lasted for months. Without access to their texts, students were forced to stop their studies and make up for lost time when the ban was lifted.
Luckily, it did not last long and she was able to load the Koha software to the library’s server and implement a new catalog system. Just in time, as the library will be moving to a new building and her next challenge is how to transfer the collection. She only needs to wait on some additional help to implement the Koha system across the library.
By early February, she is able to make a planned trip to Haramaya (formerly known as Alemaya) University to co-teach a class on Digital Libraries. A much older university than Axum, Haramaya is full of culture and history, and an interactive library. Haramaya had been closed during the December protests, and students were frantically trying to complete their missed work and keep up with their new semester course load. Still her lecture was well attended and the students delighted in hearing her American accent.
Lee enjoyed her time there so much she entertained thoughts of trying to move her location, but on her trip back to Axum her colleague called her. He had taken the same route as her, hours later, and been caught in a deadly protest. This was the beginning of a series of protests that resulted in the resignation of the Prime Minster, Hailemariam Deselegn, and a State of Emergency. She decided to stay in Axum, where it is peaceful and safe.
By this time, her work implementing the Koha system has stalled. Still waiting on additional help, she moves on to other initiatives. Two significant personal collections (Gebru Tareke and Zewde Gabre-Sellasie) have been classified, labeled, and placed in glass cases in the Ethiopian Collections room and cables have been laid on the new building to provide it with a network. All they are waiting on is the ‘go’ to move into the new building.
In March, Lee is able to circle back to a project she began before her trip. In June 2017, she collaborated with a fellow Peace Corps alum to bring his technology with her to Ethiopia. Bill Graf is the founder of ET Learns and implements the RACHEL server with Chromebook operating systems to allow access to a wide array of databases. Once the server is loaded, students will have access to the Ethiopian curriculum, accompanying plasma videos, open access textbooks, power typing, and many science, technology, and mathematics resources. Because these resources are housed on a server, there is no dependence on access to the internet. In a country where internet access and shutdowns are common, the new technology allows students to continue their studies despite outside unrest. With the help of some volunteers and the new building complete, she is able to set up the new Chromebook lab, nearly a year after her initial meeting with Graf.
The library is slated to open in early May and Lee’s sons are expected to join her for its opening.
“Perhaps,” she writes, “they will come to understand what makes their mother tick and why she keeps coming back to this incredible country so often.”
You can keep up with Lee by following her monthly blog https://ilceig.wordpress.com/papers-presentations/
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.
Hayat Abu-Ghazaleh, a first year Master’s student in the Counseling Psychology program here at the Morgridge Collection of Education (MCE), is a true advocate for social justice and equity. She shows her commitment to these tenets through her studies and clinical work in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling, through her volunteerism with refugee groups, and through her participation in the Vagina Monologues here at the University of Denver, which promotes representation and equity across gender boundaries.
Hayat was born and raised in Saudi Arabia with her family, and noticed that there was a greater need for mental health services and care in her community than was available, which prompted her interest in the fields of psychology and counseling. In Spring 2016 Hayat complete her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at American University in Washington D.C., then decided she wanted to further her knowledge and the impact she could make upon the field of mental health through our MA program in Counseling Psychology. After graduation, she is considering a move back to Saudi Arabia so that she can affect change in her home, and create more opportunities and options for those in need of mental health treatment.
As part of her MA program, Hayat is completing her counseling practicum with Asian Pacific Development Center, where “services are tailored to address the needs of immigrant and refugee status clients. Issues involving cultural adjustment, such as language, values, customs and behavioral differences, are often intimately associated with the client’s chief complaint” (APCD 2018). Hayat’s fluency in two languages, her strong interest in helping refugees, and her commitment to social justice make her a great addition to the team at APDC, and to the MA program here at MCE.
Hayat is eager to make a difference in the Denver community through her work with APDC, but her involvement with refugee advocacy and support began well before accepting her practicum position. In 2016, she volunteered with Northern Lights Aid, an NGO that started as a project to provide emergency relief and supplies to refugees in Lesvos, Greece, and now is “focused on implementing innovative, compassionate solutions and creating community-oriented projects serving around 400 residents of the Kavala Perigial camp (NLA 2018).
Recently, Hayat participated in the Vagina Monologues here on campus as part of the DU Health and Counseling Center’s Love+ Sex+ Health Week. The week-long event promotes education and awareness around issues of sex, sexuality and gender, and proceeds from the resistance-themed Vagina Monologues went to Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) and the global organization VDAY. Hayat wanted to get involved with the event to promote gender equity on-campus, and to feed her passion for performing.
When asked why she chose the Counseling Psychology program at MCE, Hayat said that she appreciated the college’s emphasis on social justice and multicultural issues, and that she felt the CP faculty were compassionate and engaged. As a current student, she appreciates that the faculty are willing to work with students at all development levels, and they are willing to push some boundaries to foster real learning and growth in students.
We know that Hayat’s commitment to helping marginalized populations around the country and the world is part of what will make her a great counselor, and thought-leader in the field.
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.
On Monday, February 19, 2018 the University of Denver (DU) Black Alumni Affinity Group (BAA), in conjunction with the Leadership Insights program, celebrated Black History month at Cableland, the official residence of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, with a reception and conversation with Educational Leadership and Policy Studies (ELPS) alumni Nick Dawkins (ELPS MA ’16). Dawkins is a principal with Denver Public Schools (DPS) at Manual High school, a historically black school in the Whittier neighborhood in Denver. His public conversation with Dr. Frank Tuitt, professor of Higher Education at Morgridge and Senior Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost on Inclusive Excellence, was preceded by remarks from Denver Councilman Albus Brooks (MBA 16’), attending on behalf of Mayor Hancock.
This annual event is meant to engage DU’s communities of color by giving them an opportunity to ask questions and provide them with information regarding how the University is addressing issues of inclusive excellence through DU’s leadership and DU Impact 2025. Dawkins was the night’s featured conversationalist.
According to Dawkins, his education at Morgridge prepared him for his current role. He firmly believes in creating a culture of happy kids in his school. Many of his students face familial or personal deportation, homelessness, trauma, and other challenges in their daily lives. He worked hard to create a culture of access where his students know they can come to him with any trouble they are facing.
Recently, Dawkins himself was facing an exceptional challenge. In the fall during a high school football game, reports of racism and a rebel flag catapulted Dawkins and Manual High into the spotlight. As the he-said-she said grew, Dawkins discovered an ally in Morgridge and in DPS. Both the district and MCE stood by Dawkins as an exceptional leader who has the best interest of his students at heart.
Dawkins is a change agent. It is something he takes very seriously and he relentlessly challenges the status-quo in order to build better a future for his students.
“If I’m not in trouble,” he says, “I’m not doing my job.”
11 Dec 2017
What comes to mind when you want to pass on a smile? At Morgridge College of Education, we thought coffee was a good way to make people smile. And then we thought some more and thought helping rural education could make children and educators across Colorado smile. And then connected the two ideas.
From August until November, Morgridge College admissions team members traveled across Colorado and parts of the Western United States to attend graduate recruitment fairs and conferences. At each conference our recruiters had one goal, to attract potential students to learn more about Morgridge. Learn about our programs, learn about our history, learn about our commitment to social good. After their chat, the potential student received a coffee card with a catch.
The coffee card was a gift card to a local coffee shop in that town. It included a gift so the potential student could go get a cup of coffee on us and digest their options for higher education; and it included an extra voucher so the individual could give away a cup of coffee to someone else to make them smile. Give the card to anyone, we said. Give it to your mentor, your friend, someone you met on the street, the person who held the door for you, just make someone’s day. Then, please tag us on social media using #MCEgiveahand and let us know why you gave away your coffee.
Now, we make the connection. For each coffee card redeemed, Morgridge committed to making a donation to the Colorado Rural Schools Alliance to fund advocacy. Rural schools have unique challenges in education and we want to give them a voice and the tools to advocate for their students and educators.
We had some success on social media. We had some phone calls from small coffee shops who thanked us for supporting their small business. We had some individuals who loved getting their coffee. And at the end of it all, we got to donate $2,500 to rural schools in Colorado. Because if we don’t invest in leaders today, we can’t expect leaders of tomorrow.
Dr. William Cross’ co-authored book, “Meaning-making, Internalized Racism and African American Identity”, was recently re-released in paperback as part of the State University of New York (SUNY) Press series in African American Studies. One of America’s leading theorists and researchers on black identity development in particular, and racial-ethnic identity development in general, Cross has been in the field since 1963.
“Research on black identity has typically centered on personalogical variables such as self-esteem, anxiety, etc.,” he said. “The new text explores the value of shifting the discourse to more philosophical and meaning-making outcome variables.”
His co-author, Jas M. Sullivan, a political scientist at LSU, studies race, identity and political behavior. The collaboration allows the research to incorporate different views on black identity for a well-rounded view on social identity.
On page 332 of the conclusion section, Sullivan and Cross make the following point.
“ . . . identity, especially racial-ethnic identity, represent a search for meaning and purpose and while many – perhaps the majority – of black people incorporate elements of race and ethnicity into the construction of their social identity (sense of blackness), such a tendency, while ubiquitous, is not prescriptive – not a requirement. The studies in this volume expand our understanding of the range of social identities black people adopt in their search for meaning, purpose a personal well-being.”
30 Nov 2017
December 1st, 2017—“How do you see yourself changing the world?” My friend Mark and I were enjoying a pint and conversation one evening. Spending time with Mark is a blessing as he often brings me new insights and perspectives on the world. He shares stories about managing retirement accounts and I tell him stories of teaching. We both love riding bikes so we have that in common. Mark was telling me that five years ago he started asking his clients, “How do you see yourself changing the world?” This question has obvious practical application as he manages his client’s investments toward an end goal. But the wisdom of his question goes even deeper. As his clients untangle their answer to his question Mark learns something about their inner-drivers and motivations. With this understanding he can both honor his fiduciary obligation to provide responsible investment recommendations and he invites his client to see their investment choices within a larger context. “How do you see yourself changing the world?”
As Mark told his story my teacher heart felt the kind of lifting that tells me that I need to pay attention to the strange alchemy of relationship, storytelling, personal-integrity, and mystery that was unfolding. I wondered how I would answer the question as a professor and teacher educator; “Paul, how do you see yourself changing the teaching world?” By disposition and academic training I tend to initially lean into the bigness of the question. I contemplate macro-themes of change like: equity, social-justice, transcendence, and the fullness of what it means to be human. These are worthy ways to change the world and they should rest deep within the instructional motivations of a teacher. But there is so much more to the question Mark asks: “How do you see yourself changing the world?”
As his story unfolded Mark described a painting hanging on his office wall. His dad was the artist. The image is a pond in the late evening light, someplace in the northeast. The surface is mirror smooth except for a trout rising and the concentric ripples echoing out toward the distant shoreline. I know this kind of place. I’ve spent many days in and around northeast ponds. They are magical like so many places in nature. To catch their wisdom I need to sit quietly and let the ineffable speak. With his dad’s painting in my mind’s eye and his question rattling around in my psyche, my teacher-heart lurched even deeper into a place of meaning and understanding. Sure the bigness of teaching matters; we teach in context (race, class, gender, politics, and history). To discount these elements does grave injustice to student learning and the gifts of teaching. The pond exists only in relationship to the shoreline, the trees reflected on its surface, the loon calling from a hidden cove, and the ethereal nature of the sky. Yet in the midst of the bigness a single solitary trout rises as it is called to do by the deep wisdom of its species—a wisdom universal to all trout—a wisdom passed down generation to generation by trout in response to the particularities of this particular pond.
Two elements of this metaphor resonate with my teacher heart. One, to initiate change I must rise from the deep and safe places of my teaching—the world of water that I know well—and break the surface of the pond. I must be willing to venture into a less secure and somewhat alien environment; every trout realizes at a minimum, through reflex, that the world beyond the surface of the pond is deadly. And every trout understands through eons of evolution that food and survival exist just on and slightly above the surface of the divided worlds. I think this is an insightful description of when I’m at my best as a teacher. I’m willing to leave the comfort of my tried and true curriculum and instructional strategies and rise toward the surface disturbances that call me toward risk, uncertainty, danger, and the potential for sustaining rewards; toward learning.
The second element of the rising trout that speaks to my understanding of change in teaching are the ripples working their way toward the shoreline. The little waves disturb the quiet surface of the pond as they migrate outward from the original impulse of the trout to rise; to risk the unknown. As much as context in teaching matters what may ultimately be of greater importance are the micro-waves of disturbance created by my smaller and more intimate teaching acts. The little things matter: saying hello to students as they enter the classroom, listening to the ways my students struggle with content, breathing deeply before I engage a student in conversation, and trusting my instructional instincts. “How do you see yourself changing the world?” I see myself changing the world of teaching, or more pointedly the lives of my students, through little acts of instructional integrity. The ripples that spread out across the surface of my teaching with intentional energy that ultimately changes the shoreline, the macro-conditions of teaching. Sure this is a long and slow process, outcomes I will likely never see, and I must always work to change the context, but these micro-actions are well within my ability to rise and engage. “How do you see yourself changing the world?”
21 Nov 2017
On November 6, 2017 Judy Marquez Kiyama, Associate Professor of Higher Education, was featured on EdLab’s vlog, The Voice, as a supplement to her co-authored article, “Fighting for respeto: Latinas’ stories of violence and resistance shaping educational opportunities” published in Teachers College Record. Kiyama and her co-researchers looked at experiences of Latina youth in New York state when embedded within a larger social context influenced by gender, ethnic/racial identity, socioeconomic status, language, and sociospatial, and political characteristics that can negatively impact their daily lived experiences. Their research was guided by two questions: How are Latina students’ schooling experiences influenced by acts of violence? How do Latina students respond to these acts of violence?
Earlier this year, masters and doctoral students in the Morgridge College of Education Counseling Psychology (CP) program saw a rising need in their community for social justice and advocacy for underrepresented people. Instead of sitting idly by, the students decided to take action through the creation of the Social Justice Committee with help from faculty members Pat Garriott and Ruth Chao.
Many students attend the CP program here at Morgridge specifically for its focus on issues of diversity and multiculturalism, and while much of our course content currently reflects that focus, many students and faculty feel we could still be doing more, hence the formation of the committee. Since the committee’s inception, they have kept busy with lots of activities and efforts to promote inclusive excellence and create a more equitable and welcoming space for all community members, both on campus and in the greater Denver area. Here are just a few ways they are making an impact:
- Revamping Curricula: The Social Justice Committee is currently collaborating with faculty to find ways to incorporate issues of power, privilege, and inequity into all of the Counseling Psychology curriculum through possible instructor trainings, and reflective surveys for students where they can provide feedback on their in-class experience, particularly related to socio-political and multicultural climate in the classroom. Their hope is that in the future, curricula across University of Denver (DU) programs will reflect those themes, and provide a space where all students and faculty feel safe.
- Workshops: They are working with the Center for Multicultural Excellence in hopes of providing training opportunities and workshops for all community members that address these issues. In the fall, several students in conjunction with the Social Justice Committee plan to host one such workshop on “Responding to Microaggressions” (stay tuned for further details).
- Bias Incidence Reporting: The committee has also taken steps across campus to address issues of social justice, particularly in the reporting of bias-related incidents, and the way in which individuals are described and identified in reports of crime or other incidents. Committee members noticed that bias-related incidents were not consistently reported to the whole university community, and that many reports only identified individuals’ racial and ethnic identity if they were a person of color, and in turn joined the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) to address these issues with Campus Safety (who was very responsive to the committee’s concerns). Using counseling skills they’ve learned in the classroom and in practice, the team was able to effectively work with Campus Safety to change the way incidents are reported and improve the relationship between campus law enforcement and students. While this change is a step in the right direction, the committee thinks we can still do more. First year PhD student, Ellen Shupe, who led this effort, had this to say about the process: “Anytime you try to change a system you experience barriers. Hopefully through continued work with the Campus Safety department, we can continue to move in the direction of minimizing racial profiling and the criminalization of people of color on campus. Additionally, we want to make sure that violent acts against people of color are reported and investigated with as much urgency as those against white people.”
The Social Justice Committee currently meets twice a quarter, and they are always looking for new members who are committed to social change. For more information on joining the committee or their current efforts, you can contact PhD student, J. Galluzzo at Joseph.Galluzzo@du.edu, or subscribe to the Social Justice listserv here.