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.”
The 9th annual Students of Color Diversity Celebration was held November 7th in Morgridge College of Education’s (MCE) Katherine Ruffatto Hall. The event showcased the College’s commitment to producing a new generation of change agents passionate about working together to create an inclusive and diverse community for all students.
The panelists described their experiences as first-generation and underrepresented students, as well as the unique challenges that their individual culture has on their educational career. Several panelists stressed the value of the cohort model used at MCE and described how faculty members embrace all students into the academic community. During the Q&A session, panelists discussed scholarship opportunities for students and the funding of graduate degrees, work life balance, and the need for commitment to your degree.
The Students of Color event was created by Dr. Frank Tuitt, MCE Higher Education faculty and current Sr. Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost on Diversity and Inclusion.
The 2014, Students of Color Reception: Celebrating a More Inclusive College was a success. Despite bitterly cold temperatures (day high of 39°, and 19° at the start of the event) the fifth annual installment of the event saw increased attendance from the past couple years, with nearly 70 guests joining Morgridge faculty, staff and a student panel. Beginning the night with delightful hors d’oeuvres, prospective students were introduced to current students and faculty to hear more about Morgridge and learning opportunities within the college. Current Higher Education Masters student, Ana Ramirez, spoke of the event saying, “It was a great opportunity to meet other individuals within the Morgridge College of Education and share my experience with prospective students.”
Guests at Morgridge Students of Color Reception
Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence and Associate Professor of Higher Education at Morgridge, Dr. Frank Tuitt, was the event facilitator for the evening. He spoke to the ongoing need for the college to utilize Inclusive Excellence pedagogy, in order to create equitable education opportunities for all students, specifically students of color. Dr. Tuitt then introduced a panel of current and former Morgridge students of color, to speak about their experiences as students of color on the predominantly white campus of the University of Denver. The panel spoke at length about the investment of the college’s faculty in the success of students of color, both emotionally and academically. There was much praise by the panel on the cohort model as an aid in confronting the challenges that come with being a grad student (e.g. balancing work/social life, having children, the substantial school-workload). Financial resources on campus was a topic of great interest by many of the prospective students. There was an echoed sentiment of the panels’ initial perceptions of the University of Denver being that of a private school with excessive tuition prices; upon acceptance to their respective programs and further conversations with different departments on campus, they discovered the multitude of assistantship, fellowship, and scholarship opportunities to help fund their education.
The event was impactful. Prospective and current students were able to share their stories and engage in conversations with regard to the meanings of their journeys in and through higher education. The night culminated with panel member, Dr. T. Lee Morgan’s plea to diversify the makeup of the campus and bring voice to communities of color, “If we are going to change the diversity of DU, of Morgridge, we need you here. You have valuable experiences that no one else can bring to the table.”
Thank you to all who attended and supported the Students of Color Reception, and a special thank you to Dr. Frank Tuitt and the panel members:
Casey Crear, Curriculum and Instruction PhD (Current Student)
Dr. T. Lee Morgan, Educational Leadership and Policy Studies PhD (Alum)
The Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver is hosting its annual Students of Color Reception.
We are Celebrating a More Inclusive College. The Students of Color Reception: Celebrating a More Inclusive College allows us to recognize the ways in which our students of color and faculty are working to be transformational leaders. With a highlight on the student experience, prospective students and the greater Denver Metro area community share in an opportunity to explore the Morgridge College, including accessibility of academic programs, services and financial aid.
We would love for you to join us and see some of the amazing work in which our college is involved. This is a chance for prospective students of color to engage in a welcoming atmosphere, and see how a diverse, inclusive and innovative environment drives our commitment to social justice.
For more information call: (303)871-2509 and click here to RSVP.
School of Education promotes Inclusive Excellence with Students of Color Reception
by Emma McKay
For the Morgridge College of Education, diversity means more than just a number of minority students – it means a higher quality education. That’s why the school held its third annual Students of Color reception last Friday evening in an effort to promote inclusive excellence in all of its higher education and teacher training programs.
The reception, which was held in Ruffato Hall and gathered approximately 40 professors, current and prospective students, was meant to inform prospective students of why inclusive excellence is important to Morgridge, and also to give them a taste of what the Morgridge experience is like, according to Ryan Barone, second year PhD student in the Higher Education program who coordinated the event.
The evening began with an hour or mingling over hor’d’oeuvres and drinks including chocolate covered strawberries, roasted vegetables, cheese, coffee and various alcoholic beverages, so that attendees could get a chance to meet each other and informally network.
“In the past students who have attended felt like it was a really unique opportunity to meet other students of color at [Morgridge] to talk in an authentic way about some of the challenges and opportunities that are unique here at the college,” said Barone.
After short speeches by Gregory Anderson, dean of the school, and Frank Tuitt, associate provost of multicultural excellence, a panel of six current masters and doctoral students answered questions about their time at Morgridge
The students didn’t only discuss their experiences with diversity at the school. Many questions were focused on things like the school’s unique class schedule, which allows students to take classes at night or on the weekends, internships or time management. Two students spoke about what it is like to raise children while still attending school.
“As a parent, I really appreciate the fact that there is a family bathroom here,” said panelist David Kennedy, laughing. “My daughter is here so much some people say she’s going to earn her honorary degree.”
Another panelist, Sujie Kim, spoke about how the program helped her decide what she wants to do after school.
“If I had guessed a couple years ago, I never would have thought I’d be working with veterans,” said Kim.
All panelists agreed that the school’s commitment to inclusive excellence has added to their education.
“We have a wide variety of life experiences and we each bring those different perspectives to the things we’re working on,” said panelist Myntha Cuffy.
“In my cohort, there’s probably about 14 of us, and eight out of the 14 are students of color,” said Jesús Rodríguez, first PhD candidate in education leadership and policy studies. “That’s a really different experience for me.”
According to Barone, the school does take into account diversity when admitting students.
“I think the more diverse our classrooms are with all identities, better training they’ll get in their programs and they’ll be better professionals down the road,” said Barone.
Morgidge is trying to diversify its pool of students as much as possible in order to create a more rounded learning experience.
“We are always trying to diversify in terms of race but also in terms of other identities,” said Barone. “Folks from out of state, folks from all over the world, different religions, gender, sexual orientation, that’s all part of our strategy.”
Originally posted through the Clarion Newspaper at the University of Denver