The University of Denver (DU) Morgridge College of Education (MCE) announces Phillip Strain, PhD, will become the third James C. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Urban Education in the Teaching and Learning Sciences (TLS) Department. Strain is widely regarded as one of the nation’s leading researchers on autism and preschool inclusion. He is recognized for creating the LEAP model of inclusive services for young children with autism in 1981.

Strain, will be partnering with the two existing Kennedy Chairs, Doug Clements, PhD, and Julie Sarama, PhD, to

steer the Kennedy Institute for Educational Success at MCE.

“This is a game-changer for Morgridge College of Education,” says Dean Karen Riley. “Phil is the perfect complement to the nationally-recognized work that Doug and Julie are already doing in early childhood education. I expect a lot of energy to be generated from this high-level collaboration.”

As Endowed Chair, Strain will be responsible for conducting and guiding research and disseminating knowledge to improve the lives of children and families locally and nationally. He will also provide leadership to the MCE faculty, students, and community in curriculum development and research initiatives with an emphasis on finding solutions to 21st century challenges in teaching and learning in urban environments.

Select achievements of Strain’s include:

  • Authoring over 180 peer reviewed journal articles
  • Contributing to 47 book chapters
  • Writing 9 books
  • Receiving $85 million in sponsored grants

Strain’s most recent grants total over $4.7 million and will provide full research funding for the next four years.

Strain has served as a professor in Early Childhood Special Education, and the director of the Positive Early Learning Center (PELE) at the University of Colorado Denver. He and his PELE research team will join the  Morgridge College on July 1, 2018.

Faculty member Norma Hafenstein, Ph.D., has been named the Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education. The Chair reflects the University of Denver’s—and the Morgridge College of Education’s (MCE)—long history of commitment to gifted education through service to gifted children, training of teachers to serve children’s needs, and support of doctoral research around giftedness.

Dr. Hafenstein’s award-winning professional career spans numerous positions in leadership and scholarship. She is a Full Clinical Professor—and former Ricks Endowed Chair for Gifted Education—in the Teaching and Learning Sciences (TLS) department at MCE. She founded the Ricks Center for Gifted Children, a PS-8 school on the DU campus, in 1984. In addition, she founded the Institute for the Development of Gifted Education in 1997, which has moved to a dormant phase. The work of the Institute will be subsumed by the Ritchie Endowed Chair, and the widely respected annual conference on gifted education will continue to be offered.  The cast bronze bell at the entrance of the Ricks Center carrying the inscription, “Dr. Norma Hafenstein, Our Founder”, was a gift from former Chancellor Ritchie, and is tuned with the carillon at the Ritchie Center.

The impact of the gifted programming in MCE extends beyond the DU campus. In 2013, MCE launched an Ed.D. with a Specialization in Gifted Education in the TLS department. Led by Dr. Hafenstein, students work on research and impact projects such as training preschool teachers to understand giftedness, working with principals to implement school gifted programs, and examining social and emotional curricula for gifted learners.

Dr. Hafenstein’s accolades include the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented Lifetime Achievement Award and DU’s Outstanding Service to the University Award. She is the Co-Principal Investigator on a federally-funded Jacob K. Javits state grant for Right 4 Rural (R4R), a project developed in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education. R4R focuses on the identification of and service to underrepresented gifted children in rural Colorado. Additional research work includes E-RiDGE, a Bradley Foundation-funded project to measure the impact of doctoral training at the student-service level.

Dr. Hafenstein presents extensively on giftedness at national and international conferences. Upcoming engagements include the National Association for Gifted Children, where she will give three presentations at the 2016 conference titled, Evaluation and Replicability in Doctoral Gifted Education: Impact and Implications; Radical Acceleration: When is it Time to Imagine Early College Attendance; and Giftedness in Rural Poverty: What do we Know? Furthermore, Dr. Hafenstein has presented at the International Dabrowski Congress, Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted Annual Conference (SENG), World Council on Gifted and Talented Children Biennial World Conference (WCGTC), and the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting (AERA).

The Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair of Gifted Education was established in October 2016 by the Considine Family Foundation, making it the fourth endowed chair in the Morgridge College of Education. The College expresses its gratitude to the foundation for this generous gift.


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