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.

Dr. Hitoshi Sato, associate professor at Fukuoka University in Japan, visited MCE this week as part of his government-funded research on teacher preparation in the U.S.

Sato selected MCE due to its CAEP accreditation and track record of teacher residency success.

“The University of Denver, Morgridge College of Education has one of the best and largest teacher preparation programs in the US, so I am really interested in how the program assesses the outcome of teacher candidates and assures the quality of programs, including how to respond to the requirement of CAEP standards,” Sato said.

Sato spent the day at Morgridge College interacting with faculty, staff and students around the topic of internal quality assurance and assessment within teacher preparation programs.

“It was great to visit with Dr. Sato and share some of our experiences building our teacher education program here at Morgridge,” said Dr. Jessica Lerner, Associate Professor of Practice and Director of Teacher Education. “I hope sharing what we have learned can improve the educational experiences of students in Japan, as I know we are grappling with some of the same issues.”

“Through this study, I am trying to lead some suggestions for Japanese teacher preparation especially at the level of teacher preparation program,” Sato said. “In Japan, the competition rate of our current hiring examination is decreasing, so the role of assuring the quality of teachers will be changed to teacher preparation level.”

Sato explained that of particular interest to the Japanese government is the teacher residency model.

“We have traditionally focused on teacher knowledge without a lot of emphasis on teaching practice and experience,” Sato said. “Japan is experiencing a growing achievement gap that is making teacher preparation a primary area of focus.”

Sato’s stop at MCE is part of his third year of research into the teacher preparation challenge. His fourth and final year will involve summarizing his findings into a report, which will be presented to the Japanese government to help inform their state-funded teacher education model of the future.

View photos from the visit in our Flickr album.

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies PhD student Pat Mills is excited about expanding his dissertation research, focused on leadership in the classroom and developing a pipeline of leaders to better serve students. Mills, a retired Naval Flight Officer and former aerospace program manager, is well suited for the project. He’s on this third career, and focused on ways to build the next generation of leaders so the next generation of students have the tools to succeed.

Mills landed at Morgridge College of Education after he found out he could still use the funds allocated to him through the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly known as the G.I. Bill. Mills’ wife spent her career as a teacher, and he knew the struggles and challenges she faced. He also knew that creating leaders requires creating a leadership culture. He was accepted to both the University of Denver and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and decided to make the drive to Denver.

As he explains, “I already knew the political bent of Colorado Springs and wanted to better understand attitudes in Denver. Not surprisingly, I am a different generation than most people attending DU. I wanted to do something to challenge myself. I tell my kids to always lean into life by taking risks, so I needed to set the example.”

At Morgridge College, we could not be happier he choose us. Mills’ long history in the military allows him to have a different perspective on educational leadership than more traditional students. As part of his dissertation research, he is studying teachers who came through the Troops for Teachers program, a program established in 1993 to help military veterans begin new careers as K-12 educators. So far he has observed veterans in both public and private classrooms and they have the same thing in common: they address each student as sir or ma’am, they acknowledge each student and engage them in the classroom discussion, and when class is over, they shake their students’ hands on the way out the door. These interactions, Mills believes, empowers the students to rise to the expectation of the teacher, making the students successful and the teachers leaders of tomorrow. His is excited to continue his research and see where it leads him in the next year.

In the meantime, Mills was recently awarded a Governor’s Executive Internship in Policy and Research and spends his days balancing college, policy, and family. His three children, two in their late 20s and one in high school, as well as his wife, are his support system. Between his studies and time at the Colorado state capitol, Mills is one busy retiree and that is exactly how he likes it.

Marsico Institute for Early Learning post-doctoral research fellow Candace Joswick’s work was recently featured on the March 2018 issue cover of Mathematics Teacher, from the Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Joswick and her co-author, Dr. Anna A. Davis from Ohio Dominican University, offer insights and activities to use geometric constructs in art to teach math.

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

MCE’s  Counseling Psychology (CP) department has been identified as one of the top 20 PhD programs in the nation by Best Counseling Degrees. The ranking was created by compiling programs offering a doctoral degree in counseling psychology from the American Psychological Association (APA), along with the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP) pass rate gathered from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB).

“We have always attracted people who strive to live lives of purpose, and to pursue careers of distinction,” says Jesse Owen, CP Department Chair. “I think this recognition speaks to the quality of these students, the customization of the program, as well as the diversity of our faculty research.”

Diverse faculty research is a hallmark of the CP department that affords students unique and enriching collaborative opportunities. Current faculty research areas include:

  • Multicultural counseling
  • HIV counseling
  • Psychotherapy research
  • Romantic relationships
  • Health psychology and health disparities
  • Group dynamics
  • Supervision and training
  • Vocational psychology and career development
  • Cancer survivorship

“I think one of our program’s greatest strengths is the collaborative atmosphere. We have been told from the beginning that each individual student will create their own path towards their career goals, and no two paths look exactly the same,” says CP PhD student Ellen Joseph. “Therefore, we as students are here to support each other and build relationships that we can maintain throughout our careers.”

Best Counseling Degrees is the No. 1 online resource for exploring and choosing from the nation’s best counseling degree programs that will develop the knowledge and skills needed to further a career in this helping profession. The site’s mission is to share expert information about the top counseling degrees to help people achieve their professional goals.

The University of Denver’s (DU) Morgridge College of Education’s (MCE) Ricks Center for Gifted Children has received accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

The accreditation comes from the largest nonprofit association in the United States representing early childhood education and reflects the highest professional standards for quality young children programs.

“Ricks Center for Gifted Children is committed to the accreditation process, which provides a framework for continuous improvement according to the highest standards of school performance.  NAEYC accreditation ensures top performance in our education of young children, including family support, teacher training, student safety, and community engagement.  Accredited by both NAEYC and AdvancEd, Ricks supports all of its students in realizing their full potential,” Anne Sweet, Ricks Center Director said.

Achieving NAEYC Accreditation is a four-step process that involves self-study, self-assessment, candidacy, and meeting and maintaining accreditation over a five-year period. Directors, teachers, and families all participate in the process. Programs are required to meet standards grouped into 10 areas: relationships with children, curriculum, teaching approaches, child assessment, nutrition and health, staff qualifications, relationship with children’s families, relationship with the community, physical environment, and program leadership and management.

“The Morgridge College of Education represents distinction in early childhood; from the Marsico Institute to the Fisher Early Learning Center to our Early Childhood Special Education programs, MCE serves as a leader,” said Dr. Karen Riley, Dean of Morgidge College of Education. “As such we want to ensure that we are meeting the highest standards for the children and families that we serve and that we are engaged in continual improvement.  NAEYC is the gold standard in this area and provides a framework to ensure exceptional quality and a means for thoughtful reflective practice.  This accreditation assures the families that we serve that we meet or exceed the highest of national standards and provides our graduate students with a model of excellence in the field.”

The Ricks Center for Gifted Children is operated by the Morgridge College of Education and is an extension of the College’s renowned work in the area of gifted education. In addition to providing a rigorous educational experience for gifted children from preschool to 8th grade, the model school also serves as an on-campus training and research facility for graduate students across the college including but not limited to school psychology, early childhood, curriculum and instruction and educational leadership.

As part of KUSA Channel 9 Denver’s Recovery Week special on addictions, news anchor TaRhonda Thomas interviewed Counseling Psychology (CP) Addictions Specialization director, Mike Faragher. Faragher is a Level II National Gambling Counselor, as a Board Approved Clinical Consultant by the International Gambling Counselor Certification Board, and as Level III Senior Addiction Counselor by Colorado Office of Behavioral Health. Dr. Andi Pusavat, Counseling Service Clinic Director and Clinical Assistant Professor addressed addiction causes in a live interview during the broadcast. Faragher and Pusavat were joined by Amy Hudson, CP PhD student, Wesley Pruitt, ’15 CP MA grad, and Tammy Pope, MS, NCGC1 from Choice Counseling & Recovery. All five manned the live phone lines answering questions on a wide range of addiction issues and connecting callers with local resources and support groups, including MCE’s Counseling and Educational Services Clinic.

You can find more photos from the interview in our Flickr album.

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.

After opening remarks by Dean Karen Riley, Dr. Lolita Tabron, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, facilitated the panel discussion.

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.

This year’s student panelist included:

See photos from the event here or view the entire panel discussion here.

Laura Finkelstein (PhD ’14), has been keeping very busy since graduating from Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver (DU). She spent the first year of her post-graduate professional career as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. She then accepted a position as a staff psychologist at the University of Texas Dallas (UTD) Counseling Center until she was promoted to Outreach Coordinator. In her roles at UTD, she provided individual counseling for students dealing with a broad range of concerns, from adjustment issues to the emergence of more severe mental health symptoms. She ran several groups, including an Expressive Arts Therapy Group, a Men’s Issues Group, and a Self-Compassion group. She also oversaw outreach training, coordination, and provision for UTD students and staff.

More recently, Laura moved back to Washington, DC to be closer to family and has since opened her own private practice where she sees adults with a range of concerns and symptoms.  She focuses on trauma, relationship issues, men’s issues, and expressive art therapy, and she just recently accepted a position as the Director of the Counseling Center at Marymount University.

Laura remembers her time at DU and Morgridge fondly, particularly the relationships she built with faculty and instructors.

“They embodied the type of compassionate, curious psychologists I wanted to be, and in many ways continue to be important examples to me,” Finkelstein said. She also appreciated the broad scope of experiences and counseling skills that were a part of both the MA and PhD programs, which prepared her well for an assortment of challenges she has faced professionally.

Finkelstein was initially drawn to the field of counseling based on her fascination with people’s stories; their childhood, relationships to self and others, and construction of narratives. Before entering the field as a student and eventually a professional, Laura wrote for a fashion magazine but found that she was more interested in how individuals functioned psychologically in the industry than she was the fashion itself.

“I applied to the MA program to see if these interests would fit for me as a career,” she said. “Absolutely loving it from day one, I knew I wanted to continue through a PhD program and make a professional life out of psychology.”

“DU first came on my radar because I had a lot of friends from the East Coast, where I grew up, who had recently moved to Denver and loved the lifestyle. Through my research of the program and my interview, I was excited by the breadth of learning and experiences offered by the counseling program. The people in the program, my cohort and professors, kept me going and feeling inspired professionally.”

In the future, Finkelstein is open to different roles as a psychologist, including further work in counseling centers, either in a teaching or administrative capacity. In whichever direction her career in the field of counseling moves, she feels very prepared for a wide array of positions, which is one of things she appreciates most about having her degrees in Counseling Psychology.

“The path of a counseling psychology student, especially a Ph.D. candidate, was not always smooth,” she said. “There were many challenges and I definitely had moments where I questioned if I could do it. I have so much admiration and respect for students in these programs. To them I want to say, this can be such a rewarding and meaningful path, and it does get easier!”


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