> Playing Through the Pain
> Moving in the Right Direction
> Something to Smile About
> The Life We’re Given
MIND + BODY + SPIRIT
OUR STUDENTS ARE
Ambitious plans for careers that make a difference.
Metropolitan State University of Denver students are on a mission
to graduate and enter careers right here in Colorado. When you
give to MSU Denver scholarships, you help today’s students change
the future—theirs and Colorado’s.
MSU Denver serves more low-income, first-generation college
students than any other four-year institution in the state.
And more than 70 percent of MSU Denver graduates stay in
Colorado, transforming our communities and our economy.
Giving to MSU Denver scholarships is a direct investment in
Colorado’s future workforce.
Learn more. msudenver.edu/giving | 303-556-8424
“This school is allowing me to become
who I want to be—someone who accepts
responsibility, who doesn’t blame others for
failures and who understands I’m part of a
community where I can help others.”
Criminal Justice and Spanish Major
Mentor for At-Risk Kids
Aspiring Defense Attorney
THE WORK OF HEART AND SOUL
As chief creative officer at Impact
Hub Oakland, Ashara Ekundayo
convenes conversations and
creative programming to explore
new models of sustainability.
Photo by Bethanie Hines.
18 22 28 30
PLAYING THROUGH THE
Following a devastating injury,
former Roadrunners soccer star
Courtney Ryan now shines as one of
the nation’s top disabled athletes.
MOVING IN THE RIGHT
THE LIFE WE’RE GIVEN
The world over, happiness is
more about what we do than
what we buy.
Faced with a grim prognosis for his
three children, Brian Horan decided
there was one thing to do: Get on
02 THE FIRST WORD
09 THE PHILANTHROPISTS
14 THE VISIONARY
03 THE CONVERSATION
10 THE STATEMENT MAKER
16 THE MOTIVATOR
04 THE NEWS
12 THE INNOVATOR
34 THE PEOPLE
Colorado is a crossroad for human
trafficking, but an MSU Denver
professor is helping the state and
the nation to combat the crime.
MSU Denver is transforming
lives, communities and higher
Facebook provides a forum for
talk of transformation.
MSU Denver is a university
on the move.
ON THE COVER
“Is anybody here?” by Polish
illustrator Paweł Jo´nca
considers personal memory—
the eye represents a look
inside his mind at the memories
within. On Page 28, we consider
a different aspect of the mind:
Rob and Lola Salazar hit a
home run for athletics and
Jonathon Stalls is starting
a revolution at 3 mph.
‘Cultural worker’ Ashara
April Hill sees new
possibilities for teaching
science to blind students.
Joe Quatrochi promotes
fitness for all ages.
MSU Denver alumni make
Online only at msudenver.edu/magazine:
THE INTERVIEW Clinical Psychologist Travis Heath discusses thriving in an uncertain world.
THE SOCIOLOGIST Desiré Anastasia reconciles social science and spirituality.
MSU Denver is transforming lives,
communities and higher education.
We hear every day from our students and alumni that Metropolitan State University of
Denver provides a life-changing experience.
Consider student Ricardo Rocha, a former migrant laborer who is well on his way to a career
as a neuroscientist. Or recent graduate Adore’e Blair, who went back to school at an age
when most people retire and will put her new degree to work advocating for reforms in the
child welfare system.
Of course, education is by its very nature transformational. But what is truly remarkable
is that the transformation taking place at MSU Denver—through an exceptional academic
experience defined by quality, value and relevance—is broadly accessible to students with
varied academic backgrounds and financial means.
Inclusivity—not exclusivity—is the standard of excellence we’re striving for, and we believe
it should be the standard of excellence for all of higher education in the future. In this way,
we truly serve the greater good of our community and state.
Because transformation is at the core of MSU Denver’s identity as an urban land-grant
institution, it’s also the cornerstone of the University’s new brand campaign, which positions
us as an epicenter for urban impact, transforming lives, communities and higher education.
This issue of the Metropolitan Denver Magazine considers transformation as it relates to
the mind, body and spirit, shared through the personal stories of our remarkable students,
faculty and staff, and alumni. The transformation tales start on Page 4 with big news—rising
rankings, a new building and one of the nation’s top professors—and wrap up with alumni
news on pages 34–40. The magazine’s starring characters include a walking revolutionary
(Page 10), a professor fighting human trafficking (Page 22), and a chef who channels his
passion through a wood-fired oven (Page 39).
What’s your story? We’d like to hear about your career moves and life changes, the impact
you’re making in the community, and how MSU Denver transformed your life. Share your
story—share class notes and letters to the editor, too—at msudenver.edu/magazine, or email
us at [email protected]
Metropolitan Denver Magazine is published three times a year by the
Metropolitan State University of Denver Office of Marketing and Communications.
© 2014 Metropolitan State University of Denver. All rights reserved.
Address correspondence to: Metropolitan Denver Magazine, Metropolitan
State University of Denver, Office of Marketing and Communications, Campus Box
86, PO Box 173362, Denver, CO 80217-3362. Email [email protected]
The opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect the policies
and opinions of Metropolitan State University of Denver nor imply endorsement
by its officers or by the MSU Denver Alumni Association. Metropolitan
State University of Denver does not discriminate on the basis of race, color,
creed, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation or disability in admissions or
access to, or treatment or employment in, its educational programs or activities.
PUBLISHER CATHERINE LUCAS | EXECUTIVE EDITOR CHELSEY BAKER-HAUCK | CONTRIBUTING EDITORS BECKY JONES
| MICHAEL PEARSON | EDITOR CLIFF FOSTER | EDITORIAL ASSISTANT BRETT MCPHERSON (CLASS OF 2014) | CREATIVE
DIRECTOR SCOTT LARY | ART DIRECTOR CRAIG KORN, VEGGIEGRAPHICS | PHOTOGRAPHY MANAGER JULIE
STRASHEIM | WEB CONTENT MANAGER NATHAN SOLHEIM | CONTRIBUTORS | JANALEE CARD CHMEL | TODD
CLARK | TREVOR DAVIS (CLASS OF 2014) | ANDRÉ ELBING | BRENDA GILLEN | VICTORIA HANNU (B.S. COMPUTER AND MANAGEMENT
´ | CHRIS MANCUSO (B.F.A. ART ’96) | DOUG MCPHERSON | DAVE
SCIENCES ’84) | GREG HENRY | BETHANIE HINES | PAWEŁ JONCA
NELIGH | LESLIE PETROVSKI | MINDY SINK | JESSICA TAVES (B.A. IDP ‘11) | JAMES WOOD | MARK WOOLCOTT | EDITORIAL
ADVISORY BOARD CATHERINE LUCAS, CHIEF OF STAFF AND ASSOCIATE TO THE PRESIDENT FOR MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS
| CHELSEY BAKER-HAUCK, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF MARKETING | GREG GEISSLER, ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT OF DEVELOPMENT | MARK
JASTORFF, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF ALUMNI RELATIONS | DEBORA GILLIARD, PROFESSOR OF MANAGEMENT | KEN PHILLIPS (B.S. INDUSTRIAL
EDUCATION ’83), CHAIR AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF INDUSTRIAL DESIGN | SAM NG, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF METEOROLOGY
Facebook provides a forum for talk of transformation.
The fall 2013 issue explored the
ways creativity fuels individual
careers and the economy.
We invited MSU Denver
Facebook fans to share their
personal transformation stories
I am reading through your fall 2013
magazine and am utterly impressed
by the quality writing, photography
and design. I am proud to have a
degree from Metro State!
(B.S. accounting ’95)
MSU Denver and its working/struggling student-friendly atmosphere
helped me gain the knowledge
and skills I needed to get a B.A.
in psychology. These same skills
helped me carve a path through
some rough times prior to and
during college, which led me to now
owning my own business in Seattle
working with kids with autism, and
dogs (TheCanineCollective.com). I
couldn’t be more thrilled with the
experience I had at Metro!
—Ian Iddings (B.A. psychology ’09)
I just had to let you know how
impressed I was with the fall issue
of MSU Denver’s magazine. The
artwork is stunning, the layout
enticing and the content is edgy
and interesting. Definitely not your
usual run-of-the-mill publication
from an educational institution.
I found my “Degree of Belonging”
in January 2010 when I began
my journey as a mentor with the
Journey Through Our Heritage
program through the Chicana/o
Studies Department at MSU
Denver. Now my journey to achieve
my bachelor’s degree in 2014
is obtainable, and students that
I’ve mentored along the way
have chosen to go to college at
Metro State. Everything is coming
together full circle! MSU Denver
has allowed me to cultivate a community through art and culture
that would not be possible at any
other university in Colorado. I am
proud to be a “rowdy” and “scrappy”
Metro State Roadrunner!
—Jay Michael Jaramillo
(Class of ’14)
sometime in 2014! Metro has helped
me in my career as an addictions
counselor, and this degree will help
me go even further! I am forever
grateful for the education.
—Harvey Bowden II (Class of ’14)
I can’t even express how much
Metro has been such a big part of
my life! I was a first-generation,
minority migrant student when I
came to MSU Denver. Five years
later, I’m finally graduating with a
B.A in human development with a
minor in education. Although I’m
the youngest in my family, I’ll be
the first to graduate from any type
(B.A. human development ’13)
I came back to school after 17 years
and am graduating with my B.A. in
psychology—the first generation to
graduate high school and first in my
family to earn a four-year degree!
Glad I transferred to Metropolitan
State University of Denver!
(B.A. psychology ’13)
Do you want to comment on something you
read in the Metropolitan Denver Magazine?
Have your own transformation story to
share? Join the conversation at facebook.
com/msudenver. Or send a letter to the
editor to [email protected]
Metropolitan Denver Magazine, Metropolitan
State University of Denver, Campus Box 86,
PO Box 173362, Denver, CO 80217.
I came to God out of an addiction,
homelessness and life of crime and
will be graduating with a B.A. in
human services with an emphasis on mental health counseling
MIND + BODY + SPIRIT
Campus Box 14
P.O. Box 173362
Denver, CO 80217
METROPOLITAN The New U
A Glass ... Full
Share the Metropolitan Denver Magazine
with your clients and customers!
> Playing Through the Pain
> Moving in the Right Direction
> Something to Smile About
> The Life We’re Given
The Rise of Denver’s Creative Class
Art in a Moment
Order a complimentary business subscription or
host a magazine rack and help your customers discover
the great news about MSU Denver.
Email [email protected]
or call the marketing and
communications office at 303-556-2957 today!
Where Hope Starts
The New U
A Glass ... Full
MSU Denver is a university on the move.
The MSU Denver Board of Trustees and the Colorado Commission
on Higher Education have given the go-ahead to a program plan and
—Chuck D, co-founder of the hip-hop group
Public Enemy, during the keynote address
concept design for a $60 million, 14,000-square-foot Aerospace
at the fall 2013 MSU Denver Sankofa Lecture
Engineering Sciences Building. V The proposal calls for a third of
identity formation and innovative teaching
the funding to come from the state, a third from private investors
and a third from student fees. Once funding is secured, construction
can move forward. V “Ideally we would break ground in summer
2015 and be complete in late winter of 2017,” says Sean Nesbitt,
director of facilities planning and space management. V The
building, to be located at 7th Street and Auraria Parkway, is a
cross-disciplinary initiative that will bring together under one roof
the University’s programs in aviation and aerospace science;
mechanical, electrical and civil engineering technologies; industrial
design; physics and computer science. It is designed to support an
integrated curriculum, foster collaborative research and drive deeper
industry ties. V “We will educate students in an interdisciplinary
fashion, graduating students ready to meet the state’s aerospace,
aviation and advanced manufacturing workforce needs,” says
School of Professional Studies Dean Sandra Haynes.
When you take music—and
especially black music—from
educational systems, you’re
easily stripping people and a
country that can grow better
by learning the history of
people. If you de-emphasize it,
you’re stripping people of the
knowledge, wisdom and
understanding that will
eventually bring us together.
Series, a conference on cultural literacy,
MSU Denver has been
ranked among Military
Times’ “Best Colleges for Veterans”
for the third time in five years. Of the
more than 2,700 four-year institutions
in the United States, only 86 were
recommended. MSU Denver ranked
50th, drawing high praise for its extracurricular activities for veterans. Among
the noteworthy services the University
provides are a veteran-specific orientation program for new students;
Veterans Upward Bound, which offers
academic refresher training; and optional
training for faculty in responding to
PHOTO TREVOR DAVIS
FÉLICITATIONS, ANN WILLIAMS
MSU Denver prof named among nation’s best
MSU Denver French Professor Ann Williams has been named one of four “U.S.
Professors of the Year” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of
Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. It is one of
the nation’s most prestigious teaching awards.
She is one of two Colorado educators to win this year. Williams won in the
“Outstanding Baccalaureate Colleges Professor” category, while physics Professor
Steven Pollock of the University of Colorado Boulder won in the “Outstanding
Doctoral and Research Universities Professor” category.
Williams, who joined the MSU Denver faculty in 1990, already has been honored
numerous times for her teaching. She credits her students for inspiring and
“If they weren’t willing and ready to learn and excited about learning, I don’t think
I would be doing what I do,” she says. “They understand that I really do believe that
learning French gives them a new way of thinking about the world and a new way
to articulate their thoughts.”
TA K E A B O W
MSU Denver has been included in the
latest edition of “Creative Colleges: A
Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers,
Musicians and Writers” by Elaina Loveland
(SuperColleges, 2013). It’s the only school
between Dallas and the West Coast to be
included. The reason: MSU Denver’s low
tuition and extensive degree options in the
The theatre program earned applause
when a professional respondent from the
Kennedy Center American College Theatre
Festival reviewed the fall MSU Denver
student production of “The Mikado.” The
respondent awarded certificates of merit to
Scott Marklin (dramaturge and study guide),
Alex Polzin (scenic artist) and all members
of the ensemble chorus (ensemble award).
Certificates of merit are reserved for those
elements of a production that the respondent
found truly exceptional.
PHOTO TREVOR DAVIS
Getting fit Top-of-the-line resistance weight training equipment has been installed
in the P.E. Building, thanks in part to a $10,000 donation from Rose Medical
Center. The new Cybex machines are part of an ongoing renovation project.
The new equipment is in the weight room, where student-athletes and
students in general activity classes have access to it.
PHOTO TREVOR DAVIS
Did you know?
MSU Denver offers a number of
academic programs related to the
thletic Training (major)
ealth Care Management (major, minor)
F Human Performance and Sport
F Adult Fitness and Exercise Science
ddiction Studies (concentration)
F Mental Health Counseling (concentration)
F Integrative Therapeutic Practices
Philosophy (major, minor)
Religious Studies (minor)
Psychology (major, minor)
Recreation Professions (major)
herapeutic Recreation Services
F K-12 Physical Education (licensure,
gift of a
BOOSTER SHOT FOR NURSING
Two new degree options in the MSU
Denver Nursing Department will boost
its visibility and prestige. A new dualenrollment option lets community
college nursing students seamlessly
transfer to MSU Denver to complete the
requirements for a bachelor of science
in nursing (BSN). And this January,
MSU Denver admitted its first class of
24 into its own traditional four-year
The new programs will complement
the University’s existing RN-to-BSN
completion program and the 17-month,
post-baccalaureate accelerated nursing
program options. MSU Denver boasts a
90 percent pass rate for its accelerated
nursing program graduates taking the
National Council Licensure Exam, well
above the national pass rate of 82 percent.
Last spring, the National Council of State
Boards of Nursing made the exam much
more difficult. That move resulted in a
significant drop in pass rates for some
nursing programs, both nationally and
in Colorado, but MSU Denver graduates
continue to perform well.
Another source of pride for the Nursing Department is its training simulator. High-tech synthetic patients called
“manikins” replicate various medical situations such as trauma and
childbirth. Students get hands-on
experience with the sights, sounds and
feel of treating patients at a level of realism that “closes the gap between theory
and practice,” according to Simulation
Lab Coordinator Shawn Anderson.
WATCH a video of how the simulation
works at msudenver.edu/magazine.
Create a lasting legacy by including Metropolitan State University
of Denver in your will or estate plans. Your generosity will make
a difference in the lives of students for generations to come.
Learn more about planned giving and request a free estate
planning kit at msudenver.edu/giftplanning or call
303-556-6933 for a personal consultation.
PHOTO TREVOR DAVIS
Seen here with his new custom MSU Denver license plate, University
President Stephen Jordan rolls with Roadrunners pride when he takes
his rowdy on the road. These plates are now available for purchase by
anyone who wishes to put pride on their ride. Proceeds benefit the
MSU Denver Alumni Association and are fully tax deductible.
PHOTO TREVOR DAVIS
A helping hand
Senior history major Justin
RISING IN THE R ANKINGS
There are roughly 2,400 four-year
degree-granting institutions in the
United States—and any way you group
them, MSU Denver keeps rising to
the top. College rankings released in
September by U.S. News & World Report
put the University 23rd among regional
colleges in the West and fifth among
public institutions in that category. Of
the schools ranked higher than MSU
Denver, only three charge lower tuition.
In July, the University landed in Forbes’
2013 list of America’s Top Colleges for
the second straight year. The reason:
the amazing return on investment MSU
Denver provides its students.
MEET THE NEW BOSS
An MSU Denver grad has become
Bush (right), a member of the
the highest-ranking Latina in the
Student Government Assem-
Obama administration. Katherine
bly, joined 1,000 volunteers—
Archuleta (B.A. elementary edu-
including hundreds of MSU
cation ’71) was confirmed by the
U.S. Senate in October to head
Denver students, faculty and
the federal government’s Office
staff—at the Colorado Conven-
of Personnel Management. She
tion Center Sept. 17 for Project
oversees the agency that manages
Homeless Connect 13. They
2.7 million civilian employees of
the federal government, ensuring
helped more than 1,400 people
compliance with civil service laws
gain access to free services
care, food and more.
PHOTO DAVE NELIGH
such as job placement, health
and managing all benefits. She is
the first Latina to hold the post.
B A S K E T B A L L H I T S T H E B I G -T I M E
bigger on average than female
noses, researchers have found.
And those big schnozzes aren’t
just for decoration, either. The
Denver’s own anthropology
Assistant Professor Todd
Yokley—believe it’s nature’s
MSU Denver began this season as the No. 1-ranked team in
the NCAA’s Division II, and the Roadrunners were selected
to play in the 2013–14 National Invitation Tournament
(NIT) Season Tip-Off in November. Although MSU Denver
was one of only two Division II teams selected to play, the
Roadrunners became the first-ever Division II team to
win at least two games in the tournament, finishing with a
3-1 record. Along the way, the Roadrunners beat three
Division I teams.
FOLLOW the Roadrunners online at gometrostate.com.
It’s not Big Ben, but…
A crystal clock embossed with
Metropolitan State University of Denver
now ticks in an unexpected place:
10 Downing Street, the London residence
of the British prime minister. The clock, a
gift from MSU Denver, was delivered by
Professor Peg Fraser, who was invited to
the seat of British political power last spring
while leading students in her study abroad
class in London. She met with Oliver
Dowden, deputy chief of staff for Prime
Minister David Cameron, and later
way of providing males with
the extra oxygen needed to
power their additional lean
muscle mass, which women
don’t have. The study, the first
to examine nose size in relation
to body size and gender, is found
in the November 2013 issue of
the American Journal of Physical
presented him with the clock. She also spent
time discussing politics with Scottish
Secretary of State Michael Moore.
Fraser, a professor of elementary education
and literacy, has taken MSU Denver
students to visit Prior Weston Primary
School, a top-shelf London school, for the
past eight years. A connection at the school
arranged the meeting with Moore. Fraser
had met Dowden during his visit to Denver
in November 2012.
Keep up to date on MSU Denver news at msudenver.edu/newsroom.
TO OUR ROADRUNNERS ATHLETICS SPONSORS
Auraria Campus Bookstore
Holiday Inn Denver Cherry Creek
Red Robin Burger Works
Holiday Inn Lakewood
Winter Park Resort
PHOTO JAMES WOOD
ILLUSTRATION CHRIS MANCUSO
Male noses are 10 percent
The MSU Denver men’s basketball team didn’t have to
prove anything coming into this season. The Roadrunners
dribbled their way into the NCAA Division II National
Championship game last year. While they came up one
point short of winning it all, they solidified their place as
one of the best basketball programs anywhere.
ROB AND LOLA SALAZAR
HIT A HOME RUN
FOR ATHLETICS AND
STORY JANALEE CARD CHMEL | PHOTO TODD CLARK
V. Robert (Rob) and Lola Salazar have always made education a
priority. And it wasn’t always easy.
The two high school sweethearts married 31 years ago right after
graduation and they took turns going to college as they raised
their young family.
“After Rob graduated, he got a job, and it was my turn to go
to college,” remembers Lola (B.A. elementary education ’89).
“But I had two babies! Metro was great because they offered
The couple’s focus on education paid off. The Salazars own several
companies and in 1999 formed the Salazar Family Foundation,
which contributes to Denver-area nonprofit organizations that
provide funding to students and schools in need. They also are
the brains behind the Regency Student Housing community,
which serves the Auraria Campus, including the majority of MSU
“We have had a longstanding relationship with the Regency and
are thrilled to continue to build on a successful partnership,” says
Athletic Director Joan McDermott. “This sponsorship agreement
strengthens our relationship and provides funds for a state-ofthe-art facility.”
The $12 million complex is south of the West Colfax Avenue
viaduct adjacent to Shoshone Street, east of Interstate 25. It
includes eight tennis courts that opened in August, a soccer
field scheduled for completion by fall 2014, and baseball and
softball diamonds opening in early 2015. The long-term plan
calls for a 20,000-square-foot building to house locker rooms,
a strength and conditioning facility, and an athletic training room.
In addition to using the complex for varsity athletics, intramural
sports and academic programs, the University is hosting activities
for its neighbors. Children from La Alma/Lincoln Park, Sun Valley
and Valverde are taking tennis lessons at the complex and they
will soon use it for many other sports.
When the University announced that it would build a new
athletics complex to serve its athletes as well as the surrounding
low-income communities, the Salazars took notice. MSU Denver
needed a naming sponsor for the complex, and the Salazars were
interested for many reasons.
“For those kids in the nearby neighborhoods, they get to walk
onto a college campus to participate in sports that they may have
never had access to before,” Lola Salazar says. “And when they
see the Metro athletes—those young adults—walking around with
backpacks and books, the children will be inspired.”
“From a business perspective, the opportunity immediately caught
my attention,” Rob Salazar says. “What a perfect way to further
reaffirm our relationship with Metro and the athletes. Then,
when Lola heard more about the project and all that it could do
for the nearby communities, we just got more excited.”
“We were both raised with very good values and a very good
work ethic. We both grew up watching our parents work very
hard,” Rob Salazar adds. “But aside from that, if we hadn’t received
a good education we wouldn’t have anything. That’s why it’s so
important for us to support education.”
Their excitement became a commitment to the project. MSU
Denver recently announced a $1 million, 10-year naming rights
agreement for the facility, which will be called The Regency
Athletic Complex at MSU Denver.
SUPPORT this project at msudenver.edu/makeagift.
In the four years since he graduated
from Metropolitan State University
of Denver, Jonathon Stalls (B.A.
individualized degree ’09) has come
a long way. Literally.
“The biggest focus right now is getting people to connect with the idea
that they can have transformative
and healing experiences right from
their front door,” Stalls says.
He’s walked 3,030 miles across the
U.S. to generate more than $500,000
in loans to entrepreneurs through
the international microlending
nonprofit Kiva.org. He has trekked
untold miles in Colorado. And he
and his father, Dave Stalls, former
president and CEO of Big Brothers
Big Sisters of Colorado and now head
of the charitable organization Street
Fraternity, traveled 490 miles of the
pilgrim’s path called the Camino de
Santiago in northern Spain.
At MSU Denver, the Individualized
Degree Program allowed Stalls to
combine art and business courses
to create a custom design and
entrepreneurship degree. He says
developing the degree program
fueled his confidence in taking risks
and trusting his instincts.
In 2012, Jonathon Stalls founded
Walk2Connect, a social enterprise
that promotes “personal, social and
communal wellness through
walking.” Weekly walks take place
in the Denver metro area, and events
have included urban walks, an art
walk and a family scavenger hunt.
JONATHON STALLS IS STARTING A
REVOLUTION AT 3 MPH.
STORY BRENDA GILLEN | PHOTO MARK WOOLCOTT
In many ways, he took the first steps
of his professional life on March 1,
2010, when he and his dog, Kanoa,
a blue heeler/husky, set out from the
Delaware coast and headed for the
West Coast. When he finished
Nov. 13, 2010, he’d been gone for 242
days and had stayed with 120
strangers. He became a crusader for
experiencing life at 3 mph.
“We are so conditioned to traveling
at 50, 60, 70 miles per hour in our
autos that our most inherent form
of transit is just forgotten or it’s
replaced. We haven’t given it a fair
chance in terms of informing how
we travel, and obviously there are
so many effects in terms of our
health—mental, emotional, physical
—and how we understand
communities,” Stalls says.
Kelly Felice, associate professor of
human services, instructed Stalls in
nonprofit courses. She recalls
following his late-night blog posts
during his walk for Kiva.org. Since
his return, she says Stalls has
become a social entrepreneur with
a knack for picking up on the city’s
vibe and for fostering connections
through social media.
“He comes in every single semester
and inspires students,” Felice says,
noting that Stalls recently discussed
crowdfunding for nonprofits with
one of her classes.
At their first meeting, Angie
Malpiede, vice president of the
Stapleton Area Transportation
Management Association, says
Stalls took her on an 8-mile
walk in the neighborhoods her
association serves. She enlisted
him to help create walking programs and to develop neighborhood
walking maps scaled in minutes
instead of miles. He also organized
the inaugural NE Walk Fest in
August 2013, which attracted
approximately 650 participants.
“He has motivated me to celebrate
what we do best, which is walk. It
crosses all economic lines. You don’t
have to own a bike, you don’t have
to have a bus pass, and you don’t
have to have a car. You just simply
go out your door and walk,” Malpiede
says. “He is going to be a national
role model any second now.”
Stalls is already getting noticed. He
spoke about “Life at 3 MPH” at
2013, and he’s the 2014 recipient of
the MSU Denver alumni STATEment
Maker Award, which recognizes
the accomplishments of recent
“I am beyond energized to be a part
of encouraging more and more
people to tap into the many benefits
of trusting strangers, taking risks,
tackling the unknown and living life
at a slower pace,” Stalls says.
LEARN more about Walk2Connect
at walk2connect.com, or follow
Jonathon Stalls on Twitter
SEE more photos and watch a
video about Stalls’ walk across
America at msudenver.edu/
‘CULTURAL WORKER’ ASHARA EKUNDAYO
CHAMPIONS ENTREPRENEURIAL ACCESS AND EQUITY.
STORY BRENDA GILLEN | PHOTO BETHANIE HINES
Ashara Ekundayo (B.A. speech communication ’94, B.A.
African American studies ’94) could be described
in many ways. Catalyst. Consultant. Producer.
Project Manager. Curator. Artist. High School Dropout.
“I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life that by some
people’s definition would be indicators that I should
have failed,” Ekundayo says.
But instead of failing, she persevered, succeeding as a
parent, as a college student and as a professional.
“My success allowed me to take a lot of risks that other
people were not willing to take,” Ekundayo says. “I am
a very curious person, and I have tried a lot of different
things that have had significant impact.”
At MSU Denver, Ekundayo participated in the African
American Leadership Institute, a program that at the
time was housed in the Department of Business. During
a presentation to the institute, Lauren Casteel spoke
about foundations and philanthropy. Ekundayo realized
she still had much to learn and asked Casteel for a
summer internship. Casteel, who now is vice president
of philanthropic partnerships for The Denver
Foundation, hadn’t planned to have an intern, but she
respected Ekundayo’s initiative and met with her.
“By the end of that conversation it was very clear to me
that it not only would lead to offering her something to
meet her needs, but that she would also bring something
to us, and that this was going to be a mutually beneficial
relationship. And that has continued to be true
throughout these many years,” Casteel says.
Ekundayo says Casteel’s influence was significant and
credits the many mentors she had at MSU Denver with
supporting her during her undergraduate career. But
years before she came to the University, she already
knew what she wanted to do.
“My exposure to arts and culture started at birth. I
grew up in Detroit with my single mother, who sent
my sister and me to New York City for the summer,
where my father and his other family lived. I was taught
to understand the value of arts and culture through
field trips and artsy evenings at the ballet, symphony
and museums. I remember being in a gallery with my
father and asked, ‘Who is the person who gets to decide
what art gets hung on the wall?’ He said, ‘That’s the
curator,’ and I said, ‘That is what I want to be when I
grow up. I want to be the person who decides what art
Over the years, Ekundayo has played the role of curator
(and more) in a variety of ways. In Denver, she founded
BluBlak Media Consulting, the Pan African Arts Society
and co-founded Blue and Yellow Logic. She was
founding producer of the Denver Pan African Film
Festival and Café Nuba, a spoken word and music
showcase, out of which grew the award-winning
performance poetry event Slam Nuba. She was a fellow
with Green for All, based in Oakland, Calif., and cofounded The GrowHaus, a nonprofit indoor farm in
Denver’s Elyria-Swansea neighborhood.
In October 2011 she co-founded Impact Hub Oakland,
one of 40-plus international member-based Impact
Hub centers that serve as office and event space for
social entrepreneurs. In February, Ekundayo, who
serves as Impact Hub Oakland’s chief creative officer,
will open Omi Arts, a visual and sound gallery inside
Impact Hub Oakland that will feature one-person
performances, exhibitions and lectures.
As part of her work, Ekundayo convenes conversations
and creative programming that explore new models of
economic sustainability. She is a champion of access
and equity because she sees that the same groups of
people who have been denied access to entrepreneurship
also struggle to gain access to fresh, organic, locally
sourced food and to science, technology, engineering,
arts and math curricula in the public schools.
“I consider myself a cultural worker,” Ekundayo says.
“I wouldn’t be able to execute my work right now as a
chief creative officer had I not had all of those years as
a community organizer, as a founder of an art and
cultural change nonprofit, an HIV educator and a
curator. I get to leverage all of the things that I have
learned in my professional journey, and I get to be
teacher and student at the same time.
“This work is spiritual work,” she adds. “This work is
the work of heart and of soul.”
She says she’s humbled and surprised at being named
the 2014 recipient of the MSU Denver Letters, Arts and
Sciences Dean’s Award for alumni achievement.
Ekundayo left Denver three years ago and didn’t realize
anyone was paying attention to her work in California.
Casteel has been watching her progress with pride. She
says Ekundayo’s fearlessness has inspired her. “It’s
important to remember that Ashara’s contribution is
far from complete,” Casteel says.
Part of Ekundayo’s contribution is her work with youth.
She recently spent the day with a group of honor
students who were visiting the San Francisco Bay
Area from Denver’s Manual High School, Ekundayo’s
“They were visiting revolutionary innovators who had
graduated from that high school. I was just so humbled
and so honored that they had planned a trip and that it
involved seeing me,” Ekundayo says.
WATCH Ashara Ekundayo’s TEDx presentation at
April Hill sees new possibilities for
teaching science to blind students.
STORY GREG HENRY | PHOTO TREVOR DAVIS
When April Hill met Cary Supalo
a few years ago, they embarked
on an unlikely experiment:
determining the best way to make
the lab, and the possibility of
scientific discovery, accessible to
During post-doctoral work from
2008–10 at Pennsylvania State
— an assistant
professor of chemistry and director
of forensic science at Metropolitan
State University of Denver—was
preparing for a teaching career
when she connected with Supalo, a
grad student who was developing
tools to allow blind students access
to chemistry labs.
“Dr. Supalo was the first blind
scientist I’d met, and I had honestly
never had a reason to wonder how
a blind person might complete a
chemistry lab experiment,” says Hill,
33, who joined MSU Denver in
August 2010. “As someone who was
planning to go into education,
I realized that I could very well have
a blind student in a course one
day, and it would be my
responsibility to teach him or her
science, including the important
aspect of experimentation.”
Hill and Supalo ran several handson workshops and summer science
camps, largely through collaboration
with the National Federation of the
Blind. “She has taught me a great
deal on low-tech activities that can
be used with the blind,” says Supalo,
who has been blind since he was
7 years old. “These were activities
that were designed with the sighted
student in mind, but April was
innovative enough to apply this to
Supalo, now an assistant professor
in the Illinois State University
chemistry department, also is
founder and president of
Independence Science, a company
that develops adaptive technology
that allows visually impaired
students to conduct hands-on
experiments in science classes.
Last summer, Hill and Supalo hosted
a chemistry workshop at MSU
Denver for students who attend the
Colorado Center for the Blind in
Littleton, Colo. Lessons included the
use of Talking LabQuest, a handheld computer that interfaces with
sensors and probes to provide
spoken results, allowing students to
record and process information from
regular education classroom,”
Batron says. “If teachers are willing
to approach teaching a blind child
with an open mind, they will
typically learn techniques that will
improve the learning process for all
of their students.”
“There are a lot of schools for the
visually impaired that do a good job
of providing hands-on science
experiments for their students, but
they are limited by a lack of
technology,” says Hill, a strong
advocate of improving access to
science, technology, engineering
and math (STEM) education.
“Using plastic baggies, the students
mix chemicals that we provide to
produce simple polymers, which
they can touch and handle after
the reaction is completed,” Vogt
says. “We have shown that blind
students can do wet chemistry. It
is exciting to see the excitement of
“There is also a perception that
allowing a blind student to handle
chemicals is unsafe,” she adds. “This
has led to the common practice in
public high schools of pairing a blind
student with a sighted partner
who does all of the actual experimentation and simply provides a
running commentary for the blind
student. This is not an effective
way to teach chemistry, and it is
certainly not a good way to inspire
that blind student to pursue
chemistry as a career.”
Supalo believes Hill’s techniques
will have a huge impact on teaching
all students, not just those who are
unable to see.
At times, Hill has to battle skepticism
from sighted students and STEM
professionals. “The immediate
dismissal of a blind student’s
ability—not to mention their
right—to an education in science is
frustrating for me,” says Hill
(pictured at left with a student). “And
I can only imagine how hearing
[skepticism] might affect a young
person with a visual impairment
who has an interest in science.”
MSU Denver chemistry Assistant
Professor Thomas Vogt shares Hill’s
“In many cases educators are afraid
to provide this underrepresented
population with a direct hands-on
learning experience because of
safety reasons or because they
perceive a blind student cannot do
it for themselves,” Supalo says. “In
many cases, this is correct because
the way they were raised was not
conducive for them to develop the
hands-on reflexes necessary for
“If hands-on science learning
is good for all students, why not
for the blind?”
WATCH a video about April Hill’s
science workshops for the blind at
Brent Batron, director of youth
programs for the Colorado Center
for the Blind, appreciates Hill’s
“Most of the techniques that April
uses and demonstrates can easily
be applied to all aspects of the
PHOTO JESSICA TAVES
“As we increase in age there is a
much greater likelihood of decreased
functional activity. Physical activity helps us
maintain our functional independence as
we get older. And though exercise might
not specifically impact how long we’re
going to live, it will increase the quality
of the life we have left … There are so
many benefits to exercise. People who
don’t incorporate physical activity into
their lives are really missing out.”
—Joe Quatrochi, 52, professor of adult fitness and exercise science,
MSU Denver Department of Human Performance and Sport
Following a devastating injury, former Roadrunners soccer star Courtney Ryan
now shines as one of the nation’s top disabled athletes.
hen MSU Denver soccer player Courtney Ryan woke up
the morning of Oct. 8, 2010, she had no idea that before
day’s end her life would change forever.
She boarded a charter bus with other members of the Roadrunners
soccer team for a trip to Mesa State College and a conference
game. She recalls feeling a bit off that morning, with a tingling
sensation in her legs. As an elite athlete, she simply shrugged it
off. Playing through pain and discomfort was part of life.
Later that day, however, the tingling took a tragic turn.
“About 20 minutes into the game I was playing forward and
someone passed [the ball] to the defense,” recalls Ryan, now a
student at the University of Arizona. “I remember being slide
tackled, and as soon as I landed on my back, it felt like someone
stabbing me in my back. A blood clot had leaked into my spinal
cord and when it burst it caused some of the nerves to detach.”
In the span of a heartbeat, Ryan was paralyzed from the
“I’m considered an incomplete paraplegic,” says Ryan. “I have no
sensation from the belly button down. The doctors say the clot
would have eventually burst and that the impact of the fall caused
it to happen sooner than later.”
STORY MIKE PEARSON | PHOTOS JAMES WOOD
Ryan immediately began rehabilitation at Craig Hospital in
Denver, which specializes in spinal injuries. She also continued
her studies at MSU Denver for the spring semester before moving
home to her native San Diego to work with the Challenged Athletes
Foundation’s Project Next. There, her mentor, Erika Davis,
introduced Ryan to wheelchair basketball and the next phase of
her athletic life.
While playing in a wheelchair basketball tournament, she
was spotted by Pete Hughes, head coach of the University of
Arizona Wildcats wheelchair basketball team. Impressed by
Ryan’s athleticism—and a buzzer-beating shot during the
tournament—he offered her a scholarship to Arizona, where in
fall 2012 she began studying education with an emphasis on
Now considered one of the nation’s top collegiate wheelchair
basketball players (she’s one of 16 women named to the 2016 U.S.
Paralympic wheelchair basketball team), Ryan says she hadn’t
really given the sport much thought before her injury.
“I’ve definitely carried over the lessons and skills from soccer to
basketball,” she says. “Soccer gave me a great work ethic and the
ability to recognize the importance of my teammates. I had
played basketball a bit when I was about 11, but I was awful. I
would foul out of every game because I didn’t get the concept of
no contact, which there is a lot of in soccer.
Ryan says her immediate goal is representing the U.S. at the
Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The team begins
training in earnest this year.
“Obviously, being selected to the USA women’s wheelchair
basketball team has been an affirming experience in my life,”
Ryan adds. “Following my injury, I felt my life as an elite athlete
was in the past. Being selected has reminded me that once an
athlete, always an athlete.”
In the short term, she hopes to use her experiences to inspire
other disabled athletes to make life work for them and not settle
for victim status.
Ryan’s determination to triumph over her injury impressed her
doctors, coaches and friends alike.
“Courtney is a strong person because any issue that’s thrown at
her, like her injury, she doesn’t let stop her,” says Molly Bloom, a
Wildcats teammate. “She moves forward in a way that any
hardship she deals with she uses it to make her a stronger person.”
Bloom, herself disabled after having a leg amputated at the end
of high school, met Ryan when both started at Arizona in 2012.
Despite the camaraderie shared by disabled athletes, she says
their goal is not shared self-pity, but shared athletic success.
“No one on the team is focused on disability,” Bloom explains.
“There are nine of us this year, and we’re all incredibly competitive
and dedicated to the sport. The support we get on our team is
about athletics, not disability. Four of us qualified for the USA
team last year.”
“It was a huge transition going from being in the able-bodied
majority to being in a minority group,” Ryan notes. “It can be
greatly intimidating. When you’re in rehabilitation, everyone
else is using wheelchairs to get around so you don’t see yourself
as so different. Once you get back into the real world it’s kind of
crazy how inaccessible our society is.
“The best advice I got [during rehabilitation] was not to be afraid
to try new things. Everything that you try you should give it
your all, and don’t let fear of failure stop you. The spirit can take
you much farther than the body alone ever could.”
Adrianne Pietz was in her third year as MSU Denver’s women’s
soccer coach when Ryan’s injury occurred. She says Ryan’s
journey back from the tragedy has inspired the entire community.
“We knew [the injury] was serious when it happened, but we
didn’t know how serious,” Pietz recalls. “You never expect that
in a game like soccer someone will be paralyzed for the rest of
their life. It was a shock.”
“Courtney is a phenomenal athlete,” Pietz adds. “The things she
had to deal with [during rehabilitation] impacted our program.
Her fight and her will were really an inspiration for everyone
EVERYTHING THAT YOU TRY
YOU SHOULD GIVE IT YOUR ALL,
AND DON’T LET FEAR OF
FAILURE STOP YOU.
Ryan credits MSU Denver with helping her become the woman
she is today.
“Metro shaped my athleticism a lot and made me realize that I
compete because of my desire to be the best, and that I can apply
that [philosophy] to my education,” she says. “I enjoyed
occupational therapy even at Metro, but I never guessed that I
would be doing this.”
And she credits friends and family with helping her channel
her competitive spirit when it sometimes might have been easier
to give up.
“[My injury] has affected my family, but we’re definitely a strong
unit, and we’ve been through a lot. For us it’s another bump in
the road we’ll eventually get through,” says Ryan. “Our motto
in life is that our biggest stresses are our biggest blessings.
There’s a reason for this, and so far I think that reason is for me
to represent my family and have my last name on that Team
FIND a list of adaptive sports and recreation resources at
COLORADO IS A CROSSROAD FOR HUMAN TRAFFICKING,
BUT AN MSU DENVER PROFESSOR IS HELPING THE
STATE AND THE NATION TO COMBAT THE CRIME.
STORY LESLIE PETROVSKI
prawling on all sides of the confluence of I-70
and I-25, Denver has the ungainly look of a
city shedding its industrial past. On I-70 the
hulking gray Purina plant blocks views of the
city’s gleaming skyline. Decrepit hotels and luxury
condos rim I-25. Spindly cranes bracket construction
projects, rising from the demolition of mid-century
office buildings that no longer serve.
Denver doesn’t shine from its highways. But it’s the
view daily commuters have as they rhumba across the
city slowly in traffic—the same view those trafficked
into the city see as they arrive for empty promises of
jobs or love.
Colorado’s highways are among the first characteristics
human trafficking experts mention when describing
how the crime plays out here. The state capital is the
nation’s bull’s-eye: one long day’s drive to Juarez or
Saskatchewan; 10 tedious hours on the Great Plains to
Kansas City, Mo.; 13 brutal hours across the desert to
Phoenix. Denver is a convenient hub for the comings
and goings of kids indentured to magazine sales crews
or migrant farm workers in bondage to debt.
“The way human trafficking manifests in Colorado has
a lot to do with its location in the U.S.,” explains
AnnJanette Alejano-Steele, MSU Denver professor of
women’s studies and co-founder of the nonprofit
Laboratory to Combat Human Trafficking (LCHT). “We
connect folks, east to west and north to south, by virtue
of our highways.”
Alejano-Steele is co-author of “The Colorado Project
to Comprehensively Combat Human Trafficking,”
a groundbreaking three-year study conducted by
LCHT that examined how the state is responding
to trafficking. Although Colorado has its share of
issues, starting with its laws, it’s the first state to hold
a mirror up to its efforts, gathering on-the-ground
data necessary to start corralling the problem on the
continuum from prevention to prosecution to
he surprise is the backyard nature of it all. The
Colorado Project revealed that trafficking is thriving
statewide—in Denver, Lakewood, Aurora, Colorado
Springs and rural Colorado—and is as likely to involve
a white middle-schooler at odds with her parents as it
is an undocumented worker fearing deportation.
As a crime, human trafficking sits on the far end of the
labor and sexual exploitation spectrum where victims
may be subjected to all manner of psychological abuse,
beatings and deprivation. In his seminal speech on the
subject during the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative,
President Barack Obama called the crime “modern
slavery,” acknowledging the dark perversion of the
American Dream at the core of the problem in the
United States. Whether it’s a homeless 15-year-old
girl looking to feed herself or a man lured into forced
kitchen labor, desperation and poverty breed the
vulnerability traffickers prey on.
“There’s so much manipulation that goes on there,”
explains Denver Police Sgt. Daniel Steele (no relation
to Alejano-Steele), who works on the FBI’s Innocence
Lost Task Force. “You’re being manipulated because you
want something more out of life.”
pstairs in Denver’s Posner Center for International
Development, Amanda Finger, a social entrepreneur
who founded LCHT with Alejano-Steele, is describing
human trafficking in Colorado.
“The characteristics of a state determine how trafficking
manifests,” she says. “You have to ask, what are the
In the Centennial State, those vulnerabilities include
the prevalence of industries such as agriculture and
tourism requiring low-cost labor as well as a healthy
immigrant population, about a third of which is undocumented and especially susceptible to exploitation
because of language barriers and fears of deportation.
“The way human trafficking manifests
in Colorado has a lot to do with its
location in the U.S.”
Denver, the largest city in a 600-mile radius, is like any
metropolis—a mecca for rich and poor, the nefarious and
altruistic, providing a market for trafficked goods and services
along with a rich supply of victims.
Pinning down the scope of human trafficking anywhere is difficult
at best. The crime is older than Exodus, but the international,
national and local legal systems are only now catching up. Although
aspects of human trafficking have been prosecuted under laws
covering kidnapping, labor and sexual assault, it wasn’t until 2000
that human trafficking was defined and labeled as a crime in and
Following the lead of the United Nations, which adopted in 2000
the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking In Persons,
Especially Women and Children, the United States passed the
Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a comprehensive law designed
to protect victims and prosecute perpetrators. Colorado passed its
first anti-trafficking bill in 2006.
The introduction of human trafficking laws has meant a sea change
in how society views and punishes crimes such as prostitution
and forced labor, demanding more nuanced and sophisticated
responses from law enforcement, the judicial system and victims’
advocates. Questions like who is the criminal and who is the victim
have been brought into sharper relief with laws spelling out that
sex-trafficked children, for example, aren’t lawbreakers but rather
the tragic victims of a horrific crime.
“It is very difficult to prosecute human trafficking cases,”
explained Janet Stansberry Drake, a Colorado senior assistant
attorney general in the Special Prosecutions Unit, via email.
(Colorado, in fact, has successfully prosecuted only two trafficking
cases under its statutes.) “We, as a community, are still learning
what human trafficking means. Additionally, victims of human
trafficking are often reluctant to participate in the criminal justice
system. Reluctance exists in part because of the severe trauma
(often emotional and physical) victims experience.”
How prevalent is trafficking in Colorado? There’s really no way to
know. One metric is the number of victimized children recovered
by law enforcement in the Denver metro area. In 2012, 49 victims
were brought in; in 2013, 61 were rescued. Another measure is
the number of Colorado-based calls received by the National
Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline: 151 in 2012, only 31
of which referenced human trafficking specifically.
“We have people across the country labeling it as child abuse,”
explains Alejano-Steele. “If you have a parent selling a child for
sex on Colfax to put dinner on the table, it’s child abuse but it’s also
human trafficking. Or the abusive partner forcing his girlfriend
into prostitution; it’s domestic violence and it’s human trafficking.
Until we can distinguish it from other crimes, it will be tucked
away under other crimes and violations.”
On the front lines, though, Sgt. Steele sees increased activity.
Law enforcement officials, he says, are better equipped to identify
the crime and bring in perpetrators. On the other hand, he
calls sex trafficking, the “crime du jour,” saying that it appeals
to the criminally inclined because it’s lucrative and difficult
“If you sell drugs or guns,” he says, “you sell it one time and it’s
gone. But you can sell a person over and over.”
PHOTO MARK WOOLCOTT
—MSU Denver Professor AnnJanette Alejano-Steele (pictured)
hen Alejano-Steele began volunteering for the
Colorado chapter of the anti-trafficking
organization Polaris Project (which would eventually
become LCHT), she asked Amanda Finger how she could
use her skills as a professor to help. Finger didn’t
hesitate: “Train law enforcement.”
By then, the United States had passed the Trafficking
Victims Protection Act, and Finger was working in
Colorado to raise awareness about the issue. In the
classroom, Alejano-Steele had begun incorporating
information about human trafficking into various
courses at MSU Denver, but she did so broadly. “I was
teaching it as that crime in the Philippines and Thailand
and the former Soviet Union,” she says. “It was my
understanding of the issue at the time.”
During her post-doctoral work at the University of
California, San Francisco, studying the psychosocial
factors that affect birth outcomes for low-income
women, she began to think about the complex stew of
gender, mental health, physical well-being and social
factors that combine to make healthy or not-sohealthy communities. Committed as she was to
research, she realized she wanted to work for an
institution that valued teaching and was connected
to the community.
At MSU Denver, Alejano-Steele accepted a joint
appointment in psychology and women’s studies. She
began teaching Feminist Theories and Practices,
Women of Color, Cultural Diversity and Women’s Health
Issues, earning a reputation as a hard grader and for
enlivening her classes with guest speakers and
community service requirements.
IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO PROSECUTE HUMAN
TRAFFICKING CASES. WE, AS A COMMUNITY,
ARE STILL LEARNING WHAT HUMAN
— Colorado Senior Assistant Attorney General Janet Stansberry Drake
After years of asking students to work in the
community, Alejano-Steele felt she was at a point in
her life where she could make her own impact. She did
what Finger had asked and began using her skills as
an educator to train first responders on the differences
between prostitution, human trafficking, smuggling
and immigration violations. That work gave birth to
LCHT, the organization Alejano-Steele co-founded
with Finger, which trains health care providers,
government officials and others to recognize human
trafficking for what it is. The organization to date has
trained more than 17,000 people.
In 2007, Alejano-Steele developed one of the country’s
first undergraduate courses on the subject at MSU
Denver, a class now in its 18th consecutive semester.
Through this course, Alejano-Steele has educated
hundreds of student nurses, police officers, social
workers, psychologists and others on the local and
international scope of the crime. The class, too, has seen
its share of self-admitted student perpetrators come
through as well as victims, some who only realized they
had been trafficked after taking the class.
Since 2007, the University has provided an academic
home for dozens of survivors, a mostly anonymous
group of students who are using the tonic of education
to move forward from the trauma of their past lives.
Unofficially, Alejano-Steele began helping these
students matriculate at MSU Denver, the Community
College of Denver, the University of Colorado
Denver, and the Emily Griffith Technical College.
Careful to protect students’ privacy, Alejano-Steele
developed a network of trusted campus contacts
who helped student survivors with college and
Alejano-Steele formalized the work she was doing
with student survivors by creating an MSU Denver
program housed at the Institute for Women’s Studies
and Services called the Human Trafficking Academic
Response Team (HTART), which pairs survivors with
student advocates trained to work with them on everything from enrollment to handling midterm stress.
In the last six years, the academic response team has
helped 51 survivors learn about their educational
options. Some have graduated; others have put their
educations on hold. Seventy-five percent were born in
the Denver metro area.
tudent survivors of human trafficking are and are
not like traditional students. Many are older, which
makes a school like MSU Denver with its nontraditional
student population the ideal place to blend in. They may
be trauma survivors, whether they’ve been raped
multiple times a day or coerced into some type of forced
labor, which puts them at greater risk for post-traumatic
stress disorder, anxiety and depression.
“For any vulnerable population,” observes Rebekah
Lamar, an HTART academic advocate and MSU Denver
undergraduate student in human services, “the system
is very difficult. It can get to the point where you don’t
want to attend school anymore. It’s nice to have
IF YOU SELL DRUGS OR GUNS, YOU SELL
IT ONE TIME AND IT’S GONE. BUT YOU CAN
SELL A PERSON OVER AND OVER.
—Denver Police Sgt. Daniel Steele
With such different life experiences, a survivor may not feel
comfortable participating in traditional student activities. That
sense of apartness can put any student at risk of dropping out.
“Take orientation,” explains Mary Durant, another advocate who
is finishing her master’s degree in social work at MSU Denver.
“You’re coming out of a traumatic experience. You might not feel
comfortable playing games with 150 freshmen. Sometimes we can
meet the needs of the individual and get them into a smaller group
orientation that might be a little more comfortable.”
One survivor, “Susan,” said her experience caused her to distance
herself from teachers and fellow students at MSU Denver. Being
trafficked, she wrote, is “like something out of a horror movie.”
(Susan, which is not her real name, answered questions via email
to Alejano-Steele, who forwarded them on.) She escaped from her
pimp in 2004 after he had rounded up new girls to work for him.
“He just let me walk out the hotel door,” she wrote. “I will never
forget that feeling of being uncertain if I wanted to go or run back
to him. He was all I had at the time.”
At school she tried to fit in by keeping to herself. “I felt like I was
different and I worked so hard to act like other people,” she
explained. “I didn’t want anyone to know anything about me. I was
so quiet the first few years, and you can see it in my grades. I
wouldn’t let anyone help me with schoolwork; I didn’t want to get
too close to anyone. I love academics, but without support it is so
difficult to do on your own.”
Susan has since earned her undergraduate degree at MSU Denver
and is now pursuing a master’s and applying to Ph.D. programs.
“My life is amazing now, with the support from the Institute for
Women’s Studies and Services, Dr. Alejano-Steele, HTART, and
my boss from the University department where I worked as an
undergraduate. These people allowed me to look forward in my
life and see that my experience does not define me or who I am,
and that I am amazing in what area I choose to be in.
“MSU Denver saved my life by giving me new opportunities, by
supporting me through every phase of long-term survivorship. I
am deeply indebted to them.”
olorado is at a crossroad with regard to human
trafficking. This past October, LCHT published The
Colorado Project national and statewide reports. Funded
by a $1 million grant from the Embrey Family
Foundation, the project began in 2010 with an
overarching question: What would it take to end
human trafficking in Colorado? Now three years
later, the state—and the country—have some answers
in the voluminous 400 pages produced by the team
led by Alejano-Steele.
On a national level, the research illuminated promising
practices in the “4Ps”—Prevention, Protection,
Prosecution and Partnerships. It’s a framework
identified by the United Nations and U.S. State
Department to address modern slavery that aims to
circle the issue from start (prevention) to finish
(protecting victims). The report created a research
model other communities can follow and outlined an
ambitious statewide action plan—14 sweeping
recommendations organized under the 4Ps—that more
than anything urge continued education and
collaboration among police, prosecutors, social services
and other agencies.
On the front burner (recommendation No. 4 under
prosecution): new legislation that will bring Colorado’s
law more in line with federal legislation, further refining
the language and giving prosecutors a more precise and
potent tool with which to indict traffickers.
Colorado’s initiatives have not gone unnoticed. In
March 2013, when LCHT hosted its conference on The
Colorado Project, a member of the U.S. State Department
Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons
attended. There also are eight communities nationwide
looking to replicate The Colorado Project research in
“What we are doing,” Alejano-Steele says, “will
absolutely inform the way the movement talks about
EYES WIDE OPEN
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO COMBAT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
One of the lessons of The Colorado Project,
the three-year comprehensive study of human
trafficking response efforts around the country
and in the state, is that fighting the crime
requires as many eyes, ears and hands as
possible, whether the community is Denver or
“There is a lot people can do,” says Amanda
Finger, executive director of the Laboratory to
Combat Human Trafficking, which sponsored
The Colorado Project. “Learn more about this
issue and what it looks like in your community,
not what you see in the movies or on the news.”
In Colorado, labor trafficking is more prevalent
than sex trafficking, she says. And victims are
likely to be U.S. citizens.
Here are ways to help:
> Learn about human trafficking at
> Report suspicious activity.
Colorado Network to End Human Trafficking
National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline:
> Volunteer or donate money to anti-trafficking
efforts, such as the MSU Denver Human Trafficking
Academic Response Team, the Laboratory to
Combat Human Trafficking, Prax(us) or the Human
Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado.
> Purchase sweatshop-free clothing and goods that
are Fair Trade Certified.
STORY DOUG MCPHERSON
ary Ann Watson and Layton Curl are sitting in a
sunbaked field in Ethiopia with tears in their eyes.
They’re about 30 feet from a 12-foot by 12-foot
structure made of sticks. In most places it would
be a hut. But here, on the hard, open, eastern plains of Africa,
it is a school.
“I walked up and they were just sitting there wiping their
eyes,” says videographer Scott Houck, assistant director of
the Educational Technology Media Center at MSU Denver.
“I could tell they were overwhelmed, and they felt like they
had to make things better for the kids. I think they were
overwhelmed and encouraged at the same time.”
It was one of many moments the two MSU Denver psychology
professors and their videographer shared while producing
three videos about culture, happiness and altruism in a land
where scientists say the roots of humanity took hold three
million years ago.
ou could call Watson the Steven Spielberg of educational
films. For more than two decades, she’s been behind and in
front of the video camera, sharing her findings in 17 awardwinning documentaries with printed instructor guides. The
films have been viewed more than 10,000 times and shown
in university classrooms around the United States and Canada.
About 10 years ago, Watson enlisted Curl to help her with a
video, and the two have been working together ever since.
ILLUSTRATION ELEMENTS PAWEŁ JONCA
Their films, funded mostly by small grants and modest
royalties from past videos, offer students slices of the human
condition through the lens of those who’ve been negatively
Janet Hyde, a psychology professor at the University of
Wisconsin, has been showing Watson’s videos on Muslim
women and rape survivors for a decade. “It would be difficult
for me to bring in an actual victim of rape or several Muslim
women,” Hyde says. “The students respond well to the videos;
they stimulate important discussions.”
That’s music to Curl’s ears. “That’s exactly what we want.
Textbooks are dry. Videos are more dynamic; they show
real-world examples with real people in their own words.
When we’re editing, we leave their words as they are.”
Among the actions humans can
take for a jolt of joy: having a routine of
exercise and sleep; being mindful of the
present moment; socializing regularly
with friends and family; being grateful;
and helping others.
The world over, happiness
is more about what we
do than what we buy.
Those words have come from all kinds of folks: strippers,
comedians, transgendered, gay, straight and everyone in
between. Watson and Curl’s “Portraits in Human Sexuality”
video series comes with a note to professors: “Warn students
that these interviews may trigger strong emotional responses.”
atson has been interested in different people and
different cultures since she was a little girl growing
up in southeastern Ohio.
She took her interest and ran with it, earning a Ph.D. from
the University of Pittsburgh and post-doctoral studies at the
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, specializing in
sexology, thanatology and cultural diversity. She’s received
two Fulbright-Hays teaching fellowships to study in Kenya
and Egypt. She’s authored several texts, workbooks and
numerous articles in professional journals.
Curl, chair of the MSU Denver psychology department, earned
his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Mississippi and
holds a master’s in experimental psychology, a bachelor’s in
psychology and a diploma in Asian Studies from Kansai Gaidai
University of Japan. His scholarship includes a half-dozen
educational films, published peer- and editor-reviewed articles,
and frequent peer-reviewed presentations covering a diverse
range of psychological topics.
In their most recent work, Watson and Curl interviewed college
students from Ethiopia, South Africa and the United States on
positive psychology—a relatively new field of study that
examines how to make life more fulfilling.
The findings? Not surprisingly, U.S. students often equate
happiness with material goods (cars, clothes, jewelry, etc.) and
individualism, while African students tend to find comfort in
relationships, collaboration and access to education.
Both Curl and Watson say they came away with insights that
reinforced their beliefs that individuals can do certain things,
no matter what their culture, to become happier. “Happiness
is more universal than you might think,” Curl says.
Watson agrees: “We know that about half of our outlook is
genetic, what we’re born with. That leaves us with another
half that’s changeable—with things we can actually do to be
happier. That’s pretty significant.”
mong the actions humans can take for a jolt of joy: having
a routine of exercise and sleep; being mindful of the
present moment; socializing regularly with friends and family;
being grateful; and helping others. And, in the United States,
if you’re making less than $75,000, money can make you
happier, but beyond that amount, not so much.
“We know that in the U.S., a salary of more than $75,000 doesn’t
increase feelings of happiness,” says Curl. “In studies of lottery
winners we see a kind of instant surge in happiness when they
win the money, but within a few months they go back to the
level of happiness they were at before they won. New cars and
things give us a momentary blip of happiness, but it doesn’t last.”
Watson says a trap people in the United States often fall into
is a kind of “if that, then” factor. “Many people believe that
if they get that promotion or new car or bigger house, then
they’ll be happy. It’s just not true in the long run.”
She summarizes three kinds of happiness: the pleasant
life (what gives us momentary glee such as chocolate or sex),
the engaged life (doing enjoyable activities such as hobbies
and going on family vacations), and the meaningful life
(experiencing gratitude and taking part in altruistic endeavors).
As it turns out, Watson’s own life is a pretty good example
of that meaningful life. She does a lot more than just produce
videos; she’s spent countless hours conducting book drives,
gathering school supplies and raising money to build schools
in impoverished regions.
In her Plaza Building office one day in December, Watson
points to photos of her trips to those places. One 8x10 shows
children dressed in rags, some barefoot, bathed in abject
poverty. Yet they’re smiling. They’re standing next to a small
cinderblock building framed above by an azure sky. It’s a
Watson stands in silence looking closely at the faces.
“It’s not so much about the photos, it’s about the people and
the experiences,” she says quietly.
On her face is a universal expression of joy: a smile.
STORY JANALEE CARD CHMEL | PHOTOS MARK WOOLCOTT
Brian Horan (left) studies as he waits
for his son Ian to get out of class.
FACED WITH A GRIM PROGNOSIS FOR HIS THREE
CHILDREN, BRIAN HORAN DECIDED THERE WAS
ONE THING TO DO: GET ON WITH LIVING.
his story could easily take a dive into gushy sentimentality.
But it won’t. Brian Horan won’t let it.
He cannot stand pity. Not because it makes him uncomfortable,
but because he’s too darned positive to sit still for it.
Brian and his wife, Kim, have three sons with Duchenne
muscular dystrophy (DMD), a genetic disease that affects one
out of every 3,600 male infants. Boys who have the disease
are unable to make dystrophin, a necessary protein for muscle
development. Over time, their muscles become weaker, first
affecting the legs and ultimately the lungs and heart.
Twenty-two years ago, all in one day, the Horans learned that all
three of their boys—then 2, 4 and 6 years old—had the disease
and that none of them would probably live past high school.
“Sometimes I think about that day,” Brian says. “That was a
But the Horans have moved well beyond that tough week.
During the last six years, Brian and all three of his sons have
attended MSU Denver together. In 2011, the oldest son, Ryan,
graduated with a degree in speech communication. Brian
followed in December 2013 with a bachelor of science degree
in electrical engineering. Aaron and Ian are on target to
graduate in spring 2014. If you ask Brian how they’ve been able
to achieve so much when they have faced such overwhelming
challenges, he simply chalks it up to having the right attitude.
“I don’t believe anybody is lucky,” he says. “I think that if you
just keep a positive outlook you are able to see opportunities
where others may not.”
life became more routine after their
devastating news, Brian and Kim began to
focus on getting the boys through high school. Kim
decided to stay home while Brian launched a successful career as a service manager in the automotive
industry. He was working 65 to 75 hours a week to
make ends meet and enjoying the work immensely.
As the boys’ abilities declined and they each became
reliant on wheelchairs, Brian made all of the
accessibility changes to their home himself, saving
money on expensive construction projects.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Ryan thrived and
graduated from high school in relatively good health.
At this point, a lot of parents keep their Duchenne boys
home, concerned about growing health risks and
Because DMD weakens the heart and lungs, those
compromised organs can be the ultimate cause of death
for many boys with Duchenne. But just as often, a simple
cold can become fatal to boys whose physical resources
are so diminished. Still, the Horans started planning
“You can’t avoid the things that make life worth living,”
In their search for the appropriate school for Ryan, the
family visited MSU Denver.
“I was totally impressed,” recalls Brian. “We saw right
away at Metro that Ryan could get into every building.”
The Horans also appreciated MSU Denver’s Access
Center, which Brian says helped to “level the academic
playing field” for his sons “without babying them.”
“The Access Center does a good job of helping in
appropriate ways,” says Brian. “You need a special table?
A special desk? You need help taking a test? They can
do that. But when it comes to your personal needs, like
going to the bathroom, that’s up to you. They teach the
students that they have to be advocates for themselves,
and that matches our parenting philosophy. You can’t
sit around and feel sorry for yourself.”
Gregory Sullivan, director of the Access Center &
Testing Services, says working with the Horans has
been a rewarding partnership.
“One of the tenets of our office’s philosophy is to
empower students to become full partners in their
university experience,” says Sullivan. “I believe Brian
has instilled in his three sons that their disabilities do
not define who they are as individuals and he has not
allowed them to use their disabilities as a roadblock to
going to and succeeding in college.”
After two years at MSU Denver, Ryan had a near-death
scare. Brian says he and Kim sat down again to figure
out how to help their boys—who by now insisted that
their parents call them “the guys”—continue living the
lives they wanted. Both Aaron and Ian were going to
graduate from high school, also defying the odds,
and both were looking to follow big brother Ryan to
“We had two choices,” says Brian. “We could both get
jobs and work our butts off to afford three aides, or one
of us could help them attend college. And since the guys
were getting bigger, it was harder for Kim to help them
physically. It made more sense that it would be me.”
Brian, Ian and Aaron became Roadrunners and joined
Ryan at MSU Denver. A typical week found Brian on
campus six days, accommodating his sons’ school
schedules and tackling his own. The four would meet
between classes so that Brian could help the guys switch
books, go to the bathroom and eat lunch.
Brian also joined the MSU Denver chapter of the
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and
became the group’s treasurer.
“My sons told me that I had joined the Nerd Herd,” Brian
God gave us two great gifts:
our life and our freedom … It’s
up to us to make the best of it.
The table talk at this
Horan family gathering is
about football and plans
for Brian’s graduation.
Kim and Brian Horan push their
sons—(from left) Aaron, Ryan and
Ian—to live a life that is as normal
as possible. That includes college.
rian, who isn’t big on formalities and
grandstanding, wasn’t going to attend his
graduation ceremony. Then he thought about other
families with disabled children and he knew it might
be helpful for them to see what he had accomplished.
“I want people to know that you can do it,” Brian says.
“I know that there are parents out there who won’t let
their kid go to college because something might happen.
I can guarantee that something’s going to happen! But
that’s true with everybody. You’ve got to push to have
as normal a life as possible.”
Brian’s trailblazing ways already have inspired
others with DMD to attend MSU Denver.
Mike Douglas’ son, John, is a sophomore studying
graphic design and marketing.
“John had reservations about attending a school without
an aide,” says Douglas. “The fact that the Horan brothers
were already attending provided some affirmation
for him that he could do it. I honestly don’t believe John
would have made the initial step if not for the fact
that Brian was on campus willing to respond if John
Brian will continue to go to campus for another semester, helping Aaron and Ian finish their degrees. Kim is
earning a degree in nursing at another university, and
Brian thinks that the two of them will “sit down again
and figure it out” when they are all done with school.
In the meantime, Brian is keeping a positive attitude
and not allowing anyone to feel sorry for him—or for
“I don’t believe God has a designed path for us. Nobody
could be that sadistic to give people some of the
lives they have,” Brian says. “I believe that God gave
us two great gifts: our life and our freedom. We have
total freedom to make whatever stupid decisions
“This is the life we’re given. It’s up to us to make the
best of it.”
Alumni News + Notes
Peter Klismet Jr. (B.S. law enforcement
’70) is a former FBI agent, award-winning
author of the book “FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil,”
and professor emeritus of criminal justice at
Pikes Peak Community College. He and his
wife, Nancy, live in Colorado Springs, Colo.
William “Tony” Cook (B.M.G. business
management ’76) of Joyce, Wash., has been
working for five years to create a conscription ribbon, or a device to wear on an existing ribbon, for Vietnam War draftees. Cook
served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam after being
drafted in 1965.
Loretta Warren (B.S. health professions
’76) of Denver is a private practice holistic
healer with expertise in behavioral health.
She published a book, “Gentle Hands, Gentle
People: Healing Ourselves, Our Community,
Our Planet,” for which she won an EVVY
from the Colorado Independent Publishers
Association as well as first place at book
festivals in San Francisco and New York.
Phillip Danielson Jr. (B.S. biology ’83) is
professor of molecular forensic genetics at
the University of Denver. His work has been
featured in multiple scholarly journals.
James Lavallee (B.A. art ’84) of Denver is
a self-employed artist who makes a product
called Cobble Bots out of reclaimed electronic
machine parts. These are sold worldwide as
necklaces, zipper-pulls, cell phone charms
and other accessories.
Helen Williams (B.A. communications ’92)
is a publisher of nine books that span topics
from history to science fiction. She launched
her company, Walden Press, with a collection
of stories about former Colorado Gov. Roy
Romer, who helped establish MSU Denver.
(She worked for Romer from 1983–00.) The
book won the EVVY award from the Colorado
Independent Publishers Association. Williams
resides in Walden, Colo., and has three more
books in the process of being published.
May as a
colonel, having served for more than 20 years.
Bathrick was commissioned through the
MSU Denver ROTC program. He deployed to
combat three times—Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq—and deployed to Bosnia for
a peacekeeping operation. Bathrick received
the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star for his
service. Bathrick and his wife, Lt. Col. Stacy
Bathrick, retired together in the same ceremony and reside in the Gulf Coast area.
Johnathan Trull (B.S. criminal justice and
criminology ’98) is chief information security
officer for the state of Colorado, at the Office
of Information Technology in Denver.
Jerrold Glick (B.S. marketing ’78) is enjoying
a 32-year career in janitorial and commercial
machine sales. He works at Rasco Janitorial
Supply. Glick has been married to his wife,
Laurie, who works in a related industry, for 42
years. They live in Centennial, Colo.
Christine Losciale-Thoemmes (B.S.
human services ’02) is a writer for several
Denver-based magazines and is working on
her first children’s book. She enjoys yoga and
meditation and says she is deeply inspired
by her children and grandchildren.
Kate Meininger (B.M.E. music education
’05) is working at the International School
of Kuala Lumpur, where she teaches choir,
piano and production design. She also has
taught at the International School of Panama,
where she started a music program for its
middle and high school students. Before that,
she taught at Chatfield Senior High School
in Littleton, Colo. Meininger has traveled to
16 countries and says she’s greatly enjoying
her time abroad.
STAY CONNECTED BY
VOLUNTEERING AT MSU DENVER!
VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED FOR
> BOARDS AND COMMITTEES
> SPECIAL EVENTS
Sara O’Keefe (B.A. communication arts and
sciences ’01) is working in the health and
environmental communication and marketing
field. Since graduation she has traveled to
Central America and Eastern Europe, where
she worked and lived for a time. She resides
in Denver with her husband.
(Continued, Page 36)
Get started at
STORY BRETT MCPHERSON | PHOTO MARK WOOLCOTT
FIND tips for talking about HIV at
cott McGlothlen (B.A. sociology ’04) found out he
was HIV positive in 2007 and he has talked about
it ever since to counter the myth and suspicion surrounding the virus.
“It’s not only a disease that can kill you … but also that
has so much social stigma on top of that,” he says. “Death
no longer seems to be the main fear, but rather other
people knowing” about a person’s HIV-positive status.
And it is this fear, McGlothlen says, that hinders open
communication between partners, which otherwise
might be a powerful weapon against the spread of HIV
“A huge portion of it is the fear of judgment,” he explains.
“People don’t want to talk about the disease because
they think it makes them seem weak or inferior.”
McGlothlen contracted HIV from a friend. Medications
taken soon after exposure can reduce the chance of
becoming HIV positive, but McGlothlen didn’t ask
about his partner’s health. He wanted to avoid an
uncomfortable conversation—an approach that is all
too common, he says.
In 2011 McGlothlen started a nonprofit called Gravity
for young people living with HIV and he writes
monthly about the virus for Out Front Colorado.
He speaks at schools and churches, advocating
full disclosure by people who are HIV positive, even
in the face of concerns by an employer or partner.
“It’s kind of good to make people uncomfortable
about it, so maybe they’ll stand out and learn more,” he
says. “Without talking about it, people aren’t thinking
about it. They’re using protection less and getting
People who are HIV-free should not shy away from
dating those who are infected, McGlothlen says.
People with HIV are likely to be taking medicines
that suppress the virus, and safe sex is more often
the standard in a relationship in which HIV is openly
As for his mission to inspire more conversation about
the virus, McGlothlen says, “One of the worst things
that ever happened to me has been a catalyst for one
of the most positive things in my life … helping educate
people who don’t understand a lot about it.”
Alumni News + Notes
Hayden Smith (B.S. finance ’08) plays for the
Saracens, a professional Union Rugby team
based in London. A native of Australia, he
came to the U.S. in 2003 to play basketball
for the New York Institute of Technology and
later transferred to MSU Denver, where he
played for the Roadrunners. Smith recently
spent 18 months in the NFL with the New
York Jets but was released.
Sandra Bea (B.A. modern languages ’09)
came to Colorado in 2001 from the Democratic
Republic of Congo to continue her studies in
education. She is a French teacher and dean
of students at Global Village Academy, a
language immersion school in Aurora, Colo.
Erin Mulrooney (B.F.A. art ’10) is manager
and creative director for ArtHaus, a contemporary Denver art gallery and flex space that
emphasizes outreach and education.
Jeannette Odiorne (B.A. speech communication ’11) is a “mental toughness” coach. She
is self-employed and lives in Lakewood, Colo.
Christy Steadman (B.A. journalism ’11) is a
police and courts reporter for the Daily Record
in Cañon City, Colo. Steadman has traveled to
Mexico, Peru and Spain and says she dreams
of becoming an anthropological field reporter.
Ryan Taves (B.A. individualized degree ’13)
is a staff trainer at the University of Denver,
where he teaches classes at the Coors Fitness
Center. He has a background in martial arts
and previously worked as a physical trainer
for Campus Recreation at Auraria.
SHARE YOUR NEWS
Email your class note to
or submit an update online at
ALUMNA FINDS HEALING THROUGH ART
Artist Julie Cole (attd. 2001-08) was a junior at Columbine
High School in 1999 when two students carried out a deadly
massacre. Cole lost friends in the shooting and, she says, spent
years in therapy working through anxiety and depression.
Cole says art helped her find herself again. As she explored
her artistic side, she discovered a passion for pyrography, the
process of burning designs on wood or leather with heated
tools. Cole’s artwork includes acrylic paintings of flowers,
intricate mandalas, and whimsical or natural images burned
into a variety of wooden objects.
“It’s been a pleasure just being able to create art and be creative,”
Cole says. “I’ve been able to let go and do what feels natural. I
have a great life now.”
An exhibit of Cole’s work runs through Feb. 28 at the Thornton
Arts and Culture Center’s Oz Gallery in Thornton, Colo.
JOIN MSU DENVER ALUMNI AND FRIENDS
ON THE JOURNEY OF A LIFETIME.
PERU, FEATURING MACHU PICCHU > APRIL 24–MAY 1, 2014
ADRIATIC ANTIQUITIES: VENICE TO ATHENS > JUNE 26–JULY 9, 2014
Manage Your Time
Jim Halleck (B.S. computer management science ’87), July 2013
Steven Hoyer (B.S. mechanical
engineering ’89), July 2013
Martha On-Len Jong (B.S. mathematics ’80), September 2012
Michael Anthony (B.S. land use ’96),
Blake Russo (B.S. electronics engineering technology ’92), January 2013
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Liam Nevins
(attd. 2006–08, business finance),
killed in action, September 2013
Chris Peters (B.S. land use ’06),
Faculty and Staff
Josafat Curti was an assistant
professor in the Department of Modern Languages at MSU Denver from
1991–06. Curti served as a coordinator for the Language and Culture
Institute and took students abroad
for study in Mexico and Central
America. He died in June 2012.
Howard Flomberg (B.S. computer
and management science ’74) was a
longtime adjunct professor of management at MSU Denver. He died
in November 2013.
Fred Gillies, a Denver newspaperman
and longtime adjunct faculty member in the MSU Denver Department
of Journalism and Mass Communication, died in September 2013 at the
age of 91. Gillies was a staff sergeant
who earned the Bronze Star during
World War II and later became a staff
writer at The Denver Post. He taught
beginning reporting, beginning
editing, intermediate reporting and
feature writing at MSU Denver.
Larry Johnson, director of MSU
Denver’s Summer Science Institute
and the Center for Math, Science
and Environmental Education, died
in September 2013 following 30
years of service to the University.
Johnson was a math professor,
former chair of the mathematics
department and a former dean of the
School of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
from the Inside Out
BY VICTORIA LYNNE HANNU
Have you ever had days when you were in the zone and accomplished more than you intended?
On the flip side, have you had days when nothing seems to go
your way and you can’t seem to get in the zone no matter what
Whether you get in the zone or not depends on your expectations and what you think it means about you if you don’t meet
them. This is your personal pressure cooker. Here are steps to
help you keep your perspective, manage your time and turn the
pressure cooker off.
HAVE A PHYSICAL OR ELECTRONIC CALENDAR. The calendar
should have enough room for appointment details.
SET ASIDE TIME FOR YOU TO TAKE CARE OF YOU. If you don’t do
it, who will?
TEST YOUR CALENDAR TO SEE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. Be
creative and try different combinations of time. Keep in mind your
own natural rhythms and use them to your advantage.
ALLOCATE ENOUGH TIME FOR YOUR “TO DO” LIST. When you
give yourself inadequate time to accomplish a task, you set
yourself up to not meet your commitments to yourself. Unrealistic
deadlines are a major form of self-sabotage and stress.
NOTICE YOUR TIME WASTERS. Procrastination and avoidance
keep you from moving forward in your life. Over-scheduling is a
time waster, too. Delegate where appropriate.
IF IT FEELS DIFFICULT, STOP. When you are struggling with a
task or activity, it is time to stop, give it a rest and come back to
BE YOUR BEST FRIEND. Put your negative self-talk to rest.
HONOR YOUR TIME. Your time is as important as anyone else’s.
READ more about Liam Nevins and Howard Flomberg at
Victoria Lynne Hannu (B.S. computer and management science
’84) is an entrepreneur, CEO, executive coach and facilitator. She
takes a highly innovative and integrated approach to business
and organizational development by approaching brand and
culture alignment from the inside out.
LEARN MORE AND CONNECT with Victoria at
STORY BRETT MCPHERSON | PHOTO ANDRÉ ELBING
elly dancing is more than just a workout to alumna Eva
Cernik (B.S. biology ’76). “It’s a meditation,” she says,
and the benefits go way beyond entertaining an audience.
Before attending MSU Denver, Cernik studied ballet
at Metropolitan Opera Ballet School in New York until a
skiing injury forced her to put the ballet shoes away. But
Cernik wasn’t done dancing. Inspired by a poster in an
Armenian spice shop that pictured a woman spinning
around in a long, flowing skirt with cymbals on her fingers,
Cernik turned her passion toward raqs sharqi, also known
as belly dancing.
The woman in that poster became Cernik’s first belly
dancing instructor, and she still teaches in her Manhattan
Cernik later moved to Denver and danced at nightclubs to
practice her art and to help pay her tuition at MSU Denver.
“Every time I would dance,” she says, “the Arab students
would say, ‘You should see how it’s done in our country.’ ”
So she did. Cernik has traveled to Egypt more than 23 times,
as well as to 13 other countries, to study the folkloric roots
and cultural nuances of raqs sharqi. She has made a lifelong
career of teaching and accompanying students overseas
and performs locally at the Mercury Cafe, Mataam Fez and
other Denver venues.
The breathing required of a belly dancer and the core
undulations make what Cernik calls “The Dance” more
than just an artistic exercise. Multiple parts of the body
move independently while still in concert with each other,
igniting energy centers known as chakras, she says.
“It’s like yoga done to music,” she explains. “The aspect of
following the music adds the dimension of something from
the outside that you’re responding to internally,” referring
to the communion between the dancer and the musician.
“The Dance” also creates a bond with the audience.
Cernik recalls a performance years ago at Ridge Home, a
state-run mental hospital in Arvada, Colo., that closed in
the early 1990s. She brushed her fine silk veil on the face
of a nearly immobile patient, who reacted with a wide
smile—an expression the patient hadn’t made for more
than two years.
This is an example of what Cernik calls “veil therapy.”
And, in her view, world and corporate leaders could use
a bit of veil therapy. “It would all work out,” she says
half jokingly, “if they would seriously take on the study
of belly dance.”
STORY BRETT MCPHERSON | PHOTO MARK WOOLCOTT
osh Barhaug (B.A. hospitality, tourism and events ’10) always had a
fire in his belly for cooking, which
is why his new restaurant—where
the food is kissed by the flames of a
wood-fired oven—feeds his passion
“When someone comes up and says,
‘Wow, that dish I just ate was amazing,’ it’s an instant gratification for
me,” Barhaug says.
Barhaug, his wife, Jess, and his
business partner, Darren Pusateri,
are owners of Gallo Di Nero at 1135
Bannock St., the encore version of a
Barhaug restaurant that was badly
damaged by a fire on June 26, 2013.
Despite the setback, Barhaug held
onto his dream of owning a restaurant, which took shape while he was
working in the back of the house for
someone else. “If I’m going to be in the
kitchen,” he thought, “I might as well
have my own place.”
But what kind of place?
In search of the answer, Barhaug
and Jess traveled throughout most
of Western Europe during the
spring of 2011. At an agricultural
tourism destination in the
Piedmont region of Northern
Italy, they lodged with a farmer
whose simple and slow cooking
style made an impression on
“He used everything,” Barhaug
explains, “taking the most care of
the food and letting it shine by doing
the least to it.”
Barhaug set out to do the same at
Gallo Di Nero in Denver.
Nearly the entire menu comes out
of his wood-fired oven—a butterbasted Redbird chicken that sits
in brine overnight; a cut-to-order,
bone-in, 33-ounce rib eye steak;
a boar, elk, venison and antelope
bolognese that takes 12 hours to
cook. Everything from pizza dough
to hand-cased sausage is made from
The owners buy as much local produce as possible, and the meat comes
from eco-conscious farms. “People
are so amazed when they eat it, and
it has a lot to do with the quality of
the product,” Pusateri says. “It’s all
free-range and ethically farmed.
That makes the difference.”
Barhaug joined with Pusateri following the fire at the earlier restaurant,
which caused tens of thousands of
dollars in damage. Together, they
painstakingly created the concept for
Gallo Di Nero and hired a new staff.
“I get inspired anytime I walk into the
kitchen and get to be around other
people who cook and enjoy food,”
for culinary favorites that nourish
Josh Barhaug’s body and soul.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL D. MCCABE
STORY DOUG MCPHERSON
Meet Michael D. McCabe (B.A.
communications ’86). The “D” could
stand for doer, dedicated, differencemaker—and without a doubt—
deserving of MSU Denver’s 2014
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award.
McCabe, 61, has been making a
difference in the lives of others for
more than half a century as a Cub
Scout, Civil Air Patrol cadet, and at
age 18 as an Air Force emergency
action controller in Vietnam.
“I guess I’ve always been interested
in serving others,” he says.
When he returned from Southeast
Asia, McCabe started pre-med
studies at the University of Colorado
and worked part time as an
emergency medical technician.
“That’s when I started thinking I
could make a career in street
medicine,” McCabe says. “One thing
led to another, and I began a career
progression in the fire service.”
He says he discovered a “whole
world of opportunities” as a firefighter-paramedic, a fire department
officer, an arson investigator, an
environmental crimes investigator,
a public education specialist, and
a hazardous materials technician—
all while earning his MSU
He has since risen to the highest
echelons of emergency services,
coordinating professional development for the 1.1 million firefighters
across the country as an education
program specialist for the National
“When training and education
work together, our communities
realize the benefits of resource
sharing, reduction of redundancies
and a nationally standardized
He has been actively building
collaboration between state and
collegiate fire-training leaders. As a
result of his efforts, the National Fire
Academy launched a professional
development initiative that improves
the collegiate experience and postcollegiate competency—a move
experts say will save more citizens’
and firefighters’ lives.
“The skills I learned at MSU Denver
helped me keep my crews safer and
made me a better resource for my fire
department and community,” McCabe
says. “It also helped me to stay
focused on what was most important
in my life. While I was a student I was
also a single parent and full-time
firefighter, so juggling my time and
setting priorities became a habit.”
McCabe also shares his experience
with the University, working closely
with Brian Bagwell (B.S. human
services ’92), assistant professor of
human services at MSU Denver, to
achieve what’s known as the Fire and
Emergency Services Higher
Education recognition certificate
from the Federal Emergency
Management Agency and the
National Fire Academy. The
recognition allows students to earn
a nationally accepted certificate of
completion for each standardized
course they pass.
“This is a tremendous honor for MSU
Denver, and I know that Mike took
as much pride in the University
obtaining this national recognition
as anyone,” Bagwell says. “Mike
personifies what it means to put
others before yourself and to give
with no expectation of getting
anything back in return.”
So what’s kept McCabe in the
serving-others business all these
“I think it’s the personal pride I felt
knowing what I’m doing goes
beyond my own sphere of existence,”
McCabe says. “I believe in not
limiting myself to what I experience
today. There’s always tomorrow and
a new adventure.
“I believe in trying new ideas to affect
change and make things better,” he
adds. “There really are no bad ideas.
There may be some outcomes we
didn’t expect or desire, but at least
we learned something along the way.
Always admit to failure but never
give in to it. Find another way and
LEARN MORE about MSU
Denver’s fire courses at
MSU DENVER WILL CELEBRATE
ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY IN 2015.
We are already planning for that celebration, but we need your help!
We want ANYTHING you’ve got from your MSU Denver or Metro State experience.
Photos, report cards, fliers, T-shirts, hats, course catalogs … and we want your
memories to go along with them!
Clean your closets. Raid the attic. Scan photos from albums. Then, contact
303-556-8320 or [email protected]
Metropolitan State University of Denver has been transforming lives for half a
century. Help us honor this legacy by sharing your memories and memorabilia.
Campus Box 14
P.O. Box 173362
Denver, CO 80217
PHOTO CYRUS MCCRIMMON/THE DENVER POST
“Four of the five senses are in your head, and it’s through our senses that we interact with the world,”
MSU Denver history Affiliate Professor Beverly Chico told The Denver Post in an October interview.
Chico, author of “Hats and Headwear Around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia,” has a collection of
more than 600 hats, including the silver Miao hat pictured here. “It’s through the face and head that
emotions are expressed. So hats are one of the most important artifacts from around the world,” she said.
READ more about Beverly Chico at msudenver.edu/magazine.