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> Playing Through the Pain > Moving in the Right Direction > Something to Smile About > The Life We’re Given




OUR STUDENTS ARE MAKING PLANS 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. | 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.” —Jesus Rodriguez 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.


Following a devastating injury, former Roadrunners soccer star Courtney Ryan now shines as one of the nation’s top disabled athletes.




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 with living.










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 education. 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: happiness.

Rob and Lola Salazar hit a home run for athletics and education. Jonathon Stalls is starting a revolution at 3 mph. ‘Cultural worker’ Ashara Ekundayo champions entrepreneurial access and equity.

April Hill sees new possibilities for teaching science to blind students. Joe Quatrochi promotes fitness for all ages.

MSU Denver alumni make their mark.

Online only at 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, or email us at

Chelsey Baker-Hauck Executive Editor

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 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.




Conversation the

Facebook provides a forum for talk of transformation. We Said:

We Asked:

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 at

You Said:

You Answered:

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! —Karen Kronauge (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 ( 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. —Michele Lacey Together Colorado

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 of school! —Sandra Ramirez (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! —Kaylene Granado (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 or 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


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Campus Box 14 P.O. Box 173362 Denver, CO 80217


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> Playing Through the Pain > Moving in the Right Direction > Something to Smile About > The Life We’re Given

FALL 2013




Innovators artIsans The Rise of Denver’s Creative Class


Chain Reaction 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. Transformations

Email or call the marketing and communications office at 303-556-2957 today!

Where Hope Starts The New U A Glass ... Full

News the

MSU Denver is a university on the move.

Notable quotable


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. 04

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,

BEST FOR VETS 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 veterans’ needs.


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 energizing her. “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 Art Department. 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.



NEWS Did you know? MSU Denver offers a number of academic programs related to the mind/body/spirit connection: F A  thletic Training (major) F H  ealth Care Management (major, minor) F Human Performance and Sport (major, minor)

F Adult Fitness and Exercise Science (concentration)

FA  ddiction Studies (concentration) F Mental Health Counseling (concentration) F Integrative Therapeutic Practices (major, minor)


 ursing (major) N Philosophy (major, minor) Religious Studies (minor) Psychology (major, minor) Recreation Professions (major) T  herapeutic Recreation Services (concentration)

F G  erontology (concentration) F K-12 Physical Education (licensure, concentration)

Make the

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 BSN program. 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

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 or call 303-556-6933 for a personal consultation.


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.


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.


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 researchers—including MSU 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

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



Auraria Campus Bookstore


Holiday Inn Denver Cherry Creek

Red Robin Burger Works

Holiday Inn Lakewood

SpringHill Suites

Hotel VQ

Winter Park Resort WINTER2014



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.




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 flexible hours.” 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 Denver’s student-athletes.

“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



Statement THE

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 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.


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 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 TEDxYouth@MileHigh in April 2013, and he’s the 2014 recipient of the MSU Denver alumni STATEment Maker Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of recent graduates. “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, or follow Jonathon Stalls on Twitter @jonathonstalls. SEE more photos and watch a video about Stalls’ walk across America at magazine.



Innovator The




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. Teenage Mom. “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 gets displayed.’” 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 alma mater. “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



Visionary April Hill sees new possibilities for teaching science to blind students. STORY GREG HENRY | PHOTO TREVOR DAVIS 14


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 blind students. During post-doctoral work from 2008–10 at Pennsylvania State University, Hill­ — 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 the blind.” 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 their experiments.

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 the students.”

“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 passion.

“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 such engagements. “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 approach. “Most of the techniques that April uses and demonstrates can easily be applied to all aspects of the




Motivator Joe Quatrochi promotes fitness for all ages.


“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 waist down. “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.” 18



Through the



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 20


tournament—he offered her a scholarship to Arizona, where in fall 2012 she began studying education with an emphasis on disability studies. 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 around her.”


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 USA jersey.”

FIND a list of adaptive sports and recreation resources at




in the





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 survivorship.


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 vulnerabilities?” 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 of itself. 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. 24


(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 to prove. “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.”


—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.


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 academic support. 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 someone there.”




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 their area. “What we are doing,” Alejano-Steele says, “will absolutely inform the way the movement talks about this issue.”

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 Durango. “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 Hotline: 1-866-455-5075 National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 > 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.






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.


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 stereotyped. 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 school. 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. WINTER2014


Life We’re



Brian Horan (left) studies as he waits for his son Ian to get out of class.



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 tough week.” 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 accessibility issues. 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 for college. “You can’t avoid the things that make life worth living,” says Brian. 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 MSU Denver.

“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 says, laughing.

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 needed assistance.” 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 themselves. “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 we want. “This is the life we’re given. It’s up to us to make the best of it.”



People Alumni News + Notes the


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.


Cary Bathrick (B.A. behavioral science ’96) retired from the U.S. Army in May as a lieutenant 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.



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)



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S 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 and AIDS. “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 tested less.” 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 discussed. 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.”



People Alumni News + Notes the


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.


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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.



How to Manage Your Time

In Memory 1980s

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), September 2013 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), April 2013

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.


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 you do? 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?


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 it later. 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 or




Meditation in



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 studio. 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.”





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 so well. “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 the pair. “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 scratch.

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,” Barhaug says.

VISIT for culinary favorites that nourish Josh Barhaug’s body and soul.




Success in


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 Denver degree. 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 Fire Academy. “When training and education work together, our communities realize the benefits of resource sharing, reduction of redundancies and a nationally standardized competency-based education,” McCabe explains. 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 years? “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 become successful.”

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 Metropolitan State University of Denver has been transforming lives for half a century. Help us honor this legacy by sharing your memories and memorabilia.

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Campus Box 14 P.O. Box 173362 Denver, CO 80217

The Image


“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

Metropolitan Denver Magazine Winter 2014  

This issue of the Metropolitan Denver Magazine considers transformation as it relates to the mind, body and spirit, shared through the perso...