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January 2019 Newsletter

Roadrunners Transforming Lives

Following the Road to Career Success with MSU Denver Alumna Brooke Layman

MSU Denver alumna Brooke Layman is deeply motivated to help people.

When Layman came to MSU Denver, she sought the assistance of the Individualized Degree Program (IDP) to customize a degree that would cultivate her passion for making a difference in other’s lives. Together, they developed the exact program she was looking for by focusing on her previous studies in psychology, business, marketing and holistic health.

“My experience at MSU Denver was amazing,” she says. “Online and evening classes made it possible for me to work full-time and handle a full class load.”

During her final year of classes, Layman spent her time on campus making lasting relationships with other students and professors.

“I’m grateful to the University for providing me with a customized, empowering education,” she says.

After graduating in 2009, Layman struggled to find work in her field due to the recession and worked for several years as an independent contractor. In 2014, she accepted a position in operations and marketing with McGee Productivity Solutions (MPS). Layman quickly realized she found what she was looking for in a workplace and was excited to work with clients and facilitate seminars.

“Within two days of starting with MPS I could see that the work we do with clients is more than impactful – it is life-changing,” she says. “It is a privilege to witness the transformations taking place every day.”

Layman’s work at MPS allows her to touch the lives of others on a daily basis by promoting corporate wellness and supporting individuals to achieve their professional and personal goals.

“Facilitating change for others has changed my life,” she says.  

The Alumni Association recently partnered with Laymen and McGee Productivity Solutions to offer alumni a six-part productivity seminar series entitled The Road to Career Success: A Productivity Seminar Series. The series began in January with Personal Goal Setting and February’s session will focus on Time Management Basics. Register today and join Layman, fellow Roadrunners and the Alumni Association on the road to success.  

Roadrunners Transforming Lives

Alumna encourages girls to embrace their natural selves and STEAM

By Lynne Winter ‘17 

Alumna Analise Harris moved to Denver in 2011 as a City Year Denver Founding Corp Member. Upon her arrival, she pursued an alternative teaching license at MSU Denver and earned her master’s degree in special education in 2014.

“MSU Denver had a great reputation and we had expert teachers teaching us,” said Harris. “Out of the 25 students who were part of my special education cohort, all of them stayed teachers – it says a lot for the support and instruction we received.”

As an educator, Harris noticed an issue: girls of color were struggling in the classroom and teachers did not know how to work with them. She witnessed students receiving extreme punishments, being teased for having bad hair days and asking for hair ties or keeping their hair covered. In response, Harris founded Curls on the Block in 2016 with the mission of empowering girls of “all curls and colors.”

“Girls often struggle with lacking identity and self-esteem,” said Harris. “I want to encourage them to be proud of who they are.”

Curls on the Block’s curriculum encourages girls to embrace, explore and empower their natural selves, and increases their engagement, investment and commitment to careers in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). Students participate in research projects and learn about the contributions women of color have made to STEAM through the lens of beauty.

“I want to meet these young ladies where they are, and they are interested in how they present themselves to the world,” said Harris. “When they learn the science or engineering behind making hair care products or makeup, it gets them involved in an industry where women have historically lacked a voice.”

Creative learning takes place in a nurturing environment where girls gain confidence in their abilities and themselves. Harris stresses the importance challenging the stereotypes of what an engineer or scientist “looks like” by fostering the talents and strengths of her students. For example, later this year, girls will be invited to a Black Doll Affair – an escape room event where they will be asked to put together circuits and solve code to find a key that gives them access to a Barbie doll.  

In addition to overseeing Curls on the Block as president and founder, Harris is an adjunct instructor at the Community College of Denver, an opportunity she attributes to earning her master’s degree at MSU Denver. “When you invest in yourself, cool experiences present themselves,” she said.

Harris is optimistic about the future of Curls on the Block as the organization continues to grow. Over the next year, there will additional escape room events, the Miss Curly Self-eSTEAM Pageant. three months of programming in Washington, D.C., and more  

“It is so important to have dreams,” said Harris. “We have a responsibility to bring others up and show them the doors that lead to infinite possibilities.”

Learn more about Curls on the Block at and the Alternative Licensure Program at MSU Denver at

Roadrunners Transforming Lives

Adam Alleman - Owner of The Game Lounge, Founding Member of Good Business Colorado

Adam Alleman (social work ’04), the owner of The Game Lounge, discovered MSU Denver when working as a recreational and leisure instructor for people with developmental disabilities. Inspired to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work after completing a certificate program, he was an active member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and served on the Professor of the Year committee. As part of the committee, Allenman initiated the Social Work Professor of the Year award and presented its inaugural award to now-Colorado State Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp.

While working on his business plan for The Game Lounge, Alleman discovered Good Business Colorado (GBC). Alleman felt that GBC’s mission connected to his social work background – valuing strong communities, thriving economies and sustainable environmental practices – and he became a founding member. He serves on the GBC policy committee and is especially proud of lobbying in front of the Business Affairs and Labor Committee and its chair – Tracy Kraft-Tharp.

Alleman views The Game Lounge – a beautifully appointed restaurant inherited from four generations of restauranteurs – as a social work institution disguised as a business - a community space for fun. The Game Lounge collaborates with community agencies and provides a supportive environment for its employees – after a year, they will be eligible for a small percentage of ownership.

The Game Lounge provides a creative environment for any size group, using games, music, food and drink to encourage human interaction. With hundreds of hand-selected games, a curated library of vinyl records, a menu of local and sustainable food, and unique brews and cocktails to satisfy any craving, there is truly something for everyone at The Game Lounge. Open for lunch and dinner, the kitchen does its best to order locally and organic when possible, and they are committed to being zero-waste and Green Denver-certified.

Stop into The Game Lounge today and see how a fellow Roadrunner is transforming lives!

The 25 Mile Alumni Engagement Campaign will be stopping at The Game Lounge in November - keep an eye on the event page for registration information. Learn more about The Game Lounge at 


James Van Dyke ‘16 – Director of Operations and Ticketing, Helena Brewers Baseball Club

Growing up in the heart of Vail Valley, James Van Dyke (human performance and sport ‘16) dreamed of playing professional sports. Unfortunately, his early years in higher education were "grim and distressing.” Cut from the Otero Junior College baseball team during his first fall semester, he transferred to Front Range Community College where he never made it to class.

“It seemed unfair that I had to retake high school courses to be placed in for-credit classes and it was obvious to me that I couldn’t be successful going twice a week,” said Van Dyke. “At 18 years old I was not as wise as I believed myself to be.”

During the summer of 2012, he and his parents had some serious conversations about what he truly wanted to do with his life.

Everything changed when he discovered the Sports Management program (then Sports Industry Operations) at MSU Denver. Coming from a team-oriented, sports-junkie life, what more could he ask for?

In 2015, he was sitting in class, listening to Professor Must lecture when the topic turned to Minor League Baseball – a career choice he had not considered. “I couldn’t have named ten major league teams, but I was enticed,” he said. “It offered an opportunity to be involved with baseball.”  

At his own expense, Van Dyke took a chance and flew to Nashville, Tennessee, for the Winter Meetings – along with 500 other college students and graduates. He passed out more than 85 resumes, hoping to get just one interview. The experience was intimidating, but it paid off. He received two phone interviews – one with a food distribution company and one with the Helena Brewers.

Van Dyke is now the proud Director of Operations and Ticketing for the Helena Brewers Baseball Club (MiLB). This season, he also joined Reach Air Medical and the MAKE-A-WISH Foundation.

“We gave two kids a first-class helicopter tour over the Helena Valley and they threw out the ceremonial first pitch,” said Van Dyke. “Their smiles make every final, paper, pop quiz and group project, worth it!”

Van Dyke credits MSU Denver Professors Nicole Furuiye, Colleen Colles and Emily Must, and best friends Tim Jenkins, John Wermeling and Kevin Baker, with transforming his life.

“My classmates and I were from different backgrounds, but we came together for four amazing years I'll never forget,” said Van Dyke. “They made me feel like I belonged and was part of something bigger than myself.”

Learn more about the Helena Brewers at

To say that award-winning artist and MSU Denver alumna Teresa Castaneda (art '90) is passionate about art is an understatement. Her love for creating began before prior to joining the MSU Denver Art Department at the age of 15 and only grew from there.

A recycling activist and founder of ReArranging Denver - a zero use self-sustaining project that has engaged over 50,000 people, connecting communities to their local business and neighboring cities through creative reuse workshops, installations and events - Castaneda has been bringing her excitement for found-object art to burgeoning artists around Denver for more than ten years. 

She was named a Westword Colorado Creative in 2017, participated in the National Endowment for the Arts 50th Anniversary celebration and, most recently, shared her story in an Americans for the Arts blog post.

Learn more about Teresa and her art on her blog,

Are you a Roadrunner transforming lives? We want to hear about it. If you would like us to feature your story in an upcoming newsletter, email 

LearnOn Transforms Lives Continued...

Serendipitously, LearnOn was offering a class about career transitions.

"I registered and attended class semi-begrudgingly," admits Kate. "I gave myself all of the reasons in the world why I "couldn't" go to class. 1. It was wintertime 2. I was already working full-time  3. To get to class after work I would have to pass within a BLOCK of home....and JUST KEEP WALKING! Pure torture! 4. I already had a bachelor's degree and, really, shouldn't that be enough learning for the rest of my life?"

Ultimately, none of the excuses made a difference, and Kate found that consistently attending class was a game-changer.

"Our instructor, Dr. Bridgette Coble (Director of the Office of Career Services), was profoundly committed to helping each student succeed," Kate says. "At the end of the course, I mentioned to her that I had realized that the field of Human Resources was a career track that interested me."

Life has a way of surprising us when we least expect it and sometimes the pieces just fall into place - as they did for Kate when she discovered that the HR department on campus was hiring.

"I interviewed, toured the office, met the team and started in a classified hourly position within two weeks," she says. "Since then, I have joined the team as a full-time administrative employee and continue to benefit from that privilege every day!"

So often, we stand in our own way. Looking something different but ignoring the path that will lead to it. When we overcome our own resistance, when we get out of our own way, amazing things can happen. Transform your own life today and take a LearnOn class at MSU Denver!

Class Notes

Nothing “Bugs” Alumni After 25 Years

It was easy for Hercules ‘Eric’ Papadeas (B.S. management ’79) to choose to attend Metropolitan State University of Denver – between the affordable tuition and added benefit of living at home, the price was right! What followed was five fun-filled years making friends and racing between buildings in true Roadrunner spirit to take business classes that would turn an ambitious young man into an entrepreneur.

These days, Papadeas asks the residents of Tempe, Arizona, to pester him before ‘they’ pester them. From ants to roaches and even scorpions, he has spent the last 25 years protecting home and commercial properties from the threat of infestation and in April 2018, his business, Pest’R Us Exterminating will be celebrating their 25th anniversary.

Congratulations to alumni Hercules ‘Eric’ Papadeas on 25 years of success and transforming lives!


Thank You for Your Service, Master Chief Daniel M. Jeffords

Master Chief Daniel M. Jeffords (B.S. marketing ’89) was honored in a special retirement ceremony at U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Savannah on September 22, 2017.

After enlisting in the Air Force in 1982, at the age of 20, Jeffords completed tours at Myrtle Beach AFB, King Salmon Air Base and Lowry AFB. In 1986, he separated from active duty and entered the Air National Guard, transferring to Buckley AFB and advancing to the rank of Staff Sergeant while simultaneously working on completing his undergraduate degree at MSU Denver.

In August 1990, Jeffords was recalled to active duty for Operation Desert Shield/Storm, serving as the unit’s NCOIC. In January of 1991, upon completion of his tour, he found his “calling” in the Coast Guard and entered boot camp at Cape May, trading in his rank of Staff Sergeant for that of Seaman. After graduation, he served as a mess cook and the Master Helmsman on the USCGC Madrona; a 180-foot buoy-tender moored at Base Charleston.

During his career, Master Chief Jeffords accrued over 3,500 flight hours in the Coast Guard’s C-130 aircraft. His awards include: The Coast Guard Commendation Medal, 2 Coast Guard Achievement Medals, Air Force Achievement Medal, 6 Coast Guard Commandant's Letter of Commendation Ribbons, the Coast Guard Presidential Unit Citation, and many more.

In June of 2014, Jeffords took over as Command Master Chief at Air Station Savannah where he served until September 2017.

Master Chief Daniel Jeffords, we are thankful to you for your service to our country – you truly embody the Roadrunner spirit!

If you would like to be featured in our "Class Notes" section of the Roadrunner Report, email If your story is chosen, we will send you an MSU Denver Alumni goodie bag!

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