Laura Richardson


Laura Richardson | 1986 | Psychology

READ: Laura Richardson promoted to four-star general

General Laura J. Richardson is a native of Northglenn, Colorado and a graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado. She was commissioned into the U.S. Army and trained as an Army Aviator. She holds a Master of Science in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University’s Dwight D. Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy.

General Richardson previously served as the Commanding General of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, which is the Army Service Component Command for U.S. Northern Command. Other assignments as a General Officer include Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Chief of Army Legislative Liaison to the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C.; Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications at Headquarters International Security Assistance Force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Kabul, Afghanistan; Deputy Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas; and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command at Fort Hood, Texas.

Over her career General Richardson has commanded from the Company to Theater Army level. She commanded an Assault Helicopter Battalion in combat in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), deploying her unit from Fort Campbell, Kentucky to Iraq 2003-04, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She has also served in numerous staff assignments at a myriad of locations, including Military Aide to the Vice President at the White House in Washington, D.C., the Army’s Legislative Liaison to Congress at the U.S. Capitol, and at the Pentagon as an Army Campaign Planner.

General Richardson’s awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Defense Superior Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Legion of Merit (with three Oak Leaf Clusters), Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with four Oak Leaf Clusters), and the Air Medal (with Numeral 7). She also has various unit, service and campaign awards, and numerous badges, including the Combat Action Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Senior Army Aviator Badge, Vice-Presidential Service Badge and the Army Staff Identification Badge.

She is married to Lieutenant General (Retired) Jim Richardson and they have one daughter and a grandchild.


Mike and Rachella Seeley


Michael and Rachella Seeley | 1972 | Mathematics

Michael and Rachella Seeley attended MSU Denver (then Metropolitan State College) in the 70s, and in 1972, Michael, a first-generation student, graduated with his B.S. in Mathematics. He played on the men’s basketball team from 1969-1972 and was inducted into the Roadrunners Athletics Hall of Fame in 2014.

For over thirty years, Michael and Rachella have supported various programs and scholarships. Michael served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors from 1999-2005, on the MSU Denver Foundation Board from 2003-2005, and is a member of the Roadrunner Club, the Golden Nest Club and the President’s Society. Last year, they established the Seeley Family Foundation Scholarship, providing scholarships to Mathematics majors, Nursing majors and student-athletes.

The Seeleys enjoy the camaraderie that comes with staying involved at the University, visiting with students to encourage them and share their experiences, and helping provide them with the financial assistance they need to earn a degree. They believe that the satisfaction of helping others is worth every ounce of energy put into giving back.

Fun Fact: Michael and Rachella are part of an elite group of people who have participated in every BolderBoulder race since it began in 1979.


Adama Maia Evans


Adama Maia Evans-Segree | 2008 | Anthropology

Adama Maia Evans-Segree is a native of Denver, Colorado. She holds a BA in Anthropology with a minor in Sociology from MSU Denver and a Master’s in Library Information Science with a focus in Museum Studies from Kent State University. She comes from an academic environment with over eleven years of experience working on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

Adama’s passions are rooted in advocating for Black-identifying students in higher education. She enjoys helping support and guide prospective/current students throughout their educational journey, with the help of mentorship, and networking. She is a member of the Colorado Black Library Association where she serves as their corresponding secretary and chair of recruitment. Adama is also co-founder of MSU Denver’s newly founded Black Alumni Network (B.A.N.) where she co-chairs their recruitment committee and also serves on the MSU Denver Alumni Board of Directors.

Although Adama’s professional career has been predominantly focused on higher education administration, she has found ways to immerse herself in her community by working as an on-call librarian with Denver Public Library, working on special exhibitions at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and volunteering at yearly events such as Juneteenth and the Colorado Black Arts Festival. In her free time, Adama enjoys traveling internationally with her husband, reading, hanging out with her cat, and strengthening her photography skills.


Hadiya Evans


Hadiya Evans | 2007 | Anthropology

Hadiya is a librarian/caretaker aka supervisor of a wonderful neighborhood library branch of the Denver Public Library, with a MA and MLIS in Library Information. Her professional trajectory hasn’t been a sprint, but a marathon with pit stops that have enriched her career due to the inspiration and guidance of unofficial mentorship. With over 15 years in the library game, she has experience ranging from volunteer to library event & program planner to librarian.

She is the current President of the Colorado Black Library Association, an affiliate of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Her community work has taken a recent interest in supporting and growing the newly minted Black Alumni Network (B.A.N.) an affiliate of the Metropolitan State University of Denver Alumni Association.

A long-standing fan of fantasy and sci-fi and a self-proclaimed blerd, she is one-third of the coolest trio of sibling librarians.


Garrett Chism


Garrett Chism | 2006 | Health Care Management

Garrett Chism is a dedicated healthcare leader with 30 years of experience. Garrett trained and worked as a Paramedic in Los Angeles, then moved to Denver, Colorado to work with the Denver Health Paramedic Division. He has served in a variety of roles in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) including field trainer, dispatcher, educator, administrator, speaker, and author.

He transitioned into hospital administration, working for Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colorado, shortly after it opened. Garrett was responsible for EMS, trauma, and disaster preparedness. This work included oversight of EMS and Trauma medical direction, quality improvement, and education throughout the region. He is an active participant at both regional and state stakeholder groups and has received commendations in the field including EMS innovation, trauma and disaster preparedness best practices.

In 2010, Garrett returned to academia as affiliate faculty in the Health Care Management program at MSU Denver, from which he is an alum. In 2020, Garrett transitioned to academia full-time as the Director for the Master of Health Administration program at Metropolitan State University Denver. He serves on a variety University committees including graduate council, the health institute, and the College of Health and Human Services.

Garrett is an active participant in local, regional, and national health care administration education groups. In 2022, MSU Denver College of Health and Human Services recognized Garrett with the Collaboration award. In addition to academia, he continues to work as a Paramedic for the STAR program in Denver. He volunteers as an advisory board member for the Denver Medical Study Group, and the National Association of Latino Health Care Executives.

Garrett studied and received a bachelor’s degree in Health Care Management from MSU Denver, and a master’s degree in Business from Regis University. He is currently pursuing his fellowship with the American College of Healthcare Executives.

He enjoys spending his free time with his family and friends. “The girls” Julia, Reese, and Chloe are the center of his world, along with Bintu and Zulu (Goldendoodles) and Hank, Skylar, Tuff Puff, and Neville Nigel Otis the 1st (Cats)… also known as the “fur children”.


10 Under 10 Award Winners

Horacio Borja-Duran

Horacio Borja-Duran | 2019 | Modern Languages

In 2012, MSU Denver and the Board of Trustees at the time approved a special tuition rate for undocumented students after the ASSET bill failed at the state level, creating an opportunity for students like Horacio to pursue their education at a more affordable level.

Starting his journey as a first-generation college student and immigrant, Horacio found his passion for higher education utilizing his Deferred Action work permit to get a job on campus. He took on several campus leadership opportunities including establishing Rise, a student organization aimed at empowering immigrant and undocumented students at MSU Denver. In 2017, Horacio won the Auraria Cesar Chavez Peace and Justice Leadership Award, highlighting his personal and academic achievements in the realm of equity and justice work on the Auraria Campus.

As a professional staff member with MSU Denver, Horacio has worked with the Orientation Team in numerous capacities, and most recently was awarded the Staff Impact Practice Award from CoCEAL (The Colorado Coalition for the Educational Advancement of Latinxs), in recognition of his work advancing academic and social success for Latinx students in Colorado higher education.

His passions are advocacy, building community, sparking joy, and family above all else. His greatest inspirations are his mother and father who gave up more than most would for a chance at a better life, and his wife and child who are his entire world.


Justin Darnall

Justin Darnall | 2019 | Aerospace Systems Engineering (Individualized Degree Program)

READ: Justin Darnall wants to get humans back to the moon — and beyond

Justin began his career in the Marine Corps as a KC-130J/Harvest Hawk Quality Assurance Mechanic and a Marine Corps Martial Arts instructor. After bouncing between jobs and universities, he found a home and passion at MSU Denver. During his time at MSU Denver, he helped fellow students and veterans in the registrars office and Veteran Certification Office. Justin was also a senator and then president of the Student Government Association. He also was named the 2017 ACE Student of the Year and graduated in 2019 with a 4.0 GPA in Aerospace Systems Engineering.

Justin began working for Rocket Lab where her was the Director of Technology and the Program Manager of the DARPA Blackjack Pit Boss program where he spent four years developing full scale constellation autonomy that will keep safety on the earth by monitoring for missile launches and provide RF technology such as geo-location services and streams for the military across the Earth. This mission recently launched on the Transporter-8 launch.

Recently, Justin recently started at Blue Origin as the Senior Manager of Software Development, Testing & Deployment. He is supporting the NASA SLD mission to return humans to the moon, this time to stay. He also serves on the MSU Denver Alumni Board of Directors and is very engaged with the university, speaking to classes and students, supporting alumni efforts, attending event, and hiring MSU Denver alums.


Sarena Espinoza

Sarena Espinoza | 2018 | Sport Management

Sarena is originally from Southern California and made her way to Denver on a softball scholarship. She was the first person in her family to get a degree. In four years at MSU Denver she earned her BA in Sport Management and minored in Sports Media.

Working in sports has always been a dream of hers and the opportunity to work in baseball originated when the Colorado Rockies and MSU Denver decided to partner on a 50/50 raffle at Coors Field. She joined the Rockies in April of 2018, during the establishment of the program. She is part of a program that has raised over $3 million since inception and is now Community Affairs Manager for the Colorado Rockies. In her expanded role, she oversees the 50/50 Raffle, Youth Baseball and Softball Camp, and family room operations.

One of her proudest moments in her career was in 2022 when she organized the first-ever Youth Softball Camp at Coors Field with USA Softball. She also enjoys getting the opportunity to work with MSU Denver students to raise funds each game with the 50/50 Raffle.

Sarena is in her sixth season with the Colorado Rockies and also sits on the MSU Denver Alumni Board of Directors and continues to make an impact in the Colorado community and with MSU Denver.


Yvonne Garcia Bardwell

Yvonne Garcia Bardwell | 2016 | Modern Languages

Yvonne Garcia Bardwell is an accomplished professional known for her exceptional contributions to community engagement and inclusivity. Currently serving as the Associate Director of Community Relations at Denver Botanic Gardens, she brings over 12 years of experience spearheading impactful initiatives that foster connections and positive change. Yvonne’s dedication to diversifying the Gardens’ outreach has led her to cultivate strong relationships with various community organizations across the Front Range. Her commitment to cross-cultural communication is evident through her academic pursuits in international and Spanish-language marketing.

Prior to her role at Denver Botanic Gardens, Yvonne’s journey encompassed two transformative years of AmeriCorps service. As a Team Leader for NCCC, she showcased her leadership skills in diverse settings, followed by her impactful role as a VISTA for Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, highlighting her commitment to environmental stewardship and community enhancement.

Yvonne’s involvement extends to MSU Denver, where she collaborates on initiatives like Dia de los Muertos and leverages the Gardens’ Latino community activity and MSU Denver’s HSI status. She has also shared her expertise at conferences, presenting the collaborative “veggie box” project developed with the Industrial Design program to improve access to fresh vegetables in food desert areas. Through her work at the One World One Water (OWOW) Center, jointly run by MSU Denver and Denver Botanic Gardens, Yvonne serves as a valuable sounding board for community engagement initiatives locally and globally.

As an advocate for positive change, Yvonne has established herself as a bridge-builder, fostering inclusivity, education, and collaboration. Her impact is underscored by her leadership in launching community engagement programs, such as the Clinton Family Fund Go2Gardens Free Shuttle Program and the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration. Yvonne’s reputation as a trusted collaborator has led to authentic partnerships with a diverse range of individuals and organizations, resulting in innovative programming and opportunities. Her involvement in various board memberships, including the Colorado Historical Foundation and the American Public Gardens Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, & Accessibility Committee, further exemplify her commitment to meaningful community impact.


Diana Ibarra

Diana Ibarra | 2013 | Management

As an undergraduate student, Diana connected with other Roadrunners through her involvement in fraternity and sorority Life, the Urban Leadership Program, and the College Assistant Migrant Program. As a first-generation student Diana understood the opportunities a postsecondary education creates and is now committed to contributing to the creation of pathways for others in her community to access higher education.

Diana has held a variety of roles at MSU Denver from interning in the Dean of Students Office to serving as Assistant Director of the Center for Multicultural Engagement and Inclusion (CMEI). She was responsible for leading, planning and coordinating many signature events like Convocation, Fall Fest, Spring Fling, and the Auraria Campus Welcome Week.

As an alum, Diana has given back in an advisory role to student organizations. Serving as the interim Fraternity and Sorority Life Multicultural Greek Council advisor and advising the student Homecoming planning committee are some of her most memorable moments of work in the CMEI.

Diana is now the Assistant Director of Donor Relations for the MSU Denver University Advancement division. She supports fund management efforts and strategic donor engagement activities. Diana is passionate about creating opportunities to increase access and inclusion of historically underrepresented and marginalized student populations in higher education.


Abby Lundien

Abby Lundien | 2017 | Brewery Operations

READ: On a highway to ale

READ: Sandlot Brewery at Coors Field hires first female brewer in 28-year history

LISTEN: Abby’s episode of the Bird Talk podcast

Abby Lundien was a member of the 2017 inaugural graduating class—and the first female graduate—of MSU Denver’s Brewery Operations program. She is currently a “brewess” at the Sandlot Brewery at Coors Field, also the first woman on staff at the brewhouse. This year she created the recipe for the Rockies’ 30th anniversary beer, the Sandlot Summer Session.

She got started in brewing with several local breweries at Bruz Beers, a local Belgian specialist, and Great Divide, a national distributor. She then moved on to an internship at MillerCoors in Trenton, Ohio, during her time at MSU Denver, leading to her career at Molson Coors, where she has also worked for subsidiary Blue Moon Brewing Co.

Abby, a native of Brighton, Colorado, also has a 2013 teaching degree in Earth Science and Secondary Education from the University of Northern Colorado. After teaching in a 7th grade classroom for six months, she decided she wanted a career change that aligned with her passions and enrolled at MSU Denver.


Isahar Mendez-Flores

Isahar Mendez-Flores | 2018 | Music Education

Isahar Mendez-Flores, Mariachi Director, Executive Director and Co-founder of the Colorado Youth Mariachi Program is a Latinx first generation MSU alumni from Commerce City. Her mariachi journey began as a violinist at Adam City High School, where she first gained the opportunity to express her respect and appreciation for her roots as a Mexican immigrant student.

Isahar’s violin studies truly started at Metropolitan State University of Denver where she received lessons from the prestigious violinist Dr. Emily Ondracek-Peterson and guidance from a number of amazing MSU Music faculty. Isahar’s classical violin experience includes performances in Metro State’s String Sinfonietta ensemble, Symphony Orchestra and chamber ensembles. In 2013, Isahar founded and directed the student lead group Mariachi Los Correcaminos de MSU Denver. This project later inspired the creation of MSUs first ever Mariachi ensemble offered for credit at the university.

During her time at MSU, Isahar worked towards a degree in Music Education and volunteered or worked to assist a number of mariachi programs across Denver. She also balanced a busy work life juggling three part-time jobs. In 2016, Isahar and her now husband and partner, Victor Becerra, founded Colorado’s first youth mariachi program in her backyard with seven students. The youth mariachi program became an official non-profit organization in 2019 and has served over 100 students from various backgrounds and skill levels. The Colorado Youth Mariachi Program mission is to inspire youth in the art of music making and mariachi culture.

Isahar is inspired and passionate about teaching mariachi music and envisions a program that she once longed for as an adolescent. Her inspiration comes from the mentors who have guided her mariachi education journey and her peers who have shaped her vision. Isahar currently dedicates her time to the growing non-profit organization as a full-time mom. She and her husband love to share their love for mariachi with their two-year old daughter.


Brenda Rodriguez-Vera

Brenda Rodriguez-Vera | 2021 | Marketing

Brenda Rodriguez-Vera is a dynamic individual whose journey is rooted in her identity as a first-generation immigrant Latina and DACA recipient. Hailing from Denver, her story is one of determination and resilience, as she continues to nurture her ties to the state of Colorado. Armed with a BS in Marketing and a Sales Certification, Brenda’s educational background reflects her dedication to merging her passion for helping others with the world of business.

Brenda’s path took shape when she discovered the realm of marketing, a domain where she could seamlessly blend her desire to make a positive impact on others with her aptitude for sales. Currently, she holds a prestigious role at ADP as an Elite District Manager and Business Consultant. Her responsibilities go beyond mere transactions; they involve collaborating with minority business owners who are ardent about making the right moves for their enterprises and require a more attentive strategy to facilitate growth.

In her capacity, Brenda works closely with these business owners, many of whom belong to her own community, providing them with invaluable expertise and strategic consultation tailored to their unique circumstances. Her deep-seated passion for her work shines through as she addresses the needs of those who might not have had direct access to the help and support, they are seeking.

Notably, Brenda’s achievements are emblematic of her unwavering commitment to excellence. In her first year at ADP, she earned the esteemed “Rockie of the Year” award, a testament to her outstanding performance and dedication. Her second year marked an even more remarkable milestone as she attained the pinnacle of her career: the exclusive President’s Club. This award is reserved for top performers within companies, highlighting Brenda’s exceptional skills, results, and her hard work.

Brenda Rodriguez-Vera’s story is one of triumph over challenges, a narrative that inspires those who cross her path. With her remarkable fusion of passion, expertise, and empathy, she continues to elevate herself and those around her, leaving an indelible mark on the world of business and beyond. Her commitment to uplifting minority business owners, and her genuine dedication to their growth, showcases the power of her impact on the community she serves.


Ezequiel Villanueva-Ruiz

Ezequiel Villanueva-Ruiz | 2022 | Cyber Security Certificate

Global Green Community Organizer Ezequiel Villanueva Ruizl is a Ph.D. Candidate in Horticulture from the University of Guelph in Canada. He also holds a Master’s in Horticulture from the Postgraduate College in Mexico, a Bachelor’s in Plant Science from the Autonomous University of Chapingo in Mexico, and received his Cyber Security Certificate from MSU Denver.

Ezequiel has been involved with several education and horticulture organizations. He is a certified Greenhouse grower by the Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association (CNGA), Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, AmericanHort, American Society for Horticultural Science, North American Agricultural Advisory Network, and International Society for Horticultural Science.

He has received grants and awards for developing sustainable greenhouse, hydroponics, and aquaponics systems. He’s also received recognitions like the Exemplary Service Award February 3, 2022, by CNGA. He is a bilingual English/Spanish educator in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the U.K. with over 20+ years of experience teaching science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) subjects to students from diverse backgrounds. Ezequiel holds a Professional Teacher License endorsed in Science, Elementary Education, Agriculture and Renewable Natural Resources, Spanish, and Culturally & Linguistically Diverse Education from the Colorado Department of Education. He was selected to participate with MindSpark and MSU as STEMpath. This is a graduate-level STEM and Computer Science certificate for educators at all grade-levels and disciplines. STEMpath builds critically needed STEM teaching capacity to increase career and college readiness for all students.

Ezequiel has taught Spanish, science, coding, robotics, and horticulture classes at the high school and university levels. He incorporates technology into his lessons and utilizes methods like project-based learning and Invention and Innovation Education.

He has participated in many professional development conferences and workshops focused on STEAM education, including events by the National Science Teachers Association, International Society for Technology in Education, International Technology & Engineering Educators Association, Master Teacher of Invention and Intellectual Property (MTIP) by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). He’s also a mentor for The Zero Barriers in STEM Education: Accessibility and Inclusion initiative by the Smithsonian Science Education and works for Americas for Conservation + the Arts (AFC+A) as Chief Promotores Verdes Horticulturist.


Kayla Wright-Jackson

Kayla Wright-Jackson | 2017 & 2019 | Master’s in Health Administration

READ: Tech startup has prescription for ailing health care workforce pipeline

Kayla Wright-Jackson is a transformative leader in the healthcare industry. Hailing from Denver, Colorado, her dedication to healthcare is rooted in personal experience. The loss of her grandfather in 2013, due to inadequate home health care, galvanized her commitment to invoke change. To amplify her mission, she pursued and achieved her Master’s Degree in Health Administration from MSU Denver.

In 2019, Kayla made a strategic move to Atlanta, Georgia, embracing a leadership role in human resources at a home-health organization. It was here that she grappled with the complexities of recruiting vital talent, especially against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her innovative vision led to the creation of Transition, a groundbreaking venture designed to revolutionize healthcare recruitment. Transition seeks to empower healthcare professionals and recruiters, enhancing the alignment of talent and opportunity, and in turn, elevating patient care standards.

With her relentless determination and pioneering approach, Kayla secured her place on the esteemed Forbes 30 Under 30 list. Kayla’s work continues to touch lives, mend gaps and reshape the very foundation of healthcare for generations to come.