MSU Denver

Spring 2022 Ceremony Speakers

Morning Ceremony Keynote Speaker: Rep. Leslie Herod

Representative Leslie Herod was elected in 2016 as the first LGBTQ African American in the Colorado General Assembly. Since then, she has passed over 100 bills, addressing criminal justice reform, mental health, addiction, youth homelessness, and civil rights protections.

Photo of Leslie Herod

Some of her signature work includes:

  • Ending cash bail for minor offenses
  • De-felonizing drug possession
  • Giving every Colorado newborn a $100 college kickstarter account
  • Providing free menstrual hygiene products to inmates in Colorado’s prisons and jails
  • Passing a comprehensive police accountability bill following the highly public murder of George Floyd, and the nationwide movement that followed

In addition to winning reelection in 2018, Herod championed a ballot initiative – Caring for Denver – that raises $35 million annually for mental health and substance abuse treatment and services for children and adults. Herod serves as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and is a member of the powerful Joint Budget Committee.

Afternoon Ceremony Keynote Speaker: Yolanda Ortega

Yolanda Ortega has been a Denver resident since 1972, the same year she began working at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Since her retirement from MSU Denver as vice president of Student Affairs, Yolanda has remained active in the community and at MSU Denver.

Photo of Yolanda Ortega

Yolanda has served on several community groups including Boards of Directors for Escuela Tlatelolco, a Latino Montessori K – 12 private school, Clínica Tepeyac, CHAC LARASA, and The Color of Justice, Inc., a non-profit, non-partisan organization that provided legal advocacy for communities of color in Denver.  Yolanda was the Governor’s appointee to the Auraria Higher Education Center Board of Directors and appointee for the Denver Mayor’s Commission on Cultural Affairs and the Denver Latino Commission.  She currently serves on the Firefly Autism Board of Directors.

Yolanda has been an actor, director, and musician with Su Teatro Cultural & Performing Arts Center and Company based in Denver for 45 years.   Her work with Su Teatro has allowed her to have a voice about those issues she feels passionate  — education, access to health, the arts and justice and equality for all groups.  Yolanda also co-hosts Cancion Mexicana on KUVO 89.3 FM on Sunday mornings.  She loves hosting this popular public-supported show because the music (the Mejicana Classics, Tejano and New Mexican) feeds her musical soul.

Yolanda graduated from Arkansas State University with a BA in History and German.  She spent a year studying at the Universidad de Madrid in Spain.  She has a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Colorado Denver.