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Professor’s Room: Jessica Ritter, Ph.D.

An occasional series that explores the inner sanctums of academia – because clever people have interesting spaces.

By Siet Wright

November 18, 2019

Jessica Ritter in her office.

Jessica Ritter, Ph.D., professor, Social Work, has taught in higher education for 15 years. She loves dark movies, shares a birthday with Lyndon Johnson (and has what she calls a longstanding obsession with the former president) and has found her dream job here at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“It is such a privilege to teach students who pursue a career of service and want to do such good in the world,” Ritter said. “Mentoring students is one of the great joys of my life. Plus, I get to be in college for the rest of my life, which is pretty rad.”

Also rad: Ritter’s cozy, colorful and quirky office space in the Central Classroom Building. Step inside!

1. This painting by Austin artist Kiki Suarez is called “Many Strong and Beautiful Women.” It spoke to me because I bought it when I first discovered feminism, and I’ve carried it with me to Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; and Austin. It’s a part of my history.

2. The Lyndon B. Johnson cutout was an end-of-the-semester gift from a class of MSW students, who picked up on my admiration for him. I lived in Austin, Texas (LBJ’s home state) for 16 years and have a special affinity for him because of his vast array of progressive legislation such as Medicaid, Medicare and federal funding for education and higher education.

3. Famous social worker Francis Perkins is an architect of the Social Security Act and is one of those famous people that everyone should know but so few do. Students gave me this mug because I am such a fan of hers. It is very special to me.

4. This signed picture was also a gift from my students. The photo is of me in a wax museum in Amsterdam with a few of my social-justice heroes: Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. The students all wrote personal messages of gratitude for me, which made me feel loved and very special.

5. I discovered strings of light when I lived in Portland. It’s so dreary there, and I needed something cheerful to brighten my space. I used to think they could only come out during the holidays, but then I realized that I would rather enjoy them all year.

6. I have published two books. “101 Careers in Social Work,” co-authored with MSU Denver Assistant Professors Ann Obermann, Ph.D., and Kristin Danhoff, Ph.D., was my first book. It educates readers about the endless career paths for those who earn a degree in social work. My other book, “Social Work Policy Practice,” is a textbook used by social-work-policy professors across the U.S. It teaches students how to engage in political advocacy by getting legislation passed at the local, state or federal levels.

7. Heart-stones (and the corresponding cards) are good for class icebreakers. There is a different word associated with each card or stone, such as gratitude, balance, courage, joy, humor, healing, wellness, compassion, etc. I pass them around to students as a way to discuss what meaning these words have in their life and mission as social workers. It ends up being a cool experience that we share together.

If your faculty colleagues surround themselves with outrageous objects, alluring artwork or noteworthy knickknacks, please email with the subject line “Professor’s Room” to see them featured (or to nominate yourself).


Topics: Professor's Room

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