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Congratulations to outstanding programs and educators, staff leaders and inspiring alumni.

By Lindsey Coulter

November 2, 2020

Rowdy giving thumbs up and standing in front of Student Success Building.In addition to Faculty Citings, the Early Bird shines a spotlight each month on the accomplishments of Metropolitan State University of Denver students, alumni, faculty and staff.

If we missed an award, accolade or opportunity to celebrate an accomplishment big or small, please email us at

Prestigious programs

This past summer, named MSU Denver No. 3 on its best online health-management degrees list and No. 10 on its list of the best online bachelor’s degrees in health care administration. To create the rankings, EduMed researched more than 7,700 accredited schools using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and from the institutions themselves. The EduMed data-science team then applied a proprietary algorithm to rank all qualifying schools according to seven core metrics. Universities with the best combinations of online learning opportunity, affordability and student support earned top honors. To qualify, a school must offer its health care programs at least partially online and hold active regional accreditation.

MSU Denver has been included in Washington Monthly’s 2020 Best Colleges for Student Voting Honor Roll. The list includes institutions that have displayed a repeated commitment to increasing student voting and have been transparent about the results.

MSU Denver was also named to Campus Pride Index’s National Listing of LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities. Since 2007, the list has been the premier LGBTQ national benchmarking tool for colleges and universities to create safer, more inclusive campus communities. It also allows prospective students, families and those interested in higher education to search a database of LGBTQ-friendly campuses. After completing an extensive survey of MSU Denver’s policies and practices around LGBTQ inclusion, MSU Denver was awarded a rating of 4.5 out of five stars!

Fantastic faculty

The Jazz Journalists Association named Norman Provizer, Ph.D., professor, Political Science, as a 2020 Jazz Hero. This year, the honor was bestowed on 27 “activists, advocates, altruists, aiders and abettors of jazz,” including presenters, educators, nonprofit administrators, writers, broadcasters and performers, each of them devoted to spreading the message that creative improvised music has positive benefits for individuals and societies at large. Read Provizer’s award bio.

Dave Weiden, Ph.D., professor, Political Science, celebrated the publication of his most recent book, “Winter Counts,” on Aug. 25. The novel was inspired by the federal government’s failure to protect Native peoples and was released by Ecco Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. Weiden also won a Spur Award for juvenile literature from the Western Writers of America this year for “Spotted Tail,” his nonfiction biography of Spotted Tail, a Lakota chief.

Megan Lazorski, Ph.D., assistant professor, Chemistry, has been named a VIPEr Fellow in an innovative study to develop, test and refine a flexible, foundation-level inorganic-chemistry course. As one of a group of 40 faculty members selected for this groundbreaking project, she will join other inorganic chemists from across the country in a community of practice dedicated to improving student learning. Over the course of the project, the VIPEr Fellows will implement evidence-based practices in their courses.

The study, “Improving Inorganic Chemistry Education,” is being led by the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists (IONiC) with support from the National Science Foundation’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program. The project will use classroom observations, analysis of student work, student surveys and faculty interviews to study how changes in the classroom affect student learning, interest and motivation. IONiC’s web home, the Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource (VIPEr) (, will be used as the hub for disseminating the course goals, content and pedagogy. The project will also investigate how IONiC may encourage the adoption of evidence-based classroom practices.

Season 5 of the Camp Experience Network’s “Boost Power Podcast” has launched online. Listen to episodes to hear insights from Roadrunners, including:

  • Katia Campbell, Ph.D., associate professor, Communication Studies
  • Students Kayla White and Ari Valdez
  • Colleen Colles, Ph.D., professor, Human Performance and Sport, and Braelin Pantel, Ph.D., associate vice president for student engagement and wellness dean of students
  • Christian Hardigree, J.D., founding dean, School of Hospitality

Outstanding leaders

Trustee Marissa Molina is a 2020 recipient of the Immigrant Liberty Award from the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network. The award honors the outstanding contributions of immigrants and exceptional advocates in our community and celebrates our shared efforts in creating a more just society. The organization said of Molina, who is also the Colorado state immigration manager of

“As Colorado State Immigration Manager with, Marissa Molina’s advocacy work was critical to galvanize statewide efforts to expand access to drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants in Colorado. Molina’s leadership continues to be a catalyst to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and advance policies that increase access to opportunities for the immigrant community in Colorado. Her appointment in 2019 as the first DACA recipient to the Board of Trustees at Metropolitan State University of Denver is breaking grounds and a true reflection of immigrant contributions in Colorado.”

Congratulations to Ally Garcia, Ph.D., director, TRIO Student Support Services, and assistant dean of CESA, on being elected president of TRIO Aspire, the five-state organization that provides professional development and advocacy for TRIO staff in Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah. 

Applause for alumni

Outstanding May 2020 graduate Audrey Harriger, MSW, LSW, was recently featured by 9News for founding a food pantry at Cole High School in Denver, where she is a social worker. After seeking donations on NextDoor, Harriger secured a refrigerator and plenty of donations to address student hunger.

Topics: Award, Excellence, Kudos

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