May 2, 2019 – Elise Krumholz

Elise Krumholz is the Coordinator for Student Conflict Resolution Services at MSU Denver. She talked about the origins and uses of restorative justice in addressing conflict and harm. She facilitated a discussion of the philosophy of restorative justice; how it is applied to our justice system, schools, and communities; and the impacts of restorative practices to those involved in conflict and the community.

Elise joined the Dean of Students Office at MSU Denver in October 2018, where she will be implementing restorative programming to address conflict on campus. She was introduced to restorative justice in 2010 while working in a treatment facility for youth in foster care and youth corrections. She went on to facilitate restorative practices at George Washington High School, which was one of the first Denver Public Schools to use restorative justice to reduce suspensions and expulsions. Elise then worked at Urban Peak, a local nonprofit that assists young people experiencing homelessness. While there, she continued her restorative work in conflict situations and was a liaison to Denver’s Homeless Court. Since 2014, Elise has worked within different areas of the justice system, including for the Division of Parole implementing a federal research grant and coordinating a Teen Court diversion program rooted in restorative practices for youth that obtained a criminal charge. Elise lives in Denver with her husband and two dogs.

February 28, 2019 – Jason Marsden

Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, spoke about the work the Foundation is doing with schools and the community to prevent hate crimes. Jason began with a very personal account of Matt’s murder and the aftermath, and addressed many aspects of hate crimes, including their prevalence, prevention, investigation, prosecution, and reporting.
Jason has served as executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation since 2009. During his seven-year career as a Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune reporter, the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a personal friend, impelled Jason to come out publicly in the newspaper’s pages and begin speaking to journalism conferences and schools nationwide about coverage of hate crimes. In 2001, he became the founding executive director of Wyoming Conservation Voters and the WCV Education Fund, a pair of educational and lobbying organizations for wildlife and environmental conservation. He is a former member of the boards of directors of the Alliance for Historic Wyoming, the Wyoming Wilderness Association and the Wyoming Chapter of the Sierra Club, and currently serves on the boards of the Equality State Policy Center and the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund. He was appointed in 2016 by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock to the city’s LGBTQ Commission and serves as co-chair of its Public Safety Committee. Jason and his husband live in Denver.

November 17, 2018 – The Meet Your Muslim Neighbors event at the Denver Islamic Society (2124 S. Birch Street in Denver)

A group of us attended the event, which was described as an open house but was actually a two-hour program involving some informal discussion, a formal presentation, and a question and answer period. Our host, Muhammad, who is the president of the Denver Islamic Society, gave us an overview of what the Islamic Society does and explained some of the practices of Islam, including praying five times a day and making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

He then turned things over to the director of the Al Noor Academy, the children’s school affiliated with the Denver Islamic Society. The director delivered a presentation about Islam globally, dispelling many myths about Islam, including that it is practiced mostly in Arab nations and that Islam is a “terrorist religion.” Much of the information presented is also available on the Society’s website. I think the information on “rejecting terrorism” is particularly helpful.

Had our visit ended there, I would count it as a welcoming and enlightening experience. However, during the question and answer period, a young man not part of the Supper & Salon group asked about Islam’s position on homosexuality, and after Muhammad’s initial brief response that homosexuality is considered a sin according to Islam but that it is not his job to judge (akin to the Christian concept of “love the sinner, hate the sin”), another member of the mosque, whose name I did not get but who was described as “a scholar from Boulder,” stood up and talked for quite some time about how homosexuality is destroying the family, blah blah blah. Muhammad then explained to the young man who had asked the question that “if everyone was gay then humanity would die out.” The Supper & Salon group felt that Muhammad and the scholar showed an unwillingness to acknowledge gray areas. Their comments were not about helping us understand Islam but rather about them winning an argument. Ultimately, the Supper & Salon group, which included a same sex couple, did not feel it was productive to engage them and we did not feel comfortable in the space after that, so we excused ourselves.

Everyone at the open house would have easily fit in my home, and it had been my intent to invite all present to my home for dinner and additional discussion and relationship-building, but because we chose to leave, it didn’t work out that way.

Several of us felt particularly disappointed that the mosque leaders responded to a question from a young man—who we took to be 12 or 13—in such a way. In hindsight, one of the women in the couple wished that instead of leaving, she had done something more to let the boy know he was brave, and valued, and to assure him that, as The Trevor Project says, “It gets better.”

We learned some facts about Islam at the event. Perhaps we should invite mosque leaders to join a Supper & Salon with LGBTQ+ members so they, too, can learn some facts about a community with which they are unfamiliar. I attempted to follow up with Muhammad  and the school director the following week, by both email and phone, but to this date I have not received replies from them.

There are many bridges to build.


September 10, 2018 – Linnie Pawlek

Linnie Pawlek’s organization, Teach By Tech, strives to make education more accessible to vulnerable populations. The organization works with refugees in Denver and is focused on expanding their model to Sub-Saharan Africa—Ghana first. In addition to describing the initiatives Teach By Tech is spearheading, Linnie spoke about the value of targeting women in educational efforts. When women are educated, they pass on their learning to their entire families. Ultimately, empowering women improves the lives of everyone in a community.


June 5, 2018 – Rey Hernández-Julián on “the ugliness penalty”

Rey explained that there is very high inter-rater reliability regarding attractiveness, meaning raters tend to agree on who is very attractive, somewhat attractive, somewhat unattractive, and very unattractive.

He then shared the literature on how perceived attractiveness correlates with higher pay and higher grades. He described his own research on appearance and grades, which found that even in online classes, students who are perceived as more attractive earn higher grades. Our discussion delved into whether people who are perceived as more attractive are actually better workers, and therefore “deserving” of better salaries, and better students, or whether implicit biases cause hiring managers and faculty to reward perceived attractiveness.


Questions to continue the discussion: 

  1. What role might perceived attractiveness play in jobs like auto sales versus telephone marketing?
  2. Why might someone who is generally perceived as attractive do better in an online class than someone who is generally perceived as unattractive?
  3. What economic value does attractiveness have?
  4. Can you think of decisions you have made that were driven by your perception of someone else’s attractiveness?

Please continue the conversation, in real life and/or below!  

Rey Hernández-Julián, Professor of Economics and Finance at MSU Denver, researches predictors of student grades in higher education (including appearance), as well as the economics of religion, health, and demography. His teaching interests include the economics of race and gender, econometrics, and personal finance. He is also a big fan and referee of rugby. He lives in Denver’s uptown neighborhood with his husband, Dan, and the cutest 3-year old tornado, Rosa.

April 19, 2018 – Candi CDeBaca on gentrification

Our discussion of gentrification touched on how rising property taxes associated with gentrification force out longtime residents and how major development projects in Denver disproportionately affect low-income neighborhoods negatively and out-of-state developers positively (read about the Platte to Park Hill storm drains project here and the I-70 expansion here).

We also talked about the importance of being aware of local politics and news, which we are often distracted away from by national politics and news. The death of The Rocky Mountain News and the dire situation of The Denver Post can complicate this, but there are good local news outlets, including the Denverite.

You can find out who your state legislators are here.

You can contribute to Candi’s campaign for Denver City Council here.

Questions to continue the discussion: 

  1. A question to ask about any development project: Who benefits from the project in the short term and long term? Who is harmed by it? Who profits from it? Are these people and groups local?
  2. What are ways to measure the “progress” of a neighborhood besides rising real estate prices?
  3. When a development project is touted as creating jobs, what are those jobs, who gets them, how much do they pay, and how long do they last? Who ultimately benefits from those jobs—the people in the neighborhood or people from other areas?

Please continue the conversation, in real life and/or below!  

Candi CdeBaca is Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of Project VOYCE, Reviver & Member of Cross Community Coalition and Founder & Principal of Rebel Soul Strategies. She is a community advocate in her home community of Northeast Denver. She has been featured as an influential leader and advocate by several publications and outlets including Politico, Fortune, Forbes, New York Times, The Guardian, The Atlantic, 5280 Magazine, Planetizen and Canadian Broadcast Corporation. She has also authored and co-authored publications featured in the Denver Post, Nonprofit Quarterly and Equity Alliance. She is a fierce advocate for justice. CdeBaca has an unwavering commitment to ensuring increased participation of underrepresented groups in the political process and in leadership and decision-making roles across sectors.

CdeBaca is a prominent voice in the Denver area on a range of social justice issues, policies and practices including: affordable housing, people-centric development, solidarity economics, environmental justice, community schools, youth entrepreneurship, school finance, and youth voice. She is accomplished in compliance, investigation, monitoring, training, motivating and leading diverse groups of people to share a mutual vision and achieve common goals. She effortlessly conceptualizes and transforms opportunities into action to achieve long term and short term goals. She has an entrepreneurial spirit and seeks to design creative approaches to overcome perceived challenges.

Before taking the role at the helm of Project VOYCE, Candi contracted with Denver Public Schools and lobbied for the Colorado Children’s Campaign for Colorado’s 2015 Legislative Session. Prior to returning to Denver in 2014 from the Nation’s Capital, Candi served as a New Leaders Fellow with the Center for Progressive Leadership, Education Policy Fellow for Excelencia in Education and as a Negotiator, Investigator and Compliance Monitor for the District of Columbia Public Schools. Prior to moving to DC in 2009 she spent time as an Education Policy Fellow for the National Conference of State Legislatures, Group Therapist for the Denver Center for Trauma & Resilience, and Program Coordinator at DU’s Center for Multicultural Excellence. She currently serves as a member of the GES Anti-Displacement Coalition, the Colorado Education Network, and COPA Fair-Lending Coalition. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado CdeBaca learned the importance of advocacy growing up as the eldest of three to a single mother living in poverty. She is a proud first-generation Daniel’s Fund Scholar and graduate of Manual High School, University of Denver, and University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. Candi was one of the first appointments to the Denver Mayor’s Commission on Youth and was the first and youngest dual-degree graduate from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work. She was a member of the inaugural cohort of the Latino Leadership Institute 2015 and the inaugural cohort of the Transformative Leadership for Change Fellowship in 2017.


February 7, 2018 – Teenagers

Didi Baca (she/her/hers): Didi is in the 11th grade and doesn’t put much effort into school work. She played softball for two years at North High School. She really  enjoys writing and messing around with different art forms; she spends a lot of money on magazines just so she can cut them up and will stay up for hours at night watching movies. She currently has 37 unread messages on her phone.

Emma Logan (she/her/hers): Emma is in 10th grade. She plays volleyball and is a Colorado Youth Advisory Council (COYAC) member. She currently has 0 unread messages on her phone.

Murphy MacDonald (he/him/his): Murphy is a freshman at East High School, where he plays varsity tennis. Other than that, he mainly focuses on academics and spending time with his friends. He currently has 223 unread messages on his phone.

Lily Therese (she/her/hers). Lily is a sophomore at Denver Montessori High School. She really loves math, literature, and history and plays recreational volleyball. Outside of school, she mostly listens to Harry Potter and reads. She currently has 15 unread texts.

In our conversations, Didi, Emma, Lily, and Murphy shared with us what it’s like to be a teenager in Denver in 2018, and how social media, sex, consent, and surveillance figure in. They revealed that the vast majority of the time that they are on their phones they are NOT on Facebook (in fact, Facebook isn’t one bit cool), that they scan the room for evidence of being recorded on someone’s phone before sharing a very personal story, and that they are all—male and female alike—nervous about consent issues.


Questions to continue the discussion: 

This list of 100 questions to ask teenagers can help you get to know the teenagers in your life better.

Please continue the conversation, in real life and/or below!  


November 6, 2017 – Steve Willich

Steve was raised in a tiny farming community in northeastern Colorado. From a young age, he knew that he was different, and that his difference set him apart from his community. Steve has been serving as the Director for the LGBTQ Student Resource Center on the Auraria campus for seven years now. The Center serves the campus community in various ways, but Steve feels that its most important function is to provide a space where LGBTQ students can build their own community on campus, a place where they feel they belong.

In our discussion, we disagreed on the meaning of the word “community” and debated whether the word itself has been diluted through overuse.


Questions to continue the discussion: 

  1. If you moved to a city or town where you knew no one, how would you find like-minded individuals?
  2. Are there communities you have considered yourself a member of in the past that you no longer feel connected to? If so, why?
  3. Does the word “community” resonate with you? Why or why not?
  4. How do the groups of people you engage with on a regular basis—perhaps co-workers, neighbors, fans of a particular sports team, etc.—deal with difference in the group?

Please continue the conversation, in real life and/or below!  


September 13, 2017 – Nadeen Ibrahim

Nadeen Ibrahim migrated from the Palestinian Territory with her family when she was seven months old, and moved to Colorado in 1997. She was raised in Wiggins, Colorado – a northeastern rural community of less than 1000 individuals. She recently graduated from the University of Colorado Denver, and will begin her graduate studies in Public Policy at the University of Oxford in England this Fall 2017.

Fluent in Arabic and a community organizer for the Muslim community in Colorado, Nadeen actively advocates for Muslim Americans in Colorado, especially resettled refugees. Working with entities like the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Attorney, District of Colorado, Nadeen organizes events and workshops empowering Muslim Americans of their civil rights and personal narratives. She also publishes e-newsletters showcasing the positive engagement of Muslim Americans in their Colorado community through the Colorado Muslim Connection she founded.

She also serves as a commissioner on the Denver Immigrant & Refugee Commission – a team of 20+ commissioners in providing recommendations to the Denver City Mayor on creating a more inclusive, safe environment for Denver’s immigrant and refugee communities – and as an At-large Representative on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Board of Health – a State Governor commissioned board promulgating rules and regulations related to public health.

Nadeen strongly advocates for serving immigrants and refugees in ways that build community through cultural and language preservation and sustainable asset-based community development.

In her talk, Nadeen emphasized that allyship with Muslims is key and that allyship looks different to different communities and even to different members within those communities. It’s important to ask questions rather than to make assumptions and generalizations about how to best serve as an ally and be in solidarity.


Questions to continue the discussion: 

  1. What questions do you still have about Muslims?
  2. What is one small step you can take in your everyday life to correct misperceptions among your friends, family, neighbors, and/or co-workers about Muslims?
  3. After reflecting on Nadeen’s talk and/or exploring some of the resources in the list above: What are you most surprised to learn about Muslims?
  4. What are some ways you could support a Muslim target of bullying or discrimination?

Please continue the conversation, in real life and/or below!