A common thread in Michael Kocet’s career is his dedication to helping people. He spent more than 22 years in the classroom teaching counseling and observing what his students needed to succeed. For six years, he volunteered as a therapist at the Center on Halsted, an LGTBQ center in Chicago, and worked as a mental health counselor, scholar, supervisor, and educator. He has also served as a higher education administrator and provided guidance on course planning, recruitment, and student and faculty support. Now, at CU Denver, he will continue that people-first mindset as the new assistant vice chancellor for graduate education.
In February, Kocet, PhD, joined CU Denver during a transformative time for graduate education. A year prior, Provost Constancio Nakuma announced the former Graduate School shared by CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus would be reorganized. As a result, CU Denver embedded Graduate School services and operations within its Strategic Enrollment and Student Success (SESS) division and other departments, including academic planning and marketing. The transition allows CU Denver to enhance graduate services on the downtown campus, and includes master’s programs, doctoral programs, certificates, and non-degree courses.
Kocet’s role, a new position in the Provost’s Office, will oversee graduate program planning and development, assessment and review, graduate policy coordination, and convening and supporting the Graduate Council. He will also collaborate with departments across campus to identify areas that are working and those that need attention. “My goal is to make things transparent and efficient for students, faculty, and deans,” Kocet said. “I want to do all I can to support students at every level and try to remove any obstacles and systemic blocks.”
Prior to joining CU Denver, Kocet served as a professor and the department chair for the Chicago School of Professional Psychology for more than seven years. Before that, he spent 13 years working as a professor, department chair, and student affairs program director for the Department of Counselor Education at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. He has experience in leadership, curriculum development, national accreditation, admissions, and advising and mentoring master’s students in program planning and dissertation research.
Kocet was initially drawn to CU Denver because of the university’s focus on equity. “I’ve been deeply committed, both personally and professionally, to issues of diversity and inclusion for my whole life and I strive to use an intersectional lens in all the work I do,” said Kocet, who is a gay man. He was also intrigued by the university’s reimagination of graduate education. “I’m a collaborator, and I’m eager to partner with units across campus to see how I can support their work and how they can support my work in graduate education….I’m deeply committed to making this a student-centered role.”
Kocet said his immediate priorities are to seek out external funding for scholarships and other financial resources for graduate students, review policies and procedures in place to ensure they are equitable across campus, and explore how the university can better support graduate students’ mental health and well-being. He is currently meeting with units across campus—and plans to meet with potential mentors for students, such as business leaders in the community—to identify opportunities for partnerships and collaboration. He is also in the process of developing working groups to study issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion for graduate students and faculty.
And he’s already been in touch with the School of Education & Human Development’s counseling program so he can return to the classroom from time to time. He knows from experience that learning alongside students is one of the most effective ways to understand their needs. “It’s a monumental decision for a person to decide to go to graduate school,” Kocet said. “I see this as an opportunity for growth. How can we do things better?”