CU Denver Graduates Meet Their Moment

May 8, 2024

U.S. Ambassador. Architect. Educator. Lawyer. These are just a few examples of the career aspirations for the more than 2,200 students that will graduate from CU Denver this semester. Graduation marks a major milestone in their academic journey, but is just one moment in a lifetime of accomplishments that have led them to pursue, and reach, their educational goals.  

At CU Denver, they found pathways—in the classroom, at internships, and in the workforce—to change their lives. To honor this graduating class, we sat down with students from across campus to hear more about why they picked CU Denver, what they have studied, and what’s next.  

Meet Emily Beeson: When Emily heard about CU Denver’s master’s of landscape architecture program, she submitted her application the following day. As a mom of two young children, she liked the flexibility (some classes were in-person and others were hybrid) and the conceptual studio projects. She formerly worked for a domestic violence organization, so she appreciated that CU Denver’s program offered the flexibility to pursue a trauma-informed landscape design research project.   

Earned: Master of Landscape Architecture, College of Architecture and Planning  

What Makes CU Denver Unique? “Going back to school at this point in my life has been such a gift. The Landscape Architecture program—and because of where it’s located in Denver—offers a lot of projects happening in real-time that you can investigate and imagine different futures for.”  

How Does It Feel to Earn Your Master’s Degree? “I’ve loved going back to school. You get to think about really challenging issues. I’m going to be sad to leave that behind, but I am well prepared in the skills that I have learned and the networking opportunities [I’ve been part of]. The Denver landscape architecture community has been so generous in sharing their time with MLA students and I’ve enjoyed getting to know many of them—and their beautiful projects.”  

Next Up: Ready with her new master’s degree, Emily accepted a landscape designer position with Didier Design Studio in Fort Collins and is excited to continue her education as part of their artful practice.   

Meet Tali Burger: After earning her master’s in crisis and trauma and working as a family therapist, Tali realized that her education journey wasn’t complete. Looking to grow in her field, she applied to CU Denver where she found a small cohort of doctoral students—just more than a dozen people—that bonded, networked, and supported each other. In addition to finishing a doctoral research project on cannabis use, mental health, and suicidality in adolescents, she has completed an internship and has served as president of the Student Affiliates in School Psychology group. 

Earned: Doctor of Psychology, School of Psychology in the School of Education & Human Development with a credential in Neurosequential Model in Education 

Why Did You Pick CU Denver? “I wanted to go back to school for more specific training—maybe in clinical psychology or school psychology. I found this program at CU Denver, and I applied. I interviewed and [fell in] love with the faculty, and just everything that this program offered. So instead of going with the clinical psych route, I went the school psychology route. And wow: I’ve really enjoyed everything that I’ve done so far!” 

What Makes This Program Unique? “I’m so happy I made this decision, because I didn’t realize how having that close network—the cohort and faculty—was so crucial to my own experience. … I want to empower folks to search for that.”  

Next Up: Burger’s academic program has a 100% job placement rate, and she is actively looking for the right fit for the next stage of her career.  

Meet Naveena Chowdary Koyyalamudi: As an international student—she’s originally from India—Naveena has worked to create a sense of community in her new home. When she’s not studying, she serves as the president of the CU Denver Indian Student Association, works for the Office of International Affairs and the Campus Activities team, and much more.   

Earned: Master’s in Computer Science, College of Engineering, Design and Computing 

How Did You Find Out About CU Denver? “When I was applying for universities, my dad was like, ‘You know, Denver’s this amazing place, and has beautiful weather, everything’s so gorgeous there. You should try applying there.’ And I did end up applying to CU Denver.”  

What Makes CU Denver Special? “The community is very vocal. I feel like you don’t feel so lost. Someone is there for you if you come to the campus.”  

Next Up: Now equipped with a versatile graduate degree in computer science, Naveena is looking for her next opportunity and is using her CU Denver and personal networks to make connections.   

Meet Cameron Dexter: When Cameron, who lives in Maui and works for the State of Hawaii as a court officer, made the decision to apply to grad school, he looked to his alma mater, CU Denver (he graduated magna cum laude from CU Denver in 2014). Thanks to online programs, he had the flexibility to go to school, work, and assist his community through challenging times, including the wildfire that devastated Maui last year.  

Earned: Dual Master of Public Administration and Master of Criminal Justice, School of Public Affairs 

What Stands Out to You About Your Online Experience? “Attending CU Denver online really helped in the sense that it allowed me to continue to live my life [in Maui]. I was able to pursue my education in addition to my full-time employment as a court officer.” 

What Is Your Favorite Memory at CU Denver? “There are a lot of professors who really have contributed to, you know, my whole experience. They gave me guidance, support, helped clarify things, and pushed me in the right direction.” 

What Advice Would You Give a Prospective Student? “[As an online student], there’s a lot that you’re expected to do on your own, but at the same time, you’re definitely not alone when you’re doing it. Always reach out to the professors to ask questions. In my experience, they were more than happy to help. In fact, they wanted to get to know us remote students.” 

Next Up: Cameron is just getting started: He’ll continue to work as a court officer and, in the future, he has his sights set on a PhD in criminal justice.  

Meet Juan Gonzalez: Juan knows what it means to get involved in a campus community. He served as the president of CU Denver’s Student Government Association, where he advocated for students and represented the Hispanic and LGBTQIA+ communities. And, because he was raised in Denver, he loved the university’s downtown location.  

Earned: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with minors in Law Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies 

What Was a Highlight of Your Time at CU Denver? “My third year as a student, because I was able to achieve the highest level of student leadership possible. As student body president, it was so nice to talk to and hear students’ perspectives.” 

What Was Your Favorite Course?Gentrification and Social Equity. The first couple classes were all lecture-based, and then we met once a week in different parts of the city—restaurants, taverns. We would eat and discuss the history of that certain area and how it’s changed over the years. I’ve lived in this area for so long, but never been out and about in the city [like that].” 

Next Up: Juan is taking a gap year after graduation to travel, and he plans to attend law school in fall 2025. 

Meet Cristian Gomez: Cristian, a first-generation student whose family is based in Colorado, didn’t need to look far for a college that met his needs. He discovered a passion for architecture as an undergrad at CU Denver and then enrolled in the master’s program, where he got to work on a design/build project that was installed in Antarctica.  

Earned: Master’s in Architecture, College of Architecture and Planning 

What Does It Feel Like to Be at Graduation? “Wow, what a ride! From the highs of presenting in studios to the lows of all-nighters, this journey has been a rollercoaster of learning and growth. But hey, I think we can all agree—it’s time to bid farewell to homework and embrace the next adventure.”  

What’s Special About This Program? “I would say, for the most part, just being in the studio, collaborating with other people, and getting other people’s opinions is what I really love about architecture. It’s just that community that gathers within the studio. At times, it is chaos: Everyone is printing, and pinning up, and running around. And I feed off of that energy.”  

Next Up: While finishing up his master’s, Cristian interned at a local architecture firm and was recently offered a full-time position there, which he accepted.  

Meet Kalee Hollingsworth: For this musician, CU Denver offered the right combination of in-state tuition and the opportunity to study at the only university in Colorado with a music industry and entertainment studies program. Looking back, Kalee appreciates the many networking opportunities, exposure to the industry, and the valuable skills she learned in the classroom.  

Earned: Bachelor of Science in Music Business, College of Arts & Media  

How Did CU Denver Support Your Passion for Music? “For a lot of things in the music industry, it’s easier to learn them [through experience], but things like copyright, licensing, and contracts are really complicated. And it was good to have it broken down by people who’ve done it in an easy, understandable way.” 

What Advice Would You Give to a New Student? “Make the time to make friends and make connections, and take advantage of the stuff the school can offer you—the food pantry, the gym, the networking opportunities, the events.” 

Next Up: After graduation, Kalee’s moving to Nashville, Tennessee, to put everything she has learned to use. 

Meet Melissa Muniz: In her day job with the Latin American Education Foundation, Melissa is used to finding opportunities and solutions for students—because she’s had firsthand experience doing just that. Earning her master’s at CU Denver required her to balance life, work, health, and scholarship—something she said she was able to do because of her faculty, fellow students, family, and the CU Denver community.  

Earned: Master of Arts in Counseling, School Counseling, School of Education & Human Development 

You Picked CU Denver’s Program Because It Was In-Person, But the Pandemic Changed That. How Did That Go? “The faculty did a great job. I mean, obviously there are curveballs and challenges. But the adjustment to online school wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. And they structured the classes in a way that felt very interactive.  

Do You Have a Favorite Memory at CU Denver? “I think it was a collection of experiences across my time. The most pivotal moments for me, though, were around the times I thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ Whether that was for financial or health reasons. Because, stuff happens, right? When I felt like I might need to quit, it was the community, my colleagues, peers, and the faculty that said, ‘You can keep doing this.’ That kept me going. And my family.” 

Next Up: Melissa will use her degree to grow in her current role, which allows her to help first-generation students and students who are undocumented reach their academic goals.  

Meet Michelle “Michy” Ramirez: Born and raised in Denver, Michy took an interest in construction at a young age. Her father worked as a laborer and she respected the work ethic of those he worked with in the industry. As a Latina and first-generation college student, she was drawn to CU Denver because of family ties, nearby location, and affordability.  

Earned: Bachelor of Science in Construction Management, College of Engineering, Design and Computing, with a Minor in Business Fundamentals, Business School  

Why CU Denver? “My sister [went to school] here and she would bring me to events sometimes. I really liked the sense of community that is here on campus. And it’s cool to be able to say you attended college in the city. Another thing that really drew me to CU Denver was the Center for Identity & Inclusion, where I currently work. That’s where I found my family, and without them, I don’t know how far I would have gone.” 

What Sparked Your Interest in Construction Management? “Sometimes [my dad] would take us out to his project, and I really liked seeing how one day there would just be dirt and a few weeks later there would be a house. There’s a lot more that goes into construction than I ever imagined, like contracts, permits, meeting with clients. … I think it’ll be really cool to tell my family, ‘Hey, that’s a project that I worked on.’”  

Next Up: After graduation, she’ll work as a field engineer for Kraemer North America for a major project on Denver’s Colfax Avenue. 

Meet Queen Pompee: As a transfer and first-generation student, Pompee found a flexible education at CU Denver that met her needs and allowed her to work as a senior legislative aide and campaign treasurer in the Colorado legislature.

Earned: Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration, School of Public Affairs (Outstanding Graduate Award recipient) 

Why Did You Choose CU Denver? “I wanted to study at a highly ranked Public Administration program, specifically. CU Denver also offered this program online. I’m a single mom of seven and I work for the state legislature, so I needed the flexibility.”  

What Stands Out to You about Your Experience at CU Denver? “My professors believed in me, helped me foster my research interests, and develop the ability to strategically communicate policy issues that affect diverse populations. CU Denver faculty members invested so much time and care. Ultimately, this resulted in my success and opportunities to be authentically Queen. I’m forever thankful to my village within the CU Denver community who continue to believe in my integrity, aspirations, and vision. Thanks to the community, I’m looking forward to making a significant impact in our world.”  

Next Up: She’s been accepted into the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She’ll enroll in online classes and hopes to become a U.S. ambassador one day. 

Meet Paige Thompson: When Paige, a mother of three, sent her youngest off to college, she thought it was about time that she returned to school herself. CU Denver’s T-Prep Rural Educator Preparation program let her take courses online and work in classrooms near her home in northeastern Colorado. Now, with her BA and teaching license, she’s ready to level up her career. 

Earned: Bachelor of Arts in the T-Prep Rural Educator Preparation program, School of Education and Human Development 

Why Did You Go Back to School? “I made it a priority for all of my kids to have a college education. And I had gotten my associate’s way back when, and my husband has his degree. And it always really bothered me. … I’ve always wanted to pour everything into my children. … And I loved every second of it, loved every minute of it, but it was always in the back of my mind [that] I would want to finish my degree.”  

Why Did You Pick CU Denver’s Program? “A lot of people offer elementary education, but not necessarily early childhood education. And I taught preschool for 15 years. … For me, one of my favorite parts about doing this was that somebody teaches you something or you hear a new thing that you want to do. And I could implement it, literally, the next day when I was in the classroom.” 

Next Up: Paige loves her job and being able to apply what she’s learned at CU Denver. It’s a nice bonus that the degree will make her eligible for a pay increase.