As a freshman at a community college in Southern California, Jennifer Reich remembers the feeling of being a traditionally aged student on a nontraditional college campus. Commuting was the norm; residential life was nonexistent. Finding a community could have been a challenge if it weren’t for the honors program.
“That was really impactful in terms of how I saw myself as a student and how I connected with the college,” said Reich, PhD, a professor in the Department of Sociology at CU Denver.
Reich brings her experience, along with a proven track record in academia, to her role as the new director of CU Denver’s University Honors and Leadership (UHL) program. She was chosen through a competitive internal search following the departure of the program’s previous director, Steven Medema, in summer 2019.
Her vision includes protecting the important cohort experience UHL provides to incoming students, while also exploring new ways to make the UHL program accessible to a wider range of students–including transfer students and those who come to recognize their passion for intellectual, hard work after arriving at CU. She also seeks to build stronger partnerships with the honors programs within CU Denver’s seven schools and colleges.
Reich’s open-mindedness to future opportunities excites Jeff Franklin, PhD, associate vice chancellor for Undergraduate Experiences at CU Denver.
“I believe that she will work toward balancing the significant quality and successes that the UHL program and its students have attained with measured consideration of reforms that have the potential to expand inclusiveness, serve a wider range of the students that CU Denver attracts, and build collaborative relationships across the campus,” Franklin said.
Reich earned her PhD in sociology from the University of California, Davis, with a designated emphasis in feminist theory and methods. It was at Santa Barbara City College where she first realized her affinity for research. She had been reading a textbook on sexuality, she recalls.
“I kept wondering how researchers could know that what they were measuring was true in a subject that people can lie about,” Reich said. “I became increasingly fascinated by how we understand people’s experiences in the world.”
Reich’s research led her to author two award-winning books, Calling the Shots: Why Parents Reject Vaccines (2016), and Fixing Families: Parents, Power, and the Child Welfare System (2005), as well as more than 30 articles and book chapters. Her work is referenced nationwide in publications including The Atlantic and Newsweek.
Prior to joining the CU Denver faculty in 2014, Reich held a tenured position at the University of Denver, where she served as the director of the Undergraduate Research Center and worked as a member of the task force that revised DU’s honors program.
In her current role at CU Denver, Reich teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in qualitative data analysis, the social meaning of reproduction, and the sociology of healthcare, among others. She also serves as a qualitative methods mentor and co-director of the Clinical Faculty Scholars Program in the School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus.
In her time at CU Denver, Reich has collaborated with a number of departments and researchers in a variety of fields–everything from “biomedical to the humanities,” she said. She feels prepared for her next academic endeavor.
“I’m excited to find new opportunities for dialogue across colleges and schools,” Reich said. “I love investing and building programs that can better serve students.”