An impressive number of this year’s class of “40 Under 40” winners – eight – earned degrees or entrepreneurial certificates, or are current students, at the University of Colorado Denver. The group illustrates CU Denver’s significant contribution to training the leaders of tomorrow in the Mile High City and across Colorado.
Each year, the Denver Business Journal (DBJ) recognizes up-and-comers in Colorado’s business community at its “40 Under 40” luncheon. This year, the publication received 307 nominees, with the 40 winners selected on the basis of business leadership, recognition of accomplishments and community involvement.
The DBJ selected “words of inspiration” as this year’s theme (portraits were shot inside the Tattered Cover Book Store), and, after the luncheon, all the winners with CU Denver ties shared personal anecdotes of being shaped and inspired by their education at CU in the City.
The CU Denver Eight – as we’ll call them – each point to aspects of their considerable skill sets that were influenced by their days at CU Denver. Those honorees are Jasmine Crane, Transcendent Counseling, LLC; Andrew French, Denver Health; Karen Hertz, Holidaily Brewing Co.; Jeremy Nicholas, First Western Trust; Joshua Pollack, Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen; Danielle Shoots, Comcast; José Silva, Denver Latino Commission; and Jamie Torres, City & County of Denver. Leanna Clark, Vice Chancellor of University Communications, herself a former 40 Under 40 winner, handed out awards to the honorees.
For the sixth consecutive year, CU Denver was lead sponsor of the event. CU Denver Chancellor Dorothy Horrell told the capacity crowd at Infinity Park Event Center that educating the leaders of tomorrow “is our business at CU Denver.” She noted that more than 40 of the university’s alumni have been honored as past 40 Under 40 winners, going back to 1996.
“We’re proud of all of them, as we are of all of you,” Horrell said. She noted that the honorees, through their professional and personal lives, are making our state an unsurpassed place to work, live, play and raise a family. “The truth is that great cities don’t stay great by themselves,” the chancellor said. “We look forward to partnering with you as all of us collectively apply our brain power, our passion and our hopes to help shape the future of the place we call home.
“We promise to do our part as CU in the City,” Horrell concluded.
Here are some of the CU Denver Eight’s “words of inspiration” about their days at Colorado’s public urban research university:
“The time I spent at CU Denver was instrumental in my being the therapist and person I am today,” Crane says. “The focus on multiculturalism, identifying, accepting, and being able to discuss/share privilege was a big theme that was woven throughout my education.”
She learned from Marsha Wiggins, former CPCE professor and chair, that it takes time to become a therapist. “That was so true,” Crane says. “I learned so much from the process of my education, and this helped shape me in all aspects of my life – as a friend, partner, daughter, sister, therapist, community advocate, etc.”
Other professors who were instrumental during her time at CU Denver include Shruti Poulsen, PhD, associate professor; Carlos Hipolito-Delgado, PhD, associate professor, and Diane Estrada, PhD, associate professor. Another a significant influence in Crane’s personal and professional growth was Melody Brown, MA, LPC, a psychotherapist in the CU Denver Counseling Center. Brown was Crane’s clinical supervisor during her practicum.
Karen Hertz, Chief Brewista and Founder, Holidaily Brewing Co., MBA Entrepreneurship, Business School, 2005
“Ron Ramirez, PhD, associate professor of information systems in the Business School, was a professor of mine that had a big impact at CU Denver. When I graduated, he put together an ‘Executive Kit’ for me,” says Hertz, who specialized in entrepreneurship in her Professional MBA. “It was a water bottle filled with things like Tylenol, a calculator, etc. I still have it. The gift was simple, but it sent a message that he believed in what I was capable of accomplishing.”
Andrew French, Medical Director, Adult Emergency Department, Denver Health, current graduate student, MBA in Healthcare Administration, Business School
“My MBA in Healthcare Administration has really been an incredible experience thus far,” he says. “The curriculum does an excellent job of combining core MBA elements with modified core elements to be specific to the health care industry. In my current job, I participate in a large amount of administrative work and literally every course I have taken has daily applicability.”
French says he’s been “deeply impressed” by faculty members who have not only industry experience but have achieved great success in their areas of expertise. “In particular, Heather Haugen and Mike Moran have been extremely influential for me from both a leadership and career development standpoint,” he says.
Jeremy Nicholas, President of the DTC/Cherry Hills Office, First Western Trust, BS Finance, Business School, 2007
Nicholas says his time at CU Denver was relatively short but “clearly impactful.” He attended the CU Denver Business School from 2005 to 2007, after taking a few years off (he started his college career at North Carolina State). Returning to college gave him a chance to focus on his education, ambitions and career path. “At CU Denver, students were really there to learn – get in and get out. I appreciated that mindset because it enabled me to do what I needed to do and exit with a reputable degree, equipped with the tools to succeed in business,” he says.
Nicholas said his capstone class was extremely impactful, and he especially enjoyed business law classes taught by Linda Fried. “I truly valued my time at CU Denver and made the most of my 18 months or so on campus,” he says. “As with anything in life, you can make the most or least of the opportunities you are given, and I certainly took advantage of what was undoubtedly a great opportunity for me to absorb, grow and thrive in a new and rewarding educational environment.”
Joshua Pollack, Owner, Rosenberg’s Bagels & Delicatessen, Business Entrepreneurship Program, Business School, 2012
One of Pollack’s favorite classes in the Business School’s Entrepreneur Program was an Entrepreneurial Finance course taught by Elizabeth Cooperman, PhD. The concepts taught in that course, such as the cash-to-cash cycle, have helped him optimize cash on hand to operate his business, Rosenberg’s Bagels.
Another key takeaway from the program, Pollack says, is that business plans are living organisms, not documents set in stone. As he dealt with the aftermath of a fire at his business this past year, Pollack worked on restructuring employee training modules, re-costing supplies, and focusing on pro formas for new store locations – all skills he honed in the Entrepreneur Program.
José Silva, Mayoral Appointee, Denver Latino Commission, MHYP Inc., Metrix Consulting and Research Group, current doctoral student in the School of Education & Human Development
Silva started at CU Denver in summer 2016 when he was awarded a scholarship in the Leadership for Educational Equity Doctorate (EdD) program, with a focus on the Latino@Learners Cohort. He was looking for a program where he could build capacity and thrive in his career.
“As a nontraditional educator and nonprofit leader, this program has given me the chance to become an expert for my community and, in turn, use that expertise to stand up for the greater good,” Silva says. “As people of color, we are great at protesting but not equating our own power. That all changed for me when I took the Power and Privilege class facilitated by Dr. Antwan Jefferson. The class opened my eyes to what and how I equated my power, and how I had marginalized myself as a leader.”
Silva grew up in the housing projects in Sun Valley – not far from the Auraria Campus – and he finds the CU Denver program empowering in every way. “I know that if I want change in the world, I must be a member of the team which fights for the greater good, and my partner in that is CU Denver,” Silva says. “I look forward to graduating in May 2019 and becoming a catalyst for other men of color, to not sit on the sidelines but become actively engaged in creating change by becoming lifelong learners.”
Danielle Shoots, Vice President of Finance and Business Operations, Comcast, BS in Marketing, Business School, 2008
A native of Colorado Springs, Shoots was initially a bit leery of attending college in the heart of a thriving city. But she quickly fell in love with Denver – going out for lunch and coffee with classmates, meeting professionals who work downtown – and it’s made all the difference.
“I love CU Denver. I really started building my network of business connections while I was at the school, and that’s really unique for a college experience,” Shoots says. “You’re in this city that you’ll end up working in. Denver was where I started meeting the people who have influenced my career even to this day.”
While in college, Shoots got a work-study job at a nonprofit after-school program. When the program received a federal grant, Shoots taught herself how to manage the funds, “and that’s how I ended up in finance and never looked back.”
The nonprofit experience in the heart of downtown likewise propelled Shoots into more community service. She is Executive Director of Engage Denver, a community investment fund, and for two years she has served as Vice Chair for the Board of Mile High Ministries.
Now the city is home, and Shoots wouldn’t have it any other way. “The location of CU Denver is the best – you’re right there in the center of the business district.”
Jamie Torres, Deputy Director, Agency for Human Rights and Community Partnerships, City and County of Denver, MA, Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 2004
The Auraria Campus holds a special place in Torres’s heart as her grandmother went to church at St. Cajetan’s as a young girl, and even got married there. Years later, while Torres’s mother attended Community College of Denver, Torres toddled away the hours in Auraria Daycare. So, when she enrolled in the Medical Anthropology program, Torres enjoyed every moment back on campus as an adult.
“It was not offered at every Anthropology graduate school, and I really did receive some of the best advisement and instruction in the country,” Torres says. She credits Associate Professor John Brett, PhD, her academic and thesis advisor, for remaining an “influential force” in her life.
Torres says she was focused on research while in graduate school, so she hadn’t considered a career in government. “What I discovered, however, was that my background in Anthropology became my greatest asset in government and specifically in my work which relies so much on seeking an understanding of communities, belief systems, values, rituals, etc.”
The goal in working with various communities is to meet their needs and establish a more productive space for interaction, Torres says. “I feel that in government, we don’t aim for this understanding often enough.”