CU Denver’s Student Affairs Unit Helps Students Find Their Passions and Purpose

CU Denver’s Student Affairs Unit Helps Students Find Their Passions and Purpose

June 25, 2024

Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Dr. Genia Herndon often hears about the big and small moments students experience at CU Denver that show the importance of her unit’s work, which largely focuses on supporting students’ health and well-being. 

Genia Herndon

One of those moments included a student who was transitioning genders and needed professional clothes for a new internship, which they landed with the help of Student Affairs’ Career Services office. Thanks to an equity grant that provides funds to help students prepare for life after college, the university helped the student get clothes “so that they felt comfortable in their internship,” Herndon said.  

A CU Denver alum herself, Herndon, EdD, said that moments like this illustrate how education is about more than books and classes. “I believe that learning happens both within the classroom and outside of the classroom,” she said. “It’s this holistic experience that really lends to [students] ability to do what it is that they want to do in their lives.” 

College is a pivotal time of experience and discovery, and Herndon’s unit helps students find their place and thrive at CU Denver. The Student Affairs team includes more than nine areas (see sidebar), more than 60 professional staff, and many student employees. It’s a large team, and Herndon says they are motivated to come to work each day by one thing: “The students.”

A Passion for Customer Service and Caring for People 

From early on in her career, Herndon knew she was interested in helping people. In her first role as a regional sales director for the global food and facilities company Aramark, she oversaw premium services for big-name clients throughout Denver, including Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Ball Arena (then the Pepsi Center), and the Colorado Rockies. “It was all stemmed and rooted in this creation of experience for folks,” said Herndon.   

Through networking, she met the executive director of the Kempe Foundation for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect. The nonprofit’s mission inspired her, and she saw an opportunity to use her business experience in a service-oriented environment. When she was offered a job as the events and corporate relations officer, she jumped at the opportunity. “I worked on various cause marketing, strategic initiatives, and campaigns, and I also did a lot of event work for the foundation itself, [and] it provided me some exposure to another side of the world,” Herndon said.  

The Kempe Foundation, which was an affiliate of the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz School of Medicine, ultimately led to her 15-year career at CU Denver. She first joined the university as the director of outreach and events and then held several different positions in the areas of financial aid, scholarships, K-12 partnerships, undergraduate recruitment, and others. Her background in strategy was needed at the time, she said. “My focus has always been to provide experiences for students that not only support their curricula, but their co-curricular desires here at CU Denver,” Herndon said. “I think part of our work, which I find such value in, is that we all play a part in the success stories of our students.”  

Ultimately, her passion and advocacy for student affairs led her to her current role as associate vice chancellor, which she’s been in since June 2023. 

Supporting Students Through Pivotal Moments  

Herndon’s unit provides resources to help students stay focused on their academic, leadership, career, and experiential goals. “[It’s also] work that happens to support students when they’re in crisis, or when they’re experiencing heartbreak, and the ways in which our team steps in to scoop our students up so that they can continue to stay focused on their paths,” Herndon said.  

For example, the Wellness Center is much more than a gym. It’s the bridge to basic needs, such as the Lynx Food Pantry, Loving Lynx; life-skills courses on a variety of topics including financial literacy; and a gateway to lifelong activities like club sports. Career Services and Immersive Learning provides equity grants for students and maintains a professional clothing closet for students who need attire for their job or interviews. Meanwhile, Housing and Dining provides a home away from home for more than 1,100 students.

VMSS has earned various national designations due to its acclaimed Veteran and Military Dependent programming. The Student Health, Well-Being, and Advocacy and Dean of Students teams provide support to students who are in crisis or struggling. And because of the Student Life and Campus Community office, students get to be part of major milestones for the university, like the creation of the Milo mascot and student spaces like the Wellness Center. 

This variety of resources supports a student’s success at CU Denver and helps them lead fulfilling lives after college. And that’s meaningful for Herndon. “My hope is that our students, when they’re alums and they’re successful in what they’re doing, can look back and remember what they learned both in and out of the classroom and recall how wonderful their experience was at CU Denver.” 

Staff Spotlights:    

Get to know some of the International Affairs team members, in their own words.   

Addison Lemons, Assistant Director for Student Organizations 

Hometown: “Charlotte, North Carolina.” 

Typical Day: “I lead a dedicated team overseeing 125-plus active student clubs and organizations, offering support through funding opportunities, organization fairs, leadership trainings, and social events targeting both interested students and organization leaders. Additionally, I manage our vibrant Sorority and Fraternity Life program, home to four unique organizations. I also help advise The Sentry student newspaper, which covers campus events, Colorado news, and local arts in our bi-weekly publications. Together, we’re working to foster a dynamic campus community. 

Favorite Thing About My Job: “One of the aspects I love about my role is aiding students in discovering their community at CU Denver through sororities, fraternities, and student organizations. These groups allow students to delve into their interests and unearth new passions, while also fostering unique leadership opportunities. Witnessing students evolve from curious first-years or new transfers to enthusiastic, community-driven leaders is immensely rewarding. It’s a joy to support their journey of growth and empowerment here at CU Denver.” 

Outside of Work: “I try and take advantage of living in the beautiful state of Colorado. In my free time, my wife and I love to spend as much time as possible outside whether it be hiking, kayaking, or just playing with our dog Tex.” 

Racheal Reed-Maloney, Violence Prevention Education Program Manager, Phoenix Center at Auraria 

Hometown: “I was born and raised in the Denver Metro Area and cannot imagine myself being anywhere else.” 

Typical Day: “A day in the life of a VPEPM is predictable and unpredictable. While many of our events, workshops, and social media posts are pre-planned, our team does our best to keep up with current events in the news, on campus, and in the media to talk about their relevance to interpersonal violence and social justice. Folks can oftentimes find me in committee meetings, updating curriculum, reviewing data, or meeting with my team.” 

Favorite Thing About My Job: “One of the (many) things I love about my job is finding creative ways to talk about interpersonal violence in ways that help folks retain what they are learning and want to learn more. I have found hosting activity-filled events, such as our Consent Turns Me On Carnival and Sex Trivia, creates fun spaces for folks to learn about healthy relationships and consent.” 

Outside of Work: “Despite what my role may suggest, I am the definition of an introvert. When I am off-the-clock, I like to bake, work out at the gym, spend time with my partner, cuddle with my kitties, and read (and watch) horror stories.” 

Victoria Watson, Assistant Director of Health Promotions and Basic Needs, Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center 

Hometown: “West Chester, Pennsylvania.” 

Typical Day: “Overseeing both health promotion and basic needs makes for a very fast-paced and dynamic workday. My day can vary from creating and implementing health promotion workshops and events to hands-on work assisting the team with a food pantry restock. Other days I’m meeting with campus partners to collaborate on projects and initiatives. I also teach weekly kickboxing classes at the Wellness Center. Some days I do all of the above.” 

Favorite Thing About My Job: “My favorite thing about my job is having the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with students and serve as a resource to support them through their college journey. Our students at CU Denver are amazing to work with, and they are what keep me going day in and day out.” 

Outside of Work: “I love spending as much time as possible outdoors. Some of my favorite outdoor activities include snowboarding, paddle boarding, hiking, camping, and relaxing in the backyard by the fire pit or garden with my fiancé and our 8-year-old miniature German Shepherd, Javi.”