Chancellor Michelle Marks (middle) and Nolbert Chavez (right) with the 2022-23 Chancellor's Urban Engaged Scholars.

Seven Faculty Honored for Work that Impacts the City of Denver at the 2022–23 TIAA Chancellor’s Urban Engaged Scholars Reception

September 20, 2022

One of CU Denver’s strategic goals is to become internationally known for its research and creative works, and that starts right in our own backyard with this year’s class of TIAA Chancellor’s Urban Engaged Scholars (CUES). Last week, Nolbert Chavez, chief of external initiatives, executive director of CU Denver’s CityCenter, and an alum, hosted the second annual CUES reception at CityCenter on Sept. 13, joined by Chancellor Michelle Marks, Cabinet members and deans, representatives from TIAA and the city, awardees, and guests. Seven faculty members were honored for their research and creative works, which are improving the lives of residents in the Denver metro area. 

Quoting the words of 20th-century American poet Robert Frost, “good fences make good neighbors,” Chavez opened the event by reflecting on the importance of letting neighbors, community members, and partners into our university, which strengthens our collective bond and enriches the work we do together.  

This inclusive perspective undergirds the philosophy and practices of CityCenter and our partnership model. Once bounded by dark walls that shut out the adjacent downtown Denver activity, CityCenter is an example of how removing barriers leads to more meaningful connection and collaboration among researchers such as the CUES awardees, business partners like TIAA, and the community, Chavez said. Today, the center on the corner of 14th and Lawrence streets is lined with floor-to-ceiling glass windows—a representation of CU Denver’s commitment to being a good neighbor to the city it calls home. 

“When we started CityCenter, we wanted to make sure it was open and inviting to our greater community and to our research community,” Chavez said. “We wanted to show that we were committed to working together and serving as an asset to this city.”  

Nolbert Chavez

The CUES recipients received $4,000 and an opportunity to present their work to the community during the reception. The honorees’ research addresses a range of challenges, including road safety, transportation issues, air pollution, climate change, and the difficulties young homeless people are facing. The CityCenter administers the CUES program, which is funded by TIAA.  

Representatives from TIAA were thrilled to be on hand to recognize some of the many CU Denver faculty making a difference. The CUES initiative is an extension of TIAA’s mission, Charla Candy-Kadlubar, TIAA’s director of corporate social responsibility, shared at the reception. TIAA (formerly TIAA-CREF) founder Andrew Carnegie started the investment and insurance services company in part to ensure the educators of the future would be able to retire with pride, respect, and dignity, rather than in poverty as he had witnessed. 

“The TIAA Chancellor’s Urban Engaged Scholar initiative supports faculty research, and that benefits greater societal issues,” Candy-Kadlubar noted.  

Meet the Researchers  

Ersin Dincelli, PhD, MBA, Assistant Professor, Business School 

Dincelli’s research focuses on cybersecurity and human-computer interaction (HCI). His research highlights individuals’ decision-making processes and behaviors in the context of information security and privacy, and HCI design for emerging technologies. 

Owen Kortz, Senior Instructor, Faculty Director, College of Arts & Media 

Kortz shares his love and knowledge of songwriting to empower youth experiencing homelessness in their self-expression through music and music production. 

Priyanka deSouza, PhD, MSc, MBA, MTech, Assistant Professor, College of Architecture and Planning 

deSouza’s research focuses on how to make cities around the world more resilient to the impacts of air pollution and climate change. A key element of her research explores the health impacts of pollution to vulnerable populations.  

Wes Marshall, PhD, Professor, College of Engineering, Design and Computing 

Marshall studies the road safety and active transportation issues facing the Denver metro region. His laboratory is our streets, and he is passionate about building a more livable and resilient city for everyone.  

Jennifer Reich, PhD, Professor of Sociology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Faculty Director, University Honors and Leadership.  

Reich’s research focuses on vaccine hesitancy and decision making for families and individuals. Her research was invaluable during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Margarita Bianco, EdD, Associate Professor, School of Education & Human Development 

Bianco’s Pathways2Teaching program helps to recruit and retain teachers of color to create spaces of educational equity. Additionally, Bianco researches strategies to create Grow Your Own teacher programs for high school students of color in urban and rural communities. 

Todd Ely, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs 

Ely’s research focuses on improving stewardship of government and nonprofit financial resources for public purposes in the Denver-metro region and beyond.