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Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (AHSS)


AHSS Pioneers


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Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

AHSS Alumni Achievement Awards

The 2016 Alumni Achievement Awards were presented to the following recipients at the Livingston Lecture in May:

Alumni Service to AHSS Award

This award is granted to an AHSS alumnus/a who has made significant contributions to the Arts, Humanities and Social Services at the University of Denver. He/she has offered their time, expertise, enthusiasm and energy to improving liberal arts programming at DU and has helped to preserve and promote AHSS traditions at DU.

Melanie Herrera Bortz (BA '88, psychology)
Herrera Bortz has over 20 years' experience in the non-profit sector. She has worked on a wide range of social justice issues striving to bring about change for children, women and families. She was co-founder of a community-based nonprofit, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights. She has worked as a social worker for Head Start, conducted evaluation research on the quality of health care, conducted clinically based medical research and performed community organizing with Latinos.

In addition, Herrera Bortz finds time to serve her alma mater. Her nominator for this award stated that "Melanie is a true friend to AHSS." As a founding Advisory Board Member, she was integral to shaping student-alumni programming in AHSS and her input has had a lasting impact on today's programming. She has also served on the DU Latino Alumni Association, and has dedicated years to one-on-one mentoring of DU students.

Recent Alumni Achievement Award

This award is granted to an AHSS alumnus/a who has graduated within the last 15 years (this year, after 2001). This award recognizes a nominee's professional or personal achievements. This nominee is a growing leader in their field, and priority is given to candidates who have demonstrated creativity or originality in their achievements.

Keely Buchanan (BA '01, digital media studies)
Buchanan is the Manager of Communications and Distance Learning for Time Warner Cable. Over the past 14 years, she has earned numerous awards and recognitions in the Telecommunications Industry. Most recently, she was named Multichannel News 2015 National Women in Technology Rising Star.

Buchanan has volunteered her time for myriad organizations, local and national. She has sat on the Women in Cable Telecommunications Rocky Mountain Chapter Board of Directors since 2009, and is currently Vice President. She also has lead the group's Rocky Mountain STEM and Student Outreach efforts since 2008, offering high school and college students scholarships to attend the "Tech It Out" event each year.

She also volunteers her time for Colorado FIRST Robotics competitions, and is particularly passionate about the first all-girls Robotics team, from St. Mary's Academy, in the history of Colorado.

Buchanan enjoys giving back to the community and has been one of the top ten individual fundraisers for the Colorado Arthritis Foundation since 2011. In addition, she gives back to DU in a number of ways, particularly as a mentor to current students.

Community Engagement Award

This award is granted to any AHSS alumnus/a who has dedicated him/herself to serving the community, locally or globally. His/her accomplishments have improved or enriched the lives of others. His/her contributions need not be publicly renowned, but should demonstrate creative or original achievements that offer societal or educational value.

Scott Gratson (PhD '02, human communications)
Gratson is a persistent advocate for increased inclusion of ostracized and disempowered communities; a drive for inclusion that he says began to germinate at DU. Much of his advocacy has been with LGBTQ youth and leadership development, and includes work with the national organizations such as the Hetrick-Martin Institute and the Point Foundation.

Gratson is now the director of communication studies in the School of Media and Communication at Temple University in Philadelphia. Locally, he has participated in several initiatives, including the Chinese Friendship Gate Project, Philadelphia AIDS Walk, Philadelphia Urban Farming Initiative, and partnership with Morris Home, a safe haven for transgender and gender variant individuals who are in the process of recovering from addiction.

Since 2003, he has served on numerous Temple University committees related to increasing awareness and engagement of the LGBTQ population. His efforts have earned him a long list of teaching and service awards including the 2015-2016 Temple University Stauffer Award for Service across the university and community.

Lifetime Achievement Award

This award is granted to any AHSS alumnus/a who has demonstrated special career or personal achievements. This person is a leader in their field and has made outstanding contributions to their field.

Maria Guajardo (PhD '88, psychology)
Throughout her career, Guajardo has dedicated herself to improving the lives of children, and has been a tireless advocate for children locally, nationally, and internationally. After earning her PhD, Guajardo worked as the state dropout prevention coordinator for the Colorado Department of Education, and later served as Executive Director of the Latin American Research and Service Agency. She then founded Assets for Colorado Youth, a youth development agency that promotes academic achievement to community engagement. She was appointed by John Hickenlooper to serve as Director of the Mayor's Office for education and children, and in 2010, she was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame.

While working at the Colorado Department of Education, Guajardo received a Kellogg National Fellowship to examine the role children have in creating world peace. She traveled to 10 countries, participating in international dialogues to advance the living conditions for children in third-world countries.

She was appointed by President Clinton to the Minority Mental Health panel, which identified healthcare gaps and resources for the Latino community.

Guajardo has served on numerous boards, including the University of Denver Board of Trustees, Soka University America, The Children's Hospital Denver, and the Denver Foundation. She currently serves as deputy vice president at Soka University in Japan.

Past Recipients of the Alumni Achievement Awards:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Karambu Ringera (PhD '07, human communications)
  • Community Engagement Award: David Rosenberg (BA '78, psychology, mass communication)
  • Alumni Service to AHSS Award: Amelia Ribnick Kleiman (BA '79, political science, economics)
  • Recent Alumni Achievement Award: Christopher Luther (BM '06, music performance)
  • Alumni Service to AHSS Award: Dr. Edythe Miller (BA '50 and MA '53, economics)
  • Recent Alumni Achievement Award: Mahalia Newmark (BA '08, English)
  • Community Engagement Award: Hannah Seigel Proff (BA '04, English, gender and women’s studies)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Hao Jiang Tian (MA '87, music)
  • Alumni Service to DU Award: (Posthumous) Dave Briggs, BA, political science
  • Recent Alumni Achievement Award: Meghan Doyle, BA '02, political science
  • Community Engagement Award: Elizabeth Kingman, BA '71, speech communication
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Mayor Steve Hogan, BA '70, political science and history

The AHSS Alumni Achievement Awards program was created in 2012 under the AHSS Advisory Board, which offers its experience, expertise and energy to the leadership of the divisions to enrich the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences communities. The award selection committee is made up of AHSS Advisory Board representatives and the dean.

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