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Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (AHSS)

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Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences


Liberal arts education is at the heart of the University of Denver. Our faculty, staff and students come together in a shared quest for knowledge of the human condition.

Advisory Board Members

2014-2015 Board Members & Biographic Sketches

AHSS Advisory Board members serve a renewable, four-year term. Members are appointed by the dean.

Amelia Ribnick Kleiman (BA '79, political science, economics), President
Houston, TX


kleimanAmelia Ribnick Kleiman, MBA, JD, Texas Regional Director of the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem since 2011, is responsible for developing local Texas leadership, increasing awareness for one of Israel's world renowned medical centers and significantly enhancing Shaare Zedek's profile and fundraising efforts throughout the state.

Previously with Baylor College of Medicine, Amelia served as a Director of Development helping to grow BCM's donor support by actively cultivating and soliciting major gift prospects. Prior to BCM, Amelia was the Principal of ARK Consulting, which assisted organizations, foundations, corporations, and individuals build legacies for the future through planned giving, fund-raising, and/or non-profit management assistance. Kleiman also served as Special Project Counsel for St. Luke's Episcopal Health System, Assistant Director of Development and External Relations for the Houston Zoo, Executive Director of the Center for Community Initiatives at the Greater Houston Community Foundation, and Executive Director of the Houston Jewish Community Foundation.

Kleiman received her BA in Political Science and Economics from the University of Denver in 1979, graduating with University and Economics Honors. She has been active as an alumni since leaving school, having served in various leadership roles with the greater Houston Alumni Chapter, as well as an interviewer and recruiter for the DU Office of Admissions. A founding Board member of the DU Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (AHSS) Dean's Advisory Board, and most recently Board Vice President, Kleiman assumes her term as President following the untimely passing of cherished DU alumni, Dave Briggs.

Kleiman, who also holds an MBA and JD from University of Houston, currently serves as Chair of National Philanthropy Day for the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Greater Houston Chapter. She previously served as President-Elect, VP of Community Outreach and Diversity, VP of Government Relations, and Assistant Secretary, and also held leadership roles with the local Planned Giving Council. A member of the State Bar of Texas and Women's B & P Connections networking organization, Kleiman also serves as Co-Chair of the Greater Houston Grantmakers' Forum. In addition to her professional affiliations, Amelia is an active volunteer with numerous non-profits, including the University of Denver, University of Houston Law Center, Hadassah, Jewish Family Service, JCC of Houston, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, among others. She also served for a number of years as a religious school teacher at her synagogues.

A third-generation native Houstonian and published author, Kleiman practiced law and ran a successful business before starting her non-profit career. With over 20 years in the non-profit field, Kleiman is a popular speaker in the areas of giving in diverse communities, planned giving, endowments, grant-making, marketing, corporate philanthropy, and community foundations. She has spoken extensively to a variety of groups, locally, regionally and internationally.

Kleiman is married to Eric Kleiman, a marketing consultant, and is the proud mom of Brett, age 16 and Jacklyn, age 10, who both attend Robert M. Beren Academy, as well as Jenna Michelle Kleiman,. When not keeping up with her kids many sports activities, Amelia and her family love to travel, especially to visit baseball stadiums and National Parks around the U.S. 

Terena Thyne Eisner (BA '97, communications)
Los Angeles, CA

eisnerTerena Thyne Eisner is the Co-Founder and Editor of the travel website wandermelon.com. She also regularly writes travel and lifestyle feature articles for a variety of publications, including Harper's Bazaar, Coast, Elle, Arena, The Sun, Robb Report and others. Eisner was the Contributing Lifestyle Editor of Harper's Bazaar Singapore, and Lifestyle Editor of the luxury lifestyle magazine CREAM. She sits on the board of 826LA, a writing and tutoring center in Los Angeles and is an advisor of the Eisner Foundation.

Sehra Eusufzai (MS '97, mass communications & journalism studies)
Manhattan, NY

Sehra Eusufzai is the Director, Brand System & Workforce Enablement at IBM. Working in brand strategy, marketing and corporate communications, she has held leadership roles supporting various IBM business units for the last decade, including more than three years in Bangalore, India, where she led regional communications and global industry marketing. Previously, Eusufzai worked in IT consulting, database marketing and external and internal relations, advising or working for federal government, professional services and telecommunications clients. Before gaining her MS at DU in strategic communications, she received her BS in materials science & engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Eusufzai now resides in New York City where she also serves on the Associates Board of the Asian American Writers' Workshop; the Congress Executive Committee for South Asian Women's Leadership Forum; and the advisory board of The Asia Society's 'Asia Circle' Young Patrons' group.

Geoff Gordon (BA '73, theatre)
Denver, CO

gordonGeoff Gordon graduated from the University of Denver in 1973, with a BA in Theater. He then served two years as an NBC page in Burbank, CA, handing out prize envelopes to winners of Stump the Band on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” His early acting experience was as the voice of Haggle, the first cartoon rapper on television, in the “Gary Coleman Show,” a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. He next starred in George Clinton’s music video “Last Dance,” where he played a love-struck nerd. Ironically, he later became Executive Story Editor on the ABC sitcom “Family Matters,” where he created the show’s break-out character, Steve Urkel. Geoff wrote Urkels signature line, “Did I do that?” and the rest is history.  Worried that the phrase may end up on his tombstone, Geoff has opted for cremation.

Geoff also wrote for several ground breaking television shows, including working with Norman Lear on The Jeffersons, and for Fox Networks comedy series Roc. He created and wrote a TV pilot, Baldwin Heights, depicting the life of African-American upper-middle class families. He later worked in Hollywood at Paramount Studios, with Eddie Murphy Productions on Royal Family, starring Redd Foxx (Sanford and Son) and Della Reese (Touched by an Angel).   

The second part of Geoff’s career was as a studio executive at MGM Worldwide Television.  Here, he was Vice President of Marketing, Publicity, and New Media.  

Geoff moved back to Denver in April of 2014. Returning to his Colorado roots, he is rejoining the DU family and looking forward to being part of this vibrant community.

Nora Heitmann (BA '00, political science & communication)
Centennial, CO

Nora HeitmannNora Heitmann was raised in Greenwood Village, CO, and attended the University of Denver. She graduated Cum Laude with honors in both political science and communications in 2000. After a year of working for Governor Bill Owens, Nora left the public sector to begin a sales career at Airborne Express. Consistently winning awards and top rankings, she was promoted to Senior Sales Rep after only one year. Heitmann stayed with Airborne until they were sold to DHL in 2001.

It was in 2001 that Heitmann began her career in freight forwarding. She worked for Quantum Logistics, one of Inc. 500's fastest growing companies. Quantum Logistics was bought and sold. Heitmann and the core group there remained with the organization when they became Forward Logistics Group in 2006 and are now Trans Trade, Inc. At Trans Trade, Inc., Heitmann has been the number one sales rep nearly every month despite maternity leave and only working two days a week. In 2008, her gross profit was more than $200,000 greater than the second ranking sales rep. In 2009, Heitmann won an award from ColoradoBiz Magazine naming her one of the top 25 most powerful sales people in Colorado.

In 2010, the University of Denver recognized her success and awarded her with the Ammi Hyde Award for Recent Graduate Achievement. An award reserved for the top alumni within 10 years of his/her graduation. In her free time, Heitmann is active in the Junior League of Denver and enjoys running marathons, tennis, fly fishing, wine and spending time with her husband, 4½ year old daughter and 1½ year old son.

Jason Kearns (BA '93, economics & Russian)
Washington, DC

Chief International Trade Counsel, Ways and Means Committee, U.S. House of Representatives

kearnsJason Kearns serves as Chief International Trade Counsel (Democratic Staff) to the Committee on Ways and Means in the U.S. House of Representatives. In that position since 2006, he advises members of Congress on legislation concerning international trade and on oversight issues involving the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and other agencies involved in international trade policy and regulation.

Earlier, Kearns served for three years in the Office of the General Counsel to the U.S. Trade Representative within the Executive Office of the President. There he advised negotiators on issues that arose during bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations and represented the United States in several disputes in the World Trade Organization.

From 2000 through 2003, Kearns worked in the international trade group of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now known as WilmerHale). In addition to his undergraduate degree from the University of Denver, Kearns holds a Master in Public Policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania.

Thomas Kulik (BA '73, psychology)
Waban, MA

Tom KulikThomas J. Kulik was born in Denver, graduated from DU in 1973 with a BA in psychology, and from the Univ. of Colorado School of Medicine in 1977. He completed training in general pediatrics and pediatric cardiology at the Univ. of Minnesota Hospitals, followed by faculty positions in Minnesota, Boston Children's Hospital, the Univ. of Michigan Hospitals, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, and is currently a senior associate in cardiology at Boston Children's Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

He has served on multiple national committees relevant to the provision of pediatric cardiac care, as well having had administrative positions at the Univ. of Michigan Hospitals, Cincinnati Children's Hospital, and Boston Children's Hospital.

Kulik has done basic and clinical research regarding control of the lung's circulation, and research related to improving postoperative outcomes in patients with congenital heart disease.

Ian Mohr (BA '92, English)
Brooklyn, NY

Ian Mohr is currently Deputy Editor of Page Six at The New York Post. Before joining the daily column, he previously served as Box Office Editor of the Hollywood trade publication Variety and was New York Bureau Chief of The Hollywood Reporter. Mohr has also worked in film development and production as VP of Goldsmith-Thomas Prods., an independent company based at MGM Studios. As a production executive, he oversaw the Showtime pilot "Possible Side Effects," written and directed by Tim Robbins, and was involved in the development of projects for ABC, HBO, Walden Media and Summit Entertainment.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, Mohr majored in Creative Writing at DU, and was News Editor of The Clarion. After graduation, he worked as a copy clerk at The Chicago Tribune and was marketing manager of Pearson Television in Los Angeles. He has contributed as a freelancer to GQ, Gawker Media, Fashion Week Daily, Moxie Pictures, Warner Bros. Int'l Television and Sony Int'l Television. 

Linda Murphy Marshall (BA'72, Spanish)
Columbia, MD

Linda Murphy Marshall received her BA in Spanish from the University of Denver and subsequently studied at St. Louis University to obtain her MA in Spanish and her PhD in Hispanic literature. Fluent in more than a dozen languages (including Xhosa, Sotho and Swahili) and proficient in 20, she has worked at the US Department of Defense (DOD) as a language analyst since 1985. In that role she has traveled the world with US elected officials, including President George Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She has taught fellow DOD employees about language securities and has developed DOD proficiency tests for less common languages. Linda has also served as a research scientist at the University of Maryland's Center for the Advanced Study of Language. CASL brings together people from the government, academia and the private sector to perform research in language and cognition.

Sharon Orlopp (BA'81, speech communication, political science)
Rogers, AR

orloppAs Global Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Vice President, Corporate HR, at Walmart, Sharon is responsible for advancing a diverse workforce with 2.2 million associates worldwide. Her current responsibilities include overseeing and leveraging global diversity and inclusion efforts, associate relations, and HR policy for the world’s largest retailer.

Sharon joined Walmart in 2003 as Vice President, People. In 2004, she was promoted to Senior Vice President, People – Sam’s Club. Prior to joining the company, Sharon was Vice President of Human Resources for Gart Sports, where she was responsible for compensation, benefits, training, recruiting, public relations, and investor relations. Sharon also spent 17 years with Foot Locker, where she held various leadership positions in Operations and Human Resources.

Sharon is an experienced human resource professional with a passion for diversity and for people. She has made it her mission to advance diversity initiatives, sponsor immersive learning trips and lead by example.

A lifelong advocate for inclusion, education and opportunity, Sharon considers it a privilege to serve as a member of the National Advisory Board of Enactus. She has held previous Board positions with Women’s Foodservice Forum and the Center for Entrepreneurship at Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Kristen Powell, Student Representative (BA'16, communication studies and sociology)
Denver, CO

Kristin Powell is the president of the AHSS Student Advisory Council. She will graduate from the University of Denver in spring 2016 with degrees in sociology and communication studies. She studies social deviance and social justice issues, particularly through policy change, institutional reform, culture adjustment and advocacy for human rights. At DU she is a student leader involved with the Social Justice Living and Learning Community (LLP), Class Council, the Black Student Alliance and the National Residence Hall Honorary. She serves as resident assistant for first-year students for the Social Justice LLP Residence Hall. Kristen is passionate about promoting intercultural dialogue and empowerment through community engagement. She is currently working to get involved with at-risk youth populations in Denver in program development and coordination. In fall 2015 she will study abroad in Tanzania as a DU Cherrington Scholar.

Michele Right (BA, '70, mass communication)
Englewood, CO

michelle rightMichele Right is a third-generation Colorado native, and '70 graduate from the University of Denver, with a BA in Mass Communication. A reporter for the Denver Post, she also worked as sales office and catering manager for the Hilton Hotel chain. In addition to teaching remedial English to students at a Denver area high school, Michele has also been a docent in the Contemporary Art department of the Denver Art Museum.

An active community member, Michele was responsible for Colorado's first legislative mission to Israel. Michele served as Parent Council president of a Denver area private school, in addition to serving as a member of the school's Board of Trustees. She is presently Director of Communications for a small Denver-based distributing company.

David Savinar (BA '76, studio art)
Portland, OR

David Savinar is the founder and executive director of Rain Agency INC, a Portland, OR, integrated advertising agency. Savinar has extensive agency and corporate experience in interactive, direct marketing, advertising and promotions. He has a record of successfully directing logistically demanding and time sensitive advertising and direct marketing campaigns for Fortune 500 companies and has international and multicultural advertising experience. His clients at Rain include the University of Iowa, Intel, Intuit, The Oregon Zoo, HSBC Bank, and many more. Before founding Rain, Savinar was the executive creative director at CyberSight where he created a 20-plus person interactive creative department in Portland and San Francisco. After receiving his BA in studio art from DU, he received his BFA from the Art Center College of Design in California. He has served and serves on numerous boards, including the Board of the Art Directors Club of Philadelphia, the Oregon Zoo Foundation Development Committee and Epilepsy Foundation of Philadelphia. He is president-elect for the Maryhill Museum of Art Board of Trustees.

Ellie Schafer (BA '90, mass communication)
Washington, DC

schaferThe White House is known as “The People’s House,” and since 2009, Ellie Schafer has made that sobriquet truer than ever before for millions of guests. As Director of the White House Visitors Office and Special Assistant to President Barack Obama, Schafer has helped transform how guests perceive and experience 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. From private VIP visits to the sprawling Easter Egg Roll that draws 35,000 children and parents to the South Lawn, Schafer has managed more than 1500 events during her tenure. More importantly, she has restored the White House as a place that is fascinating, educational, and fun to visit.

In her almost 20 years in the workforce, Schafer has worked both at the White House and with everyday members of the American public. She has been as comfortable serving such clients as Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Al and Tipper Gore, and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama as she has been working with students visiting the White House’s organic garden to learn about healthy eating or Iowa farmers campaigning for President Obama. Throughout, she has established a documented record of success in helping shape public opinion toward individuals and institutions.

At the White House Visitors Office, Schafer oversees a staff of eight and more than 1,000 volunteers. Besides the well-known Easter Egg Roll, National Tree Lighting Ceremony, and Garden Tours, she handles Holiday Open Houses, White House tour services for 535 Senators and Representatives, and State Arrival Ceremonies for world leaders from such nations as India, Mexico, and France. She also plays a key role in July 4th festivities, Halloween trick-or-treating at the White House, and other large events. 

But it is Schafer’s strategic role that has transformed how the public interacts with and views the White House. She has streamlined the White House Tour System—logistics, security checks, communications, and so on—to make it more efficient, expeditious, and friendly without sacrificing security. For example, she instituted programs such as the Monthly Member Pass for Members of Congress and developed a Boarding Pass for visits to the White House. She has consulted with Buckingham Palace and the FBI to make their tour programs more open and accessible to the public. She also works closely with the United States Secret Service to ensure that increased access never jeopardizes the safety and security of the First Family or their guests. 

Prior to her role in the Visitors Office, Schafer worked in senior positions on the advance staff for the Obama presidential campaign. She managed logistics for such campaign trips as the Democratic National Convention and Super Tuesday. In 2006, she accompanied then-U.S. Senator Obama on tour promoting his book “The Audacity of Hope.’’ Months later, when Senator Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States, Schafer was on his team from day one, and was tapped to serve the 44th President of the United States at the White House. 

Schafer’s political career took root in 1995, when she developed her own political consultancy, focusing on advance and logistical work for political campaigns, foundations, and national and world leaders. Her clients included the Dalai Lama, Heinz Family Philanthropies, The California Endowment, John Kerry for President, Former President Bill Clinton, and Former Vice Presidential Couple Tipper and Al Gore. 

Among many honors, in 2013 Schafer was selected to the inaugural class of President Obama’s Leadership Academy and was enlisted as a mentor for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Mentoring and Leadership program. The latter gives 20 local high school girls access to senior female leadership in the White House and is designed to inspire them and help them achieve their dreams.

In 2014, Schafer was profiled in Capitol File Magazine’s, “Women Who Wow” and in 2010, Out Magazine named Schafer as, “one of the 100 most influential men and women who inspired, shaped and changed the world.” She was also the keynote speaker at the University of Denver’s Homecoming weekend.

Andrea Stanton, Faculty Representative
Denver, CO

Andrea Stanton is assistant professor of Islamic studies in the department of religious studies and serves as the department's undergraduate adviser and as liaison for its Theta Alpha Kappa chapter. Her research focuses on twentieth and twenty-first century Islam in the Middle East and globally. Specifically, she examines media and religious identity, and investigates the sometimes conflictual, sometimes cooperative, relationships between new technologies and claims to religious authority. Her most recent historical work examines government management of religious broadcasts in Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s, connecting this to a broader trend of Middle Eastern states controlling religious communities' access to radio and television. Her most recent contemporary work examines the emergent phenomenon of "Islamic emoticons," which appear in online Islamic chat forums and websites. Stanton's teaching interests include Qur'anic studies, contemporary fundamentalisms, globalization and its impact on religious identity and practice, gender and Muslim practice and embodied practice and notions of piety, as well as the Internet and social media's evolving impact in these areas. Stanton graduated magna cum laude from Williams College with a double major in religion and history. She obtained her MA and PhD from Columbia University, with a focus on Middle Eastern history.

Vanessa Teck (BA '13, intercultural communications & digital media studies)
Denver, CO

teckVanessa Teck graduated from the University of Denver in 2013 with a BA in Intercultural Communications and Digital Media Studies, with a minor in Leadership. She is currently continuing at DU as a Masters Candidate in Higher Education at the Morgridge College of Education. Vanessa is passionate about community engagement, addressing issues of social justice, and furthering inclusive excellence. However, much of her time is dedicated towards helping in the progressive Asian Pacific American (APA) movement, both locally and nationally. At present, she is embarking on a research project with the Asian American and Pacific Islander Research Coalition (ARC) to collect the stories of Bhutanese and Burmese refugees in Colorado. In her free time, Vanessa manages Community Outreach and Multimedia for Project Ava, an organization she co-founded with two fellow DU alumni to share meaningful stories to move the advocates of today and tomorrow.

Cole Wist (BA '85, political science & public policy)
Centennial, CO

Cole WistCole Wist hails from the small town of Paonia, in the heart of Colorado's Western Slope. He earned his undergraduate degree from DU and his law degree from Georgetown University. Cole practices law as a partner with Holland & Hart LLP in Denver. Wist has over 25 years of litigation experience in state and federal courts across the country, and his primary practice areas are workplace safety and health and employment litigation.

Wist's professional activities include: the Colorado Mining Association, the Industrial Minerals Association, the Colorado Lawyers Committee, and Club 20. Wist has served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Task Force on Civil Justice Reform and as a Trustee for Mesa State College. For many years, Wist served as a mock trial coach for Regis Jesuit High School, and led a number of teams to success at the state and national levels.

During his undergraduate years at DU, Wist served as President of the student government and was active in his fraternity and numerous campus organizations. Building on the strong roots planted in his political science/public policy studies, Wist is a lifelong political junkie and remains involved in policy issues as a lawyer and private citizen. During hockey season, you will find him in his Section 20 seats cheering on the Pioneers.

Wist and his wife, Susan, live in Centennial. They have three daughters.

Former Advisory Board Members

Rudy Alterio, Student Representative (2011-2012)
Melanie Herrera Bortz, Alumni Representative (2011-2012)
Brewster Boyd (2012-2013)
David Briggs, President (2011-2012)
Noel Edghill, Alumni Representative (2011-2012)
Sarah Gjertson, Faculty Representative (2011-2012)
Constance Hammond, Alumni Representative (2011-2013)
Craig Hirokawa, Student Representative (2012-2013)
Emmit McHenry, Vice President (2012-2013)
Derigan Silver, Faculty Representative (2011-2014)
Steve Simon, Vice President (2012-2014)
Anne Waldeck (2011-2014)
Josh Wehe, Student Representative (2013)