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Center for Professional Development

Civic Engagement

Multiple indicators reveal that civic engagement has been at all-time lows nationally. For example, approximately 10% of the US population has ever contacted a public official, and only 3% have joined in a protest or other assembled action. Yet these are fundamental aspects of a participatory democracy.

Research suggests that the motivation and execution of such action comes from civic education—actually knowing how to engage and how to do so effectively.

Join national, regional, and local experts in this workshop series as they share their insights about participatory democracy, from the basics on the legislative process to community organizing and protesting.

University of Denver
Graduate School of Social Work
Craig Hall Commons
2148 South High St.
Denver, CO 80208

Community Members: $25
DU affiliates* (Faculty, Staff and Alumni): $15
Current DU Students* (must provide valid student ID): Free
*Discounted pricing provided for GSSW affiliates generously sponsored by the Graduate School of Social Work.

These courses offers 4.0 contact hours

Additional workshops in Civic Education for Civic Engagement will be offered in the near future. Email to be the first notified!

2.0 Issue Based Workshops on Environmental Justice & Islamophobia

Coming Soon!

Healthcare Policy

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Time: Coming soon

Past Workshops:

Understanding & Influencing Legislation

Thank you for attending!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Time: 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

This course offers 4.0 contact hours

Course Description: 

Participating in the political process can seem complicated and daunting. How can one person make a difference? This course, led by Hope Errico Wisneski, Western Regional Field Director for the Human Rights Campaign, will help individuals identify their passions and plug into the political process. It will also help social workers to better serve their clients and organizations as social workers advocate for policies that protect and benefit their constituents.

First, Hope will share the big picture of the political process and how laws are made federally, by state and locally. The premise is that when you understand the process, you can better identify where you can make the most impact. Next, she will help you examine your own goals and motivations. What is driving you to make change? When you identify your passion, you can more easily identify causes you might join. Next, learn the different ways that you might advocate for your cause, from letter-writing campaigns to visits to the legislature.

What are the skill sets and resources that you bring to the cause? Speaking to social workers, Hope helps both clinicians and community organizers understand how their professional ethics require skills in policy work. Hope will share stories of her work in the field and also provides hands-on, small-group exercises that help participants apply what they learn. Additionally, DU Assistant Professor Jennifer Greenfield will visit to discuss bills that are currently making their way through the Colorado legislative process, helping you to further hone your areas of focus. Come away with civic education for civic engagement!

Social workers will gain the additional benefit of being better able to help their clients and community organizations to create change through the legislative process.

Read more about the speaker


Hope Errico Wisneski serves as the Western Regional Field Director for the Human Rights Campaign where she maintains and expands HRC’s ability to mobilize grassroots advocacy on behalf of federal and state LGBTQ legislative priorities. In this capacity, she also designs and implements grassroots electoral and campaign strategies in support of federal and state candidates and ballot initiatives, in the region.  Previously, she worked with the Gill Foundation, where she served as a Program Officer and managed the State Equality Fund. In this capacity, Hope worked with state and local advocacy organizations to develop, fund and implement plans to advance pro-equality policy at the state level, in addition to working with LGBTQ national organizations. Prior to the Gill Foundation, Hope served as the Deputy Executive Director of The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado (The Center) where she oversaw daily operations, supervised all programs and supported a 3.5M capital campaign and new building project. Prior to this role, Hope served as The Center’s Director of Youth Services, gaining national recognition for expertise with LGBTQ youth program implementation, research and training.  Hope coauthored 12 publications focusing on LGBTQ youth issues including suicide, school experiences and homelessness. Hope’s former experience includes various client service and management roles in juvenile justice and mental health agencies.  Hope earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Arizona. She earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Denver, where she has served as an adjunct faculty member. Hope provides LGBTQ competency training locally, regionally and nationally, and has served on numerous local and national nonprofit boards and advisory committees.

Community Organizing 101

Thank you for attending!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Time: 8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

This course offers 4.0 contact hours

View the presenter's powerpoint  here. 

Course description:

Rosa Parks did not act alone; she was trained and supported by a faith-based community organization that was helping individuals stand up on their own behalf. The fundamental goal of all community organizing initiatives is to support people who want to act on behalf of their own needs and beliefs. Join Mike Kromrey, Executive Director of Together Colorado, as he leads a hands-on, interactive workshop to teach you how to speak up on your behalf or to help others do the same.

Mike will share stories from his extensive experience motivating and organizing people across Colorado and the country. Participants will learn about the "iron rule" of community organizing: "Never do for others what they can do for themselves." Mike will lead role play exercises that teach participants the value of:

  1. Powerful invitations. Too often, we wonder why " people" don't get involved, but most of the time, they just need to be asked! Never assume someone is too busy or has too many life challenges to get involved. The right conversation can inspire action.
  2. Research for action. What is it like to participate in a group that seeks to organize for change? Learn skills that can help you participate, organize or lead a group.
  3. Utilizing and interfacing with power. What is it like to address someone in power? How does it make you feel? Confront your own feelings about power as the group holds a mock public meeting. Social workers and mental health providers are encouraged to take this class to learn ways to engage their clients so that their voices may be heard. This is particularly critical for those who serve underrepresented groups.

Read more about the speaker


Mike Kromrey is Executive Director of Together Colorado, an affiliate of the PICO National Network. Mike earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and an MSW from the University of Denver. Mike's history with community organizing spans 36 years. He was hired as an organizer by Catholic Community Services in 1980. In 1985, Mike became Director of Metro Organizations for People (MOP), a job he held for 10 years. In 1990, Mike left Denver to direct Congregations Building Community (CBC), a community organization in northern Colorado. Mike directed CBC for five years, returning full-time to the job of directing PICO's statewide community organization, Together Colorado, in July of 2000. In addition to directing Together Colorado, Mike serves on the PICO national staff providing consulting and coaching to PICO's affiliates in Texas, Alabama, San Francisco and Sacramento. Mike also directs Together Colorado Action, the C-4 political arm in Colorado.


Thank you for attending!

Monday, March 27, 2017
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.  (Optional 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Facilitation Training Session)

This course offers 4.0 contact hours 

Course description:

Increasingly, it feels like people have lost the ability to find common ground. It is a human tendency to make up our minds about how we feel or what we believe and then to behave as though those who believe differently are wrong or – worse – evil. But true progress and democracy require that we learn collaborative problem-solving skills so that our solutions truly address the complexity of the problems we face.

Join Martín Carcasson, professor in the Communication Studies department of Colorado State University and founder and director of the CSU Center for Public Deliberation, as he teaches you new ways to communicate with others in order to find common ground. Start with an examination of the communication models we typically rely on to solve problems: 1) adversarial: "I've made up my mind and now I need to convince others." 2) expert: "I'm the expert, so clearly I know what's right for everyone." Then, compare those processes to the deliberative engagement process: "Let's re-define the question itself, listen to and learn from each other, uncover the underlying tensions, and work through them together."

Practice the first step in deliberative dialogue: redefine the problem you face. Carcasson shares the concept of "wicked problems," which tend to be complex and fraught with competing underlying values. If you define such a problem as having only two possible solutions (ie. "My way or your way") then you will likely never find the best solution and will fuel further polarization. Rather, learn to define a problem differently so that everyone approaches it with a more open mind. Then, Carcasson teaches you how to identify the values that you bring to a problem and how to listen for the values that others bring. Finally, learn the ways that a trained facilitator can create an environment for all to interact productively.

Come away with more effective problem-solving skills and the ability to elevate the quality of communication in your personal, professional and civic conversations.

Read more about the speaker

Martín Carcasson, Ph.D., is a professor in the Communication Studies department of Colorado State University, and the founder and director of the CSU Center for Public Deliberation (CPD). He also serves as a Senior Public Engagement Fellow with Public Agenda, a nationally recognized public engagement firm based in New York, serves on the faculty of the Kettering Foundation’s Centers for Public Life program, and is the chair of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation Board of Directors. His research focuses on deliberative engagement and collaborative problem-solving. He has received additional certification training by the National Issues Forum, the International Association of Public Participation, and the Institute for Participatory Management and Planning.  The CPD serves as an impartial resource for the Northern Colorado community dedicated to enhancing local democracy through improved public communication, community problem solving, and collaborative decision-making. Dr. Carcasson trains students and community members to serve as impartial facilitators, who then work with local governments, school boards, and community organizations to analyze tough issues and then design, facilitate, and report on innovative public forums on those issues.  His research has been published in Rhetoric & Public Affairs, the Journal of Public Deliberation, Higher Education Exchange, the International Journal of Conflict Resolution, New Directions in Higher Education, Public Sector Digest, Communication Theory, National Civic Review, Colorado Municipalities, Journal of Applied Communication Research, and the Quarterly Journal of Speech. 

Direct Action 101: Traditions and Tactics

Monday, April 3, 2017

Time: 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 

This course offers 4.0 contact hours

Course Description:

Direct action: defined as organized on-the-ground action that communities use to reveal an issue or implement the change they want; to shut things down or open things up; to apply pressure on powerbrokers or policy makers; to re-imagine what is possible; to defend something positive; to bring attention to something un-just.

Feel like you need to do something in your community to advance social justice but don't know what or how? Join leaders of Black Lives Matter 5280, SURJ Denver (Showing Up For Racial Justice) and DU Professor Ramona Beltran as they lead an interactive workshop designed to give participants concrete knowledge and skills for planning and implementing direct action.

Communities have used direct action to inspire changes in society throughout history. Social work was founded on through direct action, which is now taught across all social work programs. Direct action has been particularly utilized by black and brown communities, which have been purposefully excluded from political processes and economic systems. This workshop includes three primary components including an overview of direct action history, understanding accountability and responsibility, and developing concrete skills for action implementation.

We will begin with an exploration of the historical contexts and traditions of direct action, while also shedding light on the real world repercussions for individuals, families and communities that practice direct action. We will then explore the notion of accountability and responsibility within the practice of direct action with a focus on understanding how the dynamics of positional privilege are implicated in participation. We will conclude with exercises to develop concrete skills that participants can use to plan, coordinate, and implement direct actions including information gathering, power mapping, trust building, and assigning roles for optimal impact.

Learning Objectives:

  • Develop understanding of the history and traditions of direct action.
  • Develop and demonstrate awareness of accountability and expectations for participation in direct action.
  • Develop and apply concrete skills for direct action implementation.

Register HERE

Find out more about the speakers

Ramona Beltrán, MSW, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. Her scholarship is committed to interrupting legacies of historical trauma that affect indigenous and other marginalized communities. As a dancer/activist/scholar, she focuses on working with communities in disrupting the problem-focused approach to understanding health and well being that is profuse in mainstream research and practice. She does this through centering culture, resistance, and healing, and arts-based and storytelling methods in collaborative knowledge production with and for indigenous and other communities of color.

Speakers also include: A leader in Black Lives Matter 5280 experienced in direction action and community organizing”



For registration and information contact the Center for Professional Development at  or 303-871-4161

The University of Denver, Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor contact hours for psychologists. GSSW maintains responsibility for this program and its content.