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IRISE faculty

Interdisciplinary Research Incubator for the Study of (In)Equality

Affiliate Faculty

Faculty members from across the University of Denver are affiliated with IRISE as their work critically engages the study of (in)equality. 

Ramona Beltran Ramona Beltrán, PhD., MSW (Chicana/Yaqui)
Graduate School of Social Work
IRISE Advisory Board

Ramona Beltrán, PhD., MSW (Chicana/Yaqui) is an Assistant Professor at University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. Her scholarship focuses on the intersections of historical trauma, embodiment, and environmental/social determinants of health to explore health and risk in indigenous communities. Utilizing qualitative and arts-based decolonizing methodologies, her research centers culture, strength and resiliency in indigenous populations as they work to interrupt the intergenerational transmission of historical trauma.


William Cross, Jr., PhD
Higher Education
2014-2015 IRISE Advisory Board

Dr. Cross Jr. is a leading theorist and researcher in the psychology and identity development of minorities. His book, "Shade of Black", is considered a classic in the field of racial identity. He is the President Elect of American Psychological Association's Division 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues), an Elder of 2013 National Multicultural Conference, a CUNY Professor Emeritus, and a Distinguished Lecturer at Georgia Southern University. Above all, he is a Morgridge College of Education Change Agent [read more].

Sheila Davis Sheila Davis, MD
University College

Dr. Davis served on the writing team for the US Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 1998 Progress Review for African Americans. Shortly thereafter, she became a senior program analyst for the Summit Health Institute for Research and Education (SHIRE) where she conducted community-based participatory research, built grass roots ethnically diverse coalitions to address access and quality of care issues. Dr. Davis continued this work as the Associate Director of the W. Montague Cobb/National Medical Association Health Institute (Cobb Institute). Critical health issues in minority communities frame the Cobb Institute research agenda. Currently, Dr. Davis is the Acting Academic Director of the University College Healthcare Leadership Program.

Rafael-Fajardo Rafael Fajardo, MFA
Emergent Digital Practices
IRISE Advisory Board

Rafael is part of an emerging group of artists and designers who are exploring the potential of digital video games to express serious and complex subject matter. Through his collaborative, SWEAT, Fajardo has published two video games that comment on the game-like nature of (il)legal human traffic at the US/Mexico border.For over twelve years Fajardo has been investigating cultural identity and cultural representation through his visual and intellectual work [read more]

Patricia-Greer Patricia Greer, MBA
University College
IRISE Advisory Board

Pat spent 23 years in municipal government before joining the University of Denver as the Academic Director of the Leadership and Change plus the Strategic Human Resource Management masters programs at University College in 2008.  She is currently a co-investigator with Dr. Irene Frederick, University of Denver, on a grant addressing rural population health disparity, specifically the recruitment and retention of rural physicians. Antidotal research suggests current rural track medical school training does not adequately prepare either residents or physicians to establish ties to communities, leading to lack of attachment and retention. Their research will identify skills needed for community engagement and develop trial curriculum for students, residents, and practicing physicians through University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Michele-HannaMichele Hanna,PhD
Graduate School of Social Work
IRISE Advisory Board

Dr. Hanna's research focuses on child welfare, foster care and adoption. Her primary focus is on the experience of the foster child and their journey through foster care to permanency. In addition, she is involved in research that looks at the disparities and disproportionality of children and families of color in foster care [read more].


Dr. Art JonesArthur C. Jones, Ph.D.
Lamont School of Music

Art Jones is currently a teaching professor of music, culture and psychology at the DU Lamont School of Music. Previously he was a clinical professor in DU's Department of Psychology for 18 years, and clinical professor and associate dean for inclusive excellence at DU's Colorado Women's College for seven years. In his distinguished, interdisciplinary work in several realms (teaching, research, clinical practice, musical performance, professional & community service), he has consistently operated out of a strong commitment to exploring issues of culture, power and privilege, and to finding effective ways to work for progressive social change. [Read more]

Lisa-MartinezLisa Martinez, PhD
Sociology and Criminology
IRISE Advisory Board

Dr. Martinez is a Core faculty member of the DU Latino Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship (DULCCES), an interdisciplinary program dedicated to conducting research on Latina/o communities in Denver and the Rocky Mountain West. In terms of scholarship, she studies the impact of immigration policies on the social, economic, and political well-being of Latina/o communities as well as educational, health-related, and job market outcomes among Latinas/os and immigrants. She is currently working on an interdisciplinary project with her DULCCES colleagues on the pathways to mobility among Latino and immigrant youth [read more].

Salvador-MercadoSalvador Mercado, PhD
Languages and Literatures
IRISE Advisory Board

Dr. Mercado's research focuses on contemporary Latin American narrative, with an emphasis in the Spanish speaking Caribbean.  He is interested in the uses of music within literary texts, and particularly the bolero in the novel.  Themes of his courses include popular culture, the writing and counter-writing of the nation, and the African within Latin America and the Caribbean [read more].


Juli Parrish Juli Parrish, PhD

University Writing Program

Dr. Parrish, who directs the University Writing Center, has taught writing for two decades, committed to helping new undergraduates and grad students navigate the increasing complexity of their written work. Her research centers on the ways that writers create and negotiate rhetorical traditions, currently focusing on archives of work by students at women's colleges. Dr. Parrish co-edits the peer-reviewed journal Literacy in Composition Studies and is currently working on a special issue of the journal featuring essays probing the relationship between literacy and democracy in our current cultural and political moment.

Sarah-PessinSarah Pessin, PhD
Philosophy and Director of Center for Judaic Studies
IRISE Advisory Board 

Dr. Pessin is Associate Professor of Philosophy, the Hecht Chair in Judaic Studies, and the Director of the Center for Judaic Studies. Sarah works on the intersection of Greek, Islamic, Jewish, and Christian philosophy and on ethical and theological issues in post-Holocaust philosophy. Her research focuses on the imperative of inter-human response, the relationship between ethics and theology, the significance of exile/displacement/wandering as a theological theme, and the importance of rethinking histories of philosophy and histories of religion with increased intercultural awareness [read more].

Dean-SaittaDean Saitta, PhD
IRISE Advisory Board

Dean Saitta is Professor and Chair of the Anthropology Department and Director of the Urban Studies program at the University of Denver. He researches social equity issues in the contemporary city from an archaeological, historical, and cross-cultural perspective.  He writes a blog called Intercultural Urbanism [read more].

Maria-SalazarMaria Salazar, PhD
Curriculum & Instruction and Teacher Education
IRISE Advisory Board

Dr. Salazar's research and scholarship center on transformative teacher preparation for diverse learners through empirical research and promising practices in teacher recruitment, preparation, and professional development. She served for three years on the Colorado Quality Teachers Commission to design a teacher identifier system for the state of Colorado. Dr. Salazar has served for four years on the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC), a national collaborative to revise model content standards and develop learning progressions for teacher licensure, assessment and development [read more].

Joyce-SterlingJoyce Sterling, PhD
IRISE Advisory Board

Dr. Sterling has devoted more than a decade to the study of the legal profession and legal education. Her recent research has focused on the problems facing women in legal careers compared to their male counterparts. Her most recent article appears in University of Texas Journal of Women and the Law (titled "Sticky Floors, Broken Steps, Concrete Ceilings in Legal Careers") [read more].

Billy J. Stratton Billy J Stratton
Department of English

Billy J. Stratton is an associate professor in the English Department and affiliate of IRISE and specializes in 20th and 21st century Native American/American literature, ecocriticism and film studies. He earned a PhD in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona, one of the first thirty awarded in the field worldwide, while he has previously taught in the Ethnic Studies Department at Bowling Green State University. His scholarship on themes such as colonial warfare, the orality of Tecumseh, the legacy of Sand Creek, and decolonization, as well as critical studies of Native American/American literature and Native American critical theory has been included in several books and in journals.


A. TownsArmond R. Towns, Ph.D.
Department of Communication Studies

Dr. Towns is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies. His research and teaching explores issues at the intersection of media technology, time, space, performance, and black radicalism. More specifically, he is interested in the violent interconnection between Western subjectivity and blackness. The concepts of subjectivity and blackness hold communicative and media implications that Dr. Towns further examines in his research. This line of inquiry has led Dr. Towns to study issues as diverse as #BlackLivesMatter, the Underground Railroad, and street gang culture. [ read more ]

Nancy-WadsworthNancy Wadsworth, PhD
Political Science
2014-2015 IRISE Advisory Board

Dr. Wadsworth studies collective movements and political culture, theory, and development, mostly in the United States context. Her research concentrates on how the categories of race and religion deeply inform one another, sometimes for liberation and sometimes in oppressive ways. She is the author of Ambivalent Miracles: Evangelicals and the Politics of Racial Change, and co-editor of Faith and Race in American Political Life, with Robin Jacobson [read more].

Kate-WillinkKate Willink, PhD
Communication Studies

Dr. Willink's research centers on critical intercultural communication with a focus on cultural memory. In particular, she examines how performances of cultural memory shape contemporary debates over public education. Her work is driven by the argument that public education is the key civil rights struggle of our time—a critical nexus of social, cultural, and educational issues. As a communication scholar, Dr. Willink researches this lived history of education policy as it illuminates a deeper relationship between pedagogy and cultural politics and shapes contemporary cultural debates about public education [read more]


Faculty Mentors for IRISE Fellows