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Principal Investigators (PI) of the month


James D. Reid, Ph.D. 

James D. Reid was recently awarded a Translation Grant in the amount of $158,102 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Dr. Reid’s NEH award will enable him to complete an English translation of Heidegger’s Die Frage nach dem Ding (The Question Concerning the Thing). As one of the reviewers of Dr. Reid’s grant proposal observes, “Heidegger’s importance to the humanities is well-known: his reflections on being and being in the world, what it means to be human, death, care, and time have influenced scholars and non-scholars, here and abroad, over the past seventy years. The completion of this translation should impact a variety of disciplines, e.g. philosophy, religious studies, history, and literary theory.”

Dr. Reid holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago, and is currently an associate professor of philosophy at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He has taught ethics and the history of philosophy, with special emphasis on Greek and German intellectual traditions, at Chicago, Colorado College, College of William and Mary, and the United States Air Force Academy. His research is interdisciplinary, drawing from philosophical, scientific, and literary sources, and is devoted to problems in the theory of meaning, value, and significance, and finding appropriate ways of talking more richly and compellingly about the importance of what we care about. Dr. Reid has published on the philosophical legacies of Kant and his successors and is currently finishing a monograph on the ethical import of Martin Heidegger's philosophy. He is a contributor to Cambridge University Press's forthcoming, multi-volume Heidegger Lexicon, edited by Mark Wrathall. His book Being Here Is Glorious: On Rilke, Poetry, and Philosophy, which includes a fresh translation of the Duino Elegies, was published recently by Northwestern University Press (September 2015).  



 Janelle M. Johnson, Ph.D.

Janelle M. Johnson, Principal Investigator, along with Co-Principal Investigators, Brooke Evans, Hsiu-Ping Liu, Jeffrey T. Loats, Mark Koester, and Philip Bernhardt, were awarded a grant of $1,449,920 under the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program from the National Science Foundation for their project, "Urban STEM Teacher Capacity Building”. The project will prepare STEM majors with experiences, skills, and knowledge to become highly effective inquiry-based teachers committed to working in high-need urban schools. In addition, Dr. Johnson was awarded $188,080 as Principal Investigator on a U.S. Department of State grant titled "Study of U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders on U.S. History and Government" as well as a $989,533 National Science Foundation grant titled "ITEST, Exploring a Community-based Approach for Engaging Students and Teachers in Effective STEM Education".  

Dr. Johnson is an assistant professor in STEM teaching and learning in Secondary Teacher Education. Her primary areas of focus involve addressing disparities and improving learning outcomes for participants in both formal and informal STEM settings. Janelle works with teachers, administrators, families, and organizations of local, national, and international scope. She is on the leadership team of the Colorado Collaborative for Girls in STEM, is a Board Member with the Colorado Association of Black Professional Engineers and Scientists and the Colorado I Have a Dream Foundation, is a GLOBE US Partner Forum Representative for the Southwest Region, and a leading consultant for the Increasing Marginalized Girls Access to STEM initiative of the National Girls Collaborative, in partnership with the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, the White House Domestic Policy Council, Council on Women and Girls, and the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Johnson is a published author and reviews for journals including Teaching for Excellence and Equity in Mathematics (NCTM) and Anthropology & Education Quarterly.



 Aaron Brown, MS, Ph.D.

Dr. Aaron Brown is an associate professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver in the Department of Mechanical Engineering Technology. He is the Principal Investigator for a grant titled "Promoting Bi-institutional Hemispheric Collaboration through Study Abroad in Humanitarian Engineering" funded by 100,000 Strong in the Americas .  This program seeks to broaden the intellectual horizons of participating students, establish a new partnership between two institutions of higher education in Colorado and Guadalajara, increase mobility of students and faculty, enrich curricula across disciplines of the two institutions of higher education, as well as increase the number of Latin American, specifically Mexican, students studying in the United States.  He was also the Principal Investigator for two grants from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  His Colorado Space Consortium grant funded a hands-on program for MSU Denver students including electric car conversion and robotics projects.  Dr. Brown’s NASA Colorado Undergraduate Retention in Science and Engineering (COURSE) award for his Undergraduate Retention in Science and Engineering proposal engaged students in a hands on project and involvement in a statewide challenge.  

Dr. Brown holds a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Ph.D. in Civil Systems Engineering also from the University of Colorado at Boulder. His work is primarily focused in the realm of appropriate design and humanitarian engineering. He has worked on development projects all over the globe. His international work includes projects in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Hungary, The Galapagos Islands, India, China, and Peru. As part of his humanitarian engineering work in these regions, Professor Brown took students to Costa Rica where he directed a community project that designed a solar water heating system for a local school and built thermal composters. In the Dominican Republic, he is working with students and a local NGO to provide clean water for a community with low resources, and in the Galapagos, he is working on a collaborative effort to study the relationship between development and conservation. His most recently recognized humanitarian engineering project is focused locally in Denver where he is implementing the installation of solar furnaces he designed to help a low income community reduce their energy bills. This project was recently featured on National Public Radio (NPR) and in the Denver Post, earning him the title "Community Game Changer of the Month" from CBS Denver. He also was recently nominated for the Carnegie U.S. Professor of the Year award and the Presidential Award for STEM mentoring. Previous to his academic career, Aaron Brown worked in the aerospace industry on such projects as the Mars Curiosity landing mechanism and Hubble robotics mission. He also directs undergraduate research projects in the aerospace arena involving robotics, electric vehicle design, energy harvesting, and solar design. 



Dr. Dawn Matera Bassett  

‌MSU Denver’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program, in partnership with Colorado State University, received a $3,052,796 grant (in addition to a previously awarded $1.2 million dollar grant) from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Over a four year period, the grant will fund stipends for 116 MSW students in their concentration year who work with children, youth, adults, and older adults with behavioral health issues, including mental health and addiction. The award also provides support through tuition, supplies and supported activities for 70 participants per year to receive paraprofessional certification.  An emphasis will be placed on funding work performed at clinics serving multi-cultural populations, transition aged youth, and violence prevention. A major part of the grant is developing new collaborations with additional community agencies and developing additional internship sites to provide our graduate students with relevant, real-world experience. 

Dawn Matera Bassett, MSW, LCSW, Ph.D., is the Principal Investigator of this 4-year HRSA project entitled “Behavioral Health and Workforce Education and Training - Professional and Paraprofessional Track”.  Dr. Matera Bassett serves as the lead faculty for Introduction to Social Policy, Advanced Policy and Programming, and Group Therapy courses in the MSW and BSW program.  She has also taught Family Therapy, Program Management and Organizational Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship, Working with Urban Families, and Research courses at MSU Denver.  Dr. Matera Bassett completed her MSW and Ph.D. at the University of Denver.  She brings 20 years of clinical experience working in private non-profit and community-based mental health programs.  Dr. Matera Bassett’s scholarship is built around developing and implementing effective interventions for children, adolescents, and adults.  She has also conducted multiple research projects to explore how vicarious trauma impacts helping professionals in the public and private sector.  Dr. Christian M. Itin, MSW, Professor and Chair of Social Work Department, serves as Co-PI on the grant.  Elizabeth Mendez-Shannon, M.S.W., Ph.D., Assistant Professor also with the Department of Social Work, serves as Project Liaison.  



 Dr. Devi K. Kalla & Dr. Mingli He   

‌Metropolitan State University of Denver is part of a robust consortium which includes Front Range Community College as the lead, 7 community colleges, a technical college, and 27 manufacturers throughout the state that were awarded a 3-year, $25 million grant to implement the Colorado Helps Advanced Manufacturing Program (CHAMP) in 2013. MSU Denver is the only 4-year institution in the consortium and received $1,958,663 of the grant funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. In Colorado, an estimated 15,800 jobs go unfilled each year due to lack of qualified candidates. CHAMP is an ambitious project that will increase the attainment of manufacturing degrees and certificates that align with the industry’s recognized competencies, skills, and certifications to create a pipeline of highly-qualified advanced manufacturing workers. 

Dr. Devi K. Kalla, along with his colleague Dr. Mingli He, are the PIs for the CHAMP program at MSU Denver. Since Fall 2011, Dr. Kalla has served as an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET). He has extensive expertise in composite manufacturing, machining, and modeling. A dedicated teacher of higher education, one of Dr. Kalla's goals is to change the paradigm in how green manufacturing is taught. Dr. Kalla recently presented his ideas on incorporating life-cycle assessment teaching to enable engineering and industrial design students to better understand sustainability in a white paper presented at the 2012 American Society for Engineering Education conference.

Dr. Mingli He, Professor and Chair of the Engineering & Engineering Technology Department (EAET), has served in various faculty positions since joining MSU Denver. As a registered professional engineer, he works on developing research opportunities for EAET students and faculty in collaboration with local college and industrial partners. Most of EAET senior capstone courses are supported with projects provided by industry and some of the research has been presented by EAET students/faculty in the annual MSU Denver undergraduate student research conferences and National Conferences on Undergraduate Research (NCUR).



Bethany Fleck, PhD

Dr. Bethany Fleck was a PI on an Engaged Scholarship Grant titled "Developing a New Community Partnership in a Developmental Research Methods Course" sponsored by Colorado Campus Compact. The grant money was utilized to support a service learning course with an existing community partner, The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver, as well as to build a new community partner with another child development oriented institution in Denver.  The funds also supported Dr. Fleck as she wrote a manuscript reporting data that empirically assessed the outcomes of the service-learning course on students by conducting a community engagement impact research study.  In her courses, Dr. Fleck was to an active, learner-centered approach to teaching.  

Dr. Fleck’s research centered on cognitive and social development in classroom contexts.  She also worked on bridging "documentation" (an early childhood education teaching methodology) with maternal reminiscing style and published work in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) that included book chapters on the integration of social media into higher education and creating a flipped classroom. 




Paulette McIntosh


Paulette McIntosh was the Director and Principal Investigator for the TRiO High School Upward Bound (HSUB) Program.  The $1,866,975 grant from the US Department of Education began in September 2012 and ran through August 2017.  HSUB’s primary goal was to assist 85 low-income and first generation high school students in Denver to gain the skills and motivation necessary to complete a secondary education and to enter and complete a post-secondary education.  For 38 years, Upward Bound has received funding from the U.S. Department of Education to provide supplemental, after-school academic, tutorial, and pre-college support services to Program participants.  Ms. McIntosh is a graduate of Metro (’81), as well as a 1972 alum of the Upward Bound Program. 





Andrew Bonham, Ph.D. 

In partnership with MSU Denver colleague Dr. Rosemarie DePoy Walker, Dr. Andrew J. Bonham is Co-PI on a funded grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to sponsor “Denver Metro Chem Scholars” (DMCS). The DMCS program was awarded $620,309 over five years to provide scholarships, seminars, peer support, and research opportunities for MSU Denver Chemistry students. Dr. Bonham is a biochemist who joined the faculty of Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2011 to serve as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry. His research and teaching interests focus on transcription factor biology, bio-engineering and bio-sensors, and the transformative power of technology in the classroom. 

Dr. Bonham's student-driven research at MSU Denver and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) focused on novel bio-sensors for disease and cancer diagnostics, has been featured in Photonics magazine by the American Chemical Society, as well as Science Newsline. Dr. Bonham received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, emphasis in Biophysics and Bioengineering, from UCSB and was also a Tri-County Blood Bank postdoctoral fellow at UCSB. In 2013, Dr. Bonham received the Faculty Senate Excellence in Teaching Award from MSU Denver.




Adriann C. Wycoff, Ph.D.

Dr. Adriann Wycoff began fundraising to support family literacy programming for the Denver community in 1994 when she was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Denver Housing Authority.  Since then, she turned a one-person project into a nationally recognized program that employed 14 staff members and managed funds from multiple federal, state, local and private grants and contracts totaling over $420,000.  The Family Literacy Program grew from a small single-grant program to a major initiative that offered home and center-based services to 290 adults and 356 children—including early childhood education, instruction in English as a Second Language, and Spanish-language GED preparation for adults and out-of-school youth. 

MSU Denver was also awarded $168,660 by the Colorado Department of Education for a grant titled "Adult Basic Education (AEFLA)".  With Dr. Wycoff as the Principal Investigator, this grant works to ensure that adult learners have access to quality educational opportunities that support achieveing family-sustaining employment, job training, and postsecondary educational aspirations.  Dr. Wycoff is also Co-Principal Investigator on the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Migrant Education.  CAMP provides comprehensive academic support as well as scholarships to first year students who are from migratory and seasonal farm-working families.  CAMP was established at MSU Denver in 1999 and serves approximately 35 first generation, low-income students each year.  Dr. Wycoff is a full-time faculty member in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies.  She received her B.A. in Spanish from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Spanish from Northwestern University.  



Hsiu-Ping Liu, Ph.D.


Dr. Hsiu-Ping Liu is a Co-PI on a $1,449,920 funded Robert Noyce Scholarship Program from the National Science Foundation for a grant titled, "Urban STEM Teacher Capacity Building”.  The project will prepare STEM majors with experiences, skills, and knowledge to become highly effective inquiry-based teachers committed to working in high-need urban schools.  Dr. Hsiu-Ping Liu, in partnership with a colleague from the Smithsonian Institute, was also a CO-PI on grant awards that explored the “Taxonomic Clarification of Upper Klamath Basin Pebblesnails (genus Fluminicola) and “Taxonomic Clarification of Oregon and Washing Duskysnails,” both funded by the USDA-Forest Service.  Her research interests are in systematics, evolution and conservation genetics of freshwater mollusks. 

Dr. Liu joined the faculty of Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2007, serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology.  In 2008, she served as an Assistant Professor and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2012.  She currently serves as the Director for the Center for Advanced STEM Education at MSU Denver.  She has published 28 papers in various peer-reviewed scientific journals, received more than $300,000 in funding from external grants, and has mentored over 40 students.  Since 2010, she has been an instructor for the Summer Science Scholars and the Summer Science Institute Programs, and has been a Faculty Mentor for Colorado Alliance for Minority Participation (CO-AMP) and Research Coordinator for Strides Toward Encouraging Professions in Science (STEPS).  Dr. Liu earned her doctoral degree from the Department of Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology from the University of Colorado at Boulder.  She also holds a Master of Science degree from the Institute of Fisheries Science, National Taiwan University and a Bachelor of Science from National Taiwan University of Marine Science and Technology.



Esther M. Rodriguez, JD

Esther M. Rodriguez was the director of the Center for Urban Education at Metropolitan State University of Denver where she led the college's partnership with Denver Public Schools to increase student achievement through highly effective teachers.  She served as the Principal Investigator and director for a federal $9.5 million Teacher Quality Enhancement grant that ended in 2010 and currently serves as PI and director for a 5-year 21st Century Community Learning Center grant.  Prior to joining MSU Denver in 2007, she headed an education consulting practice, was vice-president for development at the Education Commission of the States where she was responsible for managing all fundraising operations, and served as associate executive director for the State Higher Education Executive Officers where she headed national policy initiatives on P-16 collaboration, high school reform, teacher quality, workforce development and diversity in higher education.  She is a licensed attorney earning her J.D. degree from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and a former urban high school teacher.




Margaret “Peggy” M. O'Neill-Jones, Ph.D.


Dr. O’Neill-Jones is a professor of technical communication and media production and served as department chair for nearly ten years at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Her career began as a newspaper photographer and moved to broadcast, corporate, and educational media. As media transitioned to digital, online, and virtual environments, she led the way with innovative interactive media productions including 21st Century Learning Matters, a video that describes the strategies and tools needed to create powerful learning environments.  Currently, she is the regional director for the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Western Region program. TPS provides professional development related to finding, accessing, and integrating the vast reservoir of primary sources from the Library of Congress to deepen content understanding through inquiry learning and 21st century learning skills. Through Dr. O’Neill-Jones’ leadership, the TPS-Colorado program grew from statewide outreach to a regional program that serves 14 western states. The program recently received a $255,000 increase from the Library of Congress to the annual TPS award. Congratulations, Dr. O’Neil-Jones!






Leroy S. Chavez, MBA

Principal Investigator of the Month

Leroy S. Chavez was the Principal Investigator and Project Director of the Federal TRIO Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) at Metropolitan State University of Denver.  VUB was designed to motivate and assist veterans in the development of academic and other requisite skills necessary for acceptance and success in a program of postsecondary education.  The program provides assessment and enhancement of basic skills through counseling, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction in the core subject areas. The primary goal of the program is to increase the rate at which participants enroll in and complete postsecondary education programs.    

A United States Veteran, a MSU Denver alum (’96), as well as a graduate of VUB, Mr. Chavez has over fifteen years of experience in higher education, including eleven years working directly with military veterans who are pursuing goals in postsecondary education.  His grant proposal to the US Dept of Education on behalf of VUB received funding in the amount of $1,404,715 over a five year period. 



Rosemarie Depoy Walker, Ph.D.  

‌Dr. Walker, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at MSU Denver, is the Principal Investigator for "Denver Metro Chem Scholars", a $620,309 grant funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF).  This program provides the financial assistance, effective student supports, and academic experiences necessary to create for its students the conditions for success, including degree completion, preparation for graduate school, and careers as scientists.  The program will serve a total of 25 students who have financial need and are pursuing bachelor's degrees in Chemistry and/or Forensics at MSU Denver.

Dr. Walker previously served as the Director of the STEPS (Strides Toward Encouraging Professions in Science) program, a major National Institute of Health (NIH) Bridges to the Baccalaureate grant that has been operational since 1998 with awards totaling over $2.4 million. STEPS seeks to encourage and support underrepresented minority students from two-year colleges to persist in their education, transfer to four-year colleges in majors related to biomedical sciences, and to eventually enter careers in biomedical research. STEPS has played a role in MSU Denver’s success in improving the transfer rate of minority students, as well as the number of minority students majoring in Biology and Chemistry.

The American Chemical Society Committee on Minority Affairs (CMA) selected Dr. Walker as The Rocky Mountain Regional Meeting (RMRM) 2012 recipient of the Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for advancing diversity in the chemical sciences. The award was presented at the 23rd RMRM. For more information, please visit Congratulations, Dr. Walker!




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