Scholar Profiles

Boettcher Scholar Year: 2005 Hometown: Cedaredge College/Degree: University of Colorado at Boulder, MCDB/Psychology, 2009 Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? I am currently a primary care provider through Denver Health. I've been in this role for a little over one year. I completed a combined residency in internal medicine and pediatrics and currently take care of kids and adults in our clinic. I also spend time working in the inpatient pediatric hospital during the year, as well as working with medical students and residents. I love the people who chose to work at Denver Health and enjoy the purpose and mission of the organization. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? There is no doubt receiving the Boettcher Scholarship helped to create the momentum needed to be accepted and complete medical school and residency. The scholarship introduced me to people and opportunities that helped to grow my interest in the health sciences and encouraged working with an underserved population. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations, or groups outside of work. Now that my formal training is complete, I'm trying to grow in this area. I am very involved in our internal medicine/pediatrics residency program and serve as a core faculty member. I would love to reengage in meaningful community service and expand effort in groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. But I'll need to leave room for family, friends, and as many ski days as possible! What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? If you have an interest in this field, pursue it very aggressively and try to imagine your life in the shoes of those you are shadowing/working with. Know that this field leads to very deep, real, and complex interactions with fellow humans. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? I'm re-reading the Harry Potter series. Would love to talk with J.K. Rowling prior to her success and imagine how crazy the idea of her book series would sound prior to its success....

Boettcher Scholar Year: 2012 Hometown: Limon College/Degree: University of Northern Colorado, B.A.: Elementary Education, 2016 Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? I am a fifth grade teacher at one of the public elementary schools in Lincoln, Nebraska. Building relationships with my students is one of the best parts of my job. I love learning alongside them and using my position of influence for good in their lives. I enjoy teaching all subjects; it’s partly why I chose elementary over secondary. Between students and curriculum, my job is never dull! This fall, I’m looking forward to my fourth year of teaching and all of the freshness that comes with a new school year. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? Being a Boettcher Scholar helped me get the job I have now! My husband and I moved to Nebraska from Colorado late in the teacher-hiring season, so there were minimal openings for me to apply. Listing the Boettcher Scholarship on my resume helped me get a phone interview with the school where I work now. I was hired sight unseen, and I believe the strong reputation of the Boettcher Scholarship, even outside Colorado, helped the principal be confident in hiring me. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations, or groups outside of work. I’m very active in my local church. My husband and I lead worship once a month, which has been a fun way for me to continue singing like I did in college. I also contribute to the women’s ministry by participating in our monthly women’s gatherings and meeting with women one-on-one to encourage them. Recreationally, I enjoy playing on a co-rec slow pitch softball team and following Husker football. It really is a whole state affair out here! What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? Seek feedback. Others’ eyes can be more perceptive than our own, and feedback is necessary for growth. It’s hard to hear sometimes, but it will yield progress if you humbly absorb and act on it. I want to continually be perfecting my craft as a teacher, and I’m thankful for my principal and the mentors that encourage and challenge me. This year, I even had my students give me feedback through a “Teacher Report Card." It was insightful, and I wish I had done it sooner! If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? I would love to have a conversation with Corrie ten Boom. Her life is an incredible story of surviving the Holocaust, then choosing forgiveness over bitterness. That kind of grace amazes me, and I’d love to meet her in person to soak up some of her wisdom....

Name: Mari McCarville Boettcher Scholar Year: 2016 Hometown: Crawford College/Degree: University of Denver, Music (BA) and Psychology (BA) and minor in leadership studies, 2020; Curriculum and Instruction (MA), 2021 What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? I will be starting my masters in elementary education at DU in the fall, and after I graduate, I hope to teach internationally and inspire a love of learning in students all around the world. Ultimately, after teaching and traveling, I would like to pursue a doctorate degree in educational leadership or cognitive psychology.  Tell us about what activities, groups, and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. Last year, I worked for the DU Center for Sustainability because I wanted to help reduce waste on campus by organizing Zero Waste Concerts at the music school. I also played flute in Wind Ensemble, gamelan in the Indonesian Music Ensemble, and danced in the North Indian Classical Ensemble because I love everything about music and movement. After I studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria, I became the co-artistic director for the Wild Beautiful Orchestra, a collaborative group of classical musicians who play rock, pop, and modern music. These groups allow me to connect with new people and explore my interest in arts, cultures, and the environment. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. My kindergarten teacher, Jennifer Eyler, was one of the most influential mentors in my life. She has been an inspiration for the past 17 years, and we have kept in touch since I was in her classroom at age five. I chose her for the 2016 Boettcher Foundation Teacher Recognition Award because she set me on the path toward where I am today. Her guidance and support inspired me to become an elementary teacher, and I can only hope that one day I will be as inspirational and influential to others as she has been to me. What's the best advice you've ever received? “Never compare your insides to someone else's outsides.” Balin Anderson, Boettcher Scholar and psychotherapist, shared this advice at the Boettcher Foundation's 2016 summer orientation. "In other words," she said, "you only know you, and when you compare yourself to others, you are comparing yourself to who you think they are." These words stuck with me throughout the past four years of my college career. Social comparison often leads to competition and hostility. The only way to create meaningful connections and build close relationships is to set aside comparison and ask someone, with authenticity and kindness, about who they are on the inside. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, who would you choose and why? If I could have dinner with someone from the past, I would choose to meet the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Now a successful Supreme Court Justice, RBG grew up in Brooklyn, NY and overcame tremendous adversity to attend Harvard and Columbia. Today, she is an incredible advocate for gender equality and women's rights, and even at age 86, she maintains her activist spirit. What was she like as a fiery teen? Who was RBG in college, and what lessons could she share to help all of us forge our own paths today? I would love to ask young Ruth these questions at dinner...

Name: Joyce Julia Walker Boettcher Scholar Year: 1959 Hometown: Windsor College/Degree: University of Northern Colorado, B.A., 1963; University of Colorado, M.P.A., 1965 Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? At 78, I'm finished with a 20-year career as a federal government career executive, international development work, and 40 years of dealing with difficult issues of jointly inherited and complex family property. After 20 moves as an adult, I'm settled into a retirement community in a leafy green part of Boston. I spend my time writing family history, keeping in touch with friends, organizing my possessions, making final arrangements, and enjoying nature and my many interests. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? The Boettcher Foundation's confidence in my promise when I was 18 impressed others and enhanced my own sense of self. The dean who interviewed me for admittance to the honors program at my college seemed bored until I answered his question about whether I had a scholarship. I believe I was admitted to honors – and held other positions in college – at least partly because I bore the "Boettcher Scholar" seal of approval. Leaving college with a good record – made possible in part by the Boettcher – was a solid foundation from which to be admitted to graduate school, find good jobs, be confident that I knew how to make sound judgments, be a leader in groups, help others, and work on getting difficult things done. My career in the federal government included 15 years of preparing budget requests made by Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan to Congress. I've advised foreign countries – Sri Lanka, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts – on their budget processes. I've had the confidence to take time off from paid work to explore my interests. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations, or groups outside of work. I'm a Master Gardener, meaning that I was trained in horticulture by the Extension Service of the USDA and completed their tests and public service requirements. For decades, I have worked to improve public green spaces. In that role I have renewed neglected gardens and removed overgrown/dead foliage that was obstructing public sidewalks, covering monuments or interfering with views. I've held offices and been actively involved in resident groups in buildings where I have lived. I've always voted and sometimes have done volunteer work for local candidates. I've befriended several people who struggle because they lack money, employment, education, or advantage. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? Aim to become a person on whom nothing is lost. Pay attention to and try to understand others.  If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? Women in my direct ancestral line – the one who came to Massachusetts from England in 1638; the one whose sister-in-law was accused of being a witch and spent time in Salem jail; the one whose husband died two weeks after one of the big battles in the French and Indian War and whose son was a captain in the Continental Army; the one who moved into the wilderness near Lake Erie; and all four of my great-grandmothers: the one who purchased the Colorado land on which I grew up, the one who lived in Colorado mining towns (Red Elephant, Silver Plume, Cripple Creek), the one who traveled by wagon from New York to Nebraska; and the one who disappeared without a trace in the aftermath of the Civil War....

Imagine reaching an audience of one million people. Twice a week, David Von Drehle does exactly that. David, a 1979 Boettcher Scholar, is a columnist for The Washington Post who writes about national affairs, politics and mid-American life from his home in the Kansas City area. His recent articles include a reflection on the Apollo 11 mission, an analysis of the emerging meat substitute market, and praise for Chief Justice John Roberts’ balancing role on the U.S. Supreme Court. While David often diagnoses critical issues in American culture, he doesn’t underestimate his unique opportunity to influence problem-solvers through one of the nation’s most widely circulated and influential newspapers. “I try not to take for granted writing for one of the most influential outlets in the world, seen by many people who are in a position to do something. That space is worth really thinking hard, really learning, and exploring the world with an open mind.” Prior to joining The Washington Post for the second time in 2017, David worked for the Miami Herald, The Washington Post, and TIME magazine, where as editor-in-chief he wrote more than 60 cover stories over the course of a decade. His love for thoughtful writing and journalism, however, began when David started the fall of his senior year at Gateway High School in Aurora. He was hired as a part-time reporter in sports for The Denver Post, the youngest reporter in the paper’s history. After being the second in his family to win a Boettcher Scholarship, he attended the University of Denver, which then propelled him to study at Oxford under a Marshall Scholarship. It was at Oxford that David truly appreciated the impact of the Boettcher Scholarship. “I was put in a milieu of students from the most exclusive colleges in the United States and Europe,” he said. “However, my undergraduate education gave me opportunities not as available at elite schools. Because of that I was able to thrive in graduate school.” While his career and graduate studies not only prepared David for a career in journalism, it also gave him the inquisitive skillset to be an award-winning history author. Walking around his New York City neighborhood in the early 2000s, he saw a historical plaque where the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire took place and began to dig into the story. Triangle: The Fire That Changed America was a critical and commercial success when published in 2003. The book opened doors for him to author Rise to Greatness, a detailed biopic of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency in 1862, a project David called “The best thing I’ve done.” David is currently working on a study of a neighbor in Kansas City who lived to be 109. “I follow the life of a man born in 1905 and analyze the tremendous change he lived through, how to deal with change, be resilient, and thrive through such transformation.” Transformation and change are often painted as threats to American life and politics, and David is concerned by how the digital communications revolution is changing politics, government, and foreign policy. “The technology we carry in our pockets has completely upended how we choose our leaders, how we set the agenda for nations and for policies that affect the world,” he said. However, as a historian-journalist, he is squarely positive and rejects the “doomsday” narrative. “The older I get, the more big-picture optimistic I am,” he said. “Every generation of Americans has felt the country was going to hell in a handbasket. Only in the nostalgic rearview mirror do we tell the story of progress.” David believes a critical part of progress is making change on the local level, a mindset he finds more readily in middle America. He volunteers at his kids’ schools, is involved with a workforce readiness initiative for under-resourced high school students and is on a steering committee for economic development in the Kansas City metro area. Additionally, he serves on the board of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence, Missouri. When asked to share advice with current Boettcher Scholars about where to begin their paths to making progress, David shared some practical advice. “Show interest in class, attend office hours, and get to know your professors. They are willing and eager to give of themselves for you! That’s an experience that you can’t match at the Ivy’s. And it will prepare you for a lifetime of engagement and impact.”...

Boettcher Scholar Year: 2016 Hometown:  Centennial University & Degrees: Colorado State University, B.A. in vocal music with minors in physics and mathematics, anticipated 2020. What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? During my senior year in high school, I student directed the men's choir and fell in love with teaching. I plan on becoming a high school teacher in physics, music, and/or math. I would also love to compose music — one of my hobbies since high school — and continue live sound mixing, which I have done for a cappella groups around Fort Collins the last three years. Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. My longest and deepest involvement has been with Bassic A Cappella, a student-run a cappella group at CSU. I love making music with my peers in this environment. I've learned how to beatbox, and I've had the chance to serve as president, music director, and arranger. I have also been a Presidential Ambassador for a year now, and I look forward to leading the 15-person Presidential Ambassador team next year as the philanthropy chair. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. My family always relied on my grandpa — or Bompa, as we called him — for love, moral clarity, and the bonds of family. He embodied who I hope to become, always doing the right thing, no matter how hard he had to work for it. As an example, Bompa singlehandedly provided the American troops body armor in the Middle East after 9/11. Political reasons prevented normal distribution of the armor, but my grandfather didn't rest until he made deals with companies across the world to get those troops armor. He never expected a single penny. My Bompa passed away last summer, but he is still a role model in my life and always will be. What's the best advice you've ever received? “Whatever seems the most urgent is not always the most important.” Dr. Tony Frank, chancellor of the CSU system, shared these thought-provoking words in a special meet-and-greet with the CSU Presidential Ambassadors. Dr. Frank told a story about statewide budget cuts and how the CSU staff were so focused on fixing that problem they almost skipped a children's holiday caroling for the CSU president. In that moment, the budget seemed urgent, but those kids' dreams were more important. This distinction between urgent and important has been and continues to be paramount in my life. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, who would you choose and why? If I could have dinner with anyone from all of history, I would choose Hildegard von Bingen. Hildegard was a medieval composer, philosopher, saint, and academic widely known in a variety of disciplines. Most importantly, Hildegard von Bingen was a woman. In my music history classes, the first composer we learn about is Hildegard: a woman. She was both a composer and patron of the arts, employing many other composers. She was a radical and influential person in the 12th century, and I would love to hear her stories, experiences, and how she overcame the many struggles she faced....

Name: Kaitlin Neumann Johnson Boettcher Scholar Year: 2009 Hometown: Wray College/Degree: DU – BA in English and Spanish, MBA Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation?  As of May, I have two occupations. Since 2015, I’ve worked for El Pomar Foundation. Currently, I’m in the role of vice president of community stewardship, primarily serving as a convener in the regional partnerships program through community-led advisory councils in rural areas. My favorite aspect of the El Pomar work is engaging with community leaders throughout the state. The leaders are very knowledgeable and, while each community is unique, there are some overlaps that allow them to work together and collaborate. I also just started working part-time as the economic development director for Cheyenne County. Kit Carson and Cheyenne Wells are the main towns in this county. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? For starters, I am married to a Boettcher Scholar, 2010 Scholar Charlie Johnson! Also, foundations are often a lesser-known part of the nonprofit world. Working with the Boettcher Foundation opened my eyes to this other area of work. I learned about the El Pomar Foundation through another Boettcher Scholar in my class, and that opened up the career path I’m currently on. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations, or groups outside of work. I’m a mom and hang out with my daughter. I also help on the ranch and participate with the Boettcher Alumni group. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? It’s okay not to know what you want to do with your life. What’s not okay is to let that be your reason to do nothing! Every experience, no matter how big or small, will change you and your path. Take a risk, try something new, figure out who you want to be, and maybe more importantly, figure out who you don’t want to be. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? Cleopatra. I’ve always found her history to be remarkable and, just the fact that she is remembered today, is an impressive feat for a woman from the BC time period. She was savvy, played by her own set of rules, and continues to inspire even artists, politicians, and women to this day....

Senior advisor in vaccinology at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. President of the International Society for Vaccines. Foreign adjunct professor, Karolinska Institutet. Executive vice-chair, International Vaccine Institute. Advisor to the World Health Organization. Margaret Liu has held these titles at various points in her world-renowned and varied career in the fields of gene therapy, vaccines, immunotherapy, and global health. One title, however, has remained constant throughout: Boettcher Scholar. “It changed the trajectory of what I’ve done. My life and career would have been very different without it,” Margaret said of the Boettcher Scholarship. A 1973 Scholar, Margaret was raised in Durango. After her father passed away suddenly, Margaret’s mother, an academic and Chinese immigrant, specifically relocated to the small town where she could raise her three young children with the benefits of a small supportive community and college. Though her older sister attended an Ivy League school, it was the Boettcher Scholarship that convinced Margaret to turn down offers from Yale and Princeton to attend Colorado College, a decision for which Margaret and her family are incredibly grateful (her younger brother Paul was also a Boettcher Scholar in 1977). At Colorado College, Margaret began to view the world and her passions through an interdisciplinary lens and students were encouraged to excel in disparate arenas. For example, she and fellow chemistry majors formed a woodwind quintet they dubbed the “Ketones” (or “Keytones”).  Her exposure to biochemistry and immunology helped her decide to attend Harvard Medical School, which she entered after furthering her piano studies at a conservatory in Paris on a Rotary scholarship. Margaret’s interdisciplinary pursuits continued through medical school, as well as during her internship, residency and clinical fellowship in endocrinology and metabolism at Massachusetts General Hospital. While primarily interested in research she also found that training in clinical medicine provided important insights for her future research efforts. “My whole career has had a dual perspective, the interface of two fields – medicine helping patients and research to find new preventions and therapies,” she said. Margaret’s first field-changing research came while a visiting scientist at MIT, where her pioneering research in bi-specific antibodies for use as cancer therapeutics was published in Science. The first bi-specific antibody treatment for human cancer was approved by the FDA in 2014, 29 years after her seminal paper was published. Soon after, at the pharmaceutical company Merck, Margaret led a team of scientists who demonstrated that the in vivo injection of plasmid DNA could result in the successful production of immune responses that could protect in pre-clinical studies against different strains of influenza. This opened the field for ongoing efforts to develop a universal flu vaccine and other future vaccines that could benefit from both cellular and antibody immunity (such as tuberculosis, HIV, and cancer immunotherapy). The discovery was so significant for current research efforts, that Discover magazine named Margaret one of its “50 Most Important Women Scientists” in 2002, and her students and colleagues began calling her “The mother of DNA vaccines.” It also resulted in her being invited by the Nobel Committee to give a lecture at the Karolinska Institutet (the Swedish medical university that selects the Nobel Prize winners in Medicine and Physiology); she received an honorary Doctor of Medicine degree from the Karolinska in 2017. After leading vaccine and gene therapy research at two companies and filing various patents, Margaret was asked to be the senior advisor in vaccinology for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This, as well as helping establish the World Health Organization’s Initiative for Vaccine Research enabled her to expand from developing technologies for global vaccines to the broader arena of global health. Today, Margaret splits her time between advising companies on strategies and technologies for developing vaccines for diseases and therapies for cancer, working with international health organizations and boards, and advising researchers and students as an adjunct professor at both the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and the University of California, San Francisco. Helping train the next generation of scientists and physicians is a particular joy, as it reminds her of how so many professors awakened her love of science and inspired her. And she is grateful to the Boettcher Foundation for helping her walk the path from small-town girl to international scientist. “Always be open to new pathways, to making this world better in terms of social equality for people here and now. To live that out is my calling.”...

Andrea Poliakon Boettcher Scholar Year: 2015 Hometown: Byers University & Degrees: University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, BS Biomedical Science What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? This summer I’m heading back to Byers to work as nursing aide. Ultimately, I want to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. I’m applying for registered nurse training at CU — Anschutz, UCCS, and UNC to start this fall. Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. I’m the office and marketing manager for UCCS student government. I’ve enjoyed getting to know a variety of students and meeting mentors through the Office of Student Life. I like seeing how the university works behind the scenes and was able to be part of writing the UCCS Creed. I’m president and founder of UCCS scuba club, and we just got four members certified to dive at Homestead Crater in Utah. When the waters warm up, we are planning diving trips to Aurora Reservoir and Blue Hole, New Mexico. I’m also a founder and an executive member of UCCS Women’s Student Association, a group to empower women in academics, personal, professional, and leadership areas. As a student athlete, I found women were often intimidated and underrepresented in competitive environments. Women athletes are often sexualized in media rather than recognized for their sports achievements. We mentor young women to be active and have better body positivity. We also recognized outstanding Colorado women, including Krystal Kappeler, a Boettcher Scholar Alum and employee of the Foundation. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. At UCCS, Jon Bogh, advisor for Student Government Association, has been instrumental in shaping my leadership style and encouraging me through difficult growing times. What's the best advice you've ever received? “Life is not a race.” As high achievers, we always want to move to the next thing, and it’s difficult to be totally present in moments of achievement. It’s important to be present and savor moments as they come along.  If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, who would you choose and why? Excellent question — dinner with Abraham Lincoln. I’ve read his book on leadership and he was an incredibly influential leader....

Carlos Solorzano         Boettcher Scholar Year: 2004 Hometown: Denver, CO College/Degree: DU, BS Computer Engineering, MBA, MA Higher Education Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? I’m the champion of our customers at StarRez. My official title is account manager, and StarRez creates housing and conference management software for universities and property managers (many Scholars have likely used it to select their rooms and roommates!). I’ve been with the company for over four years now, and my favorite aspect of my role is helping customers take their organizations to a higher level of performance. Not being stuck behind a desk all day is a close second though, as I’m lucky enough to travel throughout the U.S. and Canada to connect with my accounts. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? The Boettcher program has provided me numerous opportunities to develop my skills beyond my major / job title. For example, the Boettcher coaching corps not only helped me to better understand my own professional aspirations, it has also helped me grow into a mentor role within my department and has given me the confidence to act more boldly and take risks that I would not have otherwise taken. Because I spoke up and challenged the process, I have been brought into more strategic conversations at the company that extend beyond my account manager title. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations, or groups outside of work. When I am not traveling for work (or fun), I volunteer my time with the Denver Dumb Friends League, representing the organization at special events. I also serve as a mentor at alumni events at DU’s College of Engineering and Pioneer Leadership Program, as well as the Boettcher Foundation. Finally, as a more creative outlet, I have taken up photography. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? The best advice I have ever received was understanding that true learning happens when you are in a state of discomfort. This concept has helped me to develop my resiliency and encouraged me to choose the path of greatest return, instead of the path of least resistance. My advice to others is to have a goal of where you want to end up, but not a strict path on how to get there. Those detours often help build your skills and perspective in a more holistic way, and that in turn better sets you up to tackle your end goal. My journey to working at StarRez started with writing code as an engineering student, and moved to creating business plans in business school, and finally working in student affairs at universities and academic programs across the globe before arriving at my current career. Each of those experiences helped me to more effectively collaborate with my colleagues, leadership team, and customers at a global software company. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? I would love to pick Anthony Bourdain’s mind. Like him, traveling and food are easy ways into my heart! But more importantly, I would love to talk with him about how he used these mediums as ways to talk about social justice and global awareness.  ...