Scholar Profiles

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Boettcher Scholar Year: 2015 Hometown: Colorado Springs College(s), Degree(s): University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, BS Biomedical Sciences, minors in Political Science and Biochemistry What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? I was around six years old when my mom first told me about how sick my grandmother, who lived in the Kurdistan, was, and how hard it was to find doctors who could help her. Conversations continued, and I realized that I wanted pursue medicine and become a doctor. This desire has been churning inside of me ever since - I have been one of the lucky few who have known what they want to do with their lives forever! I hope to apply to medical school after graduation with dreams of reforming global health. Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. From elementary throughout high school, I found myself in student council, so of course I had to join the Student Government Association at UCCS. I began as a justice and soon became the associate chief justice. This March, I was elected student body vice president. I see UCCS as a hub of opportunity –  my hope is to push other students into that opportunity! Outside of UCCS, I spent the past two years working with Colorado Springs School District 11, passing a bond and mill levy. After much door-knocking, Colorado Springs said “yes,” and our schools received more public support. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. I have had the privilege of a wonderful relationship with my freshman chemistry lab instructor. I took honors chemistry for majors, an optional chemistry course designed with more rigor and was one of the few females in the course. My instructor, Tisha Mendiola-Jessop, is an avid critical thinker and excellent scientist and taught us to seek community in our endeavors. Tisha taught me how important it was to make strong relationships. She was the one who pushed me to apply for my Harvard research fellowship in the summer of 2017, and has since kept me as an assistant in her lab. What's the best advice you've ever received? I seek out advice from anyone I meet and I make a mental note of it, because I think the best way to learn is from others. The best piece of advice I have ever received, though, is a little tidbit I heard from a friend I made in Boston last summer. She told me that, amidst our incredibly busy lives, we need one day where we do not touch our work. Instead, we take that one day to ourselves; we write notes of gratitude and also write down any occurrence of a thought related to work. Essentially, “schedule balance in.” 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 history, I would choose Cleopatra. Cleopatra faced several barriers in her reign –  she was from a culture outside of the Egyptians, and she ruled a massive society and a male-dominated one at that. I would ask her for all her advice on leadership and diplomacy, and I would want to hear her perspective on our society and world today. I imagine it would be incredibly memorable....

By Gergana Kostadinova Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board. The “Make Your Mark” presentations were remarkable! They covered a wide range of topics, and each speaker left the audience with an enduring lesson. The overarching message of the morning reminded me of the words of Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” To start the day, Craig Heacock, a 1985 scholar, shared the cutting-edge research to return psychiatry to its shamanistic roots, specifically by using ketamine to treat depression and prevent suicides, and utilizing MDMA, better known as “ecstasy,” to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Craig reminded us to never stop questioning what is possible. Beth Skelton, a 1984 scholar, told a story from her time as an educator at an international school in Germany, when she discovered the importance of “leading from behind” and creating the social architecture to empower her students to create their own experiences. Veronica Fernandez Diaz, a 2015 scholar, recounted how the Boettcher Foundation made her baggage of living as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, recipient, easier to carry. She shared how she is constantly fighting to convince people of the humanity of her community, and challenged us to “Be Active. Do Something,” and stand up against injustice. Jeff Bauer, a 1965 scholar, had a successful career as a health futurist and medical economist for nearly 50 years before he embarked on a second career as an artist. Jeff encouraged us to take on a new challenge at any age and to consider doing something totally unpredictable. The visual art he shared was fantastic! Mark Hess, a 1984 scholar, on the other hand, tried to retire once and realized that there’s nothing else he’d rather do than be a teacher because he has observed invaluable lessons from his young students. Mark reminded us to follow the example of kids, who create genuine social connections because they’re not afraid to be vulnerable. Noha Kikhia, a 2013 scholar, challenged us to rethink community development as a crucial shift towards social change that focuses on empowering people to enact change for themselves and those around them. This model is more effective than seeking to inspire leaders to be independent “changemakers.” Dee Bradley Baker, a 1981 Boettcher Scholar, shared his experiences as a voice actor and the beauty of bringing characters to life. A sampling of his many famous credits include Klaus from American Dad and Daffy Duck in Space Jam. Dee challenged us to embrace and comprehend those who are different with the same hospitality as fan conventions, and to remain flexible by welcoming our future with many voices. A special shout-out to Katy Craig, a 1995 Boettcher Scholar and the leadership coach and content developer for the Boettcher Foundation. She served as a flawless emcee and spent the past several months helping the speakers prepare. To conclude the morning, Lori Prok, chair of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board and 1992 Boettcher Scholar, encouraged the audience to make their mark with a quote from Audre Lorde: “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision –  then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” ...

Embracing adventure is a common theme of Brian Hall’s life and his career with the U.S. Department of State. A 2004 Boettcher Scholar from Custer County High School, Brian attended Colorado College, where he majored in economics and was involved in track, student government and research. When plans to work at a financial planning nonprofit didn’t materialize after graduation, Brian took a mentor’s advice and moved to Nepal with only a 15-liter backpack and no guidebook. “It was the best advice,” Brian said. “I was totally dependent on making connections with people.” While teaching in a remote village, Brian started a recycling project, taught local students, and sponsored college scholarships for three aspiring Nepalese teachers. Grounded in serving others abroad, he successfully applied for the foreign service. “I knew about economics and how to engage with people, and I was completely honest about who I was in my interview. Being authentic took me where I needed to go.” Since entering the foreign service in 2009, Brian’s adventures have included living in Ecuador, Niger, Washington, D.C. and Kenya – all while starting a family. He currently works as a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, but has worked on a range of projects from processing visa applications and advocating for U.S. businesses, to developing relationships with Kenyan academics and officials and helping with the recent high-level visit by the Secretary of State. Brian’s favorite aspect of his work is connecting with people and partnering their aspirations and U.S. interests. One such example is a young leader from Niger, who with the help of the U.S. Department of State, attended Harvard and recently established the first liberal arts college in his country. These connections help Brian appreciate the differences and “amazing similarities” he encounters in his daily life. “Rural Africa is remarkably similar to the rural America I experienced as a kid. People are nice, welcoming and want to engage. But unlike the U.S., there’s no option for fast food.” Outside of work, Brian is committed to living out his service ethic. Though he moves posts every few years, Brian volunteers with youth, hosts informational programs for rural American students interested in international careers and is a mentor with the Boettcher Foundation's mentorship program. He also aims to recruit more talented students like Boettcher Scholars to careers in international relations and government service. “Public service isn’t something that’s far away and only for a certain type of person. We need capable and service-minded Coloradans and people from all over the U.S. to serve.” On balancing service work and life, Brian shared a lesson he learned in college: “Always seek out service opportunities. But be very specific about what you do, and don’t try to do too much. Focus in on the places you can make a deep impact and real connection.” Brian’s career in the foreign service is extremely rewarding and full of connection, but also presents challenges. Brian and his wife are intentional about connecting their two children back to the U.S. and Colorado, as it can be challenging to develop a sense of home. His family is asked to uproot every few years, and they miss many weddings, funerals and holidays. Yet in the face of such challenges, Brian’s optimism and service ethic keeps him and his family moving forward: “Always stay connected with the people you love and serve. They’ll remind you of the good that you’ve done and the positive experiences you’ve shared.” Brian is surprised by his life’s adventurous path, and experiences he would have never imagined. He is grateful for the Boettcher Foundation’s initial investment in his education and is  motivated by knowing that even though he lives outside of Colorado, he is paying forward that investment by serving his country in a meaningful way. “Be open to possibilities. Realize that Boettcher gave you the great gift of financial freedom. Look towards the world and see how your global connections can elevate those around you and even Colorado.”...

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Michael Anthony Scholar Year: 2015 Hometown: Aurora College and degree(s): University of Colorado Boulder, BS 2019 What are you currently interested in pursuing after graduating? I currently study architectural engineering and plan to pursue a master’s degree in business analytics. I am also looking into PhD programs in architecture. I hope to use experience in engineering, business and design to start my own sustainable design firm and consult on sustainable design projects. I strive to address pressing urban design challenges like overpopulation and global warming through strategic, community-centric development. Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them. I entered CU as a transfer student from DU in 2016 with a new passion for architecture and urban planning. I moved into architectural engineering and wanted to make a difference in people’s lives worldwide. At CU, I now work as president for a sustainable international development team called Bridges to Prosperity that addresses poverty caused by rural isolation. We volunteer with communities in Bolivia and Swaziland to design and build bridges that connect people with education, markets and health services. I love art and debate and found a way to work on these interests at CU for the Conference on World Affairs, which brings speakers to CU’s campus each spring for interdisciplinary panels that touch on pressing questions from every field. Tell us about an important mentor you have had. Professor Angela Thieman Dino has been a great mentor for me. Ang has pushed me to be my best. She has a spunky, fun-loving outlook on life that makes everyone feel excited to learn. This excitement and energy has helped me through some of the most challenging parts of my academic career and has taught me to face new difficulties with confidence. She becomes excited about each student’s work and supports everyone in striving toward their academic and personal goals. What's the best advice you've ever received? Two pieces of advice have really stuck with me. The first, I heard from another Boettcher Scholar: Syd Levy. He said that he “never misses an opportunity to shut up.” Many of my close friends come to me with questions or want to chat about new experiences that they are trying to think through. I really value that these friends confide in me. That trust can only be developed through honest listening, and when I pause and “take an opportunity to shut up” it gives people the chance to open up and share. Second, a professor at DU, Dr. Kate Willink told me “tears are holy water.” For me, the moments that bring me to tears are the moments of raw humanness. I feel alive when I cry tears of joy, or when I grieve. The moments when I feel so much emotion are powerful, and tears are my body’s honest response. This raw honesty is something to be appreciated, not to be repressed. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, who would you choose and why? Two visionary leaders come to mind. Martin Luther King and Albert Einstein were both incredible thinkers that changed how people thought and felt. An evening with Einstein would be an opportunity to learn about how to think about things that have never been thought before. From his quotes and photos, Einstein seems like an optimistic, quirky and happy person. For Martin Luther King, Jr., I would love to ask him about how he balanced the gravity of civil rights issues with being a husband and father. I can’t image balancing such public scrutiny with everyday life. His moral certainty and virtuous conviction that brought such unity seems so honorable in today’s polarized rhetoric. I aspire to make my values apparent in every action and word like Martin Luther King, Jr....

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Beth Baker Owens Scholar Year: 1977 Hometown: Longmont College(s), Degree(s), Graduation Year(s): University of Denver, B.A. French Language & Literature, B.S. in Chemistry (1982), University of Phoenix, MBA Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? Since 1997, I celebrate regularly with real estate clients as they grow their net worth and establish new homes for their families. I serve them when their child purchases her first home or when we sell their parents’ home or build their portfolio. Concurrently, I teach real estate classes to first-time home buyers, investors and Realtors to empower them to make better choices through a deeper understanding of the market and best real estate practices. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? This focus on empowering others is also reflected in my work as a business and life transition coach. My various activities today stem from an earlier, 13-year career teaching science to teens and demonstration skills to elementary teachers. I marvel how these opportunities all stem from undergraduate degrees in chemistry and French at the University of Denver! Without the Boettcher Scholarship, I would have had to attend CU Boulder part-time while working full-time. Who knows where that path would have led? Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations, or groups outside of work. My first weekend at DU, I met Kent Owens, who would become my husband five years later. When our three kids were in their middle-school years, we homeschooled them. This experience knit our family together and developed a love of learning we share today. Now, with the kids grown, I am developing new areas of interest as an active Boettcher Ambassador, Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board member, Toastmaster and rower. My family and I regularly cook, read, play games, learn about new things and hike together. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field? Any person who wants to have a positive impact on his own life needs to be curious, mindful and intentional. For a busy “human doing,” such as a Boettcher Scholar, this time shifting focus is especially important. Meditation, especially being still, was not innate to me. Still, by developing the practice through years of good times and hard times, I’ve become better able to adjust, cope and be resilient. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? For a most memorable dinner, I would ask Jesus to dinner with friends, family and me. This would probably have the most challenging and lasting impact on those present. It might not be as fun as having my favorite musician or as inspiring as hosting my most admired statesman. And it might not be as intellectually challenging as listening to a world-renowned professor or as heartwarming as bringing loved ones together. Our spiritual lives affect how we think, are and act. Jesus got to the spiritual heart of the matter in his stories and often dined with people from all walks of life....

As a journalism major at the University of Colorado Boulder, Kelly Graziadei didn’t know she would one day build and lead critical functions from sales to product marketing for the world’s largest media company. “If you had asked me then about doing work in tech (or what I thought of as working with computers back then), I would have replied ‘absolutely not,’” she said. The 1993 Boettcher Scholar, however, always felt drawn to places with abundant opportunity where she could create and define her own path. Such was the feeling she encountered as a recipient of the Boettcher Scholarship. “I knew I had the foundation behind me, believing in me and my ideas. That pushed me to work hard and gave me a vote of confidence to go and do big things,” she said. After graduating and starting in a leadership development program at a phone company in San Francisco, Kelly saw the opportunity to be a pioneer in the digital sector and made the leap. She worked at numerous companies, including Yahoo, before embarking on a seven-year career at Facebook, where she successfully led monetization strategy and go-to-market functions as the director of global marketing solutions. Today, Kelly is an entrepreneur-in-residence at Foundation Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. She’s taking the time to explore opportunities in start-ups and venture capital, a season the fast-paced technology executive called “a true gift.” For Kelly, making thoughtful decisions and taking action are fundamental to entrepreneurship and leadership. While all people have the potential to be entrepreneurs, Kelly notes it’s not just good ideas that lead to success. “We all have good ideas. What sets an entrepreneur apart is they are driven to build. They cannot not act. There’s no plan B or option of sitting back.” In her own right Kelly is a builder and successful entrepreneur, working in companies from three people to 20,000; In her tenure at Facebook, global advertising revenue grew from $3 billion in 2011 to more than $39 billion in 2017. Grounded in her experience, Kelly shared the key qualities she encounters among thriving entrepreneurs, and advice for would-be entrepreneurs: Grit: “Know that if you’re going through something difficult, it will help you later.” Commitment and passion: “Lean into what you love. You can learn a lot of skills but you can’t manufacture passion.” Hustle: “Work really hard and creatively solve problems that others won’t.” Leadership: “Communicate a clear and bold vision to enroll the right people.” Authenticity: “Truthfully answer the question of which issue you are uniquely positioned to solve.”   For Kelly, part of authenticity is also knowing what opportunities to pass up: “It’s just as important to know when to say no. You need to understand your values and let those inform your decisions and priorities. The opportunity cost for entrepreneurs is really high.” Knowing how to spend her own time is critical for the relationships she maintains as a mother of two and a mentor. Mentoring young people, especially women in the tech and entrepreneurial sectors, is something she is deeply committed to. “I love spending time with people looking how they can step up as a leader and take their impact or organization to the next level. Anytime I can be a coach or a sounding board, I do,” she said. “But it’s hard to classify this as giving back, because I gain so much myself.” In addition to mentoring, Kelly gives talks to groups across the world on numerous topics surrounding leadership and innovation. She was also the speaker at CU Boulder’s 2016 spring commencement, where she live-streamed grads singing the university’s fight song. In daily life, social media is ubiquitous. Like television in the 1950s, it fundamentally changed the way we connect with each other and consume information. And while social media has opened new doors to participate in each other’s lives and the market, it has also produced troubling isolation and misinformation, especially among young people, she noted. “My hope is with this mobile transformation, the pendulum swings back a bit towards deeper connection,” said Kelly. “People are hungry for meaningful connection. My wish is we’ll see more entrepreneurs willing to build spaces that better span and connect the physical and digital world from health and wellness to shopping and entertainment and more.” From building the social media advertising world to paving inroads for her mentees, Kelly is a builder and a thought leader who continues to pay forward the investment of the Boettcher Scholarship. When asked to share advice for scholars building their own paths, Kelly shared a final bit of advice. ”Don’t live someone else’s dream. There’s no replacement for passion – you can’t fake it. Pursue the thing that makes you so excited you can’t imagine doing anything else.”  ...

Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova. Name: Mark Hess Scholar Year: 1984 Hometown: Yuma College(s) and degree(s): CU-Boulder, BA English 1988; CU-Colorado Springs, MA Education 2000 Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation? I teach elementary gifted and talented students in Colorado Springs School District 11. I’m finishing my 30th year as a teacher, and I plan to teach 40 years or maybe even more. I have published more than 200 units and lessons for gifted learners, and I consult and teach teachers through professional development as well. I love my job, love the kids and have a passion for gifted education. What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now? Like most Boettcher Scholars, I have a passion for learning. I always loved school. My dad was a teacher, and growing up in a small town I was a "school rat." I didn't want to miss anything, and I was involved in practically everything. If I wasn't in classes, I was at a ball game, at a sports practice, attending a concert at the school, in a play, at a school potluck or playing around on the school playground or in the gym. It was natural for me to become a teacher. Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work. I am the president of the Pikes Peak Association for Gifted Students and a state board member for the Colorado Association of Gifted and Talented. What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for new graduates entering your career field? The best advice I've received is never stop learning and growing. I would advise current scholars entering education to lead with their heart, but I wouldn't need to say it. If they are considering being a teacher, they've already decided to do just that. If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why? I would have dinner with my grandparents, and that's an easy one for me – if not such an interesting choice for this question – because I love my grandparents and miss them. I want to hear all of the old stories again. ...

Boettcher Scholars have the opportunity to expand their educations by using international education grants or educational enrichment grants offered as part of their scholarship package. Through their travels, scholars have learned new languages, experienced diverse cultures or honed their skills through internships and classes. Many scholars tell us that these were among the most impactful aspects of their college careers. Here’s one of their stories. Cesar Caraveo 2016 Boettcher Scholar International Education Grant: Brazil The US-Brazil Connect Conexão Mundo program gave me the opportunity to become an English coach for Brazilian high school students. There were three other English coaches, and we each worked with 11 students. For the first eight weeks of the program, I hosted two, 30-minute video calls per week with my students and posted Facebook assignments for them to complete. The second phase of the program was the cultural immersion phase. We traveled to Campina Grande, Paraiba, Brazil for three weeks to continue supporting our students with English through face-to-face interactions. The final phase resumed with the video calls and Facebook assignments for six weeks. This program truly changed my life. It made me realize the passion I have for education, and I am now pursuing a master’s degree in education because of it. The culture in Brazil was so amazing, and the way that the students and Brazilian coordinators treated and welcomed us was incredible. I was able to establish strong relationships with people that I know will last a lifetime. My students are honestly some of the most important people in my life now, and I care very deeply for them. Without a doubt, I would recommend this program (or any program similar to this) to anyone, especially those who have the slightest thought about doing something in education. Cesar is returning to Brazil in the summer of 2018 to teach English with the program. ...

Boettcher Scholars have the opportunity to expand their educations by using international education grants or educational enrichment grants offered as part of their scholarship package. Through their travels, scholars have learned new languages, experienced diverse cultures or honed their skills through internships and classes. Many scholars tell us that these were among the most impactful aspects of their college careers.  Several Boettcher Scholars volunteered to blog about their travel experiences. Here’s one of their stories. Ginny Creager 2014 Boettcher Scholar Educational Enrichment Grant, Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund Last summer, I interned with the Governor’s Residence Preservation Fund (GRPF), whose mission is preserving the home of the governor (the former Boettcher family home) and bringing it into full use and enjoyment for Coloradans. One of the most rewarding accomplishments of my internship was helping to pull off the successful fundraiser, Brews and Bites. This creative event, the largest fundraising mechanism of the year, gave visitors a way to explore the mansion and learn about the GRPF. This sold-out event was crucial to our funding and exposure. I worked for weeks on this project with staff, vendors and volunteers to ensure that every aspect of this popular event went off without a hitch (and I even enlisted my entire family day-of). An event of this magnitude showed me that I am capable by teaching me dedication, patience, hard work and communication skills. By participating in the Educational Enrichment grant program, I gained personal and professional contacts who have given invaluable advice about getting into politics, especially as a female. I also continued to learn about our state’s and the Boettcher family’s history, which I have been able to share with other young people. Perhaps more important than my internship was the experience I gained from applying for this enrichment grant. Tiffany Anderson was a great resource as she guided me through the grant-writing process and taught me how to set and measure SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely) goals. I thank Tiffany for helping me acquire the valuable skills I need to write successful grants for a future in government work. Finally, I enjoyed this experience so much that I have already committed to volunteering during my entire senior year to help the GRPF with projects, including educational and community engagement programs and preparing the residence for the festive holiday season and the many visitors it will host. I am proud to continue my work for Colorado and the Boettcher family history, and I know I will always remain connected and dedicated to the GRPF’s mission. ...

Boettcher Scholars have the opportunity to expand their educations by using international education grants or educational enrichment grants offered as part of their scholarship package. Through their travels, scholars have learned new languages, experienced diverse cultures or honed their skills through internships and classes. Many scholars tell us that these were among the most impactful aspects of their college careers.  Recently several Boettcher Scholars volunteered to blog about their travel experiences. Here’s one of their stories. Piper Doering 2014 Boettcher Scholar Educational Enrichment Grant, Brazil After studying abroad in the Dominican Republic, I was left with a desire to learn more about Latin America and what it’s like to be an American abroad. I decided to use my Boettcher Educational Enrichment Grant to work in Brazil over the summer because Brazil is a global player, but not one that is immediately thought of in the U.S. While living in São Paulo, I worked at Sidera Consult, an international trade consulting firm. There, I learned more about how international trade, and how the U.S. and other countries interact on a global scale. Brazil is one of the most geographically diverse countries in the world, so I also had the opportunity to see the Amazon, as well as mountainous beaches and secluded islands. My grant allowed me to grow, not only as a person, but also as a global citizen....