Welcome to the Anthropology Department's Mentorship Program! The mentorship program builds bridges between graduate students and their desired careers by pairing incoming students with professionals working in an area of their interest. This page will give you a description of our mentors, most of whom are graduates of our program, and who are now using their MA in Anthropology in the workforce or as doctoral students.
Please feel free to contact either Sarah or Emily with any questions regarding the mentor program.
Mentors - Archaeology
Greg Wolff is one of two archaeologists employed at the Colorado Department of Transportation, for whom he conducts statewide archaeological surveys, ensures agency compliance with state and federal historic preservation regulations, and facilitates stakeholder consultation. His background includes the public, private, and academic sectors (State and Federal positions, cultural resource management firms, and university-based archaeological firms). His expertise is in coordinating intergovernmental, tribal, and public consultation within the frameworks of the National Historic Preservation Act (Section 106) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including the development of Programmatic Agreements and Memoranda of Agreement/Understanding. His skill set includes Environmental Compliance, Transportation Planning, Historical Research, Prehistoric and Historical Archaeology, and ArcGIS. He has a Master’s Degree focused in Archaeology from Southern Illinois University (Carbondale) and a Bachelor's Degree (double major in Political Science and Anthropology) from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). He has field experience in numerous Western and Midwestern states, as well as in Central America (Belize and Guatemala). Professional interests include prehistoric and historic archaeology, history, ethnobotany, historic preservation, and environmental planning. His commitment to the discipline includes service on several committees for non-profit professional organizations, including serving as Chair of the Native American Initiatives Committee for the Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists. In that role, he administers the CCPA Native American Scholarship.
Gwendolyn Wallen-Sena is a historical archaeologist with interests spanning the breadth of the field of anthropology. Gwen earned an M.A. in anthropology with a concentration in archaeology from the University of Colorado – Denver and during her time there assisted in the instruction of courses in biological anthropology and archaeology. Upon graduation, Gwen joined the Register of Professional Archaeologists and continued educating students in field experience as an archaeological crew chief for Adams State University's field school at Fort Massachusetts. While working at Fort Massachusetts, Gwen continued to pursue her interest in gender archaeology and identity. After several field seasons, Gwen returned to the classroom at Pikes Peak Community College as an assistant professor for the Anthropology Department. Beginning in 2016, Gwen has taught courses in cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, and archaeology focusing on methodology and theoretical perspectives of culture and evolution.
Catherine Johns has a B.A. in History from Brevard College and received her MA in Anthropology from CU Denver which she received in 2014. During her time at CU, she traveled with Dr. Beekman to the Tequila Valley in Jalisco, Mexico for ceramic analysis work and archaeological surveying. After graduating she worked with at-risk teens in Florida as an AmeriCorps VISTA. She received an internship with Guilford Courthouse National Military Park and then was hired to be an Interpretive Park Ranger. While there she applied for the National Park to gain a grant to fund Title 1 school trips which they are still using currently. She now serves as the Tour Coordinator and Education Assistant for the Greensboro History Museum.
Dr. Mark D. Mitchell is the Research Director for Paleocultural Research Group (PCRG), a nonprofit that conducts research, trains students, and educates the public on the archaeology and paleoecology of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. Previously, he worked for several cultural resource management firms and for the USDA Forest Service in Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas. Mitchell has more than 35 years of experience in archaeological field and laboratory research. His research explores the archaeology of two different regions: the Northern Plains in central and western North Dakota and Southern Rocky Mountains in Colorado and New Mexico. Mitchell’s Southern Rockies research focuses on American Indian land use in the San Luis Valley and adjacent mountains. His Northern Plains research focuses on the political and economic development of post-A.D. 1200 farming villages of the Missouri River valley. He also studies historic American Indian rock art and the history of archaeology.
Lucas Hoedl is currently an archeologist with the National Park Service duty stationed at Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments. Lucas has worked in the American Southwest and Western Mexico for over 10 years. He earned an M.A. in Anthropology from University of Colorado Denver, and his B.A. at the University of Colorado Boulder. He currently specializes in the management and preservation of prehistoric architecture in central Arizona. His research interests include prehistoric economies and systems of commerce, prehistoric architecture, and cultural resource management.
Christopher Shelton received his M.A. from the University of Texas at Arlington in 2015, where his graduate research focused on sites along the coast of South Africa; more specifically, lithic technology of the Early to Later Stone Ages, raw material selection patterns, and the mechanical testing of lithic raw material. Currently, Mr. Shelton serves as a Project Archaeologist for SWCA Environmental Consultants (Austin, Texas office). His duties include field director, crew supervision, and tribal liaison. His archaeological experience in CRM spans TX, LA, AR, OK, OH, IN, SD, WY, and TN, and includes numerous Phase I investigations, data recovery projects, lithic analyses, faunal analyses, and lab management. His areas of developing expertise include lithic analysis, faunal analysis, and tribal relations.
Mentors - Biological Anthropology
Lucy Bowland is a biological anthropologist interested in paleoanthropology, comparative anatomy, and functional morphology in living and fossil primates. Her MA thesis at the University of Colorado, Denver, focused on the morphology of primate hands. In particular, her thesis utilized a large comparative sample of the first metacarpal of extant primates and fossil hominins to better understand the morphology of the Homo naledi first metacarpal. She has experience working with 3D data, as well as associated data processing software such as Geomagic, Mimics, Landmark Editor, and R. She is currently a PhD student at the University of Arkansas and plans to continue studying the anatomy of primate hands, as well as to learn more about the pros and cons of using 3D data for anthropological research. She has fieldwork experience excavating a “vampire” burial ground in Poland, working at the site of the Laetoli footprints in Tanzania, and excavating at Ashkelon in Israel.
Abby Peterson graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with BAs in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Anthropology. She now works at the Denver Zoo as a primate keeper, specializing in New World Primates. She participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' New World Primate Steering Committee. Abby also supports conservation initiatives through the zoo's Field Conservation department.
Robin Abrams received her BA in Anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and an Associate’s Degree in Zookeeping Technology from Pikes Peak Community College (PPCC). While at PPCC, she volunteered at a rescue center in South Africa called CARE (the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation and Education). During her time in Africa, she fulfilled many roles, some of which included monitoring large groups of baboons, hand-rearing several orphaned monkeys, and working as a clinic assistant in the veterinary hospital. She worked as a volunteer and then as a keeper assistant in Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's Primate World and Rocky Mountain Wild sections, and spent two years as a primate keeper in the Houston Zoo. She also had the opportunity to work as the paid primate intern at the Denver Zoo and has been a full-time keeper there since 2014. She works primarily with the Denver Zoo's collection of Old World Monkeys, although her favorite species to work with is chimpanzees! Robin finds behavior and group dynamics fascinating. Two of her favorite things to do as a zookeeper are spending time observing the animals and giving keeper chats to guests.
Abella graduated from the Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Anthropology. During her time at Penn State, she has participated in research with the Department of BioBehavioral Health - Psychophysiological Lab under Dr. William Gerin, as well as served as an undergraduate teaching assistant for BIOL 129: Mammalian Anatomy. From 2012-2014, Abella attended CU Denver and received her Master’s degree in Anthropology (Biological) under the guidance of Dr. Charles Musiba. During her time at CU Denver, she was the Human Osteology Lab Instructor (SP 2013 & SP 2014) and has participated in the 2013 Tanzania Field School where she was able to assist in the 2013 Olduvai Paleoanthropological and Paleoecological Project (TOPP), as well as excavations at Laetoli. In 2014, Abella was the field teaching assistant for CU Denver’s Tanzania Field School at Laetoli (Site G, Locality 8) and assisted data collection at the National Museum of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam. In 2016, Abella also assisted Dr. Christine Steininger (University of Witswatersrand) and colleagues at the Gondolin Cave excavation.
Currently, Abella is a PhD candidate at the University of Arkansas with Dr. Peter Ungar as her advisor and has worked on collaborative research which has resulted into publications on dental microwear of extinct primates from Kanapoi, as well as on dental microwear of Australopithecus africanus. Her PhD dissertation focuses on dental adaptations and seasonal niche partitioning of a Sumatran primate community. She hopes to use the data collected to enhance our understanding of how primates may have partitioned their environment in the past.
Alex Pelissero received his MA in Anthropology from UCD in 2017. Focusing on biological anthropology, he primarily studies the emergence and evolution of bipedality in hominins. He wrote his thesis on the Laetoli hominin footprints, doing a comparative analysis on the two sets of prints from Site G and Site S using photogrammetry. He participated in two field seasons in Tanzania with Charles Musiba, working at sites across the country. In addition to studying footprints at Laetoli and Engare Sero, he also helped conduct an extensive UAV survey and mapping project at the Middle Pleistocene archaeological site of Isimila. He has presented his research at multiple conferences, such as the AAPA, Paleoanthropology Society, and the East African Association of Paleoanthropology and Paleontology. Outside of academia, he works as a cook and plays guitar in his punk band. He is currently applying to doctoral programs.
Dr. Linda Scott Cummings is President and CEO of PaleoResearch Institute, Inc., which she founded in 1972. She obtained both her Masters (1983) and Ph.D. (1989) from the University of Colorado after founding PRI. With a mission to make science more accessible to archaeologists and geologists, PRI works in both the compliance (CRM and Heritage Management) and research industries. Dr. Scott Cummings is an Honorary Fellow at the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She participated in the international EARTH (Early Agriculture Resources and Technology Heritage) program sponsored by the European Union, which resulted in multiple publications in their edited volume series published by Oxbow Books. Trained primarily as an archaeologist and palynologist, Dr. Scott Cummings has expanded her expertise to include phytolith and starch identification and interpretation of FTIR and XRF signatures.
Dr. Scott Cummings leads several teams and oversees all of the research at PaleoResearch Institute. She also initiates and oversees original research outside the scope of CRM. Currently, she is developing new chemical pre-treatment protocols for dating crusty charred food residues recovered from ceramics with support from the State of Minnesota and NSF. Dr. Scott Cummings directs a team of specialists at PaleoResearch Institute whose experience encompasses the remainder of the services that we offer. She has participated in field sampling and directing both laboratory and analytic operations, often developing new techniques. Her work includes projects from the entire North American continent, as well as other areas of the world such as Pacific Islands and Pacific Rim, Meso and South America, the Middle East, Europe, North Africa, and Oman. She has experience meeting deadlines and participating as a collaborator on large, complex, and small projects. Dr. Scott Cummings brings an innovative approach to field sampling, sample design consultation (to meet the needs of any research design), analysis, and interpretation. She works within a synergistic framework.
At present, Dr. Scott Cummings is actively involved in pollen, phytolith, starch, macrofloral, and charcoal identifications for projects, as well as providing final determinations on protein residue positive reactions. She interprets the FTIR and XRF records and writes reports for all areas of our analytical expertise.
Mentors - Medical Anthropology
Dalia Abdulrahman graduated from the Medical Anthropology Program in 2016. She has worked with Denver's refugees and immigrants on diverse health issues for agencies such as Ecumenical Refugee & Immigration Services, the Colorado Department of Health & the Environment, and Aurora Mental Health Center since 2012. Having been an asylum seeker in Europe, Dalia is a keen advocate for the cause of refugees and immigrants. While working as a case manager at one of Denver's resettlement agencies she gained insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the resettlement process and the mental and physical toll it takes on refugees. Her Master's thesis, pending publication, explains how the dynamics and shortcomings of the federal resettlement program inadvertently cause lead poisoning among refugee children.
Dalia continues to work with the refugee population in Denver. Currently, she works for the Denver Department of Human Services where she is a social worker for the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program. Her long-term career plans are to obtain a PhD degree in migration studies and a position at the federal level to influence resettlement and immigration policy from within.
Paige Backlund Jarqun, DrPH, MPH earned a master's degree in public health, with a focus on community health education, from the Colorado School of Public Health in 2010. She finished her Doctor of Public Health degree in community and behavioral health in 2016, also from the Colorado School of Public Health. Paige has worked in community-based public health for more than 15 years with various organizations including the Peace Corps, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains' (PPRM) Education Department, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), among others.
Paige is the Senior Program Manager for the State Innovation Model Extension Service at the Colorado Health Institute. Paige supports regional health connectors and their host organizations throughout Colorado, as well as program development, training and eval uation activities. Paige has served in mentoring programs through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's Leadership and Organizing for Change training program, and with the Colorado Public Health Association; she has also had the opportunity to support multiple students through internships and their final projects. She is constantly humbled by the amazing students she gets to work with and feels like she learns more than what she gives! On the weekends you can find Paige hanging out with her partner and their two children, playing the guitar, and digging in their community garden plot.
Shelby Chapman graduated from the University of Colorado Denver with a Master's Degree in Anthropology in 2011. She received a Graduate Certificate in Public Health from the University of Colorado in 2013. Shelby worked for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment from 2010-2014 as a Health Educator in the Refugee Health Program of Colorado. Her primary duties were to educate newly arrived refugees about preventive health while considering the unique needs of the refugee(s) being served. Shelby also developed presentations and provided training to medical and social services providers along the Front Range about the history and cultural background of the refugee populations in Colorado. Shelby also helped start a Refugee Health Resource Center that assisted refugees in navigating the complex US healthcare system.
Shelby currently works for Children's Hospital Colorado as the Health Literacy Program Manager. The program encompasses all patient/family education and its overall mission is to improve health equity. The three core priorities are providing skills to facilitate spoken communication between staff and patients/families, improving written communication, and improving the navigability of the health system. Shelby is also leading a system-wide effort to screen for and address the social determinants of health (SDoH) as part of the organization's Population Health Strategy. Shelby helped the organization institute universal screening for the SDoH in its primary care clinics and is currently working to expand screening to additional areas of the hospital. Shelby also serves on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Steering Committee.
Kevin Darcy earned his MA in Anthropology at CU Denver in December 2014 with a primary focus on applied medical anthropology. Briefly, Kevin was part of the CU Denver Food Systems Research Group, carried out ethnographic fieldwork in Tanzania, Guatemala, and two separate projects in Denver as part of two different courses. Through courses taken at CU Denver, Kevin worked with a local immigrant community, and guided college freshmen through a Qualitative Methods course. Kevin is currently a third year PhD student in Cultural Anthropology at CU Boulder, and is employed as a Lead Researcher with the Accessibility and Usability Lab. In his capacity as Lead Researcher for the Accessibility and Usability Lab, his current interdisciplinary project is focused on the lived realities and experiences of low vision and blind students at the CU Boulder campus.
Kevin's research interests include Critical Medical Anthropology, the Anthropology of Policy and Law, Governmentality, Immigration, Embodiment, and Critical Race Theory. Kevin's dissertation research is motivated by the relationship between immigration and health, with a particular focus on how policy, law, and discourse shape immigrant subjectivities and health outcomes.
Jaime received an MA in anthropology from CU Denver, with her primary interests in migrant health and the Latino day laborer population in Denver. Jaime received her undergraduate degree at Metro State, studying anthropology, African history, and nonprofit administration. Jaime has worked for a nonprofit in Denver that partnered with school districts to administer the School Health Services program, maximizing reimbursement from Medicaid for special education students. Jaime currently works as a research assistant for Health Management Associates, a for-profit healthcare research and consulting firm. In that role, she conducts research and evaluations for a variety of projects ranging from LGBTQIA mental health service delivery to community health needs assessments. Jaime participated in a study abroad program funded by the US State Department that took place in northern Ethiopia as a senior at Metro State.
Andrés holds a Bachelor of Science from Michigan State University in physiology and a Graduate Certificate in Public Health from the Colorado School of Public Health. He is currently pursuing his MPH at the Colorado School of Public Health. Andrés Guerrero began his public health career in the year 2000 working as a research assistant at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. His work at the university focused on outreach, educating people who inject drugs on harm reduction methods, and assisting them with entry into drug treatment. He then moved to Peer Assistance Services, a private non-profit agency, to manage a federal SAMHSA grant that aimed to reduce the risk of HIV, viral hepatitis and substance abuse among minorities who were recently released from the Colorado Department of Corrections. He began at the Colorado Department of Health and Environment in the summer of 2009 in the Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology Division. He is currently the Prescription Drug Overdose Unit manager. His professional areas of interest are drug user health, qualitative research, and digital storytelling. In his spare time, he enjoys volunteering, hiking, fishing and backpacking.
Emily has a broad education and training background, including a M.A. in medical anthropology and a double B.A. in history and Hispanic studies. For the past several years Emily has been under the mentorship of Dr. Karen Lutfey Spencer, whose work has contributed greatly to our appreciation of the fundamental relationship of socioeconomic status (SES) and health. In addition to her dissertation research, she has collaborated with Dr. Lutfey Spencer on research examining hospice underutilization among end-stage hospice patients. Their hospice research has resulted in a first-authored publication, presentations at numerous academic conferences and meetings, and an additional co-authored publication. Her professional and educational experiences have provided training in a wide range of methodological research approaches that includes: in-depth interviewing, conducting focus groups, quantitative modeling, digital storytelling, and extensive fieldwork.
Emily is a PhD candidate in the Health & Behavioral Sciences program at UCD. Emily's primary research focus is on SES health disparities and the influence of health insurance policies on the relationship between SES and health care. Her dissertation project uses innovative mixed-methods and case study of access to BRCA genetic testing among Coloradans diagnosed with breast cancer from 2009-2016 to empirically investigate the relationship among SES, type of health insurance plan and access to new medical technology. Outside of her academic pursuits, Emily enjoys spending time outdoors with her family (she has two boys, ages 5 and 2), traveling, and is an amateur filmmaker.
Nick holds a BA in Education and a minor in History and Sociology from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, and a master's degree in Anthropology with a focus on Sustainable Development and Political Economy from the University of Colorado, Denver. Nick has worked at Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains Refugee and Asylee Programs as the Employment Team Lead, and was a middle school teacher at Aurora West College Preparatory Academy, where he taught middle school history to a largely immigrant and refugee populations.
Nick has worked in the U.S. refugee resettlement field since 2013. Nick Lesley is the Employment and Training Coordinator at CDHS' Colorado Refugee Services Program (CRSP). Nick has been at CRSP since April, 2016. Mr. Lesley works with refugee-serving agencies and other government entities to help ensure refugees receive a wide range of education and skills training in order for refugees to obtain living wage employment and begin to rebuild their lives in the United States.
Cori graduated from CU Denver in 2015, earning her MA in medical anthropology. While in the program, her main interests included policy, law and government. Cori landed a 2 year policy internship with a Colorado state representative, which gave her the opportunity to gain real, meaningful experience in the world of politics. She put her skills as a qualitative researcher to use, assigned to research a variety of issues on senate and house bills concerning violation of civil rights, impacts on services and funding to healthcare, and many other state actions on health reform. Her goal after graduating was to work in government while also incorporating medical anthropology and was lucky enough to secure a job that gave her that very opportunity.
Cori currently works for the City of Boulder, Department of Human Services, and her passion lies in working to contribute positive changes in policies that protect the poorest, most vulnerable people in our community. Cori works closely with the City Council to address a variety of issues that include health equity, civil rights, homelessness, housing, living wage, substance education and awareness, youth and seniors, and much more. There is great potential and value for anthropology in the informing of public health policy.
Courtney graduated in 2012 with a PhD in Health & Behavioral Sciences from CU Denver and has a Masters in socio-cultural anthropology from University of Colorado at Boulder in 2006. Courtney conducted her dissertation research on the impacts of medical tourism on the socialized health care system in Costa Rica. The study was ethnographic in nature and funded by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Courtney received a fellowship in the Health and Global Change Program at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), an institute that focuses on creating sustainable solutions to global problems. In addition, she has conducted numerous research projects in the field of health and health care, including several studies with the University of Colorado Medical School and Colorado Health Outcomes (COHO). Courtney has also taught classes in public health at the University of Colorado Denver, including Global Health and Capstone in Public Health.
Courtney currently works in research and evaluation at the Colorado Trust, a health and social justice foundation with the mission of achieving health equity here in Colorado. Here, her primary project is in community empowerment and resident-driven change in communities throughout the state. Courtney loves living in Colorado and getting to know different communities throughout the state. She also enjoys travel and outdoor activities here in Colorado with her family and two young children!
Tara received her MA in Medical Anthropology in 2010. During her time at CU Denver, she also worked as a Research Assistant for the Health and Behavioral Sciences department. Tara has held a wide wage of occupations since graduating with her degree, including as a Surveillance Associate at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and as a Rate/Financial Analyst at the Colorado Division of Insurance. Tara currently works as a Policy Analyst for the Colorado State Innovation Model (SIM) Office. This program aims to lower the cost of healthcare, better the quality of healthcare, and improve the health of the Colorado population overall.
Tara also works as a Program Coordinator for the State Two Generation Program through the office of Governor John Hickenlooper. This program approaches health with a dual generational focus, with the family as a single unit of focus.
Susanna received her M.A. in Medical Anthropology from the University of Colorado Denver and wrote her thesis on the provision of doulas to support women placing children for adoption. She continued her graduate work in the Reproductive Health Lab at Oregon State University and returned to Denver in 2014 to work with an all options adoption agency. Susanna Snyder is an Applied Medical Anthropologist with eight years of experience in maternal child health research, education, and advocacy.
Susanna has worked as a research coordinator with the Midwives Alliance of North America, a consultant with the Oregon Health Authority and a doula for women seeking a mother-friendly birth experience. She currently serves as the Maternal Child Health Policy Specialist for the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF), the department responsible for administering Health First Colorado, Colorado's Medicaid Program. In her role, she manages special programs for vulnerable populations of pregnant women and drives initiatives to improve the physical and mental health of mothers and their children. From case management to federal reporting, facilitating focus groups to implementing evidence-based practices, Susanna is committed to understanding and alleviating the unique pressures that women face when attending to their reproductive health.
Liz graduated from the CU Denver Anthropology Department in spring 2017 with a concentration in Medical Anthropology. Her thesis explored the relationship between the often stigmatized dance form of belly dance, and how participation in that culture impacted women’s understandings of their bodies and preferences for medical care. After graduating, she took a full-time position with UCD’s School of Education and Human Development at The Evaluation Center. Her job entails both program evaluation and research largely focused on K12 education, medical education, translational science, and advocacy programs.