Ethnic Studies at CU Denver is the result of decades of struggle and the dedication of generations of students, faculty, and staff. It began with Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) directors or staff offering a few courses on Black and Mexican American studies in the late 1960s with courses on Asian American and Native American studies were added in the early 1970’s. In 1971 a faculty committee issued the Gallo Report, which recommended the establishment of an Ethnic Studies program within CLAS with four faculty lines. These recommendations were not followed with a commitment to resources. In 1974 the CLAS dean formed another faculty committee to research the needs of Ethnic Studies and approved one full-time faculty position. Dr. Cecil Glenn, a full-time EOP director, also served as the Ethnic Studies director. The one full-time faculty member left in 1982 and was not replaced. Part-time instructors and EOP directors then taught Ethnic Studies courses. At this time Ethnic Studies was an interdisciplinary program leading to a minor. Not until 1991 did Ethnic Studies have its own full-time director, Dr. Cecil Glenn, but most courses continued to be taught by part-time instructors.
Ethnic Studies went through a program review in 1991-92 and again in 1994-95, but recommendations for more resources were not implemented. Professor Dennis Green joined the program in 1996. Another task force in 1997 recommended continuing the full-time director position and the hiring of four new tenure-line faculty over a four-year period. The CLAS dean and chancellor endorsed these recommendations in writing, but resources were not provided. Dr. Cecil Glenn retired in 1999. Dr. Donna Martinez was hired as program director in 2002. The 2002 CLAS five-year strategic plan included the establishment of a major in Ethnic Studies. Ethnic Studies was given a replacement faculty tenure-line position and Dr. Paula Espinoza joined the faculty in 2005. The numbers of SCH and Ethnic Studies minors increased from 2 in the fall of 2002, to 89 in the fall of 2012.
A 2007 program review recommended additional faculty hires and the development of a major. Dr. Rachel Harding and Professor Faye Caronan began appointments in 2008 as full-time tenure track faculty. A major degree proposal was developed by the program and submitted to the college in the fall of 2008. It made its way through multiple levels of committees and received Regent approval in November 2012.
The Ethnic Studies major experienced significant growth in its first few years but this growth was not supported with additional resources. In 2019, then CTT Assistant Professor Katy Mohrman joined the Ethnic Studies faculty but we are now facing multiple retirements of full-time faculty. Dr. Paula Espinoza retired in Spring 2020 and Dr. Donna Martinez retired in Spring 2021. Dr. Elizabeth Garcia and Dr. Chad Shomura joined the faculty in Fall 2021.
Biography: Dr. Cecil Evans Glenn
Dr. Cecil Glenn created the foundation of diversity offices on the University of Colorado Denver campus. Dr. Glenn was recruited in 1972 as the assistant director of the Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) and put in charge of recruiting students from historically underrepresented backgrounds to campus, establishing a study skill center, and creating an Ethnic Studies curriculum. By 1976 Dr. Glenn was the EOP director.
The Ethnic Studies courses that Dr. Glenn offered were so popular that a range of courses were available to students by the mid 1970s. Ethnic Studies was awarded a four-year grant by the Department of Education to start the program at UC Denver. Dr. Glenn served as the founding director of Ethnic Studies and also continued to serve as the EOP director until 1988, when he began serving fulltime as the Ethnic Studies director, a position he held until his retirement in 2000. Dr. Glenn always placed a high priority on supporting the educational dreams of Ethnic Studies students. When he couldn’t get money from the university to take the students to conferences, he used his own money to take them to conferences at the University of California Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles, University of Arizona, University of Chicago, and University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Glenn was also an academic role model to his students through his membership in national organizations including the Society of Black Engineering and Science, Blacks in Criminal Justice, and Phi Delta Kappa. He met with public figures in Denver such as Dick Gregory, Stokley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Nikki Giovanni, Ruby Dee, Maya Angelou, Billy Mills, Ralph Nader, Ron Brown, President Jimmy Carter, and President John F. Kennedy at the White House.
Dr. Glenn was also a leader in the Denver community. He served on the board of the Denver Archdiocese, the Denver Urban League, the Colorado Minorities in Engineering Association, the Mayors Mental Health Advisory Committee, as a board member of the Greater Park Hill Community, and on the Stapleton Master Plan committee.
Dr. Glenn was the lead litigant in a lawsuit to relocate Stapleton Airport to the present site (Denver International Airport) in Glenn vs. City and County of Denver. Dr. Glenn was featured in a 1974 Smithsonian Magazine article, “Stop the Shouting and go to Work” that is now on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. As a member of the Stapleton Master Plan committee, Dr. Glenn suggested that granite flooring be bought from Africa for construction, and this is the flooring that we see today at the Denver International Airport.
While Denver feels that Dr. Glenn belongs to us, other places also have a claim to him. Dr. Glenn was born in 1938 in Nashville, Tennessee. He was a boxer in high school and was the middleweight champion of the South in 1957. Dr. Glenn completed his B.A. at Tennessee A & I State University in Nashville in 1962 in Education with a certification in secondary education. He met his beautiful wife Lucille when they were in the same college class in Nashville. Dr. Glenn taught social sciences and math at high schools in Chicago before coming to Denver. His M.A. was awarded in 1970 from Northeastern Illinois State College where he studied Inner City and Urban Studies, he also completed graduate studies course work in Sociology at the University of Denver in 1972.
His Ed.D. was awarded in 1976 from the University of Colorado with his dissertation titled “Self-Concept of Black University Students: The University of Colorado Denver”. Cecil and Lucille have two gifted sons, one is a very successful dental surgeon along with his wife, and his other son is a Hip Hop artist best known for his hit “Whoomp! There It Is”. Dr. Glenn and his son, La Val, were featured in an article in the 5280 magazine published in June 2013. His two granddaughters played piano with their grandfather Cecil as toddlers and later performed at the state capitol. They are ready to begin college and are beauties, like Grandma Lucille.
Dr. Glenn’s support of Ethnic Studies has never wavered. In retirement he started the Dr. Cecil Glenn scholarship to help Ethnic Studies students with the prohibitive cost of textbooks. Dr. Glenn awarded ten $300 scholarships every year at the annual Ethnic Studies Open House, started in 2002, where he reminded students that, “Others might say that they like you… but I really love you.”, which made the audience laugh every year and endeared him to a new generation of Ethnic Studies students. When he heard of academically related needs that his scholarship students had, he often offered additional financial support to them. His legacy to Ethnic Studies at UC Denver was made a permanent part of campus history in 2018 when he also began the Dr. Cecil Glenn endowed scholarship for Ethnic Studies students, proving to them once again that he “is the one who really loves them”. Dr. Glenn passed away on his birthday December 18, 2019.
Written by Dr. Donna Martinez who served as Ethnic Studies director (2002-2017) following Dr. Glenn (1988-2000).