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Destined to teach

"I have always tried to bring out the best in my students," says Assistant Professor Cathy Grieve. Photo: Tim Ryan

Her mother was a teacher, her sister is a principal, and two of her other siblings have been educators. It seems that for Cathy Grieve, MA ’72, PhD ’79, teaching may have been destiny.

For more than 30 years, Grieve has fulfilled that destiny at DU.

Grieve performs dual roles in DU’s School of Communication, serving as an assistant professor of mass communications and directing the school’s internship program. She oversees the placement and progress of nearly 200 interns each term in positions with 600 sponsors — including corporations, nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations — and through the years, she has guided thousands of students through their initial career experiences.

Grieve understands the value of real-world experience. Before starting graduate school at DU in 1970, she taught high school for five years. By 1972, she was working as a DU teaching assistant while pursuing a PhD in speech communication and raising three children.

“I finished my dissertation when my sons were napping,” Grieve says.

After her daughter began school in the 80s, Grieve began teaching at DU full time. Today, she’s likely one of the University’s most well respected and beloved professors, and she’s certainly among the most decorated. Grieve’s honors include DU’s Distinguished Teaching Award, Driscoll Master Educator Award and Kynewisbok Pioneer Award. The community, too, has taken note, honoring Grieve’s quarter-century of work in Colorado’s television and broadcasting industries by inducting her into the Silver Circle of the National Television Academy’s Colorado Heartland Chapter.

“They’re recognitions from people who, at a given period of time, see you as being successful. But I never want to rest on those,” Grieve says. “What the awards say to me is that I still have to work harder.”

Ileya Finberg, BA ’05, says Grieve inspired her more than any other professor.

“She taught me to notice how you’re affecting someone else,” Finberg says. “She gets across that it’s as much about building strong relationships as it is understanding the lesson.”

Grieve communicates that message, along with communications and public relations fundamentals, through an evolving teaching style. Where she once relied on a traditional lecture format, her lessons now incorporate Web-based technology, hands-on projects, guest lecturers and field visits.

“Through the years I’ve known her, she’s always been extremely dedicated with a can-do attitude in everything she does,” says Bob Schenkein, MA ’70, founder of a large Denver public relations firm. Many of Grieve’s students have interned in his firm, he’s visited her classrooms to speak with students, and for the last three years he helped Grieve to organize the School of Communication’s annual summit.

Last year, Schenkein and Grieve co-taught a seminar that required students to develop a public relations plan for a nonprofit organization. Schenkein was comfortable creating the course content, but he relied on Grieve to help him transfer that knowledge to DU students.

“Cathy provided a lot of guidance and mentoring to me,” Schenkein says.

Whether she’s handling the small details or planning long-term strategies, Grieve does her work with enthusiasm. All the while, she’s noticing the best in everyone around her — especially her students.

“It isn’t just about teaching facts or theories. I have always tried to bring out the best in my students,” Grieve says. “If in a quarter I touch one student who will make a positive difference in someone’s life or improve our world, then it’s worth it.”

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