Academics & Research / Winter 2018

Degrees of opportunity: How DU is supporting an evolving student body

These days, the typical college student isn’t so typical. Compared to seven or eight years ago, students entering U.S. colleges and universities in 2018 are less likely to be white, more likely to be the first generation in their family to go to college, and more likely to be older than 25.

As the demographics change, universities are changing along with them, adding scholarship funding, special orientations and other support for these growing populations. At DU and many other schools around the country, special summer events give kids from underprivileged populations their first taste of college life — and the potential to imagine themselves thriving in a campus environment.

Recruiting and supporting other types of learners is becoming increasingly important as well. New scholarships at DU are designed to attract military veterans and women interested in science and technology fields, while a recent partnership with 2U is making DU master’s degrees in business and social work available online to graduate students around the world.

Here is a closer look at these changing student populations and what DU and other universities are doing to recruit and support them.


Dianna Flamenco. Photo by Wayne Armstrong

Getting online

As a 29-year-old professional on the go, Dianna Flamenco says flexibility is key when it comes to pursuing her master’s degree. That’s why Flamenco is going online to get her master’s in social work (MSW@Denver) from DU’s Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW).

“Since I was working full time, I wouldn’t get home many days until 9 p.m.,” says Flamenco, who until recently worked for the Bridge Project, a community outreach initiative run by GSSW. “I really like being able to log on to do the work when my schedule permits.”

GSSW, which launched its online MSW in 2016, recently joined DU’s Daniels College of Business in a partnership with 2U Inc. to offer master’s degrees online. The programs are a boon for busy professionals like Flamenco, as well as for students around the country looking to access quality degree programs.

“We have 14 students in our program, but only five of us are from Colorado,” says Flamenco, who lives in Denver. “Everyone else is everywhere in the United States, and we even have one student out in Germany. It’s really accessible to people living in other parts of the country.”



Daniel Janosko. Photo by Wayne Armstrong

Veterans’ day

Former Marine Daniel Janosko is a firm believer in the power of teamwork. His work-study position as equipment manager for the DU men’s hockey team is a perfect fit.

“Being in a team atmosphere is really beneficial,” says Janosko, who is behind an effort to get more DU veterans to work with athletics teams. “Who understands teamwork better than a bunch of guys who served?”

Like other veterans at DU, Janosko is attending on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which pays his college expenses for 36 months. After that, he’ll be funded by the Yellow Ribbon Program, an initiative in which the Department of Veterans Affairs matches financial aid contributions by the participating university. DU increased its Yellow Ribbon funding earlier this year.

Janosko has found a sense of community on campus with other military veterans. He helped get DU’s Student Veterans Association off the ground, and Veterans Services coordinator Damon Vine has helped with the transition to the world of higher education.

“Having Damon there to say, ‘This is what you need to expect; this is what you need to do’ has been really beneficial,” says Janosko, who transferred to DU from Front Range Community College. “Those resources are paramount for any school.”



Dimitrius Wells. Photo by Wayne Armstrong

First class

A graduate of the prestigious Denver School of Science and Technology, Dimitrius Wells was already familiar with the rigors of college when he arrived at DU. But as a first-generation college student, he still faced a number of challenges. His mother had attended college for a bit, but her plans changed long before she finished her degree.

“There were certain things she knew about that she could help me with, but there were also things where she said, ‘I have no idea,’” says the senior finance major. “That was the frustrating part, because it was like, ‘OK, now I’m on my own.’”

But Wells soon found a community through such opportunities as DU’s Black Student Alliance and the Excelling Leaders Institute, a program that seeks to create an inclusive campus environment for students from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Wells now serves as a mentor with the Volunteers in Partnership program, which pairs DU students with kids from disadvantaged Denver high schools to help them further their education. There, he often finds himself talking to potential first-generation students and convincing them of the value of higher education.

“I tell them that our generation must go to college in order to succeed,” Wells says. “And I tell them that as a first-generation student, it is imperative to go.”



Racheal Erhard. Photo by Wayne Armstrong

A STEM evolution

It’s no longer boys making all the noise when it comes to engineering students at DU.

Take senior Racheal Erhard, a double major in electrical and mechanical engineering who works part time in DU’s Unmanned Systems Research Institute, developing better wings for unmanned aircraft systems. In summer 2018, she and fellow DU senior Maddy Drosendahl spent 10 weeks as interns at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.

Erhard, who took advantage of a DU scholarship aimed at getting more students — male and female — interested in STEM fields, is part of a growing movement of women pursuing careers in science and technology. At DU they are supported by scholarships for women in STEM, a chapter of the Society of Women Engineers and even summer coding camps for local high school girls.

“In most of my classes, it’s been a couple of girls and then a whole room of guys,” she says. “Now [that number is] growing. I think it’s important to the younger ages involved with it, because that’s when you’ll learn the stuff you need to know in order to get into it and enjoy it. If you’re in it just to be in it, it’s not worth it. You have to like what you’re doing.”


Patrick Baskins. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Late start, great start

When Patrick Baskins’ competitive ski career ended early due to a knee injury, he took another look at higher education. After receiving his associate’s degree from Colorado Mountain College in Vail, he entered DU in fall 2017 as a 26-year-old first-year transfer student with a junior standing, taking classes at DU’s Daniels College of Business alongside 18-year-old freshmen.

“Most kids are coming straight out of high school into this school, so it’s just a difference in life experiences,” he says of the age difference between himself and his fellow students. “I enjoy it, actually.”

One of the 200 transfer students admitted to DU’s undergraduate ranks each year, Baskins says the University made it easy for him to apply and to transfer the credits he earned at Colorado Mountain College.

With an interest in entrepreneurship fueled by summers spent working for his family’s construction company, Baskins is especially interested in the Daniels College’s new entrepreneurship minor, a multidisciplinary course of study that combines business, law and engineering and features 12 one-day, one-credit classes that students can tailor to their own interests, choosing from a menu that offers everything from project management and entrepreneurship ethics to digital marketing and design thinking.

“I have a lot of [business] ideas and I’m sure that other kids do too, and sometimes it’s hard to take care of every component of your idea,” he says. “The entrepreneurship program will help me get a feel for realistic ideas and realistic expectations for starting new businesses or new products.”



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