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Research & Creative Work


Our formal classroom curriculum builds on and benefits greatly from the community engagement work of many of our professors and instructors.

The Urban Citizen Program

Contact: Instructor, Harv Bishop, 303-556-6244

It is important that education intertwine with societal and technological changes. In order for this to occur, there must be relationships among students, community and the university. The Urban Citizen Program creates these special relationships each semester. As an Urban Citizen student, you have an opportunity to work within an urban environment while going to school. Your experience in the Urban Citizen course will be unique, because you will be working within urban communities on different projects. You will make lasting contributions to your community, and you will make a difference. You will take away amazing experiences that will prevail considerably longer than most of your undergraduate experiences!

The Urban Citizen projects focus particularly on the most challenging and recurring problems in American communities: poverty, housing issues, crime, people with disabilities, homelessness, "throwaway kids," and the under-educating of American children. The Urban Citizen creates a way for students to get involved with our community partners on these issues. This course develops constructive and creative thinking, as well as potential leadership positions.

Here is a sampling of the kinds of projects engaged in by past Urban Citizen students:

The Immigrant Day Laborer Organizing Project

Every day, dozens of immigrant day laborers gather at a downtown streetcorner seeking daily work in construction, landscaping and other such fields. These workers are easily exploited by their employers (they are often not paid, for example), they lack access to an indoor gathering space, they lack homes and sanitation facilities, and the police constantly arrest them for loitering and the like. The Day Laborer Organizing Project is working to build a powerful union of day laborers, and to advocate on their behalf with City Council members, the Denver Police Department, and exploitive employers. We are bringing workers' wage claims to court and building cultural activities and the like for day laborers on the street. Students wishing to join this project would be part of a team, including leadership from El Centro Humanitario. Students could serve as field organizers joining other staff in morning visits to the streetcorner, as research assistants gathering important data to support workers' claims, as translators, or as paralegals helping bring wage claims in front of small claims court).

The Save Our Section 8 Tenant Organizing Project

Hundreds of low-income Section 8 housing units are disappearing in Colorado. Many building owners are choosing not to renew their contract with the government to provide long-term, low-income housing units to the elderly, disabled or impoverished, and are instead opting to convert their low-income apartment building into upscale condos, lofts or luxury apartments. Hundreds of vulnerable citizens risk eviction. Hundreds more low-income tenants face management harassment, poor housing conditions, and abuse from exploitive landlords. The Save Our Section 8 Coalition (SOS8) is a project to build strong tenant associations in various downtown housing complexes, and unite these coalitions into city-wide tenant group that can defend tenants' rights against abusive landlords, and that can compel changes in Denver housing options. The SOS8 coalition has passed housing preservation legislation through City Council, has helped build a low-income housing trust fund, and was instrumental in saving the low-income East Village housing complex from upscale redevelopment by Post Properties. Students interested in working with this coalition serve as field organizers attending coalition meetings and helping other staff reach out to additional buildings, educating tenants, etc.; as newsletter editors/producers; or as fundraisers, helping to write a grant or solicit local donations.

The La Alma/Lincoln Park Neighborhood Organizing Project

La Alma/Lincoln Park is a historically low-income neighborhood, one of Denver's oldest, and home to one of Denver's vibrant and politically active Latino populations. But the community is being gentrified and housing prices are rising fast. Recently, residents have organized a strong neighborhood planning group that is trying to build the political power necessary to defend neighborhood interests against gentrification or against negative institutional encroachment (like a new jail). This planning group was instrumental in persuading voters to reject the plans for a new jail in their neighborhood several years ago. Students wishing to learn how neighborhood politics works at the grassroots level could join the planning group by acting as technical consultants helping to build a Web site and regular newsletter for the group; a volunteer assistant to the neighborhood beautification campaign helping to plan neighborhood cleanup and youth art days; a research assistant gathering important neighborhood data and examining progressive planning efforts in other cities; or field organizer working on a chosen local campaign by canvassing the community, educating city officials, etc.

The Hangout Resource Center Project

The Hangout Resource Center is a small, grassroots organization built and led by survivors of brain injuries. The center allows brain injury survivors to gather on a regular basis to plan social events, network with each other, engage in educational programs, and the like. This organization would love to have a short promotion/education video about their program. Already previous Urban Citizen students have gathered much of the footage (of meetings, interviews, etc.). Any student wishing to produce a short promotional video could use the media lab of the Westside Outreach Center, receive short tutorials on how to use the equipment, and could then finish the Hangout Resource Center video. Students would have access to training and equipment, and would start with a good deal of footage already.

For more information on the Urban Citizen Project, see:

Geographic Info Systems

Contact: Associate Professor and Chair, Tony Robinson, 303-556-2746

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The Department of Political Science is happy to offer this unique research methods course available to graduate students and advanced undergraduates.

GIS (Geographic Information System) is a system made up of computer mapping models and computer tools for manipulating and analyzing these models—essentially it is a system for designing, analyzing and publishing sophisticated maps of the world using your desktop. In recent years, geospatial technologies have become pervasive in various political contexts, such as urban planning, electoral analysis, environmental justice work, demographic studies, public health, and criminal justice work. Mastering this technology will enhance your research work in any class in our program, add a sophisticated new methodological arrow to your quiver, and (as GIS employment opportunities are rapidly growing) could help in your career search and professional development beyond this program.

Our GIS course focuses on how to use GIS technology to enhance our understanding of political, economic and social realities. Maps present suggestive and revealing pictures of the world, filled with geographic data and patterns that are often hard to convey with just narrative, charts or statistical data. They unveil hidden realities in our communities, present a new angle on familiar phenomena, and deepen our understanding of the world around us. Maps can suggest new courses of action to leaders and citizens, can point to needed policy changes, and can suggest new strategies and hidden challenges to community organizations, neighborhood leaders, and political officials.

The professor in this class has recently published a Denver Atlas of the changing political economy in the region, and has presented at the ESRI international GIS Users Conference.

GIS Graphic #4 GIS Graphic #5

Students in this course will learn the basics of ERSI's ArcMap program (ESRI is the leading publisher of GIS software), and will have the opportunity to apply their skills in a final project. Through a unique partnership with several community based organizations, students in the class also have the opportunity to act as GIS consultants, designing and publishing a set of research maps that have been requested by community partners. Our partners currently range from immigrant rights organizations, to a Front Range think tank, to advocates for educational reform—and you may choose from among them as you build your GIS portfolio.

Students will also have access to UC Denver's sophisticated Facility for Spatial Technology (the FAST lab), both on campus, and by logging into the lab remotely from their desktops.

Contact: Associate Professor and Chair, Tony Robinson, 303-556-27466379811651_a6755d8a7f.jpg

Offered every spring semester, the CU at the Capitol program places students as interns
with the Colorado General Assembly. Each student in the class is assisted in locating an internship with a senator, representative, the governor's office, a lobbyist group, a media organization, or any other agency directly involved with the Colorado General Assembly. The bulk of class time comes in the field, in independent internships which run 6-10 hours a week. In most cases, students work as aides to state legislators, helping staff their front desk, attending committee hearings, meeting with lobbyists, researching issues, using the legislative library and legislative research service, and talking to constituents.

In your field work, you will have a chance to see first-hand how politics in Colorado operate, who holds the power in the state, what the major issues are, how bills are passed, what the role of the citizenry is, and a good deal more. You will also have a chance to meet some of the movers and shakers in Colorado, to network with your peers about government operations and opportunities, to develop valuable job experience, to explore possible career paths, and possibly even to move directly into paid work. Past class members have moved on to positions as the bill recorder in the House; as paid legislative aides (including the legislative assistant to the House Minority Leader); as paid Washington, D.C., staffers; as paid political directors; and as campaign managers. One class member was even tapped by her party to run for a position in the Colorado General Assembly. Several students have turned their initial field work in this class into the basis for an honors thesis in our department.

The Fourth World Center for the Study of Indigenous Law and Politics was founded as a resource commons of authoritative information on indigenous peoples' affairs.

 The major components of the Center's educational project are:
  • The creation and presentation of a university-level multidisciplinary curriculum focused on the stucy of indigenous peoples; 
  • The publication of the Fourth World Bulletin, a journal on indigenous politics with a global concentration;
  • The development of university textbooks for the study of indigenous politics; the presentation of public forums;
  • The presentation of testimony before international legal organizations.
Beyond its unique curriculum development work at CU-Denver, the Center's educational mission has been to construct a national and internationcuseal forum for analysis of law and government policies that affect indigenous peoples in every part of the world. Therefore, the Center focuses heavily upon the evolution of legal institutions that are being created for the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples, especially the evolving United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Contact:  Glenn Morris, Associate Professor,  (303) 556-6243 or

The Center for New Directions in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Colorado Denver offers a Master’s Degree in Political Science with an emphasis in politics and public policy, and an undergraduate concentration in public policy within the BA in political science program. A Leadership Certificate focused in the areas of politics and public policy is being developed. All of the programs and the courses help students develop the political acumen necessary for being effective leaders and agents of change in neighborhoods, communities, governmental jurisdictions, and nonprofit entities.

The Center's programs are based on the notion that effectively addressing the public priorities of the 21st century requires that those working on matters of public interest possess a keen understanding of the political forces that guide or thwart the successful mobilization of resources and the achievement of constituent goals consistent with the public interest. Similarly, the need and opportunity for the active engagement, or leadership, of concerned citizens in the policy-making process is greater than ever before.

Accordingly, students in any of the Center's academic programs will be representative of not only those working professionals in the public and non-profit sectors, but also elected officials; community activists; interest-group stakeholders; educators from a wide range of demographic, occupational, and personal backgrounds; and simply concerned citizens.

Contact: Kathryn Cheever, Executive Director of the New Directions Center, (303)556-5970 or