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Dorothy Garrison-Wade

Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, Associate Professor

My Story

Growing up in North Carolina in the 1970s, I experienced many occasions where I didn't belong. My thoughts go back to one of the first times I felt that I didn't belong, that I wasn't supposed to be here. Shortly after my school integrated, I was placed in an advanced track of courses with five other black students and approximately twenty white students. One experience was when my 8th grade advanced-track Algebra teacher singled out a group of five black students in the class (myself included) and stated that we couldn't possibly do well in his class because according to our IQ scores, we weren't supposed to be here. I also remember one of the five students being pulled out of our group and placed back in the regular track, because according to the teacher, the student wasn't keeping up. One white student stated, one down, four to go. I remember thinking: never will I go, you will go before me. I'll do whatever I can to succeed and not be moved back. I did succeed. I did survive despite the lack of support from some of my teachers. In fairness, most of my teachers were very supportive, but the ones who weren't supportive inspired me more to succeed. Moreover, it inspired me to become a teacher, a school administrator, and a researcher so I could inspire other students to succeed.

Driven by the negative perceptions and racism throughout my secondary education, I developed an agenda to make social change and tackle racism and other injustices. I went back to school to get a Master's degree in Human Resources. I became a counselor and used my educational background and experience to motivate students to set high goals and not to be swayed by negative attitudes or perceptions. I served as student council advisor, sponsored various volunteer efforts to help others, and took advantage of every opportunity to promote social change. Ultimately, I would complete another Master's degree in Educational Administration and become an assistant principal at my alma mater. I took advantage of this opportunity to provide leadership to the same teachers who once doubted me. I would later leave the school and become a principal first at Trask Middle School and then at Lakeside High School, an alternative school. As a principal, I chose to know what was going on in my school and to lead by modeling. My efforts to improve my school were acknowledged by the district when I was selected as the 2001-2002 New Hanover County Schools' Principal of the Year. In 2004, I received a doctorate in Education and Human Resources with a specialization in Educational Leadership from Colorado State University. I decided that I could expand my reach by teaching at a university level and by conducting research on how to promote social justice. I joined the Administrative and Policy Studies team at the University of Colorado Denver.

It's strange how one moment in time, one comment, can shape your entire destiny. My teacher's comment, that we weren't supposed to be in his class, changed everything for me. Instead of defeating me, the comment gave me a strong will to persevere. Gloria Ladson-Billings (2000) states her personal life or who she is as a person has formed and shaped who she has become as a scholar. As such, my experiences have shaped my research agenda that focuses on: (1) research that examines inclusive leadership and culturally responsive pedagogy to promote inclusion of all individuals within schools and communities, and (2) research that investigates social justice within educational settings encompassing fair and equitable treatment of all people regardless of race, disability, gender, color, or social status.

My Students at the University of Colorado Denver
I am committed to offering high quality instruction that addresses the needs of diverse learners. I have high expectations and attempt to model the same level of excellence that I require of my students. I often receive praise from students on my organizational skills, passion for teaching, instructional delivery, accessibility, personality, and so on. An array of student comments provides evidence on student centered instruction and instructional choices.

Dr. Dorothy, I just got home and started reflecting on the past couple of months. There were a few things I wanted to say to you, but couldn't in class, so I thought I'd sit down and formally thank you for your encouragement throughout this entire program. During Boot Camp, you pulled me aside and told me something that echoed in my ear throughout the year."You belong here as much as anyone," you said. You have no idea how much those words meant to me. And many times when the times got rough and I started to feel discouraged, I reminded myself that I belonged in this program and that quitting wasn't an option. I honestly believe that God puts certain people in your life at specific times for specific purposes, and you were one of those people.
Dr. Garrison-Wade, I just want to also take the time to personally thank you for making this class pleasant, interesting, and thought-provoking. This was the second online class that I have participated in and I liked it much better than the first one. With the online classes, I have missed the face to face discussions that happen when sitting in a classroom environment, but I will say that the threaded discussions were good. I also liked the text selections...easy to read and also interesting. Again, thank you...just like we have been reading...the leader can make or break any program. You have made it positive!
This course has been, by far, the most fascinating of the final three required for my Masters Degree after the administrator licensing program. I take with me a deepened awareness of the various models special education services can take on, how as a special educator teammate and administrator I can contribute to building the vision of inclusion for students, and how I contribute to fostering a culture that invites these students and their families into its mix. Special education is my passion, and always has been; however, this course has provided more fuel to my fire for continuing to strive for what should be in order for special education students to be successful to the greatest extent possible.

Classes I Teach at the University of Colorado Denver

  • Principal/Administrator Licensing I;EDUC 5751
  • Principal/administrator Licensing II; EDUC 5752
  • Principal/Administrator Licensing III; EDUC 5753
  • Principal/Administrator Licensing IV; EDUC 5754
  • Special Education Seminar for Principals; EDUC 5400-OL1
  • Leadership Capacity Lab; EDLI 7600

My Research Interests

  • Accountability systems to improve public education
  • Equity issues
  • Inclusive leadership
  • Recruiting and retention of African-American teachers (secondary and postsecondary institutions)
  • Students with disabilities
  • Inclusive education

My Hobbies

I enjoy traveling all over the world, because it allows me to observe and experience other cultures. I believe that there are just some things that you just can't read about, you have to experience it. But when I can't travel, I enjoy losing myself in a good book.

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