Alumni Awards

CU Denver Alumni Awards 

Each year the CU Denver Alumni Board honors several individuals who have a record of distinction with the University of Colorado Denver and/or in their profession, community, and society at large. College of Arts & Media students produced videos on each of the award recipients. Watch the videos to learn more about your 2020 Alumni Award Recipients and what they've accomplished. The 2021 Virtual Alumni Award Celebration will take place on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. 

For questions regarding the Alumni Awards and the awarding process, please contact CU Denver Alumni at 303-315-2333 or email  

2020 Virtual Alumni Awards Recap Video

View this recap video produced by Ayden Adair, a current student in the College of Arts & Media.

2020 Alumni Award Recipients


Barb Weiske '84, MPA '92

Mack Easton Distinguished Alumni Award

Barb Weiske earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1984 and her Master of Public Administration degree in in 1992, both from CU Denver. She has served the Auraria Campus for 40 years in a variety of roles, starting as a student worker in 1979 and quickly grew to become the General Manager of the Tivoli Denver Shopping Mall to Division Director of the Student & Auxiliary Services Division, Vice President for Operations & Deputy Executive Vice President for Administration, and mostly recently Chief Executive Officer (CEO) from 2009 - 2019. 

Her passion for the Auraria Campus and its three institutions of higher education is not only genuine, it is contagious. When she was appointed CEO, she made it her goal to build the "connectivity" between the institutions of Auraria and the City of Denver. She has accomplished and exceeded that goal in multiple ways. Her style and commitment to her work is unwavering, her staff describes her as "the eye that never blinks" as she's always on the lookout for anything that is out of place or needs attention on the Auraria Campus.

Under Barb's leadership, the Auraria Campus has experienced unprecedented growth, due largely to her advocacy and execution of the "neighborhood concept". The shared neighborhood core now encompasses collective services and disciplines in state-of-the art facilities that are common to all: one library, one science building, one performing arts center, and one student union. Her work in shepherding the neighborhood concept spurred the construction of over 600,000 new square feet of academic/student service space, during a recession. 

In addition to significant renovations of existing facilities, the campus has added almost 3.4 million built square feet since the opening of the original campus in 1976, with more than 40 percent of that growth occurring in the past six years, under Barb's able leadership. The Auraria Campus is now a leading economic engine for the City of Denver and the State of Colorado.

Barb has invested three decades in public administration and community service and has created a long-lasting legacy across our broader community. Downtown Denver is a thriving and attractive center of education, cultural events and industry, due in part to Barb's years of behind-the-scenes work. CU Denver is a stronger institution because of her service to campus and its surrounding neighborhoods. We are proud to call Barb a CU Denver alumna. While she gives her best to all three Auraria institutions, we always feel there's an extra-special place in her heart for CU Denver, her alma mater!

The video featuring Barb Weiske was produced by Fayth Krause, a current student in the College of Arts & Media.


Curtis Esquibel MPA '16

Alumni Advocacy Award

Curtis Esquibel has been an unwavering advocate for access to higher education for students across Colorado, especially those from underserved populations. He is currently serving as the Director of Communications and Community Engagement for the Boettcher Foundation. 

As a School of Public Affairs (SPA) alumnus, Curtis is highly regarded for his insight, his willingness to create meaningful partnerships and his advocacy of the Master of Public Administration program.

Curtis led Denver's collective impact effort to increase college success outcomes for graduates of Denver Public Schools (DPS). He also helped secure more than $5 million in annual revenue to support Denver Scholarship Foundation's mission to increase the number of DPS graduates who enroll in and graduate from college.

Thank you to Curtis for being a champion of higher education across the state of Colorado.

The video featuring Curtis Esquibel was produced by Ayden Adair, a current student in the College of Arts & Media.


Susan Wood MURP '98

Alumni Award for Excellence

Susan Wood earned her Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from CU Denver in 1998 after working as a geologist. In her 21-year planning career, Susan has excelled in her work and has admirably serviced the field through voluntary leadership roles at the local, state, and national levels, and for CU Denver. 

Currently, Susan serves as a Planning Project Manager in the FasTracks Environmental Resource Group at RTD and as the Planning Project Manager for the Southeast and Southwest Rail extensions. She has gained recognition for her work conducting environmental assessments of regional transit projects and is well respected throughout Colorado. Susan is extremely generous with her time and passionate in her service to the field's goals to promote equity, improve quality of life, and protect the environment. 

Susan is also engaged with CU Denver by sharing her time, talent, and connections with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, the Colorado Center for Sustainable Urbanism (CCS), and students. For three years she served on the Master of Urban and Regional Planning Alumni Association (MURPAA) board and continues to attend their events. Susan also connects current students and alumni with career opportunities at RTD as an annual job-shadowing host. She also has organized student tours of RTD's operations.

Congratulations to Susan for her exceptional accomplishments in career and community service in support of CU Denver. 

The video featuring Susan Wood was produced by Tomas Bernal, a current student in the College of Arts & Media.


Chris Herr MPA '17

Alumni Partner Appreciation Award

Chris Herr earned his Bachelor's degree in 2011 at UCCS and his Master of Public Administration degree from CU Denver in 2017. He put his degree to immediate use in his role as a sustainability officer on the Auraria Campus, overseeing the environmental sustainability programs and projects on the Auraria Campus. His dedication to the campus was most recently demonstrated in Fall 2019 by his oversight of the installation of a 779 kilowatt solar array on the Auraria Library, the largest singular rooftop array in Downtown Denver. 

He is a passionate and highly capable young leader in the public sector. He has been an active and involved alumnus with the School of Public Affairs and is always one of the first to respond when there is a call for alumni participation. 

Thank you to Chris for his leadership and dedication to improve the Auraria campus, our community, and our world. 

The video featuring Chris Herr was produced by Savanna Poelma, a current student in the College of Arts & Media.


Gage Chapel MBA '15

Recent Alumni Award

Gage Chapel has continued to be engaged with the Business School since his graduation from the accelerated MBA program in 2015. He is a member of the Business Student Alumni Network (BSAN), and is an involved participant in other groups on campus. He is an Army veteran, and provides guidance and support to other military students/veterans. He is always willing to connect with current students, undergrad or grad, to share insights and advice. His enthusiasm is contagious and a person who others are eager to be around.

As the son of a professor, Gage was not a first-generation student, himself, but he firmly believes in the impact of education and so last year worked with the Office of Gift Planning at CU to establish a named scholarship for first-generation students at CU Denver.  

CU Denver thanks Gage for his military service and for championing the importance of engaging with the university, fellow alumni and current students to support the future success of CU Denver.

The video featuring Gage Chapel was produced by Ayden Adair, a current student in the College of Arts & Media.