Entrepreneur, investor, influencer, CFO at 26
CU Denver has partnered with world-renowned artist Detour to paint the picture of our graduates’ success in a series of murals that will be completed this spring.
We sat down with executive, investor, and influencer Danielle Shoots — one of the alumni featured in the series. We spoke with her about what the mural represents, what makes CU Denver unique, and what it’s like to find out that your face will appear on the side of a building.
When CU Denver said, “Hey, we’re going to do a mural — and it’s going to be painted by Detour,” it was wild. But I didn’t realize until I sat for my photos that it was going to be on the side of a building. For this to happen, and for it to involve the college and the city I love so much, I was overwhelmed. I got in my car and bawled my eyes out.
It’s everything. He’s been unapologetically telling the story of racial justice in this country before it was popular. Some of his first murals included musicians that we all know in Denver but who were unappreciated at the time. He's used his lived experience to change the world.
Thomas and I went to CU Denver together. I was a junior in college when my daughter was born. I already had my son. We took a picture of our family that I loved — it was of all of our feet, together. So we're in class and I asked him, "Hey, could you paint this picture for me?"
Well, he wasn't "Detour" then — it's signed by Thomas Evans. So when I found how that Detour was the artist, the whole thing took on a new layer of meaning. My daughter was 5-weeks old when the photograph was taken. She's 15 now.
Danielle Shoots speaks at TedxMileHigh Photo of Danielle from https://dshoots.com/
Detour captures Danielle's photo to serve as a reference shoot for the Student Commons mural.
Danielle and family during her CU Denver commencement ceremony.
Danielle commissioned a Detour original
Being a teen mom, and being a Black woman in finance, you never really feel like you belong. But CU Denver was the one time in my life where I always felt I belonged. I was pregnant with my second child while I was enrolled! And it was just so not a thing. CU Denver makes space for humans. They meet people where they are. That’s what I needed.
Being a teen mom, and being a Black woman in finance, you never really feel like you belong. But CU Denver was the one time in my life where I always felt I belonged.
When I was a student, the organization I was working for through my work study program received a big federal grant. I had a work study with inner city youth, but I needed some extra hours, so I taught myself about how to manage federal grants and contracts. That led to managing the entire nonprofit budget. When I graduated, I was hired as a financial analyst by Denver Health, where I put those skills to use. Then, I moved onto the state health department. I'm still the youngest chief fiscal officer in Colorado’s history.
There are so many professionals here. Your professors are great teachers, but they’re also active practitioners in their field. A lot of students are working, as well. It creates this real-world context that makes learning stick. I still describe terms like “elastic market” the same way my professors taught me.
I graduated from college and my family is not on government assistance. I remind myself of that every day. Never mind the awards, the resume, the stuff on paper — that is the most meaningful measure of success for me. I feel successful not because of the accolades but because I’ve been able to raise two kind human beings who are unapologetically themselves.
It says that CU Denver means what it says about inclusion. The murals are a declaration of who CU Denver serves. And they’re a testament to the power of those people once they graduate. This is a story that can’t be told enough.
The murals are a declaration of who CU Denver serves. And they’re a testament to the power of those people once they graduate. This is a story that can’t be told enough.
Bring your whole self to everything you do. Don’t buy into the idea that to be a leader, you have to leave pieces of yourself behind. When I got divorced, the first people I told were on my team at Comcast. Be honest about who you are, because as a leader, you have to be able to remind yourself who you are when things are difficult. To do that, you first have to be self-aware.
CU Denver has a big opportunity to play a role in changing what our workforce looks like. And specifically, who holds power in Colorado. CU Denver produces true leaders who are capable of changing the world and making a profit at the same time. I’m hoping that the university stays true to itself by continuing to meet people where they are and supporting them as whole human beings.