IRISE is designed to provide opportunities and support for faculty and students to engage in the development of cutting edge interdisciplinary research on issues of inequality, social justice, and inclusivity through community engaged projects in health and education.
We develop, support, and implement academic programs and activities that promote the advancement of historically underrepresented populations at DU.
Not Everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.James Baldwin
The Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (In)Equality (IRISE) was established in 2013 by the University of Denver to serve as an incubator for faculty and students to engage in the development of cutting edge interdisciplinary research on issues of inequality, social justice, and inclusivity. Since then, IRISE has trained numerous postdoctoral fellows, sponsored impactful faculty and student research, scholarship, and professional development, and hosted numerous visiting scholars, lectures, symposia, and conferences examining multiple forms of discrimination and inequality in contemporary culture and life. IRISE also supports both undergraduate and graduate students from marginalized backgrounds in programs that help them to become engaged thinkers and critical scholars in their own right. In a short amount of time, IRISE has established itself as a prominent and essential institute within the DU community and beyond.
The Past and Future of IRISE
Our Current Praxis
Beginning in the Fall Quarter of the 2017-2018 Academic Year, IRISE engaged with faculty, department chairs, on-campus institutes and centers, and off-campus partners toward identifying how its resources would be directed. In the Fall of 2017, IRISE conducted a series of focus groups with DU faculty and staff whose research and expertise connected with IRISE's initiatives. A guiding question for each focus group was "how could IRISE best direct its resources and priorities to meet its mission and align its work with that of DU Impact 2025. What emerged from these conversations was a recognition that DU could play a leading role in responding to issues of racial inequity, documented most prominently by the Rocky Mountain Public Broadcast Station (RMPBS) in its award winning Losing Ground report.
IRISE is an effort to respond directly to many of the issues identified in the Rocky Mountain PBS Losing Ground Report. Our new initiative seeks to make IRISE a community-centered fulcrum that amplifies campus expertise, marshals interdisciplinary campus resources, and creates meaningful pathways for DU to partner with non-DU leaders and organizations to challenge systems and structures that lead to racial and social inequities. IRISE therefore seeks to equip our campus to partner with community agencies and historically marginalized groups and individuals in the collaborative production and application of knowledge leading to greater community inclusion.
IRISE ultimately expands the university's ability to work at the racial and political borderlands between and within historically marginalized communities to effectuate meaningful social inclusion.
Who We Are
True to its interdisciplinary mission, IRISE has pulled together a group of scholar-activists from multiple disciplines in and outside of DU to be engaged in all aspects of our work. These thought leaders bring distinct, valuable and critical visions of research, teaching, and service that enhance and contribute to the our understanding of (in)equality.
Allison Bair, PhD
Allison Bair is a social psychologist who received her PhD from York University in Toronto. She studies the social etiology of physical and mental health outcomes among stigmatized group members. She is particularly interested in how racial identity and the experience of stigma interact to produce beliefs, strategies, and behaviors that impact the well-being of the targets of stigma. As a Black Canadian with Jamaican roots she is aware of how racial and cultural contexts influence racial identity. She had the opportunity to examine this as part of her dissertation research. She was awarded an Organization of American States Research Fellowship to conduct research on racial identity and implicit racial attitudes in both Canada and Jamaica. This work is representative of her commitment to enriching the knowledge base that the Black diaspora can draw upon to strengthen their understanding of themselves. Her long-term goal is to develop a research program that can be used to inform interventions that maximize mental and physical health, resilience, social justice orientation, self-sufficiency, and a sense of belonging among stigmatized group members. In her leisure time, her biggest joy is the laughter and light in the eyes of her nieces and nephews. As an IRISE post doc at Denver University, Allison will be conducting research examining racial biases in psychological care recommendations.
Veronica Pacheco, PhD
Veronica Pacheco is an ethnomusicologist specializing in ritual music of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico and other musical genres of Latin America and the Middle East. She received her Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include music and the politics of participation, collective performances of music as registers of Indigenous history, and the intersections of Indigenous sustainability and cultural rights. She directs two research initiatives in Mexico, “The Nahua Religious Music Project” and “The Urban Soundscapes Project.” At DU, Veronica will be working on the Spirituals Project at the Department of Media, Film and Journalism Studies.
Jacqueline del Castillo, PhD
Jacqueline is passionate about centering activists in social movement research and making good health possible for everyone. Her research focuses on the lived experience of activists and how health social movements aid health innovation and systems change. As a professional, she welcomes and seeks ways to collaborate with activists, funders and policymakers to strengthen movement organizing through the development of useful practical tools, evidence and theory. For instance, alongside completing a PhD at Imperial College London at the Institute of Global Health Innovation, she served as a Senior Fellow at the Blue Shield of California Foundation in 2019 advising a movement-building strategy to end domestic violence across California. From 2016-2018, while at Nesta Health Lab, a UK innovation think tank, she worked with colleagues to establish the first UK social movement incubation program, strategically support NHS England’s Health as a Social Movement program and produce two policy reports on social movements. In 2021, Jacqueline worked with non-profit leaders in Africa and Asia, sponsored by the UK Foreign Office, to devise a movement strengthening framework and disability activists through Action on Disability and Development to explore their needs for movement support. She also currently serves on the World Economic Forum Council on Equity and Social Justice as a Global Future Council Fellow (GfC) which advocates for embedding equity and social justice into wider economic transformation.
Jacqueline has over 17 years of practical experience in health innovation, including launching new initiatives and managing service design projects in healthcare settings at the Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation and the Helix Centre for Design as well as designing affordable medical devices for newborns in low-resource hospitals at Equalize Health. Jacqueline has a MS and BS in Engineering from Stanford University where she trained in design thinking at the Stanford Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (‘d.school’). She has taught movement-building and design thinking at Oxford Saïd Business School, the Royal College of Art, Berkeley Haas Business School, Stanford University and Imperial College London. In 2018, one of Jacqueline’s movement-building workshops spawned a new research programme on “Movements of Movements” at Oxford Saïd Business School. As a boundary-spanner, Jacqueline believes in joining people across cultures, fields and invisible borders. You might find her taking portrait photographs, making things, hiking in the mountains and perusing art in the RiNo District.
B. Azucena Pacheco, PhD
Blanca-Azucena Pacheco (she/her) is of Xinka and Maya Poqomam descent from southeastern Guatemala, and grew up in Tovangaar/ Los Angeles, California. She is a community-based public health researcher and health sovereignty practitioner. Azucena is a postdoctoral fellow with the Our Stories Our Medicine (OSOMA) community-based archive at the Graduate School of Social Work and with the Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (In)Equality (IRISE). She recently completed her doctoral degree in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. Additionally, she holds a dual Master’s in Public Health and Latin American Studies from San Diego State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention from the University of Southern California.
Visiting Faculty and Community Scholars
Ean Thomas Tafoya
Ean is active in Denver Public Affairs, Colorado Public Policy, and Federal Environmental Policy. He began his career as an educator and went on to work for three branches of local government, worked at three levels of American government, run for Denver City Council, and has directed many local and state political races. Currently, he serves as the Colorado State Director for GreenLatinos. Ean has received recognition for his work from the Denver Regional Council of Governments, the Denver Regional Air Quality Council, named a River Hero by the National River Network, and serves as the elected Co-Chair of the Colorado Environmental Justice Action Task Force. He serves on the board of many local non-profits including Headwaters Protectors, Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation, & Historic Denver. He loves to dance whether it be at a concert or in politics! As Mr. Denver, a local music DJ and radio host, he uses the media to uplift locals in the community. Follow Ean @believeEan on all platforms.
Ean is a water protector that holds a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in Native American Studies, a Water Studies Certificate, and Early Childhood Education Certificate from Metropolitan State University of Denver as well as a Horticultural Therapy Certificate for Colorado State University.
Olga has been a dedicated nonprofit professional and community organizer for the past 28 years. She is the Executive Director of Cultivando, a Latinx-serving organization that focuses on developing the leadership, advocacy and capacity of the Spanish-speaking community. As the first woman of color to lead Cultivando in its 24-year history, she has expanded the organization’s reach beyond Adams county and supported Latinx communities and organizations statewide. Olga is also the CEO of O.G. Consulting Services where she provides equity facilitation and coaching services to businesses and nonprofits nationally and throughout the state of Colorado.
Olga has earned several awards for her work in the areas of inclusiveness, equity, and social justice, including the Mayor’s Award for Outstanding Denver Citizen Committed to Fighting Against Hate and the Award for Excellence in the Promotion of Health Equity from the Public Health in the Rockies Conference. Last year, she was awarded the Soul of Leadership (SOL) Award by the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado. Recently, she was a featured TedXMileHigh Speaker where she shared her insights on the importance of promotoras in community-led, transformational work.
Olga holds a dual bachelor’s degree in psychology and Chicano studies from Scripps College in Claremont, CA. She also earned a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management from Regis University as a Colorado Trust Fellow. She is a graduate of the Transformative Leadership for Change fellowship, the Executive Directors of Color program at the Denver Foundation and she is currently a Bonfils Stanton Foundation Livingston Fellow. Olga is the proud mother of three amazing children who, along with her husband Malik Robinson, is raising to be the next generation of courageous and visionary social justice warriors.
Writer, poet, doctoral student, and educator Gerardo A. Muñoz is the 2021 Colorado Teacher of the Year. For over twenty years, he promoted equity, student voice, and professional solidarity on the local, state, and national levels. As a middle and high school Social Studies teacher at the Denver Center for International Studies at Baker, Gerardo has been instrumental in the school’s development over most of the last twenty years. He established the school’s first Debate Team, Drama Club, Latinx Student Alliance, Black Student Alliance and middle school girls' and boys’ soccer program in his early years at DCIS. Since 2018, he has sponsored and coached his school’s chapter of the Student Board of Education and the 5280 Challenge program, through the Denver Public Schools Student Voice and Leadership program, which works to address challenges and opportunities in the school and local community through community organizing and social justice-focused policy development.
As a leader for most of his career, Gerardo has represented teacher, student, and community interests as a member of a number of efforts. He served twice as a Senior Team Lead from 2014-2018, and currently serves as Student Voice Lead, facilitating student-led, teacher-powered work at DCIS. In addition, he has served on the Collaborative School Committees (CSC) for two schools, works to support fellow educators on the Instructional Leadership team, and has served on his school’s Equity Team. On a national level, he was one of four teachers assembled to share their perspectives and represent their communities to Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel A. Cardona.
In community, Gerardo works tirelessly to amplify and share experiences of educators of color and from marginalized perspectives. Since 2016, he has been Executive Producer of TooDope Productions, and co-hosted the podcast Too Dope Teachers and a Mic with Kevin Adams, which attempts to “remix the conversation on race, power, and education.” Podcast guests include Dr. Bettina L. Love, author Luís J. Rodriguez, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, National Teacher of the Year Juliana Urturbey, Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, rapper and filmmaker Boots Riley, and singer-songwriter Taina Asili. He also produces The Exit Interview podcast and hosts his own podcast Habitually Disruptive. An avid runner, Gerardo completed three marathon-distance runs in the summer of 2020 to raise funds and awareness in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police, raising money for Black Lives Matter 5280, the Growhaus, and the Heart and Hands Center.
Gerardo has been the recipient of numerous awards, locally and nationally, including The Colorado Education Association’s 2021 Golden Apple Award, The Take’s 2021 Black History Malcolm X Award, 2021 California Casualty Excellence in Teaching prize, Grogan Family Fund Award, and was honored as a seven-time Distinguished Teacher, most recently this year. Gerardo was nominated as National History Teacher of the Year in 2021, and his writings have appeared in Learning for Justice, Truth for Teachers and other publications. He is currently at work on his first book.
A Chicano from Denver’s East Side and graduate of Denver Public Schools, He is proud of his eclectic set of interests and accomplishments. He is a proud husband to a strong and brilliant woman and father to an amazing daughter.