CU Denver Alum Roberto Montoya Answers ‘Ancestral Call’ as First-Ever Chief Educational Equity Officer for the Colorado Department of Education

Roberto Manto’s Alum, Ph.D., began teaching the social foundations of race and racism as an adjunct professor at the Denver School of Education & Human Development in 2012. He received his doctorate in philosophy, education and human development in May 2021. His commitment to promoting equity in education began while enrolling in the University of Colorado-Mesa and enrolling at the University of Regis, as well as through several research projects and grants for K-12 public schools including Cherry Creek School District, Boulder Valley School District and Denver Public Schools. He has also worked in the private sector, developing justice and advocacy initiatives. Mantoya has served as the Diversity and Interaction Manager for the City and County of Denver at Denver International Airport, and most recently as the Western Region Manager for Government Alliance for Race and Justice (GARE) for Race forward, the country ‘s largest racial justice organization. In August 2021, Mantoya was appointed to the newly created post of Chief Justice for Education Department of Education Colorado.

Finding an educational path out of poverty

Scenes from the childhood of CU Denver graduate Robert Mantoy, who grows up in the neighborhoods of Albuquerque, New Mexico, retain cinematic clarity to this day. A veteran of the Vietnam War, Mantoi’s father battled undiagnosed PTSD. “My mother didn’t get an education, and she had to go back to work after my parents divorced and divorced,” he said. “I never forgot what it was like to live in poverty, experiencing that our lights were turned off. But it was also a place of joy and exploration. ”

Alum Roberto Montoya, Ph.D., is the first-ever Chief Executive Officer for Education Justice in the Colorado Department of Education.

The apartment complex where he lived was surrounded by a large park where children of all ages played until the lights went out, often guarded by senior gang members. “They were great assessors of talent,” recalls Mantoya. “They said,‘ Leave him alone, ’referring to me. “He’s a good athlete, he has a good head on his shoulders.” They fed and cared for us, and of course they did very bad things. ”

Mantua studied in high school of Chicano, Mexican and Hispanic. “These are three different people in Albuquerque,” ​​he says. “People told me, ‘You go to such a diverse school.’ And I thought you meant “I go to brown school”.

His senior course, a recruiter from the University of Colorado Mesa invited him to fly for a weekend of diversity. “It was also a sports set weekend, and I remember really enjoying seeing so many colorful people there,” he recalls. “Mesa deliberately tried to diversify, but when I showed up at the hostel, it was a culture shock. I have never seen so many white people in my life. ”

Mantua received a degree in political science, became involved in student government and quickly began to organize to influence institutional change. He became the first color student in the history of the school to serve as president of the student council. “I realized I wanted to dedicate my life to ministry all students, ”he recalls.

On his way to work in Washington, D.C. College, and planning to enroll in law school after graduation, Mantoya learned that he and his ex-girlfriend from college were expecting a baby. “I knew I was going to do what my dad always wanted me to do – stay,” he says.

He worked on the admissions committee at Mesa for almost a year before getting a job at The Hershey Company. When the chocolate maker closed its Denver office, Mantua worked on talent acquisition and organizational development at Red Robin restaurants, “trying to figure out how to introduce diversity”.

Turn to the pursuit of justice in the highest edition

In 2008, Mantua decided to return to school to become a professor on the advice of an aunt and a teacher who taught law at the University of New Mexico. He began his Master’s program in Ethnic Studies at Regis University in 2009 and worked in the Admissions Office. He received his Master of Arts in Ethnic and Cultural Studies in 2012 and began his PhD in Education, Human Development at CU Denver in 2013, where he taught the social foundations of race and racism.

“I consulted with school districts and had a number of teachers who went through my class and asked for help to repeat this teaching about justice in education,” he recalls.

Manto was subsequently recruited to Race Forward, where he became the Western Regional Manager of the Government Alliance for Race and Justice (GARE), working with mayors, city councils, city managers and chief directors for racial justice. “My first day at GARE was the day George Floyd was killed,” he recalls. “I have never felt such an appetite and leaned towards racial justice. However, we also felt repulsed by the highest positions in the country. ”

When the role of Chief Executive Officer became available in 2020, Mantua felt the call of the ancestors because I am the epitome of what we are trying to do in this state, ”he says. “I wasn’t the most outstanding student in the class, but I had exceptional support for justice.”

Although the position was originally presented because of COVID-19, the opportunity returned, and Mantova began work in August 2021. “I have the honor of serving as a facilitator, conductor, and advocate for addressing the educational justice gaps that have persisted in this state for so long,” he said. “We can’t help justice in education. You have to work on it with resources.”

Identifying and eliminating barriers to equity in education

As an example, Montoya cites the recent appointment of CU Denver as an institution that serves Hispanics. “It is easy to be an institution for the admission of Hispanics, but we ask college leaders to identify the biggest obstacles for serving Hispanic students on their campuses. And very soon there was a couple – mental health and food security. So we worked with stakeholders to develop comprehensive services to build common sense and hunger-free campuses. ”

Montoya attributes CU Denver “centering capital as a north star” by committing to becoming the country’s first institution to service capital in its Strategic Plan for 2030. “Justice in education is both a process and a product,” he says. “It’s the way we do work and measure work. CU Denver serves as a model for starting to normalize justice talks as a process, stating how they are going to do it and then how they will measure how they do. We are interested in partnering with CU Denver to help rethink what this looks like. ”

He welcomes the commitment to racial justice and educational justice he felt as a lecturer and doctoral student at CU Denver, and is grateful to Professor and late Dean of the School of Education and Human Development Rebecca Cantor, EdD, “who supported me when I was in financial trouble,” he says. . “And it’s a work of justice that provides students with the resources they need when they need them. Dean Cantor has never given up on me and other scholars. When I say I had intensive equity support, I mean just that. I feel responsible for passing this on to all students in Colorado. ”

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