the GriffinHarte Foundation
The GriffinHarte Foundation About (a preposition with a curious nature). Us (a noun that exists only in community); Plural form of “about us”: our stories (or at least a small part of them). 1. Very short bios of those who: a. founded the GriffinHarte Foundation; b. helped with the vision; c. are committed to, intrigued by, or supportive of said vision. 2. A brief introduction to those whose creative ideas and support found their way into our (and your) lives. 3. A glimpse of those who were crazy enough to consider starting and supporting a 501c3.

The GriffinHarte Foundation

The GriffinHarte Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to promote civil conversations about issues that divide us and are often contentious and difficult to sort through. These issues usually involve questions of fairness, equity, respect, identity (who we are) and the complex ways we are connected to other people. Most importantly, they almost always are related to the very foundations of our lives—so they require that we find ways to communicate effectively about them. Because the founders of the GriffinHarte Foundation, and its members, believe that communication is one of the key elements to understanding and working with our differences, the GriffinHarte Foundation is designed to do the following:

Support and promote conversations, research, and scholarship that are

  • grounded in questions and practices of civility and feminism;
  • informed by a desire to define, explore, and advocate for social, political, and economic justice in our professional and personal lives;
  • centered in an explicit recognition of the ways our lives and communication are influenced by our identities—our gender and sex, race and ethnicity, age and physical abilities, and education and economic standing.

Support and promote educational practices and research that are

  • focused on how we teach as well as what we teach;
  • grounded in a commitment to alternative pedagogies and educational practices;
  • informed by an explicit recognition of the ways identities, genders and sex, feminisms, civility, and civic engagement relate to social, political and economic justice.

Support and promote educational opportunities as they explore identity, gender, feminism, civility, civic engagement and social, political and economic justice.

Our Staff

Cindy L. Griffin is a professor emeritus in the department of Communication Studies and a member of the Women’s Studies affiliate faculty at Colorado State University. Throughout her academic career, she has focused on questions of who can or is speaking, why those individuals can and do speak, whose voices and ideas have been ignored or neglected, and why those voices and ideas are ignored or silenced. Her communication scholarship is centered in feminist theories and practices, a commitment to civility, and a desire for collaboration and respectful exchanges. Because finding funding, as well as productive outlets, for ideas and questions related to gender, identity, feminism, civility and social justice is a challenge, she and her husband decided to establish the GriffinHarte Foundation in order to provide support and resources for people interested in similar questions, research projects, and teaching efforts.

Michael J. Harte is the owner of Coyote Camp Fireline Chow, a small business providing ready-to-eat meals to firefighters across the nation. He has been involved in the fire service for 40 years and is committed to serving his local community in volunteer efforts.

Our Board of Directors

Jan Barela-Smith is a third generation Fort Collins's native and the first in her family to graduate from a university. She is an alumna of Colorado State University and received her degree in Speech Communication. Jan is currently a graduate student in the Organizational Performance and Change Program at Colorado State. She also works for the Educational Opportunity Center (TRIO), a program that assists low-income first -generation college students in pursuing a post secondary education. Her passion is helping others in their quest in higher education. She explains: "Having the opportunity to receive a college education is life changing and changes one's destiny for generations to come."

Karma R. Chávez is assistant professor of Communication Arts and an affiliate faculty in Chican@ and Latin@ Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Chávez’ research emphasizes coalition and alliance building, social movement, and the rhetorical practice of marginalized groups using queer feminist of color theories. Most specifically, Chávez’ current research examines discourses of queer migration and coalition politics, and along with Eithne Luibhéid, she is the co-founder of the Queer Migration Research Network. Chávez also works with her local community on immigration and LGBTQ issues as a member of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice Immigrant Rights Working Group, and a co-founder of the "Queers and the Public" collective, which hosts monthly potlucks in Madison in order to facilitate discussions on topics of interest to the broader queer community.

Bruce Dorries, Associate Professor of Communication at Mary Baldwin College, serves as faculty-in-residence at the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement. In addition to teaching public speaking and media courses, he also teaches Civic Leadership and Social Change with Dr. Steven Grande. His monthly column about environmental issues appears in Staunton, Virginia's News Leader, and he has helped to found several nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations. He earned his BA in Journalism and History at Baylor University, an MA from The University of Corpus Christi State University (now Texas A&M at Corpus Christi), and a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Missouri.

Michelle A. Holling is a Professor in the Department of Communication and Co-Coordinator of the Ethnic Studies Program at California State University San Marcos. Her scholarly interests focus on matters of voice/voz, identity, agency, and community with a specialization on Chican@-Latin@ communities. From critical-cultural and feminist perspectives, she explores such issues by examining how individuals or groups proceed in rhetorically challenging reigning ideologies, systems or representations that contribute to devaluing, marginalizing or subjugating persons based on race, ethnicity, gender and/or class. She serves (or has served) as an officer for the Western States Communication Association, the Organization for Research on Women and Communication, and the National Communication Association.

Shanel Hughes is a First Generation graduate of Colorado State University and received her degree in Communication Studies. She is a Colorado Native. She is an active participant in the Women's Diversity and Leadership Network as well as the Black/African American Network at her current job. She is part of the Diversity Council at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, a committee dedicated to making improv a better space for all players. Her passion is to assist in making the lives of little humans a little easier.

Manuel A. Rodríguez-Escobar is a Master of Arts graduate in Communication Studies from Colorado State University. His educational training is based in rhetorical criticism, cultural studies, and media theory. Specifically, his work explores discourses surrounding the topic of immigration in America. Rodríguez-Escobar’s research employs theories of media framing to document the frames and metaphors used to describe immigrants in a variety of popular media. Currently, he serves as the convention services supervisor at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Denver, Colorado.

Shanae Sepulveda graduated from Colorado State University with a major in Communication Studies and a minor in Zoology in 2013 and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Organizational Management with a specialization in Organizational Leadership. As a believer in higher education, she works as an enrollment advisor for Ashford University in downtown Denver. She is a proud member of the culture club which encourages coworkers to make an impact in the community by participating in various volunteer opportunities.  She has a lot of faith in people and practices/promotes civil conversation in order to reach overall common goals.  

Derek R. Sweet is an associate professor of Communication Studies at Luther College. Derek’s academic work focuses on how people, as public advocates, arbiters, and accomplishers, come together to negotiate such significant matters as cultural identity, political policy, and social truths (e.g. equality, justice, appropriateness). Specifically, his work explores the way individuals and groups create, reinforce, and challenge the attitudes, beliefs, and values that form the foundation of an ethical community.

Jana Webster-Wheeler is a public middle-school music teacher and professional musician in Fort Collins, Colorado. She holds a BME from Colorado State University and her MME from the University of Northern Colorado. Jana has been a part of the Pipeline program (which supports the education of diverse teachers) in Poudre School District and has participated in diversity seminars and panels for the Colorado Education Association. Her work, while grounded in students' music education, also focuses on allowing students to express their individuality through their musical expression, repertoire, stylistic approaches, and independent musical ventures. Jana also strives to allow for conversations about diversity in a safe and open venue. In the musical setting, she discusses the range of historical, cultural, social, and ethnic backgrounds from which performance literature is selected and then performed. Through these conversations, it is Jana's hope to broaden musical tastes and acceptance of varied backgrounds to create a shared vision for the students.

Deborah Westcott holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work and has been working as an educator, coach, consultant, and psychotherapist for more than 30 years. She currently is the Vice President of Operations and Leadership Coach with the BlueMesa Group, which specializes in helping clients learn to be responsible for their lives, make choices that serve them and learn to use their own voices to move them forward toward their professional and personal goals. In addition to her coaching and consulting work, she has managed a counseling practice and taught at Colorado State University. She has served as president of the board of The Sexual Assault Victims Advocacy Center (SAVA) in Fort Collins, CO, and offers classes for women and girls on topics such as body image, self-esteem, and self-expression. Deb is known for her direct questioning style and her optimistic approach to problem-solving and change management.