Katherine A. Ruffatto Hall, 358
1999 E Evans Ave.
Denver, CO 80208
Before starting at the University of Denver, I worked at the Denver campus of Johnson & Wales University for seven years. Three of those years I served as Assistant Professor and helped start and build the Applied Psychology undergraduate program. In addition to this, I taught online for the University of Nebraska-Kearney Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Student Affairs programs. I pride myself on being a Scholar-Practitioner so as well as being a Clinical Assistant Professor here at DU, I spend time as a school counselor for Mapleton Public Schools as well as have a small by design private practice in the Lowry Neighborhood.
My previous work has taken me from coast to coast and in between, working at the University of California Riverside, Northeastern Illinois University, Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern University. I am a proud member of the American Counseling Association, American School Counselor Association, and Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. My research interests include 1) self-concept development, 2) school counselors’ roles in post-secondary transitioning, 3) and the social/emotional side of learning disabilities and 4) restorative pratices.
I received my Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Denver and later earned a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Nebraska. I also studied at Northern Illinois University in the area of School Counseling and completed my PhD in Counseling Education and Supervision from the University of Wyoming.
As well as being both a counselor and counselor educator, I am proud to be a social justice educator and deliver diversity and inclusions trainings every year. From 2014-2016, I served as site director for the Civic Leadership Institute, a joint program between Northwestern University and Johns Hopkins University. This program used service learning to teach social justice. I also return to Nebraska twice a year to help support the Beta Men’s Conference as well as the Nebraska Cultural University Conference and have been doing this for 10 years.
Why I love DU
I have now been affiliated with over nine universities either working or attending as a student as a student. It brings me much meaning to return to the university that helped get my start in higher education. Over a decade ago, while finishing my undergraduate degree at the University of Denver, I had the pleasure of witnessing Dr. Robert Coombe’s inaugural address as he became the 17th Chancellor of the University of Denver. Chancellor Coombe stated his vision of being a “private university dedicated to the public good.” As Chancellor Chopp now leads the university with Impact 2025, I am encouraged to know that DU is staying true to this mission. For those who come from minoritized backgrounds, having access to exceptional education is one of the foremost social justice issues of our time. Therefore, as a Clinical Assistant Professor, it is my hope to educate future school counselors to be social justice advocates and change makers to best meet this challenge and fulfills the University of Denver’s mission of being a “private university dedicated to the public good.” Specifically, at the Morgridge College of Education, our Dean, Dr. Karen Riley, continues to reminder faculty that our purpose as faculty is to make the lives of other people better. The best way I believe I can do this is by educating transformed school counselors to be social justice minded while implementing compensative school counseling programs that serve all students.
My teaching philosophy aligns with my personal mission which is to challenge and support students to overcome the obstacles in their environment while simultaneously addressing the systematic barriers that prevent students from reaching their own potential. I My counselor identity informs my teaching approach and based on this philosophy, I believe that students learn best when they are given time, support, and space to construct their own understanding and knowledge based on their environment. When students encounter something new, they have to reconcile it with their previous ideas and experience. My constructivism approach to teaching lends itself to service learning, so I look for opportunities to engage in Service Learning to help deliver this experience.
School Counseling Philosophy
As a Clinical Assistant Professor, I teach courses in both in the Clinical Menal Health and School Counseling programs. However, the majority of my course load is focused on school counseling. Therefore, while teaching school counseling students, my person mission as a Clinical Assistant Professor is to educate transformed school counselors to be social justice minded while implementing compensative school counseling programs that serve all students. Using the ASCA National Model as their guide, students need to grow in their leadership, advocacy, and collaboration skills to be agents of systemic change and implement comprehensive school counseling programs.
Without a comprehensive counseling model in P-12 education, practitioners time is more often spent with those students who reside at either end of the academic bell curve - students who are high achieving and students who are low achieving. However, for the vast majority of students who reside within the central standard deviations of the academic curve, our system is not equip to support them and the complexities of their experiences. For those students with an IEP, for those who experience family trauma and/or for whom financially support their families, for those who come from minoritized backgrounds, and those for which the American education system was not made, many of the current counseling systems do not provide modes of support or asset based engagement.
Currently in the field of school counseling, there is a push and pull on the roles of school counselors. The questions are what should the focus be and where should school counselors spend their time? Should it be on academic advising, career preparation, or personal/social issues? My own research on the lived experiences of students with a learning disability shows the need for addressing all three equally. Therefore, my vison is to teach future school counselors to engage in all three of these domains (academic, career, and personal/social) and to make each an equal part of their school counselor identity.
John O'Malley while serving as Site Director for the Civic Leadership Institute in 2015, a joint program between Johns HopkinsUniversity and Northwestern University.