Lifelong Learners Pursue a Variety of Avenues to Reach Their Potential

Meet a handful of men and women who built their skills toward a brighter future

Read the stories of lifelong learners who pursued graduate education through University College, the college of professional and continuing studies at the University of Denver. You can earn a master’s degree in 18 months or a graduate certificate in less than a year – entirely online or evenings on campus.


Failure is what led Juan Carlos “JC” Montañez back to school. Not the traditional letdown – professionally or academically – rather, kidney failure.

Montañez was working on a multi-million-dollar architecture project in Latin America when he had to start his life over. After beginning dialysis treatment back in the U.S., he was placed on a kidney transplant list. It was at this time he decided to go back to school to study nursing and health-care systems.

“I needed to find a way to occupy my mind or I would lose it,” Montañez says.

While on the transplant list, he decided to apply to the M.S. in Healthcare Leadership at the University of Denver’s University College. The summer before starting his master’s degree and six years into dialysis, Montañez underwent his kidney transplant.

“I started DU’s grad program while in recovery knowing I would go back into the workforce retooled and well prepared to focus on my new calling helping people with health-care challenges.”

While at University College, Montañez expanded his health-care knowledge and developed a robust professional network. He found his niche in health-care policy and legal issues, learning from attorneys and medical professionals in his courses.


There’s a lot in a name, and for this, perhaps Amanda Mountain was always destined to take the reins of Rocky Mountain PBS (RMPBS). But of course, it wasn’t just her name – it was her 20 years of experience in media, education at the University of Denver and commitment to the community – that landed her the role of president and CEO: The first female to hold the title in RMPBS history and one of the youngest public media CEOs in the country.

“I got this opportunity because many people along the way helped open doors for me, and I wasn’t afraid to walk through them,” Mountain says. “Don’t be afraid to step into an opportunity even if you don’t feel 100 percent ready.”

Mountain graduated from University College with her M.S. in Leadership and Organizations (Strategic Innovation and Change) in 2014 and has proven to be an exemplary leader in the community with her dedication to public media and innovation taking center stage.

“I firmly believe my education has helped me get to where I am in my career, and it will continue to help me reach my fullest potential,” she says. “I loved my time at DU because it helped me prepare for today and my future.”


Troy Tagliarino needed inspiration.

An assignment was looming in his leadership class at University College, and he needed to find a community partner to work with throughout the academic quarter. He was seeking an organization or cause that would spur him into action and inspire him to do more for his community – and, of course, fulfill the needs of the class project. This is what led Tagliarino to join Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a nonprofit, non-partisan advocacy organization focused on national policies to address climate change.

“This would never have happened, if not for my University College studies,” he says. “My view of the world has opened up so I see our society and its problems with clearer and more informed eyes.”

Through Citizen’s Climate Lobby, Tagliarino was selected to visit the U.S. Capitol and lobby lawmakers on behalf of our future. Getting involved in the political process has sparked a passion in Tagliarino he didn’t know existed, and he encourages everyone to find their own passion and pursue it.


If anyone understands how to balance family life, work and school, it’s Darren Howard. Father of four, active duty in the U.S. Air Force and graduate student in University College’s Healthcare Leadership program, Howard is the epitome of going for your goals.

“Juggling student and family life has been challenging,” he says. “But this program accommodates those who live busy lives, and that’s why I chose University College.”

Both Howard and his wife are pursuing their educational goals while managing their family. In addition to supporting his family, he also supports the health and wellbeing of his colleagues in his role as a bioenvironmental engineer using what he learns at University College at work.

“The program is at the forefront of the industry,” he says. Students in the Healthcare Leadership program study health-care policy, data and strategic leadership. One aspect of the program Howard enjoys most is working directly with faculty.


Last year, Jordan Boom toured around the University of Denver campus — not in anticipation of attending, but rather celebrating the fact she was about to graduate without taking a single course on campus. While living in Honduras and working for a nonprofit, Boom earned her master’s degree online through University College.

“DU has given me the flexibility to continue my education at a graduate level while volunteering in Honduras,” she explains.

Living abroad and working toward a master’s degree was a smooth process for Boom, who engaged in online discussions, watched video lectures and participated in class from more than 2,000 miles away. And the lessons she learned in the Communication Management program were immediately applicable in her work.

“Much of the knowledge I have gained in the Communication Management program has already helped me impact the organization I’m working with,” she says. “The program has given me a foundation in writing for the web and developing strategies for digital communications, which I have been able to directly apply to my jobs.”

Ready to join these amazing students and alumni? Apply by November 9 to get started this winter. Details at or call 303-871-2291.

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