Since its founding, Colorado State University’s College of Liberal Arts has produced thousands of alumni who have used their intelligence, creativity, and skills to better their communities. As part of CSU’s Homecoming celebration, we’re taking a look back at some notable CLA alumni from each decade. They’re the living proof of the value and diversity the disciplines of the liberal arts brings to CSU, Colorado, and the world.
Roy Romer (B.A.) earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from CSU in 1950. After graduation, Romer obtained his law degree from University of Colorado and studied ethics at Yale University. Romer served in the US Air Force as a military prosecutor in Germany. Following his military service, Romer practiced law in Denver and served in the Colorado House of Representatives and Colorado State Senate. Romer continued his work in government, serving as the Colorado State Treasurer from 1977 to 1987 and the governor of Colorado from 1987 to 1999. Romer’s most recent role was superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District from 2000 to 2006. Romer dedicated his life to public service and a middle school in Los Angeles was named after him in 2008.
Polly Baca (B.A.) earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from CSU in 1962. After graduation, Baca became the first Hispanic woman to hold a leadership role in any state senate within the United States as well as the first woman of color to serve in the Colorado State Senate. Additionally, Baca founded the Latin American Research and Service Agency (LARASA) and now serves as the director of the agency. During Baca’s time at CSU, she held the positions of both vice president and president of the Young Democrats, a club designed to promote civic engagement. Furthermore, Baca was the secretary of her academic class at CSU during her freshman year and worked as an intern for the Colorado Democratic Party. In 2017, Baca received the CSU Alumni Association’s Charles A. Lory Public Service Award for outstanding public service. Baca continues to pave the way for women and the Latinx community through her involvement in the National Council of La Raza, an organization she founded with other Latinx leaders that now serves as the most prominent national Hispanic civil rights organization in the United States.
Ann Gill (M.A.) earned her master’s degree in communication studies from CSU in 1976. After obtaining her master’s degree from CSU, Gill went on to earn her law degree from University of Colorado’s School of Law and Ph.D. in communication from the University of Denver. Before Gill’s 36-year career at CSU, she was a public defender in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She served as the chair of the Department of Speech Communication at CSU from 1990-2001, as an associate dean at CSU from 2001-2005, and as the dean of CSU’s College of Liberal Arts from 2005-2016. Gill continues to stay involved and display her Ram pride through her role in CSU’s Alumni Association.
Yusef Komunyakaa (M.A) earned his graduate degree in creative writing from Colorado State University in 1981. Born in Borgalusa, Louisiana, Komunyakaa served in the army during the Vietnam War and was a journalist for the military newspaper. After returning to the United States, Komunyakaa shifted his focus to poetry, earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs in 1975, his master’s degree in creative writing from Colorado State University in 1981, and a M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine in 1980. Komunyakaa is a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and CSU’s College of Liberal Arts’s honor alumnus in 2015. Komunyakaa now teaches at New York University as a Distinguished Senior Poet in the university’s creative writing program.
Eric Tippeconnic (B.A.) earned his bachelor’s degree in arts and humanities from CSU on a football scholarship in 1992. As a former CSU football star, Tippeconnic has obtained just as many wins off the field as on the field. Tippeconnic grew up with a unique family background: his father is a Comanche tribe member while his mother is from Copenhagen, Denmark. This upbringing gave Tippeconnic a unique perspective of society which has manifested in his artwork. Tippeconnic blends traditional and contemporary Native American imagery in bold, vibrant paintings to speak to the modern Native American culture. Following his undergraduate studies at CSU, Tippeconnic earned his master’s degree in humanities at University of Colorado at Denver and his doctorate in history at the University of Mexico. Now, Tippeconnic is a history professor at California State University, Fullerton and continues his art outside of the classroom.
Denna Thomsen (B.A.) earned her bachelor’s degree in dance from CSU in 2007. Prior to attending CSU, Thomsen held serious doubts about college and whether she really needed a degree to pursue a professional career in dance. But after arriving at campus, Thomsen thrived in the dance program and gained an appreciation for the academic side of dance. After graduation, Thomsen moved to Los Angeles and danced for Hysterica Dance Co. for five years. She also performed with celebrities such as Adam Lambert and Kanye West. In 2012, Thomsen danced with Madonna at the Super Bowl halftime show. In 2014, Thomsen and her business partner opened their own dance studio, Axiom Dance Theatre. Thomsen credits CSU for inspiring her craft and teaching her about the storytelling embedded in the art of dance, which she learned from CSU Professor Chung-Fu.
Joseph “Joe” Akmakjian (B.A.) earned his dual bachelor’s degree in communication studies and journalism and media communication with a concentration in public relations from CSU in 2013. Doctors told Akmakjian and his parents that he would not live past 12 due to his diagnoses of Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2 at 15 months old. Now 24, Akmakjian serves as the first adult National Goodwill Ambassador for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. As a student at CSU, Akmakjian participated in the Ram Leadership Team and worked as the PR coordinator for TEDxCSU. Today, through his ambassador role, Akmakjian represents individuals and families of individuals with muscular dystrophia and educates people around the country on the realities of this muscle-debilitating disease.