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Cecilia M Orphan

Director of Partnerships, Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges; and Associate Professor of Higher Education, University of Denver
Chapter Member: Colorado SSN

About Cecilia

Orphan's research focuses on Regional Public Universities, Rural-Serving Postsecondary Institutions, higher education organization administration, and public policy. Prior to her doctoral program, she directed the American Democracy Project (ADP), a national initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The 240 Regional Public Universities involved in ADP focus on higher education's role in educating informed, engaged participants for U.S. democracy. Orphan's research agenda is informed by her experiences as a working class, first-generation college student who received maximum Pell grants to attend college.

In the News

Cecilia M Orphan quoted on funding formulas that hope to drive outcomes sought by Colorado could really have some unintended consequences for the student experience by Jason Gonzales, "Colorado Hopes a New Higher Education Funding Formula Will Make a Difference for Students. It May Not Be Easy." The Colorado Sun, August 12, 2020.
Cecilia M Orphan quoted on regional comprehensive universities by Jaime Adame, "Board approves Drale to serve two-year term as UALR chancellor" Arkansas Democrat Gazette, September 13, 2019.
Cecilia M Orphan quoted on administrative changes by Madeline St. Amour, "Some faculty worry president’s new positions make CU system admin-heavy" Daily Camera, July 20, 2019.
Cecilia M Orphan quoted by Rick Seltzer, "Squeezed From All Sides: Opportunities and Challenges for Regional Public Universities" Inside Higher Ed, July 8, 2019.


"Fostering Collective Impact: Measuring and Advancing Higher Education’s Contributions to Civic Health and Equity in Colorado" (with Deborah Romero and Liliana Diaz-Solodukhin). International Journal of Research on Service-Learning & Community Engagement 6, no. 1 (2019): Article 5.
"Public Purpose under Pressure: Examining the Effects of Neoliberal Public Policy on the Missions of Regional Comprehensive Universities" Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 22, no. 2 (2018).

Presents a qualitative case study of four regional comprehensive universities grappling with their public purposes within a state policy and funding context shaped by neoliberal ideology. Carries long-term implications for the future of community-engaged research, the civic education of students, and the public purposes of higher education. 

"'Building Bridges, Not Fences': A History of Civic Engagement at Private Black Colleges and Universities, 1944-1965" (with Marybeth Gasman and Dorsey Spencer). History of Education Quarterly 55, no. 3 (2015): 346-379.

Draws on how the unique histories of these various sectors of higher education position them for civic engagement work as well as the institutional efforts to engage local communities.

"Student Political Engagement in the Co-Curriculum: Understanding the Role of Senior Student Affairs Officers" (with Demetri L. Morgan). eJournal of Public Affairs 5, no. 2 (2016): 10-39.

Uncovers how the socialization of senior student affairs officers influences approaches to student civic/political development.