Get to Know Denise Larson
Denise Larson is an academic advisor whose background in teaching English as a second language and appreciation for cross-cultural experiences serve her students.Megan Briggs | College of Arts & Media Feb 7, 2022
With a master’s degree in Teaching English as a second language, Denise Larson started her career in academia teaching in language schools in Los Angeles, Denver, Boulder, Boston, and Portugal. She was also a faculty member in the English department at Yavapai Community College in Prescott, Arizona. Originally from California, Larson made her way to Colorado and opened a yoga studio and worked in a corporate setting before finding her current position on the advising team at the College of Arts & Media (CAM) in 2011. As a Senior Advisor, Larson works with students in addition to helping the faculty and administration enhance study abroad opportunities. Larson says she appreciates how engaged CAM faculty are in their own art-making and how they “relish including CAM students in this vibrant community of artists.”
1. What is your background with the arts?
To quote Helena Bonham-Carter: “Everything in life is art…what you believe in and all your dreams.” For me, personal artistry is most fully expressed in my career choice: to enhance learning; in my movement choices: yoga, nature hikes, travel, Latin dance; and in my times of solitude: bold black coffee, a journal, music, incense, some poetry.
2. You often advise students interested in international studies and study abroad opportunities. Why are you passionate about helping students gain this experience?
Living and studying abroad provides opportunities that are impossible to quantify. The journey of self-discovery begins immediately when a student steps into the culture/language/landscape of another. One’s unconscious assumptions about how to be courteous, negotiate, joke, play, express sincerity, form friendships… surface and can therefore be examined. Students discover the degree to which they rely on the familiar, and can thereby see the next moment of choice with fresh eyes and insight. The sojourner experiences the thrill and satisfaction that comes from exploring and successfully navigating the new and uncharted.
3. How do your personal interests and professional interests intersect in your role in CAM?
I am personally interested in human potential/development, so working directly with students on a college campus gives me constant examples of people stretching themselves into their next creative iteration. Additionally, I am able to encourage and celebrate this discovery and honing of talent and innovation. Also, I am an advocate for encouraging the experience of difference as opportunity for artistic inspiration, increased compassion and expanded insight. The diversity here at our urban campus is a great asset to be encouraged and sustained as a vast opportunity for personal and educational enrichment. We are fortunate to have leadership that recognizes the potency of this attribute and aims to enhance a sense of belonging for all.
4. What is something funny/impactful/happy/or positive that you have witnessed or been a part of during your time in CAM?
Once when attending a concert/dance event featuring our amazing ensemble, Voz de la Clave, the salsa instructor failed to show up so at the last minute, I donned the headset and taught a salsa lesson to a crowded room of students and parents. It was joyous! It was a testimony to the power of art to create community, the moments of joy available when you accept the unexpected challenge/adventure of the unplanned, and the spirit of play available to those who join together to learn something new.
5. When you were a student, what was the best piece of advice that would qualify as academic advising that you received? How did it influence your path?
In my senior year I was mis-advised and as a result had to overload my final semester with more courses than expected. My Cuban-born Spanish instructor assuaged my frustration by sharing (all in Spanish) her experience as a successful professor in Cuba --married to a successful doctor-- who had to leave all behind, get on a boat to Florida, and become a refugee in the United States. While her story was an effective way of telling me to suck it up, she also offered words of comfort and a matronly hug. From this I learned for myself and sometimes also share with students that a moment can be frustrating, and you really want it to go a different way, but even though some situations must be endured, we are strong and we can move through an unpleasantness or a temporary setback toward our desired outcome.