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Access Center assistant director honored for leadership

Greg Root’s own educational experiences have fueled his passion for access and inclusion in the classroom.

By Doug McPherson

June 20, 2019

Greg Root receiving IHCEP award next to MSU Denver student Sometimes, people fit so well in a job it seems custom-made. Case in point: Greg Root (pictured right), assistant director of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Access Center, which serves students with disabilities.

Root’s path toward the center began in the 1950s and ’60s – he was a student trying his best to navigate the riddles of dyslexia – with insults from teachers calling him stupid and a counselor steering him away from college. Root’s older brother, who was deaf, and his mother, who had polio, also faced regular ridicule.

Fortunately, Root’s sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Rollins, introduced him to his potential and sent him on his way to become a teacher – a move that ensured that at least his students would never be treated as he was.

And Root’s parents instilled in him that differences weren’t just OK but should be embraced and encouraged to blossom.

“Every fiber of my being has been dedicated to this field because of these reasons,” says Root, who began at MSU Denver in 2003 and will retire this October. “Helping others, especially those with disabilities, has always been a personal and professional passion.”

His dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed. This spring, he became the first recipient of the Inclusive Higher Education Certificate Program’s Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Award. IHECP, under the direction of Cathi Allen (an MSU Denver graduate) is a unique program that offers a social and educational college opportunity to students with intellectual disabilities, students who would not otherwise qualify for or meet entrance requirements for college. 

A student Root had helped presented the award to him and said, “He (Root) reminded me that I’m worthy of his help. … He’s a wonderful source of support, wisdom and kindness.”  

Root says of all the recognition he’s received, this one stands out. “This award, and the students it represents, is recognition and a culmination reflecting my own passion for the past several decades.” 

What excites you most about your job? 

My students. I have the opportunity to delve into the challenges and strengths of each individual and glean information about how their disability impacts them in higher education. Based on that interview … we approve accommodations which give the students equal access to the learning environment. I’m privileged to work with uniquely strong and gifted students.

Is MSU Denver an innovator in the area of accessibility?  

MSU Denver has made multiple strides, but there’s still room for growth. Although more professors are adopting universally designed approaches for instruction, we hope more will jump on board. Instruction needs to appeal to the various learning styles of students and be accessible to all learners. 

What do MSU Denver employees need to understand about accessibility in 2019? 

Accessibility is a responsibility we all share. When a student who is blind or deaf approaches any office on campus, that office should be prepared to interact and communicate effectively … and have tools available to make accessible communication possible. Of the approximately 1,300 students our office serves, 98 percent have non-apparent disabilities, so compassion and empathy are critical components of customer service.

What keeps you busy outside of work? 

I enjoy quality time with my husband, Steve Monaco, director of the Health Center at MSU Denver, and our dog Casper, a mini-Australian labradoodle. We’re both movie buffs and like watching movies. Landscaping and yardwork are my therapy. Visiting my three sons and seven grandchildren brings great joy. Hiking, reading, biking, exercising and spending quality time with friends round out my interests.

Topics: Access, Award, CADRE, Excellence

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