pHirst Scholars

Learning Outcomes

Students in the pHirst Scholars community will…

  • learn the importance of embracing and developing their identities to feel more empowered and valued
  • develop lasting connections across campus through partnerships with defined mentors, staff, and faculty, leading to the development of a strong support system
  • learn about systemic (hidden) barriers in which first-generation college student face, and strategies for overcoming them
  • develop a shared sense of community through exploring leadership initiatives and engaging with the pHirst Advisory Counsel

Faculty Friends:

Melanie Brandt

Teaching Associate Professor | Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences

About Melanie.

Melanie Brandt received her MA in Humanities from CU Denver. For her thesis, she investigated the power of humor in forming identities and effecting political and social change. Her work necessitated multidisciplinary research and study thereby creating a platform for understanding the fundamental elements of learning and communication that can be applied to many academic disciplines. Melanie earned her bachelor’s degree in Literature and graduated summa cum laude. She is interested in combining the humanities and STEM fields of study in innovative ways that bolster both.

Melanie has taught a variety of writing, film, and literature classes. Furthermore, she has taught in Mines’ Design EPICS program since 2011. This spring she will be teaching one section of NHV and oral communications, along with one section of EPICS.

Juan Lucena

Professor | Engineering, Design, & Society

About Juan.

Raised in a privileged family of engineers, lawyers, and doctors, Juan learned about the social injustices associated with the application of professional expertise, including engineering. Living in Bogota, Colombia, a city of 8 million, he saw how the engineers working for the public utilities managed by his father, Bogota’s mayor, built systems that benefited the wealthy. As an engineering student in the 1980s, he experienced the engineering curriculum firsthand and how its content was shaped by the politics of the Cold War. Later as a PhD student working under the mentorship of cultural anthropologist Gary Downey, he learned that engineers and engineering have culture that can be studied and, if necessary, transformed for the wellbeing of communities, social justice, and sustainability. Transforming engineering and engineering education to promote these goals is what he has been trying to do since becoming an engineering educator in 1996.

Chelsea Panos

Teaching Assistant Professor |Civil & Environmental Engineering

About Chelsea.

Dr. Chelsea Panos earned her Bachelor’s in Environmental Engineering, Master’s in Hydrology, and Ph.D. in Hydrology from the Colorado School of Mines between 2011 and 2020. Dr. Panos completed her dissertation under her advisor Dr. Terri Hogue. Her research investigates how growing urban populations through infill development impact stormwater runoff. Her doctorate work was funded by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and the NSF Engineering Research Center for Re-inventing the Nation’s Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt). Panos is passionate about teaching and interested in pedagogical research including engineering education and experiential learning. Dr. Panos is committed to diversity, inclusion, and access initiatives and has served on multiple DI&A committees. She is also an ENFJ personality type who enjoys list-making, dancing, and photography.​