Longtime staff member Martha Denney named first AP Staff Emerita
Written by Amy Borngrebe
Four years after her retirement from the Office of International Programs, Martha Denney was honored as the first administrative professional in University history to receive emerita status. During her 33-year career at Colorado State University, Denney helped build the Education Abroad program, promoted women’s development in Kenya, and recognized a need for international student services on campus.
Denney started with CSU in 1982. She worked in the Eastern Plains for CSU Extension for a few years, but the majority of her career was spent in the Office of International Programs. In 1986, she accepted the position of Coordinator of International Training where she worked primarily with non-degree-seeking international students.
“We had the highest number of international trainees of any university in the nation,” she said. “It was very challenging.”
Denny started Student Sponsored Programs, which is now known as International Student and Scholar Services. It was one of the first in the U.S. and allowed a student’s sponsor, often a foreign government or corporate entity, to communicate more effectively with the University and the student.
“When working with international students and their sponsors, there were sometimes conflicts because there was no model of communication,” Denney said, “Sponsored Student Programs allowed for more formal communication between faculty and sponsors.”
Seven years later, Denney was asked to head the International Education department, now known as International Initiatives. Her main goal was to grow CSU’s Education Abroad program, which at the time had fewer than 100 students participating. She had two other staff members, including a work-study student serving as the department’s first study abroad adviser. After four years, Education Abroad became its own unit and had more than 800 students participating.
“It felt like digging a foundation with a teaspoon for three years,” she said, “I just wanted every CSU student to know that study abroad is an option.”
Denney also helped develop the integration of the International Studies major into the university curriculum, and assisted in the attainment of strategic relationships and help shape a protocol for monitoring international partnerships, all on a limited budget.
“I was looking to build natural relationships that were strategic to the institution,” Denney said, “I was building a foundation with no outside funds so it would be sustainable.”
During her time with International Programs, Denney received a master’s degree in early childhood education and spent two years in Swaziland working on youth development in the country. Through the United States Agency for International Development, she spent many years traveling to Kenya and Russia, promoting women’s rights and development. She became a member of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers, serving as the chair of the International Development Committee.
“My involvement with NAFSA helps me stay involved as well as meet and build relationships with people that are able to help me in an informed way,” the retiree said.
Denney was nominated for Administrative Professional Emeritus status in May 2015 by Vice Provost for International Affairs James A. Cooney.
“Martha dedicated her career to advancing the internationalization of the student experience at CSU, from promoting and working with both incoming international students and outgoing study abroad students, to integrating internationalization into the curriculum,” Cooney said. “I believe awarding this new designation to Martha sets the bar high for those administrative professionals that will follow in her footsteps.”
Denney was very touched by receiving the designation and continues to give back to the international community since her retirement.
Since her retirement in 2011, Denney has stayed involved with NAFSA and serves on the Board of Directors for the Fort Collins Global Village museum, a project she helped found. She spends half of the year in Hawaii where she offers cross-cultural training to the community. She also remains very close to the Samburu people in Kenya.
“You spend your life building a body of knowledge around something and you feel an obligation to contribute to the greater good, stay involved with the local community, and contribute to make things better,” she said.
Denney says her favorite thing about her career was the fun she had with the many people she met from all over the world.
“In my career, I met a lot of great people and it showed me other ways to think about things,” she said. “It was my window to the world.”
Since 2015, Administrative Professionals holding a senior or advanced rank who have completed 10 years or more of outstanding and distinguished service to Colorado State University have been eligible, at the time of their retirement, for an emeritus/emerita title. They must have honorably and consistently demonstrated extraordinary and meritorious contributions to the fulfillment of the mission and programs of the University, with a lasting positive impact for the University. Eligible candidates may request the designation at retirement, or may be directly nominated by their director, department head, dean, or vice president. The final decision on granting emeritus/emerita status will be made by the Board of Governors.