Colorado State Programs & People

Going Places With a Liberal Arts Degree

Published Spring 2007

Graduates of the College of Liberal Arts are making their mark on the world, from Pulitzer prize-winning writers to powerful CEOs, from influential public servants to hard-hitting NFL lineman.

What can you do with a liberal arts degree?

With a liberal arts degree from Colorado State University, you can do anything you want to do. You can be . . .

Bill Ritter

Governor of Colorado

The Honorable Bill Ritter (political science '78) was elected governor of Colorado in 2006. Prior to his election, he served as district attorney for the city and county of Denver. Like many of our alumni, Governor Ritter is a Colorado native who worked to put himself through school. Also like many of our alumni, he is committed to service to the larger community. In the late 1980s, he and wife Jeannie managed and expanded a nutrition center in Zambia, and he created the nation's first Victim's Services Network.

Yusef Komunyakaa

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet

New York University recently named Yusef Komunyakaa (English M.F.A. '81) to the prestigious position of distinguished senior poet in its creative writing program. Among the long list of awards for his published prose and poetry are a Pulitzer Prize (for Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems), the William Faulkner Prize from the Université de Rennes, the Thomas Forcade Award, and the Hanes Poetry Prize. Yusef was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam, where he served as a correspondent and managing editor of the Southern Cross.

Judi Johansen

CEO for Power Companies

In a career featuring a number of "firsts," Judi Johansen (political science '80) went from law school to a power industry career in the Pacific Northwest. She was the first female president and CEO of PacifiCorp, a subsidiary of ScottishPower, as well as the first female CEO/administrator of the Bonneville Power Corporation. Judi's pioneering activity actually started much earlier. While at CSU, she was the first female president of ASCSU.

Erik Pears playing football for the Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos Offensive Lineman

Among alumni embarked on dream-come-true careers is Erik Pears (liberal arts '05). He has played football since he was 4 years old, when he only pretended to be a Denver Bronco. A standout offensive lineman for the Rams, he signed a free agent contract with the Broncos in 2005 and was named to the all-NFL Europe Team in spring 2006. When Matt Lepsis suffered a season-ending injury early in the 2006 NFL season, Erik started 10 games at left tackle for the Broncos. He is starting on the offensive line this season.

Steph Davis

Professional Rock Climber

Acknowledged as one of the best all-round climbers in the world, Steph Davis (English M.A. '95) was the first female to climb the Salathé Wall on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without equipment. She has many other "firsts" on high mountain rock faces around the world. A profile in Outside Online described the upside and downside of Steph's climbing career. The downside? "Having your mom suggest (frequently) that you are out of your mind." The upside? "Yosemite. The Andes. And a life in which every day is a thrilling vertical grab." Steph recently published a book of her essays and poetry, High Infatuation: A Climber’s Guide to Love and Gravity.

Jim Sheeler

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist

Rocky Mountain News reporter Jim Sheeler (technical journalism '90) recently won a Pulitzer for feature writing. The award was for "Final Salute," which chronicled a year in the life of a casualty notification officer and the families impacted by his knock at the door. Jim prepared for the story by writing innovative narrative obituaries, many of which are collected in his recently published book, Obit: Inspiring Stories of Ordinary People Who Led Extraordinary Lives. Another book, based on his experiences covering the impact of the war at home, is scheduled for publication by The Penguin Press in 2008.

Nicole Burnham


A somewhat circuitous path that included both law school and a master's degree brought Nicole Burnham (political science '91), also writing as Niki Burnham, to a career as an award-winning author of six romance novels and six novels for adolescents. After practicing law for a year, she decided her love of writing and travel could be put to better use. Her travels have been all over the world, as her website indicates: "How many people can say they've skied the Swiss Alps, snorkeled in the Grenadines, and successfully haggled their way through Cairo’s Khan al Khalili marketplace?"

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