Women’s History Month: Regis University women inspire with stories of impact

In honor of Women’s History Month, we introduce you to five amazing Regis University women whose contributions make our shared world more vibrant, interesting and compassionate every day. They are unintentional trailblazers. Historic leaders. Scholars performing influential research who shape our students’ lives. And a student whose journey has ignited her passion to do more for others. Together, they inspire us. We are proud they - and so many women like them - are part of our Regis community.

jeannie-stjhon-480x480.jpgJeannie Lambert Courchene, LHC '68

Things were changing - for the world and for women. "It was the sixties and there were sit-ins on campuses across the nation," Loretto Heights College alumna Jeannie Lambert Courchene recalled. "As an all-girls Catholic school, we wouldn't have sat in." But the Loretto Heights student found her voice.

As Student Body President, she developed a passion for involvement. "The very forward-thinking Sr. Patricia Jean Manion, SL told us to fight for representation." She'd go on to pursue studying what she loved, graduating as one of three math majors in a class of 180. "Teaching in the high school, I was almost always the only woman in the math department."

Courchene additionally held an influential role as part of a leadership team with her husband and Tom Swift, S.J. in Worldwide Marriage Encounter, serving to strengthen marriages. She retired back to Denver and would go on to become Principal of St. Rose of Lima, an inner-city elementary school. "I fell in love with the families. They were so appreciative," she reminisces. While there, she started a Development Board, ultimately raising $1.5M to build a new gym. "It was a seemingly impossible dream that was truly guided by the Holy Spirit."

Professional achievements aside, it is her three children and eight grandchildren who she considers her life's greatest work.

dempsey-stjohn.480x480.jpgPenny Dempsey St. John, RC '73

An all-female educational experience wasn't what she was looking for, so alumna Penny Dempsey St. John told her parents she wanted to transfer her freshman year. "This was right at the time that all of the Jesuit Catholic universities were going co-ed. My parents handed me a paper with a list of schools - that's how I found Regis."

Coming to Regis College, St. John was one of 167 of the first admitted women to attend day college, living on campus in the fall of 1969. Originally a boy's preparatory school these changes would break a 91-year history of Regis tradition, and St. John's presence was one that would shatter ceilings.

"I didn't start out to be Student Body President," she emphasizes. The Regis educational philosophy to "dive deep and get (your) hands dirty" inspired her to get involved. Winning her election in a 424-252 run-off vote, she remembers, "We had to make changes - and in a good way."

And make changes she did. St. John was the first female Student Body President elected at a Jesuit institution, making national news. "I wasn't scared. I spoke up to the guys."

"Regis has a hallmark of wanting to develop leadership in our students. Our size has afforded that - both for ourselves and for the rest of the world," she expressed. It is this community, at the core of the mission, that is what a Regis experience is about.

cody-teets-480x480.jpgCody Teets, RU '98

She grew up in a family of women, with strong female role models.

"My mom taught us to be ourselves, speak up and try everything, as 'you only live once'," Teets shares. It was a sentiment she took to heart. From McDonald's to a seat in the board room, her career was shaped by the influence of women. "(My mom) gave up so many things to ensure that my sisters and I had what we needed to thrive."

Encouraging others to advocate for themselves, she acknowledges that her mother's message is not for women alone. "It's important that we can all come to the table as our authentic selves and share our stories while inviting others to share theirs," she says.

Teets serves in a historic role for Regis as the first female and lay leader in 144 years of the university's Jesuit Catholic history. Together, with leadership, faculty and staff, she is honored to be a part of developing and inspiring future leaders of the world. "This is important work and I am thrilled to be at the heart of it."

carolyn-love-480x480.jpgDr. Carolyn Love, Affiliate Faculty

Growing up in Gary, Indiana in the time of Jim Crow, Dr. Carolyn Love knew something was different, but as a child, she couldn’t quite understand why. “I remember my house so clearly - and the neighborhood,” she recalls. “We had white neighbors and all of the sudden they went away.” Bussing laws followed. Despite living just six houses down, her best friend suddenly went to a different school than she did.

The moment left an impression – one of many – that would shape her journey to becoming active in leadership roles for diversity, equity and inclusion. “Looking at civil liberties and civil rights issues and being in conversation about that…we’re not paying attention…to people’s civil rights and their human rights,” she expressed. As a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado, and National ACLU Board affiliate representative, Dr. Love is passionate about the work she does.

“I think people would like to know that they’ve at least been heard,” she says.

Creating an intentional culture of belonging is just part of the work that Dr. Love educates and supports others in establishing.

“The path has always led me to social justice,” she shared. That desire to make an impact has found Dr. Love in roles leading three nonprofit organizations, serving as a Regis University affiliate faculty member, facilitating workshops as a consultant, and launching her own non-profit to uplift the stories of solutions-oriented Black women.

“Regardless of your racial identity, regardless of any identity, be comfortable with who you are. And stand firm in who you are. Do not let anyone define you,” she expressed, sharing her words of advice for others.

amy-schreier-480x480.jpgDr. Amy Schreier,
Associate Professor of Biology & Director of Regis College Honors Program

It was her first semester in college. A biological anthropology course examining primates would chart a course for intellectual discovery and a career to impact and shape lives. "That (course) set me down the road of becoming a primatologist," Dr. Amy Schreier shares.

With over 20 years of prestigious research in Kenya, Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, Schreier has authored 15 publications since 2017 alone. "My main research project investigates how forest fragmentation impacts the behavior of monkey (species) in Costa Rica," she explains. Through thousands of hours of observation, she has been a key collaborator at La Suerte Biological Research Station (LSBRS). "The forest surrounding LSBRS has been cut down over the past decade to make way for pineapple and banana plantations. This increases feeding competition."

Her work not only identifies areas of need within the animal population, but informs conservation efforts such as this. "Habitat destruction is the biggest threat to wildlife, and it is critically important that we protect the limited natural habitat that remains."

As part of her research, Regis students are learning first-hand how organisms fit within the ecosystem, travelling with her to study on-site. These transformative learning experiences are important: "I would love for a wider range of students to be able to participate in these. Our donors' support makes a month-long experience possible and provides a life-changing experience."

keiry-mariana-sosa-velazquez-480x480.jpgKeiry Mariana Sosa Velazquez '25

Kindergarten was her first exposure to the English language.

Keiry Mariana Sosa Velazquez, a native of Durango, Mexico, would be in seventh grade before she was considered fluent. "I would miss recess time to speak English," she remembers. She speaks passionately of the battle to feel "enough" for either heritage in her search for identity. "It was hard to assimilate. All of the bullying. I cannot change my accent."

Scholarship Weekend brought her to Regis University, where she felt welcomed and supported in her college search process, embracing her Catholic heritage. A full-tuition Leadership Scholar award "opened (her) doors to opportunity" she exclaimed.

And opportunity she would have. Sosa Velazquez was one of 16 university students to participate in a historic encounter with Pope Francis. His Holiness shared with her that "you can change others" and "your words - they give us hope". She relished the honor.

"In that moment, I felt very centered. I want to be in politics and get involved to change laws. It reminded me that I have the power within myself to help others. The future is looking pretty bright, I think."