English Alumna Serves Denver’s LGBTQIA Community
As an undergraduate student at the University of Denver, Deja Moore (BA '17) knew she wanted to help people and was particularly interested in neuroscience, in part because of her experiences with her mother’s memory loss. However, after taking science courses her first two years, it didn’t feel right. She declared a major in English in her junior year because it gave her the opportunity to write creatively and read things she cared about.
“Without the English major, I couldn’t say the foundation of who I am as a person; I wouldn’t have the language to speak who I am,” Moore says.
Working with her mentor, Associate Professor Tayana Hardin, Moore wrote a senior thesis on the fluidity of Black queer identity. Moore said her thesis not only helped her develop the path forward into her master’s degree in public health at Boston University, where she specifically focused on HIV prevention, policy and law, but also created space for her to explore her own Black queer identity.
Throughout her time at DU, Moore participated in campus programs to improve experiences for marginalized communities on and off campus. During her first year, she joined the Pioneer Leadership Program and the Excelling Leaders Institute (ELI).
“My experience in ELI was about leadership but more about community. Lots of us were first-generation students of color, a lot of us queer as well; it helped me remain humble and feel like I was part of a community,” Moore says.
With the support from these communities, Moore went on to serve as senator her first year and junior year, as president of the Black Student Alliance for two years, and as external chair for the diversity committee in Undergraduate Student Government, where she successfully petitioned DU leadership to designate more funds to the diversity committee.
She ended up pursuing minors in chemistry, psychology and leadership studies, as well as participating in several off-campus internships with the Derechos Para Todos (Rights For All People); the Denver Foundation: 2040 Partners for Health placement; the International Center for Appropriate and Sustainable Technology (ICAST); the One Colorado Education Fund; and the Denver Foundation: Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation placement.
Now, Moore engages skills and practices from her English major, her minors and her master’s degree in her work with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). As the Comprehensive Human Sexuality Education (CHSE) Program Coordinator at CDPHE, Moore works to support schools and school districts in Colorado implement CHSE that is medically accurate, culturally sensitive and culturally responsive, and inclusive of positive youth development.
"My work involves asking schools and school districts to take an approach that is age-appropriate, anti-racist, all-embracing of BIPOC identities, inclusive of Immigrant and Sexual Violence survivors, all encompassing of LGBTQ+ identities, intersex inclusive, disability justice and neurodivergent centric," Moore says.
Moore’s work in this position builds from her previous role as the Project Coordinator for Denver Pique within Denver Element, where she offered Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) education, psychosocial support, and motivational interviewing for gay, bi, trans and questioning men in Denver.
For Moore, the path to her career and outreach was shaped by the leadership opportunities, communities and literary theories she explored at DU. Moore says her experience in the Department of English & Literary Arts, and particularly her thesis, provided important theoretical foundations for the work she does at CDPHE. She also routinely engages in praxis informed by the Black queer and feminist theories she explored in her courses at DU.
“We’re working on anti-racist techniques and practices — a lot of that is really noted in literature by black and Latinx authors,” Moore says.
Further serving as a leader in the Denver metro community, Moore speaks on behalf of people with HIV for the Denver HIV Resources Planning Council and is an active member for the City of Northglenn Diversity, Social Inclusivity and Equity (DISE) Board, where she strives to create a better and welcoming place for all. Most of all, she’s working every day to “help people form a community,” just as she’s been doing since she stepped onto DU’s campus.