Dr. Sandy Ho has a poster of actor Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther, Get On Up, 42), who died in August 2020 from cancer complications, hanging in her UCCS office.
“I was pretty devastated,” said Ho. “I think the whole world was surprised. His impact and his character — you could see that he had a lot of character, which may have made his experience more difficult in some instances because he would stick to what he thought was right.” Ho earned her bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. all from UCCS, the latter in educational leadership, research and policy. Now she’s an educator with the university’s College of Education.
Ho displays something else meaningful. “The day students come into class, I put up an inclusivity statement that talks about how you belong,” said Ho. Drawing from B.J. Allen’s book, Difference Matters: Communicating Social Identity, that message reads in part: “You belong here if schools and society have excluded or marginalized you and your community, or you have benefited due to your presenting or perceived identities. … You belong here if you are still figuring out who you are.”
Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Ho’s father was in the U.S. Army, “so the military brought us here to Fort Carson. In Korea we had to learn English; Korean is my first language, and English is my second. However, at some point while living in the U.S. my brain switched to where English is my primary language. I was a sophomore in high school when we moved to Colorado Springs in 1994, and I went to Harrison.”
After high school, Ho worked various jobs, including VCR-TV repair and microchip fabrication. When her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, her father asked her to live with them and be her mother’s translator. “My mom didn’t speak English well, and my dad asked me to … take her to radiation appointments and translate on her behalf,” said Ho. “And he suggested I go back to college. I did, and I didn’t stop until I earned my doctorate.” She planned to be an OB-GYN, delivering babies and helping women. “I wanted to advocate and support women of color — help them feel seen and heard, especially during the scary time of having a baby.” She joined student government, the advisor noticed Ho was gifted working in student affairs and eventually convinced her to change direction.
“Dr. Ho understands that many problem areas related to DEI are systemic and cannot be solved quickly,” said fellow Diversity, Equity and Inclusion nominee Jesse Perez (UCCS Excel Languages Center). “Dr. Ho has been a huge advocate for policies … to be more inclusive. She truly has been a driving force for change on this campus.”
“I don’t want DEI to be this ‘extra thing;’ I want it to be interweaved and ingrained,” Ho said. “It should be the foundational material for organizations; it should be ingrained in all procedurals and processes. Everyone should be seen, heard and know that they belong and matter.”
Her administrative and teaching experience spans a range of academic, civic and social institutions, with a wide impact: financial aid policy, student development and success, campus orientation, and military/veteran support. “Dr. Ho has made significant impacts in the realm of educating future leaders … [who] have gone on to make change,” Perez said. “[She] has developed refreshing and innovative curriculum in many DEI areas. [Her] style is … intentional about bringing other voices into her work. She is a big advocate for providing opportunities for marginalized communities to speak their truth.”
Her work has earned awards including both Outstanding Staff and Outstanding Lecturer within UCCS’s College of Education.
“Dr. Ho is always very open and direct about addressing the real issue,” Perez said. “I have seen a lot of healing happen through conversations where [she] is leading the meaningful dialogue.”