A Radical Style of Collaboration

The Pioneer Leadership Program celebrates 25 years of preparing students to tackle ‘wicked problems’

KRISTI ARELLANO

(BA ’00)

Kristi Arellano

With a background in daily newspapers, Kristi Arellano was no stranger to keeping up with the big stories of the day. But little did she know, she would be stepping into her new leadership role at Colorado Health Institute right as the biggest story of the year—the coronavirus—started consuming headlines. 

Arellano is managing director of marketing and communications at the institute, a nonprofit and nonpartisan health policy research group. As leader of the marketing and communications team, she draws upon the foundation of leadership she first learned in PLP. 

“I would say [PLP] was probably one of the most meaningful parts of my DU experience,” Arellano says. “The curriculum was wonderful. The people that they bring together were phenomenal. When I think about the relationships, friends and connections that have been the most profound in my life, they are the ones from PLP.”

It was PLP that prepared Arellano for her career progression in journalism. She joined The Denver Post after graduating with a degree in journalism and mass communications. In her 13 years at The Post, Arellano rose through the ranks from reporter to business editor. 

“I became an editor relatively young, which can be very intimidating, especially when you are leading teams of people who have been in their roles for so much longer than you have,” Arellano remembers. “There was something reassuring and helpful in knowing that leadership doesn’t come from age or status. Being able to bring that to the table was both reassuring and helped me form my persona as a leader. It gave me the confidence to be able to lead in that way.”

After leaving The Denver Post, Arellano shifted paths and started working in communications for the Boettcher Foundation, an organization that has a strong claim to her affections. (She’d come to DU as a Boettcher Scholar, after all.) In that job as well, she put her PLP experience to good use. 

“It’s such a powerful experience, and the people you are going to meet will really shape your future,” Arellano says of the PLP. “It’s one of those things that you don’t realize at the time just how profound it is until you are really able to put it into practice in the real world and look back.” 

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