Research and impact

When it comes to doing public policy and criminal justice research, it helps to be located at one of the country’s top research universities — within a progressive swing state and a diverse metro area. At CU Denver School of Public Affairs, our faculty conduct research​ on crucial issues that affect the whole nation, such as education reform, fracking, legalized marijuana, urban sustainability and water policy.

See faculty bios for more on their research areas.

Research centers of the School of Public Affairs Institute

The School of Public Affairs Institute serves as an intersection between the knowledge and experience of the school and our community partners. It supports our faculty and students in reaching outside the classroom to make real impacts on communities and helps infuse community expertise into the academic setting. The Institute is the hub for the research centers, leadership development programs and community events. Learn more about our research centers, listed below.


Featured research projects

Two police cars with their red and blue lights flashing against an evening sky.

Evaluate the Efficacy of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) programs

Principal Researchers:

Lonnie Schaible, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, CU Denver School of Public Affairs

Student Researchers:

Nazia Hasan, Stephanie Ames, Ilana Winchester and Jeanette Norman
Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is a pre-trial diversion program that seeks to enlist the assistance of police officers in identifying and diverting chronic low-level offenders in need of wrap-around social services to help them overcome issues leading to their involvement in crime and substance abuse. Our team at CU Denver was selected to evaluate the impact of the program across the four sites: Alamosa, Denver, Longmont and Pueblo.
A patient sitting on a sofa is being asked survey questions by his doctor.

Strengthening the Carrying Capacity of Local Health and Social Service Agencies to Absorb Increased Hospital/Clinical Referrals

Principal Researchers:

Associate Professor Danielle Varda, CU Denver School of Public Affairs

Student Researchers:

Stephanie Bultema
Using secondary data analysis, a review of existing capacity assessment models, and case studies of human service centers in Florida and Texas, researchers will develop and implement an approach for assessing the capacity of community social services organizations and their partners to absorb and meet the needs of referred clients.
A fracking operation with wind turbines in the background.

A Comparative Diagnosis of Policy Conflicts: Examining Unconventional Oil and Gas Development across the US

Principal Researchers:

Professors Tanya Heikkila and Christopher Weible, University of Colorado Denver School of Public Affairs

Student Researchers:

Jennifer Kagan and Jill Yordy
Examining Unconventional Oil and Gas Development across the United States – Unconventional oil and gas development that uses hydraulic fracturing is one example of a contentious policy issue that is often associated with policy conflict. However, knowledge of the sources, characteristics, and effects of policy conflict around these contentious issues remains underdeveloped. Additionally, while conflicts around oil and gas development appear to be intense and growing, not all oil and gas policy issues are conflictual and not all conflicts are intense or intractable. This project explores differences across state-level policy decisions related to oil and gas development over the past decade, to provide an understanding of how different policy contexts influence the intensity of conflicts and their outcomes. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation and directed by Profs. Tanya Heikkila and Chris Weible (CU Denver) and Profs. Hongtao Yi and Ramiro Berardo (Ohio State University).