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Chancellor's Communique

Looking back, moving forward, 1-17-17


Dear colleagues, 

Happy 2017 and welcome back to campus! The start of a new year and a new semester is an opportune time to reflect on a number of our major accomplishments over the past year and look forward to what lies ahead in the coming months.  


Since joining you as chancellor last January, I’ve been gratified and impressed by the remarkable work of our faculty and staff, and your extraordinary dedication to our students and our mission. It’s clear you recognize this is an important time in the life of our university, and you care deeply about our future together. The perspectives you shared during my listening tour last spring are helping to chart our course, and led to five priorities for CU Denver that I outlined at the Campus Forum in September. I am pleased to report progress in each of these areas and to describe initiatives we’re undertaking to build on these efforts in the year ahead. Because there is much to report, this communication is lengthy; I hope you’ll take the time to read it through to the end. 

Elevate student success: Many students, staff and faculty have been working on our highest priority: exploring and implementing ways to help our students succeed. 

  • The summer 2016 working groups — on Undergraduate Academic Advising, K-12 Pipeline, Community College Pathways, and Strategic Use of Scholarships and Financial Aid — produced a host of recommendations for improvements. Four action teams and many units across campus are hard at work to bring these recommendations to fruition. 
  • We’ve engaged the services of EAB (Educational Advisory Board), a higher education consulting firm that has worked with hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide, to refine our focus and strategies related to student retention and graduation. EAB has completed a diagnostic to identify areas of improvement for CU Denver and will make comprehensive recommendations for the best ways to tackle those areas to accomplish transformational change. Stay tuned for more details after the EAB team visits campus later this month.  

Advance excellence and innovation in teaching, research and creative work: Maintaining the high quality of our academic programs and scholarly activities is essential to our core mission. 

  • To ensure this quality, we have been working to identify and secure much-needed resources. (See “Achieve long-term financial stability,” below.) 
  • Our Center for Faculty Development has greatly increased the diversity of the programming it offers and the number of faculty it serves. In fact, faculty participation has more than doubled from the previous year, with a marked increase in non-tenure-track faculty engagement. 
  • This fall saw the return of a series of presentations on the achievements of the 2016 Nobel Prize winners by six of our esteemed faculty. The attendees included a wide range of campus and community members.  We will be identifying additional ways to showcase the expertise of our faculty and CU Denver’s role as a knowledge and thought partner in the broader community.  
  • We have launched our campus master planning effort, which will guide the future growth and development of our physical environment.  We invite your feedback on the draft plan at two open houses next month: Feb. 13 and 14, from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the Wartgow Visitor’s Center (Student Commons Building, Room 1300).
  • The CU Board of Regents is developing a system-wide strategic vision, and I am assembling a small cross-campus task force of faculty, staff and students to provide input to that vision and represent the distinctive role and contributions of CU Denver.  In addition, this task force will be reviewing an update of our campus strategic plan and assisting in defining the metrics that will measure our progress.

Strengthen our position as a vital community asset: During fall semester, we made great strides toward our goal of being recognized as one of the city’s top assets. 

  • An inventory of our many civic and community engagement initiatives is being completed, and in early December, our role in the community was highlighted in a Denver Business Journal cover story.  
  • We’ve announced that we’re evolving our university brand to drive home the synergistic relationship between CU Denver and the city—including reinvigorating the “CU in the City” brand beloved by many of you. There will be a campus celebration to unveil the messaging and imaging of “CU in the City” on February 20 in Turnhalle (details to come). The external ad campaign will be launched in February and will illustrate our connection to the city. Keep an eye out for online video and TV spots, an installation in DIA’s Concourse C train station, city pole banners, street-level campus signage, downtown video boards and public radio ads. 
  • This spring, I will be convening representatives from our colleges and schools, the Experiential Learning Center, Student Affairs, and other campus units to make recommendations on how we can better coordinate and leverage our community engagement efforts.  

Create a more cohesive, collaborative and inclusive CU Denver culture: Last year’s listening tour and the administrative prioritization project underscored the collective desire to break down organizational silos and increase collaboration and communication within and between units across the campus.  The development and implementation of our five campus priorities are providing numerous opportunities for broad-based engagement.  

  • Our students’ connection to campus culture was celebrated in September at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Student Wellness Center. 
  • We conducted our first campus-wide Sexual Misconduct Survey to help us better grasp the scope of experiences within our community. The Office of Equity is now analyzing the results, with the goal of improving our prevention of and response to these incidents, and will solicit your feedback on their recommendations soon.
  • In meetings and through multiple communiques, we have reaffirmed our commitment to fostering an environment of inclusiveness, understanding and mutual respect, as well as our support for those students—including immigrants, religious minorities and others—who may be subject to hate crimes or harassment. We have identified resources to support students, faculty and staff during these times of uncertainty, including a new Teaching in Tumultuous Times web page for faculty. We are working to develop a page on the chancellor’s website that will lay out our resources and policies for supporting undocumented students. We will continue to work with our shared governance leaders to promote forums and conversations about the issues that affect us.  And we will not waver from our resolve—and our responsibility—to advance the ideals of our university and provide opportunity for all our students to pursue their educational goals.  

Achieve long-term financial stability and sustainability:  Over the last year, we’ve become increasingly aware of our dependence on tuition as the primary source of our budget.  

  • Our efforts to enhance recruitment and increase retention have dual benefit—importantly, for our students, but also for the financial health of the university.  
  • In November, we began the work of redesigning our budget model.  As requested during the listening tour, this effort will result in increased transparency of our budget, while incentivizing outcomes that better align our resource allocation with our mission and strategic priorities. We have engaged Huron Consulting to assist us with this redesign. They are working in collaboration with the cabinet, deans, financial managers from each school and college, and faculty representatives to articulate a set of principles, analyze data and conduct financial modeling to create an actionable plan for implementation during fiscal year 2017-18.  We will be providing regular updates on our progress throughout this semester.  
  • To further increase and diversify our revenue, we have efforts underway to strengthen our summer academic offerings, expand executive education, add to our online delivery, increase courses being offered at CU South Denver, and launch a scholarship campaign.     

As you can see, we’ve accomplished a great deal in a relatively short time!  With so many initiatives underway, this shows no signs of abating. To enhance communication, we will be hosting periodic open forums to provide updates on our continued progress and give you an opportunity to ask questions and share your thoughts. The first one is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 9, from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Lawrence Street Center 2nd floor Terrace Room. Watch CU Denver Today for more details and future dates.  

In closing, I’d like to thank you once again for the warm welcome during my first year at CU Denver. It is my honor to be serving as your chancellor. I hope you take pride in the direction we’re headed, the outstanding work we’re doing together, and the promise we provide to our students and the larger community. Here’s to a terrific year as we continue our quest to become one of Denver’s indisputable, exceptional assets as Colorado’s public urban research university. CU in the city!



Dorothy Horrell
Chancellor

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