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University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus

University of Colorado Denver, Office of the Chancellor
 

2012 State of the University Address

Monday, Oct. 22


Chancellor Don Elliman and Executive Vice Chancellor Lilly Marks spoke about the university's accomplishments over the past year and new developments on both campuses. The chancellor addressed the Denver Campus, and both administrators addressed the Anschutz Medical Campus. All CU faculty, staff and students were invited to attend, and an audience Q&A followed each address.

See the video and transcript from the Denver Campus address below. View details from the Anschutz Medical Campus address here.

 

Speech Transcript: Denver Campus State of the University Address
 
Good morning, and welcome. This has been billed as a “state of the University” session. I am reminded of the old line: My role is to speak; your role is to listen; and hopefully we’ll both finish at about the same time.
 
But a one-way monologue is not what I am hoping for this morning. I would like to address the state of the university, to be sure, but we will also make ample time at the end for you to add your views. And if we run out of time today, we’ll keep asking for those views, whether supportive or not, in the days ahead. That’s a promise.
 
Most of what I have to say this morning is specifically focused on the Denver Campus. I don’t mean in any way to downplay the importance of the fact that we are one university with two campuses, and that the two parts make for an even more powerful combination than either could be on their own. The combined university is a reality, and is an asset we are building on.
 
There are a number of examples of the power of that combination—programs like bioengineering, various pipeline programs like BA/BS to MD, the public health undergraduate degree program, a number of research collaborations—and more on the drawing board.
 
That said, in many ways the two campuses bring different institutional missions to the constituencies they serve. They also have very different baskets of opportunities and challenges. It is my belief that we need to consider each campus separately, identify goals, objectives and priorities specific to each, and then identify the university-wide goals that cross over both campuses.
 
The way I see it, the consolidation process is a bit like playing an accordion. At first you try to bring everything into the center, a focus on being as one. Then at some point you step back and realize that not everything fits neatly into one circle. Over time, the accordion fans open and close as needed. That’s what the bellows are for, and that’s what organizations with distinct elements, like ours, do.
 
So, this morning is about CU Denver. I’d like to try to accomplish three things today.
First, talk about where I think we are: our strengths, our specific assets, our challenges and opportunities. These are the foundations we have to build on.
 
Second, spend a little time on what each of the schools and colleges are doing or plan to do in the coming year.
 
And finally, talk about some campus-wide topics that I believe we need to focus on in the year ahead.
 
But before I go down any of these roads, I need to ask a question: What gives me the right to stand before you and begin to set forth goals, or at least a direction for strategic planning, for CU Denver?
 
I do love my job. But it would be easy to say it has been given to me. Most of you know I am not a member of the Academy. I have never formally taught a cohort of students. I am not a researcher. I am an outsider, now sitting on the inside, but with a scant seven months on the job.
 
But what I do bring, I would suggest, is a perspective that in some measure only an outsider can offer. That perspective was honed by 32 years in corporate America, many of them running large, complex organizations with issues at least somewhat similar to what we have here—including merging institutions and cultures, which we did at Time-Warner.
 
I also had the privilege most recently of spending four years in state government, the last two as chief operating officer for the state of Colorado. What I gained in that role was an appreciation for the absolutely vital role that higher education plays in our state today and, perhaps more importantly, a sense of how much more it needs to do going into our future.
 
Here at CU, I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have been able to work, even if only for seven months, with people who are very, very good at this craft. I am blessed to have inherited a wonderful senior management team and I have been learning from their council since the day I arrived. What I am about to say is based on what I have learned from them—and from the faculty, staff, students, alumni and local community members I have spoken with in my time here.
 

Current Situation

 
Let’s begin by looking at where we are today.
 
First of all, we’re a relatively young entity—having grown rapidly in the 40 years since we were established as a stand-alone campus. Enrollment has grown from 12,000 students in 2005 to more than 14,000 today. The vast majority of that enrollment growth has been in our undergraduate population. We plan to do more with enrollment, as I will describe later. Our Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Raul Cardenas is leading an initiative on enrollment management.
 
We have also seen major increases in international and other nonresident student enrollment, and this has been critical in meeting our revenue targets. Our extramural grant funding has been fairly stable for the last few years, despite the challenges of competing for research funding.
 
Being young and growing quickly presents a number of challenges and opportunities, and you can see them delineated here. The one opportunity I would single out is that we are, for the first time, creating the physical infrastructure to meet our needs—within, of course, the constraints of our budget.
 
The newly opened Business School gives us much-needed space, consolidates all Business School functions into one place, and opens new opportunities for thoughtfully utilizing the backfill space created. It also enables us to reach further into the city and expand partnerships.
 
This year, Academic Building One, scheduled to break ground in January, will provide even more opportunities. It allows us for the very first time to create a building specifically for CU Denver literally from the ground up—and, more importantly, to tailor it to our needs.
 
The second aspect of our current situation is budgetary. I know you’ve heard a lot of hand-wringing about this, but it’s a fundamental and inescapable reality: we are underfunded no matter how you look at it—compared to our peer institutions in other states, compared to other institutions in this state, compared to ourselves even five years ago.
 
In 2008-09, we received $33 million from the state’s general fund, 18 percent of our total budget. Today, five years later, we receive $21 million, a one-third reduction, and state general fund is now 8.6 percent of our budget. In other words, the percentage of our budget that the state provides has halved in just five years. Our challenges here are obvious.
 
But we do have one advantage in this financial reality. Having been underfunded for years, we have already learned to be lean. You—all of you, faculty and staff—have been doing with a lot less already, and you have found a remarkable number of ways to cut costs. Recent analyses show that we already run more efficiently than our peer institutions, as measured in cost per degree.
 
And in spite of those constraints, we continue to compete for the best students and faculty. Our enrollment numbers show that we’re succeeding. But to continue on our successful path, we clearly have to expand and diversify our funding stream.
 
I think my favorite part about what makes CU Denver unique is our student body. As you know, our students are a mixture of traditional and nontraditional. On average, they tend to be older than you would find on a mostly residential campus, and a much higher percentage of them are working—and bringing their professional experience into the classroom. They’re already connected to the “real world.”
 
Their ethnic diversity also distinguishes us from other research universities. On this campus, students of color now make up 34 percent of our undergraduate enrollment, the highest percentage ever, and 28 percent of our overall enrollment. A full 47 percent of our new freshmen are students of color.
 
We are the most ethnically diverse research university in Colorado. Once again, this mix presents both challenges and opportunities. I happen to think the latter outweigh the former.
 
Diversity in the student body, for instance, improves the quality of the educational experience for all students. As Brenda Allen, our associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, says, though, it’s not enough to just be diverse. We have the opportunity now to develop strategic, systemic and sustainable practices that really maximize the possibilities our diverse student body afford us, including fostering a welcoming climate and preparing all students to live and work in a diverse world.
 
I think perhaps the most important distinguishing characteristic of CU Denver as it relates to our future is the fact that we are an urban campus. Once again, this poses both challenges and opportunities, as spelled out on this slide.
 
Let’s not forget, CU Denver serves as an important anchor in this city. As then-mayor and now-governor John Hickenlooper said, “All great cities in America have a great research university.” We are that university in the city of Denver. Our successes are inextricably linked.
 
We have assets—including leadership, expertise, and resources for innovation—that give us remarkable advantages. We have a duty, to help lead Denver to long-term competitiveness and enduring vitality as a healthy, high-quality community. Clearly, our urban location gives us greater opportunities for experiential learning, internships, and other partnerships with a wide range of organizations. This is a competitive advantage that I am convinced will become more and more important in the years ahead.
 
And there’s more:
 
Our connection to the Anschutz Medical Campus gives students opportunities in health-related studies and experiences, and faculty exciting opportunities for collaborations in research.
 
Our faculty focus on research, much of it applied, sets us apart from other urban institutions, including those that share the Auraria Campus.
 
We are the only institution in the state to offer certain degree programs—architecture being one example.
 
Our graduate programs are the largest producers of graduate degrees in the state—even without including graduates on the Anschutz Medical Campus. In this regard we are filling higher-level occupational needs statewide.
 
And finally, the CU brand and our connection to the CU system give us an enhanced platform for brand recognition statewide, nationally and internationally.
 
Of course, I have not described everything about the Denver Campus situation, but it is clear we are a campus with substantial impact, and a commitment to excellence that is very real.
 
That is looking at the campus as a whole. Now let me say a word or two about what individual schools and colleges are doing and planning for the coming year.
 

Schools and Colleges: Accomplishments and Plans

 

The College of Architecture and Planning last year developed a new Dual Master of Landscape Architecture degree with Tongji (pronounced Tong-jee) University in Shanghai. But the big news is the exciting new Bachelor of Science in Architecture program being implemented this year. For the first time on the CU Denver Campus, students will be able to earn an undergraduate degree in architecture, in addition to a master’s or a doctorate. The college is also about to undertake a major space renovation and expansion project in the Dravo Building.
 
The College of Arts & Media last year saw significant increases in enrollment in the Music Department, and its Digital Animation Program reaped a number of awards. The search for a new dean is underway, and I’m hopeful we’ll find someone who can help us define an exciting future for an area we believe has great opportunity.
 
The Business School marked its best fundraising year to date last year, and consolidated its previous scattered programs when it opened the new Business School building and the first-of-its-kind J.P. Morgan Center for Commodities. The school is now working on expanding partnerships within the community by collaborating with businesses in Denver and throughout Colorado. The Business School has led the way for us in this area and we need them to continue in that role.
 
Under new dean Rebecca Kantor, the School of Education & Human Development last year continued its aggressive competition for research funding, with an impressive $26 million in active grants from federal, state, local and private sources. This year, SEHD has added a school-specific Office of Diversity & Inclusion, focused on promoting a culture of inclusion and engaging with external communities.
 
The College of Engineering and Applied Science is seeing some of our fastest enrollment growth rates, and recently launched its new Engineering and Applied Science PhD program. This year, they’re launching two new programs: the undergraduate bioengineering program and the motorsports program, which will include both undergraduate and graduate students.
 
The Graduate School has made substantial progress over the past year—and will continue to focus this year—in creating one comprehensive school that serves both campuses. It is streamlining its administrative structure and providing more centralized services and financial support to the programs. The grad school is also working on new initiatives to recruit the “best and brightest” students and to raise the visibility of our graduate programs. All of this will enhance our research mission.
 
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences last year had a major influx of new faculty members and established the PhD program in Systems Biology, the first pure science PhD on the Denver Campus. CLAS has also convened a Learning Enhancement Task Force, which will focus on the future of the undergraduate liberal arts experience.
 
Mirroring the university’s quest for continuous quality improvement, the School of Public Affairs last year moved up to #29 in US News& World Report’s national rating—and #10 for the environmental policy subfield. This year, as the School heads toward re-accreditation, it has the good fortune to have had a series of excellent faculty recruitments.
 
It is clear that the remarkable work of our individual schools and colleges is a major reason the state of our university is as strong as it is, and why you have accomplished as much as you have.
 
When I first thought about what I might say today, I had this utopian sense that I should try to lay out a vision or a framework of a vision of what CU Denver should aspire to—kind of like drawing a picture of the mythical house on the hill that, at least in my mind, we ought to be trying to build toward. You should all be glad that I disabused myself of that notion.
 
I do not have, and I am not sure any of us have, a complete sense of exactly what that vision needs to be, what that house needs to look like. What I do have, however, is a sense of the roads we need to explore to get us closer to clarity on that vision.
 
Before I go there, I need to acknowledge that I understand my role in the governance structure of this university. Shared governance is new to me but I accept it and respect it. The University Planning and Accreditation Committee, UPAC, has done great work in drafting our strategic plan and revising it. We will charge them not with completely revising it again, but with developing focused goals, objectives and priorities for each campus and for the university as a whole for the next 12 to 36 months. As they work to that end, let me outline the five areas of focus for the Denver Campus that I believe deserve our attention now, this year.
 

Campus-Wide Focus Areas for 2012-13

The first one is addressing our financial realities. Given that we’re underfunded, traditional streams of revenue, like the general fund, are threatened, and tuition has already increased substantially, we clearly need to expand and diversify our funding streams.
 
Enrollment marketing is a vital piece of this puzzle. More on that in a minute, but we need to continue to ramp up our work in this area, including out-of-state and international student growth. Enrollment provides the economic base for everything we do.
 
Another area of opportunity that we will be exploring in more depth is the role of philanthropy in our institution. Last month the CU system hired an external consultant to examine the interaction between the university and the foundation. We sincerely hope the results of that study will enable us to create more effective plans in raising funds from the community. We should have a goal of raising $20 million annually on this campus from philanthropy.
 
Part of those efforts will undoubtedly concentrate on creating new curricular partnerships. Another part has to be aimed at increasing scholarship funding. Finally, we need to redouble our efforts to increase funding from research grants on the Denver Campus. This will be a challenge, given the climate for federal research funding overall.
 
Our second focus is developing new programs that are relevant and leverage our assets. We are already progressing on this front, with new undergraduate degree programs in architecture set to start up next semester and in bioengineering in the fall.
 
We’re also planning to work this year on beginning to develop other new, interdisciplinary, timely and relevant programs—like construction engineering management and hospital management—and will explore other potential professional master’s degrees. I can’t say this strongly enough, we have a huge advantage in our ability to marry experiential learning with interdisciplinary programs. We have to find more ways to build on that advantage.
 
Our next area of campus-wide focus this year will be technology. We need to explore how we as an institution of learning interact with a technological landscape that is changing dramatically, to ensure that we’re not left behind. How we use technology has implications for any number of our other initiatives: holding down costs, increasing access and increasing student support.
 
More broadly, it is obvious that technology, and particularly information technology, is having a huge effect on nearly every aspect of how we live our lives. We’d have to be blind to think technology isn’t going to have a profound effect on education writ large, and on our world of higher education specifically. I believe it will change our competitive map and in all likelihood, change it dramatically.
 
The University through the President’s office has convened a task force to begin to address this issue at the system level. We have three other Denver Campus groups looking ahead as well.
 
One is working specifically on IT infrastructure and support systems. We convened the Technology Review Committee in May and charged it with assessing the university’s current IT practices and governance and laying the groundwork for a strategic plan for university technology support. We asked the committee to provide, by December, recommendations for a technology governance structure, and to identify the top strategic priorities. These recommendations will be the starting point for an upcoming technology strategic planning initiative, to be kicked off in January.
 
A second committee is looking at education technology as an evolutionary opportunity, as an example, how to be closer to the leading edge of how we create and use online learning.
 
The third is approaching the question of technology as a disruptive force. What if products with rich foundations in artificial intelligence create a revolution in many forms of pedagogy? It may not happen, but what if it does?
 
We expect the outcome of the work of these groups this year to provide the foundation next year to develop a cohesive strategy on how we as a university utilize technology to improve student learning. If we don’t start thinking carefully and without prejudice on these issues, we are betting our future on a hope that our world will not significantly change. I like to hope, but I think it is a lousy premise for strategic planning.
 
The fourth area of focus is to clearly define and market our brand. Who exactly is CU Denver? You all know—and I’ve just talked about—who we are and how we’re different, but it turns out that in many areas we're a well-kept secret. And it doesn't enhance our mission or our aspirations to be a secret. We need to develop a consistent image to convey to our various audiences.
 
Our communications and marketing team has been revamped in just the last year and has already embarked on an enrollment campaign that has begun to raise CU Denver’s visibility and image among some of our prospective undergraduate audiences. In the coming months, that team will be ramping up its efforts and marrying the enrollment campaign with an image campaign.
 
We each come to work, we put our head down, and we work on our piece of CU Denver and what that means. But putting together the image campaign allows us to collectively think of who CU Denver is for the world, and the impact of the activities of the campus as a whole.
 
We’re in the RFP process to hire a creative agency to help us portray to prospective students, prospective partners, alumni, business and community leaders the jewel that exists in their midst. I think this is long overdue. You will be hearing more – and hopefully seeing the fruits of this effort as early as this spring – in our first significant advertising effort designed to raise awareness of CU Denver and the excellence of the programs we offer.
 
All of these focus areas lead us to the reason we’re really all here, and that is our students. Our job, and we can never forget it, is to foster student success and degree completion. This is something that many of you are committed to and that I also feel very passionate about. It is the area of focus that connects everything else that we do.
 
As I have come to know you and our two campuses, I have found a pervasive “can do” spirit, despite many challenges and fewer resources than you deserve. What keeps that spirit going is the desire to make a difference in people’s lives—through education, through healthcare, through a commitment to social justice—a number of things, all important.
 
On the Denver Campus, the core commitment—and our most important focus—is enhancing the success of our students: from recruitment, to year-to-year retention, to advising, to ensuring timely degree completion and a pathway to a better life, a career and all that entails. We do many things in research and creative work, in service and engagement with our communities, but nothing is more important than our commitment to student success and our educational mission.
 
Obviously, student success is defined and achieved in different ways, depending on the student. For our students seeking practical, professional degrees, a key to success will be capitalizing on our location to provide a more hands-on experience. Our urban environment, rich with professional opportunities, gives us an unusual capability to put theory into practice. I would like to see the number of internship opportunities double in the next three years.
 
But for other students, success means preparing for “lifetime learning.” It is estimated that 60 percent of today’s students will end up working in a career that hasn’t even been invented today. For many of our students, success will be defined by a broad application in liberal arts—one that teaches the critical thinking, broad-based knowledge, and communication skills they’ll need to adapt to meet the jobs and challenges of the future that we can’t even imagine today.
 
Our commitment to student success will mean enhancing student access, increasing student enrollment, improving student satisfaction, increasing student retention and graduation rates, and improving student career services. Today we do not have a comprehensive, cohesive strategy on how we approach the continuum of student success. It is our highest priority to see that this strategy is built and is executed. We will need to find the funding to invest in it.
 
We owe it to the students, and as a public university we owe it to ourselves and our community. If we do this well, we will ensure the survival and long-term success of this campus. Sustaining our educational mission will ensure that we have the resources we need for facilities, salaries, new recruitments and for all our initiatives and activities.
If you think metaphorically about our work at CU Denver as a human body, this is its soul. It’s why we get up in the morning. It’s why we come to work each day. And it’s what makes us proudest at the end of the day.
 
In closing, it is clear that the state of the university is strong. Yes, we have challenges, but there is so much upside, so much going on that is positive. We can define our own future.
It is an honor and a privilege to be the Chancellor of the University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus. This is a special place, built from the ground up by the people in this room. There is no more important role than what you’re doing.
 
I want to thank you all—faculty, staff and students—for what you do every day to make this a great place to be and for making a positive difference in so many lives. I’m grateful to be a part of it all.
 
Thank you.
University of Colorado Denver

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