The new University of Colorado Denver Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Raul Cardenas, PhD, comes from a family of educators. He learned very early the value of listening.
That early experience led him to higher education. Along the way, he has started two charter high schools in Arizona for high-risk groups, so that those students would be on track to college. Since that experience 15 years ago, Cardenas has continued working to get young people into education pipelines. “In our society, we need to make sure people have opportunities to fulfill their dreams,” Cardenas says. “I want to positively impact every student.”
Just prior to arriving here, he worked as the assistant vice president for Enrollment Management, assistant vice president for Student Engagement and dean of students for the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. There he was aware that Colorado had some of the lowest rates in the country for students going to college. It is a statistic that has motivated his work.
Here at the University of Colorado Denver l Anschutz Medical Campus, what appealed to him was the opportunity to apply his previous experience bringing students into the higher education pipeline to programs designed to keep students through graduation. “This job combines enrollment and engagement for our Denver Campus as well as for the programs at our Anschutz Medical Campus,” notes Cardenas.
In the few weeks since Cardenas arrived in Denver, he already has taken steps to immerse himself in student life at both the Denver Campus and the Anschutz Medical Campus. He has set a personal goal to meet and have conversations with at least 200 students. He will spend time each week at the Anschutz Medical Campus, listening during student government meetings, and he will invite more student conversation.
Cardenas acknowledges the differences in cultures between the Denver Campus and the Anschutz Medical Campus. “Together,” he says, “we need to understand the differences and work together to address needs without losing the identities of each.”
He envisions a Student Affairs team that “works together with students to foster a sense of community rather than dictate what should be done.”
Cardenas supports “Spirit Thursdays” on the Denver Campus; posters should be popping up soon encouraging students to “wear our school colors.”