In March 2012, Chancellor Jerry Wartgow and Incoming Interim Chancellor Don Elliman sat down for a conversation about the state of the university.
Why should this university be proud?
Chancellor Wartgow: I think this university has a lot of good reasons to be proud based upon its strong history of preparing people for the workforce of the future but mostly, I think, because of its momentum right now and its attitude. It’s a young university. It has an ability to create new programs, and in any time of difficult challenges and crises, there are also opportunities, and I can’t think of another university that’s better positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that exist.
Incoming Interim Chancellor Elliman: The one thing we know is that the future of quality of life in Colorado will be defined, I believe more than any other single factor, by the quality of the higher education in the state, or by the quality of education in the state. And, I think the fact that the University of Colorado Denver has a major role to play in that process and, as Jerry explained, is in a prime position to do that, is something to be very proud of and very excited about.
How do you handle the challenges of state funding?
Incoming Interim Chancellor Elliman: It’s a marathon. It’s a long-term effort. You’re not going to accomplish it all at once, but, I think, to be deterred from working at it because of the degree of difficulty is a mistake.
Chancellor Wartgow: I think higher education has to tell a positive story of what they have done even with what little they have had, as opposed to emphasizing the negative. My experience is that people want to bet on winners.
Incoming Interim Chancellor Elliman: We have yet to convince the citizens of Colorado that higher education is more than a private value. It’s a public good and it’s absolutely critical to our future, and it doesn’t get the credit for that that it needs. I think the University of Colorado Denver, on both campuses, has an obligation to take a leading role in that, and beyond that, as Jerry said, to let people know what we already have here.
What opportunities do you see for the university as you prepare to leave?
Chancellor Wartgow: I think if I would have stayed longer, I would have next focused on technology, online learning. I think that’s where the world is going. We’re doing a lot, but I think that’s the place where the University of Colorado Denver can provide leadership on both campuses.
How do you balance the different needs of two campuses consolidated into one university?
Chancellor Wartgow: We have to just continue working through it. I think it’s a mini-marathon, to use Don’s earlier term. I think we just try to make progress, and we have because of the good people. If people sit around the table and want to work it out, you can work it out.
Incoming Interim Chancellor Elliman: In the private sector, I have been involved in a couple fairly significant combinations of organizations, and it’s always harder than you think it’s going to be and it just takes time and good will.
How do you feel about coming from a “non-traditional” background to this position?
Incoming Interim Chancellor Elliman: I have a huge amount of respect for people who have academic careers, and I have no intention of trying to do their job for them. My job is to add value where I can in the equation. I understand one basic principle. It’s more important to know what you don’t know than it is to know what you know. I will look to people in areas where I am not expert to provide that level of expertise and to listen to them.
How do you feel about being “interim” chancellor?
Incoming Interim Chancellor Elliman: Every job I have had has been interim. Somebody came before me and somebody came after me. So my attitude about this is that I serve at the will of the president, and I will serve until that will changes … happily.
Chancellor Wartgow, any advice for your successor?
Chancellor Wartgow: Don doesn’t need any advice from me. If Don Elliman is the Don Elliman that he has been in all his past lives and careers and that I know, he’s going to be wonderful in his job, he’s going to love it and people are going to love having him here.