The new University of Colorado Denver Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Raul Cardenas comes from a family of educators. He learned very early the value of listening.
That early grounding led him to higher education. Along the way, he has started two charter high schools in Arizona for high-risk groups, so that these kids 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 in 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 extend those previous experiences of bringing students into the higher ed pipeline to now keeping them 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 initiated and accomplished initial steps to lay new ground work on the foundations of student life at both the Denver and Anschutz Medical Campuses. He set a personal goal to meet and have conversations with at least 200 students. Mission+more = accomplished.
But he’s not stopping there. Cardenas will spend time each week at the Anschutz Medical Campus, he will listen in during student government meetings, and he will invite more student conversation.
Cardenas acknowledges the differences in cultures between the Denver and Anschutz Medical Campuses. “Together,” he says, “we need to understand the differences and work together to address needs without losing the identities of each.”
His vision is about how the Student Affairs team can “work together with students to foster a sense of community.” Cardenas explains. “That’s rather than dictating what needs to be done.” Some ideas coming to life include realizing a school mascot. and an effort already kicking off is “Spirit Thursdays” on the Denver Campus – posters should be popping up soon encouraging students to “wear our school colors.”