Chancellor's Message

Dear Friends,

I am pleased to present to you our 2030 strategic plan, a profound repositioning of CU Denver to be a public urban research university that works for all: learners of all kinds and at all stages of life, industries and employers that need talent ready to hit the ground running, and communities requiring new solutions and discoveries.

Our world is facing many challenges—climate change, a widening income gap, and racial injustice, to name a few— and how we address them will define the future for our communities. Yet our American system of higher education, historically designed to cater to the privileged few, is no longer working for most. Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing the societal vulnerabilities it exposed, America needs a future workforce that is representative of its increasingly diverse population. We need collaborative ways of seeding outside-the-box thinking and research that addresses the complexities of our challenges. And we can’t leave talented people out.

In a time of shifting workforce demands, rapid technological advancement, and changing demographics, CU Denver is poised to seize this moment to build a new model for higher education. We envision providing learners, whatever their background, a high-quality education that fits the reality of their lives and leads to a successful future of their own design. An ivory tower alternative, this education is grounded in experiential learning. It is designed to strengthen our society and economy by building talent pipelines to jobs for the future and partnerships to fuel innovation and growth.

“CU Denver is the essential institution to meet this moment. We’re a pioneer of inclusive learning. We’re young and innovative, embodying the curiosity, kindness, and ambition of the Rocky Mountain spirit. And we believe that redefining the public urban research university is the most important thing we can do for higher education and for the future of America.”

– Michelle Marks, PhD

CU Denver is ideally positioned for this bold new vision. Chief among our strengths is our location, in the heart of an internationally connected city with a welcoming, collaborative, and inclusive culture. Denver is consistently ranked nationally among the best places to live and work, with its blend of outdoor adventure, metropolitan sophistication, vibrant arts and culture, and an entrepreneurial business climate that is attracting attention around the world. Being downtown, CU Denver offers ample opportunities for partnerships, internships, and engagement with researchers and entrepreneurs that provide world-expanding experiences for our students and innovative solutions for our community.

Another key advantage is our student body which, unlike that of traditional residential colleges, reflects the emerging demographics of our state and our country. Half of our undergraduates are students of color. Half are the first generation in their families to attend college. A third are graduate students, many of whom work while completing graduate degrees and microcredentials. Many of our students have families and jobs and are returning to college to advance their careers. They all exhibit grit, dedication, and talent.

As a public research university, CU Denver offers these remarkable students, the “talented many,” great value: access to leading faculty and nationally ranked programs; incredible opportunities to engage in research, discovery, and creative work; and intellectual heft and networks that last a lifetime. We’re exceptional, not just because of rankings. It’s because, recognizing that although talent abounds, opportunities and social capital are not evenly distributed, we’re in the business of solving our nation’s opportunity gap.

Building on this unique combination of strengths and advantages, over the last six months we created an inclusive grassroots effort that engaged 3,000 participants in our community to develop our plan. In these pages you will find their ideas, passion, and inspiration for how we will deliver value for families, our state, and our society over the next decade.

I invite you to read, support, and participate in our plan. We expect it to be a living document, naturally evolving as it is implemented over the course of the next decade. And through our collective work we will, indeed, remake a CU Denver education to work for all.

With great excitement for our shared future,

Michelle Marks signature

Michelle Marks, PhD

Michelle Marks
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