Our History

CU Denver is one of four campuses that make up the University of Colorado system. We began in 1912 as an extension of the University of Colorado Boulder. In 1973, we became an independent campus, and the University of Colorado Denver was officially founded. In 2023, we will celebrate CU Denver's 50th anniversary.

CU Denver Timeline

Take a look at where we began, occupying one building in downtown Denver, and where we ended up—we now serve more than 15,000 students a year. 

CU Denver in the Fraternal Building, 1947
In 1947, CU Denver was located in the Fraternal Building at 14th and Glenarm.

1912 – 1972

The Denver Extension

In 1912, the University of Colorado in Boulder established the Denver extension to offer courses in downtown Denver. By 1969, academic offerings included 34 programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In 1971, the current College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was established. These early years made it clear there was a need for quality academic programs in the city of Denver.

1973 ­– 1979

University of Colorado Denver Established

In 1973, Colorado lawmakers amended the state constitution to establish additional CU campuses, transforming the University of Colorado – Denver Center into the University of Colorado Denver. In its first year as an independent institution, CU Denver founded the School of Education & Human Development and the School of Public Affairs.

In 1977, CU Denver students began taking classes on the Auraria Campus, alongside students from Metropolitan State University of Denver and Community College of Denver. CU Denver students, faculty, and alumni marched on the Colorado State Capitol in 1979—to preserve the university's sovereignty in the face of a potential merger.

CU Denver classroom, circa 1990s

1980 – 1990

Significant Growth

During the 1980s, CU Denver grew significantly as a university, establishing three additional colleges: the College of Architecture and Planning, the College of Arts & Media, and the College of Engineering, Design and Computing. In 1990, the university acquired a new building at the corner of 14th and Larimer Streets, which became the CU Denver Building. This location east of Speer Boulevard extended the university’s footprint into LoDo (lower downtown).


International College Beijing

In 1994, CU Denver joined forces with China Agricultural University to establish the International College Beijing (ICB). This global collaboration was the first of its kind in China. The cross-cultural exchange of students and faculty increased CU Denver’s reputation as a truly diverse academic community.

2000 – 2010

Colorado’s Public Urban Research University

In 2004, the Board of Regents voted to consolidate CU Denver with the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. The consolidated CU Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus holds R1 status as a research university, the highest rating given by Carnegie Institute. CU Denver claimed its identity as “CU in the City,” Colorado’s only public urban research university.

2011  2013

Welcome Milo the Lynx

In 2013, CU Denver unveiled its official mascot, Milo the lynx, who was named for a combination of the Mile High City and the campus' location near Lower Downtown. 

2014 – Present

Campus Construction

The first part of the new millennium also brought significant change to CU Denver's campus. In 2014, the Student Commons Building opened as the university’s first newly built facility, and in 2018, the Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center opened as the first named building on campus. In August 2021, a new residence hall named City Heights, which is designed specifically for first-year students, opened.