With another much-anticipated commencement just around the corner, I want to take a few moments to thank you for making our 2017-2018 academic year such a success. I am continually inspired by the deep commitment from our faculty and staff to support our students in achieving their educational goals. Our collective efforts have yielded significant progress on CU Denver's key priorities.
Across the campus, a revitalized commitment to student success is palpable. This year, a number of strategic programs designed to improve the student experience, and ultimately increase retention and graduation rates, have been implemented:
Our new Office of Digital Education is working with the schools and colleges to expand our online and blended program offerings. These efforts will accelerate pathways to graduation for our students and reach new populations of working adults across Colorado. The office has also partnered with ThinqStudio -- the digital pedagogy workshop, blog and resource started last year by an interdisciplinary team of faculty -- to further our investments in digital pedagogy and faculty development and support.
Two new initiatives through the Center for Faculty Development -- Faculty-Fellow-led Communities of Practice and the ACUE Course in Effective Teaching -- are helping faculty hone their teaching skills.
Delivering on our mission as a research university, this year has seen great strides in supporting our research and creative work, including an exciting collaboration between University Communications and the Office of Research Services. The collaboration lays the groundwork for showcasing our faculty research expertise, both internally and externally, in a more robust way. Stay tuned for more details in the fall. Meanwhile, several new programs in Undergraduate Experiences are furthering opportunities for student research:
Several new initiatives are underway to enhance enrollment and success of students in our graduate certificate and degree programs.
We know that reducing the financial burden for our students by increasing institutional aid and scholarship helps them persist to graduation. I'm so proud our faculty and staff participation in the LYNX UP launch this year, which is already more than three times the rate of faculty/staff giving in all of 2017. With your help, we have surpassed the halfway mark of our $15 million goal -- more than $8.5 million has been raised for scholarships to date!
Thanks also to those of you who have worked this year to develop and lay the groundwork for our new, incentive-based budget model, set to go into effect in July. Our new model will incentivize growth in campus units and, as campus revenues grow, provide investments for strategic initiatives. Toward our goal of a more inclusive, collaborative culture, the Human Resources Council on Diversity and Equity has been created. Composed of HR personnel from across both campuses and led by Dr. Brenda J. Allen, the council is working on human resource practices and policies that enhance diversity and foster a culture of inclusion.
And we congratulate our team at CU South Denver on completing its first comprehensive strategic planning process. The process crystalized the vital role CU South Denver will play in providing professional development, executive education and graduate programs to meet the demands of the fast-growing south metro market.
As we discussed in last week's Campus Conversation, we're working on ways to identify funding to bring our new Facilities Master Plan to life, through projects including a new engineering building, student housing and infilling the Business School courtyard. Meanwhile, this summer we'll be making needed infrastructure improvements to Campus Village Apartments.
Just a year and a half ago we were excited to break ground for the Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center, and now it's set to open next month! In keeping with our students' original vision, the center will further develop the growing sense of community on campus. I invite you to catch a sneak preview at the May 9 Open House.
Construction has begun on our new CityCenter, the university's front door to the community, on the 14th and Lawrence Street corner of the CU Denver building. When it opens this summer, CityCenter will connect faculty expertise and student ingenuity with governmental and industry partners to study and identify potential solutions to some of the most pressing urban challenges.
It's clear 2017-2018 has been a busy and very productive year -- thanks to each of you! As I wrap up my second academic year at CU Denver, I am mindful of the privilege it is to serve as your chancellor. The positive momentum we have created together continues to propel us closer to our highest aspirations. I hope summer provides you a bit of a slower pace, or at the least an opportunity to "hit pause" for a well-deserved break. As you do that, I encourage you to take a little time to reflect on the past year, pat yourself on the back for the good work we've done, and remind yourself of the joy that comes from making more possible for others.