Aug. 17, 2020
Dear Faculty and Staff,
Welcome to the first day of a semester like no other. As we all cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our personal lives, I’m so encouraged by the resilience and dedication you have shown in helping ensure the continuity of CU Denver’s mission. The amount of work that this community has put in over the summer months to ensure a successful launch of the fall semester, including our safe return to campus today, is nothing short of remarkable.
In last Thursday’s town hall we answered a number of your questions, on topics ranging from COVID-19 testing (yes, we’re offering it) to our budget situation (not great) to our efforts in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you missed it, you can watch a recording. And do keep checking our Safe Return website, which is regularly updated with the latest information and provides a link for asking questions.
I’m pleased to share that even amid the uncertainties, we’re expecting about the same number of students as last fall, although with a different mix: more graduate students and fewer nonresident and international students. They will benefit starting this fall from a new $5 million bequest for scholarships from former chancellor Georgia Lesh-Laurie. And by this time next year, many should be able to move in to our City Heights residence hall and Learning Commons, construction of which is right on track. We’re also welcoming 51 new faculty members, a new dean (Scott Dawson, at the Business School), a number of new associate deans, and one new chancellor (who is loving both Denver and this community). And the new $500,000 seed grant from the CU president’s office for interdisciplinary research on urban issues is an exciting opportunity to collaborate and address important issues affecting our city.
It’s true that this is an extraordinarily challenging time for CU Denver and higher education in general, but here’s how I see it. The pandemic has required all of us to think differently. You used digital resources and formats—and your own creativity—to provide our students with flexible formats for courses and student services to meet their unique situations. Each one of our schools and colleges adapted and educated us during the pandemic, from making PPE to helping communities with their reopening plans. These quick innovations are something we can build upon into the future.
My first priority as chancellor has been to learn as much as I can, and I’m working my way through my 100 days of listening. The first 10 days focused on equity and racial justice and we’ve now broadened to other issues, including opportunities to partner with the city and employers, ideas for student and alumni engagement, technology challenges, and the need for strategic enrollment planning. We are working to convene many more sessions. If you’d like to be invited to a future session, please let us know, and you may also feel free to share your perspective in writing. The themes that emerge will inform a campus strategic planning process that will ultimately position us for future success.
Thank you for the outstanding work you are doing in the face of great and unprecedented challenges. Each component of our mission—education, research, and service—has been enhanced by your determination and innovative spirit. I’m delighted to be here with you, part of a #LynxStrong community that is creating knowledge to improve our society, pushing our equity agenda forward, and lifting up the lives of our students. I’m so looking forward to the bright future that I know lies ahead for CU Denver.