Year of Living Creativity Event

Chancellor Marks addresses external stakeholder onboarding meeting intended to socialize the Year of Living Creativity initiative among CU Denver and external stakeholders

Nov. 5, 2021

Thank you to Deborah & Gary for hosting this meeting, and for the work you’re doing in our community.

I deeply appreciate the opportunity to speak to this group of innovative, inspiring leaders.

I also want to thank Associate Dean Theo Edmonds for his leadership and incredible vision.

Theo joined CU Denver this summer as the chief research and innovation officer for our College of Arts & Media.

He’s a nationally recognized researcher and thought leader in cultural wellbeing and building healthy communities.

And I’m so excited he is not just on our CU Denver team, but here to help all of us strengthen the future of our great city and its communities. 

His capacity to analyze, build, and optimize is second to none.

And I know that, with the initiative that we have the opportunity to hear more about today, Theo is working diligently and deliberately to align these imperatives around a singular goal.

In this way, and working together, I believe — like Theo does — that we can transform the ways we live, work, and thrive as a global society.

So, to begin, I want to address a question we’re probably all asking:

Why launch a Year of Living Creativity? What makes it so important to this economic and cultural moment?

Creativity is a buzzword — it’s true.

Although the way we often talk about creativity, particularly in the organizational space, isn’t always in the most positive terms.

We sometimes frame creativity as vague, messy, goal-less — something an organization or an industry never aspires to be.

But in a different parlance, and when approached through a research-based and data-informed agenda, creativity is a gateway to optimization and greater success.

It can help break down the barriers to organizational growth.

And it can help employees perform more meaningful work through the invaluable differences they bring to the workplace:

Identity, perspective, experience, expression, and more.

In this sense, creativity is a way to maximize potential — for workplace outcomes, culture, and well-being.

At a time when organizational culture and well-being are at the forefront of our workplace discussions — why do people leave the jobs they leave? what makes employees thrive? — the Year of Living Creativity is an opportunity to invest in these areas with strategic and informed decisions.

And that’s precisely because it’s based on science — real, hard science.

Theo will talk more about this shortly — and probably in a much more eloquent way.

For us, at CU Denver, this kind of innovative spirit and people-first mission drives all of our decisions.

We’re a young institution — less than 50 years old as an independent university.

I like to believe that distinction makes us more nimble, more collaborative, and that it brings endless possibilities to our future.

Over the last year, we’ve charted a bold and differentiating strategic plan, capitalizing on these traits and leveraging what we hold most dear.

Our five goals are:

  • to become the nation's first equity-serving institution, 
  • to be known as the "university for life,"
  • to be internationally known for our research and creative work impacting five of society's grand challenges,
  • to build and sustain an "open innovation district" in downtown Denver,  
  • and to be a people-centered best place to work.

All of these goals share a common objective:

  • To create an institution where our students, faculty, and staff feel like they belong and are driven to excel.

This approach really speaks to me.

Given my own background in organizational behavior, I appreciate the importance of bringing the impact on people to every decision at every level.

As different as they are in other ways, universities are just like every other industry in this regard.

Our success begins with our people.

So our mission has to as well.

One of the things that’s so exciting to me about the Year of Living Creativity is the way it aligns with this mission and our strategic plan.

In particular: Our commitment to equity, and our big plans to build an open innovation district right here — in downtown Denver.

CU Denver lives in the heart of one of the most progressive, successful markets in not just the country, but the entire world.

We beat at the pace and scale of this great city.

So we are building a space that mirrors the vibrant, open-access hub of intellectual and creative vigor we’re already a part of.

To anchor this district, we’re currently planning a new Engineering, Design and Computing Building.

We envision it as a multidisciplinary, state-of-the-art space that will generate groundbreaking solutions to challenges such as sustainability and social disparity, activate public-private partnerships, and prepare our diverse students for the jobs of the future.

Obviously, I am unapologetically enthusiastic about the opportunities at CU Denver.

Opportunities that come from being a university on the cutting-edge, in pioneering a more equitable and inclusive educational framework, and in research and workforce innovation.

I know that a future guided by equity, driven by innovation, and powered by the solutions that benefit our workplaces and communities is within reach.

And I’m thrilled we can come together today to think boldly about how we take those steps collectively.

Thank you again for letting me speak this morning.

And thank you for your continued partnership.


Remarks by:

Michelle Marks
CU Denver Chancellor