Welcome Back, Gratitude for Your Work & Budget Update

January 19, 2023

Dear faculty and staff,

With the beginning of the new semester, I wanted to express how grateful I am for all you’ve accomplished to prepare for the return of our students. It’s been wonderful to see everyone on campus. 

This semester in particular represents a formative moment for CU Denver. Not only is it an opportunity to kick off 2023 on a note of collaboration and commitment, but it also marks the beginning of a new era for our university.

As I wrote to all of you last week when we recognized CU Denver’s 50th birthday, we have the opportunity to position the university now for a future that will better serve our students while strengthening CU Denver. It’s a future that I know we are all committed to and one that requires us to work together.

As we discussed at the inception of our budget initiative focused on a strategic realignment of resources, we have an excellent, growth-minded 2030 Strategic Plan that you—our community—developed together. Impactful change takes time, and we have taken significant steps towards the brighter future we envision. Although we have challenges to overcome, particularly with external economic and financial pressures pushing against us, we must not lose sight of our strategy. Later in this memo, I address my thoughts on how to remain strategic in the face of budget and market conditions, including how to grow our enrollment the right way and our commitment to compensating our people competitively.

The importance of broad campus participation in the budget realignment process
As we continue to position the university for a future that makes education work for all, I want to reiterate how critical it is that we do this budget realignment work collaboratively, and I am grateful for the way you continue to show up. Our progress to date:
  • More than 500 faculty and staff members have already engaged in the process, including attending information sessions and generating early-stage ideas during one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year.
  • We have continued our close engagement with our shared governance bodies through regular meetings and, on Friday, we met with faculty and staff leaders to discuss how we will infuse a RACI (responsible/accountable/consulted/informed) model into our process.
  • We are meeting regularly with our campus budget committees (the Campus Advisory Committee on Budget and the Budget Priorities Committee) to keep campus stakeholders involved and aware of the latest information on our overall budget situation for the next fiscal year.
Collaboration remains a key part of this process and has already given us the opportunity to collectively orient our focus on students and the value of our employees.

Adjusting our process to give ourselves more time to vet proposals and iterate with our community
We received approximately 165 budget proposals from deans and vice chancellors by Dec. 21 and several dozen from the community through our open submission form on the project website. As a reminder, no decisions were made over the winter break.

This is how we are moving forward together, with broad community engagement:
  • Based on shared governance and community feedback, we are adjusting our process to give ourselves more time to review, analyze, and iterate on these proposals
  • Over the next month, we will be focusing exclusively on vetting the proposals for 3% (academic) and 4% (administrative) cuts for fiscal year 2023–2024. Schools, colleges, and administrative leaders will work with their teams and shared governance bodies to do so.
  • The results of those proposals will be submitted internally by March 10, ahead of the April Board of Regents meeting.
  • Later this spring and into the next academic year, we will focus on the innovations and remaining reductions and realignments we need to identify and implement for fiscal year 2024–2025.
Remaining strategic
It is critical that we point to our 2030 Strategic Plan throughout this budget process and use a growth mindset—not just a cutting mentality—to reach our long-term strategy and take care of our community. A few highlights:
  • We must commit ourselves first and foremost to our students—to help all students not only begin their CU Denver education but also successfully persist, graduate, and continue lifelong learning with us.
  • We must focus on our people, who are CU Denver. As I’ve mentioned before, ensuring that we compensate our faculty and staff competitively and fairly is a key to attracting and retaining the best talent and laying the foundation for a best place to work. I’m personally committed to making this happen, and part of the reductions that we realize from the strategic realignment of resources will be reallocated toward employee compensation, with particular focus on  IRC (Instructional, Research, and Clinical) Task Force compensation recommendations  and our student-facing frontline staff and faculty positions.
Growing the right way
In the last year, we undertook an impressive, campus-wide Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) process that produced a best-in-class SEM plan and a bold aspiration that we enroll 25,000 students by 2030—an important first and a difference maker for our campus. A few updates:
  • As a next step to the SEM plan and before we had to embark on the budget realignment initiative, we had intended to take the community through a visioning and strategy exercise in fall 2022 to map how we arrived at this number and its potential impacts on student access and success, teaching and learning, and the campus environment.
  • We don’t want to lose our enrollment aspiration because it provides an important aim for us. But we fully realize that we need more time and a collaborative, intentional process to set nuanced enrollment targets that consider factors such as market demand and student interest. To help get us there, we will leverage and continue our inclusive academic planning process that is already well underway.
  • That process was already used by the deans, their teams, and academic and enrollment/student support areas to identify and submit enrollment targets for fall 2023.
Look for more updates in the weeks and months ahead.

Staying informed through communication
We are actively engaging with the community, and I invite you to continue your participation. Here are a few ways:
  • Campus-wide memos: Members of my leadership team and I will continue to write to you with regular updates.
  • Campus-wide information sessions: One commitment that I’m making is to continue our information sessions in the new year and hold them on a biweekly basis throughout the semester to have a regular touchpoint with you. The next session will be on Jan. 25 at 10 a.m. and will be held virtually, with more details to come.
  • Local engagement: Deans and vice chancellors are engaging with their faculty and staff through unit-specific input and strategy sessions.
  • Office hours: The budget realignment planning team will continue to host office hours for anyone who wants to offer ideas or ask questions (more sessions are to be scheduled this spring).
  • Web: Visit our budget website for the most updated information on upcoming events.
In closing
Thank you again to those of you who have been part of this work so far. I want to reiterate that my team and I will continue to work alongside all of you in the spirit and practice of shared governance and collaboration.

I hope that your first week of classes goes well. And I hope to see each of you around campus soon.


Michelle Mark signature

Michelle Marks

Chancellor’s Office

CU Denver

Lawrence Street Center

1380 Lawrence Street

Suite 1400

Denver, CO 80204


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