Letter from the Chancellor

Connection. This word says so much about where we are as a society—what drives us and what we value. We live in a period of significant change in our country, in our workplaces, and in higher education, but I like to think about the great possibility that change brings. To me, connection is not only part of our ethos at the University of Colorado Denver, but it is a critical component to addressing some of the greatest needs in our city, state, and nation as we embrace our role as a university that meets the moment.

At CU Denver, we are actively strengthening our connections to meet the moment thanks to our 2030 Strategic Plan: Make Education Work for All, which was released in June 2021. These connections link our university to our communities, to our city and state, to other schools and universities, and to industries outside higher education. In fact, connection was a major force behind the development of our strategic plan: In the six months leading up to the plan’s launch in June 2021, 3,000 community members from across our campus and beyond came together to deliver 7,000 ideas to create a vision and set of goals to guide our strategy and way forward.

Ultimately, our plan centers on the idea that education should work for all—for learners of all ages, life stages, and backgrounds—and that education is a continuous journey because of the changing nature of work and the need to continually reskill. As Colorado’s only public urban research university, CU Denver has an obligation and the unique assets to provide a high-quality, accessible, real-world education to the talented many. Together, our community arrived at five primary aspirations:

  • Fueling a diverse talent pipeline that not only enables economic growth but also helps create a more equitable and thriving society.
  • Building a “university for life” that serves the people of Denver and Colorado throughout their career, and at different stages in their lives.
  • Activating positive change through research and creative work with an eye toward catalyzing positive societal change.
  • Taking on the mantle of leading innovation in Denver, which is our home and an emerging global city uniquely positioned to address tomorrow’s challenges.
  • Becoming a best place to work, adding to Denver’s talent pipeline, and expanding the University of Colorado System’s impact as the third-largest employer in the state.

And we are well on our way, together.

Since June 2021, we received the No. 1 ranking in social mobility in Colorado by U.S. News and World Report for both 2021 and 2022; we have partnered with numerous organizations to set a course for making Denver a true smart city; we have built a sustainable and durable habitat for NOAA researchers in Antarctica; we have begun to envision our forthcoming innovation district; and we have opened this university’s inaugural—and awardwinning— first-year residence hall on campus to deepen our students’ connection to our campus, the city, and its employers.

This report is a synthesis of the many steps we have taken toward our mission to make education work for all. Our internal and external communities mobilized incredibly quickly in support of our goals while also accelerating other efforts to energize and move us forward. And this report aims to contextualize their initiative with those connections and that impact while also setting a vision for what’s to come.

As you read this report, I hope you will see a university that is not only achieving the results needed to meet the moment but is relishing its work. Our mission isn’t just why we exist, it is the work we love to do. And I hope you’ll appreciate the same thing about CU Denver that I have since arriving here: We’re an upstart. As far as institutions go, we’re relatively young. Our history, while important, isn’t a storybook legacy. I view this not as a shortcoming but as a competitive advantage.

We’re hungry. We’re nimble. We’re not beholden to the ways of the past because we are looking to the future. In 2023, CU Denver will celebrate our 50th anniversary—a marker of how far we have come in such a short time, and a testament to the fact that we’re just getting started.

The work we’re doing can’t, and shouldn’t, be done alone. Our best work can only be done together, and I invite you to engage with us at any level. We look forward to working with you.

Chancellor Michelle Marks


Michelle Marks, PhD