Chancellor's Communiqué

A Vision for 2020 - Looking with New Eyes, 1-21-2020


Dear CU Denver community,

The midpoint of January has passed, and I’m still catching myself writing 2019!  I hope the new year is off to a terrific start for you.  To our new and returning students – we welcome you to campus this week.  We’re delighted you’ve chosen CU Denver, and we are committed to doing our part to assure your success this semester and throughout your educational journey.  I’d also like to welcome back our faculty and staff after the holiday break.  I hope you’re returning refreshed and ready to make the coming year a stellar one!

As we consider the year 2020, the connection to 20/20 vision certainly comes to mind.  While 20/20 vision doesn’t necessarily mean perfect eyesight, it does indicate the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance.  It’s impossible to fully predict what’s around the next corner, but I want to take this opportunity to provide some updates on progress being made on several initiatives that anticipate and help position CU Denver for a very bright future.

One notable change you’ll see on campus is dirt being moved in preparation for the construction of City Heights – our first-year housing and dining facility located adjacent to Student Commons, fronting Larimer Street. Another part of that project is the Learning Commons that will bring together a number of our support services that enhance student and faculty development.  The target completion date for both projects is fall 2021.   Recent articles in CU Denver News provide more information.   Final touches on the Jake Jabs Event Center at the Business School are being put in place with classrooms and meeting spaces ready for use this semester.  Kudos to all involved with these projects.  We’re truly building our future! 

Our commitment to provide an unparalleled experience for our students is requiring a significant redesign of how we utilize our talent and technology.   A number of functional areas have been realigned and we have increased access to services by adopting new technologies.  By utilizing data and predictive analytics to design a coordinated care network of personalized experiences for individuals, we are creating a "concierge model," so students can focus on their learning while we navigate our systems for them.  We are also working on even closer collaboration among all the advising units to provide a more consistent experience for students.The development of a Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) plan is on pace.  Many stakeholder interviews have been conducted and the cross-campus steering committee is helping develop strategic priorities and align goals for enrollment and student success at CU Denver over the next 3, 5 and 10 years.  The SEM plan is a natural next step in the implementation of our incentive-based budget model, particularly since we are increasingly reliant on enrollments to drive long-term financial sustainability.  Strategies will focus on the following categories of students:  first-time/first-year, transfer, graduate, online, extended studies, and international.

In last fall’s State of the Campus address and in a subsequent Campus Conversation, I described our budget challenge based on a shortfall in our tuition revenue this academic year.  The Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Budget (CACB), along with our budget team and financial managers across the campus, have been hard at work on plans to address the shortfall with a combination of one-time central funds that have been set aside as an enrollment contingency and with permanent, strategic budget reductions in the academic and central support units.  Those reductions will help move us “off the knife’s edge” and put us in a stronger position to manage the inevitable enrollment fluctuations as they occur.  Also, we are working closely with the CU Governmental Relations team to support increased state appropriations for higher education; with 80% of our budget coming from tuition and fees, our collective efforts to recruit and retain students become even more imperative.  More information about our budget is being provided in meetings with faculty and staff in each school and college. 

The final area I’d like to highlight is our inaugural Diversity Dialogue that was held in late November.  This was the first in a series of gatherings aimed at normalizing conversations about identity and how we can strengthen a culture of inclusion at CU Denver.  Nearly 100 faculty, staff, and students came together to explore the challenges members of our LGBTQ+ community face. We intentionally held it on the national Transgender Day of Remembrance, an annual observance on November 20th that honors the memory of transgender people whose lives were lost due to acts of anti-transgender violence. 

I want to extend a special thank you to the planning committee: Sara Anderson, Cynthia Chen, Lauren Fontana, Nelia Viveiros, and Regina Kilkenny, as well as to our colleagues who facilitated the table discussions.  Most especially, I am grateful to the members of our LGBTQ+ community who courageously shared their experiences so that all of us could increase our awareness and understanding of the issues they encounter. 

From notes taken during the table conversations and the session evaluations, a summary of the themes, proposed action steps, and available resources is posted on the website of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  I encourage you to visit that site.  You’ll note that there are some actions that will be taken immediately, including a training session for campus leadership on gender diversity and transgender inclusion, and others will take place over time. 

For our campus to develop a culture of true inclusion, it is important that we take a holistic look and develop comprehensive strategies that deeply and thoughtfully create a sense of belonging for each and every person on our campus.  We will consider recently-received data from the CU System-wide Diversity Engagement Survey that was administered last fall.  Those data are voluminous and will take some time to analyze.  I will be asking our campus’s Diversity, Inclusion, Equity & Access committee, co-chaired by Nelia Viveiros and Marjorie Levine-Clark and part of the CU System Strategic Plan process, to review them.  In addition, the search process is underway for the Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion, and we look forward to this individual providing coordination and leadership in our efforts to make CU Denver a place where every individual feels welcome, respected, and safe.  Stay tuned for information about the next Diversity Dialogue later this semester.

There is a great deal of progress happening at CU Denver and I thank each of you for helping to make it possible.  I’ll close with a quote that is attributed to the French novelist Marcel Proust: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes.”   As we begin a new decade, a new year, and a new semester, I encourage each of us to “look with new eyes.”   May 2020 be a year of discovery in which we open our eyes – and our hearts – to see more clearly what is possible when we commit individually and collectively to making the future better and brighter for ourselves, our community and our society. There’s so much more that unites us than divides us.  I’m ready for 20/20 vision; will you join me?

With anticipation and gratitude,

Dorothy Horrell's signature

Dorothy Horrell
Chancellor