With thanks to each of you, the 2016-17 academic year has been a very successful one. We’ve made great headway toward our goal, as Colorado’s public urban research university, of becoming one of Denver’s indisputable, exceptional assets. In January, I wrote to you about our progress in each of our five strategic priority areas. What’s remarkable is how our efforts university-wide have evolved since then, from “one-off” projects to initiatives integrated across a wide variety of university units. Talk about busting silos!
Take, for example, our progress on our highest priority: elevating student success. The Student Success Partnership (SSP) launched in January to coalesce our many ongoing student success improvement efforts under one umbrella. The SSP builds on the recommendations of last summer’s working groups and the 2016-17 action teams, with assistance from the Education Advisory Board (EAB) consulting group. The SSP steering committee, convened in mid-April, will develop the SSP’s goals and implementation plan. The work includes a technology platform to use student data for predictive analytics in order to provide appropriate interventions when students are identified as needing focused support. The committee and units involved in SSP, particularly Information Technology and the academic advisors, will be working over the summer to enable faculty, advisors and others to begin using the new SSP technology platform by the fall semester. The broad participation in these efforts has been impressive; it’s heartening to see people from across the campus sharing responsibility for improving student success.
Here are some other efforts to elevate student success currently underway:
- We’re working to increase the number of undergraduate advisors to move us closer to nationally recommended advisor/student ratios. This was a primary recommendation of the Academic Advising Working Group, and is included in our proposed budget for next year, which the regents will vote on in June.
- Next year’s proposed budget also includes an increase in institutional financial aid for undergraduates.
- The 2016-17 action teams — on Undergraduate Academic Advising, K-12 Pipeline, Community College Pathways, and Strategic Use of Scholarships and Financial Aid — are wrapping up their work and will present their final recommendations to senior leadership on May 22. The final report will be posted on the CU Denver Priorities website later this month.
- We are developing a strategy for better engagement and clearer pathways with K-12 and community colleges, building on the work of the Community College Pathways and K-12 Pipeline action teams.
- Many faculty and staff have continued to implement High-Impact Practices (HIPs) into their pedagogy, courses and curriculum. A HIPs mini-grant program this year resulted in at least 16 courses and six degree programs being more HIP-intensive than they previously were. Research shows that HIPs increase student motivation, learning, retention and success, particularly among underrepresented students.
- The pilot Summer Bridge Program funds incoming freshmen to take summer introductory classes in math and English to prepare them for attending CU Denver in the fall and give them a head start on their degree path.
We’ve been working to increase institutional and external support for our second priority: Advance excellence and innovation in teaching, research and creative work.
- Because enrollment of top-notch graduate students is key to scholarly preeminence, we’ve included graduate student stipends in our proposed budget. In addition, a pilot project to provide graduate student scholarships has been launched at the recommendation of the Strategic Use of Scholarships and Financial Aid Action Team.
- To highlight the value and benefits of CU Denver research and creative activities, communicators across the campus are working together to increase visibility of these activities through internal communications, media outreach and social media.
- To accommodate increasing demand for online education options, we’re hiring a new assistant vice chancellor for digital education, who will work with academic units and CU Online to implement and expand high-quality digital education programs.
- Along the same lines, the School of Education & Human Development and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are working together to develop Thinq Studio, a one-year faculty professional development project on quality digital pedagogy and open education for the 2017-18 academic year. The Center for Faculty Professional Development, CU Online and others are also involved.
- A campus-wide cross section of CU Denver faculty, staff and students provided thoughtful input this semester to the regents’ CU System-wide strategic visioning process, articulating the distinctive roles and contributions of CU Denver. These discussions tied into our own strategic plan, currently being refreshed to include measurable, quantitative milestones in each of our five priority areas.
We continue to work on our third priority: Strengthen our position as a vital community asset.
- The new “CU in the City” campaign, launched Feb. 20, sums up our symbiotic relationship with Denver and our role as a community asset. This is the first time – at least in many years – that the CU Denver communication strategy directly aligns with its strategic goal. All of the 40 people featured in the campaign, including those in this new TV spot, are CU Denver students, alumni or faculty members. Many others have signed on to be CU in the City brand champions.
- Our commitment to serving the community was highlighted at the terrific April 6 celebration of 50 years of the College of Architecture and Planning’s community involvement.
- As a co-sponsor of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities national conference in Denver next fall, CU Denver is preparing a series of panels on the role of higher education in a thriving metropolitan area. We’ll also address this topic with Denver leaders at the Downtown Denver Partnership’s Urban Exploration Trip to Portland, Oregon later this month.
- We are in the early stages of developing a partnership with the City to create a center focused on our urban-related research and engagement initiatives.
I believe we’ve moved the needle significantly on our fourth priority: Create a more collaborative, cohesive and inclusive CU Denver culture. People are working together across disciplines and departments in new ways.
- Nothing is more indicative of this than the broad and enthusiastic participation in the action teams and committees on the Student Success Partnership, strategic visioning, summer enrollment, and scholarships, among others.
- Our community has rallied to support groups that may be under threat, including our international and transgender students, faculty and staff.
- We are using results from the sexual misconduct survey to inform and improve the university’s ongoing prevention, education and response efforts related to all forms of sexual misconduct.
- Construction continues apace on the new Student Wellness Center, still on schedule to open in Spring 2018.
- The CU Denver Master Plan is nearing completion. Thanks to the many in our community who took the time to give input on the plan, including at the final campus open house on April 24. The plan will be presented to the Auraria Board of Directors on May 24, and to the Board of Regents Capital Subcommittee on Aug. 16. Once approved by the regents, the plan will be used to guide the future growth and development of our physical environment.
- The Campus Conversations have provided an opportunity for members of my leadership team to update and chat with the campus community on a variety of issues. I’ve enjoyed the give-and-take nature of these and look forward to hosting more in the coming months.
Finally, we’re working hard on our priority to achieve long-term financial stability and sustainability.
- Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Jennifer Sobanet, Provost Nairn, deans and business officers and many others have worked since November to redesign the CU Denver budget model to one that (a) increases transparency so that everyone understands how the budget works and what their role is in ensuring CU Denver’s financial sustainability, and (b) incents growths, including student success and retention, enabling us to keep the quality of a CU Denver education high and tuition low. In Phase 2 of their process, which will begin mid-May, senior leadership and the deans will develop a planning and budgeting process that aligns with the newly redesigned model. The third and final phase (beginning July 2018) will be the implementation of the new model.
- In response to my request to increase summer session enrollments, people came together across several areas in the Summer Enrollment Action Team to quickly implement a number of efforts. These include a website redesign, a mini-marketing campaign to current CU Denver and non-CU Denver college students and the Advance Grant Program, which encourages on-time graduation for undergraduate students by providing financial assistance in the summer term for students to transition from freshman to sophomore or from sophomore to junior status. The team’s work has been paying dividends: already, summer enrollment numbers are up 8 percent over last year at this time.
- The Advancement office is developing a fundraising campaign for student scholarships. The Scholarship Campaign Steering Committee, with representation from every school and college and from faculty, staff and students, convened on April 27. You’ll soon hear more about campaign goals, timelines and scholarship priorities.
This is a lengthy email, and I appreciate your reading through to the end. I’m grateful to and humbled by our remarkable community for doing so much to ensure the ongoing success of our students and this institution, including going above and beyond your regular workload to assist with the changes that are underway. I am confident our collective efforts are laying a solid foundation to propel CU Denver toward our shared goals. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, when we’re all moving forward together, success takes care of itself. Have a great summer!