Dear Alumni and Friends,
It can be challenging to pinpoint when and where momentum begins or how it builds. Some might say that for our Denver campus, a key moment came 40 years ago, when it became a full-fledged campus of the CU system. It really started before that, when it was an extension of the CU-Boulder campus, with faculty and staff building a foundation of educational excellence over decades that endures to this day.
Facilities also play an important role in CU Denver's momentum. Shortly after I started this job in 2008, I was able to work a deal with former Gov. Bill Ritter to work with the Legislature to fund the final $63 million to complete the $121 million addition and renovation project of the Science Building on the Auraria Campus.
I had previously tried to secure funds for the renovations when I chaired the Metro State College Board of Trustees. We took members of the Legislature's Capitol Development Committee on a tour of the building (which students from CU, Metro and Community College of Denver share). We let them know that students who were pregnant or nursing were advised to not take classes in the building because of noxious fumes. Computers needed to be replaced within two years because of the fumes.
So the Science Building's renovation and addition in 2008 was significant. It was the first domino in a series of facilities enhancements that now has the campus poised for greater things and positioned to welcome a new leader. When we decided to provide focused leadership at CU Denver last year (the Denver chancellor previously oversaw the Denver campus and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus) and asked Jerry Wartgow to return as interim chancellor while we searched for a permanent chancellor, the momentum continued. We are in the late stages of the search for Jerry's successor, and the new chancellor will lead a campus on the move.
The Science Building renovation was followed by the Business School building at 14th and Lawrence streets in the heart of downtown Denver, which was purchased before I arrived here. It sat vacant for a time before we found renovation funds. Last year, we secured funding from the Legislature for much-needed renovations to the Auraria Library. We finished renovations to two more CU Denver buildings on 14th Street. Perhaps the crown jewel is the recently opened $65 million Student Commons Building on the Auraria Campus, the first building on the campus that serves only CU students.
Our CU Denver students recently approached the administration and Board of Regents with another ambitious plan: a health and wellness center at Auraria that would serve only CU Denver students. They currently share an aging recreation center with students from Metro and CCD, the former getting priority in the building for two reasons: to support Metro academic programs and their NCAA athletics programs. That leaves little time or room for CU Denver students.
Our students' idea for a facility is bold. I am proud of the work they have put in over the past two years to envision, plan and promote the idea. They are pushing for a record student voter turnout to show support and the administration is doing our part by engaging potential external funding partners in the venture to reduce costs. We should know more in the coming weeks, but I am optimistic about the project and encouraged by the students' energy.
All these facilities improvements, combined with the first-rate academic experience provided by our faculty and staff, mean the Denver campus is on a roll. It's the kind of momentum that will be enticing to one of the great candidates we have for the permanent chancellor position. We're looking for a chancellor with academic credentials, but also one who is a people person who can engage students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors, business and community leaders, and elected officials. It's a tall order, but I'm confident we will select a new leader who will keep the momentum going.
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